Archives For abortion

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.

  • Moonhenge in Cambridgeshire was recently dedicated and blessed by local Pagans. Quote: “For Jo-Ann Childs, a druid from ­Huntingdon, the experience was ­particularly spiritual because she said she had dreamed about the henge during a trance three weeks before the artist Derek Massey’s design appeared in The Hunts Post. She said: ‘It was exactly what I saw in my dream – tonight is a dream come true.’ Ms Childs, 72, a retired anaesthetic technician, has been a druid for many years. She explained that by blessing the site, druids hope it will be a sacred place for everybody, no matter what their religion.” Moonhenge is a wooden replica of Stonehenge built in honor of the land owner’s late wife, and featuring 19 outer trees representing a lunar cycle. BBC News notes that there’s a bit of bother over planning permissions, though nothing too dire it seems.
  • The Christian obsession with witchcraft continues unabated, with spiritual warfare peddler Landon “The Rev” Schott‘s new book entitled “Jezebel: The Witch Is Back” that will “equip and empower you to wage spiritual warfare aggressively” against “Jezebel’s diabolical characteristics and behaviors.” Quote: “Her assault will continue until all of God’s people are dead or defeated. Jezebel’s bloodlust for death and destruction will only be stopped when met with spiritual violence.” This is hardly the first book about the “Jezebel spirit,” she’s practically a household name among certain Christians (see here, here, here, and here). So what happens when you explain away everything from depression to simple illness to witchcraft? Do you start looking for scapegoats when your “spiritual violence” isn’t enough anymore to keep things as Christian and stable as you would like? Make no mistake, we’re considered a “symptom” of Jezebel’s reign.
  • For some time now I’ve been covering the Phoenix Goddess Temple saga. Were the practitioners devout tantric healers, or was it merely a front for a prostitution ring? Now, two years after the temple was raided and shut down by police, founder Tracy Elise will be headed to trial in October, and will be representing herself. Quote: “According to court paperwork, Tracy Elise has fired her attorney and has chosen to represent herself in court. Two years ago, police raided Elise’s church, known as the Phoenix Goddess Temple. Investigators claimed it was a house of prostitution, but parishioners said they were just practicing their religion.” For the curious, Elise has a Youtube channel where she outlines some of her beliefs. We will be covering this story as it continues to develop.
  • The trial of psychic matriarch Rose Marks continues, with gripping testimony back and forth over how successful her services were, and whether she was merely conning people for lucrative pay-outs. Quote: “Walker said she became unhappy, though the psychics felt they’d had successes: Walker’s husband had returned to live with her before he died; no child had been born; and Walker’s legal team had negotiated an initial payment from the estate to Walker.” My previous reporting on this story can be found here, and here.
  • Bloomberg, Salon.com, and Discovery all write about the deteriorating water supply in Caracas, Venezuela. While Bloomberg largely focuses on the political and structural failures that are causing the unsafe water, the others seem to focus in on Santeria practitioners dumping dead animals into local reservoirs (which the processing plants are unable to filter toxins from). Quote: “Witch doctors regularly dump animal sacrifices into the reservoir meant to quench the thirst, clean the dishes and wash the clothes of 750,000 Venezuelans, reported Bloomberg. As a result, citizens of one of the most dangerous, crime-ridden cities in the world, Caracas, Venezuela, can’t even take a drink of water from the tap safely. The 60-year old water treatment plant at the reservoir lacks the ability to filter out the toxins from the putrefying carcasses.” None of these articles seem very balanced to me. The problem isn’t the dumping per-se, if it is indeed as pervasive as claimed, the problem is a decaying infrastructure, law enforcement, and a political system in turmoil. The bad water is a symptom of a problem far larger than dead animals.

  • Self-help “Secret”-peddler James Arthur Ray, currently free on parole after serving two years for negligent homicide in three 2009 sweat-lodge ceremony deaths, has decided to drop his conviction appeal. According to the Associated Press, Ray “wants to avoid the possibility of a retrial and resentencing.” Quote: “I wish to ensure the prompt, complete and definitive termination of these criminal proceedings by dismissing this appeal and allowing the conviction and sentence to stand undisturbed.” In other words, the appeal to his not-that-harsh sentence considering 3 people died was generating a lot of criticism, and he feared that being sent back to prison was a real possibility if a new trial went forward. So perhaps this is the end of the James Arthur Ray saga? Let’s hope he sinks into a quiet and isolated retirement.
  • BBC News Scotland has the tragic story of how one abused girl’s testimony was manipulated into what would be known as the South Ronaldsay child abuse scandal in 1991. Quote: “The tiny Orkney island of South Ronaldsay became the centre of a worldwide media storm in 1991 when nine children were removed from four families following allegations of satanic sexual abuse. Two decades on, Esther, who was the child at the centre of the scandal, believes none of it would have happened if she had spoken out at the time.” Esther has published a new book entitled “If Only I Had Told.”
  • Interfaith activist Andrew Luisi says that Indian culture teaches us plurality. Quote: “India has taught me that there are endless paths to reach the same destination. Hindus believe in many deities, but ultimately and regardless of the deity they choose to worship, they believe that they will be lead to the same truth. To this point, Hindus believe that they are worshipping the manifestation of the deity in the specific image that they are performing the puja, or religious ritual, to. It is not as if each Hindu believes that the image is the deity because most understand that divine power is greater than any one physical figure; divinity is present anywhere in the world and at any time.”
  • The Revealer interviews Ronald L. Grimes, ritual theorist, and author of “Deeply into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage.” Quote: “His book “Deeply Into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage“ (University of California Press, 2000), for example, mixes personal accounts of the ways people have performed rites of “hatching, matching, and dispatching” with theoretical approaches to those rites. Through his detailed explanations, Grimes also makes arguments for why rites of passage matter, not just as an academic discipline, but for our lived lives. These passages are difficult, when fully comprehended, and it takes performance, imagination, and community to work through them. Crucially, they have to be updated, changed, and “re-invented” to continue to have impact.”
  • Paganism is resurgent, and thus, people are throwing away babies. Modern Catholic thought in action folks.
  • Matt Hedstrom at the Christian Century admits that a “come-one, come-all” open prayer policy would unfairly favor Christianity, but can’t bring himself to endorse either “ceremonial deism” or complete elimination of opening invocations. Quote: “As Stephen Prothero recently reminded me, many evangelicals and fundamentalists actually supported—for this very reason—the landmark 1962 Supreme Court ruling in Engel v. Vitale, which banned school-sponsored prayer. Fundamentalist leader Carl McIntire made this point clearly: ‘Prayer itself without the name of Jesus Christ’—whom the prayer in question did not name—’was not non-denominational prayer—it was simply a pagan prayer.’ McIntire continued: ‘No Government agency or power in the United States can be used to establish a religion.’ Prayer without Jesus represented a religious orientation, one McIntire found objectionable.” Again, this is why the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway is so important.

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.

When one faith is dominant in a culture, it can sometimes lead to weird things being celebrated as positive moments. For example, certain Christians love to reference Elijah’s challenge to the worshipers of Ba’al and Asherah on Mount Carmel. Being an exemplar of intolerant monotheism, Elijah hated the idea that other (false) gods were being worshiped in Israel, so he issued a showdown, a challenge between his God and their gods.

“Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under; and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under. And call ye on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.’ And all the people answered and said: ‘It is well spoken.’”

Having cornered the polytheists into trying to produce a miracle on demand, he proceeds to mock them as they pray.

“And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said: ‘Cry aloud; for he is a god; either he is musing, or he is gone aside, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.’”

Classy, right? Elijah then manages to miraculously light his sacrifice (after dousing it with “water”) and uses that moment of triumph to order all the priests killed.

"The Slaughter of the Prophets of Baal" by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

“The Slaughter of the Prophets of Baal” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

“And Elijah said unto them: ‘Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they took them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”

It’s an ugly story, a tale of triumphant monotheism told by the victors (all inconvenient truths, like what was in those “water” jugs, no doubt excised). A tale that was used just the other day by former Arkanasas governor-turned-pundit Mike Huckabee in a conference call in support of Missouri Senate candidate Todd “legitimate rape” Akin.

Mike Huckabee: Akin and Elijah, just picture it!

Mike Huckabee: Akin and Elijah, just picture it!

“This could be a Mount Carmel moment,” said the former Arkansas governor, referring to the holy battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in the book of Kings. “You know, you bring your gods. We’ll bring ours. We’ll see whose God answers the prayers and brings fire from heaven. That’s kind of where I’m praying: that there will be fire from heaven, and we’ll see it clearly, and everyone else will to.”

He’s obviously speaking metaphorically, using Biblical language in a culture war context, I’m sure Akin supporters won’t start running around with swords after the election should he win (one hopes). Indeed, Huckabee is speaking the language of conservative Christian culture, which paints anything un-Christian as akin to the worship of Ba’al (and thus always in danger of being shown up by the true super-awesome God with kung-fu bullock-lighting punch). The modern connection between Ba’al worship and liberal/progressive/secular culture is most fervent in the anti-abortion movement, who see abortion as akin to human sacrifice, and Ba’al is referenced over and over again.

The problem with this metaphor, this meme, is that it dehumanizes their opponents into demonic caricatures, and leaves the fate of those priests after the contest often unsaid. Yet the Bible-believers all know what happens next, as it’s a popular story. They know that the Ba’al worshipers are slaughtered by the mob. Invoking a slaughter as a metaphor for a social struggle is problematic, to be sure, and displays an ugliness at the heart of conservative Christian culture warriors. “Mount Carmel moments” leave no room for compromise, accommodation, civil discourse, or even mercy. It’s a winner-take-all showdown between God and all that is not His.

We live in a secular, multi-religious culture, and there is no room for winner-take-all showdowns. The priests of one god don’t get to slaughter the priests of another god in mountain-top pray-offs. We are forced to live and reason with one another. We must learn to not demonize those with disagree with, to realize that they are human and have similar wants, hopes, and dreams. To invoke the specter of intolerance and murder when talking about a political race is absurd and counter-productive. Whoever wins they’ll have to represent the Christians and the metaphorical Ba’al worshipers too. The days of calling fire from heaven is over, as are the days of one religion being allowed to eradicate another, at least in the United States. These days, that Ba’al worshiper (ie polytheist) might be your next door neighbor, your best friend, or your co-worker.

So let’s stop hoping for a Mount Carmel moment, because there’s enough intolerance and death to go around already.

Tomorrow I’ll be on a flight to Maryland for the 2011 FaerieCon event, at which I’ll be conducting interviews, taking pictures, and moderating panel discussions (in addition to seeing Qntal in concert).

Since I’m not sure I’ll have enough time to blog properly while also covering the event, I’ve arranged a variety of guest-posters during my absence to keep the lights on here at The Wild Hunt. Tomorrow we’ll be featuring a guest-post from Patheos columnist and Killing the Buddha Contributing Editor Eric Scott, and we have several other wonderful Pagan voices lined in the days to follow. Patheos Pagan Portal manager Star Foster will be behind the scenes making sure the trains run on time. I’ll return on Tuesday, and should have some great coverage to share when I get back!

In the meantime, before I go, here are some news stories I’d like to share with you.

That’s all I have for now, enjoy the guest-posts, see you on Tuesday!

One of the most pernicious types of religious slander is “blood libel,” the accusation that a religious group ritualistically murders (and often consumes) children. While most famously, and pervasively, used against Jews throughout history, many other groups have had similar accusations made against them. For example, in ancient Rome some accused Christians of partaking in cannibalistic orgies and incest.

“Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known. An infant covered over with meal, that it may deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites: this infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds. Thirstily – O horror! they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness of wickedness they are covenanted to mutual silence.”Marcus Minucius Felix

Naturally, once Christians gained social and political power the shoe was on the other foot, and that power was used to all but eradicate classical paganism. Though there was plenty of slander from Christian writers towards ancient pagans, it was diffused somewhat due to their equal distaste for Christian sects deemed heretical and the Jews, who would become their favored target throughout history. Sadly, blood libel continues in the modern era, not just against Jews, but against modern Pagans as well. In a new Christian DVD, “The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death,” director Jay Rogers does his best to imply that abortion isn’t simply the terminating of a pregnancy,  or even the moral equivalent to murder, but a “sacrament,” a blood sacrifice seen as holy by ancient and modern Pagans. They literally ignore modern Pagan voices to make their own preconceived links, and twist the words of prominent Pagans to imply that their reading of Pagan beliefs is correct.

“Do modern Wiccans view abortion as child sacrifice? To be fair, we must say that in our research we’ve received literally hundreds of letters and electronic communications from Wiccans around the world. The vast majority of Wiccans and Pagans deny that they have anything to do with human or animal sacrifice. They also deny that Wicca has anything to do with the abortion industry, nor do they view abortion as the sacrifice of the unborn in their rituals. But all modern day Wiccans freely admit that the modern religion is traced to ancient Celtic and Northern German people, the very people who practiced human sacrifice. Although the vast majority deny that they have anything to do with the practice of child sacrifice, Wiccans are hard pressed to explain a growing number of witches who argue that abortion is a witch’s prerogative.”

They take the support for legal access to abortion, and the support for the primacy of women’s bodies in matters of birth, as tacit acknowledgement for their sacrifice narrative. Then, when they can wring no further controversy from Starhawk or Z. Budapest, they turn to their old stand-by, an obscure 1992 book written by Ginette Paris that discusses abortion as a sacred act. Though Paris is far from famous within modern Paganism, she is a true BNP (Big-Name Pagan) among anti-abortion groups for giving them the “smoking gun” they needed to “prove” their link between modern Paganism, Wicca, and abortion as child-sacrificing sacrament. Also, if you’re Pagan and a pro-choice advocate? That just further proves that abortions are actually holy sacrifices to the Goddess.

“Today we have given the demons of human sacrifice new names: “Career” – “Convenience” – “Money” – “Lust” – “Self.” But beyond this, we have come full circle; today’s rationalism has given way to a new feminist spirituality that honors these same demons, actually calling them by their proper biblical and historical names. Surely it can be no coincidence that the hottest sub-movement within the feminist movement that began to emerge after the Roe v. Wade decision is goddess worship. Or that one of the primary deities that is being worshipped is Aphrodite – the goddess of child sacrifice.”

Whether you are pro-choice or anti-abortion, any clear-eyed observer would have to see this for what it is: blood libel. Religious slander that creates narratives that overrule our own voices and opinions on the subject to feed their beliefs. If you want to see the seeds for a new Satanic Panic, here they are.

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.

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.

Top Story: Some crazy things get said and done during an election season, and Pagans certainly haven’t been immune from that phenomenon this year, but this may take the cake. Washington, D.C., Republican congressional delegate candidate Missy Reilly Smith, in an interview with The Daily Caller, talks about using her candidacy as a way to air her anti-abortion views and lets slip some rather interesting opinions about Wicca.

“The more that you’re involved in this organization [Planned Parenthood] the more demonic you realize it is,” Smith said. “Many of the employees of Planned Parenthood and abortion mills, the actual killing centers, the employees are actual witches. They belong to Wiccan and there’s nothing more valuable to Satan than the blood of innocent babies.”

She also proclaims on her website that the Tea Party’s “number one mission” is to “end legalized child killing” which might come as a shock to the pro-choice Tea Partiers in the movement who are more concerned with taxes. While it’s shocking to hear any (supposedly) mainstream candidate say this about Wiccans, it’s actually a fairly common belief within the hardcore anti-abortion groups. Do a search for “the sacrament of abortion” on Google and you’ll see a near-obsession with an obscure book written by Ginette Paris in 1992 that discusses abortion as a sacred act, and uses the metaphor of the procedure being seen as a sacrifice to Artemis. This, along with other isolated comments by a former abortion practitionerwas pounced on as “proof” that Satanic Witches were behind the abortion industry. Various “insider” accounts still push the Wiccan abortionist meme today, putting Smith’s seemingly random outburst into context.

“Since then the Toledo, Ohio, abortion clinic where Abigail’s mother worked has moved to a new location, although it is still owned by the same woman, a Wiccan when Abigail knew her. Abigail’s mother has also moved on, so I don’t know if the nefarious practices and conditions Abigail observed are ongoing.”

Star Foster at Patheos.com has already expressed her disgust and anger at Smith’s slandering of Paganism in the interview, and I imagine more responses are being written as news of this slur spreads. It should be noted that Smith does not have the support of the Republican Party, despite having won the primary. It is also very unlikely that she’ll win (Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in the District of Columbia). So, if anything, her candidacy should be a reminder of what the activist base of the anti-abortion movement believes about modern Paganism.

The Future of Pagan Lands: Pagan journalist Kathy Nance talks with acclaimed Pagan author and activist Starhawk during her visit to Diana’s Grove in Missouri;  the key topic of discussion is the fact that Diana’s Grove is currently on the market, and how land prices and the current economy are calling into question the future of Pagan-owned retreats and sanctuaries.

First, she said, the changing of the generational guard is being affected by a change in land values. Many of the groups—Pagan and otherwise—that bought land and set up intentional communities in the 1970s and 1980s were able to live off the land with little or no outside income. Now that land prices have increased so greatly in some areas, buyers need outside income to make the mortgage payments. Or, they need to be retired people with sufficient assets to invest and use for living expenses.

“I see now on my land in Northern California that the community is aging. The people who are moving in who can afford to buy tend to be retired,” she said. “You can’t ask Cynthea and Patricia to just give it (the Diana’s Grove acreage) away. That’s their retirement money. But the people who might be interested in taking it on, may not have the resources.”

It all comes back to the need for infrastructure, and how hard that can be to manage for a movement as decentralized and diverse as modern Paganism. While our growing (and aging) community often wants some of the amenities that other faith communities have (land, buildings, retirement communities, service organizations, charities), the individual faiths within Paganism are still too small to build/buy such resources, and the movement as a whole is often too diverse to effectively pool resources for such things. I have no doubt that eventually we’ll see more infrastructure within modern Paganism, but it may not come as soon as some would wish.

Baltic Paganism Around the World: After doing an article on the rise of new religious movements in the Baltic States (EstoniaLatvia, and Lithuania), the Baltic Times takes a closer look at Baltic forms of Paganism at home and in the diaspora.

“Evangelical movements along with neo-pagan movements locally and abroad are possibly the beginnings of something much larger. Next, we take a look at the rebirth of ancient religions. To call it an actual rebirth is somewhat of a misnomer since the neo-pagan movements are not a true revival of a religion once practiced in the region. Instead, as with the example of the Latvian Dievturiba (literally ‘keeping God’) movement, we see religion constructed from ancient practices.”

The article looks at Dievturiba, Romuva, Maausk, and Taaralased, many of which are seeing thriving communities growing in the Baltic diaspora. Also mentioned is the upcoming observance of Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”), which share many commonalities with the holidays like Samhain.

Hiding Bones Because of Pagans? The Daily Mail reports on the trend of museums increasingly hiding or deemphasizing ancient human remains due to protests from various groups, including Pagans. Centered on the new book by sociologist Dr Tiffany Jenkins entitled “Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The Crisis of Cultural Authority”, the article claims museums are over-reacting to protests by groups like Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD).

Since the late 1970s, human remains in museum collections have been subject to claims and controversies, such as demands for repatriation by indigenous groups who suffered under colonisation, particularly in Australia, North America and Canada. But Dr Jenkins says that such appeals are not confined to once-colonised groups. British pagans formed Honouring the Ancient Dead in 2004 to campaign for reburial and respect for pre-Christian skeletons from the British Isles. Dr Jenkins said: “The profession is over-reacting to the claims of small minority groups – such as the Pagan organisation, Honouring the Ancient Dead. Most remarkable of all is that human remains of all ages, and which are not the subject of claims-making by any community group, have become subject to concerns about their handling, display and storage, expressed by influential members of the museum profession.”

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. In fact HAD occupies something of a middle ground on this issue, only calling for the reburial of remains that “have no scientific or research potential,” as opposed to other groups who take a far harder line. Whether museum curators are “over-reacting” to demands by various Pagan groups is an open question. Who sets the metric for what’s an over-reaction? The Daily Mail? They don’t have a great track record for being fair and balanced when it comes to Pagan religion in the UK.

No Deal on Witch’s Wit? While I’m hesitant to bring this topic up again, it seem the New York Times was a bit too hasty in saying there was a deal between protesting Pagans and California brewery Lost Abbey over their witch-burning beer label. Peter Rowe with the San Diego Union Tribune interviews Tomme Arthur, Lost Abbey’s brewmaster and part owner, who says that he isn’t budging on this issue.

“I’m sorry we offended the pagan community. But our labels are original pieces of artwork. I’m standing behind the art and the artist’s imagination.” … At least one of Lost Abbey’s four co-owners would bow to these concerns. “I would change the label,” Vince Marsaglia said. “That’s one of a million labels you could put on that beer.” But Marsaglia said he’ll defer to the person who runs Lost Abbey day-to-day. And what would that person change about the label? “Nothing,” Tomme Arthur insisted.”

Observant readers will also note that Rowe interviewed me for the article. I’m afraid our nuanced conversation about Pagan opinions over this controversy were somewhat cherry-picked in the rather glib final version, but I tried to emphasize to him that there is no clear consensus within our communities over this issue. Whether this controversy dies down, or continues to gain stream, remains to be seen.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Let’s check in on what’s happening around the Pagan blogosphere!

The Fate of Fate: Chas Clifton at Letter From Hardscrabble Creek comments on the grim prospects of the classic metaphysical/Fortean magazine Fate. Once owned by Llewellyn Worldwide, and then sold to former employee, the magazine has gone from being a monthly, to bi-monthy, and now, it seems, PDF download only.

“The magazine death pool is so close you can smell the fetid waters. Fate’s blog keeps putting up new entries, but discussion of the magazine’s own fate is oddly missing. The economics must be rough. Perhaps this is a case of flat advertising revenues versus rising printing and mailing costs. PDF files are not the answer, and a Web version of the magazine would have to be re-thought from the ground up.”

I first commented on Fate’s fate back in 2008, and didn’t find much cause for optimism. The new, younger, audience they were hoping to attract hasn’t seemed to materialize, and very few magazines return from Internet-only to print. This just isn’t a good time for niche magazines, and I agree with Chas that PDF files aren’t the answer. It remains to be seen if a new web-only version of Fate can blossom before the whole enterprise goes under.

A Pagan Looks at Rand Paul’s Libertarianism: Beliefnet Pagan blogger and political scientist Gus diZerega gives a Pagan perspective of libertarianism, civil rights, and Rand Paul’s Senate candidacy in Kentucky.

“In all honesty I think it is even harder to be a hard-core libertarian Pagan than a libertarian in general, though I have known some and they were often nice people.  In Paganism as I understand it and have experienced it the non-human world is also sentient and alive to a degree denied by mainstream society.  This means that issues of appropriate and inappropriate relationships penetrate even more deeply into our interactions with the world than they do for the average Christian or secularist.  For Pagans issues of appropriate relationship include plants, animals, and for some, myself included, the earth itself.  The libertarian assumption that my property is what I own and control appears as morally immature and even childish.”

As for Rand Paul, this week, despite his primary victory in Kentucky, has been very bad for him. Meanwhile, many have been questioning if Paul really is a libertarian considering some of his political stances, and arguing over where he is or isn’t a racist. Not exactly the narrative a recent primary winner wants swirling around him going into an election.

Paganism, Feminism, and Abortion: Over at the On Faith site, they toss out the question to their panelists of whether you can be feminist and oppose all forms of abortion, or a religious person and support some forms of it. You just knew that author and Pagan panelist Starhawk would have something to say on the subject.

“I don’t accept that frame. The core issue, for me for the pro-choice movement, is this: Who gets to decide what goes on inside a woman’s body? My answer as a feminist is: The woman herself must have the right to make that decision, to wrestle with her own conscious, to encounter for herself those great issues of life and death that all of us must face in this mortal world. Those decisions are never cut and dried, and no one makes choices in a vacuum. The opinions of others, of partners and doctors and friends and respected mentors of faith all come into play. So do the rights of others. But ultimately, the right to self determination begins with the right to make basic decisions about one’s physical self.”

I too reject the frame that On Faith worded their question to panelists, as it removes the pregnant woman’s agency from the center of the issue, and instead, once again, turns the issue into a political football. You can read my own views, and the views of other Pagans regarding abortion, here, and here.

A Pagan Perspective on the Stolen (Secular) Cross Memorial: Over at the Patheos Pagan portal Cara Schulz (who also blogs at Pagan+Politics) shares the history behind the now-controversial Mojave WWI Christian cross memorial, and criticizes those within the Pagan community who have lauded or defended its recent vandalism.

“Chances are, no one in our community was responsible for this criminal act of theft. We didn’t do this. But what some in our community are doing is celebrating the desecration of the memorial. They are joyful it happened and supportive of the person(s) who did it. Justifying the act with claims of how it was a laudable example of civil disobedience. No. Civil disobedience is done in the light of day by brave and principled persons willing to take responsibility for their actions. If you want a Hellenic example of civil disobedience, read up on the life of Socrates. His crime was to make the youth of Athens think for themselves and his punishment, which he did nothing to avoid, was death. If you want a celebrated American example, read up on the life of Rosa Parks. Her crime was to sit in a seat reserved for whites, her punishment was being arrested and fined. The criminal(s) who stole the WWI Memorial was no Socrates or Rosa parks.”

You can read my full coverage of the Mojave cross memorial saga, here. Be sure to also check out the ever-expanding amount of Pagan content at the Patheos Pagan portal, including recent interviews with Erynn Rowan Laurie, Lon Milo DuQuette, and yours truly.

A Quick Look at the PNC Blog Family: Finally, I want to remind everyone of the great content that is coming from the Pagan Newswire Collective’s blog family. Pagan+Politics, Warriors & Kin, and The Juggler. Over at Pagan+Poltics you can read about food criminals, the political nomination process, the importance of voting, and the right to openly carry a firearm. At The Juggler they’ve covered Paganism “coming out” on television, Wicca in the movies, the new Robin Hood film, and mixing art with ritual. Lastly, at Warriors & Kin they’ve explored homecomings, digging up details regarding OPSEC rules, invocations in the military, and an in-depth review of War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.

Tick postulates the problem of PTSD as a failed warrior initiation. This failure is not entirely the fault of the veteran but, he says, of society as a whole. It is the fault of the technological changes in warfare that have stripped war of its mythologized meanings and resonances. In treating PTSD as the potential result of a warrior initiation, he specifically positions it as the result of a male adulthood rite gone wrong. Of course, this framing ignores women’s service entirely. In framing PTSD as a “failure” he, perhaps inadvertently, places blame on men and women who are already struggling with issues of responsibility, reintegration, and physical and emotional traumas.

I hope you’ll check out all three blogs, subscribe to their feeds, follow them on Twitter, or “like” them on Facebook.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

“Through our own abortion experiences, we came to reject the dichotomy of abortion politics that would require women to choose between two beliefs: that pregnancy is a miracle, the fetus’s life is sacred, and therfore abortion is wrong; or that pregnancy is merely a physical event, the fetus is just a mass of tissue, and therefore abortion is insignificant. As feminists and Pagans, we believe that women are literally a gateway between worlds and that abortion is a responsible exercise of the sacred power of choice.”Minerva Earthschild and Vibra Willow, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying

I’m not really sure I want this discussion, I could be talking about Pagans in Iceland, or the latest stupid exploits of “The Impaler”. But ever since the murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, I’ve been unable to really focus on anything else. Maybe it’s because my wife’s a doctor, and I take the murder of doctors seriously. Maybe it’s because I’m fed up with hearing earnest pundits place Tiller and his sociopathic assassin on equal moral standing because they both have “blood on their hands”. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel I can go any further without saying something. Without reiterating again, a Pagan view on abortion, and the primal right of women to be the final arbiters of carrying a pregnancy to term.

I agree with Starhawk when she says that pregnancy and birth is a profound and holy mystery. That it is an encounter with goddess (or The Goddess), where weighty decisions concerning life and death are made, and that outside attempts to legislate or control a woman’s pregnancy and birth is to deny her “deepest spiritual self”. Sometimes, in the crux of that holy moment, a potential life is rejected. We may not always agree with or like this situation, but the sacred power of choice can’t be denied, lest we deny a woman’s moral agency in the matter of birth. Throughout recorded history husbands, rulers, family, religious leaders, and various laws have tried to regulate and control that agency, but despite this, women have found ways to choose the time and manner of bearing children.

“…when couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun; what may or may not be lawfully done in these cases depends on the question of life and sensation.”Aristotle, Politics 7.16

While I see the issue of abortion’s morality and legality one that centers on whether women are allowed and able to control their own reproductive process, the current climate in which doctors are killed and clinics bombed is partially a political construct designed to garner votes and split former alliances.

“Abortion (or more accurately the battle over legal access to an abortion) is the biggest red herring in the history of politics. Shortly before Ronald Reagan took office, conservative Christian groups (disappointed with Carter’s liberal form of Christianity, and reeling from the Nixon years) were looking for an issue to help galvanize their base and move them forward. They realized that abortion was the ticket. It not only created some great sound-bites (child genocide, etc etc) and helped define the “them” (evil secular humanists and liberal Christians), but it also helped erode the traditional Catholic support of the Democratic party (the modern Catholic church since around 1917 was soundly anti-abortion).”

In the years since abortion was politicized, we’ve grown used to inflammatory rhetoric like “baby-killer”, “genocide”, “murderer”, and “butcher” being used to describe doctors who perform abortions. Then those same groups who paint the doctors as genocidal tyrants are “shocked” when someone takes them seriously. After all, who wouldn’t want to kill Hitler, right? Not realizing the complex ethical and emotional decisions behind each and every one of these controversial procedures.

“My wife and I spent a week in Dr. Tiller’s care after we learned our 21 week fetus had a severe defect incompatible with life. The laws in our state prevented us from ending the pregnancy there, and Dr. Tiller was one of maybe three choices in the whole nation at that gestational age. My wife just called with the news of his murder, weeping. I can’t really come up with some profound political statement just now, so let me just list some memories of Dr. Tiller. I remember him firmly stating that he regarded the abortion debate in the US to be about the control of women’s sexuality and reproduction … I remember being puzzled about a T-shirt he was wearing, which said “Happy Birthday Jennifer from team Tiller!” or something similar. Turns out it commemorated the birthday of a fifteen year old girl who was raped, became pregnant, and came to Tiller for an abortion. As luck would have it, she was in the clinic the same week as her birthday. So the clinic threw her a party. The walls of the clinic reception and waiting room are literally covered with letters from patients thanking him. Some were heartbreaking – obviously young and/or poorly educated people thanking Dr. Tiller for being there when they had no other options, explaining their family, church etc. had abandoned them.”

Now this man has been eliminated. Murdered, assassinated, snuffed-out, because he had been labeled a murderer and a Nazi by anti-abortion groups looking to inflame their followers, and cable television hacks looking to boost their ratings share.

As Pagans, whether we personally agree with abortion or not, we do agree that no singular moral teaching should control us all. That we know and acknowledge the existence of many paths, many powers, and many teachings. That in a world where people worship different gods and hold to different ways, co-existence and tolerance is the key to survival. We should see the murder of someone for holding and practicing a different (and legal) point of view on the question of life as a tragedy that undermines our attempts at working together in a secular society. I yearn for a post-Christian America because I yearn for a country where no one group feels privileged and empowered enough to interfere with the lives and medical decisions of women.

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 25, 2008 — 1 Comment

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Over at the On Faith site, the panel weighs in on abortion. Pagan panelist Starhawk gives her take on “abortion and The Goddess”.

“Women are moral agents, and in the Goddess and Pagan traditions, we are each our own spiritual authority. We have a right to wrestle with these issues ourselves, not have them predetermined for us by government authorities. We have a right to determine what goes on inside our bodies. To deny that right to women is to invite government intrusion into all kinds of private and personal choices. Overturning Roe vs. Wade would open the door to state control of our most intimate and tender decisions, and be a step closer to a totalitarian regime.”

She also quotes from the excellent book “The Pagan Book of Living and Dying”. In other Starhawk-related news, she has posted a six-minute video clip of Reclaiming’s annual Spiral Dance ritual to her web site.

For information on this year’s Spiral Dance ritual, click here.

Over at the Nation, Max Blumenthal writes about infiltrating Sarah Palin’s former church, and gets his hands on video footage of the now-infamous “blessing” done by anti-witchcraft crusader Thomas Muthee on Palin in 2005. Guess what? Muthee didn’t just pray for her to become governor, he also asked for her to be protected from “witchcraft”.

“Muthee’s mounting stardom took him to Wasilla Assembly of God in May, 2005, where he prayed over Palin and called upon Jesus to propel her into the governor’s mansion — and beyond. Muthee also implored Jesus to protect Palin from “the spirit of witchcraft.” The video archive of that startling sermon was scrubbed from Wasilla Assembly of God’s website, but now it has reappeared.”

So much for claims that Palin was ignorant or non-compliant in that church’s ongoing and active participation in Third-Wave “spiritual warfare” tactics. One wonders what “spirits of witchcraft” Palin needed protection from? Are there fortune tellers in Wasilla causing car accidents?

The brutal beating of a woman in Florida by a cult group has produced some of the worst journalistic accounts I have ever read. Fueled by incomplete information, this gang is painted as some sort of Santeria-Voodoo-Pagan-Satanic hybrid. With guns.

“Wood told investigators she was once a member of a Santeria voodoo group in Flagler County. She said Sunday’s abduction and beating were not the first she had suffered in recent days as a result of her leaving the group last year to become a Christian ,,, Wood also told investigators the men and a petite blonde woman named “Sky” took her to an open field near a home where a bonfire was burning. They were “preparing” for the autumnal equinox, she said.” “They needed me to help call the spirits,” Wood told investigators, indicating it was something she had done when she was a member of the group.”

It seems to me there is some vital information missing here. It’s also troubling that the only “expert” quoted in any of the linked articles is a cult “exit counselor”. So far the only part of her story that has been confirmed is that a local church was helping her. Here’s hoping that whoever did beat her goes to prison, and that some less sensationalist light is shed on this cult/group.

In a final note, the Covenant of the Goddess has sent out a press release in support of same-sex marriage in California and Massachusetts.

“Covenant of the Goddess has, since its inception in 1975, had clergy willing to celebrate the religious if not the legal joining of two members of the same gender. While we respect the right of the individual clergy within COG who may choose not to perform such a ceremony, we are in support of marriage between two committed adults of any gender, and a majority of our celebrants are willing to perform such ceremonies.”

The release, which hasn’t been posted to their web site yet, also goes into the history of same-sex marriage in pagan cultures, and the social and legal importance of allowing marriage rights to same-sex couples today.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!