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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SHF Guest Joy Wedmedyk – Interview

Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF)  is coming up beginning Monday, August 2nd and many are wondering about the new site 90 minutes North of MPLS./St.Paul near Finlayson,MN.  Festivants will find many of the popular activities continuing with the move, some new additions, and a packed schedule of workshops, entertainment, and rituals contributing to the family atmosphere this festival is known for.

About the festival site, Paul Ferrise, Atchingtan Director reports:

“Atchingtan is happy to report that site for this year’s SHF is near complete. The electrical will be done by this weekend. Showers will be assembled on Sunday and the gravel required for the various areas, such as access road and RVs is coming in daily with the intentions to finish early next week. The main festival area is ready and final touch up will take place next week. We are excited to be hosting Sacred Harvest Festival this year. Atchingtan will continue to increase it’s event capacities for the many educational events planned for this year and the future. It has been a honor to be working with the Harmony Tribe team in preparing for the event and look forward to working with them in the future.”

Joy Wedmedyk

Joy Wedmedyk

SHF Featured Guest Joy Wedmedyk is offering workshops each day and a special “White Table Misa” , Spirit Mass Friday night. Joy has studied Mediumship, Divination, Symbolism, and Shamanism for over 35 years. Initiated in Regla de Ocha, Native American and African Shamanic traditions. Joy is an nationally recognized teacher, Medium, Shamanic healing practitioner and artist. I talked with her by phone from Cleveland.

How has your spiritual path developed since your appearance at Sacred Harvest Festival (SHF) in 2007?

Joy:   I have done a lot of work on my medium-ship skills and shamanic healing work. I have a shamanic healing practice now that is pretty steady. I continue to study with my elders. I have learned a lot more about spirit attachment and release and the underlying causes of unwanted possessions and illness. I believe my divination skills are much improved and developed. I have worked a lot more with the Spirit Mass, which I will be offering at SHF. I have been studying the cosmology and the divination system in my Lucumi Orisha worship. I have also been working more with the plant spirits and have created a line of my own spiritual baths and oils. I currently have a number of students that study with me privately.

Are you practicing within your tradition?

Joy:   I am connected with an Ile in Michigan and I travel there to work and learn. An Ile is a house, and I also have my own house because I am crowned to Yemaya. I work within my own Ile and then work helping the Ile in Michigan with their initiations. It takes about 20 people to perform an initiation to become a priest so I haven’t done them at home except for the smaller initiations such as the giving of the beads. As a priest of Yemaya I am responsible for the spiritual progression of the people that have come to study with me.

You are offering a Spirit Mass Friday night, what can you tell me about it?

Joy:   The Spirit Mass is a syncretized tradition from Allan Kardec, raised a Catholic who founded Spiritism in Europe. In America this was called the Spiritualist movement. His books were translated from French to Spanish and arrived in the Caribbean. The slaves there picked up on the séance aspect, very popular at that time, to speak with their ancestors and the séance was adopted into their traditions. What I offer is called a “White Table Misa”. We set up a white table with water, flowers, candles and cigars. We will recite some of Kardecs original prayers and I have added in some more Pagan style prayers. We will also sing gospel songs. We believe this service allows the spirits of our ancestors to receive “light, evolution, and progression”. Later we open up the service and anyone present may get or transmit a message, unlike events with a single medium present. We pass rum and smoke cigars (optional) and sometimes people are called out for a blessing or a healing. We may use a sheet to lift a spirit off a person. People usually receive very useful information and may hear from one who has crossed over. It is not a possession ritual, per-SE, though it can happen. There are particular spirits which are connected with the Misa, who may appear.

What is the Initiation workshop about?

Joy:   This is a presentation covering general styles of initiation, like going on a spiritual quest, or confronting the roles of good and evil, among others. We talk about the main aspects included in most initiations, such as the enclosure, a change, and a rebirth. I will offer tips and guidelines for the Pagan community on how to perform successful initiations and avoid common pitfalls. It is important to have your whole community involved. When any one person is initiated in a community, everyone goes through a change. This workshop is also very helpful for healers to understand how people move through the world spiritually.

>What is the “Art of the Question?”

Joy Wedmedyk

Joy:   This is for people already doing meditation or praying at an altar or are wanting to learn to connect, and have been trying to get answers or information. It also covers making connection with the ancestors because the belief in my tradition and many others is that they are the ones that care about you, and want to help you the most. I cover how to ask better questions to get the information you need. People may ask a question and get one answer, and then go with that when further focused questions may better define the situation. If you are doing a reading and can’t quite figure out the answer, being able to ask questions in a different way is helpful no matter what system you use.

In healing or shamanic work you may have some information about what the person needs but knowing what comes first?, what does it look like?, what does this do? etc.. and using good questioning can offer more helpful and useful information. It helps to stick with the questioning process and fine tune the information you are working with to get the answers you need or the results that are desired.

How did you learn Mexican folk healing?

Joy:   I had my shamanic awakening in the mid-eighties and about 2007 it became more important in my practice. I had a call to do a shamanic healing on a man, and he brought his wife from Mexico. I did a reading for her to, and I was told to do a healing for her with flowers. We did the healing and it was beautiful, by the end she was covered in flowers. After the healing she was asking me questions about my practice. She said, “You heal like my grandmother from Mexico”. She used many of the same practices. I got very interested and the first book I picked up opened to Mexican flower healings! The next book I opened talked about the practices used in Curanderismo, Mexican folk healing, and I realized I used most of them and fit that example. I studied more and found it is similar to my work. They use flowers to deal with things like grief. The spirits of the flowers help with healing. I had already used flowers in spiritualism as a reading tool, and I already had that relationship with them. It was easy for me to integrate this new information.

Are you comfortable identifying as a shaman?

Joy:   The reason I use the term “shaman or “shamanic practice” is because when I described to people what I do, they responded with a blank stare. I work with people’s ancestors to bring healing through their lineage. If there is a story there, abuse, illness, or such, the first thing I do is speak to the ancestors and try to resolve any conflicts in that lineage. In Native American tradition I learned we heal for the seven generations after us. From my work with the indigenous traditions of Africa I learned we also go back seven generations to do that healing. That is what makes us whole. When I tried to explain, I just ended up saying. ”I do shamanic work, I journey for answers to help with health and family.” This people were willing to accept, that is why I use it. It is a simple way to explain the mix of practices I use. I am not a “shaman” in any one tradition but use many tools that shamans use.

What should people know about your appearance in Minnesota?

Joy:   I want the people who attend to know the reason I teach is because I want people to have as much information as possible to be able to move forward spiritually and to know prosperity and abundance in all levels of their life. I love to encourage people to develop their own skill set, and perhaps offer them a different perspective about a practice they may already be doing.

Sacred Harvest Festival runs from Monday August 2nd – Sunday August 9th, at Atchingtan Education Grounds – 14730 135th Ln, Finlayson, MN, 55735 .  Advance Registration ends Thursday July 30th at midnight, but gate registration is available for a day, weekend, five days, or the full week.

Nels Linde

Nels is a member of Harmony Tribe.

Grandmother Elspeth – Interview

Grandmother Elspeth has been conducting workshops on spiritual growth and enrichment since 1991. Ordained by Pete Pathfinder, founder of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, and certified as a Shamanic Practitioner by The Church of Earth Healing, Elspeth is opinionated and outspoken, she is a great-grandmother, environmentalist, healer, teacher, pastoral counselor, and irrepressible storyteller. As an honored elder in the Neo-Pagan movement, she is a living example of the timeless truths that she teaches.
Elspeth travels today with John Grastorf, speaking on the complex challenges of the time. Elspeth, frequently called “The Crone on the Road,” is just turning age 86, and still traveling. I spoke with them at Heartland Pagan Festival.

You are probably one of the few Pagans that have seen most of a century and into a new century. What are your thoughts about where we are going now?


What the Pagan movement has done for a lot of people is break them out of the mold. It has caused two   generations of people to say, “That does not fulfill me”, about the conventional religions.  “I don’t know what I want, but I know it isn’t this”.  It has led to a belief and acceptance of the Nature Gods, and that is really what we are talking about.  That is “divine beings”, the thought forms and archetypes using the Jungian definitions. We relate more to these because we’re of the earth too.  People frequently ask me,  “What is the future of the Pagan community?”  I think that individual choice of spiritual path will become part of all of the other things that have to be done, it will become a way of life, not just a “religion.” We will wake up in the morning and  rejoice in that day and give thanks for that day to do the work we need to do.

I love ritual and I love planned ritual, the glories of a formal processional, but that is only the surface of your spiritual life..  I see for a lot of people that the spiritual is combining more and more with the other aspects of our life and becomes the underlying  thing that we do.


We are not so much about the religious side or spiritual side alone, it is about what goes on in society and politics. As we are in a time of challenge right now. This is very important for all of our society.

Do Pagans need to be activists?


I would say in one form or another definitely because somebody has to be there to help move this out of the machine, the military industrial complex, the consumerism the whole thing that we are overwhelmed by. Yes, we need to be an activist even if we never march in anything. We need to express ourselves very strongly on the issues that are facing us. Cause a ruckus! Get people to stand up and say no, no, we can’t do that and then you can talk to them and help move them on to the next thing.

 How did you become involved in this Pagan world?


I came to this movement late, mainly for my daughter who was a marine. A lot of  the folks from the military have found Paganism because if you’re going to war, you are facing death. You want to talk to your gods face to face. You don’t want to so talk to a priest that is telling you the same old story.  I thought it made a lot of sense. The whole idea of nature as a part of what is divine is not new.  My father and grandfather who were raised on the farm thought when you are in the forest you feel like I am in church.  I am a bit of a leader and scholastic, and it felt right.


As far as John and I doing this together, we had known each other for years up at Brushwood. He plays wonderful guitar and makes some great music and he would come over and hang out in my space and join in when I did Storytelling. He would come to play and sing for the children and we gradually began to realize that we were thinking in the same lines, seeing some of the same picture. It occurred to me that since I go to as many gatherings as I can because marketing Nybor’s work is a large part of our income.   We live on Social Security but this enables us to be a little more comfortable. I am getting too old to drive long distances and John said, “ I’m young and agile, I am only seventy-five. I can do this!

At that point I was traveling in the Harvey the RV and getting eight miles to the gallon. With John’s suggestion I sold Harvey and we travel with a pop-up camper now. I quit living in tent many years ago I can’t do that anymore.  We’ve learned in this three years or so that this works. If we can inspire or open up a number of people to the possibilities of their own power.  Our message is “Wake up, take charge of your life. You have the power to alter the reality around you.”

Is it more important for Pagans to be strong and work together, or to integrate with the rest of society?


Yes and yes! We have got to integrate into society because we are the yeast to change society, but we do have to stop this, “My priest is better than your priest”, or “My path is superior because it’s older”. All of that hogwash.  It’s not about that, it is about finding your piece of the truth. You may find people to walk along with you because they feel that they have the same path. It’s not about finding one way. The Pagan movement poses a great example if we can overcome our divisiveness.  We can be a great example of showing the rest of the world you don’t have to agree on everything to be able to work together, that diversity is necessary  It’s vital that we come out of our provincial view; “Those people have a different God or their slightly different from mine, and therefore they’re wrong and I’m right.”  Nobody is wrong. Everybody has a piece of the truth that they need to work.  I’m  speaking of  positive, life affirming paths.  This country , under the present government is a death affirming path. It does not exist to enhance the life and the well-being of the people of the whole society.

I feel strongly that what started with the hippies was a very important place in the development of human beings. They said “Make love not war,” and had the peace symbol. When they smoked recreational drugs it was because they were trying to break out of the mold. Anything that would take them out of that was good. Sure there were extremes, there always are in any movement. We needed the bra burners in their time. We need the extremes, we need our fanatics. What the extremists provided becomes mixed with what the rest of the people are, and it turns out to be a forward life-affirming movement. We don’t burn bra’s anymore. We have evolved beyond that.

In several classes I use a Margaret Mead quote. “You are the agents of evolution. Choice came into the world with you, You have the burden of freedom.”  It is very important for us to realize we incarnated at this time because we are the people to make this change.

When did you become a Pagan?


I discovered Paganism when I discovered Nybor. Earlier that year one of the founders of Lothlorien came to me with my second beloved who was dying and he sat and talked to us and said, “The old gods are alive.” My Joseph was so thrilled, he always wanted to travel with Pan. It was a very simplistic approach but I forgot about that through the next year or two as Joe finished his passage. When Nybor  came to me and we became friends and he said. “The natural world is full of magic.” He said more than once that the thing that he did most important for the movement was to introduce Elspeth to it.  I don’t know that that’s so, but for me it was a revelation.

Do you to live in a community on the land?

We had a group that we called Haven for a long time. The intent was to have land eventually but because I didn’t have the money to get the land and people wandered in, and wandered out we never got to that point. Nybor and I have three-quarters of an acre and if I had enough physical health I could plant enough food to feed about four families. I do not have help, I have to just my own strength and  I can’t cover a lot of ground. I have visited a number of intentional communities, some of them Pagan many of them not. When they work you have the same kind of connection that you would have in a coven or Grove.

Do you see people of color as under assault in this country ?


  Yes, they always have been. I am a musician and I have played blues and back up for black performers back in the 60’s. There treatment was terrible. There was some movement, society tried to straighten some things out,  and bring some fairness. Lately it has absolutely been an assault on people of color.


I see this current thing about the media taking these horrible shootings of black people and using it to force black and white people further a part. The media is doing this. I am not denying that it happens and I’m not denying that too often law enforcement officers are too quick to shoot. It’s being used by the media to forces us apart into two groups. It is not the only place that the media is trying to encourage divisiveness, but it is one of the major places. I don’t think we can any of us can claim to be colorblind. It is a fact that we have skin of different color. Where I take exception is saying and that it makes an enormous difference. I’m from Alabama originally and when I moved to New Jersey, way back when, I was raising my children.  I had made some good friends who were people of color and we talked about why their families left the South and where they came from.  I remember one woman saying to me in the South we were abused as a people, but individually very much-loved and cared for. That is really what happened. It was a patriarchal approach. I have heard many people say, that was terrible.  Mary worked for my mother for many, many years and she came to daddy and says, “Mr. OJ my boys in jail again, got into trouble again, can you help?”  He would go down to the police station and find out what it was, how he could help and get something good happening for the boy. She would come to me and say the children need their tonsils out. He felt, and that’s the tradition with a lot of middle class, or fairly well-to-do people, and they feel  “These people are my people too and I am responsible for their welfare.”  We talked about this and she said,  “My people left the South and came north and they found that the law up here is with us but the people hate the individual.  With dark skin there’s no easy way out. It’s got to be handled on an individual basis, but the law has to be changed and the disrespect offered to people simply needs to change.  Educational opportunities change the individual’s perception of skin color.


I try to step back from society to face what is really happening now. We come from small villages in remote locations that never moved. The stranger who came in could be a real danger, someone to fear. We all inherited this in our evolutionary process.  You have to really consciously do what is ethical, and overcome that fear.  I did some research when I first turned to the political, and I noticed all these people from multi-billion dollar industry funding pundits to sow discrimination.  What the hell is going on,  why are they doing it?   It is to separate society, keep us in conflict so we don’t notice what’s going on with major issues in society and react.


This is a spiritual thing that we are doing here (festival) , right?  I have an idea that our approach may be not close to a lot of what you doing.  I think spirituality must be involved in every moment of your life. You come to me and you say I’m a good Pagan,  I’ve got three athames, five ritual robes, and I attend every full moon. I want to look those people in the eye and say, “If you are honoring your Gods, what are you doing to change the world?”  We, having made a break with the conventional world, are the ideal ones to continue that and to say, “Up with this I will not put.”,  and begin to make the world different. We have Gods/Goddesses, divinity figures that are very related to everyone’s grass out there. What can we do to make it different for people, living in a manner more related to the natural world.

Have Pagans have been slow to react to the outrage they have seen?


Yes, unfortunately. You can get more Pagans involved with agitating for the transsexual or the LGBT community and yet we are not involved emotionally in the assault on people of color.  An interesting question, I wonder how we could make changes?

Will Pagans truly change until people of color have more involvement in alternative religion ?


We get a lot of Asian people in Paganism. Over the years the biggest part of Paganism is middle-class white people and that is a limitation that is not useful to us. We’re a little afraid of some of the racist fringe elements.  If it’s going to be worthwhile, it must be expanded to involve everybody.  I see it as a way of life.  I know we can work power, we can raise power, we can touch divinity.  I think the much larger question is how we involve our relationship to the God/Goddesses in everything we do, not simply at the moment that we actually do ritual . I feel very strongly that is a way of life, it’s not simply a religion.


We are mind, body, and spirit, and it is all one. There is only one way to reach divinity, but fortunately it is everywhere.

Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you’re thinking about?

John :

Well working politics, delay the collapse. Trying to establish good people in representative positions so that we have time to evolve. Bring forth alternative political structures and smaller decentralized communities, and evolve. We have not been allowed to evolve our society except in the interest of big money.


I have a different message. I run with Turtle when I’m storytelling, and Turtle has an extremely important message. Don’t let anything stop you. When you pick up Turtle, turn her on her back, turn her around, as soon as that turtle gets straightened out she will go the way she was going. Turtle refuses to the separated from her goals. The other thing that turtles teach us is “You never get anywhere unless you stick your neck out.” Turtle cannot walk with the head still inside the shell.  We’ve got to take risks. We’ve got to stand out there and say, “This is about all of nature, It is about the  moving worms that are off in the trees there. It is about the trees themselves.” Whether you mark yourself as an activist or not, that’s not the important thing. It is not important where you are exerting your efforts, you may be going to the local PTA meeting and encouraging. It’s vital that we act as the yeast. We are the nervous system of Gaea.

Elspeth and John

Elspeth and John

Elspeth wrote this back in 2004, and it has been widely read and distributed:

The Challenge

I challenge you, by Mystery and by Majick, to become the person
you were meant to be –
to cherish the sacred earth –
to honor the blowing winds –
to nourish the healing fire –
to drink deeply of the living waters.

I challenge you to live Life more fully –
to awaken to the infinite possibilities around you –
to know that you are the only limiting factor in your life.

I challenge you to free yourself from both nation and race –
to recognize all humans as your family –
to know that war is not the answer.

I challenge you to become more aware of the other-than-human beings –
to share habitat and nourishment with them –
to acknowledge them as your teachers.

I challenge you to truly view this planet Earth as a living organism –
to understand that She is divine, as are all living things –
to find your purpose in relation to Her’s.

In time to come there will be darkness and dissolution,
There will be raging anger, pain, and deprivation,
There will be loss and there will be violent death.

I challenge you to continue in your chosen path, living joyously.
Be deaf to the words of the unawakened;
lest they give you unease.
Let not fear immobilize you,
nor despair make you weak,

For the Eternal Ones are with you, now and forevermore.

Elspeth of Haven – 2004

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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