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Fox, Selena (1949-)

Fox, Selena (1949-)

Selena Fox, Wiccan priestess and founder of Circle Sanctuary, was born on October 20, 1949, in Arlington, Virginia. She was an honors student at the College of William and Mary, from which she received her B.S. in psychology in 1971. She then pursued professional training in clinical and social psychology at several institutions. She was also one of the first persons attracted to the new Pagan Wiccan movement (distinguished by its worship centered upon acknowledgement of a feminine deity) that had been brought to the United States from Great Britain by students of Gerald B. Gardner. Her studies had included a search through a variety of religious options, especially Native American shamanism.

In 1974 Fox founded the Church of Circle Wicca, one of the first Wiccan organizations to receive its federal and state tax exemption. Working with Jim Alan, a Wiccan priest, and a small group of Pagans in Madison, Wisconsin, Fox began a networking effort among Pagans nationally. She and Alan traveled widely and between their music and ritual leadership, they quickly emerged as spokespersons for the highly diffuse movement. In 1977 they founded Circle Network to facilitate international contact among those who professed an Earth-centered spirituality. To assist that contact, Circle began to issue a periodically updated Pagan directory. By the end of the decade, Circle Network News, the church's periodical, had the highest circulation of any Neo-Pagan periodical in the world.

The Pagan movement grew rapidly through the 1970s and by the beginning of the 1980s several national Wiccan fellow-ships had emerged, including the Covenant of the Goddess which provided a home for those Wiccans who were not a part of the older fellowships built around the lineage of priestesses in the Gardnerian or Alexandrian tradition. Fox became aware of two needs within the larger Pagan community and moved to supply them. First, she founded the Pagan Spirit Alliance, an inclusive national fellowship that included not only Wiccans (those Pagans who called themselves Witches) but other Pagans who did not identify themselves as Wiccans. Such Pagans went by a variety of names, from Druid to Asatru to simply Goddess worshippers. Then in 1983, she purchased a farm in rural Wisconsin that included a large wooded area, and dedicated it as a national Pagan retreat area named Circle Sanctuary (the new name adopted by the church). The farm became the residence of a small community and the site of regular rituals, especially the major Pagan festivals which mark the solar cycle approximately every six weeks (at the solstices and equinoxes and halfway between). It also became the location for a round of summer programs, including the annual Pagan Spirit Gathering.

In 1984, Fox and Alan ended their relationship. Two years later Fox married Dennis Carpenter, who now functions as the high priest for Circle. By this time, Circle Sanctuary became the focus of two controversies: one within the Pagan community over the propriety of the community supporting the Sanctuary, which was owned by a private (albeit a nonprofit) corporation; and a more intense one created by neighbors offended by the existence of a center for Witches in their midst. Both controversies were eventually resolved in Fox's favor.

Through the 1990s, Fox established herself as a major spokesperson of Paganism, which she terms Earth-centered spirituality. With her husband, she has worked to end discrimination against Pagans (largely a remnant of anti-Witch propaganda during the late medieval period) and to bring Neo-Paganism into the larger religious community (which includes dispelling the identification of Pagan Goddess worship with Satanism). Her round of activities are chronicled in the pages of Circle Network News.

Sources:

"Selena Fox: Building Bridges of Understanding: An Inter-view." Fireheart (spring/summer 1989): 10-17.

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