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  • Marriage Equality, Love is the Law – Interview

    Marriage Equality has become the law in Minnesota, effective Aug 1st, 2013!  The Pagan community has long been inclusive of the couples and members of the LGBT communities. This law has an immediate effect regarding how many couples can lead their daily lives.  They can plan a legal commitment and create all the documentation for health care, end of life care, inheritance, and all the other financial benefits married couple have enjoyed.  They may feel empowered to disclose their minority faith as Pagans.

    The day of statements from senators prior to their vote Monday indicates discrimination is still very much alive, and active in Minnesota. While many Senators offered vigorous support, a few indicated, as politely as they could, that their religious connection to the word and concept of marriage prevented them from supporting the law. This law however paves the way for an increase of awareness, and ultimately compassion and tolerance within our society for same sex couples, and for a broader range of spirituality that  historically already embraced same sex unions.

    The I-35 bridge lit up to celebrate the passage of marriage equality legislation in Minnesota ( photo: City of Minneapolis/Facebook)

    I asked a Pagan, Jay Linnell,  who has been a marriage equality activist within our community and at state government how he felt about the new law. It clearly is a powerful victory for Pagans:

    Two years ago, I stood outside the doors of our state House of Representatives in a vigil of hope. Our legislators had gathered to proclaim the uniformity of Minnesota’s religious and social character and to put forth a Constitutional Amendment preventing any legal acceptance of family contracts beyond one man, and one woman. This was not new, as 30 states had done this before us; but I was hurt and saddened that my state, my community, might make such a statement to me as a bisexual man and as clergy.I am married to a woman I love quite dearly. While our marriage has had its moments of pain and sorrow, even at those moments I look back on the day we were married, when our priest and priestess looked us in the eyes and shared with us a commitment before the gods to honor our love and build a life upon trust, care, and hope shared as partners. Nothing in my life can parallel the joy of that moment – our religious community, our families, and the representatives of our state looked upon us and celebrated our choice to begin a walk as family.

    Jay Linnell as the Minnesota House began debate last week.

    Jay Linnell as the Minnesota House began debate last week.

    Representatives of the state? Yes. That would be the priest who signed our wedding license. Any reader who, like me, holds a license as clergy, is specifically licensed by the state to endorse and license marriages. We attest to the validity and to our surety that each couple is properly prepared to support one another as partners in life. We are given license to look upon any couple and make the essential statement of who is or is not family.

    For too long, that license has had an asterisk, reading “so long as the state has properly inspected their genitals (at birth or reassignment) and deemed them a match”. As a priest, that asterisk has been painful, it has told me my license is no honor to my service as a priest, but a badge to be a servant of a legislator’s faith.

    That has been a struggle for me. When Dawn and I were married, she and my mom had to do some work to convince me to accept legal marriage. I looked at our list of invitees, and saw so many (including the priest mentioned above) whose marriages I never dreamed would be recognized in my lifetime. How could I accept that dignity if they could not? How could I as a pagan accept endorsement of a contract I knew was not available to those who would gather to celebrate my love?

    It felt like theft. But mom and Dawn made quite clear what the joy of marriage meant to them and especially to my intended bride. To set up contracts and create an “almost-marriage” would not only be complicated, but would be indignity, it would tell her she was something less, that our family wasn’t real to me.

    That spiritually and magically, my heart wasn’t really in it.

    Of course, I happily married her, and gave her my heart in as full and true a ritual as I could, complete with the legal endorsement on behalf of our clergy. And I steeled myself that when the opportunity came, when the iron was hot, I would act to make that same moment a reality for those I love.

    As a witch, love is essential to my faith. In my faith I work to build intimate relationships with fellow clergy, with my coven mates and tradition members, with the gods I worship, with the elemental spirits who make up this world. Every one of those relationships requires self-evaluation, an understanding of what I give those I love, what self I offer and how that serves their needs and fosters a world build on the sort of love I hope to share.

    As relationships need attention to continue to grow, I take time to walk with particular spirits, and in the year this amendment was pending, was my year with fire. Naturally, in the light of this amendment, I was drawn to focus on fire as that nurturing and nourishing spirit of love, the heart of the gods, the lust of Pan and the solace of Hera, the spirit which drives our connection as lovers, mates and partners throughout out lives. And in service to that spirit, I put aside a night a week to make phone calls, to knock on doors, to talk to individual Minnesotans about what love means to us, about what marriage means to us… and about our many friends, sisters, teachers, grandfathers, students, and more, singled out by this amendment as unfit for the joy and dignity framed by that word.

    Minnesota heard that conversation. They embraced the emotional spirit of nurturing and dignity that I see as the spirit of fire, the heart of the goddess. While Minnesota did not act in the goddess’s name (It’d be hubris and plain ignorance to assume they all share my faith), they recognized the values I draw from my faith are values they share.

    And they honored my freedom of conscience, my freedom of faith. As a worshiper and as a priest, I have been told by Minnesota that the beliefs of my community will not be Constitutionally banned. That’s a beautiful thing to hear, and was a great first step. And Minnesotans joyfully continued that conversation – they told their legislators what marriage means, whom in their life it would affect for the better, and our laws were re-framed so that every couple would be treated with dignity. So that every priestess and priest in our community would be given the freedom of conscience to endorse the couples who present themselves to us honestly as committed families.

    One week ago I stood before the doors of our House of Representatives and sang with joy as they voted to recognize our dignity as clergy and as families. I am overjoyed. Minnesota has been engulfed in that nourishing fire, has embraced what I see as the patient love of the goddess in each of our hearts, and has declared, in harmony with words which inspire our traditional roots: “Love is the Law!” And yes, my friends, that is love under will. Thank you all for the will you have committed to seeing this through. I know I was not alone in my prayers, magic, and commitment of time and attention. And I am grateful that Minnesota’s work has settled on joy, and dignity, and that our religious choices as followers of a minority faith, will in one way be shown greater respect in the state I lovingly call home.

    Jay Linnell (Charles Wallace Murry) is a member of Spiral Tor Coven of Blue Star, and Membership Officer of COG Northern Dawn in Minneapolis.

    Pagan Elder Interview by Estelle Daniels

    John Stitely

    John Stitely

    Estelle Daniels is a native resident of Paganistan and is interviewing elders in the Pagan Community in the Midwest who attend Earth House Midsummer Gather to get their stories.

    Earth House Midsummer Gather takes place from June 16-23 at beautiful Eagle Cave campground in Wisconsin, a short 4-5 hour drive from the Twin Cities. It’s a medium sized festival with a definite family feel. This is the 13th year it will take place, and there has grown up a community of Earth House attendees—several of whom are elders with many years festival experience. Estelle will be interviewing some of the elders who attend Earth House to show what a rich variety of people attend the Festival from all over the Midwest. For more information or to register for Earth House, go to earthhousemn.org

    Rev John Stitely is the current Chair of Earth House. He is originally from Iowa, born and raised there—went to school there and worked as a lawyer there for many years. He has been attending Pagan Festivals for many years and I talked to him about his experiences. I interviewed him about his experiences at Pagan Festivals.

    What was the first festival you attended? I can’t really remember—I graduated from Law School in 1987, and I guess summer of ’88 was my first Festival—PSG 88 then. I decided to take the suit off for a week.

      Continue reading

    Editorial: Leading horses to water

    Our main mission at the Pagan Newswire Collective is to provide primary source reporting for our local communities.  A secondary mission is to assist mainstream reporters and news organizations when they are covering news that touches on Paganism.  Most of the time you never know about the article because, after talking with us, they realize the story they thought they had doesn’t really exist.  That’s a good thing.  You wouldn’t believe what we are approached with from time to time.  Other times we give reporters information about Paganism, point them towards reputable persons to interview, and do basic research for them.  This is an invaluable service for reporters, who often know little to nothing about Paganism and have extremely tight deadlines.  We do this to promote better, more nuanced mainstream reporting on issues that affect us.

    Thursday the Pagan Newswire Collective was contacted by Matt Nestel, a reporter for the New York Post, who needed help on an article about New York Councilman Dan Halloran.  Halloran, and five other elected officials, are accused of accepting bribes and attempting to rig an election.  What makes this germane to Pagans is that Halloran is Theodish, which is a tribal form of Heathenry.  The reporter was looking for assistance on several things – understanding the religion, seeing if Halloran’s alleged actions were influenced by his religion, and interviewing Heathens who know Halloran.

    To his credit, Nestel spent the better part of two days researching Theodism.  That’s a considerable amount of time in the news industry.  He asked intelligent questions, asked for more information on areas he still didn’t understand, and requested multiple sources to interview.  We spent just over 4 hour son the phone with him during the course of two days answering his questions.  We connected him to some really fantastic, knowledgeable people to interview.   Sources to read to learn more about the religion of Theodism.  Then we stepped back and hoped our assistance wasn’t in vain.  We can help, but we can’t write the article for the reporter.

    So how did Nestel’s article turn out?  The first sentence read, “The city councilman who bungled his way into federal bribery charges is also a total bonehead in his kooky heathen religion — whose members wear medieval garb, make sacrifices to multiple gods and compete in combat games.”

    As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but can’t make ’em drink.

    WI Townships Contend with Frac Sand Regulation – Editorial

    *Editor’s note:  “THE PRICE OF SAND” – an advance preview of a locally produced frac sand documentary,  is tomorrow Thursday, March 28 at 7 PM – Grandview Theater, 1830 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN.

    film trailer at: http://youtu.be/n4HYZQDgQbM
    For more information, and advance ticket sales, visit www.thepriceofsand.com or on Facebook

    Rural Western Wisconsin is known for its hospitable nature, and its “live at let live” method of getting along. Many families have lived in homesteads for several generations, but many “new” (less than fifty year residents) folks have sought out the rolling hills, valleys, and small rivers that call to those in touch with the land. The tradition is that you may not have much, but if you have land, you have standing. The rights of landowners are held sacrosanct, and what you do there is mostly your business. Many who have arrived bring a different ethic, that land is also a collective resource, whose environmental protection is a must. It is the stage for conflict when the frac sand mines come to town.

    Vance Creek is a non zoned township. You need a dog license, county permits for building and related activities but other than that, do what you will. The residents near the “four corners” area of SW Barron County watched for mining to arrive. It has spread West from HWY 53, the New Auburn area, and erupted just across the line in Arland Township (TWP). The railroad line along Hwy 8 through Taylors Falls had been improved and ready for shipping sand. The perfect place for mining is in the corner of the county where few pay any notice. The first mining site in Vance Creek Township was targeted adjacent to a large tract of Barron County Forest land, on which the county had denied mining permits. What caused Vance Creek to erupt in concern was the township wide realization that  *** one of three town board members was having exploratory assessment for frac sand mining done on his land.

    Area of mining exploration and existing mines in SW Barron County, Wi.

    Area of mining exploration and existing mines in SW Barron County, Wi.

    The strategy of concerned residents across Wisconsin is to avoid zoning, we don’t care for it here, thank you. Townships in the this area have been either passing “moratorium ordinances” on mining operations for anywhere from 6 months to two years, or they have been passing a township non-metallic mining ordinance that requires a permit for the operation of non-metallic mines and sets forth the application process. As soon as the mining exploration rumor was verified in the township a group of town residents started meeting, and asked the town secretary to put consideration of a draft moratorium ordinance on the agenda of the next town board meeting Jan. 8th 2013. Shit hit the fan. Continue reading

    The Human Impact of Frac Sand Mining – Editorial

    Microscopic Silica Particles Cause Lung Damage             photo: http://elcosh.org

    There are several studies on the impacts of frac sand mining underway, from many different perspectives. There are no comprehensive studies that are available now.  Citizens feeling powerless to have any control over this intrusion into their environment are resorting to videos to get their stories out. I invite you to take a few minutes and listen to some of these, they say it best.

    There is no doubt that jobs are created with any mining operation. The numbers used speculate on numbers of plants, rapid growth, and stability of the industry. Many of the jobs created are driving heavy equipment and trucks. These jobs require training often necessitating recruiting workers from outside the impacted areas,  and are seasonal. Numbers are computed based on “man-hours” of operation. The reality is often 10-16 hour shifts, and when allowed to mines operate 24 hours, seven days a week to maximize profits.

    Proponents argue the increase in local taxes collected will help the local community’s tax base, lowering taxes for everyone.  Even in a heavily regulated local environment, the reality experienced in Wisconsin is that only with carefully crafted ordinances does the actual cost of mining on local services even get repaid. Often low traffic roads suddenly become truck freeways, and the affected towns and counties bear the cost of any improvements needed just to meet safety concerns.  In a well crafted ordinance the additional expenses of road maintenance, dust removal, sewer demand or waste water cleanup, and reclamation of the site are all protected with bonding in advance. For townships, there is no well-defined county or state testing of air and water quality that is required with these operations, so any specific testing to meet concerns of local residents must be funded by local government.

    Continue reading

    Non-Metallic Mining takes Wisconsin by Dust Cloud! – Editorial

    This is the start of a series about frac sand mining.  It is a contentious issue.  Is it rampant exploitation and environmental damage, or simple economic growth?  I believe it is of concern to Pagans because whatever you think of it, it is likely going to directly change the landscape you encounter when you leave the city. This article is mainly background (please investigate the many hot links) , but you need it to understand the issue.

    Frac Sand Minephoto: La Crosse Tribune

    Frac Sand Mine
    photo: La Crosse Tribune

    First, you need fracking sand to engage in “fracking”.  Second, from Rueters, Houston, TX. , “There’s been a sand shortage in the U.S. … Those who have sand or have access to sand can pretty much charge what they want.”  So there’s lots of money at stake.

    photo: About.com

    photo: About.com

    Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as it is called, is taking place in many parts of our country, particularly North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas.  It is usually either touted as the miracle technological solution to gain economic growth and energy independence, or condemned as a reckless exploitation of resources that endangers our ground water, air, and land, and has way too many unknowns associated with its environmental and geologic effects. What is confirmed is this highly profitable method of gaining trapped oil from tightly bound deep shale deposits, not accessible with conventional drilling methods has exploded as a phenomena nationwide. This is what the ‘Keystone pipeline” expansion is proposed for;  to get fracked oil from North Dakota and Canada to Texas refineries. National Geographic has a headline story about it in their March, 2013 issue. While fracking has been used in the development of America’s natural gas resources for nearly 60 years. The development of horizontal drilling process has allowed its use to rapidly expand and include oil drilling. It is a hidden process, tightly held as corporate proprietary property, while leaving a small footprint above ground and visible to the public. Fracking boomed after the Energy Policy Act in 2005 exempted oil and gas production from compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air and the Clean Water Act. Also, the CERCLA Superfund Act doesn’t cover fracking sites.

    historyoffrackin

    History of Fracking

    The basic fracking process is to drill down through the water table, maybe 2000 feet or so until you hit the layer of shale where the oil lies trapped. You then drill sideways within the layer of shale. As you proceed, a slurry of silica sand, water, and proprietary chemicals (some known carcinogens) is rammed out a  porus drill point, “fracturing” the shale so the oil is released and can be pumped out (mixed with water and chemicals). This also releases natural gas. The natural gas is being flared off at the well by burning, it is not apparently profitable enough to collect it. This is why the ND night sky is lit up like Chicago. News stories of inflammable faucets and large stores of chemical laden water waiting to be treated and pumped back down through the water table into deep repository holes,  accompanies the process.

    Unsaid, but many think, “It is only North Dakota, if my gasoline is cheaper and American drilled, it is a small price to pay for oil self-reliance and “national security”. It is so easy to talk this way when it happens somewhere else. Wisconsin happens to be extremely rich in the silica sand used in this process, and this year that sand wealth has brought these issues smack into our face.

    Continue reading

    Editorial: Watching Teo be the Bishop in San Jose

    Editor’s Note:  PNC-Minnesota reprinted this editorial from PNC-Bay Area as Teo Bishop is a featured guest for 2013’s Sacred Harvest Festival.

    I enjoyed several rituals and workshops this year at Pantheacon and felt very happy to be a part of such a magical event. This year I had the privilege of going to a workshop in the Ár nDraiocht Fein (ADF) suite that actually turned out to be one of my all-time favorite experiences at Pantheacon. Teo Bishop did a talk called “Being the Bishop”; where he openly reflected on his life, career as Matt Morris, spiritual transition into Teo Bishop, and the merging of both sides of himself today. As the writer of the blog, Bishop in the Grove, I have been reading his blog for some time, yet did not know what to expect. I was not disappointed.

    Not only was Teo engaging and transparent in his sharing of his life but he showed a very intimate side of himself through his stories and his music. It was the first time I got to hear Teo sing in person, I had only heard one or two songs online after finding out about his career as Matt Morris. I sat with my husband and a hand full of close friends as if I were at a concert in someone’s living room. He sang and I cried. He talked and I listened. He smiled and I smiled; it was a truly transformative experience to see someone talk about the introspective transition between fame and spirituality.

    teo presentations pconThere was no special stage, no lighting crew and no back-up band. There was only Teo and a bunch of people immersed in the world of his magic inside of a small hospitality suite on the second floor of the Double Tree Hotel.

    Teo sung several songs from his 2010 album When Everything Breaks Open. He played his acoustic guitar and pulled from a place deep within his spirit. While he mentioned that his songs were not Pagan, I still heard the internal struggle of where he was spirituality, at the time, in his lyrics.

    teo bishop

    Picture courtesy of David Salisbury

    As one of the upcoming 2013 national guest for the Sacred Harvest Festival in Minnesota, Teo Bishop is transcending beyond his blog and moving into an arena of Pagan artists that comes from behind the screen.  If this presentation at Pantheacon is a small portion of what I can expect from his spot on the upcoming Sacred Harvest Festival ticket, I am even more excited to share Pagandom with him. This version of spiritual transformation went beyond the typical talk about an author or a singer, and went into the intimate and authentic life of a true artist.

     

    Crystal Blanton, Pagan Newswire Collective Bay Area

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