Posted by Meg Sri

Last week, the United States’ men’s soccer team lost 2-1 in a World Cup Qualifier to Trinidad and Tobago, the only team below them in the group standings, sending them crashing out of the Men’s World Cup for the first time since 1986 in what some are calling “the worst loss in the history of U.S. Men’s Soccer.” It seems a good a time as any to remember that it was only in April this year that the U.S. women’s too, lost an important fight: the battle to gain equal pay with the men’s team. And it also seems a good time to remember that while the U.S. men comically crashed out of the World Cup, the women won it in 2015.

The deeper one dives, the more embarrassing the record is. The U.S. women’s team’s record in World Cups the past twenty years includes two victories, one second-place finish, and three third-place finishes. The men’s involves one non-qualification, two exits at the Group Stages, two at the Round of 16, and one high of a quarterfinal finish. The women have lost only two Olympic gold medals between 1996 and 2016. The (under-23, but nonetheless) men did not qualify three times in the same period.

The history of U.S. men’s soccer is far from illustrious in general, especially on the international stage. As FiveThirtyEight points out, “In the 1998 World Cup and the 2006 World Cup — the last two on European soil — it combined for one tie and five losses. In 2015, the team was stunned at home in the Gold Cup semifinal by Jamaica, which at the time was ranked 76th in the world by FIFA.” Meanwhile, the women’s team has been characterized by roaring  successes, entertaining play, stimulating victories, and renewed public interest in soccer. They also now bring in more game revenue than men, bringing in $23 million last year, and turned over 3 times as much profit as the men in 2016. U.S. Soccer predicts the same will happen in 2017 for the women — while the men are expected to turn over a loss of $1 million.

In March 2016, five of the U.S. women’s team players filed a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that U.S. soccer acted discriminatorily in paying its female players less than those on the men’s team. The complaint pointed out some startling figures: women, if they won and including their win bonus, would earn $4,950 per game; the men would earn $5,000 just for showing up (and a whopping $8,166 if they won, rare as that might be). If women won all their games in a year, they’d earn $99,000 — still less than the men’s salary for just showing up and losing every game, at $100,000. And that’s not counting the litany of smaller discriminatory practices: coach flights vs. business class; dangerous artificial turf vs. real fields; and lower per diems and pay for sponsor appearances.

The fight did end in some form of victory in April this year: women’s players got pay raises of over 30%, better bonuses, higher per diems, and other financial benefits. And yet U.S. soccer couldn’t take the final leap and pay a multiple World Cup-winning, tremendously victorious side that is more financially profitable the same amount of money as a mediocre side that crashes out of a World Cup and expects to net a revenue loss.

Last week’s World Cup qualifier loss was a sobering reminder to some soccer fans about systemic problems with U.S. men’s soccer. But to many of us, it is also a sobering reminder to women: you can be twice or thrice as good as men, but you still cannot expect to be treated or paid on par with them.

Header image via

Posted by Terence P Ward

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.

#MeToo: On Trust

Oct. 17th, 2017 05:00 pm[syndicated profile] feministing_feed

Posted by Maya Dusenbery

#MeToo, of course.

I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have only experienced minor forms of harassment and mostly as an adult, so that its impact on me has felt comparatively very small. But to paraphrase Jessica Valenti, who would I be if I didn’t live in a world of pervasive sexual violence? That’s a question none of us can answer. 

As Mahroh discusses in her piece, there are things to like and dislike about this #MeToo campaign, but I appreciate that it seems to be getting at a few basic things that I think are important for men—since they are the main problem here—to understand:

Literally every woman you interact with has probably had experiences of sexual harassment, assault, and rape, that have been more or less traumatic to her, and you likely don’t know where on that spectrum we fall and how it has shaped us. If you are a person who wants to have any kind of relationships based on mutual trust with women, that should scare you to your core and be something you want to help change—for ethical but also purely self-interested reasons.

Women are affected not just by our own direct experiences but also by those of other women. We talk. We should probably talk more actually, but we clearly talk more to each other about these experiences than we do to you. Maybe you are surprised by all the “me too” posts, but we are probably not. It can, I think, be difficult for those who don’t live it to fully grasp that it’s the cumulative effect of these experiences, individual and collective, big and small—which is visually represented nicely by the stream of posts in our Facebook and Twitter feeds this week—that’s so damaging.

And it’s also this: the perpetual uncertainty about when the “minor” stuff might turn into the “major” stuff, and how the latter gives the former far more power. My own experiences being harassed on midwestern streets and NYC subways are nothing like being raped, of course. But a cat-caller is only scary at all because we don’t know when one might follow us home. And a guy who aggressively pushes for sex wouldn’t make us so queasy if we felt 100 percent sure he’d listen if we said no.

I hope that men see every “me too” post as representing a very good reason—and usually more than one—for all women not to trust men. #YesALLmen because it’s precisely that uncertainty—and the consequent need for constant guardedness—that’s so corrosive. If being distrustful of a whole gender strikes you as terrible and unfair—well, yes, that it absolutely is. It is no way to live but that is the reality that all women are forced to manage in some way.

Sometimes, some of us—the lucky ones whose direct experiences have been minor enough that they haven’t been etched into our very nervous systems—may try to distance ourselves from the collective trauma and delude ourselves into believing that we are immune. That the major stuff only happens to other women or perhaps at the hands of other men. That we are smarter, tougher, more careful. Sometimes, some of us—and I’d count myself in this—may recognize that it’s just a matter of luck (often with a good dose of privilege) but consciously and recklessly choose to trust men anyway because, whatever the risks, being always wary takes a toll on your soul too. Sometimes we are just afraid.

him, though

Image via Liz Plank

One of the valid critiques of the #MeToo trend is that it is focused, as these conversations so often are, on the survivors, rather than the perpetrators and enablers; that it asks women to bear their pain instead of asking men for reflection and accountability. I agree that a turning of the tables is useful here, and while like Mahroh, I’m not sure that this current outpouring will change much, if it does provoke some self-analysis among men, I’d suggest starting here: How does it feel to know you are distrusted because of your gender? What toll does that take on your soul? And how much power are you willing to give up to make that not true?

Header image via

Posted by Sejal Singh

With a 4.0 GPA and two successful semesters with a state affiliate under her belt, Susie Balcom was a standout applicant for a job at AmeriCorps. It’s no surprise she received multiple offers from AmeriCorps programs.

But in June, after requiring Balcom to submit an intrusive “health information form” — which asks for all kinds of personal information about applicants’ doctor’s visits, medications, and mental health history — AmeriCorps abruptly revoked her job offer. The reason? Balcom disclosed that she sought mental health care after a sexual assault.

Turns out AmeriCorps has a blanket policy of revoking job offers to anyone who recently started therapy for anxiety, meaning that survivors like Balcom, and anyone else who seeks help for anxiety, can lose their job.

AmeriCorps isn’t the only organization with a policy like this. To be an attorney, for instance, most state bar associations ask candidates intrusive questions about their mental health. Medical students face the same. According to a 2008 study, about 90 percent of state medical boards have licensing forms with questions about an applicant’s mental health.

Having a mental illness shouldn’t disqualify someone from a job. We live in a country where one in five women report experiencing rape or attempted rape and one in six report being stalked. As #MeToo is demonstrating this week, gender-based harassment and violence affects virtually every woman on the planet. Discriminating against survivors of gender-based violence is gender-based discrimination. It’s illegal for an employer to force you out of work solely because you have anxiety or solely because you’ve experienced sexual assault.

But it’s not just illegal. It’s also wrong. By taking her job away, AmeriCorps implied that experiencing sexual assault, or having a mental health condition, makes people incapable of serving their community. That couldn’t be further from the truth. For some survivors, coping with trauma is a full-time job (and that’s okay!). But as Alexandra has written here, the stereotype that a past experience of violence ruins a survivor for life is an incredibly destructive one. We can acknowledge the violence of sexual assault while also recognizing that survivors are still full people capable of all kinds of workplace and academic success.

Ironically, those very stereotypes do rob survivors and disabled people of their career goals and economic security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as people without disabilities. 

Plus, by discriminating against survivors, organizations like AmeriCorps are making it harder for sexual violence victims to move on with their lives and recover — and deter people with disabilities from getting treatment. In any given year, nearly one in five American adults will experience a mental health condition, but many won’t get treatment. The World Health Organization estimates that the non-treatment rate for anxiety is 57%. The WHO also estimates it’s 59% for OCD and 56% for major depression, and admits that these figures may be a conservative underestimate.

That’s partly because people fear the stigma and discrimination they could face for having a mental health condition. What happens if you lose your job, and your ability to pay rent, because your employer finds out you’ve been diagnosed with depression? When companies like AmeriCorps discriminate against survivors, and everyone else who needs mental health care, they force employees to make an impossible choice between their livelihoods and their health.  

Here’s the good news — things are slowly changing. In 2014, the Department of Justice stated that the bar association’s intrusive, discriminatory mental health screenings violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Their judgement isn’t binding on state associations, but it’s proof that the tide is shifting. If employers discriminate against people with mental health conditions, they may find themselves in court.

Likewise, the ACLU is suing AmeriCorps to get justice for Balcom and end the organization’s discriminatory mental health screenings. If you’re an AmeriCorps applicant who was similarly discriminated against, you can share your story here.

Image credit: The Guardian.

Posted by The Reader


The second Booknest awards shortlist was posted this previous Saturday (14th October) and I had the privilege to be one of the six bloggers who helped in creation of the long list. A huge thank you to Petros T. for enabling me to be a part of these awards.

The awards for each of these three categories are beyond eye-catching to say the least and here are the nominees in each category:

Best Traditionally Published Novel

- A Plague of Swords by Miles Cameron
- Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
- Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
- Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
- Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
- Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
- Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan
- Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
- The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
- Wrath by John Gwynne

There’s some great books in the traditionally published category and I believe it will a tough fight between Mark Lawrence, John Gwynne, Robin Hobb, Michael Sullivan & Brian Stavely as all of them have written amazing books and have a very passionate fan base. Among all the titles in this category, in my mind, the two strongest titles are Red Sister & Skullsworn and I’m having the hardest time in deciding who to vote for.

Best Self Published Novel 

 - A Keeper's Tale by J.A. Andrews
- Darklands by M.L. Spencer
- Faithless by Graham Austin King
- On the Wheel by Timandra Whitecastle
- Revenant Winds by Mitchell Hogan
- Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe
- The Fifth Empire of Man by Rob J. Hayes
- The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley
- The Mirror's Truth by Michael R. Fletcher
- A Dragon of A Different Color by Rachel Aaron

This is another tough category as there are so many amazing titles and quite a few are in the running for the SPFBO title this year. I have read quire a few of them such as ADOADC (Rachel Aaron), SAM (Andrew Rowe), TFEOM (Rob J. Hayes), Darklands (M. L. Spencer), THOS (Ben Galley), TMT (Michael R. Fletcher). I’ve read all of these aforementioned titles and can vouch for their amazing nature. In this category my vote was divided between TFEOM and ADOADC and right now I’m leaning a tad towards TFEOM for its insane finale, mind-blowing characters and an ending twist that would have made GRRM proud.

Best Debut Novel

- Blackwing by Ed McDonald
- Gilded Cage by Vic James
- Godblind by Anna Stephens
- Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
- River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
- The Bear And The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
- The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
- The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf
- The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis
- Age of Assassins by RJ Barker

The best debut category, I believe is the true group of death. This year has been a phenomenal year for debuts and it shows with Ed McDonald, RJ Barker, Nicholas Eames, Katherine Arden, Anna Stephens, etc. This category is anybody’s guess and honestly I’m sad that Alec Hutson didn’t make the cut. He would be another contender for sure. In this category, I’m having the hardest time selecting my choice as it changes with every hour. I’ll be waiting to see who wins eventually.

So dear readers please go ahead and vote for your choices in the aforementioned categories. The voting ends on 31st October so make your votes count 

Posted by Mahroh Jahangiri

In case you missed it, women are flooding social media this week to share our stories of sexual assault and harassment, using the hashtag #MeToo to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”  Though this should be obvious, in this moment it bears repeating: gender-based violence does not exist without other systems of violence, especially those built to uphold white supremacy (such as racism, colonialism, zionism, militarism). 

People bare their scars public for a number of reasons: for the oft-fleeting high of naming violence, for example, after being denied power over our happiness and bodies; or in hopes that letting people, namely men, witness a mass display of our collective pain may lead them to reject the rape-enabling behaviors they (and we) practice and support. I must say that maybe because we’ve done this so many times before, or that my siblings are as likely to be raped in school as I was, or I’m decidedly un-optimistic about the current state of affairs, or because we’ve ogled at Black folks’ trauma in our feeds for years without action, I no longer believe this practice is effective – but I digress.

I started sharing (one of) my story/ies for another reason: to hold space for brown, Muslim, immigrant survivors in an often white women-led national conversation on sexual assault; and to push white women to listen to me in one of the few spaces they would—survivor spaces—and reckon with the fact that gender violence women, trans, and non-binary folks of color experience is caused by and compounded by systems and policies they and you support.

Surviving in numbers is a very real thing and that #MeToo has provided that for so many is incredible. But I am also uncomfortably aware of the fact survivors spaces, online and off, allow women with power (specifically white ones) to focus on the harm we’ve experienced without much accountability for the harm we cause.

That’s why I am especially grateful for the survivors pushing #MeToo to be about more than observing our pain—and to be about complicity and holding people, namely men, to a higher standard than liking our statuses. But just as we acknowledge that rape does not happen in a vacuum and that gender violence comes from our fathers, brothers, friends, and partners, we have also *got to admit* that this violence often specifically comes from people in institutions many amongst us otherwise support: men with badges, those in uniform, people who staff detention facilities across our arbitrary borders and outside of them (in Guantanamo, Iraq, Israel), men who learn harmful stereotypes about women of color from American culture and media, and most importantly, people of all genders who support them.

If we can accept this fact, we can finally implicate all of us in much broader, more entangled systems of violence—and grapple with much more comprehensive and desperately needed questions around accountability: including not only the questions we ask men like, When is the last time you made a woman feel uncomfortable? Do you touch women without asking? Do you expect praise for basic decency? Do you use your ‘feminism’ to seduce women and/or get them to trust you? When is the last time you challenged a friend spouting misogynistic crap? Do you get defensive when a woman calls you out? Do you think about more than your pleasure during sex?

But also asking ourselves, Are we made uncomfortable by loud or angry women/trans/GNC people of color? Do we understand why people don’t report to the police? Do we get why policing should not exist? Do women of color make as much money as white women do in your anti-violence org? Does your anti-violence panel/workshop/conference/survivor group mostly revolve around white women? Do you use your survivorhood to talk over women of color? Do you mispronounce our names and deny us other types of respect in public spaces? Do survivors with shitty politics lead anti-violence organizing in our community? Do you have people in uniform in your life? Will we organize against them and their institutions? What are we doing to stop incarceration? Occupation? War?

Header image via

Posted by Heather Greene

forest fire 2268729 640CALIF. – 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.

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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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Posted by The Reader


In my American Craftsmen trilogy, psychic spies (farseers) can view intel across the distances of time and space (farsight). Their visions guide the missions of magical and mundane soldiers, and they play against the farseers of hostile powers.

I want to look briefly at some of the popular stories of magical surveillance. The use of magical or psychic means to view across space and time is an old idea. Yet few of the stories that come immediately to mind view such power as an unambiguous good for the wielder. In the story of Snow White, the evil queen uses a magic mirror for scrying. Like many such devices, the mirror is a two-edged weapon. On the one hand, the mirror demonstrates what powerful surveillance can accomplish; for example, the attempt of Snow White and the huntsman to fake her death fails because of it. On the other hand, the mirror seems to be driving the queen to her eventual destruction by doling out only as much information as she requests and no more.

In The Lord of the Rings, we have the Mirror of Galadriel, the palantíri, and the Ring itself. All of these are in their own way unreliable. The Mirror of Galadriel shows Sam a vision of an industrializing Shire that momentarily discourages him from his mission, when his mission is the one hope of Middle Earth. Denethor’s palantir gives him true intel, but only what Sauron wants him to see, and so he goes mad with despair. In turn, Aragorn is able to use Saruman’s palantir to nudge Sauron into rushing his attack. The Ring seems to serve as a sort of tracking device, but only when Frodo puts it on does it work well enough to zero in on him.

(By the way, Palantir Technologies is the name of a big data analysis, counterterrorism company, as anyone who’s taken the DC metro over the last few years knows from its ads.)

In the original Oz book, the Wicked Witch of the West only had one eye, “yet this eye was as strong and powerful as a telescope, and could see everywhere in the Winkie Country.” (In the film, this was changed to a crystal ball.) Yet this eye, which clearly helped her enslave the Winkies, also led to her doom, because it’s explicitly stated that Dorothy would not have been able to find the Witch, but the Witch was able to find Dorothy.


In the Dune books, Paul Atreides has an incredible power of precognition, but he has difficulty seeing the actions of opponents scheming under the protective umbrella of a Spacing Guild Navigator because the Navigator is also a precog. In the end, Paul’s foresight only leaves him with one tragic choice.

The most famous oracle of Classical Greece was at Delphi. Scholars think that it may have in part functioned as an intelligence gathering and exchange point, and it was particularly effective for guiding the Greeks in their founding of colonies. But the oracle could also be notoriously ambiguous and potentially disastrous to the unwary and hubristic. According to Herodotus, one such oracular prediction was that if Croesus made war on the Persians, he would destroy a mighty empire. That empire turned out to be Croesus’s own.

Finally, related to the ambiguous oracle is the unheeded prophecy. Cassandra is the archetypical example; her ability is precise and accurate, but no one believes her anyway. Many stories of biblical prophecies are similar--the prophet clearly warns that if bad behavior continues, disaster will surely follow, yet we have fewer stories of the prophecy being avoided than fulfilled.

I’m uncertain as to why the limitations of farsight are such a consistent theme in our stories about it. However, the Dune series points out a particular problem of perfect prescience--under the God Emperor of Dune, history as we understand it comes to a halt. Perfect prescience may not eliminate free will, but it may negate its force in the universe.

Or perhaps any power without a limit or flaw just makes for bad storytelling.

So, what are the limits of farsight in my secret history of our world?

1. Farsight is probabilistic. In the fashion of scientists, my psychic spies report their predictions in the form of probabilities, with absolute certainty never fully achieved, only very closely approached.


So, my first book, American Craftsmen, has passages like “High probability of end of American democracy,” and another where one spy counts down the seconds and another gives the survival odds. The third book, War and Craft, mentions a probability of greater than five sigma of a certain character’s destruction. War and Craft also introduces the insane, drug-addled precogs of the Left Hand, who under apocalyptic stresses made such absurd predictions as “probability the sun turns into a giant clown-faced wolf at ten to the minus tenth percent.” In its more sober form, this use of probabilities allows those who use the psychic intel to weigh it, but it also underlines the limitations of such intel perhaps more honestly and directly than other more mundane reports and considerations.

2. My farseers are limited by other precogs and the Dune rule. No one nation, ideology, or moral stance has a monopoly on precog, and sufficiently skilled psychic competitors of all stripes can see the oncoming probabilities of certain events. Beyonds a ubiquitous passive observer effect, this means that rivals can attempt to take action to avoid certain outcomes. Also, associates of a farseer (or in one case, friends of the child of a very powerful precog) are largely screened from such predictions.

3. Farseers have a variety of skill levels and trustworthiness. It’s proverbial that military intelligence is only as good as the people delivering it and using it. Some of the best farseers have become unstable because of the tragic choices they are forced to repeatedly make. Sometimes those responsible for giving the orders based on the intel fail to do so because they don’t trust the particular farseer or prediction. In my books, the unbalanced yet powerful oracle codenamed Sphinx issued predictions that were so distant in time and extreme in counteraction that the tragedies occurred anyway: “Evacuate the embassy in Tehran. Close all the airports in September.”

4. From their experience, my characters (particularly morally dubious ones) know that if they lean on precog intel too much, the prediction may spring some karmic trap upon them. As one evil character reflects, “responding too directly to oracles was a quick trip to poetic justice,” especially when the ambiguities are almost screaming in the choice of words.

However, even my characters who aren’t precog specialists pick up bits of oracular statements everywhere. Combat heightens the sense of irony and of the perversity of fate. Anything that sounds like “famous last words” triggers their psychic warning bells, and certain characters are gifted or cursed with strong forebodings of their own deaths.

Thank you to Fantasy Book Critic for hosting this post. I hope you’ll check out my psychic spies for yourselves.




Official Author Website
Order War And Craft HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of American Craftsmen
Read "Mixing Magic With The Mundane World" by Tom Doyle (guest post)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Tom Doyle is the author of a contemporary fantasy trilogy from Tor Books. In the first book, American Craftsmen, two modern magician-soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil--and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America's past. In the third book, War and Craft (Sept. 2017), it's Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.

Some of Tom’s award-winning short fiction is collected in The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories. He writes in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. You can find the text and audio of many of his stories on his website.

Posted by kidmarathon

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Posted by Heather Greene

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.”

Posted by Josephine Winter

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.

Posted by Eric O. Scott

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.

* * *

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.

Posted by Terence P Ward

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.

Posted by Cara Schulz

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.

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