Monday, October 19, 2009

CU-Boulder junior launching Pagan Student Alliance

CU-Boulder junior launching Pagan Student Alliance

Campus group welcoming of all, holding first meeting Monday
Posted: 10/18/2009 04:48:41 PM MDT

When University of Colorado junior Emma Lee transferred to the state's flagship university this fall from the much smaller Mesa State College, she noticed there was one big thing missing: a Pagan Student Alliance.

So she's doing the same thing at CU she did in Grand Junction -- starting one from scratch.

What: University of Colorado Pagan Student Alliance's first meeting
When: 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday
Where: University Memorial Center Room 384, CU campus, Boulder
Etc.: Students and non-students welcome

"I was shocked and appalled that here in Boulder, we didn't have one," she said.

Lee, a 27-year-old geology major, wants to create a place where students with a variety of belief systems can gather, share ideas and make friends.

Everyone from Wiccans to Satanists to atheists like Lee is welcome in the club, which holds its first meeting Monday evening in the University Memorial Center. Paganism is an umbrella term that encompasses all religions other than Islam, Christianity and Judaism -- although Muslims, Christians and Jews are encouraged to come, too.

There's just one rule: Members must be respectful of others' beliefs.

"There's a place for all of us," Lee said.

Lee and a friend founded the Pagan Student Alliance at Mesa State three years ago, she said. The goal was to make sure people who practiced non-mainstream religions didn't feel alone.
"People have ideas that we're weirdoes and hide in corners and people never see us," Lee said.
The club ensured that didn't happen, she said. It held weekly meetings where students were encouraged to give presentations about their beliefs. Some of the topics included "The Use of Herbs in Magic," "Shamanism: Theory and Practice," "Reiki" and "Pagan Roots in Christian Symbolism."

The Mesa State Pagan Student Alliance also sponsored canned-food drives and wintertime mitten collections. It even co-hosted a Halloween party with the Catholic student organization and the physics society, complete with a costume contest, a maze and liquid-nitrogen-filled pumpkin hurling.

"We became a visible presence on campus," Lee said of the club, which attracted a wide spectrum of pagans. "If we did well at Mesa State, we're going to rock the socks here."
Lee's own journey toward paganism began when she was a teenager. She noticed she had "an inexplicable attraction to the moon;" when she was in the moonlight, Lee said, she felt nourished.
"I had a sensation like I was drinking milk," she said. "I thought, 'Well, that's weird.'"
Lee began doing some research and, before long, she found Wicca. But there were certain parts of the religion that didn't feel right to her, she said, "like wearing a pair of pants that doesn't quite fit."

So she adjusted her beliefs -- which she argued is one of the unique advantages of paganism.
"The fluidity of paganism is its strength," Lee said.

"There's no card to carry. That's what's fun about paganism."

Original article

In the Valley of Shadows

What the college student saw
A primer on Wicca, aka witchcraft and satanism, which it is often confused with.
To begin with, I am not on this page endorsing any particular belief system, merely stating where my research and experience has led.

Christians and other mainline religions have long confused Wicca or witchcraft with Satan worship. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live...”

Witchcraft, however, simply means “wise craft” or “wise one.” In old times, these individuals were the medical center/midwives, etc. of a village, dispensing herbs and the like found in nature, much as modern medicine derives its base from compounds found in nature. This is why there is an outcry from medical quarters concerning the destruction of so many forests around the world, due to the possibility of undiscovered plant-based medicines that could cure a variety of human ills.

Satan is most often depicted as a horned beast/humanoid. In witchcraft, the male side of life, the fall and winter months, are represented by the buck, a figure with multi-pronged antlers, not horns.

The spring and summer months are associated with the female half of life, or the moon goddess, the most powerful figure in Wicca.
Further, Halloween (in the U.S.) was originally a cross between our Memorial Day and celebrating the harvest bounty. It had nothing to do with Christianity or the worship of the devil.
Females are witches while a male is called a male witch or a wizard, such as Merlin; they are not a warlock, which means liar.

Wicca’s most important holiday is May Day, celebrating the renewal of life, not mourning the end of life as during Halloween. Furthermore, Christmas (which we celebrate on December 25) correlates with the Wiccan or pagan holiday of Yule, the winter solstice celebration held the 21st or 22nd of December.
A final misconception... the pentagram. As in the illustration, the satanic pentagram has two points upward, representing the horns of the devil. The Wiccan pentagram, such as the stars on the American flag, have a single point up. Where does that come from? Take any apple, lay it on its side, and cut it in half. Now look at the seed core. It is a five-pointed star. The Wiccan symbol is the seed chamber of one of the most common fruits on earth, a symbol of life.

Mark was in his last year at North Idaho College in the fall of 1975. His parents had just divorced, and since no one could agree on who got what in the settlement, Mark was for the time being without a car and forced to bum rides until a settlement came from the court.
One Friday in late October, a little after four in the afternoon, Mark had come up empty in his efforts to get a ride home to Rathdrum.

The campus was fast emptying out. With mostly cloudy skies, a temperature barely 50 degrees and a steady wind, the college was starting to take on a bleak, forlorn, empty feel.
The sun barely peered through clouds low in the sky toward Spokane. Mark wasn’t relishing spending the weekend alone and mostly broke in his dorm room.

Just about to walk back to his building, another student he had seen around campus came out of the library, walking toward one of the few cars left in the lot, a ‘68 Fairlane.

Mark hurried over to the tall guy and saw the Bonner County plates. Asking if he was going north, the other introduced himself as Jerry and said he was hurrying to Sandpoint, but would be glad to drop Mark off at the Rathdrum turn off. Mulling over the chilly, nearly 8-mile hike, Mark agreed, thinking he could probably hitch another ride out to Spirit Lake.
Jerry let Mark out at the dumpsters just inside the turnoff, wished him luck, and drove off down the old section of 95 to Garwood.

Twenty minutes later, and with only a dim glow in the western sky, Mark was regretting having taken the lift. Strangely, no other car had come by and he doubted his lighter would be much good to see by.

Barely finishing these thoughts, he looked ahead where a side road intersected the secondary highway and saw what appeared to be a number of people standing in the intersection.
Hesitating, Mark slowed to a near stop a couple hundred feet from the group and could now see there were about eight or ten people, all wearing cloaks or capes, standing in a circle, hands raised to the dark sky. The wind brought what sounded like a faint chanting.

Standing at the side of the road in fear and uncertainty, a light appeared behind him. Looking back he saw a car about a quarter mile away. Pulling out his lighter, he flicked the flint and held it up for the driver to see. He was greatly relieved as the car pulled over and he was it was Jerry in his Fairlane.

Mark got in and Jerry explained that his conscience got the better of him. He’d rather be late than let Mark possibly walk all the way to Rathdrum. No telling what might happen.
As Jerry pulled back onto the road, there was no sign of the coven, if that’s what it was. It was if they had evaporated into the thin air...

This writer has seem something similar recently here in Sandpoint. Two autumns ago I was returning from a friend’s place and as I drove north on Ella, by the Pine Street athletic field, I dimly saw five people in cloaks or capes looking up at the full moon.

Happy Halloween.

Note: In last month’s “The Scarecrow of Sagle,” I neglected to mention that the clothes the neighbor gave to my Uncle Pat for his scarecrow belonged to the man’s son, who was killed in World War II.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mabon Ritual/Autumn Equinox

I am really looking forward to celebrating Mabon or the Autumn Equinox tonight with my sisters and brothers of the Mists. Ritual tonight is at 9pm Eastern time. Would love if you chose to join us. If you are interested in joining us at Sacred Mists you can find out more information here:

MabonAutumn Equinox,
2nd Harvest, September 21st Mabon,
(pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) is the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year's crops. The Druids call this celebration, Mea'n Fo'mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.

Various other names for this Lesser Wiccan Sabbat are The Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from the Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter's Night, which is the Norse New Year.

At this festival it is appropriate to wear all of your finery and dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. It is the drawing to and of family as we prepare for the winding down of the year at Samhain. It is a time to finish old business as we ready for a period of rest, relaxation, and reflection.

Symbolism of Mabon: Second Harvest, the Mysteries, Equality and Balance.

Symbols of Mabon: wine, gourds, pine cones, acorns, grains, corn, apples, pomegranates, vines such as ivy, dried seeds, and horns of plenty.

Herbs of Maybon: Acorn, benzoin, ferns, grains, honeysuckle, marigold, milkweed, myrrh, passionflower, rose, sage, solomon's seal, tobacco, thistle, and vegetables.

Foods of Mabon: Breads, nuts, apples, pomegranates, and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions.

Incense of Mabon: Autumn Blend-benzoin, myrrh, and sage.

Colors of Mabon: Red, orange, russet, maroon, brown, and gold.

Stones of Mabon: Sapphire, lapis lazuli, and yellow agates.

Activities of Mabon: Making wine, gathering dried herbs, plants, seeds and seed pods, walking in the woods, scattering offerings in harvested fields, offering libations to trees, adorning burial sites with leaves, acorns, and pine cones to honor those who have passed over.

Spellworkings of Mabon: Protection, prosperity, security, and self-confidence. Also those of harmony and balance.

Deities of Mabon: Goddesses-Modron, Morgan, Epona, Persephone, Pamona and the Muses. Gods-Mabon, Thoth, Thor, Hermes, and The Green Man.

Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life. May your Mabon be memorable, and your hearts and spirits be filled to overflowing!

Mabon Ritual
Tools:In addition to your magickal tools you will need:

A Red Alter Cloth
A Wicker Basket
A Red Apple
Assorted Fruits and Vegetables of the Second Harvest (Berries, Squash, Corn, etc)
A Bell
A Fallen Tree Branch
A Bolline
A Sprig or Two of Ivy
An Autumn Blend Incense
Any other Personal items of choice
Preparation: Sweep area, moving in a deosil (clockwise) manner. Outline your Circle with a red cord, low vibration stones, or various Harvest items such as wheat, corn, beans, etc. Set up your alter and place the red alter cloth over it. At center top, place the wicker basket, filled with the assorted fruit and vegetables. Place the apple and the bolline on your Pentacle or a plate. Place the tree branch to the right of the basket. Place the rest of your tools and props according to your personal preference. Take a shower or bath for purity. Sit quietly and meditate to ground and center. When you are ready, begin by playing some soothing music associated with the Sabbat and your ritual.

Cast the Circle and call Quarters.....Pick up your Wand in your right hand, face your alter, and with arms stretched out above your head, say:
"I honor Thee, Autumn Queen, and Thy consort, the God of the Harvest.
The Wheel has once more turned, and the change of season begins.
What will be is. What was will be.
The Equinox is upon us, and the time to reflect, at hand.
All time comes together, here and now in this sacred space.
And I, but a moment in time, feel the change as I pass
From one season to the next.
The Second Harvest has been reaped, and the time of rest is deserved.
Go now My Mother and slumber.
Go now My Father and dream of re-birth.
I shall be here to greet Thee on Your return."
With arms still out-stretched lower your head and close your eyes. Contemplate what you have just spoken. When ready, open your eyes and lower your arms. Pick up the apple and place it in the center of the Pentacle/plate. Cut it crosswise with the Bolline, to reveal the natural pentagram at it's core. Then lift half the apple, pentagram up, as if in offering, while saying:
"As the Wheel turns, the seasons pass, and the years give 'way To the next,
Guide me most Wise Ones,Lest I forget
Every beginning has an ending
And every ending is a new beginning."
Take a bite of the apple. Put the rest aside to share later with the wildlife. Pick up the tree branch and shake once at each direction, starting with North, saying:
"As the days grow colder, and the nights last longer,
May I remember the summer past.
With sunlight fading, and hearth inviting,
My memories will warm my soul. F
rom a season of hard work and hard play,
I hear Mother's voice calling me forward.
While I rest, shall She lull me, with songs of a dream,
As close to Her bosom I cling."
Face the alter and hold the branch out in front of you with both hands, saying:
"With memories of the summer, least I never forget,
And aspirings for the colder months to come,
Least I never stop striving,
I honor Thee with this symbol of Nature,
Keeping it and Thee in my home and heart,
That I may see it and pause,
To reflect on the Ancient Mysteries,
Leading me to a better understanding of myself,
And of others, and all that is Life."
Put the tree branch on the alter, into the basket of fruit so that it sticks out, back in your direction. Contemplate on the various memory symbols that you have attached to it. Also contemplate on the various projects for autumn and winter that you have attached to it. Close your eyes and feel the seasons pass within the circle from summer to autumn. When ready, say:
"Between the worlds I stand in this sacred place.
All time is here and now.
As I leave this circle, the season shall have changed,
And I will have changed with it.
May I use the short time of Winter Finding
To draw the strength and power from within
As I quest for vision, understanding, and peace."
Pick up the sprig(s) of ivy, and wrap around your arms, from the elbow to the wrist. Pick up the Bell with your right hand, and ring thrice, to toll the passing of the first 3 seasons of the year. Now place it in your left hand and ring once to usher in the 4th and last season of the year. Place the bell on the alter and the ivy in your cauldron (for burning later).
"In Life is Death, and in Death is Life.
The Sacred Dance goes on and on
From whence we came, we shall return,
And come again.Seasons pass, and pass again,
The circle stays unbroken
Heed the words of your child, here,
Through Your wisdom I have spoken."
It is now time for meditation and spellworking. Associated spellworkings would include those for protection, wealth, security, and self-confidence. If there is no spellworking, celebrate with Cakes and Ale, then release the Circle. Clean up. You are done. Find an appropriate place in your home to display the decorated tree branch.
*Find a fallen tree branch. It need not be a large one, for it will adorn your alter, then go on display in your home. The more smaller offshoots from the main branch, the better. Mine has four, which I think is awesome! Next, take a couple of pine cones, small shells, dried flowers, or any other item that reminds you of the late spring-summer months. With some string, tie each to the offshoots. Also take yarn or ribbon of yellows, oranges, reds, and gold and tie one end to the offshoots. Then, on very thin strips of (colored) paper, write down some projects to work on during the upcoming ' dark ' months. Wrap these around the offshoots (like little cocoons) and tie closed with silver thread. These you will open over the next couple of months when you start feeling lethargic or without a sense of direction. I tie on a couple of small bells, to add some ambiance to my ritual...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Oh My God(dess)! Feminist Spirituality in the Third Wave

Oh My God(dess)! Feminist Spirituality in the Third Wave
By Mandy Van Deven August 27, 2009

Feminists hate religion, right? Not necessarily. From Christian feminists participating in Wiccan rituals to Goddess worshipers honoring Jesus, the landscape of feminist spirituality is is not what it was in the ’60s and ’70s.

One distinctive feature of third wave feminism is the demand for society to remove all scripts—but the one script that persists among mainstream feminists is an antagonism toward religion.
Religion scholar Chris Klassen believes it’s time to move past this lingering division, and her new book Feminist Spiritualities: The Next Generation collects the work of eleven young women academics writing about the intersection of these two seemingly incongruent disciplines. With diverse chapters—like “Women’s Spiritualities, Literary Texts, and Third Wave Feminism,” “Queering Feminist Witchcraft,” “Not Pretty Girls? Sexuality, Spirituality, and Gender Construction in Women’s Rock Music,” and “Feminist Spirituality in Anti-Globalization Protests”—this book sets out to define what feminist spirituality looks like in the 21st century.

As a religious scholar and feminist, this isn’t the first you’ve written about this topic, but how did you come to writing a book about it?

This book came about because of my own teaching experiences, as well as that of some other colleagues. Having taught about feminist spirituality, Goddess religion, women and religion, and other similar courses, I was constantly using the same texts and theorists, but I noticed that some of my students were starting to ask different questions than these writers, most of whom started writing in the 1970s, were asking. I began looking for more recent contributions to the field, but had a hard time finding any. There is a lovely anthology by Danya Ruttenberg about young Jewish women called Yentl’s Revenge, but that’s about it. So I set out to create a resource that would help me in my own teaching.

Many of the essays in this book are keen to make the distinction between the second and third waves of feminism in relation to feminist spirituality—though not without the caveat that the “waves” are not rigid formations. Why is this distinction so necessary?

Some older women who participated in the second wave of feminism have come to the point of asking different kinds of questions as well. They are no longer satisfied with ‘women-centered’ thinking, as was popularized in the second wave. Third wave feminism allows a shift in focus while still leaning heavily on the contributions of the second wave.

There is a certain common understanding now that women should be equal in society, which was not really common in the 1960s or 1970s. Many young women today do not have any real experience of fighting to access equal opportunities. Many grew up with mothers, and sometimes fathers, who believed women could do anything they set their mind to. When these women think of ‘feminism’ only as the issues their mothers dealt with, some of them find it no longer necessary. I think one importance of making this distinction is to reemphasize that there are multiple kinds of feminisms which ask different questions and come to different conclusions.

What sets feminist spirituality in the new millennium apart?

A big difference is that while some feminists in the new millennium continue to affiliate with a specific religion, like Christianity or Wicca, there is also a lot more religious pluralism within the individual. You have Christian feminists participating in Wiccan rituals and Goddess worshipers honoring Jesus. Like much spirituality in general in the new millennium, feminist spirituality is a bit of a smorgasbord, and it is important for the individual to create a spirituality that fits her own experience and needs.

Feminists are often attacked for being anti- or irreligious, but this text shows this is clearly not the case. Why do these depictions persist and how are they changing?

Some feminists are anti-religious. This has actually been a prominent theme is some second wave writing about religion. The assumption here is that just because some forms of religion are patriarchal, all religion is harmful for women. However, many feminist theologians and thealogians have shown the possibility of remaining within religious traditions, or creating new religious traditions, while taking feminist questions seriously. I have not seen a marked change within the academic Women’s Studies literature though; there is still a lack of consideration of religion on many levels by feminist scholars. Those scholars addressing women and religion still tend to be most closely aligned with Religious Studies (as an academic discipline) rather than Women’s Studies.

Did you intend for the book to focus primarily on newly-developed Western forms of Goddess spirituality, witchcraft, and paganism?

Actually I did not intend this. It is simply how it turned out based on the response to my call for papers. In hindsight, though, I think it makes sense. The term ‘feminist spirituality’ does, for some, mean ‘alternatives’ to mainstream religion. Thus people working on third wave feminism within Christianity or Islam or Buddhism may not have initially thought the call relevant. (Well, assuming there are folks out there working on third wave feminism within traditional religions—and I really hope there are.) But, as I said before, much feminist spirituality in the new millennium tends toward blurry borders between religions, so it could be that those most interested in third wave feminist spirituality are not focusing on traditional religions.

Many of the essays stress the plurality of the third wave, yet the book’s title is singular. Why?

Good question. I should have named it Feminist Spiritualities. I suppose I was thinking of feminist spirituality as a category rather than a ‘thing’—like the term ‘religion’ which includes many different kinds of religions.
We don’t tend to think of the Internet as a site for spiritual practice, yet many young women are running Web sites and blogs in order to build a community and engage in theological discussion. What effect might technology have on feminist spirituality?

This is the big question of the day for all religious use of the Internet. I think this kind of technology can bring people together from a wider range of contexts while simultaneously having the power to isolate us in our homes. One of the obvious ways the Internet effects feminist spirituality is in increasing women’s access to resources. This makes the picking and choosing of spiritual practices and mythologies much easier. However, it also reinforces as focus on “my” spiritual practice rather than “our group’s” spiritual practice. The internet facilitates heterodoxy and heteropraxis.

Yet it’s not so simple as encouraging individualism. Individuals are also brought together through the Internet to gain support from each other and to inform each other about events and issues, among other things. Overall, the effect the Internet has on feminist spirituality is not much different from the effect the Internet has on every other aspect of our lives.

What does a female-oriented spirituality do for feminism?

I believe it limits feminism. One of the contributions of third wave feminism is a stronger emphasis on disrupting rigid identities. This was present in the second wave, but it was not as blatant. ‘Female-oriented’ assumes there is a rigid definition of what ‘female’ is, and it also assumes that femaleness is a stronger tie for women than other elements of their identities. Many women of color called out early white second wave feminists for assuming they would have more in common as women than women of color would have with men of color. But why should they have to choose? Many third wave feminists, by virtue of their stronger individualism, see their identities as unique individual categories that only partially align with any other individual. Thus ‘female-oriented’ would only be a piece of their lives, and minimally useful—if at all.

Original Article

Incarcerated Wiccan claims prison system discriminates

Incarcerated Wiccan claims prison system discriminates
August 25, 2009 9:31 PM

McALLEN – A Wiccan man incarcerated in Edinburg has sued the Texas prison system claiming he has been prevented from practicing his religion behind bars.

Charles Roberts, 28, of Brownsville, alleges he has asked several times for religious books, pentagrams and a person to lead Wiccan services at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Lopez Unit but has received no assistance from the prison’s chaplain.

"They have programs for Christians, Catholics and Muslims, but not for us," he said in a lawsuit filed in federal court earlier this month. "It is discrimination against us and a violation of our constitutional rights."
A spokesman for the prison system declined to comment on Roberts’ specific claims citing the ongoing litigation but said TDCJ has established policies for accommodating minority religious groups.
"It is (our policy) to extend as much freedom as possible to pursue individual beliefs and practices consistent with security, safety and orderly conditions in the institution," reads an orientation handbook provided to all new inmates

Under current prison policy, there must be three inmates of the same faith in a given facility before employees will allow them to meet for worship services. An outside volunteer is also required to lead the sessions.
The department has established Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Native American and non-denominational Christian services at all of their prisons. Wiccan volunteers also lead worship sessions at two TDCJ facilities outside of Houston, department spokesman Jason Clark said.

But Roberts – a Brownsville native incarcerated for a 2004 conviction on aggravated assault charges — claims that prison officials failed to even note his religion correctly on his inmate intake forms.
When he told him practiced Wicca – a neo-pagan, nature based religion — an intake officer classified him as "non-denominational," his lawsuit states.

"The fact that my religious preference is said to be non-denominational goes to show that nothing is being done," he wrote.

A number of Texas inmates from various faiths have challenged the prison’s religious policies on similar grounds over the past several years. In nearly every case, federal judges and appeals court justices have found that the department’s guidelines does not put undo restraints on inmates’ ability to practice their faith.
Roberts has asked a federal court to award him $500,000 in damages and to force TDCJ to grant his religious requests.

A hearing date on the case has not yet been set.

KPCF to host Louisville's first annual Witches Ball

KPCF to host Louisville's first annual Witches Ball

August 31, 10:03 PM
Elizabeth Sippel

That's right Witches and Warlocks...Kentuckiana Pagan Community Fellowship is hosting a Witches Ball on October 24th, 2009. The Ball will begin at 6:00 PM and last until after the bewitching hour.
Tickets prices are ten dollars a person at the door or you can fly right over to Matrix Metaphysical Academe' at 1050 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY and buy them in advance for eight dollars. This is a Family Friendly event. Which means that all of your apprentices who are 12 years and under get in free. Everyone is encouraged to bring a canned good for donation to The Pagan Pantry. It's a wonderful organization that assists families in our community.

The Ball will be held at VFW Post #5421, 7111 Lower Hunters Trace, Louisville, KY. There are plenty of activities planned for the evening.

ACTIVITIES: Opening Greetings, Event Blessings, Children Activities, Dancing, Raffles, Samhain Ritual, Pot Lock Hors D'oeuveres and Snack Buffet, Psychic Readings, and Much, Much more.
Come out and meet Jack and David, founders of Kentuckiana Pagan Community Fellowship, Lady G from Matrix, Your Louisville Wiccan Examiner, and many others.

Costumes are optional however, your Examiner will be on hand taking pictures of the event. Therefore, the best costumes (Top 5) will be posted in my follow-up article. In addition, I (Louisville-Wiccan-Examiner) will be issuing a prize for the best costume. Best costume will be determined by the audience.
Hope to see you there...Blessings.

Stay updated on Kentuckiana Pagan Community Fellowship events by logging on at

Wiccan inmate sues Texas prison system

Wiccan inmate sues Texas prison system

Associated Press
Aug. 27, 2009, 8:21AM
See Original Article

Monday, July 13, 2009

Live webcast reveals local proposals for Parliament of Religions

Live webcast reveals local proposals for Parliament of Religions
Today the Interfaith Center of the Presidio hosted a live webcast about the Parliament of Religions which will be held this December 3-9 in Melbourne, Australia. Several potential presenters shared their topics at today’s meeting, which ran from 4 - 6:15 P.M.

The ecumenical conference has been held every five years in international cities since 1998. The mission of the Parliament is to promote religious harmony – not unity – by respecting the traditions of different faiths.

At the last parliament, held in Barcelona in 2004, attendees committed to doing at least one act to benefit their community. These "Gifts of Service" focused on four areas including overcoming religious violence, healing the earth by managing water supplies, and minimizing debt.
Hosting organizations in Australia are asking this year’s attendees to bring their collective wisdom and to discuss how to reconcile with indigenous groups, particularly the Aborigines.
Some of the proposed presentations made by local individual and groups include the following:
The San Francisco Interfaith Council wants to share at the conference about their local work and present ideas for other groups and cities who are in the beginning states of getting people together to do interfaith projects.

A woman from Southern California shared about the Sky Wheel Project, a satellite based on the Tibetan prayer wheel. Its purpose is to send blessings and intentions from all religions into orbit around the planet; from there, these same blessings would be "directed" toward all inhabitants on earth. The satellite would have sacred texts including chants inside, from the world’s traditions, and be decorated with sacred symbols. First, it would be exhibited globally. Then it would be launched into space. The presenter did not state how this project would be funded.
Another woman, a practicing pagan or Wicca, proposed making two presentations. One would be on social justice as prayer and meditation. The other would be about "Dancing the Seven Secret Directions," including the "Great Within."

A male attendee at today’s meeting identified himself as being from the "Covenant of the Goddess," but did not have a pagan-themed proposal. Instead, he suggested a different theme.
Registration for this December’s Parliament of Religions is $450 with discounts available to seniors, students and groups of 10 or more. Home stays with Australians are available for attendees who want to save on hotel expenses. Airfare was quoted as cheaply as $740 with Qantas and United Airlines; the normal price is between $1400 - 2000.

FOR MORE INFO: Paul Chaffee, director of Interfaith Center of Presidio, at or 415/775-4635.

Michael Pappas, executive director, San Francisco Interfaith Council, at or 415/474-1321.

For general info about the Parliament of Religions, email or call 312/629-2990 in Chicago. For conference info, email

Original Article

Marin farmers market asks witch to leave

Marin farmers market asks witch to leave

By Rob Rogers, Bay Area News Group
Posted: 07/10/2009 08:30:06 AM PDT

After spending the past six summers giving free tarot readings beneath the redwood trees of Bolinas Park, the Rev. Joey Talley, the "Good Witch of West Marin," has come to think of herself as a part of the Fairfax Farmers Market.

Managers at the Marin Farmers Market see things differently. The organization, which operates eight farmers markets throughout the Bay Area, says Talley has never applied to work as a vendor or entertainer at the Wednesday night market, and they've asked her to leave.
"We don't want the market to become a free-for-all festival," said market manager Amelia Spilger. "I've had to turn down (applications from) masseuses, chiropractors and holistic healers. They all have a place in the community, but we have limited space in the market."

Talley agrees that she's never sought an application, and admits that she "snuck around behind her back" after Spilger asked her to leave the market last year. But Talley believes she's providing a free public service and has been gathering signatures on a petition asking that she be allowed to stick around.

"I've been here year after year," Talley said. "There are teens who tell me things they could never take to their parents, and they could never afford to schedule a $100 session with me."
While Bolinas Park belongs to the town, the Marin Farmers Market has the right to use the park every Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m., and to decide which vendors can participate
in the market, Fairfax Town Manager Michael Rock said.

"Any business can refuse someone service," Rock said. "They have reserved the park for that time period, and they run the event. They have vendors they approve and a reserved spot for each vendor. If (Talley) is trying to get a spot at the farmers market, she's got to work through them. But that's like trying to get a winning lottery ticket. It's packed in there."

Talley, who lives within walking distance of the park, provides "professional witchcraft services" to the customers who contact her at home, at the market or at several Marin restaurants where she performs weekly tarot card readings. A clinical psychologist by training - she previously worked with veterans services and at a drug rehabilitation clinic in San Francisco - she uses her skills as a counselor, herbalist and Wiccan healer to solve her clients' problems, which often have to do with money or sex, she said.

"There have been a lot of requests for money charms in the last year," Talley said. "A lot of people have asked me to put a glamour on a loan application or other paperwork, so when other people read it, it will look good to them."

Occasionally, she'll receive requests to perform black magic - but Talley always tells those clients she's not that kind of witch.

While they appreciate Talley's unique talents, Marin Farmers Market representatives insist she take part in the same application process as every other vendor at the Fairfax market. It's that process, Spilger said, that lets customers know what they see at the market is what they'll get.
"Our farmers are certified as growing what they're producing. Our artisans are artists producing what they sell," Spilger said. "It's the same with our food purveyors, to protect the integrity of the market. I understand Rev. Talley's frustration, but those are the parameters set forth for the market."

Vendor Russ Sartori said it's never bothered him to have Talley telling fortunes a few feet from his strawberry stand, but he can understand the association's position.
"Rules are rules," said Sartori, who operates Sartori's Strawberry Field in Tomales Bay. "She should just sell something."

Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trials

Whether it be the Wiccan religion or pop culture, today the world of witches and warlocks is more accepted as part of society.

But that has not always been the case.

In 1692, witch hysteria gripped the Puritan community of Salem, Mass. During a yearlong period, more than 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, ending with the conviction of 29 people for the capital felony of witchcraft.
In the end, 19 people were executed by hanging, a man was crushed to death under heavy stones and at least five more died in prison.

Author Katherine Howe, a descendant of two accused witches (one was found guilty, the other was not), offers an up-close look at 17th-century witchcraft through the lens of a 20th-century grad student in “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.”

Connie Goodwin loves American history. She loves it so much that she’s decided to make it her career. All she has left to do is her Ph.D. dissertation at Cambridge. But, as the old adage goes, even the best-made plans have a way of falling apart.
For Full Review Click Here


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pagans in the Military

Pagans in the Military
Patricia Deneen

For many people, especially those outside of Paganism, there is a lingering belief that all Pagans are tree-hugging, pacifist and sometimes militantly anti-military. While this stereotype may fit some, the contrary is also true. There are Pagans who not only support the armed forces but are active members as well as veterans. And believe it or not, some of them are tree huggers too.

The Pentacle Quest

One Wiccan soldier from the US who gave his life in service to his country was Sgt. Patrick Stewart. His wife requested that the pentacle, a symbol commonly used by Wiccans, be placed on his government-provided headstone just as other soldiers are able to have a symbol of their faith on theirs. Her request was denied, but she persisted. With the help of lawyers and organizations such as Lady Liberty League and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the pentacle was approved as a symbol of choice by the Veterans Administration in 2007.

The Hammer Project

Another such effort is underway for heathen soldiers, many of whom follow the Asatru faith. Thor's hammer, also known as Mjollnir, is a symbol associated with this religion. Thor is a warrior god, and Asatru places great value on positive warrior qualities. The Hammer Project is collecting signatures for a petition to be presented to the VA to allow Thor's Hammer to be officially listed as one of the emblems of belief that soldiers can choose for their grave markers.While a petition isn't the official paperwork needed, it certainly is a good start to increase awareness amongst the Pagan community as well as the military that there are Pagan soldiers past and present who love their country every bit as much as those of other faiths.Pagans in the military deserve every right their mainstream counterparts have, not just rights afforded to them after they have died. Wicca is now recognized in the Military Chaplain's Handbook, but there is still a lot of headway to be made. Pagan soldiers who want to practice their religion may experience anything from ignorance to outright discrimination.

More Resources

One resource for these soldiers and their families is the advocacy group Military Pagan Network. Their website gives information on documents of interest for each branch of the military. There are also military Pagan resources at the Witches' Voice website, one of the largest Pagan networking sites in the world.It's hard to completely erase prejudice, but Pagans can work within the law to have their rights recognized. Every small victory for military Pagans becomes part of the larger victory to help assure freedoms these soldiers are fighting for.

For more information:
The Hammer Project
Military Pagan Network
Witches' Voice Military Pagans Page

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Craft of the Wise: Book available for pre-order now

'There are very few good primers on witchcraft out there. We are pleased to say this one of the best ones we have read. It contains everything someone new to the Craft needs to start them on their path. It is well written and easy to understand.' - Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, authors of 'A Witches Bible', and 'Progressive Witchcraft'.'

This book is both powerful and quite facinating; each coven and tradition has its own methods of working the sacred magic's, and 'Craft of the Wise' rather proves this. I am sure Craft of the Wise will prove valuable reading for those interested in the historical beginnings and this particular practice of witchcraft, which is both clear and direct.' - Maxine Sanders, author of 'Fire Child', and 'Maxine: Witch Queen'.

Bringing together both practical experience and innovative research, 'Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism & Witchcraft' communicates a balance of accepted Craft methods together with a wealth of information relating to the origins and beliefs of this ancient Craft.The book is published with O-Books, and is out on the 30th October 2009. For more information about the book, the author, and how to pre-order, please visit the website,

Magick for the Kitchen Witch (a new release by Andborough Publishing, LLC)

"Magick for the Kitchen Witch" is a wonderfully comprehensive book that discusses everything from basic spellcasting to rituals honoring the Gods and Goddesses. Learn how to write a spell and where to find inspiration for them, read about folkloric witches, and also learn about different cultural and religious influence in Kitchen Witchery.Relased this May (2009), this book also showcases many wonderful spells that fit perfectly with any earth-based spiritual path. The spells in this book can be used by beginners as well as long-time practitioners and adapted for a wide variety of beliefs. Whether you buy it for the magickal reference or for the folkloric fun, it is a must in anyone's library.

Already there have been sales in Australia and Canada!
PURCHASE DETAILS: Book can be purchased at the following internet bookstores: ~Amazon ~Books A Million ~Barnes and Nobles

Or an autographed book can be purchased at the author's website or through Ebay (search the title).

Author: Deanna Anderson ( Genre: Reference Publisher: Andborough Press LLC ( ISBN: 978-0-9823971-2-1 Pages: 144

Petition to Downing Street to stop religious indoctrination in schools

Wiccan Spirituality author Kevin Saunders has started an official e-petition to 10 Downing Street calling for a representation of neopagan and humanitarian views to be included in religious education.Mr Saunders is also calling for religion to be taught in an objective fashion and to avoid religious propaganda being introduced to lessons outside of RE sessions and to respect the wishes of parents who often do not share the same religious bias there local school insists on following.He also calls on protection for teachers who are currently being put under pressure to fall in line with the preferred religious stance of some schools.Mr Saunders said today: “I am appalled at the way the Christian Church uses its schools to indoctrinate young minds into their religion, often against the wishes of the parents. Some schools waste weeks that could otherwise be spent on ‘proper education’ by thrusting stories about the so-called ‘Jesus’ in front of vulnerable minds.”The petition runs until October 2009 and can be accessed on the Internet : http://petition...hurch-abuse/

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

'Everyone's a pagan now'

'Everyone's a pagan now'

From morris dancers in mirror shades to green activists getting in touch with their spiritual side, paganism is going mainstream. Cole Moreton reports on a new national faith

Look out, here come the pagans. It's late May in central London and a man dressed as a tree, a witch in a velvet robe and a woman pretending to be a raven with a long black beak are dancing through the streets of Holborn, with several hundred others, moving to the rhythm of a dozen loud drums. They could wake the god of thunder with their noise but it's OK, the people at the back with the broadswords and shields are followers of Thor. This is a parade to celebrate pagan pride, and it would be wise not to get in the way.
"We are moving into a new time," says the leader, brandishing a huge set of antlers. "We are becoming more accepted. Paganism is reasserting itself."
Who is going to argue? Her name is Jeanette Ellis and she looks like the figurehead of a mighty galleon, cleavage pushing up out of a medieval dress (although her bottom half is mostly foliage). Ellis has been organising parades for more than a decade. "There has been such a dramatic change," she says, "in the way we are perceived."
Paganism is casting its spell over more people now than ever before in the modern age. There are said to be a quarter of a million practising pagans in this country, double the number of a decade ago.
That would make them more numerous than Buddhists (of which there are 144,500, according to the 2001 census) and almost as numerous as Jews (259,000) - and it doesn't even allow for the growing tribe of unofficial, instinctive pagans such as my friend Cath, who planned to celebrate the summer solstice in the early hours yesterday by "going out into the garden at dawn and just tuning in". At Stonehenge at least 30,000 people were expected to watch the sun rise in the company of the druids who see themselves as practising the ancient faith of pre-Christian Britain. For them, the sun is symbolic of one aspect of the "universal force which flows through the world and which can be encouraged to flow through us", according to Philip Carr-Gomm, founder of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and author of the new Book of English Magic. The druids are only a small part of modern paganism, which encompasses a bewildering number of traditions or "paths", but central to them all is this idea of a divine force inherent in nature. It is an individualistic faith that encourages each person to respond in their own way, so you don't have to be a druid, or belong to any kind of order at all.
Away from Stonehenge, much smaller groups of people celebrate the summer solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens or woods, on beaches or hilltops across the country, some for organised rituals and some, like Cath, just responding to their own understanding of a spirituality that seems to work best in the open air. Ask her faith and she says "pagan" straight away. She sees no need to join in with anybody else, but Cath is far from alone.
"What we believe is suddenly everywhere," says Bantu, a dreadlocked 29-year-old who planned to be on a hill in Wales when the moment came. He started to worship Gaia, the earth goddess, after going to a workshop at a climate camp. "Everyone's a pagan now."
Not quite, maybe, but the rise has been dramatic. The census in 2001 recorded 40,000 pagans, but the true figure may be higher. "Pagans don't like telling the government what they're up to," says Ellis. A decade ago Ronald Hutton, a professor of history at Bristol University, calculated that there were 120,000 people going to rituals or meetings (often in pubs) called moots. That was before Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lord of the Rings, Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch made pagan spirituality and mythology part of pop culture
The Pagan Federation, which aims to represent all "followers of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion", claims the number of adherents has trebled at least. That would mean there were 360,000 committed, practising pagans, putting them ahead of the Sikhs (329,000) and fourth behind Hindus (552,000), Muslims (1.5 million) and Christians (42 million, according to the census).
Hutton adds that there has been a much greater acceptance of pagan ideas among the wider public. "It is best to think in terms of concentric circles," he says, "from those who are initiated members of a group such as a coven, out to those who go to Stonehenge for a drink and a party."
The Pagan Federation's membership list includes druids as well as wiccans, practising modern witchcraft; shamans, engaging with the spirits of the land; and heathens, worshipping the gods of the north European tribes (including Thor). But then there are the neopagans such as Bantu, always visible at environmental protests, who wouldn't think of belonging to any kind of federation and who pursue a rainbow of revived, recreated or invented beliefs with nature at their heart.
All you have to believe to be a pagan, according to the federation, is that each of us has the right to follow our own path (as long as it harms no-one else); that the higher power (or powers) exists; and that nature is to be venerated. If you asked everyone in Britain if they agreed with those three statements, millions would put their hands up. At its loosest, paganism is beginning to look like our new national faith.
The circles can be seen widening in the most unlikely places. Nine years ago, Ray and Lynda Lindfield and their friends tried to start a pagan festival on the seafront in ultra-conservative Eastbourne in East Sussex, and were threatened with arrest. "It had to be pointed out that we had a right to practise our religion in public," says Lynda. Lammas is now one of the big local draws of the summer.
These public events usually include a re-enactment of whatever stage of the pagan cycle is being marked. In Eastbourne they needed some dancers to perform the cutting down of the male sun god, represented as the mythical character John Barleycorn, and so a morris-dancing group, Hunters Moon, was born. It is now the most fashionable side (as morris-dancing groups are sometimes known) in the country, having recently been hired to perform at a party in London for Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, among others. It is also part of what amounts, in morris dancing, to a pagan coup.
The Morris Ring, which represents the hanky-waving sides everyone thinks of as morris dancers, announced in January that young people were not interested. That was news to Hunters Moon, and other recently formed, pagan-inspired sides across the country such as Wolf's Head and Vixen, the first gothic morris outfit, whose members wear mirror shades and look like the Sisters of Mercy.
Half of the two-dozen dancers at a recent Hunters Moon rehearsal were under 30, including teenage students. They hopped, they skipped, they smashed big sticks together until the splinters flew and then used them for gestures that were, quite frankly, rude. Hunter's Moon dance with blacked-up faces (not racist but medieval, they insist, having been a way for mummers to hide their identities from their daytime employers as they went door to door for trick or treat) and outfits that make them look like ragged crows that have mated with Hell's Angels. Not every member is a pagan, but they wear pentagrams and the dances include arcane elements such as the spiral. "Those that know what it is," says Armstrong, "know what it is."
Witchcraft is another driving force in the rise of paganism. Leading members of the Federation are part of this closed tradition that became public in 1954 when a retired civil servant called Gerald Gardner claimed to have been introduced to pre-Christian occultism by one of the last surviving covens. Their version of the divine force is embodied in a horned male god and a mother goddess, and their response to its energy all around us involves the casting of spells and incantations to influence real events. Gardner's critics called it fiction, but wicca now has 7,000 adherents, according to the census, which again is probably an understatement. What do you have to do to join? "If I told you, I would have to kill you," says Chris Crowley, a wiccan high priest who speaks for the Federation.That's a joke, I think.
His partner, Vivienne, has written acclaimed books on wicca, or at least on its public side. Wiccans believe in the ability to communicate directly with the divine by calling down the god or goddess to enter the body, which can involve going into a trance and allowing them to speak through you. The most common wiccan symbol is the pentagram, whose points represent the elements essential to life: air, fire, water, earth and the spirit that ties them all together. They see themselves as inheritors of the "wise craft" that led men and women to be ducked and burned in previous ages, so if you want to know their deepest secrets you have to prove you are sincere and committed. Joining a coven traditionally takes a year and a day. "It is a mystery religion," says Crowley. "You do have to be initiated."
Crowley is a head-hunter for public sector recruitment, and dresses in jeans and blue blazer. "We look normal," he says, "because we are."
Jeanette Ellis is not a wiccan but a "traditional" witch, who follows a path she found among her family roots in the west of Ireland. "I work with the Morrigan, a Celtic goddess." One associated with death and war (and ravens), I subsequently discover. "We do not target people in our spells," insists Ellis, who calls her home in east London her "covenstead". The 13 members meet when the moon is full. "People bring ideas for spells. If someone has split up with her boyfriend, for example, we may cast a love spell that will make her more confident and attractive
She is not so shy about ritual and is able to explain why so many people on the parade are wearing knives, including those broadswords (with the police turning a blind eye). "That is the athame, a director of energy. It must not touch blood. There are no sacrifices going on." The knife is placed in a chalice to bless wine. She also describes the male high priest pushing the athame into a scabbard held by the high priestess. Hang on, this is all about sex, isn't it?
"There is a sexual energy, I wouldn't deny it," says Ellis, chuckling. "The sexual union happens within every ritual, usually symbolically." Usually? "It's not about orgies. Of course, after any full moon, if you want to go out into the garden and have ... that's fine, as long as you're a couple. You don't just go off with whoever you fancy." Do they ever do it as part of the ritual? Expecting a denial, I am surprised by her answer. "Some do. Less and less, I think. I don't know what other covens get up to."
Nobody does. That's the point. It's hard to join. (Once in, you presumably become as vulnerable to exploitation as any other member of a closed religious group whose initiated members are taught secret information by a caste of self-elected priests.)
Some wannabe wizards did go on to take an adult interest in the esoteric after reading Harry Potter, but the boy wizard's bigger impact has been in the adoption of pagan ideas into the mainstream: the BBC uses pagan spirituality as a source of inspiration even for children's shows such as Raven and Merlin, or Saturday tea-time blockbusters Robin Hood and Doctor Who.
It is in pop culture that witchcraft meets the other main force behind the rise in paganism: environmentalism. James Lovelock made the link explicit in his influential 1979 description of the earth as a single, living organism, which he named after the Greek goddess Gaia. Some take this more theologically than others, but it remains the most famous example of how the desire for alternative lifestyles that began to flourish in the 60s has led to both a questioning of our attitude to the natural environment and a turning away from the established, patriarchal faiths towards new forms of spirituality. Of course, you don't have to be a pagan to be a green. Far from it. But the two movements have given each other energy, as each has grown
For many pagans, becoming a green campaigner is a way of demonstrating faith with practical action. For many activists who come at it from the opposite direction, the pagan idea of an ancient and universal spirit that animates the earth gives their actions a personal, spiritual framework. Not that you have to read eco-theory to get it these days, just watch Teletubbies. "The indoctrination into things like recycling starts at an early age," says Catherine Hosen, a druid from Kent who watches a lot of CBeebies with her children. "If you start off trying to be environmentally aware, it is not much of a step to seeing all of nature as sacred, and from there to becoming a pagan."
Perhaps. This, don't forget, is mostly a loose faith. That is why it is so popular in these individualistic, iconoclastic times. Wander towards the centre of Hutton's concentric circles where the covens wait and you will be asked to pass tests, obey priests, follow rituals and keep secrets; but on the outer edges, at festival times such as the summer solstice, there is none of that - just a dance, a beer and a "Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again". Just watch yourself with those knives.
• Cole Moreton is writing a book on the soul of England, to be published by Little Brown next Easter.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stonehenge's pagans aren't a patch on pagans of the past

Stonehenge's pagans aren't a patch on pagans of the past

Modern pagans have got the wrong day and should be celebrating tomorrow on Midsummer Eve, says Melanie McDonagh.

By Melanie McDonagh Published: 6:51AM BST 22 Jun 2009

Stonehenge was probably the place not to be yesterday at 4.58am. The site had been turned into a cross between the Glastonbury Festival and the Notting Hill Carnival, with an estimated 36,500 revellers waiting for sunrise on the Summer Solstice, including assorted druids, Wicca devotees, King Arthur Pendragon (formerly known as John Rothwell), a few recreational drug-users and thousands of people out for as good a time as you can have at that hour of day.

According to King Arthur Pendragon, the police and security guards were going round wishing everyone a Happy Solstice. A druid, Frank Somers, reverently interviewed by the BBC, declared that ceremonies were a means of reconnecting with Nature. English Heritage, custodian of the site, was happy; everyone was happy.

I hate to sound a discordant note, but if you want to connect with the past, the day (or night) to celebrate Midsummer Eve is tomorrow, June 23. That's St John's Eve, preceding the feast of St John the Baptist. That night is still marked with bonfires all over Europe. And it was celebrated with the most extraordinary festivities in England until Henry VIII and the Reformation spoiled the fun.

Read the Tudor antiquarian John Stow on what were called the marching watches of St John's Eve: enormous processions of guilds and militia bearing blazing candelabra stretched for miles through London. It was a saint's day combined with what were probably ancient midsummer customs, a bit of cross-dressing of which medieval commentators approved. They thought it was the solstice, too.

The modern pagan solstice is fiction. The distinguished historian Ronald Hutton, author of the most sympathetic accounts of modern paganism, The Triumph of the Moon and Blood and Mistletoe, demolishes the notion that there's the remotest continuity between pre-Christian paganism and the druids and priestesses performing made-up rituals yesterday. Rosemary Hill, author of a wonderful book on Stonehenge, also describes its recent provenance.
In short, if you want to celebrate midsummer in the genuine, time-honoured way, put the bonfires on hold until tomorrow.

*We're in church fete season. I went to one this weekend, and it was the usual glorious display of heroic amateurism, dangerously dependent on good weather. My small boy failed miserably to knock a coconut off a shy, but he did hit a cloth rat with a mallet, and got a rubbish prize, which made his day. Looking at the home-made bunting, the second-hand clothes stall (hand-knit baby cardigans for 75p), the used book stand (the complete Winnie the Pooh for £3), the passed-on bottles for the tombola, it struck me that it's very much of the moment. It's anti-consumerist: practically everything is donated. Like the Freecycle network (which matches people who have things they don't want with people who want them), it keeps bric-a-brac out of landfill. Like the pre-cycle movement (bet you hadn't heard of that one: it's about avoiding waste by making your own things), it's big on homemade items. But the church fete does its bit without making a fuss, except a bit of bragging in the parish newsletter.

*Cameron Diaz stars in a film about saviour siblings, My Sister's Keeper, released this week. It's about the efforts by a girl, genetically selected to save her sister from leukaemia, to fight off her parents' attempts to use her body. It has been criticised as gross exaggeration. But given that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act made it possible to create children to provide organs or bone marrow for sick siblings, I'd say it's right on target.

Record Crowds at Stonehenge for Summer Solstice Celebration

Record Crowds at Stonehenge for Summer Solstice Celebration

From Times Online
June 21, 2009

(Barry Batchelor/PA) Revellers for the Summer Solstice gather inside the stone circle at Stonehenge

Druids began their incantations, Wiccan priestesses drew their cowls tight against the damp morning air and four half-naked Papuan dancers waved their hands in the air and went: “Woo, woo, woo”.

Only the guest of honour failed to put in an appearance at Stonehenge.

A record 36,500 people had gathered at the prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain to watch the sun rise. So many turned out to celebrate the solstice that roads had to be shut and the vast field converted into a car park for 6,500 vehicles was full by 3am.

Disappointingly, despite a promising forecast, the sun was unable to break through the thin layer of grey cloud that shrouded the ceremony. But most people did not let that spoil their enjoyment.

The crowds had dispersed by the time it was fully light, revealing the bodies of those who had had too much fun, or had simply had enough, slumbering gently on the grass.
Solstice celebrations have become a summer staple, alongside Wimbledon, Glastonbury and the annual gathering of public school pupils in Rock in Cornwall, at the end of the exams.

Despite the complete lack of entertainment, the less than one in ten chance of seeing the sun and the incessant bongo playing, the solstice has attracted larger numbers every year since the stones were reopened to the public in 2000.

Dave Batchelor, English Heritage’s Stonehenge-based archaeologist, said: “We were expecting a large turnout because of the forecast and the fact it falls on a weekend this year so more people can get here.

“We got the maximum number we had planned for so the infrastructure was able to cope.”
In normal circumstances it is not permitted to approach within spitting distance of the stones, but at solstice, the barriers come down. By 3am, the inner circle was so tightly packed that people could be seen struggling to lift their beer cans to their lips.

Sensibly, the druids held their ceremony beside the heel stone, a leaning monolithic a few dozen yards from the main stone circle. Rollo Maughling, the white-haired, white-robed Archdruid of Stonehenge, started the ceremonies in an elegant straw hat.

No sooner had he formed his followers into a neat circle than King Arthur Pendragon, the white-haired, white-robed leader of the Druid Order of Loyal Arthurian Warbands, arrived and leant his battle honours against a fence ten yards away and began forming his own rival circle.

Mr Maughling’s circle distorted and broke as spectators wondered which druid leader would put on the best show.

A truce was swiftly reached when Mr Maughling took on the role of master of ceremonies from within King Arthur’s circle, reuniting the tribes of at least two ancient Britons.

The Papuans, in the country to draw attention to what they claim is persecution by the Indonesian authorities in their own homeland, had been temporarily misplaced.

Meanwhile King Arthur, who has been staging a sit-in at Stonehenge for the past year, explained that he had temporarily suspended his protest when English Heritage found £25 million and promised to re-landscape the historic site.

Within days he was back, this time protesting at the removal of human remains during an archaeological dig last summer. He claims they are the “guardians” of the stones and wants them reinterred in the pit from which they came.

Overhead, Wiltshire Police’s new aerial drone made its debut, sweeping back and forth, lights flashing, as it filmed the crowds from a few hundred feet in the air. Every few minutes some worse-for-wear reveller would mistake it for an alien spacecraft about to abduct an unsuspecting earthling and try to flee.

What would the the builders of Stonehenge have made of the police drone? The science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke observed that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

A female druid in a huge hooded cape explained that the stones had been moved by the power of thought alone. As they towered above the waiting crowd in the dawn light, that was almost easier to believe than the archaeologists’ theories involving ropes and tree trunks.

'Physick Book' Casts Spell About Salem Witch Trials

'Physick Book' Casts Spell About Salem Witch Trials

By Jessica Harrison
Deseret News

"THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE" by Katherine Howe, Voice, 384 pages, $25.99

Whether it be the Wiccan religion or pop culture, today the world of witches and warlocks is more accepted as part of society.

But that has not always been the case.

In 1692, witch hysteria gripped the Puritan community of Salem, Mass. During a yearlong period, more than 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, ending with the conviction of 29 people for the capital felony of witchcraft.

In the end, 19 people were executed by hanging, a man was crushed to death under heavy stones and at least five more died in prison.

Author Katherine Howe, a descendant of two accused witches (one was found guilty, the other was not), offers an up-close look at 17th-century witchcraft through the lens of a 20th-century grad student in "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane."

Connie Goodwin loves American history. She loves it so much that she's decided to make it her career. All she has left to do is her Ph.D. dissertation at Cambridge. But, as the old adage goes, even the best-made plans have a way of falling apart.

When Connie receives a surprise phone call from her mom, she feels compelled to help with the sale of her grandmother's old home in Marblehead. Upon arrival, though, Connie finds the cottage in a state of disrepair.

Abandoned when Connie's grandmother died, nothing in the home has been touched for more than 20 years.

Overwhelmed with the task at hand, Connie starts with what she knows best — books.
While exploring the bookshelves she discovers an ancient key with a slip of paper rolled up inside. On the paper are written two words that will change Connie's life forever: Deliverance Dane.

Connie's curiosity is sufficiently peaked, and with the backing of her adviser, researching Deliverance Dane becomes a top priority. Along the way, Connie meets a handsome steeplejack named Sam who becomes a welcome distraction as she puzzles out the clues.

Everything seems to be falling into place, but something isn't right. Connie begins having visions, and when a dear friend suddenly falls ill, Connie can't help but wonder if there's more to Deliverance Dane's tale than even she ever imagined.

In "Physick Book," the mystery surrounding Deliverance Dane spans three centuries, shifting between the 1690s and the 1990s with seamless ease.

Howe brings excitement to the research process, which can be dull to those outside of academia. The events surrounding the Salem trial are fascinating, and Howe's individualized look at that world is in-depth and imaginative.

Howe's prose is sound and her writing is accessibly fast, making "Physick Book" a good bet for a light, entertaining read.