The Passing of a Celtic Scholar and other Pagan News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 25, 2010 — 5 Comments

Top Story: The Irish Times reports that Barry Raftery, emeritus professor of archaeology at UCD, and one of Ireland’s leading Celtic scholars, has passed away after a long illness.

“Professor Barry Raftery (Professor Emeritus, Archaeology, University College Dublin) died peacefully at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin on Sunday August 22, 2010. Professor Raftery retired as Professor of Celtic Archaeology in the UCD School of Archaeology at the end of August 2007 after a long and internationally distinguished career. As a former student wrote in appreciation, Barry was an inspired teacher and communicator, always encouraging colleagues and students in developing their research and careers. His work and humanity will ensure that he will be always remembered and treasured.”

Raftery was probably best known to many Celtic-oriented Pagans as the author of “Pagan Celtic Ireland: The Enigma of the Irish Iron Age”, a tome that has been recommended in various contexts within Celtic Reconstructionism and modern Druidry. While Raftery was not a Pagan, and almost certainly didn’t write his works with reviving Celtic forms of pre-Christian religion in mind, I’m sure there are many Pagans who are raising a glass in honor of his work.

Who Was That Atheist? After shocking the town of Marion, Illinois by threating them with a lawsuit if they approve a Ten Commandments monument without also opening it up to a Wiccan display, The Southern digs into the history of atheist activist Rob Sherman.

In 1986, Sherman started his first legal battle against the mixing of government and religion, as he challenged the mayor and city of Zion, located near the Wisconsin border, on the inclusion of religious symbols on municipal logos, material and property. His efforts were successful and landed his name on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, on the city’s 10 o’clock newscasts and on national television talk shows, including those of Oprah Winfrey, Phil Donahue and Larry King. He said he took up the mantle of promoting his cause across the state and nation simply because no one else was doing so. “I’m the only one doing it. Most people suffer from poultry syndrome, so they don’t take on these cases. They’re chicken.”

It remains to be seen if there will be a Constitutional showdown in Marion. The city council may decide to indefinitely table the decision on whether to accept the offer of the Christian monument on public lands rather than risk expensive litigation. However, if legal action does progress, with a Wiccan caught in the middle, I’d like to find some on-the-ground sources living in or near Marion that can clue me in to local Pagan attitudes towards this situation.

Is Haiti’s Government Shutting Out the Diaspora? This past Friday Haiti ruled that hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean was ineligible to run for president, most likely stemming from residency requirements. While Jean initially said he’d respect the decision of the Provisional Electoral Council, he now accuses the government body of “trickery”, and implies that there’s an effort to shut out candidates from the Haitian diaspora.

“Jean told VOA he is appealing to Haiti’s government to address a number of concerns about the approval process used by election officials, who authorized 19 candidates for the presidential vote. He said candidates who have lived outside Haiti were mostly excluded by the provisional electoral council, or CEP. “It looked like every other candidate that was out was a diaspora candidate and that is a form of prejudice on the CEP’s part,” he said. As part of his election campaign, Jean had hoped to reform the relationship between Haiti and the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have fled the country. He said, if elected, he hoped to change the constitution to remove a ban on dual citizenship, and offer many Haitians abroad a chance to vote in elections.”

Among the other candidates that were rejected are Jean’s uncle, Raymond Joseph, the former ambassador to the United States. Both say they will challenge the ruling, though the government says there is no appeal to the CEP’s decision. Some are saying a political crisis could emerge over this decision. Meanwhile others, like political activist and Vodou practitioner Ezili Danto, say this media circus is all a distraction from larger political games being played out behind the scenes. Both Danto and Lewis G. Parker argue that Wyclef, even if he could run, would be a problematic figure to lead the country. As for the Haitian diaspora, would it be beneficial to allow dual citizenship and voting rights? In what direction would it steer the country?

More Visionary Folk from the Electric Eden: The Observer has a profile of author Rob Young and his new book “Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music”, which explores the mythic history of folk music in the UK, starting with its revival at the hands of Cecil Sharp.

“Sharp met hundreds of what he called “the common people”, who sang songs to him that had been passed down to them through the generations, songs that retained their mystery and power even though the events that inspired them – anything from a good harvest to the murder of an infant – had long since passed into myth. The songs were, in fact, the transmitters of those myths, evoking an older, predominantly agrarian England that increasingly existed only in memory.

What happens to that mystery and power, though, when a folk song is “put into an evening dress”? That is one of many complex questions that resounds through Electric Eden, a book that, for the most part, is a surefooted guide to the various tangled paths the English folk song has since been taken down by classicists, collectors, revivalists, iconoclasts, pagans, psychedelic visionaries, punks and purists.”

I’d just like to say that I’m very, very excited to read this book (now if it would just get a release date in the US). I predict it will become a must-own for those tracking the birth of modern Pagan music, which I feel also began with Sharp, and then bred with the very folklorists that helped launch Wicca into the spotlight. For more on this, and two other promising books dealing with music, please check out my post from last month.

An Unforeseen Upside to the Mosque Debate? Over at The Moderate Voice Kathy Gill, inspired by the rancor of the “ground zero mosque” debate, starts to approach the question of who exactly profits from the dominance of monotheism.

“If politics is both “a system used to allocate those things which are important to society” and “the authoritative allocation of value,” then religion plays an incredibly large role in politics because religion is the basis, the foundation, of most people’s value judgments. And the differences between political parties in the United States are reflected in values: this is good, that is bad (distribution of charity – church, state or other means); this is right, that is wrong (abortion, death penalty, who is taxed and how). When investigating murder or other nefarious deeds, the first question is this: who benefits? So what is the role of monotheism in our modern society? Who benefits?

Gill quotes Jonathan Kirsch’s “God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism” in her piece, which comes to some uncomfortable conclusions regarding the benefits of monotheism. One wonders how many modern polytheists once asked the questions that Gill now poses.

That’s all I have for now, but before I go I just wanted to quickly link to two more Pagan perspectives on the Park51 community center and mosque that I overlooked in yesterday’s post. “The Mosque, the Mirror, this Moment…” by T. Thorn Coyle, and “Why The New York Mosque Debate matters to Pagans” by Ed Hubbard. Both are worth checking out.

Have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • TeNosce

    Oh my Gods, I just realized that religion is stupid! *** Tenosce turns off his computer and goes outside ***

  • http://castwidethecircle.blogspot.com/ Joe

    I am torn. I really like what you said but you have wandered very close to Goodwin's Law.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

      Godwin's Law is a load of crap. Glenn Beck is clearly a proto-fascist demagogue.

  • http://castwidethecircle.blogspot.com/ Joe

    Merely a joke.

    • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

      Thank you Jason for mentioning my Blog, I truly appreciate it.