Archives For Andrew Bowen

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.

Torch lighting ceremony in Greece. (Associated Press)

Torch lighting ceremony in Greece. (Associated Press)

- The Olympic flame for the 2012 London games was lit yesterday at the Temple of Hera in Greece, though it did go out briefly during the ceremony. Luckily there was a back-up flame, and the torch started on its week-long journey around Greece. Once in Britain it will make a 70-day circuit in the lead-up to the Olympics. Despite the pageantry, some aren’t impressed, while others made snarky jokes about the flame going out. Still, it’s always nice to see echoes, reminders, that the Olympics are a pagan invention. Created to honor Zeus.

- In a historic first yesterday, Galina Krasskova, a Heathen, gave the opening prayer at a conference on women and indigeny being held at the United Nations. The first Heathen to ever do so. You can find the text of her opening ancestor prayer, here. I could be wrong, but I believe this conference was part of the larger 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), which I mentioned earlier. Congratulations to Galina on this achievement!

- Andrew Brown at The Guardian interviews an unnamed hip vicar who is allegedly dating a Witch, and opines on how to get the post-Christian generation back in the Anglican pews. Quote: “He said the only way was to go straight for the most improbable part of the story. If you’re teaching the virgin birth, point out at once that there were many virgin birth stories around at the time. Caesar Augustus himself was meant to have been the child of a God. So what was different about a God who chose a poor Jewish girl and not a princess for his bride? What changed if the Christian story were true and not the official one?” So, there you go? I guess?

- Congratulations to everyone’s favorite German Catholic mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, now St. Hildegard of Bingen thanks to Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church. Though, a Catholic blogger points out she was already a de facto saint for years. In any case, here’s to the “Sybil of the Rhine.”

- The Epoch Times profiles New York City Councilman, and congressional candidate, Dan Halloran. Not a single peep about his religion, in any context. Luckily, The Wild Hunt spends plenty of time on the subject.

PNC Managing Editor, Cara Schulz with Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson

PNC Managing Editor, Cara Schulz with Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson

- Speaking of politics, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson recently won the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president. He’s gotten quite a bit of media attention recently, with many wondering if this will be a breakout year for the Libertarians. Pagan Newswire Collective Managing Editor Cara Schulz got to spend the day with Johnson not too long ago, and Schulz followed up with the candidate to see if he regretted courting our community’s vote during a virtual “town hall” session with representatives from Pagan and Hindu media. Quote: “There was no consternation within my campaign about any of the feedback that we got on that event. No consternation.” You can read all of my coverage of Johnson, here.

- An Australian paper reports on two horse killing in England, linking them to the occult, Satanism, and the recent “super moon.” Actual solid evidence for this theory? Zero.

- Peter Berger, writing for The American Interest, defends Andrew Bowen’s Project Conversion, which I’ve mentioned a few times previously here at The Wild Hunt. What I find most interesting about the article is his refutation of “secularization theory—the notion that modernity necessarily brings about a decline in religion.” Berger notes that it “should be replaced by a theory of plurality—a situation in which many religions co-exist and interact with each other.” Sign me up as a proponent of plurality theory.

- TheoFantastique interviews Noel Montague-Etienne Rarignac, author of “The Theology of Dracula: Reading the Book of Stoker as Sacred Text.” The book aims to reread “the horror classic as a Christian text, one that alchemizes Platonism, Gnosticism, Mariology and Christian resurrection in a tale that explores the grotesque.” Sounds very interesting, especially if you’re a fan of Stoker and Dracula.

- An interfaith memorial service for Pagan author, elder, and priestess, De-Anna Alba, also known as Wendy White, will be held tomorrow, Saturday, May 12, 2012 in California at the Church of the Incarnation. De-Anna, author of “The Cauldron of Change: Myths, Mysteries and Magick of the Goddess,” was one of Circle Sanctuary‘s first priestesses and was Circle Sanctuary’s first church secretary. She assisted Selena Fox with publications, events, music, networking, and other endeavors. Selena Fox will give her eulogy and will be among the officiants at De-Anna’s interfaith memorial service this Saturday. Selena also will be among the officiants at De-Anna’s Pagan memorial service and cremains interment at Circle Cemetery in Wisconsin on July 21.

- In a final note, rest in peace Maurice Sendak. Let the wild rumpus start!

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.

Here are some updates on stories The Wild Hunt has reported on previously.

Teaching Paganism in British Schools: On Sunday I deconstructed the sensationalist Daily Mail’s assertions regarding the teaching of Paganism in British religious education courses, specifically in Cornwall. I pointed out that there is no hard-and-fast mandate requiring schools to insert Pagan religions into their curriculum, and that the RE advisory council is exactly that, advisory. Still, why let facts and reason get in the way of a good rant? That’s seems to be the position of conservative Catholic columnist Christina Odone, who uses the story as a jumping-off point to rail against any who dare place non-Christian faiths on equal ground with Christianity.

Cristina Odone, not a fan of Pagans. Photo: STEPHEN SHEPHERD

Cristina Odone, not a fan of Pagans. Photo: STEPHEN SHEPHERD

“God, Gaia, whatever: school children are already as familiar with the solstice as with the sacraments. In pockets of Cornwall, children will point out a nun in her habit: “Look, a Druid!” Their parents will merely shrug — one set of belief is as good as another. How long before the end of term is marked by a Black Mass, with only Health and Safety preventing a human sacrifice?

How long indeed! It seems that individuals like Odone are all for pluralism when it’s the other groups being tolerant and inclusive, but watch the knives come out when Christians are asked to make a bit of room to allow differing views. You know things have gone off the rails when a columnist makes The Daily Mail seem restrained by comparison (heck, even The Christian Post simply rewrites The Daily Mail’s article with no further editorializing).

The Problem With Passive Distribution: Last week I reported on the latest developments regarding the Buncombe County School Board in North Carolina’s policy regarding religion in its schools. The new policy passed at that meeting was the culmination of months of activism that began when North Carolina Pagan Ginger Strivelli challenged her child’s school’s policy regarding the distribution of religious materials. However, the larger question about the distribution of religious materials by non-student groups was tabled until next year, with talk of a religion fair of sorts where local churches could distribute literature. Now, advocacy group Americans United weighs in on that idea, warning the school board to tread carefully.

Can we really expect that future incidents of favoritism in distribution would not occur? What would happen if a Muslim group tried to drop off Korans, or Hindus left the Bhagavad Gita? Would local residents and the school board be open to letting impressionable minds read literature from minority faiths or anti-religion groups? There is absolutely no need to allow outside organizations to engage in “passive distribution” of materials at public schools, plus one would like to think that the school board has better things to do with its time than deciding whether or not a copy of the Satanic Bible is appropriate for students. [...] Getting religious materials into student hands is simply not a void that public schools should fill.”

Local activists have noted that constant vigilance will be needed to make sure schools don’t seek out loopholes to their new rules, or try to create an unfair distribution policy once the glare of national attention is off of them. For more on the school board’s new policy, check out the two-part post from local Pagan activist Byron Ballard. She wisely notes that “we won’t be resting on our laurels but we will take a breather and figure out the next steps. Because it ain’t over. Not by a long shot.”

A Brief Update on the “Occult” Library Filtering Case: Back in January I reported on a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri against the Salem Public Library, accusing the institution of  unconstitutionally blocking access to websites dealing with minority religions, and “improperly classifying them as ‘occult’ or ‘criminal.'” I’ve taken a keen interest in this case as I believe there shouldn’t be an option to block the sites of minority religions for institutions receiving federal funds, and no library committed to free expression should enable such a filter if provided. Since my initial report there hasn’t been much word as the case slowly worked its way towards trial, though Religion Clause does have a brief update on the city of Salem, Missouri being dismissed from the lawsuit.

“…a Missouri federal district court dismissed as to one defendant a free expression and and Establishment Clause challenge to the Internet filtering policies of the Salem, Missouri public library.  Plaintiff, who was attempting to conduct research on Native American spirituality and on the Wiccan Church claimed that the library’s policy of blocking religious websites categorized as ‘occult’ or ‘criminal skills’ while allowing access to the websites of more mainstream religions” was a content and viewpoint-based restriction on speech and has the effect favoring one religious viewpoint over another in violation of the Establishment Clause. The court dismissed the city as a defendant finding that the city retained no control or oversight over the library that was governed by a separate Library Board. The suit however will move forward against the Library Board and the library’s director.”

So not much has changed other than the city itself being removed from the case. I posted this update because I want to keep this story, which I think is very important, fresh in our minds. The results of this case could have far-reaching implications for adherents to Pagan and minority faiths looking for information in federally-funded institutions, and may even change the Internet filtering industry itself. Once the trial starts, or there’s more information to be shared, you’ll find it here. Oh, there is one other thing, the Library Board did file a response in March, which you can find here. They, naturally, deny all the allegations (seriously, “deny each and every allegation” is repeated at length).

Spotlight on Project Conversion (Spoiler: He Didn’t Actually Convert): Amanda Greene writes a profile for the Religion News Service (RNS) on Andrew Bowen’s Project Conversion, which I’ve mentioned a couple times previously here at The Wild Hunt. The goal, “convert” to 12 faiths in 12 months, including Wicca, and share what he’s learned. The RNS piece constructs the story as a personal journey through tragedy (his wife’s ectopic pregnancy that had to be aborted), the 12 religions were each there to help him “find faith in humanity.”

Andrew Bowen as a Wiccan.

Andrew Bowen as a Wiccan.

“…the 29-year-old Lumberton resident doesn’t call himself by any of the 12 faiths he practiced for a month at a time last year [...] It was an obsession – his personal intervention. [...] Bowen was one of the best students of Wicca Greenville resident Melissa Barnhurst has had. “He gave it a lot more than some students who’ve come to me wanting to become Wiccan,” she said. Meanwhile, his wife worked as a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital. Things were hard financially, at times, because Bowen wasn’t working.”

Interestingly, this personal journey isn’t even referenced in the “about” page of Project Conversion, or his bio, which claims that “theology is a playground” to Bowen. Project Conversion caused some controversy in the Pagan community for what was seen as a too-blithe tourism through the Wiccan faith, nor did his account of an experience he had with some from-the-book “shamanism” he engaged with in 2003, do much to reassure folks. Bowen mentions in his Paganism wrap-up post the “firestorm of criticism” he received, and how he managed to rise above it all and find the true meaning of Wicca. In a sense, Bowen is just another “embedded” journalist, tasting our wares, and passing his judgment from a limited engagement. Very few such arrangements ever end up with the writer or journalist converting, but does lead them to have stories to tell at parties about that time they did a Pagan ritual.

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

Top Story: A Pagan temple under construction in Poltava, Ukraine, was vandalized, and its keeper hospitalized, at the end of September, sparking waves of sadness and outrage among the global Pagan movement. M. Horatius Piscinus at the Patheos blog Religio et Pietas had the first report on October 1st, identifying it as a Nova Roma temple dedicated to Jupiter Perennus.

A message of "Die Heathens" left at the site.

A message of "Die Heathens" left at the site.

“The Kalends of September proved long and full, and now another Kalends comes upon us.  The Ides (13 Sept) celebrates the anniversary of the dedication of the Temple of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva atop the Capitoline Hill of Rome. It is therefore especially sad to learn that the Temple of Jupiter Perennus that is being built for our community in Poltava, Ukraine, was attacked last Monday night by a group of Orthodox Christians. Our chief priest of Jupiter, the Flamen Dialis Marcus Corvus was injured while defending the altar of Jupiter and has been hospitalized. This comes after news that another Christian band attacked a Romuva sanctuary in Lithuania. Even here in Ohio, some years ago, Christians attacked a sanctuary that was erected by a CUUPS group on the grounds of a Unitarian church in Fairlawn, a suburb of Akron.   While sad to hear such events continue today, it is no shock to learn of them. Not when ministers like John Hagey preach that “Tolerance is a sin,” when Pat Robertson, among others, blamed the 9/11 attacks on pagans, or when Rev. Billingsly, the former minister of the Akron Baptist Temple, once preached from the pulpit to his congregation that they ought to burn pagans at the stake.  Such is the face of the “New Christianity” that we are met with each day, and now it has touched my friend Corvus and his family.”

The next day, the Cultus Deorum Romanorum blog posted photos of the desecration, and Kenaz Filan pointed out that this isn’t an isolated incident in the Ukraine.

“Despicable as this crime is, it’s not the first such attack in Poltava.  On April 13, 2002, some 50 young men leaving a soccer game attacked a nearby synagogue:  hurling stones and yelling “Kill the Jews,” they broke some twenty windows and beat up two people, one the son of Kiev’s chief rabbi. In July 2008 a Holocaust memorial was smeared with paint and anti-Semitic graffiti.   And in October 2001 a Roma family’s house was set afire: five people died in the conflagration, including a six-year old girl and three-year old boy.  The Poltava police showed little interest in finding the responsible parties, which is unsurprising since a Poltava police officer allegedly led the assailants.”

Filan also points out that Pagan groups in the Ukraine aren’t completely blameless, and that some nationalistic strains of Paganism in that country have engaged in attacks on Orthodox churches. Still, the deeds of some Pagan groups in the Ukraine do not excuse violence towards any or all Pagans by Orthodox Christian mobs. At his personal blog, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus said he was “horrified”, but not surprised at this incident.

“With the way worldwide Christianity is progressing at present, particularly in some areas that don’t have the same views on religious liberty that the U.S. supposedly enshrines in its highest laws of the land, insecure Christians with something to prove (mostly to themselves, which is truly sad) feel the need to lash out at others. May their vandalism and intolerance be met with redoubled efforts on the part of the Flamen and his associates to honor their gods in the face of adversity, and may all of the gods of healing (perhaps including Ares) assist him in his recovery.”

You can find more commentary from a variety of Pagans and polytheists at Sannion’s blog as well. For those wanting to donate toward the rebuilding of what was destroyed, you can donate here.

In Other News:

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

A few quick notes for you on this Thursday morning.

Gay Paganism’s Second Wave: The Circle of Dionysos has posted the audio from a panel discussion at this year’s PantheaCon entitled “Walking it Out: Gay Paganism’s Second Wave,” featuring contributions from DK Cowan (Circle of Dionysos), P Sufenas Virius Lupus (Ekklesia Antinuou), Hayden Reynolds (Circle of Dionysos), Storm Faerywolf (Brotherhood of the Satyr), and Hyperion (The Unnamed Path).

The Unnamed PathThe Amethyst PentacleEkklesia Antinuou, The Circle of Dionysos: in the past several years a flurry of pagan groups and practices specifically geared to the LBGT community have emerged and caught the attention of the larger pagan community. Why is this happening? What are the similarities and differences between the various paths? What value does this work have for not only GLBTQ pagans, but also for the larger pagan community? Join Hyperion, Storm Faerywolf, DK Cowan, and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus for a round table discussion of these and other topics related to second wave gay paganism.”

You can download the panel discussion, here. Gay Pagan organizations like the ones listed above, or the Brotherhood of the Phoenix in Chicago, have really come into their own in the last decade. Gay Pagans have gone from being a somewhat isolated fringe in the 1970s, to a vibrant and integral part of who we are today. I’m heartened to see growing communication and acknowledgement around this phenomenon.

Also, while I’m on the topic of PantheaCon, let me quickly point you to Morpheus Ravenna’s blog, where she discusses her experiences at this year’s Morrigan devotional ritual. I was in attendance at that ritual, and it was one of the most powerful large-group experiences I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of.

Twelve Faiths in Twelve Months: Rothwell Polk at the Huffington Post puts the spotlight on “Project Conversion,” where writer Andrew Bowen immerses himself in a different faith tradition for each month of 2011. In January he “converted” to Hinduism, here’s his video wrap-up of the month.

Currrently, Bowen is studying Baha’i before moving on to Zoroastrianism in March. In October he’s “converting” to Wicca, and will be exploring “fringe” religions in June (whatever that means). He’s noted that he already has a teacher/guide for his Wiccan month (though he doesn’t reveal who it is). Bowen asserts that he’ll always remain “spiritually promiscuous,” but one has to wonder how he’ll feel after he’s immersed himself in both monotheistic and polytheistic faiths. Will it change the way he views the world? The way he views the dominant monotheisms? No doubt he’ll be experiencing the “best face” of each tradition, but there are significant differences.

The Tea Party and Religion: The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a new analysis of Tea Party members which reveals a movement this is not only fiscally conservative, but also overwhelmingly allied with socially conservative (Christian) issues like opposition to gay marriage and access to abortion.

“A new analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that Tea Party supporters tend to have conservative opinions not just about economic matters, but also about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In addition, they are much more likely than registered voters as a whole to say that their religion is the most important factor in determining their opinions on these social issues. And they draw disproportionate support from the ranks of white evangelical Protestants.”

This significant overlap between the populist Tea Party and socially conservative Christianity has been seen in several nationally elected politicians who received endorsement from Tea Party groups (Rand Paul, for instance). Indeed, some have described the Tea Party phenomenon as a second wind for Christian conservative candidates. The question going forward is will the Tea Party organizations see their fiscal stances become married to a social agenda as well. If so will it create an unhealable rift between factions?  How will this affect fiscally conservative Pagans who have found a home in the Tea Party? Especially when an unspoken position of many social conservatives is an animus towards non-Christian faiths.

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