Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 16, 2013 — 16 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.

Ronald Hutton (center) with symposium presenters and CHS staff.

Ronald Hutton (center) with Pagan scholars and Cherry Hill Seminary staff.

  • The Economist reviews Ronald Hutton’s new book “Pagan Britain,” and finds that it presents “more questions than answers.” Quote: “Mr Hutton leads readers to question not only the ways in which Britain’s ancient past is analysed, but also how all history is presented. He is also a lovely writer with a keen sense of the spiritual potency of Britain’s ancient landscapes. Though he offers many interpretations of each archaeological finding, such variety serves to expand the reader’s imagination rather than constrain it. Towards the end of this engrossing book, Mr Hutton laments the way the open-ended questions of ancient history and archaeology appear unsuited to television, a medium that prefers definitive answers.” The book is out now in the UK, and will be released in the United States in February (though it seems you can purchase the Kindle edition now).
  • Courts in the UK have, for the first time, awarded a Wiccan monetary damages over claims that she was fired for her religious beliefs. Quote: “Karen Holland, 45, was awarded more than  £15,000 by the courts in what is believed to be the first payout of its kind in  Britain. Her Sikh bosses insisted they fired her after  they caught her stealing. But she accused them of turning on her when  they found out she was a Wicca-practising pagan and took them to an employment  tribunal, which ruled in her favour.” As the article states, her employers were Sikh, not Christians, as some might suspect. Her employers say they will appeal the decision. More on this story here.
  • The killing of women accused of witchcraft and sorcery in Papua New Guinea continues to be a hard problem to solve, with tough news laws facing the issue of proper enforcement. Quote: “Nancy Robinson from the United Nations Human Rights Commission says toughening up the laws is no solution if they’re not implemented. ‘Implementation is the big obstacle,’ she said. ‘You may have a law but then if you don’t have the police capacity to enforce it, or if the police themselves view the situation of sorcery related killings with indifference then we still have a big issue of how to address impunity. Those who perpetrate this violence know full well they’ll get off scot free – this has to change.'” You can see all of my coverage of this issue, here.
  • The Quietus revisits Enya’s “Watermark” on its 25th anniversary. Quote: “Essentially, Watermark is a deeply weird album in the context of its bright and garish era, and as well as that a strongly and confidently female album. It also stands out as a record inspired by spiritual music in a mainstream pop world that has in recent years chosen to end the centuries-old musical dialogue between the secular and religious, the sacred and profane.” As the author points out, Enya’s influence has never been stronger, with critically acclaimed artists like Julianna Barwick employing elements of her sound.
  • There’s going to be an epic fantasy movie starring Egyptian gods? Apparently so. Quote: “Up-and-coming Australian actress Courtney Eaton has nabbed the female lead in Summit’s epic fantasy Gods of Egypt. Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites and Geoffrey Rush are the male leads in the story, which is set in motion when a ruling god named Set (Butler) kills another, Osiris. When Osiris’ son Horus (Coster-Waldau) fails in his attempt at revenge and has his eyed plucked out, it’s up to a young human thief (Thwaites) to defeat the mad god Set. Eaton will play a slave girl whom the thief falls for.” Currently scheduled for a 2015 release.
Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

  • This week a new visitor center will open at the world-famous Stonehenge in England. Its goal? To give visitors who may never walk among the (restricted access) stones, and sense of that experience, in addition to giving an overview of the many scholarly theories about Stonehenge’s purpose. Quote: “With tourists and day-trippers barred since the late Seventies from entering the circle in order to protect the stones from damage, there has been a fierce and long-running debate on how the site should best be displayed. But on Wednesday a new £27 million centre will open at Stonehenge with a 360 degree cinema at its heart where visitors can ‘experience’ standing in the ancient circle.” Currently, Pagans are allowed access at the solstices and equinoxes, but many want greater access. Concept art for the center can be found here.
  • The Christian cross that stands on Mt. Soledad in California, which some had the audacity to claim was “secular,” has been ordered removed by a federal court. Quote: “A federal court has ordered the removal of the controversial Mt. Soledad cross near San Diego. The towering symbol of Christianity, built in 1954 on the peak of Mt. Soledad, is a 43 foot high Latin cross – and it sits on government-owned land. By ruling that the cross violated the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns has tried to put an end to a 24-year-old legal battle over the constitutionality of the display. Critics have long argued that the cross, built in 1954 and dedicated on Easter Sunday as a “gleaming white symbol of Christianity,” clearly violates the First Amendment.” It isn’t known if an appeal will be made.
  • Protestant Christian notions of “religion” are being destabilized. Quote: “Religion is nothing if not practiced, nothing if not communally created by and for people who find meaning, yes, but also find ways to put our bodies into relation with other bodies. Religions are sensually established and engaged through sights and smells and sounds, as human bodies sway and sing, pray and play. Rituals are carried out, ancient stories are told anew, the candles are burned, and the flowers garlanded. Religion is embodied practice, done with others, extending far beyond ‘belief in god.'”
  • Religion Clause points out that the Defense Authorization Bill, recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, contains religious freedom language for military personnel. Here’s the language: “Unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Armed Forces shall accommodate individual expressions of belief of a member of the armed forces reflecting the sincerely held conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member and, in so far as practicable, may not use such expressions of belief as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.” So talk about polytheism all you want, Pagans!
  • Either you have to include everyone, including Satanists, or you have to remove sectarian expressions of religion from federal property. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
  • Here’s an article discussing the traditional African beliefs and practices employed in the funeral and burial rites for South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. Quote: “‘We as Africans have rites of passage, whether it is a birth, marriage or funeral. Mandela will be sent off into the spiritual world so that he is welcomed in the world of ancestors. And also so that he doesn’t get angry,’ said Nokuzola Mndende, a scholar of African religion.”
  • Remember that story about Hopi relics being sold in France against their objections? Well, it looks like the Annenberg Foundation purchased the items, and will be donating the items back to the two tribes who were leading the protest. Quote: “Hopi cultural leader Sam Tenakhongva said in the same statement that the tribe hopes the Annenberg decision to intervene “sets an example for others that items of significant cultural and religious value can only be properly cared for by those vested with the proper knowledge and responsibility.” “They simply cannot be put up for sale,” he said.”

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.

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  • Merlyn7

    I very much look forward to Ronald Hutton’s new book, have not been disappointed with anything he has written or recorded.

    Watermark, now there is a blast from the past; I’ll need to give it another listen from a different perspective. Always liked the track “Storms in Africa.”

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      “Orinoco Flow,” myself.

  • kenofken

    That item in the defense bill has nothing to do with religious freedom. It should be titled “The Restore Evangelical Privilege and Hegemony Act.”

    The “religious freedom” it intends is to give Christians the right to ignore all of the military’s directives and policies which prohibit proselytizing, religious harassment etc. All of the stuff the MRFF has worked to correct.

    Now we can look at this and say “ahah, that means they have to allow OUR expression of beliefs too.” That’s great, but it’s not sufficient. A majority of the chaplains and a fair proportion of command is Evangelical. It’s not a level playing field. If some commander wants to force non-Christians to attend religious functions or some chaplain wants to harass a gay soldier or place a cross or nativity set where it doesn’t belong, they could now claim immunity to the regs barring such things.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I had to go back and re-read the language, and must agree with kenofken.

  • thelettuceman

    I really, really, hope that this Karen Holland lady is on the straight and narrow and didn’t use any prejudice the UK might have against Sikhs as an easy lawsuit.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      That tactic would be vulnerable to countervailing prejudice against Wiccan. Risky strategy.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I’m not aware of any significant prejudice against Sikhs over here.

    • kenofken

      It shouldn’t matter what religion the employers are. If they discriminated against an employee because of religion, and the facts of the case bear that out, they should be liable.

  • Gareth

    I read somewhere that Holland’s bosses claimed to have filmed her stealing, but then deleted it.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      From the article:

      “The Singh brothers are appealing against the court’s decision.

      They insist they caught Mrs Holland stealing and showed her CCTV footage to prove what they had seen before sacking her.

      Later, the footage was deleted because they did not think they’d have to produce it again.”

      I will just add that the article appears to be a copy paste article as it cites only the Daily Mail as a source. (Which is amusing, since the DM must be confused over which side to take.)

  • Raksha38

    I can’t believe Enya’s ‘Watermark’ is 25 years old already! I was seriously into the punk scene when I was a teenager and I got so much shit from people for listening to stuff like Enya and Clannad as well. But I didn’t care. I loved it!

  • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

    Hmm the Sikhs in the Bay Area have a spiritual practice that acknowledges all faiths as equal–actually, they’re quite big on equality. I chose my current ophthalmologist because I believed that I wouldn’t encounter any grief about my spirituality. After almost 3 years in her practice, I still haven’t–but then, I don’t give them grief about theirs. We have a mutual respect thing going–and she’s a damned fine surgeon, too.

  • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

    I’m very pleased that the Annenberg Foundation purchased the Hopi artifacts with the intent of returning them to the tribe.