Prison Chaplaincy in Canada

Like many British Columbian pagans, I have been following the news about whether or not Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is going to allow the posting for a Wiccan prison chaplain to stand. It made a big splash in the news at the beginning of September when Corrections Canada advertised an opening for a part time Wiccan prison chaplain, and then the next day, Toews put a halt on the posting.

On Friday, the federal government announced that it would be cancelling the contracts of ALL non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons. Frankly, I am shocked.

According to an email that was sent from the minister’s office to CBC News:

“The minister strongly supports the freedom of religion for all Canadians, including prisoners,” the email states. “However, the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The minister has concluded … chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.”

As a Wiccan priestess, I am disappointed, but not terribly surprised that the contract for Wiccan chaplaincy was cancelled. While Wicca and Paganism are officially recognized religions according to the federal government, that doesn’t mean they are accepted by everyone. I regularly encounter people who are misinformed about our beliefs and practices. I’m not enough of a conspiracy theorist to believe that this drastic move on the part of the Public Safety Minister is targeted only at our faith.

As a Canadian taxpayer, I am angry. The email states that “the government… is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding.” Isn’t that exactly what they just did? The Christian ministers clearly received preferential treatment in this case.

Religious AcceptanceI have nothing against Christianity, or its ministers in general. I have met some wonderful ministers who were very open and non-judgmental regarding my beliefs. I have even had the opportunity to speak at an Interfaith Dialogue held at a Presbyterian Church, and was welcomed warmly. However, just because someone can accept my beliefs doesn’t mean they can minister according to my beliefs, much less the beliefs of the Muslims, First Nations, and Buddhists who are represented in larger numbers than the Wiccans in prison.

Analytically, I can almost understand the majority rule that must have been a part of the decision making process. More than half of prison inmates declare themselves as Catholic or Protestant. So if they have to choose one over the rest, it makes sense to choose the one that will serve the majority of inmates. However, on a humanitarian and ethical level, I really have a hard time understanding why a person should be denied the spiritual service they prefer because they believe differently than the majority. Just because the majority believe a certain thing, doesn’t mean it is the only right belief anyone can hold. How many inmates are going to be encouraged or pressured to convert because the priest serving their prison is adamant that his is the “one, true religion” and therefore every other faith is wrong?

This kind of duality – I’m right and you’re wrong – is what has gotten our planet into countless wars throughout history. I long for the day when everyone understands that beyond the basic needs (air and water), no one thing is right for everyone, and THAT’S OK. We all eat different kinds of foods for nourishing our bodies. Doesn’t it make sense that we can nourish our souls in different ways as well?




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Gender Roles and Wicca

Gender Roles in WiccaLast Saturday, I took on the role of the High Priest for our Full Moon ritual. It was a very different experience for me, and helped expand my view of gender roles in our tradition.

I consider myself to be very connected with the Goddess. In one workshop I took, we were led through a guided meditation to meet our patron Goddess and God. I had no trouble meeting my patron Goddess. But when it was time to move on down the path to meet my patron God, I was told by my Goddess in no uncertain terms to stay put.

“But, I want to go meet my patron God!” I protested.

“Leave that to your consort. You are meant to work with the Goddess.”

Well, alrighty then.

One of the things I love about Wicca is that it honors both the feminine and masculine aspects of the Divine. I think that is part of what attracts those who experience gender and sexuality non-traditionally to this path. The gods, particularly the Greek pantheon, were well known for same-sex relationships and flings, and hey, everyone wore skirts back then. Because our beliefs about God tend to be more open-minded, our beliefs about other people tend to be as well. We are all people, no matter our looks, our beliefs, or our preferences.

I myself fall pretty solidly into traditional gender roles. I am a heterosexual in a monogamous relationship with my husband. I like to dress up now and then, and wear makeup and braid my hair. I’m open to others having different preferences, though. I have friends who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, and even gender queer. That was a new one for me. If you want to learn more about gender queer, check out Innocence and Immanence, Morag Spinner’s blog. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn about someone else’s point of view and life experience.

In theory, and in reality for other people, I support the idea of non-traditional gender roles in ritual. In my own practice, however, I had some resistance. I was stuck on the idea of the High Priestess being a woman and the High Priest being a man; the Maiden is a woman and the Steward or Warden is a man. Because that is how my life is ordered.

Thankfully, I have a mentor who pointed out that there doesn’t necessarily have to be one person with bumpy bits and one person with dangly bits to have a balance of masculine and feminine energy in the circle. A person with bumpy bits can hold masculine energy, just as a person with dangly bits can hold feminine energy. And it’s ok for two people who have the same outward gender to hold different energy in the same ritual.

So last Saturday, I stepped out of my comfort zone and performed the High Priest role in our ritual. It was certainly a different energy! It was also kind of fun. I appreciate my Circle challenging me and supporting me to look outside my own frame of reference and step outside my comfort zone. It’s not something I fear anymore because it is different. And I can now better support those in my Circle who experience gender differently than I do, because I have had a small (very small, I realize) taste of that.



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Double Rituals for Samhain this Year!

The Circle of the Sacred Muse Sabbat Celebrations are typically family friendly. As such, they are targeted more at a younger audience – short and sweet, giving just enough information to learn about the season while still filling the desire for ritual.

Samhain Jack-o-lanternFor several years, we’ve received requests to do a more in depth ritual at Halloween, and this year, we’re jumping in and doing both.

High Priestess Mary Malinski says, “We don’t want to abandon the families, since that is something that is very important to me with three children of my own. And I also felt it was time to do a ritual for Samhain that goes a little deeper into the Mysteries of our faith. So I talked with core members of my team, and they were excited about the idea.”

Both rituals are scheduled for Sunday, October 28th. The family friendly ritual will take place at the Salish building in Lewis Park in the afternoon, and the more adult-oriented one will be at Halbe Hall in the evening. People are welcome to dress up in their “Pagan finest” for both events!

For more details about either ritual, visit our Upcoming Events page. Both events are open to the public, though we do ask that people RSVP so we know how many people to provide supplies for.

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Accelerated Wicca Class Registration Open

The Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada welcomes ATC US Arch Priestess and dean of the Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary, Belladonna Laveau in a three-day intensive class, Accelerated Wicca. The class will be held over the long weekend, November 10th, 11th and 12th in Duncan, BC.

Bella’s book, Awakening Spirit, is used by US Military to help chaplains minister to Wiccan troops, and is part of the freshman core curriculum in the seminary. Bella is a navy veteran, a mother of three, and a professional spiritual councilor who has been a full time Wiccan minister for ten years. Her ministry helps professionalize Wiccan clergy and provide resources for existing Wiccan ministers to be more effective in serving a modern congregation.

This is a rare opportunity to participate in face to face classes and Bella’s first trip to Canada to share her knowledge and experience!

ATC Canada will be charging the minimum cost to cover expenses so this experience can be accessible to as many people as possible.

Come and learn the foundational principles of magic and Wicca, to organize your thoughts into spiral thinking patterns of the initiate. Journey to the magical realms of the elementals.

Click Here To Register!

Friday, November 9th

  • 6PM – Meet and greet
  • 7PM – Pot luck dinner and drumming circle

Saturday, November 10th

12:00PM to 5:30PM

  • Relative Truth, Grounding, Religion v/s Spirituality, Personal Responsibility & Karma, Sacred Energy, The History of Witchcraft,Creating your own Reality, and Manifesting your Will, Shielding, Understanding Thought-forms, Connecting with your Patron God/dess, Channeling, The Power of Myth, The Human Energy Field, Seeing Auras, The nature of Dis-ease,Reincarnation, Space, Time and the Eternal Now, Past Life Regression, Utilizing Past Life Information

6:00PM to 9PM

  • Pot Luck Dinner followed by ritual

Sunday, November 11th

12:00PM to 5:30PM

  • Celebrating the Sabbats, Harmonizing with the Seasons, Turning the Wheel, Celebrating the Moons, Recognizing Patterns, The Path of the Initiate, Creating your Personal Temple /Clearing Negative Energy, Sacred Tools/ Blessing and Consecrating, The Power of the Circle/ Casting

6:00PM to 9PM

  • Pot Luck Dinner followed by ritual

Monday, November 12th

12:00PM to 5:30PM

  • The Four Elements/Calling the Quarters,The God and The Goddess/Balance and Polarity,Invoking Deity/ Drawing Down the Moon, The Eight Paths of Power/ Raising Energy and Directing Power, Letting the Magic Work/Cakes and Wine and Banishing

6:00PM to 9PM

  • Pot Luck Dinner followed by ritual
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Pagans show their pride in Surrey

From The Surrey Now: Pagans show their pride in Surrey

High Priestess Michele Favarger and Priest David Malinski of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada shown during a ritual performance Saturday afternoon at Pagan Pride Day in North Surrey. Photograph by: GORD GOBLE, NOW

High Priestess Michele Favarger and Priest David Malinski of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada shown during a ritual performance Saturday afternoon at Pagan Pride Day in North Surrey.
Photograph by: GORD GOBLE, NOW

The 17th annual Vancouver Pagan Pride Day, held Saturday in Surrey’s  Hawthorne Park, drew 350 people from all religions and walks of life, up from  last year’s turnout of 250.

Kerr Cuhulain, Preceptor General of the Order of Scathach and organizer of  the event, said it was very successful and well-received by locals and the city.  Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston was in attendance and spoke in support of the  pagan community.

“He seemed to be very pleased with how our community was growing and how  supportive we are of various charities in the community,” said Cuhulain, adding  the event collected about 30 pounds of food for the Surrey Food Bank.

Spooky witches at Pagan Pride Day? Not really. This is merely one part of a rather grand ritual by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada. Priestess Mary Malinski sweeps the circle. Photograph by: GORD GOBLE, NOW

Spooky witches at Pagan Pride Day? Not really. This is merely one part of a rather grand ritual by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada. Priestess Mary Malinski sweeps the circle.
Photograph by: GORD GOBLE, NOW

Cuhulain read an address from Mayor Dianne Watts, who was out of town at the  time.

“Surrey is proud to be a culturally, ethnically and spiritually diverse  city,” read the statement. “We view this as one of our greatest strengths and  thank the pagan community present in Surrey and the Lower Mainland region for  openly sharing their rich religious background.

Cuhulain said he plans to keep Vancouver Pagan Pride Day in Surrey next year,  though the location may change.

Priest David Malinski of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada leads church members in song during Saturday’s Pagan Pride Day in North Surrey.
Photograph by: GORD GOBLE, NOW

“There are a lot of people using Hawthorne Park, and with the numbers and the  merchants expanding, we may start looking for a larger venue within the city,”  he said.

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Bellica – Book Review

At this year’s Spring Mysteries Festival, I met a very interesting woman, Katje van Loon. Technically, I had met her before, but I had the opportunity to work with her and get to know her a bit better at SMF. She had a book for sale in the Merchant’s Hall, though I didn’t get it then. She had a special deal on Beltane on the Kindle version, though, so I snatched it up then.

BellicaBellica is a Pagan fantasy novel that challenges gender roles and sexuality. The rulers and leaders in Athering are women, including military leaders. They honor the Goddesses Juno, Aradia, Kore, and Muerta, among many others. It is a novel of love, fear, choices and personal responsibility.

I read through it much more quickly than I expected to, and it left me wanting more.

While the way in which gender terms were used caught me off guard at first – husband is the female partner, and wife is the male partner, regardless of whether the partners are mixed-gender or same sex couples – it didn’t take long to enjoy the challenge to our society’s notions of what is right and proper. I never did really figure out how time works in this world, but it was a minor concern.

Katje’s character development is fantastic. She feeds details about the characters (and there are a lot of them, but don’t let that intimidate you!) in just large enough doses to keep you on your toes. Just when you think you know one of the characters…some new piece of information is released that changes what you thought you knew.

I know my reviewing skills are not the greatest, so you can go read the first several chapters here. Or better yet, just go buy the book here. You can thank me later!



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Wizard’s Treeing Exercise – Machinima

An interesting and educational machinima by Celestial Elf. Enjoy!

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The Wheel Turns

The wheel is turning, the solstice has passed and new opportunities await for us in 2012. See the world through my pagan oriented view.

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Planning for 2012

First, I want to thank everyone who was able to make it out to coffee in Campbell River this week. We had some great discussion, and I appreciate your feedback and support with some ideas to make our Circle even better.

For those who weren’t able to make it, and as a recap for those who were there, I’ve been listening to feedback and asking questions of other groups to figure out how to better serve the Circle of the Sacred Muse. When I started the Women’s Circle, I did everything on my own, and so learning how (and what) to delegate has been challenging for me at times. I appreciate your patience with me as I learn and grow!

There have been requests to do more eclectic rituals instead of the ATC Full Moon ritual all the time. While the Sabbat rituals are all eclectic, we have decided to do one eclectic Full Moon ritual every quarter (i.e. 2 months of ATC Full Moon, 1 eclectic). Hopefully that will satisfy some of the need for diversity, as well as continue to provide learning opportunities for our postulants.

In addition, the ATC Full Moon ritual does leave room for personalization of the elemental calls and farewells (and of course, the working).

Each month, either after the ritual or at coffee, we will decide as a group what we would like the focus of the ritual to be. Anyone can volunteer to take on a part of the ritual, either by choosing an element to call (and personalizing the call) or taking on a part of the working, or writing parts for the eclectic rituals. The only request I have is that everyone get their piece of the ritual in to me a week ahead, so I can print out anything that needs to be printed, and make sure there is a “flow” to the writing.


It was decided that the focus of the Full Moon Ritual in January will be healing. I know we just did a ritual on healing. Many of the people who were at coffee were unable to attend, and those who did felt we can always use more healing!

Harmony offered to host the ritual at her home. The address will be posted on the website, as well as in the newsletter I will be sending out.

There was a request for each of the elemental callers to include healing animals. I have listed them below with each person’s requested element.

  • Janice – West – bear
  • Harmony – East – eagle
  • Linda – South – snake
  • Peter – North – deer
  • Phoenix – Maiden – bring items to decorate the circle and the altar. David and I will bring the tools.

For the working we will use Mary’s Healing Waterfall Meditation, and then have a Reiki/healing circle. Each person will take a turn of 3-5 minutes (depending on how many people are there!) on the massage table having everyone else directing healing energy toward them. Harmony also requested that we take one turn and send healing to Nature/Mother Earth. I’m really looking forward to my turn on the table! Smile

We also said to start thinking about what we would like to do for Imbolc. Phoenix has offered to do the main writing/coordinating. Imbolc is about new beginnings, the planting of seeds while everything still looks barren. There is information on the Sacred Muse website under “Celebrations > Imbolc” for anyone who would like to read more.

Please email any ideas you have for Imbolc. Traditionally we have made Brigid’s crosses at this time, though it is totally up to the group what you would like to focus on.

If you have any questions, please let me know!



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December Events

The newsletter with details for our December events is now available:

Please sign up on the right to automatically receive the email updates.



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