Archives For Hill of Tara

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.

The Lia Fáil - Hill of Tara, Ireland.

The Lia Fáil - Hill of Tara, Ireland.

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.

Whether revived, re-imagined, reconstructed, or revealed, modern Pagan religions all look to our collective pre-Christian past for inspiration, connection, understanding, and a sense of continuity. Because of this phenomenon, many Pagans follow the world of archaeology very closely, both for new information, and to monitor the preservation of objects and artifacts that reach back to a time when pagan religions were the dominant expression of faith. When the Egyptian revolution started, many Pagans, particularly Kemetics and Greco-Egyptian polytheists, expressed great concern at reports of looting and vandalism of the nations many antiquities. However, there are ongoing debates within modern Pagan communities over what the best way to honor our ancient past is. Some, like, British Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (aka John Timothy Rothwell) want a hands-off approach to monuments and sites they see as part of a collective spiritual heritage, while other groups, like Pagans For Archaeology, argue that extensive scientific exploration enriches the body of knowledge available to modern Pagans.

The Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens.

“The more knowledge we gain about people of the past, the more it perpetuates their memory. People of the past wanted to be remembered, that’s why they built monuments in the landscape. Also, ancient texts such as the Hávamál talk about a person’s name living on after they die (another indication that people in the past wanted to be remembered).”

This debate grows more complex as pre-Christian pagan sites suffer ever more from years of vandalism, wear, and increasing environmental degradation. In Greece, statues and decorative pieces at the Acropolis in Athens have been slowly transitioned into a specially-built museum, while Turkey is currently debating on how to best preserve the ancient giant statues of gods and kings on Mount Nemrut in southeastern region of the country.

Statues near the peak of Mount Nemrut.

“A recent proposal by Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay to move the gigantic sculptures atop Mount Nemrut, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, to a museum in order to protected them from harsh weather conditions has sparked controversy among Turkish archeologists and scientists over whether the sculptures should be preserved inside a museum or not. Günay put forth the proposal last week, saying the sculptures can be brought down from the mountain by helicopter and become part of the exhibit in a museum in Kahta, Adıyaman province.

“Many proposals, including those from [Middle East Technical University] ODTÜ, were brought to me for the protection of the sculptures on the mountain. However, none of them convinced me. Among the proposals were covering the sculptures with some chemicals. I asked them to bring me that chemical, but they could not. Some have proposed covering them with a tent or glass. Strong winds blowing on the mountain in the winter would damage the tent. The windows would break,” Günay said.

Noting that the best solution would be to move the stone heads to a museum, he added that he has personally observed the damage sustained by the heads over the past 20 years and that they need protection.”

Some local archaeologists and officials disagree with Günay, saying there is little evidence of the damage he describes. While modern Pagans are not a factor in this story, the situation starkly illustrates the debates currently raging over how to treat these sites. Another question is how moving the statues, if it goes forward, would affect the site’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and how would these changes affect tourism?

Sadly, scientific examination and debates over the best preservation strategies aren’t the only thing affecting ancient sites of interest to modern Pagans. In some cases sites are being endangered by construction, spurring protests and direct action by local Pagans in places like Greece to protect the newly-uncovered Altar of the Twelve Gods from reburial, or at the Hill of Tara in Ireland, which many feel is being systematically destroyed by highway development. As development, tourism, and environmental factors continue to clash these issues only promise to become more heated and intense. With austerity the buzz-word in a global recession, the preservation of our ancient heritage, and the protection of sacred sites seem to be  low on the priority list. Will these sites simply start disappearing? What is the best way to protect these sites and our religious heritage in a world that seems increasingly indifferent to preservation? What role should modern Pagan communities play regarding sites that we feel are important to our own understanding of the past?

From July 25th through August 3rd the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is meeting in Brazil to consider additions to the list of World Heritage sites. In countries with limited resources or political will, having a site put on the World Heritage list can mean the difference between preservation and destruction (it can also mean welcome tourist dollars). Many of the sites that modern Pagans make pilgrimage to, or think of as their spiritual and religious heritage, the Acropolis, Delphi, Stonehenge, Avebury, and Bath, are all Heritage sites. This year Ireland’s government is nominating the Hill of Tara, along with several other sites, for consideration. In anticipation of this, they’ve debuted a new website featuring the already-listed and “tentative” Heritage sites.

The Minister [John Gormley] expressed his hope that the website would support tourism and increase both national and international interest in our World Heritage properties. “Tourism is a significant contributor to the Irish economy in terms of revenue and employment and Fáilte Ireland has identified heritage as a potential growth area for Ireland’s share of tourism” he said.

The problem with drawing “international interest” in the sites is that many believe the Irish government has been systematically destroying the Hill of Tara and surrounding monuments with a highly criticized highway expansion. One that barreled through despite protests and direct action, and accusations of the government altering research that didn’t line up with what they wanted. Now TaraWatch, Save Newgrange, and human rights lawyer Matt Schwoebel, are launching an online survey they hope will provide the basis for a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee and UNESCO.

Vincent Salafia of TaraWatch and Save Newgrange said:

“Many Irish people feel their human rights to heritage and culture are being continuously violated by the Irish Government, and we are offering them a chance to do something about it.

“We are launching this survey today to protest against the cynical way in which the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, has waited over three years, until the M3 motorway was opened two months ago, to nominate Tara as a UNESCO Site and ask for UN protection.

“We are also asking the UN to intervene immediately and address the threat to Bru na Boinne World Heritage Site, since the Minister Gormley supports the bypass route, and has also delayed delivery the new National Monuments Act by two years, meaning planning permission for the N2 can be granted before stronger protections are put in place,” he said.

If you would like to participate in this survey, you can find it here. Both the Irish government and the activists are now looking to UNESCO, but will pressure from that body, if it comes, stop further motorway expansion? Other World Heritage sites have been deleted for ill-advised construction, and Ireland could be endangering the World Heritage status of Bru na Boinne with the planned expansion. Even if Tara is listed, will it be enough to stave off further encroachment and harm? One has only to turn to Stonehenge in the UK to see how that World Heritage Site has been treated in recent years. Long in need of improvements, the budget for a new visitor center and to close a nearby road was eliminated by the new coalition government (announced right before the Summer Solstice).

Sky, a pagan from Devon, broke off from a drumming session to explain how crucial it was that Stonehenge was improved. “It’s the most wonderful place and it’s a disgrace that we’re still waiting for a new visitor centre and for improvements to the roads. I bring people here from abroad sometimes. They’re amazed by the stones – but also amazed at how crummy the facilities are. I’d like that David Cameron to come down here and tell us why Stonehenge, our national treasure, is being treated so shabbily.”

English Heritage are still trying to move forward with improvements, but I can’t see how anything will be completed before the 2012 Olympics, when a massive influx of tourists from around the world will want to see the national treasure. A treasure made ever more valuable by ongoing discoveries and revelations.

Britain’s Stonehenge once had a long-lost twin just a stone’s throw away from the prehistoric monument, archaeologists announced Thursday. The discovery, made completely without digging, suggests that now solitary Stonehenge may have been surrounded by “satellite Stonehenges,” archaeologists say. “This finding is remarkable,” said survey-team leader Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist the University of Birmingham in the U.K. “It will completely change the way we think about the landscape around Stonehenge.”

Can the government find room in their new austerity to preserve and improve on the site? UNESCO World Heritage might wield political muscle with countries that desperately need the recognition and tourism revenue, but they can only shame more prosperous nations, and that might not be enough to stop highways from being built or to loosen a tightened national budget. For those of us with an emotional investment in these sites, but who don’t live in Ireland or the UK, it can seem like we are merely spectators to the slow erosion of these precious links to our ancient past. But while we may not walk on those lands, we have friends and family who do, and we can light flames of solidarity, stay informed, and participate in the opportunities presented to us, in hopes that it will have some small effect on this process. So that we can see the heritage passed to another generation, so that they can be moved, inspired, and educated by the lands that so many of us honor.

Thanks to Kathryn Price NicDhàna for providing some of the links used in this post.

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.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

A conference of indigenous leaders from Mexico, the United States, and Canada met in Palenque, Mexico to discuss traditional solutions to environmental problems. The event, ‘Indigenous People to Heal Our Mother Earth’, gathered 200 leaders from 71 American Indian nations, and was supported by Mexico’s environment secretary, Juan Elvira Quesada.

“Our Mother Earth is being polluted at an alarming rate, and our elders say that she is dying,” said Raymond Sensmeier, a Tlingit leader from Yakutat, Alaska. “The way the weather is around the world … a cleansing is needed” … “I sometimes talk to scientists,” said Sensmeier, “and they compartmentalize things, put things in boxes and disconnect them, and doing so promotes disharmony and imbalance.” Kuetlachtli Texotik, a Nahuatl healer from Mexico whose name means “Blue Wolf,” agreed. “Our grandfathers taught us to have an integrated vision,” he said. “The important thing is to look for balance. We should take care of what does not belong to us, for the future, because it is only ours temporarily.”

Organizers hope that indigenous American leaders can become guides in “restoring balance and harmony in the world”. To “wake up the world” to the environmental problems surrounding them.

Reuters interviews David Domke, co-author of the new book “The God Strategy: How Religion Became A Political Weapon In America,” who explains just how entwined (predominately Christian) religion has become in our political process.

“The reality is that in American presidential politics not willing to publicly emphasize your faith will mean you will not be a serious candidate on either side of the partisan aisle … the fusion of religion and politics is absolutely contrary to what the founders desired for the country. They fled religious sectarian violence, religious persecution and they set out build a new place where God would be part of the equation but there wouldn’t be a state, a national religion.”

A political atmosphere like this is decidedly hostile to religious minorities taking power, an exclusive “Christ-centered” politics that transcends the usual Republican party suspects to include Democratic presidential candidates as well. Can the wall of separation between Church and State remain strong when both political parties now “emphasize their faith” as a campaign tool?

The Boston Herald reports
on Laurie “Official Witch of Salem” Cabot’s 75th birthday-bash over the weekend. The extravagant affair included a dancing snake charmer, fire-spinning, and the attendance of Godsmack frontman Sully Erna.

“Godsmack frontman Sully Erna was among the 100 Wiccans who flew in from around the country over the weekend for a surprise 75th birthday party for Laurie Cabot, the Official Witch of Salem. “Before I met Laurie, I was in a really low point in my life,” Sully told the crowd. “I owe Laurie everything. (She) changed my life around.” Apparently, the headbanger and the high priestess of witchcraft have been tight for years … Cabot’s bewitching birthday bash was thrown by fun couple Tom Lang and Alexander Westerhoff at their Manchester-by-the-Sea stone villa.”

A happy birthday to Ms. Cabot, may she enjoy happiness and good health.

Kathryn Price NicDhana brings us the latest in the ongoing struggles to halt the M3 motorway expansion through the Tara-Skryne valley, the spiritual heart of Ireland.

“As bulldozers and chainsaws cut into the forest and hill of Rath Lugh – one of a number of ancient tombs and holy wells in peril due to the road work in the Tara-Skryne Valley – protesters have announced that they have dug tunnels under the proposed roadway, and are willing to risk their lives in defense of the land.”

While these new actions have succeeded in delaying construction, it remains to be seen if this expensive (and increasingly unpopular) project can ultimately be stopped. Irish Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney recently called the M3 construction a “ruthless desecration”, and the site has been declared an “endangered monument” by the World Monuments Fund.

In a final note, two recent legal decisions affecting modern Pagans have come to my attention. First, Tropaion reports that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Greece can not require a statement of religious belief as part of the admission ceremony to the state bar.

“Legal Court rulings are one of the few forums where precedents are truly set. This landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Alexandrididis vs Greece (application number 19516/2006) will definitely make it much easier for others in the legal and other professions to follow suit. It will mean that people will not have to state their religious beliefs in what are clearly state matters.”

This is an important precedent for the small groups of Hellenic polytheists (and other religious minorities) in the Orthodox Christian dominated State. Further updates to this story are expected to be posted, here.

Meanwhile, another prisoner free-exercise case involving a member of the Asatru faith has made the news. A judge has recommended the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by inmate Darrell Hoadley. Hoadley, who is serving a life sentence for a 2000 torture-killing, brought suit requesting items he says are necessary for his faith.

“The penitentiary has allowed several Asatru items since settling a 2000 lawsuit – including a ritual drinking horn, wooden wand and wooden hammer – but Hoadley wanted more, such as horse meat and a plastic sword. In a motion to dismiss, prison officials said some requests are ‘too outrageous to merit serious consideration.’ U.S. Magistrate Judge John Simko, who was taken off the case in favor of U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol, said in a report filed Wednesday that the case should be dismissed.”

I can’t think of any Asatru tradition that requires a sword and the partaking of horse meat in order to honor the gods. Considering Hoadley’s security status (he is isolated from the general population), and the concessions already made, it doesn’t look like he has much of a case. The judge looks on solid ground for recommending dismissal.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The Staten Island Advance reports on a dispute between neighbors that involves a Pagan family and charges of religiously-motivated harassment.

“Ivy Colmer Vanderborgh, her husband and her mother live in one half of a duplex on Oceanview Avenue. Their Annadale neighbors say they are disrupting the neighborhood. But the Colmer Vanderborgh family claims those same neighbors are persecuting them because of their religion. Ms. Colmer Vanderborgh and her mother, Marlene Colmer, both practice Wicca. They contend that since their appearance on a Staten Island Community Television show about their religion in June 2006, neighbors have they have been verbally harassed, their car has been vandalized, their property damaged and their dog poisoned.”

The neighbor charged with masterminding their harassment denies any wrongdoing, claiming the family is loud, obnoxious, and paranoid. At this point all evidence in the case is circumstantial, so we have no idea if these Wiccans are truly being persecuted, or if they simply have a persecution complex.

It is reported that The Church of England has “serious reservations” about the looming abolishment of Britain’s blasphemy laws. While the archbishops, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu say they won’t oppose abolishment, they are “concerned” about the meaning and timing of the move.

“[The archbishops] say the government needs to be clear as to precisely why the offence is being scrapped. They argue that it should not be seen as a “secularising move” or as a general licence to attack or insult religious beliefs and believers. They say it is still too early to be sure how the new offence of incitement to religious hatred, which applies to all faiths, will operate in practice and that laws which carry “a significant symbolic charge” should not be changed lightly.”

These laws, while rarely invoked today, were once used to persecute Quakers, atheists, Unitarians, and other groups who threatened (or appeared to threaten) the Anglican Church’s primacy in England. They belong in the dust-bin of history along with laws against “witchcraft”.

Slate.com explores the history of the crotch-grab in Italy.

“It’s the seat of fertility. The crotch grab goes back at least to the pre-Christian Roman era and is closely associated with another superstition called the “evil eye” – the belief that a covetous person can harm you, your children, or your possessions by gazing at you. Cultural anthropologists conjecture that men would try to block such pernicious beams by shielding their genitals, thus protecting their most valued asset: the future fruit of their loins. Over the centuries, the practice shifted. Men covered their generative organs not only to defend against direct malevolence but also in the presence of anything ominous, like a funeral procession.”

The article also explains the ever-popular “corno” necklaces and the corna hand-sign (aka the “devil sign”) in the same context.

Groundbreaking Gaelic film “Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle” has finally acquired international distribution through Altadena Films.

“Young Films has secured a deal with Altadena Films, an international sales agent, to sell Gaelic feature film Seachd – The Inaccessible Pinnacle, around the world. Altadena will represent the film at the Berlin Film Festival then at markets and festivals around the world thereafter. For the international market the English title will be Seachd – The Crimson Snowdrop.”

For those who can’t wait that long, the DVD has been released in the UK, which means that Americans will need a region-free player to watch it. For my previous coverage of this film, click here.

Nobel Prize-winning Irish author Seamus Heaney has lashed out at the Irish government for their road construction through the sacred Tara Skreen valley (home of the Hill of Tara), calling it a “ruthless desecration”.

“I think it literally desecrates an area – I mean the word means to de-sacralise and for centuries the Tara landscape and the Tara sites have been regarded as part of the sacred ground … If ever there was a place that deserved to be preserved in the name of the dead generations from pre-historic times up to historic times up to completely recently, it was Tara … Tara means something equivalent to me to what Delphi means to the Greeks or maybe Stonehenge to an English person or Nara in Japan, which is one of the most famous sites in the world…”

While it looks like nothing can stop road construction now, campaigners are still working to halt construction and limit further development in the area.

In a final note, The Hamilton Spectator reviews a new e-book by Neil Jamieson-Williams entitled “A Field Guide to Modern Pagans in Hamilton, Ontario”, which resulted in an angry reply from the author over errors and “yellow journalism”.

“Ms. Fragomeni made no attempt to contact me either by telephone or email to inform me of when the article would be printed – in all probability, she boldly lied to me in our last phone call, knowing full well that the article would be in the Saturday paper. The presentation my book and myself in the article was a smear campaign. No mention is made of the publishing company or where the book is available. Finally, it is clear to me that Ms. Fragomeni has, at best, only scanned portions of the book — she has written an article about a book that she has not read.”

Maybe there is such a thing as bad publicity? In any case, I suppose that should be a warning to be careful where you send promotional copies.

That is all I have for now, have a good day!

Some great Pagan and Pagan-friendly content has been popping up lately in the blogosphere, so I thought I would take some time to highlight some posts that I found particularly interesting.

To start off, Mollie at Get Religion takes a look at recent press coverage concerning the entheogenic plant ayahuasca, and the surge in popularity of shamanistic therapy sessions among upper-class suburbanites in Southern California.

“Piccalo explains that ayahuasca, meaning “vine of the soul” has been used for hundreds of years or more by tribes in Central and South America. In countries where it is legal, pilgrims flock to ceremonies. She notes that Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs introduced the plant concoction to pop culture in the 1960s but that it has remained a largely underground phenomenon – until now. A community shepherded by shamans is emerging in the United States … Unfortunately, the religious component of ayahuasca isn’t really explored. Most of the piece deals with Truenos, who comes off more Elmer Gantry than devout believer. He has a shady past and can’t answer Piccalo’s questions in a straightforward manner. In an area where New Age practitioners have found fertile ground for preying on the wealthy, he seems perfectly Californian.”

Mollie and I both share the sentiment that journalists should further explore the religious ties to this plant and its usage. You can read the original Los Angeles Times article, here.

An the artistic front, classics professor Mary Beard reports on the opening of a new show of neo-classical sculpture at Tate Britain called “The Return of the Gods”.

“Highlight of the show, but not for me (I actually think it’s a bit irritating), is Canova’s Three Graces. I decided to talk about some of the less well known pieces. The aim was to explain why what may look like slightly insipid white marble, recreating some serenely voluptuous male and female flesh, is actually a lot cleverer and a lot more intellectually engaged with the Greco-Roman sources on which it is based than most people ever imagine.”

Meanwhile the Treadwells blog announces a new exhibition at the Transition Gallery (in London) entitled “Sex and Witchcraft”

“A sinister beauty pervades the work of seven artists from London, Manchester and Budapest in Sex and Witchcraft. Working across media, often incorporating the use of found materials and tabletop techniques, the artists engage in a disturbing alchemy. Dabbling in the chemistry of first sighting and the magical fusion of opposing elements, the artists reveal a dark underbelly to the world of love and flowers, white horses and watercolours.”

The “Sex and Witchcraft” show also features a specially commissioned essay from punk-pioneer turned occult historian Gary Lachman.

Over at MetaPagan, Cat Chapin-Bishop notices a “spontaneous blog carnival” concerning interactions between Paganism and Christianity.

“It must be something in the aether…Discussions of Christianity are breaking out on Pagan blogs everywhere. It’s odd, but whenever I post anything related to the subject of Christianity at my own blog, the number of hits and comments–from Pagans–goes way up. Maybe I’m not the only person to have noticed this, because over the last few days, numerous members of the Pagan/Heathen blogosphere have posted entries on the topic of Christo-Paganism and related topics. Some bloggers are concerned, some are puzzled, and some are embracing at least some Christian concepts, if not Christianity, per se.”

My coverage of Christo-Pagan inmates is included in this accidental blog carnival, as are entries from Gus DiZerega and Chapin-Bishop’s own Quaker Pagan Reflections.

Over at Paganachd Bhandia, Kathryn Price NicDhana points to updates on direct action protests taking place in Ireland in a bid to save Tara from further development.

“We still need bodies on the line, supplies sent to the camps, and fierce magic in support. See my earlier posts for more details if you’re new here.”

For this blog’s previous coverage concerning the fight to preserve the Hill of Tara, click here.

In a final note, author Erik Davis reviews the book “Romantic Religion” by R.J Reilly, and explores romanticism, sacred plays, the Inklings, and what really attracts him to religion.

“I have also begun to suspect that, a lot of the time, what has really attracted me to religion was less the glimmer of supernatural knowledge, of some answer to the irascible longing in my heart and the mercurial confusion in my mind, than the creative imagination that channels so much of this stuff in the first place. At root, my spirit resonates with to aesthetic dimension of religion – the pungent bite of frankincense, the swelling gallop of Mozart’s requiem mass, the comic book arcana of cosmological maps, the turn of phrase in a lost gospel, the spare decor of the zendo. It is not that I am interested only in aesthetics, or story, or figurative art – I have spent tons of time with doctrine and history, and I love the experience of some model or argument about the nature of existence or God or the afterlife worms its way into my quotidian mind. But the real alchemy happens when the creative imagination soars beyond itself, towards matters of final import. I cannot imagine an awakened genuine religion without flavor and taste, without vivid figures and surprise. I rarely read wisdom books unless they are engaging as literature.”

To find more great Pagan-friendly blog content, check out Blog Elysium for an extensive list of blog links, and MetaPagan for a human-edited look at content from other (Pagan) blogs.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

We are saddened to report that Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, the musical and spiritual partner of Psychic TV founder Genesis P-Orridge, passed away on October 9th due to a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

“Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and her reactivated Psychic TV aka PTV3 are terribly sad to announce the cancellation of their November North American tour dates. This decision is entirely due to the unexpected passing of band member Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. Lady Jaye died suddenly on Tuesday 9th October 2007 at home in Brooklyn, New York from a previously undiagnosed heart condition which is thought to have been connected with her long-term battle with stomach cancer. Lady Jaye collapsed and died in the arms of her heartbroken “other half” Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.”

A visual and conceptual artist, Lady Jaye spent more than a decade exploring the concepts of “pandrogeny” in which she and Genesis strove to become one being incorporating all sexes and sexualities. The P-Orridges and Psychic TV were instrumental in the development of music that explored occult concepts and imagery.

Several interesting stories have emerged that touch on environmental issues. In England, there is a plan developing to save Sherwood Forest, which is in increasing danger due to storms, forest fires, and vandals which are killing the ancient oak trees at an alarming rate.

“For the people who care for Sherwood Forest it is like a death in the family when one of the ancient oaks falls, a tragedy that is now becoming depressingly frequent. They used to lose an average of one a year, now it is usually five, and the rate is accelerating. The appalling calculation, which almost breaks the foresters’ hearts, is that in 50 years’ time the greatest collection of ancient oaks in Europe, many 1,000 years old and more, may be no more.”

The foresters hope to plant 250,000 oaks on 350 acres, in order to help preserve and protect the ancient oaks. The article also discusses the folkloric history of the forest, including tales of Robin Hood and Druidic rites.

Why are environmentalists like Al Gore and Wangari Maathai winning a prize dedicated to peace? According to Slate.com, sudden environmental shifts may be one of the biggest contributors to war and strife.

“I asked Maathai what reforestation had to do with ending conflict. “What the Nobel committee is doing is going beyond war and looking at what humanity can do to prevent war,” she answered. “Sustainable management of our natural resources will promote peace.” … The idea of a connection between conflict and climate change is fairly new, and one that had been mostly relegated to academic journals until earlier this year. Then, in June, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon went on record to suggest global warming as a cause for the fighting in the Darfur region of Sudan.”

More proof that everything is interconnected. A rise in temperature doesn’t only mean running your air conditioner more in the summer, it can mean drastically changing whole cultures and peoples, a point that is further explored in a column by Jodi Rave. Rave reports on how climate change is affecting the way indigenous populations struggle to live and interact with a quickly changing landscape.

“I was in Alta, Norway, as an invited speaker at an international indigenous journalists’ conference. Indigenous people – communities whose homelands have been invaded by colonizers yet still maintain distinct languages, cultures and customs – share common concerns, including a right to live off the land … But global warming is changing their landscape … In Alaska, sea ice is melting and the permafrost is thawing. Native Inuit villages are being destroyed … What will happen in Scandinavia and other parts of the Arctic when snow disappears little by little?”

Some indigenous groups are now working with scientists in order to understand and adapt to the changes, hoping to meld science with traditional wisdom.

As Samhain approaches, those hoping to save the Hill of Tara in Ireland from highway development are planning magical and symbolic actions to help raise awareness and stop the planned M3 expansion. The TaraWatch organization is raising funds to create a “protective light shield” around the historic spiritual and political center.

“Tara Light will consist of an elaborate light show with beams of white light illuminating Tara valley the home and source of the Celtic Halloween festival (the Celtic New Year), while a live radio broadcast will provide an audio backdrop to those viewing the event from Tara and others tuning in around the valley, surrounding area, Ireland and beyond … The objective of the lighting event is to show the positioning and significant quantity of sacred sites throughout the complex, in relation to the motorway route proximity and to show the importance of immediately halting the destruction to maintain the integrity, balance and beauty that has existed here for over 5000 years of history.”

Meanwhile, Celtic Reconstructionists from around the globe are planning rituals to help protect the site. A web site for the “I Stand With Tara” ritual is now up, and details are going to be posted soon.

Since I brought up Al Gore earlier in this post, I thought I would mention that Pagan author and pundit Isaac Bonewits is calling for magical action to urge Al Gore to run for President.

“As a Druid and as a priest of the Earth Mother I know how important it is to use both magical and mundane methods to draft Al Gore, kicking and screaming if necessary, to run. There is no other position from which he could have the power and influence he will need to push major American corporations, our national and state governments, and other nations of the world to take the drastic action that will be needed to avert the worst of the already tipped-over climate.”

Finally, the blog Tropaion links to a BBC documentary concerning “Togas on TV”, a look at how ancient Rome is viewed in popular culture.

“The question that the narrator asks is what is Rome for us today and how we conceive it, and whether or not that is right or wrong. Enjoy it, as I must confess I enjoy it, especially with the marvelous points by our Mary Beard.”

That is all I have for now, have a good day.

Back in May, I reported on how construction of the M3 motorway expansion in Ireland had been halted due to a major archaeological find. The M3 expansion is controversial due to the fact that it runs through the Tara-Skryne Valley, home of the legendary Hill of Tara (the political and spiritual capital of Ireland through most of its history). Currently An Bord Pleanala (the planning board) is deciding if the M3 expansion needs fresh approval in light of the new find, while Environment Minister John Gormley is coming under fire for allowing the site to be “recorded” and removed while these decisions are being made.

“Yesterday TaraWatch called on Environment Minister John Gormley to halt excavation works on the prehistoric ritual site while the board reviews the planning permission. “The minister appears to be acting in bad faith here, by allowing demolition of the national monument to proceed while the board is making its legal determination,” spokesman Vincent Salafia said. “Minister Gormley must stop the demolition by the NRA and Meath County Council now and permit only the excavation of the delicate features now exposed on the surface. “This magnificant prehistoric amphitheatre, which sits in plain view of the hilltop, deserves the highest level of protection possible.” The Department of the Environment has said it does not have the power to alter the route of the road unless a “material change” or new information emerges.”

But activists concerned about the future of Tara haven’t been idle while this bureaucratic wrangling takes place. Protesters have attempted to stall work at the excavation site, have urged the Rolling Stones to back their cause when they stopped to play in Ireland, and Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam O Maonlai has released a song to rally the cause.

“The accomplished musician best known for chart hits ‘Don’t Go’ and ‘Give It Up’ has turned to the genre of the protest song to attack Celtic Tiger Ireland’s relationship with its heritage. In ‘Tara’s Eye (Money Mad Mile)’ the Dubliner who has steeped himself in the Gaelic tradition attacks construction companies and politicians linked to the contentious Co Meath motorway.

Meanwhile government supporters of the M3 expansion are claiming that activist’s fears are over-exaggerated and that the new road won’t impact the ancient monument.

“The National Roads Authority’s (NRA’s) Mary Deevy said she believed the proposed road would not impact on the Tara landscape in Co Meath and was further from the ancient site than the existing carriageway … She added some fears about the future development of the Tara area were legitimate, but said a landscape conservation scheme was being considered by Meath County Council which had been included in the current county development plan. This would restrict the construction of large-scale housing developments and retail outlets.”

But despite reassurances that development would be kept in check, property in Tara near the new motorway is already being auctioned off at hugely inflated rates for residential and commercial development.

“Three parcels of land on Tara Hill are expected to fetch in excess of E1 million when they go under the hammer in Gorey next month. The land, totalling 36.2 acres, will go under the hammer at the auction rooms of Sherry Fitzgerald O’Leary Kinsella in Gorey on September 5.”

While the campaign to stop the motorway is a broad coalition, it has also attracted many Irish Pagans* (as well as Pagans from around the world) who see the construction as a sacrilege.

“…despite claims that the M3 is what the community wants or needs, many folk have been duped and coerced into believing this is necessary. In Egypt, would the remains of an ancient woman of highstatus be left in a plastic bag in a warehouse? Is our ancient culture to be discarded? Much has been written and said about Tara-Skryne Valley being seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the ancient Royal City of Tara. However, one monumental fact remains disregarded. This is the realm of the Gaelic White Mare Goddess, Edain Echraidhe, known also as Rhiannon in Wales and Eponain France. Ireland may now be mainly a country of an Abrahamic tradition but our ancient indigenous spiritual traditions still survive today. Tara-Skryne Valley, realm of Edain Echraidhe, is where the ancient Celtic Festivals are celebrated ritually throughout the year still to this day.”

It remains to be seen if protest efforts, or these archaeological finds will succeed in doing anything more than delaying construction, but it remains certain that modern Pagans with a spiritual, geographical, and emotional connection to the Hill of Tara will be on the front lines of this battle till the end.

* For an interesting examination of Pagan attitudes towards megaliths and archeology, check out this recent essay by Jessica Beck.

For some time the Irish government has been planning a controversial motorway expansion that would run through the Tara-Skryne Valley, home of the legendary Hill of Tara. The site is home to several ancient monuments, and for most of Ireland’s history was its political and spiritual capital. Critics of this plan, which include academics, environmentalists, and 3500 MySpace users, have so far been unable to stop building through protests or legal challenges.

But now it looks like ancient pagans (or at least their henges) have been able to halt construction just one day after the ground-breaking ceremony.

“Dick Roche, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has received a report that archaeologists working on the route of the M3 motorway have found archaeological evidence of a national monument at Lismullin, Co. Meath … no works which would interfere with the Monument may be carried out, except works urgently required to secure its preservation, carried out in accordance with measures specified by the Minister … The National Monuments Acts provide that where the discovery of a National Monument has been reported to the Minister he must consult with the Director of the National Museum before issuing directions in the matter to the road authority.”

Despite this set-back, critics of the motorway expansion fear that the government will pressure to have it quickly documented (a few days) and destroyed to make way for the construction.

“The site of a massive ancient pagan temple unearthed at one of Europe’s most archaeologically significant sites will be buried under a controversial motorway, campaigners warned last week. Fears were growing that the government is to plough ahead with the contentious M3 route despite the discovery that has excited heritage campaigners. The government insists it has not decided the future of the major find near the historic Hill of Tara in Co. Meath – uncovered just 24 hours after Transport Minister Martin Cullen turned the first sod on the project.”

An environmental group is already threatening legal action if they attempt to destroy the henge, while a local archaeologist bemoans the fact that it has come to legal action.

“The campaign to preserve this site has become a legal battle when in fact it should be an ethical one – whether we value our heritage or not.”

But it looks like, for now, the site has been given a reprieve thanks to the spiritual practices of ancient Irish pagans. A superstitious person could even comment that a message was being sent. To remain updated on the battle over this site, and the motorway expansion, check out the TaraWatch blog.