Archives For Druid

This month the Smithsonian Channel will be airing an hour-long television pilot for a series called Sacred Sites of the World. The show was developed and produced by Tile Films, one of Ireland’s top documentary filmmaking companies. As suggested by the title, the series seeks to explore the historical, religious and cultural significance of sacred sites located around the world. As part of this process, and perhaps unique to the series, producers will also be demonstrating how these ancient sites and associated religious beliefs are still honored and held sacred by many in contemporary culture.

Beaghmore Stone Circle [Photo Still: Sacred Sites Ireland]

Beaghmore Stone Circle [Photo Still: Sacred Sites Ireland]

Writer and researcher David Ryan said, “Director Stephen Rooke and I, along with the rest of the creative staff in Tile Films, have a strong personal interest in history, archaeology, religion … It’s the reason why we do this work in the first place.” Tile Films has produced other successful documentary series focusing on religion and history such as The Lost Gods.

The Sacred Sites’ pilot focuses on Ireland and tells the tale and progression of religious experience through its sacred sites. The program includes striking aerial images of cairns, dolmens, stone circles and temple mounds. It moves smoothly between these images, live-event footage, dramatizations, and interviews with a variety of academic experts including scientists and historians. One of these experts is folklorist Dr. Jenny Butler whose work is focused, in part, on connections between ancient beliefs and modern day Paganism in Ireland.

The show also includes interviews with modern Pagans, including footage of an authentic Lughnasadh ritual performed by the Owl Grove, a Druidic group from Rosenallis, County Laois. Member Jane Brideson describes the experience:

[The crew] spent time with us, asked questions to further understand our beliefs and were respectful of the way that we work. We explained … that we worked within a sacred space. They respected that by filming the whole ritual from outside the circle and being very unobtrusive. Once the ritual had ended the Grove gathered to share food and drink. Later filming recommenced and parts of our ritual were filmed again from within the circle with our consent. The whole experience was very positive for everyone involved.

The Arch Druid of Owl Grove, Mel Lloyd agreed saying, “The filming was exhilarating and very interesting for us all. We met with and had several conversations with the production team prior to the filming. So by the time the day arrived they we were all on very good terms with each other.”

Owl Grove performing Lughnasadh Ritual [Photo Still: Sacred Sites Ireland]

Owl Grove performing Lughnasadh Ritual [Photo Still: Sacred Sites Ireland]

During the show, the Owl Grove is performing its Lughnasadh ritual as an example of how modern day Pagans still honor the ancient Irish God – Lugh. At several points in the show, producers highlight the fact that rituals are still held to honor the ancient ways, Gods and historic sites.

The filmmakers share past footage from the Bealtaine Festival of Fires, formerly held on the Hill of Uisneach, County Westmeath. In this segment, people dance near a large bonfire of hay and wood. Researcher David Ryan says, “Different groups were present, and not all were Pagan. Large numbers of ordinary festival-goers attended for the spectacle and the popular music event that accompanied the fire performances.”

Another segment shows a crowd gathered on the Winter Solstice to witness the natural spectacle that occurs within the ancient Newgrange temple mound in County Meath. Outside this 5000-year-old sacred site, travelers gather to experience an extraordinary annual, ancient event that signifies the return of the sun. In one shot, several of the visitors appear to be performing a ritual act to herald or call-in the solstice sun.

While Sacred Sites: Ireland does explores religion and respectfully incorporates modern day Pagan practice, the show is a purely secular, academic-style program. Its focus is as much on explaining ancient religious practice and culture through history and science, as it is an introduction to the sites themselves. At points, the temples even seem to be simply a jumping-off point to discussing changing ancestral beliefs, landscape and traditions. As such, Sacred Sites: Ireland sits very delicately and precariously wedged between history, science and religion.

Carrowkeel Passage Tomb [Screen shot Sacred Sites Ireland]

Carrowkeel Passage Tomb [Photo still: Sacred Sites Ireland]

With that secular and scientific focus, Sacred Sites: Ireland ‘s may not for everyone. However the producers have made a significant effort to respectfully include the modern usage of these sites in their discussion.  They have also attempted to show the beauty and spiritual power within these ancient sites and, in doing so, have demonstrated a definite respect for both ancient and contemporary religious beliefs. Bideson believes that the program will be excellent viewing for both Pagans and non-Pagans alike. She says,

I am always interested in the way Pagans from different paths work and celebrate and I hope that the programme will give others a glimpse into the Owl Grove and how some Druids in Ireland practice … it [also] shows us doing what we actually do rather than the practices that many non-pagans would like to associate us with. 

If the Smithsonian Channel picks up the series, Tile Films plans to continue the process of exploring the many sacred sites around the world. Ryan says,

The locations for future shows still have to be finalised, but provisionally we are planning to focus on sites in Greece/ Turkey, Italy (ancient Roman sites), Malta, Egypt and Central America (Mayan sites). We hope to continue to include sites that remain sacred in the present day, and film the associated pagan rituals. Thus far we have been in touch with a number of different pagan groups in relation to the above, and so far all seem interested in participating.

When asked if they are considering any U.S.-based sacred sites? Ryan said, “Yes, we’d certainly consider Native American sites in the U.S., and the Smithsonian have indicated they’d be open to this. Any site in theory could be included so long as it is ‘sacred.’”

The pilot, Sacred Sites: Ireland, will air July 7 at 8 p.m. Eastern on The Smithsonian Channel. It will also be available to stream via the website.

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!

Cherry Hill SeminaryPagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced their Fall Scholarship Drive for 2013, which will help fund tuition scholarships in January. Quote: “‘I can’t imagine a world without Cherry Hill Seminary,’ said Executive Director Holli Emore.  She also emphasized the efficient operation of the nearly 15-year-old school.  ‘Fortunately for our students, cash to keep the lights on translates directly into vibrant, rich learning opportunities.  That’s why an end of the year gift to the Bow Tie Campaign will allow us to give real scholarships out in January.  CHS operates on a cash basis – no debt! – so we need your help to finish the year.’” The institution’s goal is to raise $5000 dollars between now and Yule. When the goal of $5,000 is reached, Cherry Hill Seminary will announce a process for applying for a one-course scholarship.  More about the fund drive can be found here. I’ve embedded their fundraising video below.

Brendan Myers

Brendan Myers

Another fundraising initiative has recently launched, this one to create a tabletop role-playing game based on The Fellwater Tales, a fantasy book series authored by Brendan Myers, a Quebec Druidic Humanist and Philosophy Professor. Quote: “‘The Fellwater Tales’ features characters who are caught in a conflict between rival factions of a secret society, whose members are descended from ancient gods. While dealing with their own personal problems, they also struggle to protect Fellwater Grove, one of the last remaining places on earth where the magic of the Mythic Age still survives. The ‘Secret People’ of the ‘Hidden Houses’, as they are called, compete with each other for control of such places, just as political factions in the real world compete for control of sea ports, oil fields, and markets.” If funded, the project will involve several artists, including Morpheus Ravenna. The campaign seeks to raise $10,250 dollars in a month. Perks include copies of the game, copies of the books in the Fallwater Tales series, and the opportunity to have your own character included in the game.

AdflogoThis Samhain marked a special anniversary, the 30th year since Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) was founded. ADF Archdruid Kirk Thomas issued the following statement in commemoration of the event: “At a Samhain rite at the Winterstar Symposium held in 1983, Isaac Bonewits, a scholar, visionary, and teacher, announced the formation of a new religion, Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF). Issac’s idea for ADF was revolutionary for its time. His path-making vision was to see ADF certified clergy in every major city and be recognized as a true world religion. The letter that announced the forming of ADF and what it was all about was written it the first “Druids Progress.” In it, he outlined his concept of ADF as a fluid and dynamic religion, evolving and adapting ancient Pagan faiths in a modern context for his generation and continuing to evolve with the ones to follow. This Samhain marks our 30th Anniversary! Today, ADF is thriving, as generations of members grow up in the path, and are passing it on to the next generation. From it’s humble beginnings, there is now a solid core order of worship. There are currently 26 certified ordained clergy; 74 groves (congregations) in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Brazil with members on 6 continents; and numerous festivals held all around the United States and Canada every year. Happy Anniversary, ADF!”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • A Hellenic Revival Festival in Louisiana is being planned for 2014. Quote: “Hellenic polytheists to invade South Louisiana! Thessaly Temenos, located in the Bayou Regions of South Louisiana has announced its sponsorship of a Hellenic Revival Festival to be held on their ritual grounds. The date for the festival is set for November 8th and 9th of 2014 and is being promoted as an exclusively Hellenic event – not a pan-pagan gathering.” You can find more information, here.
  • Operation Circle Care, sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, is underway once more. Quote: “At Yuletide and throughout the year, Circle Sanctuary sends care packages with Pagan books, magazines, CDs, and other spiritual resources to Wiccans and other Pagans on active duty who are currently serving overseas (both on PCS and Deployment). You can help this effort by sending us donations of new and nearly new items as well as funds to cover air mail postage.” Donation and contact information can be found, here.
  • Pagan photographer Greg Harder has a ton of cool photos up from Day of the Dead celebration at the Oakland Museum of California. Check it out!
  • This weekend is FaerieCon East in Baltimore, featuring Pagan authors Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi, along with a large number of amazing mythic authors and artists. Of special interest will be a Sunday panel on creating tarot and oracle decks featuring Raven and Stephanie, Julia Jeffrey, Caroline Kenner of Fool’s Dog, and Gary Lippincott.

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

When the Sacred Harvest Festival was finished, the first thing I noticed while wandering through the airport was how strange it was that nobody was in a sarong. Or naked. Or drumming. It was a shock to my system, all these pants and suits.

Even the babies drum at Sacred Harvest Festival.

Even the babies drum at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Nels Linde.

Pagan culture is sensory, and visceral, and delightfully messy. Meeting times are announced with music, worship is celebrated with movement, and the body is displayed as a sign of reverence, an act of liberation, and an expression of joy. Spend a week in the woods with a parley of Pagans and you start to believe that this is how the world actually is.

It was the ordinary aspects of the Sacred Harvest Festival that charmed me the most. The ever-present hospitality from the festival presenters made me feel at home from the moment I arrived, and I was never without a plate of food or a cup of some fine beverage in my hand. I was greeted with kindness, curiosity, and excitement, and I had the distinct feeling that I was welcome and wanted. There was a keen sense of fellowship at this gathering from all directions, and it wasn’t just “Minnesota nice” either. It felt completely genuine, and without pretense.

While ritual plays an important part in the festival, it was the post-ritual drumming and fire-dancing that seemed to attract a great deal of engagement from the festival attendees. In conversation with Kenny Klein, another of the featured national guests, I learned that this shift of emphasis away from ritual and more toward drumming and dancing is becoming more common at Pagan gatherings across the country, which leads me to wonder if the conversations about praxis v.s. belief that periodically dominate the Pagan blogosphere are actually representative of what is happening within the Pagan community.

To know the Pagan community primarily through the internet is to miss out on a great deal of nuance and subtlety. Our digital text lacks the contours of our faces, the undertones of fragrance and sound that are present when we gather in the flesh. Pagans make interesting noises. We say things that make your head cock a little to the side. We have a way of combining sacred symbolism with the sardonic that can infuriate the pious and delight the irreverent. We are a fascinating mixture of the holy and the profane, sometimes flipping either definition on its head. And I love that about us.

This all only became clear by being at a festival for a full seven days. Immersion is the best way to learn a new language, and immersive Paganism is no different. Share a meal with someone from a different tradition and you’ll come to know the myriad of ways that you mirror one another. Pass a horn in person to someone who, online, you regularly disagree with and you just might begin forging a real and meaningful friendship in spite of your differences. I didn’t realize this before, but most of my interactions with Pagans have been lacking the very embodiment that so many of our theologies hold dear.

Pagan festivals are staging grounds for transformation, should one wish to engage that deeply. When done well, they foster a safe space to learn, to practice, to rejoice, to inspect, and to play. Sacred Harvest Festival provided this to me, and to many of those who joined me in workshops or at rituals. During my unPaganism workshop we broke apart our assumptions about what it means to be a Pagan. We talked about our Euro-centric tendencies, our assumptions about ritual, and even began to examine our own susceptibility to the us/them dynamics that plague other religious communities. We did this with grace, with kindness, and with an inquiry that I found to be quite refreshing.

A youth workshop with Teo Bishop. Photo by Nels Linde.

A youth workshop with Teo Bishop. Photo by Nels Linde.

There were others in attendance at the festival who had a challenging time feeling included by a community that feels so inclusive otherwise. The festival is in its 16th year, and there are many young people who have been coming to this gathering for their entire lives. I led a workshop for the youth, and found myself in conversation with them about their hopes for the festival and their desire for more youth-centered activities. They told me about a schism which took place in the community a few years back, and how before that time there was an entire portion of the festival grounds reserved exclusively for the youth. This “Youth Camp” provided kids the opportunity to camp away from their parents and to build a culture of their own. It was a cherished experience, and one that the Harmony Tribe youth miss very much.

In the grand scheme of things, our communities are young. Even those among us who reach back into the archives of history in search of an example are still a part of a relatively new community of religious practitioners. Our polytheist, or monist, or dualistic monotheist expressions are a mashup of the old and the new, and it is during events like Sacred Harvest Festival that we create the opportunities to re-examine our own definitions. We get a chance to look at what a Druid is, or a Witch, or a Hellenic, or a Hawaiian. Our skyclad dancing becomes a lovely metaphor: we show ourselves to one another; we allow ourselves to be seen, to be heard, to be known.

Festival culture is a petri dish, and the culture of a festival is enhanced and affected by each of the attendees. Sacred Harvest Festival feels very Wiccan-centric to a Druid who’s spent the past several years in community with reconstructionists, but this is not inherently a bad thing. My friend, Lamyka (Lahela MP Nihipali) reminded me during our unPaganism discussion that a core, central Pagan value — perhaps the most important one for us to remember — is pluralism. We need not forfeit our individual cultural traditions in order to take part in the greater Pagan community. We need not all become one thing in order to get along.

During this week in the woods I witnessed reconstructionists politely declining attendance at pan-Pagan rituals, siting religious reasons, and then I watched those same people engage in a different syncretic ritual because they found room within that particular ritual for their own cultural and religious interpretation. They found a way to both honor their own values and practices and observe a communal experience of celebration.

I find this flexibility to be a sign of great maturity, and an indication that the Pagan community has a bright future yet. If one among us can maintain her own sense of religious and cultural boundaries while still engaging in close, intimate contact with those of a very different perspective then there is evidence that we are not completely lost. We are not destitute, or fracturing beyond repair. We are not, as some blogging wars would have you believe, on the verge of meaninglessness.

Ritual Space at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Mike Bardon.

Ritual Space at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Mike Bardon.

We are young. We are learning. We are, should we wish to be, capable of great things. We offer generously of ourselves. We demonstrate hospitality in the most remarkable ways. We love and honor our Gods, and we do our best to love and honor each other.

This is what I witnessed at Sacred Harvest Festival. This is what gives me hope about moving forward as a contemplative Pagan, a bard, and a perpetual seeker.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games closed on Sunday, featuring a performance by Jay-Z, Rihanna and Coldplay. Artistic director Kim Gavin, Music Director David Arnold and Designer Misty Buckley showcased a seasonal theme for the closing ceremony which “took the audience on a journey through Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.”

Part of the seasonal-themed closing ceremony, spoken by Rory Mackenzie, a representative from Help For Heroes, was in fact written by Druids from the British Druid Order (BDO).

“We were sworn to secrecy beforehand, but Emma Restall Orr and I [Greywolf] were approached by the organisers of the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony with a surprising request. They wanted our permission to use parts of the gorsedd ritual we wrote in 1997. So, about 20 minutes into the ceremony, these words went out to 750 million people around the world,”

Philip Shallcrass (aka Greywolf), Chief of the British Druid Order, says that the original ritual was written to bring people from different backgrounds and faiths together, so “its use in the Paralympics closing ceremony seems perfectly in keeping with this original intention.” While the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony featured brief hints of Britain’s pre-Christian past, it featured no explicit contribution from the vital Pagan threads that exist in the United Kingdom, a nation that has played a huge role in the revival of Pagan religions. So it seems fitting that the last closing ceremony in London, for the Paralympic games, would explicitly reference modern Pagan contributions to British culture. Here’s a brief excerpt of the Druid liturgy used during the closing ceremony.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

The circle is unbroken,
The ancestors awoken.
May the songs of the Earth
and of her people ring true.
Hail to the Festival of the flame
of root and branch, tooth and claw,
fur and feather, of earth and sea and sky.

You can read all of the words used in the ceremony at the British Druid Order’s website.

Emma Restall Orr, author of “Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics”, in addition to co-authoring the ritual used by the Paralympics also founded The Druid Network which recently won religious charity status in the UK, the first Druid group to do so. So it seems fitting that she would also have a hand in this groundbreaking moment for British Druids as well. With this celebration, if you take the Olympics opening and the Paralympics closing ceremonies as one long thematic sweep, it tells the tale of Britain from its earliest days through its progress and challenges, and back to the basics of acknowledging that land’s spirit and the contributions of its reborn Pagans.  A fitting tribute to the amazing athletes at the Paralympics, the pagan origins of the Olympic games, and a pluralistic future where we all have a hand in shaping what is to come.

My thanks to Thorn for tipping me off to this story.

[The following is a guest post from CJ Stone on the newly revised Kindle edition of his book, "The Trials of Arthur," which explores the life and work of British Druid activist Arthur Pendragon. CJ Stone is an author, columnist, and feature writer. He has written four books: "Fierce Dancing: Adventures in the Underground" (Faber & Faber 1996); "The Last of the Hippies" (Faber & Faber 1999); "Housing Benefit Hill & Other Places" (AK Press 2001); and "The Trials of Arthur" (Thorsons/Element 2003). He is currently working on his fifth.]

“The new Druids and especially those involved in direct action such as Arthur, are therefore not fringe figures with ideals and preoccupations detached from those of a wider national community, but some of the more colourful contributors to a set of arguments and activities which involves a large part of that community.” - Ronald Hutton, from the forward of “The Trials of Arthur: Revised Edition”

It was just over three years ago that Arthur Pendragon asked me if I could get our book re-printed. It had originally been published by Thorsons/Element, an imprint of HarperCollins, in 2003, but had since gone out of print.

I contacted a friend on the off-chance: John Higgs, the writer of “I Have America Surrounded,” a biography of Timothy Leary. John had written a film script based upon our book, so I knew that he’d be interested.

This is where the magic kicks in, as it often does in Arthur’s life.

It just so happened that John had recently set up a publishing company in order to publish a book by a friend of his, and he had some ISBN numbers spare.

I have to say that I was never very pleased with the old book. I’d had a lot of difficulty writing it, and had had to deal with a fairly serious depression in the middle of it. I was about six months into it, and struggling, when 9/11 happened. After that I couldn’t see what relevance a book about road protests and Paganism in the 90s had any more. The world had suddenly turned apocalyptic in front of our eyes.

But I struggled on with it, very slowly, and, in the end, did the best job I could. It came out in 2003.

The second half was always much better than the first half, being as much about the protest scene in the UK in the 90s as it was about Arthur. And I rushed the first and last chapters in order to beat the deadline. I always knew they would ask me to re-write these chapters.

Except they never did. They asked me to re-write the last chapter, but the first chapter stayed the same, with all of its faults. It was clumsy, turgid, awkward and it entirely failed to do what any decent opening chapter should do: it failed to draw you into the story.

Thus, when Arthur asked me to get the book republished, I decided to re-write that first chapter.

Only now something magical happened again. I wrote two chapters to replace the original first chapter, but then I just couldn’t stop writing. I wrote chapter after chapter, much to Arthur’s annoyance, who wanted to get the book out quickly. And I have to say, in Arthur’s defence, that he had a point. My struggles with the earlier book had meant that we’d missed deadline after deadline, and the book had been seriously delayed.

Thus it was that we decided on a compromise. We republished the book as it had originally appeared, and I carried on writing what I thought was a brand new book.

Only it didn’t turn out like that either.

After a while I just found I was rewriting the old book again, and the whole project got shelved, while I waited for new material.

No new material turned up.

It’s funny how long it can take to spot the obvious at times. I had half a book I liked, and a published book I didn’t like. I was thinking of releasing some of my old books on Kindle, and spoke to John Higgs again. This was only a few weeks ago.

“Shall we put the Arthur book out on Kindle” I asked?

“Sure, why not?” said John. “Only why don’t you put those two chapters back in?”

Those were the two chapters that had turned into seven chapters and which we had jettisoned in favour of bringing out the book in its original form. So I looked at the two chapters and then at the seven chapters, then at more material I had, plus two more chapters that Arthur had written, and it all just slotted into place.

We had a brand new book on our hands.

And I have to say that, unlike the original book, this is one that I am genuinely proud of. It’s not only that it reads better – that it is faster paced and more compelling, or that the first chapter draws you right into a magical scene and then doesn’t let you go - it’s also that it all suddenly makes perfect sense.

I can clearly see the relevance at last.

Yes, it’s mainly about long-forgotten battles for the soul of Britain – about road protests and protests around access to the Stonehenge monument on solstice night – but it also brings up important issues about identity, about freedom, about culture, about our place on this planet, and about who we think we are.

That’s the point about Arthur. People say he’s crazy. It takes not knowing him to think that. Once you meet him you know how gloriously sane he actually is. It’s the rest of the world that seems crazy by comparison.

Whatever you think the mechanism of his claims might be – is he the reincarnation of a historical Arthur, or just the current representation of a mythological spirit? Did he become Arthur by living the part, or did he evoke something that was already there? Is ‘Arthur’ a title, or a name? Could anyone be Arthur if they chose? – However you think the process has evolved, the fact is that by his very presence he challenges much of what we take for granted in our 21st century world.

He takes us back to a magical time when our souls were our own and we were free to make decisions based upon the needs of the Earth and of our fellow creatures, rather than the hypnotism and propaganda of the global elites. He asks us to be heroes: to have adventures, to be bold and upfront in our lives, and gives us some hilarious and compelling examples of how he went about achieving the role for himself.

This is the true glory of Arthur’s achievement, that he makes Paganism an adventure again, rather than a learned squabble between rival factions. He brings it out of the library and onto the field of battle. He turns it into a battle cry for the Earth and for the dispossessed of the Earth. He makes it fun to be alive.

To buy the book: Amazon / Amazon UK
For more information about Arthur Pendragon: http://www.warband.org.uk/
For more information about CJ Stone: http://cjstone.hubpages.com/

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.

Swimming area at Stonehouse Park.

Swimming area at Stonehouse Park.

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.

Just a few quick news notes for you today.

Lawyers May Not Mention Druid Beliefs in Vaughn Murder Trial: Earlier this week I mentioned that lawyers for Christopher Vaughn, accused of murdering his wife and three children, were trying to block any mention of his Druid religion from court proceedings.  Public Defender Jaya Varghese said that “The word ‘Druid’ alone is prejudicial,” and would “significantly impact” his right to a fair trial. Today, Judge Daniel Rozak ruled that Vaughn’s Druid beliefs may not be mentioned at trial, though comments he made on a Druid listserv can be referenced.

Vaughn family photo from 2007.

Vaughn family photo from 2007.

“A Will County judge this morning barred attorneys from referring to quadruple-murder suspect Christopher Vaughn’s Druid beliefs at trial, but said some statements Vaughn posted to a Druid listserv can be heard by jurors. [...] Prosecutors want to use postings Vaughn made to Druid listservs that refer to his desire to live in the Canadian wilderness. They argue his statements were another sign that Vaughn wanted to be rid of his family. [...] Judge Daniel Rozak said he would allow the statements “if they somehow deal with leaving the country or living off the land” and don’t reference Vaughn’s religious beliefs.”

How messages Christopher Vaughn posted to Druid websites are to be referenced must still be decided, though this should be seen as a win for Vaughn’s defense team. Vaughn lawyer claims his wife killed the children, before he could kill her in self-defense, while prosecutors allege that Vaughn calculatedly eliminated his family in order to be rid of them. The trial is slated to begin in August.

The Washington Post Weighs in on the John Friend Anusara Yoga Scandal: Manuel Roig-Franzia writes about the “contorting” (ha-ha) scandal within the Anusara yoga school for the Washington Post, taking brief note of the Wiccan-related accusations against Anusara founder John Friend.

Anusara Yoga founder John Friend.

Anusara Yoga founder John Friend.

“In conference calls, e-mails and hushed conversations, Friend has admitted to sexual relations with students and employees and married women. He has confessed to cheating on one girlfriend and smoking marijuana, according to senior Anusara instructors who have participated in conference calls with him. And he has acknowledged leading an otherwise all-female Wiccan coven whose members sometimes took off all their clothes for gatherings, according to senior Anusara instructors who detailed his admissions in a written summary provided to The Washington Post. The coven’s name was the Blazing Solar Flames, and Friend had Anusara’s graphics team design a logo for it, according to three former employees.”

This is the first I’ve seen of any acknowledgement from Friend or Anusara regarding the coven. As I’ve reported previously (follow-up, here), accusations state that he used the coven as a pretext for sexual liaisons. While there’s no further statement, or mention of it in the WP article, the fact that Friend was the acknowledged male leader of an all-female coven does raise some red flags. That said, taking your clothes off for gatherings isn’t unusual within Traditional Witchcraft (it’s called going “skyclad”), and isn’t seen as an automatic prelude to sexy-times. You can see a video interview with Friend from last year about how Anusara yoga, Wicca, and Paganism interface.

The Occult Crimes Taskforce is Coming To the Your Television: Various pop-culture news sites are reporting that the comic book OCT: Occult Crimes Taskforce is being adapted into a television series for the A&E Network. Actress and OCT co-creator Rosario Dawson is working with The Walking Dead’s Gale Anne Hurd to adapt the work, and it is widely assumed that Dawson will star in the show, as the main character, Sophia Ortiz, is modeled on her.

Image from the O.C.T. comic, featuring Sophia Ortiz/Rosario Dawson.

Image from the O.C.T. comic, featuring Sophia Ortiz/Rosario Dawson.

“The scripted drama, an increasingly appealing genre for the cable network, will explore the inner workings of the task force, which was established after the Civil War to make the New York City streets safe from practitioners of black magic, demons from another dimension and all manner of supernatural malcontents.”

Scripted dramas, especially scripted dramas that feature occult and fantastic elements seem to be on the increase lately. It should be interesting to see if O.C.T. makes it to the small screen, and if it will find an appreciative audience. While I’m on the subject of occult-themed television, I should note that British television channel ITV2 has ordered a new drama entitled “Switch” about four witches living together in London. Created by the same people behind the show Being Human, can we expect an American version of that show on Syfy in the near-ish future?

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

Welcome to the latest installment of Unleash the Hounds, in which I round up articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans. Before we get started I wanted to give an update on the Pagan journalism crowdfunding experiment I launched on March 21st. The very excellent news is that not only have I reached my fundraising goal of $1850 dollars to send The Wild Hunt to Chicago in November so that I can cover the American Academy of Religion’s 2012 Annual Meeting, but I’ve surpassed that goal by hundreds of dollars. All in less than a week! Thank you! Your enthusiastic response not only means I’ll be covering the AAR’s Annual Meeting, but that we have a head start on the next crowdfunding assignment (all monies raised beyond the goal will be rolled over into the next campaign).

http://www.indiegogo.com/thewildhunt-AAR

http://www.indiegogo.com/thewildhunt-AAR

Once the month-long campaign officially ends I’ll update my affiliates page with all those who chose to become underwriters, and update all who’ve donated on other promised perks. Considering the success of this initial go, I think it’s fair to say that I’ll be using this model to fund other assignments. The big question now is, where would you like me to go, and how often do you think I should hold a crowdfunding assignment campaign? I welcome your feedback, and once we have some solid ideas for events you’d like to see me at, we can even hold a poll to gauge reader interest. Some initial ideas for future assignments include the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, and Paganicon in Minnesota. Make your voices heard, and if there’s enough demand, we’ll try to fund them one at a time. Ultimately, I would like to build this up and work towards funding a trip to the 2014 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Belgium.

So again, thank you to my generous supporters. You made this happen. Now then, let’s unleash the hounds, shall we?

PNC Managing Editor, Cara Schulz with Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson

PNC Managing Editor, Cara Schulz with Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Why, in the name of all that is good and holy, is anyone still paying attention to Kirk Cameron? In what way is this former teen television star turned laughable Christian caricature relevant enough to our culture to get a primetime interview slot on CNN? Does anyone really care about his views on homosexuality or same-sex marriage? The stark truth is that his once familiar face, tied to his evangelical Christian views, are the only thing keeping him on the fame radar (albeit in a d-list reality-television manner). However, since there are still folks out there who seem to take Mr. Cameron seriously for some reason, here’s a gold-plated proof that no one, not even the most fervent Christian “Growing Pains” star, should give his “crocoduck” theology mainstream attention.

Crocoduck proves God exists!

Crocoduck proves God exists!

In 2006, Cameron used his “excellent acting talents” to “infiltrate” a Druid ritual. Specifically, a ritual put on by Ravens Cry Grove (part of Ár nDraíocht Féin) in Southern California. Cameron and Ray “Banana” Comfort secretly recorded the ritual, and lied about secretly recording the ritual when questioned about it (because it’s OK to lie to non-Christians apparently). You can download the show, here. You can also find an edited version of the segment, here.

Ravens Cry Grove (part of Ár nDraíocht Féin).

Ravens Cry Grove, the folks Kirk Cameron were concerned might sacrifice him.

Cameron says he thought he got out of there “by the skin of his teeth,” insinuating that he felt endangered by a group of California Druids singing, chanting, and sharing fellowship. This is the man who CNN wants to talk about religion with. This is the man Piers Morgan calls “brave” and “honest” for spouting the same old conservative Christian party line about marriage and homosexuality that has fallen increasingly out of favor in the United States. The bitter truth is that Cameron is a sad has-been who depends on someone, anyone, finding him offensive so he can feed his attention-starved ego for a few moments more. Even sadder, mainstream media outlets are obliging, when they could have picked from a thousand theologians, scholars, or religious leaders to opine about morality or marriage. Instead, we have the star of “Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force.”

In the future, when CNN or any other major news network decide to give Kirk Cameron precious airtime that could be used to discuss serious issues, or talk with actually important figures, just remember they are instead bolstering the limping career of a man who thought infiltrating a Druid grove in California was a dangerous and worthwhile activity. Cameron’s views on marriage and homosexuality are offensive to me, but I’m almost as offended by the media outlets who seem to think giving him a spotlight is a good idea.

ADDENDUM: When I wrote this post yesterday, I quoted a site called “Objective: Ministries.” It seems they are a hoax website that  specializes in blurring the line between parody and reality. Kirk Cameron really did “infiltrate” a Druid ritual, and really did a radio show where he bragged about his ability to fool the Druids, but the rhetoric I quoted from Objective: Ministries is not “real.” Though, it sounded so like Christian rhetoric I’ve heard elsewhere that I didn’t even think to double-check it. So, in short, I was punked. I’ve removed quotations from that site, leaving everything else intact. Mea Culpa.

King Arthur vs. Archeology: British Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon) has failed in his attempt to force reburial of human remains found at Stonehenge, claiming the 5000-year-old cremated remains were of a royal “priest caste,” potential founding fathers of Britain.

Stonehenge

“Mr Justice Wyn Williams refused to give King Arthur permission to launch a judicial review action – ruling at a High Court hearing in London that there was insufficient evidence to show that the Ministry of Justice might have acted unreasonably. The judge heard that the cremated remains of more than 40 bodies – thought to be at least 5,000 years old – were removed from a burial site at Stonehenge in 2008 and ministers gave researchers from Sheffield University permission to keep the bones until 2015.”

While King Arthur was calling for a “day of action” to protest this decision, another group, Pagans For Archaeology, were pleased that scientific exploration of the remains will continue uninterrupted.

“The very reason we know what we do about Stonehenge and the people buried there is due to archaeology, without it you would know naff all about it, the people and the relationship between the two.”

At their website, PFA makes their case for why the retention and study of human remains is important. As for King Arthur, he insists that this “is not a Pagan argument, it is not a Druid argument. It is a matter of common decency.” Stonhenge is matter of great emotional, religious, and psychological import for many Britons. With the London 2012 Olympics fast approaching, you can be sure that the treatment, preservation, and study of this site will continue to be a newsmaking issue.

Maetreum of Cybele Sends Out a Call for Help: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, have sent out an urgent plea for funds as what they hope will be the final trial in the matter approaches.

“All along the Town knew they would lose this battle if we could just get it to trial so they have attempted to bury us under legal motions to break us financially and have spent somewhere between 100 to 150 thousand dollars to do so.  I am sad to report that unless we get significant help in this final stages, they might succeed.  Donations so far have helped but we have had to hire a new attorney at about three times the cost as our original attorney.  She is much more experienced and worth the expense but has informed me that the rest of our case will cost us an approximate additional 10 thousand dollars which simply is impossible for us to come up with ourselves at this stage.

Our priestesses have stepped forward to the point of tens of thousands so far but now we are all broke.  Please, this case is important, a milestone for minority religion rights.  If this can be done to us, a legally incorporated religious charitable organization with full IRS 501 c3 recognition, it literally can be done to any minority religious group.  A victory, which is fairly well assured if we can finish the battle, is especially important when political groups are pushing back against non Christians, clean air and water and the basic concept of taking care of each other and our common planet home.”

The law in this case seems pretty clearly on the side of the Maetreum of Cybele, but Catskill is going to wage a scorched earth legal campaign in hopes the Pagans run out of money and energy first, stating that the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.” A court date is set for November 15th. We’ll keep you updated on further developments. For those wanting to an make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so directly via paypal to: centralhouse@gallae.com. Or you can contact them through their website.

In Other News:

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