Archives For Buddhism

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.

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.

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.

Top Story: Chas Clifton gives us a heads up that the preliminary schedule of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group’s sessions for this year’s American Academy of Religion (AAR) Annual Meeting are now up. Taking place this November in San Francisco, California, the AAR’s Annual Meeting is the world’s largest gathering of religious studies scholars. This year the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group will explore themes of “West Coast Pagan Practices and Ideas,” “Pagan Analysis and Critique of ‘Religion’,” and “Elemental Theology and Feminist Earth Practices,” which is being run in partnership with the Religion and Ecology Group.

The joint session with the Religion and Ecology Group, “Elemental Theology and Feminist Earth Practices,” will feature a panel discussion with groundbreaking feminist theologian Rosemary R. Ruether and Reclaiming co-founder Starhawk. In addition, other sessions will see paper presentations from Helen Berger, Christopher W. Chase, and Christine Kraemer (a department chair at Cherry Hill Seminary) among others. All that is in addition to the thousands of other presentations on just about every facet of religious experience you can think of. I will be there this November to cover the event, and hope to bring you special reporting, interviews, and access to a gathering few outside the world of religion studies experience.

In Other News:

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

[This is a guest post by Patrick McCollum. Reverend Patrick McCollum is an internationally recognized spiritual leader in the Pagan/Earth-Based religions who's work toward human rights, social justice, and equality for all religions and spiritual traditions, transcending cultural, religious, and political barriers. McCollum recently made a historic trip to Thailand, and he shares this report on his experiences there.]

My trip to Thailand and the Island of Java at the invitation of the Dhammakaya Buddhists was very successful. I believe it has opened new doors for us and will lead to both a greater understanding between the Buddhist and Pagan communities and increased mutual respect. With that said, it is also important to note that I am not the only Pagan working with other religions and cultures to create partnerships. There are a number of individuals who have stepped up for this work, and I fully honor them and their dedication. It is my strong belief that building these bridges based on common values allows not only a better understanding of our Pagan traditions by others, but more importantly creates the framework for dialogue and action between us and our new partners to stop the rampant destruction of our planet and to counter ideologies that exploit and commodify our fellow human beings. I would also like to point out that all of my interactions as I do this work, stress the importance of each party maintaining their own individual beliefs and spirituality while at the same time acknowledging the sacredness of the other. All of that said, I would now like to share a few high points of my trip and some of the experiences I had on this incredible journey.

Patrick McCollum and the High Lamas preparing to enter the temple at Borbodour.

Patrick McCollum and High Lamas at Borbodour.

I would first like to say, that I was very well received as a Pagan by the Buddhists in Thailand and that I had many opportunities to share information about our community and practices. My hosts provided a team of wonderful people to assist us and I learned a lot about Buddhist thought and particularly their desire to achieve world peace. I was also privileged to be involved in a huge beautiful ritual with over a hundred and fifty thousand Buddhists from around the world which was very similar to some of the Pagan rituals I’ve participated in, in our own spiritual community. The ritual, which was called Maga Phuja, celebrates the light of the Buddha returning to the world. The celebration started with several thousand chanting monks in saffron robes circling around a huge round domed temple three times, acknowledging each of the four directions and the elements. The temple has one million gold Buddha’s (most of which are dispersed all over the top of the temple’s dome) which reflect the light in all directions in a profound way.

When darkness hit and the full moon began to rise, a sacred flame was kindled in the center of the temple which was progressively used to light a consecutive number of additional flames passed from one person to the next as far as you could see. The growing light radiated out in spiraling waves through 150,000 people until the sky actually glowed with the intensity. For me as a Pagan, it was both awesome and familiar. I also had the wonderful privilege of being one of the 5 people who got to light the initial flame, and watching it travel out from my location in the center to the far reaching fringes, was very powerful and moving.

After the main ritual, I had the opportunity to be interviewed on TV and had several more similar opportunities during my stay in Bangkok. I was also filmed for future use as I spoke about how to achieve world peace. I shared my own personal views that we are all sacred and part of one human family, and that if we all began with that premise, peace was possible. I also shared a story about the thirty year long process of creating a sacred violin that I had made for the purpose of connecting the people of the world through sacred music without any knowledge of how to make a violin. The finished instrument which I’d brought with me on the trip, I explained to the crowd and on TV, was constructed of diverse unconventional sacred materials from different countries relating to different spiritualities. I shared with them the fact, that many qualified violin makers said that the materials and process I was following would not work to create a usable instrument or make a good sound. I pointed out to the audience that the bringing together of such unfamiliar and diverse components, especially when those in power said that there is only one right way to make a violin (and my way wasn’t it), was actually a great analogy for what was required to succeed in the peace process. I then showed them that the face of the violin was carved from a tree that I had talked to in the forest for 6 years before harvesting it, so that it would know its purpose, and that the body was made from a rare wood from Africa that was used to make shamanic drums for the indigenous people, rather than the conventional maple. I pointed out the inlayed Celtic knot work was carved from a willow branch taken from Brigit’s Well in Kildare, Ireland, and I described the varnish which I made from scratch from plants sacred to the Native Americans and Pagans. I told them how I combined olive oil from the Greeks, walnut oil from the Germans, and crushed Bluestone from the megalithic circle at Avebury in Cornwall, to include magic in the end result. I also explained to the Buddhists that I created each aspect of the violin in ritual, and that every step of its construction was seen as a sacred quest to bring peace. And I told them that each time I failed in the process or something broke, I turned to a higher source for guidance on how to repair it or re-envision it. This, I told them, is the formula for World Peace … Acceptance of diversity, recognition of the sacredness of one another and the planet we live on, and the ability to constantly re-envision the process as we move forward, drawing on all of our diverse ways of connecting with a higher power or reason.

And then I played the violin and the sound was beautiful, and everyone was very moved, some were even moved to tears.

I finalized my talk by challenging them to join together in their diversity, and to stretch their world view to accept and explore difference as sacred. And then I pressed them to join together like the violin, joining all of our diverse voices to create something beautiful, like the music from the violin … World Peace.

Besides meeting and interacting with Buddhists in Thailand, I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet and make alliances with Elders from other spiritual communities. I spent time with a Native American Chief/Medicine Man and a Medicine Woman, representing the tribes of Canada, a Hindu Yogi who is very active in interfaith and world peace work in Nepal, and a Kahuna from Hawaii. I was invited by each to participate further in discussions and concrete projects in their communities and ours, and I will travel in the near future to meet with each of them separately.

I also got to work on projects for Children of the Earth, a United Nations NGO that I am affiliated with. Children of the Earth is working toward empowering young people to become the leaders of tomorrow, and has a vision of young people informed by their spirituality working together toward a sustainable planet. I had the honor of traveling with Dr. Nina Meyerhof, founder and President of that organization. COE already has several Pagan youth in leadership roles, and I hope to help more Pagans in the future to become involved in various world peace projects.

My time on the island of Java was also productive. I had the privilege of interacting with another major branch of Buddhism and being allowed to participate in sacred space with several world spiritual leaders and many monks. I got to walk nearly every day through one of the most revered Buddhist temples in the world, and I got to share some of our communities ideas about how to create a better world. In the end, I made many friends, and have been invited to participate further in the future. Again, a door has been opened, and I plan to help create opportunities for more Pagans to participate as we move forward.

Lama Ganchen gifting McCollum with his Kata (religious scarf) at the closing ceremony.

Patrick McCollum receiving Lama Ganchen's Kata

In closing I’d like to say, that much of my trip was a powerful spiritual journey for me personally, and I will not share that here. Those who are interested can go to patrickmccollum.org and read my blog. But I had set out with three main goals to accomplish for our community which was the real focus of my trip. My first goal was to have us seen by others as a community with valuable things to contribute to the world. My second goal was to make alliances with other world spiritualities to join together to become a more formidable force for positive change in the world. And my third goal, was to include Pagan ideals into the mix as world leaders strive to construct a plan to achieve world peace and a sustainable planet.

I am hopeful that I accomplished that!

With the world’s focus turned to Japan as it deals with the aftermath of a cascade of earthquakes, a massive tsunami, and dangerously damaged nuclear reactors, press and commentators are starting to touch on the question of religion, and how belief is informing Japanese reaction to these events. However, this approach as been somewhat tentative so far, partly because we’ve been riveted by the immediate disaster response, and partly because Japan’s religious makeup is so very different from that of the United States and other Western nations. In Japan, Christianity is a tiny minority, while religions like Shinto and Buddhism dominate, and several smaller syncretic faiths thrive. In addition, Japan is highly secular, with few of the culture war issues that seem to constantly haunt us.

Rescue workers in front of a Shinto shrine. Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Rescue workers in front of Shinto shrine. Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

CNN was one of the first mainstream news outlets to foray into how religion interacts with these current events, with Religion Editor Dan Gilgoff exploring how Japanese faiths confront tragedy.

“Japanese are not religious in the way that people in North America are religious,” says John Nelson, chair of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco. “They’ll move back and forth between two or more religious traditions, seeing them as tools that are appropriate for certain situations. For things connected to life-affirming events, they’ll turn to Shinto-style rituals or understandings,” Nelson says. “But in connection to tragedy or suffering, it’s Buddhism.”

Next to weigh in is USA Today, with religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman focusing on the role of tradition, and how Japanese Buddhism isn’t necessarily the Buddhism many Americans would be familiar with.

“Such talk of gods and hell kings doesn’t sound like the meditative Buddhism better known in the West, cultural anthropologist John Nelson said. He’s an expert on Shinto and Buddhist shrines and chairman of the department of theology and religious studies at University of San Francisco [...] ”Japanese Buddhism is similar to Western religions with deities that can be petitioned and can intervene in worldly affairs, and there are many mechanisms to appeal to them, to pray for miracles,” he said.”

Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic points to a short essay by former Anglican priest and journalist Mark Vernon, who meditates on the difference between the Shinto and Christian responses to natural disasters.

“In Christianity, human beings are at the centre of nature: creation is for humanity, along with other creatures, and it’s humanity’s task to care for it. Hence, in part, the offence we feel when nature turns against us. In Shintoism, nature is recognised as infinitely more powerful than humankind – as in the wave – and that humankind is in nature with the permission of the gods but with no particular concern from the gods. Shinto rituals show respect for the gods of nature, befriending the enormity of the forces, if you like.”

From there we have many smaller nods and mentions, the Telegraph explores the “tradition of rebuilding the great Shinto shrines,” the Washington Post evokes the image of a woman praying at “a small Shinto-inspired shrine to her ancestors,” while ABC News noted that local funeral homes “volunteered to provide traditional Shinto rites to the dead, donating white shrouds and cremating the bodies,” before becoming overwhelmed by the demand. Disappointingly, the Religion News Service’s coverage has so far been disproportionately focused on Christian reactions to the tragedy. One hopes that more robust reports on Shinto and Buddhist perspectives are forthcoming.

As things progress, we can hope that a larger sense of the importance of ancestor worship, tradition, the divine within nature, and the multiplicity of spiritual beings within Japanese culture will shine through in future aftermath coverage. In this disaster there is a rare opportunity to understand how a culture outside the Christian context grapples with universal questions and problems. Religion journalists should rise to this occasion, and minority faiths in the West should ask for the true diversity of faith in our world be accurately and fairly covered.

In one final related note, I also want to point to an article up now at PNC-Minnesota, where Hawaiian Pagan Lamyka, a former resident of Japan, is interviewed about how Hawaii’s experience with the tsunami triggered by the Japanese earthquake was, in her opinion, ignored in favor of California by the media.

“Hawai’i is seen as ‘foreign’ by many Americans, as evident by people’s reactions to the President coming here for holidays.  We’re never included in national dialogue, probably because it’s incredibly obvious that we shouldn’t be part of the USA to begin with.  Hawaiians have been protesting since being illegally usurped, fighting for our rights since statehood, and continue to fight for sovereignty rights denied to us.  We’ve had protests here numbering from 50,000-60,000 but never once made national news like in Wisconsin.”

Yet another perspective that should likely get more attention by the mainstream media. Do check out the entire article, and share your perspective.

ADDENDUM: You can find resources for donations here, and here.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Patrick McCollum’s Visit to Thailand: As I mentioned back in January, Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be traveling to Thailand in February at the invitation of Dhammakaya temple in the Pathumtani Province, where he will be honored as a World Inner Peace Ambassador, and share Pagan rituals and practices with Buddhist Lamas. McCollum will then travel to the renowned temple at Borobudur on the Island of Java with Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, of the World Peace Foundation. At the Patrick McCollum Foundation web site, Patrick shares his thoughts as he embarks on this historic journey.

“My journey continues to get increasingly more interesting as more and more opportunities present themselves, and I feel much like I am in an adventure story just waiting to find out what will happen next.  On this trip to Thailand, I will not only be meeting with venerable Buddhist lamas and monks, I will now also be meeting with several distinguished spiritual leaders from other traditions to forge sacred bonds and find common ground.  So far, I will be meeting with Cheif Kapiteotak Dominique Rankin, also known as T8aminik in the Algonquin language, former Grand Chief of the Algonquin nation and Elder in the Circle Of Medicine Men of the Canadian tribes. I will also be meeting with Master Li Hechun, Master of the Longmen (Dragon Gate) branch of the Ch’uan-chen (Complete Perfection) School of Taoism in China and with Guru Chintamani  Yogi of the Hindu VidyaPeethmovement from Nepal, founder of the Shanti Sewa Ashram and Peace Service Center. I will also have the honor to spend part of my journey with Patrick Kuaimoku, Kahuna Lokahi from Hawaii, Keeper of the Ancient Hawaiian wisdom tradition.   In such company, it is hard to imagine any part of my journey being anything less than extraordinary.”

Patrick will be sharing more information and insights about his trip with us when he returns. This is a major interfaith event for modern Pagan faiths, one that could have far-reaching effects on Buddhist-Pagan relations for years to come. Congratulations to Patrick on this great honor. To keep track of Patrick’s journey be sure to follow the Patrick McCollum Foundation’s blog, and the Foundation’s Facebook page.

Sacred Spaces Series: Cara Schulz of PNC Minnesota has started a new video series (Part 1, Part 2) on the creation of modern Pagan sacred spaces, speaking with Priest Drew Jacob from Temple of the River.

Many Pagan groups share the dream of building some type of sacred space.  A temple, a community center, a permanent altar.  It remains a dream because they lack the information, skills, and experience to bring it into reality.  Yet other groups have accomplished what can seem, at times, impossible.  They have learned how to raise funds, deal with city inspectors, and overcome challenges that stymie most groups who attempt these ambitious projects.   In this series, PNC talks with groups who have successfully created their own Sacred Spaces.

You can see part one of this video series, here. Part three will most likely happen after this year’s PantheaCon, as Cara and several other PNC bureau members will be attending that event this weekend. This is an excellent video series, and shows the potential and scope of locally-focused Pagan news bureaus.

The Green Heart of England is Not For Sale: Controversy has raged recently in England over the proposed plans to conduct a massive sell-off of state-owned woodland. A move that sparked almost universal condemnation, and a rare public climb-down from the environment secretary. British Druid Philip Carr-Gomm, leader of The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, had this to say on the issue.

“David Bellamy articulated the feelings of most people when they first heard the news of the government’s proposed disposal of all of England’s public forest: “The green heart of England is not for sale.” It looks as if the message is getting through. Over half a million have signed the ‘Save Our Forests’ petition organised by grass-roots movement 38 degrees and today David Cameron signalled that the plan may be ditched [...] The irony of a party with a tree as its logo behaving in this way has occurred to many. Our Druid group has been working with the idea since it began. Melanie Philips, of the Daily Mail telepathically picked up our thoughts (ha!) and voiced them on TV on the BBC’s Question Time, suggesting a felled oak and a dead stag as the Conservative logo…”

Carr-Gomm promises that efforts to “apply pressure and voice our concerns” will resume should the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government decide once more to sell off large swathes of its green heart, but for now, there is a celebratory mood of victory.

Pagan Newswire News: I’ve got some Pagan Newswire Collective-related announcements to make. First off, a warm welcome to the PNC’s newest bureau, PNC-Bay Area!

“Welcome to the Bay Area Bureau of the Pagan Newswire Collective. We are an all volunteer group (of currently 10 people), reporting on news and events of interest to the pagan communities here in the Bay Area of California. We have bios of our volunteers posted on its own page of the site here. If you would like to join our collective and write for us, email our Bureau Coordinator at bayarea (at) paganewswirecollective (dot) com.”

I am very excited to finally have coverage from the San Francisco Bay Area of California, long a hot-spot of modern Paganism, and look forward to their contributions! Several members of the new bureau will be at this year’s PantheaCon, and I’ve created a special page listing all official PNC-related events for those attending. You may also notice that we’ve quietly debuted the new site design, and you’ll hear more about that as things progress. I think 2011 will be a great year for the PNC, one that will greatly benefit all Pagan media outlets.

Cooking for a Pagan Seminary: In a quick final note, a number of Austin-based Pagan groups are organizing a cook-off and potluck benefit for Cherry Hill Seminary.

“One thing everyone in the Austin Pagan community shares is the love of a good potluck. Diverse organizations and individuals in the Austin area are coming together to co-sponsor a cook-off and silent auction to benefit Cherry Hill Seminary. Cherry Hill Seminary serves all our communities by providing quality higher education and practical training in Pagan Ministry. They offer several master’s degrees, certificate programs, and community education primarily available through distance learning. Many of us have received outstanding training in our chosen tradition, but there are some individuals who feel compelled to go above and beyond with their service to others. While many resources exist to train and assist students as they pursue their chosen Pagan tradition or path, there is an acute need for specific training in areas such as counseling, ethics, marriage and family issues, religion and the law, interfaith work, Pagan scholarship, media and public relations, ritual arts, leadership development, and nonprofit management.”

As a former CHS board member, and occasional teacher, I fully support the idea of communities rallying together to support this venture. One that will ultimately benefit all modern Pagans. Kudos to the Austin, Texas Pagans for putting this together!

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

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Patrick McCollum Travels to Thailand: Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be traveling to Thailand in February at the invitation of Dhammakaya temple in the Pathumtani Province, where he will be honored as a World Inner Peace Ambassador, and share Pagan rituals and practices with Buddhist Lamas. McCollum will then travel to the renowned temple at Borobudur on the Island of Java with Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, of the World Peace Foundation.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to represent my community in such a significant way.  Perhaps in working to create a better world, my efforts may help reduce the prejudice and discrimination many of our community and other minorities face in the mundane world.  In the end, I hope to show that all people, no matter what their beliefs, are both sacred and connected, and that all the people of the world should be honored as brothers and sisters of the Human race!”

Patrick will be sharing more information and insights about his trip with us when he returns. This is a major interfaith event for modern Pagan faiths, one that could have far-reaching effects on Buddhist-Pagan relations for years to come. Congratulations to Patrick on this great honor.

Wisteria Wants to Clear the Air: The Wisteria campground and nature retreat in Ohio, home to several Pagan festivals and events, is participating in the Pepsi Refresh Project in order to win $5000 dollars for the construction of composting toilets for the facility.

“This project will aid Wisteria in building composting toilets on site for the use of its patrons and guests.  It will also act as a demonstration, showing that the use of composting toilets is a legitimate alternative to the traditional Porta-Johns that are typically used in festival and event settings.  Finally, it will go to helping develop legislation that will be instrumental for state acceptance of the composting toilet scenario.”

As press release sent to my by Wisteria workshop coordinator Adam Hoyt says: “No more walk through camp with friends, timing your conversation with the pause required to avoid the early morning “crispness” of the “Od’air” of the blue box.” If this project gets into the top ten (currently at #91), they will receive the funding. Individuals can vote twice per day by a variety of different methods. So take some time out and support a less smelly Wisteria!

Pagan Perspectives on Marriage: Marriage and Family Therapist Charlton Hall, a member of the Universal Order of Druids, is researching Pagan perspectives on marriage, and is conducting a survey.

“I am a Marriage and Family Therapist, researching this topic. If you practice an Earth-centered spiritual path, would you take a few moments to participate in this ten-question survey? Thanks!”

Feel free to pass the survey link along. The more responses, the more accurate the results!

Penton Magazine Changes With the Times: South African Pagan magazine Penton has shifted gears and relaunched as Penton Independent Pagan Media.

“Penton has just launched our new site – a more user friendly option. I’ll be uploading archived articles and interviews published in Penton Magazine (dating back to 2004) over the next few weeks. Penton Magazine’s new release as Penton Independent Pagan Media offers a change in both visual format, functionality and publication frequency. Penton’s readers can now interact online with our contributing authors, regular columnists and new bloggers directly. Instead of quarterly publications, Penton will now publish new articles and blogs more frequently (weekly).”

This is an encouraging step, and I look forward to more perspectives and news from South African Pagans from this relaunched venture. You can contact Penton Independent Pagan Media, here.

Maetreum of Cybele Continues the Fight: The Daily Mail in Greene County, New York, checks in with the Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater’s ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, and finds that the legal stalemate continues.

The Palenville pagan sect fighting for the town’s recognition as a religious entity says it will not stop, even if it needs to go federal. The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater’s ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill has entered its fifth year, with the municipality continuing to deny a religious property tax exemption it once granted for 2006. [...] “This isn’t just for us, this is for all minority religions,” [Cathryn] Platine said. “They took on the wrong people this time and I don’t understand why they don’t just cut their losses.” Platine said the Maetreum has spent about $10,000 in legal fees fighting to preserve their property in Palenville with a “very, very reasonably priced attorney.” The town, Platine estimated, has spent over $50,000 on attorney fees to remove an exemption that would net the town less than $750 annually at the current town tax rate.

You can read more about this ongoing battle in the Wild Hunt’s archives.

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

Top Story: The British tabloids, hungry for some controversy, decided to ask the Ministry of Defense for the religious breakdown of active military personnel. They discovered that 100 voluntarily list themselves as Pagan, and another 30 list themselves to be Witches.

“As fighters they are capable of crushing an enemy with terrifying might. But when some members of Britain’s Armed Forces take off their uniforms, they like nothing more than casting spells and taking part in midnight rituals. Around 100 UK service personnel – some taking part in the war on terror – class themselves as pagans. Another 30 are witches, according to figures. The intriguing details about the beliefs of soldiers, sailors and airmen were obtained from the Ministry of Defence using the Freedom of Information Act.”

The problem with there only being 130 “out” Pagans in the British Armed Forces is that it isn’t a very salacious headline. That’s hardly Pagans taking over, especially when they are forced to admit that the “overwhelming majority of servicemen and women record themselves as being Christian”. To try to salvage something they get a local Pagan to speculate that there may be far more Pagans in the military who are in the “broom closet”.

“Phil Ryder, chair of the British Druid Network, said there were in fact far more pagans than the figures suggested. He said: “They tend not to publicise their beliefs for fear of discrimination. In some areas it’s seen as odd. Although the Army doesn’t like people to join secret groups there’s no reason why being a druid or a witch should affect someone’s ability to perform on the front line. “Druidry, in particular, is quite open.” A spokesman for the MoD said that members of the armed forces were free to worship whoever they like, provided it did not interfere with their work.”

Still, it’s not exactly the “ring the alarm” sort of headline these culturally conservative rags were hoping for. This was obviously intended to build on the recent media hype over the Pagan Police Association gaining official recognition as aDiversity Staff Support Association, but it looks like the Freedom of Information Act request didn’t come through for them. Still, they did provide some interesting data, and Phil Ryder is most likely correct that there are more than 130 British Armed Forces personnel, maybe some serious British news organizations will decide to explore the issue now that it’s been brought up by the tabloids.

Speaking of Pagans and British Tabloids: If Pagans in the military won’t titillate or enrage their readership, maybe English footballer Ashley Cole dating an ex-lapdancer and “white witch” will.

“The woman linked to Ashley Cole over the weekend is a former ex-lapdancer who claims to be ‘part white witch’. Mother-of-one Sarah Purnell, 23, says she can cast spells to tame her men and even claims to have reunited a friend with her ex-boyfriend simply by taking a lock of his hair … As of yet it is unclear whether she has told Ashley of her secret life as a white witch, a female who casts good spells, or whether she used her ‘powers’ to snare the footballer.”

Now we’re talking! This one has lit up the gossip pages and tabloids. It’s got it all, sex, witchcraft, (ex) strippers, and football (a topic far more likely to inflame British passions than Druids in the military). They can only hope the fling lasts, or at least lasts long enough to sell a lot of papers.

The Return of the Hippy Witch: The Irish Times puts the spotlight on Alison O’Donnell, singer of the cult folk-rock band Mellow Candle, and how her work has influenced a new generation of singers and songwriters.

“Fast forward 30-plus years and O’Donnell is still around, still making music. Since returning to Ireland some years ago from the UK and raising a daughter, and a period of time spent in Flanders, she has slowly re-emerged as a leading, if somewhat heretofore unheralded, light of the psych-folk movement. She can (and does) thank Mellow Candle for the recognition factor. Over the past few decades, the band has grown in cult status. The likes of psych-folk leaders Devendra Banhart and Espers have cottoned on to the scant Mellow Candle back catalogue, while O’Donnell herself has (and will be) collaborating with the likes of Espers’ Greg Weeks, low-key UK psych-folk act, The Owl Service, Celtic folk/metal act, Moonroot, Winnipeg-based psych-folk band, Mr Pine, and Ireland’s experimental unit, United Bible Studies.”

O’Donnell has released a new solo album entitled “Hey Hey Hippy Witch” that should be a treat for lovers of classic folk-rock in the vein of Fairport, Trees, or Mellow Candle. You may also want to check out The Owl Service, Moonroot, and Espers as well.

Why Are We Saving Christian Crosses But Not Buddhist Stupas? Buddhists are protesting the planned destruction of a Tibetan Buddhist Stupa in New Mexico after the National Park Service seized the (formerly private) land using the power of eminent domain.

“The question has to be raised, is there an attempt to establish a de facto ‘official’ religion in the United States, as demonstrated by the actions of several govermental agencies the over the past 5 years? Ken Salazar, the Secretary for the Department of the Interior, which runs the National Park Service, has been eerily quiet about these actions, as has the Obama administration. Unquestionably, the volunteer caretakers of the Stupa have been more than willing to work with the NPS to preserve the Buddhist symbol within the confines of its amphitheater plans, however, any attempts to open dialogue have been met with no success. One of the ongoing advertising campaigns of the NPS has been “Get Involved!”; I suppose they only wish those to get involved if they are indeed Christian.”

Considering the eerie similarities between this case and the WWI Christian cross memorial that was ruled “secular” by the Supreme Court, will it too be spared? Or will the defenders the “secular” cross now fall silent? For more Pagan exploration of this issue, see this recent post at Pagan+Politics. I’ll be reporting more on this issue in the future, so stay tuned.

Is Dan Halloran Abusing His Power? The NY Politics Examiner has accused conservative New York City Councilman, and out TheodsmanDan Halloran of abusing the power of his office by using a City Council parking permit and license plate to ignore parking laws.

“In the neighborhood known to be impossible to find a legal parking space on the street, Halloran’s white Jaguar with a city parking permit on the dashboard and “NYC COUNCIL 19″ on his license plate is parked right next to a sign that clearly reads “NO STANDING HOTEL LOADING ZONE” in front of the entrance to the Sheraton New York Towers.  The placard and plate do not make it legal for Halloran to park there, but most police officers and traffic agents will leave such a car alone.  As of publication Halloran’s car had not been ticketed and towed … Halloran could not immediately be located for comment, but examiner.com will keep trying and update with whatever answer he gives us as to why while everyone is else is spending an arm and a leg on the hotel parking lot, he saw fit to violate the very laws he helps write.”

What do you think? Serious ethical breach, or tempest in a tea (party)-pot?

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

Indulge me, if you will, to talk a bit about Brunswick, North Carolina. You see, Brunswick and this blog have something of a history. Way back in 2006, the Brunswick County Board of Education in North Carolina was on track to approve a controversial and vaguely-worded policy that would allow for the distribution of religious materials on school grounds. Legal threats didn’t seem to faze them until Llewellyn Worldwide offered to distribute free books on Wicca and Paganism to school children. Faster than you could say “Galloping Gideons”, the Brunswick board backed down from their plan, and someone fortuitously caught that delicious moment in a photo.

Since then, the Brunswick board would pop up occasionally to threaten a ban on Harry Potter, or attempt to inject Creationism into the curriculum, and I’d get to run that awesome photo again. Good times. So imagine my reaction when I learn that the Brunswick County Commissioners are considering ending public invocations due to fear that they might have to include Witches in the mix.

Brunswick County’s commissioners could be dropping their traditional prayer before public meetings. The consideration of changing from an opening invocation to a moment of silence comes after a StarNews report on a late-night board meeting in which commissioners vehemently opposed Commissioner Charles Warren’s request to allow outside clergy to pray before the board meetings. Traditionally the commissioners have given the invocation. Commissioner Phil Norris, who is also a pastor, said Wednesday that, after much thought on the issue, he now thinks the board should hold a moment of silence instead of the prayer. “I think, after thinking about this for some time, the way I see the Constitution it provides all of us with freedom of religion or freedom to not have any religion,” he said. Norris’ original reaction to Warren’s request was: “If we do that, do we have to invite witches?

If you think that’s something, take a gander at the actual transcript!

Commissioner Charles Warren: Mr. Chairman, I’m basically, I’m still trying to keep the community involved in our board meetings and things of this nature. So I’m recommending that we invite different clergies, priests, rabbis throughout the community to come in and do our invocation of services.

Commissioner Phil Norris: If we do that do we have to invite witches and uh…

Commissioner Marty Cooke: My godson has a witch who’s his mother in law…

County Attorney Huey Marshall: We’ve got the largest monestary of Buddhists between DC and Atlanta

Sue: Buddhists?

It gets even better after that, with one commissioner threatening to walk out if a Buddhist is allowed to do an opening prayer, and another more than willing to waste tax-dollars on a lengthy lawsuit over the matter. It remains to be seen what the Brunswick County Commissioners will end up actually doing, but with a recent court room loss for sectarian opening prayers in North Carolina, they may have to go silent if they don’t want to endure the Buddhists and Witches (and a lengthy court battle).  This not only shows what some religiously conservative-dominated local governments truly feel about religious diversity, but also shows the unintended power modern Pagans hold in places like Brunswick simply by existing.