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.
- Michael Lloyd’s (excellent) new book “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan” recently celebrated its publication in Manhattan, and the New York Times covered it for their City Room blog. Quote: “So many friends and followers of Mr. Buczynski turned out, that the evening became one of the largest Wiccan summits in New York in years. “It’s a blessing of the gods,” said Michael Lloyd [...] His was just one of many invocations of the Wiccan gods, which quickly turned into a giant prayer circle, with chanting and singing of Wiccan prayer and song in veneration of Mr. Buczynski, an openly gay Wiccan priest who died in 1989 from AIDS.” Kudos to Lloyd for his book, and for enabling such positive coverage of Pagans in New York (despite the “Eyes Wide Shut” crack from reporter Corey Kilgannon). Be sure to read the whole thing.
- David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame, for the uninitiated), writes on his journal about seeing the black metal documentary Until The Light Takes Us, and talks about how boundary-pushing art can be twisted in ways the artists never intended. His closing paragraph is one I think many of us would find thought-provoking: “Going at this alone is a solitary quest, in a dangerous landscape, taken, in this case, without a guide. One would be tempted to say that maybe Odin, Thor, Wotan and the rest of the Norse horde, might have been summoned—but maybe these Gods or archetypes are too powerful to be confronted by an amateur. As with Voudoun, chanting, LSD and many other arts and practices that reach parts of us that we often don’t touch, it might be wise to have a professional along who knows where the dangers and pitfalls lie.”
- Religion News Service reports on a new University of Washington study concerning the effects of ritual on mega-church attendees. Quote: “Worship services at megachurches can trigger feelings of transcendence and changes in brain chemistry — a spiritual “high” that keeps congregants coming back for more.” While some Christians are skeptical of how the data was collected, and if the results are accurate, I find it interesting from a Pagan perspective. Many are drawn to our rituals because of the emotion, energy, and liminal experiences that often coincide with them, perhaps this why modern Paganism has experienced consistent growth for the past 40 years?
- In the wake of the Pendle witch trials anniversary the BBC asks if modern Witches in the UK are still persecuted for their beliefs. Quote: “Kathy Rowan-Drewitt, 51, from Blackpool, runs her own witch school and has taught more than 60 witches. She said: ‘Many still keep being a witch secret from their family, friends and work for fear of being treated unfairly or thought of as weird. Times have changed but calling someone a witch is still used as a derogatory term. We are often misrepresented and treated as a joke by the media yet paganism is the sixth biggest religion in this country.'” Meanwhile, it’s Pendle-witch mania in the UK as a world record is set for most people dressed as witches (conical cap, broom) in one place.
- The Air Force has released a new policy document that promotes free exercise and religious neutrality. Quote: “Leaders at all levels must balance constitutional protections for an individual’s free exercise of religion or other personal beliefs and the constitutional prohibition against governmental establishment of religion. For example, they must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion. Commanders or supervisors who engage in such behavior may cause members to doubt their impartiality and objectivity.” The Air Force had been dealing with conservative Christian blowback to accomodations made towards minority faiths, including Pagans, and this restatement of neutrality and balance is no doubt a partial response to those criticisms.
- Is Etsy following in the footsteps of eBay? PNC-Minnesota reports that the online marketplace has placed new restrictions on products making medical claims, including folkloric medical claims for herbal products. This has disturbed herbalists who have used Etsy, and some are complaining that Etsy provides no guidance as to what is and isn’t appropriate language. Quote: “[Etsy's] answer to sellers has been not to offer clarification but to tell us that they will remove listings and possibly shut our shops down if we are not in compliance. The only way most of us will find out if we are in compliance is if are listings are removed and we are threatened to be closed by Etsy.” While there are alternative marketplaces for herbalists, Etsy’s reach is far larger, and this could impact the income of many people within our community. As with eBay’s move to stop selling magical speech and expression, it looks a case of avoiding litigation, liability, and customer complaints. One wonders where the next domino in this trend will fall?
- The West Memphis Three have been out of prison for a year now, and the New York Times checks in with Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin on life after the Alford plea that set them free. It’s a swirl of celebrity, movie deals, and a personal rift between Echols and Baldwin, all while the three try to resume lives interrupted for nearly 20 years. Sadly, the moral panic that helped imprison them still lurks in corners of our society, and it remains to be seen if the three will ever be truly exonerated. You can read my coverage of their release last year, here.
- It’s Pagan Pride Day season! You know what that means, local news articles about Pagan Pride events will be popping up! Here’s a selection: North Dakota, Vancouver, Canada (and another, and another), and our own Kris Bradley writes about prepping for the Central NJ Pagan Pride. As for me, I’ll be speaking at the Columbia-Willamette Pagan Pride next month, it will be a special conversation with Witches & Pagans Magazine editor Anne Niven about Pagan media.
- Conservative New York congressional candidate Dan Halloran recently traveled to Israel, and the Times of Israel talks to him about his Heathen religion. Quote: “In America, the great thing is that we don’t use religion as a divisive thing. We celebrate diversity. In my council district [around Flushing] there are over 130 ethnicities, over 87 religions, everything from Shinto to Buddhism, Orthodox Judaism to Reform, Catholics, Lutherans, Evangelicals. I find great comfort in the fact that – although it was used against me in my council race initially – [my religion] has proven to be unconnected to my life as an elected official. And it has enabled me to reach out to communities which have traditionally been underrepresented, like the Hindu community that has always felt marginalized by the mainstream.” The Jerusalem Post headline read “Israel’s ‘Heathen’ Friend,” though one wonders how effective his strategy of courting Israel will be. Oh, and yes, he prayed at the Wailing Wall like every other politicians who travels to Israel does.
- Kevin Carlyon (“High Priest of British White Witches”), he of the red bathrobe, has finally found his perfect niche: soap operas. Quote: “Kevin Carlyon, of Dane Road, St Leonards, has been asked to star inBoom Town, a docu-soap set in a fictional town. [...] Karl Warner, executive producer, said: ‘Boom Town will be the first sketch show to make stars out of real people. Some of the characters we’ve already met are laugh-out-loud funny and would sit well in any scripted comedy.'” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Every pot truly has its lid.
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.