(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 26, 2009 — 6 Comments

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

Charles Arthur Roberts, who is serving five years in prison for aggravated assault, is suing the Texas prison system for preventing him from practicing Wicca while incarcerated.

“Roberts alleges in a pro se lawsuit that he made repeated requests practice Wicca to the chaplain and administrators at TDCJ’s Lopez Unit off El Cibolo Road in Edinburg … The 28-year-old Brownsville native claims that prison administrators allow Catholic, Protestant and Moslem services but will not allow him to practice his Wiccan faith. Roberts wrote in his lawsuit that administrators told him they needed a Wiccan volunteer to hold a service for him but that they never attempted to obtain a volunteer. The jailed Wiccan claims he even tried to contact administrators at a state level but never received a reply. “I have been dealing with the defendants for a year to get things for my religion but they have not tried to get anything started, which is a violation of my Constitutional rights,” Roberts wrote in his lawsuit.”

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice won’t comment on the case, but did reveal that three inmates and an outside volunteer are required before they will allow scheduled sessions. If Roberts could not meet the three-inmate threshold, the case could be dismissed if he can’t also prove prison officials blocked attempts to find an outside volunteer or acquire Wiccan religious materials. While many jail-house lawsuits can be frivolous, we shouldn’t forget that according to Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum there is “endemic” discrimination against incarcerated religious minorities.

The Maine Family Policy Council, formerly known as the Christian Civic League of Maine, are back to spreading lies about Rita Moran, Chair of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee, who was one of two openly Pagan delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Not content with first outing her as a Pagan and then stalking her, they are now trying to play the victim by misquoting an interview she did with a Pagan podcast back in 2007.

“In a recently discovered podcast, Rita Moran, Chairwoman of the Kennebec County Democrats, claims she cast a spell on the Administrator of the Christian Civic League, Mike Hein, in response to her outing by the League as a practitioner of the occult … In the podcast, Moran presents herself as a practitioner of an “earth-based” religion, but states she does not wear a pentacle, for the sake of ‘plausible deniability.’ If asked, she tells people she is a practitioner of an ‘earth-based’ religion. During the interview, Moran also expresses a desire to form a national “Pagan Caucus” within the Democratic Party, so that the Democrat Party and paganism can come together in a “positive way.” When asked if Mike Hein suffered any backlash from her outing, she replied that she is certain that there was an occult backlash, based on her casting of an “earth spell” on Hein.”

I happened to have listened to the podcast in question (mp3 link), from the now-defunct Lance and Graal show, and it clearly says that she cast a “mirror” spell (not an “earth” spell, whatever that means). In other words, the only malefic thing Mike Hein may have received spiritually is what he was already dishing out against Moran. It is truly sad that some supposedly moral Christians feel the need to lie, break laws, and harass innocent people to feel superior. One has to wonder if Focus on the Family knows what sort of things this “affiliated” group gets up to in the name of Christ.

Warning! Some minor True Blood second-season spoilers follow! Do you watch the HBO vampire series True Blood? If not, you’re apparently missing out on some hot-and-heavy pagan themes in addition to all the vampire-lovin’ that’s already going on. A character introduced in the current (second) season, Maryann, was revealed to be a maenad, and some Pagans are seriously unhappy with the way things are being portrayed.

“…they could have called her a Maenad and been done with it – I wouldn’t have been thrilled with that, but I expected it. They went WAY too far with this, IMO. They have to bring in Lilith, Isis, Gaia, the Horned God AND Dionysus? To abuse the name of Isis, the favorite name of the Goddess, in that way was particularly offensive to me. The Christian devil imagery is so predictable and cliche – you may be right, the writers need to do some research.”

I’ve heard similar rumblings from other Pagans as well, but I’ll reserve personal judgement for after the season closes, and I’ve seen the episodes. However, if you aren’t spoiler-averse and want a taste of the way things are going, check out this recap of episode ten for some of the Dionysian mayhem currently on display.

Reuters covers the festival of Lurol in Tibet, a time that displays the syncretic mix between Tibetan Buddhism and the animist/shamanic Bon faith.

Dressed in special clothes, his long hair carefully cut and braided, Damtsengbon waits for his spirit, Amyesrmachen, the most sacred mountain god in the region. Other villagers call the spirit’s name while Damtsengbon, who like many Tibetans only goes by one name, enters a trance, twitching and jerking. “I am the third generation to channel this god, so it is not just about me. For three generations the god has manifested himself through us, and even living Buddhas recognize this … I think it’s a way for me to serve my people. It keeps us together and protects us, so it’s an honor to serve them.”

I recommend reading the entirety of this fascinating look into Tibetan religion and culture.

In a final note, be sure and check out presentations from friends-of-this-blog John W. Morehead and Chas Clifton at the recently-held 2009 CENSUR conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Chas Clifton’s presentation, “In the Mists of Avalon: How Contemporary Paganism Dodges the ‘Crisis of History’”, is particularly interesting for those wondering why Wicca and modern Paganism didn’t collapse with the advent of better scholarship.

“Contemplating the crisis—or crises—of history as they affect contemporary Paganism, the Wiccan journalist Margot Alder comments,  “Traditionally, religions with indefensible histories and dogmas cling to them tenaciously. The Craft avoided this through the realization, often unconscious, that its real sources lie in the mind, in art, in creative work.”[31] By relying on the fictive power of books and other creative products to provide a sort of sacred story, the contemporary Pagans described thus step out of history while retaining a modern respect for the historian’s scholarship and thus postponing a collision between historical narrative and mythic past.”

For those interested in the study of new religious movements, you should check out all the “cyberproceedings” available online.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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    Isis is "the favorite name of the Goddess?" Gee, I didn't know this.

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