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History of Circle Sanctuary

  • 1974: Circle is founded in Madison, Wisconsin. Its name, logo, and focus are conceived by Selena Fox. Circle sponsors its first Sabbat gathering. This small gathering is a Yule celebration hosted by Selena Fox and Jim Alan in their home in Madison, Wisconsin and includes Pagans from the USA and UK.

  • 1975: Circle establishes headquarters at a rented farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. A ritual room is created and dedicated on the main floor of the house. Circle's library-archives is established. An outdoor ritual circle outlined by stones is established. Circle begins sponsoring public lectures in Madison, Wisconsin. Selena Fox and Jim Alan give presentations at the University of Wisconsin, at the YMCA, and other places.

  • 1976: Circle's public relations work on behalf of the Wiccan religion and Pagan culture begins. An accurate and positive article about the Wiccan religion and Paganism, accompanied by a full color photo of Selena Fox doing a Harvest ritual, appears in The Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. The article was by noted author Jacqueline Mitchard in the early stages of her writing career. Circle becomes the first Pagan center in the USA to have its own weekly radio show. Circle Magic, produced by Selena Fox and hosted by Selena Fox and Jim Alan, aired for one half hour on WORT, a community sponsored FM station in Madison, Wisconsin. Broadcast weekly in prime time for four years, 1976-1980, it included programs on Wiccan spirituality, Pagan culture, spiritual healing, holistic health, divination, parapsychology, and consciousness exploration, and combined interviews with music. Circle begins sponsoring presentations outside Wisconsin. Selena Fox and Jim Alan present workshops and a concert at Gnosticon 6, a national convention sponsored by Llewellyn Publications in St. Paul, Minnesota. Selena and Jim also travel to Iowa to do presentations and rituals at the home of Coven of the Mirror. Circle's first Coven forms. Circle's first coven brings together Wiccans and Pagans from several paths, including solitary practice Witchcraft and traditional Latvian Pagan religion.

  • 1977: Circle publishes Paganism's first publicly distributed songbook. Circle Magic Songs contains words and music to Pagan songs and chants by Jim Alan and Selena Fox, plus short articles and an assortment of illustrations. Circle Network forms and Circle begins serving as a worldwide Pagan resource center. Selena Fox founds Circle Network as a contact service and information exchange to help Pagans from many traditions and groups connect with each other. Circle Network News begins as a one page information newsletter sheet distributed to this growing network. Circle helps with Paganism's first multi-tradition Summer campout festival. Selena Fox and Jim Alan, representing Circle, present music and workshops, and help with publicity and on-site logistics at the first Pan Pagan Festival, held in a campground in northern Indiana, and sponsored by the Midwest Pagan Council, composed of Chicago area Wiccan and other Pagan groups.

  • 1978: Circle incorporates as a Wiccan Church in Wisconsin. Circle shifts from coven structure to church structure with a board of directors, ordained ministers, and a community of affiliated covens and individual practitioners. Selena Fox leaves her professional photojournalist job with a national corporation and enters Wiccan ministry full time. Circle's full name as a state-incorporated non-profit religious organization becomes the Church of Circle Wicca, for the next five years, and the name, Circle, becomes the church's tradename. Circle produces its first cassette tape of ritual music. Circle Magick Music contains performances by Jim Alan and Selena Fox of some of the music in their songbook published the previous year. This tape is important in Pagan history not only because it was the first cassette tape album of Wiccan and Pagan ritual music to be widely circulated within Pagan culture, but also because it encouraged other Wiccan and Pagan musicians to share their ritual music with each other and to use the newly emerging cassette tape technology to do this. Circle becomes the first Pagan center with its own television show. The Magic Circle Show, produced by Selena Fox and hosted by Selena Fox and Jim Alan was a weekly hour long show on Cable 4 (now known as WYOU), the community access cable channel in Madison, Wisconsin. It included a variety of programs on holistic health, parapsychology, inner development, Wiccan spirituality, and Pagan culture.

  • 1979: Circle publishes Paganism's first networking sourcebook. This book, the Circle Guide to Wicca and Pagan Resources, by Selena Fox, contains names and addresses of groups and individuals from many paths, plus a bibliography and other information. It stimulates contact and community building within and across geographical areas and traditions of the Wiccan religion and other forms of contemporary Paganism. Circle Network continues to grow in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. Circle's media work becomes national and international. For the first time, Paganism is covered by a major American news magazine. Published on the Religion page in TIME, the article opened with an account and a photo of a handfasting performed by Selena Fox and Jim Alan at the 1979 Pan Pagan Festival and gave an overview of contemporary Paganism. This TIME magazine article generated additional media coverage in the USA and other countries. Selena, Jim, and others connected with Circle are featured in a PBS documentary, People magazine, numerous newspapers and radio programs, a national television newsmagazine show, and other media. Coverage is positive and Paganism becomes even more publicly visible. Circle's land project begins. Evicted from its Sun Prairie farm by a prejudiced landlord, Circle and its staff move to a rented rural home near Ashton, Wisconsin. Circle begins to raise funds and search for land to purchase for its headquarters.

  • 1980: Circle receives federal recognition as a church from the US government. Circle becomes the first Pagan center featured on a national television daily news program. Selena Fox, Jim Alan, and De-Anna Alba discuss Witchcraft and Paganism and Circle's work on NBC's Today Show. Circle Network News expands as a networking tool changing format and becoming a quarterly networking newspaper for Pagans throughout the United States and other countries. Circle moves again to a more rural rented farmhouse near Black Earth, Wisconsin where it stays for the next four years. Selena Fox begins doing weekend training programs at this site. Circle also sponsors festivals and other events here as well as in nearby Madison and other places. Circle begins a new type of Pagan gathering. This gathering, held at the time of Summer Solstice, brings together Pagans from many paths and places. It focuses on animistic communion with Nature, building tribal community and culture across a diversity of traditions and paths. It is held at a secluded privately owned Nature preserve in the forested hills of southwestern Wisconsin. The Pagan Spirit Alliance forms. Selena Fox creates the Alliance to facilitate Pagan friendship connections within Circle Network.

  • 1981: Circle expands its spiritual healing ministry sponsoring not only monthly healing rituals, but also providing spiritual counseling by telephone and face-to-face for Pagans of many traditions across the USA and other countries. Circle begins intertradition Pagan ministers training offering training intensives for Pagans from various paths and groups. Prior to this time, ministerial training within Paganism was primarily done within traditions and groups rather than across traditions. Circle produces a Pagan meditation tape. This tape, "Magical Journeys", by Selena Fox includes a Five Elements meditation and a Wise Woman as Crone inner journey. It is the Wiccan religion's and Pagan culture's first guided meditation tape. International Pagan Spirit Gathering is born. This gathering, also known as PSG, evolves out of the Nature communion and community building gatherings of the previous year. It serves as prototype for a variety of other festivals sponsored by other groups across the USA and elsewhere. To date it continues to be one of Pagan's largest gatherings.

  • 1982: Circle gets its first computer and takes out its first bank loan as a Wiccan church with the purchase of an Apple computer. The computer helps Circle handle the expanding Circle Network mailing list and improve its Pagan networking services.

  • 1983: Circle Sanctuary land manifests. After four years of fund raising and land hunting, land is found in southwestern Wisconsin and purchase begins. Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve becomes the first Pagan land project to be supported by Pagans from many traditions and from Paganism as a whole. Its creation inspires other centers to begin their own land projects. Circle moves its headquarters from its rented farm in Black Earth and rented offices in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin to Circle Sanctuary land. Circle changes its full legal name from Church of Circle Wicca to Circle Sanctuary. At Yule, a Stone Circle is established in an oak and birch grove atop a majestic mound on Circle Sanctuary land.

  • 1984: Circle helps update the US Army Chaplains Handbook. Selena Fox and other Circle staff work with Pentagon personnel in updating the Witchcraft section of the Army Chaplains Handbook. Circle expands staff. Dennis Carpenter leaves his career as a school psychologist and joins the Circle Sanctuary staff and expands Circle's publishing and networking activities. Circle staff appear on Donahue show which becomes the first television talk show in the USA to have a program on Witchcraft and Paganism. Selena Fox, Jim Alan, and Dennis Carpenter of Circle appear along with Margot Adler and Laurie Cabot.

  • 1985: Circle begins sponsoring Pagan youth education activities with a program of workshops, rituals, Nature walks, and other activities for children and teens added to the Pagan Spirit Gathering. Circle's barn becomes main building for Circle's Wiccan/Pagan activities. Part of the barn is remodeled for offices and events. Volunteers from various traditions across the USA work on the project during the Summer. Circle battles federal anti-Witchcraft legislation. Selena Fox and Circle staff help lead the nationwide campaign that defeats the Helms amendment. Designed to take away federal church status from Wiccan churches, this amendment passes the US Senate in late September and is in danger of becoming law. Thousands of Wiccans and other Pagans join with the American Civil Liberties Union and others in expressing opposition to this piece of legislation. A network of Pagan religious freedom activists forms within Circle Network.

  • 1986: School for Priestesses begins. Selena Fox founds and directs School for Priestesses, the first intertradition Pagan/Goddess spirituality priestess institute for women held at Circle Sanctuary during the Summer.

  • 1987: Circle Magic Herbs is created making some of the sacred herbs grown on Circle Sanctuary land available to contributors to the land project. Circle receives Pagan service award - The Silver Salamander Award for "excellence in unity, representation, and educational services to the Pagan community." - presented by Temple Stardust of Tennessee.

  • 1988: Circle wins church zoning for Circle Sanctuary land. After a four year legal battle, all 200 acres of Circle Sanctuary land is zoned for church use. The local town board that has been trying to use zoning laws to stop Circle activities in the area becomes the first local government body in the USA to publicly grant church recognition to a rurally based Witchcraft church and Nature preserve. Circle wins this intensive religious freedom battle with the legal assistance of the Wisconsin Civil Liberties Union and the support of Wiccans and other Pagans from many traditions throughout the USA and other countries. Circle Sanctuary gets public church listing becoming the first Wiccan church to be listed in the worship directory of the Wisconsin State Journal. A new section, entitled Wiccan, is added because of Circle's listing. Circle continues to be one of the few Wiccan churches or Pagan centers anywhere to have public worship and a public presence as an established church/religious center. Circle is represented at interfaith conferences. In June, Selena Fox and Margot Adler represent Goddess spirituality and Paganism at the World Council of Churches International Interfaith Dialogue Conference. This landmark women's conference held at Victoria University in Toronto, Ontario Canada marks the first time that Goddess spirituality/Paganism is represented at an international interfaith conference. In November, Selena Fox represents Circle and Paganism at a Minority Religions interfaith conference at Chicago Theological Seminary and gives a presentation on Wiccan civil liberties concerns.

  • 1989: Circle publishes "Goddess Communion Rituals and Meditations" by Selena Fox.

  • 1990: Circle dedicates the great hall of its remodeled barn as a Pagan Temple space. Circle's networking expands its multicultural and spiritual environmental networking endeavors sponsoring a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve.

  • 1991: Circle helps organize the protest of an anti-Witchcraft television series. Selena Fox and other Pagan religious freedom activists help lead a nationwide campaign against an anti-Witchcraft series being developed by ABC television network for broadcast in the Fall season as a weekly primetime drama. Thousands of Wiccans and other Pagans from throughout the USA and elsewhere join together in Paganism's largest protest action yet. Throughout the Summer, they express their concerns about false stereotyping and the villainizing of Witches, and finally, ABC drops the series. Circle expands its Wiccan/Pagan civil rights networking services and the Lady Liberty League is formed.

  • 1992: Pagan Academic Network develops within Circle Network and becomes Paganism's first intertradition network of Pagan Scholars. It emerges in June during a networking meeting of Pagan scholars and students at the Pagan Spirit Gathering.

  • 1992: Circle publishes the first edition of the "Circle Guide to Pagan Arts". This networking sourcebook is the first work to focus on the arts aspects of Pagan culture. It lists names, address, and descriptions of work and creative process of a variety of writers, musicians, illustrators, and other artists who have contributed artistically to Paganism. Circle wins court protection for Samhain Festival becoming the first Wiccan church to get court protection for a festival. Judges in two counties grant temporary restraining orders to protect Circle's Samhain Festival from intrusion by a televangelist and his followers campaigning against Witches and Paganism in this, the tercentennial year of the Salem trials.

  • 1993: Circle participates in the Parliament of the World's Religions with Circle becoming one of the sponsoring organizations of this international, interfaith Parliament, sending a delegation. It also sponsors a networking booth in the exhibit hall and Selena Fox facilitates an interfaith panel on liturgy.

  • 1994: Circle's co-executive director receives doctorate. Dennis Carpenter graduates with distinction with a Ph.D. in Psychology from Saybrook Institute. His dissertation, "Spiritual Experiences, Life Changes, and Ecological Viewpoints of Contemporary Pagans", receives high acclaim. It enters the professional literature and is available from Circle and from UMI. Circle helps sponsor chaplain training. Selena Fox, as a consultant, collaborates with federal prison chaplains in the creation of a video about the Wiccan religion and Pagan culture for use in diversity training of chaplains. It is presented at a Midwest chaplains conference. Circle networks with Pagan scholars at American Academy of Religion. Selena Fox and Dr. Dennis Carpenter, representing Circle and the Pagan Academic Network, connect with other Pagan scholars at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and host a Pagan scholars networking reception. This develops into a Nature Religions Scholars networking meeting the following year. Circle celebrates its 20th Anniversary of its founding.

  • 1995: Circle's co-executive director receives master's degree. Selena Fox graduates with a M.S. in Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her thesis, "When Goddess is God: Pagans, Recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous", enters the professional literature and is available from Circle and from UMI. Selena presents a paper based on her research to the Religion and Health Care Ethics group of the American Academy of Religion at the Academy's annual conference in November in Philadelphia. Circle completes purchase of Circle Sanctuary land. Circle enters cyberspace with a home page on the Internet and expands its information and networking services.

  • 1996: Circle Sanctuary at first International Pagan Studies conference with Executive Directors, Selena Fox and Dr. Dennis Carpenter, participating in the Nature Religion Today conference sponsored by Lancaster University in England. They do presentations and network with Pagan scholars from across Europe and other parts of the world. Circle Sanctuary expands on-line information and networking by getting a registered domain name and adding articles and other information to its home page on the World Wide Web.

  • 1997: Circle Sanctuary website grows in content and scope. Stephen Kastner begins work on Circle's website. It gets more sections and a new look. It begins winning numerous awards for service and excellence. Circle expands its international Pagan Studies networking In September, Dr. Dennis Carpenter and Selena Fox present papers at an international Pagan Studies conference held at King Alfred's College in Winchester, England. In November, they network with Nature religions scholars at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Francisco. Pagan Spirit Gathering gets new home in Ohio. Pagan Spirit Gathering relocates to Wisteria Campground in southeastern Ohio in order to have more room to grow, as well as to support this land project started by some long time members of the Pagan Spirit Gathering Community. New large group community rituals emerge at this site include sacred mound building and a candlelight labryinth formed by a thousand candles.

  • 1998: CIRCLE Magazine debuts. Circle Network News celebrates its 20th year of continuous publication with a change to magazine format with cover in full color. Circulation and distribution of CIRCLE Magazine expands, as does its content and focus. Pagan Spirit Alliance networking publications and services are incorporated into the expanded scope of CIRCLE as a quarterly magazine and networking resource. Stephen Kastner puts part of CIRCLE Magazine on-line. Circle reformats publications. Archival edition of Circle Magick Songs, Circle's first publication, is published. A new, expanded and completely reformatted edition of Circle Guide to Pagan Groups is published. Lady Liberty League goes on-line. Lady Liberty League reorganizes and expands its on-line presence with its own website which is connected with the main Circle Sanctuary website. Circle festivals expand in scope. Festivals at Circle Sanctuary land grow in size. Several international and national speakers take part in festivals during the year. The Pagan Spirit Gathering gets its own website on the internet. Circle begins process for first Wiccan candidate for US military chaplaincy Circle Sanctuary applies for US Department of Defense Ecclesiastical Endorsing Organization status and presents its Military Support Minister and Wiccan Priest, SilverDrake Fey, as its candidate for consideration of placement as a US military chaplain. Ecclesiastical Endorsing Organizations status is pending as of October 1, 1999. If approved, SilverDrake's application for placement as a military chaplain will be considered by the US Air Force, the branch of the military where he is presently serving as a psychologist.

  • 1999: Circle begins email newsletters. Lady Liberty League News is sent by email to members of the Lady Liberty League network, and issues also are put on-line. Circle News Release emails convey news to Pagan periodicals and networks. As a supplement to the in-print Sanctuary Circles newsletter, the Circle Sanctuary Community email news list emerges. Selena Fox appointed to the Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders In June, Selena Fox is appointed by the Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions to serve on the 200+ member Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. The Assembly, which is comprised of religious leaders from world religions from many countries, meets in connection with the Parliament of the World's Religions, which in 1999 will be held in Cape Town, South Africa in December. Selena becomes the first head of a Wiccan church to become part of the Assembly. Circle Sanctuary upholds religious freedom for Wiccans in the US Military Circle Sanctuary joins with others to counter the national anti-Wiccan campaign by Rep. Barr of Georgia against Wiccans in the US Military. Angie Buchanan, representing CIRCLE magazine and the Lady Liberty League attends a public Town Meeting in Marietta, Georgia as a member of the Press, and questions Barr face-to-face about his agenda. Writings by Selena Fox about the Wiccan religion provided to Armed Forces Service Board chaplains at the Pentagon are published in the Sacred Well Congregation's manual for Wiccans in the US Military. Military Pagan Network holds its annual meeting at the Pagan Spirit Gathering. The Pagan Spirit Gathering Community celebrates the ordination of SilverDrake, Circle's first minister whose service focus includes providing support to Wiccans and other Pagans in the US Military. Circle expands its Ministers training program. The annual ministers training intensive becomes a regular part of activities at the Pagan Spirit Gathering. Year-round training at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve expands. Ordinations are held for Theresa Jones, SilverDrake Fey, Mari Powers, Cygnus, and Kyra. Circle celebrates its 25th Anniversary. At Samhain, members of the Circle staff, Circle Sanctuary Community, and Circle Network join together to celebrate the 25 years of Circle's life and work.

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