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.
“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.”
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.
Drake Spaeth, a Clinical Psychologist and co-founder of Earth Traditions, has been named Elder Sentinel on the Council of Elders of the Brotherhood of the Phoenix, a Pagan order for Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender men who love men. Spaeth released the following statement on his appointment: “I am deeply honored to officially announce that I now hold the position of Elder Sentinel on the Council of Elders of the Brotherhood of the Phoenix, for a term of three years. The Elder Sentinel holds an “at large” position and works to ensure the security of the organization and communicate about issues in the larger Pagan context that could impact the Brotherhood in a significant way. Earth Traditions and the Brotherhood have worked well together now on several endeavors, to the mutual benefit of each, and this connection further strengthens bonds of friendship and spiritual kinship! I look forward very much to the great work our two organizations will continue to do together!” Congrats to Drake Spaeth!
Here at Patheos, columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus writes about the Christian persecution complex. Quote: “You cannot rightly claim to be in the position of a persecuted minority any longer; you have, more often than not, been the persecutors for the last 1650 years or so. For those of us who are not of your belief system, we have no interest in “dying for” our religion, because we value life and wish to have it in abundance, here, in this very good and beautiful, though flawed, world. For us, martyrdom is not a virtue nor an ideal. For us, who are now in the position that your spiritual ancestors were when your religion emerged, would you act in ways towards us that you still execrate the Romans for nearly two millennia later? “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” indeed…” Also, may I note that the ever-erudite Lupus has published a new book: “Devotio Antinoo: The Doctor’s Notes, Volume One.” I can only imagine it is excellent and that you should buy several copies.
Also at Patheos, Gardnerian Elder, author, and Beliefnet blogger Gus diZerega writes about Pagan and American individualism. Quote: “Even in its secular guise, the traditional American model of an individual is deeply Protestant. From that perspective are individual atoms with firm boundaries and each having a unique relationship with God, a relationship for which we are ultimately entirely responsible. When this idea of an individual became secularized, it usually incorporated its Protestant Christian assumptions of atomistic separation from the world and from other people.”
The English version of Pravda features an interesting interview with Yakutian ethnographer Sergei Alekseev on the Evenki clan of Deer People, and the mysteries of shamanism. Quote: “We believe that each thing in this world has its spirit, its nature, its aura, its biological field. For example, you and I are wearing glasses. Our glasses also have their own auras. If I wear your glasses, I will be looking at the world with a different pair of eyes. It was you who bought these glasses, so they have absorbed your aura and your biofield. My glasses have mine. We never pass our things of one generation to another. For example, I have a hunting knife, but I am not giving it to my son, because my son must have his own knife. My knife is my knife only. When I die, they will put my things next to me.”
Back in 2010 New York City Councilman, and Heathen Theodsman, Dan Halloran floated the idea of running for Congress, but ultimately backed down. Now he’s eyeing another step up on the political ladder, New York State Senate. Quote: “Queens Republican Councilman Dan Halloran, one of New York City’s more colorful political figures, is leaning toward running against similarly colorful Democratic state Sen. Tony Avella, according to multiple sources who have spoken with Halloran.” Will he run, and will his faith become an issue if he does? Stay tuned…
The California Literary Review anticipates Robin Hardy’s film “The Wicker Tree,” the forthcoming companion film to the classic 1973 Pagan-themed horror film “The Wicker Man.” Quote: “Early press for The Wicker Tree has not been overwhelmingly good, but one might say it has been encouragingly mixed. The original Wicker Man did not become known as “the Citizen Kaneof horror films” overnight, or even during the horror boom of the 1970s. It vanished into relative obscurity for some time before its rediscovery, and look at that baby burn now! Expecting the same kind of masterpiece all over again might be pushing it, but who is to say what the future holds? That is the magic of the cult film. And cult films about cults are extra special.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“…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.”
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
“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.’”
“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.
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.
“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.
“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
“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).”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
“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?
“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”.