Archives For Hypatia

A bright and ongoing success story in the Pagan community has been the utilization of crowd-funding sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter to collectively raise funds for important projects. Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars to help fund a pitch-reel in order get a feature film based on her book “The Fifth Sacred Thing” made. Peter Dybing helped raise $30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders in the wake of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. Pagan singer-songwriter SJ Tucker was amazed when a Kickstarter campaign for Tricky Pixie’s European tour more than doubled their initial goal in a matter of hours (and kept on growing). In addition, several smaller initiatives have managed to collectively raise thousands for Pagan projects: The readers of The Wild Hunt funded the proposed budget of this site for a year, Chicago-based Pagan/magical performance troupe Terra Mysterium raised funds for their new show “The Alembic,”and the Goddess community funded a documentary film in honor of Merlin Stone.

Crowdfunding sites allow an easy mechanism for fundraising in communities that may have social networks and organizations, but not the robust money-raising infrastructure of already-established mainstream institutions. This is a place modern Paganism is in today, and more and more of us are turning to these sites as a solution to our “money problem.” There are hundreds of thousands of Pagans out there, millions around the world, and they desire to see our projects and initiatives advance just as much as any other faith community. So here are some Pagan Fundraising Initiatives that you might want to contribute to.

The Ancient Egyptian Daybook: Egyptologist Tamara Siuda, author of “The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook,” has been involved with the Pagan community for years in a number of different roles. She’s probably best known as a pivotal figure in Kemetic Orthodoxy, and more recently, as a mambo in Haitian Vodou. When she announced that she was fundraising to produce an Ancient Egyptian Daybook through Kickstarter so that interested individuals could keep track of all those wonderful ancient Egyptian holidays, she quickly surpassed her initial goal of $3000, and is quickly creeping up on $9000.

My name is Tamara Siuda. I’m an Egyptologist. (Yes, I’ve even played one on TV.) I’ve been translating hieroglyphs, teaching, and writing about ancient Egyptians for two decades. A few years ago, I published The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook. It includes translations of prayers, hymns, and magical incantations from Egypt’s pharaonic times. It also includes a very basic ancient calendar, because there wasn’t room for all my research. I’d like to give that calendar some more attention. With your help, I can publish The Ancient Egyptian Daybook. This Daybook will include all my research into ancient Egypt’s calendar. It will also include an optional blank perpetual calendar in a journal or planner format, so you can keep track of these holidays today, if you want!

With a little over a week left, she’s making plans for 10K, 20K, and 40K “stretch” goals, with various incentives. So if you want to jump on this project before the fundraising window closes, now’s the time. Wild Hunt columnist Stacey Lawless will be writing more about this fundraiser in her next column, which will also touch on her PantheaCon experiences. I think Pagans looking at how to do a successful crowdfunding initiative should study all the things that Tamara Siuda did right.

Commemorative Blue Plaque For Doreen Valiente: Doreen Valiente is rightly called the “mother of modern Witchcraft” by many, and her writings have had a huge shaping influence on religious Witchcraft as a whole. The Centre For Pagan Studies is currently raising funds to place the first in a series of commemorative blue plaques to honor Valiente and other key figures in modern Pagan history.

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“The first Blue Plaque is the Doreen Valiente Plaque. We have been working on this for a number of years with Brighton and Hove City Council and we are pleased to announce that Doreen’s Plaque will be going on the wall at the apartments where she lived for 30 years and the location where she did most of her seminal writing. The event will take place on the Summer solstice this year – i.e. 21st June 2013. We are having to pay for the commemorative plaque ourselves so we need your help to raise 1200 pounds. This is to cover 750 pounds manufacturing cost and the remainder is for the installation. Time is short so please donate to this great cause. This will be a number of firsts. The plaque as afar as we can find out will be the first council apartment block. It certainly will be the first plaque that celebrates the life of one of our own. There are plaques commemorating the wrong doings, but this is the first to honor a witch.”

You can donate towards the cause, here. Future planned plaques include one for Gerald Gardner in 2014, and one for Alex Sanders in 2015.

In Other Pagan Fundraising Initiatives News:

Those are the highlighted campaigns for this edition. Please send me word of your crowdfunding campaigns, and I may spotlight them on a future edition of this ongoing feature. Let’s all work together to promote important projects within our community, and destroy the notion that we can’t or won’t fund projects that are important to us. If you can’t donate, the best way to help is to share these campaigns to your social networks, exposing them to as many people as possible. Thanks for reading, and thank you for supporting Pagan community!

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.

For those of you, including me, who didn’t get a chance to see Alejandro Amenábar’s “Agora”, based on the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, at the handful of art theaters it played at this Summer the wait is finally coming to an end. The film is being released on DVD on October 9th, as well as being made available on Netflix. “Agora”, despite doing very well in Europe, got a mixed response from American movie critics (literally split down the middle), and never managed to break out from its delayed and limited release schedule. However, among Pagans who saw it, the response was almost unanimously positive and emotional.

“By the end of the film I was weeping: for Hypatia, for our destroyed Pagan history, and for humanity itself, that doggedly pursued zealotry and ignorance over and above knowledge and reason.” - T. Thorn Coyle

Even those who had some troubles with the historical changes made in Amenábar’s film, like feminist scholar Max Dashu, were generally positive about the work as a whole.

“I’m not a movie reviewer, but a cultural historian, and approach the film from that perspective. What did they do right?  Casting the talented Rachel Weisz was an excellent choice, and all the actors are good.  The cinematography is luscious.  I liked the thematic return to views of the heavens, with the night sky seen from a balcony or through the open roof of an atrium, and occasionally pulling back to satellite shots of earth.  A sympathetic treatment of Pagans is not something you often see in historical movies.”

So needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing this for myself. There are far too few films that present historical paganism in a positive light (one look at the train-wreck that was the “Clash of the Titans” remake proves that).

So while we’re waiting for “Agora” on DVD, and for “The Wicker Tree” to get a release date, what other films can the Pagan moviegoer look forward to? I was perusing The Boston Globe’s run-down of film releases for the rest of 2010, and one picture in particular caught my eye.


Helen Mirren!

The Tempest Julie Taymor is a director of adequate fearlessness. She can be gimmicky (“Across the Universe’’). She can even be somewhat conventional (“Frida’’). But she’s always interesting. In this version of the Shakespeare desert-island play, she’s cast Helen Mirren as Prospero (it’s Prospera now). Djimon Hounsou is Caliban, Felicity Jones is Miranda. Ben Whishaw is Ariel, David Strathairn is Alonso, Chris Cooper is Antonio, and Russell Brand is Trinculo. See? Interesting.”

Dame Helen Mirren as Prospera? Sign me up. Also, check out this quote from Mirren about playing a female version of Prospero.

“Women have been punished for being powerful for many centuries and I thought that was the remarkable thing about making Prospero into Prospera. You can bring in that history of female struggle. We can see now in the extreme fundamentalist states, whatever religion they are, that they want to exclude women from education. An educated female sex is dangerous for the status quo, they believe. Women with any interest in education are persecuted for being witches, herbalists, evil. I thought of all these women, now and throughout history, as I was playing Prospera.

I’m just hoping that Prospera decides to not renounce her magic at the end. Plus, with Taymor directing you know it’s going to be a visual feast. Once there’s a trailer, I’ll post it for you. “The Tempest” is set for release on December 17th. Other interesting-looking films include “Tibet in Song” (November 12th), and Vision: From The Life OfHildegard Von Bingen” (November 5th).

What movies are you looking forward to?

Top Story: Alejandro Amenábar’s film “Agora”, based on the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, finally saw a limited release in art-house theaters at the beginning of the Summer season. The film, despite doing very well in Europe, and getting generally positive reviews from American critics, has failed to draw a big audience or expand beyond its very limited release schedule. In These Times wonders why a film rife with conflicts that should resonate with American audiences has instead fallen flat.

“[Rachel Weisz’s] star turn as Hypatia, a scholar and astronomer of pagan background who preaches tolerance and brotherhood in late fourth-century Alexandria while scientifically probing the secrets of the solar system, is apparently not the stuff that draws Americans to the box office … highly prized internationally and Spain’s highest grossing film in 2009; yet it struggled for distribution in the United States before its release here on May 28. With a female intellectual as its hero and Christian fanatics as its villains, Agora’s limited American appeal is perhaps understandable.

Is it as simple as that? Christian villains and an intellectual hero? If so, Dan Brown’s thrillers (Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons) wouldn’t have drawn hundreds of millions at the box-office. I think the answer is more complex than that. It is partially the fault of a timid distribution market, afraid of courting controversy (or at least the wrong kind of controversy), which allowed the film to wait in limbo for months. I also think the nature of the “Christian villains” is significant. It isn’t a few elites pulling strings and hatching evil plans, “Agora” certainly has those but it also shows Christian mobs killing pagans and Jews. It holds up a piece of history that many would like to forget, when the persecuted minority, now risen to power, started inflicting its own evils on the wider world.

The article ends with a note that “Agora” is “a warning of what happens when a single religious authority seizes total state power”, so it’s little wonder it’s not drawing crowds from the demographics who think we are indeed a “Christian nation”, and yearn for the primacy of Christian morality. So I fear I’ll have to wait for the DVD to see this film with the message a bit too prickly for mass public consumption.

A Biography of Sybil Leek: The Orlando Sentinel’s religion blog reports that a biography of Sybil Leek, one of the world’s most famous Witches, is being published. Leek was the prototype “media” Witch, appearing on Johnny Carson and in hundreds of other television programs and newspaper articles.

“Christine Jones, 73, of Satellite Beach,  says she wrote Sybil Leek: Out of the Shadows as a tribute to the woman she says was a teacher and a warm and gentle friend. “She was like Mother Earth,” Jones said. Leek was one of the most famous practitioners of Wicca, a pagan faith sometimes known as Witchcraft or Craft. She made hundreds of television appearances in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s and wrote dozens of books, including Diary of a Witch. She even reportedly was an astrologer for former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Leek died in 1982 in Melbourne Beach. Jones said she met Leek in the 1970s, after an out-of-body experience led her to contact Leek for help understanding what had happened to her. After moving to Florida in 1977, Jones, then a nurse, studied one-on-one with Leek — the last such student, Jones said. The biography, which Jones said took her several years to write, is a personal look at a woman who was simultaneously larger than life and “so normal.”

You can pre-order the book at Pendraig Publishing. I suspect you’ll also be able to order it through Amazon soon enough as well. Biographies are a rare thing within our communities, so I’ll always welcome one more.

Equal Reactions to An Atheist Prime Minister? Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars looks at religious reactions to the ascension of a female atheist, Julia Gillard, to Australia’s highest office. In his mind the rantings of Christian fire-breather Danny Nalliah (who I’ve mentioned here before) are equal to a rather more peaceful reaction by local Wiccans.

Pastor Danny Nalliah of the Catch the Fire Ministries. He claims that a godless Gillard is out to ”destroy our Judeo-Christian heritage,” outlaw worship altogether and turn Australia into another ”Communist China” … Melbourne witch and high priestess Lizzy Rose and her coven will invite Ms Gillard’s energy into their magic circle to speak about ”her intentions of where she is taking the country”. Ms Rose says her divinations ”will prove to us whether Julia is going to govern through ego or through her heart space”. If Ms Gillard, an avowed atheist, passes the ”heart-space” test, Ms Rose says she’ll get the endorsement of her Order of Wisdom, Learning and Light. ”We’re not trying to recruit her against her will,” she says. ”We see her as a high priestess anyway, regardless of her atheism.”

Now, I can see that an atheist might think both are equally loony. But Brayton goes on to call the Wiccans “creepy” and “every bit as bad as the egregious stupidity being offered by the fundamentalist Christians”. Really? Every bit as bad? One thinks Gillard is a devil who wants to impose Communist rule, and the other wants to speak to her energy body in a circle and honors her as a priestess, and those reactions are equatable? I mean, I get that he thinks all religion is crazy, but these reactions are not coming from the same place, or have the same intentions. In all honesty I think Lizzy Rose might have chosen to keep that ritual to herself, but she is harming no-one and is certainly not the provocateur that Nalliah is. To equate them is silly at best, and at worst drives wedges between atheists and other religious minorities that might find common cause.

Restoring Native Lands: The latest issue of National Geographic Magazine has a fascinating feature on how several Native American Tribes are reversing years of environmental abuse on their ancestral homes, restoring the lands that were once taken from them.

“In 1979 the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana became the first in the nation to set aside tribal land—92,000 acres of the Flathead Reservation’s mountains and meadows—as wilderness. Since then, the Nez Perce have acquired 16,286 acres of ancestral lands in northeast Oregon that they will manage solely to benefit fish and wildlife. The Assiniboine and Sioux tribes in northeastern Montana are working to bring back bison on the Fort Peck Reservation. In Minnesota the Chippewa, or Ojibwa, have restored a ravaged walleye population at Red Lake. And on the Fort Apache Reservation in Arizona the threatened Apache trout is finding a new home, and the forest is now managed with ecology, not just lumber, in mind.”

There has been much talk lately on how Pagans can be leaders and agents of change regarding our current environmental problems, perhaps the quiet good stewardship of these tribal nations can become a model for our own modest lands. An ethic of responsibility and interconnectedness.

Revival of Folk Religion in China? NPR has been running a series on religion in China, and today’s segment on All Things Considered is supposed to cover the revival of folk religions in that country. Here’s a small bit about that subject in the introductory segment from July 18th.

Across China, religious belief has blossomed and flourished — far outpacing the government’s framework to control it — with a profusion of charismatic movements and a revival in traditional Chinese religions. Two-thirds of those who described themselves as religious in the 2006 survey said they were Buddhists, Taoists or worshippers of folk gods such as the Dragon King or the God of Fortune. Another popular goddess is Mazu, who is believed to protect sailors. Although she is included in the Daoist and Buddhist pantheons, she — and many other indigenous popular gods — falls outside China’s five official religions. However, the worship of Mazu recently has been reclassified as “cultural heritage” rather than religious practice, making it acceptable even for Communist Party members. Academics say that model is being used elsewhere in China for other indigenous folk religions. There are also government attempts to support traditional Chinese practices such as ancestor worship, by changing the public holidays. In 2009, the government declared the Qingming Festival — the traditional day for sweeping graves — a public holiday for the first time, allowing much larger numbers of people to sweep their ancestral graves. “Now the government supports us,” says Shao Longshan, his cheeks still tear-stained after bowing deeply in front of the grave of his late wife, Zhu Jiefen, at a cemetery on the outskirts of Shanghai during the Qingming Festival in early April. “Not only does this let the people who are alive remember those who have gone, but [it allows us to] keep the Chinese traditions and culture.”

So be sure to tune in to your local NPR station and give a listen. The transcript will most likely be up tomorrow, here. What will a revival of indigenous religion in China mean for the future? A simple counter-balance, along with Buddhism and Taoism, to the growing influence of Christianity? Or will their be a new political consciousness among those who adhere to these deities? Will these believers form new ties outside of China with Pagan, Hindu, or indigenous groups?

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

Top Story: Alejandro Amenábar’s film “Agora”, based on the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, is finally seeing a limited release in American theaters  this weekend after achieving financial and critical success in Europe last year. American reviews are starting to trickle in, here’s A. O. Scott from the New York Times.

“Mr. Amenábar, working from an insightful script that he wrote with Mateo Gil, focuses on two moments when the ancient culture war reached a fever pitch and shows that no group is entirely innocent of violence and intolerance. Whoever is in power tries to preserve it by fair means or foul, and whoever wants power uses brutality to acquire it. So in the first half of the film the insurgent Christian mob draws pagan blood, and the beleaguered pagan elite, including Theon and Orestes, meets the threat with savagery.”

Other American reviews can be found at Movieline and Vanity Fair. Here’s pictures from a special screening at NYC’s MOMA on Wednesday. So check with your local art-house theater and see if they’ll be getting it.

So Far So Good For Pagan Festival In Livingston: The much-discussed Memorial weekend Pagan festival in Livingston Parish, Louisiana is now underway, and other than a minor incident of vandalism, there don’t seem to be any major problems.

“Cliff Eakin, owner of Gryphon’s Nest campground on Bull Run Road, said he expected the bulk of the weekend’s participants to arrive today. Eakin said he had one instance of vandalism by teenagers on the campground’s sign, so he hired security personnel to protect participants in the weekend celebration … The event that started Friday night was scheduled to run through Monday. Perry Rushing, chief of operations of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, said he had met with Eakin, the operator of the campground, and was assured that the event would consist of people practicing their religion and would not involve anything illegal. “We have no interest in that,” Rushing said.”

Rushing, who initially said he “vehemently opposed” a Pagan festival in his Parish, now says he doesn’t expect any problems. Let’s hope he’s right, and the locals realize that the world didn’t end simply because a bunch of Pagans decided to congregate in their Parish for a weekend of camping and celebrating.

Is Alternative Right, Wrong? Nick Pell of the socialist-oriented Red Star Times, and one of the former masterminds behind Key23 and Key64 (and now Esozone), puts the spotlight on the conservative “radical traditionalist” site Alternative Right.

“My first subject of study is Alternative Right, a particularly noxious website that brands itself as “radical traditionalist.” For those who aren’t familiar with the term, radical traditionalist is a term used by hipsters, goths and faux-erudite who espouse fascist ideology but want a term with more intellectual cache. Radical traditionalist favorites include Oswald Spengler, Julius Evola and Alain de Benoist. Associated (allegedly) political movements include Eurasianism, metapolitics, third positionism and national anarchism. Alternative right is an exemplar of radical traditionalism and fascism in as much as it begins with hatred of minorities, women and the working class and proceeds to construct a bizarre mish-mash of gobbledygook as “ideology” after the fact.”

My readers may remember my own foray into the world of Alternative Right when I covered their interview with Asatru leader Stephen McNallen (here’s McNallen’s response to that article). There definitely seems to be some nasty elements hiding within some of the rhetoric at Alternative Right, especially their sympathetic coverage of the National Anarchists, who really do seem to be neo-fascist in orientation. I do think one can be a radical traditionalist (at least as some people define it) without being a racist or a crypto-fascist, but you certainly can’t do it while tolerating and including those elements in your “big tent”.

Reviewing the Chaplains Under Fire: Pagan author and poet Erynn Rowan Laurie, who writes for the PNC blog Warriors & Kin, has an in-depth review up at Patheos of the documentary “Chaplains Under Fire”, which explores the world of military chaplains.

“One interview illustrated the difficulties faced by non-Christians quite clearly. Rev. Billy Baughaum of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, a retired military chaplain, verbally and physically expressed absolute disgust and revulsion for the Wiccan faith, openly mocking it. At one point in his interview, he said, “I think the Wicca religion is repulsive, however if there’s a Wicca [sic] chaplain who comes, I will swallow my grimace, but I believe the first amendment, he has a right or she has a right to pray to the horned god of the north. … Although I think it’s a bunch of baloney personally … if that’s what they want to pray to I will put on my greens again and get in a foxhole and I’ll support their right to do that.” A statement that he believes in first amendment rights is not a commitment to neutrality in actually helping servicemembers in need of spiritual counsel. How genuinely can someone serve another spiritually when they are attempting to “swallow my grimace” and disguise hatred and contempt for the person seeking help? I cannot imagine feeling comfortable in the office of a chaplain who openly and publicly states that other religions are false and that they find them repulsive; that hatred cannot help but transfer over to the individual practicing the hated faith.”

The whole thing is very much worth reading, and I encourage you to do so. As we enter Memorial Day weekend, being aware of what our Pagan military personnel (past and present) have to deal with on an ongoing basis is vitally important.

Good Journey Alexei Kondratiev: In a final note, I’d just like to point to a few touching blog memorials for Celtic scholar Alexei Kondratiev, who died earlier this week from a heart attack; including tributes from Jason Fisher, Erynn Rowan Laurie, and Cat Chapin-Bishop.

“Here is what I do know: For twenty-five years, I have been a Pagan, and for all of those years, I have felt that I am weaving something, a kind of cloth or tapestry, together with my friends. Paganism is so new, and, when it is working well, so warming and so full of hospitality, that for me at least, the heart of my experience as a Pagan has been the weaving together all of our separate lives to form one fabric, one community honoring the earth and the old gods. I’ve never cared particularly who called himself a shaman, who a Witch or a Hellene or a Druid, because I have felt it in my bones how much we are woven together as kin. Believe it or not, today is the first day I have properly understood: the whole time I have been weaving, weaving my life and the lives of those I love into this fabric, time has been unweaving it again at the other end. Alexei has died. And part of the world is gone.”

For those who can make it, the wake will be Tuesday, 1st of June, from 2pm-5pm and from 7pm-10pm at Gleason Funeral Home 149-20 Northern Blvd, Flushing, 11358. The funeral, Wednesday, 2nd of June, 10:45am, St Andrew Avellino 158th Street and Northern Blvd, Flushing.

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

For those of you who like to keep track of Pagan and occult themes in pop-culture and the arts, I’ve got a few goodies to share. First, online magazines Right Where You Are Sitting Now and Dangerous Minds profile a new short (7 & 1/2 minute) film by Brian Butler entitled “Night of Pan”.

“‘Night of Pan’ is a seven and a half minute film featuring film auteur Kenneth Anger and actor Vincent Gallo. The film has been screened in various versions internationally – Beijing, Lisbon, Cannes, Athens, Rome, Berlin and elsewhere, but never in Butler’s base, Los Angeles. In the film, Anger, Gallo, and Butler depict an occult ritual that symbolizes the stage of ego death in the process of spiritual attainment.”

If you’re going to do a short ritualistic art-film, there’s no finer stamp of approval than getting Kenneth Anger (the undisputed master of the genre, and long-time Thelemite) to co-star in it. After it’s finished making the festival rounds, maybe they’ll post the whole thing to Youtube?

Turning from short art-films with Pagan and occult themes to long big-budget historical films with pagan themes, I have some “Agora” (the film about Hypatia of Alexandria) news to share. While Americans are still awaiting an official release date for the film, in Spain it has garnered 13 Goya Award nominations from the Spanish Film Academy.

“[Alejandro] Amenabar said at the ceremony in the Academy building that it had been “a great year for Spanish cinema” and was quick to push the worth of his fellow nominees, Agora co-scriptwriter Mateo Gil and lead actress Rachel Weisz.”

Now if we can only get a release date! Perhaps the new flurry of international acclaim and press will speed things along?

In a final “and water’s wet” sort of note, Vatican media isn’t pleased with the pantheistic elements of the global mega-blockbuster “Avatar”, criticizing it for turning “creation” into a “divinity to worship”.

“L’Osservatore said the film “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature.” Similarly, Vatican Radio said it “cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.” “Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship,” the radio said.”

And while we should never conflate Vatican media with the official opinion of the Pope, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi did state that these views “reflect” Benedict XVI’s opinions on the matter. Indeed, how could they not?  The pontiff has a long history of warning against the dangers of “neo-paganism”, especially within the context of environmental concerns. I’m sure Ross Douthat is excited to be so “on the same page” as his spiritual authority.

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

A Few Quick Notes

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 21, 2009 — 3 Comments
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I have a few news items to start off your Saturday, beginning with a story that’s spread like wildfire through the political and religious blogospheres gaining mainstream coverage, and its all about prayer. Specifically its about “imprecatory prayer”, the Christian equivalent to malefic “black” magic (you’re basically asking God to kill, maim, or trouble some person). While there have been a few high-profile imprecatory prayer stories popping up lately, the most recent centers on a meme and line of merchandise urging people to “pray” for President Barack Obama, invoking the biblical Psalm 109:8 “let his days be few; and let another take his office”. It seems rather harmless as imprecatory prayers go until you read the rest of the psalm in question.

“It was, most likely, intended as a joke.  But it isn’t really very funny.  Especially since the next verse reads, “May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow.”  The passage goes on the same way–asking God to pulverize this poor fellow–that he lose all his worldly goods, that his orphans be abandoned, that his father be remembered as a sinner, and finally, that “his memory be cut off from the earth.” Thus, the “Prayer for Obama,” does more than anticipate that he leaves office; it entreats God to destroy the president.”

Supporters and opponents of this prayer are battling it out at Cafe Press, with stores being removed and reinstated. Meanwhile, pundits are split on whether this is harmless fun, or yet another sign that far-right Christianity is coming unglued and “trawling for assassins”. How should Pagans and occultists, many of whom believe in the power of magic and intention, react to these sort of stories? Harmless? Or the beginning of a particularly nasty egregore?

Turning from prayer to more material conflicts over belief, Chas Clifton reports on a Russian Orthodox priest who was recently murdered in his church. 34-year-old Daniil Sysoyev was missionary who bragged of converting 80 Muslims personally, and wrote several books critical of Islam, gaining many death-threats in the process. But while this seems a rather open-and-shut case of a Russian Muslim taking revenge against a firebrand converter of Muslims, authorities are also looking at other groups, like Russian Pagans.

“Sysoyev also worked with former members of religious sects and wrote a book on Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovahs’ Witnesses. He also spoke out against nationalists and Stalinists, whom he criticized on his blog for ignoring the murder of innocent people.”

None of the articles specifically mentions Pagans when they mention “various religious sects”, but the ABC article links the phrase to another report they did on Russian Pagans, so they must know something we don’t. Clifton points out that Russian Pagans do come into direct conflict with the Russian Orthodoxy and “are more likely to have their own line of “blood and soil” rhetoric and to claim that they represent the true spirituality of their people”. All that said, I’m siding with Occam’s razor on this one, so the Russian Pagans and hard-liner Stalinists most likely have little to worry about during the investigation.

In a final note, it looks like “Agora”, which centers on the life (and death) of Neoplatonist pagan philosopher Hypatia, has finally found an American distributor and will hit theaters in early 2010.

“Alejandro Amenabar’s intellectual epic that had sat without a U.S. buyer for six months, has found a stateside home. Newmarket Films has picked up U.S. rights to the Rachel Weisz starrer and is prepping a release for the first half of 2010.”

Distribution deals finally materialized after the film starting doing far better than expected in European markets. So we’ll finally get a chance to see “Agora” on the big screen, anyone want to place bets on if/when it will gain American protesters?

Some big-screen news for those with Pagan views! We start off with an update on “The Wicker Tree”, the currently-shooting spiritual companion/sequel to the 1973 cult-classic “The Wicker Man”. On Halloween in New York, a special screening of “The Wicker Man” was held (along with a cool concert featuring Silver Summit), and director Robin Hardy was on hand to talk about the cult-classic and screen ten minutes of footage from the new film. Lucky for us all, Dread Central was there and files a report.

“Next, he introduced a 10-minute (rough cut, the sound was incomplete) clip of The Wicker Tree (2010), which follows The Wicker Man in “style” and slightly in story. The clip was not a 10-minute chunk but rather snippets of various scenes in the film. Beth (Brittania Nicol) is a born-again Christian music star with a haughty Britney Spears past and a cowboy boyfriend, Steve (Henry Garrett). Both are missionaries sent by their reverend to bring the “Lord’s love” to Scotland. During their trip, Beth’s beau takes a dip in some sacred springs with a voluptuous libertine only to find himself in another scene cornered by the strange townsfolk singing and out for blood.”

Sounds like fun! Lets hope it holds a candle to the original movie, and doesn’t fall in the horribleness of the ill-advised 2006 remake. They also seem to all-but-confirm that Sir Christopher Lee will be making a cameo as Lord Summerisle, linking the two films together into the same shared universe. Needless to say I await more news of the film, including its release date.

Turning from fictional Pagans looking for a sacrifice to a famous pagan trying to escape Christian mobs, we look at the status of the film “Agora”, which centers on the life (and death) of Neoplatonist pagan philosopher Hypatia. The film, while winning critical accolades, has experienced trouble in finding an American distributor, and was encountering protests in places like Spain due to its “anti-Christian” tone. Well, it seems that the film has been a smash-hit in Europe, and it’s looking like Sony may put in a bid for American distribution.

“Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group is considering a bid for U.S. distribution rights to Alejandro Amenabar’s ancient historical epic “Agora,” starring Rachel Weisz. “Agora’s” boffo performance at the Spanish B.O. in recent weeks has sparked renewed interest in the film, which is being shopped domestically by John Sloss’ Cinetic Media and overseas by Focus Features Intl. … Bowing in Spain on Oct. 9, “Agora” scored the highest opening of the year, and to date has cumed $25 million dollars. It’s topped the box office there over the past four weekends, and even bested the debut of Michael Jackson topliner “This Is It,” from Sony, during the Oct. 30-Nov. 1 frame. Pre-AFM, other territories Focus Intl. had sold include France, Germany, Scandinavia and Greece. Rights have been sold for Taiwan and Thailand as well.”

Director Alejandro Amenabar is apparently also willing to cut 20 minutes from the film in order to make it run a tidy two hours, further tempting the bean-counters at Sony (and Fox, who are also expressing interest). Could we be lucky enough to see a winter release here in America? Or possibly early Spring? We’ll keep our eyes open.

Finally, the long-awaited (well, by some of us) remake of “Clash of the Titans” has released a trailer!

I know it, like the original, completely mangles Greek myth, but I have to admit that I had a little geek-tingle from the younger Jason who watched the original like a million times on cable when I was a kid. I also kind of hope they keep the symphonic metal soundtrack they utilize in the trailer, I mean, it’s not historical anyway, so let’s go all out! “Clash of the Titans” is due out in March.

Catholic groups in Spain are protesting the soon-to-open film “Agora” (about the death of Hypatia of Alexandria) saying it is “biased” and “anti-Christian”.

“The president of the Religious Anti-Defamation Observatory, Antonio Alonso Marcos, has sent an open letter to Amenabar, also know for his pro-euthanasia film “The Sea Inside,” denouncing the film’s anti-Christian bias. “The reason for my letter is to make you realize something that you already know but have dismissed as unimportant: your film is going to awaken hatred against Christians in today’s society. You present a biased view of the relationship between science and the Church, between faith and reason. It has been pointed out to you directly and indirectly, and you have used a somewhat vague excuse and looked the other way,” Marcos wrote.”

Spanish Catholics would obviously prefer that the past misdeeds of Christianity be forever tucked away and never mentioned. To do otherwise is to be “biased” against them (they also claim it will “awaken hatred against Christians”). Of course it’s just fine for Catholics to constantly criticize paganism, both ancient and modern, they have no concerns about being seen as “anti-pagan” (indeed it is a point of pride). Despite these attacks, Oscar-winning director Alejandro Amenabar makes it clear that his movie is about violent extremists not common believers.

“The movie denounces people who at a certain moment stop debating ideas, set aside reason, have no room for dialogue and resort to violence. This happened 1,600 years ago and it continues happening today…”

As for the film, it is still looking for distributors in America, and once/if it does, expect more cries of protest from those who would like everyone to forget that Christians weren’t always the persecuted, but instead acted as persecutors as well.

The movie “Agora”, which centers on the life of Neoplatonist pagan philosopher Hypatia, had its first official screening at the Cannes Film Festival and initial reviews are trickling in from the entertainment press. While some thought the epic overreached and fell a bit flat, others, like Variety’s Todd McCarthy, thinks the film succeeds with its handling of difficult subjects despite some “dramaturgical” shortcomings.


Director Alejandro Amenábar with Rachel Weisz

“…there is much in the picture to sustain sympathetic interest, including its dedicated historical perspective, intellectual seriousness and credible presentation of epic film elements that have often tripped up filmmakers in the past. Then there is the physical side of the production, which is genuinely impressive. Lensing entirely in Malta, Amenabar has fleshed out real locations with extensive sets and helpful (and largely undetectable) CGI extensions to provide a striking impression of a legendary ancient city. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas has mixed traditional Greco-Roman style buildings with Egyptian motifs and various interior decorative influences to palpably evoke a Mediterranean port city where many cultures convened. Gabriella Pescucci’s costumes colorfully support this approach, and Xavi Gimenez’s widescreen lensing captures it all with colorful mobility. Dario Marianelli’s score is rich, with occasional swells into the bombastic.”

Also speaking positively about the film are the Hollywood Reporter’s Natasha Senjanovic, who says that Rachel Weisz gives an “unfaltering” performance as Hypatia, and Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times who calls the film rich in “visual imagination”. As for the historical accuracy buffs, The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins calls “Agora” a “gift to classicists”.

“Classicists are going to have a field day with Alejandro Amenábar‘s Agora, which premiered yesterday at the Cannes film festival. Starring Rachel Weisz as Hypatia, the 4th- to 5th-century Alexandrian astronomer, philosopher and mathematician, who was brutally killed by an angry Christian mob, it avoids some of the pitfalls of movies set in the ancient world. The characters behave naturally and speak normally, without either jolting archaisms or ridiculous anachronisms, and the world that has been created to stand in for Alexandria – a huge set on Malta – works well, with minimum CGI nastiness and an obvious attention to historical detail. The costumes and the “look” of the characters was based on Romano-Egyptian mummy portraits, said Amenábar at his press conference, and that was deftly done.”

Even better, Higgins assures us that the film manages to “deftly” include the famous tale of Hypatia repelling a suitor by showing him her menstrual rags. Also reassuring to those worried that Hypatia the virgin philosopher would be thrust into romance is this comment by director Alejandro Amenabar when counselling Rachel Weisz in the role.

“Rachel had accepted the part, but then she grew worried about that solitude, so she called me one day to talk,” Amenabar recalls. “I told her, ‘Remember, I’m not offering you the part of the scientist’s wife. You are the scientist. And you are very much in love — you’re just in love with the sky.’ ”

So it looks like “Agora” really will be a treat for Pagan film-goers once it sees wide release in December. Prepare to ramp up your expectations! I can’t wait to see this one on the big screen.