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

PSG Report: Looking for, and finding, love

Finding a suitable partner is difficult for anyone. With more Pagans saying finding a partner who shares their values, if not their religion, the search for a match is even more difficult. How to overcome that challenge? Attend one of the large gatherings of Pagans at festivals such as Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG). At this year’s PSG attendees were invited to a single’s meet and greet, attend the wedding of a couple who met at last year’s PSG, and wish Circle Sanctuary‘s Rev. Selena Fox and Dr. Dennis Carpenter, who met and later married at PSG, a happy 27th wedding anniversary.

Rev. Fox says that from the very beginning of PSG, straight and same sex couples have met, and married or handfasted, at the festival. “I think the courting dimensions of attending festivals is something quite old and never goes out of style. I’m happy for all the good relations that have come out of PSG,” said Rev. Fox. What is changing are the increasing numbers of Pagans who attend festivals with the express purpose of finding Pagan, and not just Pagan friendly, mate. Yet just like in the mundane world, sometimes love finds you when you aren’t looking for it.

 Wedding Bells
Although Brandon Mullikin and Nikki Pazdra didn’t attend PSG to find a mate, they met at last year’s festival and were handfasted at PSG 2013 on Tuesday night. Mullikin said he noticed Ms. Pazdra right away, “I happened to see her walking around and I couldn’t help myself but to find out where she camped and I had to creep by every now and then.”
While Millikin was making up excuses to walk by her camp, Pazdra was doing the same thing, “It’d be alot easier to go a certain way to the shower house, but I’d take the long way so I could pass by his tent.” Both were too shy to introduce themselves to the other so friends and family intervened.  “We didn’t talk until my sister introduced us because she was friends with [Pazdra’s] friend,” said Millikin. From that point, the two were inseparable.
couple 1

Then PSG ended and Millikin went back to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Pazdra went back to Chicago, Illinois. They kept in touch through Facebook, Skype, and phone. A few months after the end of the festival, Pazdra visited Millikin in Gatlinburg for a few weeks. A month after that the couple moved to Nashville and bought a home together.

The couple decided to take the next step in their relationship by getting handfasted where it all began, at Pagan Spirit Gathering. And where Millikin’s father, Danny, was handfasted the year before to Rebecca Hubbard. Both handfastings were officiated by Rev. Selena Fox, of Circle Sanctuary. Circle Sanctuary hosts Pagan Spirit Gathering.

Single Pagan Seeking Same For Relationship

“I want to find more people like me, single and Pagan,” said James, who attended the Singles Meet & Greet Tuesday afternoon at PSG. James said it’s hard to meet single Pagan women where he lives, which is rural. It was his first time at an event like this and he felt optimistic about being able to meet someone compatible.

His optimism was not misplaced. There were over 40 Pagans at the singles event, almost evenly split between males and females*. Some were looking for someone of the opposite sex, some were looking for same sex relationships, while still others were open to anything.  All attendees PNC was able to speak with said they were looking for a relationship that had the potential to lead to marriage. Most said it was very important to them that a prospective spouse be Pagan.

The meet & greet’s organizer, Steffanie, encouraged individuals to mingle by playing a game called Human Bingo. Each attendee got a card and they had to find people who matched the notes in the squares. “Have you ever walked a cat on a leash?” asked one single Pagan. “No. Are you a glamper?” he responded back.

human bingo (1)

While most attendees were busily engaged with the game, and with each other, a few stood uncomfortably on the outskirts of the group. “I’m not good with groups. I can’t do this,” said one male in his early 20’s. Soon Steffanie spotted him and helped him mingle back in with the group.

Lisa, who hails from south Texas, said that while there’s an active Druid community where she lives, it’s mainly made up of married couples and families. “I’m hoping to meet someone at PSG. I live in a really, I live in a dating desert so I’ve come to the fountain to drink.” After fifteen minutes of the game she was less optimistic about meeting someone during the meet and greet, but was looking forward to the more informal nightly singles get togethers.

PSG has hosted singles events over the past 33 years, but Rev. Selena Fox noted there is a rising interest in them, “We don’t have them every year but there’s been more of a request to have some times where people can actually see who is single. I think they’re a great idea and anyone that is interested in proposing other kinds of ways to connect – wonderful!”

To help singles find each other in a festival of over 1000 attendees, singles were given bright green bracelets that said I’m single, Let’s Mingle. Organizers of the event also used social media as a way for singles to get to know one another before PSG started. “I felt more comfortable coming [to the meet & greet] because I had already met a few of the people on the singles event page,” said Willow.

single (1)

“I think that social media provides a way of being able to make some connections, but there really isn’t a good substitute to meeting someone face to face,” said Rev. Fox. She went on to say, “If you’re at a Pagan festival that has emphasis on community and has shared values that helps with a filtering process in bringing people together that have some commonalities already.”

“Obviously here it’s great because automatically if your here you have most of the values that I treasure and cherish,” said Ladi, who had also been part of last year’s PSG Single’s Meet and Greet. He said he made great friendships last year and looked forward to doing the same this year. He was realistic about forming a relationship at a festival, “A relationship has to be worked towards. Anything worth doing does take time and work.”

Handfasting at the Pond

Millikin and Pazdra’s handfasting took place near the pond and was open to all PSG attendees. The ceremony had a distinctive Celtic flair and was filled with music, which makes sense as Millikin is part of the band Tuatha Dea.
handfasting wide shot corrected
The newly handfasted couple walks the circle.

The newly handfasted couple walks the circle.

Father and Step-Mother of the groom look on.

Father and Step-Mother of the groom look on.

Twin Cities band Murphey’s Midnight Rounders performed a song they wrote especially for the event. “That song was beautiful,” said one tearful guest. “I want that at my handfasting,” she went on to say, holding her girlfriend’s hand tight.

Editor’s note: video is blurred to protect the identity of children playing in the background.

As for our Pagan singles, how did they make out at this year’s PSG?  At least two attendees of the Singles Meet & Greet felt they had met someone they want to start a relationship with. “We’ve already made plans to visit each other next month,”said Willow. “Who knows, perhaps Selena will be handfasting us next year.”

Pagans gather at SCOTUS to pray, advocate for same sex marriage

On Tuesday, March 26 and Wednesday, March 27, the Supreme Court hears more than 3 hours of arguments in the challenges to the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 (Hollingsworth v. Perry) and the Defense of Marriage Act (Windsor v. United States).  On Tuesday morning Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox takes part in a multi-faith prayer service in Washington DC promoting “love & Justice.  Starting tonight, Pagan author and GLBT activist David Salisbury, who is also a guest at this year’s Sacred Harvest Festival, is camping out on the steps of the Supreme Court .

Proposition 8, which centers around a challenge to California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban, is argued on Tuesday at 10am  ET.  SCOTUS is to decide is it violates the 14th Amendment, which prevents states from denying people equal protection under the law.  The case could hinge on a technicality since there’s a question about whether gay marriage opponents have a right to defend the ban in court, since the state of California has declined to do so.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), falls under the Fifth Amendment and is argued Wednesday at 10am ET.  The case challenges the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages which prevents those couples from getting tax breaks and other benefits for married couples.  Similar to Prop 8, the Obama administration has decided not to defend the law, so this raises the question if SCOTUS has the jurisdiction to rule on the case.

 

 Depending on how the SCOTUS rules, both of these trials could have major nation-wide effects that would change the course of our movement forever. People from all over the country will be arriving here in the District to rally at the trial on Tuesday. A crew of people (including me) will be sleeping outside on the sidewalk of the Supreme Court on Monday night before the rally on Tuesday. That night I will facilitate a ritual calling upon the guardian Goddess of DC and of the United States, Columbia. We will ask Columbia to bring the sword of victory to our work, leading us in the march to freedom and justice. Before the Tuesday rally, I’ll attend an interfaith service with some of my of my coreligionists and people of other faiths. – David Salisbury, Witches & Pagans magazine

david

David Salisbury

Salisbury will be live tweeting starting tonight and you can follow him on twitter.

On Tuesday morning, in Washington DC, Rev. Selena Fox is taking part in a multi-faith equality prayer service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation starting at 7:15am.  The prayer service is followed by a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court.  Twenty different clergy members representing 15 different faiths are leading the prayer service.  Rev. Fox is also attending the ritual hosted by David Salisbury to call upon the patron Goddess of the United States, Columbia, to bless our nation and guide the Supreme Court towards  justice, truth, and equality.

Rev. Selena Fox

Rev. Selena Fox

local rally in support of same sex marriage takes place in St. Paul at 7pm tonight.  Interested persons are meeting at the Federal Courthouse Plaza in Minneapolis.  The organizer for the event, Jacob Reita, says there will be no speeches and no anger, ”   I am inviting you to come and stand with me to give witness to the nation and the world how important that week will be for LGBT American obtaining freedom and equality.  If the spirit moves you come on down to the Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis with your candle, your determination for fully equality and spend an hour with me.”

If you live outside the Twin Cities area, you can find rally in your state on this google map.

Pagan Leader Passes – Obituary Editorial

I received word at Pantheacon Sunday morning of a friend’s passing. He was not a famous author, or leader of a tradition, or a major contributor to the intellectual development of Pagan philosophy. For many in the Madison, WI area and the Midwest, Circle Sanctuary, Pagan Spirit Gathering ( PSG ), and hand drumming community, he was their rock.

Dennis Presser1958-2013

Dennis Presser
1958-2013

Dennis Presser passed peacefully and unexpectedly of natural causes Saturday, Feb 16th at the age of fifty-four. He is survived by his loving wife of 25 years, Laurie Blue Heron, and his two children; Hunter and Allegra all of Madison, WI.

The details of his long history of service, as a veteran and through his dedication to environmental organizations are elaborated on his official obituary. As an activist conservationist he worked, often in leadership positions, to preserve and improve the outdoors he loved so much as a Pagan, hunter, and trout fisherman.

The loss of Dennis is felt across the breadth of his influence as a force of dedicated service to others.  In the Pagan community, he was known as a man of great personal strength, generosity, commitment, and ethical responsibility. He was willing to speak out and act in support of the people, community, and the natural environment he so loved.

Dennis was generous with his time and hands. He was an avid brewer and mead maker, and always a cheery and welcoming host. His easy-going and good-natured disposition made him a natural choice for anyone who needed help. If you were in need, he would do whatever he could to help. He was a man of his word, a commitment from Dennis was one you could count on. In a world of opportunistic ethics, Dennis was one who would stand for his beliefs, whatever the cost. Continue reading

Two PSG Women Speak About Inclusiveness in Public Ritual – Interviews

I spoke with Melissa Murry late Friday afternoon at PSG, after her workshop presentation. This was her second year at the Pagan Spirit Gathering [PSG], her first year was a joyful experience.  She was concerned with the advance website ritual listing, though it was unclear then that it was a ‘main’ ritual. She expressed to Selena in advance of PSG that this was serious enough to consider canceling her registration.  Selena helped her schedule a late submission workshop on transgendered history in response.

*Note, from the PSG website:  [ A Dianic Women’s Ritual for Summer Solstice – Ruth Barrett

As a community of women who bleed, will bleed, or have bled our sacred bloods, we celebrate the Summer Solstice in a Dianic ritual that celebrates ourselves and honors the mythic cycle of the Goddess as She transitions from Maiden to fertile Mother/ Amazon/ Creatrix/ Manifester/ Maker. She uses her sacred uterine bloods to manifest tangible and intangible reality. We, in Her image celebrate our ability to heal, transform, and create our lives in this season of Her sacred fire. The ritual will also include a working around female reproductive rights. Think about in advance: As Creatrix in your own life, how do you use your sacred bloods? How do you feed and tend your creative fire? In honor of our sacred bloods and the summer solstice, please wear red as all or a part of your ritual garb. Bring drums and percussion toys if you have them. This ritual is for female born and raised women and girls. Facilitated by Ruth Barrett and women of the PSG community. ]

Melissa Murry at PSG Press Conference
photo: Bob Paxton / Circle Sanctuary

What led you to call Circle Sanctuary?
Melissa: I was concerned with the terminology used in the description of the Women’s Ritual as for women who  bleed, who have bled, or who will bleed. That is the definition that was used, but that does not define all cisgender women.  It is new definition that was created and used after Pantheacon to narrowly define the definition of women while the term “woman” is a broad term used in our culture to define self identified women. This is used to inadvertently define cisgender women, and it can be offensive because that use excludes trans-women who identify as women also.

Is it an unclear definition, what is there about it that causes concern?
The definition of that ritual was excluding women from PSG, but in the description for the ritual it was put forward as created and for all the women of PSG. I felt that there was an invisibility that was going to be created for transgendered women, like myself, who don’t fall within that definition.

So you objected to the limiting and exclusive definition of who the ritual was for, combined with the reference to the inclusive language describing a ‘community of women”.
Yes. I contacted Selena through the PSG website. Several people talked to me and eventually Selena called me, and we had over a four-hour conversation about the matter.  I can speak to what I took away from the conversation, but there was some confusion over the concern.  I understood the Pagan spirit Gathering was an inclusive event, and felt the exclusion of  a group of  women was not in line with the spirit of PSG.  Nor was it in accord with the values I believed Circle Sanctuary to have.

Continue reading