(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 22, 2009 — 3 Comments

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

Let’s start off with the latest news in the ongoing James A. Ray sweat-lodge death saga. The AP has an interview with one of the survivors, and it isn’t good news for Ray or his lawyers.

“More than 50 followers of spiritual guru James Arthur Ray had just endured five strenuous days of fasting, sleep-deprivation and mind-altering breathing exercises when he led them into a sweat lodge ceremony … When participants exhibited weakness, Ray urged them to push past it and chided those who wanted to leave, she said. “I can’t get her to move. I can’t get her to wake up,” Bunn recalls hearing from two sides of the 415-square-foot sweat lodge. Ray’s response: “Leave her alone, she’ll be dealt with in the next round.” … Looking back, she said it’s easy to see how so many people were overcome. No one was well-hydrated, the sweat lodge was poorly ventilated, no safety tips were provided and appropriate medical care wasn’t available, she said.”

To put it simply, Ray is in big big trouble. Despite that, his spokesman is actually arguing that since some had “amazing experiences,” he shouldn’t be arrested for negligent homicide immediately. Meanwhile, as the faux-Native American spirituality of the ceremony has been confirmed (“he led the group in chants and prayers in a Native American tongue”), American Indians in Arizona are “appalled” by the demeaning commercialization of their rites. Somehow I don’t think Ray will ever be invited back on Oprah again, do you?

Speaking of Oprah, that titan of promoting the New Age flavor-of-the-month will be having a rather unexpected guest on her show in November. That’s right, not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah “blessed by Muthee” Palin will be on Oprah to promote her new book!

“Oprah Winfrey, on a campaign to climb back from last season’s ratings slump, will attempt to kiss and make up with conservative viewers on Nov. 16 when she has Sarah Palin on her syndicated talk show. You may have noticed that the appearance by the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate is happening smack dab in the middle of the November ratings derby. It’s also the day before Palin’s new book, “Going Rogue: An American Life” is scheduled to hit bookstores.”

I guess we’ll finally learn what the world’s most famous New Ager and an infamous politician with deep ties to extremist anti-Pagan forms of Christianity have in common. Maybe they’re both fans of Jenny McCarthy? But seriously folks, I guess this proves that money, fame, and power trump all ideological barriers in the end.

Moving away from Oprah, Palin, and Ray, let’s revisit another story that has been extensively covered on this blog. The legal battles, and subsequent victory, of Santero Jose Merced to practice animal sacrifice in his home. The Dallas Observer checks in with Merced after the legal dust has settled and he’s once more able to perform his rites.

“It’s been nearly three and a half years since he stopped the ritual slaughter of four-legged animals in his home to pursue litigation against the city over his right to do so. With a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in his favor and against the city’s health and safety concerns, Merced, a flight attendant, will resume his full religious practices tonight.”

Merced speaks at length about the struggles with his fellow Santeros/Santeras over issues of secrecy and support, his long battle with neighbors, police, and politicians, and becoming “the face of Santería in North Texas”. It’s engrossing reading, and you should take the time to read the whole thing.

Two years after two Pagans, the Rev. Angie Buchanan, director of Gaia’s Womb, and the Rev. Andras Corban-Arthen, a director of the EarthSpirit Community, were elected to the executive council of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a third joins them. Priestess, author, and attorney, Phyllis Curott.

“…it is my honor and privilege to announce the newest member of the Board of Trustees for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions; Pagan Priestess, Author, Attorney, and dear friend — Ms. Phyllis Curott. This makes the third Pagan to join the largest, oldest and one of the most well respected Interfaith organizations in the world; Myself in 2002, Andras Corban-Arthen, in 2006, and now Phyllis. The current Chair, a Lutheran minister, made the statement that he believed “Paganism to be the most misunderstood religion on the planet”.”

In addition, Buchanan and Corban-Arthen are planning to meet with leaders from the Greek Orthodox Church to create a new understanding after the Greek Orthodox walked out of the 1993 Chicago meeting due to the presense of Pagans. Considering the Greek Orthodox view of the Pagans in their own back yard, we’ll see if this brings any success. Buchanan, Corban-Arthen, and Curott are all planning on attending the December Paliament gathering in Melbourne, Australia along with several other Pagan representatives, including Margot Adler, Thorn Coyle, and Patrick McCollum.

In a final note, the East Bay Express spotlights a new documentary “Power Trip: Theatrically Berkeley” by Emio Tomeoni that explores what happens when various forms of spirituality and ideology mix with local politics.

“These and other scenes in Tomeoni’s new documentary Power Trip: Theatrically Berkeley reveal what happens when matters of the body and soul mix with politics. In the film, which will screen at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley) on Monday, October 26, tree-sitters and other dreamers anguish over pollution, civilization, and human alienation from plant and animal spirits. And their agendas drown each other out.”

Sounds like an excellent study, and I can’t wait to Netflix-it.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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