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  • Crystal Blanton and Yeshe Rabbit at Sacred Harvest Festival – Interview

    Crystal Blanton at Sacred Harvest Festival 2012

    Two other guests from past Sacred Harvest Festivals are returning, Crystal Blanton and Yeshe Rabbit. This year a whole range of rituals are offered from guests, Harmony Tribe members, and community members.  Crystal and Rabbit are together offering a Ritual of Ancestral Healing on Thursday, Aug 7th.   Yeshe Rabbit is offering a featured ritual Friday evening Aug 8th,  “Dancing with our Demons”, before the annual Rangoli ritual.  I talked to them together on a Google hangout.

    Advance Registration for Sacred Harvest Festival ends tomorrow at midnight, Thursday July 31st. Patrons can register at the gate in Albert Lea, Mn for a day, weekend, or the full week Aug 4-10th.

    Yeshe Rabbit

    What is the ritual that you are offering together?
    Rabbit: We are very excited about the ritual we are doing together,  the Ritual of Ancestral Healing. We recently heard a lecture two weeks ago together that was so wonderful.  It was with one of Crystal’s mentors,  Dr Joy Degruy,  who speaks about the racial and ethnic underpinnings that have formed American culture.  There are these invisible threads of racism twined within everything. You don’t see them until you pull back the cloth and reveal the threads that are holding it all together.  I am so fired up for this ritual after going with Crystal to this eye opening lecture.

    Crystal:  Doing something like this together is a step at looking at some of the many layers that keep us stuck. It is opening up conversation and connection,  extending the olive branch;  not necessarily through each other but through our ancestors. It is connecting in a way we don’t normally get to in our normal walk of life.  We will be acknowledging the many layers of societal hurt,  community hurt, and how we impact one another. I am excited about it as a way to open another level of work, and acknowledging it in a way meant to be healing. Not just ripping the scab off,  but acknowledging the fact the scabs and scars exist.  Loving those scars and loving our past through one another as a result of that.  I am really excited about it for those reasons.

    You are offering this in the mainly white Midwest.  Does that make it different?
    Crystal: I think it makes a huge difference because it is not often we get to offer this in other areas that may not have the diversity of places like the Bay Area,  and get a chance to  explore these things, in this way.  This is something very unique that both of us can bring to the table, and that otherwise people may not have the opportunity to participate in.

    Rabbit: When I have done this sort of work before, one of the things I have found is that white people feel that they can only talk to people of color about this issue. Sometimes we really need to be talking to each other about it. While our sisters and brothers of color in the Pagan community are often amazing resources of information and experience that we can learn from, it is not always appropriate for us to ask them to teach us everything.  By gathering groups of people together who are white to talk together with people they know and trust, in a creative environment of trust, we are hoping that people who are white will engage with us, and each other to take responsibility together for learning about race and ethnicity.  I know some of the people who live right there in Minnesota also have persecution in their ancestral past, that may be different than the type of persecution that Crystal’s ancestors may have faced.  Certainly different that my ancestors faced in Eastern Europe. It is still relevant because what we are coming to the table with is to take responsibility for what we can do, what we can learn from each others experiences.

    Crystal: I am excited about it. There is more diversity there than one might assume at first glance.  At the same time, even knowing that, the experience of people of color is different for people of color walking into a place that is perceived as a lily white area.  What that brings up , understanding that, and having that kind of dialog  in an open and loving way is so important. We plan to back up that kind of dialog with something that is magical and supportive. This is something we don’t often give ourselves permission to do,  to come to the table as we are, and work together for collective healing.  We don’t have to, it is not a blame game, it is not making people feel they have to take accountability for something that they don’t relate to.  It is dissecting a little of it together and than backing that up with magic. Part of why this is so special is it would be totally different if we were doing this in another location.

    Rangoli Ritual Ground Design

    What is your Friday night SHF ritual, Dancing with our Demons about?
    Rabbit: In Tibetan Buddhism you have various classes of beings that you encounter. In the Dharma view you have choices. You have rituals that will banish those demons, and rituals that will feed those demons.  In this case I am really referring to a shadow part of our personality or psyche that comes forward, or a vexatious situation, this is a demon. It is a bad thing,  some thing we deem a “bad” collection of energies. When we encounter those we are soul tied to decide, are we going to banish this, try to fix this, or try to feed this. When we are in this mode of trying to either banish, fix, or feed one of the things what often happens is we are not being present for the lessons that thet demon is teaching us in the moment.  Dancing with our Demons is a ritual to bring forward and embody some of the hardest lessons that we have had to learn from this year,  and dance them into healing, and dance them into awareness. Not necessarily seek to banish, fix, or feed any of it, but just to be moving with it. This movement based meditation will help us become aware of them and so learn from our demons.

    Another workshop you offer is about the Dharma Pagan?
    Rabbit: In this session we will start with a chanting session so everyone can come and benefit from the experience of a chanting practice. We will talk about the notion of the Dharma, and how I relate that to what in my Pagan practice I call magic.  It is the universal force that flows through all things.  We will talk about where my practice overlaps between my Paganism and my Tibetan Buddhism. This so perfect because after we leave you all we move on to what is like our pilgrimage. The first leg of the pilgrimage is the Pagan one to Sacred Harvest Festival. Then the second and third legs are first in Colorado at the Buddhist monastery, and then in Tibet itself. These are the Dharma voyage of the pilgrimage.  This workshop will be a great time to talk about that in terms of the structure of my beliefs.

    Crystal, your Tuesday workshop, “Embodying Cultural Archetypes”, is this preparation for the ritual with Rabbit or a separate topic?
    Crystal:  In some ways it is a separate topic, but there is some intersection there. Initially it is something I am working on,  work that I am doing independently as a writer and spiritual person. The Ancestral Healing ritual idea came about and they complimented each other.  Though I  didn’t plan them together, they will probably work in that way.  I am delving into the marriage between culture and our spiritual practice.  How we show up in our spirituality. It is important to acknowledge and honor all the many different layers of privilege and gratitude in our practice. Sometimes there is a negative viewpoint when someone brings up the idea of privilege, at least that is the perspective.  In reality we all live with privilege and there is an intersectionality with privilege. It is  important to understand and talk about how that feeds into gratitude. How we can acknowledge the things that we have,  and do so alongside other things that are very challenging for us.  How we can make that part of a balanced perspective and practice for us so that we are moving forward with gratitude. For me they are very closely related to the theme of the whole festival. How can we be grateful if we can’t acknowledge e what is happening within our life.

    Are Pagans class aware as a group, Is this about class?
    Crystal: I do think we struggle in that area. In some ways we are class aware but in other ways my perception is that we struggle with the many different layers of what makes us a whole person and not just a Pagan.  It is in the evolution of any community. You start with one person and then it spreads out and spreads out.  We add to it and then have a different awareness and understanding.  At this point we are expanding our understanding around issues like class, racism, gender,  and how those things make up the Pagan community.  We ask does our understanding enhance or take away from our spiritual practice?  We are growing in that way. Not all Pagans are poor,  but not all Pagans have a lot of money either.  It is a struggle to wrap our minds around that. Even though we are Pagans we are also just people who are struggling in different areas. Bringing attention to that just makes us stronger.

    You are offering a Community Gratitude Restorative Justice Circle on Friday, what does that look like?
    Crystal:  Because it is focused on community building we will do some interactive things differently than at the other restorative justice circles I have done there before. It will be the same format but different. I don’t want to give too much away, but one of the activities we will be doing will leave the community with something tangible that has a piece of everyone there. You can choose what to do with it, whether to put it on your website, or return it to the festival. I really want to leave something tangible and walk away so when anyone sees it they will remember, remember how incredible it was to build community in that way.  I am excited about offering it, I did something similar at Pantheacon a few years ago.  There it was a really great experience and I m excited to see how it works for Harmony Tribe at the festival.

    It is such an honor to be back there at the festival for a wonderful theme like gratitude, when I feel so much gratitude for everyone I have met in Minnesota.

     

    Yeshe Rabbit and Crystal Blanton  will join Tony Mierzwicki for a week of workshops and rituals at Sacred Harvest Festival, August 4-10th near Albert Lea, Mn.  Advance registration closes this Thursday, July 31st, but is available for a week, weekend, or day pass at the festival gate.

     

    Nels Linde

    ~ Nels is a council member of Harmony Tribe, sponsor of Sacred Harvest Festival

    Tony Mierzwicki, Guest at Sacred Harvest Festival – Interview

    Tony Mierzwicki

    Tony Mierzwicki is one of three national guests appearing at Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF)  beginning Monday, August 4th near Albert Lea, MN.  Tony is the author of “Graeco-Egyptian Magick: Everyday Empowerment” and was also a guest of  SHF in 2008.

    Tony is from Austalia but spends much of his time writing and lecturing in Southern California. I talked to him by phone.

    Your expertise is in Greek Religion, what have you been up to lately?

    I have a book coming out in December called , “Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today” . It is a book that reconstructs the practice of Greek religion and updates it to the current day. It is the first book to come out from a main stream publishing company. Every other book has either come out as an academic text or has been self published. This will be a practical text published with Llewellyn. I am a student of Greek religion and I am trying to make it more accessible for those people who are interested. There does seem to be a fair amount of interest in Greek religion at the moment. There are all sorts of Hollywood movies coming out, like Herakles and about other figures of Greek mythology. There would be people out there wondering how the Greeks venerated their Gods. This book will allow people to venerate the gods in a spirit of how the ancient Greek went about the process. There are a number of things that the Greeks did that we cannot do. We are not going to bring back public animal sacrifice, or slavery, or the subjugation of women. Every religion modifies and changes as time goes on. What I am trying to do is look at ancient Greek religion and come up with my best guess of what it would look like today if it had continued since ancient times. That is the spirit behind the book.

    This is based on my own experience, but I also lurk on many Greek based electronic forums to see how other people practice Greek religion, and the issues they are having. There are a number of misconceptions that people have, and I have tried to address those issues. The book is heavily based on source texts, with over 400 footnotes that people can refer to as my primary and secondary sources. I look at the book as “factual” but different folks looking at the same data and material will look to other directions or disagree with the practice outline.

    Is Greek  reconstruction a growing part of the Pagan movement?

    It is a slowly growing part of the Pagan community . People who are drawn to the Greek religion tend to be very scholarly. They tend to consult original texts and get very passionate in their interpretations. There are many intelligent people practicing Greek polytheism. There are some people who believe you go through the motions, performing rituals perfectly, but do not expect any personal interaction with the gods. Others believe you it is all about a personal interaction with the gods. That is my belief. Unless you can feel the presence of the gods you are not really getting the most out of your practice.

    The Greeks did not have a word for religion. In this day and age we tend to think of religion and secular life as two separate things. We go about our daily lives and may get involved in some religious practice occasionally. Christians may go to church on Sunday, but the rest of the week they are indistinguishable from the rest of the community. Pagans may venerate their gods on certain days, full moons or the eight Sabbats, depending on what they are into. For the Greeks, venerating the gods was something they did everyday. They would not think of beginning any venture unless they called on the gods first. The practice of Greek religion was integrated seamlessly into everyday life. We think of religion as being separate, but then it was considered a crime to disbelieve in the gods, or be an atheist. Everyone went to temples constantly and engaged in various sacrifices. There were particular rituals that took place on a city level. Household performed their own rituals, Guilds and trade groups performed their rituals. They were all varied and different. The principles remained the same but the nuts and bolts of how they did ritual varied.

    The description of how Greeks practiced religion in all aspects of life sounds a lot like much indigenous practice?

    One of the early theories of how religion developed is that it started off as a shamanic practice that became more institutionalized and then turned into religion. If you look at many indigenous tribes their gods have a very real presence. The gods are around them constantly and interact with them frequently. The tribes depend on the gods for everything that is good in their lives. The gods provide sunshine and rain and produce a bountiful harvest for them. They are constantly working with the gods, there is no idea of separation from the divine. This is something you also see with the Greeks.

    What are you bringing to Sacred Harvest Festival next week?

    The heart of my presentation is a series of three workshops that begins with The Practice of Ancient Greek Religion Today.

    The second is on Greek Nature Deities and Gaia Consciousness .  It is about the interconnectedness of us and everything around us. I wanted to bring in the idea of Gaia consciousnessbecause it is a thoroughly modern concept that talks about how everything is interconnected and integrated.

    The third workshop pushes that further and talks about how all of this impacts our health. The things we do in everyday life have an impact on ourselves and everything around us. One of the problems in modern society is that many see themselves as separate from the world. They think they can exploit the riches of the world and not suffer the consequences. I will be pushing the idea of working in harmony with the world, working with sustainable faming practices, sustainable energy and the like. I will talk about how this then also impacts on our health. The workshops form a cohesive series together and I am very grateful to be able to offer these three workshops as a series.

    Will this be of interest to those of many different paths?

    Absolutely, I will try to talk in generalities about these topics, but when it comes down to it one of the things that most Pagans have in common is a deep connection with the planet, the world around them. Regardless of the gods that they may feel closest to, most of us realize that we are integrally connected with the planet and that our decisions effect everything that happens around us – the butterfly effect.  This proposes that every little thing that we do, can wind up having a much larger effect around us. The more people become responsible in how they act, the better things will turn out in the long term for us. A precipice is approaching where we start running out of fossil fuels, and pollution is so bad we can’t breathe the air or drink the water.

    My fourth workshop will be about ancient curses and bindings. This will be an overview from an academic sort of viewpoint. It will give people an idea about what kind of activities took place so they can see the darker underbelly of our community from the vantage point of the past.

    The last workshop will be about the god Set. For a lot of people Set is thought of as an evil god, a prototype of the Christian devil. He has been demonized over the years. When one people conquers another they demonize the gods of the other. In this case Set was a very significant god in ancient times. There are various texts which talk about his importance and describe him as a benevolent deity. Once the worship of Osiris came to the ascendancy, Set was demonized. I hope to present some balance and provide another way of looking at him. He is a powerful god, but not really evil. I want to share what I have found in my research about him.

    When were you last a guest at Sacred Harvest Festival?

    This was in 2008 and had a fantastic time! I was made to feel very welcome. One of the things I really liked was there wer activities for all ages. There were many children and there wer activities for kids, teens, and adults. There was a strong family environment for people who attended with their kids. It was nice to have a festival where you could actually sleep!. Many stayed up late but it was around campfires, singing, enjoying stories and a drink or two together. The whole event had a very family kind of feel to it and I felt blessed to be there. I feel blessed to be coming out yet again!

    I firmly believe that whatever path you choose has to be the path that resonates with you, the path that feels right for you. Unless you have found a specific path you absolutely don’t want to deviate from, it is always good to see what other people are doing and perhaps learn little things that you can integrate into your own practice from them. I am simply bringing things I have learned in the past couple of decades in the hopes that attendees can get something out of them to integrate into their own practice. There may be people interested enough in what I am doing to engage in the practice of Greek polytheism or perhaps Graeco-Egyptian magick – the subject of my previous book. What I have found from running workshops based on my first book is that very few people will choose to practice exactly as it is presented in the book. People tend to pick out bits and pieces from it and integrate it into what they are already doing. That is fine because it is all about finding things which resonate with you. When I was starting out I was trying to learn everything I could from those around me. There were things that would just feel right, and others that didn’t quite feel right. This approach ensures that eventually you end up navigating your own path.

    There are so many gifted speakers this year sharing their experiences and knowledge. That is what it is all about, learning from each other and sharing our experiences. We can then all pass what we have learned and pay it forward. I can’t help those who helped me in the past but I can help those who come after me, and I encourage others to do the same.

    Tony will join Yeshe Rabbit and Crystal Blanton  for a week of workshops and rituals at Sacred Harvest Festival, August 4-10th near Albert Lea, Mn.  Advance registration closes this Thursday, July 31st, but is available for a week, weekend, or day pass at the festival gate.

     

    Nels Linde

    ~ Nels is a council member of Harmony Tribe, sponsor of Sacred Harvest Festival

    Eye of Horus Metaphysical Store Faced with Relocating

    Thraicie and Jane

    Thraicie and Jane

    You would never guess from the business-as-usual appearance at the Eye of Horus Metaphysical Store that the owners are faced with the sudden challenge of relocating it by the end of this month and finding the funds to do so. As I enter “the Eye”, I am still greeted by the customers browsing, buying and getting their questions answered by upbeat staff. Stones of all types glisten beside cards stating their magical properties. A client seeking spiritual guidance exits into a room with one of the divinational readers. In the background a CD plays musical selections from an upcoming Wendy Rule concert being held there this Sunday. Thraicie Hawkner, her long silver hair flowing down her shoulders, and Jane Hawkner, with a short, cute pixie cut, approach me from across the busy room with undaunted looks on their faces.

    Their confident appearance shouldn’t have surprised me. They have been running The Eye of Horus since October 31st 2003 in a previous location just a few blocks from their current space and even earlier as an internet business with booths at community gatherings. Meeting the challenges of entrepreneurship over the years has made them seasoned businesswomen with a fair amount of mettle. But, even so, finding out the first of July that they would need to find a new space and move the store into it by the end of July, would have been enough to make even experienced business owners sweat.

    “During this crunch time it has been particularly motivating to remember how many times people have come in and said things like, “I did not know there was a place like this, I feel like I have come home” or “Your store is the reason I was able to reconnect to my faith”, said Jane. It keeps us tuned into the reason we are here and to what the Eye of Horus means to so many people. Knowing that we have been of meaningful service to the community has been fuel for problem solving through this challenge.”

    “We have found a perfect size space for us that we can move into,” Thraicie said. She explained that the challenge has been raising the funds for the move. “We just found out July 1st that we would need to move, so we had no money to secure the new location, or any money to cover the closing of the store during move time, a rental truck or other moving expenses. So we developed the current fundraiser.”

    Eye of Horus has a GoFundMe website  that enables people to either purchase “perks” or make a straight donation. The perks are in the form of discounted services such as divinatory readings, therapeutic massage, discounted gift certificates, or a book shelf in their name.  In this way, people can choose to donate or purchase “perks” at attractively discounted prices.

    Continue reading

    Oberon Zell-Ravenheart at Paganicon – Interview

    Oberon Zell Ravenheart

    Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

    I talked by phone with Oberon Zell-Ravenheart about his upcoming appearance at Paganicon, and his new book  about to be released.

    Paganicon
    Where: Doubletree Park Place in St. Louis Park, MN
    When: March 14-16, 2014
    NOTE: Deadline for programming submissions is January 31st!

    Oberon Zell-Ravenheart is a multi-talented and active force of nature, pursuing many interests at any one time. I inquired about the health of  lifemate Morning Glory who has been undergoing treatment for cancer for some time. Oberon splits most days to spend time with her in this current hospitalization, and a funding site has been established for donations for her ongoing care. Don’t be fooled by the funding goal displayed, the need is real and ongoing!

    Are you excited to come to Minnesota?
    Yes, I have not been to Minneapolis for a long time. My father used to live up there and I visited him frequently before he died a few years ago. But my major connection to the area is the old Llewellyn Gnosticons  back in the early 70’s, which is where I met Morning Glory. We met at the fourth Gnosticon festival in 1973 at the fall equinox, and were handfasted there on April 14, 1974. We’re coming up on our 40th wedding anniversary! We have just completed and published our life story, and that period is an important part of it.  Llewellyn is publishing it and Carl Weschcke wrote the introduction to the book, so it is all coming around full circle. The book will be released in early February.

    Tell me about your keynote address at Paganicon.

    Deborah Lipp

    Deborah Lipp

    I am sharing the keynote with guest Deborah Lipp, and we are offering a talk on the legacy of the whole Neo-Pagan movement. The two of us will be bouncing back and forth about the emergence of the Neo-Pagan movement and what it has contributed that will be of lasting significance in the world. I think it is quite a lot. We will also talk about where we go from here as Paganism becomes more recognized as a mainstream religion. One of the puzzles we have all experienced is why don’t people don’t seem to know about us, because they ought to!

    There have been more books published by and about the Pagan movement that just about any other religion you could find. Vast numbers of people are involved, interviews, television shows are aired about us. People seem to have a much greater awareness about a few truly obscure and off the wall spiritual groups than us.

    You have always had a very public face as a Pagan, how has that experience been for you?
    I always get a good reception. I have done lots of interviews and never had a bad one. I have done many public appearances, speaking, book signings, and festivals, and they have all been positively received. I can afford to be out there in the public in a way that many people can’t. I don’t have to worry about losing my job, or losing my kids in a child custody suit, or many of the things that have caused some of our people to feel the need to stay “in the broom closet.” Because of my freedom to move in the wider world without repercussions, I feel a responsibility to do so, because of all the people who cannot afford to.

    What will you be offering at Paganicon?
    The theme of the conference is about Embracing the Elements, and now that we have just stepped over the threshold of the age of Aquarius, there is interest in knowing what all this will mean. I want to talk about this, as Aquarius is an Air sign, signifying communication, wisdom, and travel through the air and sky. The internet and how that will continue evolving in the years to come, and space travel and colonization, these are totally Aquarian types of issues. Then there is the spiritual, and Aquarius also involves the mind and consciousness. The “New Age” is very Aquarian in its entire vision. This is truly a time of global awakening, of our planetary being, of Gaea herself. Her awakening to full consciousness and the implications of that for us. I have been thinking about these things for decades and I think it will make a great subject to talk about. We are here!

    Where do you put most your effort now?
    With each of the projects I have worked on I have tried to create what I want to see. If it is not out there, then I feel I have a mission to create it. I started off back in college with finding two major things lacking. I wanted to create a new religion because I was into religion but was not satisfied with what was out there and available. I took that as an assignment, and created the Church of All Worlds  in 1962.
    Ultimately I had a lot to do with the creation of the whole modern Pagan movement. I feel good about that, I don’t feel the need to keep at that, it is sustaining and I just keep my finger in the pie with my ideas. The most recent involvement has been a campaign to get journalists and press style books to capitalize the name of our religions. Everything from Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, to Christianity in all its forms are capitalized. Why not Paganism? There is no other religion that I can think of that is ordinarily and routinely not capitalized by journalists. It is really annoying and frustrating. We have been hammering at this trend for decades. It is insulting and demeaning .Lately I pulled together an international coalition of scholars in Pagan studies and we submitted a petition to the AP and Chicago Stylebooks to capitalize the name of our religion. Your readers may view and sign the petition .
    But the other thing I have always felt a need for was an entirely new approach to education—what I call “esoteric education.” That is, once upon a time getting an education was universally regarded as a very special privilege. But this view has been severely diluted by our laudable goal of universal education. But I was always inspired by more visionary models, such as Montessori, Waldorf schools, Summerhill, Walden Two—and perhaps most of all, “Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters” in “The X-Men.”
    For decades I have written and lectured about the need I perceived in our Pagan community to create schools of magick and Wizardry that would be open to youths as well as adults. With the incredible popularity of the Harry Potter novels and movies, centering around a fictional school of “Witchcraft and Wizardry,” I felt that the time had finally come for me to actualize my long-standing vision, and create such a school in the real world. And so it is, with my Grey School of Wizardry , which is ten years old this year!

    Have we not attained a capital P in Pagan by not having a commonly accepted definition?
    That idea frustrates me, because we do have a commonly accepted definition, and we have had it for decades. I don’t understand why there are people who resist that. Some people just seem to be contrary-wise and don’t want to get with the program. This is not something that we haven’t done or talked about. We have had whole conferences of Pagan leaders, like the Pagan Leaders Summit in 2001, that I attended over ten years ago that addressed this question. These things have been settled and used worldwide for decades now. I don’t understand why new people coming into the Pagan movement can say we don’t really know who we are.

    Yes we do; we have known for decades! It is who we are and have been very clear about our definitions. Simply put, Paganism is Nature Worship. That is pretty fundamental. On a broader scale it is the “Old Religion” the original religion of ancient peoples everywhere, indigenous traditions that existed before being taken over by prophet-based religions. It is about the Earth, the seasons, natural cycles and the ways of Nature; that is the core of it. I particularly like the definition of Paganism I overheard in the ‘90’s as “Green Religion.”

    Are you actively involved in the School of Wizardry?
    These days most of my activity with the School isn’t so much on the internal level. That is all being handled really well. We have a phenomenal faculty and staff, a couple dozen people, who are doing a great job with all that. What I do is just keeping the oversight of the long term vision. I tend to handle the outside public relations, and speaking about it. I try to bring the school to a wider public consciousness and help in shaping the whole thing. Writing the textbooks, trying to encapsulate the obsessive learning I have done all my life, consumes much of my time. To get that together coherently in a literary format so people can have it, and so it will remain, is important to me.

    Oberon and Morning Glory with unicorn

    Are you excited about your new book coming out?
    I look forward a great deal to seeing how people react to it. The initial manuscript was twice as long as the edited book! A great deal had to be trimmed. What we have now should be tight and fun, and move right along and hopefully people will find it enjoyable. That is really what is comes down to when producing a book. There are two aspects. Most writers think of what they want to give to people. People who are buying the books are looking at what they are receiving. If they don’t like the book it doesn’t matter how well the author has articulated his or her thoughts, it falls flat. If people think it is a great story, and they like it a lot, well cool! If not, then, oh well. You drop a pebble in the pond and watch the ripples spread…

    What was your experience of the Midwest?
    I grew up out there, what I consider to be “Pleasantville”. I was in high school in the 50’s, the world of Archie and Jughead, Happy Days, Father Knows Best, all that was created after World War II to offer to returning GI’s. To emerge out of that into the sixties was a major cultural revolution. Every sixty years, like clockwork , there has been a major cultural renaissance, the last one being in the 1960’s.  Out of that came the Pagan movement, the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the anti -war movement, and the sexual revolution; it was huge.
    The next one of these will be in the 2020’s. I am excited to look forward to that. Each time the people who came of age in one revolutionary era then become the elders, teachers, and wise ones for the young people in the next generation. We have this cycle in our mythology, of wizards and young heroes. Wizards are the mentors for the heroes as they leave on their adventures. Connecting all this from the myths into the reality, the history of past, present, and future is a large part of what I am thinking about and working with these days.
    This is the ultimate conspiracy of Pagans. By the time you know enough to know what we are really all about, it too late, you are already one of us.

    Nels Linde

    2013 Winter Solstice Drum Jam

    This winter’s Solstice Celebration with the Minneapolis Sacred Fire Dance Tribe was highly energetic and a welcoming event to the lengthening of the days. Organized by WildFlower and Steve Poreda, the evening was full of invocation, drumming, dancing and magick. The family friendly event, with a potluck and donations to the East Side Neighborhood Services, was held at BE Coterie in the happenin’ NE Minneapolis.

    photo: Steve Peterson

    photo: Steve Peterson

    The evening began with WildFlower leading an opening ceremony that included a meditation to connect with our  inner light and assist in manifesting our hearts desires throughout the coming year. We were transported to magical realms while experiencing the pulsating beats of the Tribal Drums and witnessing the creativity of the Minneapolis Sacred Fire Dancing Tribe.

     Click to view event photo slideshow

    Winter Solstice has been celebrated across the world since ancient times. People from across the globe gather to celebrate at a variety of ancient sites including Stonehenge in England, the Great Pyramids in Egypt, Chichen Itza (an ancient Mayan site) and many other locations around the world.  The Minneapolis event energetically connected with all of the participating Drum Circles across the globe that were drumming in the Solstice at 12 Midnight Central Standard Time.

    See you there next year!

    Steve Peterson

    Yule in Minnesota

    Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

    Maybe it is the climate, or seasonal competitiveness but Yule is BIG in Minnesota. A few early events have already happened last weekend. If you are looking for a Pagan Yule event this weekend, check out these events beginning Friday evening and continuing through Sunday. If you know of other public events, please add them as a comment!


    2013 Winter Solstice Drum Jam

    with Minneapolis Sacred Fire Dancing Tribe
    Friday, December 20, 2013
    8:00pm until 1:00am
    BE Coterie,  165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55413

    Doors open at 8pm. There will be spin toys for everyone to play with from 8-8:30 > Opening Ceremony begins at 8:30pm > fire dancing performances at 9, 10, 11 and 12 > and drumming throughout the night!This is a family friendly event. Suggested donation $5. Children 10 and younger are FREE.There will be a potluck so please bring food and/or drinks to share (something fitting for the holidays). If you bring something you are not required to pay the $5 entry, though it would still be appreciated :)Opening ceremony at 8:30pm which includes a meditation to help you connect with your inner light to assist you in manifesting your hearts desires (and better!) throughout the coming year.
    Accepting donations that will be given to East Side Neighborhood Services.


    Reclaiming Winter Solstice ritual

    Saturday December 21, 2013

    10:00 am – 1:00 pm
    Living Table United Church of Christ, 4001 38th Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN 55406

    Please join us as we celebrate this intention for the Winter:
    Declaring we are not alone, we kindle our hearths’ Flame.

    There will be a light potluck following the ritual and you are welcome to bring something to share with community. There is a small kitchen at the church. You do not have to bring a potluck item to attend the ritual and share in the feasting.

    All are welcome, including children and folks from other traditions. Donations are also welcome, but please note that no one will be turned away for lack of funds. This is a sober event. We also invite you to refrain from the use of perfumes, lotions, and other scented products to ensure increased accessibility.


    Harmony Tribe Yule

    Celebrate the changes with Harmony Tribe
    on December 21, 2013

    Gather at 2 pm, ritual at 3 pm

    Michael Servetus Unitarian Society, 6565 Oakley Drive Northeast, Fridley, MN 55432.

    Feasting and camraderie to follow! All are welcome to attend; this is a FREE and very family friendly environment. Bring your family and a dish to pass. Ritual early in the day, early enough for those with other Yule obligations to attend.


    2013 Wiccan Church of Minnesota (WiCOM) Public Yule (Winter Solstice)

    Hearth and Home as We Await the Sun

    DATE Saturday, December 21, 2013
    TIME 6:30 p.m. Gather, 7:00 p.m. Ritual
    RITUAL
    PLACE
    Living Table UCC
    4001 38th Ave S
    Minneapolis, MN 55406

    Join us in a family-friendly ritual to commemorate the Holly King’s contributions and to celebrate the return of his counterpart, the Oak King.Bring a beverage and a dish to share for the feast, and we’ll lift a cup to the Sun.


    Saturnalia Sabbat Open Ritual

    with Our Lady of Celestial Fire

    Saturday December 21, 2013
    6:30 pm – 9:00 pm (GMT-06.00) Central Time (US & Canada)
    Eye of Horus, 3012 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis, MN 55408
    Ritual 7-9:00pm Gather at 6:30 for setup Join Our Lady of Celestial Fire for this open circle celebration of the rebirth of the divine child. Any ritual garb may be worn. A potluck feast and fellowship to follow.This event is Free, but donations are appreciated to cover the costs.

    Winter Solstice Sound Healing Concert

    Doors are open at 7:30pm, concert at 8pm.
    610 W. 28th Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Join Steve Sklar and Johnna Morrow for an evening of sonic exploration celebrating the Winter Solstice. An “inner adventure” intended to evoke and stimulate an enhanced sense of well-being, spiritual connectedness, healing, and meditative journeying. Tibetan singing bowls, didgeridoos, guitar, igil (Tuvan horsehead fiddle), voice, exotic flutes, drumming, throat-singing, sruti box, ehecatls and an amazing set of huge gongs. Special guest Brett Fehr will lead an opening invocation.

    Admission is $15 in advance and suggested $20 donation at the door.


    3012 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408

    Saturday, Dec 21st 9:00pm to Sunday Dec 22nd 8:00am

    Sacred fire circles are purposeful nights spent working through a personal alchemical process of burning off one’s dross to reveal the gold. It is a deliberate, intense and intent-full night of dancing, drumming, rattling, chanting, meditating, healing, and holding space in ritual mindset.

    This event costs $21.00 per person, and pre-registration is required.


    Winter Solstice gathering
    Sunday, Dec. 22nd from 4-6 pm .
    At the NEW Walker Church building–3104 16th Ave. S., Mpls.

    Candles lit to celebrate the light in our lives and bless the growing power of the Sun.
    Join with members of the Walker Community Church.

    You are welcome to arrive between 3:30 and 4pm at the entrance circle with the fireplace.  Candles and Cider will be provided.

    (the last) Samhain in Paradise

    This year's Corn King had a Where the Wild Things Are look

    This year’s Corn King had a Where the Wild Things Are look

    In October of 1994, the first Corn King burned during a Samhain celebration at Nels Linde’s home in rural Wisconsin, a place he calls Paradise. Last Saturday, the final 30 foot high Corn King was set ablaze in front of over 92 area Pagans. Two decades of potlucks, camping, and Samhain rituals come to a close that night.

    Linde started helping a friend, Mike Olson, create Corn Kings at Olson’s home in 1991.  Starting in 1994 the practice moved to Linde’s property. Around 30 people attended Linde’s Samhain celebration that first year and it’s grown ever since.  “One year, maybe 1997,  in a bad winter storm there where as few as ten people to burn one a very simple one I built completely myself,” Linde said. “The last ten years it’s  been between 60 and 120 people each year.” In 1998 Linde’s future wife Judy Olson (no relation to Mike Olson) began attending and a few years later was key to the celebration.

    Linde says the celebration has evolved over the years, “When I worked with Mike it had more of an emphasis on acknowledging the changing of the seasons. Kind of a potluck with a fire theme. When I narrowed my definition of community to be defined as Pagan and local to be within several hundred miles, we parted ways.” He says that once Judy Olson became involved, the rituals became more integrated with the burn. They began focusing more on the needs of the people who were helping build it and who would be attending in its design.

    The celebration itself typically starts after dark when the circle is cast. After that guests go inside and enjoy a potluck feast. Attendee then process to the Corn King where the Samhain ritual is completed and the Corn King is set on fire.

    This year followed that pattern. Attendees gathered in a double circle in the chill night while the circle was cast and the quarters called as a youth ran around the outside of the the property with a torch raised high. Judy Olson then explained to the crowd that this year there was a veiled tent where attendees could commune with their ancestors and write down a blessing or message. The empty chair, placed in the tent to serve the ancestors, and the slips of paper would be burned in the fire later. With that, the veil was opened and attendees were invited to either spend time communing with their honored dead or to go inside the house and enjoy the feast.

    Judy Potluck altered

    Judy Olson talks with Tasha Rose during the potluck

    The warmth of the house was welcome after the cold evening. Kitchen Witches replaced empty pots and pans and dishes with full ones as the crowds piled food onto plates. Even with the large crowd, no one went hungry. I sat across from a young lady who came with a co-worker. She’s not Pagan but had heard so much about the celebration from her Pagan co-worker she wanted to experience it for herself. Most others had attended the celebration before and knew each other well. The chatter was lively as old friends caught up and newer people introduced themselves.

    DSCN1066After eating I bundled back up in my mittens and headed out to the ancestor tent. Samhain isn’t a celebration in Hellenismos, but we have something slightly similar each month, so I didn’t feel as much need to contact my ancestors. However, a friend of mine couldn’t attend due to the death of her husband’s grandmother and she asked me to honor her that night. So I said a prayer for Grandma Nell and wrote her name on a slip of paper and placed it into the basket.

    I regrouped with the people I came with who were hanging out at our tent in a small wooded area. Did I mention we were camping that night in 20 degree temperatures? We brought plenty of sleeping bags, blankets, and chemical pocket heaters to ward off the cold. There may have been some mead floating around but I’ll neither confirm or deny the honey wine.

    Carved pumpkins ring the Corn King

    Carved pumpkins ring the Corn King

    They were bundled up in blankets with only their faces poking out. I told them it was almost time for the culmination of the ritual and picked up out small carved pumpkins and lit the tea lights. The pumpkins were our price of admission. Each person was to carve a small pumpkin in honor of an ancestor to carry during the procession. I carved my grandmother’s name in mine. My husband left his blank, just a hold for the candle. Our friend carved a crown in hers, as she is related to royalty. We lit our tea lights and headed to the line forming for the procession.

    A feeling excitement and solemnity spread through the line as we wound our way through the woods. Flickering candlelight lit our way and voices raised in song.

    Mother of Darkness, won’t you guide us
    Through the labyrinth to the truth.
    Mother of Darkness, won’t you carry us
    Through the chaos to the truth

    DSCN1153

    Attendees dance around the fire as sparks float upwards

    We entered the clearing and there he was, the Corn King, raising 30 feet high with horns and a very proud penis. I’d seen him during the day, even helped build him the weekend before, but seeing him in the flickering light with the stars filling the sky made him into a stranger. We took our places in the circle and waited for everyone to file in. Once we were all there, we placed our pumpkins around the Corn King. Some called out the names of their honored dead, while others were silent. Nels and a few others carried the ancestor chair, the basket of messages, and a torch around the circle. The chair was placed between the feet of the Corn King, the message poured out, and the torch touched the Corn King as drums beat and attendees cheered and cried out.  The dancing began almost immediately, dim figures backlit by the fire. I was mesmerized by the sparks shooting from the top of the fire.  Although I’m not Wiccan I found the words Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircles the universe surfacing in my mind as I watched the fire dance into the sky, blending with the stars.

    Nels Linde and a volunteer add corn stalks to the Corn King

    Nels Linde and a volunteer add corn stalks to the Corn King

    So much work goes into building the Corn King just to watch him burn down in one night. “We need between 8-15 a day, for maybe 6-7 hours work per day. We started at 4 days prep time and the last few years go by on three by being better prepared and more efficient. That equals 200-300 person hours in advance, plus many hands spending the day of the ritual in final preparation,” says Linde. He and Judy Olson spend additional time gathering materials, promoting and inviting, answering questions, and preparing our home and property to be inviting and hospitable.

    As Wiccans, both Linde and Olson feel Samhain is the most important day of the year which is why they spend so much time and effort to make it special. Linde says the celebration is a dramatic experience that demonstrates the transitory nature of life, “Like life, it is here, and we work so hard to make it exactly what we want, and then it is suddenly gone. These are things most Pagans think about this time of year. For a young person, this building of a thing for weeks, only to be destroyed, can lead to very profound revelations. Why a man?  In many magical traditions there exists a male figure to act as a sacrifice to ensure the survival of a people, to survive the coming winter. This is the ultimate visualization of that sacrifice and a reminder of all the sacrifices our ancestors made, those we have made, and those we may some day be asked to make for our people.”

    Olson says, “Remove the gender from this and the burning of an effigy represents an ending. This is the Witch’s new year, it is a time to finish our work and get your plate cleaned for the next year. For me this always works. Once the man burns I am ready for a whole new year and a new cycle.”

    I’m not a night owl so once the Corn King was mostly burned down I headed back to my tent to let the ritual soak in while I slept. The cold was a shock once I left the relative warmth of the fire. I snuggled down into my blankets and fell asleep to the beat of drums pondering how fleeting our time here on earth is. At forty-mumble these thoughts are beginning to carry more weight. Will everything I ever was burn away in a moment or will something last past my death? If I died tonight what is the state of my timé? Uncomfortable thoughts.

    .
    In the morning, those of us camping or staying in the house gathered for a large breakfast. We had time to sit around the table and talk. About the ritual, our night’s sleep, and future gatherings.  Linde says he started holding this celebration because he had the space and magic circle to do it in. He says, as a potter, it also appealed to his sense of artistry, I love a big fire and have always had a relationship with fire as a potter. Spiritually it connects with many seasonal aspects of rural living, and a Pagan life style.”

    But what makes it all worthwhile for both Linde and Olson is the people. “My favorite thing is spending a length of time working beside people that help build. I get to know them much better. There is always a few new people to get to know each year. It is great to watch them experience the whole process and become a part of the building family that develops,” says Linde.   He says its enlightening to see how people react to working a long time on something consumed so quickly built simply to inspire others. Olson agrees, “During the actual event weekend, the time spent with people from all over the Midwest just sitting in your jammies round the breakfast table, or playing a group game late at night after the burn, or drumming, or tending the fire,  these are all very bonding and I love the bonds this event has created that will last forever.”

    So why, after so many years, are they stopping? As noted earlier, building the Corn King is very physically taxing and takes up a considerable amount of time. They both hope someone else takes up the torch and hosts this type of celebration. But if it does die out, they wish for the community to find other things to build that inspires themselves and others. After all, death is part of the cycle, which leads to rebirth.

    Below is a short video of the burning of the Corn King at this year’s Samhain celebration and  a link to a write up about the 1996 celebration.

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