A Few Quick Notes

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 10, 2007 — 1 Comment

A slow news day in the Pagan world, but there were a few interesting tidbits I would like to share with you. First off, UU-Blogger Philocrites says everything I could possibly want to say concerning Mitt Romney’s “Faith in America” speech.

“By trying to define “faith” as conservative traditionalism and “pluralism” as a name for monotheistic traditionalism, Romney misrepresented the true diversity of American religion, explicitly dismissed Americans who don’t identify with a religious tradition, and painted the traditions he did mention in a way that celebrates their most traditionalist wings and ignores almost all of their visions for the commonweal. What a disappointment.”

Also of interest is Slacktivist’s analysis of the speech, in which he questions the logic of throwing (non-Mormon) religious outsiders under the bus in order to curry favor with the Christian Right.

“The speech includes some decent stretches, but it was not, primarily, a courageous plea for religious tolerance and mutual respect. It was, instead, primarily an obsequious bit of sucking up by an outsider hoping to curry favor with the in crowd by parroting their condemnation of other outsiders … Romney’s gambit here comes straight from the school yard. As a Mormon, he is an outsider, getting picked on by the bullies of the religious right. Instead of standing up to the bullies, he sucks up to them, trying to prove his loyalty and win their approval by acting like them and picking on the other outcasts and outsiders. ‘You guys want to pretend that ‘secular’ and ‘profane’ are synonyms? I can do that. Look, I’ll even beat up this atheist kid for you. See? I’m just like you guys!’”

Turning from politics to holiday celebrations (a topic that is only slightly less contentious), the expected “winter festivals other than Christmas” stories are starting to pop up. The American Chronicle runs a commentary piece by Saqqara Aleister concerning pre-Christian winter holidays and how they have influenced our present-day festivities.

“So as the Winter Solstice once again is upon planet Earth, look to where your celebration may have come from. Look to others in this time of “Christmas” and see, we are all celebrating the same season. Everyone may not celebrate in the same way but we are all celebrating birth, death and rebirth in our own unique way. A way that our ancient forefathers saw coming thousands of years ago as they huddled in caves watching over their food stores waiting for the snow to melt and the warmth of spring to return. May your observance be merry and happy.”

Meanwhile, The Daily Titan (a college paper for the California State University in Fullerton) interviews a Wiccan about Yule celebrations.

“Tracing its roots back to Scandinavian aboriginals, Yule celebrates the winter solstice. “[It] centers around December 20 to the 23 in the northern hemisphere,” said Paul Levesque, comparative religion professor. This year, it will take place on Dec. 20 and pagans will celebrate the return of the warm sun ahead of the long winter days. “[It's about] showing the unity of creation, light in the darkness,” Levesque said. Yule also reinforces the notion of rebirth during the wintertime and it commemorates the New Year in western and northern traditions of Wicca.”

No doubt an expose on the mysterious “Western” and “Northern” traditions of Wicca will be forthcoming. In addition to these stories, you can find plenty of “pagan roots of Christmas” articles written with different degrees of talent by a variety of columnists hard-up for fresh ideas. They should all take a cue from Tony Sachs at the Huffington Post, who writes an amusing story of how his grade-school tried to solve the religious diversity problem by settling on a common denominator: paganism.

“I can sort of understand, however, why none of us thought twice about what was called “Candlelighting Day” but was really “Freaky Quasi-Druidic Festival.” We were just kids, for cryin’ out loud. Give us a half day of school with an assembly instead of classes and we’d do anything. Celebrate the holidays with a mass wedding presided over by Sun Myung Moon? No problem, as long as it gets me out of algebra. Bite the heads off some Christmas doves with Ozzy Osbourne? Like, sure, whatever. Is it noon yet?”

Ah, the innocence of childhood.

Finally, for the book lovers out there (and you know who you are), Bookslut has a profile of the literary smorgasbord that is the Exhibit Hall of the American Academy of Religion’s yearly meeting.

“Any academic conference’s pedestrian aorta leads right into the Exhibit Hall, a place clogged with publishers’ book booths. Last month, I immersed myself in the clamorous annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) — Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) in San Diego, and thus was able to graze in the mother of all Exhibit Halls. As one of 9,000-plus attendees, I joined other book lovers in walking up one aisle and down the next, refusing to miss a back corner or hidden grotto and thus a possible gem.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally planning on being at the next AAR meeting in Chicago. Pagan scholars, academic papers, and more books than you can shake a stick at. What more could you want?

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • SHARANYA

    Bring a pillow! Most of the presentations are really dry (even some of the ones that use powerpoint to try and shake it up a bit); however, every once in a while there’s a brilliant presenter and it makes the whole session worth having attended.Also, your readers should know that the conference costs about $400-500 for those who are not a member of the Academy.