Fighting for Your business rights an interview with Lila ElWood of Wild Witchery

Many pagans think about running their own business.  They often dream about providing products and services for their faith community.  These products and services run from workshops and teaching to creating ritual tools and items for the religious practices.  Many of them don’t ever believe that someone would want to cause them stress or ill will.  When that trouble does come how does a small business protect themselves and manage to stay afloat?

I interviewed Lila Elwood one of the owners of Wild Witchery to find out more about her battle and how this has impacted them going further.

Loona Wynd: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your Business?

Lila Elwood: I have been a practicing Pagan for about 25 years now. On my mothers side of the family we are Iroquois and I was raised in native tradition. By the time I was 12 European Paganism/Witchcraft piqued my interest and I started down that path with no regrets.

I attended American University where I received my BA in Religious Studies-concentration on Ancient Mediterranean Religions with a minor in Ancient History of the same region. I am married and have 2 children and currently live in Yorktown VA- where our Business Wild Witchery is based out of.

We are primarily an e-commerce business specializing in creating Ritual Oil Perfumes, Candles, Bath & Body, Skincare, Hand Wrapped Amulets & Crystals. I have been making these items inside and out of Business for about 10 years now.

Loona Wynd: What inspired you to start Wild Witchery?

 

 

Lila Elwood: I had a business prior to this called Lady Leigh’s Apotheca, which was primarily an apothecary & didn’t focus too much on the metaphysical side, but offered similar items: bath and body, aromatherapy perfumes, plus teas and healing items. But I wanted to focus on the metaphysical. I wanted to offer really great products that were infused with Magick because i believe every aspect of your life has the ability to be infused with magick and sacredness- right down to the soap you use, lotion or perfume you apply or the jewelry you wear.

My friend now business partner and I had been talking about/dreaming about having a metaphysical shop together as our skills complimented each other, she focuses on crystals and jewelry and i on the herbal/bath body aspects. So this time last year we just went for it and started laying the foundations of what Wild Witchery now is.

Loona Wynd: You claim that you and your partner received a Cease and Desist letter. What was it for and about?

Lila Elwood:Yes, My business partner & I received a letter via email claiming  copyright and trademark infringement on 2 of our products, Amatus & Yule Ritual Perfume Oils. The letter demanded that we stop selling these items, remove them from all social media & pay the complainant $5,000 + their legal fees potentiallyThe letter also claimed issues with “Trade Dress”

Loona Wynd: Can you explain what they meant by “Trade Dress”?

Lila Elwood: I wasn’t sure what this was either until talking with our lawyer, it is the look and feel of the product.

Loona Wynd: Did they give you a further explanation about what it could entail? Feel and look of a product could cover a lot of things.

Lila Elwood: The complainant feels that our products look the same as hers – we DID at one point, use the same cap style on our bottles as theirs, and we also tie ribbons around our bottles to fill in void space. However, the bottles and caps we buy are available through multiple suppliers that sell to the public, and there are MANY other business’ who also use this same bottle/cap style for their ritual oils and perfumes as well.  in recent months however, the complainant has changed their cap style and discontinued use of the ribbon so really, there should be no conflict with this.

Loona Wynd: What actions have you taken to defend yourself and your craft?  It seems something named after a holiday such as your Yule Perfume Oil couldn’t be trademarked as holidays are open to anyone who follows those traditions, and there are many religious traditions which celebrate Yule.

Lila Elwood: We did a lot of research as to what constitutes trademark/copyright infringement. While the complainant holds NO federally registered trademarks/copyrights, they are alleging these charges based on seniority. They came out with these products first – which the law allows – sort of.

Common Names do not count in the eyes of the law – and as we all know, Yule is a common word/name/a holiday in our spiritual tradition. Many Pagans also make use of other languages when naming their products, i have half a dozen products named in various languages, which is how Amatus, which means Beloved in Latin, was named. Yet, it is uncommon enough to be misconstrued as trademark infringement.

After consulting with our Lawyer we agreed it was probably best to discontinue the use of the name Amatus, so we have removed our Amatus line from our Website and Etsy.

Yet there is another well known business who is selling a ritual oil using the same latin name as one of the complainants products of the same nature! But we want to keep the peace.

However we will NOT be doing the same with Yule. Yule is a sabbat and it belongs to everyone. No one person can trademark our holidays and the products we create inspired by those holidays.

We gathered examples of other Yule Ritual Oils from other Pagan businesses as evidence that we, nor the complainant are the only ones marketing a Yule Oil Blend

Loona Wynd: Is the Amatus line going to be discontinued completely or are you thinking about renaming it?

Lila Elwood:  We will simply rename it and re-release it.

Loona Wynd: What is the next step for you in this fight?

Lila Elwood:  Our Lawyer will be offering the complainant a settlement we discontinue the use of Amatus. But that’s it. Examples of other Yule oil products will be included in defense of out product & other business’ right to create sabbat oil blend, and we will not be paying them any money. We just released our Ostara oil so we’re honestly waiting on the other shoe to drop to speak!

Hopefully, that is the end of it. We do not want a huge dispute. We’re a micro business, small fish in the pond compared to the complainant who compared to other business’ in our niche, is a large corporation.

Loona Wynd: Given the small size of your business it must have been a shock to receive the letter. What went through your minds?

Lila Elwood: I was SHOCKED. I panicked, they were demanding $5,000 from us, we’ve made just under that amount in sales- not being that familiar with the law, I thought this was a formal lawsuit. i was envisioning us having to close up shop, being bullied out of business by the larger corporation

My business partner was not as shocked as i was. In hindsight we should have seen this coming, we had noticed in recent weeks personal friends of the complainant liking some of our social media statues and asking to join our Facebook groups.

Loona Wynd: So they had spies?  Friends checking you out and seeing what you were about?  Are any of those people still in your groups etc?

Lila Elwood: It kind of seems that way to us.   we never admitted these people to our groups and they have been blocked on social media

Loona Wynd: Are you taking any actions to protect yourself in the future?

Lila Elwood: Protection- YES! Our lawyer has implored us to trademark the names of our products – at least at the state level. In VA it costs $30 to trademark a product within state lines. My partner was apprehensive to go this route with trademarking the names of our holidays, and i agree with her, they belong to the community. However, the lawyer has assured us we do not have to enforce these trademarks, but they are there for if/when another situation like this comes about.

Loona Wynd: What advise would you give other small businesses should they receive a Cease and Desist letter or any actions along those lines?
Lila Elwood:  If you receive such a letter, research and consult with a lawyer, absolutely. Don’t Panic! It is not the end of your business, and don’t give in. Consulting with a Lawyer or having a lawyer draw up paperwork is not as expensive as you’d think. It cost us $250 to employ the help of a lawyer. But also, i do suggest researching the name you’re considering. We did not do that because we figured “we’re small & no threat to anyone” & also because we were naive thinking that no one would take issue with our business.how wrong we were! So research unique names, if a business is offering a similar product named the same thing, move on to the next name, no matter how perfect it was. And definitely look into getting state trademarks on the names of your products, if only for your protection.Loona Wynd: Is there anything else you would like to say about this situation or add?

Lila Elwood:  It is my opinion that the complainant is trying to corner the market on the type of items that we offer and is trying to scare the small business’ who offer similar items out of business. We all have a right to be here, we all have a right to create magickal products and market them – which certainly includes sabbat products named after the sabbats. To think you are the only person who has rights to these names and holidays makes you arrogant. Live and let live.

It seems like no matter what we do in this world there is always someone who will try to rain on your parade.  This author firmly believes that if you want to run a business you should try and go for it.  Live for your dreams and follow your path.  Don’t let yourself get discouraged.  Learn from articles like this and take their advice.  There is room for us all as we all have something different to offer.

If you would like to support and see the products and services provided by Wild Witchery: Wild Witchery

Still searching for answers regarding Moon Afrykayn Aku and Orange Blossom KOA

Common respect, honesty and justice is all that everyone strives for as human beings on this planet. When an egregious wrong is done to a person, one would assume the respectable thing to do is offer a sincere apology and to make amends to the person wronged.

On the morning of Thursday December 8th, 2016, an egregious act of disrespect, dishonesty, and injustice was committed to a mother and her three young children and to date not only has she not received a single apology, but the powers to be are attempting to cover up any wrong doing with deceit.

On Thursday December 8th, Moon Afrykayn Aku pulled into Orange Blossom KOA in Orlando, Florida with her young children to utilize their shower facilities. Having previously called and utilized other KOA facilities and charged $6, she didn’t expect to be met with hostility from a place that promotes family fun!

By her own account these are the events that took place today:

My family and I have been traveling for some time. I was recently introduced to the KOA communities. I called ahead to see how much do they charge for showers. The KOAs in KY and just outside of Jacksonville charged $6 to use the showers.

We get to this KOA and they hadn’t opened yet and the box for registration didn’t have any forms to fill out. So I parked at the office which opened in 45 minutes and started to get our things together. I took my son the bathroom and I got my other children ready to use the bathroom as well.

Ms. Aku and her family at Orange Blossom KOA

I hear the door open and a woman started yelling at my daughter. I told her we wanted to use the showers and the laundromat.

She tells me I owe her $29 for using the shower. I said but we’ve been paying $6.

She informs me she is calling the police. This woman and another guy blocked my car in while they called the police stating we stole services.

 

After the police showed up she said she wanted the $6 for me using the shower we hadn’t used yet. Then drove off telling the police she wanted us off the her property.

Orange Blossom KOA’s handling
Creative Commons usage

This is a family friendly center? I have 3 children 1, 5 and 9 years old. How was calling the police friendly to us?

If I was trying to steal a shower why would I park at the office 45 minutes before they opened?

Moon reached out to KOA’s corporate office and was met with hostility and disdain as they told her “that line was for members only” and told not to call back and hung up. I took it upon myself to do some investigation into this matter and was shocked at the undignified behavior of the staff at KOA Orange Blossom in Orlando, Florida.

When calling the KOA in the days immediately following the incident, the phone either went directly to voicemail, or employees picked up and then hung up the phone. Not able to reach anyone on the local level I decided to try the corporate offices hoping to get some insight into the matter. I was highly disappointed by the response I received.

No report filed of this incident – no paper trail
Creative Commons usage

I identified myself and explained the reason for my call and the line went dead. I took it to be a dropped call and called back, the line now going to voicemail. I had no choice but to assume that they didn’t want to comment on the matter.

I spoke with Ms. Aku and asked her what she wanted the outcome to be from this situation and she stated that she “just wanted an apology and a refund of her money for the services she never received, but was forced to pay for”. That’s not an unfair request since as you can see from the video everyone was clothed and it was more than obvious that no showers were taken.

So I began my quest for justice once again, this time more fervently. After not having my calls answered, I began calling the Orange Blossom KOA using an App that issues you a random telephone number.

After several attempts success, I got an answer and I spoke with an employee by the name of “Holly”. I explained the reason for my call and states that I would like to speak with the manager.

She told me that couldn’t comment on the matter and that it was policy to only give out the email address for complaints. She said that she could take a message but that was it. I asked her for her manager and the owner’s name since this is a franchise park, and was told that it was policy to not give out that information either and hung up the phone.

Since I was unable to leave a message, I immediately called back and none of my return calls were answered. I decided to check with another area KOA to see if they were in the business of rude impolite customer service as well.

I called Southwest KOA also in the Orlando, Fl. Area and spoke with an employee whom I shall leave nameless. She pleasantly answered the phone and once hearing the reason for my call became apologetic that Ms. Aku and her children had undergone such treatment. She stated that she was unaware of the situation, and even though it was not there facility she could take my name and pass it on to her manager Matt Koromhas. I declined but asked her what the policy was for shower facilities for the KOAs.

She stated that “Franchise parks are allowed to set their own park rules but they had a set of standard policies and rules that they must follow to be a KOA of America Franchise and use the name”.

I was interested in knowing if their standard was the repetitive rudeness I and many other customers encountered at their parks. If you do a Google or Yelp search of KOA you see mixed reviews on their site. Many speak of outlandish behavior of the staff, but the general tone is the level of rude dismissive treatment to customers. For a business that promotes “Family Fun” why is disrespect and rudeness a common occurrence.

I reached out to the KOA corporate offices again this time emailing Mike Gast their VP of Communications. I received no reply so I called him several times. On my last attempt, I was able to speak with Mr. Gast who told me he was aware of the situation and that he had seen the video.

He stated that “he could see that the woman in the video was upset because she had been asked to leave because she was on the property “illegally”. When asked about Ms. Aku’s options to do an after-hour check in, and her inability to do so due to a lack of forms being available, he stated that “This facility doesn’t have after-hour check in”.

So I pressed, asking if they didn’t have after hour check in, why would they have a box posted for after-hour forms?

He stated that “this was really an issue of a woman trespassing and then becoming upset when asked to leave”. I asked why she was charged for services that weren’t provided? Mr. Gast stated that “The Police officers interpretation was that the showers/water had been turned on”.

So I asked if they were then charging her for usage of the facilities, why were her and the children then not allowed to complete their showers? He again reiterated that “it was the officers interpretation that the showers/water had been turned on” . And since he wasn’t physically there to see how far they had gotten in their grooming he had to rely on the discretion of the officer. He also states that KOAs policy is that their facilities are for campground guests and their visitors. I guess my question for KOA is, don’t guests have the right to use faculties that they have paid for?

I am wondering how Mr. Gast is relying on an officer’s information when, in speaking to Ms. Aku, we called the police department to get a copy of the police report and none exists. A police report was never even written up about the incident, nor filed.

To be clear on the matter, Ms. Aku always intended to register as a After-hour guest and pay the $6 daily usage fee.

This is simply a case of doing the right thing and issuing a simple I am sorry which they refuse to do. In the case of Kampgrounds of America they apparently believe the right thing to do in a family friendly environment is to call the police on a mother and her children and use them to extract funds for services not rendered.

Shame on you KOA of America we are all now watching you! If you would like to contact Mike Gast and let him know you would like to see an apology issued to Ms. Aku and a refund issued his email address is M.gast@koa.net

You can watch the ill treatment of a mother and her young children here

Editor’s Addendum: Ms. Aku is a documentary film maker on a cross country trek. The film project is “The History of My Chocolate Milk”. For more information about her, please visit her site

Veterans answer the call, and stand for Standing Rock

On December 4 – 8 Veterans for Standing Rock will march to “defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security” in North Dakota. They will stand to protect the citizens of our nation against forces which they have deemed so outrageous as needing a direct response. Veterans of the United States Armed Forces, e.g. U.S. Army, United States Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard plan to stand side by side with water protectors on site. For them, it is a matter of honor.

 

Original image source: Bykst
Original image source: Bykst

The utilization of Facebook to rally the troops proves to be effective. The event, named  Veterans For Standing Rock, is that of former law enforcement officer Michael Wood Jr., and Wes Clark, Jr., son of General Wes Clark.  He makes no hedging about his place.

“First Americans have served in the Unites States Military, defending the soil of our homelands, at a greater percentage than any other group of Americans. There is no other people more deserving of veteran support.” – Operations Order, Veterans for Standing Rock

 

 

 

 

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This group got the green light of approval from Elders of the Lakota Sioux, and plan to work in full cooperation with them every step of the way. The vets will be on the front line and in uniform, acting as shield against the spear. They face a situation that is beyond volatile. Preceding months of engagement in this fight for water, they list mace, tear gas, sniper guns, rubber bullets, attack dogs, LRAD deployment, and pepper spray.

But perhaps the most punishing and detestable shock was the now infamous night November 20. Trapped on a bridge, water protectors were allegedly barraged with rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons, concussion and stinger grenades. Photographs, and live feed footage of these attacks and weapons were covered by independent and mainstream media sources.

Due to subfreezing temperatures, the use of water to force compliance endangered the water protectors to very real risk of life. A statement by the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council addressed the potential for fatalities in this statement.

“As medical professionals we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions”

Among the injured was Sophia Wilansky. Wilansky was bringing water to those caught on the bridge when she was hit by an alleged police weapon. Police dispute this and support that it was a weapon brought by the protestors at the site. The injuries to her arm are so severe that they expect at least 20 surgeries in the fight to save the limb. The confrontation also saw injury to one law enforcement officer.

  “authorities continue to defend our tactics.” –  spokeswoman Maxine Herr, Morton County Sheriff’s office

Civilians are also called to come forward. They should read the event page for specific information about what is to be expected at while at the camps. Those going should be prepared for cold temperatures and be reminded that they are there to serve with the protectors side by side.

It is likely they will arrive sometime around the same time as the The Bunk Bus. The escalation of tactics of pain compliance as part of the overall strategy of the DAPL, the Governor of North Dakota and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department show no sign of stopping. Medics are needed, as are medical supplies.

A registration is in place for those who intend to take part in this historic decision to muster our nation’s veterans on a grass-roots level. The form is located at Veterans Stand for Standing Rock – Roster.

To support the fundraising efforts, and coordinate your donations, visit Veterans for Standing Rock on gofundme.

 

 

BREAKING NEWS: DAPL vs Standing Rock Sioux water protectors at the river

Militarized forces have reached the water’s edge in the DAPL marching desecration of sacred burial sites, religious grounds, and sacred sites of the Sioux. Ancestral lands were cut off and people of faith were prevented from praying on the holy sites by armed assailants. Forces operating under the color of law and the direction of the Morton County government forcibly removed, and prevented religious access, to the sites.

Conor Handley shared these images publicly of the events on the ground today with these words. For the entire public posting, please follow the link.

“Today many of our protectors tried to cross the river to pray on top of a hill where Ocenti Sakowin ancestors are buried, this place has been desecrated by the police and DAPL…”

 

Protectors looked on with the Horse Nation. Eyes in atop the earthen ridge stared down at them, unmoved. The land awaited the next step as the battle of Spirit versus Might continues. Militarized police and forces from agencies of local and out of state assemble on the banks. Here in full gear, they await further orders. Their lines are mixed and are at the ready with chemical agents, firearms, and batons.

The current fight against the desecration and disturbance of these lands, as protected by the Original Instructions, is in the courts. On the lands, it is a battle of wills and spirit. Advocates and legal counsels are working feverishly to stop this encroachment. President Obama has yet to use his pen to stop this advance.

The onslaught does not stop at the water’s edge. Protectors stand on the banks and in the water itself to hold the line.  The forces of the corporate interests, and the law enforcement allied forces advance.

Image by Conor Handley
Image Source Facebook by Conor Handley

The push enters the water. The desecration of the land continuing, the water is next. Though no permits at this time have been granted to move forward with drilling underneath this location, DAPL and law enforcement policy makers are steadfast in their conviction to push the Sioux back in the wake of the juggernaut of corporate planning. The conflict of interest of congressional members at the heights of government are not a factor on the ground. Only following orders seems to be the order of the day.

Like a scene from “Apocalypse Now”, this patrol boat bears a conflicted load of agency pawns. Brute force used to enforce a yet to be decided right of way takes to the waves. The masks are to protect from the chemical agents that are being used as a force method against the water protectors. This, combined with bean bags, and rubber bullets, comprise the most used tactics of enforcement in this conflict.

Image by Conor Handley
Image Source Facebook by Conor Handley

This situation is still unfolding. Please visit the various sites on Facebook and the other social media networks in order to stay informed with up to the minute news and information. Unicorn Riot  has embedded press on the ground, so we urge you to visit them. This is a spiritual event, and Pagans and non Pagans may wish to keep themselves aware of all developments. Especially those who are very tied to the Earth. Water is Life.

The sight of the armed in holy lands is enough to raise alarm. If they are willing to disregard the treaties and Bill of Rights in the pursuit of oil, who will ever be safe? This question should be in every Circle, Coven, and Church this week.

Into the Silence by Heather Greene

We welcome guest contributor, Heather Greene. Writer, singer, Pagan journalist, she is also the Editor of the Wild Hunt.

 

 

Into the Silence by Heather Greene, 2016

“Journalists go to the silence.” – Amy Goodman, Democracy Now‘s executive producer.

The Wild Hunt is a fourteen year old online entity that emerged from a need for a focused Pagan-driven news source. Necessity, as some say, is the mother of invention.  Through those fourteen years, The Wild Hunt has evolved from a daily blog run by one person to a full-fledged nonprofit, independent news agency with a team of seventeen writers, editors, and administrators working to build a lasting institution whose mission it is to satisfy the very need that brought it into existence.

 

What is that need?

In recent years there has been an overall decline in mainstream religion-based news coverage outside of reporting on specific events or holidays.  Regardless, the so-called “god-beat” has never, even in its strength, been Pagan or Heathen -friendly.  Any coverage of minority religions and practices, specifically those falling into Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist realms, typically occur in October, or when a major news making event involves a pentacle, Thor’s Hammer, or some “witchy” element. For example, one such case happened this past summer when the international media picked up on the hex action launched in conjunction with a California sexual assault case.

Whether out of bigotry, disinterest, or just coverage scope, mainstream media rarely incorporate the Pagan perspective. Even when they try, there are understandable barriers preventing solid coverage with the level of nuance and even respect that interviewees expect, want and deserve.  While some reporters do try, deadlines and quick turn-arounds often make it difficult for even the most well-meaning journalist to adequately capture news from a Pagan or Heathen perspective.

Additionally, mainstream outlets typically don’t share news specifically generated by these minority communities.  Starhawk’s permaculture work and its relationship to her religious beliefs will not be shared widely beyond niche markets.  Any reports on the tragic death of Kansas Pagan Tisha Gill will not include how vital she was to the building of her local Pagan community.  And, the mainstream news won’t share how a new blog project is changing the way people discuss and share their polytheistic beliefs and practices.

That is where The Wild Hunt comes in.

Goodman said, “Journalists go to the silence.” Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities exist in that media silence.  And, as such, so does The Wild Hunt.

In that respect, our work plays two roles. First and foremost, we serve our communities with daily, original writing and reporting.  We share the events coming from our communities for our communities.  Did you know that Heathen Matthew Orlando is running for Congress, or that there is a growing Wiccan community in Thailand?  Did you know that the Pagan Federation International is co-hosting an online academic conference in November, or that Circle Sanctuary is now a membership-based organization?

These are all examples of news, stories, and issues that all come from a heart beating at the center of that silent space.

Our secondary function is to communicate without, or to break the silence, if you will.  For better or worse, The Wild Hunt exists in a public space where anyone can visit and read.  We welcome this role and are happy to be there. In 2016, The Wild Hunt was recognized by Google for the first time as a reputable news agency. When you search on Black Moon, for example, you’ll see the TWH article, along with that of the Washington Post, USA Today, and other major outlets that reported on that very hot topic.

Why does this matter? Sharing our voices publicly opens a window on the workings of our collective communities and also demonstrates how Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists are concerned about the many broad issues affecting our world. In September, our article on the Pagan Federation Disabilities Team was picked up by HuffPost Religion.  As a result, non-Pagans worldwide got the opportunity to see how a group of UK Pagans were affecting positive change within their own religious community.  In other cases, readers learned how Pagans participated in the interfaith Black Friday 14 protest in California, in the Climate Change protest in Illinois, or in the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City. “We are here!”

With that said, it is true that many Pagans and Heathens enjoy living in the media silence, going completely unnoticed by the public.  Some even prefer it. While we certainly understand and honor that perspective, we also know that there are times when minority religious voices need to be heard, even if it is just to correct misinformation or weigh-in. Wild Hunt writers, for example, spoke with the Pensacola sheriff’s office in order to clarify facts after a Wiccan ritual was linked to a local homicide.

Due to the fact that TWH journalists do not sensationalize or objectify religious beliefs, lifestyles, and practices, readers of all kinds can come to TWH and witness who we are, as we are and where we are, without the framework of “otherness” and the colors of Halloween.  Through this part of our work, The Wild Hunt defies the silence that is created by the mainstream culture.

The Wild Hunt - used with permission.
The Wild Hunt – used with permission.

Shall we make some noise?

But, in the end, even if our chatter results solely in serving our own communities, we are there and ready to do our job. And, we are not alone in any of that work. TWH is joined by many talented writers working at group and private blogging venues, by hosts of digital radio broadcasts, producers of print magazines, and more. All of the ventures that make up the fledgling Pagan media are equally as important, because together our voices are heard – both within and without.

At the risk of sounding completely ridiculous, I draw your attention to the Dr. Seuss children’s story Horton Hears a Who. The main character Horton the elephant is the only animal that can the hear a single voice on a plant seed. “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” explains Horton.  But the others only hear the silence.  By the end of the book, it takes the entire community of Whoville making noise to be heard. “We are here! We are here!” they shout.

While that is a very simplistic and idealistic presentation, it exists as an allegory for our communities in some ways. We are often not heard, even within our own spheres of influence.  The continued publishing of Pagan voices, in whatever form that takes, can change that and, as a result, contribute to  the internal health of our communities and our people. How do other Pagans handle depression or think about death within a religious context? Let’s talk about.

Within the spectrum of Pagan media outlets, The Wild Hunt’s focus is primarily news and news commentary.  We speak the language of mainstream media and model ourselves using conventional news structures, such as the AP Style Guide.  At the same time, we also are mindful of who we are, as a entity and as individuals.  We will not compromise either.  In fact, TWH actually has its own style guide that always supersedes AP rules, including the spelling and capitalization of certain religious terms ignored by most editors. We have policies  in place that require the consideration of an interviewee’s religious identification and pronoun preferences. We honor Craft names and deeply understand privacy concerns.

The Wild Hunt rests comfortably and proudly in the overculture’s media silence, helping to amplify otherwise unheard voices for both ourselves and for the world.

 

But there is one more role that Wild Hunt journalists play.  We seek out the silence found within our own communities.  What Pagan voices still need to be heard? What actions are not being shared? What issues are not being discussed? We seek a deeper silence – one that is embedded within our collective spaces.

Our guest writers and columnists are often the best examples of our dedication to that part of our mission. We give the microphone, if you will, to new writers who provide unique perspectives rarely seen, helping them to say, “We are here.” In April, editor Kenya Coviak joined us to share her experiences growing up with Detroit Hoodoo.  More recently, elder Katrina Messenger shared her thoughts on being a mystic in difficult times, and David Halpin reflected on the language the gods.

With that said, The Wild Hunt actually plays three very distinct and vital roles. On the one hand, we exist in the silence created by the over-culture. “We are here!” we say both within and without. Those are our two more obvious functions. But, on the other hand, it remains our duty as journalists to go to the silences that exist within ourselves. To help us know ourselves.

That is our mission and our service and our contribution. In providing  a respectful, ethically-based, and professional space for noisemaking, we hope to offer a positive legacy for the growing population of Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists for years to come. We also hope that this legacy, one that grows day in and day out, tells the story of our communities and our people.

Each day, we go back into the silence.

“We are here!”

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The Fight for Clean Water

Do you know where your water comes from?

This week, amid a nearly complete media black-out, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began demonstrating against the construction of a pipeline through territory that was theirs, and under the Missouri River, less than a mile from their reservation…which gets its water directly from the river. The Dakota Access Pipeline will take oil from the shale fields in western North Dakota (acquired by fracking), and pipe it across 4 states into Illinois for processing.

DAPL route, image from Dakota Access Pipeline LLC, http://www.daplpipelinefacts.com/about/route.html
DAPL route, image from Dakota Access Pipeline LLC, http://www.daplpipelinefacts.com/

What started as a small protest with a couple hundred people now takes up two camps in rural North Dakota, and has also spread to the capital, Bismarck.  The various subdivisions of the Sioux tribes make up Seven Council Fires (called očhéthi šakówiŋ in Lakota) – traditional allies with a largely shared language, who came to each other’s aid when needed.  Not surprisingly, the various tribes of the očhéthi šakówiŋ have joined in, along with representatives of dozens of other Native tribes, from Alaska to Mexico (and there are rumors that Native Hawaiians are on their way too). 

In earlier planning for the pipeline, the route was scheduled to go north of Bismarck, but one of the reasons for rejecting this route was the risk of contaminating their water source.  If you’re at all familiar with US geography, you’ll remember that the Missouri river flows south and east from North Dakota and feeds the Mississippi River. Contamination of the river this far north risks the water source for anyone downstream, and wildlife habitats all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has appealed to the United Nations, citing failures to follow treaties, and a court order declaring the protests “unlawful” – as if one’s right to free speech is negated because a company has lots of money.

The protesters, calling themselves protectors of the water and of unči makȟá (grandmother earth) have been, according to internal reports, peaceful. The camps are asking for no guns, no weapons…just prayer. They are making sure all people, from young children through elders, are fed, clothed, and receiving medical care as needed. The state, meanwhile, has instituted road blocks to keep people away, has reported gunshots and pipe bombs, and has declared a state of emergency.

Mni wičhóni – water is life – is a common understanding in Lakota. The only thing we need more than water is air. 

You can help by signing this petition:  https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline

Or by donating for supplies and/or funding for Camp of the Sacred Stones:  https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp

Thomas Hampton and helping Louisiana flood survivors

Today is Aug 8, 2016 and the floods in Louisiana are destroying life, property, and safety. People like Thomas Hampton are putting faith in action in the face of the disaster. The unprecedented flooding in the Baton Rouge area found people ill prepared for the devastation. We were able to reach out to local Pagan Elder Thomas Hampton. He serves as one of the men and women who are engaging in the work that is needed to restore this community.

For those of us outside of the Louisiana area, could you please tell us who you are and what parish you live in?

I live in Livingston Parish.

You are a business owner and minister there, correct?

I am. I am the owner of Ironheart Industries and I am a founding member and Elder of the House of the North, an open faith religion with Norse leanings.

Are you on the high ground?

Fortunately, yes.

Flooding in Denham Springs, Image: Thomas Hampton
“This is what your yard looks like if you took on water. They’re not done yet, either.” Flooding in Denham Springs, Image: Thomas Hampton

How badly hit is Denham Springs right now?

The flood waters have receded. Our major high school (1500 enrolled) and the freshman high (745 enrolled) took several feet of water and will require months of construction. Business up and down both of the towns major corridors, Range Avenue and Florida Boulevard, have almost all taken water damage. The number of vehicles that were destroyed is staggering.

You have been going out and putting your hands to work to help. Can you tell us about what you have been doing and what help seems to be needed most right now?

Hauling out carpet, bagging up and throwing out possessions, hauling out furniture, and trying to make sure cleaning supplies, food, water, and tools get to those who need them most. What everyone really needs right now is hands. If not hands, then cash. A massive amount of people are going to be displaced for the next month or two, and when you are waiting for insurance reimbursements and can’t work because your business is still getting rebuilt…cash is king.

What material supports that folks could send down there that would be the most useful?

Gloves, box cutters, socks, underwear, and toiletries.

Friends and neighbors are the first line of care, how have you all come together during this crisis?

Family then tribe, then community at large. It’s not the official motto, but that’s how it generally goes. Everyone looks to their family first then spreads attention out to their tribe, or circle of friends and neighbors, if you want to call it that, then out to the community at large.

A cousin of mine from out of state called an ex boyfriend and told him her uncle’s house flooded and he had no elp. Ex boyfriends family was okay, his tribe had plenty of hands, so off he went to help his ex girlfriends uncle rip out carpet. This is not an unusual occurence.

How do you feel social media has been helpful in getting people the help they need?

AT&T cellular lost service here for three days, and it’s the market giant here, which means that most people couldn’t make phone calls out. I can say with total honesty that communication through Facebook saved lives during the flood rescues. It continues today to be a resource for getting help where it’s most needed.

What agencies have been through there to offer assistance? Have they been able to stop through yet?

 A few of the local restaurants that weren’t affected have set up all day bbq kitchens at busy intersections and are feeding people for free. They take food donations and cook em there. Red Cross has been around, and the National Guard has set up a few posts to hand out MRE’s and bottled water. There have been more, no doubt, but I haven’t paid much attention to them.

Image from National Weather Service
Image from National Weather Service

How bad is the damage right now?

The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Department has estimated that 100,000 of the parishes 130,000 residents have taken on flood damage. Flood damage almost always means you have to toss out all furniture, rip out cabinets, floors, sheet rock, and insulation, in every room in the house. This area has never in our recorded history seen rains nearly this bad. The two major rivers crested many feet above their previously recorded high, which in and of itself was a bit of a freak occurence of weather in 1983.

Is it getting worse rapidly or is it stabilizing?

Stabilizing a bit. We have months before the debris will be cleared and there is no way some businesses will recover from this. Think of a boxer that just got knocked down. We got up enough to stop the count, but we still have to get our feet under us, find our balance, stand, and start fighting again.

What do you want people to know about the folks affected by this disaster?

The cities and areas hit have not in recorded history received that much rainfall in such a short amount of time. The rivers rose rapidly, and backwater flooding hit lands that had never seen flooding before. A lot of these homes had no flood insurance. This wasn’t ‘just another Louisiana flood’. This was apocalyptic.

As a minister, have you been calling on your faith to bolster you?

I did during the rains and before the river crested. I have my wife, three babies, and three dogs, only one of which I actually like, to care for.

Do you feel that the stories that need to get out here are being covered by media right now?

Our local media is crushing it. Watching those guys during the storm and the rising floodwater, when internet feed would allow it, was almost inspiring. Our local guys are beasts when it comes down to covering local crises. On a national level, no. It’s been weak, and under reported, and glossed over for other events going on that are, for lack of a better word, sexier.

What can the readers of this article do that would help this situation?

If you want to fire-and-forget help, donate to the specific division of the Red Cross that is covering this disaster area. I am unsure as to how, but supposedly there’s a way. Otherwise, careful screening of some of the Go Fund Me’s that are popping up is another way. Or show up and get dirty. I know some elderly and disabled who still need their homes gutted.

Is there anything you want to say to the folks reading this?

A lot of people are here are about to get a crash course on exactly what FEMA and their insurance will actually cover. Do yourself a favor, call your insurance agent, and start asking questions about what is covered in a disaster and how to file properly.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. As I first spoke to Elder Hampton, he was just about to go out and get his hands dirty to go help tear out some drywall. It was early morning there, and it was good fortune to have caught him.

Designated parishes: Acadia Parish, Ascension Parish, Avoyelles Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, East Feliciana Parish, Evangeline Parish, Iberia Parish, Iberville Parish, Jefferson Davis Parish, Lafayette Parish, Livingston Parish, Pointe Coupee Parish, St. Helena Parish, St. Landry Parish, St. Martin Parish, St. Tammany Parish, Tangipahoa Parish, Vermilion Parish, Washington Parish and West Feliciana Parish.

Last question, can folks send donated supplies to your store?

Yes. 35292 Woodrose Lane, Denham Springs, LA 70706.

FEMA set up a page to coordinate resources for those affected by the flooding. We list them here for our readers.

Shelter resources: If you or someone you know is in need of shelter, find open locations by visiting the Red Cross site or by downloading the FEMA app.

Contact loved ones: Register with the Red Cross Safe & Well site.

Filing a Flood Insurance Claim:National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Flood Claims Process

Updates: Read their blog post for an update on the flood response.

 

Readers, if you can help, please do so. If you are on a mobile phone device, you can also text the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross in Louisiana. If you need help, visit disasterassistance.gov to apply for assistance.

Correction: Thomas Hampton’s religious title is Elder. This article referred to him as Reverend in previous release.

Detroit Pagans, the Street Store needs you

PBN Blues Series: “Friend of Mine” – Kelly Price, featuring Ronald Isley

Today we will look at one of the encounters where the client is doing work a family, or friendship, in a crisis situation.  Special handling comes into the fray when doing this work.  Especially challenging are the times when betrayal has occurred and the client is conflicted about what they really want to happen.

As a professional, you have probably encountered the very real situation of a client breaking down into a sobbing wreck in front of your counter.  The grief and misery so pervasive in their aura spread through the atmosphere like oil atop water.  Being the stone in storm at this moment will give your client a clear sounding board that will allow them to make focused decisions in their purchases and intentions.

Grab von Machbuba - Frank Vincentz
Grab von Machbuba – Frank Vincentz

Tears clouding the vision

Pasha A. comes to your shop looking for a way to get over a betrayal of her wife and her best friend.  They caught completely by surprise that morning with a earth shattering set of announcements.  Firstly, that they are in love.  Secondly, that her wife, Florise A., is divorcing her.  Finally, she was then informed that since the house is in Florise A.‘s name, she must be out within 48 hours.  If she does not comply, they will destroy all of her property and set the ruins outside while she is at work.

Pasha A. is in emotional trauma mode.  She still loves her wife, and is awash in turbulent emotions she has toward her former friend.  She wants to make it all go away.  Anger, hurt, and panic are all swirling in her life right now.  She has come here for some emergency magickal measures.

You look at Pasha A. and tell her that if she buys a reconciliation kit that all will be well.  There is nothing else you could recommend.  You also remind her to hurry up and make her purchase, since she has to start packing.  Transaction completed, you go back to your day as she walks slowly out of your shop.  After all, not your problem, right?

Facing the storm with empathy for the client

Pasha A. comes to your shop looking for a way to get over a betrayal of her wife and her best friend.  They caught completely by surprise that morning with a earth shattering set of announcements.  Firstly, that they are in love.  Secondly, that her wife, Florise A., is divorcing her.  Finally, she was then informed that since the house is in Florise A.‘s name, she must be out within 48 hours.  If she does not comply, they will destroy all of her property and set the ruins outside while she is at work.

Pasha A. is in emotional trauma mode.  She still loves her wife, and awash in turbulent emotions she has toward her former friend.  She wants to make it all go away.  Anger, hurt, and panic are all swirling in her life right now.  She has come here for some emergency magickal measures.

 Pasha A. is in a compromised mental and emotional state, thus is not thinking clearly.  What you sell her now may line your till, but ethics here should come into play before you just foist any thing at hand on her without thinking.

ENGAGE THE CLIENT WITH PROFESSIONALISM TEMPERED WITH EMPATHY

Miedo-ajeno
Miedo-ajeno

You take both of her hands into yours and flood her with calming energy.  You need her to be able to focus on the here and now.  Magick is not instantaneous when it comes to major workings, and you explain this to her.  It can help, but like anything else, it can only do what it can do with time.  Something that she has very little to spare.

You begin to ask her questions about her situation.  Is she safe right now?  Has she contacted the police about her rights as a spouse and resident of the home?  You tell her to do this after immediately after she leaves the store, because the sphere of opportunity is a major part of magick.  If she wants the spiritual to work, she has to do the mundane work as well.

You make a mojo hand for her containing High John, and other items, for her to carry during this situation to remove anything standing against her.  You also sell her some Low John to influence the police, courts, and everyone else that in this matter.  A bag of magnetic sand goes into the order as well as a single dram of rose geranium oil.

 

Petition work ranks up to the front of your mind. You also give Pasha A. some emergency numbers on a small card to call.  Having these resources on hand is a good practice.  Part of being a member of the neighborhood community is being part of the village.

In regard to the two women causing affliction for Pasha A., choices loom.  They can not be made in this moment, or they might be rash.  How to handle them will come up in this scenario, and their logical consequences, bear weight.

Depending on the beliefs of the client and the worker, you have some options.  She may decide to banish them from her life.  She may bind the other woman and try to reconcile the marriage.  She may decide to punish one or both of them with enemy work.   Or she may just leave it in her deity’s hands.  But if it is a magickal working, you must decide if you can accommodate her desired resources in accord with your own practices and mores.

Pasha A. decides that dealing with her present situation is more pressing and decides to put off dealing with their punishments later.  And yes, she has decided to punish them, at least for now she has.  She leaves your shop with her purchases, instructions, phone numbers, and some breathing room.  And you have just correctly assisted your client with excellent customer service.