How to Handle Protesters at a Pagan Event

It’s that time of year again! When Pagan Pride Festivals and open rituals start popping up in our communities, and with them all the problems of being pagan in public. In light of the protesters visiting Nashville’s Pagan Pride day I thought it would be fitting to give some advice on how to still enjoy your day out with fellow pagans while protesters try to ruin it. These suggestions are for attendees and not organizers and I do encourage all to follow the rules set forth by the event coordinators, but sometimes everyone is following the rules and there are still gray areas on how to deal with these issues.

  • A majority of the time protesters will not be aloud into the event or will set up “shop” at the front entrance to discourage attendees from entering. For the protesters this tactic can be very effective, especially on people who would be coming to their first event. As an attendee of a Pagan event the best way to handle this type of protest is to walk by without acknowledging the protest. I suggest eyes down, ears closed till you get into the event or the sign-in table. If the protesters signal you out, physically touch you, or otherwise make your entrance difficult inform organizers, police, or event/ venue staff as quickly and calmly as possible.
  •   Sometimes, with open public events protesters are able to walk in and attempt to disturb the event from the inside. This can be the most difficult time when dealing with protesters; since they are not just using volume to disrupt but their persons. As with the Nashville Pagan Pride these protesters could also video tape their actions. If you are “in the broom-closet” this can be terrifying. I do want to take a moment and remind you that in some cases when going to an event you are giving permission to be photographed or video taped. Before going to an event check their rules to be sure this is explained for the event its self. When done for the event or vendors they normally ask before the picture is taken and give you a chance to move. However, when the protesters are video taping it is best to just turn your back and let them pass by. You can find the video the Nashville protesters posted online and  see individuals that can be identified are clearly standing in front of the protest. Other attendees are not identifiable. I would not suggest going up to them to engage or trying to impend traffic though the event.
  •    When protesters become verbally or physically violent the best thing for an attendee to do is to get out of the way. Let the police handle the assault and give a clear and calm description of what you witnessed when asked by police or organizers. If you were involved or saw what happened do stay at the event to give your account. Help injured or angered friend remain calm and walk a safe distance away from the altercation. Do not describe parties involved by religion or group when giving police statements. Describe by apprentice from foot to head. If people fled or left this is extremely important for police follow up as they can get group names from people involved in the groups but not always personal descriptions. Remember in the aftermath most parties are going to protect their own. This includes lying about who started what and who was involved. If you give a clear, impartial, and honest statement you will be presenting the event well and help police better investigate and prepare for next year.
  • When you see a person you know involved in the protest do not walk up to the individual or engage with them later on the issue. Maintain distance and and if they notice you be polite and do not confirm your reason for presence. This is especially important if you know this person from your place of employment. Say hello, it was nice to see you, then move on. If this person later attempts to reveal your presence at the event you can then go to your HR department and honestly state you never confirmed or denied your involvement in the event while reporting the inappropriate work place behavior.

Most importantly while attending a Pagan event remember you are representing all attendees, the event its self, and Pagans. The best way to do so is with positivity and light. When our events end up on the news because of protest mainstream media will take anything to make Neo Paganism look bad. So don’t be the one to give them fuel, only give them the story of protesters came and were handled by the appropriate authorities or left out of boredom. Have a fun and safe festival season!

Do you have any stories about protesters at pagan event?

Blessed Be,

Autumn Wolfe

As always please feel free to comment and share! If you have any questions or wish to get in contact with me please email me at autumn.ironwolf@gmail.com

 

The Ethics of Hex and Curses

There has been a lot of talk on and offline lately about hexing and cursing, especially around the Brock Turner rape conviction; and I felt like adding my two cents in. To lay out my biases I am a criminologist and Wiccan. My degree work heavily focused on understanding violent crime and American Criminal Law. I also use magick as a last resort measure, generally waiting for a dire need to ask outside forces for formal assistance. Most importantly, I am on the fence about using hex and curse magick myself. So, when my friends were bringing in books on “Gray Witch Craft” and the internet was a buzz with hexing a known rapist I decided I wanted to explore the ethics of hex magick and what other options are out there for Witches.

The word Hex comes from the German word hexen “to practice sorcery”. In modern witchcraft the word hex is more commonly used to describe a spell cast to cause pain or ill will on an individual or group. Curse, believed to come from Old English crus “a prayer that is evil or harmful” or “to swear profanely”. Today there is some debate that hex and curse can be used interchangeable, but what I found as a more interesting use is describing hex as a verb and cures as the effect. For the sake of this post I will being using hex to describe a spell with ill intent directed at a person, group, or culture.
As I have mentioned in the post on The Threefold Law a large majority of Wiccans believe in a rule of return. The Threefold Law along with the Wiccan Rede; “an do what yhe will, harm none” (more on that in a later post) maintains for all that believe in it, there will be consistences to knowingly causing harm to another. Because of this, a large percentage of magick practitioners do not use hexes in their practice. However, even in the Wiccan community there is a growing amendment to the Rede to include “harm none, but take no shit”. Adding an argument for using magick to fight back or as self defense. There is also, in the grater pagan community those who do not follow the Rede, or believe in the Threefold Law. Some of these witches do not hex due to personal morality, but what stops or encourages witches that do not have such convictions?
To understand the use of hex magick today one would have to look at what brought about hexing in first place. Byron Ballard described in episode 53 of Down at the Crossroads, hex magick was used by the poor and those outside of the justice system. I believe this was said in a European Middle Ages context, but can be seen to explain different places and times. Such as, the use of hexs in Hoodoo or Voodoo. This statement a lines very well with the witches who are wielding hexs at Turner’s defense of since justice was not done in the courts their magick will bring about a more preferable punishment.
Since the discussion on hex magic has become so heated recently many elders have spoken out againts the use of negative magick. Such as Raymond Buckland, though a Facebook post Uncle Bucky stated his disappointment in the use of negative magick and how the public use of hexing is destroying all the pioneers of Wicca’s work on changing the perspective of modern witchcraft in the eyes of the larger culture. Uncle Bucky underlined the importance of spreading healing and love though magick. So, an alternative to hexing Turner has been to bless the two gentleman who found and caught Turner, or to send healing to the victim. I personally find sending blessings to the people who fight for the rights of victims and help heal the world a more constructive use of my magick then to hex and send anger out to those who tare the world apart.

In conclusion I urge all magickal practitioners to think before doing any magick, good or bad. To remember that it is your responsibility what you do with the power you send out and to be prepared to take what ever comes back. Even if you do not believe in a Threefold Return you should be prepared and understand all of the possibilities your magick could create. After reaching in myself I feel I could not cast a hex, but that should not limit or stop someone who can.

Blessed Be,

Autumn Wolfe

As always please feel free to comment and share! If you have any questions or wish to get in contact with me please email me at autumn.ironwolf@gmail.com

Sources cited in this post include:

Orapello, Chris: Down at the Crossroads, Episode 53 Willful Bane: The Joy of Hex with Byron Ballard.

Buckland, Raymond: Facebook Post June 13th 2016

5 Steps to Make the Wheel of the Year Yours

celtic-wheel-1For many American Pagans the Wheel of the Year and the sentiments connected to the Sabbats do not work. The number one complaint is most loudly expressed when the Sabbat is for celebrating the first signs of spring and the practitioner is experiencing the coldest months of winter. A seasonal chart for Northern England doesn’t match any North American Witch’s experience. So, why should we base our worship around it? Many witches don’t, and you don’t have to either. All throughout the craft you will hear many advisers tell you to do what works for you, why is the Wheel any different? The following is 5 steps to fit the Wheel of the Year to your climate and liking.

1. Look at the Traditional Wheel

Before you change something you better know it’s not working. If you haveyear-wheeln’t worked through the Traditional Wheel of the Year at least once, do so and then come back. I’ll see you in a year. If you’ve gone through the Wheel, and it doesn’t work for you the first thing you want to do is pull out a note book. On a separate page for each Sabbat write the date(s) the Sabbats fall on at the top. Next write all the corresponding information below it like; the Sabbat’s name, what is celebrated, and what corresponds to it. Leave plenty of room!

2.Gather Information on Your Climate

Next do some research on your own slice of earth. Take the note book you prepared in step 1 and add to it with what happens in the climate you currently live in. Be sure to use the dates on the tops of the pages as guides. If there are dates for local events that are slightly different record them on the sheet closest to the date. Your research should include looking up average temperatures for the seasons, planting and harvesting seasons start and end, and average rain/ snow fall. Compare your research to what is presented in the Traditional Wheel. What looks different? What looks the same?

prickly
Spring Blooms of the Prickly Pear

3. Look at the Indigenous Traditions

You may also want to look into the indigenous people of the area. Find out the tribe names and how close to where you lived they were or are located. Depending on record you may get a good idea of  what celebrations they held thought the year. Why and when these celebrations took place should be added to you notebook. Keeping information on the page that is most closely related be sure to also include corresponding Deities and themes.

4. Decide What Needs to Change

wheeloftheyearThis notebook should have a wealth of information in it by now. Going page by page review all that you have gathered. Now is when you decide how much you want to change from the Traditional Wheel and why.  Do you want to change the dates? The sentiments? The names? Do you want to add or remove Sabbats entirely? You now understand enough about your home to be able to decide what works best for you. To make this daunting task easier go slow. Starting on a fresh page transfer everything you liked on to the new page. Then move on to the next.

5.Document and Practice

Now with your new pages write your Wheel of the Year. If you have unexpected holes don’t try to hard to fill them right now. Focus on what you do have. At least you want to have dates and purpose of celebration planed. Once you have all that you want filled in start practicing it. Leaving room for change and improvement. The point is not to be married to what you first hashed out but to let it grow over time. Also keep in mind your Wheel is yours, so it might not work for everyone. If you made drastic changes to the Traditional Wheel don’t try and implement it in a group without the groups consent, and remember not everyone will want to change. Even if you live in a drastically different climate.

When I first moved to the Desert from a large pine forest I wish I started this process right away. It would have saved me a lot of grief if I had dropped the Traditional Wheel and appreciated where I was. Let me know what kind of climate you live in and how you celebrate it in all its glory.

This week I suggest the Modern Witch Podcast with Devin Hunter.

Blessed Be,                                                                                                                                                     Autumn Wolfe