Paganicon Presenters

I have published interviews of “Guests of Honor” appearing at Paganicon since its inception. There are many from “Paganistan” who have offered workshops each year who are exceptionally qualified as presenters, and recognized around the country. I solicited responses from about ten of the many notables, and in this busy rush of springtime, three responded. I asked them to  describe who they were and their  relationship to this community. I asked, “What do you offer, and why?”


Clio Anjana

Clio Ajana – ( Participating or offering six workshops!)

I’m Clio Ajana and this is my twelfth year in the Twin Cities Pagan Community. I’m a queer Hellenic Orthodox High Priestess and member of the Lodge of Our Lady of Celestial Fire, E.O.C.T.O. I lead services, welcome newcomers, and revel in spreading knowledge of our path to those who are drawn to us, including our prison ministry. Our tradition in the Twin Cities has been embracing Greek,Roman, and Egyptian gods with an emphasis and welcoming of all LGBTQIA since 1998. I offer my gifts as a Devotee in Service to the Gods in the areas of numerology, astrology, herbalism, eldercare, and writing as a spiritual practice. I write for the Patheos blog, “Daughters of Eve” and consider everything in my life to be touched by and guided by the gods.


Lisa Spiral Besnett

Lisa Spiral Besnett – Author and presenting:

Friday, March 18 • 3:00pm – 3:45pm
Exploring the World Tree

The World Tree touches all cultures and realities. In this guided meditation we climb the world tree and spend time visiting across the realms. If you are interested in exploring Deity and wondering what you are attracted to, or if perhaps you are wondering about Deities that might be attracted to working with you please join us.


I’ve been a member of the Twin Cities Pagan Community since the late 70’s early 80’s. Over the years I’ve worked with CUUPs, Reclaiming, had WicCoM ministerial credentials, served on the Northern Dawn COG board, run a Blue Star coven, taught in Twilight Tradition and generally made a nuisance of myself. I’m really excited that the community has grown to support this convention, a fall Pride event and 3 summer festivals along with Winter Witch Camp and the Earth Conclave. I think there is a strong desire to be connected and to continue to learn and grow on our spiritual paths. I tend to offer workshops that are accessible to “new” pagans, but that are specifically directed at more experienced practitioners. As a writer and workshop presenter I work hard not to let my Wiccan bias be too overwhelming and to make space for other frameworks of belief. This year I’m offering a guided meditation centered on Deity relationships. I’m looking forward to hearing what participants bring back from their journey.

Donald L. Engstrom-Reese –   Who am I? Well …

I am, among other things, an artist, a gardener, a vitki, and a hedge witch. I have been consciously involved with the Mysteries and the Spirit Peoples for well over forty years. My roots thrive in that place between the wild and the domestic. I am deeply informed and inspired by art-making, gardening, Queer Spirit, yoiking, Hedge Witchery, walking, singing, deep dreaming, spirit journeying, baking, primal clan-hold magics, and the exploration of the sacred realms of sex and pleasure. I am committed to the growth and nurturance of the emerging Cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight. 

      I have taught sustainable witchy ways that nourish and strengthen the Emerging Cultures for over thirty years. My teaching is rooted in a living blend of Queer Spirit, Witchcraft, Heathenry, and other primal magics. I have taught in my local communities, at Earth Conclave gatherings, at Reclaiming Witch Camps, and at Radical Faerie, Queer Spirit, Pagan and men’s gatherings throughout North America and Great Britain. I am an initiate of the Queer Mysteries, the Cult of the Bear, the Cult of the Bee, and the Reclaiming Witch Tradition. I am a vitki and a seithus (ergi seidmadr) who practices the ever evolving forms of contemporary seidr and galdr. I yoik the sun,the moon, and the weather everyday. I am a ‘green-blood whisperer’ deeply in love with life and the breath of life. I have been declared an elder by many of my Witch and Queer Spirit communities. I am continually learning about and exploring what these joyful obligations actual entail.     

My historical relationship to this community?


Donald and Mark (Both are presenting)

I have lived and thrived for my whole life in the rich lands and sweet waters of the Upper Mississippi Valley. I am one of those whose ways of living are thoroughly infused with and informed by the sacred soils, waters, winds, and flames with whom I live. 

Mark Engstrom-Reese (my husband) and I have live for over ten years with our beloved home and gardens (Hector House) in the charming river city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Together, we offer hospitality and friendship to our communities (human and otherwise), consciously practicing, with clear eyes and open hearts, the arts of Guest and Hostess Law.

What do you offer, and why?

Friday, March 18   1:00pm A Brief Overview of Emerging Queer Spirit

I am committed to this region and all of its people’s. No matter where I roam, I am always called to come back home to my beloved River. I have come to understand more deeply with every passing season, that I live in the heart of a ‘holy land’, a sacred earthy paradise at the center of Turtle Island.

As part of my dedication to living fully in my ‘holy land’, I collaborate with others in offering local classes and workshops on a number of arts and skills specifically designed to encourage to consciously develop and nourish their own day to day deep relationships with their ‘holy land’. In other words, we teach classes that explore fully embracing the sacred ground on which we walk with every step we take, to consciously inhale the sacred winds we breath with our every breath, to deeply drink the ancient waters of life each time we taste the gifts of the rains and snows. I also offer such classes as; learning to live and work with the runes, developing individual and community Pagan Prayer Bead practices, and deepening our relationships with the green-bloods (the botanical realms).

Mark Engstrom-Reese & EmrysAnu are presenting Sunday, March 20 1:00pm
Perennial Paganicon favorites, Mark Engstrom-Reese and EmrysAnu, team up to facilitate a discussion around the issues of safe relationships within Paganism. From sexual boundaries to time, money, and thought control, together we’ll look at the dynamics of abuse between individuals and within groups. Particpants will leave with a solid understanding of the warning signs of abuse and how to promote healthy boundaries within their own groups.

Paganicon 6: March 18-20, 2016, Registration available at the door!  See you there!

Nels Linde

Mambo Chita Tann at Paganicon – Interview

As Mambo Chita Tann, Tamara L. Siuda is a Haitian Vodou priestess, and the author of Haitian Vodou: An Introduction to Haiti’s Indigenous Spiritual Tradition. She is the head of Sosyete Fos Fe Yo We, a Vodou house in the lineage of Mambo Marie Carmel Charles of New Orleans, Louisiana and Haiti, and has been a practicing Vodouisant for 15 years. Separately, Tamara is a professional Egyptologist and the founder and Nisut (spiritual leader) of the Kemetic Orthodox Religion, a modern form of ancient Egyptian polytheism.

Besides appearing as a Guest of Honor at Paganicon, March 18-20 in Minneapolis, Sosyete Fos Fe Yo We, is sponsoring a hospitality suite with sponsored activities all weekend (see schedule at bottom). I talked to Mambo T by phone:


Have you been to Minnesota before?

Mambo T: I have some friends there and have visited previously, but this is the first time as a presenter in the Twin Cities or at Paganicon.

How does Haitian Vodou differ from Ifa and other forms of voodoo?

Mambo T:  Ifa isn’t voodoo at all. Ifa is a practice that is exclusively from the Fon people, the people of the area of what we call Yorubaland, areas in what is now called Benin and Nigeria. There is another area not very far away on which is often referred to as Dahomey, another West African area closer to the sea. That area has its own practice of very similar magical tradition, or religion, depending how you want to call it. Calling any of these things religion is sort of imposed by the outside. The people living on the sea have a tradition that they call Vodu. Haitian Vodou is a tradition exclusively in the Western Hemisphere. It starts in Haiti and it includes elements of many things. It has elements of Vodu and Ifa, it has elements of the indigenous traditions from the Haitian island. It also has some European traditions in it, French things, Martinism, and even Freemasonry. Haitian Vodou is as much a creole as the language of Haiti is a creole. It includes things from many different places, and many different kinds of things. Ifa is much more culturally specific than what we do. We understand it — we actually have some of the same spirits — but Vodou is not limited to what they do in Ifa. There is an also an American creolization going on in New Orleans that contains a lot more Ifa and Yoruba content. The African people who came to New Orleans brought most of their traditions from the Yoruba lands. There is also a kind of American or United States based creolization of a form of voodoo from all the different places voodoo comes from, with root working, conjure, and all of those African and African-American traditions. In some ways the melting is confusing. As for my part, I just do Haitian Vodou.

What is a Mambo?

Mambo T:  A mambo is a priestess. There is a junior mambo and a senior mambo, and I would be initiated to the senior rank. In addition to doing work with the spirits, for people, and helping the community, I can also initiate other people in my own house. That is the major difference between the junior and senior ranks: if you have the authority to bring other people in. The male equivalent of a mambo is called a houngan.

What kind of course of study or path did you take to get where you are?

Mambo T:  I actually got dragged in! I never intended to be involved in Vodou, even though I always found it interesting. I had more than enough obligations on the Egyptian side of my spiritual life. I first got involved with Vodou when I was working with my Egyptian organization and ancestor veneration: knowing who your dead people are and approaching them. And I was doing a set of lessons around how to contact them better. One of the suggestions that had been brought up was to go into genealogy and find out things about the cultures from where they are from. So, I started to look into my own genealogy and found things around some Native American material, which we always knew was there. While peeking into that I started to find paperwork from people from Africa, and that intersected with Haiti. I looked into it, and I got dragged in! I also never intended to initiate as a priest. I just wanted to understand a little bit more about what my ancestors wanted from me. When they answered, then I considered becoming initiates. You don’t have to initiate in Haitian Vodou. Probably 90% of people practice and never go through an initiation; it is not required. You can also initiate just as a serviteur, as a practitioner, at a non-priestly level. But the message came back both from the Vodou spirits and from my Egyptian Gods that divination needed to be done to find out whether everybody approved. So we did divination from the Egyptian and the Vodou sides that came back and said I had to initiate at the same priesthood level in both.

Does initiation involve a course of study, or are you called and then it’s done?

Mambo T:  The initiation ceremony in Haiti is actually multiple ceremonies, and takes days and days of ritual. Haitian Vodou does not have a central authority. Every house has its own rules or training. Most people in Haiti learn by doing and as children and through their whole life. There’s a lot of catch-up that needs to be done, coming from the outside. The particular house that I came into at the time of my first initiation in 2001 did not think it was particularly important to have prior experience. Initiation for them was more of a beginning. You would do the initiation and then learn to do the job. It was very difficult, and now, even 15 years later I still struggle with it. There is a certain basic level material that I think is very good to have. I have a different perspective now. And there is an ongoing issue with this in Haitian Vodou, about how to accommodate people who are not brought up Haitian. Do you just give them initiation and send them off, or do you ask them to learn something first? There are also unfortunately people out there who are more interested in getting money out of you, since it takes thousands of dollars for initiation. There are those who will take your money and tell you you’re a priest, but not do the ceremony correctly.

How do you get experience if it Vodou not practiced in your community?

Mambo T:  Haitian Vodou is a community-oriented practice, even when you’re doing something by yourself. You are still considered to be part of a family and part of the society and tradition and within a larger group. A good, healthy house does have direction. I live in Portland and my closest family is in New Orleans. if I wanted to see my mother or if I want to do a ceremony with people other than myself I have to fly to Haiti, New York or New Orleans right now. Practitioners often travel several times a year to their house, or their family, and also work on their own under the direction of the house. It is a challenge to keep yourself going when you’re isolated. The Lwa are calling people outside Haiti. We don’t know why that is happening, but it is happening They’re providing the way for all of us together. There’s a Haitian proverb that says, “If God calls you, he will pay your way.” If you are supposed to do this, the way will open.

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Veterans Honored at Paganicon

Ceremony Begins

Ceremony Begins

Last Sunday, March fifteenth,  during the afternoon tea at the conclusion of Paganicon,  seven veterans who served in various branches of the armed forces were honored.  In a community ceremony of recognition and appreciation, Selena Fox presented the Pagan Military Service Ribbon to Pagans who have served or are serving in the US Armed Forces.

Honored Veterans, Selena Fox at left

Honored Veterans, Selena Fox at left

Pictured from top, clockwise are Wayne Sears, John Farrow, Herbert Cook Roy, Celeste Proe, Shawn Burns, Debbie Olson, and Tamia Finnegan. They received their pin to the applause of appreciation and support from the over hundred community members present.


The Ribbon pin, created by Circle Sanctuary in 2011, is being presented to Pagan veterans and troops around the country who request it. If you are a veteran please visit the ribbon website to participate in the honoring recognition.

Please congratulate these service members!

Nels Linde

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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