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  • President Obama Saved My Life – Open Enrollment Ends

    When Barack Obama was first elected president it was with a surge of support from liberal supporters. Advocates for everything from free speech, peace movements, closure of Guantanamo Bay prison, and restoration of civil rights removed during the “War on Terror” expected to see large changes.

    I have lived long enough to see how few electoral promises get brought to fruition. My expectations were not very high. As the focus of president Obama turned to the passage of some sort of health care reform, I watched as many of the most progressive features of the Affordable Care Act were removed or crippled in their ability to really provide affordable care for the breadth of the American people. In the end at least a bill was passed and put in place.

    This bill as passed the congress was meant to benefit people like myself and my spouse. Most of our lives we have been self-employed and fall into that category of the “working poor”. When our kids were at home we qualified for subsidized medical assistance. As our children left the nest we found ourselves making too much income to qualify for health care assistance, and at our age (approaching sixty) and with some underlying pre-existing conditions, unable to afford or be approved by any insurance company.

    After several years without any health insurance and thankfully only minor health problems we looked forward to the arrival of comprehensive health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The months of public accusations and scare tactics attacking the arrival of “Obama Care” were not enough to scare us into trying to survive until we qualified for medicare in five years!

    When the initial open enrollment period online opened, the reports of problems signing up caused us to decide to wait. A quick look at the program disclosed no coverage was to begin until at least January 2014 anyway, and as reported signup problems persisted the deadline for eligibility for earliest January first coverage kept being pushed back. After Thanksgiving I resolved to get us signed up, whatever it took!

    I am web savvy so when I started having problems signing up I was able to figure out what they were about pretty fast. That does not mean it was easy to get past them. Their database did nor recognize my address, 1 ½ Street, as valid. Neither would it recognize my road’s other name, County Road “K”. I had filled out the entire form, bypassing the message that I had entered a undeliverable mailing address, only to find I could not proceed to actually choose a health plan.

    I got on the phone to the health plan phone bank help line. Over the next week I talked to at least four different phone representatives. Each was completely polite and as helpful as they could be, considering they were talking to someone getting more and more frustrated! Thankfully I was able to call during off-peak hours so I had practically no wait time to get through. Each of the first three calls involved going over the problem, where it was at, what I encountered and where it was left. The first two times were spent going over trying to “reload” my basic account information, which was where my address error was. The third time the assistant left me with the advice that I would have to delete my account and start over. After now spending over six hours on the phone, starting our application over was not what I wanted to hear! I fumed a couple of days, then finally deleted my profile and started over again. This time as soon as I encountered the address problem, and the previously recommended solution did not work, I called into the help desk again. This time I assertively explained the problem, its history, and demanded to talk to a supervisor. I was eventually connected with a supervisor.

    They were really understanding of my frustration, and he volunteered to take over my application and enter information on his end so he could see exactly the problem, do some work-around magic, and move past it. We stayed on the phone for another ninety minutes until my application was complete, and for the first time I could see the health plan options available, and at what subsidy level was appropriate for our family income.

    Continue reading

    Ivo Dominguez Jr at Paganicon – Interview

    Ivo Dominguez Jr

    Ivo Dominguez, Jr. is a visionary and has been active in Wicca and the Pagan community since 1978 and teaching since 1982.  Ivo was a founding member of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, a Wiccan Tradition.  He has taught at many gatherings, conferences, and venues across the United States. Ivo is also a professional astrologer, a well known as a ritualist, and author of many chants and songs. Ivo lives in Delaware, where he one of the owners of Bell, Book, & Candle, Delaware’s largest metaphysical shop. One of his passions has been to be one of the driving forces behind the New Alexandria Library project, which is rapidly approaching completion!

    Ivo is a special presenter at Paganicon this weekend. Registration is available at the door, per event, per day, or for the Saturday ball. He was national guest at Minnesota’s  Sacred Harvest Festival in 2004 where he made his initial connections with this area.

    How is the Alexandrian Library project proceeding?
    Yes, it is being built. The weather has not been kind to us. The building is progressing as the fund raising is progressing. We have been clear all along that we want this built without a mortgage, with no debt on the project. If all goes well, and the weather holds, we will be ready to start painting and preparing the interior at the end of June and later this summer moving books into it. It is progressing slower than we would like, but in the long run for the sake of survivability, not having a monthly payment is primary.

    In 1990 four of us bought the land and moved down there. The land is paid off. Groups take a long time to mature. We have deeded over the thirty acres that the library occupies. We are are progressively deeding over the balance of the property through life estates, so once we are all gone the entire property will remain with the library. Currently there are four houses on the land and the organization will inherit them all piecemeal over the course of decades. Once we owners are all passed there will be no real estate tax as Delaware doesn’t collect tax on 501c3 property. We as a group have several decades to ensure that there is a viable group within the non profit to keep and maintain this property.

    Ivo Dominguez Jr with Macha Nightmare in 2004 at Sacred Harvest Festival

    You were a Sacred Harvest Festival back in 2004, it will be great to have you back in our area!
    I am looking forward to attending Paganicon. I start the morning with a panel discussion and then my voice workshop. In the afternoon I have the book signing, a ritual, and then another workshop.

    What is the panel discussion about?
    The early morning panel is called surviving in dispersion. This is I think still being defined. Part of it is how to survive as a Pagan in a non-pagan world, but part of it is also how to survive and thrive if you are say, in a rural area, or an area with a small Pagan community, or one with few resources. I am guessing we’ll also cover what it means to be the “other” within the broader community.

    Do you experience community as an “other”?
    No not at all. I think I was considered because being from Delaware, it is not considered a Pagan hot spot like Paganistan! What I hope to bring is some insight into how you create your own community, your own enclave. How to interact and engage with the local community that may or may not be Pagan. I have been active in my community for a very long time as one of the owners of the local metaphysical shop. I help organize the local Pride event and have contact with the local political organizations. I will bring the perspective that even if you are a very small percentage you can have everything you need if you engage with the larger community. The role of public Pagans in communities where there are not many with a public face may come up. Having a local shop if the police ever find something strange they always come to me to ask,  ”Do you know any thing about this?”. Where this discussion goes will depend on what questions get posed to the panelists. I would like to focus on how the survive and thrive in a small community.

    What is the magical voice workshop about?
    This will be a lot of work on how to use chanting, spoken runes,primal sounds, and why the voice is so powerful. Before we jump in we will talk about magical hearing,learning to listen magically. The only way to join your voice with other people is if you are really listening. I am looking forward to this workshop, I really enjoy it, People leave very energized from this workshop.

    The Four Minds workshop is a ritual?
    Yes, “The Four Minds Ritual” is a sort of meditative ritual. This will not require a whole lot of mobility. In the beginning we will walk the to set boundaries for the space doing some free form toning. For the bulk of the time once they have in mind what they wish to explore or contemplate we will be seated or on the floor with eyes shut and traveling inwards. The ritual is a guided journey through the four elements and then back to spirit with the intention to explore a particular aspect or seek guidance on a particular thing for each person. It is a ritual, mainly internal but with some external portions of it.

    What is the Karma workshop about?
    The Structure of Karma is about exploring the mechanics of, not so much what karma is, but what karma does. Which things cause it to work or not work. The celestial mechanics of karma, lifting the hood to check how the laws of hermetics work to create cause and effect, causality and synchronicity. It sounds strange but it is an exploration of the engine driving karma, as opposed to whether something is good, bad, or indifferent or how do I escape or alleviate karma, or is it punishment or fate? We will explore individual and collective karma. What we do creates ripples out there. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in karma or not, this is cause and effect and change. If you make choices, if you have emotions or thoughts, you are putting into play a whole chain of cause and effect on the linear side. You are adding a whole web of synchronicity on the non-linear side that will pop up into the world as things that manifest. Karma is just a catchall word for the things we do that drives the engine of manifestation.

    Construction of the New Alexandrian Library

    What is your vision of what we need to accomplish in the next twenty years?
    What matters to me is that we leave behind a viable culture and a real infrastructure as Pagans. Infrastructure  is the single most important next step. Things that are tangible and real in the physical world are infrastructure. It could be a building, be land, be a library or a shrine or temple. A large event like Pantheacon is infrastructure too. It takes a large number of individuals, money, time, and energy to create this Brigadoon type of event that lasts only a few days. Three thousand people intersect in a great Pagan crossroads, like a Pagan United Nations session. This is also fragile, it takes very little to destroy an event. It take a lot to maintain, and requires cohesiveness of a group to continue.

    How we hope to maintain things like this is by this example. We put on an event every few years called Between the Worlds. In 2015 it conflicts with a smaller annual event in the Mid-Atlantic area the Sacred Space conference. We could just go forth and divide the teachers and participants between the two events. The smaller group would probably suffer financially and possibly become less viable. Our two boards met and decided to hold a joint conference. Both events will take place in the same hotel and admission to one gets you admission to the other. We have worked it out to be fair and keep both events, the infrastructure viable.  Cooperation is possible, it is not easy. It is messy, but it can be done.

    Ivo speaking at library ground breaking.

    Paganicon Begins THIS FRIDAY   March 14th  7pm – Sunday March 16th 4pm at the Doubletree Park Place St. Louis Park , MN. Ivo Dominguez will be presenting at four events Saturday, plus a book signing.  Registration is available at the door, per event, per day, or for the Saturday ball.

    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.

    People of the Land – Editorial

    South fork of Hay River

    South fork of Hay River

    Discussion of Paganism often centers around what a Pagan  is. Terms like “nature-centered” always come up, and occasionally reference to the spirituality of the countryside is spoken. I like to think of Pagans as people of the land. It is a vague term and many people can be considered people of the land without having any particular spiritual belief. I take some pride in the term Pagan. I am a Pagan connected to a piece of land.

    I realized recently what a rare relationship I have with land. I have lived on and had an intimate relationship with the same piece of land for thirty eight years. It is not so rare in rural areas where people often reside in the same location for generations. For people who associate their spiritual beliefs with the land, and for  Pagans, the opportunity to spend hundreds of hours in total solitude on an individual piece land is uncommon. I am not referring to the casual acts of living, work, and recreation, but time spent in meditation and direct observation of the land, its plants, and creatures.

    `
    I confess, much of this time was spent in the acts of fishing and hunting, and preparing for these activities. The time walking, looking, sitting, and directly observing the land is all a part of this. These activities have a directed purpose, which didn’t distract from developing an intimate relationship with the land.

    Young Forest photo: UNH.edu

    A long term relationship with land teaches you how temporary are the things  we think are permanent. My land embraces a river, and rivers are ever changing. I can’t count the number of times this little river has changed its course, each fallen tree or rock diverting the flow from its established path. Fragile stream banks erode away, cliffs collapse, and a spring log jam can start the deposit of a new stream bank. A severe flood can scour out a new deep fishing hole and a large influx of eroded dirt can silt in a beautiful rocky rapids. These changes occur without any relation to what we  as humans may want, or what we spiritually wish and pray for as best for the land.

    Land changes in its type, spanning the whole range from agriculture, to grassland and meadow, to brushy pasture, and eventually to mixed forest. Human intervention often controls these changes. In my part of the world the land was once all a conifer forest, then it was cleared by humans for settlement. The natural progression is for grassland and meadow to move back to forest.  Fire can maintain a meadow, killing the woody plant starts,  but fires are often not enough. As soon as human intervention stops, the land rapidly returns to woods.

    Most of us are not aware of how many of plant species which fill our world are foreign and invasive. I had a campaign of meadow fires to help bring back a stand of Blue Gentian here. It is a fairly rare and beautiful meadow flower easily overwhelmed with foreign grasses and plants. I have seen a meadow go from grassland to brush and on to a young wood of popple, birch, and pine. A meadow first gathers up prickly ash and stag horn sumac to begin shading the grass out. Then the denser and slower growing ironwood and hop hornbeam pop in wearing dark stockings at their trunk base. The now shady and brushy young woods supports the spread of taller growing birch and popple, and even these eventually give way to maple and ash. The land moves from easy to walk through, to nearly impenetrable with brush, and eventually to a “park like” mature wood, in the span of a lifetime.

    These are relationships with change. People of the land receive deep lessons about change, and apply it to their own lives. The feeling of powerlessness in the face of nature and the attitude of “power over” nature come from a severe disconnect that is foreign to landed Pagans. Humans often confuse what is best for us as humans, with what is best for the land.

    Continue reading

    (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.

    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.

    Judy Ricci, Minneapolis Pagan Passes

    Judy Ricci 2003

    Judy Ricci 2003

    Judy Marie Ricci, Age 61 of Mpls. passed away Thursday, September 19, 2013. on the harvest full moon. She was a nature lover who loved mother earth. She is survived by an uncle, Fabio; companion, Phillip;and friends, Shelley, Jimmy, Diane, Tom, Grace and Lynette.

    Judy was part of Coven Elysium for 5 years. She became a solitary after that. Judy owned her own custom drapery business for 15 years. Phil said that Judy LOVED coffee, but had to give it up for health reasons.  Since her passing Phil has woke up to a very strong COFFEE smell in the house!  She is around, and definitely making her presence known!

    Celebration of life will take place on Wednesday, September 25th, 6-8 PM at Cremation Society of MN, 4343 Nicollet Ave. South, Mpls. (612-825-2435) Memorials preferred to the family or to the Animal Humane Society.

    See Star Tribune Obituary

    Judy Ricci Samhain 1999

    Judy Ricci Samhain 1999

    Twin Cities Pagan Pride 2013

    A good crowd attended Twin Cities Pagan Pride (TCPP,) at Minnehaha Park this year. Many stayed the majority of, or the whole day. You were in public, as a self declared Pagans, talking to anyone who found you interesting that walked by,  I know I talked to at least a few non-Pagan people who left knowing more and feeling better about a world where Pagans exist next to them. For those of us who like the idea of similar people getting one last chance to hug and appreciate each other despite our differences before winter sets in,, it was a perfect day.

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    Why spend a day of your valuable life, heck, your Saturday, at Twin Cities Pagan Pride (TCPP) ?  If you believe Pagans need to be supported in their desire for public acceptance, you were there.  What if you are a Pagan, what did you get out of attending ?  There was a full schedule of many different types of ritual to experience, Music, dance, and many booths selling items, promoting ideas, or experiences were on hand to entertain you, If you are a Pagan you did get to see, talk to, and connect with many old friends and make some new ones.  Saturday at TCPP it was also hot.  I guess that was a bonus for Minnesotans, You got to spend one of the last days of hot weather you might get this year, outdoors with friends.

    Nels Linde

    Minnesota Oil Pipelines Seek Capacity Increase

    In the energy and environmental news, and of concern to Minnesota residents are the impacts of energy development from the fracking process for securing oil and gas and the mining of sand for use in this process. What many citizens don’t know is that oil pipelines already cross northern Minnesota, and producers are currently requesting increased pressure limits to push more oil through them. Minnesota’s own tar sands pipeline has been online since October 2010, with volume increases in the works larger than the Keystone XL proposed capacity.
    Enbridge, the largest Canadian oil transport corporation, has a 285-mile tar sands pipeline across northern Minnesota crossing the Mississippi headwaters, also crossing water flowing north to Hudson Bay and east out the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway. Enbridge requested an increase of 27 percent to 570,000 barrels per day in a pipeline operating since 2010. The majority of this oil is for export.

    Local Pagan environmental activist Susu Jeffrey has published this article detailing the ongoing health and leakage concerns regarding these pipelines that cross our state and Native American lands.   Working with the Friends of Coldwater Spring in Minneapolis they have established a petition to urge President Obama to reject the capacity increase with copies sent to state and local officials.

    Susu, an advocate for our preserving our states water as our most precious resource says,”What happens to the water happens to the people.”

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