A few quick news notes to start off your Wednesday.
Problems With Summer Solstice at Stonehenge: Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones lashes out at Pagans and other revelers who congregate each year at Stonehenge, noting the lack of (ancient) historical grounding and implying that it is only permitted now to avoid “public violence.”
“Eighteen thousand pagans, druids and – for all I know – modern Aztecsgathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice. There were some drugs arrests, but judging from reports, English Heritage seem pleased with the numbers. Er, why? And why is this daft festival even allowed? In the 1980s hippies fought the police for their right to revel. So that is why it is permitted: because otherwise there would be public violence on Salisbury Plain. But there is no historical tradition justifying the pagan takeover of Britain’s most celebrated ancient monument every midsummer. There is not even a theological justification, for no connection exists between Stonehenge and modern paganism.”
Jones bemoans Stonehenge becoming “a stage for feeble pseudo-religious, pseudo-communal fantasies,” calling the gatherings “abusive” and “ugly.” I’m not sure why Jones is so against Summer Solstice gatherings at Stonehenge, he doesn’t seem to be arguing from a stance of preservation, simply aesthetics. Anyone who actually studies religion or folk tradition will tell you that a solid grounding in current historical information isn’t required for a popular tradition to form. Allowing the Druids, Pagans, hippies, and tourists to gather in a managed fashion harms no one, and indeed creates important liminal moments of communal sentiment that helps bind a nation and its people together. Stonehenge is a symbol of Britain now, something the national tourism industry knows full well, and it’s bizarre to discourage people from having celebrations around it.
Direct Action at the San Francisco Peaks: While this week saw a lot of attention on the issue of protecting and preserving Native sacred places in the United States, particularly the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, one event seemed to get overlooked in the coverage. Last week six activists were arrested in non-violent direct action in an attempt to halt construction of water pipeline that will be used to pump treated waste-water snow on the mountain, a move many indigenous peoples and Tribal Nations see as a blasphemy.
Kristopher Barney, Dine’ (Navajo) & one of the six who locked himself to an excavator stated, “This is a continuation of years of prayers and resistance. It is our hope that all Indigenous Peoples, and all others, throughout the North, East, South and West come together to offer support to the San Francisco Peaks and help put a stop to Snowbowl’s plan to further destroy and desecrate such a sacred, beautiful and pristine mountain!”
“What part of sacred don’t they understand? Through our actions today, we say enough! The destruction and desecration has to end!” said Marlena Teresa Garcia, 16, a young Diné woman and one of the six who chose to lock down. “The Holy San Francisco Peaks is home, tradition, culture, and a sanctuary to me, and all this is being desecrated by the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort. So now I, as a young Diné woman, stand by Dook’o’osliid’s side taking action to stop cultural genocide. I encourage all indigenous youth to stand against the desecration that is happening on the Holy San Francisco Peaks and all other sacred sites”, said Garcia after being arrested and released.
There are accusations that police used excessive force in removing the protesters. You can read a press release sent out by the activists, as well as suggestions on how you can support their efforts, here. You can read all of my coverage concerning efforts to protect the San Francisco Peaks, here. Thanks to Kathryn Price NicDhàna for bringing this to my attention.
Vodun and Vaccines in Benin: CNN features an editorial from columnist Michael Gerson on efforts to get life-saving vaccines to people who need it in the developing world. In the piece Gerson promotes a new documentary collaboration between ONE and VBS called “Voodoo and Vaccines” about how health workers reached out to Vodun and traditional healers in Benin to overcome skepticism and misinformation.
“Voodoo and Vaccines” shows how government and health officials have reached out to religious leaders, and how many traditional healers are now carrying a pro-vaccination message. They are combining a belief in traditional medicine with an acceptance of modern medicine. And this is benefiting the people of Benin.
This is not the first time activists and health workers have reached out to Vodun healers in order to reach the people of Benin, and it is encouraging to see a politically connected conservative Christian talk about the necessity of involving Vodun practitioners without descending into the smears and triumphalism that so tainted some outreach efforts in Haiti.
That’s all I have for now, perhaps more later. Have a great day!