SJ Tucker – Interview

SJ Tucker is on the road. Sooj will be performing at Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) Jun 14 – Jun 16, and then onward the next weekend to Free Spirit Gathering 2015 at the Ramblewood Retreat Center, Maryland, June 20 – Jun 22. We talked at Heartland Pagan Festival.

How does it feel to be the “Face of NeoTribal Paganism?

SJ: It is not that different from the way that life has been for me, up to this point. I feel the same support from this community that I have had from the very first time I stepped on a Pagan stage in 2002. I am humbled that I still get this level of love,  people coming to tell me that I have changed their lives just by being around and singing. That’s the part that tells me that I am still doing what I’m supposed to do, still getting that level of love and feedback. People saying to me that hearing a certain song changed something in them, it taught them how to dance again…I don’t think I would hear that if I were in any other niche than this. I don’t think I would hear that if I was playing in bars all the time. Why would I want to be anywhere else? I don’t have a textbook definition of “tribal” Paganism.  As I understand, it’s festival space. It is where we all live and hang out, in circles and churches, and our gatherings like this one. I am kind of spoiled because you don’t get this kind of love anywhere else. When I come back out of this world, for instance when I go to the grocery store, then everyone’s not necessarily going to be friendly. I forget about that when I am in this nurturing, collaborative space.

Is all your music done in some kind of Pagan space?

SJ:  For the most part it is. Pagan festivals and events, and sci-fi conventions, those are my two most typical types of events. I wouldn’t like it to be any other way. Here you have people who are already predisposed to like what you do, whether it is off the wall, or from a certain spiritual place, or a certain nerdy place. The benefits are through the roof.  Outside of festivals and cons, I would much rather sing in a community center or a VFW, and make it into my own space, than work myself into a restaurant or bar gig.  I have friends that are doing very well, and make good money at that. But the connections that you can make when you meet people on a level where they are searching for a certain thing, and it is a thing that you know how to tap into, is important to me. If you are performing on stage at a bar, your job is not to play well, your job is to help the bar sell booze. That’s not why I do what I do.

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T. Thorn Coyle – Interview and Discussion

T. Thorn Coyle is a magic worker and Pagan committed to love, liberation, and justice. This started out as an interview, but  Thorn was so fascinating to talk to, and such a good listener it turned into a discussion.  We talked at Heartland Pagan Festival.

T. Thorn Coyle

How have you, your community in Oakland and local Pagans responded to the Black Lives Matter movement?

Thorn:
The San Francisco Bay area where I live is pretty racially diverse, though San Francisco itself is growing less and less diverse each year. The more white money that comes in the more people are pushed out and that’s now effecting the East Bay where I live.  I do a lot of work in Oakland and Berkeley. Oakland has more traditionally African American and Berkeley is a university town. In the Pagan community, a lot of us have been out on the streets working with various grassroots community groups trying to get local change. I’ve been an activist most of my life, and have been engaged with police violence and brutality issues since 2012.

I first became aware of this issue on a deeper level when Oscar Grant was killed. He was clearly unarmed, and it was caught on videotape. Oscar was handcuffed on the ground and a cop shot him in the back of the head. That really put the issue in my mind. That was in 2010. In 2012 another young man, Alan Buford, was killed by police. Something about that case struck me. I recall distinctly when I heard his family speak. It was my day to volunteer at the soup kitchen and I was heading back home to a spiritual direction client. I had another meeting later on, too, but there was a city council meeting at 6pm and knew Alan’s parents were going to speak. I knew I had to be there. Hearing Alan’s mother Jeralynn speak changed my life. It was one of those moments, and I became committed to the struggle.

I started doing a lot more work locally around issues of police brutality, including organizing around “Urban Shield” which is a conference that ostensibly trains first responders for disaster relief. What it really does is trains first responders in crowd control, and gives them military training. Their big vending show is all military weaponry. Urban Shield is basically about the militarization of our police. That was a lot of work I was doing. The highlight reel that Urban Shield itself puts out is pretty horrifying for me as a citizen.  It looks like war games to me.

I’d been doing some of that community work and then Ferguson hit.  I thought, “Oh my gosh those young people in Ferguson, they’re not going home.” They started a movement for which I am grateful.

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Selena Fox – Paganicon Guest Interview

Selena Fox

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.

Is the Goddess Brigid one of your personal patrons?

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.

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Paganicon Guest Lupa Greenwolf – Interview

Lupa Greenwolf

Lupa is a pagan author, artist, eco-psychologist and amateur naturalist living in Portland, OR. She has spent her life being utterly captivated by the natural world around her, a fascination that led her to earth-based spiritual paths. She is the author of several books on nature spirituality, including “New Paths to Animal Totems: Three Alternative Approaches to Creating Your Own Totemism” (Llewellyn, 2012) and “Plant and Fungus Totems: Connecting With Spirits of Field, Forest and Garden” (Llewellyn 2014).

Paganicon 5 will be Friday, March 13, – Sunday, March 15, 2015  and registration is still available at the door.

I interviewed Lupa by phone recently.

 

Nels: Is this the first time you’ve come to the Midwest ?

Lupa: I am very excited to attend! I grew up in the Midwest, but this is only my second time visiting Minneapolis.

Where did you grow up?

Lupa:  I grew up in rural Missouri. Then I lived for two years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which some people consider the Eastern edges of the Midwest.

What is bio-regional totemism, the subject of one of your workshops?

Lupa:  A bio-region is a particular area of land that has the same basic types of animals, plants, and fungi. The same geology and the same climate. For example I live in the watershed of the Willamette River and for the most part the living beings that you find here, the types of geological formation are similar throughout the area. This is one particular bio-region I spend time in. Bio-regional totemism is a way to connect with the land that you live on. Similar to the totems of the beings that also live there. Using the bio-region as a way defining that space of land.

Will an animal present as a different kind of a totem in a different bio-region?

Lupa:   No, not in my experience. I have worked with animals indifferent bio-regions, for example a red tailed hawk I’ve worked with both in the Midwest and out here in the Pacific Northwest. It is still a red tailed hawk in both locations. The setting that we meet in during my meditation is a little different. It is still the same being, it just may have different things to say about a particular piece of land as I’m living on it.

Are you using your own personal gnosis and meditation in your spirit work, or where does this information come from?

Lupa:  I am self taught as far are my knowledge and work goes. I am a white girl from the Midwest. While I have known a few folks who practice indigenous paths I am not a part of those cultures and also not part of the cultures of my ancestors, Czech and German and so forth. I grew up primarily here in the US and that is the cultural background that I came from. I grew up in a Catholic household and didn’t have an animistic tradition to are draw on already, I had to create one from scratch based on my own experiences and trading notes with other practitioners .

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Cara Schulz – Burnsville Candidate Attacked in Letter to Editor

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz, past PNC co-editor, has been a door knocking candidate for the Burnsville City Council the past year. After qualifying in the primary to oppose the two incumbents up for election, she has risen steadily in the local polls.October 23rd an incumbent supporter posted a letter to the “Sun” Paper editor (also check the commentstitled “intriguing information on cara schulz”.  I have to wonder what the “intrigue”  was?

Cara responded: “The letter wasn’t explicitly degrading towards Pagan religions, but it’s clear the motive was to induce fear and sensationalism about my religious beliefs and encourage people to vote for my opponents specifically because they aren’t Pagans. ”

“Ms. Erickson also intimates she uncovered my religion through research, as if my religion is something I’ve tried to hide. That’s a laughable position to take, especially after listing how openly involved I am in my religious community. What I haven’t done, which many persons running for office feel compelled to do, is to make my religion part of my campaign. Religion is irrelevant to a person’s fitness for public office and is private. I view this similar to not giving out much information about my husband or son in my campaign. This doesn’t mean I’m not ridiculously proud of my family, just that they aren’t running for office and their ages or accomplishments are irrelevant to my fitness to serve on Burnsville’s City Council.”

“I called on my opponents, incumbents Dan Kealey and Bill Coughlin, to denounce the letter as it was written on their behalf by their supporter. So far Mr. Coughlin has not only refused to denounce it, he appears to be promoting it by emailing it to his supporters immediately after it was published. Mr. Kealey has remained silent on the matter. “

‘This tactic appears to be backfiring as some of Mr. Coughlin and Mr. Kealey’s supporters have contacted me to say they have withdrawn their support for them and will now vote for me. One person contacted me and told me he had removed Mr. Coughlin’s sign from his yard. Burnsville residents have always been welcoming of different cultures, faiths, and ideas. It’s one of the things I love most about Burnsville.”

“It’s true I’m a religious person and I’m active in my religious community. Freedom of religion is one of the freedoms our country was founded on and it’s one of the freedoms I defended while serving in the US Air Force during the first Gulf War. I’m proud to continue pushing back against religious bigotry where ever I find it. Burnsville residents can be assured I will not discriminate against them or treat them as second class citizens based on their religion, race, gender, or social status.”

” Mr. Kealey and Mr. Coughlin need to make a clear and public statement that bigotry, as demonstrated by Ms. Erickson, is not welcome in Burnsville’s government and the Sun This week should apologize for choosing to print this particular letter.

Twin Cities News Talk featured a radio interview with Cara discussing the matter and her candidacy: starts at Around the 23:30 mark and Part 2 here. After her interview ended one of the radio how hosts tried to diminish the significance of religion being brought up in the campaign as not rising to the level of bigotry. Bigotry isn’t measured by the level of hate speech it includes. For a candidate’s supporter to bring religion up in this context is at best poor taste. When an incumbent then forwards and refuse to denounce such a statement, it indicates some fear and worry over the success of Cara’s door knocking campaign  regarding the issues. Let’s hope it stimulates voter turnout on the 4th!

Nels Linde

And Wherever You Live. Get Out and Vote Tuesday!