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 fellowships
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 NeoPaganism
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.
‘‘Selena Fox Building Bridges of Understanding An Interview.’’
Fireheart (springsummer 1989) 10–17.