Archives For beer

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!

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!

I have some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

Witch-Burning Beer Controversy Comes to A Close? As I reported exactly one week ago, Motherpeace Tarot co-creator Vicki Noble had started a campaign against The Lost Abbey brewery for their decision to feature a woman being burned at the stake for their “Witch’s Wit” wheat ale. While the brewery eventually released a statement defending their artistic choices, saying their intent was misunderstood, an intense debate over the matter raged within the Pagan community. Now it looks like the brewery will be changing the label thanks to the unlikely combined efforts of Noble and religion professor Cynthia Eller, author of “The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory”.

In his e-mail to Ms. Eller, Mr. Marsaglia also wrote, contritely, that he and his colleagues “would really like to have some kind of contest for a great label.” Mr. Arthur said the board would meet after Halloween to determine exactly how to decide on that new label. But whatever the means, the incident has made allies of Ms. Eller, often derided as an enemy of modern paganism, and Ms. Noble, its defender. Ms. Noble looks forward to a time when she can, with clear conscience, sample a Witch’s Wit. “I think that would be fun,” she says. “Maybe we can make a ceremony out of it.”

Reaction to news of the impending label-change has been mixed. While Noble, Eller, and their supporters, are no doubt pleased, others like media critic Peg Aloi thought the whole matter was a  “ludicrous campaign of whiny nonsense”, while Chas Clifton notes that “when it comes to the word “witch,” we want it both ways—safe and edgy.” As for why the New York Times would cover this little tempest between Pagans, Goddess-worshipers, and a small brewery in California, you only need to look at the byline. Author/journalist Mark Oppenheimer rarely misses an opportunity to point out the historical exaggerations or revisions of the Pagan community, so I doubt he could resist reporting on the confluence of Noble, Eller, and a controversy involving a beer label.

More Attention For Pagans at the Air Force Academy: Pagans at the Air Force Academy got a lot of attention at the beginning of 2010, with the news of a Pagan worship area being installed, and the subsequent vandalism of said site. Now it looks like the AFA is ready for round two in its attempts to paint a picture of improved interfaith relations and tolerance at the Academy. The AFA released a feature news story on Tuesday about a meeting between Pagans and freethinkers at the Academy, which then got picked up by Wired’s Danger Room blog (as “Air Force Academy Now Welcomes Spell-Casters”).

“Just a few years ago, the Air Force Academy was considered such an evangelical hothouse that the place got sued for its alleged discrimination against non-Christians. Today, the Academy is boasting of its thriving pagan community — and its friendliness towards spell-casters.”

This got the notice of Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing, who praised Wired’s choice of headline, zeroed in on the silliest quote they could find in the article, and set the stage for lulz in the comments, with various Goat-staring and “magic-user” comments. While I’m sure that smirking coverage from Wired and Boing Boing isn’t exactly what they wanted with this latest press release, I’m sure the AFA prefers it over reminders of their controversial recent past, and accusations that the climate at the AFA isn’t as improved as they would like to portray. Still, the fact that the AFA is willing to accommodate the religious lives of modern Pagans is a vast improvement within a military culture that still privileges Christian forms of religious expression.

Canadian Polyamory Case: For the past few months I’ve been covering an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). While the case is being led by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) (and supported by several Canadian Pagansincluding one who filed an affidavit in support), coverage (and the government’s case) has hinged on the practice of polygamy by Mormons and Muslims. Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a controversial polygamist group that has around 500 members living in British Columbia, has been filing anonymous affidavits that paint a rosy picture of polygamy, which hasn’t pleased anti-polygamist voices who want to see the laws against it stay intact.

“But what is clear is that fundamentalist Mormons members believe that a win in court would clear the way for them to set up a distinct society – a theocracy within our secular, liberal democracy.”

The fact that one of the hottest new reality television shows is also about a polygamist family hasn’t done much to spark reasoned or civil discourse on the issue of if the practice should be illegal. Meanwhile, polyamorists, who share little in common culturally with most polygamists, are stuck somewhere in the middle. Attempts to have the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy have been rejected by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, meaning that if the attempt to decriminalize polygamy fails, we’ll have no way of knowing if polyamorists would be targeted by law enforcement along with members of FLDS. The trial starts on November 22nd, and no doubt all (Canadian) eyes will be on the result. For more on this case see the CPAA’s web site. You can be sure I’ll be covering this as things progress.

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

Top Story: Outrage is spreading across the Internet over The Lost Abbey brewery’s decision to feature a woman being burned at the stake for their “Witch’s Wit” wheat ale.


Detail from the “Witch’s Wit” label.

“First of all, it’s an insult to me as an ordained Pagan minister and long-time practicing witch. If you want to capitalize on the beer’s name in order to sell more brews, at least use a more tasteful image. Hex, I could accept a picture of the stereotypical wart-nosed, green-skinned ugly old hag over this. But to show a buxom woman standing helplessly as the flames engulf her… while a group of onlookers (presumably male monks) surround her gawking at the sight is simply degrading.”

In a widely-forwarded e-mail message about the beer label, Motherpeace Tarot co-creator Vicki Noble calls the image dehumanizing and outside the bounds of good taste.

“Can you imagine them showing a black person being lynched or a Jewish person going to the oven? No, of course not, such images are simply not tolerated in our society anymore (thank the Goddess) and this one should not be either. Please call them or write them a letter to protest this hateful and dangerous expression which dehumanizes women.”

So far no statement has been issued from the California brewery, and there’s no mention of the controversy on their Facebook or Twitter feeds, though a discussion thread has been started at their Facebook page. Considering the fact that women are still being killed and imprisoned for crimes of “witchcraft” it does seem rather tone-deaf of the company. I’ll keep you posted as this story develops.

UPDATE: Lost Abbey responds:

“I encourage you to look at all of Lost Abbey’s beers and consider them in context. Each of the Lost Abbey beers features a label which depicts a theme of Catholic excess — good and bad — on the front, and tells a moral story on the back. (Our founder is a recovering Catholic.) In the case of Witch’s Wit, the back label is a story of the bad consequences of religious intolerance and oppression. The woman on the front is referred to as a “healer” on the label and accuses the Church of being narrow-minded and violent, threatening the same fate to anyone who would help the woman. The label ends with a note that this beer — a light, sweet and golden ale — is brewed in honor of that woman (and all those who died for their convictions).”

I’ll be interested to see how Noble and others who were offended will respond to this.

Pagan elected Trustee of International Interfaith Organization: Covenant of the Goddess National Interfaith Representative Don Frew has been voted in for another term as an At-Large Trustee for the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative.

“The URI is the world’s largest, grassroots interfaith organization, with 496 local branches (“Cooperation Circles”) in 77 countries, involving millions of people in interfaith programs around the world (www.uri.org). The purpose of the URI is “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation; to end religiously motivated violence; and o ctraete cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”  I worked with many others – including CoG’s Deborah Ann Light – in the writing of the URI’s Charter in conferences in 1998-2000.

This is my third term on the URI’s Global Council.  In 2002, I was elected to be one of three Trustees from the North American Region on the URI’s first elected Global Council.  In 2006, I was asked to be one of two At-Large Trustees on the URI’s second elected Global Council.  This time, on the third elected Global Council, I am again one of two At-Large Trustees, the other being Swami Agnivesh of New Delhi, India.”

This election to a third term as a trustee of the URI comes not long after Covenant of the Goddess member Rachael Watcher, a longtime interfaith activist, was elected to the Executive Board of NAIN. In addition, Phyllis Curott, President Emerita of COG, is one of three Pagans currently serving on the Board of Trustees of the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. It’s clear that COG is an organization that is leading the way for Pagan involvement in the interfaith community. Congratulations to Don on his election.

Druids vs The Daily Mail: One of the ongoing side-stories to The Druid Network being granted charity status in the UK (a process that was explained in-depth here at The Wild Hunt) was reaction to a scathing editorial by Melanie Philips of the Daily Mail, who called the situation both “absurd” and “malevolent”. TDN founder Emma Restall Orr sent out a lengthy rebuttal to Philips, while a 4100 signature-strong petition calling for an apology was hand delivered by around 30-50 Druids and Druid-supporters to the Daily Mail offices.

“The Daily Mail had someone waiting for us on the steps to take the petition. I handed it over and he promised that he would get it to Robin Esser. I made damn sure I got a handshake and thankfully, someone was quick enough to take a photo of that. At the PCC, Simon Yipp, the gentleman who has been dealing with complaints RE this article, came down personally to recieve the petition. I’m going to give it a week and email both the DM and the PCC for updates, if I don’t hear from them before then.”

In attendance at the petition-delivery were noted UK Pagans like Arthur Pendragon, Vivianne Crowley, and Andrew Pardy (Chairman of the Police Pagan Association). It remains to be seen if this petition will have the desired effect. No doubt Philips thrives on controversy, and I can’t imagine her backtracking on her views.

Moving Halloween? Since Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, some communities are moving observances to Saturday. Some for practical reasons, and some because they believe Halloween to be “pagan” or “Satanic” in origin. News10 in California covered the mini-controversy and spoke with PNC-Sacramento coordinator David Shorey, from Sacramento Grove of the Oak.

“David Shorey. a practicing Druid (a form of Paganism) with Sacramento Grove of the Oak, says “Halloween or as we call it Samhain, is a time to honor the ancestors, look at the past year and honor those who have passed on.” Shorey recognizes that Halloween has evolved into a secular holiday for most Americans and says he and his fellow Druids celebrate with candy and costumes as well as in a traditional Pagan manner. ”We’re actually going to be celebrating on the following weekend where we’re going to do an ancestors feast, where folks come together and bring a dish that recognizes and honors their ancestry,” Shorey said.”

Catholics in the UK are trying to “reclaim” Halloween, while animal shelters halt adoption of black cats, partially due to rumors that Witches are out sacrificing cats. All seem to be rooted in the anxiety that Halloween, at its true root, isn’t really associated with the Judeo-Christian backdrop most people are comfortable with. In any case, I think David did a good job with the interview, and stressed that this time of year is one of religious observance for most Pagans.

Invoking Artists: In a final note, artist Jeffrey Vallance, participating in the annual Frieze Art Fair, decided to hold a massive séance involving famous (deceased) artists.

“There were some spooky goings on this week at the fair around the Frieze Project devised by the artist and Fortean Times contributor Jeffrey Vallance, who asked five psychics to channel the spirits of blockbusting artists Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Leonardo da Vinci and Marcel Duchamp. Before the mediums—and the artist phantoms—arrived, the spiritualists predicted: “There might be some problems with electricity.” Before you could say Doris Stokes, the internet crashed during the séance, which meant that a live web broadcast had to be scuppered. It was all to do with “forcefields”, apparently.”

Of course the Internet crashed! Artists, particularly great artists like Kahlo and da Vinci, are/were some of the most potent magic(k) workers around. You don’t invoke them lightly. It’s unseemly, and it’ll play havoc with your electronics.

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

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 8, 2007 — 3 Comments

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

The New York Sun prints an article on modern Pagans and opines that if mainstream integration poses too many stumbling blocks, they would fit in well with America’s long history of secluded religious enclaves.

“Drag yourself to enough roadside historical plaques around the nation’s midsection and you realize this place was built of enclaves … being remote can be good. There’s nothing like a little added geography to solve social friction. Your neighbors will bother you less if you don’t see them. Thanks to the Internet – the witch school is online, after all – and thanks to simple things like decent highways, the isolation is optional. And from trekking Mormons to the kind of frontier refugees who populated the literary prairies of Willa Cather or Laura Ingalls Wilder, there have been few things more American than finding autonomy by opting for isolation.”

You never know, the next Salt Lake City (famously founded by a Mormon enclave) could start with a group of Pagans fed up with Christian-dominated politics.

Speaking of politics, Democrat Elaine Lite, who was running for a spot on the Asheville City Council, has lost her bid.

“Challengers Dwight Butner and Elaine Lite failed to chip away at incumbents’ support … Lite, a Democratic environmental activist, wanted to slow city growth through greater restrictions on development. The publisher of Critter magazine differed with fellow progressives Freeborn and Newman on partisan elections, opposing the switch from the current nonpartisan system.”

Lite was the target of a political smear campaign that mocked her involvement in a environmental rally led by modern Pagans. Local conservative blogs spared no time in gloating over her defeat, labeling her “Elaine ‘Dances With Witches’ Lite”.

While metaphysical shops in America my enjoy fiscal success from time to time, in England it seems you can also win mainstream critical plaudits. Such is the case for Treadwell’s in London which is listed as one of the “finest bookshops” by The Guardian.

“Treadwells is full of mysterious books about magic, myth and belief amid incense and even magic wands! There’s also a lovely sofa to relax on while you read and think.”

American metaphysical shops take note!

Hillsboro, New Hampshire Police Lt. Darren Remillard is publicly apologizing to Witches and Pagans after suggesting that a dug-up grave may have been the work of local Witchcraft practitioners.

“I offer my apology to all witches and certainly did not intend to offend anyone by insinuating this was done by a witch or witchcraft. This could be a sick prank or someone misusing some sort of religion.”

The officer’s off-the-cuff statement to a local news team lead to a local outcry from the Pagan community over this misguided profiling. One wonders if this police force were visited by occult “experts” who spread disinformation about Pagan faiths?

For those of you who love beer, and you know who you are, Guest on Tap takes a look at the pagan history of beer and some modern beers made from ancient recipes.

“Leading the pack is Froach Heather ale. Dating back 2,000 years – a full five centuries before the Romans first invaded – this Scottish brew replaces hops with sweet gale and flowering heather, producing a light, mildly bitter brew redolent of honey and zesty lemon. I first had it near Hadrian’s Wall in Scotland, but you can find it in good bottle shops in the Northwest as well. Froach also brews an Elderberry Black Ale called ‘Ebulum,’ based on a drink formerly enjoyed by 9th-century Welsh Druids. Made with roasted oats, barley and wheat, it is boiled with herbs and then fermented with ripe elderberries, yielding a rich black ale with fruity aroma, soft roasted flavour and gentle finish – perfect by-the-fireplace-sipping beer.”

In accordance with my Germanic roots I’m partial to a tall Hefe-weizen with a twist of lemon. Its very tasty.

English Pop Idol star Rik Waller has decided to stop singing professionally after marrying a star-struck fan in a Pagan ceremony.

“Waller, who was once thrown off Celebrity Fit Club for binge eating, said they planned to have a pagan wedding ceremony. Miss Bliss, 23, agreed – but only if Waller ended his singing career. ‘This is definitely the real thing and, although our pagan beliefs mean that ours isn’t an engagement in the conventional sense, we have bought rings as a gesture of love and commitment to each other,’ said the singer.”

No word yet on why his Pagan wife would want him to stop singing, especially since most Pagans are quite fond of music and performing.

Finally, The Salem News takes a look at the aftermath of Salem’s yearly Halloween extravaganza and defends the towns role as a magnet for witch-loving tourists.

“Strangely, there are some who seem to pine for the days when the Essex Street pedestrian mall became a barren expanse the day after Labor Day, and every other storefront had a vacancy sign. You can visit many other older urban retail districts for that experience – and we bet their mayors would dearly love to have an event like Haunted Happenings that kept stores, restaurants and parking facilities full for a month each autumn.”

You can bet that so long as Salem is pulling in profits of over 100,000 dollars (after expenses), then the spooky, Pagan-friendly festivities will certainly continue.

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