Archives For Italy

Back in September, I helped facilitate a crowdfunding campaign for Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum so that he could attend  Awakened World 2012 in Rome, Italy, a gathering of religious and spiritual leaders that seeks to “call attention to shifting paradigms in our world today- including concern for human rights and the environment – and help facilitate the religious and spiritual healing of the world.” That campaign was successful, and I was able to speak with McCollum by phone yesterday from Florence, Italy. He described amazing breakthroughs and opportunities for modern Pagans that were emerging from his time at Awakened World, and says that he looks forward to sharing them in-depth on his return to the United States. In the meantime, Patrick has posted some updates and photos to the Patrick McCollum Foundation’s Facebook page.

Patrick McCollum with Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, & Tenzin Tethong of the Dalai Lama Foundation.

Patrick McCollum with Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, & Tenzin Tethong of the Dalai Lama Foundation.

“As the meetings and dialogue here at the Awakened World gathering in Rome move forward, we are not only working on solutions toward peace and sustainability, we are getting to know one another and making friends. As many of you know, one of my main objectives in representing our community is to create concrete alliances around the world while at the same time putting a face on our traditions and the things we hold sacred and can contribute. As a result, several of those goals are quickly coming to fruition. I now have many new friends from other traditions who are gaining respect for our views and offering to stand together. And even more powerful, several of us have agreed to work together on important tangible projects that both contribute to solutions to our planet’s larger problems and allow our community to be seen in a positive light.”

McCollum also said that “many of our discussions here dovetail with those circling in our own communities, and it is clear that we have much to contribute.” Some of the high-profile guests at Awakened World 2012 include Ela Gandhi, granddaughter of Mohandas Gandhi, and Tenzin Tethong, former Prime Minister (Kalon Tripa) of the Central Tibetan Administration (both pictured above with Patrick McCollum).

We will be hearing more from Patrick at The Wild Hunt once he returns. In the meantime, you can follow his foundation’s Facebook page for updates. For those unfamiliar with McCollum’s work on behalf of modern Pagans, specifically in chaplaincy, here are a few links from The Wild Hunt archives that detail some of his exploits.

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.

Large interfaith gatherings can often be fraught with long-simmering tensions, just ask the folks who put on the Parliament for the World’s Religions, but it is generally thought that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. That getting leaders and clergy of the major religions in the same room to find common ground and common understanding will bring dividends of lasting peace (or at least bring about greater tolerance). Yesterday, in Assisi, Italy the Catholic Church sponsored a massive interfaith gathering, the third such gathering to directly involve a sitting Pope (hence, “Assisi III” in Catholic circles), and the 25th anniversary of the first such meeting. In his address to the gathering, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that Christianity has used violence to achieve its ends, and that this is against the spirit of his faith.

“As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God who put “suffering-with” (compassion) and “loving-with” in place of force. His name is “God of love and peace” (2 Cor 13:11). It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.”

Benedict has long been categorized as skeptical of interfaith efforts such as these, and famously criticized the first Assisi gathering, saying that it could lead to the impression that all faiths are valid. As a consequence, great pains were taken to avoid the impression of unified prayer at this event, and to assert that profound theological differences exist between the world’s faiths.

“In the 1960’s a theologian wrote (and I paraphrase as I can’t seem to find my copy of the work this morning), “Polytheism was half-right. It understood that God was immanent in the world. But, it missed the fact that God also transcends the world.” The theologian? Joseph Ratzinger of course. If one of the reasons to gather religious leaders of different faiths together was to focus on the first half, the part polytheists got right, that is well and good. But, for Benedict, we cannot neglect the other half, nor the fact that we Catholic Christians do not pray to the same God as our polytheist brothers.”

However, these measures weren’t enough for some Catholic traditionalists, who felt the very gathering together  of religious leaders with the Pope was a blasphemy too far.

“…the very nature of a pan-religious event with representatives of the world, most of them pagan, is to foster religious indifferentism and religious relativism.  Yet in the months leading up to the third major Assisi affair, we have been told repeatedly by Vatican officials that this latest manifestation of religious relativism will actually be an attack on religious relativism. That this manifestation of religious indifferentism will actually avoid religious indifferentism. Such a promise does not correspond to realty. The only way to avoid religious indifferentism in a pan-religious event is to not hold the event.”

Also unhappy with the event were agnostics and atheists, who, while invited to the event, were also singled out for criticism in the Pope’s address to the gathering.

The Vatican made a big publicity push out of Pope Benedict XVI’s personal initiative to invite atheists to this week’s interfaith dialogue at Assisi, Italy. It was supposed to be a day of reflection and dialogue, but Benedict XVI, with four atheists in attendance at his invitation, turned the meeting into yet another attack against atheists. ”God’s absence”, the Pope argued, would lead to violence and even concentration camps, because denial of the Divine “corrupts men, deprives them of restraint, making them lose their humanity”. By contrast, said the Pope, use of violence in the name of religion would only be “an abuse of the Christian faith.” ”Again and again the Pope reveals himself as an ‘atheophobe’” says Raffaele Carcano, head of the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR), an International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) member organization. “His attacks against atheists, and his pretension to acquire agnostics, are a clear attempt to demonize the unbelief that’s increasingly spreading throughout the world, as acknowledged by the clearly worried Pope himself.”

It seems pretty clear from his statement that Benedict invited the four agnostics “so that God, the true God, becomes accessible” to them. Perhaps I am wrong about this, but it seems like one step forward, two steps back, in regards to outreach with agnostics and atheists.

From a personal perspective, I applaud the spirit of Assisi, interfaith gatherings that have been taking place every year since 1986 and made this anniversary celebration possible. I also think that the current Pope will always be caught between too much and not enough. Any move towards reconciliation and understanding with non-Christians will be seen as a betrayal by traditionalists and hardliners, while his outreach toward bringing extremist groups like the Society of St Pius X back into full communion, and his track record of hostility towards indigenous and non-monotheistic faiths will ensure outreach half-measures bring as much criticism as praise. He is fundamentally limited by his very role and purpose, unable as an individual to bring healing while existing as the living embodiment of his faith. Any step too far in one direction would rupture the Catholic world, destroying a balance that has allowed it to become one of the world’s largest faiths.

So, what, if one believes in the power of interfaith work, can be done? I honestly believe that interfaith can’t be a top-down affair, at least not in today’s world. The heads of the dominant monotheisms are all immobilized by the same problems that haunt Benedict, while the non-monotheistic world faiths, being largely decentralized, have no single leader that guides them all. I think the best leaders and clergy can do is to simply allow interfaith work to happen, through projects like the Parliament for the World’s Religions, or the United Religions Initiative,  so that the ground can shift under them. The absence of persecution for interfaith involvement may not seem like much, but is a core building block for future change. In 25 years a Cardinal hostile to interfaith became a Pope willing to meet and talk with the world’s faiths (albeit with restrictions), what will the next 25 years bring? If we allow the interfaith movement to grow, I’m hopeful we can see massive advances in my lifetime.

I also think that Pagan intrafaith (and intramovement) work needs to become a far more serious consideration. As a diverse movement of unique and individual faiths we have allowed too much to be taken for granted, and made far too many assumptions, threatening to create permanent divisions between natural allies. We need to stop building councils and start building Pagan gatherings that engage in the hard work of actually listening to one another. The days when any small handful of individuals could speak for our now-global movement are over. I think we are ready to emerge as a much-needed perspective in world events, but it can only happen if we respect our own nature and reality.

Top Story: A Pagan temple under construction in Poltava, Ukraine, was vandalized, and its keeper hospitalized, at the end of September, sparking waves of sadness and outrage among the global Pagan movement. M. Horatius Piscinus at the Patheos blog Religio et Pietas had the first report on October 1st, identifying it as a Nova Roma temple dedicated to Jupiter Perennus.

A message of "Die Heathens" left at the site.

A message of "Die Heathens" left at the site.

“The Kalends of September proved long and full, and now another Kalends comes upon us.  The Ides (13 Sept) celebrates the anniversary of the dedication of the Temple of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva atop the Capitoline Hill of Rome. It is therefore especially sad to learn that the Temple of Jupiter Perennus that is being built for our community in Poltava, Ukraine, was attacked last Monday night by a group of Orthodox Christians. Our chief priest of Jupiter, the Flamen Dialis Marcus Corvus was injured while defending the altar of Jupiter and has been hospitalized. This comes after news that another Christian band attacked a Romuva sanctuary in Lithuania. Even here in Ohio, some years ago, Christians attacked a sanctuary that was erected by a CUUPS group on the grounds of a Unitarian church in Fairlawn, a suburb of Akron.   While sad to hear such events continue today, it is no shock to learn of them. Not when ministers like John Hagey preach that “Tolerance is a sin,” when Pat Robertson, among others, blamed the 9/11 attacks on pagans, or when Rev. Billingsly, the former minister of the Akron Baptist Temple, once preached from the pulpit to his congregation that they ought to burn pagans at the stake.  Such is the face of the “New Christianity” that we are met with each day, and now it has touched my friend Corvus and his family.”

The next day, the Cultus Deorum Romanorum blog posted photos of the desecration, and Kenaz Filan pointed out that this isn’t an isolated incident in the Ukraine.

“Despicable as this crime is, it’s not the first such attack in Poltava.  On April 13, 2002, some 50 young men leaving a soccer game attacked a nearby synagogue:  hurling stones and yelling “Kill the Jews,” they broke some twenty windows and beat up two people, one the son of Kiev’s chief rabbi. In July 2008 a Holocaust memorial was smeared with paint and anti-Semitic graffiti.   And in October 2001 a Roma family’s house was set afire: five people died in the conflagration, including a six-year old girl and three-year old boy.  The Poltava police showed little interest in finding the responsible parties, which is unsurprising since a Poltava police officer allegedly led the assailants.”

Filan also points out that Pagan groups in the Ukraine aren’t completely blameless, and that some nationalistic strains of Paganism in that country have engaged in attacks on Orthodox churches. Still, the deeds of some Pagan groups in the Ukraine do not excuse violence towards any or all Pagans by Orthodox Christian mobs. At his personal blog, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus said he was “horrified”, but not surprised at this incident.

“With the way worldwide Christianity is progressing at present, particularly in some areas that don’t have the same views on religious liberty that the U.S. supposedly enshrines in its highest laws of the land, insecure Christians with something to prove (mostly to themselves, which is truly sad) feel the need to lash out at others. May their vandalism and intolerance be met with redoubled efforts on the part of the Flamen and his associates to honor their gods in the face of adversity, and may all of the gods of healing (perhaps including Ares) assist him in his recovery.”

You can find more commentary from a variety of Pagans and polytheists at Sannion’s blog as well. For those wanting to donate toward the rebuilding of what was destroyed, you can donate here.

In Other News:

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

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

The Passing of a Poet: The New York Times has posted an obituary of poet Janine Pommy Vega, who passed away on December 23rd due to a heart attack. Vega was an intimate of several Beat Generation writers, most notably Peter Orlovsky, who was once her lover. Among the Goddess community, she may be most famous for her 1997 book “Tracking the Serpent,” a memoir and travelogue of “pilgrimages to sites of female spiritual and temporal power.”

Here’s an excerpt from a 1997 Boston Phoenix profile concerning the book:

Following on this touchingly understated tragedy is the book’s spiritual turning point: a near-fatal car crash. During her months of convalescence, she happens on a book about the female images of the ancient Celts: the owl-eyed goddess, the mother/protector, the huntress in her antler mask. She responds to their Jungian echo of millennia of creative female voices; they symbolize her fight to put her broken mind and body back together. They are also the seed of her travels. “As I read into the early-morning hours,” she recounts, “an owl began calling at my window. Slowly the idea coalesced of making a pilgrimage to the ancient sites . . . I needed to reaffirm something in me that felt ripped apart and empty.”

Thus begin years of introspective journeying. Vega visits the ancient sites where the goddess was worshipped: Glastonbury, Silbury, and Avebury in England, the high hills of Ireland, the shrine of the Virgin in Chartres Cathedral. She studies Vedic myth in desolate Himalayan temples, explores the earth cults of the Andes, participates in a yage ceremony in Peru, where believers coax visions from the potent, peyote-like hallucinogen ayahuasca. Fascinated by the survival of these ancient, poetic faiths in remote agricultural regions across the globe, she becomes both scholar and mystic — a Boddhisatva seeking an image of herself among the ruins.

For more tributes, check out here, here, and here.

New York Times Discovers the Green Dragon: The NYT’s Green blog looks in on the growing evangelical Christian backlash against environmentalism, referencing the fear-mongering “Resisting the Green Dragon” video series. According to “green dragon” promoter Calvin Beisner, Christians who support environmental causes, and admit the reality of global warming, “probably did not understand the science,” and that Christian “creation care” is “infected by the false worldview and theology of secular and pagan religious environmentalism.”

“Mr. Beisner, a former professor of theology and a ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, argued that the science is still unsettled on whether greenhouse gases are warming the climate and that projections of dangerous human-driven warming in the future are flawed and unreliable. But an “Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming” on the Cornwall Alliance’s Web site urges all evangelicals to accept that recent global warming is natural and that mankind is incapable of altering the climate.”

We’re incapable of altering the climate! God is in control! All who say differently are secularists or Pagans! Never mind the fact that humanity has been altering the climate for thousands of years, or that major climate change skeptics have been doing about faces recently. Even if you happen to believe that climate change has little or nothing to do with humanity, to audaciously endorse that we do nothing, that we continue as if everything will work out, is to turn a blind eye to the damage climate change is already doing to the world. Every inane joke about blizzards and global warming (refusing to distinguish weather from climate) simply reinforces how uniformed we truly are, and how insulated most of us are from the problems these changes in the climate are causing.

Who’s Invited to Benedict’s Interfaith Pilgrimage? In 1986 a massive interfaith gathering convened by Pope John Paul II was held in Assisi, Italy  in order to foster peace and dialog between different faiths. Since then the yearly event has become something of a political football within Catholicism, loved by the Catholic left, and often reviled by the Catholic right. The current Pope, since his days as Cardinal Ratzinger, has been a vocal critic of the gatherings. In 2005, most likely spurred by false rumors spread by an Italian journalist saying the Franciscans allowed African animists to slaughter chickens on the altar of the basilica of Santa Chiara, and American redskins to dance in the church,” (a rumor shamelessly repeated by Rod Dreher) Pope Benedict XVI removed autonomy from the Franciscans of Assisi. Now, with the 25th anniversary of the gathering approaching, Benedict says he’ll be attending “as a pilgrim” and is calling for “all men of good will” to attend.

Celebrating World Peace Day on Saturday, Benedict said that he would travel as a pilgrim to Assisi in October, inviting Christians of other confessions, leaders of other world faiths “and, ideally, all men of good will, to recall the historic gesture sought by my predecessor and to solemnly renew the commitment of the faithful of all religious to live their own religious faith as a service for the cause of peace.”

So now we get down to it. Who, exactly, will be attending? How many polytheists, animists, and non-monotheists will be in attendance? Will any indigenous religious leaders show up? What about any of the Pagans serving as trustees for  The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (Andras Corban-ArthenPhyllis Curott, and Angie Buchanan)? Would they be allowed to come if they wanted? Could they rub shoulders with the pilgrim Pope? Will the man who predicted that Buddhism would replace Marxism as the Catholic Church’s main enemy this century, and that native populations were “silently longing” for conversion truly allow himself to be on equal ground with other non-Christian religions? I’ll be paying close attention to this issue, as we approach October.

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

While the mainstream media continues to figure out this whole “dabble-gate” thing with Christine O’Donnell I think I’ll take a quick moment to focus on what’s going on with some actual Pagans. After all, September is Pagan Pride season, so why don’t we check in with how coverage is going of these events.

The Salem News covers the Eastern Mass Pagan Pride, and produces a rather charming video piece to accompany the main article called “Faces of Pagan Pride Day”.

“This (festival) is a place for folks to get together and express themselves without the fear of persecution,” said Carol Fairbank, the local coordinator of EMPP. “(Paganism) is just starting to be something that is acceptable to practice out in the open. We’re hoping people will come to this festival, look around and think, ‘Wow. Look how many of us there are.’”

They also interview Salem Witch Lori Bruno, who co-hosts the show “Hex Education” with promoter and shop-owner Christian Day. It is, on the whole, a very positive piece.

Also fairly decent, though not quite as good, is the write-up of the 10th Annual Central North Carolina Pagan Pride Day Festival by the News & Observer who begins their piece with “it’s no longer scandalous to be a pagan”.

“At the entrance to the festival, there were barrels filled with donated cans and boxes for the N.C. Food Bank. On Saturday, a Rex blood mobile unit was stationed nearby. Sure, there were the occasional women wearing pointy black witch hats and a few girls walking around with butterfly wings attached to their backs, but overall it was hard to tell this crowd apart from fairgoers. Asked whether pagans still suffer from discrimination, Michelle Basnett of Cary, the event’s coordinator, said, “It’s gotten amazingly better.” Back in 1999, the YMCA of Greater Durham backed out of an agreement to lease its Wake Forest campground to a pagan group. But these days pagans are no longer considered devil worshippers or Satanists with blood-dripping rituals.”

Pagans! Not the blood-drenched Satanic worshipers you once thought we were! The paper also has a photo gallery from the event, but the photographer seemed more interested in capturing a sword-fighting demo than getting shots of the attendees. Still, this is most likely a massive improvement in coverage for Pagans in North Carolina, so kudos to the organizers for putting together such a popular event.

America isn’t the only place that’s holding pride events. A paper in Italy covers a Pagan Pride celebration in Rome (Pagan Pride Italia) and uncovers some tensions between Pagan factions in that country.

Only peace, singing, dancing and joy? At Villa Pamphili, [it] should be so. But [that] some plot in the shadows of the ritual seems to be something well known, even among neo-pagans [there] are jealousies. “There are religious organizations that [work] to rebuild the original Roman worship of the pagans,” explains the neo-pagans. Just two weeks ago in Bologna, the European Council of Ethnic Religions [took place], representing the traditionalists. “But we who have nothing to do with the conservatives of pagan worship, we always showed openness and willingness to face [the public?]: after all, our inner search is similar to [their's],” recalls Vanth Spirit Walker. Who knows if the spirits will agree, Saturday 18 at Villa Pamphili, could also make their head, the guardians of tradition, Mithras, allowing the peaceful god, but gave the rain from the world began, unwelcome gift in the middle of a ceremony in the park.

So yes, even in Italy there are splits between traditionalists and eclectics. The Pagan experience truly is universal.

Finally, while not under the umbrella of the Pagan Pride campaign, in the UK the Pagan Federation North East is holding a conference this week, and even the Lord Mayor of Leeds is dropping by.

“The Pagans have persuaded Leeds’s Lord Mayor, Coun Jim McKenna and his wife Andrea to drop into the conference and Mr Speight hopes his visit will encourage others to attend. ”We are delighted the Lord Mayor is coming along, and we hope it will help dispel many people’s misconceptions about us,” he said. The Lord Mayor – who is keen to point out he is not a pagan and has never been to a pagan event before – will have a quick tour of the day-long event. Activities for visitors include talks by witch and high priestess of Sheffield Patricia Crowther, and author Philip Heselton, who has published books about witchcraft and paganism.”

I know the Lord Mayor dropping by is big news, but as Pagan I’m more excited about the fact that Patricia Crowther will be there. Still this must be major PR coup for the Pagan Federation NE, so good for them.

There are quite a few more Pagan Pride write-ups floating about up there, including some written by Pagans. Did your Pagan Pride day get written up? Was it good? Bad? Share with us in the comments.

August 26th in Italy sees the beginning of the 13th annual World Congress of Ethnic Religions. Formed in 1998 at the first gathering in Lithuania, the congress works to promote tolerance of ethnic indigenous religions and create networks of support among adherents of ethnic traditions across the world. There are member organizations from across Europe, and the Congress also welcomes delegations from India, Russia, and the United States. The theme this year is “Ethics in the Contemporary World”, and is being organized by the Italian organization Gentilitas.

“The Congress theme will be to compare the different ethical views of individual members of the religious associations within WCER to find a lowest common denominator or, more simply, to discuss ethical and religious views during the development of rings.”Federazione Pagana, Italy

WCER President Jonas Trinkunas (Romuva), who recently attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, was inspired by his experiences there to propose a change of name and focus for the organization.

“In 2009 Romuva (Association of Lithuanian traditional religion) was invited to the Parliament of World Religions held in Melbourne, Australia. Romuva was invited to participate and was an active participant in the section of the Associations of indigenous religions. During the conference I presented not only the religious activities of Romuva, but the activities of the WCER as well. The invaluable experience of having taken part in the Parliament of World Religions after ten years of WCER encouraged me to see again and define the vision and the area of our activities. That’s why I want to reassess and redefine the term which we refer to ourselves. I refer to WCER – World Congress of Ethnic Religions (World Congress of Ethnic Religions). There is a word that I propose to discuss: the change of the term ‘world’ with ‘European’. Hence the change of name to ECER – European Congress of Ethnic Religions (European Congress of Ethnic Religions).”

In addition to the various European delegations, at least two Pagans of note from the United States will be in attendance. Andras Corban Arthen of EarthSpirit (also one of the Parliament’s Board of Trustees), and Prudence Priest, a COG Elder and co-founder of the American Vinland Association. At the AVA blog, Priest has a post running down the schedule of events at the WCER, and  talks about her role “promoting Heathenism” on her travels.

“Here’s why I’m always behind. Too busy out proselytizing and promoting Heathenism to stay home and deal with paperwork. And here’s what Marina sent me. I edited the most glaring mis-translations, but wanted all of you to know where I’ll be for my next adventure. I have never been to Italy, and when I asked all my friends, not one had been to Bologna. The only two things I know about it is when I watch the “Coliandro” mysteries on PBS (the mHz International Mysteries) and they show its environs as they do on “Streets of San Francisco”; and that some church there has the largest extant zodiac sundial.”

Priest also has a personal blog set up, so hopefully she’ll be sharing her experiences at the WCER as things progress. You should also keep an eye on the EarthSpirit Voices blog for any updates that may happen there. There is also supposed to be streaming video of the WCER proceedings, check out the WCER 2010 site for more details.

My hope is that, moving forward, the Pagan community can foster better lines of communication and resource sharing between communities in the Americas, Australia, the UK, and the rest of Europe (and ultimately the whole world). The World Congress of Ethnic Religions, soon to be the European Congress of Ethnic Religions, is laying the groundwork for a better awareness of Pagan religions (whether revived, reconstructed, or indigenous) across the globe. Creating networks that will be vital for future activism and collaboration. Modern Paganism is an increasingly global phenomenon, and it’s important that we pay attention to its growth and struggles.

A few quick notes (with videos) for you this Saturday.

Eat, Love, and Pray to a Hindu God: News has been popping up all over the place concerning actress Julia Robert’s interview in Elle Magazine, where she says that she and her family are practicing Hindus.

“Roberts, 42, tells the fashion magazine that she and husband Danny Moder and their three children, 5-year-old twins Phinnaeus and Hazel and 3-year-old Henry, all go to temple to “chant and pray and celebrate.” “I’m definitely a practicing Hindu,” says Roberts, who grew up with a Catholic mother and Baptist father. That seems to make her the most famous convert since the late George Harrison, a member of the Beatles who embraced Indian mysticism in the 1960s.”

As the Politics Daily article points out, Roberts is hardly the first famous person to convert to Hinduism. But those converts weren’t about to release what is expected to be a major blockbuster picture, that grew from an already popular Oprah-approved memoir, that features praying at an Indian Ashram (and later studying with an Indonesian medicine man) as a central focus of the book. Bali has already seen a tourism boom, and I can imagine India has as well. The real question at this point is will this film, and the high-profile conversion of its star, create a new Western Hindu “boom” in America? It isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, and the reverberations of such a resurgence could have interesting effects on trends within modern Paganism. Will we see a more robust Indo-Paganism rise from all the eating, praying, and loving?

He Wants to Be President: So it’s official. Hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean is going to run for the presidency of Haiti. Time Magazine says that Jean could be the factor that engages the Haitian diaspora and creates a new relationship between Haiti and the United States.

His presidential run, win or lose, could build a long-awaited bridge between Haiti and its diaspora: a legion of expatriates and their progeny, successful in myriad fields, who number more than a million in the U.S. alone. International aid managers agree that Haiti can’t recover unless it taps into the education, capital, entrepreneurial drive and love for the mother country that Jean epitomizes — even if his French (one of Haiti’s official languages) is poor and his Creole (the other) is rusty. “A lot of Haitians are excited about this,” says Marvel Dandin, a popular Port-au-Prince radio broadcaster. “Given the awful situation in Haiti right now,” he says, “most people don’t care if the President speaks fluent Creole.”

This decision has come with criticism, including from his longtime friend and band-mate Pras, who is backing Jean’s opponent, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly (also a musician), in the November elections. What isn’t clear is where various candidates stand on the question of religion in that country, and how their win would affect Haiti’s Vodou community. Jean’s grandfather was a Vodou priest, but that isn’t necessarily an indication that he’ll concern himself with maintaining the fragile balance between Catholic, Protestant, and Vodou factions within the country. We’ll keep you updated as this election season approaches, and I’ll be looking into finding informed sources on religion and politics in Haiti.

Abbey For Sale: Have around 2 million dollars lying around? Want to buy Aleister Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema?

“The dilapidated, whitewashed Italian villa, set amid the hills of Sicily, was owned in the 1920s by Aleister Crowley, whose outrageous drug-taking, keen sexual appetite and interest in mysticism later made him a cult figure for the Beatles, David Bowie, Ozzie Osbourne and Iron Maiden. The cottage, near the town of Cefalu in Sicily, contains explicit, erotic frescoes of men and women entwined together, painted by Cambridge-educated Crowley when he lived there in the early 1920s.”

The property is in disrepair, and the locals are afraid of it, but estate agents are hoping it could be turned into a museum dedicated to Crowley (and thus attract tourists). Could a high-profile Crowley fan buy it and restore the murals? If not, there’s a very good chance this piece of occult/magickal history could be lost forever.

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

The five-day Durga Puja is one of India’s most popular festivals, and Hindus across the globe, from Moscow and Berlin to cities all across America attend (often lavish) gathering to worship the goddess Durga. However, one city for two years running has done its best to make sure local Hindus can’t have their festival.

“The Municipal Police authorities of Rome have today [Thursday] withdrawn permission, granted three weeks ago, to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome. The cancellation came a few hours before the Ambassador of India was scheduled to inaugurate the Puja at 8 pm local time. No acceptable explanation has been given. This has caused the local Indian community the loss of thousands of Euros spent in preparatory arrangements. The same thing was done in the same manner in 2008 also.”

Arif Shahid Khan, the Indian ambassador to Italy, was able to eventually get permission restored, though their festivities are now 48 hours behind schedule (imagine if Christians were forced to wait until Tuesday to celebrate Easter). While some believe these 11th-hour cancellations are Catholic retribution for the mistreatment of Christians in India (because the best way to make a point about mistreatment is to engage in it), Kanchan Gupta sees a deeper motivation.

“There could be another reason, apart from its “deep concern” about the welfare of Christians in India, for Italy’s callous disregard of the sentiments of Hindus in that country. Although the Italian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, under the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican, Italy recognises only the three religions of Semitic origin — Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All other religions are no more than paganism and are to be shamed and shunned. The Vatican would not countenance any open breach of the Lateran Treaty; Italy would not want to be seen as recognising Hinduism. “It’s only natural that Italy should have a surfeit of churches. But it’s the rejection of any other faith than Christianity, Judaism and Islam that explains why there are so many mosques but virtually no temples in Italy although this country has a large Hindu expatriate population,” my friend told me while regretting the attitude of the Government and the local authorities. According to him, there are only three temples in Italy: One in a garage in Venice; another at Frescolo and the third at Reggio Emilia. These survive at the mercy of local zoning officials.”

Catholic-dominated Italy, like Orthodox-controlled Greece, doesn’t tolerate manifestations of faith that fall too far outside the accepted Christian “norm”. In Italy you can still be prosectuted for insulting the Pope, and any whiff of modern Pagan religion gets you counted as a “Satanist” who needs an exorcism (despite all that, there is a thriving Pagan underground in Italy). These actions make Italian authorities look like vengeful thugs rather than prophetic Christians, as Gupta says in the close of his article: if Christians can celebrate Christmas in New Delhi, Hindus have the right to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome. This is non-negotiable.” Maybe these authorities need to stop worrying so much about the Christians in India, and instead start worrying about the Consitution of Italy that guarantees equal treatment under the law.

I have a few items of interest in my daily scan of the news, starting with a profile of practicing Witch and Australian singer-musician Wendy Rule. Rule is coming to Florida to perform, and the Daytona Beach News-Journal explores her Wiccan identity, and how that influences her songwriting.

A Sydney native who calls Melbourne home, Rule says, “It’s not such an unusual thing for music to have a magical and spiritual purpose. All the ritual music of traditional cultures — Aboriginal Australian and Native American shamans, folk music from across the globe, Gregorian chants and gospel music — share this same goal: to alter our consciousness and bring us in contact with the divine.” But, she adds, “I’m no more a Wiccan songwriter than I am a Scorpio songwriter, or an Australian one, or a female one. I’m just living and writing and singing and exploring my heart and soul — and I happen to be an Australian Scorpio Witch.”

While it’s nice that the paper decided to give some ink to Wendy Rule’s upcoming shows in America, you’d think they would bother to do more than simply cut-and-paste from her web site while implying they interviewed her. Maybe a long-distance phone call was too expensive for their operating budget? After all, these are hard times for newspapers.

If you want to brag once and for all that you’re as smart as (or possibly smarter than) Oberon “Grey School of Wizardry” Zell and Don “Witch School” Lewis you’ll get your chance at the upcoming St. Louis Pagan Picnic. According to a press release, they will be holding a trivia contest about “all things magical” open to all comers.

“Oberon Zell of Grey School and Don Lewis of Witch School have agreed to a trivia contest about all things magical to test their students and all comers. They plan to meet on June 13th & 14th at the St. Louis Pagan Picnic, held at Tower Grove Park. The St. Louis Pagan Picnic is the largest Pagan gathering in the Midwest, and brings together thousands for a weekend of friendship, fellowship, entertainment, teaching and merchants. The Wizards and Witches Trivia contest will be just one of the many parts to this wonderful event, but for the students of Grey School and Witch School, it is a highly anticipated one.”

The winners will receive unspecified “prizes”, one hopes that it isn’t a gift certificate to their respective schools. After all, would the winner of such a contest really need such a thing?

In a final note, workmen in Florence, Italy, while digging a hole for a new water cistern in the courthouse, stumbled across a temple to Isis.

“Workmen inside Florence’s courthouse have stumbled across a spiral column and hundreds of multicoloured fragments that experts believe may have belonged to a Roman temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis.  According to Roman news agency ANSA, the remains, dating back to the second century AD, were discovered as the men dug a five by three meter hole, barely four meters deep, for a new water cistern for the courthouse’s anti-incendiary system … the remains were “comparable” to others found over the last three centuries in the immediate area that have also been attributed to the temple of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and fertility who was later adopted by the Greeks and Romans.  The location of the temple is unknown, but it is believed to have been built just outside the Roman part of the city, near the current courthouse building…”

Florence’s archeology superintendency is currently overseeing the discovery, no announcements have been made as to what will ultimately be done with the find. Interesting that a courthouse was unwittingly built over the temple of a goddess that the Book of the Dead calls She who seeks justice for the poor people”.

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