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.
- A lot of people are reacting to the fact that the new Miss America, Nina Davuluri, is of South Asian descent. Unfortunately, a subset of those reactions were vile, racist, and astoundingly ignorant. Reacting to the comments, Davuluri said that she has “always viewed Miss America as the girl next door, but the girl next door is evolving as the diversity in America evolves.” Of course, there are also people who aren’t fond of the spectacle of pageants, but at least that’s a valid social critique. In my mind, the missed religious angle here is that, by all accounts I’ve found, Miss America is a Hindu. She was raised by Hindu parents, studied traditional Hindu dance in India, and her platform at the pageant was “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.” Is this a barometer for a changing, more pluralistic, culture?
- Speaking of barometers and America’s religious culture, a growing number of Mainline Protestant Christian ministers are going without a salary, something that was previously quite rare. Quote: “[Rev. Lori] Modesitt sees unpaid ministry as ‘the future of the church’ – and a bright future at that. It empowers laypeople to become priests even if they can’t leave other careers, she said. And it ensures that ministry never becomes just a job. ‘What we’re talking about is going back to the original church, where people took an active part and used their God-given gifts for the betterment of the community,’ Modesitt said. ‘This is a way to enliven congregations.’” Yet another area where modern Pagan clergy are on the cutting edge (he said with tongue somewhere near his cheek). But seriously, perhaps looking at clergy/minister duties as a “job” is something that is shifting?
- Miss America may be Hindu, and, tragically, Washington Navy Yard murderer Aaron Alexis may have been a Buddhist. Quote: “Aaron Alexis had a gold Buddha in his room, a regular meditation practice and a gun with him ‘at all times,’ according to a friend. At one point, he aspired to be a monk. He wound up a killer [...] Alexis was very involved with a temple in Fort Worth, but his attendance there dropped off after about a year and he drank alcohol regularly and carried a gun even though his temple banned the practices. Buddhist scripture is also full of condemnations of violence, anger and enmity.” Some have argued that his actions make it impossible for him to be a Buddhist, but as many have pointed out, violent Buddhists aren’t impossible. Quote: “In the popular imagination, Buddhism is a religion of peace and Islam is one of war. We may wonder how a Buddhist could commit such an atrocity—despite Buddhism’s history of violence in places like Burma, Japan, Tibet and Sri Lanka.”
- Pamela J. Grossman of Phantasmaphile fame (one of my favorite must-read blogs) writes about the image of the triple witch in culture (from mythic to pop) for the Huffington Post. Quote: “The archetype of three magical females has been time-tested and audience approved for thousands of years. Triple goddesses and witchy trios have been with us at since the days of ancient mythology, and have risen to the top of the archetypal pot many times over throughout history [...] Three magical women are captivating, because they transcend the simple positive/negative dichotomy. They aren’t enemies in a “good witch” v. “bad witch” scenario, but are a force to be reckoned with as a collective. Two’s a polarity. Three’s a posse.”
- India’s future is currently being decided, but one thing is clear, it’s good to be Ganesh in troubled times. Quote: “Narendra Dahibawkar, who heads an umbrella organization overseeing the city’s idol-producing groups, said spending on this year’s Ganeshes was up 10 percent over 2012. The number of visitors during the festival had reportedly risen between 10 percent and 30 percent across the city, with five- and six-hour waits to make a wish. Mr. Dahibawkar said he thought the underlying reason was worry.”
- Sometimes the tourist-attraction witch business is so good you decide to go solo, at least that seems to be the case with the latest Wookey Hole witch, Sunny Van der Pas, who wants to launch her own clothing line. Quote: “Actress Sunny Van der Pas is leaving her role after two years to launch her own clothing line based upon her costumes. But now directors at the popular tourist attraction need a little magic of their own to find a replacement witch in time for Halloween. [...] The attraction employs a witch pro rata, largely over the summer holidays, Halloween and Christmas, They are expected to live in the site’s caves during busy periods and to teach witchcraft and magic. The role normally attracts thousands of applicants, who then compete in for the post X Factor style auditions.” For the uninitiated, the Wookey Hole cave system in the UK (about 20 miles from Bath) has become something like the British version of Salem here (except even more tourist-y).
- NPR highlights Candomblé in Brazil, spurred by a recent survey that saw an uptick in adherents. Quote: “Sitting among the faithful here is Marcilio Costa, who is the commercial officer at a foreign consulate in Sao Paulo. He became an initiate a year and a half ago, and he says he’s open about it. ‘Among Brazilians, yes. People understand better now. … All my friends know my religion, every single one of them,’ Costa says. ‘I don’t hide from no one.’”
- The Paris Review interviews poet Gregory Orr, who opines on the nature of myths. Quote: “The beautiful thing about myths is that you’re never telling a myth, you’re retelling it. People already know the story. You don’t have to create a narrative structure, and you don’t have to figure out where it ends. As a lyric poet, you can take the moments of greatest intensity in the myth, or the moments that interest you most, or the ways of looking at the story that you think would be most fun to rethink—you don’t have to do the whole story. You want to know what human mystery can be revealed by retelling it. D. H. Lawrence said that myths are symbols of inexhaustible human mysteries. You can tell them a hundred, a thousand times, and you’ll never exhaust the mystery that’s coded into that story. That may be a little hyperbolic, but I believe it.”
- The Secular Student Alliance has launched the “Secular Safe Zones” program at high schools and colleges. Quote: “The program enlists ‘allies’ like Schmidt among faculty, administrators, counselors and others on college and high school campuses who are trained in the needs of nonreligious — or ‘secular’ — students. So far, there are Secular Safe Zone allies at 26 college and high school campuses in 14 states, including California, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Illinois, Florida and New York.” This is based off of similar LGBTQ efforts, and you have to wonder how long it will be before various religious groups launch their own “safe zone” programs.
- Blah, blah, blah, Christian persecution in the United States, blah, blah, blah, Obama is a pagan, blah blah blah. Quote: “As Barber explained, the Obama administration is the “modern-day equivalent” of ancient Rome, demanding that citizens must worship Caesar in the form of progressiveism.”
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.