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CalderaFest organizers look to 2019; ticket holders still have questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://wildhunt.org

Column: Six Heathens Speak of Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lonnie Scott (Illinois, USA)

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

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

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

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

Destiny Ballard [courtesy].

Destiny Ballard (Oklahoma, USA)

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

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

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

Haimo Grebenstein (Germany)

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

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

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

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

Philip John Parkyn (England)

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

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

Ryan Denison (Georgia, USA)

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

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

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

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

Kari Tauring [courtesy].

Kari Tauring (Minnesota, USA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Source: http://wildhunt.org

Column: a Most Peculiar Gray

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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.

Source: http://wildhunt.org

UN Human Rights Council opens landmark meeting on witchcraft

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GENEVA — The United Nation’s Human Rights Council opened a two-day workshop Thursday, concerning abuses and deaths 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.

Source: http://wildhunt.org

Autumn, a time to harvest magical and medicinal herbs

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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 tissues.

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 bosoms 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.

Source: http://wildhunt.org

Fake news, astrology edition

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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 astrologist 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.

Source: http://wildhunt.org

Pagan Community Notes: URI, Erin Lale, Dirge Magazine and more

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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?

Source: http://wildhunt.org