Selena Fox is a well-known priestess, environmentalist, religious freedom activist, writer, teacher, and psychotherapist. Also known as Rev. Selena Fox, she is senior minister of Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin, which has been serving Nature religion practitioners worldwide since 1974.
Selena will appear at Paganicon March 13-15, 2015 and offer several workshops, participate in panel discussions, lead a ritual, and facilitating the Military Pagan Honoring Ceremony . Tickets are available at the door for the day, weekend, or for special events. Selena responded to written questions:
Nels: Tell me about your Cauldron Magic workshop?
Selena: I have been studying folklore and folkways for many years, and old folk traditions are an essential part of the Circle Craft tradition that I practice. In my Cauldron Magic workshop, I will share some of the ways that cauldrons have been used in ceremonies as well as in daily life through time and across a variety of cultures and spiritual traditions. I also will share some of my own experiences working with different types of cauldrons as well as ways that Pagans today can use them as ceremonial tools and symbols for celebrating the seasons, home blessings, and other sacred work. In addition, I plan to facilitate some Cauldron meditations and experiences during the workshop.
What will you include in the Pagan Death Passages workshop?
Selena: Creating and guiding Life Passage Rituals is an important part of my services to Pagan community and has been since I began priestess work more than forty years ago. In addition to creating and performing weddings, baby blessings, coming of age into adulthood rites, cronings and sagings, I also do several types of end-of-life passage rituals. The Pagan Death Passages workshop emerged out of my experiences working with individuals and their family and friends prior to, during, and after death. I realized that there was a need to do end-of-life preparation education as well as facilitate crossing overs, funerals, and burials when the need arises.
In my Pagan Death Passages workshop, I share ideas and information about ways to support end of life planning and processes for family and friends, and I also express the importance of considering your own needs and making your own end of life plans. This workshop also is designed to help facilitate community discussions and considerations about dying and death, topics that some are reluctant to talk about with others.
In the workshop I not only present some information about types of end-of-life ceremonies but also give practical tips on end-of-life planning. We will explore ways to support a loved one at the time of being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and discuss approaches to maximizing quality of life in the time remaining. We will talk about working with life review during the last part of life. We will examine crossing over support, including the use of music, touch, presence, readings, and ritual. We will also look at post-death rites, including customizing wakes, funerals, memorials, and celebrations of life. In addition, I will be talking about natural burial as a death passage option.
Part of my work with Circle Sanctuary includes being the director of Circle Cemetery, a national Pagan cemetery and one of the first Green cemeteries in the USA. It is located at our headquarters near Barneveld, Wisconsin and this year we will be celebrating our cemetery’s 20th anniversary. We inter cremains at our cemetery and also do full body natural burials. Natural burial, also known as Green burial, is an ancient Pagan practice – it is placing an un-embalmed body in the earth in a shroud or other biodegradable container. In the workshop, I will describe some of our work in doing burial rituals at our cemetery, as well as things to consider in selecting a cemetery as part of end-of-life planning.
Selena: Yes, and I’ve been working with Brigid for most of my priestess life. I keep a Brigid Shrine at my home and also am among the caretakers of Brigid’s Spring, an outdoor healing place dedicated to Her at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve.
I had already been working with Brigid for many years, when I discovered while reading a book on Scottish history that I am descended from some who were caretakers of a Brigid site in Fife, Scotland.
In addition to doing personal Brigid work, I also facilitate Brigid rites for small and large groups at various conferences and festivals across North America. The Brigid Healing Ritual which I will be facilitating at Paganicon has evolved over time as my own work with Brigid has deepened.
In this rite as well as in my own person work, I work with Brigid in a variety of forms. In addition to honoring Brigid as the Triple Goddess of Inspiration, Healing, and the Forge, I also work with Her as a Sun Goddess, and a Goddess connected with the Land, Oak, Swan, Flames, and Waters of holy wells and sacred springs. Included in the Brigid Healing Ritual are invocations and chants drawing on these different facets of Brigid. We will be doing different types of healing during the ceremony — healing for ourselves, healing for each other, and healing for loved ones at a distance. And we also will be doing a community working for the well-being of Planet Earth and will energize Brigid crosses, charms, necklaces, and other items participants place on our central altar during the rite. I am looking forward to bringing the Brigid Healing Rite to Paganicon.
Is activism universally part of the Pagan experience?
Selena: For me, it is. My own connection with activism is intertwined with my practice of Pagan spirituality. My identity and practice of Paganism began emerging during my teenage years in the 1960s as did my activism for racial equality, gender equality, world peace, environmental preservation, and social justice. I continue to be active in the quest for a sustainable, healthy environment and a world with equality, liberty, and justice for all.
My environmental activism has local, bio-regional, national, and global dimensions. I was among the many people working on organizing local events across the USA and beyond that were part of the first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970. Over the years, as a Pagan minister and environmental activist, I have spoken on spiritual dimensions of Nature preservation at international interfaith conferences, including the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Each year, in addition to sponsoring celebrations of the eight Pagan sabbats, Circle Sanctuary also celebrates Earth Day with a day of environmental education workshops, plus eco-work and ceremony. Our Pagan church is headquartered on a 200 acre Nature preserve and we see the ecological restoration, education, and other endeavors we do as an integral part of our Pagan practice.
Another important part of my activist work is working for equal rights for Pagans in the USA and other parts of the world through work with the Lady Liberty League which Circle Sanctuary sponsors. There has been much progress in this quest for equality, but there is still more work to be done and it is my hope that Pagans of many paths will stay informed about Pagan rights issues and find ways to work together.
Is activism being successfully transferring to young people who are becoming Pagans?
Selena: In many ways yes, but we need to do more of this. We not only need to do education, but need to inspire and guide action. We need to find ways to take responsibility as individuals, as households, and as communities to work together for a healthier, sustainable world with equality, liberty, and justice for all.
What is the Military Pagan Honoring Ceremony about?
Selena: I will be facilitating the Military Pagan Honoring Ceremony as part of the afternoon tea at the conclusion of Paganicon on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 pm. In this community ritual of recognition and appreciation, I will be presenting the Pagan Military Service Ribbon to Pagans who have served and are serving in the US Armed Forces. We ask Pagan veterans and troops who are interested in receiving a ribbon during the ceremony to let us know in advance by going to our website and registering for the ribbon
or to stop by the Circle Sanctuary table in the vendors area during Paganicon and sign up there. We hope that many in the Paganicon Community will be at the ceremony to express support in addition to the Military Pagans who will be recognized.
Is more of your work online these days?
Selena: Yes, quite a bit of the work I do for Pagans and Paganism is online. Some of my rituals, meditations, and articles are at the Circle Sanctuary website. Some of my workshops in the Circle Craft tradition are there as well.
I do free audio workshops each week through my Nature Magic podcast. It is on Tuesday nights at 7 pm central on the Pagans Tonight Radio Network These are archived and more info about upcoming programs is available.
I sometimes am on Circle Sanctuary’s other podcast, Circle Talk, also on Tuesday nights, and from time to time am interviewed on podcasts by others. In addition, some of the leadership training I do through Circle Sanctuary’s ministers training program is online.
In recent years, I have been sharing news, information, rituals, chants, photos, and other material through social media. My main page on Facebook is: http://www.facebook.com/SelenaFoxUpdates. I also am on Twitter: @Selena_Fox and on Instagram: SelenaFox.
One of the things I like about networking through social media is the ability to connect with Pagans of many paths and places around the world. I especially like the translation feature available through Facebook which makes it possible for me to convert posts in other language to English. To be in touch with people in real-time in different parts of the world is fabulous and a great way to create and sustain community within Paganism.
Do you feel confident Circle will continue?
Selena: I certainly hope Circle Sanctuary will continue and for the past fifteen years have been evolving our structure and planning processes to help it not only survive, but thrive.
We celebrated our 40th anniversary this past Samhain – an important milestone in our growth as a Pagan church. This year, we also will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Lady Liberty League, the Pagan civil rights and religious freedom organization that Circle Sanctuary sponsors, and we will be celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Pagan Spirit Gathering, our week-long national/global celebration of Summer Solstice and Pagan culture.
To help guide Circle Sanctuary’s growth as a non-profit organization, we completed a strategic planning process and put together a plan. It is my hope that as we continue to grow and develop as a nonprofit even more people will be involved.
What will Circle look like in 25 years? A Circle elderly housing project?
Selena: I hope that the Circle Sanctuary – as community, as network, as church, and as land will continue to grow and thrive.
I hope that in 25 years, we will have moved further along with our Nature preserve plan and more areas will be restored – and I hope that we will continue to work with others to have a peaceful, healthy, and sustainable environment on Planet Earth – and beyond.
As for an elderly housing project – some people in the Circle Sanctuary Community have begun talking about elder care and the possibility of creating a Pagan elder care facility in a nearby village. Research into this is in its very early stages.
Another hope for 25 years from now is that Circle Sanctuary will have a means to share some of our Pagan history archives and other resources online with other Pagan and academic centers and institutions. I hope in 25 years that we will be able to expand and improve our indoor facilities at our headquarters – and that technology will have advanced so that we will be able to go beyond landline phones and satellite internet to do live streaming video and video chat as part of educational services we provide worldwide.
I also hope that in 25 years there will be greater acceptance and understanding about Pagan religion and Pagan people, and that there will be equal rights for Pagans and people of many spiritualities and philosophies in the USA and throughout the world.
I look forward to connecting with Pagans of many paths at Paganicon – reflecting on Pagan history, envisioning Pagan futures, and celebrating present Pagan community!