Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 1, 2013 — 38 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.

Coilhouse Issue #6

Coilhouse Issue #6

  • Excellent alternative culture magazine and blog Coilhouse is shutting down, though the creators are promising that this is a mere hiatus and that Coilhouse will return in some form in the future. Quote: “We can’t tell you what exactly is coming next, or when; we just know we have no intention of quitting. Potential directions that Coilhouse may move in somewhere down the line: books, apps, limited edition print/art objects, video, fashion collaborations. Smaller, more manageable one-shot projects that don’t break our backs. But first, we will have to re-strategize our business and production plans. Nothing is set in stone at the moment because, simply put, we need a break. We need to rest.” For now, they’ve made the six print issues of Coilhouse magazine available as free PDF downloads, a token of affection to fans and supporters. I highly recommend checking them out. 
  • Is the famous Celtic warrior-queen Boudicca buried beneath a McDonalds restaurant? It is rumored to be so. Quote: “Dr Mike Heyworth, the director of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), said that experts are on the hunt for her burial place, at one point rumoured to be near what is now a McDonald’s restaurant in Birmingham, and he wouldn’t be surprised if she was unearthed in the next few years. There are contradictory but persistent tales (with “no element of truth”, according to the Museum of London) that she lies beneath either platform eight, nine or 10 at King’s Cross Station.” The big question is: what happens to her resting place once the bones are found? 
  • No, Easter was not originally the celebration of Ishtar. Let’s all be more critical of Facebook image memes, OK? 
  • At the Huffington Post Grove Harris discusses composting as a Springtime spiritual exercise. Quote: “Composting is in many ways one of the most spiritual of practices. It is the process that will feed the next cycle of life, which will take endings and serve new beginnings. It is powerfully renewing on many levels, and offers deep metaphoric guidance.”
  • Enforced celibacy doesn’t really work all that often, no matter what the religion/ideology is. The country of Bhutan is distributing condoms to Buddhist monasteries to stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Quote: “Warning signs of risky behavior among monks first appeared in 2009, when a report on risks and vulnerabilities of adolescents revealed that monks were engaging in “thigh sex” (in which a man uses another man’s clenched thighs for intercourse), according to the state-owned Kuensel daily.” So remember, use protection, make it available, no matter what the official rules are. 
The Joy of Sexus by Vicki León.

The Joy of Sexus by Vicki León.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Sarsen

    I view the “accidental adept” story as a cautionary tale about appropriation and commodification. Remove the traditional safeguards from a spiritual practice…either by taking it out of its cultural context, or in the name of making it “accessible” (read: marketable)…and you risk screwing people’s lives up. I bet that Tantra teacher is still blithely doing weekend workshops.

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

      I’ll bet that everyone else at the workshop, that is, everyone who had not been deliberately pushing themselves to the point of psychic meltdown, and had probably already reached that point, did just fine.

      Blaming this on tantra is ridiculous – even blaming it on poorly taught “appropriated” tantra is obviously missing the point. This person deliberately played with fire and got burned. Surprise!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

        I thought personally that the author was the one misusing tantra. It’s a spiritual practice, meant to be used with other spiritual techniques and in a spiritual context. She stripped the context and ended up getting burned by the fire she let loose. So basically, I agree with you, Apuleius.

      • Ian O

        I don’t buy this line you folks are taking. Sure, clearly she engaged with it in ways that made this more likely, but that’s part of the point of proper guidance within a tradition, to moderate what people bring. This is a situation where the teacher didn’t know better (partly in ways she should have and partly in ways she couldn’t have) and neither did the students. It’s a learning situation and trying to dodge the lesson with a little casual victim blaming is crap.

        As for the not blaming Tantra…well, that’s just silly. It’s not blaming to observe influence. There is a ton of material around this sort of Tantra in its ‘native’ environment that make a big deal about how dangerous the practice is and how it can be the royal road that breaks you open to transcendence or the road that leaves you just broken.

        Warning labels are kind of important here. I have never dabbled in this because I was lucky to stumble upon a good string of Indic and Tibetan sources that made clear the risks, which I didn’t want to take out of curiosity, We shouldn’t expect everyone to be crawling through comparably obscure yogic literature, though. Honest and public stories like this are good for Tantra and those considering it.

        If you do this sort of Tantra, you play with fire, that’s sort of how it works. The teacher, again, should be the moderating influence on this, making the disastrous less likely. It’s serious business, though, and trying to dust that under the covers by blaming failures on appropriation or commodification or attacking the author’s character like she deserved it, does no real good.

        Commodification, appropriation, the author’s peculiarly personal spiritual work, and Tantra may all have come together to make this possible, and to make sense of that you need to evaluate honestly and not jump ahead to absolve all or some influences ahead of time.

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

          Ian, I’m sure that you have no idea what kind of advice or guidance (or “warning labels”) was given to those who participated in this Tantra workshop. But you are probably correct in guessing that there were no specific warnings given covering the kinds of extreme sado-masochistic rituals that Hardy had been engaging in for the two years leading up to this. That falls under the category of common sense and/or taking responsibility for your own actions.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          For me the most interesting part of Hardy’s article was her claim that others involved in erotic pain practices also seemed to “get” Tantra faster than usual, despite the (reported) antipathy of Tantric professionals to BDSM. It should come as no surprise that there might be more than one path to an altered state; we know from experience in the Pagan community that, for example, quiet contemplation and wild dancing can lead to the same kind of exalted mental state. To either blame Tantra or label Hardy’s practices as abuse is to obscure the fact that each, or the combination, has a notable effect on the human brain. Hardy should be lauded for reporting this without either shame or blame.

      • Sarsen

        I don’t share your sanguine assurance that everyone else was fine. I have heard far too many horror stories, and actually witnessed self-professed “teachers” (often Pagan ones) demonstrate that they either didn’t know how to protect students or ritual participants from possible side effects, or didn’t care to bother.

        I don’t blame Tantra at all. It did exactly what it was designed to do…strip away illusions and false values and ego. That that wasn’t what the author expected, or what the weekend workshop teacher probably advertised, is…somebody’s fault. But good ol’ Tantra just did what it does. Effectively.

        I think the author is exactly right when she says she chose this. I don’t even think it’s a bad thing, though perhaps a bit unnecessarily rough. But while I think people who buy them are foolish, I think people who sell $500 workshops based on cherry-picked spiritual practices and tell people it will make them groovy and sexy and “enlightened” but don’t warn them that if it works at all it’s likely to make their lives very very chaotic and uncomfortable in the process are liars.

      • Sarsen

        It is also worth reiterating that the workshop teacher pushed the author to rejoin the group and continue, to her detriment. The teacher either didn’t recognize what was happening, didn’t know how to respond to it, and/or had no backup plan for what to do when one member of your group needs serious attention and the rest are ready to move on.

  • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

    Wow. Ishtar and Easter? Really? (No one mentioned this, but I’m fairly certain it’s not pronounced Easter at all. That is a distinct sh sound, usually in scholarly work written with the s with the triangle over it). History education sucks something awful these days.

    They should send the bones of Boudicca to Wales if she’s found. It wouldn’t be her geographic home, but it would be as close to a cultural home as could be found. I doubt they will though.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Or they should just let them lie.

      More likely, they will either end up with a ‘decent, Christian burial’ or in a museum.

      • Nick Ritter

        Better yet, if her bones are there, tear down the McDonald’s and set up a memorial (and possibly a shrine).

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          That will never happen, I can assure you. McDonald’s is valued far more highly by the average Briton than a British hero(ine).

          • Nick Ritter

            I believe you, and that’s tragic.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            We have a wonderful collection of countries over here.

            …It’s just a shame about the people.

  • Uloboridae

    “There are contradictory
    but persistent tales (with “no element of truth”, according to the
    Museum of London) that she lies beneath either platform eight, nine or
    10 at King’s Cross Station.”

    Tut tut, you’re forgetting the most important platform of all: 9 3/4.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Due to government cuts, that platform is no longer operational.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

      Lol! I was thinking the same thing when I read it.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Here’s some news that might be of interest to some:

    ‘Gate to hell’ in Turkey unearthed by Italian archaeologists

    “Italian archaeologists have unearthed the remnants of an ancient ‘mythological’ cave in Turkey, which is supposed to be the ‘gate to hell’ releasing deadly carbon fumes. The ‘gate to hell’, discovered in Turkey, is referred to as Pluto’s Gate. The ancient Turkish cave was commemorated in Greco-Roman mythology and traditions as the doorway to
    the ‘underworld.’”


    • Nick Ritter

      I will add that to the ongoing list of known sites with mythological or religious import to Pagans. Thanks!

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Not a problem.

  • cernowain greenman

    I always thought that the word “Easter” was based on “Esther” whose celebration of Purim usually occurs in March. Esther’s name means “morning star” in the Persian, and the source of her name could very much have come from Babylonian influence. I think this is more likely than Easter coming from Ostara whose attestation is limited.

    I would add, though, that these are all conjectures, and there is no unbroken line of evidence. And like Jason notes, it doesn’t change a lick of the belief of Christians in Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, these ideas could be used as bridges between our faiths to promote tolerance and more peaceful coexistence.

    • Nick Ritter

      ” I think this is more likely than Easter coming from Ostara whose attestation is limited.”

      I’ll have to disagree with that on linguistic grounds. First, I’m afraid you have it kind of the wrong way around: the name “Easter” does not come from the name “Ôstara” at all, and no one (among the scholars looking at this) is claiming that it does. “Easter” does very certainly come from Anglo-Saxon “Éastre” (or “Éostre” in Bede’s Northumbrian dialect): the sound changes from the Anglo-Saxon word to the modern English word are all very regular.

      The word “Ôstara” on the other hand, is both Old High German and Old Saxon. This word becomes the modern German word for the holiday, “Oster”. Again, the sound-changes are very regular.

      In addition, both the Anglo-Saxon and Old High German/Old Saxon names point to an earlier name *Aust(a)rô, which would have been either early West Germanic, or Proto-Germanic. This name is etymologically connected (through the Proto-Indo-European root *aus-, meaning “to shine”) to the names of other deities associated with the dawn in other Indo-European languages, for instance: Greek Eos, Latin Aurora, Vedic Sanskrit Usas, Lithuanian Ausrine, and Latvian Ausra.

      In short, the linguistic evidence strongly shows the connection between the holiday name “Easter” and the name of an attested Anglo-Saxon goddess, who it seems was also known among Continental Germanic peoples, and who has both functional and etymological connections to dawn goddesses in other Indo-European cultures.

      • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

        I’ve been wondering if Finnish aurinko ‘Sun’ comes from this root, but everywhere I’ve looked for an etymology on the word it just states unknown. The more typical word in Finnic languages for the sun/day is related to päivä (compare Estonian päev, Saami beaivi etc).

        • Nick Ritter

          It would be interesting if it did, because of all the reflexes of that root that I find, only the Latin reflexes exhibit rhotacism (s > r), both in ‘Aurora’ and in ‘aurum’ (“gold”) which comes from the same root. There were early Iranian loans into Finno-Ugric, but those don’t exhibit rhotacism (Avestan ‘usha-‘ “dawn”).

          Or maybe it’s a Baltic loan from something like the Lithuanian ‘Ausrine,’ with simplification of the /sr/ cluster to a simple /r/? Something like how German “Strand” as a loanword into Finnish becomes “ranta”? You’d know better than I how likely or unlikely that would be.

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            My thinking went very much along the same lines, noting that there seemed to be the most similarity with the Latin and the fact that if the Finnish did come from the PIE root would require a similar rhotacism. My next thought was also to look to the Iranian, Baltic and Slavic words from the same root. As you say, Iranian usha seems unlikely, as does Russian utro; the Baltic does seems promising, but I guess it would require looking at other definite Baltic loan words and seeing if any exhibit similar changes.

      • cernowain greenman

        The Bede is the only source that cites this, and he is not always reliable. And I am unaware of any other evidence, especially any archeological, that Eostre was worshiped elsewhere nor was widespread.

        And as I stated above, linguistic links, as you cite, are pure conjectures. There are lots of examples of common sounding words in different languages with no connections whatsoever. In other words, the Robert Graves approach to linking words based on similarity has been shown to have been full of holes in current linguistic studies.

        • Nick Ritter

          “The Bede is the only source that cites this, and he is not always reliable.”

          Where is he unreliable? The argument concerning Bede’s mention of Éostre usually revolves around a central question: why would a church father, whose life was dedicated to quashing indigenous Anglo-Saxon religion in favor of Christianity, make up a goddess? In general, as with another goddess that Bede mentions (Hréðe), it seems like he says just enough to make someone understand that the month (Hréðmónaþ for Hréðe, Éosturmónaþ for Éostre) has something to do with a goddess, and that he knows more than he is letting on, and that he would rather not say anything about pagan beliefs at all if he didn’t have to because of the nature of his subject. Again, why would he make it up?

          “And I am unaware of any other evidence, especially any archeological, that Eostre was worshiped elsewhere nor was widespread.”

          Archaeological evidence isn’t necessarily more or less convincing than textual evidence, but yes: it would be nice to have some. There is a book entitled “Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda, and the Cult of Matrons”, written in 2011 by Philip Shaw. I have not read the book, but a review of it does mention linguistic, folkloric and onomastic evidence for a relatively wider spread for the cult of Éastre/Ôstara.

          “And as I stated above, linguistic links, as you cite, are pure conjectures.”

          Are you saying that diachronic linguistics is not a science? I think that would come as quite a shock to many people in the field. Are you familiar with this field at all, or are you perhaps taking potshots at something that looks like “pure conjecture” because you don’t understand the principles? As a show of good faith, here is the source for the linguistic connections I made in my last post: “The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World” by J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams, pp. 300 & 301 (for a discussion of words for ‘dawn’), pp. 409 & 432 (for a discussion of Indo-European goddesses of the dawn); this book was published in 2006, so it’s rather current as these things go. I could also cite another Oxford publication: “Indo-European Poetry and Myth” (particularly Ch. 5 “Sun and Daughter”) by M.L. West, published in 2007.

          In short, I’m not making this stuff up: I’m repeating the state of the linguistic (and comparative mythological) research as it stands now.

          “There are lots of examples of common sounding words in different languages with no connections whatsoever.”

          Like “Easter,” “Ishtar,” and “Esther,” for instance?

          “In other words, the Robert Graves approach to linking words based on similarity has been shown to have been full of holes in current linguistic studies.”

          Which is precisely why I’m trying to interject some actual scholarly research into the conversation. I apologize if that research doesn’t vindicate your theory of connections between “Easter” and “Esther”.

          I hope I’m not coming across too harshly, but this is one area of study in which I know what I’m talking about. What I have put forth is not a pet theory of mine: it has been developed and backed by a number of scholars, and I think that it holds water, both linguistically and in terms of comparative mythology. If you have information that would wreck the theory, then by all means lay it on me.

          • cernowain greenman

            Nick, my friend, you have put forth a very impressive argument. Thank you for your insights.

          • Nick Ritter

            Glad to help.

          • cernowain greenman

            I am glad we can agree to disagree. I personally choose to put more weight on archeological evidence and less on the linguistic.

            blessed be.

          • Nick Ritter

            “I personally choose to put more weight on archeological evidence and less on the linguistic.”

            I understand the impetus to do that, since archaeological evidence seems “harder” and less prone to interpretative error than linguistic or textual evidence. The fact remains though, that especially when dealing with non-literate cultures (which pre-Christian Germanic cultures largely were), the interpretation of archaeological finds is heavily dependent on textual and linguistic evidence. This means that, even if we were to find a cult-image of Ôstara on the continent, we wouldn’t know what it was without interpreting it through Bede (and possibly some of the other linguistic and folkloric data that Shaw discusses).

            It must also be admitted that the discovery of an archaeological site is largely accidental, as is the preservation of whatever happens to be found at that archaeological site. In other words, we may not have found archaeological evidence that would show the wider spread of a cult of Éastre/Ôstara, not because it doesn’t exist, but simply because we haven’t looked in the right places, or we are not correctly interpreting what evidence we do have, or the evidence was there but has disappeared through time.

            Pre-Christian religions left traces in and on the ground (which we recover through archaeology), and in language (linguistics), in the names of people and places (onomastics, toponymy) and in the cultural memory of people (folklore studies). Each of these different kinds of data have their own advantages and problems, which need to be recognized when making interpretations; my approach is to use all of the data possible from a multitude of scholarly disciplines, to get as full of a picture as possible. Any approach can (and often does) provide crucial insights.

            Good discussion!

          • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            …why would he make it up?

            That’s a good question. On the other hand the Feast of St. Valentine was removed from the list of Catholic High Feasts in 1969 with this reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to
            particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of
            Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on
            February 14.” Now, there are plenty of consistent variants of folk histories of St. Valentine, but that’s no longer enough for the church to acknowledge as worthy of a high feast. The question, to me, isn’t so much “why would he make it up?” but more “why is folklore alone enough to go on?” or rather “why is there no more than folklore, at this point?” Just doing a cursory search on-line, I agree, it *is* curious that other events in the AS calendar would reference goddesses, yet “Eostre” would just be something concocted by Bede –which would mean that the Anglo-Saxons were time-travellers, but with only Bede to go on, one has to admit that it just looks weird.

        • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

          Hey man, everybody knows “Genesis = Genes of Isis“. LOL

      • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

        To be fair, you’ve only really provided evidence for a linguistic link between “Easter” and other goddesses; saying that this is a direct connection to a specific Anglo-Saxon goddess is speculative, at best.

        • Nick Ritter

          I’m not sure I understand your point. Bede mentions that “Éosturmónaþ”, the fourth month of the Anglo-Saxon calendar, was named after the Anglo-Saxon goddess Éostre (these are the forms in the Northumbrian dialect: in the Early West Saxon dialect that is often employed as the standard in scholarly circles, they would be “Éastermónaþ” and “Éastre”).

          “Éastre” (often in the plural “Éastron”, according to the Clark-Hall Anglo-Saxon dictionary) was the term used by Christian Anglo-Saxons for the Paschal celebrations, i.e. what modern English Christians call “Easter”; it was also a word used for “spring” in a general sense.

          Anglo-Saxon “Éastre” becomes Middle English “Éster” which becomes modern English “Easter”. The link is pretty solid, and not speculative at all.

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

    The item “The perils of becoming an accidental Tantric adept” would be much more accurately titled as “The perils of intentionally tapping into both personal and cultural histories of trauma and abuse, as well as intense, prolonged experiences of bondage and pain and extreme, exaggerated spiritual openness over a period of approximately
    two years.”

    The important thing, and this really is important, is that the story has nothing, absolutely nothing whatsoever, to do with any supposed “perils” involved in studying Tantra. If anything, the author is probably lucky that the accumulated damage that she had (intentionally, not “accidentally”) done to herself for the previous two-years came to a head in a caring, structured, spiritual setting surrounded by people who were able to see her safely (or as safely as possible) through the violent eruption of her psychic/spiritual crisis. If it had happened while she was walking down the street one fine day, she might have ended up in a padded cell, and might very well still be there.

  • kittylu

    One more link you guys should put up- pagan nyc council member Dan Halloran arrested by the FBI. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/malcolm-smith-daniel-halloran-fbi-nyc-mayor_n_2999299.html?utm_hp_ref=new-york

  • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

    If “Easter /= Ishtar”, then you’re saying that “Genesis /= Genes of Isis“, and you are SHATTERING MY LITTLE MIND!!!