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.

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

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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.”

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[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.”

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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?

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.

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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]

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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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Posted by The Wild Hunt

UNITED STATES – Hurricane Irma, one of the biggest recorded Atlantic storms in recent history, is making its way up the Florida coast and into the Southeastern states. In its wake, Irma has left a trail of damage to homes and structures and flooding across the Caribbean and southern Florida. According to the latest reports, the death told now stands at 24.

When news of the storm broke, Florida Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists began preparations, as did the entire state. Some stayed, some boarded up and left. Covenant of the Goddess’ local Florida-based local council Everglades Moon, sent out a survey to gather information to help keep the members in touch. The board has been posting safety information and check-ins on their page.

Vör Forn Siðr, a Heathen-owned camping and sacred site in Atlanta, offered its facilities to anyone fleeing the storm. The owners wrote, “We have several acres of wooded area where people can camp, several large fields where people can camp or stay in RVs and also a very large building we’re renovating into our hall where people can sleep or it can be used as a temporary community center.” They added, “We can build a temporary town.”

The storm still rages into Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and North Carolina; the end is not yet at hand. In the meantime, Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists continue to offer prayers and other forms of assistance to those affected.

 *   *   *

PITTSBURGH — Eric G. Canali, known as Earrach of Pittsburgh, died Aug. 31 after he was unable to fight off an infection due to a depleted immune system. Born in 1953, Earrach was a beloved ADF Druid priest who was well-known in his local community. In a public Facebook post on Earrach’s page, friend and fellow Druid wrote, “Earrach was, simply put, one of the kindest and most intriguing people I have ever met. Different in a joyful way, his own person and true to himself and his friends.”

Outside of religious circles, Canali worked for 25 years in technical support, and was an avid backyard astronomer. According to a memorial post, he “worked as the Floor Operations Manager of Buhl Planetarium for 17 years,” and was a “member of Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh (AAAP) and the founder of South Hills Backyard Astronomy (SHBA).”

Earrach had been fighting leukemia over the past five years, which took a toll on his immune system. In July he was admitted to the hospital due to a fungal infection. After treatments and surgery, he did recover for a period. However, the condition proved to much and he passed on Aug. 31. His wife, Diana Paar wrote, “Thank you all for your patience and understanding during this process. As the days since his passing go on, I feel him closer to me every day.”

There will be a public memorial service Sept. 22. His cremains “will be interred at Penn Forest Natural Cemetery, where an oak tree will be planted there in his name.”  What is remembered, lives.

*   *   *

SYDNEY, Australia – Filmmaker Sonia Bible has reported that she wrapped on her documentary exploring the life and times of Rosaleen Nortan, also known as “the Witch of Kings Cross.” In spring 2015, TWH interviewed Bible about her desire to make the film. At the time, she was in the research and funding phase. Bible said, “In 2010, I made a film called Recipe for Murder about women poisoning their husbands and family members with rat poison in Sydney in the early ’50s. During the research for that film, I came across Rosaleen Norton in various pulp publications. I started collecting articles about her and put them in the drawer.”

Seven years later, Bible began filming. On Sept. 11, she announced: “It’s a wrap,” and that the film would be moving into post-production. However, it is unknown at this point when the feature length documentary will be released and how. The project’s progress can be followed on Facebook or Bible’s website.

In other news

  • Today is the anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks. Monday, Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox wrote, “On this anniversary of [the] September 11th attacks on the United States in 2001, remembering those killed on that day and those who died of injuries later. Healing, strength, renewal, peace to their loved ones, to the living injured, to the USA & the world.” The Wild Hunt has published a number of articles reflecting on the event. Here are two: Fear of a Blue Sky and Visiting the Sacred Void

  • A new website has emerged featuring interviews with Pagan leaders from around the world. Pagan Portraits, as it is called, is an English language site based on a French site that was originally launched in 2015. “The goal of this project is to present interviews of modern and inspiring Pagans/Heathens/Polytheists from all over the world and from various Polytheistic religions (traditional as well as neo-pagan). We want to show, by this way, the incredible wealth of this Pagan way of life, giving inspiration to all the members of the worldwide Pagan community.”
  • In June TWH’s Australian columnist Josephine Winter reported on the growth of Druidry in her home country. This month, Moon Books is releasing a new book titled Australian Druidry written by Julia Brett. “Australian Druidry is a spiritual path of connecting with the Australian landscape as a sacred place. It is a method of listening to the messages the land has for us, and coming into communication with its unique voice.”
  • Mystic South organizers have announced that the event will return. Held in Atlanta, Mystic South held its inaugural conference this summer. Despite a loss of water and air conditioning for nearly one day, the event was reportedly a success. Mystic South 2018 has been scheduled for July 12 -15 at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia. No other details have been released.
  • Tickets for Reclaiming’s popular Samhain Spiral Dance are now on sale. According to reports, the event sold out last year. The annual spiral dance has been organized and performed for 38 consecutive years, with the first one being held in 1979.
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Posted by Heather Greene

TWH – As autumn approaches, it is not surprising that the number of mainstream articles referring to Witches and Witchcraft are increasing. Many of the recently published articles are touting that Witchcraft is “trending,” to use a social media term, or in old-school language, Witchcraft popularity is on the rise or “all the rage.” And in textspeak: WitchcraftFTW.

[Pixabay.]

#witches

For the bulk of the American public, the brief and unexamined suggestion that the nation’s Witch population is significantly increasing might be enough of a “sound bite” to tantalize and, in some cases, even scare. However, for those people who have long identified as Witches or the like, the flippant mention of Witchcraft in a seasonal article is not enough to satisfy.

Such a conversation triggers a longstanding debate within these communities, evoking a range of emotions including frustration, anger, and curiosity. Are pop-culture Witchcraft trends detrimental to the deeply-held religious practice of Witchcraft?

Looking more closely at the situation, there are questions that need answers. What exactly is trendy witchcraft, what is now being termed by some “basic witchcraft?” Is it related to Wicca and other Pagan religions? Who is creating and adhering to it, and why?

Mashable writer Heather Dockray recently dove into this discussion, answering a few of these questions herself. She writes, “The term ‘basic witch,’ I know, reeks of a kind of glib internet-insular condescension. But screw it: this kind of witch does exist in nature, or at least progressive fashion circles in Los Angeles. And she’s mostly here to do good, not evil, even if her brand of witchcraft ends up being largely self-indulgent.”

The idea of “trendy” Witchcraft, or “trending” anything, suggests an upward swing in popularity, and is observable through parallel cues across pop culture, from movies and television to commercials services and products. For example, Christian Dior’s 2018 Resort fashion line includes images from the Motherpeace Tarot deck designed by Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble. Similarly, in the 2017 Autumn show held this summer in Paris, one of the Dior models sported a now-famous tarot coat.

“Monsieur Dior was very fascinated with tarot and astrology. Me too,” explains Maria Grazia Chiuri, current creative director for Dior, to Elle magazine. Chiruri reportedly is looking to define the Dior brand as a feminist one.

The following video shows the process of constructing the coat, which is made of embroidered tarot images from different decks:

The international fashion industry, which has regularly flirted with occult themes on and off for years, often employs language like a ‘Wiccan aesthetic’ or ‘Witchy-chic’ to describe hair styles and couture choices. These stylings typically rely on occult imagery, such as tarot decks, and on a Gothic or Renaissance aesthetic.

Outside of the fashion industry, there has been a rise in public hexings, or at least in reports on public hexings, due to the current sociopolitical climate. These actions have been organized or performed by more than just Pagan community members, and they continue to dot the media landscape.

In July 2017, American singer Lana del Rey confirmed once again that she had in fact participated in and encouraged the mass hexing of Donald Trump. In a July interview, she told NME, “I’m in line with Yoko [Ono] and John [Lennon] and the belief that there’s a power to the vibration of a thought. Your thoughts are very powerful things and they become words, and words become actions, and actions lead to physical charges.”

The singer’s visibility increased the media’s awareness of such occult-based political actions, some of which were directly related to Del Rey’s own working and some not. These mass hexings were being performed before the 2016 election and have continued into today.

Has hexing become trendy, a part of “basic” Witchcraft? This is an interesting question given the fact that hexing still remains a powerfully contentious topic within long-established Witchcraft communities, and it leads to another question. What parts of Witchcraft do become trendy and what parts stay out of the limelight?

Ye olde witch shoppe

Metaphysical stores have been around for ages. However, there has reportedly been a growth in the number of such venues, both brick and mortar, and digitally-based. New occult-oriented stores are, according to some news sites, popping up around the country, which points to an increased interest in the occult.

In one of Atlanta’s newest trendy districts, a store called ATL Craft has opened. The store is mostly unattached to the city’s long-established Pagan population, but is successfully feeding the downtown area with “alternative and holistic products and services.” It joins a number of other metaphysical stores in that metro region.

Similarly in south Minneapolis, a local reporter has labeled one area a Witch district, due to a reported rise in stores with occult leanings. This new “district” label confused the city’s famously-large Pagan population because the entire area already has a nickname: Paganistan. One of the article’s commenters writes:

While I appreciate the new shops and the potential they have to add to the larger Pagan community, let me add to the comments that this is nothing new. The Twin Cities area has been a hub for Pagans for many years.

From trendy new stores and Sabbat boxes to fashion-forward witchy hoodies and professional “sex sorcery services,” Witchcraft does appear to have permeated mainstream culture, for better or worse, in powerful way.

This is not new

It is often the case that people assume that any given modern trend, whether good or bad, is unique and fresh, and that it has never happened before. However, humans are not that creative. The occult’s popularity within mainstream American culture has ebbed and flowed across time, as a result so does the commercialization of the practice.

In the 1800s, spiritualism rose in popularity within society and, by 1840, the country entered into what historian Mitch Horowitz labels the spiritualism era.[i] Many famous writers followed related occult paths. In his book Occult America, Horowitz describes how the practice was “one of deep intimacy”[ii] and experimentation.

Regardless of the intention of devout followers, spiritualism did spread into mainstream culture, producing what Horowitz describes as “fashionable” classes and elite clubs around world.[iii]  It also birthed the commercialization of the ouija board. “It was only a matter of time before experimenters and entrepreneurs began to see the possibilities,” Horowitz writes.[iv]

Flash forward nearly a century, the commercialized ouija board found renewed popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, during a period of time when Witchcraft was once again gaining popularity. The cultural revolution and political upheaval created fertile ground for deep spiritual seeking as well as counter-culture experimentation.

This is the era in which many of the original Pagan organizations and institutions, such as the Church of All Worlds, Circle Sanctuary, and the Covenant of the Goddess, were born; and the city of Salem began to fully embrace its notoriety as the “Witch City.” It was in the 1970s that Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis proclaimed Laurie Cabot the first “official Witch of Salem.”

In addition, the feminist movement fueled the desire to define and nurture female power within society. The 1969 activist organization W.I.T.C.H., for example, captured this idea in their own work. Known as the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, the group embodied a more radical, socialist viewpoint than the mainstream feminist movement. Using the archetype of the witch, it engaged with its political agenda to speak out for gender equality. This correlation was trending well into the late 1970s, and captured in George Romero’s film Season of the Witch (1972) also known as Hungry Wives.

Moving forward twenty years, Witchcraft popularity rose again after being demonized in a moral panic. Andrew Fleming’s film The Craft (1996) is often cited as a marker of that trend. As Fleming has remarked in a number of interviews, the production crew was caught off guard to learn that the film caused an increase in inquiries to Pagan covens and organizations. But The Craft was not alone. The late 1990s saw other pop-culture witch-related products including the birth of the Harry Potter franchise.

At the same time, the internet was allowing for an increased awareness of modern Witchcraft practice as well as an more fluid and open connectivity between communities and individuals. This period saw the birth of Witchvox and other similar sites, for example.

The mainstreaming of Witchcraft in the 1990s is best demonstrated by the film Practical Magic (1998), a romantic comedy that struggles with this very topic. The narrative constructs the Witches as an oppressed community members, rather than as spooky monsters, oddities, or evildoers. It continually reinforces the idea that the Witches are “just like us” by mainstreaming the look and feel of the craft. For example, the herbal witch shop is more like a Bath and Bodyworks than the average occult shop. This is a type of declawing of Witchcraft for popular consumption.

More recently, a new “season of the witch” was declared in 2013, and it appears that it is not over yet, as per the current reported trends. Why the ebb and flow?

tumblr inline nqtckv7OfC1t40lb1 500

1969 WITCH protest in front of Chicago Federal Building [WITCH].

Rise and fall of magic

It appears that trend is directly related to political and social unrest. Even the spiritualism movement of the 1800s has been linked to politics. As Horowitz reports:

Spiritualism was as much as an occult movement as a political one. It attracted utopians, suffragists, and radicals, because among other things it provided a setting in which women – for the first time in American history – could regularly serve as religious leaders, at least of a sort. [v]

The search for agency within an oppressive system, through spirituality and the occult, seems to be at least part of the recipe to produce #witchcraft. With that popularity comes a certain amount of commercialism as entrepreneurs, Pagan or not, find opportunities within the trends.

However, the dynamic of the trend has changed from the late 1800s to today due to the differences in society, or maybe it is just the concept of “mainstream” that has changed due to an increased awareness and availability of products and practice. The barriers to entry into Witchcraft practice, religious or not, are nearly gone due to blogs, social media, book publications, and community visibility. In addition, the internet has lowered similar barriers to the commodification of occult products and sales.

The Witchcraft trend gets fed at the level of visibility and apparent needs of that particular era.

A double-edged sword

With that in mind, the growth of so-called basic Witchcraft is not at all surprising. The current unstable political climate and the social unrest, which is no longer brewing beneath the surface, has provided fertile ground for a upswing in occult interest, or a search for power and control.

In addition, the internet provides an awareness of practice and community previously unknown, including access to teachers, covens, and also potential buyers. All of this allows for the buildup of a trendy aesthetic that is often a product of a mainstream sensibility, for better or worse.

Within the Pagan community, there are those that question whether or not the trend is damaging to their practice or offensive in some way. Is the practice of Witchcraft as a something “chic” rather than deeply spiritual a problem? That answer depends on who you ask. Some see it as indicative a greater socioeconomic problem, while others consider it a benefit to demystifying otherwise marginalized religious communities.

It is the proverbially double-edged sword, and one that is not going away any time soon.

Getting back to the original question, who are these basic Witches? Dockray writes, “What makes the ‘basic witch’ different from earlier breeds of witches is her spiritual commitment to consumerism. If early generations of witches turned to witchcraft as as a spiritual practice or political aesthetic, the basic witch identifies with witchcraft as a lifestyle brand, nothing more.”

Perhaps that is true to a degree. However, the question sends the conversation down the popular rabbit hole titled, “What is a Witch?”

A trend is a trend and will attract a variety of people, for awhile. At this point in time, the commodification or simply the mainstreaming of the occult or Witchcraft practice does appear to be a nearly accepted reality. As Dockray notes, this trendy or “basic” practice doesn’t necessarily evoke a religious sensibility or a similar deeply-felt spirituality. While it may be for some people, it is not for all.

At the same, it is possible that non-spiritual “basic practice” may eventually lead to a deeper inward path, but not always. The question to ask is: does it matter? Regardless of that answer, Witchcraft in one form or another continues to thrive in society, sparking depth of focus, igniting imagination, and inspiring action.

#witchcraftFTW

Notes:

[i] Mitch Horowitz, Occult America (New York: Bantam Books, 2010), 54.
[ii] ibid, 67.
[iii] ibid, 64.
[iv] ibid, 68.
[v] ibid, 62.



Column: Paganism in Mexico

Sep. 9th, 2017 07:26 pm
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Posted by Jaime Gironés

[Please welcome our newest international columnist, Jaime Gironés. Joining us from Mexico City, Gironés’ column will appear every three months and will explore the practice and experience of Paganism, Heathenry, and polytheism within Mexico. His columns will be published first in Spanish and then English. To learn more about Gironés, go to his bio page.]

Spanish Translation

Nice to meet you. Mucho gusto.

Pagans of the east, Pagans of the west, Pagans of the south, Pagans of the north, whoever hears our call, I greet you.

Although we have not been properly introduced, we already know each other. We honor the same nature, and she blesses us all. We float with the same air; we jump over the same fire; we flow in the same water, and we walk on the same earth.

[Pixabay.]

Pagans practicing in Mexico know a lot about those outside our immediate community. We have read about your practices; we have learned from you; you have inspired us many times. And now I offer a little bit about our community and practices.

The Mexican Pagan community doesn’t know exactly how our existence developed. As you well understand, we are a diverse community where some consider themselves Wiccans, others prefer to call themselves Witches. Some call themselves Pagans, and many practice without naming their practices at all. We don’t know how many we are. I believe we are more than we think, because many practice in the shadows, in silence, secrecy, and anonymity.

Some say the boom of the internet brought Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism into our lands; others say it helped us to remember, to create structure, and to connect with each other. Some say they were taught by teachers who were taught by famous international witches, while others prefer to say they learned from books and websites. Still others say they inherited their family traditions.

Nevertheless, the Mexican Pagan community has a story to tell; words and experiences to share. Allow me to make introductions. Take a seat and gather around; I will start with my own story.

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 90% of Mexican adults say they were raised Catholic; I’m no exception. But I am lucky to have open-minded parents who have always respected and encouraged me to investigate other practices and beliefs. During my childhood, I explored a few paths until I came across with Gerina Dunwich’s book Exploring Spellcraft: How To Create and Cast Effective Spells. That purchase was the start of my witchy path.

Later on, I discovered other wonderful books, such as Starhawk’s Spiral Dance, and amazing websites, like Witch School, that taught me more about the “Old Religion.”

When I was 14 years old I finally found a teacher and coven, and was initiated. .

That coven eventually dissolved. You might find this situation familiar: covens emerging and covens breaking up. No matter where in the world a seed is planted — the American seed, the English seed, the Australian seed or the Mexican seed — the tree grows tall but sooner or later ends dying.

After leaving the coven, sadness and heartbreak led me into a ten-year solitary phase until I was able to leave the Hermit card behind. Thirty-nine moons ago, I was able to open up and socialize again within the Pagan community.

Since coming out again, I met Tarwe Hrossdottir, the National Coordinator for Pagan Federation International – Mexico. Hrossdottir’s first formal encounter with Paganism was through the internet, she told me.

When she found the English-written websites with information about Paganism, she felt love at first sight, finally being able to name what she had felt all her life. Then she started practicing until she performed a self-initiation. A while later, she started giving Paganism and spiritual classes, and has done so for 16 years now.

I asked Hrossdottir if she sees any differences between the people who start classes with her today and the people who studied with her 16 years ago. She says that she has seen lots of change. “People arrive with more information now. They usually have already studied holistic therapy, or they practice a divination method. In general, the people who take interest are much more mature, with a more serious idea of what Paganism is and that means we are doing things right, that we are not passing on a Hollywoodish-magical idea of fantasy.”

Hrossdottir also thinks we have a very balanced situation: “On one hand, there are veteran groups who started many years ago, and we already have a more professional infrastructure, with better materials, with a more solid profile. There also groups that arose as a result of these veteran groups and are now in a maturity process, living what that entails.

“There are two types of recent groups: some without much maturity and others that have appeared in a more serious environment, doing a great job, and we surely will soon see them leading,” she explains.

“On the other hand, most practitioners already know the basics, that helps when they are looking for better information and more serious groups, and to be more committed and really see this as a spiritual tradition and not a style.”

Hrossdottir also believes Paganism in Mexico is on the right track: “Egos have been calming down and many of us are ready to pass into a next phase.”

She adds that we have done great work that deserves to be heard and published by the international Pagan community: “Most of the English-speaking media are closed to publish in Spanish or even in English about Latin-American Paganism. In Latin America, and specially in Mexico, we have a very peculiar vision of Paganism, because we have a living indigenous reference, which somehow lets us feel differently [about] the wheel of the year, herbology and traditional magick.

“Today, the Mexican Pagan community has a great variety of active traditions that cover an array of lines like the Hermetic, the Shamanic, the Nordic, the Celtic, and many others.”

Unlike myself and Hrossdottir, Mina To-Tai inherited Witchcraft. To-Tai is a 39-year-old tattoo artist and Witch from the state of Chihuahua. When she was a girl, she spent much time with her great-grandmother and remembers choosing and smelling oils and herbs while staring into a tall goddess statue.

To-Tai said that she used to be told, “Ask her everything you need, because if you really wish it, she will give it to you.” When she was older and her great-grandmother had already passed away, she wanted to know more about her ancestor’s practices. To-Tai searched for answers in books and online, and soon found out her grandma’s beliefs had a name: Witchcraft.

Many years later, To-Tai had two children and, with her partner, began raising her children observing both of their parents beliefs: Catholicism and Witchcraft. When she walked on the streets, people used to stare at her many tattoos and sometimes even crossed themselves when they saw the tattooed crescent moon on her forehead. However those reactions were nothing compared to what was coming.

In 2014, after years of physical and psychological abuse, To-Tai ended her relationship. After the breakup, To-Tai said that her family supported her partner and that they put her in a rehab center against her will, because she wasn’t the obedient, good wife they expected. They alleged that she consumed drugs and was a Witch, and was a poor example for her children.

As she recalls, she was there for 91 days, until the center’s personnel realized she was healthy and not crazy at all. Once out, she was without a home and without her belongings. Shortly after, she found out that she was being sued for the custody of her children. In one of the hearings, the judge asked her to prove she was a Witch. To-Tai answered she couldn’t give any proof. “Deny you are a Witch, and you could have your children with you today,” the judge insisted, but To-Tai refused to deny what she is.

Months later, To-Tai recanted that she met Cesar Ramsay, who had studied Wicca in the early 00s from a woman called Brida, who claimed to have studied with Sybil Leek. In 2003, Ramsay created the Sociedad Wicca Mexico organization with the goal to integrate, unite, link, and join forces between Wiccan and Pagan followers, solitary practitioners, study circles and covens in order to create an inclusive community.

The organization also gives legal advice and support, and that is how To-Tai was able to finally prove that she is a Witch. She gave the court a document signed by Ramsay explaining her beliefs and practices. The judge was surprised and said, “Oh! So you were telling the truth, you really are a Witch!”

Personally speaking, I’m not surprised by the judge’s reaction. Although we have the constitutional right to pursue the religious belief that best suits us, most of the people still don´t believe or don’t understand Witchcraft is a religion. Whenever there is mention of Wicca or Witchcraft in the media, which almost never happens, it is related to spells, divination or the Devil.

We live in a country where many people are scared of Witches. In some areas, specifically in the north, superstitions still exist such. Some believe that owls are Witches and, as a result, owls have been tortured, interrogated, and set into fire, in an attempt to get them to reveal their names and shift back into their human forms.

Of course, this doesn’t happen everywhere. In the central neighborhoods of Mexico City, for example, there is a different reaction to Witchcraft and Paganism. Isaura Avalos, aka Walkirya La Bruja, owns a Witchcraft-themed coffee shop in the La Roma neighborhood. She tells me that she has had little bad or unfriendly experiences: “Our neighbors are very kind people, and had been so since we arrived to La Roma to put our business.

“The only thing that has happened is that, in the beginning, the nuns that live nearby used to walk on the other side of the street, in order to avoid walking by the coffee shop. But now we even greet each other, and its been like this for a while.”

Avalos also says non-Pagan visitors are friendly too: “ [They] enter and want to know it all, they are thirsty of magic and answers about energy and about God. And we always take very seriously to welcome them into our world and letting them know we are normal people living extraordinary lives… With the passage of time what has changed is my perception, because little by little I’ve been losing the fear of being seen different or being pointed at. These five years of showing my face as a witch to the public have made me feel comfortable in society.”

We are not always feared or misunderstood, but we still have a lot of work to do fighting against ignorance and misunderstandings of our practices and beliefs with the light of wisdom and information. In addition to these challenges, we often don´t all get along with each other within our national Pagan community. I don’t expect us do so, but I do believe in a more united and friendly Mexican Pagan community, where people like Mina To-Tai do not feel alone and that their religious community supports them.

I also believe in a more united international Pagan community. During these hard times, when Mexicans have been called rapists and criminals, and with the unstable political climate full of racism and violence, it is a great time to open up and get to know each other better. Because we have more similarities than differences, because we share our struggles and worries, because we share our practices and beliefs.

Pagans of the east, Pagans of the west, Pagans of the south, Pagans of the north: whoever is reading or call, I greet you. Mexican Pagans may have a different history, but that story is related to yours.. Our books may be written in a different language, but the sounds read out loud from its words resonate the same frequencies. Just like you, we remember. Just like you, we believe. Just like you, we create.

* * *

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.

Columna: Paganismo en México

Sep. 9th, 2017 07:26 pm
[syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed

Posted by Jaime Gironés

[Por favor, den la bienvenida a nuestro nuevo columnista internacional: Jaime Gironés. Uniéndose a nosotros desde la Ciudad de México, la columna de Gironés aparecerá cada tres meses y explorará la práctica y la experiencia del paganismo, del heathenry y del politeísmo en México. Sus columnas serán publicadas primero en español y posteriormente en inglés. Si quieres saber más de Gironés, ve a la página de su biografía.]

English Translation

Nice to meet you. Mucho gusto.

Paganos del este, Paganos del oeste, Paganos del sur, Paganos del norte -quienquiera que escuche nuestro llamado, los saludo.

Aunque no hemos sido presentados apropiadamente, ya nos conocemos los unos a los otros. Honramos a la misma naturaleza y Ella nos bendice a todos nosotros. Flotamos en el mismo Aire, brincamos sobre el mismo Fuego, fluimos en el mismo Agua y caminamos sobre la misma Tierra.

[Pixabay.]

Los paganos que practicamos en México sabemos mucho sobre los que están fuera de nuestra comunidad inmediata. Hemos leído acerca de sus prácticas; hemos aprendido de ustedes; nos han inspirado muchas veces. Y ahora les ofrezco un poco sobre nuestra comunidad y práctica.

La comunidad Pagana mexicana no sabe con exactitud cómo se desarrolló su existencia. Y, como podrán entender, somos una comunidad diversa donde algunos se consideran Wiccanos, otros prefieren llamarse Brujos, algunos se dicen Paganos y muchos otros no nombran sus prácticas. No sabemos cuántos somos. Creo que somos más de los que pensamos. Muchos practican desde las sombras, en silencio, secreto y anonimidad.

Algunos dicen que el auge del internet trajo la Wicca, la Brujería y el Paganismo a nuestras tierras; otros dicen nos ayudó a recordar, crear estructura y conectarnos unos con otros. Algunos dicen que fueron enseñados por maestros, que, a su vez, éstos habían sido enseñados por brujos internacionalmente famosos; otros prefieren decir que aprendieron de libros y de sitios web. Algunos dicen que heredaron sus tradiciones familiares.

Sin embargo, la comunidad Pagana mexicana tiene una historia que contar, palabras y experiencias que compartir. Entonces, permítanme hacer presentaciones. Tome asiento y acérquese. Empezaré con mi propia historia.

De acuerdo a un reporte del Pew Research Center del 2014, 90% de los mexicanos adultos dicen que fueron educados católicos, y yo no soy la excepción. Pero soy muy afortunado de tener padres con una mente abierta que siempre me han respetado y animaron a investigar otras prácticas y creencias. Durante mi adolescencia, exploré algunos caminos hasta que me crucé con el libro Hechicería para principiantes de Gerina Dunwich, esa compra fue el inicio de mi camino Brujil.

Más adelante, descubrí libros maravillosos como La Danza en Espiral de Starhawk, e increíbles sitios web como WitchSchool, los cuales me enseñaron más de la “Vieja Religión”. Cuando tenía 14 años encontré un maestro y un coven en el cual fui iniciado.

El coven finalmente se disolvió. Puede ser que esta situación les parezca familiar -covens emergiendo y covens separándose. No importa donde se plante una semilla – la semilla americana, la semilla inglesa, la semilla australiana o la semilla mexicana – crecerá a ser un gran árbol para, tarde o temprano, morir. Después de dejar el coven, la tristeza y el dolor me llevaron a una fase solitaria que duró 10 años hasta que fui capaz de dejar la carta de El Ermitaño atrás. Hace 39 lunas, pude abrirme y socializar de nuevo dentro de la comunidad Pagana.

Desde que volví a salir, conocí a Tarwe Hrossdottir, la coordinadora nacional de la Federación Pagana Internacional en Mexico. Me dijo Hrossdottir que su primer encuentro formal con el Paganismo fue a través del internet.

Allí comenzó a leer sitios web, escritos en inglés, y sintió amor a primera vista, finalmente pudiendo darle un nombre a lo que había sentido toda su vida. Después, empezó a practicar hasta que se auto-inició. Más adelante, empezó a dar clases de Paganismo y espiritualidad y lo ha hecho desde hace ya 16 años.

Le pregunte a Hrossdottir si ve diferencias entre la gente que hoy llega para iniciar clases y la gente que llegaba hace 16 años. Dice que ve muchos cambios:

“Ahora la gente que llega tiene ya mucha información. Por lo general, ya tiene estudiada alguna terapia holística o ya ha practicado alguna mancia. En general, las personas que se acercan llegan mucho más maduras, con una idea más seria de lo que es el Paganismo y eso significa que estamos haciendo las cosas bien. Que no estamos transmitiendo una idea mágica-holliwoodesca de fantasía.”

Hrossdottir  también piensa que nos encontramos en un muy buen balance: “Por una parte hay grupos veteranos que empezamos hace muchos años, que ya contamos con una infraestructura mucho más profesional, materiales más cuidados, con un perfil más firme. También hay grupos que a raíz de su formación en estos grupos veteranos, surgieron y ahora se encuentran en proceso de maduración, viviendo todo lo que eso conlleva.”

“Hay grupos recientes de dos tipos: algunos sin mucha madurez y otros que han surgido de un ambiente más serio y que están haciendo un buen trabajo y que seguramente veremos liderando más adelante,” ella explica. “Por otra parte, la mayoría de los practicantes ya saben las bases y eso ayuda a que busquen mejor información, grupos más serios, a que se comprometan más y vean realmente esto como una tradición espiritual y no como una moda.”

Hrossdottir también cree que el Paganismo en Mexico va por buen camino: “…Los egos se han calmado y siento que muchos de nosotros estamos listos para pasar a una nueva etapa.”

Añade que hemos hecho muy buen trabajo que merece ser ser escuchado y publicado por la comunidad Pagana internacional: “La mayoría de los medios anglosajones están cerrados a publicaciones en español o sobre Paganismo Latinoamericano, aunque sea en inglés. En Latinoamérica, y en especial en México, tenemos una visión muy particular del Paganismo, ya que además aquí tenemos una referencia indígena viva que de alguna forma nos permite sentir de otra forma la Rueda del Año, la herbolaria y la magia tradicional.”

“Hoy en día, la comunidad Pagana mexicana tiene una gran variedad de tradiciones activas que cubren gran variedad de corrientes como las Herméticas, las Chamánicas, Nórdicas, Celtas y muchas más.”

A diferencia de mí y Hrossdottir, Mina To-Tai, heredó la Brujería. To-Tai tiene 39 años. Es tatuadora y Bruja de Chihuahua. Cuando era una niña, paso mucho tiempo con su bisabuela y recuerda que con ella escogía y olía hierbas y aceites, y miraban una figura grande de una diosa.

To-Tai dijo que su bisabuela le decía, “Pídele a Ella cualquier cosa que necesites, porque si realmente lo deseas, Ella te lo dará”. Cuando To-Tai era más grande, y su bisabuela ya había fallecido, quería saber más de las prácticas de su bisabuela. Buscó respuestas en libros y en línea, hasta que pronto descubrió las creencias de su bisabuela tenían un nombre: Brujería.

Muchos años después, To-Tai tuvo dos hijos con su pareja, y los empezaron a educar respetando las creencias de ambos padres: el catolicismo y la Brujeria. Cuando Mina caminaba en las calles, la gente solía quedársele viendo sus tatuajes y algunas veces, incluso, se persignaban al ver su luna creciente tatuada en la frente; pero eso no era nada comparado a lo que venía.

En el 2014, después de años de abuso físico y psicológico, To-Tai puso fin a su relación. Después de la ruptura, To-Tai dijo que su familia apoyó a su ex-pareja, y la metieron en un centro de rehabilitación en contra de su voluntad porque no era la buena esposa obediente que ellos esperaban. Alegaron que consumía drogas, que era una Bruja, y mal ejemplo para sus hijos.

Recuerda que ahí estuvo durante 91 días, hasta que el personal del centro se dio cuenta estaba sana y no estaba loca. Al salir del centro, sin casa y sin sus cosas, descubrió estaba siendo demandada por la custodia de sus hijos. En una de las audiencias de la batalla legal, la juez le pidió que probara que era una Bruja. To-Tai respondió que no podía dar una prueba. “Niega que eres una Bruja, y hoy mismo tendrás a tus hijos contigo” insistió la juez, pero To-Tai se opuso a negar lo que es.

Meses después, To-Tai conto que conoció a Cesar Ramsay que estudió Wicca a principios de los dos-miles con una mujer llamada Brida, quien afirmó haber estudiado con Sybil Leek. En el 2003, Ramsay fundó la asociación civil Sociedad Wicca Mexico, con el objetivo de integrar, unir, vincular y unir fuerzas entre practicantes, solitarios, círculos de estudio y covens para generar una inclusiva comunidad Pagana y Wiccana.

La asociación también da consejo y apoyo legal, y así fue como To-Tai pudo comprobar era una Bruja. Le entrego al juzgado un documento firmado por Ramsay explicando sus creencias y prácticas. La juez, sorprendida, dijo: “¡Oh! Entonces decías la verdad. ¡Sí eres una Bruja!”

Hablando personalmente, no me sorprende la reacción de la juez. Aunque tenemos el derecho constitucional de profesar cualquier religión, la mayoría de la gente aun no cree o no entiende que la Brujería es una religión. Si llega a haber una mención de Wicca o Brujería en los medios, que casi nunca sucede, lo relacionan con hechizos, adivinación o el Diablo.

Vivimos en un país donde mucha gente le tiene miedo a la Brujas. En algunas áreas, especialmente en el norte, aún existen las supersticiones. Algunos creen que los búhos y lechuzas son Brujas y, como resultado, han llegado a ser torturados, interrogados y prendidos en fuego intentando que revelen sus nombres y regresen a su forma humana.

Por supuesto, esto no sucede en todos lados. En los barrios del centro de la Ciudad de México, por ejemplo, hay una reacción diferente a la Brujería o al Paganismo. Isaura Avalos, conocida también como Walkirya La Bruja, tiene una cafetería con temática de brujería en la colonia Roma. Me dice que casi no ha tenido malas o poco amigables experiencias: “Mis vecinos son gente muy amable y lo han sido desde que llegamos a la Roma a poner nuestro negocio.”

Lo único que ha pasado es que al principio las monjas que viven cerca se cruzaban la calle para no pasar frente al café pero ahora ya hasta nos saludamos y llevamos bastante tiempo así.”

Avalos también dice que sus visitantes no-Paganos también son amables: “Los visitantes no-Paganos entran y quieren saber todo. Tienen sed de magia y sed de respuestas sobre energía y sobre Dios. Y siempre nos tomamos muy en serio darles la bienvenida a nuestro mundo y hacerles saber que somos personas normales con vidas extraordinarias…Con el tiempo, lo que ha cambiado es mi propia percepción ya que poco a poco fui perdiendo el miedo a que me vean distinta o me señalen. Estos cinco años de dar la cara al público como Bruja me han hecho sentir cómoda en la sociedad.”

No siempre somos temidos o incomprendidos, pero aún tenemos mucho trabajo por hacer luchando la ignorancia y los malentendidos de nuestras prácticas y creencias, a través de la luz de la sabiduría y la información. Además de estos retos, no todos nos llevamos muy bien en la comunidad Pagana nacional. No espero que lo hagamos pero sí creo en una comunidad Pagana en México más amigable y unida, donde personas como Mina To-Tai no se sientan solas y su comunidad religiosa las apoye.

También creo en una comunidad Pagana internacional más unida. En estos tiempos difíciles, donde los mexicanos hemos sido llamados violadores y criminales y con el clima político inestable, lleno de racismo y violencia, me parece buen momento para abrirnos y conocernos mejor. Porque tenemos más similitudes que diferencias, porque compartimos nuestras luchas y preocupaciones, porque compartimos nuestras creencias y prácticas.

Paganos del este, Paganos del oeste, Paganos del sur, Paganos del norte: quienquiera que esté leyendo nuestro llamado, los saludo. Los paganos mexicanos tenemos una historia diferente, pero nuestra narración y la suya están relacionadas. Puede ser que nuestros libros estén escritos en distintos idiomas, pero los sonidos de sus palabras leídos en voz alta resuenan con las mismas frecuencias. Como ustedes, recordamos. Como ustedes, creemos. Como ustedes, creamos.

February 2012

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