(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 5, 2008 — 1 Comment

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Donna “Darkwolf” Vos will be meeting the South African Air Force in court over claims that they unfairly dismissed her from chaplaincy work due to her religion.

“I applied (for the SAAF job), got it and worked for two weeks. My focus was to be on HIV and Aids, the problem of Satanism among the youth, and drugs and sex among the youth,” Vos said. She was due to undergo training in military routines in Pretoria, but was first called to a meeting with the official, a colonel. “I was told the meeting with this guy was a formality.” He was initially impressed by her qualifications, Vos said. But the conversation soured when she told him she was a pagan. “He was quite taken aback…I gave him a copy of my book (a guide to paganism in a South African context) and he said, ‘We can’t unleash you on 8 000 men’.” The colonel stopped their interview, Vos said, and promised to contact her within two weeks. But instead of phoning her, she said he sent her an e-mail in which he described paganism as ‘a cult’.”

Vos is hoping her complaint will force the South African military to change their “unconstitutional religious policies”, making it safe for Pagans in the military to be open about their faith. However, one strange twist in the case is that it happened in 2003, she didn’t file her complaint until 2006, and then “left the matter dormant” until 2008 according to the Bellville Equality Court. In fact, the current trial is to see if the Equality Court even has jurisdiction to hear this case, so it remains to be seen if things progress in Vos’s favor.

Art critic Jonathan Jones wonders if today’s spandex-wearing superheroes are equivalent to the gods and heroes of ancient myth.

“Is there any difference between the modern pantheon of superheroes and the myths of the Greeks or the Vikings? The sheer richness and resonance we find in these fabulous beings – the darkness of Batman, the sensitivity of Spiderman, the purity of Superman – resembles the richness of interpretation and portrayal that has made the Greek myths survive into modern times … The point is, these modern myths do resemble true myths – they have taken on the endurance of the great legends, they rival Robin Hood and King Arthur. What does this say about modern culture? Probably that it is far more in touch with its ancient, primal roots that either fans or detractors of modernity tend to admit.”

The “superheroes = gods of ancient myth” meme isn’t a new one. Artists and writers have been mining this territory for some time now. It is an idea that first gestated in the mind of Kirby and subsequently explored by modern comic-writers like Morrison and Moore. The question now is what does that mean? Should we approach these pop-culture figures as distinct entities of power, or see them as the result of a natural polytheism denied? Perhaps both?

To reiterate something I have said before: Witchcraft isn’t a warning sign! Sadly, a glowing piece on Florida’s early-intervention youth centers uncritically peddles the “alternative religion as mental health warning sign” meme.

“The Cookseys’ relationship with Amanda had deteriorated in the two years since they had adopted her at 15. (Her birth mother, already struggling, sustained a brain injury and could not provide adequate care.) The girl was defiant, lying and even dabbling in witchcraft, Ms. Cooksey said. After their fight in February, Amanda ran back to her biological mother’s house. The policeman who picked her up said he could take her home to the Cookseys or to the Capital City shelter.”

This is dangerous. Involvement in Wicca, Paganism, or some other non-Christian faith, shouldn’t be a check-box on some list of bad behavior. For someone who is truly troubled, clinging to Witchcraft or Paganism might be the only empowering thing in an otherwise unmoored life. For older foster kids, their religious individuality could be quashed or seen as illness/bad behavior if they are placed with a Christian household (and the chances of that are quite high). Will we end up with social services that promise stability for troubled youth only so long as they toe a certain religious line?

It looks like the Rev. Rapid Cabot Freeman’s fifteen minutes haven’t quite run out yet. The local Norwich Bulletin seems quite intent on following Freeman after his discrimination claims were marred by his being arrested for harassment.

“Rusty Freeman, also known as the Rev. Rapid Cabot Freeman and the “Witch of Baltic,” entered a not guilty plea Wednesday to a second-degree harassment charge in Norwich Superior Court. Freemen, a Wiccan who hosts a public access show, gained attention recently when he accused the town of Sprague of religious discrimination when he was denied use of a public building to hold a witchcraft demonstration on Halloween. Town officials said they rejected the request based on procedural problems. His arrest by Norwich police was based on allegations that he made repeated unwanted calls to a Norwich woman this summer, according to an arrest warrant affidavit in the case. Freeman told police he was trying to contact the woman to attend his divorce proceedings.”

The drama continues in court on December 31st, bring popcorn.

In a final note, Asatru in Iceland celebrated their country’s sovereignty on Monday by honoring the land’s protective spirits.

“Members of AsatrUarfelagid, a religious association which honors the old Norse gods, celebrated Iceland’s Sovereignty Day on Monday by honoring the country’s protective spirits, the landvaettir as described in Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla. According to Heimskringla, the landvaettir thwart a sorcerer disguised as a whale from swimming ashore and thus prevent him from spying on the Icelandic people for the Danish king. During the ceremony, high chieftain of AsatrUarfelagid Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson said these guardian spirits are still protecting the Icelandic country and nation…”

The ceremony took place in five ritually significant points in the country, one of which burned a picture Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde. The story doesn’t say if this was a measure of protection, or one of antagonism against the politician. Considering the recent fiscal woes there, I can’t think it’s a good sign.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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