our Elvish tales

CalderaFest is cancelled

LAFAYETTE, Ga. — CalderaFest, a beleaguered Pagan music festival scheduled for May 2019, has been cancelled according to a statement released by festival founder David Banach.

The festival debuted May 2016 in LaFayette, and a second one was scheduled there for Oct. 5-9, 2017.

On Aug. 31, 2017, Banach announced on the CalderaFest Pagan Music Festival Facebook page that “ticket sales were not as robust as we hoped” and that the event was being postponed to May 2019. “We are carrying over all existing tickets to the new date,” the post said, meaning refunds would not be given.

The statement announcing the cancellation was posted April 12. The statement appeared on the CalderaFest Pagan Music Festival Facebook page and was emailed to several media outlets, including the Wild Hunt, following inquiries from those outlets. It reads:

My name is David Banach and I am the creator of CalderaFest Pagan Music Festival.

CalderaFest 2019 will not be happening.

CalderaFest was my idea for over a decade and my passion and my obsession for over 4 years now. It truly breaks my heart to have no choice but to cancel the event. After spending nearly $50,000 out of our pockets to pay for CalderaFest, we find that 2019 and beyond is just not financially possible.

We will be issuing refunds as a percentage of the sale price based on the amount of capital that we still have. We will be sending out e-mails very soon to ticket holders and vendors regarding this.

All I can say is that we are truly sorry for this and it tears me apart to have to do this. I know many of you will be upset by this news. Please remember that we did this for the betterment of the greater Pagan community. All we ever wanted was to be able to break even.

At this time, this is the only statement we will make and we will not be answering questions about this.

A Facebook post from February 2017 announcing the artist lineup for the upcoming CalderaFest.

A Wild Hunt request for further comment sent to the CalderaFest email has not been answered as of this writing.  The festival’s Facebook page has since been deleted.

Jennifer Griffin, an artist, designer, and photographer from Woodstock, Ga., worked as a vendor at the inaugural CalderaFest and decided to purchase a double vending space for the 2017 event. She paid the $206 via PayPal on June 26, 2016, she said, and received an email notification and phone call from festival organizers when the event was postponed to May, 2019.

“I was fine with it as long as I was still able to be a vendor,” Griffin told the Wild Hunt. “However, I had already spent over $1,000 in supplies to make new items specifically for the festival, and a new 10-by-20 vendor tent to set up shop . . . . I held onto the supplies and new tent thinking I would just use it for the later show. Now, I am not only out my vendor fee but also the investment in items for the festival.

“Now I cannot get in touch with anyone to get my vendor fee back. They have all but disappeared. The paganmusicfestival.com site is gone, they are gone off of Facebook, even the production company is gone. If I had the funds to front for a lawyer, I would take them to court to get my money and investment back. But as it is, I am just a one-person business, trying to make a living, and I don’t have the cash flow to hire a lawyer. It is just very bad business and I am a believer in you reap what you sow.”

Eight people responded within four hours to Banach’s Facebook post about the cancellation. A short time later, attempts by this reporter to once again access the Facebook page repeatedly returned a “this content isn’t available right now” message.

Earlier on April 12, the calderafest.com website was functioning and featured Banach’s August 2017 message about the event’s postponement. Later on April 12, a visit to that website address led to the message “Looks Like This Domain Isn’t Connected To A Website Yet!”

Another CalderaFest site which Griffin referred to, paganmusicfestival.com, also was not functioning when this reporter attempted to access it on April 14.

Of the eight respondents to the Facebook post about the cancellation, four requested a “full refund.” A fifth person posted: “I’ve been requesting a refund since the ‘postponement’ was announced. Haven’t heard a peep.”

Husband and wife Chris and Angela Wade, who run Damon’s Armory, a chainmail-making business, were vendors at the inaugural CalderaFest. Angela told the Wild Hunt she paid $180.25 to sell at the 2017 CalderaFest.

Before the CalderaFest Facebook page was taken down, Angela posted there, writing in part, “I don’t need a full explanation of why it was canceled but I do need a full refund because I paid as soon as the one was announced for 2017. When that was postponed, I was supportive and said that I didn’t need a refund, just hold it to 2019. I was cool with that. Now, I’m not cool with it . . . I feel like those of us who were there at the first one deserve better than this post and a statement of ‘We aren’t answering questions.’”

Two posters expressed support for Banach, including one who wrote:,“Geez, folks, give the guy a break. He only has so much money and told you he would split that amount to refund at least part of the fee. I get that you are angry, but he is doing all he can.”

The CalderaFest 2019 ticket sales page on eventbrite.com was still up as of April 14, although a check of the site on March 31 had revealed a “sales ended” message throughout the page. Ticket prices listed on the site included $150 general admission, $300 VIP admission, $50 children ages 6-12, $50 for a day pass, and a “Party Pack” of 10 general admission tickets for $1,000. Processing fees and sales tax were extra for each ticket level.

A CalderaFest 2019 ticket sales page on eventbee.com also was up as of April 14, but it included different ticket prices than the eventbrite.com page.

The eventbee page also listed a lineup of 29 performers that included Arthur Hinds, Brian Henke, Damh the Bard, Didges Christ Superdrum, Dragon Ritual Drummers, Hecate’s Wheel, Mama Gina, S.J. Tucker, Spiral Rhythm, Treblehawk, Tuatha Dea, Wendy Rule, Witch’s Mark and others.

Trisha Parker is one of the organizers of Phoenix Festivals, which hosts Phoenix Phyre in March and Autumn Meet in October in Lakeland, Fla. “This is so sad and affects the integrity and reputation of other festivals,” Parker said. The postponement of the October 2017 CalderaFest “put a huge hit on us because those bands had to scramble to play in other places and that made them being at our festival not unique.

“We hired Tuatha Dea and Spiral Dance to play at Autumn Meet 2017. They were going to have to cancel with us or play at venues around us to make up the money they lost. Therefore, playing at our festival exclusively was ruined by Caldera cancelling.  We lost quite a bit of money as a result.”

Despite the debacle that CalderaFest became, a number of attendees at the inaugural event praised the music.

“The music was awesome,” said Angela Wade of Damon’s Armory. “Several of my favorite artists performed. Damh the Bard, S.J. Tucker, Celia Farran, Witch’s Mark and many more were just amazing.”

Singer-guitarist Mama Gina was one of the performers.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Gina told the Wild Hunt. “It was truly a magical experience. So many of my Pagan musical heroes all in one place! I do believe it forged not just a few friendships, and we’ll be hearing musical collaborations for years from the connections that were forged at Caldera.”

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So came across this on my surfing

Of all the many factors on planet Earth that enable us to live and thrive, there are two which border, in my opinion, on the miraculous*: the conversion of sunlight into sugar through photosynthesis, and the mysterious alchemy of microbes and nutrients and water that makes dirt into the life-giver to us all.

Yet we take dirt for granted—even denigrate it.

It’s “dirty”, after all.

We walk on dirt; we scrape it off our shoes and sweep it from our houses and porches. It’s gray, or brown, or yellow, or red, but generally not the popping, pleasing colors we are hard-wired to find breathtaking, like sunsets or flowers or bodies of water. It’s so easy to forget that it is down there, weaving Life from not-Life in every second, breathing oxygen, fostering plant growth so we may eat and breathe and marvel at the magnificence of all the plant kingdom arrayed before us.

It turns out, in fact, that exposure to soil bacteria increases serotonin in the brain, reducing incidence of depression. There is a reason why people find gardening therapeutic!

Having a robust relationship with dirt is a good thing for Atheopagans. Watching seeds sprout and become plants is a reminder of the miraculous nature of life on Earth, the extraordinary story of tiny packets of DNA which draw lifeless material from around themselves to assemble gigantic structures, sometimes billions of times larger than they were when they started. And those structures bring forth food for us, material for building our shelters, and mighty forests that inspire us with their beauty and mysterious depths, that house and support entire ecosystems of incredible creatures.

Bear in mind, too, that exposure to ordinary dirt helps young people to develop their immune systems, and appears to reduce adult incidence of conditions like allergies and asthma. Please: don’t use bactericidal soaps and cleansers–they just help to breed “superbugs” that are resistant to them, and reduce this healthy effect on developing children. Ordinary soap and water for hand washing are more than adequate, and are far better for our own health and that of our environment.

Healthy soil absorbs carbon, too, reducing the impact of global climate change. There are six billion microorganisms per tablespoon of soil, and nearly all of them consume carbon dioxide to live. They produce minerals that support plant life as they metabolize this carbon.

So plant some seeds for spring time for your window sill, or a planter or two, or an entire garden if you have the space. Having our hands in dirt is a way to remember that we are all composed of these miraculous minerals, microbes and nutrients, and they serve us every day.

It is the miracle of Sun on Earth that sustains us.

Praise be to dirt!


*By which I mean that even though we understand how they work, they seem utterly marvelous.


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So came across this interesting story

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I went to Tampa for a conference last month. This had the pleasant side effect of putting me within driving distance of my best friend, who moved to Florida for a job not long ago. I skipped most of the Saturday events to see him. We spent most of the day at the Florida Aquarium – an institution which mysteriously houses a set of lemurs as its most publicized exhibit – but as the evening wore down, we retired to my hotel room and he asked the question that has been the refrain of our friendship since we were teenagers: “So, do you want to play a game?”

My friend loves board games. He is one of those people who collects board games the way other people collect DVDs or commemorative plates; his home has a shelf full of boxes containing boards and pawns and cards. Board games have never been my favorite nerdy vice, but I play them because he likes to play them. And seeing as he has driven three hours to see me, I figure I at least owe him a game.

The box-art to Spirit Island. [Greater Than Games]

He pulls out a brightly-colored box illustrated with a scene of ships sailing toward an island, the faces of elemental creatures looming above the tableau. The game, simply called Spirit Island, advertises itself as a “settler-destruction strategy game,” a sort of antithesis to the explore-colonize-capitalize genre of game that has been a mainstay of board games since The Settlers of Catan. From my perspective, that description sells the game short: in practice, Spirit Island is a game that challenges its players to not only reconsider the colonizing pattern of other games, but to take up the perspective of the earth itself as it deals with the destructive effects of human activity.

I won’t go through all of the rules here – for that I refer you to an excellent piece on Ars Technica by Aaron Zimmerman – but in short, in Spirit Island the players portray the elemental spirits of an island being discovered, invaded, and colonized by European settlers. Left to their own devices, the Europeans will inevitably despoil the land as they ravage its natural resources; they will also come into conflict with, and eventually wipe out, the indigenous people of the island. The players must work together to oppose the colonizers, either by violently destroying their settlements and their exploring parties or by terrorizing them into fleeing the island.

The different spirits, naturally, take different approaches to this task. The storm spirit, named Lightning’s Swift Strike, attempts to build up its resources so that it can unleash one massive turn of attacks, for instance, while the water spirit, River Surges in Sunlight, is adept at moving elements around the board, pushing the invaders to where they will do the least damage. The stone spirit, Vital Strength of the Earth, is tough but slow; the spirit of darkness, Shadows Flicker like Flame, excels in terrifying the colonizers and building up their fear of the island to the point that they abandon their colonies and return to their ships. Each spirit plays quite differently, and the close match between the game mechanics and the personality of the spirit is one of Spirit Island’s most distinctive features.

The human characters, in my experience, are more of a mixed bag. Like the spirits, the invaders are customized from game to game; their mechanics are determined by their nationality, so that if the island is being colonized by the English, indentured servants will spread to take more land, while if the invaders are Swedish, they will more heavily mine the island’s natural resources and cause more damage to the landscape.

While the colonizers are individuated, the indigenous humans are a fictional group called the Dahan. In the game’s rulebook, R. Eric Reuss, the designer, noted that he might have gone a different direction with the theme: “In retrospect,” he writes, “I could have gone an entirely different route: find a specific colonial-vs-anticolonial struggle to try and model… Instead, my brain imagined a conflict that never was, but which could serve as a stand-in for struggles against different imperial powers throughout history.”

Despite Reuss’s explanation, I find myself uneasy at the way the game gives historical specificity to the European colonizers, but we get no similar specificity to the colonized; it seems to reinforce a narrative that indigenous people are essentially the same everywhere. It’s more sympathetic than simply labeling all indigenous peoples as “savages,” but I would have preferred the game either using an entirely fictionalized conflict or an entirely historical one, as opposed to its current half-and-half approach.

River Surges in Sunlight, one of the spirit characters in Spirit Island. [Greater Than Games]

But leaving aside that critique, from my perspective, Spirit Island feels like playing through a more hopeful version of Peter Grey’s Rewilding Witchcraft. This is a game about environmental despoiling and colonial genocide, but it chooses to approach that theme not from a mechanistic, rational point of view, but instead portrays a world where the earth is not only ensouled but empowered, where the land spirits are not merely metaphors but agents capable of their own acts of resistance. For those of us who include devotion to land spirits as part of our Pagan practice, the decision to locate the agency of the players within these active and alive elemental forces makes for a powerful experience; the game itself provides a ritualistic way to identify ourselves with the spirit world, and to understand the necessity of breaking our own destructive pattern of colonizing and despoiling the earth.

The worst I can say about the metaphor of Spirit Island is that it begins too early. Like Catan before it, Spirit Island begins its story with the “discovery” of an island by the colonizers; it’s from that point of discovery that the pattern of conquest and ravaging starts. While it is useful for us all to know and understand that history, we are ourselves not in that moment. We are now living in the aftermath of a game that began centuries ago, in which the colonizing forces have been steadily expanding and ravaging for too many turns to count – and in which we all continue to be complicit, whether we wish to be or not.

The land spirits of our time are enacting their own campaign of resistance and destruction to try to quell our attacks on the earth (we call these actions “climate change”). In Spirit Island, the actions of the invaders are automated; they have no choice but to continue their campaign of expansion and destruction. We, perhaps, have more agency than that, and can choose to act otherwise. But the time we have left to exercise that agency is limited, if we still have it at all – we’re either going to find a way to make peace with the land spirits, or it’s going to game over for all of us.

*   *   *

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


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found this recently

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BOSCASTLE, England — New exhibits and films are in the works at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. First up is “Dew of Heaven: Objects of Ritual Magic,” an exhibition of ritual items connected with Hermetic magic, Rosicrucianism, John Dee, Eliphas Levi, Aleister Crowley, the Golden Dawn and others; it opens Apr. 1. On May 5 there will be a screening of The Otherworld, a film written and directed by Gisela Pereira.


The Otherworld, according to information on the museum site, is “an original and mystical tale drawing on Pagan Celtic myths and Irish legends, and … aimed for the Pagan and mystical crowd.”  It centers on some adventures of Lugh.

The museum at Boscastle is one of the oldest occult and magical museums in the world and is well known to the majority of British Pagans. Founded by Cecil Williamson in Stratford-upon-Avon, local opposition obliged him to move the museum (then the Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft) to an old windmill at Castletown in the Isle of Man in 1948. It was renamed the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft in 1951 as result of the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in that year.

Gerald Gardner was on board as the resident Witch; the two men had become friends after a meeting at the Atlantis Bookshop (which is also still going strong in London) in 1948. Williamson himself had first encountered magical practice in Devon in 1916, intervening to defend a woman who was being accused of witchcraft by locals, and was subsequently introduced to African magic in Rhodesia. A friend not only of Gardner but also of Crowley, Williamson is said to have been hired by M16 in 1938 to investigate the occult interests of the Nazis.

Williamson later sold the Isle of Man museum to Gardner, who invented a more exciting history for it and ran it for the rest of his life: ownership passed to Monique Wilson after his death in 1964 but the collection was sold to Ripley Entertainment Inc. in the early 1970s, and is no longer in operation.

Meanwhile, Williamson moved his own version of the museum to the mainland. It was located in Windsor, where Williamson once more encountered local opposition, and then in Gloucestershire, where it was subjected to an arson attack. The museum ended up in Boscastle in 1960, where it is still located. Williamson stated that

Three miles away from this spot you can find this pre-historic maze stone carved into a living rock face, proof that from ancient times man and his magic making with the world of spirit were active in this area. The centuries have passed and times have changed and yet all around us in this quiet corner of England there is a strange feeling that we are not alone and that the shades of persons passed on and over into the world of spirit are very close. That is why this museum of Witchcraft is located here. One is standing on the edge of the beyond.

Graham King bought the museum in 1996, taking ownership at midnight on Hallowe’en, and ran the museum for many years despite a crisis in 2004, when a huge flash flood swept through the town and the museum itself, devastating local properties and washing cars out to sea. King saved many objects from the museum, but earned the respect of the town by making human lives a priority and assisting the coastguard in their efforts to make sure that everyone was safe.  No lives were lost in the flood, although a waxwork figure of a crystal ball reader found in the wreckage was initially assumed to be a human body.

King’s efforts after this serious event led to the further development of the museum and on his retirement, on 31 October 2013, he gifted the museum and its contents to Simon Costin, director of the Museum of British Folklore. With over 3,000 objects and 7,000 books, the museum is not only the repository of a significant collection of magical artifacts, but is also a major source of research for academics and amateur researchers alike.

Founder Williamson was himself a filmmaker, having started his career as a production assistant, and was related by marriage to film director Herbert Wilcox, so it seems appropriate that the museum is still continuing to hold screenings.

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Tony Kail

Tony Kail is an ethnographer and writer. He holds a degree in cultural anthropology and has researched magico-religious cultures for more than twenty-five years. His work has taken him from Voodoo ceremonies in New Orleans to Haitian Botanicas in Harlem and Spiritual Churches in East Africa. He has lectured at more than one hundred universities, hospitals and public safety agencies. Kail has been featured on CNN Online, the History Channel and numerous radio, television and print outlets. He is author of A Secret History of Memphis Hoodoo: Rootworkers, Conjurers and Spirituals by History Press. He will be speaking on the subject of Hoodoo and the Blues and Hate Groups and the Pagan Community at Mystic South.

As if members of African traditional religions didn’t have enough to contend with in combating myths and stereotypes about traditional practices, a new threat to not only the reputation of these cultures but also to the health and safety of many women and children is developing internationally. A number of victim advocacy organizations are discovering the use of cultural elements from African traditions being appropriated by human traffickers in an effort to manipulate victims from African communities. Sex traffickers in at least five countries including Spain, Greece, Italy, the United Kingdom and the U.S. have been identified bastardizing elements of African magico-religious cultures to force victims into labor, domestic work and sexual exploitation. Many of their victims originate from African communities where spiritual traditions are revered and the wrath of spiritual deities often feared. In cases spanning over the last 14 years many traditional practices and beliefs have been used as a means of social control by traffickers.

In 2017 authorities discovered a boat in the Mediterranean containing numerous children and women from Nigeria. Many of the victims ranging from 14 to 18 years old had been sexually assaulted and in some cases murdered by traffickers en route to Libya and ultimately Spain. The traffickers forced their victims to take part in oaths and ceremonies where hair and fingernail clippings were taken as a form of ‘magical collateral’ by the group in the event that victims tried to escape or identify their captors. Earlier this year police in Spain and Nigeria discovered an organized network of traffickers taking victims from Benin City, Nigeria where many were forced to take oaths at local religious shrines in order to bind their allegiance to the group.

In many of these cases women are recruited from communities where there are very few resources for financial and medical needs. Sex traffickers have a history of approaching vulnerable communities to obtain victims for slave labor and work in the sex industry. Factors such as poverty, disease and lack of medical assistance have made some communities vulnerable to predators. Recruiters approach these communities promising jobs and wealth to families. Once the victim is taken in a supposed ‘debt’ is created when the recruiter promises to obtain a passport, visa and accommodations for the victim. Many victims spend their lives trying to pay this debt. Once victims are taken to their destination country promises of work in the fashion, hair and modeling industry are made as traffickers force victims into prostitution and labor to pay their debts.

A photo of Kail working with a medical team to assist a community that had little to no medical treatment available.

Traffickers in some cases have employed ritual specialists to conduct oaths and ceremonies at local shrines. Ceremonies are often conducted before the victim is transported to their destination to create a spiritual bond between the victim and trafficker. Many of the rituals used to bind victims to their traffickers are appropriated from African traditional religious cultures. Several features found in these cultures include the use of sacred spaces, ritual specialists, artifacts and rituals which are exploited by traffickers. Many of these cases have involved the exploitation of elements from traditional cultures such as West African Vodou, Yoruba religious cultures and Nigerian based sorcery commonly referred to as ‘Juju’.

Religious based oaths are valuable to human traffickers. John Egwu, head of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Nigeria Immigration Service observed that “because of the oaths that traffickers administer on their victims, the entire trafficking business is shrouded in so much secrecy. For fear that they might die if they violate the terms of their oaths, victims hardly cooperate with investigators and hardly show up in court to testify against traffickers”. In addition to the use of oaths, traffickers use the threat of sympathetic magic against their victims. Many trafficking rituals are accompanied by the collection of various materials from the bodies and belongings of their victims in order to use this practice.

A woman and child from one of Kail’s medical work in East Africa.

In addition to robbing cultural elements such as oaths and shrines to entrap victims psychologically, the sacred deities of some African traditional religions are also being appropriated by traffickers. Traffickers have found that appropriations of specific deities or spirits that represent divine justice are effective in instilling fear into victims used in trafficking. Yoruba deities such as Eshu, Shango and Ayelala are being invoked by traffickers to instill fear and obedience in their victims. The reverence toward Ayelala is so great in Yoruba society that she is honored in many Nigerian court proceedings. Those who are found guilty in the presence of Ayelala are believed to be stricken with ailments that swell the limbs and affect the abdomen. Defying the goddess is said to result in a painful death. Like Shango, those killed by her wrath are not to be mourned as they are considered ‘evil doers’ that have been divinely punished. Victims have testified that many oaths are taken at shrines dedicated to Ayelala. The fear of this deity in many Nigerian communities provides traffickers an ‘edge’ in ensuring obedience when invoking her name.

While many victims of trafficking fear the physical threats of violence from pimps and handlers, traffickers using spiritual components have an additional arsenal of threats. The power of spiritual manipulation is so great that trafficking expert Siddharth Kara from Harvard University states “Juju exerts a kind of control that’s so much more potent than chains or locking someone up”. The road to healing for victims of trafficking is many times a long and complex process. Victims of trafficking where spiritual manipulation has occurred may have difficulty breaking free of the psychological bonds from these threats that have been placed on them. Assistance from mental health professionals and in some cases traditional healers may be necessary to assist victims. In some cases spiritual leaders in African traditional religions may be effective in aiding victims get past the culture-based fears placed on them by traffickers.

A traditional healer’s sign from the author’s work in East Africa.

A powerful example of this just occurred when the king and spiritual leader of Benin in February 2018 revoked all curses placed against victims of trafficking that had been forced into oaths in Benin kingdom. The leader Oba Ewuare the 11th working with Nigerian anti-trafficking organizations released a cultural and spiritual based message to victims in an effort to assist them in freeing them from their bondage to spiritual entrapment. The spiritual leader also publicly proclaimed a curse against human traffickers and those ritual specialists that would assist them in their work.

This public display of ritual against traffickers had a tremendous impact in West Africa as the priest claimed he called on a sacred spirit that had not been called on in 400 years. As a result of this public form of spiritual therapy, several people came to the leader’s palace to ask for forgiveness for participating in trafficking. Some members of the local community reported strange sicknesses and incidents attributed to the king’s ceremony. The Vanguard reported “the inhabitants of the community besieged the palace of the Oba of Benin yesterday in tears, appealing for the revocation of the alleged curse placed on the community by the palace. It would be recalled that the Esogban of Benin kingdom, Chief David Edebiri, had warned that people should avoid the curse of the Oba because according to him, ¨those who had incurred the wrath of the Oba always come later to beg for revocation but it is always difficult.”

The exploitation of African traditions by human traffickers is an insult to the rich cultural traditions that are practiced by millions around the world. The mention of the names of gods and goddesses by those who exploit, humiliate and degrade women and children is a blasphemy to those who hold them sacred and the pain inflicted on victims of trafficking should offend us all and motivate us to action.

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





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