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  • 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.

    Pagans: Join the Beyond Belief Walk for Peace

    Pagans looking to give and recieve interfaith tolerance can literally walk their walk on Saturday, November 16th at the Mall of America from 8 am to 9:30 am at the Beyond Belief Walk for Peace. While no pre-registration is required, those who can are asked to register in advance to give mall management an idea of how many people will attend.

    The 1.5 mile walk is intended to celebrate peace beyond the constraints of personal difference. People of all spiritual and non-spiritual traditions are welcome. The platform of participation sets forth the following principles/requirements:

    1. Embracing Differences- We embrace all people committed to peace. You are welcome to be who you are and will be accepted in peace.
    2. Practicing the Three Tiers of Peace- Peace with Myself. Peace with my Community. Peace with belief systems and communities other than my own.
    3. Creating Connection- We are for connection and not for conversion. We create a safe environment for people to be as they are. The Beyond Belief Walk for Peace is an opportunity to connect and not an opportunity to proselytize.

    The event keynote speaker is Joan Steffend, former anchor at KARE 11, HGTV host, co-founder of Peace Begins with Me Project and author of peace in, peace out [sic.]

    There is no fee for participation. You can register on Beyond Belief and like the Facebook page for updates.

    Women and Spirituality Conference Mankato – Lisa Spiral Besnett

    UofMN Mankato Student Union

    UofMN Mankato Student Union

    October 12-13, the weekend of the 32nd Annual Women and Spirituality Conference in Mankato, Minnesota.  We walk into a typical registration table, sign in and collect our name tags and conference materials.  The schedule, changes and cancellations, a copy of the October edition of the Minnesota Women’s Press magazine and maps – lots of maps.

    Entering the Auditorium

    Entering the Auditorium

    The doors to the auditorium open and everything changes.  We walk in through banners that read: “I Enter In Perfect Love And Perfect Trust.”  The air is charged as people find seats.  There is much waving and greeting as women find friends they haven’t seen since the year before.  Business announcements are made, the staff and University thanked and then we are told “Welcome to our ritual led by Treewommon and an assortment of witches to honor the Goddess and the Sacred Elements.”  The opening ceremony is begun.

    The directions are called, East and Air, South and Fire, West and Water, North and Earth, and Center.  Puppets representing the directions are paraded in and presented in turn, each carried by a woman who is also a representative of woman aging through the stages of life.  The maidens, the mother, the crone, and the hag.  The Goddess Herself, named as Bridget and carrying a banner with symbols of many Goddesses representing Center, Spirit, and Community.  The audience joins in the familiar chant and the Conference is off and running.

    Creating Sacred Space

    Creating Sacred Space

    This conference is sponsored by the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at the University of Minnesota, Mankato.   Cindy Veldhuisen, the Business Manager for the Conference, told me that there were about 540 attendees this year.  This is up from last year.

    Some of the reason for the increase in attendance can likely be attributed to this year’s keynote speaker, Starhawk.  This is Starhawk’s third appearance as keynote speaker for the Woman & Spirituality conference.  She draws attendees from across the five state area as well as from the east coast, Colorado and Canada.  Many of the women I spoke with who were familiar with Starhawk were also alumni of the Diana’s Grove Witch Camp.

    Starhawk is often mistaken as the public face of Reclaiming, and indeed she was one of the co-founders of the original collective in San Francisco.  But her focus, especially in recent years, has been on Earth Activist Training .  She is teaching permaculture techniques to small communities throughout the world.  She’s just returned from an training in Palestine.

    One of the things Starhawk talked about in her keynote address was “frame”.  How we choose to frame things affects how we see them, how we interpret the information.  She told about her first visit to the region as part of a Hebrew Class trip in her teens.  They pointed out that the Israeli side of the Jordan was green and lush and the Palistinian side was all brown and dry.

    Starhawk and Spiral

    Starhawk and Spiral

    Since then Starhawk has come to realize that the Israeli’s control 80-90% of the ground water in the region.  She also knows that the Palestinians have been practicing sustainable agriculture in the area for thousands of years.  They feed their people without using much water at all.  Yes, it’s not as lush or green.  The base systems are fig trees, almonds and olives.  It’s a style of agriculture that sustains the soil and the ecosystem.

    Permaculture respects those systems and uses modern tools with historically successful techniques to rejuvenate the soils and sustain the crops.  It is this concept of rejuvenation that Starhawk feels is at the core of the Pagan spirituality.  She suspects it is this philosophy that the consumer culture finds threatening.

    There was a slide show about the devolution of the Bird Goddess.  There is strength in those postures of resistance, the stances of the neolithic and paleolithic statues.  Starhawk suggested that the Harpies, the Crones, the Witches as well as the guardian Angels all come to our collective consciousness from those early Bird Goddesses.  She reminded us that Harpies harp.  They point out the things that need fixing, and keep at it until those things get fixed.  She encouraged the conference goers, when they’re in the mood pick a fight, to get on the phone and call their congressmen.  Starhawk blogs about this connection between Paganism and politics at www.starhawksblog.org.

    Of course the keynote speaker is not the whole of the conference.  Over the course of the two days there are also four sessions of  hour and a half workshops offered.  With 30-35 workshops offered in any given session there was a lot of variety to chose from.  Many of the presenters actually offered repeats of their workshops in a second session to make it a little easier for attendees to choose.

    The conference spreads over 5 of the campus buildings using classrooms, conference rooms and dance and exercise spaces.  One of these buildings houses the vendor room.  An ample space for several rows of vendors to show their wares.  There were services offered, Reiki and tarot readings, along side the books, jewelry, drums, pottery and garb we often expect.

    Red Tent movie

    Red Tent movie

    Many of the vendors are also presenters, either closing their booths for a workshop session or partnering with a friend.  The filmmaker and distributor of the movie “Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent” was one of the women doing double duty.  She actually left her booth to be attended by a neighboring vendor while she screened the movie for conference goers.  This quick and deep friendship, the commonality and trust among women is probably the most common and profound product of this conference.  It’s the reason many women come back year after year.

    The closing ritual again presented by Treewommon and friends is bittersweet.  We are introduced to the players.  The maidens have been “attending” this conference all their lives.  Their mother’s met here and have been close kindred for the ten years since.  (“Let that be a warning to you about the friends you make here!” the Priestess teases.)
    We sing a powerful chant looking into each others eyes and falling into the arms of friends and strangers around us.  Tears, laughter and hugs are shared.  A spontaneous circle forms so that we can all see and rejoice in the power and beauty of women gathered in harmony and purpose.

    The directions thanked and dismissed we are charged to carry this energy, the spirit of the conference home with us.  We are charged to remember what is possible when Women come together.

    Dates for next year’s conference have not yet been announced.  To stay up to date on developments or to get on the mailing list go to: http://sbs.mnsu.edu/women/conference or contact the Gender and Women’s Studies Department directly at: 507-389-2077

    Lisa Spiral Besnett

    Lisa Spiral Besnett is an occasional contributor to PNC.  Her book, Manifest Divinity, is published by Immanion Press and available in paperback or as an ebook at Amazon.com.  Spiral writes a weekly blog where you can read more about her personal experiences living a spiritually aware life.

    UMPA celebrates six years, debates a seventh

    As the Upper Midwest Pagan Alliance,  a federal 501c4 service corporation, prepares to celebrate their sixth anniversary at their biennial meeting this Saturday, they’re also contemplating if UMPA should disband or if it can be revived through an influx of new members and new leadership.  That question will be discussed while attendees enjoy music, food, and dancing.
    .
    In late 2006 and early 2007, when Pagans across the nation were banding together in the VA Pentacle Rights Quest, the Upper Midwest Pagan Alliance (UMPA) was born in the Minnesota/Wisconsin area. It’s conception was sparked by an unlikely source – a local curmudgeonly radio personality named Joe Soucheray.   In December of 2006, Soucheray was reading a news article about the Pentacle Quest on his afternoon show, Garage Logic. While he said that soldiers who gave their life for their country should get whatever they want on their headstone, he did get some mileage out of poking fun at Wiccans. He noted, jokingly, that Wiccans have a PR problem and they need to do something about it.

    First, outrage swept the local Pagan community, followed shortly by thoughtful discussion.  “Soucheray was right, we should be doing more,” said Nels Linde, UMPA’s former chairman. “We have a PR problem in that we tend to be quiet people. We don’t get out there and say who we are or what we do. People think we’re out dancing in the woods in robes.”

    Nels Linde and Judy Olson (among others) used their years of experience in group leadership and UMPA was born. According to the group’s website, “Our immediate activities focused on this issue, culminating in the Pentacle Rights Ritual at the Minnesota State Capital, in a blizzard on Febuary 24th, 2007. In a short 40 days we organized, produced an informative color brochure, made press contacts, and secured the Capital grounds for the event.”

    The ritual, which included the formation of a human pentacle, was well (and favorably) covered by local andnon-local press.  After the VA settled the lawsuit and approved the Pentacle as Gravemarker for Wiccan Veterans, UMPA took up other projects.

    UMPA Officer Bress Nicneven says, “We’re still sending solider packages to the middle east, from donations by patrons from Magus Books.  We still clean a stretch of I-35 E twice a year. We do ‘Meals on Wheels’ to the elderly during the holidays – annually. And feed the homeless when we have enough volunteers available.” Nicnven says UMPA is a relevant organization and he’s “excited about the potential that is UMPA, in the months and years to come.”

    The organization notes that while over 300 people have been involved with UMPA over the past six years, membership has dwindled and that is prompting leadership to ask members and the community, “… does this mean UMPA is no longer needed? We don’t know. This is an opportunity gather for a great meal, entertainment, and to join in and discuss the future of UMPA; either find some new leadership and participation, or dissolve the organization and pass on any funds raised to another non-profit.”

    The festivities this Saturday kick off with a tribal dance performance by Kamala Chaand at 4:15 followed directly by traditional Norse musician Kari Tauring and then the Bourgeois Bohemians, a fusion dance troupe, performs.   The Biennial UMPA meeting starts at 5.30pm where members are encouraged to add their vision for UMPA’s future and elect a new council.  Attendees are invited to enter the Best Chili and Cornbread of Paganistan contest and everyone present gets to sample the entries for dinner.  While entry to the event is free, the meal is a $5 suggested donation for non-UMPA members or free for members.  Everyone is welcome to the event.

    Event information:

    Saturday Feb. 9th 4-7pm
    At the Living Table UCC
    4001 38th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406 – lower level
    Handicapped Accessable, two blocks off Minnehaha bus line
    Meal $5 by donation or free with UMPA Membership.
    Choose the best Chili and Cornbread of Paganistan.
    Bring your favorite Corn Bread or Chili to join in the competition (enough to feed 50 people a sample portion)
    Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

    Freedom to Marry rally seeks clergy involvement

    FreedomtoMarryDayMinnesotans United For All Families hosts a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol building to support legislation allowing same sex couples the ability to marry.  The rally is titled the Freedom To Marry Day and is scheduled for February 14th.  Organizers are also seeking interested clergy to take a greater role in the rally.

    Minnesotans United says this event is, “a key first step in working with state legislators to ensure that in 2013, Minnesota state law is changed to reflect our shared belief that loving and committed same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry.”

    Organizers wish to show that support for enacting laws to legalize gay marriage is broad-based and diverse so attendees are encouraged to display religious, political, or group affiliation while at the rally.  PNC readers can find more information, to RSVP, or for Pagan clergy to contact Minnesotans United, here.

    Circle Sanctuary joins in Interfaith Awareness Week

    Madison, WI – This week, people of many faiths and traditions are joining together to celebrate religious diversity at Wisconsin’s Annual Interfaith Awareness Week.

    Circle Sanctuary's Rev. Selena Fox

    Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox

    “A variety of religions have holidays in December, and it is a perfect time to celebrate together and learn about Wisconsin’s considerable religious diversity,” said Rev. Selena Fox, Senior Minister of Circle Sanctuary, one of the participating religious communities. “We are pleased to again be part of this important celebration through our participation in the World Religions of Wisconsin exhibits in the Capitol all week and with our Interfaith Open House at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve near Barneveld next Saturday.”

    This is Wisconsin’s 15th annual Interfaith Awareness Week. Educational displays will be in the Rotunda of the State Capitol Building from December 3 to December 7, and a multi-faith presentation, the annual Capitol Celebration, will be held at Noon on December 5.

    “After 15 years, I see we still have interfaith awareness needs,” said Rev. John-Brian Paprock of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Chapel, founder and co-director of Interfaith Awareness Week. “We need to invite one another continually to the common ground in our communities. We need to invite one another to our houses of worship being good hosts and good guests. We have a need for regular ongoing education about the variety of religious/spiritual groups locally to enable any successful dialogue when crisis occurs. We continue to need multifaith service responses to our community needs.”

    In addition to having displays in the Rotunda, a variety of Open House events will be at houses of worship all week.

    “We join with people of many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies in praying for peace, understanding and cooperation this month and year-round,” said Rev. Fox, who has been part of the interfaith team organizing this event since it began. “I invite everyone to join us at our Open House and at the Capitol this week to learn, share and celebrate Wisconsin religious pluralism.”

    Interfaith Awareness Week (IAW), was founded in 1998 by Rev. John-Brian Paprock, and is coordinated by him and Rev. Anne Wynne of the Madison Eckankar Community.   This year’s IAW began with Open Houses held on Sunday at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Chapel, Madison Eckankar Community, the American Hindu Association and the Wisconsin Sikh Society – Middleton Gurdwara.  There will be Continuing Dialogue with the Sikh Community on Wednesday, December 5, at 6 pm at Prairie UU Society, 2010 Whenona Way in Madison. The Madison Eckankar Community will be holding a Community HU Prayer Song at 7:30 pm at the Gates of Heaven, 302 East Gorham Street, in Madison’s James Madison Park. The Madison Baha’i Center Open House will be on Thursday from 6:30-9 pm at the Baha’i Center at 324 W. Lakeside St. in Madison.

    Circle Sanctuary’s Open House near Barneveld will begin with a potluck lunch at Noon on Saturday, December 8th,  followed by a multicultural & interfaith Happy Holidays traditions talk by Rev. Selena Fox at 2pm.Circle Sanctuary also will be sponsoring its 34th annual interfaith and multicultural Winter Solstice Pageant this month. It will be held in the New Auditorium of the First Unitarian Society in Madison on December 21st from 7-9pm.   Call 608-924-2216 or email events@circlesanctuary.org for directions or for more information.

    Local Pagan stores host Small Business Saturday deals

    Major retailers aren’t the only places looking to attract early holiday shoppers, local Pagan retailers are also offering bargains and specials on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
    Black Friday:  Eye of Horus is having a Sunrise Sale on Black Friday 7am to 11pm with hot tea, nibbles and deals for Sunrise Shoppers. The Smitten Kitten, next door,  is also opening early.    At the actual moment of sunrise, 7:21 am, Thraicie will do a Sun Salutation.
    7:00am-11:00am ONLY
    Spend $20 and get a FREE mojo bag (valued at $10)
    Spend $50 and get 10% off your entire purchase

    Small Business Saturday:

    All day, Spend $20 or more and get a FREE mojo bag (valued at $10), while supplies last.
    (On Sunday Eye of Horus is hosting their last, and biggest Psychic Fair of the year.
    Small Business Saturday:  Keys of Paradise is celebrating Small Business Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM at our St Paul location.  The following items are on sale:

    20% off Fair Maiden Fusions Skin Care and Cosmetics

    40% off all cast iron products in the store, including our 15 gal and 55 gal jambalaya pots
    50% off all Mystical/Ritual oils
    50% off all essential oils
    50% off all herbs and resins
    All cone or stick incense – Buy 5, get 2 free
    Sacred Blends Loose incense – Buy 1, get 1 free
    Free Bath Salts with a $25.00 purchase
    Marshmallow Leaf – $5 per pound
    Coltsfoot Leaf – $5 per pound
    Mention PNC and this ad and get 20% off our new Florida Water!
    All sales, while supplies last.
    Black Friday:  We are open from 10am to 9pm for Black Friday and are offering 20% off all books, statues, jewelry, and incense.
    Small Business Saturday:  We are open from 10am to 6pm for Small Business Saturday and are offering 20% off all books, statues, jewelry, and incense.

     

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