Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 11, 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.

Richard Ramirez

Richard Ramirez

The Great Serpent Mound

The Great Serpent Mound

  • Indian Country Today reports on how New Age woo demeans and threatens The Great Serpent Mound in Ohio. Quote: “Kenny Frost a Southern Ute citizen, has worked to protect sacred places for more than 20 years. He is a well-respected authority on Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act issues and law and frequently consults with state, federal and tribal governments. ‘The protection put down by Native people at sacred sites is still there. Non-Native people dig around and see what they can find; they may end up opening a Pandora’s box without knowing how to put spirits back,’ he notes.” 
  • “Sorry Pagans,” that’s what Baylor history professor Philip Jenkins says as he engages in the hoary exercise of telling Pagans about how stuff they thought was pagan was actually, totally, not. Quote: “In reality, it is very hard indeed to excavate through those medieval Christian layers to find Europe’s pagan roots. Never underestimate just how thoroughly and totally the Christian church penetrated the European mind.” So why even bother, am I right? I know this is a popular topic for columnists looking for material, but we aren’t ignorant of the scholarship, and cherry-picking two (popular) examples isn’t going to embarrass us back to church. You’d be surprised at how well-versed some of us are in history. 
  • Religion Clause reports that a judge has allowed a gangster’s  Santa Muerte necklace to remain as evidence during the penalty phase of the trial (for which the defendant was found guilty of murder). Quote: “The court held that appellant had failed to object on any 1st Amendment religious ground to introduction of the evidence.” Further, the judge says they may have allowed it even if the defendant has objected earlier in the case noting the faith’s ties to narco-trafficking. Could this ruling lead to a problematic precedent? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
  • Christians opposed to same-sex marriage know that the battle is lost. Quote: “Just 22% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, but about three times that percentage (70%) thinks legal recognition for gay marriage is inevitable. Among other religious groups, there are smaller differences in underlying opinions about gay marriage and views of whether it is inevitable.” I think that means marriage equality has won, don’t you? Now to undo 50 years of legislative hysteria.
  • Speaking of marriage equality, it’s very, very “pagan.” Quote: “As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the “Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media. Bill Bennett’s insight, “… the two essential questions Plato posed as: Who teaches the children, and what do we teach them?” requires deep thought, soul-searching and a response from Christian America to the secular, politically correct and multicultural false gods imposing their religion on America’s children.” That’s David Lane, one of Rand Paul’s point men in improving his relations with evangelical Christians. I’ll spare you the Dragnet P.A.G.A.N. reference.
  • “Occult,” a new television series in development for A&E, follows the exploits of an “occult crime task force.” Quote: “‘Occult’ revolves around Dolan, an FBI agent who has returned from administrative leave after going off the deep end while investigating his wife’s disappearance. Eager to be back on the job, he is paired with an agent with her own complicated back story who specializes in the occult. Together, they will solve cases for the newly formed occult crimes task force.” Whether the show actually gets on the air is still an open question. If it does, we can start a betting pool for when Wiccans, Druids, and Asatru are mentioned in the series.
  • Frank Lautenberg, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey who passed away recently, took an active role in combatting the revisionist Christian history of David Barton. Quote: “I want those who hear me across America to pay attention: ‘Christian heritage is at risk.’ That means that all the outsiders, all of those who approach God differently but are people who believe in a supreme being; people who behave and live peacefully with their neighbors and their friends. No, this is being put forward as an attempt — a not too subtle attempt — to make sure people understand that America is a Christian country. Therefore, we ought to take the time the majority leader offers us, as Members of the Senate, for a chance to learn more about how invalid the principle of separation between church and state is. I hope the American public sees this plan as the spurious attempt it is.” For why David Barton is infamous among Pagans, check out my previous reporting on his antics. 
  • Finally, here’s some pictures from the Pagan Picnic in St. Louis!

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


  • BryonMorrigan

    Jenkins’s little essay of hate is not just absurd and silly…but it’s also filled with such an abundance of logical fallacy that it is unbecoming of an alleged “professor” of anything. An undergraduate student would have gotten a D- for that essay, if it was even accepted by the professor. If the best he can come up with is Cerne Abbas and Beowulf, then really…he knows little about history or scholarship at all.

    I’m amazed that people like this aren’t fired immediately by their university for presenting such trash. It’s like denouncing Christianity by quoting “The Da Vinci Code”.

    Truly, the man is either “punking” everyone…or his IQ is in the double digits…

    • VorJack

      I’ve got a theory. When I was a graduate student in history, the professors would occasionally drop one of those “You all think X, but really Y” statements. Then they would say, “That’s a great line for a cocktail party.”

      I heard that any number of times. But as I got to know the department, I realized something: these folks were working 60-80 hours a week, they had no time for cocktail parties, and no one in the area is throwing cocktail parties anymore anyway.

      So I think what we’re seeing here is a distinct lack of cocktail parties. The professors store up these lines but have nowhere to use them. After a while they either explode or turn a few of the lines into a column. So Jenkins hears a story about Cerne Abbas and really wants to tell someone at a cocktail party, can’t, so he writes a weak piece for RealClearReligion just to use it.

    • Raksha38

      Well, he’s a professor at Baylor, which is a Christian University. How much intellectual honesty or rigor can you really expect from any faculty there on the subject of Paganism?

    • Eric Scott

      Speaking as someone who knows a little bit about Beowulf… Is this guy actually claiming it was “written” by a Christian monk? Because that’s crazy. Beowulf wasn’t “written” at all; it’s the product of oral tradition, as all the great Anglo-Saxon poetry was. The monks transcribed it; the scops composed it, and I’m pretty sure pre-literate Saxon poets never read the Book of Enoch.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        The problem with Beowulf is that it was written down in post conversion England. (At the time, the most likely source for a writer was a monastery.)

        It survived in only one source (makes me wonder how much we have lost) and has numerous Christian references (Grendel is a descendent of Cain, for example) along with the potential to be an allegory of mankind’s dominance over ‘savage’ nature.

        I have no doubt (as do many scholars) that the poem Beowulf existed in one for or another prior to the conversion of England, but we don’t have access to that version.

        Whilst Beowulf is an easy thing to pick on, it is generally seen as a work of fiction and not a source of Pagan (or Heathen) spirituality. Which does somewhat invalidate Jenkins’ point.

  • PhaedraHPS

    I love the caption on the pictures in the Riverfront Times coverage of the St. Louis Pagan Picnic: ” Workshops on…rhythmic drumming.” Good for you, workshop coordinators! Because, in my experience rhythmic drumming is the very best kind, and we can use more of it 😉

  • Does it come as any surprise that one of the go-to “scholars” for Philip Jenkins and his ilk is none other than Ronald Hutton? After all, Hutton has devoted the last 20 years to smugly “telling Pagans that stuff they thought was Pagan was actually totally not.”

    I can’t see how anyone could be critical of Jenkins without being far more critical of Hutton.

    • Scott

      Misreading Hutton: it’s not just for Pagans anymore!

      • In this case I don’t think that Jenkins is misreading Hutton at all, either in terms of the specifics concerning Cerne Abbas, or in terms of the general subject of Pagan “survivals”.

        For the record: Hutton might very well be right about the relatively modern origins of the Cerne Abbas “giant”. And, therefore, Jenkins might very well be right in citing Hutton on this particular issue.

        But the broader issue is the historical “legitimacy”, if you will, of modern Paganism as a religious tradition. It is this legitimacy that Jenkins is really focused on. Some people claim to not care about such issues of legitimacy. But for over a decade Hutton consistently denied that there was any such legitimacy, and made quite a name for himself in the process. In Triumph of the Moon worked himself into a lather and explicitly labeled as “fundamentalist” (sound familiar?) anyone who lent any credence whatsoever to the idea of religious continuity between modern and ancient Paganism. But then just a few years later Hutton conceded that he had been wrong, and that, in fact, he had completely failed to take into account those forms of ancient Paganism that most clearly and directly relate to modern Paganism, namely the Hermetic and/or Theurgic Paganism of late antiquity.

        • Scott Martin

          While he has definitely made historical arguments in various forms against the idea of historical continuity between ancient and modern forms of Paganism – and I don’t want to rehash that discussion with you again, AP – Hutton has *never* denied the legitimacy of Paganism as a modern religion. He has in fact gone out of his way to emphasize that point in his writings, lest anyone misread his other statements in the way you’re doing now.

  • Franklin_Evans

    On a major Christian blog, on which I was an invited guest for a time (as in, not quite the token Pagan), a respected and credentialed historian waxed passionate (and ireful) with me: Modern Pagans cannot use that term unless they practice blood sacrifice. He relented on what the guest of honor should be, but not on that single requirement. it was the highest low-point of my experience there.

    I sincerely offer a warning on the entire hate-crimes issue: Once it becomes embedded in law, it becomes the death knell of the entire First Amendment. Intent to commit has always been a valid (and often critical) point of evidence in a criminal trial, but until recently adding on “because the victim was a fill-in-blank” was irrelevant to the burden of proof of guilt.

    I oppose hate-crime legislation without exception and without hesitation. We who know of it first-hand (my mother was a Holocaust survivor) may find it difficult to pass up on the emotional closure it might offer, but when justice becomes as much about making us feel good as it is about accurate determination of guilt, it stops being justice.

    I am not a lawyer. My limited personal experience of being a jury member for two criminal trials informs my position, but I hold it as strongly without it.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Nothing wrong with blood sacrifices. In the good old days, we used Christians…

      • Franklin_Evans

        Yeah, but word got around and they became just too difficult to round up.

        • kenofken

          That, and honestly, what worth god or goddess would feel honored by the sacrifice?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Good point.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          You got to be kidding me? They pride themselves on being sheep. How hard can it be to round up a flock? 😉

    • The “blood sacrifice” trope isn’t reserved just for Christian fundies. A very respected classical scholar, Mary Beard, once (and not so long ago) publicly ridiculed a Hellenic Pagan ritual because, she claimed, there were no Hellenic Pagans any more, and if there were they would have to perform blood sacrifices. It was a truly disgusting display of the kind of not just mere religious bias, but outright contempt, that would have caused her to unceremoniously drummed out of academia if she had said anything of the sort concerning Judaism (which, of course, also has a history of blood sacrifice).

      • On a side note: that reminds me of an incident back in the day when I attended a local synagogue. There used to be regular church groups that came to Friday night services as a part of some interfaith thing. One frequent question the Christians would have for the rabbi was, ‘Where do you sacrifice the animals?’

        • Deborah Bender

          In Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount, whenever the Muslims can be persuaded to remove the Al Aksa Mosque from the site of Herod’s Temple. The hereditary priesthood is still around with not much to do, the traditional prayerbook contains prayers for the resumption of sacrifices, and many procedural details are recorded in the Talmud.

          Post-Exilic Judaism was unusual among the religions of antiquity, not in its sacrificial practices, but in requiring that all the offerings be made at a single location. Some Jews didn’t care for this, and in some periods there were non-regulation temples at other locations such as Elephantine, Egypt.

          • Some of the Temple objects have already been recreated in anticipation of a new Temple. When I was in Jerusalem I got to see the menorah that’s been made for the Temple.
            I think that the comparison with Judaism and animal sacrifices here is useful, though. Just as Judaism was able to adapt to a world in which Jews could no longer sacrifice animals, so to can pagans.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Of course, if people were to practice ritual sacrifice, they would be lambasted for it. Any excuse, really.

        • Franklin_Evans

          I like lamb, on a spit over an open fire, properly basted.

        • Deborah Bender

          There are living pagan traditions that continue to practice animal sacrifice: West African religions, some of their New World offshoots and some Hindus.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            And look how well they fare in the public (mis)perception.

    • cernowain greenman

      I think you mean you oppose hate-speech laws, not hate-crimes. There can be hate-crimes legislation without it being only about speech.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I think he means hate-crimes legislation.

        Take, for example, the recent killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. Everyone is going on about the motive, yet decapitating a person will make them dead regardless of motive and we already have laws in place to prosecute murder. You don’t need a special law for hate. I think we can assume that, if someone is killing a person, there is some level of hate going on.

        • BryonMorrigan

          Motive is ALWAYS important. That’s why we have completely different punishments for 1st degree murder and manslaughter. Both end up being the killing of a human being…but motive is the difference between a few years in prison and a life sentence (or death penalty).

          This stuff about Hate-Crimes Legislation sounds a lot like “talking points” from the Rush Limbaugh Show…

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Manslaughter is, in essence, an accident. It is not the premeditated killing of an individual. Thus, a different crime.

          • BryonMorrigan

            Nope. Manslaughter CAN be an “accident”, but it can also mean a “heat of passion” crime (which IS “intentional”), a murder committed through intoxication or negligence, or many other things.

            Then, we also have 2nd-degree murder, which is ALSO differentiated from 1st-degree murder and manslaughter, largely in regards to motive and premeditation. This kind of thing is, frankly, just a little bit more complicated than “Law and Order” makes it seem…and that’s why you shouldn’t be getting your “talking points” from people without legal experience.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            That and it changes depending on country. To my knowledge, we don’t have degrees of murder in the UK.

        • kenofken

          For murder, hate crime penalties are arguable redundant. Their real value comes in recognizing the true gravity of lesser actions that would otherwise seem trivial. A Swastika spray painted on a synagogue is, on a purely outward physical level, “just” an act of petty vandalism. It’s much much more than that. It’s an act of terror and an assault, virtually (or perhaps literally) a death threat. It deserves serious punishment.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t see vandalism as ‘petty’.

      • Franklin_Evans

        Lēoht got what I meant. Hate-speech laws make speech crimes. Hate-crime legislation make crimes somehow more heinous because the perpetrator had a prior, expressed hatred towards the group to which the victim belonged.

        To Bryon’s point here, motive is very important. It is a valid investigation point. It also is not 100% of the crime, there being crimes (that aren’t also accidents) where motive was not present until the very moment of the criminal act.

        My point is hate-crime legislation removes the protections of innocent until proven guilty. It begs the question if people are known bigots, we should track them or otherwise discriminate against them because they might commit a crime motivated from their bigotry. Hate-speech makes bigotry itself a crime. Both are equally wrong.

        • kenofken

          I don’t see where a hate crime charge damages presumption of innocence any more than any other factor. I mean, just being arrested and charged with a serious crime and having to post bail, have conditions of release etc., already creates a presumption that you’re not one of society’s finest. At least where I live, hate crime charges are filed fairly infrequently, and only when the intent of the crime was very clear and documented.

          • Franklin Evans

            First, I’d like to reiterate that I’m stating my personal POV here. I’m not a lawyer, and I needed Bryon’s reminder to be careful about from where I get my “talking points”.
            It’s very good to qualify our assertions with “where I live”. I needed that reminder as well. We can have very different anecdotal views on these things. I live in Philadelphia, where race and socio-economic class are very much a part of this issue, and I don’t mean in good ways. I’m sure other places have very different mixes.
            The distinction I wish to draw is the inevitable “trial by public opinion” that can and too often does corrupt the jury-trial process. I’ve sat on many more jury panels during selection than the trials for which I was selected, and the care they take to avoid that corruption sometimes gets lost in the more popular debate over their attempts to “load” juries in favor of their side. I see hate-crime qualifications to charges on the negative side of that balance. A person has been accused of a crime. That person’s religious, political or other views are not relevant to that accusation until and unless presented as evidence during trial. I consider the very term “hate-crime” prejudicial.
            My final point is outside that context. As a society and culture, we seem to have lost the ability to see such things as social issues. We surrender our social and cultural obligations to legalities and law enforcement. It pervades our daily lives, from going passive in the face of rudeness — one hot button of mine is being told that I’m rude for pointing out rudeness — to confronting bigotry as people face-to-face, in dialogue instead of in shouting matches… or, it would seem to be the new norm, in civil court trials.

  • Ywen DragonEye

    Interesting that David Lane quotes Plato…..

  • I remember the (hot) summer in the greater LA area when the entity in the top photo terrorized us all. I don’t know what it was like in the Bay Area, where he also had a spree.

    I found myself quite jealous of his taxpayer-paid reconstructive dental work, when I couldn’t even afford a checkup, and I had visible holes in my teeth (had no medical coverage whatsoever then).

    I make no apologies that I am glad the state of CA no longer has to pay for his upkeep while waiting out the appeals process. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • Eric Scott

    Regarding the Pagan Picnic pics: The gentleman in the top hat and wheelchair was the guy what founded my coven! My grandpa, in a sense…

    Sadly, no pictures of my workshop. Rats!