Archives For goddess

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

A young Nepalese girl dressed as a Kumari/living goddess. Photo: Narendra Shrestha.

A young Nepalese girl dressed as a Kumari/living goddess. Photo: Narendra Shrestha.

  • Does the presence of goddesses within a faith mean better treatment for women within a culture? A Guardian article complicates the notion. Quote: “Goddesses are worshipped merely as a ritual but in reality, women are generally never seen as their earthly representations,” [Usha Vishwakarma] says. “It is not inspiration or motivation that we look for. Sheer frustration from being ill-treated by men and unsympathetic responses from family drive us to rebel and make conditions better for ourselves.”
  • Scholar Wendy Doniger says India banning her book “The Hindus: An Alternative History” had her “in high spirits.” Quote: “But I must apologize for what may amount to false advertising on my behalf by Mr. Batra, who pronounced my book ‘filthy and dirty.’ Readers who bought a copy in hope of finding such passages will be, I fear, disappointed. ‘The Hindus’ isn’t about sex at all. It’s about religion, which is much hotter than sex.”
  • At HuffPo, Parth Parihar discusses “Hinduism and the eco-activist vacuum.” Quote: “What could be more adharmic than incentivizing the creation of fossil fuel infrastructure that only makes oil a more economically viable means of energy production, thereby impeding progress on combating global climate change?”
  • The head of the British Veterinary Association is advocating that animals slaughtered in Kosher and Halal butchering be stunned first, spurring charges of misinformation and limiting religious rights. Quote: “But Mr Arkush, who is the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the Jewish slaughtering practice was a ‘humane act designed to bring about the animals’ end very quickly’. He said that Mr Blackwell’s remarks were ‘completely misleading’ and criticised him for ‘speaking in a way that inflamed prejudice’.”
  • The Straight Dope covers the topic of penis-stealing sorcerers. Quote: “The result of this delusional drama can be pretty ugly. About 20 witches accused of penis theft were lynched in Nigeria in 2001, and 12 in Ghana in 2002. One survey counted 56 separate cases between 1997 and 2003, with at least 36 suspected thieves murdered. In a 2008 outbreak in Congo, urgent messages went out by radio to avoid strangers wearing gold rings in taxis, leading police to put 13 suspected sorcerers into protective custody to prevent lynchings.”
  • Tablet Magazine explores the forbidden books of Jewish magic. Quote: “If most historical Judaisms have taken a transcendental approach to the magic taboo, the transgression-consummation dyad accounts for the simultaneous attraction and repulsion to magic one finds in so many Jewish sources. The highly charged polarity is responsible for producing myriad expressions of anxiety, the tracing of which may shed light on familiar facets of Jewish culture. The binary status of magic gave rise to contested formulations of its cultural position among rabbinic authorities. Was magic the most profound degradation of the spirit, or the highest actualization of human potential?”
  • Police in Siberia managed to stop an attempted witch-burning before it was too late. Quote: “In an unexpected incident worthy of the Spanish inquisition, a couple in eastern Siberia decided their acquaintance was a witch and attempted to burn her alive, though police stopped the impromptu auto-da-fe. The rescue came not a moment too soon, as the couple were at that moment forcing the alleged witch headfirst into a burning stove in an abandoned building, Zabaikalsky Region police said Thursday.”
  • From the “what could possibly go wrong” files, Oklahoma House passes “Merry Christmas” bill that would protect using religious expressions in public schools. Quote: “There is a war on Christians and Christmas, and anyone who would deny that is not paying close enough attention,” Cleveland said in a December 2013 press release. “This bill will create a layer of protection for our public school teachers and staff to freely discuss and celebrate Christmas without worrying about offending someone.” Don’t worry though, the proposed law calls for Christianity to share the stage with at least ONE other faith and/or secular expression. Diversity!
  • A new book from a 20-year devotee alleges widespread corruption, nepotism, and abuse in the empire of “Hugging Saint” Mata “Amma” Amrithanandamayi. Quote: “An Australian woman, who served Mata Amrithanandamayi for two decades, has exposed in her memoir the “hugging saint’s” ashram as a murky world of physical, sexual and mental torture, promiscuity power-madness and intolerance.” The organization’s response? She’s crazy and depressed (no, really, that’s their response).
  • Slate.com mentions Santeria and Vodou elements in the hit HBO show “True Detective.” Quote: “Voodoo and Santeria have long inspired the authors who dabbled in cosmic horror. Louisiana Voodoo (otherwise known as “Hoodoo”), which draws upon African and European folk traditions alike, derives much of its occult resonance from such practices as vengeance by proxy (voodoo dolls), suspended animation (zombification), and gris-gris (talismans, not unlike the knocked-together fetish sculptures that Hart and Cohle discover at the scene of Dora Lange’s murder). The particular appeal of Louisiana Voodoo to cosmic-horror writers like Lovecraft and those who have followed in his footsteps comes not only from its supernaturalism, but from its cultural otherness as well.”

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.

“Be happy now. Don’t worry about if you were happy yesterday, or whether you will be happy tomorrow. . . eternity is between seconds. You find Deity, the Goddess, the God, now. And your home becomes your sanctuary. You have a sanctuary as your hearth – a candle, one candle, a stick of incense, wherever you are is Heaven. That’s what my message is – yes – wherever you are, should be Heaven.”Olivia Robertson, co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis

On Friday, the Fellowship of Isis announced the passing of their co-founder, 96-year-old Olivia Robertson.

Olivia Robertson

Olivia Robertson

“Sad news for the Fellowship and the wider Goddess community in the world, Olivia passed away last night. It was peaceful and she had her family with her. Her family ask that the families privacy is respected at this time. Many blessings.”Rt. Rev. Caroline Wise, Fellowship of Isis, London.

Robertson, along with brother Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, and his wife, Pamela, founded the Fellowship of Isis on the Vernal Equinox of 1976 with a goal of reintroducing Goddess worship into the world. This development came for the trio after working together since the early 1960s on metaphysical and spiritual projects, including the Huntington Castle Centre for Meditation and Study.

“With her brother, Derry Durdin-Robertson, she was one of the most influential Priestesses in the Pagan movement. Olivia was a beacon for those who felt drawn to the Goddess. Hers, and her late brother’s contribution to modern paganism cannot be underestimated. May she be surrounded by the wings of Isis on her journey.” – Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

“Olivia and I were friends for nearly 40 years.  I cherish the memories of our conversations and times together, including her delight in my introducing her to some Native American friends at her very first Pow Wow in America. I give thanks for Olivia’s bright spirit and her many contributions to Goddess Spirituality and the world. Blessings to Olivia as she journeys in the Other World and continues to work her Goddess magic from the ancestral realm.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

“I’ve just heard that Olivia Durdin-Robertson, who founded the Fellowship of Isis and at 96 was one of the great lights of Goddess spirituality and Druidry, died peacefully in her sleep last night. She was so familiar with the Otherworld, seeming to be often half-immersed in it, that I’m sure her journey to the Summerlands will be a good and peaceful one. She was always so bright and joyful, with a wonderful sense of humour – many blessings to you on your way dear Olivia.” – Philip Carr-Gomm, OBOD

Olivia Robertson at the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1993.

Olivia Robertson at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993.

Over the next 20 years the FOI grew a diverse international membership, and in 1993 Olivia Robertson was on-hand at the Parliament of the World’s Religions representing the Fellowship, and spoke at the opening plenary representing modern Goddess Religion. Part of a delegation of groups that introduced modern Pagan religions to the international interfaith community.

“Those who spoke from the platform ranged from Cardinal Joseph Bernadin [...] to Lady Olivia Robertson of the neo-pagan Fellowship of Isis [...] and when in her turn to offer a blessing, neo-pagan Robertson shook a rattle and shouted, `Holy Goddess Isis, mother of all beings, come to thy children’, nearly every one on the dais sat silently”.

In addition, Robertson was an accomplished artist, writer, and liturgist, who deeply shaped the organization she helped found with her creative vision. A legacy that will continue with the organization she helped found. You can find Robertson’s full official biography at the Fellowship of Isis website, here.

“Please join us in lighting a candle at your altars and wishing Olivia a good journey as the loving wings of the Goddess Isis guide her.”

Good journey to Olivia Robertson, may she rest in the arms of her goddess. What is remembered, lives.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

A promotional image from American Horror Story: Coven.

A promotional image from American Horror Story: Coven.

  • At Time Magazine, Megan Gibson praises the re-ascension of the Witch in pop culture. Quote: “Now, witches are getting another crack at dominance. And I think that’s a good thing — particularly for the young girls and women who are the primary audience for these shows. Unlike the female leads in most vampire stories, women in witchcraft stories are typically depicted as strong, capable characters. They might not always be noble, but they’re certainly not weak or passive characters who sit on the sidelines while the men take charge. Fictional witches are well-rounded characters with rich interior lives, while the females in vampire stories are the supernatural equivalent of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” Gibson also notes the amoral universe some contemporary fictional witches operate in these days, but thinks that “young girls and women don’t need role models from television, they need options.”
  • Could teaching about nutrition in India help deter accusations of witchcraft? Quote: “The Jharkhand State Women’s Commission is planning to approach the state government to hold nutrition programmes simultaneously with the awareness campaigns against withcraft to combat the superstition effectively. [...] Superstitions were attached to illness caused by malnutrition among children and innocent women were often made responsible for this by branding them as witches. This could be curbed through joint campaigns by health mission and literacy programmes.”
  • Canada’s National Post reports on the World Mission Society Church of God, also known as the Church of God. Specifically, it notes that this Christian denomination worship a goddess. Quote: “Most Christian churches believe in one God, commonly described in male terms as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but the Church of God believes the Bible testifies that two Gods exist: God the Father and God the Mother. [...] The church teaches that since the Bible testifies that men and women were both created in God’s own image, God actually has two images: male and female. In other words, there are two Gods – Heavenly Parents – who together created human beings in Their likeness.” There’s nearly 2 million members of this church, FYI.
  • After the controversy in 2012 over Canada eliminating all paid part-time chaplain services (starting with the Wiccans), effectively making government prison chaplaincy a Christian-only affair, the government has quietly tasked a private company with providing chaplaincy services. Quote: “Kairos Pneuma Chaplaincy Inc., a company started by a handful of current and former federal prison chaplains in direct response to the request for proposals issued in May, won the bid. Since October, about 30 full and part-time chaplains of all denominations, including Wicca and including many who worked in the federal prison system perviously, have been serving prisoners across the country, according to company president John Tonks.” Proponents of the new system says it promotes “equity” among prison chaplains.
  • In a shocking twist, a Christian columnist finds that he thinks Christianity is better than Paganism. Quote: “Absolute truth exists. And truth is not determined by the majority, but by the Truth-Giver. Most important, truth matters and consequences exist. We must be willing to discuss this so we can distinguish between good and bad ideas; or risk the consequence of being held back as individuals and/ora nation; or worse. If we don’t want to accept this, pray the pagans are right so that in the end it doesn’t matter.” He also has some feelings about gay marriage, again, shocking, I know.
Photo of a Vodou practitioner by Anthony Karen.

Photo of a Vodou practitioner by Anthony Karen.

  • Slate.com profiles photographer Anthony Karen, who has spent time documenting Haitian Vodou. Quote: “The Vodou faith teaches us to bless nature and support cosmic harmony for the purposes of mastering divine magnetism. Vodou accepts the existence of the visible and the invisible, in a sense that it is believed that one does not see all that exists, and Vodou is in full compliance with the laws of nature.” Be warned, some of the photos are of animal sacrifice and quite graphic. Meanwhile, Slate.com has also posted a photographic look at a Vodun fetish market in the nation of Togo.
  • So, it seems Charismatic Christians are using the phrase “religious witchcraft” for people who “shame” or “threaten” Christians into bowing “to their ungodly will.” Quote: “So when you discern religious witchcraft—which often manifests as intimidation, manipulation and maligning—don’t try to defend yourself. Let the Lord vindicate you. Don’t stop doing what God told you to do. Keep pressing into your kingdom assignment with confidence that He has your back—because He does.” I can only imagine the havoc this is going to cause Google-ing Charismatics. Good luck with all those Pagan search results!
  • Infamous Nigerian Christian leader Helen Ukpabio is trying to re-start her anti-witchcraft themed ministry. Quote: “Ukpabio has literally re-launched her witch hunting ministry which is blamed for the menace of child witchcraft allegations and human rights abuses in the region. For some time now her ministry has been criticized locally and international because of its role in fueling witchcraft accusation and related abuses in Nigeria and beyond. But she appears unrepentant, and unfazed by the criticisms. Ukpabio claims to be an ex-witch with a divine mandate and power to exorcize the spirit of witchcraft.” As I’ve pointed out before, Ukpabio has received support and money from American churches, and is a public face of the larger problem of Western missions directly or indirectly funding witch-hunting.
  • A Pagan priest in the UK is calling on goddesses to help find a lottery ticket winner, because, well, why not? I guess? Quote: “David Spofforth, priest of Avalon, has called on the help of ancient Goddesses to reveal the holder of an unclaimed EuroMillions lottery ticket. [...] The self-styled Priest of Avalon priest conducted a 20-minute ceremony at St Ann’s Well in Hove, which is said to be the starting point of ley lines running across the South Downs.”
  • Satanic Panic, it really was a thing folks. Seriously.
  • 6% of libertarians belong to a non-Christian religion, while 27% claim to be religiously unaffiliated. This places them at odds with the rest of modern-day conservative-leaning groups. Quote: “By contrast, more than one-third (35 percent) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are white evangelical Protestants, while roughly equal numbers identify as Catholic (22 percent) or white mainline Protestant (19 percent), and fewer than 1-in-10 (9 percent) are religiously unaffiliated.”

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.

“I’m a bit uncomfortable, truth be told, with being seen as an expert, because there is always so much more to learn. I see myself as a perpetual student of the goddess.” – Patricia Monaghan

Word quickly emerged yesterday that Patricia Monaghan, a pioneer in the contemporary women’s spirituality movement, and author of books like The Goddess Path: Myths, Invocations, and Rituals and The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit, had passed away. An accomplished poet and academic in addition to her work in the realm of women’s spirituality, her output was hugely influential on a generation of modern Pagans, Goddess worshippers, and Goddess scholars. Her encyclopedias on goddesses and heroines, later collected in one work, were touchstones for many books by a number of authors that followed. Already, many who have worked, taught, and shared scared space with Monaghan have spoken out about her enthusiasm for life, her deep wisdom, and her role as an inspirational figure in their lives.

Patricia Monaghan

Patricia Monaghan

“She was one of the nicest and most down-to-earth people I have had the pleasure of working with. Every email we exchanged, every phone conversation we had, inevitably veered off the topic of her manuscript and into other fun nooks and crannies [...] I would say was one of her main characteristics—how enthusiastic she was about everything she loved, and how encouraging she was of every single person on a personal level. I hope to take that spirit forward and be just as connected to and supportive of people in my life.”Elysia Gallo, Acquisitions Editor, Llewellyn Worldwide

“I’m still stunned by the news of the passing of Patricia Monaghan. She was one of the first authors who I met and she welcomed me with open arms into the Loyal Order of Pagan Authors. She encouraged and mentored me. She gave advice and first hand Irish info to me on the last book I wrote, the Feast of the Morrighan, and generously gave me life strategy and business lessons while we shared a plane ride together, making her seat mate move so I could sit next to her for the flight. I still remember her pulling me into the dark corner of the hotel bar in Denver and saying “I hear your pretty good at tarot… I need a reading” and then we started our time together. Though we didn’t see each other in the flesh that often, she was a huge influence upon me and I miss her.”Christopher Penczak

“May we take comfort in knowing that she lives on in her creative works and the many lives she touched. Brigit guide her passage to the Otherworld. Brigit aid us in our mourning. Brigit Blessings.” - Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

“I have been grieving since I first got the news yesterday around noon that Patricia Monaghan has passed away. For over 30 years, she has been a beloved teacher, mentor, and inspiration to me, both through her books and in person. I had not seen her in years, but we were still in touch. I wish I had told her recently how much her work continues to nourish me. I hope she knows it now.”Joanna Powell Colbert

In addition to the many accomplishments listed above, Monaghan also taught at Chicago’s DePaul University School for New Learning, co-founded the Black Earth Institute in Wisconsin, and was a noted wine connoisseur. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Michael McDermott. May she rest in the arms of the Goddess, may she return to us again, and may her friends and family be comforted.

I will update this post once official memorial information has been posted.

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!

Witch School Ends the Reality Television Gravy Train: Yesterday Witch School International, the largest online learning institution for Wicca and magical studies, announced that it would no longer offer its services to reality television production companies for free, listing a number of deficits in the approach and methodology of such initiatives. Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard closed the statement by blasting companies that are “unwilling to place resources in our community’s hands, which would allow us to help win over the Networks. Instead we are treated like a free resource, as prop toys to be put away and abandoned when they are done with their failed presentations.”

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

As of today, Witch School International and CEO Ed Hubbard will no longer accept inquiries from Television and Movie Production companies. While Witch School has been involved with reality shows in the past, they are no longer interested in pursuing or being involved in any form of reality show. According to Ed Hubbard, “We will no longer be a free resource, which is how we have been used continuously by production companies in the past. We have provided everything from simple answers to detailed development packages, including the casting of sizzle reels. In all those requests, we absorbed whatever costs were incurred, and at no point were we offered remuneration or consideration for our cooperation. When a project died, we were never informed. This level of disrespect for us as a community has become too much to bear. Witch School will no longer be offering these services freely to any production companies.”

Since 2006, Hubbard estimates that Witch School has participated in “22 production company inquiries, 14 pre-development projects, considered 6 different holding agreements, and participated in 3 sizzle reels.” None of these resulted in an aired series or special. Hubbard also points out that many hold a misconception of Salem being the “Witch capital” of the world, when in reality it is the “Halloween capital,” with no “Witch Lifestyle Community present in any way.” As for the future? I would point out that the release said they would no longer consult or work for free. So there’s still the possibility of a Witch School-based reality show, but only if production companies are willing to pay for the privilege.

Goddess Without Borders Coming This Samhain: Lady Yeshe Rabbit, head of the Bloodroot Honey Tribe, has annoucned a new initiative called “Goddess Without Borders” that seeks to build an inclusive Pan-Dianic community by creating a joint resource in honor of the Goddess.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

So, our Pan-Dianic elves (very fashionable elves, by the way) have been working away in our secret lair, fomenting revolution. Our crack team of cis-and trans- witches have been building a body of work that we are going to be making available, completely free of charge, in an online forum as of this coming Samhain. Our mission in this work is to provide a free website where individuals of all backgrounds may submit and publish their own, uniquely-designed altar workings, experience-specific rites of passage, general ritual outlines, spells, and other magical expressions in honor of the Great Goddess (who is whole and complete unto Herself). I am glad to say that Melissa Murry, our shero from PSG, has also been introduced to our team of ritual writers this week.

The “Goddess Without Borders,” project will be located at PanDianic.org by Samhain. In planning this project it was crucial to us that we make everything on the site completely free of charge. We are well aware that many pagan men and women, both cis- and trans-, struggle to gain access to the financial resources required to attend large festivals and conferences. By posting our rites online, allowing others to share their own, and making it all free, we intend to ensure that everyone has access to these documents. There is also the matter of transparency and representation. Much trust has been lost in this period of conflict. In order to establish good faith, we are committed that no single individual or group becomes “the voice” of this movement. So much around this issue has to do with language, words, and personal expression. We feel it crucial to maintain a forum where all are completely free to bring their own voices.

A call for participation, including guidelines, will be sent out in August. Then, a full launch during PantheaCon 2013, where a number of workshops and presentations based around the initiative are planned.

Modern Witch Magazine Releases Second Issue: The second issue of Modern Witch Magazine, produced by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon, was released in print-on-demand format on June 21st. You can also obtain a digital download. This volume contains contributions from David Salisbury, Storm Faerywolf, Tim Titus, and Lady Yeshe Rabbit.

“After the release of volume one readers from all over the world let us know that Modern Witch Magazine was not only invited into their homes but their circles and temples as well.  We knew that we had done something good and from the sound of it our readers did too! The creation of volume one was without a doubt a birthing for us and as we began to unfold the concepts behind Modern Witch Magazine Volume 2 we knew one thing was for certain, this magazine would continue to be more than just another magazine.”

You can read more about this issue’s contents, here. Print-on-demand and digital publications seem to be the direction periodicals like this are increasingly traveling. Largely labors of love that operate on a shoestring budget, catering to specific niche audiences. With the rise of the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and other tablets, will we see a new blooming of (Pagan) magazine culture? One dominated by digital product, with physical copies a collector’s luxury?

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now! Are there blogs, podcasts, or other Pagan news sources you think I’m missing out on? Please leave links in the comments, and if there’s news in your community be sure to share it!

On this Mother’s Day let’s not forget the mother(s) of us all.

Tellus Mater, from the Ara Pacis Augustae.

Tellus Mater, from the Ara Pacis Augustae.

“Celebrations of mothers and motherhood occur throughout the world. Many of these trace back to ancient festivals, like the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration. However, the modern holiday is an Americaninvention and not directly descended from these celebrations. Despite this, in some countries Mother’s Day has become synonymous with these older traditions.”Wikipedia

Here in the United States, Mother’s Day was conceived by poet and social activist Julia Ward Howe. Her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” was a pacifist reaction to the Civil and Franco-Prussian wars. In it, Howe urges all women from around the world to meet and settle the differences of the world.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

For me, I think both themes are worthy to be celebrated this day. Have a happy and joy-filled Mother’s Day. Honor the mothers in your life, divine and mundane. Perhaps we can start working on that worldwide congress of women too.

Here are a few quick news notes to start off your Monday.

Cady McClain Discusses Porn, Wants a Goddess: Actress Cady McClain, perhaps best-known for her roles on daytime television with All My Children and As the World Turns, writes an opinion piece for PolicyMic about violence and degradation in adult films, and sees patriarchal religion lying at the root of the issue.

Cady McClain

Cady McClain

“I believe we can look to patriarchal religions for one part of the answer: in a society where the god we worship is male, and the most popular religions state women are only an extension of a man- women hold no value. Period. Without the acceptance that the female divine is as holy as the male, human women will never fully take their place alongside men in terms of respect. We will still be objects to f-ck and vessels for a man’s sperm, owned by men, dominated by men, abused by men, and flushed down the toilet at will. Valueless.

I want to make it clear I am not saying that women should be held above a man in terms of her value. I am also not saying that all women are goddesses and should be worshipped as such. I am saying that without a healthy, socially accepted construct for a feminine divine equal to the masculine divine, we are a society out of balance, leaving women vulnerable to be blamed and attacked whenever something goes wrong.”

Sadly, the piece doesn’t really go into McClain’s vision of what an acceptance of the female divine should look like in our society, or how that impulse manifests in her own life. Is she a Goddess worshiper? Would she like to see a revival of polytheism? Or is this more of a “goddess within” sort of thing? In any case, a provocative read, sure to incite some debate, even if she did misspell Noam Chomsky’s name.

Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery: This week and next is the the 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), and a primary focus will be the infamous Doctrine of Discovery and “its enduring impact on indigenous peoples and the right to redress for past conquests.” Indian Country Today Media Network reports on the work by indigenous leaders and activists to overturn the legal legitimacy of conquest.  The taking of  ”pagan” lands that begun with Papal Bulls of the 15th century, and was eventually enshrined in American law.

Opening of the 9th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Opening of the 9th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

“The forum includes 16 independent experts, who serve up to two three-year terms. Half are nominated by governments, and the others by indigenous organizations in several regional groupings—Africa; Asia; Central and South America and the Caribbean; the Arctic; Central and Eastern Europe, Russian Federation, Central Asia and Transcaucasia; North America; and the Pacific—that encompass the world’s 370 million Indigenous Peoples.

Two years ago, Tonya Gonnella Frichner, Onondaga, the former North American Regional Representative to the forum, presented a paper called, “A Preliminary Study on the Doctrine of Discovery,” which explored the underlying reasons for the worldwide violation of Indigenous Peoples’ human rights. The study found that the Doctrine of Discovery, which developed from 15th century papal bulls and the royal charters of European monarchs that gave European Christians the right to claim lands “discovered” by their explorers if no Christians lived on those lands. If the “pagan” inhabitants converted to Christianity, they might be allowed to live; otherwise they could be killed or enslaved. The doctrine eventually became embedded and institutionalized in law and policy internationally.”

There’s been an ongoing groundswell of activism to get churches to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Most recently within the Unitarian Universalist Association, who will consider a responsive resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery in June during the 2012 General Assembly. Check out my 2009 interview with activist and Reclaiming Witch Zay Speer, who was at the last Parliament of the World’s Religions, working with the Onondaga Nation to end the Doctrine of Discovery. An agenda and program for the UNPFII can be found, here.

Ernest Callenbach’s Final Statement: A document found on the computer of the late Ernest Callenbach, the acclaimed author of “Ecotopia,” written shortly before he died, has been published. In it, Callenbach calls for hope, mutual support, and the adoption of practical skills in the face of ecological disaster and violent environmental change.

Ernest Callenbach

Ernest Callenbach

“These are dark times, these are bright times. We are implacably making the planet less habitable. Every time a new oil field is discovered, the press cheers: “Hooray, there is more fuel for the self-destroying machines!” We are turning more land into deserts and parking lots. We are wiping out innumerable species that are not only wondrous and beautiful, but might be useful to us. We are multiplying to the point where our needs and our wastes outweigh the capacities of the biosphere to produce and absorb them. And yet, despite the bloody headlines and the rocketing military budgets, we are also, unbelievably, killing fewer of each other proportionately than in earlier centuries. We have mobilized enormous global intelligence and mutual curiosity, through the Internet and outside it. We have even evolved, spottily, a global understanding that democracy is better than tyranny, that love and tolerance are better than hate, that hope is better than rage and despair, that we are prone, especially in catastrophes, to be astonishingly helpful and cooperative.

We may even have begun to share an understanding that while the dark times may continue for generations, in time new growth and regeneration will begin. In the biological process called “succession,” a desolate, disturbed area is gradually, by a predictable sequence of returning plants, restored to ecological continuity and durability. When old institutions and habits break down or consume themselves, new experimental shoots begin to appear, and people explore and test and share new and better ways to survive together.”

Consider this something of a counter-point to Michael York’s somewhat apocalyptic editorial from yesterday. Yes, ecological dark times are ahead of us, but perhaps we can “embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth.” Maybe true evolution and revolution are possible only in times of great peril.

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

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.

My latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site is now up.

Here’s this week’s panel question:

“The discrimination against women on a global basis is very often attributable to the declaration by religious leaders in Christianity, Islam and other religions that women are inferior in the eyes of God,” former President Jimmy Carter said last week. Many traditions teach that while both men and women are equal in value, God has ordained specific roles for men and women. Those distinct duties often keep women out of leadership positions in their religious communities. What is religion’s role in gender discrimination?

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

If the goddesses are suppressed, if they are erased from history, reduced to lesser roles, or turned into demons, then there is no divinity that reflects the female experience. Instead of being the originators of life, subduers of injustice, and the source of all sovereignty, women are instead bearers of the “original sin.” No sane philosopher or theologian can claim this doesn’t change the very nature of a culture, or the way we perceive gender. Imagine for a moment how different the ever-raging debate over legal access to abortion, or even contraception, whether for or against, would be if women were seen as the final holy arbiters in the matter of creating life. I can only guess we’d see something very different from the parade of old white male politicians exclaiming about “moral” issues and threatening basic health care for women in the process. Once you open your mind to that first exercise in a world with goddesses it’s hard not to think of dozens, hundreds, more. Female priests and feminine divine pronouns would hardly skim the surface.

I hope you’ll head over to the site and read my full response, and the other panelist responses, and share your thoughts.

Top Story: The Guardian reports that Bolivia, one of the countries hardest hit by global climate change, is planning to pass a law that would enshrine a list of rights held by nature. Called “The Law of Mother Earth” (la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra), it seeks to establish “a new relationship between man and nature” according to Vice-President Alvaro García Linera.

Evo Morales receiving the blessing of the Aymara priests.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

The Guardian notes that the law is partially inspired by an “Andean spiritual world view,” resurgent since the election of Evo Morales, the first fully indigenous president of Bolivia. In addition, Bolivia is pushing to have similar rights enshrined by the United Nations as well, just in time for Earth Day (aka International Mother Earth Day).

The UN debate begins two days before the UN’s recognition April 22 of the second International Mother Earth Day — another Morales-led initiative. Canadian activist Maude Barlow is among global environmentalists backing the drive with a book the group will launch in New York during the UN debate: Nature Has Rights. ”It’s going to have huge resonance around the world,” Barlow said of the campaign. “It’s going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tarsands in Alberta.”

The Bolivian initiative already has backing from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, though it doesn’t seem likely many highly industrialized 1st-world nations will be joining up any time soon. Will climate crisis start to turn more countries towards an ethos of “wild law”? If it does, Bolivia will seem prescient. You can read the entirely of the new law (in Spanish), here (accurate translations welcome from anyone who has free time on their hands).

The Danger of Feminine Pronouns in Prayers: The New York Times reports that the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have accused Catholic theologian and nun Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson of violating church doctrine in her 2007 book “Quest For the Living God,” issuing a 21-page critique (plus introductory remarks) and recommending the book not be taught in Catholic universities due in part to her suggestion of using female imagery for God.

The passages drawing the harshest admonishment, however, concerned Sister Johnson’s proposal that feminine as well as masculine imagery be used in prayers referring to God, a recommendation that has been debated and rejected by the bishops before. Still, the book persisted, “all-male images of God are hierarchical images rooted in the unequal relation between women and men, and they function to maintain this arrangement.” Wrong, the bishops said: If the Gospels use masculine imagery, it is because divine revelation would have it that way. [...] Dr. Tilley, the Fordham theology chairman, described that argument as “approaching the incoherent.”

This fear of non-male pronouns isn’t isolated to the United States Bishops, baptisms using gender-neutral formulas for the Trinity were ruled invalid back in 2008 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the organization formerly known as the Inquisition), and in the “Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church” the current Pope opined that “I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion.” In short, calling God “she” or “her” (or even “it” I suppose) is tantamount to neo-paganism. Let’s not forget the PR fiasco that was the investigation of American religious sisters. As the New York Times piece puts it, the Catholic Church wants to put “the study of the male and female aspects of God [...] substantially off-limits.” It seems the risk of a Christian Goddess (other than Mary) emerging is too great to tolerate having students even think about God as a woman.

Marketing the Gods: With the Marvel Comics-inspired “Thor” movie coming out soon, religion e-zine Killing the Buddha features an essay by Eric Scott (a Wiccan and second-generation Pagan) about encountering Mjolnir at Wal-Mart.

“The truth is, I looked at the toys in my hands and I saw the result of millions of dollars of development and thousands of hours of manpower, put into something bearing the name of a god, my god, and it had nothing to do with me. Their Thor was a god forgotten by all except the few quiet geeks who read his adventures in Journey into Mystery andThe Mighty Thor for forty years. It wasn’t that they meant to upset or unsettle me; they simply realized that people like me were too few to matter. It’s impossible to think of a story about Jesus like this, not written to pander to or irritate Christians, but simply not considering them at all.”

I’ve praised Eric’s writing at this blog before, so let me simply say that the whole essay is worth a read. He also has a short story, “Reaching for Da’at”, up now at Caper Literary Journal.

The Danger of Vodou in Haiti: Two recent article look at anti-Vodou violence and hysteria in Haiti, a phenomenon that is responsible for killing over 40 Vodouisants that we know of. First, the Independent in Ireland gives an outsiders narrative, showing the fear that comes when tragedy is blamed on an innocent through accusations of “voodoo”.

“When cholera killed Dieufort Joesph’s neighbour last year, the 25-year-old feared for his young family’s safety. But the threat didn’t come from the disease. It came from the panic that spread through the narrow streets of Gonaives in north-western Haiti. Within days the rumours began — Mr Joesph had used voodoo to kill the girl. The quietly spoken market porter explained that for some of his neighbours, this meant he and his family must themselves be killed.”

Joseph, who hopes to move to new housing soon, acknowledges that the shack he currently lives in will most likely be burned down due to the accusations of malefic magic. Meanwhile, Haiti Libre reports on the first anniversary of the Haitian group ”Religions for Peace,” formed in part to help counteract anti-Vodou violence.

Euvonie George Augustin, a great servant to the Confederation of voodoo and representative of the voodoo within “Religions for Peace”, explained that these attitudes “are the result of a lack of civic and religious education”. For her, the intolerance is a major source of violent behavior and calls on all Haitians to unite to change society, adding that “the next government must be able to rely on the participation of all sectors of the national life to be able to transform its campaign promises into reality.”

It seems that many eyes will be on incoming president Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly to help quell religious violence in Haiti, but will Protestant missionaries engaged in a zero-sum game of conversion allow him to turn down the anti-Vodou rhetoric?

When Will the AFA Be Accountable? Right Wing Watch wonders at what point the American Family Association will take responsibility for the increasingly extreme statements from Bryan Fischer, their Director of Issues Analysis, radio host, and blogger.

“So we know that when Fischer says that Native Americans deserved to be wiped out, African Americans rut like rabbits, and Muslims need to convert to Christianity, he absolutely believes it, even if the AFA later changes it. [...] The AFA cannot place a disclaimer on Fischer’s bigoted rantings claiming that his views do not reflect the views of the AFA and, at the same time, keep editing his posts in an effort to distance the organization from his bigotry … especially not when they are also giving him two hours a day to spout that same bigotry on their radio program. The AFA either needs to own up and take responsibility for the relentless steam of bigotry that pours from the organization’s Director of Issue Analysis and most prominent spokesperson or cut ties with him altogether … because, frankly, the only way the AFA can legitimately claim that Fischer’s bigotry does not reflect the views of the AFA is if the organization actually stops giving him the platforms from which to spew that bigotry.”

Fischer, for those who haven’t been keeping track, claims the Establishment Clause only applies to Christians, that Native Americans are mired in alcoholism and poverty because they won’t all become Christians, and believes the environmental movement is a stalking horse for Paganism. I’m not exaggerating when I say that those are some of the milder opinions he seems to hold. I’m curious at what point does conservative Christian rhetoric cross a line to where even supporters turn away? Perhaps Right Wing Watch will finally find the answer.

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