Ms. Amanda Godwin has been kind enough to take my rather horrid scratches for a Grove Logo, and turn it into something amazing. With a Huge waves, smile, and much deserved, "Thank You!" I give you, the new Grove Logo!
The clergy are coming! The clergy are coming! One serious disadvantage to being in a minority faith that requires a great deal of training before a person is allowed to call themselves “clergy,” is that the clergy are a bit few, and far between. There are no ADF clergy members in Kansas. The clergy training program is very intense, and even once clergy status is obtained, continued education is required to maintain that status. Needless to say, it is a huge commitment of time and energy. This means we have clergy who know what they are talking about, but it also means that many people are without clergy in their area of the country.
ADF has a traveling clergy program that helps small Groves like Ad Astra have a chance to experience time with clergy. The program provides a small amount of money to help the clergy pay for travel costs, but I suspect that a great deal of money still comes out of pocket. Ad Astra is extremely blessed to be having two priests coming out for our retreat. They will be spending time hanging out, answering questions, doing ritual, as well as leading workshops. Since we do not have paid clergy in ADF, these wonderful folk have had to take time off from day jobs to come out to see us. The sacrifice of time, energy, and money that our priests are putting out amazes and humbles me.
“So, who’s coming?” you ask.
Rev. Jean (Drum) Pagano, is the current Vice Arch Druid, ADF ListMaster, Manager of the ADF Store, and the reason that our Grove exists at all. I met Drum while up at a festival in Michigan, where he proceeded to talk me into starting a Proto Grove (even though I was the only ADF member in Topeka and the next closest member was in Missouri). I’m still not quite sure how he did that. He has been an ADF member for 28 years. He is currently a reviewer, and advocate for the ADF Study Programs; and an ADF Journeyman Bard (soon to be Master Bard). Drum has written a number of articles for Oak Leaves, has written a book of poetry entitled “Arise from Vapours”; and has studied and worked with the ogham for 23 years. Drum is also currently a member of Cedarsong Grove.
Rev. Michael J Dangler has been an ADF member for 11 years. He is currently an ADF Senior Priest; Preceptor of the ADF Clergy Council; a Past Senior Druid and Grove Priest of Three Cranes Grove, ADF, in Columbus, OH. Anyone who has ever thought about doing the study programs that ADF offers all its members, knows his name. He has written a great deal to help people learn what Druidry is all about and his work appears in Our Own Druidry, the handbook for the ADF Dedicant Path. He runs a Druid shop part time, has a regular day job, is a priest, and runs tons of workshops for ADF. I have met Michael a few times at various festivals and one Pagan Fire Seminar (that he co-founded and led).
To say I am excited to have these two here is a bit of an understatement. I was asked by a friend if I felt nervous to have the clergy coming out, since they will be seeing my ritual writing skills first hand. Honestly, I find it weird that I am not. I guess I figured they are coming to help us grow and stretch. I will learn while they are here, and hopefully by the end of our time together, I will put what they are teaching to good use in ritual and make them proud.
About a year ago, the University of Missouri put out a guide describing the various religions that could be found on campus and when their holy days occurred. The on-line version of the guide can be found here: http://diversity.missouri.edu/get-involved/religion/holidays.php
47 holidays are listed from a variety of religious traditions. The guide describes how observances of the holiday of any given religion could affect a student’s performance. One example is fasting during Ramadan; the guide recommends:
“If possible, avoid scheduling major academic deadlines during this time. Be sensitive to the fact that students and employees celebrating Ramadan will be fasting during the day (continuously for 30 days) and will likely have less stamina as a result. If planning an evening event, provide food accommodations if requested (Islamic dietary restrictions apply).”
First off, Mizzou, I want to applaud you. To take note of the holy days of minority religions, as well as the major ones, is a step in the right direction. The university is a place of diversity and to acknowledge that in an official guide, designed to help professors and others know when students may not be at top form for tests and other activities due to commitment to their religious obligations, just makes my heart glow. You are showing how much you care about your students, and how much you want them to succeed in their education.
The Pew Research Center and the most recent US census estimate the Pagan population to be between 900,000 to 1.2 million. Growth of Pagan religions over the last decade was close to 28%, as compared to the 3% of Christendom as a whole, and the negative growth of Protestantism here in the US. Many Pagans still remain in the closet about their religious beliefs for fear of persecution in the form of loss of jobs, housing, and children. This makes it extremely difficult to find out exactly what our numbers really are. While Paganism, as an umbrella term for a host of different religions, is far from becoming even one of the top three largest religions in this country, we are steadily growing and we are not going away anytime soon. I should also add that “Pagan” does not necessarily equal Wiccan, though Wicca is the largest portion of the Pagan population (just as Evangelical Christians are larger in the Christian population than Catholics, but still get lumped together as Christian in polls).
With all this said, here enters Fox News. They had both an on-line article as well as a segment on “Fox and Friends” where they addressed the guide that Mizzou had put out. If you want to be sure I am not making this up, you can read the on-line article here: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/02/17/university-missouri-guide-asks-professors-to-accommodate-wiccan-pagan-holidays/ , as well as watch a clip of the “Fox and Friends” show here: http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2013/02/17/28929/fnc-fnf-20130217-wiccan
Tammy Bruce, radio host of the nationally syndicated “Tammy Bruce Show” and Fox News contributor, said she found the guide to be indicative of an unbecoming societal shift.
“It almost seems as though we’re looking for excuses for people to not have to take their commitments seriously,” Bruce told FoxNews.com. “It’s beyond political correctness; it’s almost like an excuse to do nothing. It’s like societal nihilism, where nothing matters.”
Tucker Carlson adds, “Every Wiccan I have ever know is either compulsive Dungeons and Dragons player or is a middle aged, twice divorced, older woman, living in a rural area who works as a midwife.”
Forget the fact that the accommodations listed for the Pagan holidays equals zero recommendations. Not even a single, “Don’t schedule tests on these days.” Forget the fact that only 8 holidays are listed for Pagans, and not the 20 they seem to pull out of thin air on “Fox and Friends.” Lastly, forget that in the UK police are allowed to take the 8 Pagan holidays off (so, yes Fox, this does happen in other countries), or that Christians have only one less holiday listed than Pagans (coming in at 7 holidays for the year). The fact they can’t even be bothered to do basic journalism, and then claim in the clip that they are, in fact, journalists, boggles the mind.
The break down for the holidays is as follows:
Wiccan/Pagan: 8 holidays
Hindu: 5 holidays
Buddhist: 3 holidays
Baha'i: 3 holidays
Shinto: 2 holidays
Sikh: 2 holidays
Jain: 1 holiday
Taoist: 1 holiday
Confucian: 1 holiday
Jewish: 11 holidays
Christian (Protestant/Roman Catholic): 7 holidays
Christian (E. Orthodox): 4 holidays
Islam: 3 holidays
So, the highest number of holidays are Jewish. Somehow that didn’t seem to even register with our friends at Fox news. I honestly would have been just as upset if it had. The number of Pagan holidays should not be an issue, just as the number of Christian and Jewish ones shouldn’t. Religion is a very personal, very powerful part of the human experience. We take that experience as little, or as far, as we need or want. That doesn’t mean my religion is any less important to me than it is to my Christian counterparts. This is NOT an attack on Christianity by the “liberals,” nor by the University. This is treating people of minority faiths as fully human people, just as committed to their religion as any one from a more recognized faith tradition. Mizzou, keep up the great job! Fox news, hire real journalists who know how to do a little background research before spouting off, please.
There are currently several on-line petitions asking Fox news to apologize. One can be found here: http://www.change.org/petitions/fox-news-make-a-public-apology-for-the-statements-made-about-the-pagan-wiccan-community
Another (with 20,000 signatures when I last looked) can be found here: http://www.causes.com/actions/1733105-demand-fox-news-apologize-to-pagans-and-wiccans
Our first retreat is quickly approaching, and I am beginning to feel the painfully sweet excitement that comes with anticipation. We will be doing two rituals during the day, that I am writing and rewriting as we speak/ type. The first will be a bit of a down and dirty quick opening for the day. The second will be a full ADF rite to close everything down; a way to incorporate all the workshops of the day into physical action. I think I am more excited for the rituals then I am for the classes, but those are going to rock as well. In preparation I am making daily devotions and meditating on the deities we will be honoring on retreat day. I thought that maybe others would like to do this as well, so I figured a quick introduction to those we will be honoring might not be out of order.
Let us start with Metis, (Μῆτις), whose name means, "wisdom," "skill," or "craft". This powerful Titan of cunning wisdom is often times tied to Prometheus, as well as Zeus. Metis was the one who gave Zeus a potion to cause Kronos to vomit out Zeus' brothers and sisters. She is mother of Athena and Poros (creative ingenuity). We are honoring her in hopes that she will grant us wisdom and the skill to apply what will help us most. She is a skilled councilor to whom all the Gods listened to (well, before Zeus ate her), and I know I always need her help.
The second Deity we will be honoring is Prometheus (Προμηθεύς), whose name means forethought. Another Titan of clever thought, he is known for his intelligence, and as well as being a champion of humanity. In some stories, he and his brother, Epimetheus, worked together to create humanity out of clay.
Prometheus loved humans and wanted to give them the best he could. When it came time for the Gods and humans to agree what part of the sacrifices would go to the Gods and which to humans, Prometheus tricked Zeus into taking the inedible portion and leaving the good meat for the humans. Zeus punished the humans and Prometheus by taking away the gift of fire. This meant that prayers could not reach the Gods, for it was through the sacrifices to the fire that prayers reached the Divinities. The fire was also symbolic of technology and learning. Prometheus once again stood up for humanity and stole the fire from Zeus, returning it to the humans. The punishment Prometheus received for this action was severe, but not eternal. Eventually Zeus relented and allowed Herakles and Chiron to release Prometheus from the rock he was bound to.
Next, we have Epimetheus, (Ἐπιμηθεύς), whose name means hindsight, or after thought. Epimetheus is best known for his part in the Pandora story (in which his part is mainly to wed Pandora, and thus allows evil to enter the world through his wife), but he is also the co-creator and co-representative for humanity before the Gods. Les Amis, in his book, "Commemorating Epimetheus", speak of how it is Epimetheus that is credited with gifting with our knowledge of our dependency on each. It is through the gifts of Epimetheus that we humans understand the value of sharing, caring, meeting and dwelling and loving one another. It is through hindsight that we can see what is of most value, each other. This retreat is mostly about community, even as we build that community through the act of learning and celebrating together. I can not think of a better God to ask for help as we do this.
Last, but not least, we come to Athena (Ἀθηνᾶ). Athena has so many roles that sometimes it is hard to not to include her in everything I do. She is Goddess of crafts, women's work, democracy, war, and most importantly, reason combined with intelligent activity.
She is the daughter of Zeus and Metis, born fully clad in armor and screaming a battle cry that shook the heavens. Although, there are some myths out there that have her as the daughter of Cronus, and thus the sister of Zeus and Hera (This is based on a recorded myth written by Sanchuniathon, as saved for posterity by Eusebius).
I will admit that Athena holds a very special place in my heart and on my private altar space. She is the Goddess who opened the door of the Gods to me. She has always taken a special interest in me and we have a fairly powerful relationship.
Amanda Thomas is the Grove Organizer for the Ad Astra Grove. She also serves on the Topeka Interfaith Council.