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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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Question of the Week: 60 - 10/1/2001
What About Those Pagan Leaders Again?
As we mentioned in our homepage introduction, the question of who our 'Pagan Leaders' might be has again been raised. And perhaps that is a good thing as the world situation has changed and perhaps the views of Pagans on the topic have changed as well. We would request that those who continue to support the decades old view that Pagans do not need national leaders also then address the question of what should we do to comfort/represent our own at a national level in times of crisis seeing as most folks in the Pagan community are still solitaries.
We request that those who take the position that national leaders are (or may) be needed to represent the Pagan communities in times such as this also address the question of how these 'leaders' would be supported financially in order that they might afford to work full-time for the communities and/or take emergency/diplomatic trips to seats of political power to represent you.
And finally, just where would the national election for 'Pagan Leaders' be held? Without such an election, any national 'Pagan Leader' would by necessity have to be an 'appointed' one, wouldn't he/she? (Just who does the appointing has always been interesting.) This question is one of a 'national' Pagan leadership and the benefits and/or drawbacks of such. Local and community Pagan leaders/advocates/facilitators are already in place and generally do a wonderful job where they are.
| Reponses: There are 289 responses posted to this question.
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| All, "where Have The Pagan Leaders Been?" Though My Clann Is Small... ||Sep 24th. at 12:59:35 am UTC|
|Croman mac Nessa (Waldron, Arkansas US) ||Age: 36 - Email |
"Where have the Pagan leaders been?" Though my Clann is small and still a somewhat young "Tradition, " I consider myself a Pagan "leader, " and I believe I have been here online with you for most of this time. I sent an email to George W. Bush with some of my opinions, and included my legal name, phone number, home address, and email addy. I emailed Diane Sawyer about Falwell's message of hate. I posted messages to my site and several lists calling for blood donations and calm and patience and courage. I wrote posts calling for Americans to not take this too far and persecute innocent Muslims in America or innocent Arabic persons in America. I have been a leader present for you and for my Clann. I have been threatened with a beating for being a Pagan Priest, just last week, undoubtedly due in part to the asinine comments of Jerry Falwell.
My medical history prevents me myself from donating blood, but I have been here from the 11th calling on you and others to donate blood (credit to Fern of Mugwort Grove for suggesting to me that we do such a thing, and there's another Pagan leader, Fern, who has been involved in the Pagan leadership's call to help, and even kept her sh-- together enough to be able to lead a Fall Equinox Rite). I've seen Saille sending out posts and asking them to be forwarded. Now, Fern and I may not be as well known in the Pagan community as Saille and Isaac and Ray and some others, but we are still Pagan leaders, and I believe we've been doing what we felt was appropriate. I've been to check on the two young Aspirants in town several times (they were also threatened with a beating for being Pagan religious leaders, and in fact, the threat, as I noted in a previous post to some of you, was most likely directed at them and not at me) to make sure they are alright. I had to go to the Sheriff's Office to file a report on the threat. In the midst of all this, I continued to work on the Clann Nessa's Online Community site and began preparing Rites that will be distinctly ours (the Clann Nessa's) rather than Keltria's or Whiteoak's or Herman Slater's or whoever's.
I don't know about Fern or Saille or Isaac or Tony & Wren or Wren or Ray or any of the other Pagan leaders, but I myself was not invited to the National Cathedral, and would not have been able to afford the trip anyway. And seriously, when was the last time a tv reporter came and asked me my opinion on something? Have they ever? Has Time or Newsweek called on me for my opinion? No. But do they call the gluttonous hatemonger Jerry Falwell? Do they talk to Billy Graham's son? You betcha. Ok, so I am going to be writing a letter to the editor of my local paper about the threats issued to the local Pagan clergy, which will let everyone in the area know who and what I am and what I believe and practice, but will that letter reach the New York Times? From The Waldron News? Hah. Send me a reporter; I'll talk.
One of the young men in the Clann Nessa saw fit to enlist following the attacks. He will be shipping out to Korea following Basic Training and who knows where he will be sent after that. It's a done deal, and though I wish he were not going into such a dangerous situation, there is nothing I can do about it now except bless, encourage, and counsel him, and invoke protection for him.
The dead are dead. The living remain. I think it's a little more important that the living stay alive and sane in this time. Sure, I've seen Pagan leaders talking about helping the dead Pass on to the next life, and suggesting rituals for the purpose, and mentioning that they are going to be doing their ritual at such and such a time and would we please join in, etc., and I've burned my candles for the living and the dead, so the claim that we have done nothing for those who lost their lives so tragically is simply false.
Besides, all those other clergy have salaries (and in the case of Falwell and his ilk, rather fat salaries). I don't get paid for being a Druid. Contrary to Celtic tradition (which holds that the people should provide the Druid with his/her needs simply because he/she is a Druid) though it is, it is still the way my situation currently stands. I suspect that most if not all Pagan leaders are unpaid in regard to their ministries. What we do we do because we *must*, not because we get paid for it. And like I said, though I have the highest Honour for the Ancestors, there are Druids in the Ancestral World who can help the newly departed, and I am here with the ones who are left behind. Those who are left behind (you and I) have all been very uncertain, frightened, sad, hurt, and confused by all that has happened recently, and they need our care for their psyches in this and in the "ordinary" uncertainty, fear, sadness, pain, and confusion they have experienced in their typical days.
I've been here for my Clann and for those around me in the physical world. I bet most of the other Pagan leaders have also been very busy, and I'm sure some of them have been even busier than I (as hard as that seems for me to believe, since I've been swamped).
I've seen the letter that was forwarded here twice before. It is no more true today than it was last week.
Beannachd Br“ghide leibh (Blessing of Br“ghid with y'all).
Falbhaibh le Ghliocas
(Walk With Wisdom),
*Croman mac Nessa*
/| * Chief Druid * /|
- of the Clann Nessa -
=*~-*~-*~ /| ~*-~*-~*=
23 September 2001
| I'm Not Exactly Sure That This Is On The Subject. Personally, I... ||Sep 24th. at 1:05:07 am UTC|
|kari andrews (tuscaloosa, Alabama US) ||Age: 23 |
I'm not exactly sure that this is on the subject. Personally, I do have mixed feelings about being represented by one person that more than likely I will not know. What I have been wondering about since the tragedies that occurred on Sept. 11, is why nothing has been said in the media about what Pagans are doing as far as prayer, rituals, etc. for the victims and their families. So far, the only things I have heard reports about are Christian, Jewish and Moslem worship services being held both in my state and around the country. For example, the radio stations in my town announced that people should call their churches to find out about extra memorial services, but nothing was said about what followers of the non-christian religions here were doing. I think it's time we stood up and made it known that we care and also lost loved ones just like everybody else.
| Dear Fritz, Wren, And Anybody Else Who Actually Cares Enough To Raise... ||Sep 24th. at 1:08:40 am UTC|
|Diane McDonough, HPs and Elder, BFC (carlisle, Pennsylvania US) ||Age: 46 - Email |
Dear Fritz, Wren, and anybody else who actually cares enough to raise the question, Okay. Mea Culpa. As a local "Pagan leader", let me tell you what I will have to do to hold an open circle for healing in my local community. First, I have to find a place here in sunny SouthCentral PA that will allow a Pagan gathering. Then I have to flash my ordination papers all over the place so that I can stand up with the other ministers. Then, I have to herd the cats...er, I mean local Pagans into agreeing on site, ritual protocol, and who gets to open the West Gate.
What am I doing? now that I'm over the little "ego fart" of not being recognized as clergy along with the Methodist, Baptist and other guys with their vengeful God?
I'm fighting for recognition. I attend, as a non-traditional (read little old witchy in tennis shoes)student, a branch campus of a Big Ten school. I'm organizing an open healing circle on campus. To do this, I must present my clergy papers to the Dean of Student Services. Then I must prepare for the attacks. Our fundamental brothers and sisters do not want there to be any other approach to that which is Divine, don't ya' know. Since I have already dealt with a variety of slurs and attacks, it will be exciting, if nothing else.
The point is, that even as "we" collectively, bemoan our lack of representation, we fail to recognize that until we start making more noise about our sincere and deep commitment to our religious beliefs, we will continue to be voices in the wilderness. And until we can support each other, regardless of whether we be Alexandrian, Gardnerian, or whatever, we will continue to have to ask permission to be at the table. We as a group must perceive that being in the closet, while safer, is not helping us gain legitimacy.
And, as to the question of why nobody with their deep psychic abilities saw this coming? I can only say that as a reader, this is beyond comprehension. This is beyond seeing. I did readings the weekend before this event and many of the readings indicated chaos and disruption for many people, I read for people, not the country. My goal as a reader is to help people with their own lives. Interestingly, checking various astrological sites has shown that we should have had a heads up--but they also point to the conclusion that this "enemy" had access to some pretty amazing astrological information, too. While I can appreciate the anger and pain of the correspondent to Witchvox, I can only say that, like the government and the rest of the world, we were blindsided by an evil too big to comprehend.
If we are going to have an organized voice, we are going to need a leader, yes. Finding that leader among the prominent Pagans of today is going to be way beyond difficult. We, as Pagans, by definition, have difficulty accepting the concept that any one of us is prepared or capable of representing the rest of us. We don't want a national leader. To have one would mean giving up Witch Wars, conceding the imperfections of the Degree system, and looking beyond the bestsellers' list. It would require wisdom, grace and compassion beyond the bickering so frequent within the community. It would require organizing on any Standard Time beyond Pagan Standard Time.
To quote the immortal Pogo, "We have met the enemy and it is us." (BTW, if you don't know who Pogo is, you're too young) (oh, s**t, I just did it) To become a force to be reckoned with, we have to stop the arguments within ourselves and our groups, stop arguing lineage, degrees, Traditions and agree that we have a right to be seen and heard regardless of any of the above and that anybody who purports to be "one of us", solitary, initiated, or whatever, has the right to the services of Clergy and the right for that Cleric to be recognized as such. But we have to be willing to give that recognition first.
| Ah, Once Again The Urge To Copy The Major Faiths Rears It's... ||Sep 24th. at 1:39:47 am UTC|
|"Vivienne" (Sydney, New South Wales AU) ||Age: 37 |
Ah, once again the urge to copy the major faiths rears it's ugly head.
No Pagan "Leaders" have emerged to speak for the dead victims of this ugly terrorist attack on the US, and suddenly everyone wants to elect a "leader" and worse, start paying them.
May I firstly ask, which branch of Paganism did you plan to elect this "leader" from? Asatru? the Lucifarians? the Wiccans? How can you possibly expect a "Pagan Leader" to represent anyone? They would need to be specific to the tradition they represent, or useless as a spokesperson.
Let me illustrate this more clearly; I am a witch. I believe in the sight, I believe it is hereditary (like the old Scots and the original British witches) and I don't believe that just anyone is or can be a witch. I also believe that hexing can sometimes be justifiable. In both these beliefs, I'm in direct conflict with most Wiccans, even though much of their philosophy is compatible with mine. Although I have much respect for the Wiccans, I could NOT allow a Wiccan "leader" to speak for me. Infact, it galls me to see someone calling themselves a witch speaking for other witches on any subject, often what they say doesn't agree with my own belief, and I think to myself "how arrogant that person is, claiming to speak for witches as though we are all the same".
A major element of modern paganism, across many traditions, is our independence. We have no "priest" or other authority figure to tell us what to do. Some have elders who's knowledge is respected, but they are not our "leaders". Many of us practice our faith alone.
How can we maintain this, and also have a "leadership"?
I understand what the letter which triggered this debate is trying to say; why were there no Pagan "leaders" speaking words of comfort to us, as they were to the Christians and other major religious groups?
My comment is, do you need a leader to speak for you? If so, perhaps the freedom inherent in modern paganism is not for you.
The comment that the pagans "did nothing" however, is offensive and absurd. How many pagans do you think did NOT "do something" after tuesday 12th? How many did NOT light candles and call on their gods to make peace, pray for the dead, work magic for Peace on this earth and protection for their loved ones? I'd hazard a guess that not many true pagans would have failed to at least light a candle, with intent. When I did so, I could envisage hundreds, perhaps thousands of Pagans world-wide doing the same thing. People like me, people quite unlike me. In their own homes or hearths, for their own reasons and with no prompting required from a "leader". Such a thing is powerful beyond the words of preachers.
| Not Only Do I Support The Decades Old View That Pagans Do... ||Sep 24th. at 2:08:38 am UTC|
|Myrddin (san jose, California US) ||Age: 33 - Email |
Not only do I support the decades old view that Pagans do not -need- national leaders, I submit that our position would likely be harmed by having such. One of the moral strengths of the pagan community is that no such central 'leadership' exists: an aspiring pagan practitioner can feel comfortable seeing the mountain of spirituality from their own unique vantage point without the worry that their view differs slightly (or perhaps more so) than the 'Pagan Leadership' and more established pagans won't be thrust into the discomfort of watching a minority leadership present an image to the public that they themselves feel is not representative of them or their group. Indeed, with a minority leadership presenting a narrowed scope of pagan 'reality' to the general public, the danger of misrepresentation is very real, unintional though it may be.
We don't need to have a comforting or representation on the national level in the face of crisis like September 11th, nor am I convinced we'd benefit from them. In my particular area, there were no small number of local gatherings wherein pagan's openly invited any willing pagans into their living rooms, power spots or favorite outdoor ritual locations to assemble, discuss, do ritual, readings, and healings. When the world had been turned on its head, pagans provided the comfort and consolation they required in local, personal settings; much truer to the pagan philosophy than having a single Pagan Leader attempt to represent our own in front of CNN. Regardless of her or his best intentions, the face put on paganism by that leader would not only be inevitably incomplete and erred, but would be viewed by the general public as the 'whole and complete pagan picture'. I'm not sure we'd be helped by that. ;-)
In short, ignoring the fact that establishing a 'Pagan Leadership' involves its own set of significantly non-trivial challenges, such a leadership would provide little benefit to pagans, and would only serve as further confusion not only to the largely uninformed public, but to potentially new pagans as well.
May the sun shine upon your path,
| After Much Rumination On This Question, I Don't Think That A National... ||Sep 24th. at 2:22:25 am UTC|
|Samanthe Sylverwyng (Kansas City, Missouri US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
After much rumination on this question, I don't think that a national spokesperson or group can do our diversity justice. Think of the State Representatives elected, how do they act in the interests of their constituents? Where their conscience and best political chances dictate. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely (apologies if misquoted)." We would have to set up a support structure similar to a council of elders or tribal council where local leaders would choose their representation and so forth and, as has been pointed out many times, who speaks for the solitaries or the minority traditions? I personally have a network of friends that I looked to for support in this tragedy including Wiccans, Christians and non-Christians. I agree that there is the historical persecution and fear to consider if one were to consider an open leadership role in the community. There have been admirable gains made in the acceptance of Wicca as a mainstream religion but there is a long way to go before our local television news anchors will give us more than passing human curiosity at Halloween. This religious path we have chosen is the grand culmination of the religious freedom ideals envisioned by our forefathers. If only we were really free. I also keep coming back to LOVE. All the religious traditions I have studied or heard of have a simple principle in common: Love thy neighbor as thyself. Aren't all Gods one God?
In Love and Light,
| Regarding The Need For National Pagan Leadership. What Are We, Monotheists? Listen... ||Sep 24th. at 3:25:27 am UTC|
|SapphireStar (Kindsbach) ||Age: 29 - Email |
Regarding the need for national Pagan leadership. What are we, Monotheists? Listen, I can only speak for myself and how I feel and what I'm feeling right now is the last thing we need are people put up on a National Platform to speak for us because of a certain crucial truth about Pagans -- Ask three different Pagans what Paganism is and you'll get five different answers.
That is a punchline that we've all heard, but the worrying part to me is that no one person, or group of one persons, can speak for the rich diversity that is Paganism. Would that not possibly push smaller groups or trads, not to mention solitary practitioners, out in order to put most of the 'mainstream' trads into easy box designations recognizable to John Q. Mundane and others? Are we to start building actual churches???
One of the beauties of Paganism to me is that there is no one true way or group of ways. Different trads and notions spring up like moss or seedlings or lichens all over the world, no one can classify them all. A National Leader can't help but see the world through the lense of their own tradition, no matter how open minded they try to be and how can that possibly be helpful or good to the vast numbers of circles, cells, covens or what have you?
There is also the verable idea that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well?
Blessed Be my bretheren and sisteren. My those we worship watch over us in this time of trouble.
| Personal Thoughts From Gypsy Rose I Don't Even Know Where To Start... ||Sep 24th. at 3:30:55 am UTC|
|Gypsy Rose (Chickasha, Oklahoma US) ||Age: 37 - Email |
Personal Thoughts From Gypsy Rose
I don't even know where to start. So I ask that all who read this please bear with me. First off I would Like to state that I am still fairly new as wiccan. Although my heart has always been Pagan even as a small child (late bloomer)I remember that my personal beliefs and feelings of spirituality just didn't fit with the main stream religions that were available. I always knew in my heart that there was alot more out there, and the main stream religions just didn't give the information that my soul cried out for. along the path to discover my own spirituality and where I felt comfortable and felt as if I fit in.....That is when I discoverd Wicca. Everything that I have learned has been thru books, the internet, and most importantly from talking to caring, and loving people such as you. (meaning all people of the pagan community). I live in a very small town right dab smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. There is a church located almost on every block in this town. Needless to say, when the tragedies to New York, and D.C occured I had absolutely no one that I could turn to here at home.... I don't think that I had ever felt so alone as I did then. When they held the national memorial on t.v I heard them mention christians, muslims, jews catholics, buddist ect.. ect... but no Pagan Faiths were mentioned at all. I felt even more alone, and I hate to admit this to anyone at all but at that moment I found myself questioning for the first time my own beliefs. I felt as if my own spirituality were being tested, and I had no one to turn to for counsel. So I had meditated on this, and I discovered that I still had the same spiritual feelings and beliefs that I had always had before these horrible things had happend. It might have shook me up a little bit, but my foundations were still strong. After I come to this conclusion I felt really guilty as if I had betrayed not only myself, but our Lord, and Lady Also. The point that I am trying to make is that. For one brief moment in time I felt very lost because I had no leader or anyone to represent my faith during a public ordeal. But as you see all it did was made me look deep within myself, and to realize that yes my faith is strong no matter what kind of crisis or calamity is thrown in my path. We must move forward and grow with each lesson that life may bring our way! May love, and light always be in your hearts. Blessed Be!
| Ahh, The Discussion Begins... Here's My Lowly Two Cents. I Think We... ||Sep 24th. at 7:25:36 am UTC|
|AnchoredStar (Middle of Nowhere, Arizona US) ||Age: 23 |
Ahh, the discussion begins... here's my lowly two cents.
I think we have to remember that the Starhawks, the Laurie Cabots, the Isaac Bonewitses, the Wrenses and Fritzes, all of the authors and personalities who were listed as "leaders, " are just that- personalities and authors. Sure, they may lead their own circles and groups, and we can look up to them as proud, out-of-the-broom-closet pagans who felt the need to set their thoughts to paper (or screen) and share their opinions with the general public. I surely appreciate it. But a public personality does not a leader make. The cast of "Friends" are public personalities, too- I sure don't expect anyone to consider them leaders. So should it be with our pagan celebs. They write, they wax rhapsodic, they pass along interesting snippets of news that I sure don't have time to ferret out every day (thanks, 'Vox staff...), and they make "us" a little more known. Let's cut them a little slack. I'm sure that they are busy in their own corners of the world making sure that their loved ones, their students, their internet hordes are safe and well informed and whatnot. Part of the beauty of Paganism today is that it's small. Let's look to our own priest/esses, our own elders, ourselves, for comfort and support. Give the pagan celebs a break- they're grieving and consoling and whatnot in their own way.
And let's not look to a national tragedy as a PR opportunity. Let's leave that to the Falwells of the world.
| I Truly Believe That Having A National Leader To Speak For Us... ||Sep 24th. at 7:27:41 am UTC|
|Asrai (Melbourne, Florida US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
I truly believe that having a national leader to speak for us would not work. Paganism is a 'free' religion, meaning that each person will have different views on any given subject and trying to come together in 'one voice' would almost be impossible. My suggestion is for each and every one of us as individuals to stand up and speak out instead of looking for someone to speak for us. One reason that many people come to paganism is to be free of organization and having leaders speak for them. To try and set up some kind of national spokesperson for all Pagans would make it sound as if all agreed on the same issue, when perhaps that would not be the case.
| Lol! With All The Different Types Of Pagan Beliefs, And All The... ||Sep 24th. at 7:31:15 am UTC|
|David Sansom (Portland, Oregon US) ||Age: 52 |
LOL! With all the different types of Pagan beliefs, and all the different traditions within some of them, how could a few people be called "leaders"? WHile it would be nice sometimes to have a recognized public spokesperson, the sheer fact that most Pagans are solitary, which we usually are very proud of, prevents us from having "leaders".
I don't think it is important or necessary to be seen joining other spiritual beliefs in a public display of support for any particular cause. We know that we deplore these acts of terrorism, and whatever deities there are know it too.
What disturbs me is the formation of an Office of Homeland Defence. While I might be slightly paranoid *smile*, I can see this leading to travel limitations, internal passports, secret police, and other fun things.
| Oh, Yes! Yes! Yes (do I Seem Enthusiastic?) I Would Have Loved... ||Sep 24th. at 7:32:36 am UTC|
|Trish Telesco (Buffalo, New York US) ||Age: 41 - Email |
Oh, yes! yes! YES (do I seem enthusiastic?)
I would have loved to do something more public last week but before we criticize our leaders for not going to CNN bear in mind how much heat some have taken in the past for daring to speak for ALL witches or ALL pagans or ALL druids etc.? Due to the highly personalized, vision-based nature of our faith, we tend to be sorely independent and highly protective of that independence, but at what cost?
We as a people have a strong and positive message for the days ahead. It's a message that says "as spiritual people we can make a difference -- in this moment we are not Christian, nor Jew, nor Mulsim, nor Pagan, nor Buddist -- we HUMANBEINGS who need to begin to live and think globally" ... but how can any of our leaders, ethically speaking, step up to the plate and share that message without the community behind him or her?
Then too there's the media to consider. How many of the "big" television reporters and personalities have a pagan leader on their contact lists? Very few I suspect. That situation needs to change as well. The minute we make ourselves valued resources -- we will start getting those calls for comment.
Third I think we do need to remember that many of those leaders were probably comforting their own, or working in whatever community they serve. Healing begins at home, and that is also our job.
Fourth, and I hate to bring the all-mighty dollar into this yet again, how many of our leaders have the financial wherewithall to drop everything -- a daily job, their kids, etc. so they could have gone out to NY or Washington or PA and make themself a viable presence? We do not support paid clergy, and I didn't see anyone collecting funds to do something like this -- so perhaps before we grouse about "where were our leaders" perhaps a better question is "where was and IS the community to support them?"
Even more difficult - IF our community as a whole had come up with such an amazing idea, who would we choose to go? How would we mobilize our efforts? Here too we see a weakness that comes from our independence. Most Churches of the same denomination have established ways of working in tandem. I think Pagans need something similar (yes, folks, I mean ORGANIZING - that horrible word that many avoid like the plague).
Perhaps, just perhaps, we need to be willing to put aside a little bit of our independence for the greater good.. for the good of all. By definition the good of all cannont just be YOUR good, or MY good. The good of all sets aside ego to promote coherancy, harmony, and unity, in this case putting a public face to the term neo-pagan.
Who becomes our spokes people? Perhaps those who are already working with law enforcement or local media representatives and doing a good job of it. Yes, BNP could fit this role, but perhaps it is better done by the proverbial "person next door" -- someone who is simply living their faith, and who knows the ins and outs of working with the public. Just a thought..
Or, perhaps rather than one person we could have a committee of four (one for each part of the country - N/S/W/E) so that the tremendous work involved would be spread out among several capable hands who would also work closely together. In this case, I would suggest regional nominations and votes (which could be announced here at witchvox). Once this committee is in place, they can work up a body of informational annoucements that would go out to the media letting them know to whom to turn for all manner of questions (from the typical holloween stuff to how neopagans respond to national emergencies). And at times like these they would also issue statements that reflect our horrors and hopes.
More than likely operating expenses for an NPL (national pagan leadership) would come through donations, or perhaps through a membership body -- people who want to be kept informed of how pagans are being represented nationally, and who want to support that on-going public awareness. Now, this means a LOT of work -- this is no small task for those who step up to challenge, but the results of such efforts will be long lasting and important to our beliefs well into the future.
Blessed be and live Free
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