Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 24, 2014 — 40 Comments

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Carhenge. Photo: Wikimedia.

Carhenge. Photo: Wikimedia.

  • So, hey, the Summer Solstice happened! Unless you’re in Australia, then the Winter Solstice happened (it’s complicated, but I think it has something to do with the world being round). That means it is time for everyone’s favorite question: What the heck is Stonehenge actually for? Quote: It has been called a Neolithic temple; a ritual gathering place; a royal burial ground; an eclipse predictor; even a kind of ancient computer capable of mapping celestial patterns. Yet, despite the efforts of generations of scholars, we are still no closer to knowing, definitively, why Stonehenge was built. Neolithic people gathered there, certainly, but, despite modern assumptions, they weren’t Druids – since those ancient British priests, with their white robes, sickles and mistletoe, were a phenomenon of the Iron Age, and only emerged centuries after Stonehenge was abandoned.” So the answer is: it depends on when you’re talking about. Also, ten demerits to any journalist out there who posted a link to Spinal Tap when talking about Stonehenge. 
  • I’d also like to note that Stonehenge is so cool, we will happily dance around replicas of it built outside Britain. Quote: “The monument nearly lines up with sunrise on the solstice, just like Stonehenge – though stories about Bronze Age human sacrifices there were almost certainly false. The original structure was probably one of the earliest calendars. And much like Stonehenge, the replica draws a coterie of neo-Druids, pagans and wiccans each year on the summer solstice. About 30 turned out in small groups from Oregon and southern Washington state.” I love the Pacific Northwest so much. Also: Carhenge, it’s a thing. It’s made of cars. It’s in the Midwest (and people really like it).
  • Is Hillary Clinton an advocate for “sexual paganism?” Quote: “Among the nonsense spread about Clinton’s age, looks and alleged affairs, several right-wing nuts claimed she advocated ‘sexual paganism’ during a speech condemning LGBT violence she delivered in 2011. Peter Sprigg, of the Family Research Council, Richard Land, Southern Evangelical Seminary president, and right-wing author Richard Brown, were particularly vocal in their attack on Clinton. ‘There is no question in my mind, God is already judging America and will judge her more harshly as we continue to move down this path towards sexual paganisation,’ Land commented.” I’d comment, but I don’t want to give the appearance of partisan feeling, though I think there are plenty of our readers who would be pro a “Paganization” campaign.
  • An article on the Celtic Druid Temple in Ireland notes that modern Druids do, in fact, use the Internet (and they are appropriately wary of journalists). Quote: “A notice on the school’s website (yes, Druids use the internet) stipulates that any media coverage must be approved before publication, something The Irish Times has a policy against. Con Connor, who runs the school with his partner, Niamh, explains that this is due to the long history of misrepresentation surrounding Druidism, dating from Roman times to recent Irish schoolbooks on religion. They do not wish to be misunderstood or portrayed as eccentric cranks.” There may also be ancient wisdom involved.
  • There are approximately seven things Paganism can teach “modern man” (But what about post-modern man?). One of them, apparently, is that 1973’s “The Wicker Man” is a really good film. Quote: Seriously, if you ignore all the advice above at least see this classic British ‘horror’ film from 1973. Apart from the fact that it has Christopher Lee, nudity, people dressed up in weird animal masks and Britt Ekland having sex with a man through a wall (hey, Pagans Do It Better!), it also has a cracking Brit folk soundtrack. Don’t bother with the 2006 version starring Nicolas Cage though: that’s absolute pants.” I would make fun, but this is 100% accurate, and if he wants to credit modern Pagans as champions of this cinematic masterpiece, I’ll take it. In fact, here’s the trailer from the recently released “final cut” Blu Ray edition

  • Anna Goeldi, who was killed on accusations of witchcraft in Switzerland in 1782, was honored in a memorial unveiled as an “expression of atonement.” Quote: “Goeldi, who was 48 at the time of her death, was exonerated by the Glarus parliament in 2008. The memorial, comprising two permanently lit lamps on the side of the Glarus court house, is intended to draw attention to violations of human rights that occur in the world today, as well as Goeldi’s story.” Considering the fact that “witches” and “sorcerers” are being murdered in the here and now, perhaps this memorial can serve a purpose beyond righting an old wrong.
  • So, this film exists. Quote: “Witching & Bitching, a simple yet utterly bonkers battle of the sexes that chuckles at male chauvinism before castrating it completely.” This film looks bananas, so I can’t really tell you how well it balances its satire and the use of the horror-movie-witch-trope.
  • There are hundreds of Pagans in the modern UK military. That’s it. That’s the story. They’re just… there. Being Pagan. Quote: “Hundreds of witches, pagans and Druids have signed up to join the UK armed forces, according to the latest official figures. All three services have taken on people whose religious beliefs involve pagan rituals and casting spells. MPs fear that military top brass have been forced to hire members of alternative faiths and beliefs to halt the recruitment crisis. Recent attempts to boost regular and reserve units have had disappointing results, according to a report in the Mirror.” Note, again, that there is no story here other than that Pagans have joined military service in the UK.
  • “Monomyth” is not a term to be thrown around lightly in the Pagan community (I dare say it might even be a ‘fighting word’ in some places). But since Star Wars is revving back up, it’s time to get your Joseph Campbell groove on. Quote: “Campbell’s influence, however, extends far beyond Darth Vader and the gang. From Harry Potter to The Matrix to Happy Gilmore, amateurs and experts alike have drawn connections between multiple modern narratives and Campbell’s theory of the Monomyth, which asserts that various myths, legends, and fairy tales throughout human history share a common story structure involving a hero who departs from known reality in order to confront a series of trials and tribulations before returning home as an initiated master of both realms. The theory, of course, involves more intricacies and complexions—e.g. the call to adventure, the crossing of a threshold, the guidance of a mentor—but that’s the gist.” To be fair, they do point out that the monomyth theory actually has critics.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Crystal Hope Kendrick

    1. Jason’s sassy commentary always gives me a chuckle.
    2. What exactly is “sexual paganism”? Do they just throw all the random words they hate into a hat and pull a few out randomly to mash together?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I think they refer to her BGLT-friendliness and her failure to get a divorce after Monica.

      • Yes. Anyway some of these far-right conservatives seem to be determined to connect “sex” to Hillary in order to remind people about Bill’s infidelity. In other words, it is the old “guilt by association”, despite the fact that Hillary would be the injured party in that instance.

        • Bianca Bradley

          You might be surprised at how much Conservatives don’t care about the fact she didn’t get a divorce. It was the fact she espoused so much feminism, and then supported, and then acted hypocritical of the feminism(Bill and his affairs equal bad sexual harassment, that had any Republican done they would have been roasted over a fire).

          They just don’t like her and I can’t blame them. And before anyone goes off and says they don’t like powerful women, Condoleeza Rice is loved and would have been happily voted for by the Conservative base.

      • Crystal Hope Kendrick

        Ah, but if she had gotten a divorce they’d blame her for that too. Double-edged is the sword of the political right.

    • Franklin_Evans

      “Pagan” is a catch-all pejorative, learned and used thoughlessly to the modern shift in the lexicon driven by our simple existence. Its negative definition “anything not Christian” is unconsciously assumed to still be accurate. I have close friends, Christians and most of them devoutly so, who do that around me and (to their credit) flinch and/or offer “but I don’t mean you!” with it. I’ve learned to take them at their word, that they validly draw a distinction between the descriptive “pagan” and the label “Pagan”. I doubt that attempts to correct their former usage will bear much fruit in my lifetime. 😀

      • I do hope that they are good enough friends to hear you when you say, “Then choose a different word, please.”

        My teacherly stripes are showing, I guess. I spend a fair amount of time explaining things like why it’s not OK to use “gay” or “retarded” to mean “something I think is worthy of scorn.” And lately, explaining to fifteen year olds why the expression “No gay!” is also offensive. *sigh*

        • Franklin_Evans

          I am challenged to be patient with them. They are conditioned by their much more frequent use of the term amongst like-minded folk where its pejorative connotation is the primary intent. I take the “but I don’t mean you” part as a sufficient attempt under the “choose a different word” idea. As always, YMMV.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          Meanings change…

          Gay is a brilliant example of word evolution in the modern age.

          How many people use the word for its “proper” definition of “happy”, these days?

          How many people would name their daughter “Gay” (a formally popular first name), these days?

          When using the pejorative meaning “bad” or “lame” (which opens up a whole other kettle of fish, does it not?), some people do use the variant spelling “ghey”.

          • Or, on the other hand, we could drop it, because slurs are wrong directed against any group.

            That’s the rule in my classroom, at least. The kids seem to get it.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Drop what? the word “gay”?

            Probably a good idea.

    • Cernowain Greenman

      “Sexual paganism” = “Roman orgy”

  • TadhgMor

    Am I the only person who thinks “Celtic Druid” is a bit of a repetition? Smart policy on the media, but I don’t understand what they are distinguishing themselves from. Maybe I’m just not New Agey enough.

    • Franklin_Evans

      I still flinch when they talk about the Boston basketball team. “Selticks” is a remnant of the American disdain for correct pronunciation.

      • In Quimper, Britanny, there is a small inexpensive hotel: l’Hotel Celtique. Yup, soft c, sel-teek, with a different final vowel from that of the basketball team.

        However, Alan Stivell of Britanny refers to Celtic lands with a hard C, and sometimes it is spelled with a K, as in the name of his recording company, Keltia, and an early song of his, Winds of Keltia.

        • Franklin_Evans

          I wonder if it’s (just) an orthographic problem. I run into it constantly with transliterations of Cyrillic to Latin and most people’s ignoring diacritical marks because they don’t know what they’re for or mean.

          A linguistics major friend of mine, gearing up for a multi-lingual diplomatic career, bitterly complained that no one told her that Polish and Hungarian were actually the same language with the same spelling conventions but pronounced completely opposite from each other. Being familiar with both languages (music and dance angle), I had to agree with her while ducking her reaction to my laughter.

          • TadhgMor

            There have been actual studies that show people try and pronounce unfamiliar words more like French in English because they think it sounds more sophisticated. So I expect that plays a part.

            However I’d guess in French it might actually be a real sound-shift in some areas, though I don’t know enough about French to guess. Their consonants have tended towards softening for hundreds of years though, [k] becomes [tʃ] which eventually becomes [s].

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        There is a Scottish football (proper, not American) team called “Celtic”, pronounced the same way.

        I figure it refers to the celt:


        • Franklin_Evans

          I enjoyed the part of linked text that supports the idea that this started as a typographical error: 😀

    • David Pollard

      For the past 15 centuries there’s been a LOT more Celtic Catholics than Celtic Druids.

      • TadhgMor

        Uhm…yes but I don’t understand how that answers anything.

        Also, 1500 years is a bit much. Christianity sat a bit uneasily for the first 300 of those. People were nominally Christian, but lived very similar to their pagan forebears. Particularly if you look at the law.

        That doesn’t change the fact that “Celtic Druid” is redundant since “Druid” is a Celtic term for the priesthood class, not a word with wider usage.

        If I’m being uncharitable it makes me think it’s a New Age group because they often feel the need to throw out “Celtic” to attract the fluffier sort who are attracted to the term’s romanticist connotations.

        • Bianca Bradley

          Not every Celtic religious person is into Druidism. Also the modern Druidism is not the old Druidism.

          • TadhgMor

            I’m amazed people are still missing the point. There is no non-Celtic “Druidism”. The term is redundant.

            I’m well aware of the Romanticist leanings of modern Druidism, something I once tried to argue against but eventually gave up and simply left the community. I’m also aware many “Celtic” (a term misused so often I hesitate to use it here) people are not “Druids” (a term that accurately only applies to a clergy class). I myself am a Gaelic Polytheist who studies the Fenechas.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          I call appropriation.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I knew a woman once who consciously misused words because she thought it made her seem intelligent and sophisticated. Her name was, of course, Miss Appropriation. 😀

    • Guest

      Well, druids in some groups such as ADF don’t have to be Celtic-focused and can practice with any Indo-European ‘hearth culture’ so it can pay to use specific qualifiers. Also plenty of druid orders that have their roots in the 18th century Revival tradition of druidry aren’t exclusively Celtic either. I know that ‘Druid’ was originally the term for a particular function in Celtic society, but the meaning and use of the term has changed and evolved over the past couple of hundred years.

      • TadhgMor

        That is true, which is one of the many reasons I left the ADF. Sponsoring the study of other cultures is great. Calling them “druids” is shoddy history of the first degree.

        I’m not particularly interested in letting horribly ahistorical and usually just flat out wrong Romanticist definitions take over the use of the term. The damage done by Romanticists and New Age groups is extensive but should be combated, not accepted.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          You have my full support on that!

  • TPW

    To keep peace in my house, I don’t bring up what I think about “The Wicker Man” around my wife. I’m probably the only Pagan who thinks the original version was incredibly uncomplimentary to Paganism, if not outright bollocks.

    • Gareth

      I and just about all other Pagans I know love the film and see it as a highly positive portrayal of Pagans. I suspect watching this film at an early age may have served towards creating fertile ground for the seeds of Paganism to later grow. What could be uncomplimentary about it? Would you prefer something like Charmed or The Craft?

      • TPW

        I guess I just wasn’t terribly charmed by the slow-moving plot wherein a bunch of crazy country bumpkins plot a human sacrifice. I’m glad I didn’t see it as an adult, or I definitely would not have been Pagan today, because I found the portrayal distasteful and unrealistic.

        I agree that most Pagans enjoy the film, hence my reference to keeping peace in the house. Its popularity is undeniable, but as puzzling to me as the Federal Reserve.

        • I love the folk magic, and the notion of an entire Pagan village, perfectly at ease with its identity, living ordinary lives from birth to death.

          But, like you,T, I’ve always hated the ending, and the big reveal, that the whole mystery has been a setup for a human sacrifice. We used to throw occasional viewing parties for The Wicker Man, back in the day, and it always made me unhappy how Pagans would actually cheer when Sgt. Howie gets put into the Wicker Man for burning. Really? Really? I thought.

          I do get it, though. It’s not that the Pagans I was with were so happy at the thought of even the bigoted Sgt. Howie being killed–it’s that the desire to redeem that ending and have it be something other than anti-Pagan propaganda was so strong. At the time it was made, after all, and for decades after, Pagans were so invisible that any representation made us happy, regardless of the stereotypes that got reinforced by the resolution of the plot.

          I think it must be very hard for those who have grown up with open references to Paganism to grasp how hungry we were for something, anything, that could reflect our identities back to one another. I think it was in a Barbara Hambly novel that I came across the saying, “If you cannot have good magic, you will have bad.” I think it’s at least part of the explanation for the love so many of us hold for that movie.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I love the ending.

            I always used to think Howie was the antagonist and that the ending was a “happy” one.

          • Crystal Hope Kendrick

            It’s a morality tale with the particular moral being mind your own business and don’t be a holier than thou hypocrite. My husband’s a Christian and even he thinks Howie gets what’s coming to him in the end.

          • Bianca Bradley

            I dunno, being burnt alive is a bit much for being a nosey dick.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Perhaps, but for the bigoted condemnation of their way of life and world view?

            Yeah, I see it as a happy ending where the bad guy got what was coming.

            It’s not like he was a sympathetic character, after all. And he did go willingly…

          • Bianca Bradley

            I’m not entirely sure you can count that as going willingly. I also believe he was sent there to investigate something, so he was doing his job.

            AS for the bigoted part about their way of life and world view, I have to wonder, why is it bad when he does it and not bad when we Pagans do it? Don’t tell me we Pagans don’t judge. Example Creationists, Conservative Christians, etc. Does that merit being burned alive, in a wicker cage, with people getting intoxicated and dancing about you celebrating?

    • You’re not the only one. I can’t stand that movie.

  • Guest

    Your work is much appreciated! Love reading your updates. Thankyou!

  • Love reading your updates! Thankyou for your work!