Archives For Archaeology

As some Pagans attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles.

Previously unknown ancient culture found in Peru
Archaeologists working in the Atacama Desert in Peru discovered more than 150 burials belonging to a previously unknown farming culture dating to between the 4th-7th century CE.

Artifacts found in one of the graves. [Photo: Archives of the Tambo Project of the University of Wrocław]

Artifacts found in one of the graves. [Photo: Archives of the Tambo Project of the University of Wrocław]

The graves didn’t have any stone structures or other ways to mark them, and experts think this may be why they were not looted by grave robbers or found by earlier explorers. The desert conditions also preserved the graves, and many artifacts were discovered with the bodies. The items found in the graves show that there were clear social divisions. Some of the items uncovered were headgear made of felted lama wool, decorated weaving tools, jewelry, bows, and arrows with obsidian heads. The differences in quality show that some persons were more powerful than others and could afford to take such treasures into the afterlife with them.

The bodies were wrapped in woven mats, cotton burial shrouds, or nets. What was most curious was the reeds attached to the ears of the bodies which poked up out of the graves. Archaeologists think the reeds may have enabled the living to communicate with the dead.

 

Controversial sale of Sekhama statue completed
A statue of an Egyptian scribe named Sekhama was recently sold to a private buyer by the Northampton Museum. The museum said the sale was necessary to raise funds to reinvest in other cultural projects. Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh El-Damati opposed the exchange saying private sales of ancient artifacts are against the values of museums world wide as they should act as vessels to spread culture, rather than businesses searching for a profit.

[Promotional video by Christie's Auction House]

The 4500 year old limestone statue stands only 30 inches high, but is considered culturally important due to the detailed scroll on his lap listing his funeral offerings.

Due to the sale, the Northampton Museum may be found in breach of the Museums Association Code of Ethics. If it loses its Museums Association Accreditation, public, charity, or lottery funding may be cut off.

The statue was put up for auction by Christie’s Auction House on July 10 and sold for a reported $20 million.

 

Newly uncovered Roman tombs display different funeral rites
Archaeologists uncovered a new cemetery in the old Roman port of Ostia. The funeral rites included cremations and burials. The variation wasn’t limited to a specific time period and all remains are from a single extended family. The cemetery “shows the free choice that everyone had with their own body, a freedom people no longer had in the Christian era when burial became the norm,” said Paola Germoni, the director of the sprawling dig.

Ostia was a bustling, cosmopolitan city dating back to the 7th century BCE and was Rome’s main port. The city was also quite large – larger than Pompeii.

 

Fabled city Thonis-Heracleion found
Like Troy,Thonis-Heracleion was once believed to be a myth. In fact, archaeologists thought Thonis-Heracleion were two separate cities. But Thonis is its Egyptian name and Heracleion is the Greek name. Found by French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio in 2000, this ancient city near Alexandria is revealing that it not only existed, but played an important role in ancient Egyptian religion and commerce.

Click this link for spectacular photos

Founded in the 12th century BCE, Thonis-Heracleion was the port of entry to Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world. It also had a religious importance due to the grand temple of Amun and his son Khonsou (Herakles to the Greeks). Also discovered was the head of a colossal statue of the god Hapi. Hapi is the god of the flooding of the Nile, who granted abundance and fertility. That large of a representation of Hapi has never been found before and casts new light on his importance in Egyptian religion.

Thonis-Heracleion had its peak occupation from the 6th to the 4th century BC and is thought to have been destroyed over 1,200 years ago, possibly due to major earthquakes and floods. It now lies 4 miles off today’s coastline.

Although the excavation has been going for over 13 years, new and well preserved discoveries are being made constantly. Keep your eyes open for more news on Thonis-Heracleion and how those discoveries are changing views on ancient Greco-Egyptian culture and religion.

 

70,000 year old African settlement shows they did it first
The first permanent living structures were thought to have been made by humans as they left Africa for colder areas of Europe or Asia. A 70,000 year old northern Sudan village is challenging that long held assumption.

Archaeologists say Affad, the name they are calling the dig site, not only had wood living structures, but also had a large flint workshop and a space for cutting hunted animal carcasses. They’re also trying to pin down a more exact date for when the village was inhabted. So far they know Affad existed some time during the Middle Palaeolithic period when the area was a wetlands. However, the region was a wetlands during two different time periods; about 75 millennia and about 25 millennia ago.

Remnants of the Palaeolithic settlements in Affad. [Image: M. Osypińska]

Remnants of the Palaeolithic settlements in Affad. [Image: M. Osypińska]

 

Did Nero really have a revolving restaurant?
It appears he did.

The dining room was first discovered in 2009, but it took them years to figure out what it was and what it was designed to do. Archaeologists at first didn’t know what they had under their feet. They were on an artificial terrace constructed by the Flavians, which they built over the top of Nero’s famous palace. However, the retaining wall was too thin to hold up the terrace. They wanted to know why it hadn’t collapsed, so they did what archaeologists do – they started digging.

They found a round 39 foot tall tower with a 13 foot diameter central pillar and eight arches supporting two floors. Along the top of the upper arches were holes filled with slippery clay. This was the clue needed to uncover the purpose for the room. The holes would contain ball bearings and the slip was a lubricant, and this supported a revolving floor. The floor’s constant movement may have been powered by a system of water and gears.

Model of the parts of the revolving dining room [Francoise Villedieu and Edikom]

Model of the parts of the revolving dining room [Credit: Francoise Villedieu and Edikom]

Roman historian Suetonius had written that Nero’s “main dining room was round, and revolved continuously on itself, day and night, like the world.” However most historians thought this was exaggeration typical of early ‘historical’ accounts.

Lead site archaeologist Francois Villedieu says the proof that this was Nero’s revolving dining room isn’t definitive, and the claim caused enough controversy that funding for the excavation was delayed for several years, but he feels the clues are convincing. Now that funding is secured, the work can continue. 

Nero, best known as the emperor who fiddled while Rome burned, is emerging as more complex man. Most of what’s known about him comes from those who opposed his populist economic policies which favored the poor. He was a patron of the arts, and if the revolving dining room pans out, he may have been more involved with furthering science and technology than originally thought.

 

 

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.

Coilhouse Issue #6

Coilhouse Issue #6

  • Excellent alternative culture magazine and blog Coilhouse is shutting down, though the creators are promising that this is a mere hiatus and that Coilhouse will return in some form in the future. Quote: “We can’t tell you what exactly is coming next, or when; we just know we have no intention of quitting. Potential directions that Coilhouse may move in somewhere down the line: books, apps, limited edition print/art objects, video, fashion collaborations. Smaller, more manageable one-shot projects that don’t break our backs. But first, we will have to re-strategize our business and production plans. Nothing is set in stone at the moment because, simply put, we need a break. We need to rest.” For now, they’ve made the six print issues of Coilhouse magazine available as free PDF downloads, a token of affection to fans and supporters. I highly recommend checking them out. 
  • Is the famous Celtic warrior-queen Boudicca buried beneath a McDonalds restaurant? It is rumored to be so. Quote: “Dr Mike Heyworth, the director of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), said that experts are on the hunt for her burial place, at one point rumoured to be near what is now a McDonald’s restaurant in Birmingham, and he wouldn’t be surprised if she was unearthed in the next few years. There are contradictory but persistent tales (with “no element of truth”, according to the Museum of London) that she lies beneath either platform eight, nine or 10 at King’s Cross Station.” The big question is: what happens to her resting place once the bones are found? 
  • No, Easter was not originally the celebration of Ishtar. Let’s all be more critical of Facebook image memes, OK? 
  • At the Huffington Post Grove Harris discusses composting as a Springtime spiritual exercise. Quote: “Composting is in many ways one of the most spiritual of practices. It is the process that will feed the next cycle of life, which will take endings and serve new beginnings. It is powerfully renewing on many levels, and offers deep metaphoric guidance.”
  • Enforced celibacy doesn’t really work all that often, no matter what the religion/ideology is. The country of Bhutan is distributing condoms to Buddhist monasteries to stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Quote: “Warning signs of risky behavior among monks first appeared in 2009, when a report on risks and vulnerabilities of adolescents revealed that monks were engaging in “thigh sex” (in which a man uses another man’s clenched thighs for intercourse), according to the state-owned Kuensel daily.” So remember, use protection, make it available, no matter what the official rules are. 
The Joy of Sexus by Vicki León.

The Joy of Sexus by Vicki León.

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

Top Story: Indian Country Today reports on a new documentary, “Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White,” that looks at the case of a Lakota medicine man who was accused of abusing his two grandchildren. Jennifer Jessum and Simon Joseph, a husband and wife duo who produced and directed the film, knew White through a member of his family, and were shocked to hear about the charges made against him. After White was convicted and sentenced to prison, they investigated the matter and uncovered several “holes” in the prosecution, and eventually, saw one of the grandchildren recant his testimony.

[Roy Helper Jr.] met the film crew at a hotel in Rapid City, and he confessed on film that he had lied about the alleged abuse. He said that he and his brother, Lloyd, were under tremendous pressure from lawyers, judges and “people in suits,” and he said the experience was frightening. He also indicated that they were coaxed to say certain things. In return, they were told they would get money, toys, even a horse. (They received none of those things.) “We were just little, dumb, stupid Indian kids, being tossed around,” Helper says in Holy Man, his voice choked with emotion. “Eventually it’s going to come out. Like today.”

Despite a cascading series of events that proved White’s innocence, the U.S. Attorney’s office engaged in stalling and delaying tactics, and White died in prison in 2009 before he could be exonerated. There is now a petition to have President Obama posthumously exonerate Douglas White, apologize for his wrongful conviction, make reparations to White’s family, and initiate an investigation into the agents who pursued the case against White. The filmmakers are now working on issues of Tribal sovereignty, and the epidemic of teen suicide in Indian country. DVDs of the film are expected to be available this Summer.

In Other News:

  • Actress Lynn Collins, one of the stars of the new Disney film “John Carter,” tells an Irish reporter that she studied “mysticism, paganism, everything” and that ultimately “they’re all the same thing.”
  • Pagan and political scientist Gus diZerega has a new article published in The Independent Review entitled “Spontaneous Order and Liberalism’s Complex Relation to Democracy.” Here’s the abstract: “American and European liberalism began to take different paths in the nineteenth century, particularly with respect to their views on democracy. This divergence stems in part from the fact that liberal principles give rise to different types of spontaneous order, each of which generates unique patterns of social coordination.” You can download the article for free. For diZerega’s Pagan work, check out his column at Patheos, and his blog at Beliefnet.
  • Archaeologists in Norway have apparently uncovered a “unique” and “unparalleled” pre-Christian temple site. It is believed the temple was built around 400AD and that “the last people who used it over 1,000 years ago did their utmost to hide the entire system with an unusually thick layer of soil.” Despite the historic nature of the site, the land is scheduled to be cleared for a housing development. Applications are currently being made to have the site preserved.
  • Rev. G. Jude Geiger, a Unitarian Universalist minister, writes about the concept of religious freedom in our highly polarized political atmosphere. Quote: “By requiring citizens to follow the religious teachings of certain faith traditions, we in essence are asking our country to follow and abide by those particular traditions.”
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to hear an appeal to a 9th Circuit Court decision that upheld a California state universities policy requiring all student groups, including religious groups, to not discriminate in membership on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. More on this, here. You’ll be hearing a LOT about this decision in the coming weeks, and I expect I’ll put in my two cents sooner rather than later.

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

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.

Earlier this week I was talking about Pagan responses to threats against pre-Christian/pagan sites and artifacts, and now Chas Clifton points to an article from The Media Line (reprinted in several places) on rising hostility in Egypt against Western tourism, and calls to cover up famous objects from the Pharaonic period of ancient Egypt.

Osirid statues near Luxor.

Abd Al-Munim A-Shahhat, a spokesman for the Salafi group Dawa, has said that Egypt’s world-renowned pharaonic archeology – its pyramids, Sphinx and other monuments covered with un-Islamic imagery – should also be hidden from the public eye. “The pharaonic culture is a rotten culture,” A-Shahhat told the London-based Arabic daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday, saying the faces of ancient statues “should be covered with wax, since they are religiously forbidden.” He likened the Egyptian relics to the idols which circled the walls of Mecca in pre-Islamic times.

The article also notes that Islamist groups in Egypt have long been hostile to the tourism industry, but these sentiments were suppressed under Mubarak’s oppressive regime. Now, however, Egyptian xenophobia and paranoia seem to be blossoming, with government officials harassing foreigners.

Micah Trau, an American who has been studying Arabic with a private tutor for the past three months, decided that after being questioned twice, he would just leave. “I couldn’t take it,” he tells The Media Line from his home in Seattle. “I was there to study the language and the culture, but after being told I was a spy on three occasions I just thought it was time to get out of there before anything worse happened.”

Tourism in Egypt is a multi-billion dollar industry, and is hardly a revenue stream rising Egyptian leaders want to blithely throw away. While hardliners in the local Salafi movement may be calling for pagan statues to be encased in wax, the increasingly politically dominant Muslim Brotherhood seems to be trying to strike a balance between catering to tourists and pleasing Islamic factions who want to see such practices curtailed.

But [Muhammad Saad] Al-Katatny [secretary-general of Freedom and Justice] said that the Muslim Brotherhood regards Egypt’s archeology as belonging to all of humanity, and should therefore be safeguarded. “This heritage belongs to everyone, and one can’t simply remove something he doesn’t like,” he told Al-Ahram daily.

International travel agencies have so far rejected the idea of any restrictions on tourism, and low-price tours are being planned to encourage tourists back to Egypt, hoping to reverse a dramatic downturn caused by the revolution and its aftermath. Even if tourism is allowed, and the statues remain uncovered, will there be any tolerance for the more spiritually-minded tours that draw so many seekers, Pagans, and New Age adherents?

“In this predominantly Muslim country, Egyptologist and spiritual tour guide Amro Mounir, 34, said he encounters many Egyptians who criticize his tours for practicing a form of paganism. But Mounir says the tours are about tapping into the energy of the earth and helping people find the truth.”

It is very likely that the permissive tourist industry many are used to could be coming to an end. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in 2006 Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, issued an edict (fatwa) which condemned the work of sculptors and declared un-Islamic the display of statues in homes. At the time, some predicted suicide bombings at ancient temples, though this never materialized. Now that the political climate is far more unstable, could these threats now materialize? Can more moderate and progressive elements in Egypt hold out against an Islamist tide long held back by brute force? We’ll soon see if economic pragmatism and pluralistic aspirations will win out against an energized hardline who see this as a chance to mold Egypt in their image.

Whether revived, re-imagined, reconstructed, or revealed, modern Pagan religions all look to our collective pre-Christian past for inspiration, connection, understanding, and a sense of continuity. Because of this phenomenon, many Pagans follow the world of archaeology very closely, both for new information, and to monitor the preservation of objects and artifacts that reach back to a time when pagan religions were the dominant expression of faith. When the Egyptian revolution started, many Pagans, particularly Kemetics and Greco-Egyptian polytheists, expressed great concern at reports of looting and vandalism of the nations many antiquities. However, there are ongoing debates within modern Pagan communities over what the best way to honor our ancient past is. Some, like, British Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (aka John Timothy Rothwell) want a hands-off approach to monuments and sites they see as part of a collective spiritual heritage, while other groups, like Pagans For Archaeology, argue that extensive scientific exploration enriches the body of knowledge available to modern Pagans.

The Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens.

“The more knowledge we gain about people of the past, the more it perpetuates their memory. People of the past wanted to be remembered, that’s why they built monuments in the landscape. Also, ancient texts such as the Hávamál talk about a person’s name living on after they die (another indication that people in the past wanted to be remembered).”

This debate grows more complex as pre-Christian pagan sites suffer ever more from years of vandalism, wear, and increasing environmental degradation. In Greece, statues and decorative pieces at the Acropolis in Athens have been slowly transitioned into a specially-built museum, while Turkey is currently debating on how to best preserve the ancient giant statues of gods and kings on Mount Nemrut in southeastern region of the country.

Statues near the peak of Mount Nemrut.

“A recent proposal by Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay to move the gigantic sculptures atop Mount Nemrut, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, to a museum in order to protected them from harsh weather conditions has sparked controversy among Turkish archeologists and scientists over whether the sculptures should be preserved inside a museum or not. Günay put forth the proposal last week, saying the sculptures can be brought down from the mountain by helicopter and become part of the exhibit in a museum in Kahta, Adıyaman province.

“Many proposals, including those from [Middle East Technical University] ODTÜ, were brought to me for the protection of the sculptures on the mountain. However, none of them convinced me. Among the proposals were covering the sculptures with some chemicals. I asked them to bring me that chemical, but they could not. Some have proposed covering them with a tent or glass. Strong winds blowing on the mountain in the winter would damage the tent. The windows would break,” Günay said.

Noting that the best solution would be to move the stone heads to a museum, he added that he has personally observed the damage sustained by the heads over the past 20 years and that they need protection.”

Some local archaeologists and officials disagree with Günay, saying there is little evidence of the damage he describes. While modern Pagans are not a factor in this story, the situation starkly illustrates the debates currently raging over how to treat these sites. Another question is how moving the statues, if it goes forward, would affect the site’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and how would these changes affect tourism?

Sadly, scientific examination and debates over the best preservation strategies aren’t the only thing affecting ancient sites of interest to modern Pagans. In some cases sites are being endangered by construction, spurring protests and direct action by local Pagans in places like Greece to protect the newly-uncovered Altar of the Twelve Gods from reburial, or at the Hill of Tara in Ireland, which many feel is being systematically destroyed by highway development. As development, tourism, and environmental factors continue to clash these issues only promise to become more heated and intense. With austerity the buzz-word in a global recession, the preservation of our ancient heritage, and the protection of sacred sites seem to be  low on the priority list. Will these sites simply start disappearing? What is the best way to protect these sites and our religious heritage in a world that seems increasingly indifferent to preservation? What role should modern Pagan communities play regarding sites that we feel are important to our own understanding of the past?

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.

King Arthur vs. Archeology: British Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon) has failed in his attempt to force reburial of human remains found at Stonehenge, claiming the 5000-year-old cremated remains were of a royal “priest caste,” potential founding fathers of Britain.

Stonehenge

“Mr Justice Wyn Williams refused to give King Arthur permission to launch a judicial review action – ruling at a High Court hearing in London that there was insufficient evidence to show that the Ministry of Justice might have acted unreasonably. The judge heard that the cremated remains of more than 40 bodies – thought to be at least 5,000 years old – were removed from a burial site at Stonehenge in 2008 and ministers gave researchers from Sheffield University permission to keep the bones until 2015.”

While King Arthur was calling for a “day of action” to protest this decision, another group, Pagans For Archaeology, were pleased that scientific exploration of the remains will continue uninterrupted.

“The very reason we know what we do about Stonehenge and the people buried there is due to archaeology, without it you would know naff all about it, the people and the relationship between the two.”

At their website, PFA makes their case for why the retention and study of human remains is important. As for King Arthur, he insists that this “is not a Pagan argument, it is not a Druid argument. It is a matter of common decency.” Stonhenge is matter of great emotional, religious, and psychological import for many Britons. With the London 2012 Olympics fast approaching, you can be sure that the treatment, preservation, and study of this site will continue to be a newsmaking issue.

Maetreum of Cybele Sends Out a Call for Help: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, have sent out an urgent plea for funds as what they hope will be the final trial in the matter approaches.

“All along the Town knew they would lose this battle if we could just get it to trial so they have attempted to bury us under legal motions to break us financially and have spent somewhere between 100 to 150 thousand dollars to do so.  I am sad to report that unless we get significant help in this final stages, they might succeed.  Donations so far have helped but we have had to hire a new attorney at about three times the cost as our original attorney.  She is much more experienced and worth the expense but has informed me that the rest of our case will cost us an approximate additional 10 thousand dollars which simply is impossible for us to come up with ourselves at this stage.

Our priestesses have stepped forward to the point of tens of thousands so far but now we are all broke.  Please, this case is important, a milestone for minority religion rights.  If this can be done to us, a legally incorporated religious charitable organization with full IRS 501 c3 recognition, it literally can be done to any minority religious group.  A victory, which is fairly well assured if we can finish the battle, is especially important when political groups are pushing back against non Christians, clean air and water and the basic concept of taking care of each other and our common planet home.”

The law in this case seems pretty clearly on the side of the Maetreum of Cybele, but Catskill is going to wage a scorched earth legal campaign in hopes the Pagans run out of money and energy first, stating that the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.” A court date is set for November 15th. We’ll keep you updated on further developments. For those wanting to an make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so directly via paypal to: centralhouse@gallae.com. Or you can contact them through their website.

In Other News:

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

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.

Some news of note to start your week.

Respecting (and Not Respecting) Native Culture: There seemed to be several stories in recent days concerning reactions to indigenous and Native cultures. Some of these stories were positive ones, like a New York Times profile of the new Denver Art Museum’s initiative to credit individual American Indian artists, instead of simply listing the tribe it was made by. However, this newfound sense of respect hasn’t carried over into all aspects of our culture, as the ongoing discussion over the wave of criticism from conservative pundits regarding a traditional Native blessing given by Dr. Carlos Gonzales at a memorial service for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona shows. Last week the Indian Country Today Media Network profiled several Native voices regarding the conservative media outcry over the blessing, and today, in a follow-up report, Rob Capriccioso notes that several blogs are weaving conspiracy theories about the one pundit, Power Line’s Paul Meringoff, who did retract his insensitive comments.

Former Washington Times scribe Robert Stacy McCain played the role of an alarmist, writing in a Jan. 31 blog post, titled, “Power Line Gets Scalped: Did Indian Tribe Money Influence Akin Gump Decision?,” that he believed tribes had knocked off Mirengoff—and somehow former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was involved, too. “You may recall that Pelosi and Democrats were elected in 2006 on a promise to clean up the ‘culture of corruption’ in Washington. Exhibit A in the Democrats’ case against the GOP that year? Yeah: ‘Casino Jack’ Abramoff’s shady dealings with Indian tribes,” McCain wrote. “So in criticizing that Yaqui prayer at the Tucson memorial, Paul Mirengoff wasn’t just being politically incorrect, he was also offending a lucrative segment of Akin Gump’s lobbying clientele, whom the firm had recently hired three lawyers to service. Small wonder that Mirengoff was likely forced to choose: Quit blogging at Power Line or quit working at Akin Gump.”

What does it say about any culture, blog or otherwise, when a member can’t retract, or be wrong, without others invoking a web of intrigue to explain it? So instead of a pundit simply deciding he went over the top, embarrassing his employers in the process, and that being accepted, his apology is marked as “worthy of a political prisoner” or an example of the “slow erosion of our speech.” Free speech for some may be never having to say your sorry, but being a part of a community means that our words and actions have consequences. Behind these various conspiracy theories were actual American Indians who were hurt and offended by the attacks, distortions, and smears, that some can’t acknowledge that is troubling.

While we are on the subject of not respecting Native Americans, their religion, and their culture, we have some news in the ongoing James Arthur Ray sweat lodge deaths trial. The trial is set to begin on February 18th, but the defense team are trying to have the proceedings moved from Yavapai County (home to New Age hub of Sedona) to a court in Phoenix, saying the jury pool is too tainted and biased (an allegation locals aren’t too happy about).

“Ray’s lawyers made a similar request last summer, which was denied by Judge Warren Darrow. At the time, though, Darrow said he’d still consider the request as the case moves closer to trial. The Associated Press reports that his attorneys say jury questionnaires reveal widespread prejudice against Ray in Yavapai County.”

Ray’s lawyers are also trying to prevent cult deprogrammer/consultant Rick Ross from giving testimony for the prosecution. They  (prosecutors) want Ross to evaluate Ray’s programs, and testify on how coercive they may be. This trial, once it actually starts, should be very, very interesting.

Opening, Restoring, and Protecting Goddess Temples: Starting with a bit of good news on this topic, the Roman Forum’s Vestal temple and houses, after a lengthy restoration effort, is now open to the public.

No doubt modern followers of Vesta, and those interested in the restoration of pre-Christian temples, will be most pleased! Meanwhile, despite the economic turmoil in Greece lately, restoration efforts in Athens are being pushed forward, with many seeing it as a matter of national pride to continue the work. However, not all efforts regarding ancient temple sites are as well received as those in Greece or Italy, the Goddess Pages is calling for protests over plans to build a visitor center in the middle of a prehistoric goddess sanctuary in Nettersheim, Germany.

“At first we thought this must be a bad joke. Unfortunately the concealed plans are already very advanced. An architect is already dreaming about eternalizing this outrageous action and a mayor is dreaming of hordes of tourists bringing their money. This construction in the middle of this sanctuary would be an terrible crime. It’s more than about questioning the subject of reputation, prestige and profit, fact is it would destroy irretrievable evidence of our foremothers and ancestors. We’re sure the public has not yet realized that this plan exists. In the past churches were built on sanctuaries to honour goddesses in order to destroy them. Today is it to be Info Centers built to attract tourists which will destroy our remaining sanctuaries?”

You can read more about the proposed visitor “cube, ” here. The German article notes conflict “about the ‘male’ form of a cube” not being “compatible with the ‘female’ matrones.” There seems to be a Facebook campaign already underway. You can see some pictures of the Deae Matrone sanctuary, here. Thanks to Medusa Coils for tipping me off to the story.

While restoration efforts happen for ancient temples, modern Goddess worshipers, like those in the Sisterhood of Avalon, carry on in creating new traditions and fellowships. The Waterloo Record in Canada has a profile of a small Sisterhood of Avalon group, and interviews local hearth mother Tiffany Lazic.

“The sisterhood is about “gathering the tools for self-empowerment,’’ said Lazic, a holistic therapist in private practice, who meditates several times a week and journeys to Avalon in her mind twice a month. Pagan faiths, often described as earth-based religions, adhere to ritual practices and follow different mythologies including Celtic, Norse and ancient Greek traditions. [...] Lazic started the Kitchener group in July 2009 which now has 11 active members. Worldwide, there are 350 members in the group which has a seminary in the United States. For Lazic, the sisterhood seemed natural. Her parents were classic teachers and as a child she immersed herself in Greek mythology.”

What’s nice about the article is that it treats this local hearth of the Sisterhood as it would any other religious congregation. As modern Pagans start and continue to build their own temples and communal spaces, an emerging continuity could develop between the new and the old, and modern Paganism could truly restore its place in the public mind as a world religion.

A Quick Note on the HuffPo-AOL Deal: For those who keep track of new media business, you may have heard that the Huffington Post has been purchased by AOL. For some relevant commentary, see Jeff Jarvis, Newspaper Death Watch, Fishbowl LA, and PC World. I wanted to note this here for a number of reasons, first, HuffPo has Pagan bloggers, most notably Anne Hill, Grove Harris, and Donna Hennes (among others), and secondly, because this is just another sign of how the blogosphere is gaining in prominence, and becoming professionalized. Many have noted that blogging as an activity is declining among certain demographics, and while some hope this signals a return to print or more traditional forms of media, I think its simply a sign that the “faddish” nature of the technology has faded as more suitable social technologies have emerged to keep folks in contact and update your friends on your latest adventures.

In many areas, particularly religion, new media is where the future of journalism lies. Relevant and well-written content about our faiths is more vital now than it has ever been. The ability of our faiths to be heard, to inform ourselves and others effectively, will rest in our ability to navigate the changing world of Internet media. Our ability to create our own news organs, and to work within the increasingly condensing content giants, will decide for many how we are perceived. This is our chance to make sure the Pagan voice(s) ring out to the world, and I hope some of you will join me for my talks at Pantheacon later this month as I explore some potential solutions and ways forward.

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