Archives For Celtic Reconstructionism

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

Air N-AithescA new peer-reviewed magazine focused on Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism has debuted. Air n-Aithesc: Our Message, a joint project conceived by a committee featuring C. Lee Vermeers, Saigh Kym Lambert, Maya St.Clair, Donna Donovan, Blackbird O’Connell, Ceffyl Aedui, Morgan Daimler, Finnchuill, and Skullarix, looks to “offer well researched material for Celtic Reconstructionists and others who value the role of academics as much as they value the role of the spiritual in their practice.” According to the site, the magazine’s main aim is “to offer as many resources as possible, from research articles to in depth explorations of how personal experiences fit in with the sources,  book reviews, and much more.” You can purchase the first issue at MagCloud.

CornerstoneThe Pantheon Foundation was not the only Pagan organization that had a big coming-out at this year’s PantheaCon, this was also the year of the Cornerstone Pagan Fellowship, which hosted a hospitality suite, and seeks to “provide regular spiritual and meditation services but also provide a community center for members to assemble, study, and learn; for other Pagan groups to use for their services; and for educators to utilize as a spiritual resource. Local congregations may provide spiritual counseling, childcare, private schooling, community outreach, social services, food banks or other services if they have qualified staff on hand.”  President Jessie Olson says that “Cornerstone is more than just a church, it is an entire movement, one we really believe has the potential to change the history of Paganism.” The new organization says they follow the teachings of Isaac Bonewits, and that, quote, “we feel there is a real shortage of community service and charity organizations run by Pagan organizations in the community.” 

cropped-PconBanner13aWere you at PantheaCon 2014? Do you have some opinions about it? Things you loved? Things you wish to see improved? Then head over to the event’s website and fill out a feedback form. Quote: “If you attended PantheaCon 2014, we’d like to hear from you. We’ve created a feedback form to better understand your experience attending the conference. It will take about five minutes to complete.  If the link above doesn’t work for you, please enter the following URL in your browser: http://sgiz.mobi/s3/3ddacf2d2f9c Thank you so much for attending!  Check back later this year for more information about PantheaCon 2015.” So, for example, if you wish the hotel would offer more vegan items, and maybe learn how to cook tofu, or if you just want to praise the efficient and hard-working tech team, this is your chance!

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Speaking of the Pantheon Foundation, which I wrote about last week, their official website has been launched. More on Pantheon, and The Wild Hunt, coming soon. Quote: “Our mission is to provide IRS group exemptions for Pagan organizations through fiscal sponsorship, develop Pagan ministry, study the history, promote the culture, and advance the social welfare of Pagans and the Pagan community.”
  • Pagan-friendly musical project Metal Mother has premiered a new video from her album “Ionika,” a track entitled “Mind_Off.” Quote: “This story exists in black, dense, empty space. A void. Cult dancers and future-spun techno clans surge in new warriors and new lyfe. We are privileged to this strange moment in this strange space and what we learn is more about what does and does not happen rather than why it is happening. Strange battles, strange visions, strange love.”

  • Lilith Dorsey lets us know that there’s a fundraising effort underway to help restore Marie Laveau’s tomb after it was painted pink by a vandal. Quote: “According to the site, Save Our Cemeteries, the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the local preservation company Bayou Preservation LLC have banded together to raise the monumental $10,000 or more that is required to complete the restoration. Every bit counts, I’ve made my donation, will you?”
  • Pagan author and activist Starhawk is co-conducting a workshop this weekend at Esalen (a famous New Age watering hole) on “Creating Transformative Communities.” Quote: “During this workshop, we’ll explore how to structure groups for maximum group health, how to share power fairly, improve our communication skills, mediate conflicts, and facilitate group processes. We’ll share tools for decision making and constructive critique.”
  • Tired of everyone talking about PantheaCon? Well, here are some upcoming Pagan or Pagan-friendly events we can talk about instead: ConVocation in Michigan starts February 20th, featuring SJ Tucker and Margot Adler, FaerieCon West in Seattle starts February 21st, featuring Faun, John Matthews, T. Thorn Coyle, and Charles de Lint. Plus, both Paganicon in Minnesota and Sacred Space Conference in Maryland are coming in March.

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

Three personages who’ve had an impact on our interconnected communities passed away recently: one a Wiccan Elder, and two scholars whose works have been cited repeatedly by Pagans, and indeed helped shape how many of us perceive ourselves. All three should be honored and remembered for their contributions, for what is remembered lives.

Mike Gleason (1951 – 2012): A beloved Elder within his community, Mike Gleason was an Alexandrian High Priest who distinguished himself as an early supporter of pan-Pagan festivals in the 1980s, and as a strong advocate for Pagan rights. This included serving as the head of WARD’s (Witches Against Religious Discrimination) Massachusetts chapter, the Witches Education League, and the Lady Liberty League. In addition to this, Gleason  was co-editor and publisher of the now-defunct  THINK! Magazine (1996-1999), and contributed to a number of print and Internet publications. You can read a selection of his recent book reviews, here.

“May those of us who mourn Mike’s passing take comfort in the memories of our good times with him and in knowing that his legacy within Paganism continues on in his writings and the many lives he enriched.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Mike Gleason is survived by his wife Cindy (Cynthia), his daughter Sheri Lynn, and his son Ed (Edward). Memorials are still in the process of being planned. His ashes are being interred at Circle Cemetery at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in Wisconsin. His family invites memorial gifts in his memory be made to Circle Sanctuary. May his spirit rest and return to us once again.

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1953 – 2012):  An eminent professor of Western Esotericism at University of Exeter, and co-founder of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotercism (ESSWE), Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is perhaps best known for his works exploring how esotericism interacted with fascist and extremist groups in books like “Black Sun,” “The Occult Roots of Nazism,” and “Hitler’s Priestess.” His most recent publication was 2008′s “The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction.” Sasha Chaitow of Phoenix Rising Academy remembers Goodrick-Clarke as “a gentleman, a fine scholar, and one of those teachers who always made you want to surpass yourself.”

“Through his work Nicholas expressed his great love for the history, culture and peoples of both England and Germany, and in the course of a distinguished academic career he brought his considerable intellect to bear upon their respective esoteric traditions. With his passing we have lost a wise and much-loved teacher, an incisive scholarly mind and a jovial and kind-hearted friend.”Hereward Tilton (University of Exeter), Wouter Hanegraaff (President of ESSWE)

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is survived by his wife, Clare Goodrick-Clarke, also a professor at the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism. In closing, Sasha Chaitow says that “my fellow-Exeter graduates and I have already concluded that the best tribute we can pay him is to try to  live up to his expectations and continue his vision of bringing the study of esotericism more firmly into academia.”

Anne Ross (1925 – 2012): While no official obituary or notice has been posted, I have received word from scholarly sources I trust that famed Celticist Anne Ross, author of “Pagan Celtic Britain” and co-author of “Life and Death of a Druid Prince” passed away recently. A former Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Southampton, and teacher of lecture courses at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, Ross spoke Gaelic and Welsh, and her work had a huge effect on modern Druidry and reconstructionist Celtic traditions. Interviewed many times due to her theories regarding the famous “Lindow Man,” and oft-remembered for her brief appearance in the television documentary series “The Celts,” her work on the Celtic “cult of the head” is still the primary starting place for study on the subject.

Speaking from my own experience, I know that her work was deeply influential during a time that I was immersed in Celtic scholarship and voraciously pored over  “Pagan Celtic Britain” looking for clues to unlock the mystery of the past. Modern Pagan oriented works like “The Isles of the Many Gods” owe a direct dept to her scholarship. No doubt many obituaries and remembrances will be forthcoming, and I will post them here once they emerge.

May all these spirits be remembered, may their wisdom and work endure, and may they return to us again.

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.

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!

Creating a Coalition: Peter Dybing, National First Officer, Covenant of the Goddess, who recently led a successful effort to raise 30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders, proposes the formation of a “Pagan Relief Services Coalition” that would respond to the needs of Pagans in times of disaster.

“Is our Pagan community prepared to respond in centralized haste when Pagans face disaster? Should the worst happen and an American city is crippled are we able to come together and sustain meaningful relief for our Pagan sisters and brothers? In short, the answer is No! Responding to disaster requires pre planning in funding, logistics and operations. Waiting for the disaster to strike to take action ensures that any effort will be short on success and long on confusion and debate.”

Dybing does not endorse simply starting a new organization, since “such an approach will lead to another ‘new’ organization competing for support of its efforts.” He instead proposes something more like, well, a coalition. An agreement by various Pagan organizations to coordinate and work together in times of crisis, to pool fundraising resources, along with a “committee made up of representatives of the involved organizations” to determine when a disaster threshold has been reached that would activate funding commitments. For those interested in engaging in such a project, or discussing it, I’d recommend heading over to Peter’s blog.

Kondratiev’s Lorekeeper’s Course: Celtic Nation has unveiled a course of study created by Celtic scholar, linguist, and author Alexei Kondratiev, who passed away last year. The Lorekeeper’s Course was originally created for the now-defunct Celtic Reconstructionist group IMBAS, and was intended for a predominately CR audience. Kondratiev died before he could oversee a test-run of the course, and two different versions of the course needed to be merged. Celtic Nation has undertaken the task of recovering, preserving, and presenting this “lost” course to the world.

“In June 2010, Luder and fellow members of the Celtic Nation Yahoo Group made appeals to former members of original volunteers for help in recovering any of the pieces of the  course outline to compare to the new material.  Graciously, DubhTine, a longtime member of the IMBAS council in its heyday, volunteered his time and efforts to discover and forward a  significant portion of the languishing course outline.  His efforts were instrumental in formatting the new outline and all those who enjoy the course going forward owe him a debt of gratitude.  Pech Raithbheartiagh, also a former volunteer on the original project, recovered several important pieces from an old hard drive to help round out the outline.  Cuardai Eolais provided continuing compilation assistance as well.  With their invaluable help and generosity,  Luder was able to begin matching the sections of the original course outline to the new work started just prior to Kondratiev’s death.   As time progresses, additional material of Alexei’s will be made available and noted as it is added.  For referencing purposes, this is “Alexei Kondratiev’s Lorekeepers Course 1.0″.”

This is an exciting development, one that should help enrich the CR community, and anyone interested in the lucid, learned, and passionate work of Alexei Kondratiev. I would love to see this material, and future additions, released as an ebook of some kind. Perhaps sold to raise funds for the continued preservation of Alexei’s work?

Myers on Pagan Ethics: Philosopher and author Brendan Myers has an essay up at Patheos.com about how thinking replaced killing as social force in the ancient world, and how the “goddess” model of civilization is ultimately superior to the Judeo-Christian model of ethics.

“What I’d like to suggest is that a society that affords real priority to the goddess, and to her way of presenting the revelation of her divine presence, is likely to be a society where the values are cast not as rules or laws. It is likely to be a society in which the values are cast in the form of character-virtues. I think this is so because her message is not a commandment to be obeyed: her message is a presence to be experienced. Her message tells us who she is, not what to do. This means that following orders and rules and laws will not be what matters. What will matter instead, is finding all the places where her presence can be experienced. I think it will also matter that we live our lives in a way that embodies the presence of the goddess.

What matters is being a particular kind of person. At the most basic level, it matters that you are the kind of person who resolves problems with force of thought and feeling instead of with the force of arms. Such a person becomes able to find the goddess within her relationships, and within herself. In the culture of the goddess, there are no rules and commandments, but there still is an ethical understanding, in which some character-values reveal the goddess within, and others do not; some kinds of habits and choices are exemplary of the goddess, and others are not. Except for a few things, like gratuitous murder, there will be little need for absolute categorical distinctions. The ethical understanding can be a matter of degree. Furthermore, since the goddess reveals herself in many different masks and disguises, there can be more than one ethically significant way to embody her presence. There doesn’t have to be only one true way; there can be many true ways. The goddess doesn’t tell you what to do; but rather she shows you different possibilities for what kind of a person you can be.”

Myers is one of modern Paganism’s sharpest thinkers, I highly recommend reading the entire essay where he brings forth examples from Greek, Celtic, and Native American cultures to make his point.

Spirit of Albion Starts Production: The upcoming independent film The Spirit of Albion, a story inspired by the music of Damh the Bard, started production this past weekend. A video production diary has been started to allow people an inside look at the process.

Sunday was the first official production day of the Spirit of Albion movie. The entire cast gathered at the director’s house to record their performances for the film. Here is the first in what will be a series of video diaries of the making of the film. It was a great day, and the cast not look the part, but they all had great voices too! Enjoy the film, and why not subscribe to the channel?

I’ll be sure to continue checking in on The Spirit of Albion, and keep you posted on its progress.

Accessibility and Events: The Staff of Asclepius blog at Patheos.com is seeking the accessibility experiences of Pagans at festivals and events.

“This festival season, the Staff of Asclepius is seeking guest authors to write about their accessibility experiences at any event large or small. Writers will have the opportunity to share with the community how volunteers accommodated them and offer advice on what could be improved for next time. From the registration process to camping and attending workshops or rituals, what was the experience like? Was staff receptive to your needs and advice for improvement? Email masery@rocketmail.com

The issue of accessibility at Pagan events recently came up in the Wild Hunt’s comments section, so this may be a good opportunity to broaden the discussion. You may also want to see a recent post from Ocean at Deaf Pagan Crossroads about this issue.

Final Notes: Before I go, I’d like to quickly mention that the Pagan Newswire Collective’s main site just got a swanky new redesign, the great alternative culture magazine Coilhouse is now offering its back-issues in a digital format (see also this recent io9 interview), and Grant Morrison’s book “Supergods” has a release date.

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

Top Story: The Irish Times reports that Barry Raftery, emeritus professor of archaeology at UCD, and one of Ireland’s leading Celtic scholars, has passed away after a long illness.

“Professor Barry Raftery (Professor Emeritus, Archaeology, University College Dublin) died peacefully at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin on Sunday August 22, 2010. Professor Raftery retired as Professor of Celtic Archaeology in the UCD School of Archaeology at the end of August 2007 after a long and internationally distinguished career. As a former student wrote in appreciation, Barry was an inspired teacher and communicator, always encouraging colleagues and students in developing their research and careers. His work and humanity will ensure that he will be always remembered and treasured.”

Raftery was probably best known to many Celtic-oriented Pagans as the author of “Pagan Celtic Ireland: The Enigma of the Irish Iron Age”, a tome that has been recommended in various contexts within Celtic Reconstructionism and modern Druidry. While Raftery was not a Pagan, and almost certainly didn’t write his works with reviving Celtic forms of pre-Christian religion in mind, I’m sure there are many Pagans who are raising a glass in honor of his work.

Who Was That Atheist? After shocking the town of Marion, Illinois by threating them with a lawsuit if they approve a Ten Commandments monument without also opening it up to a Wiccan display, The Southern digs into the history of atheist activist Rob Sherman.

In 1986, Sherman started his first legal battle against the mixing of government and religion, as he challenged the mayor and city of Zion, located near the Wisconsin border, on the inclusion of religious symbols on municipal logos, material and property. His efforts were successful and landed his name on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, on the city’s 10 o’clock newscasts and on national television talk shows, including those of Oprah Winfrey, Phil Donahue and Larry King. He said he took up the mantle of promoting his cause across the state and nation simply because no one else was doing so. “I’m the only one doing it. Most people suffer from poultry syndrome, so they don’t take on these cases. They’re chicken.”

It remains to be seen if there will be a Constitutional showdown in Marion. The city council may decide to indefinitely table the decision on whether to accept the offer of the Christian monument on public lands rather than risk expensive litigation. However, if legal action does progress, with a Wiccan caught in the middle, I’d like to find some on-the-ground sources living in or near Marion that can clue me in to local Pagan attitudes towards this situation.

Is Haiti’s Government Shutting Out the Diaspora? This past Friday Haiti ruled that hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean was ineligible to run for president, most likely stemming from residency requirements. While Jean initially said he’d respect the decision of the Provisional Electoral Council, he now accuses the government body of “trickery”, and implies that there’s an effort to shut out candidates from the Haitian diaspora.

“Jean told VOA he is appealing to Haiti’s government to address a number of concerns about the approval process used by election officials, who authorized 19 candidates for the presidential vote. He said candidates who have lived outside Haiti were mostly excluded by the provisional electoral council, or CEP. “It looked like every other candidate that was out was a diaspora candidate and that is a form of prejudice on the CEP’s part,” he said. As part of his election campaign, Jean had hoped to reform the relationship between Haiti and the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have fled the country. He said, if elected, he hoped to change the constitution to remove a ban on dual citizenship, and offer many Haitians abroad a chance to vote in elections.”

Among the other candidates that were rejected are Jean’s uncle, Raymond Joseph, the former ambassador to the United States. Both say they will challenge the ruling, though the government says there is no appeal to the CEP’s decision. Some are saying a political crisis could emerge over this decision. Meanwhile others, like political activist and Vodou practitioner Ezili Danto, say this media circus is all a distraction from larger political games being played out behind the scenes. Both Danto and Lewis G. Parker argue that Wyclef, even if he could run, would be a problematic figure to lead the country. As for the Haitian diaspora, would it be beneficial to allow dual citizenship and voting rights? In what direction would it steer the country?

More Visionary Folk from the Electric Eden: The Observer has a profile of author Rob Young and his new book “Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music”, which explores the mythic history of folk music in the UK, starting with its revival at the hands of Cecil Sharp.

“Sharp met hundreds of what he called “the common people”, who sang songs to him that had been passed down to them through the generations, songs that retained their mystery and power even though the events that inspired them – anything from a good harvest to the murder of an infant – had long since passed into myth. The songs were, in fact, the transmitters of those myths, evoking an older, predominantly agrarian England that increasingly existed only in memory.

What happens to that mystery and power, though, when a folk song is “put into an evening dress”? That is one of many complex questions that resounds through Electric Eden, a book that, for the most part, is a surefooted guide to the various tangled paths the English folk song has since been taken down by classicists, collectors, revivalists, iconoclasts, pagans, psychedelic visionaries, punks and purists.”

I’d just like to say that I’m very, very excited to read this book (now if it would just get a release date in the US). I predict it will become a must-own for those tracking the birth of modern Pagan music, which I feel also began with Sharp, and then bred with the very folklorists that helped launch Wicca into the spotlight. For more on this, and two other promising books dealing with music, please check out my post from last month.

An Unforeseen Upside to the Mosque Debate? Over at The Moderate Voice Kathy Gill, inspired by the rancor of the “ground zero mosque” debate, starts to approach the question of who exactly profits from the dominance of monotheism.

“If politics is both “a system used to allocate those things which are important to society” and “the authoritative allocation of value,” then religion plays an incredibly large role in politics because religion is the basis, the foundation, of most people’s value judgments. And the differences between political parties in the United States are reflected in values: this is good, that is bad (distribution of charity – church, state or other means); this is right, that is wrong (abortion, death penalty, who is taxed and how). When investigating murder or other nefarious deeds, the first question is this: who benefits? So what is the role of monotheism in our modern society? Who benefits?

Gill quotes Jonathan Kirsch’s “God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism” in her piece, which comes to some uncomfortable conclusions regarding the benefits of monotheism. One wonders how many modern polytheists once asked the questions that Gill now poses.

That’s all I have for now, but before I go I just wanted to quickly link to two more Pagan perspectives on the Park51 community center and mosque that I overlooked in yesterday’s post. “The Mosque, the Mirror, this Moment…” by T. Thorn Coyle, and “Why The New York Mosque Debate matters to Pagans” by Ed Hubbard. Both are worth checking out.

Have a great day!

Word has come to us that noted Celtic scholar, linguist, and author Alexei Kondratiev passed away last night due to an apparent heart attack. His writings on Celtic religion and spirituality, which included the ground-breaking book “The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual”, were highly influential on both Celtic-oriented Druidic groups and the nascent Celtic Reconstructionist movement. He was a passionate defender of Celtic language and culture, and regularly advocated that Pagan religions that drew from Celtic culture should immerse themselves in the living Celtic languages and communities.


Alexei Kondratiev

“For those of us who speak only English, the treasure-trove of the Celtic consciousness is still behind a locked door. But the key to unlock the door is there, within our grasp. Anyone of us can, at any moment, decide to fit the key to the lock and be on the other side.”

In addition to his insightful writings, Kondratiev was fluent in all six extant Celtic languages, and conducted classes on the Irish language at the Irish Arts Center in New York since 1985. Kondratiev was also an officer in the Celtic League American Branch, a board member of the now-dormant group Imbas (which hosts many of his online writings), and co-led the Protean Mnemosynides Coven with his partner Len Rosenberg (Black Lotus). He even wrote a comic-book about a Druid that immersed the character within Celtic culture. His wide-ranging and influential participation in the modern Pagan movement can not be adequately measured, but suffice to say he had a huge impact on many individuals, myself included.

“The battle is not over yet. The six Celtic languages are still alive, if not well. In them are stored, as on a disk, several millennia of a people’s unique experience, waiting to be given a new dynamic expression by that generation who will dare to break the colonial shackles of fear and self-doubt. Now more than ever do we need the devil-may-care valour of the Celtic warrior. Now more than ever do we need the druidic clarity of vision, the bardic ability to draw resources from the unlimited potential of the Otherworld. We must, as they did, have the imagination to give flesh to life-giving myth, and the will to work its pattern into our existence. Time is indeed short. Everyone of us who has felt the beauty of the Celtic world-vision must act, each in our individual ways, now, before it is too late. Gwnewch rywbeth!! Do something!!”

All honor to Alexei Kondratiev, may his journey to the Otherworld reunite him with his ancestors, and provide him communion with his gods. My deepest condolences to his partner, Len, his family, friends, and co-religionists.

PantheaCon Day 2

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 14, 2010 — Leave a comment

I had some decent sleep the night before, so (relatively) bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I began my second day at PantheaCon. First, after a rather pricey bowl of oatmeal, I attended the 9am panel discussion “Pagans in Global Interfaith Work” led by Don Frew, National Interfaith Representative for C.O.G., and featuring contributions by Rowan Fairgrove, T. Thorn Coyle, and others. It was an interesting history of how modern Pagans started getting involved in interfaith work, with a lot of attention was (understandably) given to the recent Parliament of the World’s Religions. The point was made of how large interfaith gatherings have allowed Pagans to network and dialog with indigenous religions, Hindus, and other minority faiths that they might not have be able to otherwise.

After the interfaith panel, I went to “Pagan Power: Pagan Freedom, Pagan Rights”, a talk led by Selena Fox and Patrick McCollum. A history of the Lady Liberty League was given, including how an anti-Wiccan law proposed by Jesse Helms back in 1985 fueled the group’s creation. There was some discussion about Patrick’s current case against the California Department of Corrections, a new site was pointed out that contains copies of all the amicus briefs filed in the case so far, and Starhawk, who was in attendance for the talk, briefly mentioned her new essay at On Faith in support of McCollum. It was pointed out that the best way to help Patrick right now is to write to California officials, letting them know that Pagan prisoners deserve the same treatment and considerations as any other faith.

After that presentation, I attended a Cherry Hill Seminary meeting (photographic evidence), and later had a (much needed) lunch with the fabulously talented Cosette, who also works with/for CHS (and the Pagan Newswire Collective).

Fortified with vegetables, I ventured to the “Warrior Return Ritual” panel discussion featuring Erynn Rowan Laurie, Phillip Bernhardt-House, and Rev. Jessie “Medb” Olson. It was a deeply moving experience that showcased how important it is for our community to provide rituals of leaving and return for our Pagan soldiers and veterans.

After dinner a snack, I went to another talk featuring Erynn Rowan Laurie, “Constructing Celtic Reconstructionist Rituals”, that was quite illuminating, and gave some solid and practical advice concerning CR practice (there were also some highly amusing Irish myth anecdotes by Phillip Bernhardt-House).

Then is was time for my talk (“Pagans and the New Media”)! I can never tell how I’m actually doing during these things, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, and the feedback was positive. I also got folks to tweet a bit to Twitter from their phones while I was talking.

After that I chatted with some  wonderful folks, and visited a couple of the hospitality suites. I can’t even express how wonderful it is to meet so many amazing people I’ve only interacted with online. I wish I could list them all right now, but instead, I’ll simply thank them all for their kindness and generosity of spirit. I’ve also been deeply moved by folks who walk up to me to chat about my blog, or my A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast. It really drives home the connections that can be made with this medium.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to the “Earth Based Religion: Are We Really?” panel discussion, and a concert by Pandemonaeon! Again, stay tuned for my next update, and keep an eye on The Wild Hunt’s Twitter feed (also keep an eye on the #pcon hash-tag for updates from several PantheaCon attendees).

Prompted in part by a listing at The Witches’ Voice, several members of the Celtic Reconstructionist and Druidic communities* have been examining the dubious claims of a new book by Steven Akins. The self-published book, “The Lebor Feasa Runda: A Druidic Grammar of Celtic Lore and Magic”, claims to be an English translation of a German translation of a before-now undiscovered book of ancient Druid lore.

“In his highly anticipated English translation of the ancient Irish text known as the Lebor Feasa Runda (Book of Secret Knowledge), Celtic scholar and historian, Steven L. Akins, has at last made available to readers the wealth of pre-Christian teachings espoused by the Druids in this seminal work of pagan religious literature. Basing his translation on the only extant transcription of the now lost Black Book of Loughcrew, the actual doctrines of the Celtic priesthood are finally brought to light in this timeless rendering of these sacred scriptures.”

There are several problems with his claims of finding this book, not least of which is the fact that it hasn’t been submitted for peer review to any Universities or reputable Celtic scholars. A strange move for a find that would completely revolutionize the field of Celtic Studies (especially Celtic Studies scholars in Germany, who would most likely be eager to verify the validity of a German translation of an ancient Gaelic text) if proven true. Further complicating the reputation of Akins is his involvement in a bribery scandal to attain the rights to a Scottish coat of arms.

“Steven Akins, styled himself as Steven L. Akins of that Ilk, Hereditary Chief of the name and arms of the Clan Akins … created a clan badge, crest and tartan for his clan and petitioned the Lord Lyon King of Arms to claim the right to use a coat of arms of an alleged ancestor and legitimize his clan. On April 15, 2001 an article in the Sunday Mail, a Scottish newspaper, stated that Steven Akins allegedly attempted to bribe a Glasgow man in aiding him in his bid to be recognized as chief of Clan Akins. Akins allegedly wished to plant a forged tombstone with a coat of arms inscription, accompanied with forged genealogical records to prove his family was based in Lanarkshire in the 1700s. Steven Akins’ petition was ultimately rejected because of fraudulent information.”

As if these factors weren’t enough to raise doubts about the “Lebor Feasa Runda”, it also seems to have gained quite a bit of popularity (warning: link to racist site) with the virulent racists at Stormfront. One entry at the hate-site reproduces the entire author’s preface (again, warning, racist site link) which makes clear exactly why racist Pagans would enjoy Akin’s book.

“The disciples of this völkisch esoteric organization [Thule Gesellschaft] saw evidence for an Atlantean origin of the Aryan race in the lore contained within the Lebor Feasa Rúnda, specifically in the legends relating to the ancient gods of the pagan Celts having come from a mysterious island in the North Atlantic, bringing with them the four hallowed treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The fact that the Lebor Feasa Rúnda apparently corroborated the Thule doctrine of Aryan racial origins led to Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordering its siezure by the S.S. following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power … At face value, the Lebor Feasa Rúnda, fulfills the same role in pagan Celtic spirituality as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran do in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions.”

Akins himself, at the OBOD message boards, has referred to himself as “protective” and “restrictive” in regards to his (white) race (and lists Adolf Hitler as a “hero” on his MySpace page). While that is surely his personal prerogative, the fact that racial “Druidic” teachings that “corroborate” the Thule Society** should suddenly appear from Akins casts further doubt that this book is anything other than his own invention. I would caution anyone interested in this Celtic “bible” to consider the source before spending your money. Further, modern practitioners of Celtic and Celtic-derived Pagan spiritualities reject any notions of “Celtic blood” being a prerequisite to participate in living Celtic cultures or reconstructed Celtic religions.

ADDENDUM: Celticist Dr. Phillip A. Bernhardt-House has done a examination of material posted online concerning this book, and posted an academic (p)review of his findings.

* I would like to thank Erynn Laurie, C. Lee Vermeers, and others in the CR and Drudic communities who provided me with information for this post.

** Aside from the Nazis, the book is also credited with inspiring everything from the Templars to the OTO, and was allegedly in the hands of people like Roger Bacon and John Dee. That before-now unpublished book sure did get around!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day (though, due to holy week conflicts, many Irish Catholics celebrated it on Saturday), a huge (and increasingly secular) celebration for one of the patron saints of Ireland. As a result, I thought a collection of Irish-themed links of interest to modern Pagans would be entirely appropriate. Let’s start with a fine essay written by Caroline Kenner on the ongoing struggles to halt the construction of a toll-road through the Tara-Skryne Valley.

“Royal Tara, seat of the High King of Ireland in Pagan times, premiere portal to the Celtic Otherworlds, realm of the Ancestors and the Faeries, has a history dating back 6,000 years. But even in a span as long at Tara’s, the last few years have been unusually filled with incident. This week, while many of us are thinking of Ireland and her heritage … it is a good time to turn our thoughts to the situation at Tara. For more than three years now, Royal Tara has been threatened with a superhighway, a toll road called the M3, being built within 1000 yards of the Hill of Tara. Despite heartfelt protests from international Celtic scholars, locals from County Meath, Irish citizens and members of the Irish diaspora, a couple of sympathetic politicians, many passionate activists, commissioners of the European Union, and, yes, Pagans from Ireland and around the world, the road building continues at Tara.”

Kenner speaks to several Irish Pagans about the situation including Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, whose group, Teampall Na Callaighe, has members directly involved in activist work trying to halt construction.

“The issue is not the building of the M3. We’re the first too say that we need the road, and the bypass around Kells, where we live. The problem is the route and the impact it will have on the archaeology in the area. The National Roads Authority has been desperate to paint anyone against the route as being against the M3, so they can keep the local people, and more importantly the local business community on board. But now, more and more people are realising – including local business people – that they have been duped. This was particularly true when they found out that they had been mislead regarding the M3 being a public road, and discovered it was in fact going to be a toll road.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Voice has run a spotlight on Celtic Reconstructionism in its Wed., March 12 – Tues., March 18, 2008 issue.

“The article is very pro-Tara and a positive portrayal of CR. Andrew Nusca interviewed a handful of us involved in the preservation efforts, and quotes two of us who are CR, along with quotes from a Wiccan of Irish heritage and a more secular activist from Ireland.”

The article isn’t online yet, but the author of the piece has said that it should appear online eventually. The hardcopy edition is on newsstands now.

The Irish Independent runs a story by Antonia Leslie about her brother Mark winning a Thea award for his firm’s work on the Blackrock Castle Obervatory in Cork. In the process, the entire Leslie clan reunites to celebrate the win, including Antonia’s eclectic Pagan sister Wendy.

“My sister Wendy, who lives in Fort Myers, is a different kettle of fish and deserves an article all on her own, but I’ll condense it here. She was the result of an affair which my dad had but she was adopted and grew up in the States. I met her when I was 12 years old and she and the rest of my five ‘known’ siblings have been thick as thieves ever since. Wendy is a white witch and she lives with her Warlock hubby in a rambling spread by the Caloosahatchee River with snakes and cats and crystals and cauldrons. She is high priestess of a big Florida Wicca coven (they call it a clan). They drum and perform rituals and cast spells and observe Wicca/Druidic tradition. You would know that she was one of us — madness, eccentricity or whatever, it’s in the genes.”

In a final note, it wouldn’t be a St. Patrick’s day news cycle without several articles repeating the usual “driving the Pagans snakes out of Ireland” story. Though a valiant few try to debunk “Patrick drove out the Pagans” myths (Pagans and Druids were around for another century or so after Patrick’s death), it makes for interesting copy. So the myth propagates and takes on a life of its own.

“The text carries an account of a sect called the Crom Cruich, who used the symbolism of the snake … ‘The Crom Cruich cult were very bloodthirsty with the faithful expected to sacrifice their first born in his honour to assure a successful harvest. The annual slaughter took place on the pagan feast of Samhain, on November 1, each year,’ explains historian, Thomais Moriarty, who specialises in pre-Christian Ireland. It’s recounted in the text that Saint Patrick marched on the place with a band of well-armed missionaries, mocked its demons, blessed the place afterwards and then destroyed the site. ‘By all accounts, a major battle took place, but Patrick and his well-armed followers won the day. The people feared terrible retribution from the pagan god afterwards, but it never came to pass, and from that point onwards, the cult’s grip was effectively broken in Ireland for all time. The event is recorded in the 6th century Dinnshenchas text, otherwise known as the Book of Leinster,’ adds Thomais Moriarty.”

I have never heard that Crom Cruach was associated with snake symbolism (or that regular baby-killin’ was a proven part of his cult). That’s a new one on me. I’ll let the resident Celtic scholars and CR folks dissect this variation on the Patrick/snakes/pagans story in the comments.

That is all I have for now, my best wishes to all those celebrating Irish culture and heritage.