Friday, August 28, 2020

Wind Energy & Microgrids, an Interfaith Climate Change Event

Davide Taviani, Wikimedia

As a founding member of Marin Interfaith Climate Action (MICA) representing the Covenant, I proposed an event we called Riding the Wind to a Cleaner Environment, to be presented via Zoom.  Jo Carson of Feraferia was the speaker.  The talk also included an interview with Peter Asmus about microgrids -- and boy! are microgrids a great idea in these times of rolling power outages and other challenges to reliable electrical power  We have 90+ registrants and 55 actual attendees, which we thought was pretty good. Jeffrey Albaugh designed the flyer and hosted the Q&A, because we're a bunch of older tech-challenged folks who can get flustered, and we wanted this to be as professional as possible.  Jeffrey is adept at that and was gracious enough to help us. 

Indicative of the growing implementation of wind power, as well as wind in combination with other renewable energy sources, is the growing number of cities and countries now converting, or already converted.  See the top 10 countries on wind power, more than 100 cities worldwide are now powered by renewable energy, and five U.S. towns are powered entirely by renewable energy.  All of these conversions make a huge contribution towards meeting the standards set by the Paris Agreement.

At MICA's monthly meeting this week, I made a point of telling my colleagues that the event, our very first entirely MICA-produced offering, was 98% Pagan produced and executed.  (My idea, Jo speaking, Jeffrey helping). I made that point because this group is nearly all Abrahamic.  In general and not necessarily in the present case of MICA, all-Abrahamic groups are mostly ignorant, and tend to be suspicious of persons from religions they don't understand. I feel that when we make a significant contribution, it should be noted, because in this case in particular, there was initial mistrust and resistance about having a Witch aboard, privately but strongly expressed.

Feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive.

Here is a recording of the event.

Feel free to share this recording anywhere you think appropriate.

Yours in service to Coventina,


Friday, July 17, 2020

Justice -- Ma’at, Themis, Justitia

Ma’at, Themis, Justitia

Recently I was invited to sit on a panel on the theme of Justice – what our faith tradition teaches about Justice at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple.  The panel convened after a short Buddhist service.

Each panelist will have 10 minutes to discuss his or her thoughts on the topic from the standpoint of his or her religion or spiritual outlook.  The subject can be approached from any angle desired (personal experience, professional experience, doctrine, personal philosophy, whatever).  There will then be a short question and answer period,

Well frankly, I was kinda stumped.  I know what Justice is and I think I have a strong sense of Justice; however, I don’t know how these sentiments came about, except, I guess, through my Christian parents.  I don’t know of any specific Pagan teachings addressing Justice.

The word "justice" appears in many of the United States' most important documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Pledge of Allegiance.  However, its precise definition is still a topic of debate for philosophers, theologians, and legislators.

In my process of preparing for the panel, my friend Gus DiZerega was kind enough to provide me with a copy of a talk he gave at the Claremont Conference on Current Pagan Studies entitled “Rethinking Social Justice in Accordance with Pagan Values” in 2016.  Although that helped me in my thinking about this and I’m grateful for Gus’ generosity, I didn’t end up drawing from it.

In addition, I’ve been learning about restorative justice because of my work as a volunteer with the Wiccan circle at San Quentin State Prison, where the Insight Prison Project was born.  Restorative justice:

… seeks to heal the harm caused by crime.  Instead of focusing on retribution, it focuses on rehabilitation. At its core, it is a process that offers both victims and those who caused harm an opportunity to seek answers and accountability to begin to repair the damage caused by crime.

IPP’s core program is:

… the 18-month long Victim/Offender Education Group (VOEG), which includes a curriculum that was designed by licensed mental health therapists in collaboration with survivors of violent crimes and people incarcerated for previously violent behavior. 

Further, I learned a lot from some deeply moving episodes of an excellent television series on CNN called The Redemption Project with Van Jones.  In fact, one of my Marin Interfaith Council colleagues, an interfaith minister, appeared in one episode where she served as the support person for the offender.

Often when I’m stumped about an issue, I turn to various peoples’ goddesses and stories about them.  Pagans commonly learn from the mythology and folklore of our ancestors.  That is how I arrived at the decision to chose three goddesses from three different ancient cultures.


I began with Ma’at.  Ma’at was, and is, the personification of the cosmic order and a representation of the stability of the universe.  Ma’at first appears during the period known as the Old Kingdom (c. 2613 - 2181 BCE) but no doubt existed in some form earlier.  She represents truth, justice, balance, and morality.  She is shown winged and adorned with an ostrich feather

The Spirit of Ma’at presided over Egyptian law courts.  Her priest had a dual role, serving as both a priest and working directly in the law courts and justice system.  He wore the feather of Ma’at in court proceedings, while all other court officials wore small golden images of the goddess as a sign of their judicial authority.  Priests drew the Feather of Ma’at on their tongues with green dye, so that the words they spoke were truth, as a symbol that their judgment would be balanced and fair.  Depictions of Ma’at show her wearing a feather on her head.

At death, on her divine scales Ma’at weighs the heart of the deceased against her feather of truth.  In an entertainment context rather than a religious one. Ma’at’s scales with the feather are shown in the television production of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Contemporary Pagans who practice Egyptian or Kemetic religious traditions, whether they are strict reconstructionists or they syncretize Egyptian thought, mythos, deities into their practices, worship Ma’at, among others.  Some contemporaries propound the “42 Ideals of Ma’at.”


From ancient Greece, the culture of which permeates Western culture, I chose Themis.  The personification of abstract concepts is characteristic of the Greeks.  Thus, Themis first appears as a divine personage in Hesiod's Theogony.  Hesiod described the forces of the universe as cosmic divinities.  Titled the Lady of Good Counsel, Themis personifies divine order, fairness, law, natural law, and custom.  Her symbols are the Scales of Justice, tools used to remain balanced and pragmatic.  Themis means "divine law" rather than human ordinance.  She was the organizer of the “communal affairs of humans, particularly assemblies.
Themis in Australia

The ability of the goddess Themis to foresee the future enabled her to become one of the Oracles of Delphi, which in turn led to her establishment as the goddess of divine justice.

Themis presided over the proper relation between man and woman, the basis of the rightly ordered family (the family was seen as the pillar of the deme, or connected neighborhood), and judges were often referred to as “themistopóloi” (the servants of Themis).  Such was also the basis for order upon Olympus, where even Hera addressed her as “Lady Themis.”

For Hesiod, Justice is at the center of religious and moral life who, independently of Zeus, is the embodiment of divine will.  Hesiod portrayed temporal justice, Dike, as the daughter of Zeus and Themis.  Dike executed the law of judgments and sentencing

In general, Themis had three subsistences; goddess of natural order, meaning the seasonal and never-ceasing rotation of time; goddess of moral order; and goddess of prophecy,

Some classical representations of Themis showed her holding a sword, believed to represent her ability to cut fact from fiction; to her there was no middle ground.
Lady Justice in Czech Republic

Justitia, or Iustitia, was the Roman goddess of justice.  She is often referred to in modern times as Lady Justice.  The emperor Augustus, (27 BCE – CE 14) introduced her, and his successor Tiberius established a Temple of Iustitia in Rome.  She became a symbol for the virtue of justice with which every emperor wished to associate his regime.  Later, the emperor Vespasian (9-79 CE) minted coins with the image of the goddess seated on a throne, and many emperors after him used the image of the goddess to proclaim themselves protectors of justice

Justitia has become a symbol of Justice in western culture.  Justitia, in her more modern form as Lady Justice, has appeared in numerous forms at different times throughout the entirety of Western history since classical antiquity.

She is usually depicted holding a sword, just as Themis was in some images, representing authority and conveying the idea that justice can be swift and final.  In some interpretations the sword she holds represents punishment.  As do her predecessors Ma’at and Themis, Lady Justice also carries a scales.  

Since the 16th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold, symbolizing objectivity, a lack of prejudice demanded by justice, that justice is impartial and should be applied without regard to wealth, power, or other status.

Many sculptures, such as the one atop the Old Bailey courthouse in London, leave out the blindfold altogether.  Another variation, which can be seen at the Shelby County Courthouse in Memphis, Tennessee, depicts a blindfolded Lady Justice as a human scale, weighing competing claims in each hand.

Contemporary Iustitia in Ottawa
Allegoria della Guistitia

 Scales of Justice

As you can see, one thing that all of these Pagan representations of the concept of justice include is scales.  The scales of justice are a familiar symbol used in many Western presentations of modern law; they represent the weighing of two sides of an argument and the equal, unbiased administration of the law, and the scales lack a foundation in order to signify that evidence should stand on its own.  They symbolize the idea of the fair distribution of law, with no influence of bias, privilege or corruption. 

Lady Justice is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from one hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition.

* * * * *

Contemporary Lady Justice
As mentioned above, Pagans commonly learn from the mythology and folklore of our ancestors, and, to a lesser extent, from anthropology and archeology, art, music, dance, and cuisine.  We may draw from many times and cultures, from personal experience and philosophy, from teachings and study.  Personal experience may include direct communication with particular divine entity(ies).  I don’t see this as choosing from a smorgasbord of ancient and contemporary; rather, as are all religions, Pagan religions are syncretic. 

In general, Pagans are not doctrinaire. We are orthopractic rather than orthodox; we share our rituals together, be they scripted or spontaneous, yet each participant may gain insight and understandings, literal belief or healthy skepticism, in different ways.  Further, each participant may have a different belief about what they’re doing, whether literal or metaphorical.

Our ongoing influence is attested by the longevity of our deities and the concepts they represent.  The desks of many attorneys hold a scales; courthouses and other government buildings are warded by statues of Lady Justice or Themis, paintings of these goddesses abound throughout the world, from Brazil to Scandinavia, and beyond.  As we are fond of saying, we practice a “living religion.”

Yours in service to Coventina,

© 2020 Aline O'Brien

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

AAR 2017-IV (2017)

Steilneset Witchcraft Memorial, Vardø, Finnmark, Norway

Contemporary Pagan Studies Unit

Pagan Intersections with Social and Cultural Systems.  These papers investigate the ways in which Pagan belief and practices intersect with wider aspects of culture and experience and the ways in which Pagans themselves interact with services and institutions.  Topics include the impacts of being Pagan on health and wellbeing and the ability to see appropriate care and diagnosis, the impacts of Pagan leadership in environmental activism, and how a pilgrimage site is used for educational purposes.

«    Kimberly KirnerSeeking Healing and Support:  Mental and Physical Health Challenges in Pagan Communities.  Pagans are known for high rate of small-group and solitary practice, often facilitated at people’s homes or public spaces such as national forests and parks.  How does this impact how Pagans with mental and physical health challenges experience their communities? How does Pagan community color their experience of support in seeking care and treatment for their health challenges?  The 2012 Pagan Health Survey asked United States Pagans about their beliefs, practices, and experiences in healing (N+1811).  76% of respondents reported a period in their lives of significant mental distress or disorder (with 54% having experienced depression, 60% anxiety or panic, and 29% PTSD); 49% of respondents reported a chronic physical illness.  This paper explores how Pagans with such health challenges experience their religious community, including both support and discrimination, as well as how multiple stigmas (religious minority combined with frequently stigmatized health challenges) impacts Pagans’ well-being.

«    Garrett SadlerSeeking Healing and Support:  Mental and Physical Health Challenges in Pagan Communities.  

«    Jeffrey AlbaughA Phenomenological Exploration of Theophany and Metanoia in Contemporary Paganisms.  This descriptive phenomenological inquiry explores invariant structures of meaning in the lived experiences of theophany and metanoia in individuals identifying as Contemporary Pagans in the United States.  Methods of inquiry included open-ended questions to collect descriptions of numinous experiences.  Analysis utilizes the descriptive phenomenological method developed by Amedeo P. Giorgi, and compares the resulting invariant meanings with the current research on Contemporary Pagan belief and practice.  Analysis resulted in a predictable map of the psychic experience of encountering the numinous that mirrors the four basic tropes of archetypal psychology, personifying, of imagining things; pathologizing, or falling apart; psychologizing, or seeing through; and dehumanizing, or soul making.

Burning Chair

Chair at Night

«    Jone Salomonsen and Sarah M PikePresence and Absence at the Steilneset Witchcraft Memorial. Where do we find memorials to commemorate early modern witch hunts as a crime, and to more the many thousands who were tortured and killed as heretics in Europe (and North America)?  How does a state incorporate its crime against those deemed and burned as devilish others into its memorial landscape?  According to contemporary memory studies, the time of the monument is passé.  Rather than embodying memory, the monument tends to displace it altogether, supplanting a community’s possible memory work with its own material form.  The alternative to “monument” is the “memorial,” which is defined as a counter-monument, a built structure in which the artist has attempted a performative piece that may initiate a dynamic relationship between artist, work and viewer.  A memorial, therefore, is an egalitarian conception that attempts not only to commemorate the historical impulse that led to the abuse, the kill, the event “itself,” but to facilitate an enactment in which the hierarchical relationships between the object and its audience is breaking down.  The enactment in which the hierarchical relationship between the object and its audience is breaking down.  The paper will present and discuss the one case in which a local municipality recognized its obligation to remember the early modern witch burnings in its own town and who called on world-renowned artists to design a worthy site.  Steineset Witchcraft Memorial in Vardø, Finnmark, in northern Norway, is also a unique sample of an embodiment of the conceptual intent of a ‘memorial.’  The actual memorial is a 2011 co-production by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and the French-American installation artists Louise Bourgeois to commemorate 77 women and 14 men who were burned at the stake between 1620 and 1692 in this sparsely populated county (of 3000 inhabitants at the time in Northern Norway.
 I was amazed, pleasantly so, to learn of this spectacular memorial installation in Norway, of all places.  Who knew there were Witch burnings in Norway?  I didn’t.  From the various photos online, it appears that the visitor could be drawn in to the experience of events.  I think you can tell a lot from the photos included here.

Distant View

Another View Showing Waves

It's Right Out There Along the Cliff

The Long Walk to the Fire

Long Walk to the Fire Chair


In service to Coventina,
Macha NightMare
National Interfaith Representative

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

AAR Annual Meeting-III (2017)

Contemporary Pagan Studies and Religion and Migration Unit and Religion and Popular Culture Unit and Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Unit and Religion, Media, and Culture Unit.

American Gods. I was unable to attend this intriguing roundtable discussion inspired by Neil Gaiman’s novel, but I wanted Pagans to know that it took place.

Contemporary Pagan Studies Unit

Magic in the Time of the Tower: Witchcraft, Activism, and Political Resistance.  This panel explores various aspects of political activism within the contemporary pagan and witchcraft communities.  Topics and issues discussed will include mass protests organized across social media, controversy among pagan and witchcraft traditions regarding the appropriate use of magic and spellcraft in political contexts; the influence of popular media texts upon the lexicon and imagery of contemporary pagan activism; and the presence of witchcraft culture in the current political climate.

«    Peg Aloi – “We Are the Weirdos, Mister!”: The Re-emergence of W.I.T.C.H. and a New Generation of Media Witches.   The re-emergence of the late 1960s radical feminist group W.I.T.C.H. (The Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell) has been a dramatic and attention-getting presence in the current climate of political activism.  This paper will explore the cultural underpinnings of that group and its use of popular Hollywood imagery of witches (from The Wizard of Oz) to attract media attention, as well as the more recent proliferation of media-based portrayals of witches (like those in Bewitched and The Craft) that inform contemporary political activism within the pagan community and in the wider culture.  The significance of media portrayals of witches for both practitioners and laypersons will be discussed, as it relates to both positive and negative developments within the current political zeitgeist.

I always find this kind of presentation fun.  From my days when I was deep into the movement called Second Wave Feminism, which was before I found the Craft so was not yet a Witch myself, I well remember the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell.  To discover that contemporary young women find inspiration from WITCH warms my heart.  My notes are scanty, but I know that Peg mentioned repressed memory therapy, likely relating to the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s.  I was kept abreast of much of this as it unfolded by way of my friend Don Frew, who was very involved because of its mistaken association with Wicca. 

Besom Brigade, Berkeley, CA
She also cited a 1977 writing by Cheri Lesh.  When I heard that, my ears perked up, because Cheri Lesh is a woman I’ve known since my first involvement in Witchcraft.  Her professional name, which is also her Craft name, is Cerridwen Fallingstar, and she was my sponsor when I took initiation vows.  It’s a strange feeling when the writings of someone you know in an other-than-academic context are cited, and you know this person well.

The revival of WITCH, whatever the acronym means today, relates to the phenomenon begun in Minneapolis by Steve Posch and manifested beyond his home turf, of besom brigades.  Besom brigades are drill teams of black-hatted Witches using brooms.  See photo.

«    Sabina Magliocco – Witchcraft as Political Resistance: Magical Responses to the 2016 Election.  Soon after the Presidential election of 2016, instructions for magic spells to stop the actions of Trump and his administration began to circulate on social media sites.  They have continued to spread throughout the first months of his presidency, sometimes going viral and being adopted by non-Pagans.  This paper examines the emergence of these spells and responses to them within and outside of the community of contemporary Pagan practitioners.  It explores why they emerged at this historical juncture as well as the reasons for their appeal both within and outside of magical communities, arguing that they exist as a performance of resistance that allows the expression of oppositional feelings at a time of high anxiety.  It also uses them to explore the complex attitudes towards magic, power, and ethics in the belief systems of contemporary Pagans.

One can count on the fact that Sabina’s presentations are clear, thorough, and interesting, and this one was no different.  The Craft community in which I have my roots, which I call my matrix community, has always had a strong political aspect.  Witches in that tradition frequently find themselves front and center of progressive political activism.   Needless to say, in today’s political climate activism is strong and growing.  Witness Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March of January 2017, and current youth-led activism around gun violence. 

Sabina spoke of the phenomenon of the urge to hex Donald Trump that swept through Witchen communities in the wake of his election.  The most common of these spells were “bindings” intended to thwart his efforts.  She credited these efforts, whether carried out or not, as a means of creative expression and anxiety relief.

This cultural episode also stimulated ethical discussion around the meaning the Witchen dictate of “Harm None.”  I have mixed feelings about political spellwork – its ethics, its effectiveness and the wisdom of employing it.  There are pages and pages about political spells in the wake of the last presidential election and its fallout.

«    Egil Asprem – The Magical Theory of Politics: Meme Magic, the Cult of Kek, and How to Topple an Egregore.   The election of the 45th President of the United States set in motion a hidden war in the world of the occult.  From the meme-filled underworld of 4chan’s alt-right-dominated imageboards to the publicized “binding spell” against Trump and his supporters, the social and ideological divides ripping apart the American social fabric is mirrored by witches, magicians, and other esotericists fighting each other with magical means.  This paper focuses on the emerging online esoteric religion of the alt-right, the increasingly (re-)enchanted notion of “meme magic,” and the open confrontation between different magical paradigms that has ensued in order to (1) analyze the competing views of magical efficacy that get sharpened as material and political stakes appear to increase; and (2) theorize the religionizing tendency of the alt-right as a partly spontaneous and partially deliberate attempt to create “collective effervescence” and galvanize a movement around a (in Weberian terms) distinctly non-legalistic and non-traditional charismatic authority.

This talk was undoubtedly one of the strangest I’ve encountered at this venue.  I had heard of Pepe the Frog and had seen ugly images of him, but I generally ignore cartoon-y things.  It seems that Pepe the Frog generated The Cult of Kek , Kek being considered the Egyptian god of Chaos, as well as being part of the “Holy Trinity” of memetic entities: Kek the Father, Pepe the Son, and Pek the Holy Ghost.

Egil mentioned a right-wing Rosicrucian named David Griffin and his colleague (and perhaps wife) Leslie McQuade.  He also mentioned a Michael Hughes in connection with the rise of binding spells against Trump.  Michael Hughes being a common name, an Internet search arrived at a Michael M. Hughes.  It turns out that we have dozens of friends in common.  This Michael Hughes seems to be all on board with hexing Trump, with #BindTrump and #MagicResistance on his FB page.

A part of this general group of related phenomena is the collectively created “thought focus,” or Egregore.  The spell uses an unflattering photograph of Trump -- Gods know there are many from which to choose! – a  sigil of some kind, and an orange candle.

I’m sorry to say that lo these many months later there remains a need to curb the President’s ignorant and ill-considered behavior.

AAR-IV blog to follow.

In service,
Macha NightMare

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

AAR Annual Meeting - II

Native Traditions in the Americas and North American Religions Units.

Standing Together at Standing Rock: Cross-Cultural Perspectives and Critiques: The #NoDAPL campaign at Standing Rock drew thousands of protesters representing tribal nations in the United States, indigenous peoples from around the world, as well as diverse religious groups and nonindegenous peoples.  The protesters were drawn by a common cause but participated in ways that both created unity and dissension.  The papers address these distinctions ranging from interrogating Standing Rock as a social or protest movement to address these distinctions ranging for interrogating Standing Rock as a social protest movement to examining the occupation as a milestone moment in modern inter-religious dialogue.  Papers give consideration to the complexities of the movement while drawing on indigenous cosmological understandings and global interests in human-earth relationships.

«    Margaret McMurtrey – Standing Rock: Movement or Spiritual Call?  Confrontations Concerning Space- and Place-based Rhetoric.  Standing Rock: social movement or spiritual call?  To the non-native observer, it is a movement: a call to action on behalf of the environment and the people of Standing Rock.  For most Native and indigenous people, it calls forth a complex and nuanced relationship with the land.  This paper examines the current and historical legacies of native and non-native alliances around social and spiritual “movements” that help to interrogate Native and non-native responses to Standing Rock.  Native people are demanding that the “meaning” of Standing Rock be explained within a rhetorical context of space and place.  The challenge: how can the language of ”social movement” be illumined within the rhetoric of space– and place-based religiosity?  Can space- and place-based rhetoric be articulated to explain the nuances of Standing Rock from a Native and indigenous perspective while facilitating the understandings of and promoting the formation of large-scale community alliances? 

«    Peter Huff – Parliament of Religions on the Prairie: Standing Rock as Interreligious Event.  The 2016-17 Standing Rock phenomenon constitutes a turning point in the history of modern interreligious dialogue.  Oceti Sakowin and related encampments represent not only the greatest Native American tribal gathering since the nineteenth century but the most extraordinary open-air interfaith “camp meeting” in U.S. history.  Representatives from Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish Muslim, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, Wiccan, Protestant, Catholic, and Quaker traditions assembled with Native American spiritual leaders and international indigenous leaders, forming not only a spontaneous parliament of religions on the prairie but the first mass modern interfaith event informed by indigenous values and practices.  Based on first-person participant observation and interviews with local actors, the paper traces the development of the Standing Rock interreligious experience from the spring of 2016 to the February 2017 camp evictions.  Drawing upon the critical literature on the history of modern interreligious dialogue, the paper identifies Standing Rock as a milestone in global interreligious dialogue.  

I came into this session after it had commenced; however, I think I experienced more than 90% of it.  Again, my post-stroke note-taking leaves much to be desired.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse
Peter Huff spoke of the leadership of Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle.[1]  White Buffalo Calf Woman (Ptesanwin) brought the Pipe to the Dakota People more than 300 years ago.  Chief Arvol Looking Horse said:

In our prophecy, the White Buffalo Calf Woman told us she would return and stand upon the earth when we are having a hard time.  In 1994, this began to happen with the birth of the white buffalo.  Not only their nation, but many animal nations began to show their sacred color, which is white.

Those gathered in protest performed and/or participated in an “Esseron”[2] interfaith ritual.  This turned out to be a much bigger deal than the organizers expected.  Karen Van Fossen, a minister at Bismarck-Mandan UU Congregation in North Dakota, and Father John Floberg of the Standing Rock Episcopal Churches, who were among the conveners, issued a notice to the interfaith communities, resulting in more than 500 clergy-people and/or representatives from religious communities coming, as opposed to the dozen they were expecting.  Some readers may be aware that Andras Corban Arthen and Patrick McCollum, both prominent Pagan interfaith activists, were present, as were Cornel West and others from around the country and beyond.

The ceremony was one of joyful community and rising concern.  They burned the Doctrine of Discovery,[3] then celebrated the easement with fireworks.  Among the participants were some teachers of interfaith for reconciliation from Belgium, as well as Veterans for Peace.

Unfortunately some leaders of this gathering were targeted with hate mail.

There was little access to the Internet, there being only one place on a certain hill for Internet access.

«    Lily Oster – Decolonizing Earth-based Spiritualities: Negotiating Earth-awakening without Appropriation.   This paper explores the ethical complexity of white engagement with earth-based spiritual traditions, addressing patterns of cultural appropriation of indigenous traditions while also recognizing the potential benefit of more widespread human orientation toward the earth as sacred.  In a moment when humanity urgently needs to cultivate ecological consciousness, many indigenous traditions contain teachings of planetary connectedness and worldviews that undermine extractivist framings of human-earth relationship.  However – as was recently highlighted by the migration of many white visitors to the pipeline resistance camps on Standing Rock Sioux land – indigenous traditions are not necessarily open to converts, and white seekers are not necessarily attuned to the protocols of non-appropriation.  This paper makes a case study of white encounter with native religion at Standing Rock, considering the decolonial possibilities and pitfalls of Eurowestern spiritual engagement with traditions, practices, and philosophies grounded in the sacredness of the earth.

Many Native activists have made it clear that they want no white leaders.  Nor are non-natives able to participate in the Sun Dance.  I understand this exclusion of non-natives in an eco-cultural context.

However, with the growth in numbers of people practicing one or another Pagan spirituality with their commonly (not universally) espoused emphasis on the holiness of Nature and our interdependence, and considering that Neo-Pagans are mostly white and urban, I wonder where we can respectfully fit in.  As an urban white, associated with colonization and appropriation, I can certainly appreciate Natives’ insistence on exclusion of non-natives.  Nonetheless, in broader interfaith activities I, as an ecologically concerned Pagan Witch, think that our “greenness” is an asset and can inform others who hold a more “dominionist” (the attitude, not the Christian right) perspectives on the world, its assets, and its inhabitants.  I wish to contribute to the fortification of everyone’s efforts to address climate change, regardless of religion or ethnicity or any other difference.

The basic underlying tenet of these Native people is that everyone looks out for each other.  That’s behavior I try to cultivate and that I wish were more common among non-Natives.

«    David Walsh – Ceremony in Historical Perspective at Standing Rock.   The #NoDAPL movement and the protests at Standing Rock have attracted media attention for the direct action with police.  However, this focus has obscured the historical context of protest through ceremony.  In this presentation, I discuss cosmological understandings of the indigenous participants.  Their actions such as individual ceremonies, the camps as ceremony, and direct action with police as ceremony, suggest that the #NoDAPL movement is primarily a spiritual ecology movement.  To properly understand this movement, then, it must be put into historical context with other spiritual movements of resistance, such as the Ghost Dance movement and Idle No More.  Only then can we understand how water protectors are protecting the source of life, water, from the forces of destruction, the black snake, as they continue their cosmological battle to cut off the head of the snake before it spills its poisonous venom – oil across the land.

Mr. Walsh claims that the protests against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock are pan-indigenous spiritual movements of resistance.  One practice is to bring water to pour into the river. 

He likened this to a “mini Mokami,” which is a reference either to (1) a river trail in present-day Labrador used by the three indigenous peoples of that land: the Innu (Innu Nation), the Inuit (Nunatsiavut), and the NunatuKavut (Southern Inuit); (2) a place in central Missouri; or (3) a place in Santa Clara County in California.  The phrase he credited to “mini Mokami” is “Water Is Life.”  Regardless of the source, this statement applies universally.

This mixture of waters is similar to a ritual honoring the Waters of the World that is widely practiced in the interfaith movement, both national and international.  Participants from many places bring water from a spring, creek, lake, river, or ocean near where they live to ritually comingle with the waters brought from far and wide.  I’ve been told that this rite of mingling waters of the world (not pouring them into a river) began as a UU practice.  In any case, the practice has been taken up within the Pagan movement, where it is not uncommon.

Nonetheless, It is important to remember that indigenous rituals, whether environmental or otherwise, are focused on the local rather than the universal, even when they have been displaced.

Mandans hold wisdom of the sky is covered and erased by dams.  The Native peoples at DAPL liken oil to the “black snake that destroys the land.”  That is an image I can easily envision.  Protests opposing extraction from tar sands in Alberta began in 1967, and amped up in the 2000s.

One of the activities mentioned concerned approaching and standing upon a sacred mountain on the DAPL encampment.  Humans who seek to go there must put cedar bark in their shoes as a sign of humility and respect for the sacredness of this mountain.  Beyond respecting this practice, I think such practices can be consciousness raisers for non-indigenous people.

Created by people of Canada’s sovereign First Nations, Idle No More soon grew into one of the largest Indigenous mass movements in Canadian history.  “Idle No More calls on all people to join in a peaceful revolution, to honour Indigenous sovereignty, and to protect the land and water.”  INM began demonstrations in 2012 to resist extraction and assimiliation.

In addition to the Ghost Dance in South Dakota and actions at Wounded Knee, Native Americans and First Nations people have conducted Round Dances at shopping malls.  They hold Sitting Bull as an honored ancestor.

By Mother Nature, Mother Earth and other names, I join all peoples in respecting, preserving, conserving, and celebrating Earth, our beautiful and sacred home.

In service to Coventina,
Macha NightMare

[1]           See Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers.  Don’t be fooled by the English names.

[2]           The word I heard as esseron, thought it may have been asseron.  In any case, I don’t know its meaning and have been unable to find any useful information about it.

[3]                The Covenant of the Goddess issued a Resolution To Repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery, and Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2012.