Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 17, 2013 — 36 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.

Vic Toews

Vic Toews

After the katsina handover, Hopi and the delegation exchanged gifts.

After the katsina handover, Hopi and the delegation exchanged gifts.

  • Back in April, the sale of sacred Hopi objects in France went ahead despite protests from the Hopi tribe of northeastern Arizona, Survival International, and the actor Robert Redford, who called the sale “a sacrilege, a criminal gesture that contains grave moral repercussions.”  Now, Survival International reports that at least one sacred katsina was returned by a buyer who participated in the auction to retrieve it for the Hopi. Quote: “M. Servan-Schreiber then bought one katsina at the auction to return it to the Hopi. He said, ‘It is my way of telling the Hopi that we only lost a battle and not the war. I am convinced that in the future, those who believe that not everything should be up for sale will prevail. In the meantime, the Hopi will not have lost everything since two of these sacred objects have been saved from being sold.’” A second katsina acquired at the auction by another buyer will be returned to the Hopi later this year.
  • Are prisoners in the UK claiming to be Pagan to get extra benefits? Possibly! Though, this is a tabloid so no real data is given other than that self-described Pagans behind bars has nearly doubled to 602 since 2009. Quote: “The surge in paganism behind bars has sparked fears some may be converting for an easier life.” A Prison Service spokesperson noted that Pagan prisoners receive 4 days off per year, and no more.
  • The New York Times profiles the Living Interfaith Church in Washington, a religion that embraces all religions, even Pagans. Quote: “Some of the congregants began arriving to help. There was Steve Crawford, who had spent his youth in Campus Crusade for Christ, and Gloria Parker, raised Lutheran and married to a Catholic, and Patrick McKenna, who had been brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness and now called himself a pagan.” One wonders if the local Unitarian-Universalist congregation wasn’t theologically inclusive enough? Religion scholar Stephen Prothero notes that “one reason we have different religions is that we have different rituals and different beliefs. Those are not insignificant.”
  • Is 2013 the year of the Witch? Pam Grossman at the Huffington Post seems to think so. Quote: “As the year progresses I predict we will all more fully channel the spirit of the witch. Honoring the earth and our bodies; shifting away from mass-market medicines and agri-business toward natural healing and whole foods; sharing our resources rather than focusing on mere accumulation of goods; collaborating and communicating more openly; helping to elevate women and girls to equality all over the world: these are all grand workings of feminine magic that we are manifesting together.” Pardon me while I pick up every stitch.
  • Lisa Derrick at La Figa isn’t fond of Rick Perry voodoo dolls, saying “they perpetuate dangerous, off-base stereotypes and do nothing to help either pro-choice factions or non-Christians.”

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


  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Like him or loathe him, Varg has self described as Pagan, and is a published author on Northern traditions. And since self description is the only way we have of gauging if a person is Pagan, people can’t say that he isn’t.

    Ignore the hyper and look at the case. His wife bought four guns legally. (She is a member of the local gun club.) The authorities deem his neo-Nazi ideals (he isn’t neo-Nazi, and addressed the idea back in 2005) to be grounds enough to arrest him, rather than have just prevented his wife from buying the rifles in the first place.

    It is a dark day for civil liberty when people can be arrested for holding an unpopular view. (Many dislike his Odalist ideologies.)

    I will just add the disclaimer that I am not a Varg fan, I just find his story interesting (it is a great cautionary tale, if nothing else).

    • nothing

      if you read his writings he says hes an atheist, he thinks gods are human symbols with metaphysical power within a person. He doesnt even believe in gods, he believes in “archetypes of the human psyche”. he invented his own “paganism” called Odalism cause he doesnt know what his own ancestors actually believed or what they did for religious worship. Hes a hack and anti-Semite and not even a pagan. Also he was arrested for posting hateful remarks about how he intended to participate in a racial war. As far as him being a neo-nazi, he has self claimed he was, then decided he wasnt exactly a National Socialist… the fact is, he runs with nazis, networks with them, buys their items and sell his to them. if hes not a nazi, hes a nazis best friend. frankly most dont remember, but when he was arrested for murder he was also found to have large amounts of explosives and was actively plotting on blowing up a community center in Olso….

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        In a discussion on this blog I said I had to self-identify as atheist, a label I haven’t used for a long time, because I believe in archetypes but not in gods as physically real externalities with their own personalities. I was told my belief in archetypes made me a theist for the purposes of that discussion. YMMV.
        Varg may be a nazi, a wannabe, a poseur or all of the above but it’s important that his due-process rights be respected. It’s at the fringe that civil liberties begin their erosion.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          See, I’d call you an atheist, not a theist, since you do not believe in literal gods, whilst we can demonstrably prove the existence of gods as archetypes.

        • cernowain greenman

          Archetypes are as powerful, or even more powerful, than many “gods”. I have no problem accepting you as a theist and/or Pagan.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Plenty of Pagans are also atheists. I believe, in their case, the preferred term is ‘humanist’.

        How many people have ‘invented’ their own Paganism? That is what eclectic Paganism is all about, isn’t it?
        People may not like it, but a person can be an anti-Semite and a Pagan.

        As I said, it is up to the individual to self declare as Pagan, not others. That is the one single truth about Paganism today.

        However, all of his (perceived) faults are not relevant to the very simple question of ‘is his arrest fair’?

        I would argue that, no, it is not fair. What would have been fair is listing his household as unsuitable for a firearms license.

    • “Like him or loathe him, Varg has self described as Pagan, and is a
      published author on Northern traditions. And since self description is
      the only way we have of gauging if a person is Pagan, people can’t say
      that he isn’t.”

      The lack of centralized authority cuts both ways. Anyone and everyone is free to say “I’m a Pagan.” But I am always free to say, “No, you are not.” In my opinion, racism is deeply and unalterably antithetical to Paganism. I consider racism to be both an intrinsically modern phenomenon, and also one that is directly (and, as a matter of fact, rather obviously) tied to modern European Christianity in particular.

      I think that modern Pagans have every reason to shun, condemn, and categorically disown anyone who actively supports racist ideas and/or who actively participates in racist groups. At the same time we should always be suspicious of accusations of racism unless very good evidence is presented to back up such accusations. We should especially be suspicious of the frequent hysterical spurious accusations coming from the mental midgets who are known as “antifa”.

      In the specific case of Varg Vikernes, anyone who attacks Freemasonry because it is “Jewish”, and who can think of no greater accusation to hurl against Christianity than that it was “created by the Jews”, is no co-religionist of mine. I have nothing whatsoever in common with such a scum-bag. He can call himself a Heathen all he wants. He can also claim to be from Mars, but that does not make it so.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        We all have our prejudices.

        • We must very clearly distinguish between the kinds of “prejudices” that everyone will always have, and systematic ideologies of hate, which are not at all inevitable. Such ideologies, far from arising spontaneously out of the admittedly rich soil of human failings and foibles, require a great deal of conscious and sustained effort to be formulated and propagated. This is one of the reasons why we can say with great certainty that racism is a modern invention, because it is possible to trace it’s development as a core feature of western intellectual culture over the course of a few (relatively recent) centuries.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t see how the fact that it is modern makes it a bad thing.

            I’d suggest intolerance for others based on something that actually has no impact on your personal life is the bad thing.

          • In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with something being “modern” in the sense of only recently invented. I am a big fan of air conditioning, etc.But people who mix Heathenism with racism invariably do so out of some misguided notion that racism and Heathenism just have some kind natural affinity for each other. But the fact of racism’s modernity argues strongly against such a natural affinity, since it proves that no such thing as racism could have existed among ancient Heathens.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I disagree with the notion that Racism has any intrinsic connection to any ideology, I do not, however agree with the notion that being racist prohibits a person from also being Heathen or many other forms of Pagan.

            I don’t really see the racist aspect of certain brands of ‘Folkish’ Heathenry as overly relevant to Varg’s arrest, anyway.

          • The ‘Folkish’ Heathens are idiots. Anyone whose done any research knows that the Norse were in Constantinople, Iraq, Russia, Mongolia, Morocco, Sicily, Ethiopia, and everywhere in between. If you think that people traveling to distant lands didn’t occasionally have children there, I have a bridge to sell you…

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t see a problem with Folkish Heathenry. I am not an advocate, myself, but I am willing to respect the beliefs of others, if they respect mine.

            To this end, I would be unlikely to share symbel with Folkish types, but I would not deny them hospitality, either.

            I respect difference, so long as it respects me.

            There is more to their beliefs than the Folkish aspect. They are also not alone in believing in the importance of honouring their ancestors.

          • One could, and I think should, go further. For instance, there is an awful lot of loose-talk among modern Pagans generally about the importance of one’s connection to “the land”. But many ancient peoples (not just Germanics ones) were constantly on the move, and one of the primary forms that traditional human societies take is that of nomads.

            In fact, among ancient peoples, the ones who are most clearly tied to one particular place, and whose religion in particular shows the clearest evidence of explicit localization, are city dwellers.

            We all came from Africa, ultimately. And we are all children of the same Mother Earth. And the common kinship of all humanity is something that one can find far more evidence for among ancient peoples than any trace of the modern mental illness known as racism.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            But cultures are important to the individual. They are shaped by the interaction of a people with the land(s) they inhabit.

            As tribes moved, their practices changed. Which is why I feel that ‘land’ is a more important factor than blood. (Most spirits are seen as tied to location, as well.)

  • cernowain greenman

    Good riddance Vic Toews! We will NOT miss you!

  • There are reasons to seek an interfaith church other than the UU besides concern over it not being “theologically inclusive enough.” Whether it deserves the reputation or not, I’ve heard many avoid the UU church because they have seen it as too intellectual and political (even elitist) and not spiritually satisfying. That brand image alone is enough for people seeking an interfaith experience to desire to find another outlet for it.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      An established UU church will have its own rituals and forms, not always comfortable to everyone who walks in the door, especially if they are out to start their own ceremonial structure.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Here’s why I won’t trust the Unitarians:

        In the UK, they are called “The Unitarians and Free Christians”, they meet in churches and chapels, the whole set up seems to be ‘Christianity-lite’.

        Something every fibre of my being screams at me to avoid.

        • PhaedraHPS

          I’m not sure what you see so frightening in the website. It’s undisputed that Unitarians were originally a Christian heresy, and that the current organization has inherited infrastructure from its Christian roots. (Frankly, that could be said for much of Western civilization.) But that is the root, not the branch or the blossom.

          In the US, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) is just that, an association of congregations. It does not consider itself a denominatiion. Theology is not imposed top-down; in fact, it is so explicitly non-creedal that in that in order to become a member congregation, a congregation cannot impose a creedal test as a condition of membership.

          That said, because each congregation may find its own path, individual congregations can be very different from each other. Some are rather Christian in forms and outlooks, some are assertively Humanist and atheist, a couple are explicitly Pagan, and some try to be a mix of everything in order to as inclusive as possible to the widest range of congregants. Some succeed, and some do not. But no one congregation/church/fellowship/society is representative of the Association as a whole. They each have their own personalities. And just as we find some people (or covens or organizations) more to our taste than others, UUs might find themselves comfortable and happy with one congregation within the Association, but dislike another. (I’ve said that checking out a new congregation is like going on a blind date.)

          • cernowain greenman

            I appreciate the UU Principles. It is not always easy to live up to them in practice, no doubt, but they are excellent guideposts for any inclusive type of group, in my opinion.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Don’t mistake disgust for fear.

            I’ve not seen an example of Unitarians being anything other than a mild form of Christianity in the UK.

            I am not saying that others can’t find anything of value with them, just that they are not for me.

        • My understanding is the UK Unitarians are more explicitly Christian than American UUs, though I know there are at least a few Pagans in UK Unitarian churches.

          I’m teaching “Intro to Modern Pagan Religion” at my UU church this Saturday, and I’ll be leading a very polytheistic ritual there on August 3. Though I echo what Phaedra says about the variety of congregations, it’s safe to say I feel pretty welcome.

          • Crystal Hope Kendrick

            My UU has a Pagan majority for sure. We have no sermons or ritual structure but run “programs” on sundays on various topics from environmentalism to astrophysics to social justice. We have some options throughout the week like meditation, world dance, and drumming. We have rituals on sabbat days for the CUUPs group as well. We have a bit of everything, but not much Christianity, honestly.

  • Jason – minor typo (one I find hilarious): Pagans behind bars, not bards 😉

    • Whoops!

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I wasn’t going to mention that. The context was just too good.

  • The_L1985

    That story about some people buying the katsinas at auction for the sole purpose of returning them to the Hopi was heartwarming. It would be better if none of those sacred items had been sold, but the fact that someone would go that much out of their way to make sure a stolen katsina was returned to its rightful owners is just plain beautiful. 🙂

  • cernowain greenman

    The article about Pagan prisoners getting more benefits was awfully lame. It seems to be picking up on the tone set by the FOX Noise news report about Wiccans in a Columbia, Missouri university getting extra holidays.

    First of all, in this article they state in the headline that these prisoners are “pretending” to be Pagan, as if this were a fact being reported. I appreciate that many prisoners are not sincere when they switch faiths while incarcerated, but the truth is it is possible that some actually are sincere in their beliefs. And to come up with such a headline based upon only 300 switching over 5 years, and making it sound like a mass conversion, is rather ridiculous. That the article admits that their source for the information– the prison staff– are complaining that prisoners taking off 4 days means extra work for them shows the prison staff’s bias. Give them the green weenie award for fluff journalism.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Three hundred converts in five years is not trivial. The first principle of prison staff is security, and competitive forces can be seen as jeopardizing that. The staff is going to see this as a new gang, maybe a new phenom like the Black Muslims a generation ago. Their attitude will be dour, besides prejudiced.

      • cernowain greenman

        The thing is, Baruch, that they are not considering them converts, but pretenders. It is already clear how prejudiced they are.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          That’s the prejudice I spoke of. It’s a standard first rebuff to cast doubt on the authenticity of the religion or the communicants.

      • AnantaAndroscoggin

        Left out of the equation is the simple little fact that the population of a prison has changed a great deal over a five-year period. There are people arriving and being released or transferred all the time.

  • Gareth

    With regards to the ‘pagan as slur’ I think this quote from a 2012 article from the Guardian on Newt Gingrich is rather interesting: ” he showed himself willing to totter plenty far out on the limb of anti-gay bigotry, at one point calling same-sex marriage “pagan behavior” – and meaning it in a bad way”. I quite like it that the author feels the need to explain to readers that Ginrich’s use of “pagan” is pejorative.

  • inspiraven

    “Pardon me while I pick up every stitch.”

    you got to