Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 27, 2011 — 19 Comments

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

  • The New York Times does a profile of Lady Rhea, “the Witch Queen of New York.” The article focuses on how Lady Rhea doesn’t fit the profile of the fantasy witch, noting that she is “no cartoon witch. She is a no-nonsense Bronx native who drives a Ford Focus and tells it like it is. No black robe and pointy hat here. On Wednesday night, she wore slacks, a sweatshirt and designer glasses and jewelry.” Actually, Lady Rhea’s non-pointy-hat wearing fashion sense is pretty much the norm for most Pagans, and it seems strange that the fact that we don’t dress like Elphaba Thropp is still a story hook to hang a profile on. Still, it’s a positive look at a local figure, and I’m glad the NYT devoted time to doing the story.
  • Remember all my talk about Pope Benedict XVI meeting with Vodun leaders in Benin? Turns out it didn’t happen, at least according to the National Catholic Reporter. Quote: “One might think the trip afforded a chance to open lines of communication with a religious movement that enjoys a vast following, estimated at between 30 million and 60 million people worldwide — comparable to the global footprint of, say, Methodism. Yet Benedict never made any reference to voodoo, and didn’t meet a priest or other exponent. His rhetoric in Ouidah, asserting that Christianity represents a triumph over “occultism and evil spirits,” was taken by some as a swipe.” NCR reporter by John L Allen Jr surmises that the controversy over Pope John Paul II’s 1992 meeting with Vodun leaders made Benedict gun-shy about doing something similar. So much for the “importance of dialogue with practitioners of indigenous African religions.”
  • The Los Angeles Times looks at Pagans and Paganism in the Air Force Academy, focusing on the $80,000 outdoor worship center for “earth-based” and Pagan religions that was recently installed. Quote: “Witches in the Air Force? Chaplain Maj. Darren Duncan, branch chief of cadet faith communities at the academy, sighs. A punch line waiting to happen, and he’s heard all the broom jokes.” It’s a fairly decent story, but I have to say, and maybe I’m biased, but I felt Cara Shulz’s recent story for PNC-Minnesota focusing on the same topic (which was reprinted here) was better.
  • Ritch Duncan, co-author of “The Werewolf’s Guide to Life: A Manual for the Newly Bitten”, writes about the bizarre media panic that ensured after a “Satanic sex ritual” resulted in a man being hospitalized, and his book was listed as being found at the scene. Quote: “Even worse than being misrepresented in the media was how lazy it all seemed to be. If the reporters charged with covering this story actually spent five seconds looking up what the book was about (they certainly had the time to do a Google search and steal an image of the cover), they could have mentioned it was filed under the “humor/parody” section.” The piece is a great look at how moral panics are fueled just by shifts in emphasis.
  • Amanda Marcotte writes an editorial for Reuters on the “increasingly Godless” American future. Quote: “The more that religion can be pushed off into the realm of private practice and out of the public square, the better for public discourse, as we can dispense with the God talk and move on to reality-based discussions about what we want and how we can get it. The Millennials have the right idea when it comes to dismissing the belief that religion somehow improves politics. Now we just have to wait for the religious right to finish with their temper tantrum over this, and then we can move on to the future.”
  • This year the Christmas Tree at the United States Capitol was given a traditional Native American blessing by an elder from the Tuolumne Band of Me-wuk tribe, the first time such a thing has happened. Quote: “It was an amazingly moving ceremony they sang and blessed the tree and blessed the people there on site and blessed our safe journey for the tree.” You can watch a video of the blessing, and the tree being harvested, here.
  • The Guardian looks at the rise and mini-revival of “occult rock,” highlighting Rise Above Records, the return of Black Widow, and Swedish band Ghost.  Quote: “Whether it’s a heartfelt expression of devilish beliefs or simply a good excuse to wear a spooky mask and annoy a few Christians, occult rock can hardly fail to provide a welcome antidote to an increasingly soulless and cynical music world that prizes profit over atmosphere, and perfection over power. Perhaps more importantly, its newest exponents seem to have abandoned shock tactics in favour of a subtle, persuasive approach worthy of Eden’s duplicitous serpent himself.”
  • The Times of India has yet another article about the spread of Wicca in India, this time focusing on Swati Prakash, head of The Global Wicca Tradition. Quote: “In the middle and dark ages, anyone who followed any ancient belief was falsely accused of ‘consorting with the devil’ and was tortured into accepting the new faith. Ironically, you will note that male wizards are always depicted as wise old men in fiction and art throughout history while women witches were shown as cunning and ugly. Clearly, there has been a gender bias in favour of male spiritualists and gurus.”
  • The Associated Press explores American Indian reactions to the James Arthur Ray verdict, with some hoping that it will result in better safety when non-Natives try to appropriate Native ceremonies. Quote:  Bill Bielecki, an attorney representing the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation, said the trial would encourage non-Natives to focus on safety when running sweat lodge ceremonies. “They’re going to look at the facts,’’ said Bielecki, who also was party to the lawsuit, “You don’t use a large sweat lodge, you make sure people can leave and you don’t coerce the occupants into staying beyond their limits or capabilities. If you do that, then you avoid gross negligence.’’ You can see a round-up of my coverage regarding this case, here.
  • Why do Catholics think the worship of Maria Lionza is so popular in Venezuela? Why, “poverty and poor education are contributing factors,” naturally. But they better be careful what they wish for, because isn’t Catholicism’s main growth areas with the very same “people lacking education and social services?” Do I sense a double-standard here? Are the poor and uneducated Catholics actually wise, then?

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    NCR’s coverage of Benedict’s non-meeting with Vodun leaders in Benin reviews fallout from John Paul II’s meeting, which was rumbling in Catholic circles that he was being too accommodating of non-Catholic faiths. But the NCR calls the non-meeting a missed opportunity, which suggests that in Catholic circles a Pope can’t do anything right in this area. Goes with the job, I suppose.

    • AnonGuest

      It’s really pathetic that when certain Catholic circles want to hate on the late JPII that his lack of prompt action and his being too accomodating to those who wouldn’t expose or at least defrock child molesting priests doesn’t come up as first criticism.
      I bet the same circles felt JPII’s actually very nice speech at the Wailing Wall had been also too accomodating.
      It’s nice not being Catholic.

  • It all depends on what one means by “meet with”. There was a “meeting” on Nov. 19 at the presidential palace “with Benin’s president, members of the government, representatives of the diplomatic corps and of the principle religions of the country, gathered at the Presidential Palace in Cotonou.” But this “meeting” appears to have consisted of the Pope reading a prepared statement in French. The statement does not make any explicit reference to Vodun, or even to “traditional religions” or “indigenous religions”, etc. But it does refer to “different ethnic groups and religions”, “various religions”, and even to “non-Christian religions”. The full text of the statement is here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-to-government-and-religious-leaders-in-benin

  • Charles Cosimano

    Even if such a meeting took place, what could they have talked about? There is no equivalency that would give grounds for discussion and, unlike when the last Pope met with the Dalai Lama, when it was two equals taking their hats off and talking shop as it were (“You would not believe what those damned Cardinals have got me into this time!” “Tell me about it, you don’t have my idiot monks to deal with…”) there could not be any of that.

    It would have been a symbolic gesture and it is understandable that this Pope does not want to create that symbol.

    • Man, that sounds like an incredible conversation! Too bad IRL they probably just talked about theology.

  • Amanda Marcotte can dream on.

    A historian of religion whose name is escaping me right now once noted that if India is the most religious nation on earth while Sweden is the least so, then America is a nation of “Indians” governed by an elite of “Swedes.”

    Marcotte is a merely a mouthpiece for that elite.

    Religion has always been huge in American political life — including metaphysical religion — see Catherine Albanese’s A Republic of Mind and Spirit. I doubt that it will change its essence in our lifetimes.

    • I’ve followed Marcotte’s (shared) blog ‘Pandagon’ for some time and found it consistently worthwhile and well-done. Like myself she is an atheist, but mainly covers feminist/women’s rights issues. I would imagine most pagans would share many of her views.

      • Then do what she says: keep your Pagan identity out of the public square and don’t ask for any special treatment — in other words, your religious rights as an American citizen.

        Because Amanda Marcotte knows that all religions lead to fanaticism and violence. It’s an article of faith for her. 😉

  • kenneth

    I’m a little perplexed that there still seems to be some sort of expectation (and then sense of letdown that the pope would EVER engage in serious good faith “dialogue” with pagans of any stripe. There is no precedence in 2,000 years of their history to suggest that they would do so. This pope in particular has dedicated his tenure to returning his organization to the middle ages. For some reason, we still set up this bizarre expectation that this time he will “build a bridge” or something. The RCC is no more likely to engage in real interfaith conversations with pagans than Westboro Baptist is to reach out to the gay community.

    • It should be kept in mind that the Catholics actually have a better record in this regard than the Protestants do. In fact, one of the key issues that led to the so-called “Reformation” was that the Catholic church was perceived as too accommodating toward indigenous European Paganism. In the same way, modern day Protestants tend to view Catholicism as practiced in Latin America and Africa as not genuinely Christian because of the prevalence of “animistic” elements from indigenous cultures. See, for example, Alan Tippett’s work on “submerged animism” in his “Introduction to Missiology” (link). Tippett is not some neo-fascist New Apostolic Reformation wingnut. He is a formally trained anthropologist (PhD U of Oregon) who is closely associated with the Fuller Theological Seminary, which NAR types consider to be an evil liberal abomination.

      • Merofled Ing

        No. Leaving aside if “a better record in this regard than the Protestants” is anything to be happy with, it just isn’t the case.

        The key factors in the Reformations weren’t about European Paganism. Neither the so-called praying to saints nor the trading in all kinds of ‘relics’ nor the selling of “salvation” and “forgiveness for sins” in return for a subscription to Saint Peter’s Dome were Pagan – no, not even the “saints”. Whatever former idea of Pagan Gods or Goddesses might have survived – they had (have) been distorted out of recognition, just look at what happened to “Mary” … but that’s another rant.

        The Catholics accepting elements from indigenous cultures is not ‘reaching out’. It is double dealing: an elitist monotheistic cultured faith to be understood by Ratzinger and the Opus Dei, and colourful toys to keep idiot peasants (Ratzinger’s view, not mine) in line and paying/donating. This ‘tolerance’ of indigenous practice is a missionary tool and incredibly patronizing, and nothing but. They do not credit it with any spiritiually enriching quality.

        I live where Ratzinger grew up and taught. Letting old Catholic women engage in some sort of heathen practice by letting them put some flowers somewhere is a cheap price to pay for their cleaning the chapels in our lovely landscape 365/366 days a year without pay – they even fund the material.
        This church is not our friend. Not even for those among us who are educated (and possibly elitist) and male, let alone for anyone else.

        • Regardless of the intent of Catholics vs. Protestants, the facts are that historically under Catholicism or even Eastern Orthodoxy indigenous/ Pagan traditions, stories, practices etc did persist beyond the coming of Christianity to those places. Whereas the coming of Protestantism usually marked a distinct end or weakening to those kinds of survivals.

          • Those facts speak very loudly. And this pattern persists right down to the present day. In places like Haiti, Mexico, and Benin (to give three examples) where significant non-Christian religious “survivals” persist in a supposedly Christianized population, this is under Catholicism. While for their part, modern day Protestants openly target these populations for a “real” conversion to a form of Christianity devoid of anything remotely resembling “animism”.

      • Mostly because Fuller had the gall to throw out one of the NAR founders, if I recall correctly (its been a few months since I was reading those articles, so I may be misremembering).

        • That sounds like an interesting story! Thanks for the lead. It makes sense that there would be NARites at Fuller since despite their liberal pretensions they are very focused on supporting worldwide missionary activity, which necessarily aligns them with the most regressive, intolerant and “dominionist” elements of Christendom.

  • That’s a very nice blog.Will be referring a lot of friends about this.It’s presented very well.Thanks a lot for sharing.Keep blogging.

  • Been reading articles pro and con on the Air Force Academy in mainstream press. The most common complaint is “$80 large for THREE cadets?” What the articles fail to mention is this outdoor temple can be used by all faiths and also will serve for weddings, child blessings, etc., not just seasonal ceremonies.

  • Anonymous

    Westboro Baptist Church spreads its hate through picketing in our streets, provoking attacks, with abusive language and flag desecration, attempting to create a confrontation. This is not a church, this is a hate group. This is not about protesting, freedom, or God. They are in it for the money and the press; this is a family law firm. They are not a “church.” It is a scam. They go after anything that can get them in the news. This is a family of lawyers using this “god hates you” thing to make money. It is time for this scam and the hate to end.