Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 15, 2013 — 17 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.

Daniel LaPlante. Photo: The Boston Herald.

Daniel LaPlante. Photo: The Boston Herald.

  • A new documentary, The Art of Disappearing, tells the story of Haitian Voodoo priest Amon Fremon, who visited the People’s Republic of Poland in 1980. Quote: “What I did learn from the brief research I did on him, is that he believed that he was a descendant of Polish soldiers who were abandoned in Haiti, after the Haitian Revolution. They intermarried with Haitians, and may have established themselves at a settlement in Casales. And although they probably practiced Catholicism in the early days, some would later become practioners of Voodoo.” Sounds interesting!
  • The definition of who’s an Indian in the United States is causing some heartache (and fiscal strain) as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act rolls out. Quote: “The definition of “Indian” in the section of the law that deals with the insurance exemption appears to be the same as the one in 25 USC § 450b. That means only members of federally recognized tribes and shareholders in Alaska Native regional or village corporations are considered “Indian.” But that definition is narrower than the one found in the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which was made permanent by the ACA. For example, California Indians with allotments have long been considered eligible for IHS care.” A hearing is scheduled to address these concerns.
  • Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll is becoming this generation’s Pat Robertson. Quote: “He’s been heavily criticized by Christian voices across the spectrum, and according to reports, several attendees at the Catalyst Conference in Dallaswalked out during his talk. He’s even being marginalized by some Reformed Christians (i.e. Calvinists) who precipitated his rise to prominence. “I’m not a Mark Driscoll kind of Calvinist,” some have remarked to me.” There’s good money in being a divisive lightning rod if you can withstand the weather.
  • StudioCanal has initiated a worldwide search for long-missing footage from the 1973 cult-classic film “The Wicker Man.” Quote: “Director Robin Hardy has endorsed a worldwide appeal launched by StudioCanal to locate original film materials relating to cult horror classic The Wicker Man. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the film about a policeman (Edward Woodward) sent to a remote island village in search of a missing girl, whom the townsfolk claim never existed. It also stars Christopher Lee. StudioCanal intends to mark the occasion by releasing the ‘most complete version of the film possible’.” There’s a special Facebook page created for the hunt. There have been a number of attempts to get at the “original” directors cut, with an “extended” version released in 2001 (and later packed in a deluxe box set). I’d love to see a high-quality restored director’s cut. 
  • “Evil spiritual entities” is not a real diagnosis. There’s no evidence base. 
  • Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon) is protesting plans to display human remains at the Stonehenge visitors center in England. Quote: “This is out of step with the feelings of many of the people and groups I represent, who would rather the ancient dead were reburied and left to rest in peace and, where appropriate, samples kept for research and copies put on display […]  We shall not take this development lightly and will oppose any such intention by English Heritage at Stonehenge. I cannot rule out non-violent direct action against the proposals.” As I’ve noted before on this site, there is no consensus among British Pagans on this issue, with many, most notably Pagans for Archeology, opposed to the reburial of ancient human remains. Read more about King Arthur, here.

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


  • Holy f*ck, that Wicker Man story is so exciting! Yet all I can think about is….delicious cake (hangs head).

    • harmonyfb

      Yet all I can think about is….delicious cake (hangs head).

      This article is why I had cake for breakfast the other day. (Though not oddly specific Wiccan ritual cake. I must have missed the part of my religion where I was required to have chocolate cake on certain days.)

  • Katharine Hawk

    Definitely excited about Wicker Man.

    And wow, that poor girl in the ‘evil spiritual entities’ story. That reads like a horror movie.

  • Wait…you guys have cake? Why wasn’t I told about this?

  • It’s important to remember that Candida Moss is herself a Christian and shows no evidence of having any great understanding of Paganism (ancient, modern, or otherwise). She is also now in danger of making herself look like a lousy historian with her anachronistic and completely inaccurate statement about “rights” in connection with religious freedom in Pagan Rome. It is simply untrue to claim that “this is a world where religious freedom isn’t a right; it just doesn’t exist as a concept yet.” In fact, it is not just wrong, it is downright Orwellian.

    What the ancient Pagan world lacked was not a concept of religious “rights” of individuals with respect to the state, but rather any concept about the state systematically denying religious freedom in the first place. In fact, one of the biggest problems faced by the early Christian emperors was that there was no precedent for the state to dictate what people should do or believe in the realm of religion. Not only was there no legal precedent, there was no psychological precedent. The idea simply had not existed before. There were isolated and strictly limited cases in which the state did feel compelled to act against certain religious groups that were seen, rightly or wrongly, to be social and/or political threats. But these anomalous cases never reached the level of anything like “persecution”, and that, by the way, is supposed to be Candida Moss’ (one and only) claim to fame, namely that she “explodes the myth” that early Christians were persecuted.

    Very few religious groups were ever singled out for any kind of legal scrutiny, and Christians were among these. But if, as Moss argues, Christians were never “persecuted”, well then, neither was anyone else. In other words, according to Moss’ own thesis, the Pagan Roman world was devoid of systematic state intervention to deprive people of their right to freedom of religion.

    Religious freedom is only a theory in modern western society, due to the continued dominance of Christianity. But in the ancient Pagan world religious freedom was a “fact on the ground”. Every day was a holy day for a different Goddess or God. Pagan Rome served as a conduit for the spread of every conceivable variety of religious cult (including Judaism and Christianity) from one end of the known world to the other. And while this was going on, “foreign” religions became ever more popular in Rome itself, while there was very little, if any, exportation of “Roman religion” elsewhere (in fact, when Romans did “export” a cult, it was invariably one of the “foreign” cults that they were so fond of at home).

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      The Romans did have rather a significant beef with the Druids of Britain, must be said.

      Same issue they had with the Christians, though. Little concern about the religion, but lots of concern about political subversion.

    • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

      I’m sorry, I must disagree. I haven’t read that particular book yet, but I’ve seen some of Moss’s work, calling her a lousy historian is a VERY large overreach.

      Rome did not respect “religious rights” in a modern sense. They simply didn’t care. If you supported the state, you could worship how you want. It was their hegemony they were concerned with, not faith. In some instances, that hegemony tied in with religion, but the only faiths they ever took issue legally with, were Christians and the Druids. Both of those served as secular points of resistance to the state, their religious content was nearly irrelevant comparatively.

      I’d take issue with some of the rest of what you wrote as well. What is carting off your opponents Gods if not partially a show of supremacy? The State is denying, in that case, not an explicit right of worship, but the right to worship on their own terms. Yet this practice was extremely common in ancient Mesopotamia.

      I don’t see your issue with Moss, other than that she is a Christian. Her understanding of Roman society seems quite strong, based on my experience with Roman specific historians in the past. She actively works to remove the “persecution narrative” common to modern Christianity through fact.

      • I can only feel pity for those who are more interested in trashing the Romans and repeating the lies of the Christians than they are in actual historical truth. The Roman Empire was a paragon of religious tolerance the likes of which the western world has never seen since, and will not see again until there is once again no such thing as a “dominant” or even a “majority” religion. Voltaire said it best: when there are 2 or 3 or 4 religions then they are at each others’ throats, but when there are 20 or 30 or 40 religions then they live in peace with each other. No one even knows how to count how many religions there were in the Roman world, because people did not even think in terms of “different” religions, but only in terms of different ways of honoring the Gods.

        • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

          Trashing the Romans? They were a pretty nasty lot. There is little trashing going on. They were a brutal and efficient people, at least the governing classes. They knew it, and we know it.

          Hah! Tolerance? To a certain degree, only in that the Romans considered others so beneath them it wasn’t worth worrying about. Romans were horrible supremacists. They could learn to respect others, but it was Rome above all else. Calling them tolerant, in any modern sense of the word, is a joke. There was a “dominant” religion, and that was the Roman state. If you bowed on that altar, they could care less what Gods you kept.

          Live in peace? That is not true and you know it. Monotheism did not usher in religious violence, it simply institutionalized it. It had already existed.

          Your view of Roman history is hopelessly biased. Rome was not going out to persecute religions like later polities. But their “tolerance” was that of a slave master. As long as the job was done the workings of the slaves mattered little.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          The Menai Massacre is a Christian lie?

          As someone who has lived in Britain their entire life, I tend not to see the Romans as a particularly nice bunch. They came to conquer and enslave. Religion had nothing to do with it.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    You didn’t know about the cake? I thought everyone knew about the cake.

    Concerning weddings in England and Wales… It’s a tricky one, since all that seems to be getting asked is the ability to hold non religious weddings (a civil ceremony) anywhere, rather than at licensed venues.

    I must confess, the whole ‘respect vs archaeology’ thing causes me some confusion.
    On the one hand, I have to wonder how long a body should be left before it ceases to be a corpse and becomes archaeology. On the other, we learn so much from digging up ancient bones.

  • Lori F – MN

    I have never understood why a ceremony is ‘required’ for a marriage. Once the license is purchased and filed, aren’t you married?

    If a license requires witnesses of the signatures and an official, in most cases, the clerk at the license office can sign. So again, why ceremonies? Why should it matter where the ceremony takes place and who leads/officiates.

    I suppose most people have a ceremony because of tradition and family expectation.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Any excuse for a party, I think.

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    As for the article about allowing Pagans and what not to marry people, I posted this response. Since when should the people of one religion be allowed to have any say so over people of another religion being able to marry people? Nor should the government give any privilege to one religion that it does not give to all religion. It is far past time for government to stop meddling in religion, any religion. Religions should not need government permission to marry people.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      You are aware that, on a technical level, the United Kingdom is a theocratic state, right?

      The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II.
      The Supreme Governor of the Church of England is Queen Elizabeth II.
      The upper house of Parliament (the Lords) contains the Lords Spiritual – 26 bishops of the Church of England. (The upper house is not elected by the public, so it goes without saying that they are awarded their seats, rather than attaining them through democratic means.)

      To say that the government should stop meddling in religion would first require (that) religion to stop meddling in government.

      Further, it is entirely possible to become handfasted (or otherwise religiously married) in England and Wales. It just does not get a legal sanction.

      It will be hard for Pagan weddings to get legal recognition without some formalising of the clerical structure. Otherwise each Pagan cleric desiring to grant legally binding marriages would have to become a licensed registrar, and have permission to use a (licensed) location.

      The only difference I can see this proposal making would be the removal of the location license, so people would not have to worry about where they can have their ceremony.

      • ChristopherBlackwell

        Yet it has been done in other English speaking countries, such as South Africa and in the United States. So it is possible. As for being a theocracy, well that can change as well.

        As I have said it is somewhat arcane. Considering that fewer and fewer people in the United Kingdom take the Church of England seriously in England they can also decide to separate it from the government. Creating the Church of England was a political creation of government, so separating it from government is also a political choice that can be made. My mom was born and raised in England and my parents were married under the Church of England. But again that was in a very different UK.

        As it is in a couple of Generations members of the Church of England will no longer be in the majority so it is only a matter of time before this is likely to happen. After all, there was a time when the Royal Family actually ruled England and that passed away.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          It can change, yes (looking increasingly likely, in fact). I was giving a snapshot of now.

          You’d be surprised at the stance of the public towards the CofE. Recent reports had their numbers ‘stabilising’ (with some papers reporting an increase in attendance).

          My mother married a CofE priest (he’s now a diocesan canon) and I was raised in that environment, so I can’t really say how much things have changed.