Treating depression in a Pagan context

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2015. It has been one of our most popular articles since that date.)

UNITED STATES — It’s become fairly commonplace for articles about Blue Monday to come up at this time of year. According to a formula concocted for a now-defunct travel network, the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year. While that designation was most likely created to sell vacation packages, it does serve to focus attention on a complex, often intractable condition.

[public domain]

[public domain]

Pagans are certainly not unusual in suffering from depression, but since their worldviews can differ widely from that of the over culture, the tools and techniques for treating depression may also differ. To learn more, The Wild Hunt spoke with Pagan mental health professionals, as well as those who have struggled with depression.

Reverend Selena Fox, founder of Circle Sanctuary, has been a practicing psychotherapist for most of her adult life, and most of the people she works with in that context are Pagan. “It’s important one takes a holistic approach to healing and wellness,” she said. For Pagans, she added, that means “to be able to tap into their spirituality as part of working on getting better.”

That is only one part of a successful treatment plan for depression, she stressed, for two main reasons:

  • A biochemical imbalance may be contributing to one’s depression, and often the best treatment in such cases involves biochemical support. “It’s really important to deal with the physical-plane dimensions of the condition, as well as the spiritual ones,” Fox said. That may mean medication, or one of the many herbal supplements which are used to lift mood. Determining which is best should be left to a trained professional.
  • There is a tendency among depression sufferers to constrict one’s social life as these interactions and activities stop giving pleasure. “It’s important to be aware of those tendencies and get help shifting out of holing up like that,” said Fox. Again, that help can take the form of a professional, such as a social worker, counselor, or therapist, or that help can be observant loved ones who are able to recognize depressed behavior.

Fox actually likened depression to a common cold in that it’s a relatively common condition, which should be resolved within a couple of weeks with self-care. Like the cold, though, if it persists longer than that, outside treatment should be sought. She recalled working in a clinic where some patients would only decide to seek help after having suffered for six or eight months.

“It’s much easier to treat depression when it’s addressed earlier,” she said, noting that there are always treatment options available, no matter how serious the condition has become.

Some ways to find a suitable mental health professional include asking for references from Pagan friends and organizations in the local area, or contacting a professional association, such as the Association for Transpersonal Psychology that recognizes the importance of holistic approaches.

Taking all of that into account, there are Pagan-specific approaches to handling depression; all of which can be incorporated into a larger treatment plan. Both Fox and Tony Rella, a mental health counselor in the Seattle area and a student-mentor at the Morningstar Mystery School, use the elements of earth, water, air, and fire in their treatment plans.  Fox also includes spirit in her approach.

While not every Pagan incorporates these concepts into their own religious practice, these elements can be used to present the information and recommendations that we have gathered from Fox, Rella and others.


Earth, the body, can take a beating during depression. Sleep patterns can be disrupted, and an attitude of, “What difference does it make?” can lead to poor self-care. Fox likens this to a passive form of suicidal ideation. “Someone who has the flu might not have the energy to get it treated, and it turns into pneumonia,” she explained.

Rella said activity and diet are very important earth aspects. “Am I getting exercise? Am I spending time outside? Am I getting regular doses of sunlight or Vitamin D? A big problem in the Pacific Northwest! Is my diet promoting health? There is emerging research that indicates a relationship between depression and inflammation in the body, leading some professionals to suggest experimenting with reducing or eliminating foods that might promote inflammation, like foods high in sugar.”

Foods are an important part of Shauna Aura Knight‘s personal strategy:

About a decade ago, I started noticing certain foods seemed to impact me. I was focusing more on reducing my migraines and acne, but (as it turned out) those foods also impacted my depression. I used to live off hot pockets, mini pizzas, and soda. Carbs, sugar, dairy. It took years to finally make the switch to a (roughly) paleo diet. No grains, no added sugars, no dairy, no calorie free sweeteners.

Part of what helped me to make the switch was my belief that the divine is in each person, and that my body is divine. ‘My body is a living temple of love’ is a line from one of my favorite chants. My sacred body is worth the extra effort. Eliminating certain foods reduced the exhaustion/depression symptoms, and helped me to lose a hundred pounds which has significantly reduced my foot pain and joint pain. Taking Vitamin D, B, and my prescribed thyroid medication also helped.

Factors like sunlight and physical activity can be difficult to manage in northern climes. When reached for this story, Fox reported that it was 40 below outside her Wisconsin home. “Some days, sitting by a sunny window is all you can do,” she acknowledged, but she suggests supplementing limited exposure to sunlight with full-spectrum light boxes, and visualization exercises. Weather permitting, she also recommends nature walks for a number of reasons:  exercise is known to improve depression in its own right, changing one’s environment can interrupt a cycle of negative thinking, and Pagans in particular tend to respond well to exposure to the natural world.

One very pragmatic approach comes from Heathen Cara Freyasdaughter.

I take my depression meds regularly. I also get them refilled and checked on a regular basis by doctors who are qualified to do this. I see this as part of a larger technique for dealing with depression called “taking care of myself.” My Goddess has Strong Opinions on whether I (or others) take care of ourselves enough or love ourselves enough. It’s a constant message that I, and others who work with Her, get. So I find that when I take care of myself, I honor Her as well.”


Regarding the element of water, Rella asks questions that are tied to mood, including “Can I give space and permission for painful emotional experiences to emerge? What deeper wisdom might these feelings point toward? What difficult truths can I see in my heart?”

Feelings about others also feed into the water element. Fox pointed out that loved ones can be among the first to recognize depression. “If you are encouraging a loved one who seems to be in the funks and talks negatively day in and out, it’s a really good idea to have some conversations with that person hoping it will encourage or motivate them to get some additional help.”

Blogger Alyxander Folmer, writing about his own struggles with depression, said that his loved ones serve as a source of motivation:

. . . during the hardest points of depression just mustering the energy required to express emotion can be daunting. When just getting out of bed feels like it takes more energy than you’ve got in the tank, it’s hard to care enough to put on music (or fight laundry monsters). On those days, the only thing that gets me moving is remembering that people need me.

I have a wife who deserves a functioning partner. I have approximately 1/3 of a child who needs me to to provide a safe and stable life for it to grow. I have friends that need to know they can call on me when times are hard. This has become my morning mantra for those days when I’m just to exhausted to muster up will to function. It doesn’t matter how I feel, or how little I care about anything else. That one thought will get me moving.

Jolene Poseidonae spoke about a technique she developed for herself:

Detached compassion is something I developed not initially to cope with depression but as part of shadow work years ago as I learned how to drop the tools that had helped me survive a violent, abusive upbringing but were then getting in the way of my being a functional adult with healthy relationships. It was something I developed so that I could trust in my gods and in the people who loved me, and it spilled over into dealing with depression. It’s a sort of stepping back from the emotional ups and downs that hit so fast they leave me dizzy, it’s the practice of disengaging from one’s emotions. Emotions are always in a state of flux for me, and they are often untrustworthy.

It’s harder when the emotion is a constant, steady stream of a conviction of unworth, of wretchedness, and the knowing that nothing will ever get better, and this burning desire to cease existing will go on and on and on with no relief, but having the practice in place helps me turn my connection to those emotions off. It’s like I sort of side-step them. I watch them, I hear them, and I feel them, but I turn aside so that the feeling of them isn’t as direct. I’m not as engaged with them. Usually, this helps shorten the duration of my being mired in the black. The days I have when I lose all interest in my projects are fewer, and it’s been a long time since I’ve lost months like I used to.

Knight noted, “When my depression was at its worst, I couldn’t acknowledge I had depression because that would mean I was ‘bad,’ ‘worthless,’ ‘hopeless.’ Admitting I had a problem — looking into that dark, shadowy mirror of my own fears — was the first big step. Getting help was more difficult as I have no health insurance, and I was alone without much income. I did manage to get some help via therapy at a cheap clinic, but even that cost too much. I was introduced to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, though, and I realized that I had done personal work similar to that when I was doing leadership training at Diana’s Grove.”


Air is associated with the intellect and thoughts. “What kind of story is my depression telling about me?” asks Rella. “What harmful self-beliefs are coming to light? How could I rewrite those stories to promote more ease and self-acceptance?”

Fox suggests monitoring self-talk to identify the onset of depression, which can otherwise begin without detection. On paper or electronically, jot down one’s thoughts over the course of a day. “If a person is finding a great propensity for negative thinking that is often an indicator that there’s some kind of depression going on. Phrases such as, ‘Well, what’s the point, I’m failing at this, nothing’s ever going to get better.’ If there’s ideation indicating hopelessness, sorrow, putting oneself down, that’s a sign you need some help.”


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S. Jade Gribanov said that distracting herself from negative thoughts works for her. She added, “Music. Anything that makes me feel good. A brainless inconsequential activity to occupy my conscious mind. My brain will run itself in circles for a few hours. Most of it will be garbage but I always come up with a couple of things to keep me going for a while longer.”

Music works for Knight, as well. “I sometimes also sing to manage depression, and I’m trying to work singing into a daily practice. While I still struggle with occasional ‘pit of despair’ days where I am utterly exhausted, and I am still trying to find ways to feel emotions like joy and happiness, my life is far better than it was.”

Freyasdaughter embraces her own thoughts from times when she felt better. “I read my past writings. There are times when I am full of faith and trust in the Gods completely, and when depression hits I lose most of that. So it’s good for me to go back and see these hopeful things, written by my own hand, and remember that the depressive funk I’m in can and will pass. It has before.”

Poseidonae also uses her writing, but slightly differently. “Writing is a huge part of coping. Going easy with myself when I need to is also a part of it. Losing myself in fiction. Sometimes throwing myself into my devotional acts helps, and sometimes it makes it worse. Sometimes I have to retreat away from all my gods — Poseidon being the sole exception — and just be.”


“In my observation, qualities of Fire are particularly challenging for people with depression,” said Rella. “The depression says, ‘I don’t care about anything and I don’t have the strength to do anything.’ Engaging the will to act on something important to me is a powerful coping strategy. Sustaining a daily practice, even when you don’t ‘feel it,’ helps.”

He goes on: “For some people at the height of depression, getting out of bed to take a shower is a tremendous act of will, and worth validating. Those who have never experienced a deep depression might have trouble understanding how much courage and strength it takes to do these daily tasks, and it is the enactment of these that helps the person work through and move out of their depression.”

For Fox, action can often break the patterns that feed depression, as has been touched upon earlier. Fire can also be utilized literally, in the form of candles or exposure to sunlight and other full-spectrum lighting.


Fox uses spirit in the context of “one’s practices and understandings” when speaking about depression. “Some daily spiritual practice can be a really important component,” she said.

“That could take the form of “being at a home altar calling on the Divine, Goddess, God, Great Spirit, or a particular pantheon, depending on the tradition. Actually call on the sacred and ask for assistance as one goes through life and the day.” Further, “a ritual for self-healing involving chanting, candlelight, incense, [or] affirmations . . . is really a complement to whatever else one is doing.”

Sable Aradia, a Pagan clergyperson, provided some specific actions for depressed Pagans to take in her second post on The Downward Spiral — Depression and Suicide in Paganism, including the use of banishing pentagrams to dispel negative moods, witch bottles to get rid of bad luck, and seeking council of the gods.

I believe that if you keep your eyes open for them, the gods send you signs also. When my husband was in a major car accident and in the ICU for a month, the phrase “this too shall pass” continued to be sent to me. People would say it on the bus to me; I saw it tattooed on the wrist of one of the kinder nurses. You get the idea.

Hellenist Conor Davis finds that religious ritual sometimes works for him. “I have found that, when I can manage it, prayers and devotionals can help me with some of the milder symptoms of depression. On bad days where I don’t want to get out of bed much less leave the house, nothing seems to help and everything seems feeble.”

Freyasdaughter said, “I make a gratitude list. By that point or so, I’m in a place where I can move easily into a state of worshipping my Goddess, and in return She gives me back love. It’s a great feedback loop. When I’m depressed it’s often very difficult to reach out to the gods and trust that they are there, or to trust that anything I’m feeling or hearing from them is real or true. So, the gratitude list, where I sit myself down and make myself look at the things that are going well in my life, helps me to get back into that connected, hopeful headspace again.”

Dver, a spirit-worker on the margins of Hellenic polytheism, made this observation: “I have come to the conclusion over the years that my chronic depression is actually a recurring shaman sickness, essentially (I’m not actually a shaman, but a spirit-worker, and this concept seems to apply to various sorts of mystics). When I hit my worst point many years ago, I began delving into spirit-work (though I didn’t call it that at the time) and things got much better. To this day, when I am experiencing any longish stretch of depression (more than a few days), it is almost always a call to pay attention to what I am neglecting, and once I begin doing my Work again, the depression lifts.”

[Photo Credit: Martin Gommel/Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Martin Gommel/Flickr]

Many of those who reached out or wrote about this topic have compared depression to an underworld journey, in which the traveler must confront difficult truths, or even discern truth from self-lies. Given the complex and powerful symbolism in this area, it’s worth further study.

Depression is a condition which can alter one’s own perceptions of self-worth, which can lead to neglect of the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life. A holistic approach to treatment might include physical activity, monitoring self-talk, performing regular spiritual practice even if it seems pointless, and changes in diet and medication. Because it can be a serious illness, and particularly because it changes self-perception, outside help should be sought for any depression which lasts for more than a few days.


Column: Yule in Mexico

Spanish Version

Mexicans, religious or not, usually refer to the holiday season as Guadalupe-Reyes. It starts with the Virgin of Guadalupe Day December 12 and ends with Día de los Reyes Magos (biblical Magi) January 6.  This often includes a feasting and drinking marathon. Therefore, Pagans and Witches usually celebrate the winter solstice before the exact solstice date because we are busy with family gatherings or we are on vacation.

Conjuring up my first Yule always puts a smile on my face; it was the first ritual I participated within a coven. I will never forget the High Priest opening the door, welcoming me with a warm smile, and the smell of pine, cinnamon, rosemary and myrrh in the house. Everyone greeted me with kind words, and I could finally understand what Merry Greet really meant.

At the same time, everyone therel had a curious face, wondering what this 16 year old boy was doing there.  The High Priest would tell them: “Don’t judge young people because of their age, most of the time they are wiser than us.” I did not feel wise at all, though. On the contrary, I felt I knew nothing, and I wanted to learn it all and participate in anything I could within the ritual.

Since that night, I’ve always enjoyed talking about Yule to my friends and family.

The fact that some Mexicans celebrate the Winter Solstice using ancient Nordic European terms and symbols may be surprising for many. But although we are a religious minority, you can find quite a few Pagan groups celebrating Yule, or Jól in Mexico.

Cofradía Wicca Luna Azul, for example, celebrates Yule on the closest weekend to December 21. Alejandro Estanislao, High Priest of the Cofradía, says that one of his most important jobs is to raise the principal altar with the representation of the Sun Child as a central symbol. It stands for the rebirth of the Sun and the rebirth of light.

“[By] representing the rebirth of the Sun through the Child figure, we generate a type of commitment, a devotional work toward the energy of the Sun, of hope, of rebirth, dedicating a spiritual work, meditation, healing or service,” Estanislao explains.

“We also invoke the Winter Fairies for the work of wishes, and we also do a gift exchange. We ask the attendees to bring a symbolic gift related to magic and spirituality with the goal of sharing with others what they want for themselves, in other words, ‘offering to somebody else what they want the new cycle to bring to themselves.”

During this time of year, Estanislao also organizes a free public talk or conference to inform people about their tradition. The talk is usually called The Pagan Origin of Christmas.

“We talk about the original symbolism of Christmas, although it has been totally absorbed by Christianity, the symbolic part is actually related to Pagan traditions.” he explains.

For Círculo Ágora Meraki, the winter solstice is the obligatory celebration for its members, a chosen family made up of the sisters and brothers of the tradition.

“We celebrate the return of the Sun God into our life, therefore, for us, is the first light after a period of introspection, self-healing and acknowledgement of a whole wheel’s work on all levels: physical, emotional and spiritual,” explains Adartia-Monserrat Sánchez, Priestess of Círculo Ágora Meraki. 

“The meaning can sound very simple ‘the promise of life and Gods come true’, this means that with the first light the wheel is awaken in my whole being and, in my heart, a new phase starting another degree on this everlasting spiral.”

Sánchez adds,“For this reason, is very important to me to celebrate the winter solstice with people related to my beliefs and thought, to accomplish a tuning and harmony suitable for a new year, that can allow me to visualize the appropriate work for me and for my brothers and sisters.” 

An example of Nordic-themed winter solstice celebrations in Mexico come from Allthing Ásatrú México. As a Tribal Council, the group brings together several clans that celebrate together the last festival of the Sun Wheel. They consider Jól as the Mother Night of Winter. According to Hilðúlfr Úlfey, the Goði of Allthing Ásatrú México and of the Úlfey Ásatrú Norsk Séð México clan, this festival is a celebration characterized for showing unity and focusing on family.

Within the festival’s activities, there is the search for and a cutting of Jól’s log, which then should also burn during the coming days. Also, the clans cook meals together and prepare the Mjöd in advance for the final celebration.

“We integrate symbols that are typical of the Ancient Nordic Traditions, among them is Jól’s Goat, previously mentioned Jól’s Log with both, its arboreal and baking form, mistletoe plays an important role, since the largest growth of the plant, which also plays an important role on God Balder’s death, happens within these dates.” adds Úlfey.


For La Orden de los Hijos del Dragón the most important symbol of the seasonal celebration are the lights on the central altar, and taking the solstice festivity as a time of forgiveness and of fasting in our homes. It is time to share outwardly good will, and a time of maturity and love. 

“The basic way of Yule is sharing the Sol Invictus festivity, we have a tradition that goes beyond a simple ritual… It is talked about us that we are traditional family Witchcraft, because we are and celebrate that way,” says Driel Molmont, leader and guardian of the Order.

“We never incorporate eclectic elements from Christianity to have something in common with the rest of the world. We take what our ancestors form the Mexican Revolution time worked. Occasionally, we give talks so people can live the solstice spirit as we feel it.”

Molmont continues on to say, “In a ceremonial manner, we also carry out the descent of Light, a ritual part of the fraternity and western mystery school we belong to. The symbolic work is forming the Triskele and its three worlds. In addition, we also give food and blankets to people that need them and I, personally, renovate my vows with my husband.”

Martha Aida Ochoa Díaz Barriga, High Priestess and founder of the The Witch’s Garden School and La Orden del Dragón Azul coven, discusses the meaning of cleansing the she relates to the solstice celebration. “…Just like the Sun has a wonderful cycle, we try to adjust to its times and forms. Therefore, the winter solstice has a meaning of binding and untying the loose ends that we left during the wheel.”

“We do what we consider the general cleaning, not only at home, but also in our lives,” she explains. “We consider the solstice as the liberation, because only with it the rebirth comes again. We leave spaces in our closets and homes empty, in order to be filled with what we wish and be renewed with the new wheel that starts spinning, with the sun that is reborn and that reminds us that light never abandons us.”

Ochoa also says, “The ritual that we do invites us to remember that the cold of the winter can be beautiful, because it requests us to look for the warmth of our loved ones. We honor the Goddess that is about to give birth to the God, we put the cauldron in the center of the altar and we decorate it with the flowers of the season, like the poinsettia. We also put inside the cauldron yellow candles representing the birth of the Sun within the Goddess’ womb.”

Although there is are prehispanic correspondences of the winter solstice celebration such as the Aztec festivity Panquetzaliztli that celebrates the birth of the sun god Huitzilopochtli, Pagans, Heathens, and modern Witches generally connect more with the European symbols and deities. However, some do include prehispanic symbols or tools in their rituals,

For example, Ochoa’s coven is not against the idea of integrating prehispanic symbols or activities. In fact, they study the pantheons of the Americas’ cultures.

“We regularly practice dances of invocation of the moon, the rain or the sun, if we remember that Wicca is returning to the ancient religion, ours is rich in our country, full go wisdom and magic,” she explains. 

“The winter solstice is the birth if the sun Huitzilopochtli, and although we do not properly represent this deity on our altars, I think the symbology is the same, because in our prehispanic Mexico, the meaning of the rebirth of the Sun is very similar to the correspondences in Wicca. Integrating the forms and rituals to the experience of our coven works perfectly, we adequate to the core idea that affirms: where our intention is, also our power”.

Círculo Ágora Meraki also often uses prehispanic symbols in their rituals. Sanchez says, “One that we always use is the sahumerio (burning incense) or popochcomitl, it represents to us the element air that in essence joins the spirit.”

“The syncretism allows us to coexist with the traditions of our surroundings without any problems, since we do it with complete respect and love for our roots. We only invoke prehispanic deities or from any other origin if this is what the organizers of the celebration decide, but it usually varies a lot because the choice of the pantheon or tradition depends on what the group needs.”

The clans of Allthing Ásatrú México do focus on Nordic deities, but they also like expressing their gratitude to the Mexican ones. 

“Within Jól’s celebrations, the integration of gods Aesir and Vanir, as well as the giants Jotnar and Thursar, is total. Although, there is a greater focus on winter deities, Skadi and Uller among them, and also the Hrymthursar, who are present during this time of year, remarks Úlfey.

“We only integrate gods form the Nordic/German tradition, without generating eclecticisms and syncretisms. We do not integrate into our celebrations deities from these lands, but we always dedicate them with the present for letting us celebrate, being respectful with the gods and guardians that govern the Mexican territory.”.

However, other Pagans and Witches, like Estanislao, prefer showing their respect to prehispanic symbols or deities by not to including them in their practices.

Estanislao explains, “We do not include any prehispanic deity or practice, or from any Mexican mother tradition, because in a way we try to respect this part. Although a few people that participate in the Cofradía practice some form of shamanism or a type of mexicanidad, we try keeping these practices at bay with respect.”

“Sincerely, I can tell you that I am not someone who knows a lot about prehispanic deities, and being the principal teaching figure in the Cofradía, the intellectual aspect within this spiritual aspect I provide is limited, not including them,” he says. “Though I think that the main reason we don´t include them is an act of respect to this spiritual line we increasingly have more close. If we want a prehispanic ritual it would be easier for us to approach a prehispanic group.”

Other groups like Molmont’s, on the other hand, don´t feel related to them.’ He notes: “Thinking of something prehispanic is like saying we have been conquered. We also not see the traditional ways of our people as something that incorporates into out rites.”


Besides celebrating with our spiritual groups, covens or clans, it is considered very important to spend time celebrating the holidays with our families and the way we share our beliefs with them can change from one individual to another.

Allthing Ásatrú México’s members usually talk to their families about their beliefs when attending their family celebrations. Úlfey says, “But we do not participate in the ecclesiastical rites they go to, respecting their beliefs just as they respect ours.”

Estanislao’s closest family circle is comprised of his parents and sister; they also practice in the same tradition. Therefore, they participate in the rituals. And when they gather with the rest of the family, the group does not get involved in any religious activity, and their family does not have any issues regarding their practices. 

He says, “My grandmother has always been involved in traditions related to Witchcraft, and my family is used to it, and takes naturally to other practices that may be not common in other families.”

Meraki’s celebration with her nuclear family is totally focused on her beliefs. On December 21, they usually take part in a gift exchange, and a toast for all the received blessings and for the rebirth within themselves. They write letters about their plans for the new cycle, and then light them on fire in the cauldron. Finally, they head to the rooftop and release the ashes with their breath.

Later on the family has dinner and stays awake until the sun comes out with the idea of awakening the physical, mental, and emotional bodies at the same time as the light of the sun rises They usually have dinner with her extended family, telling stories around the bonfire.  As Meraki reports, her extended family likes when she explains the tradition and will sometimes even ask her for a meditation or a magical working.

Ochoa’s family also respects her beliefs. She says,  “…we always try opening a circle before having dinner and welcoming the Sun, despite our independent beliefs.”

“I also consider the Christmas celebration in my family is magical, even though it doesn’t have the ritual part with Wiccan symbology, the simple ritual of dinner, spending time together, having a great conversation, hugging are all apapacho (affectionate) to the heart and without doubt they remind us that together we are stronger, always in perfect love and perfect trust.”

“I believe that in my family we passed through the barrier of wanting to impose who is right about religious beliefs and lifestyles,” Ochoa says. “Instead I think we understand we are united by more profound things. We consider those things as the basis and our differences as a shape, so if the problem is a shape we can adapt that form.”

Twelve years had passed since my first Yule, and it will always have a special place in my memory, heart, and spiritual life. The winter solstice is my favorite celebration of the year because I believe we all share the anticipation in having expectations for the coming year, and we also share the feelings of both nostalgia and hope that arrive as soon as the nights start becoming colder and longer. Many of us joyfully celebrate with our blood families as well as our chosen families, and can do that no matter what our beliefs are and despite the naming or the origins to which we relate. 


Columna: Yule en México

English Version

Los mexicanos, seamos religiosos o no, usualmente nos referimos a esta temporada de fiestas como Guadalupe-Reyes, que inicia con el Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe el 12 de diciembre y termina con el Día de los Reyes Magos el 6 de enero, y comúnmente alude a un maratón de comida y bebida, por lo que los paganos y brujos usualmente celebramos el solsticio de invierno antes de la fecha exacta del solsticio, ya que después estamos ocupados con reuniones familiares o salimos de vacaciones.

Siempre me hace sonreír el recordar mi primer Yule, fue mi primer ritual en el que participé en un coven. Nunca olvidaré al sumo sacerdote abrir la puerta, darme la bienvenida con una cálida sonrisa y el olor the pino, canela, romero y mirra que salía de la casa. Todos me saludaron con palabras gentiles y por fin pude entender lo que ‘feliz encuentro’ realmente significaba.

Al mismo tiempo, todos tenían una expresión de curiosidad preguntándose qué hacia ese niño de 16 años ahí, a lo que el sumo sacerdote les diría “no juzguen a la gente joven por sus edad, la mayoría de las veces son más sabios que nosotros.” Aunque no me sentía nada sabio; al contrario, sentía que no sabía nada y que quería aprenderlo todo y participar en todo en lo que pudiera en el ritual. Desde esa noche siempre he disfrutado platicarle a mi familia y amigos de Yule.

El hecho de que algunos mexicanos celebren el solsticio de invierno con antiguos nombres del norte de Europa puede ser una sorpresa para muchos. Pero, aunque seamos una minoría religiosa, puedes encontrar varios grupos paganos que celebran Yule o Jól en México.

La Cofradía Wicca Luna Azul, por ejemplo, celebra Yule en el fin de semana más cercano al 21 de diciembre. Alejandro Estanislao, sumo sacerdote de la Cofradía, dice que una de sus más importantes actividades es el despertar el altar principal, con la representación del Niño Sol como el símbolo central, simbolizando el renacimiento del sol, el renacimiento de la luz: “al representar el renacimiento del Sol a través de la figura del Niño, lo que hacemos es generar algún compromiso, como un trabajo devocional hacia la energía del Sol, hacia la energía de la esperanza, de renacimiento, entonces dedicamos algún tipo de trabajo espiritual, meditación, trabajo de sanación o servicio. Invocamos también a las Hadas del Invierno para trabajar este tema relacionado con los deseos y hacemos un intercambio de regalos. Pedimos a los asistentes que lleven un regalo simbólico; relacionado con la magia, con la espiritualidad; y realizamos un sorteo. Este intercambio lo que busca es compartir con las personas aquello que yo quiero para mí, ósea, ‘yo voy a ofrendar a otra persona lo que quiero que el nuevo ciclo traiga para mí”.

En esta época del año, Estanislao también organiza una plática gratuita para informar de la práctica de su tradición, a la que usualmente nombra El origen pagano de la Navidad: “Hablamos del simbolismo original que tiene la fiesta de la Navidad, que es de origen pagano aunque el cristianismo la haya absorbido por completo, pues realmente la parte simbólica esta relacionada con las tradiciones paganas” explica.

Para el Círculo Ágora Meraki, el solsticio de invierno es la celebración obligada con la familia elegida, hermanos de tradición: “celebramos el regreso del dios Sol a nuestra vida, por lo tanto es para nosotros la primera luz después de un periodo de introspección, auto-sanación y reconocimiento de toda una rueda de trabajo en todos los niveles: físico, emocional y espiritual. El significado puede sonar muy simple ‘la promesa de la vida y de los Dioses hecha realidad’, esto es que, con la primera luz de la rueda despierte de nuevo todo mi ser y mi corazón a una nueva etapa para continuar un grado más en este eterno espiral”, declara Adartia-Monserrat Sánchez, sacerdotisa del Círculo. “Por esta razón, es importante para mí celebrar el solsticio de invierno con gente afín a mis creencias y pensamientos, para lograr una sintonía y armonía adecuada a un inicio de año que me permita visualizar el trabajo adecuado para mí y para mis hermanos”, añade.

Un ejemplo de celebraciones nórdicas del solsticio de invierno en México es Allthing Ásatrú México. Como Consejo Tribal, los Clanes que lo integran celebran en conjunto la última celebración de la Rueda Solar, considerando a Jól como la noche madre del invierno y, de acuerdo con Hilðúlfr Úlfey, goði de Allthing Ásatrú México y del Clan Úlfey Ásatrú Norsk Séð México es una celebración que se caracteriza por mostrar la unidad y enfocarse en la familia. Dentro de las actividades que realizan, se encuentra la búsqueda y el corte del tronco de Jól, mismo que deberá arder durante los días de celebración que realicen. También, preparan los alimentos juntos y con tiempo de anticipación elaboran el Mjöd para esta celebración.

“Los símbolos que se integran son característicos de las Antiguas Tradiciones Nórdicas, entre ellos la Cabra de Jól, también tomamos en cuenta el ya mencionado Tronco de Jól, este desde tanto en el ámbito arbóreo, así como en el ámbito de la repostería, el muérdago también juega un papel importante, pues dentro de estas fechas se da el mayor crecimiento de dicha planta que juega un papel muy importante en la muerte del dios Balder”, explica Úlfey.


Para La orden de los hijos del dragón el símbolo más importe son las luces del altar central y el llevar la fiesta del solsticio cómo una fiesta del perdón y ayuno a sus hogares, hacia fuera tratan de estar y compartir de buena voluntad este tiempo de madurez y amor. “La manera básica es compartir la fiesta del Sol Invictus, nosotros tenemos una tradición que va más allá de un simple ritual… Cuando se habla de nosotros, se dice que somos ‘brujería tradicional familiar’ porque lo somos y celebramos cómo tal. De ninguna manera incorporamos elementos eclécticos de la cristiandad para tener algo en común con el resto del mundo.”

“Nos acogemos a lo que nuestros ancestros desde la época de la Revolución mexicana trabajaban. Damos charlas en algunas ocasiones para que las personas vivan el espíritu del solsticio cómo lo sentimos nosotros. De manera ceremonial, también realizamos el descenso de la Luz que es un ritual parte de la fraternidad y escuela de misterios occidentales a la cual pertenecemos. El trabajo simbólico es formar el triskel y sus tres mundos. Además, él últimos día damos comida y cobijas a los hermanos que lo necesitan, y personalmente yo renuevo mis votos con mi esposo”, añade Driel Molmont, líder y custodio de la orden.

Martha Aida Ochoa Díaz Barriga, suma sacerdotisa y fundadora de la escuela The Witch’s Garden y del coven La Orden del Dragón Azul comenta el significado de limpieza que relaciona con el solsticio: “El solsticio de invierno, tiene para nosotros esa carga de atar y desatar los cabos sueltos que dejamos en la rueda, hacemos lo que consideramos la limpieza en general, no solo esto en casa, sino también en nuestras vidas, consideramos el solsticio la liberación, pues solo con ella llega de nuevo el renacimiento. Dejamos los espacios vacíos del clóset, de la casa, en fin de todo cuanto queremos que se llene y se renueve en esta rueda que empieza a girar, con el sol que nace y que nos recuerda que su luz jamás nos abandona.”

“El ritual que hacemos en coven nos invita a recordar que el frío invierno puede ser hermoso, pues nos invita a buscar el calor de nuestros seres queridos. Hacemos honor a la diosa que está a punto de dar a luz al dios, ponemos el caldero en el centro de nuestro altar, al cual decoramos con flores de la época como la noche buena. También ponemos dentro del o los calderos las velas de color amarillo que representan el nacimiento del sol del vientre de la diosa” agrega Ochoa.

Aunque hay correspondencias prehispánicas a la celebración del solsticio de invierno, como la festividad azteca Panquetzaliztli que celebraba el nacimiento del dios Huitzilopochtli, los neopaganos y brujos modernos usualmente se conectan más con símbolos y deidades europeas. Algunos sí incluyen símbolos  o herramientas prehispánicas a sus rituales, por ejemplo, el coven de Ochoa no están peleados con la idea de integrar símbolos o actividades prehispánicas, de hecho, estudian también los panteones de las culturas de América: “Muchas veces las danzas de invocaciones a la luna, a la lluvia, o incluso al sol son rituales que practicamos de forma regular, si recordamos que la wicca es regresar a la antigua religión, pues la nuestra en nuestro país es muy rica, y también llena de sabiduría y de magia. El solsticio de invierno en si es el nacimiento del sol Huitzilopochtli, y aunque propiamente no tenemos la representación de esta deidad en los altares, considero que las simbologías son las mismas, ya que en nuestro México Prehispánico, el significado del nacimiento del sol es muy similar a nuestras correspondencias en la religión wicca, integrar las formas y los rituales en experiencia en este coven funciona perfectamente, nos adecuamos a la máxima que afirma que donde esta nuestra intención esta nuestro poder”.

Círculo Ágora Meraki usualmente usa símbolos prehispánicos en sus rituales. “Uno de los símbolos que siempre usamos es el sahumerio o popochcomitl. Para nosotros representa al elemento aire que se une al espíritu en esencia. Finalmente, el sincretismo nos permite convivir con las tradiciones de nuestro entorno sin ningún problema, ya que lo trabajamos en completo respeto y amor de nuestras raíces. Las deidades prehispánicas o de cualquier otra tradición las invocamos, solo si las personas que organizan la celebración  así lo deciden, pero por lo regular varían mucho ya que la elección de panteones o tradiciones tiene que ver con las necesidades grupales”, explica Sánchez.

Los clanes de Allthing Ásatrú México obviamente se enfocan en deidades nórdicas, pero les agrada expresar su gratitud a las mexicanas; a lo que Úlfey especifica: “Dentro de las Celebraciones de Jól la integración de los dioses Aesir y Vanir, así como los gigantes Jotnar y Thursar es total, aunque se le da mayor enfoque a las deidades del invierno, entre ellos Skadi y Uller, pasando por los Hrymthursar (gigantes de la escarcha), quienes se hacen presentes en esta etapa del año. Los dioses integrados únicamente son de la tradición nórdico/germánica, sin generar eclecticismos o sincretismos. No integramos a nuestras celebraciones a las Deidades de estas tierras, pero, siempre les brindamos un presente por permitirnos celebrar, siendo respetuosos ante los dioses y guardianes que rigen en el territorio mexicano.”

Sin embargo, otros paganos y brujos, como Estanislao, prefieren expresar su respeto a los símbolos y deidades prehispánicos al no incorporándolos en sus prácticas: “No integramos ninguna deidad o practica prehispánica o de alguna tradición madre de México porque de alguna manera intentamos respetar esa parte. Aunque algunas de las personas que participan dentro de nuestra Cofradía practican alguna forma de chamanismo o alguna línea de la mexicanidad, realmente buscamos mantener una línea de respeto hacia esta práctica. Te puedo decir con total sinceridad que yo no soy una persona que tenga mucho conocimiento en deidades prehispánicas. Al ser yo la principal figura de enseñanza de la Cofradía, obviamente, las limitaciones que tengo en el aspecto intelectual dentro de esta línea espiritual pues también me limitan a no poder incluir. Aun así pienso que el principal por qué no incluir es un acto de respeto hacia esta línea espiritual que además tenemos más cerca. Si queremos un ritual prehispánico nos sería mucho más fácil acercarnos a un grupo prehispánico.”

Por otro lado, otros grupos como el de Molmont, no se sienten relacionados a ellas, de lo cual explica: “Pensar en algo prehispánico es como decir que estuvimos conquistados. Tampoco vemos las maneras tradicionales de nuestros pueblos como algo que se incorpore con nuestros ritos.”

Además de celebrar en nuestros grupos espirituales, covens o clanes, es muy importante pasar tiempo celebrando las fiestas con nuestras familias y la forma en que compartimos nuestras creencias con ellas puede cambiar de un individuo a otro.


Los miembros de Allthing Ásatrú México usualmente hablan de sus creencias con sus familias y asisten a sus celebraciones familiares. “Pero no participamos en los ritos eclesiásticos a los que ellos acuden; respetando sus creencias, así como ellos respetan las nuestras”, comenta Úlfey.

El primer círculo familiar de Estanislao, sus papás y hermana, son también practicantes de su tradición;  entonces participan en los rituales. Y cuando celebran con el resto de su familia no practican ninguna actividad religiosa y ellos no tienen ningún conflicto respecto a sus creencias. “Mi abuela desde siempre ha sido practicante de tradiciones relacionadas con la brujería. Mi familia está muy adecuada, adaptada, y recibe con naturalidad prácticas que a lo mejor no son comunes para otras familias”, explica.

La celebración de Meraki con su familia nuclear está completamente enfocada en sus creencias. Por lo regular, el 21 de diciembre hacen un intercambio de regalos y un brindis por todas las bendiciones recibidas, por el renacimiento de su ser. Hacen una carta en donde escriben aquello que tienen planeado realizar en el nuevo ciclo que comienza, encienden el caldero y las queman, y al finalizar, suben a su azotea y con su aliento liberan las cenizas. Después, regresan a su mesa para cenar y se quedan despiertos hasta que sale el sol pues su idea es despertar su cuerpo físico, mental y emocional al mismo tiempo que la luz del sol. Usualmente también cenan con su familia más extensa y cuentan historias alrededor de la fogata, a ellos les gusta que Meraki les explique sus tradiciones y hasta a aveces le piden una meditación o trabajo mágico.

La familia de Ochoa también respeta sus creencias: “…Siempre tratamos de abrir el circulo en la cena, y dar la bienvenida al sol. Cada uno le pone el nombre que quiere. También considero que la navidad en mi familia es mágica, aunque no hay esta parte del ritual propiamente con la simbología de la wicca, el solo ritual de la cena: la convivencia, la buena platica y los abrazos, son un apapacho para el corazón y sin duda nos hace recordar que juntos somos más fuertes, siempre en perfecto amor y perfecta confianza. Creo que en mi familia pasamos la barrera de querer imponer quien tiene la razón en cuanto a creencias de religión y de formas y estilos de vida, creo que entendimos que nos unen cosas muy profundas y son cosas que son fondo, las diferencias, las consideramos cosas de forma, así que mientras el problema es la forma la adecuamos.”

Ya han pasado 12 años desde mi primer Yule, y siempre tendrá un lugar especial en mi memoria, corazón y vida espiritual. El solsticio de invierno es mi celebración favorita del año porque creo que todos compartimos el tener expectativas del próximo año, y los sentimientos de nostalgia y esperanza, los cuales llegan en cuanto las noches empiezan a ser más frías y largas, así como también el celebrar con nuestra familia de sangre o  con la familia elegida, sin importar nuestras creencias y los nombres u orígenes con los cuales nos identificamos.


Column: “They would not go with her for a hundred pounds”

Having, for the moment, concluded my own pilgrimages to some of the places that Pagans feel sacred, I have been spending my time looking back at what others have thought about pilgrimage as a concept.The anthropologists Edith and Victor Turner claimed that the key feature of pilgrimage was something called communitas. Pilgrimage, they said, brought the pilgrims into a “liminoid” state, a state of being “betwixt and in-between,” outside of the normal bounds of societal rules and hierarchies. (This state is “liminoid” instead of “liminal” because in the contemporary Western societies that the Turners studied, pilgrimage is generally something people choose to do, rather than an obligatory rite of passage for the community; obviously this is not always the case, even in said Western, mostly Christian societies, but the Turners’ model focuses on pilgrimage as something optional rather than mandatory.) While engaged in this liminoid state, pilgrims enter into the state of communitas, wherein individuals become subsumed into homogeneous groups based on their shared “lowliness, sacredness, and comradeship.”

For the Turners, pilgrimage was a kind of radical egalitarianism, where, through the power of religious ritual, the structural bonds the divide society could be dismissed, leaving all pilgrims as an unmediated, undivided throng. This was, of course, a passing state of affairs; eventually the pilgrim returns home and reintegrates into the structures of society, with all the old hierarchies intact. Indeed, communitas, which the Turners also referred to as “social antistructure,” often ended up reinforcing the very structure it critiqued by acting as a sort of pressure valve for the greater society.

The Turners and their theory of pilgrimage as communitas have hardly been universally accepted in the field, it must be said: the scholars John Eade and Michael Sallnow have questioned the idea altogether, noting that in numerous anthropological studies of pilgrimage, the anti-structural quality of communitas was found to be nonexistent. Instead, pilgrimages have been argued to actually reinforce prior hierarchies and social distinctions, not just by giving pilgrims a space to relieve themselves temporarily of the pressures of their typical lives in societal structures, but by giving those societal structures new arenas to contest against one another. Despite these critiques, the Turners’ communitas has remained one of the major academic understandings of pilgrimage.

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland [E. Scott].

I derive much of my own understanding of pilgrimage from my own experiences traveling to places sacred to me: Thingvellir in Iceland, Stonehenge in England or, closer to home, the Gaea Retreat outside of Kansas City. In visiting these places, I’ve had my own experiences with communitas: I’ve been welcomed by Heathens and Druids, drawn into the circles of witches who, despite my being a stranger to them, accepted me into something like the Turners’ state of community. As a Pagan, the experience of this communitas has been a powerful experience; these moments of generosity and hospitality are the moments I most feel as though I am part of something like a “Pagan community.”

But as a writer, I’m fascinated by the fragility of communitas, the tension it brings between the individual pilgrim and the communities she encounters. Many writers of pilgrimage travelogues describe the conflict between maintaining the self-reflexive critical perspective of the individual — the voice, indeed, of the author as an autonomous thinker — and releasing herself into this undifferentiated community. What the Turners think of as a blessed, lovely connection, many writers seem to find a kind of ego-annihilation; to become part of the communitas is, to some extent, to surrender one’s own conception of the self. On the other side of the coin, to exist outside and apart from the structure of society, the pilgrim must belong to an exclusive group: another form of societal structure and hierarchy, one that many pilgrim authors struggle to conform with.

Joanna Swan portraying Margery Kempe for the play “Margery Kempe, the Wife of Lynn’s Tale” [Bard on the Wire blog].

One of my favorite accounts of such a pilgrim’s struggle is The Book of Margery Kempe, a medieval text dictated by Kempe herself that describes her life as a would-be mystic in 14th century Norfolk. Kempe describes herself as an odd figure, constantly visited by the presence of the Christian god and reduced to tears and uncontrollable emotion by that presence. Normally one would think of such mystic visions as occasions for high theological drama; witness Kempe’s contemporary, Julian of Norwich, whose spent decades as an anchoress contemplating her own surreal visions of that god, and whose fame spread far enough to attract visits from pilgrims of her own. (Margery was herself one such visitor.) But when Kempe describes her travels in the Holy Land, her visions of her god make her more of a nuisance than a miracle to those she is supposed to being entering into communitas with:

“[After a visitation from her god] she rode on an ass to Bethlehem and when she came to the temple and to the crib where our Lord was born, she had great devotion, much speech, and dalliance in her soul, and high ghostly comfort with much weeping and sobbing so that her fellows would not let her eat in their company. And therefore she ate her meals by herself alone.”

It doesn’t get any better for poor Margery. For the duration of her pilgrimage, her fellow pilgrims shun her because of her outbursts; they refuse to let her come with them to the River Jordan (though she goes anyway) and later refuse to help her climb the mountain where Christ reportedly spent his 40 days in fasting. Kempe is forced to purchase the aid of a Saracen in order to see the sight. When the pilgrims begin their trip back to England, they abandon her: “And when our Lord had brought them again to Venice safely,” she writes, “her countrymen forsook her and went away from her, leaving her alone. And some of them said that they would not go with her for a hundred pounds.”

The first time I read The Book of Margery Kempe, I couldn’t help but mock her. She, after all, spent her time consumed by weeping and moaning; I imagined myself in the shoes of her fellow pilgrims, who had come to the Holy Land to see the sights and maybe have a nice, mild religious experience, who were instead constantly confronted by this person who just could not stop being visited by this god. If my friends acted that way I might abandon them in Venice too. But the more I read the book, the more sympathy I feel for Margery. She, after all, achieved what we’re all supposedly trying to achieve when we go on pilgrimage: to come to somewhere holy and have it live up to our expectations of the divine. She was denied communitas because she herself got too close to her god. Beneath the crying and wailing, there is a deep irony there, one I am thankful I have not yet experienced myself.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.



An update and Pagan reactions to the Masterpiece Cake case

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments Tuesday for the case Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., et, al. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, et. al. As noted on the SCOTUSblog, “Lines began forming outside the Supreme Court last week for one of the biggest oral arguments of the year, in the case of a Colorado man who says that requiring him to create custom cakes for same-sex weddings would violate his religious beliefs.”

The case is being touted as the biggest and most talked-about of this court term. The issues raised focus on not only religious liberty, but the boundaries between free expression and discrimination. To what point can a citizen express themselves freely before that personal expression negatively impacts the good of the greater community? When must and under what circumstances does an individual sacrifice personal freedoms in order to live in a safe and open society?

These are not easy questions to answer, especially within a society growing in diversity and acceptance. At the same time, these issues are actually at the heart of the American internal dialog. The country’s own mythology, and its self-awareness, are grounded in the ideals of individual freedom of expression and religious belief, as well as the fostering a community that safely allows for these things without discrimination.

The negotiation of these issues in real time is what leads to cases like Masterpiece.

In a previous article, we broke down the basics of the case and why its important. In brief, the baker Jack Phillips and his attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom argue that he is a cake artist, and that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission infringed on his constitutional rights of free expression when they attempted to force him to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Phillips says that, due to his deeply-held religious beliefs, he is unable to create art that celebrates same-sex marriage, something that he is against. Using RFRA language, they also argue that the state’s requirements burden his free exercise of his religion.

The defendants, including the commission and the couple that Phillips turned away, argue that Phillips has neither been restricted from practicing his religion by his refusal to make the cake, nor had his free expression limited. They argue that his business is one of public accommodation and therefore falls under the commission’s regulations, and his refusal to make the cake was discrimination and nothing else.

According to reports, the judges appear to fall along predictable lines. and Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, and Justice Neil Gorsch all reportedly appear to “fall squarely in Phillips’ corner,” while the more liberal justices appear to side more with the Colorado couple.

As SCOTUSblog analyst Amy Howe writes, “Even if there are five votes in favor of Masterpiece, those justices will face a dilemma: how do they draw a line that respects the religious beliefs of people like Phillips without, as Breyer put it, ‘creating chaos.’ As the more liberal justices’ questions for Waggoner illustrate, that is easier said than done.”

The case is being watched closely by members of the Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities. We turned to a number of people to ask their thoughts on aspects of the case. Each intervewee had much to offer on this heated topic. We summarized their thoughts for the article; however, each person’s full response is provided in a link.

We first turned to Lady Liberty League, which is the the Pagan rights advocacy organization based in Wisconsin. Founder and director Rev. Selena Fox simply said, “I have been doing weddings for more than 40 years and consider wedding related businesses — cakes, flowers, attire, invitations, music, and other services with artistic or creative dimensions as businesses in the public square subject to public accommodation regulations.”

Fox then added that she also has been deeply involved in the arts for long time and is a strong advocate for free speech. She added, “However, art that is related to businesses with government interface — which in this case is a legal wedding — needs to be available to all.”

LLL assistant director Dianne Duggan said, “I fully support freedom of speech and of religion. As one who has emerged from several closets (LGBTQ and Pagan), I am hyper-aware of restrictive and discriminatory language and actions.”

However, she adds that she has a mixed opinion. At face value, as she explains, “It is easy to say that it is the baker’s right to practice their faith and no one can or should interfere with that. In actuality, however, no one was trying to deny their freedom of speech or religion. No one said they cannot practice their faith or talk about it. In making their business open to the public, the baker opened themselves up to whomever might walk through the door for an order. This is no different than a case of racial discrimination.”

She continues on, “While sexual orientation is not a fully protected class (it varies by state), it is on the borderline of being such a class. It takes legislative and judicial action to protect a class of folks and I believe that is where our courts are headed. Had the couple asked for something illegal, the baker could have refused. In this case, there was nothing illegal.”

Duggan agrees with Fox that the limits of constitutional protections end when a business is opened to the public. Duggan says, “Because they run a business open to the public, they cannot deny a class of customer.” (Duggan’s full response)

The protection of free expression entered the debate because Phillips considers himself an artist. We asked two Pagan artists about their own experiences facing clients with whom they may not agree fundamentally or religiously, and their thoughts on the boundaries between free expression and overt discrimination.

Allan Spiers said he has created art that was contrary to his own personal beliefs. Spiers is a graphic designer, photographer and artist. He is also co-owner of the Voudou Store. He explains, “One of my main businesses is as a graphic designer. I specialize in political advertising and have done work for both parties. I have had to do a lot of work that pertained to ideals that did not align with my own, and I was completely okay with this because at the end of the day, I am getting paid. As a business owner it isn’t my job to cater to only my point of view, but solely the point of view of the client who hired me. That is the cost of doing business.”

Spiers adds that he did turn away one project that was particularly problematic. “It was an anti-gay smear piece paid for by the Republican party. That was where my line in the sand was.”

He explains, “In my opinion, freedom of expression is something that is personal. When that expression extends beyond the artist as an individual and starts to effect other people, whether it be hate speech meant to stand in the way of the liberties and freedom of others, or something that excludes a specific community or communities of people, it should not be protected.”  (Spiers’ full response)

Laura Tempest Zakroff agreed with Spiers, also delineating between arts and crafts sold in a business open to the public versus art sold or created other ways. She says, “When you are a private/independent artist, you can choose to paint/make art of whatever you want … Want to make photos of only gay men for your portfolio and shows? Great! That’s your art, and you’re probably paying your models, versus them paying you. Want to paint the female body exclusively? Then that’s your choice and expression – so if someone says, “hey, could you paint a picture of my horse?” it’s not discrimination because it’s not the kind of work you do, and the point of your artwork isn’t to satisfy a service.”

She continues, “When you are an advertised service industry with a brick and mortar location on the street then picking and choosing customers solely on their religion, color, gender, or sexuality is plain discrimination.”

Zakroff herself is an artist, performer, and author. She is and has been both a business woman in some instances and an independent artist in others. When asked if she has created art that is contrary to her own beliefs, she says that, in a way, she does that regularly. “I paint deities that I do not personally work with.” However, she adds that it isn’t that she doesn’t believe in the deities, it is just that she doesn’t work with them.  (Zakroff’s full response)

Both Zakroff and Spiers agree strongly that this was a clear case of discrimination. Spiers says, “Regardless if one considers this free expression of art or not, it is still hate,” and Zakroff notes, “This case is not about artistic expression nor beliefs – it’s about getting a pass at being a bigot and a crap businessperson.”

Next we turned to two activists and vocal proponents of freedom of religion. Casey McCarthy is a Druid from Denver, who has recently made news for his aggressive work to offer support to the Sioux nation in their struggle against oil pipelines. Ritualist Eric Eldritch is based in Washington D.C. and has been involved in interfaith ministry for years. He is a Radical Faerie and a member of Circle Sanctuary and Stone Circle Wicca.

McCarthy took a more philosophical approach noting the larger picture to which this one case points. He says, “This is an ethical, ontological, and sociological query that bears close examination. It comes down to a very important dialectic which sits central to many of the themes we are seeing in our sociopolitical environment. This being a call for secular humanism vs. religious expression as the modus operandi for resolution of conflicts. In my opinion, our society is trying to move in the direction of compassion, kindness, and mutual acceptance for a myriad of life experiences by adopting a stance of personal accountability and responsibility for one’s actions towards other people.”

He believes that the case is a demonstration of the struggle happening as we evolve as a culture. “We are seeing a terrible upsurge in regressive thinking which wants to place the authority back on an externalized viewpoint. Rather than looking at themselves and going through the pain of realization of personal responsibility for what their privilege has cost the rest of humanity.”

Theologically speaking, McCarthy says, “As a practicing religious polytheist, I am all for defending religious freedoms, including freedom of speech,” but he ended by saying, “You don’t get to claim religious exemption from anything that involves causing harm to others.” (McCarthy’s full response)

The Pagan Collective [courtesy].

Eldritch also takes a broader approach when considering the case. He says, “This debate on the national stage, reminds me of two concepts used by activists in general and important to Pagans in specific: pluralism and intersectionality. We are the legacy of our ancestors who dreamt of many people of many cultures, beliefs, norms and identities living side by side purposefully and peacefully. As Pagans we understand the principles of respect shared resources, the elements teach us we are not only interdependent for breathe, heat, water and land, but also for health, safety and commerce.”

Having just recently enjoyed his own wedding, Eldritch notes that his spiritual work has taught him “not [to] treat people as issues” or to handle all relationships as “subject-subject” rather than “object-object.” However, the court system and commerce caused blur lines in this respect.

He adds that he sees these type of issues, in which subject and object are blurred, playing out in his own communities, and he advocates for radical respect, adding “This ‘cake and commerce’ debate has no real resolution between people who cling to their principles.”

Taking on his seasoned role as a minister, Eldritch adds, “Let’s pray to our god/dess/es for radical respect and positive transformation. We are all in this together.” (Eldritch’s full response)

The Masterpiece Cakeshop case does, as noted by our interviewees, point to fundamental issues that are currently being negotiated within contemporary society. Where are the boundaries between free expression and discrimination? When does religious belief have to take a back seat to the protection of the communal good? Can a wedding cake constitute expressive art?

The final decision is expected to be delivered in summer, 2018. We will continue to update this story as needed.


Tumblr’s Witch community appears in site’s top rankings for first time

TWH – Witchblr, the Tumblr fan community dedicated to Witchcraft, found itself in the site’s top rankings for 2017. Every year, Tumblr produces fandommetrics to illustrate what subjects, communities and memes were most popular with its users over the past year. Witchblr appeared for the first time in the rankings, coming in at the number 11 spot for Tumblr communities.

Tumblr is a social media and micro-blogging platform that was launched in 2007 by David Karpe. It is predominantly populated by younger users, with nearly 50% ranging from 16-24 years of age. According to Business Insider, “Unlike networks that encourage quick messaging and brief glances at the feed, Tumblr’s emphasis on multimedia blog posts means users spend a fair amount of time creating and digesting what’s on the site. More total time is spent on Tumblr than on bigger social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest,”

As a result the Tumblr communities are closer in nature to true communities than, for example, the Twitter experience. Witchblr is no exception to this idea, and it supports a large group of people who either practice or are interested in all things witchy.

Witchblr members post everything from advice and spells, to art and poetry, to personal experience and political rants, and of course the ever-popular meme.

Over the past few years, Witchcraft and other occult-related practices have experienced a general bump in popularity; they’ve become trendy, so to speak. While mainstream media has focused on this point, it might be best proven by the fact that the national chain store Target was selling a t-shirt that said, “Don’t be a Basic Witch.” The phrase ‘basic witch’ was borrowed from the popularity trend, as we reported in October.

Historically speaking, Witchcraft tends to peak in mainstream popularity during periods of social unrest or other forms of cultural change. Pop culture interests in the occult spiked in the late 1970s, after the cultural revolution and civil rights movement. It did again in the 1990s, as society shifted through war, political swings, and the coming digital revolution.

As was the case in all three periods, Witchcraft tends to attract young people, more specifically young women. It offers these seekers a path to find and to embrace a personal agency that they might otherwise lack. Sometimes these explorations into the occult serve as way to rebel against the status quo and parents, or serve as a way to find oneself. In many cases, the journey leads to a religious or spiritual awakening, as it has for many of the Wild Hunt‘s regular readers.

Unlike in past decades, the search and exposure to occult practices have come to many people chiefly through digital avenues. This is where Witchblr comes in.

In 2016, Tumblr user Abby told the Pacific Standard that she identifies as a digital witch. The article reads:

Instead of unloading her fears and frustrations into a wordy diatribe, Abby carefully crafts a string of emoji: books, sparkles, a pen, the sun — which she then works backward so the line mirrors itself. Beneath this, she adds the caption ‘Spell for success on all of your tests! Likes charge it, and reblogs cast it.’

In several hours, Abby could earn “over 400 likes and reblogs.” After one such case, she told the reporter that, “[the spell’s] getting powerful.”

Spells, which many Witches might do using paper and pen or purely with sound and voice, are now being done and shared using only pixels and electricity. For example, one of the more popular spell types involves using emojis, those cute little pictures found in nearly all contemporary communication platforms.

Just as Abby said, liking the emoji post charges the spell, and reblogging the post casts it.

This is the world of modern digital Witchcraft, and it appears to be growing as Tumblr now reports that Witchcraft is officially trending and the Witchblr community made the rankings for the first time.

It is important to note that digital Witch communities are not new. There was a time when young computer-oriented Witches and the curious might have shared community over Usenet and other earlier digital forums; Witchblr is the contemporary version.

Unlike those early forums and the more contemporary versions in Facebook and other social media sites, Tumblr allows for a greater display of personal expression and visual media sharing, which appeals to the younger, internet-savvy generation. It is a multimedia extravaganza of the witchy kind.

For many Pagans, digital Witchcraft might seem ridiculous and even unsound; there is a similar distrust of digital Tarot applications. However, the market is growing as the population becomes more dependent on computers, generally speaking, and more computer literate. This is a reality that is not going away.

At the same time, traditional practice is not disappearing either. Not all Witchblr posts concern digital spells and clever memes. Since many of the users are college students, there are serious requests for assistance on academic projects, specially related to occult practice. In 2016, the user “meticulous maker” did a survey of Witchblr users for a religion 101 project. She wrote, “I’m doing a research project on contemporary Witchcraft and Neopaganism, specifically on how the internet and modern technology have shaped this religious practice in unique ways.”

Witchblr users are sharing their recommended books on various occult topics, and discussing more traditional craft information such as herbal properties, stone work, and favorite tarot spreads. Users will post photos of their altars, tarot readings, and workings that they do “IRL” (in real life.)

While there is much flash and flair, the Tumblr community is not all fun and spells; Witchblr users are also getting political, including discussions on the controversial and repeated hexing of the president.

One user named Pastor Witch wrote, “I think what I am struggling with most is how much magick so many witches worked to prevent Trump and how none of it seems to have come to fruition. Where did we go wrong? I have a friend who felt we were repaid for our hexes . . . .  I think part of it is of course that we did not do as much in the real world to prevent him. Or perhaps we were not strong enough. Thoughts?”

While most Tumblr users are some of the youngest people on the internet, other sectors of the population are showing interest in the platform, according to Business Insider. Is it that older generations are discovering it or are the Tumblr users staying with their beloved platform as they get older, which eventually would change the statistics?

Either way, the community remains on the cutting edge of pop culture, as well as diverse in its witchcraft practice, from more traditional Wicca to various conjure crafts and more.  This community of digital Witches is growing, and dare we even say trending.

To experience Witchblr, go to the main Tumblr site, and type Witchblr into the search bar. It is a whole new witchy world. While you are there, try an emoji spell, and let us know how it went!


Palmyran goddess recreated for U.N. exhibit

NEW YORK –A replica statue of a goddess sometimes equated with Athena, destroyed in Palmyra in 2015, is the centerpiece of an exhibit on display at the United Nations headquarters. While the destruction of that historic Syrian city by members of Daesh led to near-universal outrage, the display of this and other reproductions is not without controversy of its own.

When Daesh troops occupied Palmyra, they set about on a systematic destruction of all traces of that city’s Pagan history. They accomplished this with brutal efficiency, using hammers and explosives to accomplish the task, which was carried out in August 2015. Violence was also part of formula; Khaled al-Asaad, head of antiquities there, hid many valuables and died rather than disclose where they were.

The World Heritage site has sustained considerable damage during the fighting that year and through to earlier 2017.

Decried as cultural destruction by many, the attack on Pagan holy sites were felt more deeply and personally by some polytheists and Pagans. News of what has been termed “the most heinous non-lethal crimes” perpetrated in the name of Daesh moved one polytheist, for example, to commemorate the city and its gods in jewelry.

Ellen, which is all the name she was willing to share, fashioned a number of pins which included depictions of the city’s main temples to be used both as reminder of the erased history and mini-temples to remember those deities. She distributed them for free to those with an interest carrying on that work.

Palmyra shrine pin [courtesy].

One of the other ways that this destruction is being mitigated is with 3D printing. An analysis of thousands of images of destroyed artifacts has made it possible to use the technology to create copies of the originals. A reproduction of the Palmyra Arch was unveiled in Trafalgar Square in 2016, and now an exhibit at the United Nations entitled “the Spirit in the Stone” includes a number of other artifact copies, among them the arch and a goddess statue, the original of which was partially destroyed in the Palmyra Museum.

The statue was believed to represent the goddess Al-lāt, one of the pre-Islamic deities worshiped in the region; the figure likely was first associated with Athena when the city was under Roman rule. As with the entire exhibit, the statue’s creation resulted from a collaboration among Dubai Future Foundation, the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, and the Institute of Digital Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Whether Al-lāt or Athena, the statue is the centerpiece of the exhibit.

While Roger Michel, executive director of the Oxford institute, is quoted as saying that “for thousands of years, Athena was synonymous with reason, refuge and the rule of law all of the same values on which that historic institution was built,” critics note that she is also a war goddess.

Athena/Al-lāt statue before its head and arm from removed in 2015 [Wikimedia Commons].

It appears that the negative feedback about the exhibit has an Abrahamic bent, with a story in Breaking Israel News being quoted in most versions. In that article, a rabbi interviewed discussed why the display of Pagan symbols is problematic in his view: “Paganism creates the ability for each man to create his own truth, as opposed to Judaism and Christianity, which state that there is an objective truth man must abide by. The UN, like paganism, is a place of subjective reality created by a vote.”

Echoing both that concern and the position of some Abrahamic theologians that this exhibit is part of a prophesied “end of days” are writers holding other extreme values, such as the unnamed editor of White Nation Network, who believes that the statue is part and parcel of church corruption that can also be seen in the Maltese cross and pine cones that appear in some Christian iconography.

What’s striking about reaction to this exhibit is that it both evokes outrage against religious extremism and outrage from religious extremists. Destroying the past goes too far for many people to accept, but reproducing those Pagan artifacts for display in a modern context also pushes the envelope of acceptability.

The preferred way forward for those opposed appears to be one that allows the past to be remembered, but remain in the past; that’s a mindset which is not likely to sit well with contemporary polytheists, Heathens, and Pagans.


Pagan Community Notes: Lady Cybele, American Academy of Religion, PantheaCon and more

HOLMEN, Wis. — The Wisconsin Pagan community lost one of its elders last month. Carol Lee Wiggins Olson Gainer, known as Lady Cybele of Rowangrove, died Nov. 26 at her home. Lady Cybele followed the Family Tradition Craft, was a longtime member of Circle Sanctuary and the Society for Creative Anachronism.  She regularly attended Pagan Spirit Gathering until her health made it difficult.

Lady Cybele was born in 1942 in Winona, Minnesota to Leland Edward Wiggins and Mabel Cecilia Johnson. After high school, she earned a bachelor’s degree from LaCrosse State University and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison.

According to one memorial account, “[Lady Cybele] was active in her union and in 1985 was selected as the AFL-CIO Wisconsin woman of the year. She was appointed by Gov. Tony Earl to the comparable worth task force and the child care task force.” In 1982, Lady Cybele ran for mayor of Madison, and she served on the International Women’s Committee of AFSCME for nine years. In 1986, she became the West Central Field Representative for AFSCME council 24, WSEU, and served there for nearly 20 years. She was also active in the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary and was secretary of the Retired Enlisted Association (TREA).

Circle Sanctuary will be hosting a memorial and “ashes release” in spring, 2018. In the meantime, condolences can be sent to the family through the guest book at the Schumacher-Kish website or on the Circle Sanctuary site. In a Facebook post, one friend wrote, “She was one of the great ones. Her singing, weatherworking and stories are the stuff of legend.” What is remembered, lives.

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BOSTON – The American Academy of Religions held its annual meeting in Boston in November, and Pagans were in attendance as always. The organization has a dedicated contemporary Pagan studies unit. This year, the chairs for the unit were Amy Hale and Shawn Arthur. The steering committee included Pagans from around the world and from a diversity of interests and practices, including Barbara A. McGrawDouglas EzzyGwendolyn ReeceMichael Houseman, and Sabina Magliocco.

Three panel sessions were sponsored in the  Pagan studies unit. Course titles included: Witchcraft, Activism, and Political Resistance; Pagan Intersections with Social and Cultural Systems; and the Pagan-Esoteric Complex: Mapping Intersecting Milieus. As reported by Cherry Hill Seminary and shown in the program book, Pagans also participated in a number of other discussions including topics on “Ecology and Religion; Folklore and Religion; New Religious Movements; Death, Dying, and Beyond; Native Traditions of the Americas, Pre-Modern Europe and the Mediterranean; American Gods and Harry Potter.

Cherry Hill Seminary had its own contingent of representatives both presenting and in attendance, including regular conference attendees Aline O’Brien (Macha Nightmare) and Jeffrey Albaugh. Some of that group took an private “excursion to Salem,” which is only a short drive from Boston.

The location of next year’s AAR national meeting has not yet been announced. However, regional meetings are already listed and calls for papers are on the website.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Over the past month, people have begun the process of preparing for PantheaCon, which is the largest indoor Pagan-themed conference in the United States. Held in February each year, PantheaCon is hosted at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose, California. The conference, more or less, takes over the hotel for four days.

People whose presentation proposals were accepted are now making it known publicly, while others have been anxiously calling the hotel at designated times in an attempt to reserve one of the coveted guest rooms. Some are successful, and some aren’t. Additionally, groups have been posting about hospitality suite schedules. For example, the priesthood of Coru Cathubodua announced that it will be hosting a suite and temple space, as it typically has in the past.

On Nov. 21, organizers uploaded the official program guide for the upcoming conference. This year, organizers say they are “going old school” and not using special programs to automate scheduling. The guide is uploaded as a simple PDF. Coordinator Jamie Morgan reminds attendees to plan their schedule, but to also watch for changes between now and then, and during the event itself. PantheaCon will be held Feb. 16-19 in San Jose.

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cropped square.pngATLANTA – A Special Thanks from the Wild Hunt team! All of us at TWH would like to thank all of of you, both individuals and organizations, who contributed to and supported our Generosity Fall Funding campaign. Because of each you, we are able to continue bringing you daily and original news and commentary that concerns the Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities worldwide. You know we love what we do!

We’d also like to thank the many people who joined our new Sustainers Circle, pledging a monthly donation in order to keep Pagan news going year round. We added this program as another way for ou readers to offer their help in sustaining the Wild Hunt and its mission to be an independent and daily source of Pagan-related news. While the Generosity campaign is closed, the Sustainers Circle is always open to new members.

Thank you sincerely to all of our monthly sustainers and to our Generosity supporters, and to every reader who join us here each day. Thank you! Now back to work…

In other news:

  • Circle Sanctuary will be participating, once again, in the national program “Wreaths Across America.” Rev. Selena Fox said, “We will be placing wreaths on Pagan veteran grave sites at Circle Cemetery on Dec. 16 as part of our community Yule festival.” The Wreaths Across America staff interviewed Fox on a live stream to talk about Circle’s participation. Fox said, “I encouraged people of many beliefs and backgrounds to support this work.”
  • As we previously reported, Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) sponsored several live streaming talks over Facebook with author and Druid Philip Carr-Gomm. The talks, titled “Tea with Philip,” have been so successful that the organization has decided to make it a weekly event, scheduled through March. The next talk will be held Monday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. UTC.
  • The original title of the very first Harry Potter book was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which is a reference to ancient art and science of alchemy. Ardantane, a Pagan educational facility, located in New Mexico is hosting an online class on the subject. The class, which begins Dec. 5, is titled “Spiritual Alchemy and the Philospher’s Stone.” The class runs three sessions. “The ancient art and science of alchemy is more than the precursor to modern chemistry: it is a technology of the sacred and a path to inner transformation, as practiced by wise ones, adepts, and magi. We will explore the fascinating history of this art, discover the mysterious symbols in which key precepts are encrypted, and practice exercises designed to bring us closer to the hieros gamos and the Philosopher’s Stone.”
  • Pagan Spirit Gathering, the week long outdoor Pagan festival, has opened its registration for its 2018 event.

Card of the week with Star Bustamonte

Deck: Cat’s Eye Tarot by Debra M. Given, DVM publisheed by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Card: two (2) of cups

The two (2) of cups is a card that is all about relationships and partnerships. How we recognize and honor our relationships is important. Perhaps most imperative is the relationship we have with ourselves. This is a good time to reevaluate, review, or renew a relationship that has become skewed since Mercury is retrograde.


Pagan Voices: Ελευθέριος, Steve Miller, Angelo Nasios, and more

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media or a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice or artist you’d like to see highlighted? Contact us with a link to the story, post, audio, or image.

When two polytheistic cultures meet, they compare (and often also share) their gods and traditions. It’s more about commerce than it is about competition—inclusion, not exclusion. . . . There’s never an argument about whose god is true or false because they’re all true. Obviously. Plurality and multiplicity echo throughout the cosmos and this is evident in polytheist thought.

“Y’all should worship the One True Thor—YOUR ZEUS IS FALSE!” said no polytheist ever.

— Ελευθέριος, Polytheism Is a Party Where Everyone Is Invited

I think because of my aphantasia, everything feels very immediate to me. I live mostly in the now. The Buddhists would love me. But it means that I don’t have the ability to even really imagine the feeling of a spirit or god outside of my everyday mundane experiences. But I have a feeling of awe for nature and everything it drives, and I think it is the highest power anyone could imagine in the universe. It is the universe. And it controls, consciously or not, everything that happens on this planet and to distant stars.

— Hestia, I don’t know what kind of Pagan I am: a guide(ish)

I have yet to come across a modern polytheist tradition that includes work with extinct species of any kind. But consider this: our ancestors had relationships with these beings, on spiritual and physical levels, long before we were ever born. Passenger pigeons were hunted for meat, but were also sacred in several Native American traditions. One such tribe was the Cherokee, who had rules about when and how the bird could be harvested, based on their understanding of its life cycle. Great auks were valued for the warmth of their down feathers, but their bones and skulls have been found in ancient burials, and their skins were used in ceremonial cloaks. The Hawaii mamo was a sacred bird in native Hawaiian culture, and its feathers were used in the capes of royalty. These are just a few examples. There are many species that human beings connected to, and learned the spiritual secrets of, before their extinction. We can learn more about our own history and ancestors by reconnecting with these ancient allies.

— Steve Miller, Why Work with the Ancestor Birds?

Like in dating, you are never going to meet that one special coven or Witch friend unless you put yourself out there. Newsflash, lovely reader: the Goddess is not going to just magically put you in the path of a wise old woman who will take you under her wing and introduce you to all of her coven mates. In this case the Goddess helps those who help themselves.

— Ariadne Woods, Witch Tips: Reaching Out to the Pagan Community

It’s easy to think that devotion is all about feeling the presence of the gods. Maybe one is particularly gifted and can hear or even see them. I won’t deny that the capacity to experience the gods directly is a tremendous grace but, those things are in the end unimportant and focusing on them too much can be a powerful distraction to actual devotion, especially when they are sought or embraced without even a hint of discernment. If our devotion is predicated on seeing, hearing, or feeling the gods, what happens when we can’t do that? What happens when we’re in a dark place, a dark night of the soul, or going through some type of emotional upset that has impacted our discernment? What happens when feeling or seeing or hearing is not forthcoming? Does our devotion go away? Moreover, demanding that we have that feedback every single time we make an offering or prayer is putting the gods on our timetable, holding them hostage, subordinating them to our whims and our needs. It is a violation of the hierarchy of being of which the gods are part.

— Galina Krasskova, Prioritizing the Gods

The astral is full of monsters, most of them made by humanity. The first monsters you encounter will be your inner demons.

Everything on the astral, with no exception, is made of thought, idea, and emotion. When you first open up your mind, your fears, traumas, social programming, low self esteem, anxieties, phobias, and insecurities will approach you, looking very much like independent beings.

You need to tame these monsters. They are parts of yourself. You can only tame them by mastering your own mind and processing your own damage. Think about what they are doing to push your buttons. Dig through your memories. Find peace with your narrative through forgiveness, or by resolving to make the world better in a way that addresses the source of the injury, or in any other way that makes sense to you.

— Thenea, Dear Neophyte Mystic

One of the difficulties the Kurdish workers faced was finding a place to pray during their shifts. . . . To solve this problem, some of them came to the fitting room, where I worked, and asked to use the handicapped room to pray. I always let them in without hesitation. If I can facilitate someone uplifting their spirit and communicating with their god, I am happy to do it. . . .

When you can be of service to others in the practice of their religion, even if it’s a religion you don’t understand, be of service. Do right. It benefits both them and you immediately and may benefit you again in the great beyond. Plus, it feels good. It plain feels good.

— M. Ashley, Walmart: a Place to Pray

In academia, mythology does not receive the same treatment as world religions because of the notion that mythology is dead religion. While classicists do treat myth seriously, they only do so as an artifact of ancient culture. Myth functions as a means to understand a past culture, not as a means for living today, or understanding a current culture, or as a knowledge system for relating to the divine and the world. . . .

Why do we mock myth? Mythology is mocked because society views myth as primitive stories attempting to explain the unknown. Mythology is mocked for being thought of as false stories, fantasies, immoral, violent, and so on. Much of this comes from Christian culture which directed how we viewed the world.

— Angelo Nasios, Why is Mythology Mocked?

Here in Britain, the sun doesn’t travel very high in the sky at all during this time, and is always casting long shadows across the wintry landscape. The daylight doesn’t really start much before 9 a.m. at the darkest point, and the darkness creeps back in around 3.30 p.m. It can be a real challenge for people living in northerly latitudes at this time of year, and the reverse in southern latitudes when they experience their winter months. The effects of seasonal affective disorder are now well known, as the brain produces less serotonin and melatonin during the winter months due to lack of sunlight, as well as affecting the body’s circadian rhythms.

– Joanna van der Hoeven, The Winter Solstice



Unleash the Hounds! (link roundup)

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, more than our team can write about in depth in any given week. Therefore, the Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. 

  • The Iceland Monitor has reported that the long-awaited Ásatrú temple in Öskjuhlíð in Reykjavik will be completed by summer 2018. The article states that this information was confirmed with the Ásatrú organization’s head chieftain Hilmar Örn Himarsson. The construction proved to be more difficult than planned; however, the work is ongoing.
  • The United National Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added to its “Memory of the World” registry 130 Roman curse tablets that “bear messages from the Roman occupants of Bath seeking revenge from a goddess.”  They are the “only artefacts from Roman Britain,” reports UNESCO. “The Roman curse tablets represent personal and private prayers of individuals inscribed on small sheets of lead or pewter and cast into the hot springs at Bath, UK. The tablets are believed to range in date from the 2nd to the late 4th century AD.” The registry began in 1992 with the mission to “guard against collective amnesia calling upon the preservation of the valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world ensuring their wide dissemination.”
  • A multinational group has sponsored the recreation of the Palmyra Athena statue that was destroyed by ISIL in 2015. The collaborators included “The UAE, the Italian mission to the UN, and the Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA), and the statue was put on display at the UN for a special ceremony called ‘Spirit of the Stone” exhibition. Why cooperation by IDA? The statue and other lost artifacts produced by the group were made using 3-D projection printing. Many see this new technology as a way of preserving artifacts and ancient cultures.
  • Not all “artifacts” are man-made. As reported by the BBC, the Old Knobbley in Mistley, Essex, England is a tree that was known to be a sanctuary for “hunted witches.” The tree is said to be “more than 13ft (4m) tall and 38ft (11.5m) wide” and is described as having its own personality. The infamous witch-finder general Matthew Hopkins lived in Mistley and would chase alleged witches into the woods. The accused would hide near the tree. The article quotes a local Mistley resident: “If Hopkins was the terror people made him out to be and women were being persecuted, it’s not unreasonable to think women who knew the wild wooded area could have hidden and sought refuge there.”
  • TWH’s own columnist Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried was recently interviewed in several mainstream articles about Ásatrú and Heathenry. The Boston Globe published an article titled, “The Norse gods’ unlikely comeback.” The other article was published in the Atlantic and is titled, “What To Do When Racists Try To Hijack Your Religion.” The mainstream media’s continued interest in Heathenry and Ásatrú demonstrates an increase in awareness as well as a likely increase in the population of people identifying as Heathens and Ásatrúar or, at the very least, exploring the mythology.
  • Have you ever seen the iconic “Witch’s House” in Beverly Hills? Los Angeles Magazine shared an interesting story about a real estate agent who lives in a “witch’s house” right out of a children’s story book. Originally built as a silent movie set, the “Witch’s House” became a landmark in the Beverly Hills area with its original owners pulling out all the stops for Halloween festivities. Agent Michael J. Libow bought the house in 1998 and began renovations, inside and out, maintaining the fairy tale witch theme throughout. He now says “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. My home is irreplaceable.”
  • Speaking of Witches, October and November bring many articles of interest about all things Witchcraft. This year Vulture published an article titled, “Black Witches: why can’t they get respect in pop culture.” The article is not about modern Witches, but rather about the depiction of black witches on television and in the movies. The writer concludes: “It may very well be naïve to expect historical truths and cultural sensitivity when it comes to filmmakers approaching black witches, whether they practice Wicca, hoodoo, or New Orleans voodoo. But as black political identity has become a vital criterion for how pop culture is judged, it seems foolish to ignore this lineage.”
  • Speaking of television witches, Sabrina is making yet another comeback on television. The show, which will air as a Netflix original, will be a spin-off the show Riverdale. The new Sabrina series, which is yet untitled, is based on more recent darker comic series called The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. According to reports, the story “finds Sabrina struggling to reconcile her dual nature (being half-witch and half-mortal) while protecting her family and the world from the forces of evil.” The teen witch Sabrina made her debut in Archie comics in the early 1960s and has come in and out of popularity since. The new Sabrina show was reportedly picked up by Netflix for 2 two seasons.
  • Finally, for some holiday and cold weather fun, someone has created a Krampus hat pattern. While the article calls Krampus a “Christmas demon,” the hat is quite festive and unique, and the article includes the directions and free crochet pattern. Happy crafting!