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Posted by Nathan Hall

TWH — The end of August dealt a bit of a setback to Pagan music fans when festival organizer David Banach published a series of posts on the CalderaFest Facebook page revealing that the concert was going to be postponed. Fewer than expected ticket sales were the primary cause for the upheaval, as The Wild Hunt reported earlier this month.

The reaction among folks who were planning to attend was mixed.

One commenter on those public posts said, “I’d like to know about the developments about refunds… my group spent $1000 and we’d like our money back. Many of us made special arrangements with work and family to be there. It is WRONG to keep our money if this festival is going to be rescheduled!”

Others pledged their support, offering to volunteer or to do whatever was necessary so that the festival could move ahead.

“What ever we can do to help please let me know, this is such a special event and it must happen,” a commenter said.

The issue brought up most frequently on the festival’s page are inquiries about refunds and people taking exception with the event being postponed rather than scheduled as a new event.

Bands that were scheduled to perform were generally upbeat about the postponement and voiced their support for Banach.

Mannun, bassist and vocalist for Witch’s Mark, said that he was, “Bummed.”

He added, “But I understand, if not enough people are gonna be there to make it worth while then why do it. Try again at a later date when things can possibly be promoted better and maybe more can commit.”

Solo performer Brian Henke also expressed disappointment that it won’t be happening this year, but he also said that, as someone who has experienced concert and festival promotion, he knows about the pitfalls.

“I don’t think most people have any idea of the amount of hard work, attention to detail and courage it takes to do a festival of this size,” Henke said.

There are a lot of variables that make organizing extremely complicated and difficult, he added.

“I have nothing but respect and sympathy for the folks that put this amazing fest together and am very looking forward to being at Caldera 2019!”

Spiral Dance had built CalderaFest into their 2017 tour plans, when they travelled from Australia to the UK, where they’re currently performing before flying to the southeast United States to wrap up their northern hemisphere excursion.

Singer Adrienne Piggott didn’t seem to be too shaken by the change, saying, “We’ve got some house concerts as well as Phoenix Phyre Festival so we’re looking to launching our new CD there. If Caldera happens in 2019 and we can be there, we will!”

What follows is a Q&A with festival organizer David Banach. There appears to be some unresolved issues that he still must face if he wants to rebuild the trust of both those who currently hold tickets and those who may attend in 2019.

Banach is admirably unflappable in his belief in the festival, his love of the bands and the music that they create. It is difficult not to get caught up in his enthusiasm.

Green Album Performers at CalderaFest 2016 [M. Tejeda-Moreno]

However, for the people who are sitting on tickets and are feeling like an event in 2019 is not what they payed for, it will take more than a love of the music to win them back. Banach may need to do some soul-searching, as well as reaching out to ticket holders to come up with creative solutions and compromises.

While he appears to sincerely want to do right by people, he still needs to dig in and figure out how best to make that happen.

TWH: First up, if you can catch me up on what’s happened so far. On August 31 you put up the original post to the Facebook page announcing that the festival would be postponed. What’s happened since then?

David Banach: Mostly, I have been fielding lots of questions and doing my best to deal with the backlash. Mostly, the response has been fairly positive, but there have been some negative comments. I’m doing my best to ignore the negativity and focus on making the 2019 event truly legendary.

TWH: How many folks do you have working on the festival, I think I saw mention that there are two of you right now?

Banach: CalderaFest is myself and my business partner at the financial core. I have two other staff members from 2016 and then we added five other staff members for this year. We are all volunteers in this. We haven’t made a dime. In fact, my business partner and I lost a small fortune putting on 2016. It’s a project we really believe can be successful eventually. We might even make that money back someday.

TWH: Can you say who your business partner is? And do you feel like a larger pool of volunteer help could have helped pull the event off this year or was it solely a funding issue?

Banach: My partner is Mary D. She was in charge of the vendors in 2016. She’s an awesome lady and a good friend. I never could have pulled it off without her last time.

The main issue for 2017 was lack of ticket sales. Putting on this festival is very expensive. When we announced the postponement, we had about a third of the tickets we needed to break even. The other factor was volunteers. We need about 90 to make it happen. At the end of August we had 12. The current plan is that volunteers get a severely reduced rate for working three 6 hour shifts during the festival. I’m currently working on a plan to be able to boost volunteer numbers for 2019 by offering a lower rate in exchange for working one shift as well. I want to give people lots of choices to find the plan that works best for them.

TWH: That’s awesome, I was really sorry I couldn’t make it to the first ‘fest. Are you concerned that you may get into a position where you have enough volunteers but the reduced rate still doesn’t hit the break even point.

Banach: There’s always that concern. I’m also working on alternative ways to fund the next CalderaFest as well. We will be selling some fairly inexpensive sponsorship programs that include advertising on our websites as well as ad banners on the stage and on the festival grounds. Corporate sponsorship would be great, but just like we focus on independent Pagan musicians, I’d like to be able to get independent Pagan businesses, media outlets, and organizations, including other festivals, to sponsor with us so we can help each other grow and be successful.

TWH: Have you worked with any fundraising pros to help you create a plan?

Banach: It’s not something we’ve done in the past, but I will be looking into getting some help in that area.

TWH: You mentioned that you chose the new date because of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Since that’s about a year and a half after the original planned date, why not aim for some time in 2018?

Banach: That wasn’t the only reason, but I mentioned it to build some excitement for 2019. The other factors involved are simply the amount of time needed for everyone involved to make arrangements to be there. There’s the guests that buy tickets, of course, but also musicians, vendors, and volunteers. Plus we have to work with the venue for its availability and one of our key staff members will be unable to do it in 2018 for health reasons. The best reasonable time we could find was Memorial Day 2019. If we had postponed only a week, or a month, or even a few months, most people wouldn’t be able to make their plans by then. We thought this was the best plan that was the most fair for the most people.

TWH: Since you mentioned musicians, do you have a list that have committed to the new festival date? Are there any lineup changes?

Banach: I really don’t have much info on that yet. Most have said they want to come back, but actual details for 2019 aren’t even tentative yet. The plan is to do a Woodstock thing, so yes, the actual schedule will change a bit. The lineup is yet to be determined.

TWH: Have you heard anything from the bands that were booked for this year? Any gripes? I know Spiral Dance was slated to perform, were they understanding?

Banach: All the musicians were very understanding and wonderful. Most knew that things like this happen, some were very disappointed, one even cried. I love them all like family that I still geek out on when I see them. They are really awesome people.

TWH: People are understandably upset about the changes, are you offering refunds to those who can’t make the new date?

Banach: I want to do what is right. If I had the ability to refund everyone, I would. I have given the people who have tickets several choices and they have been very understanding of the situation. I will do everything I can do for them. I wish I could do it all.

TWH: What are the options that you’re giving them?

Banach: We would really like them to keep their ticket for 2019. I’m brainstorming ideas to benefit those that do keep their tickets. They can also sell their tickets or we can sell the tickets for them via brokerage. When tickets go on sale for 2019, any brokered tickets will be sold first. The last option is of course refunds. I understand that this may be the only option for some. I will do my best to take care of all of the people with tickets.

TWH: Have you had anyone threaten to sue or anything like that?

Banach: There has been some talk about it on Facebook, but fortunately not. I hope people realize that we’re not a giant corporation with unlimited resources. We are just regular people that wanted to make something wonderful happen. I’m doing my best to satisfy everyone.

TWH: Do you feel like you’ll be able to regain the trust of fans/vendors/bands? What would you say to people who are feeling uneasy about investing money for the 2019 event?

Banach: I know this isn’t the first event to be postponed, and hopefully everyone will know that this project is our passion. It’s what we gave every free moment of our time and our life savings to. We want Nothing more than for CalderaFest to return better than ever. I’m asking them to believe in CalderaFest and us. If they need a second opinion, ask those who were there in 2016, fans, and musicians. It was real magick for those few days. We can, and will, do it again. We need everyone’s support to make magick again.

TWH: Thank you so much for your candor, Dave. I appreciate your willingness to share. Is there anything else you want to add that I haven’t touched on?

Banach: I would like to say thank you to everyone who has supported this project in the past and we look forward to bringing CalderaFest to you in the future. If anyone is willing to help us make it a success, please feel free to contact me.

Column: Six Heathens Speak of Fall

Sep. 23rd, 2017 05:06 pm
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Posted by Karl E. H. Seigfried

The fall equinox is celebrated in many different ways by practitioners of Ásatrú and Heathenry. Those who practice modern forms of polytheistic religions rooted in Northern Europe have revived, reconstructed, and reimagined a variety of practices and rituals to mark the turning of the year from summer to autumn.

Haustblót (autumn sacrifice) is mentioned by name in the saga of the Icelandic warrior-poet Egill Skallagrímsson. The Ynglinga Saga of Snorri Sturluson tells of laws established by the god Odin, including the timing of the main annual sacrifices:

Þá skyldi blóta í móti vetri til árs, en at miðjum vetri blóta til gróðrar, hit þriðja at sumri, þat var sigrblót.

There should be sacrifice toward winter for a good year, and in the middle of winter sacrifice for a good crop, a third in summer, that was victory sacrifice.

If “toward winter” can be interpreted to mean “in the fall,” the first rite mentioned may be the Haustblót of Egill’s Saga. However, there is more documentation for the historical celebration of the main autumn ritual not on the equinox itself, but approximately a month later.

“The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565) [public domain].

The modern Icelandic Ásatrúarfélagið (Ásatrú Fellowship) celebrates Veturnáttablót (winter nights blót) in the second half of October, when members of the organization thank the god Freyr for his autumn gifts and ask the deities for a good winter. The U.S.-based Troth also marks Winter Nights in its ritual calendar.

The Heathen holiday celebrated on the equinox is today variously known as Haustblót, Harvest Blót, Winter Finding, or another related term. As with so much of modern Heathenry, the specifics of historical practice are up for debate. Regardless of historicity, the late-September celebration can be deeply meaningful for those who include it in their ritual practice.

As in my column “Nine Heathens Speak of Spring,” which centered on celebrations of the spring equinox, I asked Heathens from a variety of locations to tell me what the autumn holiday means to them personally and how they and their community celebrate it. There is a wonderful diversity in the answers they gave.

I would like to thank all who took time out of their busy schedules to articulate their relationship to this time of the year. I hope you enjoy reading their responses as much as I did.

Lonnie Scott (Illinois, USA)

The autumn equinox rolls around again. This signals the harvest on the way. The cycle of reaping what you sow can be seen in the land all around. The leaves turn and fall. The air grows crisp and colder. In my area, gardens are yielding their final gifts. Corn and beans are about to be harvested. Pumpkin patches are opening. The smell of baked pumpkin goods fills the cool air. Winter is ahead, along with deepening cold and growing darkness.

We honor the nature spirits in group ritual. It’s a good time to show gratitude for the fruits of the earth. This year we honored the Sangamon River in Central Illinois as a specific spirit and ally. Our waterways are the very arteries of the earth, and their gifts to our lives are boundless. We use our waterways for life-giving water, fishing, and even play. It’s also our waterways that suffer terrible pollution, much of which comes from chemicals used in farming and industry. Honoring the river is a good reminder that we need to honor all our land and waterways throughout the year, recognize our own contribution to their condition, and reinforce our duty to be good stewards. I personally spend time reflecting on the rune jera in meditation during the equinox. The seasons have turned, and now I can look back on what I’ve grown in my own life.

I was prepared to say more about my spiritual practice. Then, on Sept. 20 at 11:33 am, a 14-year-old young man walked into my local high school’s cafeteria with a gun and opened fire a few feet from my daughter. Thankfully, a fast-acting teacher named Angela McQueen subdued the shooter before any fatalities happened. One student was injured. Now the hard questions arise about parenting and bullies. Have I raised my kids well enough to be safe and act fast? Have I taught them proper values to respect life and people around them? Have I convinced them to be a voice for those being bullied? Has the system somehow failed the kid who brought a gun to school? That event did not just suddenly happen. Seeds were planted and nourished through a series of unfortunate and painful events. The harvest came in the form of enraged violence in the one place he and other students are supposed to be safe.

This year, and every upcoming year, I will raise a horn to Angela McQueen for her heroic and selfless actions. I’ll continue to meditate and reflect on what I’ve contributed to my community through word and deed. I’ll honor the land, the water, and all the nature spirits with gratitude, offerings, and support to organizations working to protect them. Most importantly, I urge everyone to allow the autumn equinox to inspire reflection on what you’re experiencing and how you contributed to it becoming part of your life.

Destiny Ballard [courtesy].

Destiny Ballard (Oklahoma, USA)

The autumnal equinox is just that for our kindred. Saying that, we do not flinch at it being designated as either Mabon or Winter Finding. We clearly are not reconstructionist. We also clearly do not occupy Northern Europe, ancient or modern. We are influenced by, not dictated to, when it comes to the available lore, history, and archeological remnants of pre-Christian Northern Europe.

We live in a very rural portion of northeast Oklahoma where agricultural harvest is not symbolic and Native Americans celebrate the seasonal shifts most prominently with pow-wow. Along with our wider home community, this equinox represents to us a time of ending hard labor and travel. It is a celebration of what we have sown, how our ancestors prepared the way to be sown, and also the recognition of the life cycle. What is born must ripen and then die, or at the very least go dormant for a time.

Our celebrations over the last several years have been as guests of our regional folk community of Midwest Heathens. First with a group in Manhattan, Kansas, with a long weekend of camping, ritual, games, and communal feasting in a pasture. This year and last year, we are doing the same at an evolving gathering of many Midwestern Heathen groups at a campground also in Kansas called Gaea. There we will have our own activities planned but will also have a communal feast and workday to build gefrain – worthy reputation and trust – with the park board and its eclectic pagan community.

Haimo Grebenstein (Germany)

In our community, celebration of the fall equinox is simply called Herbstfest [fall celebration]. The fact that autumn is my favorite season makes it my most important event on the wheel of the year.

In our ritual practice as an association, we only have the four seasonal changes as commonly practiced holidays in the year, and we leave it up to the groups and individuals to add additional activities on the wheel. Our local group Bilskirnir usually combines the equinox with the harvest festival, since most of the harvest has been done at this time.

Our ritual is based on the nine-part standard we always use, but it has no fixed texts. When I prepare the ritual, I always include some fall poems that have a nature or Heathen context. This year we leave home and visit the Verein für Germanisches Heidentum [Association for Germanic Heathenry] group in northern Austria to celebrate equinox at their stone circle that was set up 10 years ago.

Offerings at a blót held by Kith of the Tree and the Well [courtesy].

Philip John Parkyn (England)

At my home this Saturday evening, our London group, Hendon Heathens, will be meeting for a small, private gathering for an autumn harvest blót. It will be a fairly informal ceremony. No scripts needed, as we have been doing this for many years and are well versed with our form of blót. Around the fire in the garden we will thank the spirits of this place, Oak Harrow Garth, our ancestors of blood and of spirit, and the gods and goddesses with our homemade mead. We will share fruitcake made from homegrown apples, grapes, and plums and leave some as offerings to the old oak tree, Oak Harrow. After some stories, jokes, and songs, the evening will end with a discussion about the next day’s public meeting of our esoteric group, Kith of the Tree and the Well, which we hold every two months.

Sunday lunchtime we will be at our usual venue for KTW, a room booked above a pub near London Bridge. This is a more formal affair and about fifteen people will attend. We start with people introducing themselves, and then one of our members will give a talk on the seasonal customs and deities. We then share out scripts for the blot and give some explanation and instructions about it, and roles are allocated to those who volunteer. For some of the people, this is the first Heathen ceremony they have been to. Some have never celebrated together with others before. The pleasure they get from being able to join in the celebration with like-minded people makes it all well worthwhile for us.

Ryan Denison (Georgia, USA)

I identify as a Heathen Druid with a bit of a reconstructionist streak, and I am a dual member of the Troth and Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. Because of this, I honor both the Norse and Celtic traditions.

The autumn equinox, from my understanding of history, doesn’t seem to be celebrated beyond a feast in the Norse tradition — and much the same for the Irish and Scottish traditions — although a lot of reconstruction is going on using traditional Irish folk holidays like Michaelmas as a base. Some modern groups do have a Haustblót or celebrate Meán Fómhair from the Irish perspective.

Our local Heathens of Atlanta are holding an apple festival and equinox blót and plan on honoring Idunn and the local wights. I am hosting our local Grove of the Red Earth (ADF) equinox celebration. The Welsh pantheon will be honored, and therefore we are using the Welsh nomenclature of Alban Elfed. We will be honoring Mabon ap Modron and the Welsh pantheon. Both groups are fond of potluck feasts after rituals and blóts, and this year both groups will have apples as a central theme.

For me having grown up in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky, the equinoxes are a transition between the extremes of cold and heat, when the leaves start to either change color or spring forth. They represent for me balance and a time where the veil between the worlds seems to start to thin. Having been a bit of a jock, fall always means football and family. Some of my fondest memories are playing on Friday nights and in college on Saturday afternoons, then spending time with my family after. For me, too, it is the beginning of the countdown to the celebration of Samhain, my favorite holy day.

Kari Tauring [courtesy].

Kari Tauring (Minnesota, USA)

I am a staff carrier in Minneapolis, Minn. Solar holidays have great importance to Minnesotans. The delicate balance of sun and moon and hot days and cold days determines our favorite things, such as sap collecting in the spring and ricing the autumn.

In the winter, if there is good snow, I practice skiing around my house, so I evaluate the gardens quite heavily at this time. January’s figure-eight ski run goes through today’s pumpkin patch. I must move the larger rocks holding plants up out of the way of my intended ski run before they freeze into the soil. Also, I have to put up the apples, if there are many this year. I sauce them and freeze them for use in frutsøp at winter solstice. What a joy to add the nourishment of autumn to the dark nights of jul!

It is a good time to wash the wool sweaters and blankets. September sun and cool breezes can really dry and bleach the wool nicely before you have to use them from October to April.

In Norse and Baltic traditions, the sun is carried across the sky by a goddess. Sunna comes from my mother’s Norwegian heritage and Saule from my father’s Latvian heritage. I sing their runes and dainas in different ways and for different purposes on each solar holiday.

Hunting season in Minnesota begins soon after the fall equinox. There is a moment each year when the seriousness of impending changeable weather kicks in. It’s different each year, but it always seems to affect the squirrels by the fall equinox.

When the winter is soon here, we must look to our elders and get as much time with them as we can. Always spring and fall equinox see great passings, great deaths. Dark and night hug one another in [the rune] gifu on these equinoxes. Short-lived joy and then nauthiz, dagaz, ingwaz, gifu, wunjo, nauthiz.

I am grateful that I have lived in one place all my life and that this is the place my mother and father lived all their lives. If you live in one place all your life, you will get to know when an equinox feels stable, or if it feels “katywampus,” as my mother would say.

When we raised chickens on this little ski run in Minneapolis, my boys and I called fall when they would stop laying around the autumnal equinox. Spring was when they started up laying again. Here in Minnesota, that was about Groundhog Day or St. Brigid’s Day, around Feb. 2

Thursday, Sept. 21 begins the nine nights of the goddess in the Vedic calendar. I will give a gift to two little girls each of the nine days. On Friday the 22nd, I will perform three sets of songs and poems from my family heritage and in ancestral languages and include sets of nine female deities from my Nordic lineage. The concert will be on the steps of Sea Salt Eatery by Minnehaha Falls. If you have a rhythm-stick set which we call stav and tein, I will invite you up for a few. This is what we call “Stavers in the House.”

* * *

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: a Most Peculiar Gray

Sep. 22nd, 2017 05:02 pm
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Posted by Manny Tejeda-Moreno

There is a famous pataki about  the orishas Oyá and Changó. In the story, Changó had been in battle and fought continuously against his enemies, but despite his victories, many more of them came to attack him and soon he was overwhelmed. Changó called to his horse for help, but it never came, so he hid in the brush, moving from tree to tree and hammock to hammock to escape. His enemies were relentless, scouring and razing any area where they thought Changó could be hiding. He moved deeper into the brush and swamp. Still, they followed, undeterred by the dense wood. After many days, Changó began to tire. He had drank what he could but had not eaten or slept. Finally, deep in the heart of the bush, Changó came upon Oyá’s house. He hesitated getting closer — he was too proud to ask for help — but finally called to Oyá, and she brought him inside.

Oyá gave him food and drink and had him rest, but they both knew the enemies would soon find her hut, as they could hear them moving in the distance and getting closer through the swamp. Changó then said these enemies were different. They were immune to his strength, his thunder, his lightning and fire.

Oyá was unconcerned. She promised Changó that he would return to his kingdom where he would regain his strength and defeat his enemies. Changó thought she would cast a spell or summon a storm. Instead, she reached for her makeup, then one of her dresses. Finally, she carefully cut off all her hair.

Changó watched probably thinking, “SRSLY? WTF?”, only in Yoruba. Oyá then quickly formed a wig from her hair and told Changó to put it on with the dress. She put some makeup on him, and told him to walk to his kingdom at nightfall, right past his enemies.

That evening, Oyá lit no fire and told Changó to go. He did. He mimicked Oyá’s proud and careless gait, barely glancing and nodding at each of his assailants, and they let him pass, still looking for Changó.

Oyá is a complicated orisha with many spheres of control. Commandingly intelligent, she is a powerful witch and ruler of cyclonic storms. She is shrewd in business, controlling the markets because they too change and move like the weather, and she is unmatched as a warrior, skilled and fierce; Changó prefers her to all other partners in battle. All her nine children died, and so she became the protector of the dead and controls the gates the cemetery and access to ancestors. In a way, above all Oyá is the orisha of sudden, even chaotic change, the one unleashing transformative upheavals through destruction. When Oyá passes, things will not be the same.

The pataki with Changó also shows Oyá’s intelligence. She did not need to use witchcraft nor call a storm to help Changó. What Oyá did do, is what she does impeccably well: expose weakness.

Changó’s enemies were very powerful. They came close to defeating the great warrior orisha. Oyá focused on their weakness: their assumptions about who they were looking for, and how they should find him. She unleashed their prejudices, assumptions and pride to destroy them.

Across the Olosha community these past few weeks there has been a great deal of attention given to what orisha Oyá is saying these days. There were offerings, supplications, meditations and wemileres (rituals with drumming) to answer that question; it is something that every person impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria is also asking. Those recent hurricanes have unleashed historic devastation in the Caribbean from Barbuda — now uninhabitable — to Puerto Rico to Cuba and the Florida Keys. Southeast Texas was overwhelmed by wind and floods, while Florida was engulfed in a weaker-than-expected but far more expansive storm.  Some underestimated the power of the storms, others experienced their constant chaos, evacuating out of the path then into the path. In Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the storms have brought historic shock and grief. In the continental United States, the storms affected the area from Miami to Corpus Christi to Atlanta. Irma launched what may end up being the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history, slogging the major traffic corridors of the southeast for days. The breath of Oyá has been cataclysmic.

With her breath passing through,  the basic question is simple:  What has Oyá exposed?

She has, in my opinion, exposed our social and ecological hubris. Oyá overwhelmed many first responders and will teach them how to build better human systems. Her ashé openly revealed the motivations of some political and religious leaders. She showed how some communities that we think are important fell silent during the crises.

Oyá exposed the weaknesses of some hurricane codes, and the strengths of others. She exposed how some institutions recognized their duties to the community by offering free services, while others took advantage of the storm.

Oyá exposed that climate change is not an engineering problem, and she further unmasked our dependence on engineered environments solely for convenience and greed. Oyá reminded us that we cannot build without regard for the land. That we are addicted to electricity. That we confuse comfort, want, and need over and over again.

Oyá reminded us that we do not control water and that we have lost respect for it. She reminded us that water remains essential for our life and mocking its strength will bring only ruin. As people scrambled for bottled water, Oyá revealed collective obsessions and ill-placed faith in corporations. Water that is plentiful was instantly and unnecessarily commoditized.

She exposed how we consistently fail as international neighbors. How we let political borders dictate our sympathy and empathy.  And how we become callously tribal when faced with chaos.

Most terribly, she reminded us that it is we who are the invading, exotic species obsessively choosing to live where we shouldn’t.

Perhaps above all, Oyá exposed that fear serves little purpose.

Oyá is also a compassionate orisha. She is the orisha of the last breath of life and sees the suffering that comes with it. She has lived through the death of all her children and intimately knows the pain. As she passes, she also unveils individual strengths to ease her aftermath.

She has exposed personal, social and psychic resilience while also teaching on a personal level. Every person assaulted by these storms learned — is learning — what they are each capable of, and what each personal weakness is. It’s now out there, for reflection, when life becomes more stable.

I saw many confront their own fears and memories in the storms. Some learned to balance their personal and professional roles and others learned their strength in the service of others. All of us learned who our family is. All of us learned that there are no wrong ways to feel our emotions about the dangers of the storm and the aftermath.

Some of us learned and some were reminded that being hot (hot as in “warm”) really sucks, and that humidity adds to the suck; we were also reminded that there is a sky full of stars when the power is out.

Oyá has also exposed community strengths. The members of Everglades Moon Local Council, for example, went into overdrive to support one another; and our covenant colleagues across the country checked in constantly. Many of us learned that our air conditioners are barriers to neighborliness. We even learned that some of the people we see every day can actually speak.  We learned to say “hello” again.

On a personal level, Oyá can speak to each of us, and she has left each affected by the storms with a private message. For me, I got a toughen up and keep perspective as a lesson. I was so busy before the hurricane focusing on what I still can’t do after spinal surgery that I would paralyze myself, ironically the very thing my surgery was to prevent. In the aftermath of the storm, I’m coming to terms with what my limitations actually are based on my condition versus what I had led myself to believe they were from learned incompetence. Oyá also took the opportunity to point out that chain stress-eating mantecado (Latin vanilla) ice cream will only lead to insulin dependence and uninterrupted borborygmus, as well as new pants. I’m sure there will other lessons with more reflection.

Oyá has exposed our current relationships with ourselves, our neighbors and our planet. She has reminded us that we are both children and guests of the planet, both of which can become annoying, especially when the relationships are not nurtured, respected and reciprocated. She reminded us that we have a choice to live in harmony with the earth or hear our requiem; because one thing that is certain about orisha Oyá is that she will come again.

* * *

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.

(no subject)

Sep. 22nd, 2017 10:29 am
carmenbeaudry: (Default)
[personal profile] carmenbeaudry
Exercise has slowed down until my leg is better. I had a follow up visit with the Dr. and there's no complications, but it's still swollen and hurts, so I'm not walking long distances and doing the wall sit portion of the exercise challenge is right out. I'm still doing the tricep dips, although they're done in stages instead of all at once.

Food is going better. I made a huge batch of beef stew, which lasted us most of last week, and took some to my dad and stepmom. He's been having problems with his appetite, and he ate a whole bowl of stew, so I felt good about that. We also made oatmeal cookies and lemon pudding, but before anyone thinks this will set me back dietwise, I've found that if I allow myself treats, I don't tend to overeat. I haven't lost any more weight, but that's not really the point, and I haven't gained any.

I've had more energy and the depression/anxiety has been better this week. Work is going, and I don't feel like I'm getting too far behind, even with having one day a week going to see Dad, and the day after recovering.

I'm calling it a win.
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Posted by Heather Greene

GENEVA — The United Nation’s Human Rights Council opened a two-day workshop Thursday, concerning abuses and deaths in some way related to witchcraft. This 2017 meeting, facilitated in part by the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), marks the first time that the UN has aggressively addressed this world crisis – one that sees adults and children beaten, dismembered, and even killed in the name of the witchcraft.

Human Rights Council, Geneva 2013 [U.S. Mission Geneva / Eric Bridiers]

In coordination with the U.N.’s International Day of Peace, leaders and experts from around the world have come together in Switzerland to examine this global human rights problem, the causes, and the possible solutions.

“This ground-breaking event means that, for the first time, witchcraft and human rights will be discussed in a holistic, systematic and in-depth manner, building on and consolidating critical work done on the issue to date by various experts including co-organizers of the event,” said Ikponwosa Ero, one of the main convenors of the event.

Ms. Ero is also the United Nations Independent expert on the human rights of persons with albinism – a sector of the world population that is acutely affected by witchcraft-related abuses.

“These attacks and violations, which frequently target people in vulnerable situations including persons with albinism, are astonishing in their brutality,” Ero said in a statement.

“In addition, there are gaps in applicable legal frameworks and challenges with implementation and enforcement, and far too often perpetrators are not brought to justice. This impunity simply cannot be tolerated,” she added.

As TWH has reported extensively in the past, this worldwide human rights crisis does not center on Witchcraft as is practiced or understood by much of the Wild Hunt readership. Most victims of witchcraft-related violence are not, in fact, practicing Witches or necessarily using any form of magic on their own, religious or otherwise.

The victims of witchcraft-related violence are most commonly those people erroneously accused of the practice in order to augment someone else’s political, social, or economic gain, or to place blame for some other unforeseen tragedy. In addition, there are cases, such as in Tanzania, where the victims are collateral damage, so to speak, in the practice of a profit-based magic of sorts.

While the UN workshop’s focus is not on Witchcraft as our readers might practice or know, WHRIN organizers did reach out to a South Africann-based Pagan organization in hopes that a member would attend in order to offer a Pagan voice at the UN event.

South African Pagan Rights Alliance director Damon Leff had to decline due to personal obligations. There is currently no Pagan speaking at the UN workshop.

However, WHRIN’s Gary Foxcroft has since told The Wild Hunt that his organization is eager for more modern Witches and Pagans to get involved with this global cause and to share their voices on this complex human rights topic at the world table.

For those interested in the proceedings, the landmark UN Human Rights workshop is reportedly being live-streamed on the UN’s web TV, and the agenda is published online, including a list of the many speakers who are in attendance.

Ms. Ero’s hope, as well as Foxcroft and the many other activists working toward a solution, is that the UN workshop “enables experts, States, academics and members of civil society to develop a greater understanding of witchcraft” and the many harmful practices that are done in its name.

Certain Companions

Sep. 21st, 2017 06:22 am
arontius: (Default)
[personal profile] arontius
.....Sometimes, an inspiration will just appear seemingly out of nowhere. Sort of like a dream sequence. I don't actually remember my dreams very often, and still worse forget them rapidly when I do wake up with them. Much to my regret. Although the below is awkward, and still needs a lot of help in rhyme, meter, and sequencing, I'm scribbling it down here in Live Journal so I remember it. The vision was especially vivid, even if the words recorded are not expressively so.

.....Language is an absolutely amazing thing. It is magical. And it takes skill, and practice, to use with any sort of artistic output. I will master this some day. :-)

A constant companion besides me strides
The figure brooding with encroaching night
His silence ponderous as Earthly tides
That extol passage with sonorous plight

His siblings often in greeting will shout
Their own devices in prominent view
One holds a glass, sand flowing with no doubt
And one holds threads strong, bright shining with dew

I ran on pathways filled always with fear
For I would not speak nor their purpose seek
If I let go, allowing Courage near
New friends would not allow me to be weak.

Let go of fear and embrace your real life
The journey is love removing all strife

.....The sonnet is such a tight medium. It is difficult to distill an expansive thought to such a short verse. But well worth the exercise. :-)

.....Aaron / Arontius.
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Posted by Cara Schulz

TWH – Autumn celebrations are often designated as times to “reap what you sow” and for many Pagans, Heathens, and Witches that means harvest time for plants with both magical and medicinal purposes.

The Wild Hunt spoke with both amateur and professional herbalists to see what’s their favorite plant to grow and what’s an easy, beneficial plant for a beginner to grow.

Calendula [Pixabay].

Medicinal Herbs

Musician Bonnie Hanna-Powers says she grows calendula in her garden. She says it’s easy to grow but does prefer good soil.

“This year I grew my plants from transplants, in one garden, and from direct sowing the seeds in another,” says Ms. Hanna-Powers. She says that she had better luck with transplants than the seeds.

After harvesting the flowers, she dries them on a screen in a well ventilated room. Then incorporates them into topical skin preparations. “It’s a good all around skin herb because of it anti-bacterial and wound healing properties,” says Hanna-Powers.

She also enjoys the smell. “It gives any preparation a pleasant, homey scent. It also makes a beautiful flower for the cutting garden.”

Author Chas Clifton grows cannabis. It’s legal in Colorado to grow, and he says that CBD oil is available even at places like farmer’s markets. Clifton is interested in growing specific varieties for higher levels of CBD and to mix with other herbs like henbane and datura.

“I grow henbane for use as an entheogen, sometimes mixed with cannabis,” says Mr. Clifton.

He notes that author Dennis McKenna wrote in his memoir The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss that datura is a hallucinogen, but not a psychedelic. “I am still trying to decide if he is right or not, but cautiously,” says Clifton.

However, Clifton says that he is increasingly turning toward native, tougher plants like nettles. He cooks with them and also uses the roots to make a tonic that he says is good for male urinary systems.

Philadelphia Witch Karen Bruhin says she doesn’t have the gardening space that rural and suburban Witches enjoy. Her go to plants are horehound and chamomile.

She says both plants are easy to grow, with the chamomile reseeding itself and the horehound spreading like a mint plant.

“For the horehound I simply wash it and use it in a homemade simple syrup for cough medicine,” says Ms. Bruhin. The chamomile, on the other hand, is washed, dried in an oven, and stored in airtight containers to make soothing tisanes.

Heathen Chuck Hudson forages, rather than grows, his herbs in New Mexico. He looks for Yerba Mansa and Osha root.

He says Yerba Mansa is a very old native medicinal herb, but it is becoming popular and harder to find. He dries the roots and leaves and stores them is a cool, dry place.

Mr. Hudson says that Yerba Mansa works as a mild anti-inflammatory agent and has astringent, diuretic, and anti-fungal properties. However, he also cautions that it should not be used internally by pregnant or nursing women. “Externally it’s a wonderful wash for insect bites poison ivy blister. The fresh leaves made into a poultice is great for sore muscles.”

Hudson adds that, when he harvests a plant, he leaves an offering for the Land Spirits and builds a little stone house for any spirits to live in in case her disturbed them by harvesting the plant.

“I along with some close friends are trying to revive the faith/health healing part of the Heathen faith,” says Hudson.

Rowan [Pixabay].

Magical Herbs

Minneapolis Witch Tasha Rose grows the plant that is her namesake. “I have, for my entire life, had wild roses everywhere I have ever lived. They follow me around. Roses are by far my favorite magical and medicinal plant.”

She says that wild roses are very easy to grow and will take over a place if you’re not careful to cut them back. Ms. Rose says that she uses every part of the plant. In spring she harvests the petals to make rose water. Currently, she’s collecting rose hips to make a tea that she says aids in absorbing nutrients.

As for the magical components of the plant? She turns the brambles into small wands and besoms for her children and dries the thorns for magical workings. She uses the thorns for protective spells and for binding and banishing work.

Wild Hunt writer Liz Williams favorite plant to grow and use for its magical properties is one the UK is famous for, the rowan.

She says that, while many in the UK make jelly from the berries, she prefers to dry them and make protective charms. “The berries [are] strung on a thread and hung above a door, or bracelets and necklaces. We also sell the dried berries for use in protection incenses.”

Williams says that the Rowan berries are known to be a charm against negative magic, which is why they are grown throughout the Celtic fringe of Britain.

Minnesota musician and Volva Kari Tauring, like her fellow Heathen Chuck Hudson, prefers to forage for her magical plants rather than grow them.

She looks for hops and sweet woodruff. However, foraging for herbs rather than growing them can mean you come up empty some years. She says that the two herbs were abundant last year, but so far this year, they are no where to be found.

When she does find them, Ms. Tauring dries the herbs and uses them in dream pillows.

Hellenic Lykeia says her two favorite herbs wouldn’t survive the tough Alaska winters. Yet she values them so much that she grows them indoors in pots. Rosemary and lavender are fairly tough when grown outdoors in warmer climates, but are finicky plants to grow inside.

“[I] have to be careful to give them a lot of light, but not directly in front of a window where the direct light tends to scorch them a bit. Also I tend have to remind myself not to kill them with love. Scant water is best.”

She says both plants are used for purification and warding off evil. “Both are key ingredients in my Apollon incense, and the purification bath tea that I make as well as an anointing oil of similar purpose,” adds Lykeia.

She also uses them in various charms “to protect doorways and to protect their wearer when made into a sachet.”

Aloe vera [Pixabay].

Plants for beginners

What if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs or your knowledge of herbalism is very light? Is there a plant you could start out with?

New Hampshire Herbalist Naomi Schoenfeld says a good first plant is Aloe Vera, both for how easy it is to grow and for its beneficial uses.

Rosemary Gladstar, one of the persons credited for the herbalism revival in the US, agrees. In her book, Medicinal Herbs: A beginner’s guide, she has this quote, “If you can’t grow aloe, then try plastic plants.” Ms. Schoenfeld says aloe soothes burns and speeds healing when you break off a leaf and apply the gel to the burn.

“Taken internally it can bring that same healing power to digestive irritations and inflammations, such as ulcers, and help with constipation,” says Schoenfeld.

Another reason Schoenfeld recommends the plant for beginners; it’s safe and there’s very little someone could do wrong with it.

Shelly Tomtschik, a Pagan Herbalist living in Wisconsin, suggests yarrow. She says it’s easy to grow in a pot and is very versatile. Tomtschik says that if you find some growing outside, you can just scoop some up and put it in a pot, and it’ll do well.

“I use it most often in a tincture for colds and flus, but the tincture can also be made into bug spray. My husband can’t wear DEET, so yarrow tincture works really well, combined with witch hazel,” say Ms. Tomtschik.

Another use for yarrow, says Tomtschik, is as a bandage, “Fresh, the leaves can be used as a bandage and stops bleeding quickly, even for, or especially for, deep cuts.”

Most herbalists will tell you to use caution in using or ingesting any herbs, especially if you are looking to self treat any medical conditions. They says that herbalism has different layers of skills and most people can learn enough to tend to the basic needs for themselves and family. They caution when in doubt, consult an herbalist.

Herbalists who have chosen it as a life focus can have incredible amounts of knowledge to share, experience with specific problems such as autoimmune disease, and time spent in apprenticeships or working directly in clinical settings.

In the U.S. there is no licensing body or government oversight of herbalists. But that, Schoenfeld explains, is a good thing.

“If herbalists were licensed, we’d be restricted to suggesting only very specific approaches permitted by the licensing bodies, much the way that medical doctors are finding their professional opinions coming secondary to insurance company decisions, and many traditional herb uses might be blocked,” says Schoenfeld.

The downside is that there isn’t a credential people can ask for in order to find a good herbalist. Schoenfeld says that most of the time people find good herbalists by word of mouth.

Another place persons can look, at least in the US, is through the American Herbalists Guild. They maintain a registry of members who meet training standards and length of time spent in practice.

Fake news, astrology edition

Sep. 19th, 2017 06:55 pm
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Posted by Terence P Ward

TWH –It’s a given in some Pagan circles that at least a basic understanding of astrology is common knowledge. Given the incredible diversity represented within the intersecting Pagan and polytheist communities, it stands to reason that there are also community members who are almost completely unaware if not outright skeptical, of its tenets.

It is perhaps because of that wide variation that fake astrology news circulates under the so-called “Pagan umbrella” as easily as elsewhere.

Is there now a new astrological sign in the heavens? Did that downgrade of Pluto cast doubt on the legitimacy of astrology? While neither of these issues is breaking news — being one and eleven years old, respectively — the questions linger because they represent common misunderstandings about the nature of astrology itself.

Even asking what astrology is lead to a complex answer, according to astrologer Diotima Mantineia, because there’s two broad categories, sidereal and tropical. While each entails a knowledge of celestial bodies and their relative positions at a given time, they differ in how that information is organized.

Western astrology, arguably the most popularized style, is a form of tropical astrology. That is the type about which these questions generally arise, and that is the type Mantineia focuses on when trying to demystify the process.

Western astrology is called “tropical” because it follows the path of the sun throughout the year, during which that path drifts between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

This week’s equinox is when the solar path crosses what’s called the “celestial equator,” which is simply the idea of extending that imaginary line up into the sky. It marks the halfway point in the astrological year, which began on vernal equinox.

Perhaps one reasons Pagans and polytheists are assumed to know about astrology is a widespread familiarity with non-standard calendars.

Regardless, a basic knowledge of astrological principles is helpful in evaluating the questions of legitimacy and change that do pop up on occasion. Mantineia believes that if scientists who seek to challenge astrology had that understanding and perhaps did a better job applying the scientific method to astrology, the conversation might be a very different one.

In the meantime, she agreed to assist in exploring these bits of fake astrology news.

An extra constellation

Has the drift of stars in the sky had an impact on astrology? “You need to forget about the constellations,” Mantineia said, because “they have nothing to do with the matter at hand except that they lent their names to the signs.”

The signs of the zodiac are in fact 30-degree arcs of sky, and that their eponymous constellations may have drifted isn’t actually a big deal, she explains.

In her post on the astronomy of astrology, Mantineia uses a postal analogy, writing that “you may live in a house on Big Barn Lane, and back when Big Barn Lane was originally named, there was, in fact, a big old barn right there marking the intersection. The fact that the barn was dismantled years ago and moved to the other side of the property, where it was rebuilt as the new owners’ home, does not change either the name or the location of Big Barn Lane.”

That’s the reason that the constellation Ophiuchus isn’t going to get a sign: there are only 12, no matter how many recognizable constellations are on that annual solar path, which is called the ecliptic. The 30-degree pie-slice remains the same, just like the yard on Big Barn Lane which no longer features a big barn.

Astronomers often don’t understand that, as evidenced in this quote from a blog post on constellations at nasa.gov:

The constellations are different sizes and shapes, so the sun spends different lengths of time lined up with each one. The line from Earth through the sun points to Virgo for 45 days, but it points to Scorpius for only seven days. To make a tidy match with their 12-month calendar, the Babylonians ignored the fact that the sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not 12. Then they assigned each of those 12 constellations equal amounts of time. Besides the 12 familiar constellations of the zodiac, the sun is also aligned with Ophiuchus for about 18 days each year.

Implicit in that passage is the assumption that astrology tracks the apparent passage of the sun through constellations found along the ecliptic, when in fact tropical astrology tracks the passage of the sun through the sky.

A bone of contention for Mantineia is that astronomers are quick to criticize astrology, while at the same time demonstrating ignorance about it. With training as a scientist, she recognized that what little research has been done into astrology has lacked scientific rigor, because bias is left unchecked and ignorance is allowed to fester.

In short, there are 12 signs equally dividing the sky, and that will remain true no matter what stars happen to be visible in that sign right now. Ophiuchus is not a sign, but if it were made one, the name would have to replace another one for that 30-degree arc of sky.

That persistent misunderstanding is connected to the notion that it is those very stars which are directing an individual’s life, but that’s not how Mantineia sees astrology at all. She agrees that correlation is not causation, but “this fact is simply not relevant to the work I do as an astrologer.”

What matters is the correlation between celestial objects and an individual’s life, she says, leaving the question of causation to philosophers and theologians. “A reliable correlation is really all we need to have a practical, reliable, workable astrology,” she wrote in a critique of astrology’s critics.

Underworld influences

In the early part of the century, astronomers discovered Eris, a rocky mass in the neighborhood of Pluto but 27% larger. Rather than proclaiming a 10th planet, the resulting debate concluded with a new definition of “planet” that didn’t include Pluto, which didn’t even get the label for a hundred years.

Discordians have noted the chaos Eris unleashed on astronomy, but did this impact astrology, where Pluto was also recognized as a planet?

The answer is now, and that’s largely because the term “planet” is used much more broadly in astrology, and Pluto still qualifies. Essentially, planets in astrology are the heavenly bodies that move around the sky, and include what in astronomy are called planets, demi-planets (like Pluto), sun, moon, and asteroids. That differentiates them from stars, which appeared fixed by comparison.

“Small, large, dwarf planet, doesn’t matter,” Mantineia said. “What we are looking for is correlation, and we have found the correlations over and over again with Pluto.”

Observing correlations, if it is not already clear, is what astrology is all about. While Mantineia agrees that understanding how astrology functions would be interesting, it’s not necessary to know that information in order to make it function.

She even has found evidence that Carl Sagan, the celebrity astronomer of his day, agreed with that point. While he was a skeptic of astrology, Sagan, in 1975, declined to join many colleagues in blasting the discipline. “The statement stressed that we can think of no mechanism by which astrology could work,” he wrote in a letter to the Humanist.

“This is certainly a relevant point but by itself it’s unconvincing. No mechanism was known for continental drift” when it was first proposed, he went on, but the principles of plate tectonics were in force long before they were recognized, much less understood.

What makes Pluto a special case is its relatively short history in astrology. Its existence has been confirmed for just 87 years, but its journey through the zodiac takes nearly 250. As astrology is based on observing correlations between planetary positions and life on Earth, the slow progress of Pluto across the sky means that those particular correlations are generational in nature.

“Pluto in Leo generation [1939 to 1957] . . . . tend to be concerned with creativity, self-expression, and, if other elements of the chart agree, can be somewhat self-centered and navel-gazing.” For those born when Pluto was in Virgo, there is “a tendency to be more concerned with group efforts, being in service to the whole, and [they] . . . can be somewhat judgmental and critical.”

The best way to see patterns relating to Pluto, Mantineia said, is how it’s in relation to other planets in a given chart. Those aspects, as they’re called, allow deeper meaning to be gleaned through the relationships, much like a tarot reader might consider several cards together in a spread.

More ancient astrologers simply observed fewer planets, but that doesn’t mean that the correlations weren’t already in existence. Any planet not visible to the naked eye, due to the structure of the solar system, is likely to be more generational in nature, making the missing information more slow to change regardless.

Studies may show

If and when a rigorous, bias-free study of astrology occurs, questions about the mechanisms of astrology may be revealed, which could lead to a better understanding of its role in causation, if any.

Mantineia has written, “I suspect we will eventually find that there is not immediate causation so much as a clear reflection of an underlying framework of energy,” but it could be some time before that and other assertions about astrology are tested.

For the moment, those interested are encouraged to recognize when scientists wrongly wrap themselves in a mantle of expertise, but also to be wary of oversimplifications made by amateur astrologers, such as “Cancers are moody,” which references only the sign in which the sun is found.

“There are about 3,000 individual variables in any given chart,” Mantineia points out, and those generalizations are as inaccurate as any misunderstandings promoted by popular scientists of the day.

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Posted by The Wild Hunt

The United Religions Initiative (URI) held its global summit leadership meeting in Sarajevo, beginning Sept 11. The weeklong meeting brought together URI representatives from around the world and from many different religious backgrounds. The organization’s goal is to “promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”

Rev. Donald Frew was at the Sarajevo meeting as a representative of Covenant of the Goddess. Frew has been working in interfaith circles for decades, sometimes even as the lone Pagan voice at the table. He wrote, “I truly believe that interfaith is our last, best hope for peace.” He called URI’s efforts one of “the largest grassroots interfaith effort on Earth, involving several million committed, engaged individuals all around the world.”

In terms of grass roots, URI has cooperation circles operating locally throughout the world, working toward a common goal of peace.  As such, Frew is not the only Pagan, Heathen or polytheist involved with URI both internationally or locally.

Photos and reports will be coming in from attendees at the leadership meeting and will appear on the organization’s Facebook page. Frew said, “No matter what is going on the world, it’s impossible not to have hope when [URI leaders] get together.” He added that the “presence of so many young people — a next generation eager to take what we have to give and go further than we can imagine — inspires us to work all the harder to live up to their expectations.”

*   *   *

[courtesy]

Erin Lale, a Heathen writer and blogger at PaganSquare, has launched something called the Heathen Visibility Project. Lale explains, “When it comes to written material, Heathens are pretty loud. We have lots of books (like mine) and blogs (like mine) and articles and so on. We don’t have nearly the number of images of contemporary Heathens doing Heathen things, or people publicly identified as Heathens doing regular life things.” Searches for Heathen imagery, she explains, often turn up “Nazis waving the runic letter O” or stills from a Thor movie.

Lale wants to see more creative commons imagery of modern Heathens “doing Heathen things.”  In a second blog post, she explains how to make this happen and how anyone can participate in increasing the number of searchable photos on the internet. She encourages people to upload and make available modern Heathens doing everyday things and participating in community. However, she also notes, “Many people attending rituals and other Pagan events don’t want to be photographed, because they are worried about being identified as non-Christians. For that reason, if we want to increase Heathen visibility, instead of trying to photograph real rituals and events we will probably have to stage them.”

*   *   *

Fans of Dirge online magazine have learned that the site is no longer in operation as of Sept 15.  Editor-in-Chief Jinx Strange wrote:

“The factors leading up to this decision are far more numerous than I want to get into in this space, but suffice it to say, it’s a confluence of conditions, many of which are far bigger than me. The bottom line is that after three years, I don’t believe this to be a financially viable outlet for the content we’ve been producing, and I simply have no interest in publishing click-bait here, or articles that aren’t of the highest possible quality simply for the sake of online publishing.”

The publishers of Dirge will continue the lifestyle site Dear Darkling, and Dirge will remain publicly available as an archive for readers into the foreseeable future. In the last post, Strange said, “Dirge has changed me, and changed my life and I am so grateful to everyone who participated in that in any capacity. I’m ready to move on. A dirge is just a transition, after all.”

In other news:

  • The Pagan Federation International hosts a global forum for its members to share political actions and other similar activities. PFI’s international coordinator Morgana Sythgove writes, “As an activist organisation (not a religious organisation as some people think) PF and PFI members are often seen at rallies, demonstrations, signing petitions etc for environmental issues, human and indigenous rights issues, and other issues concerning the Earth – our home. Please feel free to promote a cause here which you feel is in much need of support.” The forum is located on the PFI site and is publicly available to anyone interested in actions being taken by members of the global Pagan community.
  • If you are in Tennessee next week, Tuatha Dea will be holding its first local drum circle in three years.The band travels the country performing and holding workshops at various Pagan and non-Pagan events. It is not often they do so in their home town of Gatlinburg.
  • The latest issue of  Druid Magazine has been published. This edition includes an interview with TWH editor Heather Greene. It also includes an interview with Damh the Bard, a tribute to the newest American Druid camp MAGUS, and a number of articles that explore in detail the American Druid experience.
  • Thursday is the UN’s International Day of Peace. Will you be honoring this day? If so, how?
katstevens: (dogswim)
[personal profile] katstevens posting in [community profile] rglondon
Mirth, Marvel & Maud, Walthamstow, London E17

Hello RGL crew! It's that time of year again where we explore the new entries in the Good Beer Guide. Which means a whole bunch of new pub articles for you to peruse at your leisure:

- The Albion (plenty of real cider in Kingston)
- The Angel (the Wetherspoons close to Angel tube station)
- The Antwerp Arms (a community-owned pub in Tottenham)
- The Black Horse (dog-friendly pub on the Kingston/Norbiton borders)
- The Brewhouse and Kitchen (microbrewery in Highbury)
- The Cricketers (Stonegate pub beside Epsom Common)
- Cronx (bar in the Croydon Boxpark, run by the Cronx brewery)
- Draft House Old Street (fashionable outpost of the ever-growing chain)
- The Dundee Arms (gloomily lit, narrow pub in Bethnal Green)
- The Flag (large pub by Watford Junction station)
- The Greenwood Hotel (huge Wetherspoons in Northolt)
- The Greystoke (Greene King pub on the Ealing/West Acton border, but with a better beer selection than that would immediately suggest)
- The Hope (sounds like a pleasant place to watch the cricket in Richmond)
- Jono's (oddly-decorated pub in Ilford)
- The Midland Hotel (stained glass and hexagons in Hendon)
- Mirth, Marvel and Maud (see picture above - an Antic pub and performance space, in a converted cinema in Walthamstow)
- The Mitre (more stained glass, this time in North Sheen)
- The Mossy Well (Wetherspoons in Muswell Hill featuring a large model cow)
- The North Star (bare lightbulbs in Ealing)
- The Northcote (above average pizza in Leytonstone)
- The Shelverdine Goathouse (Antic pub in South Norwood)
- The Taproom (deep fried courgettes in Woolwich)

Next week there'll be some non-pub updates! Stay tuned...

Happy autumnal equinox

Sep. 17th, 2017 02:53 pm
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Posted by The Wild Hunt

TWH – This year, the autumnal equinox falls on Sept. 22 at 20:02 UTC in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the moment that officially signals the start of fall. At this time, there will be an equal amount of light and dark, after which the nights are longer as than days as we head toward winter.

Outside of religious life, this season is very well celebrated. It is punctuated by harvest celebrations, craft shows and arts festivals, outdoors sports, pumpkin picking, scarecrow contests, corn mazes, and the aromas of spice and apple cider.

From ancient to modern cultures, the harvest period was a time of both work and celebration. Many of these celebrations are marked by thanksgiving, whether religious or secular in nature.  Thanks are given to deities, ancestors, family, friends, community, self, and nature.

It is also when the UN celebrates International Day of Peace (Sept. 21).

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus

[Public domain.]

In some modern Pagan traditions, this is the second of three harvest festivals, with the first being Lughnasadh and the third being Samhain.

Autumn equinox holidays come in many names. For Wiccans and Witches, it is sometimes called “Harvest Home” or “Mabon.” In Druidic and Celtic-oriented Pagan groups, it can be called “Mid-Harvest,” “Foghar,” or “Alban Elfed.” In modern Asatru, it is sometimes called “Winter Finding.”

The Greek term for it is “Phthinopohriní Isimæría.” In Old English it was called “efnniht.”

Then, there are those who just simply prefer to use “autumn equinox” or “fall.”

At the same time, our friends and family living in the Southern Hemisphere begin the journey to summer. Sept. 22 will mark their vernal equinox and the beginning of spring. The days will begin to lengthen and become warmer as light triumphs over dark and the Earth reawakens from its winter slumber.

Here are some thoughts on the harvest season and the equinox:

“No matter what you choose to call it, the autumn equinox has long been one of my favorite sabbats. It’s a time when I can almost hear the wheel of the year turning, and signs of change are everywhere. There’s so much to harvest in the garden, and the sunflowers that stood so tall and proud back in August are now heavy and tired, ready to share their seeds with the waiting earth. ” – Jason Mankey, “8 Ways to Celebrate the Autumn Equinox/Mabon

*   *   *

“The young mother-maiden swings a picnic basket, and lays down a blanket, bread, and cheese. The old crone pulls a bottle of cyser mead from her carpetbag, and pours it into glasses. They clink and make a toast to Mabon, or the autumn equinox — the day when the light and darkness are most equal.

“I imagine the goddesses speak of the things that happened in the past six months.” – Astrea, “Mabon, Honor the Dark Goddess

*   *   *

“The trees are turning golden, their leaves taking on the autumn hues. The smell of wood smoke is in the air, and another cycle is turning, ever turning, the endless wheel of existence. Spinning, like our galaxy, through time and space, always changing, always flowing; the awen of Druidry.” –  Joanna van der Hoeven, “Reaping and Sowing

 

Happy harvest to all of those celebrating, and a very merry spring to our friends in the south.

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Posted by Heathen Chinese

In nomine Spartaci, Sibyllae, et Furoris Bacchici

The name of Spartacus has withstood over two millennia of slavery and empire, and become immortalized within the insurrectionary tradition. The personal name of his wife, “a prophetess (μαντική) subject to visitations of the Dionysiac frenzy,” has been not been passed down by the written record, but her title—the prophetess—endures, as does her source of inspiration: the Dionysiac frenzy.

The revolt which began with the prophetess, Spartacus, and a handful of his fellow gladiators lasted two years (73-71 BCE) spread across Italy to include thousands of liberated slaves, as well freeborn “herdsmen and shepherds” who joined the uprising. The rebellion terrified the Roman elite, threatening the very center of the empire both geopolitically and socially.

In the United States, slavery was never abolished: it was codified as “punishment for crime.” Against the continuation of slavery within the prison-industrial complex, the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM) has arisen, declaring that “our struggle today must begin from this starting point” and that “the abolitionist struggle must be extended to the state and capitalism.”

Prophecy

This fresco from Pompeii reads “Spartaks” in Oscan [Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato].

According to Plutarch’s Life of Crassus, “when Spartacus was first brought to Rome to be sold, a serpent was seen coiled about his face as he slept.” The prophetess, who was with him in Rome as well as later during his rebellion, “declared it the sign of a great and formidable power which would attend him to a[n] … issue.” The elided word is given by some manuscripts as atyches, “unfortunate,” and in others as eutyches, “fortunate.”

Though this is an issue of textual transmission, it rather appropriately reflects the inherent ambiguity of prophecy, even in retrospect. Some would argue that the outcome of Spartacus’ revolt was unfortunate, in that he was eventually defeated; others would argue that it was in a sense fortunate, in that he died self-liberated with sword in hand, leaving the mark of the Dionysian prophetess and frenzy upon the centuries.

Aldo Schiavone writes that if Spartacus had only intended to escape back to his native Thrace, he could have done so with a small band of fellow Thracians immediately after escaping captivity. Instead, he organized a large multi-ethnic army and stayed in Italy, repeatedly fighting against and destroying Roman legions.

Spartacus acted at a crucial moment in Roman history: Rome was preoccupied with the war against Mithridates in the east, Sertorius had recently led a revolt in Spain, there was continued armed resistance against Rome in Thrace, the social war between Rome and its Italian subjects had occurred within living memory, tensions between the poor and the rich were at an all-time high, and the vast latifundia plantation system was ripe for slave revolt and utter destruction.

Schiavone argues, based on the evidence of Spartacus’ choices to recruit an army and continually wage war against Rome rather than merely seek to go home, that “Spartacus really did try to step into the political and social vacuum” of the moment (115), and furthermore, that he did so largely because of “the magnetic pull of a wholly accepted predestination, and of a binding prophecy to respect—the mystic core of his mystery-cult beliefs…he had a destiny to fulfill, chosen by his god” (56).

Similarly, RAM, in its new book Burn Down the American Plantation, calls for a heightened sense of historical purpose and perspective grounded in the ongoing black liberation struggle against slavery, and inspired by the Rojava Revolution currently happening in Kurdish Syria:

As anti-authoritarians, we are poised at the front of the pivotal struggle of humanity…our goal is to orient the struggle, to renew a widespread commitment towards revolutionary abolitionism and to reemerge from the sidelines of history. (83)

Weapons More Suitable for Warfare

Schivaone observes that “the [gladiatorial] camp Spartacus was in would not have differed much from the two buildings uncovered at Pompeii: a cross between a prison and a fortress” (8). In 73 BCE, Spartacus and around 70 other gladiators — mostly Thracians, Gauls, and Germans — escaped their conditions of captivity. According to Plutarch, the original conspiracy had included 200 gladiators, but when their plot was betrayed, the rebel slaves were forced to act at once. Spartacus and his co-conspirators first used kitchen knives and cooking skewers to escape, and then seized a shipment of gladiatorial weapons.

“In their first actions” after their initial escape, Plutarch writes, “the gladiators drove off those who were coming out of the city of Capua and seized from them many weapons that were more suitable for warfare. They happily made the exchange, throwing away their gladiatorial armaments, which they viewed as dishonorable and barbaric.” That the rebels’ first actions were to arm themselves through expropriation from the enemy is highly significant.

Kuwasi Balagoon Liberation School fight training flyer.

In their five-point political vision, RAM lists self-defense first, describing it as “the heart of revolutionary transformation” (27). Self-defense is the rejection of the state’s monopoly on violence and the recognition that “there is no such thing as protection that one does not provide oneself” (28). RAM argues for a model that is decentralized, explicitly feminist and anti-racist, and connected to self-governing neighborhood councils, in order to firmly place “the capacity for self-defense in the hands of those who need it” (34).

In Rojava, for example, while the mixed-gender YPG and women-only YPJ militias “have been formed to fight external enemies, the HPC (self-defense forces) are civilians that get arms training with the specific goal of maintaining autonomy against internal forces that might seek to consolidate power. They are volunteers who receive both political education and self-defense training” (31). Within the YPG and YPJ, in order “to maintain participation and egalitarian relationships, all fighters contribute to decision-making within units, particularly by selecting their own leaders for specific missions.”

The Capuan rebel gladiators also elected their military leaders: Spartacus, and the Gauls Crixus and Oenomaus. According to Schiavone, the rebels often divided up their forces, “both for logistical reasons and in order to secure better control of the territory and a greater chance of finding new recruits” (134). However, the columns would maintain close communication with one another. Thus, out of logistical and strategic concerns, a certain amount of decentralization was necessary.

Heavily Overgrown with Wild Vines

Dionysos and serpent on Mount Vesuvius, fresco at Pompeii [National Archaeological Museum of Naples].

After seizing weapons, Spartacus and his fellow rebels sought refuge on Mount Vesuvius, a mountain which Marcello Gigante has argued has significant Dionysian connections. With the Romans blocking the only road up the mountain, the rebels “cut off the useful parts of these climbing plants and wove ladders out of them,” thereby descending the mountain by means of a Bacchic miracle and catching the Romans by surprise, completely routing them.

Furthermore, according to Sallust, the source closest in time to the actual events, many of the rural slaves who joined Spartacus “were very knowledgeable about the region and were used to making woven baskets from branches for their farm work. Because of their lack of real shields, they used this same knowledge to make small circular shields for themselves like those used by cavalrymen.”

In the words of RAM, “the process of escape and defense is an immediate imperative” (75).

The cunning of the rebels’ Vesuvian escape and victory find parallel in the maroon communities of the antebellum South, which RAM describes as “communities of indigenous people, self-freed slaves, and poor whites” (28). Just as Spartacus and his fellow rebels utilized the wild gifts of Bacchus and Vesuvius to their advantage, the maroon communities often hid themselves in swamps where they could use the terrain to their advantage against slave-catchers and state militias.

RAM outlines both short-term and long-term goals: in the long term, creating a network of abolitionist councils; in the short term, establishing the Underground Railroad once again. RAM lists aiding fugitives and migrants, establishing safe houses, setting up bail funds, and resisting ICE raids among potential immediate actions, but also reminds its readers that “the tactics are secondary to the outcome and certainly vary depending on location and resources. Generally, the abolitionist movement must do what it can to protect people who are hiding from the State, and to make it as difficult as possible for the state to continue its onslaught” (77).

Expropriation and Revolutionary Justice

Appian relates that Spartacus “divided the profits of his raiding into equal shares,” and thereby “soon attracted a very large number of followers.” Furthermore, he “did not permit merchants to import gold and silver, and he forbade his own men to acquire any. For the most part, he purchased iron and copper and did not censure those who imported these metals. For this reason, the [rebels] had large quantities of basic materials and were well supplied and able to stage frequent raids.”

In their next battle, Spartacus and the other rebels captured the enemy commander’s horse and lictors. The lictors were men who carried the fasces, which were the symbols of the authority of a Roman magistrate, whence the modern term “fascism” is derived. According to Frontinus, quoting a lost text of Livy, when Spartacus was finally defeated, the Romans recovered five fasces, 26 battle standards, and five Roman eagles (the battle standard of an entire legion, which was an enormous disgrace to lose to the enemy).

In the final battle, Spartacus is said by Plutarch to have “shouted that if he won the battle, he would have many fine horses that belonged to the enemy, but if he lost, he would have no need of a horse. With that, he killed the animal.” Horses were important in Thracian culture, and Herodotus reports that the neighboring Scythians sacrificed horses at the funerals of kings. Speaking of funerary sacrifices, according to Appian, when Spartacus’s Gaulish co-commander Crixus was killed in battle, he sacrificed 300 Roman soldiers as an offering to Crixus’ shade. Florus reports that the soldiers were forced to fight as gladiators, thus avenging Crixus’ experiences in life.

The Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement, in its political vision, lists as important principles “conflict resolution and revolutionary justice” and “ownership through use, the cooperative economy and expropriation.” Concerning revolutionary justice, RAM writes: “the methods of this justice are a far cry from the methods we reserve for those within our revolutionary groups, and our own communities. This line is clearly demarcated by the division between the oppressed versus the oppressor. For the oppressor, we have nothing but antagonism and struggle; for the oppressed, we have nothing but understanding and compassion” (43). We can see a similar logic at work in Spartacus’ implacable hostility towards his enemies and his loyalty towards his allies.

Spartacus’ equal division of loot is an excellent example of the communalization of expropriated wealth, and his rules banning gold and silver and instead importing iron and copper show a clear tendency towards “ownership through use” rather than ownership for the sake of profit. The seizure of Roman eagles, fasces, and battle-standards also add a spiritual dimension to the concept of expropriation.

Abolition of Gender

Drawing inspiration from Harriet Tubman, Assata Shakur, Mujeres Libres in the Spanish Civil War, and the Kurdish YPJ and Yezidi Women’s Units, the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement argues that “the process of undoing gender roles can be viewed as similar to the process of dismantling the carceral state. Putting self-defense at the origin of this process has the potential of both building strength and uprooting stagnant roles” (62).

They note that “when people have the opportunity to autonomously defend themselves, and fight for others, the normativity of fixed identities are called into question, and the process of abolishing gender, and creating a fluid world of self-determination becomes possible” (62).

The ancient sources on the involvement of women in the revolt led by Spartacus are scarce, but Plutarch relates that the prophetess escaped together with Spartacus and the other gladiators, and Sallust reports that Gaulish women accompanied the rebel army as well. Given the prophetess’ relationship to Dionysos (and/or a Thracian deity syncretized to Dionysos), it is important to note that in 186 BCE, the Roman Senate had banned any Bacchic cult larger than “five men or women,” and decreeing that “no man or woman whosoever be a chief officer of the cult.” The decrees, surviving on a bronze plaque in Southern Italy, show that in the Bacchic cults, men and women worshiped together, and that women held leadership positions.

The decrees also forbid anyone “to swear an oath among themselves or to make a common vow or to form any pacts or make promises in common,” showing the senate’s fear of the conspiratorial and rebellious potential of the Bacchanalia. It seems likely that the prophetess and other women played important roles in the uprising of 73-71 BCE, though the details are not recorded.

Martyrs

Appian reports that Spartacus died in battle and that “his body was never found,” but that Crassus captured six thousand rebels and had them “crucified along the whole length of the highway that ran from Capua to Rome.” Brent D. Shaw notes in Spartacus and the Slave Wars: A Brief History with Documents that “the distance was about 125 miles, so there would have been one body of a crucified slave raised on a cross every 35 to 40 yards along the entire distance of the road” (144).

“The Cursed Field (Executed Slaves)” by Fedor Bronnikov, 1878 [public domain].

However, this was not the end of the story. Plutarch relates that when Crassus was slain by the Parthians eight years later at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE, his head was cut off and used as Pentheus’ head in a production of The Bacchae. Thus, Dionysos took his vengeance.

In the closing words of Burn Down the American Plantation, RAM swears an oath to the ancestors and the dead, and to those struggling today:

We promise to all those who have previously risked everything for liberation, who have lived and died under the oppressive yoke of this country, and all those still struggling for a better life, that we will put all our strength towards building communities so powerful that they will repel any attempt, from within or without, to reestablish the oppressive power of white supremacy, patriarchy, the state and capital. We will burn down the American plantation once and for all. (84)

Or, in the words of Walter Benjamin:

The final enslaved and avenging class…carries out the work of emancipation in the name of generations of downtrodden to its conclusion. This consciousness, which for a short time made itself felt in the “Spartacus,” was objectionable to social democracy from the very beginning…[Social democracy] contented itself with assigning the working-class the role of the savior of future generations. It thereby severed the sinews of its greatest power. Through this schooling the class forgot its hate as much as its spirit of sacrifice. For both nourish themselves on the picture of enslaved forebears, not on the ideal of the emancipated heirs.

* * *

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.
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Posted by Crystal Blanton

This year the Pan-African Festival celebrated it’s 7th year of festivities September 3 in Oakland, California at historic Mosswood Park. The event was filled with people of all types enjoying the fresh air, shopping, and eating food from the many vendors.

This was my first year at the Pan-African festival, and I decided to go since I am always looking for ways to immerse my children in celebration of their African heritage. With camp chairs and drinks in hand, we met our other family members under the shaded trees where we set up camp.

[C. Blanton]

According to the website, the Pan-African Festival is described as a day full of activities and family fun:

“Oakland’s 7th annual Pan-African Festival is a free family event carefully curated to cultivate pride, joy, self-determination and sovereignty for diasporic Africans. Through participation in a full day of holistic health workshops, group games, arts, crafts and entertainment, the day intends to celebrate the rich cultures of Africa and it’s global influences.”

The festivities included a plethora of speakers, including performers and kid-related activities to engage the whole of the family.

The website goes on to talk about the mission of the organization and the purpose of events such as this.

“Our mission is to improve the holistic health of the Pan-African community in Oakland, California, which includes physical, mental and spiritual. We inform, educate, heal and inspire people of African descent to restore a sense of community, cultural unit.”

In today’s challenging times, it seems like opportunities to engage in community that feeds our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being is a much needed thing.

The wealth of knowledge and diversity of the attendees was clearly a centerpiece of the festival’s experience, including people of many different faiths and differing paths to the African diaspora. There were many practitioners of African Traditional Religions, followers of Orisha based practices, and an overall reverence of the godliness of the woman.

I was excited to be in a community space of celebration and acknowledgement, but I didn’t anticipate the incredible reverence of our ancestors and leaders. Nor did I anticipate the mini shrines throughout the festival space. From acknowledgements on the stage to those various shrines setup around the park grounds, there was a clear spirit of honoring our ancestors who were present at the festival.

I found it interesting to see people of the African diaspora navigating the vast grey area of African and American heritage and culture. Food trucks sold foods that were identified as African or African fusion, alongside many Black-owned vendors selling goods that appealed to the Black culture of the day and the African heritage of old.

[C. Blanton]

Circling around the festival space, there were poles with pictures of both leaders and ancestors with information about their lives and their contributions to community. Some of the many honorees included Maya Angelou, Fanny Lou Hamer, Huey P. Newton, Audre Lorde, Dick Gregory, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.  

It is an interesting and relevant study of culture to observe the many different ways that people incorporate the significance of ancestral reverence into their societal norms. The ongoing incorporation of honoring those who have made a significant impact on the plight of African-American people connects to the roots found in many different African spiritual cultures. In Orisha worship, the Egun refers to the ancestors, most often those connected to us by blood or religious lineage.

On the website The Yoruba Religious Concepts, writers reference the importance of connection to the ancestors in Yoruban practices:

“Egun is the collective representation of the Ancestors.We often call our Ancestors by the name, Egun, which in Yoruba language means bones. As we walk upon the Earth our feet press against the bones of the Ancestors on whose shoulders we stand. Like most indigenous cultures of the world, Africans believe that those who go before us make us what we are. When we walk on the Earth, we literally stand on the shoulders of those who bodies have been committed to the soil, the water, and the wind. Our Ancestors influence our lives through heredity and human culture. However, there is an even deeper connection to the Ancestors as active spirits who continue to influence our lives. We humans honor them with altars, music and prayer. They in turn offer us guidance, protection and prosperity. We treat our ancestors with loving reverence.”

As a participant at the Pan-African festival, it became increasingly clear that this was exactly what we were collectively doing in honoring the ancestors of our journey as people of the African diaspora. While that journey within this country has historically been a turbulent and traumatizing one, the importance of connection with the Mighty ones continues to be an important cultural thread throughout the generations.

Celebration or reverence of ancestors is not exclusive to African paths of spirituality and are incorporated by many indigenous traditions of belief and practice, as is the respect given to the elders of a community. This particular festival pointed out something culturally interesting: the ability to reach across a large community of people connected to the blood of a land far away, and yet so close, and to find a commonality that weaves through our interconnected stories as children of the diaspora.

Despite the continent of Africa being huge and encompassing many different traditions, languages, histories, and communities, there is still a way to connect through the struggle of the ancestors and the elders of our stories.

Significant to the the overall experience was also the acknowledgement that in the struggle of historical oppression; the honored elders and ancestors were often highlighted for their significant roles and sacrifices in the various movements of revolution and freedom. From warriors to scholars, from revolutionaries to the persecuted, there is a fine line in between the accomplishments of the ancestors and their direct connection to a fight for liberation.

In planting these mini shrines around the festival, the essence of the ancestors became tangible in a way that an average festival of like-minded people would not have been.

There was also a small shrine to those who were enslaved, and the history of chattel slavery immediately brought the significance of the struggle to the forefront. This small display served as a holder of space with a collection of items that served as clear reminders of a history that serves to bridge so much of our African and American lineages together. It also served as a talking piece for the generation of children asking what the items were, or why we were referred to as “colored” on the posters.

In remembrance and honor of the work of my ancestors, I took the time to talk about the shrines, walk around the grounds with my kids, tell stories of the pictures, and give thanks for the sacrifices that have enabled us to be closer to an idea of liberation and freedom.

I had the opportunity to connect with numerous people during the festival to discuss the festival and the impact of honoring the ancestors in this setting. While there were many ongoing conversations throughout my time there, here are a couple of the statements that impacted me greatly.

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“Too often communities forget to celebrate the women. The Black woman is God and when we honor her, we honor everyone.”

“How amazing it is to look around this space and see the children of our ancestors dancing among the pictures of our people. We need more of this.”

“We are so beautiful. We have always been a beautiful people.”

“Spending time in the sun with family and friends? What better way to connect to our purpose here on this earth.”

There are many people who do not know the names of their ancestors or individuals connected through lineage; there are many people who are not able to connect to their “people” through the macro lens of culture and history. This type of connection enables us to pass on the stories of our ancestors for generations to come, and find ourselves in the stories of those whose shoulders we stand on.

Celebration is one of the most powerful rituals of reverence within our arsenal of spiritual connectivity.

[C. Blanton]

Some cultures, like those of historically oppressed populations, have distinct challenges in tracing the the roots of their ancestors throughout time. As a Black woman I am familiar with the cultural challenge of tracing my own lineage beyond several generations back. The systemic damage of slavery means that we have been disconnected from our direct knowledge of our ancestors, birth names, tribal information, traditions, foods, customs, and language.

This challenge has impacted Black people since the middle passage, and it will continue to shape our view of ancestral connection into the future. Maybe the power of community ancestral reverence can be a part of the medicine used to support collective healing for groups like ours.

As the seasons change we often see more discussions regarding the honoring of elders, ancestors, and those who have now passed. For many of us the approaching time of year is a reminder that the ancestors are present and our work with them continues.

Whether we are doing the work of our ancestors of flesh and bone, or those of spirit, lineage, culture and history, their stories continue to be a living part of our foundation.

How do you celebrate your ancestors of culture? How can you hold space for those who have contributed to your story and ability to thrive despite your lack of physical connection to them? How do you honor the sacrifice of those who came before you?

What stories do you hold sacred and what do you do with them? All of these questions are valuable and we could all spend time accessing th answers in this year’s transition toward the darker half of the year.

* * *

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.
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Posted by Terence P Ward

ALVARADO, Texas –Rebecca Konnight has a problem, but it’s not the one that many of the people who know or have read about her think it is.

To administrators in her high school, it seems her problem is a reluctance to comply with the dress code. For the readers of an article about Konnight’s blue hair and lip piercings, it might appear that she has a very weak grasp on Wicca, or is just using it as an excuse to avoid the aforementioned dress code.

After an interview with her and her mother, Linda Mundt, the problem comes into focus. It is adults trying to do their jobs without allowing their assumptions about the world to be challenged.

Rebecca Konnight [courtesy].

Konnight, 17, has a rare genetic condition called type 1 neurofibromatosis, in which individuals are born with, or develop, tumors in various parts of the body.

“She wasn’t supposed to live past nine,” said Mundt.  However, partly due to chemotherapy to tackle a mass in her brain and another behind an eye, Konnight continues to buck the odds.

“The illness is terminal, but she can live a full productive life with many side effects.”

This medically incurable disease may have been what drove Konnight’s interest in alternative healing modalities. It is not difficult to see how the theology of Wicca, with an emphasis on magic and personal responsibility, can dovetail with a desire for real and permanent healing.

Mundt was unfamiliar with Wicca until her son married a practitioner, who introduced Konnight to the concepts. “That is what she is, and there’s no cutting it,” she said of her daughter, who took to it right away.

It’s the religion’s focus on nature that appeals most to her daughter, Mundt said, and that’s why they “moved out to the country,” from Arlington to Alvarado: Konnight found the stress of the urban environment very taxing.

That brings this story to the point at which it appeared Konnight was claiming that body piercings are a requirement of Wicca. The language used in a Cleburne Times-Review article made it difficult for readers to draw any another conclusion.

The article reads: “Mundt said her daughter practices Wicca, a form of modern Paganism, and the religion sometimes calls for followers to wear body piercings for various reasons.”

Both mother and daughter insist neither of them nade that claim.

As Konnight explained it to TWH, she wanted to wear silver for its healing properties, particularly around stabilizing emotions; the tumor in her brain has influenced how she processes emotions. Necklaces irritate her skin, and she was concerned about losing other jewelry.

In her research she discovered the concept of piercings with sacred intent, and convinced her mother to allow her to get her lip pierced because its proximity to the throat chakra would help. The piercings were solderized, intended not to be removed.

“She’s not doing it for cosmetic reasons or to make statement,” Mundt said. “She feels it has healing power.”

Konnight apparently also likes the color silver, because that’s what color she wanted to dye her hair. The fact that it ended up blue instead should have been relegated to hair disasters on Instragram, but that was just one more fact contributing to a storm of controversy.

The dress code in Konnight’s former school may have been more relaxed about hair, but in both districts the facial piercings are a no-no.

Using information about both Wicca and sacred body piercings she found online, Konnight received special dispensation to retain the face adornments, which she also uses to focus her energy during spell work. Showing up on the first day in Alvarado with piercings and blue hair, though, did not result in a warm welcome.

“The policy is the policy,” said the district’s public information officer, Tommy Brown. “The handbook doesn’t address particular religions.”

“They wouldn’t listen,” recalled Konnight, and dismissed evidence she produced from online sources as insufficient to bolster her claims of a sincerely-held religious belief.

Mundt was less charitable. “They basically said she’s full of it, and it’s not a religion.”

Brown, the district official, told the Cleburne Times-Review reporter, “Please know that it is not Alvarado ISD’s practice to dismiss a student’s medical or religious claim that was accompanied by appropriate evidence.”

According to Mundt, her daughter was pressed to produce a “church” of Wicca, or a revealed text, as “appropriate evidence.” “She spent six hours researching” to try to find a Wiccan or Pagan congregation in the area, to no avail.

Both mother and daughter attempted to address inaccuracies in the original news report by posting comments. Part of their concern was that the reporter conflated questions of religion and health, such as when Konnight was described as having given school officials “a packet of information explaining her religion and why body piercings are important.”

The Associated Press style guide eliminates the serial comma, which would have clarified that wording. The Wild Hunt style guide largely mirrors AP, but does include serial, or Oxford, commas.

The result with school officials was that Konnight was told she was to be suspended from school if she showed up looking like that again.

Mundt asked for time to allow the hair color, which was already fading, to grow out. The request was declined.

Trying to bleach it out was disastrous. Clumps fell out, which Mundt attributes to Konnight’s body still recovering from chemotherapy. She originally asked for that extra time because she didn’t think her daughter’s hair could withstand another process. Now Konnight is now wearing a wig in school instead.

While was given the alternative to instead learn from home, Konnight wanted to attend school strongly enough that she used pliers to remove the piercings.

Mundt and Konnight agree that they live in an extremely Christian area, where assumptions about what constitutes religion are well set.

“I can’t count how many times people have asked me if I worship the devil,” said Konnight, and how explaining that this is a Christian concept doesn’t seem to help.

For now, she remains in school, and returns home to the two acres her mother calls “her own seventh heaven element,” seeking the peace of the Goddess that reinvigorates her Wiccan faith.

Ship of Fools

Sep. 14th, 2017 10:09 am
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Posted by Jim Wright

Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet
-- African proverb


Trump was going to defeat ISIS in the first 30 days.

He was going to “win” in Afghanistan – after all, he knew more than the generals who had studied war for their entire lives and who had been fighting in Afghanistan for more than a decade. He knew more than the State Department. He knew more than the history professors. He scoffed at the experts, the “elites,” because he knew more than they did. Remember?

He was going to "repeal and replace" Obamacare "on Day One." That’s what he promised. It seemed impossible, such a promise, but it would be easy, he said. He had a great plan. Great, Folks, you’ll see.

He was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. When critics questioned how that would work, how he could possibly make good on such a preposterous promise, they were shouted down.  And the press was vilified and penned into corrals far from the stage.

He was going to throw out all the illegal immigrants.

He was going to make a deal with North Korea and Iran and China and Russia and the world.

He was going to … do something. Yes, something. Something something gazpacho and make America great again.

The ignorant mouth breathers who make up his base ate it up, even though he was always short on details and long on rhetoric.

They actually believed him.

They actually believed Donald Trump – Donald Trump of all people – could somehow bring them some vague undefined victory in the Middle East. That he would somehow secure 10,000 miles of porous American borders and make a profit doing it. That he would give them great high-paying jobs complete with healthcare that didn’t require any effort or education or initiative on their part whatsoever while at the same time sticking it to everybody they considered lazy and unworthy and unfit to be an American. And somehow – somehow – he would cut taxes and reduce the size of government while at the very same time increasing spending by untold billions on some mightily “restored” military and he was going to eliminate the national debt through some magical new trade deal that he would personally work out with the rest of the world.

And he was going to power the whole damned thing with clean coal.

And they actually believed him.

They did.

But then these are the same drooling cross-eyed dipshits who think a billionaire New York real-estate developer who builds tacky casinos and swanky country clubs staffed by foreign workers, a Reality TV host whose shows are an hour-long fuck-fest of tits and ass and self-serving backstabbing narcissism portrayed by the personification of some backwoods West Virginia county fair demolition derby cheered on by drunken rednecks in cow shit spackled overalls, married to a string of vapid trophy wives, buoyed up incestuous nepotism, and surrounded by a scurrying host of toadies, sycophants, ass kissers, discredited fringe political hacks, cashiered generals, Wall Street crooks, war profiteers and foreign interests, a guy who has never shown the least charity or nobility or degree of compassion, a guy who daily craps in a golden toilet, yeah, that guy, is actually going to look out for their interests from his penthouse windows.

These are people who steadfastly refuse to face reality in any fashion while the seas rise and America falls.

These are people who think there are easy, cheap, simple sound-bite answers to the problems of civilization.

These are people who believe that you can end terrorism by bombing nations into rubble -- because for them, every problem can be solved with a punch in the face or a bullet in the guts.

These are people who think poverty, racism, and inequity can be solved by smugly telling poor people, "get a job, loser!"

These are people who actually think human migration can by stopped by a wall despite thousand of years of history that repeatedly and definitively proves exactly the opposite.

image

This morning, even the most stalwart Trump supporters are howling in outraged betrayal.

Reality is setting in, both for Trump and for them.

The Great Wall they were promised is just a renovation of what they already had, and they’re going to pay for it, not Mexico. Because building an actual giant wall across 2000 miles of Mexican border is not only impractical, it’s fiscally impossible – and it won’t work anyway.

Trump is now making noises that he’s maybe open to fixing Obamacare, single-payer in the form of Medicare for All is suddenly making progress in Congress, and the diehard Trump supporters are disappointed to the edge of tears.

Trump’s big MOAB of a plan to crush ISIS is a dud, and his plan for Afghanistan is, well, more of the same.

And now?

This morning he’s actually praising the Dreamers and saying he doesn’t want them kicked out of the country.

Former Trump supporters like Anne Coulter…

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… are now shitting their collective colons inside out in white hot fury.

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A year ago, those like Coulter thought Trump was “the only one making sense.”

Except he wasn’t.

He wasn’t making sense.

He never made sense.

At all.  Ever.

He never answered a single question. He never gave any details. There was never any plan of any substance whatsoever.

It was all just bombast and bluster, vague hand waving and impossible promises and I’d like to say than any fool could have seen it coming but that’s obviously not true. More than Sixty millions fools just like Anne Coulter couldn’t seem to see it. 

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The simple truth of the matter is that there are no simple solutions.

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There are no simple solutions and there never have been.


If you believed Trump’s promises, well, you’re a goddamned fool and you have nobody to blame but yourself.


You can't end terrorism.

Not in thirty days. Not in thirty years. Not ever.

War, conflict, terrorism, you can't end war and killing and destruction by more war, more conflict, more terror.

Wars to end all wars don’t. And never have.

You can't drop civilization on people from the belly of a B-52.

What’s that?

World War II?

We ended World War II by bombing the Nazis and the Japs out of existence?

Did we?

Did we really?

Or did the killing actually end when those nations were rebuilt over decades into new, peaceful, productive civilizations? When the things that precipitated that war, food, resources, rights, industrialization, inequality, trade, economy, were addressed and at least to some degree fixed.

I spent my entire adult life bent to the business of war. I’m a professional at it. So don’t roll your eyes and call me some silly liberal peacenik with flowers in my hair. I know all about war and I’m not at all a fool. I’m not saying that the war isn’t sometimes necessary, or that we don’t need rough men ready to do violence in the night on our behalf.

But war is a failure of civilization.

Afghanistan has been bombed to rubble over and over, but there still isn’t any peace there.

Africa has been bombed and blown up and raped and mauled and mangled and shot and pillaged and there still isn’t peace there.

No matter how many bombs, no matter how much death, no matter how many die, the war, conflict, terrorism does not end.

It does not end until there is something better.

It’s not the bombs that end the war and terrorism, it’s civilization.

You can't magically give everybody healthcare. You can't magically feed everybody. You can't magically end poverty, homelessness, racism, hate, disenfranchisement by waving your hand.

You can't do it by telling people to get jobs.

You can't do it by telling people to pull themselves up if there’s nowhere for them to pull themselves up to.

You can't do it by giving people things.

But you also can’t do it by not giving them things.

You can't end illegal immigration by arresting people.

You can't end illegal immigration by deporting people.

You can't end illegal immigration by imprisoning people.

You can't end illegal immigration by building a fucking wall, no matter how long or how high.


You cannot – can not – make America great by engaging in the things terrible countries do.


There are no simple answers.

Civilization is complicated.

Our civilization is the most complex in all of history.

All of these things, war, peace, terrorism, safety, poverty, economic opportunity, law and order, chaos, immigration, jobs, stability, all of these things are facets of the same complex, ever-changing, fluidly dynamic structure – that is: civilization.

There are no simple answers.

There are no permanent answers.

Moreover, there is no single right answer.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Not on the left. Not on the right. It’s more complicated than that. It will always be more complicated than that.

Every single day, you have to push back against the fall of night.

If you really want to end war and terrorism, then you have to work to reduce the fundamental problems that lead to destruction.

People resort to terrorism – and to illegal immigration for that matter – because they don't have anything better.

People turn to crime, to drugs, booze, cults, to myriad destructive actions including violence and terrorism, and to politicians who promise easy solutions and simple fixes, because they're looking for something better. But you don't end war and conflict, terrorism, illegal immigration, crime, chaos, by building walls and blowing up the world.

And you sure as hell don’t end it by pulling the ladder up after yourselves.

“Fuck you, I got mine” is a lousy ideology to build civilization on. 

The rest of the world sees America, the ideal of America, and they want that. That’s why they come here – legally or not.

A moral people would strive to bring the rest of the world up to our level, to ensure all people everywhere have what we have, not slam the door in their faces.

Hunger, poverty, lack of healthcare, lack of opportunity, disenfranchisement, bigotry, inequality, homelessness, hate, fear, uncertainty, all of these things are what lead to war, to conflict, to crime, to illegal immigration, to division, and ultimately to the collapse of civilization.

The only way to ensure a stable and reasonably secure future for you and your descendants, is by building a better world for everybody.

You reduce the likelihood of civilization’s collapse by working to reduce inequality and disenfranchisement, by working to see that everybody has the things they need to live decent lives – for themselves and for their children. Food. Shelter. Healthcare. Jobs. Stability. Order. Education. And so on.

It's ongoing, forever.

There are no simple answers.

There are no easy solutions.

If someone tells you there are, simple answers, that it's easy, that they can fix it all in a few days, well, then they're either a con artist or a damned fool. Maybe both.

Now, to some extent, America can abide foolish leaders – our founders expected such an eventuality and they planned for it.

They built in safeties.

You.

You are that safety.

America can abide a foolish leader, for a while anyway, but it cannot long survive as a nation of fools.

If you want a better nation, a better civilization, then you have to be better citizens.

For starters, that means being smart enough to know when you’re being conned.

And then to face the world as it exists, not as you want it to be.

There are two fools in this world. One is the millionaire who thinks that by hoarding money he can somehow accumulate real power, and the other is the penniless reformer who thinks that if only he can take the money from one class and give it to another, all the world's ills will be cured.

-- Henry Ford

[syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed

Posted by Cara Schulz

As some Pagans and Heathens attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles.

Did the Ark of the Covenant contain Pagan Gods?

Archaeologists have long looked for the Ark of the Covenant, a large case the Bible says contains the broken pieces of the Ten Commandments. Yet some are now positing that if the ark is found it will more likely be found in Kiryath Jearim, not the city of David, and contain statues of Pagan gods.

Scholars say that the Bible was written by several authors over a long period of time and that the portions detailing the ark’s removal from Kiryath Jearim to David’s city were more recent additions. In fact, they now suspect that the ark may not have been moved at all.

These same scholars also note that persons living during the time period when the ark was thought to exist either worshiped Canaanite gods like Baal and El or the early Israelite gods Yahweh and Asherah.

So why do they think the ark could contain statues of Pagan gods rather than the Ten Commandments? Throughout the Levant, it was common practice for pre-Islamic Arabs to carry chests that contain two sacred stones or statues of Pagans gods. These items were later replaced with copies of the Koran. So the ark, mentioned in the Bible, may have likewise contained statues.

Baal was a god associated with war and fertility. The Ark of the Covenant was carried by Israelites into battle and thought to have supernatural powers to rally troops to victory. The Bible also tells the story of Hannah, the Prophet Samuel’s mother, whose sterility is cured by the Ark.

The Bible’s presentation of the Israelites as strict monotheists is also being corrected by archaeologists and scholars. They are now thought to have been a polytheist religious society slowly evolving and incorporating influences and ideas from surrounding cultures.

Perhaps if the ark is found, it may contain statues of Pagan gods and shards of the Ten Commandments.

Pagans were feasting in Israel

A 3200 year old Pagan feasting hall has been found in Israel. Archaeologists were initially hesitant to classify the hall as having religious significance, but the contents of the hall show it was used for Canaanite ritual feasting.

The hall was found in what was Libnah, a Canaanite city that would become Judahite after it was conquered by the Judahite Kingdom.

The hall was almost 52 feet in length and was well constructed. It contained a pillar of stone, usually associated with worship, Celtic vessels, figurines, zoomorphic vessels, and two ceramic masks. There were also three rare pithoi, small vessels containing oil for libations, ad charred bones of sheep, goats, and pigs.

Archaeologists have had a difficult time reconstructing Canaanite religious practices, but hope sites like this one can shed new light on the practice. For those Pagans attempting to reconstruct the Canaanite religion, keep your eye on this dig.

Oops! Viking dude is a lady

The pitfalls of assuming sex even happen to scientists. DNA analysis of one of the most famous Viking warriors proves the bones are those of a woman, not a man.

The Birka warrior, found in the late 1880’s, was assumed to be that of a man because of what the grave contained. It housed swords, arrowheads, a spear, and two sacrificed horses. This shows a flaw in the art of archaeological interpretation. Archaeologists interpret what they see through the lens of the culture they live in. In this case, assuming the gender of the warrior base on modern expectations of gender roles.

This mistake was made despite Viking lore spelling out that not all warriors were men. In addition to tales of shield maidens who fought along side male warriors, there is the story of Inghen Ruaidh, a female warrior who lead a fleet of ships to Ireland.

[Credit: Gambargin / CC lic.]

Earlier this year, bioarchaeologist Anna Kjellström closely examined the warrior’s pelvic bones and mandible and noted their dimensions were more typical of a woman.

After this finding was published, a team led by Uppsala University archaeologist Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson tested the bone’s DNA. The tests were conclusive that the bones were that of a woman, not a man.

The change in sex identification of this warrior now changes the idea that tales of Viking women warriors were just fables. Not only that, but since the Birka warrior was found with gaming pieces on her lap, suggesting she was a respected tactician, this changes the view of women in leadership positions within Viking culture.

Roman Fake News – in Full Color

Archaeologists have reconstructed what the Arch of Titus looked like, and it was full of color and disinformation.

Professor Steven Fine of Yeshiva University has digitally reconstructed the arch using the bright colors that were probably used to paint the arch.

He discovered that the famed menorah, depicted on the panel showing Roman soldiers parading with treasures looted from the Second Temple in Jerusalem, was painted a bright yellow. It has just been in the last 30 years that archaeologists and museum curators have realized just how brightly colored Roman and Greek statues and buildings were. After noting the menorah was painted yellow, his access to the arch was cut off.

He then made educated guesses as to the other colors. The sky, of course, would be blue, the leaves green, and so on. He cautions that, although he feels confident about the color selections, without further testing he can’t be 100% sure.

As to why the arch was created in the first place? It was propaganda. The arch was built to commemorate Vespasian winning the Judean War. Which wasn’t really a war but a local rebellion in a far-flung province. The structure was built to glorify Vespasian and solidify the Flavian dynasty.

Fake news, it appears, is nothing new

[Credit: Sodabottle / Wikimedia]

[syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed

Posted by Heather Greene

WASHINGTON  —  Leave the Johnson Amendment intact was the message sent to Congress by American religious leaders from around the country.

Jointly organized by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), a recent protest letter and petition garnered over 4,000 signatures in support of keeping the IRS nonprofit tax code provisions and restrictions. The joint action followed two other similar but separate letters sent in April – one by “99 national and state religious groups” and then another by “4,500 nonprofit organizations.”

[Public domain.]

As we reported in March, the Johnson Amendment is part of the IRS’ tax code that “prohibits political campaign activity” by nonprofit 501(c)(3) charities and churches. Since launching his bid for the presidency and well into his elected term, Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to “repeal that language” or “completely destroy” that code in order to “protect free speech for all Americans.”

Trump’s alleged quest is in fact backed by the GOP. As stated in its official 2016 campaign platform:

Republicans believe the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs, and therefore we urge the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.

Opponents to the code believe that it is unconstitutional because it limits freedom of speech by disallowing religious leaders and organizations from speaking out on political matters.

In February 2017, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) introduced to the house the Free Speech Fairness Act (H.R. 781). This act would not remove the Johnson Amendment, but it would offer “greater opportunity for nonprofit organizations to engage in political speech with regard to campaigns.”

Since its introduction, H.R.781 has been sitting in the House Ways and Means Committee with no forward movement.

However, a more recent bill is taking now taking an indirect shot at the Johnson Amendment by defunding the IRS’ ability to penalize nonprofit organizations that engage in the otherwise forbidden political speech. The house’s proposed government funding package, which originated in the Committee on Appropriations, is now up for consideration.

Within that bill, section 116 currently states that the provided funds cannot “be used by the Internal Revenue Service to make a determination that a church, an integrated auxiliary of a church, or a convention or association of churches is not exempt from taxation for participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office unless.”

Section 116, as written, is a “finance rider” that is buried within the proposed funding bill, which will set the spending budget through Sept. 2018.

If the bill passes as is, the IRS will be unable to use government funds to stop nonprofits from engaging in political actions or speech, even if the tax code itself is not altered. While the bill does not kill the Johnson Amendment, it makes it ineffective.

Over the summer, AU and BJC wrote and published their protest letter and asked religious leaders to join their action. The letter, which can be viewed on the website Faith Voices, begins:

As a leader in my religious community, I am strongly opposed to any effort to repeal or weaken current law that protects houses of worship from becoming centers of partisan politics. Changing the law would threaten the integrity and independence of houses of worship. We must not allow our sacred spaces to be transformed into spaces used to endorse or oppose political candidates.

By late August, Faith Voices garnered over 4,000 signatures from religious leaders around the country and from many different backgrounds and beliefs, including Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists. Shortly after reaching their goal of 4,000 signatures, AU and BJC sent the letter to Congress.

However, the organization now reports that the letter will be sent again, and are asking more religious leaders to step up and sign on. The organizations’ call to action reads:

The Trump administration has vowed to “totally destroy” this law. We know that faith leaders support the current law and want to keep their sanctuaries sacred. That is why we need you to sign this letter to tell Congress that you oppose repealing or weakening the law.

According to sources, the house’s funding package is scheduled to be reviewed in the coming week, but it is not expected to pass through the senate as written. How the various pieces are negotiated, what remains, and what stays is yet to be seen.

*   *   *

To learn more about the Johnson Amendment, its history, and how it affects you, see our detailed report from March.

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