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Museums, collections, exhibitions explore magic, occult, Witchcraft

Sun, 2017-10-22 12:58

TWH – Around the world, there are artifacts and other pieces of history brought together to celebrate, honor, explore, and preserve the practice of magic in its many cultures forms. These museums and gallery collections are dedicated to showcasing regional folk magic, Witchcraft, and other forms of the occult. There are also dedicated museums that focus on the history of Witchcraft persecutions and mass hysteria. Some do both.

[Selbst fotografiert von JUweL under CC lic.]

Before we look at some of permanent museums and seasonal exhibitions, it is important to note that not all magic or occult museums have the same focus.

Often Witchcraft- and occult-themed displays are cross-pollinated with paranormal collections, such as is the case with the Warrens Occult Museum in Connecticut. In these collections, the subject matter is dedicated to paranormal-specific histories such as ghost hauntings. The Warrens Occult Museum, for example, is interested in the work of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren of “Amityville Horror” fame. While there may be some interesting artifacts related to the practice of Witchcraft as known in the Pagan community, paranormal museums have a different focus than the celebration and preservation of spiritually-honored magical practice.

Similarly, most lists of magic-related museums don’t differentiate between magic, as practiced by Pagans, and magic as in Harry Houdini’s craft. There are many museums dedicated to the art of illusion, such as in the American Museum of Magic. However, this collection and other like it should be confused with the displays found in museums dedicated to Witchcraft and the occult.

Just as with the collections focusing on the paranormal or illusion-based magic, some museums are solely dedicated to fictional magic, as is the case in a small museum in Stratford-upon-Avon, located near Shakespeare’s birthplace. Magic Alley and the World of Wizard’s Thatch is a little-known tourist location that is often listed as a museum of magic. However, its focus is Dave Matthews’ fictional world in the Chonicles of the Wizard’s Thatch. It has its own draw, but its focus is strictly fictional magic.

Today we offer our own list of interesting museums and exhibitions around the world that do showcase, in some form, the practice of Witchcraft, the occult, or magic within a spiritual understanding. Some collections take up whole museums, and some are part of a smaller display buried in a storefront or on book shelves of libraries.

Regardless of the size and scope, for the Pagan, Heathen, or polytheist, these sites can offer a connection to history through a common spiritual understanding, answer questions, or even inspire news ones.

Museums and galleries

  • Arguably the most famous museum is the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, at the southwestern corner of the isle of Britain. The museum has been a rich repository of artifacts and lore since 1960. Its collection has grown to more than 3,000 objects and some 7,000 books to cement it as a place of pilgrimage for Pagans of all stripes and a curious draw for tourists visiting the fishing village. A recent exhibition is “Poppets, Pins, and Power: the art of cursing.” The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is one of most extensive and dedicated museums on the occult, Witchcraft, and folk magical practice.
  • Possibly just as famous is the Salem Witch Museum. However, the Massachusetts-based site has a very different in focus than the museum in Cornwall. The Salem Witch Museum chronicles the infamous moral panic and witch trials that the area endured in the late 1600s. The Salem Witch Museum is not focused on Witchcraft practice, but rather on the preserving the city’s famed history. Along with that museum are a number of other historical sites that explore early U.S. regional history.
  • Similarily, in Zugarramurdi, Spain, the Museo de las Brujas shares the history of that region’s Witchcraft persecutions that occurred during the Inquisition. The museum was founded in 2007, the museums attempts to demonstrate both the reality of magical practice and the superstitions that were held throughout history.
  • The curators at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, located in Hólmavík, are seeking to preserve the history of magical practice found in that region of the world. According to the site, work on the exhibition has been on going since 1996. It includes Icelandic grimoires, runes, stones, and also catalogs the area’s Witchcraft persecution history.
  • In New Orleans, visitors can explore the city’s Voodoo history. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum has been in operation since 1972, and is considered one of the most interesting small American museums. It is located in the city’s French Quarter, and offers a range of experiences and exhibitions, including readings, tours, and more.
  • Italy boasts a tarot museum. Located in Bologna, the Museo dei Tarocchi says that it treats art and tarot with some respect, showcasing that particular intersection. It offers “an opportunity to all artists who have been working on this subject matter and will bring to light what is often at risk of remaining hidden and of being forgotten.”
  • In Belgium, there is another tarot museum. Located in Mechelen and run by Guido Gillabel, this museum showcases “2500 contemporary and antique tarot decks, fortune-telling games, old etchings, funny tarot gadgets.“
  • Owned and operated by Pagans, there is of course the new Buckland’s Gallery of Witchcraft and Magic. As we have reported in the past, Raymond Buckland originally set up his museum in the 1960s on Long Island. Over the decades and several moves, the museum is now located in Cleveland, Ohio. The collection includes the many items and books that Buckland had collected over many years of personal practice.
  • Another Pagan-owned gallery is located across the U.S. in Santa Cruz, California. Operated by Oberon Zell, the Academy of Arcana boasts the collections of both Zell himself, and Morning Glory Zell, including her extensive collection of goddess figurines. After Morning Glory died in 2014, Oberon launched the Academy to showcase the many Pagan and magical items that the couple had collected since the start of their practice 50 years ago.
  • Other similar museums located around the world include the Museum of Witchcraft Switzerland (Hexenmuseum Schweiz), and the Museum of Witchcraft and dark forces (Obscurum Thale)  in Germany,

Collections and special exhibitions

  • Cornell University Libraries boast an extensive collection of rare historic Witchcraft material, which also includes movie posters from Witch-related movies. The posters as well as the material are now on display in a special exhibition. The collection is called “the World Be’witched” and features “some of the earliest known writings on witches as well as 21st-century witchcraft movie posters to illustrate how popular views on witches have evolved over 500 years.” The exhibition is on display Oct. 31 through August 2018 at the Kroch Library’s Hirshland Gallery.
  • The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the University of London also has a Witchcraft collection, and it is already on display. It includes the institute’s many books on Witchcraft, both academic texts and original source material. Curators of the exhibition, called “Accusations of Witchcraft,” highlight four specific cases of British Witchcraft to showcase the collection and inform visitors. The exhibition will be available through Oct. 31, and is located on the 3rd floor of IHR.
  • Not to be outdone, the British Library located in London has opened a new exhibition called “Harry Pottery: a history of magic.” While the exhibition does include material from J.K. Rowling’s famous book series, the focus is not on that fictional world. Curators have brought together the libraries extensive material and artifacts on Witchcraft to explore the history inspiring the books. “We unveil rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection, capturing the traditions of folklore and magic which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.” They also included the “original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay, both on display for the first time.”

  • Connecticut’s Windham Textile & History Museum has staged a new exhibit called “Nightmare on Main” that features both Witchcraft history as well as fictional constructions. Located in Willimatic, the museum will run the Witch-themed exhibit through Nov, 17, 2017.

Libraries

  • Cardiff University Library, located in Wales, maintains a special Witchcraft historical collection similar to Cornell University and other large research institutions. Such libraries maintain historical documents used predominantly for research. Cardiff is not currently hosting an exhibition of its Witchcraft material.
  • Owned and operated by Pagans, the New Alexandrian Library has been operated since 2014 in its own building. Located in Delaware, the NAL is “dedicated to the preservation of books, periodicals, newsletters, music, media, art works, artifacts, photographs, and digital media focused on the metaphysical aspects of all religions and traditions.” Where most large libraries might have Witchcraft collections, the NAL’s entire collection is Witchcraft- and Pagan-related.
  • Across the country, the Adocyntyn Research Library provides the same service. Like NAL, Adocyntyn is operated by Pagans and its entire collection is devoted to the Pagan community. Adocyntyn has its own space located in Albany, California.
  • As we reported, Frederick CUUPS has just acquired a Pagan library collection. It is not yet available. However, it will provide yet another Pagan-run collection of material focused on the occult, Witchcraft, and magic.
  • Other examples of libraries that contain occult, magic, and Witchcraft related material include: the Ritman Library in the Netherlands and the University of Miami.

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Column: California Wildfires

Sat, 2017-10-21 11:08

Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire
— Robert Frost

At the time of writing, 22 different wildfires in Northern California have burned 217,566 acres, killed at least 40 people, and destroyed over 5,700 buildings, including entire neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa; an alarming departure from past wildfires, which have mostly affected rural areas. Over 100,000 people have been forced to evacuate and the smoke caused “the worst air quality ever recorded for smoke in many parts of the Bay Area.”

[NASA.]

It is common sense that California’s prolonged drought exacerbated many wildfires, but last winter’s pouring rains were no relief, for they too abetted the intensity of the current fires by encouraging the proliferation of annual grasses, which have already died and turned into a fuel source. The fires have also burned the primary wine and marijuana-producing region of California, a region indisputably ruled by the god Dionysos, blackening the skies and bloodying the sun with the ashes of grapevine and cannabis. But Frost’s poem and the current fires bring a different set of powers to mind as well. Ragnarök

In the old Norse poem Vǫluspá, the vǫlva prophecies to Óðinn that at Ragnarök, the forces of Múspellheimr, the world of fire, will attack the Aesir and Vanir:

51. O’er the sea from the east | there sails a ship
With the people of Múspell, | at the helm stands Loki
After the devourer | do the clown’s sons [fíflmegir] follow
And with them | the brother of Byleist goes

52. Surt fares from the south | with the scourge of branches
The sun of the battle-gods | shone from his sword

In Gylfaginning, the fire giant Surt is the guardian of Múspellheim and fights in the vanguard of the “sons of Múspell” as they cross the rainbow bridge Bifröst, causing it to shatter beneath them. While there is considerable contention about potential Christian influence in Vǫluspá and other accounts of Ragnarök, it is undeniable that the sons of Múspell and the “scourge of branches” are loose upon California right now.

Gylfaginning also contains a strange story in which Thorr and Loki travel to the castle of the giant Útgarða-Loki (“Outyard-Loki”), who challenges the travelers to a series of contests. Loki claims that no one is faster at eating than him, and his boast is contested by a being named “Logi:”

Then a trough was taken and borne in upon the hall-floor and filled with flesh; Loki sat down at the one end and Logi at the other, and each ate as fast as he could, and they met in the middle of the trough. By that time Loki had eaten all the meat from the bones, but Logi likewise had eaten all the meat, and the bones with it, and the trough too; and now it seemed to all as if Loki had lost the game.

In the morning, however, Útgarða-Loki reveals that “he who was called Logi was ‘wild-fire,’ and he burned the trough no less swiftly than the meat.” Dagulf Loptson analyzes this story as an illustration of the difference between Loki as sacred cremation fire and Logi as uncontrolled wildfire (150-151). Both are fire, but one preserves the bones for burial, and the other consumes them entirely. One is directed (though never truly tamed), the other is completely unchecked.

When Loki captains Naglfar, the ship made of dead men’s nails, against the Aesir and Vanir at Ragnarök, the distinction between Loki and Logi is effectively incinerated. All the world is cremated, all the world is consumed. Though some modern Heathens see Surt as “king” of Múspellheimr, Gylfaginning portrays him as a guardian, and Loptson theorizes that Loki may instead be seen as ruler of that land, thus explaining his blood-brotherhood with Óðinn as a pact between two kings. Furthermore, by parallel to Freyr and Njörðr, Loptson suggests that “identifying Loki as a hostage king of Múspellheimr may explain his presence in Asgard, as the Muspilli demonstrate no threat to Ásgarðr until after Loki and his children have been imprisoned, thus breaking the truce between the two nations” (139-140). According to this theory, the broken pact is the dissolution of the world.

Apocalyptic Polytheism

[California Office of Emergency Services.]

In Miðgarðr, it is clear that “mankind has broken the covenant with nature,” as Peter Grey writes in Apocalyptic Witchcraft (4). In California, indigenous tribes used to do controlled burns every year, and historian Mike Davis points out that in addition to climate change, relentless capitalist development of wilderness area makes it inevitable that houses will continue to burn:

This is the deadly conceit behind mainstream environmental politics in California: you say fire, I say climate change, and we both ignore the financial and real-estate juggernaut that drives the suburbanisation of our increasingly inflammable wildlands.

It is too late to restore balance between civilized mankind and nature, but that does not mean that we should not respond to the imbalance:

Apocalypse is not escapism as some suggest. It is being held in the jaws at the threshold of life and death. It is sacred confrontation and revelation. It is utopia and dystopia in eternal exchange. It sees through. In Christianity apocalypse is used by the world haters who argue for war, in the New Age as a panacea for those who long for ascension, I use it to awaken us from dream.

There is no other way to talk about apocalypse. I do not choke the inspiration in my throat. I will not simply watch the last dance or describe the dancers without losing myself amongst them. We must be brought to an awareness of the moment. (6)

The eternal exchange between utopia and dystopia is exemplified in the twin prophecies of Badb (here identified with the Morrígan, who in other texts is described as her sister along with Macha) at the end of the Second Battle of Maige Tuired, one full of blessings—”Strength in each/A cup very full/Full of honey”—and the other much bleaker: “False judgements of old men/False precedents of lawyers/Every man a betrayer/Every son a reaver.”

Like Badb Catha, the battle crow dancing on the points of spears, we must lose ourselves in the last dance, which is also the final battle. Our awareness of the moment demands action, even — especially — in the greatest moment of despair. As Grey writes in “A Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft:”

13. The War is upon us.

14. Choose then to become a Mask.

15. Those with nothing left to lose will dare all.

Disaster

Constant disaster (from the Latin roots dis + aster, “an unfavorable star”) is the new normal in these times of violent climate change, but it is the old normal as well. As was written on the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief page on so-called Columbus Day, “we must remember that for some communities, disasters have been unfolding for centuries, depriving people of life and liberty every single day.” In the wake of disaster, the state prioritizes maintaining its control above all else. Officials of the city of Santa Rosa imposed a curfew within evacuation zones to prevent looting. In Puerto Rico, police and military personnel stay “in luxury hotels with power, clean water, dedicated catered buffets, air conditioning and internet service while elderly residents with cardiac conditions lie sweltering in structurally damaged homes without access to any of the above.” And on October 16th, SWAT teams tellingly decided to spend their resources raiding Mutual Aid Disaster Relief’s base of operations in Puerto Rico.

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is a network founded on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid, and autonomous direct action. Their mission statement frames their project as “solidarity not charity,” explaining that they believe that “disaster survivors themselves are the first responders to crisis; the role of outside aid is to support survivors to support each other.”

They write in their guiding principles that they understand their relationships to be reciprocal: “We seek as much as possible to break down the barriers between givers and receivers of aid. Everyone has something to teach and something to share. And we all need assistance at times.” The ancient Greek word ξένος (xenos) meant both “host” and “guest,” for there was an understanding that the hospitality of the host would be reciprocated if they ever traveled to the home of their guest, a relationship divinely protected by Zeus under his epithet Xenios. In the Bay Area, mutual aid for wildfire survivors has already begun, both organized by people in the North Bay and with people driving up from other parts of the Bay Area to distribute supplies and volunteer medical skills.

Disasters also bring social tensions to the fore: “We recognize that disasters are times of localized upheaval and suffering, but are also opportunities for the rich and powerful to consolidate power.” In California, as elsewhere, one of the major tensions and consolidations of power is prison.

Prisoner firefighters. [CalFire].

The wildfires are being fought by prisoners: “The inmates, who roughly equal the state’s civilian firefighting forces . . . . receive $2 per day for their time spent in any of the state’s 43 inmate firefighter camps, and an extra dollar per hour while on a fire line.” The state has proven extremely unwilling to relinquish any part of its slave labor force. In 2016, when the state of California was considering reducing its prison population of 115,000 prisoners, “lawyers in the office of then-Attorney General Kamala Harris said that releasing too many prisoners ‘at this time would severely impact fire camp participation—a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought.’” The state is literally keeping people in prison longer in order to be able to send them to fight fires. In North Carolina, however, fire provided an opportunity for liberation, the latest in a wave of prison revolts across the country. On Oct. 12 at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution, “inmates started a fire around 3 p.m. at the prison’s specialty sewing plant, where about 30 inmates work. After the fire was started, several inmates tried unsuccessfully to escape.” Dionysos, destroyer of the dungeons and palace of Pentheus, inciter of slave revolts, possesses the epithet Eleutherios: Liberator. Even as his vineyards and marijuana grows burn, a chthonic sacrifice by fire, the use of prisoner firefighters does not escape his notice. Nor should it escape ours.

When I was still a little child, I admired the hardened convict on whom the prison door will always close; I used to visit the bars and the rented rooms his presence had consecrated; I saw with his eyes the blue sky and the flower-filled work of the fields; I followed his fatal scent through city streets. He had more strength than the saints, more sense than any explorer – and he, he alone! was witness to his glory and his rightness.

Along the open road on winter nights, homeless, cold, and hungry, one voice gripped my frozen heart: “Weakness or strength: you exist, that is strength.” You don’t know where you are going or why you are going, go in everywhere, answer everyone. No one will kill you, any more than if you were a corpse.” In the morning my eyes were so vacant and my face so dead, that the people I met may not even have seen me.

In cities, mud went suddenly red and black, like a mirror when a lamp in the next room moves, like treasure in the forest! Good luck, I cried, and I saw a sea of flames and smoke rise to heaven; and left and right, all wealth exploded like a billion thunderbolts.

-Arthur Rimbaud, A Season in Hell

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Column: Wouldn’t You Like to See Something Strange?

Fri, 2017-10-20 11:01

I remember certain parts distinctly; or I should better say that the images are clear; some details less so. I was cooking something, but not in a house. It was a professional kitche; there were lots of pots and a few Dutch ovens. I also remember seeing a tin food mill hanging close by. I know I was preparing some kind of food, but it wasn’t a quick dish.  For some reason, I think it was a terrine of some sort. As I looked away from what I was cooking toward the entrance of the area, something happened. The pain was sharp and sudden. I think it was in the chest. I remember holding myself up with my left hand against the stove and a hat —my hat — flew  off to the side and on to a pilot flame. It burned, and I got burned trying to hold myself up, but pulling my hand away made me fall to the floor.

[Pixabay].

Then, when I hit the floor, I could see beneath the stove. It was black with charcoal dust, and I thought it needed cleaning. A moment later, someone was yelling — it was very muffled — and then I was flipped over. The rest I remember even less well. The yelling faded away. It got darker — at least as I remember it now it was a shimmering, odd sort of dark foam – almost like the edge of a fog made from soap suds, and it was sort of everywhere with no starting point. I stood up and waited around. Someone was there, but I don’t remember who.

The next thing I remember is sitting under a tamarind tree at home. It was the one in our backyard, my hands were covered in sticky pulp and I still had pieces of the husk attached to my skin from the goo. I remember more stuff later,  just as you’d expect.

The tamarind tree is my earliest memory. The earlier story is the one I told my parents as soon as I could talk. It didn’t go over well.

In a Christian-dominated society, toddlers talking of such things is neither entertainment nor encouraged. It’s an unappreciated and unwanted type of childhood storytelling that may require a physician, an exorcist or both. Such memories of survival are described by most Christian faiths as the workings of demons. Preexistence is heresy, And when I occasionally tell the story even now, I still creep people out, and it goes from discomfort to fear to anger.

Other faiths and cultures aren’t so sure about the demonic origins of memories crossing the death passage. The transmigration of souls is/was commonly accepted, not just among Hellenic Greeks but by Romans, Celts, Hindus, Jains as well as in the Yoruba faith. In the Yoruba tradition, reincarnation can happen and is often familial. The expectation of reincarnation is even embedded in names like Babatunde which means, “father returns.” While some souls may rest elsewhere, some come back.

I was fortunate. I was raised at the confluence of three religions, and what Catholics and Jews could not explain, the Yoruba could. My experiences were affirmed as normal, requiring spiritual rather than psychiatric attention.

When we approach the Samhain season, I end up reflecting on those childhood memories, and yeah, I really do get the creepy part about it. The transmigration of souls does imply that some of us are our own ancestors (whoops, eerie). I’ve seen the movies too, about the creepy kid doing weird things (someone cue Tubular Bells).

All of that doesn’t quite explain the emotionally-charged reactions around personal reincarnation stories. Reactions that range from simple disbelief to disturbing glances to calls for diagnosis, almost exclusively from parents. It’s not clear why, either. Parents may justifiably worry for their child’s welfare, but what I have come to learn is that these stories are troubling because they confront the illusion of control. The child becomes a vehicle for something that adults cannot explain nor command. Parents look for causes, altering the narrative from normalcy to pathology, from illness to demons; usually never considering that it might be part of the natural flow of the universe.

Reincarnation doesn’t just complicate our views on death, it complicates our view of children. Some children may have memories that extend their experience beyond their age. The presence of a past life suggests that age and agency are not conjoined, and while that may raise questions about the child’s consent to all sorts of things from  adultism to imposed medical procedures to belief indoctrination and faith involvement, it also raises questions about the perceived — even desired — order of the universe. The challenge when children remember is accepting the inability to explain what has occurred. The dominant faiths of the West are ill-equipped to offer guidance, so the usual formulas for control, like invoking authority, become lame. Offering explanations like possession and witchcraft means adults can avoid an uncomfortable confrontation with the unknown.

The very idea that souls transmigrate deeply challenges priestly authority and the common expectations of a well-behaved monotheistic universe. To obviate the structure is to undermine a basic belief that whereby choice and free will cannot extend beyond death. It is like accessing “other memory” with no spiritual mechanism to explain how it happens other than heresy, anathema or abomination. Monotheism isn’t required either.  The dogmatic mechanics of scientism will also drive emotional stances. When there is no explanation for what is happening, there is no means to control what is happening. That lack of control produces only fear.

Most seriously, in order to maintain control and authority, we suppress the sense of the natural. In the case of a child remembering, adults will subordinate a child’s sense of the universe. We often demand the children align their spiritual sense with adult expectations: a path that leads to fearing the spiritual world instead of working in it.

Quelling our inborn spiritual sense is a poor choice, one that our community has routinely experienced, that our sense of the world is flawed. I would argue it’s even a form of violence, a type that many of us have experienced. We collectively feel the onslaught of reeducation to mis-align our spiritual experience of preexistence with foreboding, and even oppressive adult spiritual architecture. We are victimized when people in power insist that our spiritual experiences are not real, merely the product of delusion or indigestion. Through it all, that tactic tears away at our self-esteem and trust our own spiritual sense. We have each survived this kind of gas-lighting as adults and as children.

Access to that spiritual ancestry is much of what Samhain is about, and it is the one sabbat that survived oppression by recognizing our access to spirit, now and as children. Long before the modern Pagan revival movement, our ancestors used trick-or-treating to resuscitate what had become a minor, lost even dead (pun intended) holiday.  The modern rise of Halloween happened through children. In a way, ancestors called back the sabbat of Samhain through its secular counterpart, Halloween. For many Pagans and non-Pagans, Halloween became a spiritual gateway: some fear it, some do not. Halloween may not be a sabbat, but it is certainly an entryway. There is something universally — even intentionally — clear about this holiday; something more is happening than just candy and costumes.

Our ancestors can be crafty folk. Whether present as children or guiding our society from the far side of the veil, they had a remedy to restore their presence, heal our senses and break our indoctrination through Halloween, we reclaimed Samhain. That reclamation is now a powerful blessing. It’s as much an invitation to explore the veil that we may have crossed when we entered this life, as it is an opportunity to explore it with the agency we may have denied children, and been denied as children. That is ancestral magic at work and an ancestral gift for us to honor this season. Remembering, perhaps, that some of our ancestors may already be here, and asking for candy.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

NHS England proposes ban on alternative medicines; Pagans respond

Thu, 2017-10-19 11:12

UNITED KINGDOM — A petition has been circulating around UK-based Pagan websites calling on Parliament to act in the wake of a proposed plan by the National Health Service (NHSE) England to stop prescriptions for herbal, homeopathic and other alternative forms of medicine.

[Pixabay]

Up until now, the NHSE has prescribed herbal and homeopathic remedies for patients. For example, it is used for those those patients who suffer from severe side effects caused by pharmaceutical medicines or for patients who have experienced no improvement in their health from those medicines.

In the UK, treatment is free at the point of delivery, although patients have to pay a basic fee (£8.60 per item) for each prescription. This chosen route has not been without controversy historically speaking. In 2010, Tom Dolphin, a leading member of the British Medical Association described homeopathy as ‘witchcraft.’

The NHS system is partly funded by a National Insurance scheme, which British citizens pay into through wages.

While it is of course possible to take out private health insurance, the NHS was founded in order to provide for everyone, including the poorest and most marginalized members of society. The system has been extended in recent years to include some alternative treatments. Over the last 5 years, the NHSE has spent over £600,000 on homeopathic treatments.

However, as noted, there has been dissent based on the assertion that homeopathic remedies are not evidence based. Now, the NHSE is saying that prescribing homeopathic and herbal remedies is a ‘misuse of scarce funds.’ NHSE chief Simon Stevens commented that “at best homeopathy is a placebo.”  He said that “NHSE funds which could be better devoted to treatments that work.”

The NHSE includes 16 other treatments in the ban and is encouraging patients to buy over-the-counter remedies for complaints, such as indigestion and sore throats with the aim of saving approximately £250 million a year. The ban covers some 17 items, including herbal medicines, Omega-3 fatty acids, liniments, and travel vaccines.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs (general practitioners), said that reducing prescription costs was desirable, but warned that the more vulnerable members of society could be significantly affected.

Stokes-Lampard said, “If patients are in a position that they can afford to buy over the counter medicines and products, then we would encourage them to do so rather than request a prescription – but imposing blanket policies on GPs, that don’t take into account demographic differences across the country, or that don’t allow for flexibility for a patient’s individual circumstances, risks alienating the most vulnerable in society.”

Michael Marshall is the President of the Good Thinking Society, which has threatened to put the Department of Health up for a judicial review if it failed to blacklist homeopathic and herbal preparations. Marshall states:

This is very welcome news…Every credible medical body certainly knows that homeopathic remedies are just not effective for any conditions at all and it is great to see this strong statement from NHS England officially acknowledging the fact.

However, Cristal Sumner, chief executive of the British Homeopathic Association and the creator of the recent petition, says the NHS plans were “bad for its already overstretched budget and for patients.”

She has criticized the report used to draw up the new guidelines, commenting that, “This recommendation is not cost effective as patients will be prescribed more expensive conventional drugs in place of homeopathy, which defeats the object of the exercise.”

Don Redding, policy director at National Voices, an umbrella organization which covers 140 health care charities, including the British Heart Foundation, suggests that this is bringing charges in through the back door.

He believes that that those who are unable to pay will now be unable to obtain treatment. This, he says, violates the ‘free at the point of use’ principle which underpins the foundation of the NHS.

Alternative medicine is a topic of considerable interest within the Pagan community. However, Pagans appear to be divided on the issue.

Those who practice alternative forms of medicine are skeptical about the ban and have been publicizing the petition, while others have reservations about the evidence-basis of some alternative practices.

Concerns have also been raised about making rash and unsupported equivalences between different types of practices.

Helen Compton says, “My initial reaction to the ban, as a herbalist, is that they are incorrectly lumping us in with homeopaths, nothing wrong with homeopathy but herbalism is a very different healing modality. ”

“The intent behind this incorrect conflation seems generally malign, to show herbal medicine as an ineffective waste of time,” Compton explains.

“Also, seems that it doesn’t make clear that herbal medicine largely isn’t available on the NHS, the ban concerns things like senna etc. It is limiting patient choice of generally safe and cheap medicines, not logical and I sense the hand of large pharmaceutical companies somewhere behind this.”

However, not all Pagans are critical of the ban, with some calling for tighter controls on alternative medicine and more extensive use of peer review.

Herbalist Helen Maria says, “unless they’ve been properly trained doctors are not qualified to prescribe herbs. It is not symptomatic prescribing like pharmaceutical drugs.”

Maria goes on to further explain, “[Herbalism] is individualistic and looking at the root cause. It is not really possible to go nettle = eczema because the cause of everyone’s eczema is different. Therefore I’m sort of happy they’re not doing it. On the other hand this smacks of further marginalising, and discrediting other healing modalities.”

There is a general consensus, however, that the ban is part of a move to induce patients to pay for a greater range of over-the-counter remedies, which is in turn an aspect of the funding crisis currently experienced by the British National Health Service.

The online petition, which has now reached over 16,000 signatures, will be open to signatures through March 13, 2018.

Supreme Court declines to hear New Mexico Ten Commandments case

Wed, 2017-10-18 11:50

WASHINGTON DC —  The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought forth by two Pagans concerning the Ten Commandments monument previously erected in front of Bloomfield City Hall. Because SCOTUS declined to hear the case, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, stating that the monument should be removed, will stand.

©jorndorf/roughshelter.com

Wiccan Priestess Janie Felix and Pagan Buford Coone, with the full support of the ACLU, challenged their home city of Bloomfield’s installation of a Ten Commandants monument on public property in 2014.

The ACLU argued that city officials “accorded preferential treatment to the monument’s sponsors, disregarding many city ordinances and policy requirements that would regulate the monument’s installation.”

Ms. Felix said she is happy the justice system worked in this case and hopes it sets a solid legal precedent for future cases. She says that she is also thankful to the ACLU for their assistance.

“I am grateful for the help and driving force of the ACLU in supporting this important legal fight. I find it sad the the City of Bloomfield was so misguided in this case, money was squandered by the city to pursue the appeals, money that is owed the ACLU for court fees, which they will be hard pressed to pay. It has been hinted that I am to blame!”

History of the Monument
On April 3, 2007, Bloomfield’s Councilor Kevin Mauzy “made a presentation of a monument to display the Ten Commandments in front of Bloomfield City Hall serving as a historical and art display for the city.”

As noted in the official meeting minutes, the proposal was approved and the funds were to come from “private donations from the community.”

In 2014 testimony as reported by The Albuquerque Journal, Mauzy said, “[The monument] was not for religious purposes. It was for historical purposes and to beautify the city.”

After the approval, the Council adopted a resolution permitting private “citizens, groups and organizations” to sponsor displays on City Hall’s lawn. The official resolution outlined the scope and approval process for such an installation. For example one requirement states that all displays must reflect the “history and heritage of the City’s law and government.”

There was an almost immediate outcry from people of many religious backgrounds. At the 2007 meeting, the City Manager urged the Council to delay the monument’s approval until legal concerns were addressed. Opponents spoke at council meetings, sent letters-to-the-editor of local newspapers, and signed petitions. One Bloomfield citizen even launched a blog called “Bloomfield NM Ten Commandments Monument.”

Despite the myriad protests, the monument was erected in June 2011.

The group funding the Ten Commandments monument was the Four Corners Historical Monument Project, which was led by councilor Kevin Mauzy himself. Twenty-one days after the 2011 monument ceremony, the Council amended the 2007 resolution stressing the limits of usable lawn space.

Later that year, the group installed two other monuments, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, within that same space.

The Legal Case
Felix says she wanted to be part of the legal case because the principle of the suit was very important to her.

“The conservative Christian agenda of our community railroaded this monument through, ignoring our petitions, our voices and barreled through as if it was their Deity given right to push their faith and to ignore all others,” says Felix.

She says that she faced considerable negative responses from some in the local community for being part of the lawsuit. In addition to hostile stares when she was in local stores, Felix says there were also threatening comments in the newspaper and on call in radio programs. She says, for the most part, she was able to ignore it.

However, she notes that there was one thing she couldn’t ignore.

“I think the hardest thing to handle was the suggestion that only two Pagans were making everyone else bow to their needs,” says Felix.

She says this wasn’t at all true, “The reality was that the other person and myself had nothing to loose, like our jobs with the city, so we were willing to be the face of the suit. We were the face in front of many who could not come forward.”

The City Council for Bloomfield says that other groups could have funded their own monument to be placed at city hall.

However, opponents say that this isn’t true. They say there isn’t room for any other monuments.

The ACLU was watching the events surrounding the monument unfold since the beginning in 2007. After sending letters-of-concern and launching an investigation, the ACLU finally decided to file a lawsuit on Feb. 9, 2014. According to the filed complaint:

The City of Bloomfield accorded preferential treatment to the monument’s sponsors, disregarding many city ordinances and policy requirements that would regulate the monument’s installation. Public records requests also reveal that Mauzy sought and received legal advice on the monument from the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization that often advocates for the merging of government and religion.

In that complaint, Mr. Coone is recorded as saying the “display shows that the City favors the Christian religion and supports Christianity over other religions [and] … violates the U.S. Constitution and the New Mexico Constitution.” In the same document, Janie Felix says, “[the monument] sends a message of exclusion to those who do not adhere to that particular religion.”

In March 2014, the case went to trial before U.S. District Judge James A. Parker in Albuquerque. Judge Parker ruled in favor of Felix and Coone in August of that year.

The city appealed the decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado, and that case was heard in Sept. 2015.

In November of 2016, the court issued its decision, affirming the lower court’s ruling.

©jorndorf/roughshelter.com

While it did note that the “cluster of other [historically-based] monuments surrounding the Ten Commandments can dampen the effect of endorsement,” the court said, “the city would have to do more than merely add a few secular monuments in order to signal to objective observers a ‘principal or primary’ message of neutrality. Thus the impermissible taint of endorsement remains, and as we have said, nothing sufficiently purposeful, public, and persuasive was done to cure it.”

The city then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States, who refused to hear the case. A denial of a Petition of Certiorari doesn’t mean SCOTUS agrees or disagrees with the decision or that it will impact any other similar cases, but it does make the decision from the Court of Appeals the final decision in this case.

Felix says everything she went through over the years this case took winding through the legal process was worth it. “I was aware that it could take a long time to get through all the step,” she says. “And, yes, I would definitely do it again!”

Pagan chaplain joins Red Cross team offering spiritual care

Tue, 2017-10-17 12:35

TWH –Whether it’s a shifting climate, rising intra-cultural tensions, or terrible luck, many natural and man-made disasters have been covered in the news of late. Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and even mass shootings can have similar impacts on survivors, despite the differences in cause and physical damage resulting from each. Those impacts can include psychological and spiritual harm.

Holli Emore and other Red Cross volunteers [courtesy].

Although better known in Pagan circles as the executive director at Cherry Hill Seminary, Holli Emore is also trained in providing disaster spiritual care through the Red Cross. She recently returned from a trip doing just that in Las Vegas, in the wake of the concert mass shooting which recently took place.

“I wasn’t there on vacation,” she told The Wild Hunt.

It also wasn’t her first trip in recent weeks: Emore’s worked with Caribbean evacuees, and before that survivors of Irma. “I’m hoping to stay home a bit now,” she admitted.

In order to provide the kind of spiritual care required under such circumstances — and Emore says that volunteers are needed for this work throughout the country — an individual must be a trained chaplain, which in part means being able to help people in the context of their own faith practices. Professional chaplains, as well as those who are board-certified through a recognized agency or endorsed faith leaders, all fit the bill.

“Chaplaincy is a specific skill used for dealing with people in crisis,” Emore explained, and Red Cross rules are intended to make sure that no one doing that work makes things worse.

“I’ve often meant well, a lot of us mean well, but it’s good to have training.”

With that training, a chaplain helps victims draw on their own “values or faith resources, with or without religion,” and never injects values from another religious path into that work.

“One thing they teach us never to say is: ‘God must have a purpose for this,’ ” Emore said. “It’s 95% listening, much of it reflective, helping people think through and sort their own thoughts. Sometimes — not often — I pray with people.”

Emore is aware that the Red Cross organization gets a fair amount of criticism around disaster response, but she believes that its scale does have value. With many groups involved in providing aid, she said, “It’s important we’re all playing by the same rule book.”  The rules , in this case, are presumably created by, or at least standardized through, Red Cross personnel.

One standard rule promulgated at Red Cross-run shelters is the idea that “this is like walking into someone’s bedroom,” Emore said. That’s why only certain people are allowed entry, and even local ministers might be shut out.

Congregants will first be asked if they would like the company, and if there’s enough interest and space it’s possible services will be held, but no one without the training will be going from bed to bed providing comfort.

“You don’t want this experience,” she said of any disaster aftermath. “Who wants to sleep in a high school gym on a cot, surrounded by stranger? It’s tough. People are strained and stressed. I spoke to one man [after Irma] who was undergoing chemo, and now this on top of that.”

Right now, the disaster occupying the headlines is historically-large wildfires in California. Emore doesn’t plan on working with that population directly, but she did offer some advice. “It’s important for people to acknowledge that they are not going to get over this overnight. They may feel fine, but these events take time to process.”

She continued, “People may feel exhausted for awhile as they process the events on a soul level, and they may need professional help, even if only once or twice.”

“It’s important to be able to let go, and accept that help. That’s okay. I can’t imagine what it’s like losing everything, like some people in California have.”

In that or any disaster, Emore said that those close to the victims “can help just by being there. ” She said, “We can’t rescue everybody, but [we] can be a caring presence. When a friend finally knows what they want, they can call you and ask for it.”

Working in Las Vegas was important to Emore in part because it reminded her of the pain in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shootings. “We were burned out,” she said of people in her community, “and we felt there must be a way to come together as a community for something spiritual, but not necessarily religious.”

The result was a ceremony of healing and peace, which has been held in several locations and with participants from many faith groups in her local area in South Carolina.

Those kinds of ceremonies and that kind of loving care are needed far from the focus of hurricanes, or shootings, or wildfires. “We’re creating a diaspora of wounded people,” Emore observed, including some 22,000 who were at the Las Vegas concert and have since returned home.

A highly mobile society results in the trauma visited in one place migrating with its victims far and wide; Emore fears that they’re “becoming kind of invisible,” and infecting their communities with that pain if they aren’t getting the support they need.

“As Pagans, maybe we should consider this, since we understand how to energetically support our community,” she said. “At least acknowledging those who have crossed over this Samhain, their pain, and wishing them peace might be a good start.”

The back-to-back-to-back disasters have stretched Red Cross resources thin, Emore said, which is why she’s hoping some readers might opt to volunteer for this work. However, her description of what it looks like is frank: “It’s 12 to 14 hour days,” she said, “but they take care of us. We need more people.”

Emore has laid the groundwork for more than just asking for help: Cherry Hill Seminary offers a chaplaincy track which would satisfy Red Cross requirements. They include courses for those who wish to offer those skills as an adjunct, like herself, as well as those who wish to make a career of the work.

Pagan Community Notes: California wildfires, Frith Forge 2017, Doreen Valiente and more

Mon, 2017-10-16 11:08

CALIF. – As is being reported throughout mainstream media, the California fires still burn. The death toll is at 40 and multiple fires continue to rage with the worst ones in the north. Despite the devastation, officials are now saying that firefighters are beginning to get control of many of the fires, and promise of cooler temperatures is helping.

The California Pagan community has not be left untouched by the destruction. As we reported last week, Tracy McClendon and her family evacuated their home quickly, and just in time as the blazes consumed the structure. “It is scary to think that ten minutes is the difference between us being alive and us not being alive,” she said. The family lost everything and has a GoFundMe campaign running to help them rebuild.

According to the Sonoma Valley Pagan Network, Annwfn and all of Greenfield Ranch is safe. Firefighters reportedly “were able to halt the fires at Reeves Canyon, northeast of the ranch.”

The Isis-Oasis sanctuary in Geyersville is untouched, and is offering a place of rest to first responders. “We have beds and food … free of charge.” Covenant of the Goddess Northern California Local Council has been posting information, news stories, and resources on its Facebook page.

We will be following the situation and bringing you more on the situation over the next week, including eyewitness reports from our California-based writers.

 *   *   *

GERMANY – Reports are now coming in from Frith Forge 2017, a new international event sponsored by the Troth. Frith Forge was designed to be conference for inclusive Ásatrú and Heathen organizations, and individuals. As is advertised on the website, the event offers a space “to build alliances, understanding, and friendships among us instead of compartmentalizing further in an industrialized world. Let’s learn from each other with respect and fellowship to forge frith among us.”

Frith Forge was held Oct. 5-8 in Werder/Petzow, Germany, and included workshops, talks, and a sacred sites tour Oct. 6.

There were reportedly over 30 attendees from around the world, including TWH columnist Karl E. H. Seigfried, who was attending as goði of Chicago-based Thor’s Oak Kindred and as a member of the Troth Clergy Program. On his personal website, the Norse Mythology Blog, Seigfried has published the talk that he gave at the conference itself, which is called “A Better Burden: Towards a New Ásatrú Theology.”

In that talk, Seigfried offered his services as “editor for the first international anthology of the public theology of Heathenry,” and he has reportedly already received interest. Seigfried will be providing a full account later this month of what happened at Frith Forge 2017, and what the event means for global Heathenry.

In addition, many of the talks were reportedly recorded and will be made available online over the next few weeks by the Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry.

 *   *   *

TWH – The Doreen Valiente Foundation (DVF) will be publishing a new book titled A Witch Ball and other Short Stories. The book is a collection of previously unpublished material from Doreen Valiente, who died in Brighton in 1999. Valiente is considered by many the mother of modern Witchcraft, and her works have influenced Witches around the world.

When she died she left her legacy to John Pelham Payne, who created the Doreen Valiente Foundation. Its mission as stated is “to preserve, protect, research, and make accessible” Valiente’s work.  Payne himself died in 2016, leaving the organization to a number of trustees who continue the efforts.

In that light, DVF has gathered these previously unpublished writings together in one book. According to the site: “This collection of short stories is not only of significance to fans of Doreen Valiente, but of import within the wider genre of gothic fiction and folk horror. . . . These enjoyable tales weave and layer magic and folklore into a notable contribution to the interesting genre of magical tales written by magical practitioners.”

Professor Ronald Hutton wrote, “The publication of these stories offers both real entertainment for readers and a valuable resource for those interested in the history of Paganism, witchcraft and magic. In them, Doreen reveals herself to be a proficient, engaging and immensely readable author of fiction, producing occult detective tales on the level of those by Dion Fortune.”

A Witch Ball and other Short Stories will be released in December 2017.

In other news

  • The Gerald B. Gardner (GBG) Calendar 2018 is now available. Since 2011, Pagan and Gardnerian Witch Link publishes the calendar filled with quotes, photos, and historical data. The calendar includes many Pagan feast days, moon phases, and holiday information from around the world. This year the calendar also includes information on a lesser known member of the original Bricket Wood Coven, Monica English.
  • Another popular annual publication is also now available. The Witches’ Almanac 2018 is on bookshelves. The Issue is #37, and is titled, “The Magic of Plants.” Its 194 pages include articles, poetry, art, and information, as well as astrological calendar that runs from spring 2018 to 2019. As we reported in 2016, the Witches’ Almanac has been a fixture in the Pagan community for 46 years.
  • Circle Sanctuary joins the many other Pagan organizations that are offering online classes and workshops. Rev. Selena Fox will be offering instruction on the celebration of Samhain and Halloween. The online class, to be held Oct. 18, will teach students “ways to work with old and new customs, rites, and symbols in creating personal, household, and community celebrations of Samhain and Halloween.”
  • Solar Cross Temple founder, activist, and author T. Thorn Coyle has published an October Manifesto on her website. In her typical tone that mixes gentle compassion with inspirational drive, Coyle begins, “Our societies don’t have to be this messed up. We can learn from past mistakes. We can stop operating out of sheer ego-protection and fear. We can choose to not preference the making of money over the well-being of community. We. Can. Do. This.” The Manifesto goes on to stir action and inspire hope toward a better future. This work, like much of her work, is reader funded through Patreon.

Tarot of the week with Star Bustamonte

Deck: Crow’s Magick Tarot by Londa Marks, U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Card: Five (5) of Swords

This card reflects circumstances that are destined to be frustrating. The key to moving forward is the ability to tweak one’s thinking. The week ahead is liable to be rife with aggravation, and the best way to address it is to step back and think outside of the box. A measured and thoughtful response is called for rather than knee-jerk reaction.

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Trump tells values voters, “We worship God”

Sun, 2017-10-15 12:01

WASHINGTON DC — President Donald Trump addressed attendees of the Values Voter Summit Friday, saying: “In America, we don’t worship government — we worship God.”

[Gage Skidmore.]

Since he began his run for the presidency and after the election, Trump has repeatedly pushed religious-freedom rhetoric, promising that the government would not discriminate against “people of faith.” As we reported last week, the Justice Department released a new set of guidelines to assist federal departments in wading through such issues.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “Every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith. The protections for this right, enshrined in our Constitution and laws, serve to declare and protect this important part of our heritage.”

However, as shown by Sessions’ comments, the administration is using the term “religious freedom” as a marker for something more specific than simply upholding a constitutional amendment. The new guidelines appear to be less concerned with creating space for diverse religious belief or no belief, and more concerned with opening doors for increased religious influence in the public sphere, in private business, and in politics.

While each of those sectors of society come with their own legalities and issues, Sessions marked the administration’s motives by saying, “[We] will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.” That statement clearly defines the objective.

As is often pointed out by Pagan groups and individuals, such religious freedom regulations and guidelines can potentially benefit Pagans and other religious minorities, because of the open-ended term “religion,” or in this case, “people of faith.”

The First Amendment guarantees that point.

In 2015, when Georgia was voting on a state RFRA act, Aquarian Tabernacle Church priest Dusty Dionne wrote to the governor, saying:

We thank the state of Georgia for its forward thinking and dedication to religious freedom. It has been a reality long-held by Wiccans that the laws did not extend far enough toward our own exercise of religion [50-15A-2. line 71] to be truly encompassing of our freedom to worship.

The original Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as passed by our illustrious president Bill Clinton, was a landmark move that opened the door for minority religions, and small local churches to have more safety to worship within their communities than ever before. This new bill will create sweeping changes that will open the doors for the Wiccans within Georgian communities to worship, work, and live their religion to its fullest.

The language within such legislation is open ended due to constitutional constraints. The government cannot make laws respecting any one religion.

Trump’s speech to the Values Voters, while not legislation, made the administration’s objective with regard to religious freedom even more clear than the Sessions statement. It explicitly narrowed the definition of “people of faith” from a broad understanding of belief to something very specific.

He leads into his talk on religion with the predictable feel-good rhetoric:

We love our families. We love our neighbors. We love our country. Everyone here today is brought together by the same shared and timeless values. We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life. We believe in strong families and safe communities. We honor the dignity of work. We defend our Constitution. We protect religious liberty. We treasure our freedom.

As he goes on, his words with regard to religion focus on what he terms ‘Judeo-Christian values.” He says, “And we all pledge allegiance to — very, very beautifully — ‘one nation under God.’ This is America’s heritage, a country that never forgets that we are all — all, every one of us — made by the same God in heaven.”

While he expressly mentions Judaism and even the freedom of rabbis to speak out on political matters, Trump eventually turns to the alleged “war on Christmas,” which uses language that further constricts his definition “people of faith.”

Just after mentioning America’s Judeo-Christian values, Trump says:

And something I’ve said so much during the last two years, but I’ll say it again as we approach the end of the year. You know, we’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word “Christmas” because it’s not politically correct.

You go to department stores, and they’ll say, “Happy New Year” and they’ll say other things. And it will be red, they’ll have it painted, but they don’t say it.  Well, guess what? We’re saying “Merry Christmas” again.

He then speaks of giving the American people a Christmas gift of tax cuts.

The speech’s wording was molded to appeal to the Values Voters Summit audience, which was made up predominantly of conservative Christians. The event’s primary sponsor is FRC Action, the legislative affiliate of the Family Research Council, the mission of which is to “advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.”

Not surprisingly, Trump was applauded for his statements.

[pixabay]

It is important to recognize that the front lines on this alleged war over religious freedom is not specifically being waged between two religious sectors, at least at this point. It is between a conservative portion of a particular faith practice and the concept of secularism or the operation of a neutral government.

The U.S. is in fact one of many countries that still remains neutral with regard to religion. In a recent study by Pew Forum, secular governments do marginally dominate global politics. The U.S. government is not an anomaly; at least 106 national governments are secular.

Although the U.S. has always been secular, Christianity in one form or another is the religion of the majority of the American population. As a result, many areas of the country, even to this day, have seen religion and politics existing as happy bedfellows, even where not constitutionally permissible.

However, in a growing society with expanding religious diversity, that unofficial partnership no longer works comfortably. That is where the issues begin and still rest.

None of this even takes into account the atheist, humanist, and secularist sectors of American society, which include members of the Pagan community.

Americans don’t worship government, that is correct. But not all Americans worship “God,” as defined in Trump’s speech, or worship any god or gods.

As Pew Forum reported in 2016, the number of unaffiliated is slowly growing. An extensive survey of “35,000 adults finds that the percentages who say they believe in god, pray daily and regularly go to church or other religious services all have declined modestly in recent years.”

At the same time, the report shows that the declining population of people who are religiously affiliate have in fact shown an increase in prayer and other worship activities. In other words, according to Pew Forum, the population of religious people is smaller but their conviction or faith-based activity is expanding.

That may explain, in part, some of the fervor behind the alleged “war.”

As an aside, it is important to note that Pew Forum does not specifically study Pagan or Heathen populations. These religious sectors are typically in an “other” category.

As the holiday season arrives, the annual “war on Christmas” will undoubtedly continue to heat up as it always does. How that modern seasonal “tradition” is handled by the Trump administration will be seen.

Will he continue to fuel it? Will private corporations be shamed over Twitter for expressions of seasonal diversity? Will Trump take Starbucks to task for its use of a red cup? Will people be ridiculed for happily chirping “seasons’ greetings” in Macy’s?

“We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” Trump said to the Values Voters Summit audience.

As is always the case, Trump fell back on his “Make American Great Again” marketing plan, using a sense of nostalgic Americana to rally support. He told the values voters Friday: “Inspired by that conviction [Americans’ belief in the Abrahamic god], we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face.”

Column: Queer Paganism in Australia

Sat, 2017-10-14 08:39

Queer Paganism in Australia today is multifaceted and vibrant with a large number of publicly active traditions, groups, and meetups that are queer oriented or queer inclusive. The most notable of these is Queer Pagan Men Australia.

[Image Credit: https://llstarcasterll.deviantart.com/]

But what many contemporary Australian Pagans don’t know is that the country’s history of Paganism within the LGBT community goes back more than three decades and includes a home-grown queer magical tradition. Queer Pagan Men Australia

Queer Pagan Men Australia (QPMA) was founded by Ryan McLeod and Buck Agrios in 2012 with the mission of providing a safe space for men who love men to explore their spiritual beliefs, sacred sexuality, roles in community, and practice in the craft as queer men.

In Alexandrian witchcraft, McLeod finds that his position is primarily a fertility focused one, However he also sees the importance of LGBT people having opportunities to connect with one another in Australia, and to share their unique experience and perspectives of Paganism.

“The Australian Pagan community is spread across a huge distance,” says McLeod. “An online group was great starting point from which to organise face-to-face meetups. Facebook was becoming a constant tool for communication.”

Buck Agrios will soon become the first Australian initiate of the Unnamed Path, which was founded in America by Eddy Gutérrez (Hyperion) and consists of four main areas of skill and training: Magic and Prophecy, Energy Healing, Shamanic Journey Work and Death Walking.

“It took me over 6 years of research, questioning, listening, online discussions and soul-searching before I finally decided to begin formal study,” Agrios says. “I was keen to find a path that reflected my experience and also would help me build a deeper practice both spiritually and magically.”

Agrios, who also identifies as a Reclaiming witch and a Dionysian, agrees that the Australian Pagan community is very far-flung across great distance, and that this is a hindrance to face-to-face contact.

“It was back in March 2011 that a small group of gay male witches and I were looking at how we could hold an event specifically for queer Pagan Men in Australia similar to what we saw happening in the USA with events such as Between the Worlds,” said Agrios

“We were seeking a way to learn our unique stories, explore our witchcraft history and learn about gay and queer inclusive paths out there. We realised we needed to find the community first.”

This originally came in the form of a Yahoo group, which lasted around a year before QPMA was born. What started as an online discussion and networking group soon grew into real life meetups, which now take place regularly across three states.

The group is also hosting its first full day event, Roots and Bones, in Melbourne in January 2018. The  day is intended to be interactive day, filled with workshops and ritual. Guest presenters from the USA and Australia will teach and present on a range of topics and queer-inclusive paths of Paganism.

Both McLeod and Agrios have noticed the impact that the marriage equality plebiscite [currently underway in Australia is having on its queer Pagan community.

“Right now in Australia the LGBT community is hurting,” Agrios says. “I do not want to get into the politics of what is happening here, but it is a reminder that we need to listen more to our ancestors of the heart as men who love men.”

McLeod agrees, saying: “The plebiscite is an obscure use of our constitution. We don’t require the Australian population to vote to redefine the laws around marriage. The law was changed as late as 2004 by the Prime Minister of the time John Howard.”

The general voting on same-sex marriage will be open until Nov. 7.

“This vote has much more to do with the current government and its attitudes than a genuine desire for Australians to have a say. It has been incredibly damaging to the mental health, safety, and well-being of the queer community,” McLeod adds.

“As a queer person, it is distressing to think that the entire country is going to have a say on your rights as a human being. The underlying message there is that queer people are somehow inherently ‘less than’ and are not deserving of rights afforded to all other Australians.”

“We must remember (early queer Pagans’) battles and learn to call on their strength,” Agrios urges. “Much of our queer history has been lost or forgotten and as a queer pagan man I feel it is important that we look back and find the truth of our past and that will help us shape our future.”

And what will that future look like? Both men hope it is one of acceptance and tolerance, and that organisations such as QPMA can help queer Pagans feel more accepted and valued by the wider LGBT community.

“The future is in acceptance and celebration of our differences while acknowledging our past,” Agrios continues.

“We have so much to still learn from our lost histories as Queer Pagans and I look forward to seeing more of it uncovered and shared with pride.”

David O’Connor and the Circle of the Dark Mother

A lesser known but arguably one of the most important figures in the formative days of Australia’s queer Pagan community is David O’Connor.

David O’Connor (right) preparing the maypole with Michel Marold (second from right) at the Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering.in the late 1980s. [courtesy]

In many ways, it all started with a taxi ride in the Midwinter of 1983. Linda Marold, her husband Michel, and their friend Mick O’Hearne were preparing for their usual seasonal celebrations, which involved over 100 friends and Pagans (or “magicohs”, as they called themselves, in those early days in Australia) from the city descending upon their secluded farm in the bush for a bonfire, ritual, camping, and merrymaking.

In the nearby town of Castlemaine, O’Connor, a gay witch from St Kilda, Melbourne, got off a train with a friend and into a cab.

“Take us to the witches!” were the only directions he gave, and the driver – being well versed in all things Castlemaine – knew exactly where to go.

“We’d all just gathered on the flat and, all of a sudden, a taxi turned up. It came driving down the middle [of our bush property],” remembers Linda. “And a couple of guys jumped out.”

One of them greeted Michel like a long lost friend. At the time he assumed that this was someone he had just forgotten meeting before.

“We ran up to each other, dancing around and hugging. When we parted, we looked at each other and said, ‘who are you? I don’t know you!’.”

That night was the beginning of a firm friendship between Mick and David, who around that time had started to set himself up as “the unofficial witch” of Melbourne’s LGBT community, providing spells and rituals to those who needed them.

Mick helped with music and chants for many of the rites, which often focused on health and fertility, and were informed and inspired by David’s work as a nurse and later as one of the state’s first male midwives.

Linda also became a very close friend of David’s. During the 1980s, he acted as Magister and Master of Ceremonies at many of the early Mount Franklin Pagan Gatherings, which Linda and Michel still organise today.

In the mid-1980s, David was among the founding members of Melbourne’s iconic Midsumma festival, after deciding he wanted to host an annual LGBT festival.

“He wanted an annual event and being a Pagan he felt it should have ties to a seasonal festival,” Michel remembers.

“So I said, ‘if you want colour and partying, why not Midsummer?’.”

The middle of the 1980s was also when David began to form his own Pagan tradition. After several years of working rituals with both male and female working partners, David came to the conclusion that he could not see himself becoming the High Priest of a coven or a working group in the more traditional sense.

“He agreed with fertility religions and worked within them for many years,” Mick explains. “But it was not the only framework he was drawn to.”

David formed the Circle of the Dark Mother, a working circle for gay Pagan men. According to Mick the tradition, created by David, was a magical one with traditional witchcraft leanings. Unlike many others from around the same time, the coven worked with a sterile goddess figure.

“These were men who could not have or did not want children.” Linda remembers. “But they supported society in their own way so that it was a society fit to raise children in. David loved children.

She adds, “He was an unofficial uncle to my children. He doted on his own nephews, too. He was very fond of his family.”

The group initially had eight members aside from David himself. In or around 1987, he tried opening the circle to straight men as well, but Mick claims this was not something that worked very well or for very long.

“Despite all his bluff and bluster, he really knew his stuff. He had all his mythology worked out.” Mick recalls.

“Yes, he was a really talented ritualist, too.” Linda agrees.

When asked to speculate on why this was so, the pair agree that O’Connor’s background in the Catholic church definitely played a part. “He used to say that altar boys ended up making the best High Priests,” Mick says.

“Because they’re trained in ritual … They’re disciplined in ritual.”

The Legacy

By 1990 the AIDS epidemic was approaching its worst point in Melbourne. David’s role now included acting as a “death chaplain” for Melbourne’s Pagan and LGBT communities. With Mick’s help, he performed rituals in and around the inner city area focused on death, healing and fertility. He also trained others in pathworking techniques, incense making, and more.

The epidemic reached its peak in the early 1990s, and, of the original group of eight members of the Circle of the Dark Mother, only two survived.

“The AIDS epidemic of the early nineties destroyed the gay Pagan community in Melbourne. Any working groups (that O’Connor was involved with) literally died because of it.” Mick states.

David continued to work and train within the Pagan community before passing away in 1995. His funeral was a mixed Christian and Pagan affair, at his request. A ritual was later held at Mount Franklin, where some of his ashes were scattered.

“We miss him so much,” Linda says, sadly. “Who knows what other amazing things were destroyed (by the AIDS epidemic) all over the world, in every human endeavour. Young geniuses and amazing people all left us too early and too quickly.”

“What was really lost was the sense of fun. The sense of style. He was mischievous. He was a laugh a minute, and yet he’d step into the circle and he was such an accomplished High Priest.”

While the Circle of the Dark Mother no longer exists as a working coven, David O’Connor’s legacy to the LGBT and Pagan communities lives on in the individuals and small groups still practicing Australia’s first queer witchcraft tradition today, as well in the colour and celebration of the Midsumma festival.

Recent years have seen more queer people reaching out to find traditions and practices that resonate with them. There are now many men, women, and others working hard to provide safe, inclusive and constructive environments and traditions in which queer Pagans can thrive in this country.

In many ways, they are continuing the important work started by O’Connor. And while we are fortunate enough to have more queer traditions coming to our shores and countless others have followed in his footsteps, David O’Connor was the first.

 

Author’s Note:Some names have been changed by request to protect privacy.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Column: Green Space, Wild Space

Fri, 2017-10-13 11:30

There is a place just south of the town where I live that I go to be wild. I go there to wander trails made of dirt and rock, to duck my head down under low stone curtains and into caves, to stand on bluffs and look down at ravines the depth of which could kill me with a false step. I love this place, because although I have not yet learned all of its paths – indeed, I only started going there this year – I recognize its form, its logic. I have been going to places like this since my boyhood, always in response to the same urge to nature.

St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin [Dronepicr, Wikimedia Commons].

We call this place Rock Bridge State Park, one of dozens in the Missouri state parks system. In knowing one of these parks, one understands the logic of them all. This applies to the obvious features — the state parks all have signs painted the same colors bearing the same legends — but also to the construction of the hiking trails and the riverbanks.

Recently I hiked through a white-blazed path in those woods and found a spur of un-blazed trail. I pushed my way through the trees and grasses that hung over the spur and soon found myself standing on the dry bank of a slow creek, perhaps 50 feet from the main trail. I had never been there before, but I felt a powerful sense of déjà vu. As I stood there on the bank of the Little Bonne Femme Creek, I found myself also standing on the bank of the Big River in St. Francois State Park, the place my parents took me camping in my youth.

I did not find that identification comforting. I understood the resemblance as more than just the natural similarity between two landscapes sharing the same basic geographic area; it pointed also to the standards by which the Department of Conservation maintains the parks. Each landscape has its own character, but a Missouri state park looks like a Missouri state park. Even here, in the part of the park listed as a “wild area,” human hands have manufactured the wild.

Is this a problem? Missouri’s state parks still take care to preserve much of the natural landscape and to accentuate its distinctive features – Rock Bridge is named for a literal bridge of rock. The hiking trails have a rugged quality that, while obviously human-made and human-maintained, lets us at least lose ourselves in a dream of wildness for a time. I often find myself slipping into chants while I walk those trails; there I feel very Pagan. But thinking about those trails makes me think of parks in general: those strange constructs, “green spaces,” built to allow urban-dwelling humans to experience nature without having to encounter the wild.

Rock Bridge [E. Scott].

My city abounds with parks. These places have trees and grass and rabbits and songbirds, but they also have running trails lined in concrete and asphalt. The grass is mowed and the trees are spaced far enough apart that no human travel is impeded. They are full of metal exercise equipment; rowing machines and pull-up bars and weights that draw on the mass of the user to determine their loads. They entertain children with their playgrounds and basketball courts. They are immaculately maintained, and I loathe them. My recreation of choice is walking, and there’s no pleasure for me in walking on a smooth concrete path. And despite being advertised and conceived as places for urbanites to be among the green, the landscapes have been shaped so much towards utility that they bear little resemblance to the forms they must have once borne. I am glad that my neighbors have a place to play basketball — really and truly — but the city park has only slightly more resemblance to the outdoors than the buildings that surround them.

The thought has been, since the Industrial Revolution began bringing humans into the cities for industrialized labor, that something vital to our experience of human life would be lost in our newfound urban quarters. Humans, it was argued, were meant to live out-of-doors, toiling in the clean air and verdant greenery rather than the smoke-filled factories of modernity. (Whether the pre-industrial agricultural life really had such a perfect relationship to nature is another question, but this was the argument.) The idea became widespread that what cities needed was “green space” — sections given over to plant and small mammal life, patches of land where humans could go to experience of their prior connection to nature — but always in a strictly utilitarian way: the park offered leisure and recreation to workers, and public spaces to promenade for the moneyed.

This focus drew itself from the essentially capitalistic motives of the urban planners: the loss of our agricultural way of life meant workers had poorer health, which meant a loss of their labor, which meant a loss of profits, which could not be abided. The alienation of humans from their environment sometimes came up, but in practice, I doubt a sincere desire to re-enchant the bond between humans and nature ever held much sway with the planners and businessmen; if only because the preponderance of evidence indicates they had no real problems with disenchantment, so long as it made profits.

Downtown Brasilia, one of the cities designed according to the principles of Le Corbusier’s Radiant City [Limongi, Wikimedia Commons].

The desire for green space eventually transcended utility and became a fetish. The ultimate expression of an absurd lust for greenery came in ideas like the architect Le Corbusier’s Radiant City, which would have centered the city on a massive lawn filled with identical skyscrapers. The idea involved quite a lot of green, to be certain; miles of it. But that green space would have been utterly tamed, made to conform to the desires of the city rather than to itself. Ironically, Le Corbusier himself wrote that the aim of the future city’s task would be “taking man back to nature,” unaware of the alienation endemic in his own concept. Where the Radiant City has manifested itself in completed buildings, its green spaces have frequently been shunned, flatland uncanny valleys. These spaces may be green, but they have hardly any nature, and nothing at all of the wild. The phenomenon of “green space” is a symptom of our disenchantment more than a solution to it; it attempts to shape nature in the shadow of the city, when the essence of the wild is its defiance of human whims.

Le Corbusier’s dreams of a lawn filled with skyscrapers has little bearing on where I stand along the Little Bonne Femme; I am lucky enough to have this place, somewhat more wild, available to me. But this remains a space outside and beyond my ordinary life, and therefore, something of a placebo. If a Pagan romance with the world of nature is limited to only those places designated by the state as “wild,” then Paganism is itself circumscribed by the state. This realization, I suppose, should be obvious, for what in modern life is not thusly circumscribed; and yet if my Paganism, my love and embrace and longing for the wild, means anything, it must mean finding ways to break that circle and invite the Wild out of the bounds of the park.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Welsh Druidry on tour: Kristoffer Hughes in America

Thu, 2017-10-12 12:24

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — Anglesey is the largest island in both Wales and the Irish Sea, and a bastion of the Welsh language. It is also home of the Urdd Derwyddon Môn the Anglesey Druid Order (ADO), founded by author Kristoffer Hughes in 1999.

Hughes is currently in the United States promoting The Celtic Tarot he helped create, and he took time to speak to us about that deck and the form of Druidry he teaches.

Kristoffer Hughes [courtesy].

Angelsey was the seat of British Druidry in antiquity, until it was sacked at Julius Caesar’s command in 62. The ADO is not an attempt to reconstruct those ancient practices, about which little is known, but rather to build on a tradition of seeking to honor and emulate the first Druids.

Reimagining Druidry is practically a national hobby, to hear Hughes speak of it.

“Caesar felt he had to destroy the Druids because they wielded immense sociopolitical power,” Hughes explains. However, that destruction was not utter. By the sixth century bardic schools had emerged.

These were places where the ancient myths of Britain were re-imagined, he says. The original stories “were a snapshot in time,” when the “Romans were close,” but not yet in Wales. The new bards took those tales and retold them through the lens of their own contemporary experiences.

Another lens was added when the old tales were being written down, which began in the 1200s. While the myths were no longer being passed on only orally, they continued to be shaped by their tellers.

That’s what happened when a group of men formed the Anglesey Druidical Society in 1717. Hughes describes it as a “charitable group of wealthy men” who dressed in robes when they gathered, and who “tried to find an inherently British identity” which suited their Romantic-period sensibilities.

Taking seeds from all these different interpretations of Druidry, Hughes says that the purpose of the ADO is to “reestablish Anglesey as a seat of learning.”

Wales was fertile ground for this mission; events such as the National Eisteddfod, while cultural in nature, are presided over by Druids of a more secular nature. Hughes recalls that while his neighbors on Anglesey regarded the idea as a bit odd at first, they have largely come ’round to the idea that, “these are our Druids,” which he considers quite a coup.

Hughes is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, finding no sense of conflict despite the fact that the ADO has differences from OBOD. Students at the ADO’s school must be in residence; as Hughes told John Beckett in 2014, that’s because it’s the only way to build a relationship with the Welsh gods.

“We could not fathom how one could be in relationship with Môn [the order’s patron] fully without actually being here, walking on her skin, and swimming in her waters.”

That local requirement is related to another important difference: honoring particular gods. “We’re Welsh Druids,” Hughes explains, tied to the “land, sea, and sky gods of natives mythologies. Did our ancestors worship them? That’s not really the point.”

These gods have changed their names and functions, he explains, “for the needs of the people.” Hughes’ own ancestors were likely among those ancient Druids who knew the old ways, but he stresses that then and now, “Druid” is what one does, rather than a true birthright.

Central to the teaching he offers through the school is expression through awen, the creative force; this is also what goes on at an eisteddfod, a festival of music and literature which stretches back to the 12th century.

He likes to point out that “awen” contains the English word “awe,” and chooses to connect them: “If you stop seeing it, you’ve become disenchanted.”

The tale of how Hughes came to offer a tarot deck through Llewellyn is fraught with magic in his telling. His first deck was a battered and used one he found in a book shop when he was 13 years old. “It felt like I was buying porn,” he says, based on the look the shopkeeper gave as he handed over 50 pence, but he got away with his treasure.

“I had not a clue what any of it meant,” but spent that first afternoon awash in the symbols while sheltering in a woodland den, the soft sounds of rain all about him. It was love at first sight, and set him on the path to becoming a “closet cabalist.”

Some 30 years later, with several published books under his belt, he learned about a tarot book being published through Llewellyn. He sent his contact there some questions, not realizing that he’d outed himself as someone knowledgeable in the subject.

Later that day, during a staff meeting the question was asked: who do we know who is rooted in Celtic lore, and also knows tarot well? It was the beginning of a three-year journey Hughes had not been planning, but nevertheless was thrilled to take.

The Celtic Tarot is based upon the Smith-Waite deck, and one of his priorities was not to trample over the subtle symbolism therein. Instead, he wanted to add a layer of Celtic myth over the top, in much the way Druidry is Wales has been built, each layer atop the last. If anything, he believes he’s helped bring out some of the original meaning, such as what’s in the numerology.

“I try to be kind to readers,” he says, such as adding in a bunch of flowers to signify which cabalistic path is represented therein.

Writing books and creating a tarot deck have allowed Hughes to travel the world, but he emanates the Welsh spirituality he seeks to promote wherever he ends up. The lyrical accent of his homeland comports with his open, welcoming spirit.

His personality is surely part of the success of the Anglesey Druid Order, members of which now express the value of service through a number of collaborative projects. Together with the National Woodland Trust they are creating a natural burial ground, for example.

And, together with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, they oversee solstice rituals twice a year which can draw up to 700 attendees.

It appears that the secularization of some Druidic ideals and customs may have helped preserve it on the island of Anglesey, but the reemergence of a sacred Druid order has nevertheless been embraced by its people. That may in part be due to the demeanor of Hughes himself, but it’s impossible to ignore that he and his fellow Druids are steeped in tradition rich enough to grow many forms of Druidry over the centuries.

Witchfest International 2018 cancelled due to financial challenges

Wed, 2017-10-11 12:32

BRIGHTON, U.K. – Organizers of Witchfest International, the largest Pagan conference held in the UK, announced last Saturday that they were cancelling the 2018 event due to financial challenges. The announcement was made by Merlyn, one of the organizers, directly before headliner Professor Ronald Hutton presented at this year’s conference.

Merlyn said an unexpected and sharp decrease in attendance was to blame for a lack of funds to finance the conference for 2018, but he added that plans were in the works for the conference to return in 2019.

“Final numbers aren’t in yet, but we think our losses are in the thousands [of pounds],” said Merlyn.

Witchfest International, run by The Children of Artemis, typically attracts around 3000 attendees and is held in the Brighton Centre in the seaside town of Brighton. Presentations cover a range of Witchcraft, Pagan, Occult, and mythological topics. Attendees can choose from up to six different presentations or performances in each one hour time block.

This year presenters included well-known Pagans such as Prof Ronald Hutton, Kate West, Ashley Mortimer, and Cat Treadwell. Entertainment options included Perkelt, Damh the Bard, The Dolmen, Paul Mitchell, James J Turner, and Corvus.

Merlyn said attendance was about 30% lower this yea,r and most of that was due to decreased walk up, or on site, attendees. “At about 3000 attendees we can break even. But this year we only had around 2000 attendees and that makes 2018 too much of a risk.”

He says The Children of Artemis will use the next year to raise funds for the 2019 conference relaunch.

Author Lucya Starza says she couldn’t tell if attendance was down this year because the Brighton venue is larger than the one the conference was in two years ago, when she last attended.

She did say that presentations appeared to be well attended, “My talk on candle magic was packed, with 100 people in the room.”

Witchfest International presenter Ashley Mortimer, trustee for both the Doreen Valiente Foundation and The Centre for Pagan Studies, said he was sad to hear the 2018 conference was cancelled because the event is such an important one to the community.

“You know if you’re only going to one event a year, it’s Witchfest!”

Challenges faced
For many years the conference was held at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, but when that closed for renovation a couple of years ago the organizers had to move to a new venue.

Carrie Lee, a Witchfest International attendee, thinks the move could have impacted the conference.

“There was also a change of venue from last year from the London area to Brighton, and it is a much bigger venue. I think that did not help, people rarely enjoy a change from established routines,” said Ms. Lee.

Yet last year’s attendance at the new location was a robust 3000.

Merlyn thinks it was a perfect storm of events that lead to decreased attendance this year.

He says the usual date for the event wasn’t available, so it was held six weeks earlier than normal.

Transportation was also an issue. Merlyn says the train line to Brighton was shut down with buses being used instead. In addition, the roads surrounding the town were under construction and that caused significant travel delays.

“We had people say that it took them three hours just to drive three miles,” said Merlyn.

He also speculated that the weather may have caused some attendees, who normally show up on the day of the event, to stay home instead.

“The weather looked like a mini hurricane. Strong wind, rain, and heavy seas. Not what you’ve had in America, but enough to keep Brits at home.”

Ms. Lee thinks there are other factors at play.

“My personal belief is that conferences in Britain, especially ones that have been going for a while, are generally taken a little for granted,” says Lee, adding that there are many smaller, well attended events throughout the UK.

Lee also says that attendee tastes are evolving. “The Pagan community in Britain seems to be going through fundamental changes in how it approaches its spirituality. There is less of a focus of Wicca generally and a rise in the more, shall we say earthy, self motivated, less religious learning paths.”

“We need to see some passionate new speakers that fire up our imaginations and get us excited to talk about magic again,” says Lee.

Regrouping for 2019
Merlyn says the conference will “absolutely” be back in 2019.

“We survived 2008, we’ll survive this, too.”

He says that they are going to spend the next year looking for exciting speakers and enticing musical acts from overseas to be part of Witchfest international 2019.

Damh the Bard, who performed at this year’s conference, says it is important for the community to support events by buying tickets in advance, rather than waiting to buy them at the door.

“However, if people don’t buy tickets in advance and wait for the day we have no idea if we will be ok, or if we will have to dig into our own pockets to pay for the hall, the speakers etc, after running around finding those speakers, and entertainment, and then working your arse off for the whole day.”

Damh notes that most Pagan events are labors of love and organizers don’t make money off the event. They host the event as a service to the community. A service that may disappear.

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that the cancellation of Witchfest International 2018 might be a wake up call. It’s a reminder that we can’t take these events for granted. That if we wait for the next one, there might not be a next one.”

Damh was in the audience when Merlyn made the announcement about the 2018 conference cancellation, and he says the audience was in shock to hear that if ticket sales were down again for 2019, there would be no more Witchfest International.

Mr. Mortimer is confident Witchfest International will successfully return in 2019.

“Witchfest has been an institution in the UK Pagan scene. I’m sure that, just as other events have done in recent years, they can take a break next year and come back refreshed and renewed the event will bounce back twice as strong,” says Mortimer.

He says the event has the support of other Pagan organizations and the goodwill of the community.

Witchfest Midlands still plans to be held in February of 2018 and Children of Artemis says they will continue to support other events such as Pagan Pride. There are also fundraisers being planned to help raise the money needed to pay upfront costs for the 2019 Witchfest International conference.

U.S. Attorney General issues new religious freedom guidelines

Tue, 2017-10-10 13:28

Washington — The U.S. Attorney General issued a new set of religious guidelines for all “administrative agencies and executive departments.” Published Oct.6, the memorandum, which was reportedly requested by President Donald Trump, seeks to provide guidance and instruction concerning “religious liberty protections in federal law.”

[Pixabay.]

Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a separate statement the same day, which reads in part:

Our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people. It has protected both the freedom to worship and the freedom not to believe. Every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith. The protections for this right, enshrined in our Constitution and laws, serve to declare and protect this important part of our heritage.

The new Department of Justice guidelines outline 20 different principles in which religious liberty might be affected, such as in health care as seen with the 2014 Hobby Lobby case, in hiring practices, the expression of religion on public property, and in workplace accommodations, to name just a few.

The document also outlines, or seeks to clarify, points made by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Sessions writes:

The constitutional protection of religious beliefs and the right to exercise those beliefs have served this country well, have made us one of the most tolerant countries in the world, and have also helped make us the freeist[sic] and most generous. President Trump promised that this administration would ‘lead by example on religious liberty,’ and he is delivering on that promise.

Despite the new memorandum’s claimed purpose, religious freedom and civil rights advocates are not as eager to celebrate as the Trump administration.

In a recent post, ACLU senior staff attorney Heather Weaver writes, “Purporting to interpret religious-liberty protections in federal law, the guidance — a 25-page memo sent to all executive branch departments — doubles down on a distorted understanding of religious freedom. Not only does it allow discrimination in the name of religion, it also treats the separation of church and state as a mere afterthought.”

The ACLU and other opponents note that these new guidelines place an emphasis on, or skew legal interpretations of, the protection of religious belief at all costs. As Weaver wrote, the document “treats the separation of church and state as a mere afterthought.”

For example, principle number 7 states: “Government may not target religious individuals or entities through discriminatory enforcement of neutral, generally applicable laws.”

According to the document’s explanation, the federal government may not use neutral laws to discriminate against religious entities, persons, or practices. This, as noted in the document, includes the IRS’ enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. In other words, the IRS cannot punish a religious organization for lobbying or intervening in political campaigns, because that result in the discriminatory use of neutral laws.

In an Oct. 6 press release, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United (AU) voiced his objections to the Attorney General’s memorandum. He also focused on the discriminatory potential of the new guidelines, but from a different perspective.

“This is as serious as it gets,” Lynn wrote. “As a result of the Trump administration guidance, millions of Americans could be relegated to second-class citizenship.”

He continued, “Religious freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to use religion as an excuse to harm others. But today the Trump administration is giving the Religious Right exactly what it wants.”

In their articles, both Lynn and Weaver outline the many concerns that they have with the new guidelines and how they could lead to civil rights violations, including the very broad interpretation of the federal RFRA.

Lynn called the memorandum a “roadmap[sic] for how to discriminate against most anyone, including women, LGBTQ people and religious minorities.”

Weaver agreed, saying: “These guidelines aren’t about protecting religious liberty. Our laws already do that in spades. Rather, they are an obvious effort by the Justice Department and the administration to send a detestable message: Discrimination is welcome here.”

Interestingly, the administration doesn’t seem to be hiding its intent. Weaver’s observations, as well as that of Lynn, are only supported by Sessions’ own comments concerning the memorandum.

Sessions wrote: “As President Trump said, ‘Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country, the spirit of our founding and the soul of our nation . . . [this administration] will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.’”

While the actual memorandum states its purpose as being the protection of religious liberty, it would appear that, according to Sessions, the purpose is actually to protect “people of faith.”

Those are two different goals, and Sessions statement leaves one important, unanswered question for the Trump administration: how does it define who these “people of faith” are that need protecting?

Furthermore, it is important to note that both sides of the debate are concerned about discrimination. But, to coin a phrase, the “devil is in the detail,” or in this case it’s in the “who” needing protection.

Both AU and the ACLU have pledged to fight the new guidelines and any discriminatory cases that should rise as a result. Lynn said, “Americans United will use all available channels to oppose these efforts to use religion as an excuse to discriminate and harm others.”

As a side note, SCOTUS will be hearing the Masterpiece Cakeshop case in the coming months, and these new guidelines may have an affect on its outcome.

Pagan Community Notes: Sonoma Wildfires, Mexico City, Puerto Rico, and more

Mon, 2017-10-09 12:17

[Funding Drive Update: We have reached 8% of our goal, and have had eight people join our new monthly Sustainers Circle. Remember, The Wild Hunt is an independent, reader funded news agency. The daily service is dependent upon the donations and support of its readership. Do you enjoy reading The Wild Hunt daily or even weekly? Have you come to rely on it for Pagan-based news and commentary? Consider supporting TWH today. Join our Sustainers Circle or make a single donation. Share the campaign.]

CALIF. — “The scope. The scope of everything is …purely devastating,” said Tracy McClendon, after wildfires destroyed her family home.  Early Monday morning, before most people were awake, multiple wildfires raged throughout Sonoma Valley. According to local news, “The blazes, which caused power outages and blanketed much of the Bay Area in smoke, were fanned by dry northeast winds that gusted up to 50 mph in the valleys and 70 mph on mountaintops.”

McClendon, who is an active member of the local Pagan community, is one of the reported 20,000 people forced to evacuate due to the fires, and she is also one of those whose home has been completely destroyed. In a tearful video, McClendon said that she has yet to wrap her mind around what happened: “My son’s baby pictures. His baby teeth. My clothes. My belly dance costumes. … everything that is me is gone.”

But then she added “no,” noting that she and her family were all safe. It is scary to think that ten minutes is the difference between us being alive and us not being alive.”

When they left the home, McClendon reportedly went to an emergency shelter, and then drove to Oakland where she has family. She will stay there until it is safe to return to Kenwood and see “what is left.”

The causes of the wildfires are reportedly under investigation. While the winds are expected to die down Monday afternoon, officials have not made any predictions as to when the threat will be completely over, or when families can get back to their homes or what is left of them. We will update this story and Tracy McClendon’s situation as needed.

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The funding campaign to help residents of Mexico City is ongoing. The city experienced a devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake in late September causing mass destruction throughout the region. The Wild Hunt‘s own columnist Jaime Gironés reported back to us after he experienced the tremors.

Laura Gonzalez, radio personality at Pagans Tonight Radio Network, has been helping to raise money to assist the rebuilding of the city. Gonzalez says, “Donations for #CDMX Cofradia Wicca Luna Azul (Blue Moon Wicca Brotherhood) and Fraternidad de la Diosa / Santuario de la Diosa (Goddess Fraternity) #PaganSpirit invite you to donate to the CDMX collection center.

Gonzalez says that “funds received will be donated in full for medical supplies, rescue tools and community support. We also exhort congregations, temples, covens, etc. to send their support or donations.” While there are institutions in place to help, grass roots organizations and individuals are boosting the efforts.

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Last week TWH reported on the ongoing efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico. Since that writing, we have learned that the Hellenion Proto-Demos of Hera Akreia, located in Denver, has also been raising money for disaster relief. This group is the “newest Proto-Demos” of the national Hellenion organization. All the money raised by the group was reportedly” sent to Puerto Rico. 

Similarly, after our article ran, a Pagan living in Puerto Rico wrote in and said, “It is very sad to see all the destruction, tho in the tropics, the vegetation does leaf out pretty quickly. I have been really distressed to see all the beautiful really old trees laying on the ground, being dismembered by chainsaws. Hope some of you will remember those fine old beings in your prayers.”

The reader added, “This island needs help and those of us here perhaps need a little reminder to share what we have with others who have lost it all. I went to the local shelter with a stalk of ripe bananas from my yard and toys for the children. They looked very surprised to see me.” As she reported, the communities are having trouble helping each other.

In other news

  • Ilsa Plaisance was featured in The Shreveport Times‘ Louisiana Purpose Project. The project is “a video series in which people share what gives their lives purpose and meaning. We hope their stories enlighten, inspire, and empower others.” Plaisance, age 41, told the Times reporter that her purpose was to “to serve my family and my goddess and to write.” Plaisance mentions how she found and embraced Paganism, and how she volunteers for a local ADF grove. “I recently published my first book, titled We Are All a Little Broken, which is set here in northwest Louisiana. One of the sisters, Mary Jane, is a Pagan.” She also said that she is currently working on a second book.
  • Treasure Coast Pagan Pride Day is coming up Oct. 14 in Fort Pierce, Florida. This year is its second event and it it will be hosting a special Red Tent event. Pagan Denise Renaud wanted to expand the women’s red tent experience beyond the singular festivals. She set out to raise money and was successful. She will be hosting the Treasure Coast Red Tent at TCPPD Oct. 14. PPD organizer Kasha said, “We don’t have a lot of Pagan resources or activity around here, so this is a really big deal for the ladies in the community.”
  • Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans just had their by-laws vote, amending some of the rules and regulations that govern the organization.  Members, for example, can now use Skype or similar programs to access the annual meeting and vote in elections. Within the next few days, the organization will have elections for its Board.
  • The Bay Area’s Reclaiming community is getting ready for its biggest ritual of the year: the annual spiral sance. Organizers wrote, “Our intention is ‘Riding the knife’s edge of history, we face the great challenge of this present moment; to step off the old path and weave futures of strength and joy with the dead and the generations to come.’ The event will happen Oct. 28 at the Richmond Convention Center.
  • Midwest Witches’ Ball will be held Saturday Oct. 14 in Michigan. This year will mark the event’s 21st anniversary. Hosted by the Universal Society of Ancient Ministry, the event was given the 2017 theme of “Fellows and Frills, A Fantastical Masqued Fete.”

Tarot of the week with Star Bustamonte

Deck: Cat’s Eye Tarot by Debra M. Givin, DVM, U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Card: The Magician

The card of the Magician represents power that is only limited by the imagination of the wielder. While power has moral ambiguity, the wielder does not. This cards suggests that this week anything is possible but how you choose to use your power, be it for good or ill, carries consequences.

Review: Finding Magic by Sally Quinn

Sun, 2017-10-08 10:20

Finding Magic: A Spiritual Memoir by Sally Quinn. Published by Harper One (416 pages). 

“There was always a part of me that could not deny the psychic energy I had been brought up with and the magic I believed in.” – Sally Quinn (p. 119)

In September, HarperOne publishers, an imprint of HarperCollins, released Sally Quinn’s book Finding Magic. Quinn is a respected journalist, author, television commentator, and Washington insider, who eventually helped to launch the Washington Post’s religion site On Faith. The book is a memoir tying various aspects of her life’s journey together with a search for meaning, more specifically deep, spiritual meaning.

In the wake of recent mainstream attention to and often criticism of magical practices, Quinn’s open admission to practicing magic and to having occult interests fed the media response on the initial release of the book. Predictably, she is accused of lying to her readers and dabbling in the “dark arts,” to which there is apparently no defense.

Putting aside some reviewers’ disrespectful insistence of mixing of Rowling fantasy with a woman’s religious reality, we have in this book an interesting journey – one that is complex and not unlike many of our own.

Quinn begins her story in childhood. She grew up in the deep south during segregation, a point she illustrates clearly. It is during this time that she was first exposed to magic, through both her own family and the people around her.

“I began to see the power of the mystical, the mysterious, and the magical. I had a glimpse of the spiritual as a possible substitute for religion – unorthodox as what I was seeing and feeling may have been.” (94)

Quinn was exposed regularly to both traditional Scottish mysticism and to Voodoo practices. The exposure wasn’t separate from her daily life; it was part of it, accepted and respected. Magic just was. The people around her, including her mother, spoke to spirits and to ancestors; they read palms and tarot, and performed magical rituals with herbs and oils.

They also hexed. And this was Quinn’s normal.

This unique upbringing followed her through her travels as a child in a military family, and then into adulthood. Her natural embrace of the occult even touched her professional career as a celebrated journalist.

“Astrology has always helped me in dealing with family, friends, bosses, and coworkers, but never has it been as useful as when I am interviewing people, particular doing profiles.” She writes that she always looks up a person’s sign before seeing them, and it “generally gives [her] a huge advantage.” (p 199)

Quinn also openly discusses her hexing actions and those of her family members, but she does so within the context of moral complexity. The hex acts that she performs, as she writes, came out of anger, frustration, and fear, but the ramifications of her assumed successes left her unbalanced and feeling guilty. In fact, when her son is born with a serious medical condition, she wonders if his illness was a punishment for that magical work.

“I still don’t know whether I believe in hexes or not,” she writes. “All I can say is that there always seemed to be some cause and effect. If ever there was the slightest chance I had been the cause of someone’s demise, I didn’t see how I could live with the guilt. Never have I regretted anything more. I wanted to apologize, to ask for forgiveness of the victims and the families, but I was too ashamed.” (p 230-1)

Finding Magic is littered with that type of back-and-forth moral pondering. Quinn asks difficult questions such as: Is there a god or gods? Does ritual matter? If so, why? What is religion?

She never answers these questions for the reader. “Most of us are looking for the divine in our lives, searching for meaning and magic. Most important, almost all of us are looking for love, in its many manifestations,” she muses. (402)

What Quinn does provide is a personal navigation through her own life’s meditation, and in doing so, she demonstrates that the answers often change as experience ebbs and flows. What one believes today, may change tomorrow. Acceptance of that fact is an important key to finding spiritual peace.

“One of the many things I’ve learned is that you can’t seek happiness to find meaning. You have to seek meaning to find happiness. To find meaning is not simply transcending the self; it’s transcending the moment.” (403)

Throughout the book, Quinn details her unending search for a genuine religious experience. She repeatedly confesses that she  has hungrily sought the ecstatic experience, the moment that deity speaks, or a true and deep knowing in a definitive faith practice.

She admits to failure on many occasions. Until the end of her story when she describes how she found that desired religious meaning in love, the overall spiritual experience, and the varied rituals of life.

Interestingly, her repeated failure to locate that intense spiritual moment or path may confound some Pagans who practice magic as part of ritual and religion. Quinn admits to an absolute belief in magic and often practices rituals associated with the occult, but she doesn’t report exploring any Pagan path.

However, based on her writing, she does not necessarily equate magic with religion in that direct way. This fact is not surprising considering that, in many cultures even today, magic is practiced without being associated specifically with religious belief. It just is.

Throughout Finding Magic, Quinn recalls many instances in which the magical touches her in ways that might sound familiar to a Pagan reader. In one instance for example, she walks a labyrinth meditation. When she does so in a group, it means nothing, but then when she returns alone and has the ecstatic experience.

“For a long time I kept my eyes closed, Then I looked up. What I saw astonished me. It seemed to clarify everything that I was wondering about. I hadn’t noticed before but right in front of me, surrounded by the oaks, was a magnificent evergreen tree with wide-spreading branches that seemed to be embracing me.”

In that meditative state at the center of the labyrinth, she connected to the spiritual, got answers, and felt empowered. “That walk changed my life,” she writes. (238-9)

While Quinn reports that she is drawn to religion and also clearly to magic, Quinn did not, according to the memoir, explore the religious communities that put magic front and center, make it religion in and of itself, or use it without reserve or stigma. If she did, she does not talk about it in the book. Her discussions of religion focus predominately on her exploration of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other more well-known world faiths.

It is not until the very end that Quinn even mentions the existence of a modern Pagan religion, let alone one of the many indigenous world practices that embrace magic. “Wicca is a relatively new religion that is ritualistic and can emcompass all beliefs, some, or none. The basic tenet is the code or what is called the Wiccan Rede: ‘An it harm none, do what you will.” Sounds pretty reasonable to me.” (399)

That point is not a negative, but rather a curiosity, considering Quinn embraced occult practices so readily.

In the end, Finding Magic is not about Quinn’s finding religion, but rather her search for spiritual meaning. The title of the book is somewhat of a misnomer. She isn’t searching for magic. She had it the entire time, but maybe that’s the point.

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Quinn had the power “to go home” her entire life, but she had to search inside of herself and make the big journey in order to realize it.

Finding Magic demonstrates the search for meaning – one with no end and no clear answers.  And meaning can be magic, in a poetic sense if not in practice.

With all of that said, Quinn’s spiritual journey is only one facet of the Finding Magic, and it serves to tie together the meat of the story, so to speak. The book is also walk through history, from her living in the segregated south and as a military child to the Korean and Vietnam war eras and much more. It is history alive.

Quinn skillfully recounts her experience as a woman journalist in Washington, and she passionately remembers her life with Ben Bradlee, longtime executive editor of The Washington Post.

Finding Magic is as much a love story, a career woman’s struggle, and a mother’s pain as it is a spiritual journey. What makes the book interesting is not any one of those particular pieces, but rather how magic, quite literally not as allegory or poetic symbolism, weaves its way through her journey.

Magic is the vine, or better yet the rope, that she seems to hold on to in order to ground her search for meaning.

When she was originally asked to write this memoir, Quinn was reportedly only suppose to share her life with Bradlee, who died in 2014. However, as she began writing, the book turned into something far greater – her own story.

Finding Magic is a well-written, honest march-through-time from Quinn’s personal lens of spirituality, religion, motherhood, feminism, and love.

“I believe that life inherently has great meaning, potentially for everyone … If I had to choose one word for where I am spritually at this moment in life, it would be transcendentalist.” (397)

Column: Pagans Share Hurricane Stories and Struggles

Sat, 2017-10-07 10:34

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were two of the most devastating hurricanes ever to hit the mainland United States. Each storm carried its own unique brand of destruction. Harvey smacked into southern Texas, then stopped moving, flooding the Houston area with 51.88 inches of rain before it finally dissipated. Irma, which some news stations reported as being over 300 miles wide, scaled up the west coast of the Florida peninsula, devastating the length of the state with winds that topped out at 185 mph.

Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move through Houston streets as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, on Aug. 28 [Wikimedia Commons].

Both storms ravaged local infrastructure, flooded residents’ homes, and caused misery to all who had to endure them. Pagans living in the area suffered along with their neighbors. The Pagan story is in many ways unique, as many in the community venerate nature and consider themselves magical people, which gives them a different perspective from those who experienced the storms from a more mainstream point of view.

Harvey made landfall in Texas on the weekend Houston Pagan Pride Day was scheduled. “We had planned Houston Pagan Pride Day for two years,” said the event’s organizer Virginia Villareal, who is also a high priestess with the Temple of Witchcraft. “This was supposed to to be the biggest one ever since Christopher Penczak was a guest speaker, and here comes Harvey.” Out of concern for the safety of the community, Villareal was forced to cancel the event the day before it was to be held. A note on the Houston Pagan Pride Day website announced the cancellation, stating that there will be a make-up pride day in November.

Penczak, who had traveled to Houston to speak at Pagan Pride Day, found himself stranded in the storm. In a Facebook post, he detailed his harrowing experience of having his hotel flooded, being evacuated to two other hotels as the waters rose, and finally escaping the area once the airports opened

Penczak described how the storm took on a more dangerous tone while he was traveling to Texas. Even with that, the first night of his engagement went well. “No one seemed deeply worried,” he said. “The first night was great and [he] met some really cool people.” The situation worsened that night. “By the next morning all events were cancelled and there were no flights available despite me trying.” He took his hotel manager’s advice and decided to shelter in place.

The experience of the storm itself was, in Penczak’s words, “shamanic.” Communing with Harvey in meditation, he said it was “big” but “not malevolent at all. . . . It was like being in a vortex,” wrote Penczak, “like a sacred site. . . while not personally malevolent it felt like an anti-magick circle. No balance, just raw and wild power.

Waters from Hurricane Harvey flood the streets of Porter, Texas [Virginia Villareal].

Personally, Villareal’s largest struggles with the storm were financial. “I didn’t lose my home or car,” she explains, “and my family were all safe,” but at the time of the interview, “I haven’t had income in two weeks, and my bills are piling up.” The financial struggle has taken an emotional toll on Villareal, who says, “I am stressing because my bills don’t stop coming and I have no means to pay them.”
“The second day things got scarier because the lobby flooded. To look out the window it appeared we were in the middle of a brown river. The parking lot was under water.” An attempt to evacuate the hotel failed because the new hotel was worse off than the original one, even though “water was coming through the hall windows even on the sixth floor.” At this time, Penczak says he no longer felt safe.

After walking through his flooded lobby with his suitcase over his head, Penczak did eventually make it to a new hotel, but that stay was short-lived. The water was rising at the new shelter, they had run out of food, and were going to close soon. At that point, Penczak turned to social media to get him out of the area. “Then a wonderful guardian angel offered to drive down, pick me up, and take me to a new hotel. She did, navigating flooded roads to find a route. [The] roads were a but Apocalypse Now.” Safe, and with access to a restaurant and “thankfully also a bar,” Penczak was able to find a flight home the Thursday night after the storm.

* * *

Where Harvey focused in on one part of the large state of Texas, Hurricane Irma covered virtually all of Florida in its swath of destruction. Patheos blogger Heather Freysdottir, a Florida resident, explained the predicament faced by her state:

For the curious who wondered why so many Floridians stayed put, the answer is this: Florida is a peninsula, and there are only a few roads that head out of our state. If people like me – who don’t live on an island, in a floodplain, or a mobile home – decide to evacuate, traffic slows to the point that people get stranded on the road during the hurricane, which is far more dangerous than staying put. This puts those who are in legitimate danger at risk, and helps no one. That is why we stay put, or shelter with someone else locally.

“I live in a county where the eye of the storm went directly over us,” said Freysdottir. While she is used to these kinds of storms hitting Florida from time to time, she “had a feeling of unease” after Irma was announced. “Our local Pagan community did more preparation than we normally do,” and she had “plenty of disaster supplies.” After making all the physical preparations to shelter in her home, Freysdottir added magical protections as well. “I didn’t lose so much as a window screen,” she said. “Bless my spirits.”

Ray Romanowicz, who had a frightening experience saving his child from 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, decided to evacuate to Georgia in advance of Irma. “The ride that should have lasted six to seven hours lasted 10½ hours.” Finding fuel was difficult along the way, which added to the duration of the trip. Romanowicz’s home escaped the worst of the storm. “The area where we live in had some flooding, but only in the streets.”

Miami Springs resident Canu also evacuated, and he encountered “early shortages of water, gas, propane and dry goods.” Heeding early reports, Canu headed to Port Charlotte, on Florida’s west coast. However, after arriving there reports came that his new location was in greater danger than expected, and “we drove back southeast toward Irma.” There, he took shelter with a “band of six.” His home lost power and, “it’s still very hot in Florida to be without power.” Canu did have a generator, though, and he used it to power his refrigerator and some fans.

After the storm, Canu “found many roads to be impassable due to downed trees and power lines” and “most gas stations without gas or ice.” Using his generator, Canu was able to power his electric chainsaw and begin the cleanup effort. His local Pagan community came together and “stayed in close touch. . . . Physically and emotionally, many are exhausted from the many days of uncertainty about our safety and homes, the lack of power and water, the heat, and, for some, normal clean water.”

A resident of Miami-Dade County, Shaylee, the first officer of Everglades Moon Local Council, had an experience that was “long and tiring” as she took shelter in her home with her family. “During the storm,” she said, “there were moments of worry as we waited to see if the next band would bring more tornado warnings.” Although she was spared too much damage, Shaylee said that Irma “reminded me more of Hurricane Andrew than any other storm we had experienced so far.”

In the aftermath, Shaylee found the experience to be a one of bonding. “It always truly amazes me how our community can come together,” she stated. “In the days before the storm, during, and after the storm the flow of information, personal contact, and emotional support that came from our EMLC family was inspiring . . . . Emotionally tiring as she was, Irma has only served to strengthen our ties.”

* * *

In the wake of disasters, people often want to help right away. While immediate help is necessary, those affected by these storms are going to need assistance for a very long time. “Many residents in the Florida Keys,” says Canu, “will have years and lots of money put into restoring the damage just south of us, including basic water and wastewater services.”

The Florida residents spoken to by The Wild Hunt have many suggestions for those who wish to donate funds to help in the recovery effort. Shaylee directs locals who would like to help to VolunteerFlorida. She also notes that the ASPCA and South Florida Wildlife Center also are in need of help and donations. United, Miami Foundation, and Office of Emergency Management are working together and conducting an emergency fund drive. For those who would like to help affected islands in the Caribbean, Shaylee suggests UNICEF, GlobalGiving, and Convoy of Hope.

Canu also recommends helping the Miami Foundation. Their website lists a number of local nonprofits who are helping recovery in the area. In addition, he gives a special recognition to the Islamorada Beer Company, which already runs a scholarship fund but has now added a Hurricane Irma relief fund. The beer company “stopped new production to conserve water and supplies, transitioned their bottling plant to bottle water for residents, and have have been collecting a variety of supplies . . . . Donations go entirely to their relief effort,” says Canu, and he lists supplies such as chainsaws, water, food, bleach, hand sanitizer, clothes, diapers, feminine products, toiletries, excavators, and dump trucks. Canu directs those who wish to help the heavily damaged Florida Keys to the Florida Keys Relief Fund.

Freysdottir says that the normal large charities “have been invisible here,” so she suggests the Pagan-run charity Hands of the Goddess. Romanowicz agrees about the lack of larger charities, but does recommend the American Red Cross, because of his experience with them after Hurricane Andrew, and the Wounded Warrior Project, because his family was helped through Andrew by soldiers from the 82nd Airborne.

Villareal is similarly unimpressed with most of the larger agencies’ efforts in Houston. National Public Radio has a large list of charities and organizations that are working to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. Donations or volunteering to one of these, not just now but in the future, will help in the long term relief of the Houston and southern Texas areas.

The need has only intensified. Shortly after hurricanes Harvey and Irma came Maria, which devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. CNN described the damage done to the island as “apocalyptic,” and [at this writing] much of the territory is still without power and dealing with severe shortages of fuel and water. Terence P. Ward’s October 3 article describes early Pagan response to this disaster, including the coordinated efforts of Solar Cross Temple and Black Flag Search and Rescue, to provide immediate assistance to victims of Hurricane Maria. In a plea for help, Puerto Rican rapper-actor-singer-songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, author of “Hamilton,” wrote an impassioned account of his own family’s struggles. Miranda advises those who wish to help the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico do so by donating to the Hispanic Federation.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Column: Crossing the River, Care-giving

Thu, 2017-10-05 20:11

The evening is crisp, with a hint of dampness still in the air. The descent of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere brings the blessings of bountiful pumpkins, crisp apples, and leaves just waiting to be crunched beneath boots on long walks through the woods. This is the in-between time. In my home tradition, we celebrate the sabbat of Thesmophoria when Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter, and Hades rejoices at the return of Kore, who will mature as his queen, Persephone.

[Pixabay]

It is a time of tumult and the weather reflects this. One day could be warm enough to wear thin cotton tops and shorts, while the next is so damp and cool that the urge to reach for a thick comforter or to turn on the furnace is almost irresistible. As transition, it is a good time to reflect. My care-giving has come to an end and now, like the changing season and the blowing leaves, I try to follow the too-often given advice: it is time for you. Take care of yourself.

Care-giving after crossing the river with a loved one is as strange and unfamiliar as  the death itself in many ways. What comes first? Does the caregiver gush relief that the loved one has crossed in peace, and hopefully without pain? Or does the caregiver collapse under the weight of final duties, paperwork, and the incessant need to recount the end, the death, and the dying process? Do the steps taken closer to the edge, then the steps that float in the water, and finally the realization that a separation has occurred overwhelm the caregiver?

Crossing the river for the dying has a clear and specific meaning: one has reached a point of physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional depletion. Atropos has cut the length measured by Lachesis. Whatever deeds have been the product of the person dying, for better or for worse, have been completed. Perhaps there are regrets. There is never enough time for the living to say goodbye; there is even less time for the dying to accomplish what was destined, or even what was desired. When the soul in decline approaches the river, the caregiver is there to guide and to protect at this crucial time.

Even in today’s hectic society, there is a space carved for those who are preparing to leave life: hospice. The idea of hospice is comfort, but the reality is one that many desire: to end life on one’s own terms, in the manner that best suits the individual. Instinctively, even those who do not know what to say around those who approach the end of life react with the idea that this is the one time to give whatever the dying wish. Favorite foods, beverages, songs, toys, people, television shows, flowers, or books appear with regularity. The usual trappings of a successful life mean little to the dying: health will not reappear, possessions are practically useless, and money may help to bring additional means for physical comfort or medications, but little else.

Touch, be it the comfort of a human hand, the nuzzling of a comforting animal friend, or the feel of a favorite blanket or quilt mean more to help those who are crossing. For the caregiver, watching at this time is a type of waiting, a helplessness. Each moment is a suspension between an awareness of a chasm of grief and an ocean of release from human pain. The pain of the dying and the pain of the caregiver intersect and align during the final steps through the river. Lachesis’ last threads spin out in infinitesimally small steps, each one slower and smaller than the last. As the heart rate of the dying slows, whether by natural means in sleep or medicinal means through morphine, there is a point where the thread’s pace is so slow that it appears Atropos has completed her task.

For the caregiver, the threads that bind the dying also bind the living. In an effort to not leave the declining spirit alone, the caregiver may give up the ordinary tasks of the living: eating, sleeping, working, and household tasks. There are attempts at living, yet the crossing marks the visage of the caregiver, as it marks the fading physical form of the dying. Whether in a hospital bed at home or in a facility, the shrinking body, sunken eyes, and sagging skin indicate that the end is near for the dying.

Exhaustion and anticipatory grief are harbingers of the impending end of the caregiver’s journey. Tears come, go, and come again. Mourning perhaps seems like a distant shore, held in abeyance by the final moments yet to come.

A part of the caregiver departs with the loved one. Whether it comes back, that remains to be seen. The before can never return. The after will not be the same.

[Pixabay]

The crossing of the river can be a time of joy for some, as Hades welcomes his bride. It can be a time of great sorrow, as Demeter accepts both the loss of her daughter and the innocence that Kore represents in lieu of her responsibility to the world as a queen, the goddess of abundance, fertility, and harvest.

Each autumn, we experience the fluctuation of the weather, we harvest the abundance that falls to the earth, and we turn our gatherings to both outdoor and indoor pursuits. For the caregiver, regardless of the time of year, the harvest is the time of realization that the task has been done, the dying has reached the final destination, and the ability to rest on the near side of the river can begin.

What makes the crossing so difficult for the caregiver is that the crossing is not done by one person, but by two. However, Hades’ realm does not permit the living to enter, and the caregiver can only go so far. When the caregiver performs one final task, to mark the time closest to when Atropos wields the final cut, there is a moment of silence, when the air is still. In a moment, the loved one is on the far side, and the caregiver is on the near side. The river flows between them. For the living, the mourning can begin. For the caregiver, each breath taken as they step away from the river is silent agony and awareness: the task is finished, yet there is an emptiness.

Each day is a step towards a new awareness. Just as birth brings celebrations and tasks, so does dying. The caregiver may remember that each tasks is a step in fulfilling the responsibilities of caring for the one who has died.

As with so many other times of the year, these are uncertain times and prayer is not only needed, but required. As a polytheist, it is comforting to know that there are  gods around for comfort and solace at 3am or when just crying is not enough. After care-giving for another, the care for the self can take some time. Care-giving calls for compassion to others; release from the care-giving lends emphasis for compassion to the self.

It is hard. Mourning will come. It may come in waves or not. It may not seem to come at all. During this harvest time, the tumult resembles the uncertainty that comes after crossing the river. Stepping out of the river means planting each foot with care, and reaching out to lean on others when necessary, just as the caregiver provides the support branch for the dying.

[Pixabay]

Now in the autumn, the sun rises later and sets earlier. The day begins with feeling refreshed, yet tired.  It is different from the tiredness when caring for the declining. A lingering weariness steeps into the bones like a fine tea, and it languishes in the blood. For a time, sleep does not seem enough. Yet it will come. In stepping away from the river, water dripping from our bodies, the sun will provide warmth. The soul will steep in a renewed awareness of life as the caregiver leaves the closeness of Atropos and re-embraces the familiar length of Lachesis’ cord. The cycle continues.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Glastonbury Hosts Dion Fortune Seminar

Thu, 2017-10-05 04:58

GLASTONBURY, England — The annual Dion Fortune Seminar was held September 23 in Glastonbury and was attended by approximately 80 people. The popular seminar has been held in the town for nearly ten years, partly in memorial to Dion Fortune herself.

Dion Fortune’s grave [Credit: By Robert B. Osten, Aurinia Verlag]

Violet Firth, as Fortune was called at birth, first came to Glastonbury in 1919, living in both Somerset and in London from then onward. As one of the 20th century’s most renowned occultists, Fortune is regarded as being partly responsible for the emergence of Glastonbury as a focus for contemporary neo-Paganism, and visitors still seek out her grave in the town’s cemetery.

To this day, Fortune’s work is analyzed by researchers attending the seminar and finds an audience among younger members of the neo-Pagan and occult communities. Her 1934 book Avalon of the Heart remains in print and is largely regarded as an important depiction of Glastonbury as it was in the mid-part of the 20th century.

Although Fortune’s work is often seen as being of its time, as many speakers at the seminar do contend, the material which she developed is still in use today. In fact, the seminar’s founder and current co-coordinator Mike Harris was himself trained by Gareth Knight and, therefore, Harris’ own work flows directly from the writings of Fortune.

This year’s Dion Fortune Seminar speakers included Christian Gilson, who gave a talk onFortune’s role and work as an esoteric Christian. Gilson focused on several little-known articles about ritual, in which Fortune talks of the need to return to the principles of the Celtic Christian church.  She believed that this would forget a renewed connection between Paganism and Christianity.

This theme was subsequently picked up by local historian Paul Ashdown, who spoke the emergence of a ‘Pagan Glastonbury.’ Ashdown suggests that Fortune originally came to the town to work as a medium for esoteric archaeologist Frederick Bligh Bond and, in time, to participate in what Ashdown refers to as an ‘Anglo-Celtic’ revival in the town.

The seeds of the 1960s in Glastonbury were established in those early days. Fortune inspired writers such as esotercist John Michell, whose enthusiasm for connecting early British and Egyptian mysteries led to the placing of the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival in 1971. The famous stage is still in use today.

Taken at the Glastonbury Festival, June 2009 [Credit: James Smith]

The seminar’s co-coordinate Mike Harris gave his own talk was on Fortune’s most famous novel: The Sea Priestess. Based in Somerset, the book tells of events that take place in Weston-super-Mare, Axbridge, and the headland of Brean Down.

Harris’ talk discussed the use of the character of the Sea Priestess in esoteric work. He said that working with this dominant of an archetype can lead to problems.

Psychologist J. R. Petrie delivered a talk on the connection between Fortune’s work and that of J. R. R .Tolkien. Petrie said that  Fortune was striving to reactivate the Arthurian legends in order to enhance national morale. This, Petrie claims, draws upon what Tolkien referred to as ‘the universal cauldron of story’ and the use of a personal connection with myth.

The contemporary relevance of Fortune’s work was evidenced most particularly in the final talk, which was given by writer Gary Lachman. He spoke on the ‘war against reality,’ looking at Fortune’s spiritual techniques in the modern context of the alt-right and ‘fake news.’

During the Second World War, Fortune was known for mustering a spiritual community to undertake magical work against the Nazis. This was shown in her collection of letters  titled: The Magical Battle of Britain.

Lachman suggests that the alt-right has been using techniques more commonly associated with esoteric paths in their political maneuvering, inheriting the spiritual practices of Fortune’s original foes. Lachman cited the work of white supremacist Richard Spencer, who coined the term ‘alt-right.’

It appears that contemporary occultists are now contemplating Fortune’s ‘magical Battle of Britain’ material within the context of modern politics. This demonstrates that many people feel that her ideas are still very current.

The Dion Fortune Seminar is sponsored by the Company of Avalon, a “contracted order of the western mystery tradition.” The day long seminar, is one of the many events that the group hosts, and it will be back in September 2018.

Glastonbury from the Tor [Credit: Adrian Pingstone]

Frederick CUUPS acquires large Pagan library

Wed, 2017-10-04 10:58

FREDERICK, Md. – A collection of nearly 3,300 Pagan books and items have found a new home. The collection was once housed in a Washington D.C. Pagan community center. After the center closed in 2014, the collection was put into storage. Now it has been donated to the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Church in Fredrick.

The collection’s estimated value is $37,800 and contains mainly books and tarot cards spanning a wide range of Pagan paths. It includes difficult to find and out of print books as well as more recent publications.

UU Pagan library [courtesy]

History of the collection

In the Fall 2011, the Open Hearth Foundation (OHF), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1999, signed a lease for a long-planned Washington D.C. Pagan Community Center. The goal of this new space was to provide an open space for  local Pagans.

By early 2012, OHF had installed an extensive library as well as an art gallery, and in the years that followed, several public events and private group meetings were held at that new community space.

Then fiscal hard times hit the Pagan community center and, in February 2014, news broke that the community center was closing.

The library was packed up and moved to a storage unit. Then, it was moved to a basement in a private home, then into a different climate controlled storage unit.

Finally, in August 2015, the collection was moved to the home of former OHF board member Eldritch. He set the collection up on shelves in his home in an attempt to allow regular access to the books and tarot cards.

He was also on a mission to find a permanent home for the collection.

Eldrich says the OHF board had created a criteria for him to use while looking for a prospective place to house the collection. He says the facility couldn’t be a private home, and it had to allow the items to be properly shelved and easily accessible.  The collection had to be maintained in a climate-controlled building, and its keepers had to be willing to revitalize the collection and add to it.

Former OHF Chair Sherry Marts says, “Eldritch almost single-handedly kept this collection intact and safe, and bent over backward to find a permanent new home for them.”

Marts says that Eldritch looked at several possibilities over the years, but until he found the Frederick UU church, none of them worked out. A few of the organizations that he talked to were the New Alexandrian Library and Circle Sanctuary, she says. In Circle Sanctuary’s case, they were interested in the collection, but didn’t have a climate controlled place to house it.

Then early this year, Eldrich contacted the the CUUP’s Chapter at the Frederick UU church.

Books being packed in August to move to UU [Courtesy]

The Collection’s New Home

Irene Glasse, chairwoman of the CUUPS board of directors, says they were excited to be contacted, “The opportunity to offer a Pagan research library along with all our other events and gatherings was very exciting, and a wonderful way to serve the needs of our growing community.”

She says that the Pagan community at Frederick CUUPS is a large and thriving one. She says this year’s Frederick Pagan Pride Day drew over 500 people and their rituals consistently see anywhere from 50 to nearly 200 attendees.

“Our community consistently wants to learn, to expand its knowledge and to deepen its spiritual connection,” says Ms. Glasse.

Glasse says that the library proposal was first submitted to the minister of their congregation, Reverend Carl Gregg.

“He was very supportive of bringing the library to the UUCF and helped guide the process of submitting the proposal to the board of the congregation,” says Glasse. During the voting process for approving the acquisition of the library, support for the library was unanimous, she adds.

By August, the collection was approved for acquisition and volunteers were boxing up the books and cards for transport.

Glasse says that they hope the library will be open to the public in late October or early November. Currently, they are inventorying the collection and developing a classification system. They are also creating an online, searchable database.

The library will be cared for by members of the Frederick CUUPS community who volunteered to assist. Glasse says that those volunteers include some systems administrators to help with the digital side and a few librarians. Others, she says, are volunteers who love books and are excited to help provide this resource to the local community.

Not only did CUUPS acquire the books, but also the shelving and other important furnishings.

Although Eldritch says that he was happy to care for the books during the last four years and is pleased they have a new home, he says he has one regret, “That this collection has lost four years of momentum by being in boxes and virtually inaccessible. I expect that in a few years and with a few book drives it can deepen and grow.”

UU Pagan library Oct 2017 [Courtesy]

Glasses says Frederick CUUPs isn’t currently accepting any book donations, but expects that to change as soon as they get the collection opened to the public.

“We do plan to host book drives and accept donations in the future. Frederick CUUPS media will definitely carry those announcements when the time comes,” says Glasse. She says they are, however, accepting monetary donations. Those donations will go towards maintaining and expanding the library.

“We are so incredibly grateful to Eric Eldritch and the rest of the Open Hearth Foundation for entrusting us with the care of this beautiful collection. Words cannot do justice to our gratitude for and admiration of the OHF’s benevolence. We are so excited to offer this resource, and feel blessed beyond words to take on the mantle of care. We are also grateful to our UU community for its constant and unwavering support of the local Pagan community.”

Pagans support Black Flag Search and Rescue efforts in Puerto Rico

Tue, 2017-10-03 11:08

PUERTO RICO –In the wake of Hurricane Maria laying waste to this and other U.S.-controlled Atlantic islands, the response from both the Red Cross and the federal government have been sharply criticized. Media coverage has also been blasted.

[Public domain/Department of Defense.]

In the wake of what has happened, several Pagan activists have set their sights on helping the people most in need. Among that number, a few have opted to support Black Flag Search and Rescue, a team of rescue workers who are “doing the work because no one else will,” in the words of Druid Casey McCarthy, who has been providing logistical support for those efforts.

Originally called Black Flag Camp, McCarthy says that this is a group of indigenous people and allies who are intent on providing aid to those who tend to get it last.

Their camp was the last standing at Standing Rock in North Dakota. In September after Hurricane Harvey, the team went into areas of Houston, Texas that no other rescue workers would and, at least, once bullets were fired their way.

They provided relief in Miami after Hurricane Irma and, thanks to people like McCarthy and the members of Solar Cross Temple, they were able to secure a flight to Puerto Rico.

McCarthy originally planned to join the rescue team on the trip, but when it became clear he wouldn’t be able to do so he refocused his energies on other ways to support the operation. At times that means being the spokesperson for the team, a position which admits to making him uncomfortable.

“I’m not the white savior mouthpiece for these folks,” he explains. “They have their own set of experiences, which need to be accurately highlighted.”

One of the important ways McCarthy has been providing support was by connecting Black Flag and Solar Cross, members of which often raise funds for disaster relief.

Solar Cross president T. Thorn Coyle says she first learned about the team as they were headed to Texas, and she immediately knew it was a good fit.

“A small, autonomous group that could get into places directly without waiting on red tape to clear is just the sort of thing we like to support,” she says.

From that point, Black Flag was getting all that Solar Cross members could muster. Coyle recalls, “We began fundraising as they were on the road south from Colorado. They did great work in Texas, under harrowing conditions, including getting shot at. Once the second round of storms hit, they moved on to Florida, picking up more skilled volunteers along the way. They delivered food and water and medical gear in Florida, heading all the way down to the Keys.”

“And then Puerto Rico was devastated,” Coyle says, “Black Flag had access to hundreds of pounds of supplies, they had boats, search-and -rescue gear, first aid equipment and trained people. They even had a donation of jet fuel. What they needed was a plane.”

Coyle said that she “reached out for help to a well-connected person, and his people came through.”

“Within two days Black Flag were packed up and off to Puerto Rico, despite many setbacks and a lot of red tape.”

What makes accurate highlighting of the experiences of Black Flag team members difficult is the fact that they’ve been moving from action to action, disaster to disaster nearly constantly for some months.

“At least they have a web site now,” said Coyle. Even that remains a work in progress: team member names and pictures are now online, but beyond that each entry is simply, “bio coming soon.”

That is why McCarthy’s efforts to get a statement directly about the situation on the ground in Puerto Rico from team leader Payu Vane resulting in nothing.

“He told me, ‘We’re kind of busy here,’ ” McCarthy explains in an apologetic tone. The Wild Hunt readers will have to rely upon McCarthy’s understanding of what he’s been told, supplemented by the reporting in other news outlets which are finally coming into focus.

In addition, Black Flag member Anthony Gazotti has been posting occasional snippets of information on his personal Facebook feed.

“They just hit boots on the ground,” McCarthy reports. “From what I understand from their reports, the Red Cross and larger organizations are purposefully blocking access to certain things, making it hard to help. Money sent to the Red Cross is reportedly not reaching the ground; it’s a fairly common theme to make sure they get paid first. I appreciate that they work on grander level, but the monetary resources aren’t reaching” the people who need it.

“They encountered obstacles getting to Puerto Rico, and there are many challenges there on the ground,” Coyle explains.

“The stories coming out — about goods not being released, government stumbling blocks, workers offering to help and being refused because of lack of proper clearance, and people struggling with no access to help – have been confirmed by Black Flag [members].”

Gazotti posted on Sept. 29 that they were headed to the western side of the island, where people had been without food or water for a week. They had with them tools to clear the roads as they went, plus food and water for the people that they reached.

“Please let anyone in the area know we are there to help and all food and water we carry is for them,” he wrote, stressing the importance that residents understand that Black Flag is made up of volunteers, rather than being government or Red Cross employees. His most recent post, dated Sept. 30, was an attempt to find insulin-distribution locations.

It is possible that Gazotti also believes that making the distinction that the Black Flag members are volunteers might save their lives. McCarthy reports that a sniper took aim at their boat, and the resulting holes appear to have come from something in the .50-caliber range.

They’ve also been turned away at gunpoint by U.S. Marines, who advised that there is just no way to tell if they are aid workers or looters. Team members themselves have witnessed violence perpetrated by looters and soldiers alike, but they have continued their efforts to hand out food and medicine as well as help reunite families when possible.

Coyle says that Solar Cross “will continue to support [Black Flag] by raising funds and spreading the news.”

PayPal donations to the temple can be earmarked for this effort: send them to solarcrosstemple@gmail.com with “Black Flag/Hurricane Relief” as the subject line. “Save your receipt if you need a tax write-off,” she advises.

While power on the island is slowly being restored, fuel supplies are low enough that it might not continue uninterrupted, even at hospitals. That’s led to concerns that dialysis will not be available for the roughly 5,000 Puerto Ricans who need it; that is if they manage to reach a center at all.

In addition, it is expected that conditions will result in a cholera outbreak, which may result in a rising death toll. At this point, that figure itself is frozen at 16, having not been updated in nearly a week. There are more pressing needs at the moment than updating statistics.