Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pagans come out to Pagan Pride Day LA/OC despite heat

Pagans come out to Pagan Pride Day LA/OC despite heat

Joanne Elliott

 Despite temperatures that reached nearly 106 F Sunday, 1269 people came out to enjoy rituals, workshops and shopping at Pagan Pride Day LA/OC at the Whittier Narrows recreation area in El Monte.

Pagans and people curious to know what it is all about walked around the large area filled with merchants and spiritual organizations. Many took cover under big trees or lay prostrate on the cool grass.
At one point the direction of the stage was changed so chairs could be moved to a shady spot. Belly dancers in elaborate costumes danced to gothic rhythms by Kardia Mortis, the League of Vampiric Bards shared their poetry, and Devon Kouadio danced for the ocean honoring Yemaya.

The main ritual called “A ritual for Global Transformation and Healing” by Raven’s Cry Grove drew a large crowd. They helped many connect to the earth and took worshippers on a trance journey to help to heal it.
Merchants, like the Little Old Bookshop and Witchcraft Music, said they didn’t do as well this year. They cited the economy as a factor as well as the extreme heat. The blazing temperature was helpful to one merchant, though. The food booth sold out of many flavors of snow cone flavoring.
Over all, people seemed to be enjoying themselves and there was only one incident due to the heat. One woman fainted during the opening ritual, but recovered in the shade with water and rest.

Total weight for the food donations is not available yet, but Gina Leslie, President/Volunteer Coordinator of Pagan Pride LA, Inc., said that the food filled up the back of a pickup truck. The parks employees took the food back to their office to await pick up by the LA Food Bank. Martha Moreno of the LA County Parks and Recreation Department coordinated the department’s support efforts. Gina said “the people who work with her are so good to us! We've been doing our event there for 8 years and they really help us out during the day, emptying the trash bins and keeping the restrooms clean and stocked with paper. When they have time, they even shop our vendors and talk to people to find out what we're all about.”

 Original Article

Pagan group invites, trys to raise awareness

Pagan group invites, trys to raise awareness


In a region marginally dominated by Christianity, one Texas Tech student organization focuses on changing the traditional, stereotypical perceptions of Paganism.

A perhaps lesser-known religious group on campus, Tech Pagan Student Union often faces misconceptions about their beliefs from peers.

Like many student groups on campus, the group has weekly meetings, guest speakers, volunteer projects and social gatherings.

"We're not big scary witches with giant black cauldrons," said the group's president, Sarah Mann. "We're actual people out in the community and we're helping. We're people with faith, as many people are."
The organization has two discussions each month on metaphysical topics, generally at 7 p.m. the first and third Mondays of the month in the Student Union Building, said Mann, a senior psychology major from Houston.
They also hold a tarot card reading study group on campus, she said. This way, members seeking certification, in order to read in public places like psychic fairs, can pass the exams with ease.

Currently, the group has about 15 active members, Crystal Baker, the vice president and secretary of the organization, said.

"We formed to give a support group for people who identify themselves as pagans on campus," she said. "(The group is for) people who want to get together and express religious ideas and ideas about life in general from the viewpoint of someone who considers themselves a Pagan."

Pagan Student Union also has members who are agnostics and atheists but are spiritual, said Baker, a graduate student from Dallas studying mechanical engineering.

Baker described Paganism as a broad term for any nature-based religion, such as Wicca, Druid or some Native American belief systems.

"I'm personally agnostic now," Baker said. "Christianity never felt right for me. I found Wicca a little bit in high school and experimented with that. A lot made sense but didn't feel right. I liked Paganism…I liked the people I associated myself with around Paganism."

Aside from community service like the Adopt-a-Highway program and volunteering at the Haven no-kill animal shelter, Pagan Student Union participates in National Pagan Pride Day, said Baker. This year's celebration is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Clapp Park, near the intersection of 46th Street and Avenue W.

"The goal (of Pagan Pride Day) is to encourage diversity and to eliminate prejudices and discrimination based off of religion," said Aaron Brocklehurst, program coordinator for quality service and professional development at Tech and the advisor for Pagan Student Union.

This year, the national event, Brocklehurst said, will feature presentations covering topics from collegiate Paganism through Slavic Paganism. He encourages students of all religious backgrounds to attend and experience something new.

"The best way to learn about a religion or a belief system that is different than yours is to come and talk about it, and we'll give you an idea of what it's about," Brocklehurst said. "It's held every September throughout the nation."

Pagan Pride Day opens with a traditional ritual and will also include a noon ritual and a greenman march.
The rituals are very elaborate and interesting, said Brocklehurst. Vendors will sell candles, incense, potions and homemade items.

Also available for sale will be books, herbs, cloaks, pendulums, crystal balls and anything else "associated with occult supply," Mann said.

One unique item for sale is the "spell kits" Mann said the organization sold for a fundraiser last year. They consist of a candle, a piece of charcoal, an herb mixture and a written spell for things like prosperity, relaxation and happiness.

But, Mann said, the spells do not necessarily come true after reciting them; the process is more of a first step to achieving a goal.

"Many people think, ‘If I buy this and do exactly as it says, it's going to happen,'" Mann said. "But it's a mental jump between thinking you want to take a step and taking the step with your foot. It's putting the will power behind it."

Pagan Pride Day is a free event, but attendants are asked to bring cans of non-perishable food to donate to South Plains Food Bank, Mann said.

"I would encourage people to come out because it's a fun event," Brocklehurst said. "You'll get to see a lot of cool things that you may not see every day in local stores. It's a good way to learn about other belief systems and religions and embrace diversity."

Original Article

Banned Books Week: The 'Harry Potter' Series

Banned Books Week: The 'Harry Potter' Series

Steven Bryan 

The "Harry Potter" series, first published in 1998, is featured by the American Library Association for Banned Books Week, which runs this year from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2.

Since infancy, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling's fictional boy wizard, has been facing attacks from Lord Voldemort, a wizard so evil that few characters dare speak his name. In addition to death threats from Voldemort and his followers, young Mr. Potter also has come under fire from concerned parents, educators and religious leaders.

According to the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which has been tracking challenges to objectionable books since 1990, the entire Harry Potter series ranks No. 1 on the "Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009." The OIF defines a challenge as a formal, written complaint about a book or series that contains "objectionable material."

Rowling wrote much of the first book, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," while sitting in Edinburgh's Elephant House coffee shop. On his 11th birthday, Harry, a good-hearted boy raised by horrible relatives, learns that his late parents actually were a well-respected witch and wizard. Harry's mom even sacrificed her life to save her son from Lord Voldemort.

Now aware of his true heritage, Harry travels to Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to control his magical abilities and train for his future career.

In reality, magic is only one part of the "Harry Potter" series. Rowling's books focus more on embracing good over evil, doing the right thing and being brave in bad situations. The books deal with a lot of teenage angst and school crushes.

Yet, magic is frequently the reason that the Harry Potter series is challenged and banned. On the Infoplease website, head teacher Carol Rockwood of St. Mary's Island Church of England School gave the reasons why the school banned the book.

"The Bible is very clear and consistent in its teachings that wizards, devils and demons exist and are very real, powerful and dangerous and God's people are told to have nothing to do with them," Rockwood said.

In 2006, the Associated Press reported that Laura Mallory, a mother of four in Georgia, wanted the Gwinnett County Board of Education to ban the books, saying that the series is "an 'evil' attempt to indoctrinate children into the Wicca religion." The school board later rejected Mallory's challenge, and Harry and his friends were allowed to stay on book shelves throughout the school district.

Despite the furor over the books, the Harry Potter series is still extraordinarily popular. As CBS News reported in the summer of 2007, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the book that Rowling called the finale of the series, sold 8.3 million copies in the United States during the first 24 hours it was available for sale.

Original Article

A Time to Reap: Fall Equinox Events Around the World

A Time to Reap: Fall Equinox Events Around the World

By: Molly Mann

Fall is definitely my favorite time of year. When the summer heat breaks and the air becomes crisp, there’s a sense of starting fresh, reflecting on the past season, and looking forward to the future. I can understand why so many cultures celebrate the autumn equinox, which marks the first day of fall, every September. Whether it’s called Mabon or the Autumn Moon Festival, the start of this new season is certainly an auspicious occasion.

Autumn in Balance
The word “equinox” comes from the Latin √¶quinoctuium, which itself came from √¶quus (“equal”) and nox (“night”): “equal night.” It refers to the twenty-four-hour period—which occurs twice a year, in spring and fall—in which there are twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of night, according to ReligiousTolerance.org. However, the experts at TimeandDate.com reveal this idea of the day and night being perfectly in balance during the equinox as a myth: during the autumn equinox, they write, the lengths of night and day are nearly, but not entirely, equal, because the sun takes longer to rise and set in places farther away from the equator.

The equinox really refers to the time, twice each year, when the sun crosses the celestial equator and moves southward in the northern hemisphere. The earth’s axis of rotation is then perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the earth and the sun. The 2010 fall equinox will occur at exactly 7:09 p.m. (PST) and 10:09 p.m. (EST) on September 22.

A Bewitching Celebration 

Perhaps the best-known tradition surrounding the fall equinox in the United States is that of the neopagans, mostly Wiccans. Wicca is loosely based on ancient Celtic beliefs, symbols, and practices, with the addition of more recent Masonic and ceremonial magic, according to ReligiousTolerance.org. Wiccans view time as circular—as opposed to the linear time of monotheistic religions—and the equinoxes are part of the solar (yearly) cycle.

The autumn equinox, usually called Mabon (after the Welsh god of the harvest), is the second and main Wiccan harvest festival. Wiccans may celebrate Mabon the evening before, at sunrise on the day of, or at the exact time of the equinox. As witch and Wicca expert Dianne Schure explains, “Modern pagans (and I’m using that term as a catchall) are a group with sufficiently varied traditions. Not all of them would celebrate in the same way.”

Corn Dollies and Burning Men
Burning Man, in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert (also known as the Playa), is a large annual event that stems from the neopagan equinox tradition (though most “Burners” wouldn’t consider themselves witches). Burning Man’s website warns, “Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.” But Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, a well-respected member of the Wiccan community, according to Schure, writes in Creating Circles & Ceremonies that Burning Man has its roots in the European custom of the corn dolly, a man-shaped doll fashioned from the last sheaf of harvested grain. Traditionally, the spirit of the grains resided in the doll, which members of the community dressed up in nice clothes and addressed by name. They then burned the doll to release the spirit, amid much rejoicing. Sometimes the spirit of the grain was released by burning a large wickerwork effigy, much like the eponymous Burning Man sculpture that’s the focal point of the Burning Man festival each year.

A Time to Reflect 

For Japanese Buddhists, the spring and fall equinoxes are both six-day celebrations (three days before and three days after the equinox itself), called the Higan-e. Higan means “other shore” in Japanese, and the six days represent the six perfections—giving, observance of the precepts, perseverance, effort, meditation, and wisdom—needed to transition from samsara (the cycle of death and rebirth in the material world) to nirvana (a transcendent state of perfect happiness).

During the six days of each equinox, observers of the holiday repent for past sins and pray for enlightenment in the next life. They also take time to remember the dead and to pay visits to family graves. Since the equinoxes are supposedly the most temperate times of the year, Japanese Buddhists regard them as ideal moments to reflect on the meaning of life, according to ReligiousTolerance.org.

Harvest Moon

Outside the United States, the largest fall equinox celebration happens in China: the Autumn Moon Festival. Within the United States, Chinatowns—like the one in San Francisco, California—explode with celebrations during this ancient holiday to mark the beginning of autumn, the bounty of the summer harvest, and the full moon.

During the Moon Festival, the Chinese eat moon cakes, of which there are many variations. According to MoonFestival.org, the Guangzhou version, which is the type Westerners know, is a round or square cake, filled with sweet lotus paste and salted duck eggs, with a soft, golden-brown exterior. The cake is customarily cut into quarters, thus causing the yolk to resemble a full moon.

According to one of many legends, the moon cake was invented as a way to honor the moon goddess, Chang-Er (sometimes, Chang-E). Because the moon represents yin, the female principle in Chinese philosophy, women take center stage during the Moon Festival.

To Everything, There Is a Season

’Tis the season for autumnal equinox festivals around the world and across cultures. Even if you celebrate by catching summer’s last rays or digging your winter clothes out of storage, know that you’re part of an age-old international tradition of welcoming the first day of fall.

 Original Article

Candace H. Lehrman White, 73: Was public face of paganism as Lady Sintana

Candace H. Lehrman White, 73: Was public face of paganism as Lady Sintana

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

n Atlanta, Candace Lehrman White was known simply as "The Lady."

Ravenwood Church Candace Lehrman, who as Lady Sintana founded Atlanta's Ravenwood Church and Seminary of Wicca, the first Wiccan church granted tax-exempt status in Georgia, has died.

Across the country, she was considered the person who shattered legal barriers and opened minds to the practice of paganism.
In 1975, Mrs. White, aka Lady Sintana, founded Ravenwood Church, the state's first pagan congregation. By 1982, the high priestess had successfully challenged the IRS and Ravenwood became one of the first Pagan congregations in the country to be granted tax-exempt status as a church.

It was significant work, said her husband, David John White, aka Lord Merlin, the Elder High Priest of  Ravenwood, now located in Johns Creek.

"Her mission in life was to bring respect and legality to the pagan religion," he said. "She not only won legal battles, but she won over hearts as well. Her main idea was not to convert people but to have some venue where people could learn the truth."

Recently, Candace H. Lehrman White, 73,  had resided with her daughter in western North Carolina. She died Sept. 17 from complications of lung cancer.  A public memorial will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 2 at Gala Special Events, 3760 Lower Roswell Road, in Marietta.

Born on a Kansas dairy farm, Mrs. White moved from Buffalo, N.Y., to Atlanta to nurse an ill friend. She stayed and elected to follow her father into ministry but as a high priestess of Wicca, not in the Baptist faith.
It was 1978 when Mr. White met the former burlesque dancer, shortly after she'd started Ravenwood in a Victorian house on Moreland Avenue. Four years later, the couple married and embarked on a shared a mission to educate people about Wiccans and Pagans. Wicca is a pre-Christian, nature-centered matriarchal religion from Western Europe that dates back more than 800 years to the Celts.


“We wanted to let people know that we worked with nature as opposed to drinking a chicken’s blood and things like that,” her husband said. “We did a great bit of outreach, not necessarily about the belief but an understanding of it.”

In 1996, Mrs. White left Atlanta and settled first in California and later in Washington state. She and her husband were married 28 years. Five years ago, he moved to Ball Ground in Cherokee County.
“When she moved, we were always in contact two or three times a week,” her husband said. “She was a very strict disciplinarian and she caused controversy, but through controversy came truth. She had extraordinarily high principles and was very successful.”

Judy Clouse met Lady Sintana 30 years ago.

“She set the standards high and demanded we work to the best of our abilities,” said Mrs. Clouse, aka Lady Astraea. “She was very charismatic and dynamic.”

In a 1996 article that appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the witch queen explained her departure: “I think Ravenwood has come to the point where it has to grow beyond myself,” she said. “I think the elders there are strong enough.... My interest is still in keeping the old tradition alive.”
Survivors other than her husband and daughter include one grandson.

Original Article

Local Wiccans Disavow Christine O'Donnell at Pagan Pride Day

Local Wiccans Disavow Christine O'Donnell at Pagan Pride Day

There was no Satanic altar. There was no blood. There was no animal sacrifice. And as far as I could tell from talking to people at the Pagan Pride Day Celebration Picnic, held this weekend at the at Unitarian Universalist Church in Fort Lauderdale, there was nobody who believed anything Christine O'Donnell, the Delaware Republican candidate for Senate, had to say about "witchcraft."

Last week, Bill Maher showed decade-old footage of O'Donnell, a Tea Party favorite, appearing on the show Politically Incorrect, claiming that she "dabbled into witchcraft" but "never joined a coven." She said she once had a date on a "Satanic altar," replete with blood and "stuff like that."

Pagan Pride Day attendees were adamant that O'Donnell had no idea what she was talking about.


Though O'Donnell's old statements have received a lot of attention, the credibility of her remarks has received almost no serious examination.

Clearly whatever O'Donnell believed herself to be was not a witch by its modern "eco-feminist" or "neopagan" definitions. Any mention of the Christian devil, or Satan, immediately dissociates O'Donnell's brand of "witchcraft" from modern Wicca -- Wiccans/witches do not believe in the Christian devil, let alone construct altars to him.

Is she lying about her history? In the clip, O'Donnell specifically says, "I'm not making this stuff up." And, in another appearance on the same show, O'Donnell made clear her feelings on lying: She said if she were housing Jews in Nazi Germany during World War II and Hitler asked her about it, she would tell the micromustached dictator the truth.

But if they are true, her experiences were nothing like those of the people at the Unitarian church Saturday afternoon.

There was a canned food drive, a bake sale, several vendors selling metal jewelry depicting Wiccan images, and ironic T-shirts. There were families picnicking and a band playing covers of the UK group Inkubus Sukkubus. There were "psychic" readings and henna tattoos and face-painting and storytelling for the kids. A few women walked barefoot in the nearby labyrinth.

Most people didn't want to spoil the good mood by discussing O'Donnell. One woman, though, was outspoken on the topic.

"I think that she's an idiot," said a woman in her mid-20s wearing a long, floral-print skirt. "This is sad for America: If [O'Donnell] practiced witchcraft as an alternate religion, who cares? Why are we so obsessed with other peoples' personal beliefs anyway?"

She went on: "It seems to me that O'Donnell perhaps 'dabbled' in Satanism, and not witchcraft at all, or else something concocted by a lonely and unstable teenager in order to feel powerful. I don't believe Christine O'Donnell is or was a witch -- perhaps just something that rhymes with it."

Original Article

Thursday, September 2, 2010

IN THE KITCHEN WITH: Dale Orlando

IN THE KITCHEN WITH: Dale Orlando

Medium and healer offers to help people find themselves, By Laurie Gordon

Dale Orlando is a psychic medium and intuitive healer.
A resident of Stillwater, Orlando said she has been clairvoyant her whole life.

She grew up in River Edge and attended River Dell High School. She had a long career in the wholesale travel industry as a sales representative for major travel companies on the East Coast.

In 1993, she began to cultivate her psychic abilities and studying to become a Reiki Master. In 1996, she studied with a Cherokee Mystic in Sedona, Arizona and was given the name “Goldenfeather.”

Orlando’s studies continued at the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment as she became a Certified Therapeutic Energy Healer.

Orlando said she assists people on their journey toward their soul contract — the reason for this life time. She said there is a human energy field which contains information to heal a person in mind, body and spirit. “When people neglect their spiritual life and there is disregard for the divine, they shut themselves off to their own highest good,” Orlando said. “Mankind will never achieve happiness or fulfillment in the material world. This can only be achieved through spirit.”

Orlando said, “People today are open and receptive to the voice of spirit and the work I provide. As we watch the failing economy, fractured tectonic plates, and hatred among our brothers does anyone ask why or how? Do we blame others? Or do we look within ourselves for our own answers?” Through energy work, and intuitive healing and readings Orlando said she helps people discover their own truth and stay aligned and balanced.

“Be nice to your neighbor,” she said. “You may need his help sooner than you realize.”

For information about Orlando’s services, visit www.goldenfeatherhealing.com or call 862-268-4881.

Dale-icioius Black Bean and Corn Salsa
INGREDIENTS:
1 cup frozen corn (thawed)
15 oz. can black beans (rinse and drain)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
1/2 cup red pepper (diced)
3 scallions (diced)
Juice of one fresh lime
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
DIRECTIONS:
Mix and serve


Original Article
Orlando’s studies continued at the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment as she became a Certified Therapeutic Energy Healer.

Orlando said she assists people on their journey toward their soul contract — the reason for this life time. She said there is a human energy field which contains information to heal a person in mind, body and spirit. “When people neglect their spiritual life and there is disregard for the divine, they shut themselves off to their own highest good,” Orlando said. “Mankind will never achieve happiness or fulfillment in the material world. This can only be achieved through spirit.”

Orlando said, “People today are open and receptive to the voice of spirit and the work I provide. As we watch the failing economy, fractured tectonic plates, and hatred among our brothers does anyone ask why or how? Do we blame others? Or do we look within ourselves for our own answers?” Through energy work, and intuitive healing and readings Orlando said she helps people discover their own truth and stay aligned and balanced.

“Be nice to your neighbor,” she said. “You may need his help sooner than you realize.”

For information about Orlando’s services, visit www.goldenfeatherhealing.com or call 862-268-4881.

Dale-icioius Black Bean and Corn Salsa
INGREDIENTS:
1 cup frozen corn (thawed)
15 oz. can black beans (rinse and drain)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
1/2 cup red pepper (diced)
3 scallions (diced)
Juice of one fresh lime
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
DIRECTIONS:
Mix and serve

Original Article 

Pagan Pride Day to offer Utahns a peek at secretive but growing community

Pagan Pride Day to offer Utahns a peek at secretive but growing community 
They wear multicolored robes in a highly choreographed ritual. They read from sacred texts. They sing their praise, chant their truths and hoist their hands to the sky. They kneel before heaven’s mystery.
Though their worship includes elements from early Christianity, these practitioners are not Christians. They are pagans.

And they are part of a growing body of believers who have moved away from monotheistic faiths such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam into the wide world of syncretic spirituality.

More than a million Americans now practice some form of Wicca, or traditional witchcraft, Ceremonial Magick, Hermeticism, Shamanism, Asatru (German/Nordic religion), African religion such as Voodoo and Shamanism, according to patheos.com, a multifaith website. 

Unfortunately, modern pagans often are secretive about their beliefs, fearing ridicule or, worse, outright discrimination.

“It isn’t usually the most blatant bashing,” says Russell Erwin, a member of the Ordo Gnostic Templar that meets once a month at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Salt Lake City. “You just won’t get called back for a job or people don’t want to talk to you because they think you’re crazy.”

Such avoidance is a “big mistake,” says Erwin, acting as a spokesman for the state’s pagans. “We all have a lot to learn from each other.”

And so Utah’s burgeoning pagan community is doing what other groups do to oppose bigotry and bring their faith into the open. It is sponsoring the ninth annual Salt Lake City Pagan Pride Day on Sept. 11 at Murray Park.