Archives For Austria

Happy Friday everyone! Here are three cool (Pagan) things from the news to start off your weekend right.

How Will They Include the Footnotes? Den of Geek reports that the BBC will be making a six-part adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s landmark fantasy novel “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.” The book, which posits an alternate England where magic was once practiced but has fallen into the realm of antiquarians and scholars, tells the tale of two magicians and magic’s revival.

jonthan strange mr norrell

“6×60 series, based on the bestselling novel by Susanna Clarke and adapted by Peter Harness. Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is set during the Napoleonic Wars in an England where magic once existed and is about to return.”

No further information has been announced, but the book is an utter delight, one that captures the thrill and dangers of rediscovering magic, while building an alternate England with delightful footnotes and references. I know a lot of people are looking forward to HBO’s American Gods series, but I think I might be more excited for this adaptation.

Scaring the Winter Ghosts in Austria: The Reuters photographers blog has a post up documenting the Perchten festival in western Austria, where townsfolk dress up as demonic figures to frighten Winter spirits and ensure a good harvest. The resulting photos are amazing, despite photographer Dominic Ebenbichler’s skepticism about the rites.

A man dressed up in tradtional Perchten costume and mask perform during a Perchten festival in the western Austrian village of Heitwerwang

A man dressed up in tradtional Perchten costume and mask perform during a Perchten festival in the western Austrian village of Heitwerwang.

“The explanation goes back to the years about 500 AD. Back then farmers performed pagan rites to disperse the ghosts of winter to help bring a fruitful harvest. They thought it might work with terrifying masks which should scare even ghosts. And what is more scarier than the devil himself? Right, nothing! Even ghosts have to be scared by the devil.

In 2012 not much has changed. Of course we know that scaring ghosts is not going to work, but traditions are deep-rooted and somehow people still believe in the power of pagan rituals. And in the countryside there is nothing more important than a good harvest, so why not help a good harvest along by getting rid of some winter ghosts one way or another. Old habits die hard I guess.”

The Perchten are the entourage of the goddess Perchta, a figure associated with Holda, whose name means “the bright one.” Perchta performed a Santa Claus-like role, dispensing gifts in winter to good children. The Perchten are a remnant of her worship.

How Ren. Faires Changed Everything: Finally, Chas Clifton points us to the release of a new book, “Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture” by Rachel Lee Rubin that “reveals the way the faires established themselves as a pioneering and highly visible counter cultural referendum on how we live now—our family and sexual arrangements, our relationship to consumer goods, and our corporate entertainments.”


“In order to understand the meaning of the faire to its devoted participants,both workers and visitors, Rubin has compiled a dazzling array of testimony, from extensive conversations with Faire founder Phyllis Patterson to interviews regarding the contemporary scene with performers, crafters, booth workers and “playtrons.” Well Met pays equal attention what came out of the faire—the transforming gifts bestowed by the faire’s innovations and experiments upon the broader American culture: the underground press of the 1960sand 1970s, experimentation with “ethnic” musical instruments and styles in popular music, the craft revival, and various forms of immersive theater are all connected back to their roots in the faire. Original, intrepid, and richly illustrated, Well Met puts the Renaissance Faire back at the historical center of the American counterculture.”

Seems like a must-own for anyone interested in the development of American counter-culture, and the influence Ren. Faires had on the development of modern Paganism in the United States. As a young man I spent a few years working at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, and I think  those experiences were formative for the person I was to become, especially in showing how alternative religions and lifestyles were absorbed into one “faire family.” I’m very much looking forward to reading this.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

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.

The Lia Fáil - Hill of Tara, Ireland.

The Lia Fáil - Hill of Tara, Ireland.

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.

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.

Just a few quick notes for you this Friday to start off your weekend.

Halloran Won’t Be Running For Congress: Conservative New York City Councilman, and out Theodsman, Dan Halloran has decided he won’t be challenging Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman in November. According to Halloran, it all came down to money.

“After seriously weighing a congressional run against Rep. Gary Ackerman, Republican City Council Member Dan Halloran has decided to take a pass on the race—at least until 2012. Halloran said he had been in talks with the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) about how much money they could provide for the race, a key factor given that it is already mid-May and he has not begun fundraising for a Congressional campaign. According to Halloran, the NRCC last week offered him “hundreds of thousands of dollars” but “less than a million”—not enough for Halloran to run against Ackerman and his $1.1 million war chest, he said. Halloran declined to name the exact amount the NRCC had offered him. Still, Halloran said the fact that the NRCC offered him any money was an indication of his potential viability running against a 14-term incumbent.”

The NRCC denies offering Halloran any concrete amount of money for the race, and says that their contact with the potential candidate was “brief”, and “months ago”. This final decision came after months of “will he or won’t he” starting in March when rumors of a Tea Party-fueled candidacy first arose. He at first said he was “content” being a city council member, but then changed his answer to a “maybe” in April, citing anger over health care reform. But now he’s definitely out, and the NRCC are backing a candidate that isn’t Halloran, so it seems that the matter is settled. At least until 2012, as Halloran says he’s “definitely not precluding running in two years”.

Druids Reduce Highway Deaths: Austria’s Motorway Authority have apparently been hiring Druids to cleanse “blackspots”, places on the highway where accidents are concentrated.

“Motoroway bosses in Austria secretly hired a full-time team of druids to drain ‘negative energy’ from accident blackspots. The team is said to have reduced fatal accidents at one notorious crash site to zero after restoring its “terrestrial radiation”. Chief engineer Harald Dirnbacher from Austria’s motorway authority ASFINAG explained: “We were really sceptical at first and certainly didn’t want people to know what we were doing, so we kept it secret.” But now the trial results are so impressive officials are spreading the scheme nationwide.”

I would love to know which Druids these are. Part of a larger organization? A small local group? I also wish I could see the data verifying their results. How many years did they measure the effects of this “negative energy” drain? Was this effort coupled with more secular engineering solutions? Inquiring minds want to know!

The Return of the Revenge of the Secular Cross: So first the Supreme Court said that a WWI Christian cross memorial on public lands could be a secular symbol honoring soldiers of all religions, then someone stole the cross, prompting outrage. Then the vandal released an anonymous statement on the matter, and now someone has anonymously put up an replica even bigger cross.

“There is a twist in the case of the missing cross. Mysteriously (or miraculously?) a cross has arisen at the spot in the Mojave Desert where a large one at the center of a dispute over church and state disappeared this month. The new cross, about six inches taller than the seven-foot one stolen from the rock it sat on since the mid-1990s, was discovered Thursday by National Park Service workers.”

However, one illegal act doesn’t cancel out another illegal act, so that cross will be taken down. In fact, it’s an open question if the cross can be replaced at all until the legal appeals regarding the land-transition deal are heard. No doubt there will be a lot more in the case of the secular cross in the weeks and months to come.

That’s all I have for now, but before you go, be sure and check out an interview with yours truly over at

Have a great day!

2008 marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Venus of Willendorf, a 25,000 year old statue that some believe represents proof of widespread prehistoric goddess worship. Excavated on August 7th, 1908, the figurine has since become a true modern icon, and is being celebrated with a special exhibition at Vienna’s Natural History Museum.

Venus of Willendorf

“The first and only statuette of her kind before the French Venus of Lespugue and the Russian Venus of Kostienki joined her two decades later, the lady from Willendorf still attracts crowds. “I think a lot of visitors come to the museum just to see the Venus,” said Mr Antl-Weiser. But where she came from and whether she represented a goddess or women’s elevated place in society remains a mystery … “we can’t prove that women played a predominant role during this period and that these female statuettes honoured them. There are many other statuettes [from that period] representing animals, part-humans and part-animals or asexual human beings.” Rather than being a goddess, the Venus of Willendorf could have been part of a ritual or a belief shared by several tribes over 20,000 years ago. Although excavated at opposite ends of the continent, the French and Russian venuses are similar in form to their Austrian sister. “They could have been expressions of a single belief that spread through Europe,” said Ms Antl-Weiser.”

Though we don’t know the true name for this goddess, the Venus of Willendorf’s image is venerated once again throughout the West. You have Venus of Willendorf-shaped soap, coffee mugs, jewelry, refrigerator magnets, wands, t-shirts, and chocolate treats. While the once-popular theory of a matriarchal golden age (which the various “Venus” figurines played an important role in) has come under scholarly fire since its hundred-year heyday (1870s through the 1970s), the Venus remains an important key to understanding the minds of our ancient ancestors. Not to mention the cultural and religious shifts that came in the wake of her, and similar finds, discovery.

So happy anniversary to the lost goddess, found once more. Oh, and if you happen to be in Austria anytime soon (you lucky devils), the special exhibition will run through February.