Archives For Neil Gaiman

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.

Akhenaten's daughter (Tutankhamun's sister). from Mallawi Museum in Mallawi town.

Akhenaten’s daughter (Tutankhamun’s sister). from Mallawi Museum in Mallawi town.

  • One ongoing issue relating to the political tumult within Egypt (which is ongoing) has been the fate of art and antiquities looted during these times of crisis. So, it’s a small ray of light that French officials are returning five pieces that were spotted by Egyptian officials at auction. Quote: “Five antiquities looted and removed from Egypt after the Arab Spring uprising in 2011 have been returned by the French government to the Egyptian authorities. “Egyptian officials in charge of monitoring antiquities sales abroad spotted five Ptolemaic dynasty objects [323BC-30BC] for sale online, including two that were posted by a Toulouse-based auction house,” Ali Ahmed, an official at the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, told the French newspaper Le Figaro. A head, torso and arm, which were part of a glass sculpture of a man, were among the stolen items.” Egypt’s vast and rich archeological heritage has been an engine of it’s once-booming tourism industry (currently hobbled by the chaos), and the preservation of this legacy a key component of recovery. For now, it’s a hunt to restore priceless treasures of one of the ancient world’s greatest civilizations.
  • If you wanted to know more about the painting of famous Voodoo/Vodou Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb in New Orleans being painting pink, The Art of Conjure has a very good round-up of the story. Quote: “Whether it is vandalism or devotion is not the issue here, however. Rather, according to Morrison, it is the fact that it was apparently done without Mam’zelle’s consent. At least, that’s what Morrison expressed after being there in person and informing Mam’zelle that her tomb had been painted pink. Traditionally in New Orleans Voudou, Marie Laveaux is associated with the color blue, perhaps because of her association with water.” On Thursday I featured Lilith Dorsey’s views on this incident.
  • NPR has a deeper look at the recent controversy over the auction of Hopi sacred artifacts, and the struggles in general of preserving Native/indigenous sacred lands, places, and objects. Quote: “‘Indians in Arizona and elsewhere continue to be guided by religious traditions that have been handed down by the Creator,’ said James Riding In, a member of the Pawnee Nation and Indian Studies professor at Arizona State University. He adds it’s difficult for those who are not Indian to understand the spiritual connection many tribes have with their land and with items such as the Hopi sacred objects.” A nice summary of several stories that I’ve touch on over the years here at The Wild Hunt.
  • The New York Times profiles Kumar Natarajanaidu, a Hindu priest who set up a temple in the back of a retail space in Queens. Quote: “To pay the rent, Mr. Natarajanaidu uses the front portion of his temple to frame pictures and sell videos, flowers and religious apparel. But beyond the DVD counter, the temple begins, pieced together by his untrained hand. It is a hodgepodge of cleverly rigged curtains and shrines made from stray planks, tape, string and ornate wall coverings. The carpet segments are duct-taped together, and overhead is a water-stained drop ceiling. But as if by divine intervention, it all comes together as a glowing, opulent holy place, with a seductive mélange of colors and a flood of fragrant incense.”
  • Here’s BBC coverage of the Druid leader Arthur Pendragon-led protest against the display of human remains at the new Stonehenge visitor center. Quote: “Mr Pendragon said that until the bones were taken off display and reburied, he would continue a campaign that will cost English Heritage money and turn the public against them. He has claimed the bones discovered in 2008 are the remains of members of the royal line and wants them reinterred. ‘Today was just a shot across the bows – it was just a taster,’ he said.” For another perspective, I spotlighted a review of the new center, here. Here’s an excerpt from his announcement to protest.
The reality television family at the center of the Utah polygamy decision.

The reality television family at the center of the Utah polygamy decision.

  • The (much-reported) decision in Brown v. Buhman may not have legalized polygamy, but it is a victory for polyamory (and privacy). Quote: “The problems with this statutory language under the right to privacy most recently re-established in Lawrence v. Texas should be obvious. On its face, the law would prohibit not only informal consensual polyamorous relationships—problematic in itself—but any kind of intimate cohabitation between unmarried partners. Based onLawrence’s recognition of the fundamental right consenting adults have to engage in same-sex relations, it is very hard to argue that this section of the Utah statute doesn’t violate the right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.” Is this the beginning of the end of morality laws?
  • Would you like to know what author Dan “The Da Vinci Code” Brown’s superpowers are? Quote: “Given the powers of ‘Inferno’, showing a glimpse of hell with every three line poem he writes, that reflects the future in 33 minutes.”
  • You know you’ve arrived as a minority religion when conservative Christians call you out. Yes, it’s from the Duck Dynasty dude. Quote: “All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero,” Robertson explained. “That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.” Charming, isn’t he? He should get his own TV show! Oh… wait…
  • Here’s the backstory on how the Annenberg Foundation saved those Hopi and Apache sacred items at a French auction.
  • Here’s the complete “American Gods” soundtrack, if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and “The Dark Knight” screenwriter David S. Goyer are producing an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” at Warner Bros. What could possibly go wrong? For the record, Gordon-Levitt was brilliant in “Brick.”

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.

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.

Dr. Patrick F. Fagan wants you to know about the current "pagan" sexy times going on.

Dr. Patrick F. Fagan wants you to know about the current “pagan” sexy times going on.

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.

If you are a Pagan or occult practitioner of a certain age, the word “Vertigo” brings up certain associations. A speciality line of comic books launched by DC Comics in 1993, Vertigo comics focused heavily on mythic, occult, psychedelic, and magical themes, introducing American audiences to rising talents like Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and Dave McKean. Inspired by the earlier 1980s work of writers like Alan Moore and Jamie Delano, Vertigo created a new niche of “adult” comics that drew many people, myself included, back to reading comic books. I distinctly remember happening upon a write-up of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” in The Monthly Aspectarian of all places, which led me back to a comic book store for the first time in years. For me, and for many of my peers, Vertigo gave a needed dose of youth, experimentation, and anarchic cool to a Pagan/magical subculture that was still trying to adjust to a sudden boom in popularity. A lot of attention is paid The Craft and Charmed as things that brought young people to Paganism in the 1990s, but for a certain segment of Generation X, Vertigo was the pop-culture doorway of choice (they even released a tarot deck).

vertigo_logo

Now, 20 years later, and after many were questioning if the line’s time was over, DC Comics has announced six new Vertigo titles debuting this Fall, headlined by a new Neil Gaiman-penned Sandman story.

“Superheroes are the lifeblood of the comic book industry and have proved to be a big draw at the box office. But Vertigo, whose slate includes fantasy, horror and speculative fiction outside of the publisher’s mainstream lineup, has had difficulty building an audience and developing new properties. DC is hoping to change Vertigo’s fortune this fall with six new series premiering from October to December. The most anticipated project, “The Sandman: Overture,” a mini-series by Neil Gaiman, will begin on Oct. 30.”

witchinghour_NYTMost importantly for readers here, is that the bulk of the six new titles have mythic, Pagan, and occult themes. Most notably: “Hinterkind,” “Coffin Hill,” and the anthology one-shot “The Witching Hour.”

  • HINTERKIND – Decades after “The Blight” all but wiped out the human race, Mother Nature is taking back what’s hers and she’s not alone … all the creatures of myth and legend have returned and they’re not happy. After her grandfather disappears, Prosper Monday must leave the security and seclusion of her Central Park village to venture into the wilds to find him, unaware of how much the world has changed. An epic fantasy adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world, HINTERKIND is written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by Francesco Trifogli, and debuts this October.
  • COFFIN HILL – When she was 15, Eve Coffin summoned a darkness that had been buried since the Salem Witch Trials. Now Eve’s back to harness the evil that destroyed her friends and is slowly taking over the sleepy town of Coffin Hill. This is a series full of magic, madness and murder via a twisted family of New Englanders. Arriving in stores this October, COFFIN HILL combines the talents of artist Inaki Miranda (FAIREST: THE HIDDEN KINGDOM) with writer Caitlin Kittredge, a young, dark fantasy author whose writing includes the Nocturne City, the Black London, and the Iron Codex series of novels – which include the recently published titles Dark Days and The Mirrored Shard.
  • THE WITCHING HOUR – Just in time for Halloween, this anthology-style one-shot collects short stories exploring witchcraft written and drawn by some of the most talented veterans and newcomers in the business – including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Cliff Chiang, Lauren Beukes, Emily Carroll, Matthew Sturges, Shawn McManus, Tula Lotay and many more.
Sandman art by JH Williams III

Sandman art by JH Williams III

However, what will most likely draw most of us back to the shops (or the comiXology app I suppose) will be “The Sandman: Overture,” written by the now very famous Neil Gaiman, and drawn by the hugely talented J.H. Williams III, who created the amazing art for Alan Moore’s “Promethea.”

“The most peculiar thing for me about returning to ‘Sandman’ is how familiar it all feels,” Mr. Gaiman said. What is new, however, is the level of attention. “When I was writing ‘Sandman’ from 1987 to 1996, I never had the feeling at any point that approximately 50 million people were looking over my shoulder scrutinizing ever word.” (Mr. Gaiman has about two million followers on Twitter.)

For the six-issue “The Sandman: Overture,” Mr. Gaiman has been paired with J.H. Williams III, an illustrator known for his moody imagery and innovative page layouts. “They are the most beautiful pages I have ever seen in periodical comics,” Mr. Gaiman said. “I ask him to do the impossible, and he gives me back more than I asked for.”

This big new push for Vertigo comes at a time when comic book super-heroes are seen by many as blockbuster movie (and television) properties, and the innovation, strangeness, darkness, and fantasy tropes of Vertigo has been pushed to the margins. Often finding homes at smaller publishers who specialize in giving creators more control and ownership (Brian K. Vaughan’s excellent “Saga” being one notable example). However, perhaps with the new rise of adult-oriented fantasy breaking big with HBO cable television shows like “Game of Thrones,” “True Blood,” and the forthcoming Neil Gaiman-created “American Gods” series, DC Comics realizes that developing and nurturing dark, strange, and mythic fantasy might be good for their bottom line after all.

With this return of fantasy, of mythic beings and occult themes, of The Sandman himself, will it also oversee an influx of new fans? Or is this simply DC catering to a maturing fan-base? Whatever the impetus, I look forward to this new wave of Vertigo comics, and hope they can live up to that line’s past great heights.

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.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

  • Is the Chico Goddess Temple doomed? According to the Chico News and Review, noise complaints for an illegal festival held four years ago has led to a much larger struggle to survive and gain the permits needed to stay open. Owner Robert Seals thinks that hostility to Goddess religion might underlay the resistance he’s encountered in obtaining the permits he needs. Quote: “This is nothing new, worship of the Goddess, but it goes up against a lot of fundamental religions.” You can learn more about this struggle, and the upcoming appeal hearing, here.

That’s it for now! Happy Friday the 13th! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

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.

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Friday.

Swords, Sandals, and Sex: I know I’ve been talking about Starz new series “Camelot” quite a bit lately, so today I’d like to highlight an excellent essay concerning its stylistic predecessor at the cable network: “Spartacus.” Academic and Patheos.com columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has recently watched both seasons of “Spartacus,” and files this examination of how the show treats sex, history, and religion at his personal blog.

“However, my main critique of the newer Spartacus isn’t its history, nor its sexuality (although more will be said on the latter in a moment), it is precisely the matter that Rome got right (even though some bits weren’t quite right in terms of timing, e.g. the taurobolium in the first episode)–the religious aspects of Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its successors is very off. In the 1960 Spartacus, the character of Crassus (a member of the First Triumvirate) says to the very young Julius Caesar at one point that he’d like to obtain a pigeon for a sacrifice, to which Caesar replies that he thought Crassus did not believe in the gods; Crassus replies, “Privately, I believe in none of them; publicly, I believe in them all!” And this is precisely the matter that the newer incarnation of Spartacus goes wrong on–it makes the matter of the gods too much about “belief,” when that is not what pre-creedal religion’s spirituality was based upon.”

The entire essay is fascinating reading, and I’m glad P. Sufenas Virius Lupus took the time share his analysis. Popular entertainment does influence how we engage with history, and the spate of films and television set in the ancient world that depict the protagonists as modern-style atheist/agnostics (“Agora,” “Troy,” “Clash of the Titans”) do a disservice to  the adherents to pre-Christian faiths.

American Gods Coming to HBO: While fan expectation is ramping up for the epic fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” there’s another project in development for HBO that may interest modern Pagans quite a bit. It seems there’s been serious movement on bringing Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” to the cable network.

“As HBO prepares to unveil its epic-sized series adaptation of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones this Sunday, the payweb has begun talks to acquire the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods to be developed into another fantasy series. The project was brought to HBO by Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and it was brought to them by Robert Richardson. The plan is for Richardson and Gaiman to write the pilot together.”

Robert Richardson, for those who don’t recognize the name, is a famous cinematographer who has worked with directors like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. Since the show features an assortment of Pagan gods and goddesses in a variety of contexts, it will no doubt draw quite a bit of comment and interest from modern worshipers/followers/devotees of said gods. The book has been matter of conversation within our communities since it was first published in 2001, mostly centered on the treatment and depiction of various deities. I expect those conversations will heat up once again when production gets underway.

James Arthur Ray Mistrial Request Denied: For those who’ve been following the trial of James Arthur Ray, accused of negligent homicide when a sweat lodge ceremony went horribly wrong and killed three people, this past week has been particularly event-filled. Ray’s lawyers filed for a mistrial after it was revealed that a preliminary report by environmental investigator Richard Haddow was not sent to them. However, prosecutors claim that the situation was inadvertent, and that the report’s finding were repeated in other material sent to the defense team.

“Monday’s motion by Ray’s legal teams cited the omission of environmental investigator Richard Haddow as a means for the state to withhold an alternate cause in the deaths of Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman after a Ray-led sweat lodge at the Angel Valley Retreat Center on Oct. 8, 2009. The state’s response, however, signed by co-counsel Bill Hughes, states that information about the construction of the sweat lodge, with its off-center rock pit and lack of air circulation, had been provided to the defense in other forms. Further, the motion contends that the evidence contained in Haddow’s report is not exculpatory, but rather further proof that Ray is guilty of the three counts of manslaughter raised against him.

If the evidence truly is damaging rather than exculpatory, it can only mean that Ray’s defense team is grasping at straws trying to derail this trial by any means necessary. A desperation perhaps incited by last week’s damaging decision by Judge Darrow to allow testimony regarding previous sweat lodge ceremonies that Ray has held. In any case, there won’t be a mistrial, and instead defense will be granted extra time to analyze the data and witness.

“While Ray’s attorneys pushed for a mistrial, prosecutors argued an appropriate remedy would be to allow the defense to interview Haddow and gather its own witnesses if it chooses. Darrow didn’t immediately elaborate on his decision to allow the trial to move forward, but said he would issue an expanded ruling later.”

Blogger LaVaughn, who’s been following the trial in-depth, says that “the Haddock email was a red herring to get a mistrial and now they’re stuck with it.” Meanwhile, public opinion and the press have not been on Ray’s side. CNN recently profiled the life of Kirby Brown, one of the three killed in the 2009 sweat lodge incident, describing a horrific death where she “wheezed and gurgled and foamed at the mouth.” Even if Ray somehow manages to escape all this with no legal repercussions, his “brand” will be permanently tainted by these deaths.

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

My schedule allowed me to see the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust” during its opening weekend (a rare occurrence in my household), and since I plugged the movie on my blog earlier this week I thought I would provide a review. But let me preface by quoting a small bit from Roger Ebert’s review that mirrored many of my own feelings concerning “Stardust”.

“There are lots of other good things in the movie, but they play more like vaudeville acts than part of a coherent plot. It’s a film you enjoy in pieces, but the jigsaw never gets solved. I liked it, but “The Princess Bride” it’s not.”

There are many good small things in the film. Michelle Pfeiffer is charming as the witch Lamia, and the Greek chorus of dead brothers are entertaining throughout, but the film itself is something of a mess and the romance lays the syrup on so thick diabetics should be warned. Though it has been some time since I read Gaiman’s original work, I don’t believe it was so openly mushy and sentimental. That more than anything else separates this film from the modern classic of swashbuckling fantasies “The Princess Bride” (which it has been compared to several times), a film that wasn’t afraid to add a generous dose of cynicism, sarcasm, and doubt (not to mention a script as tight as a steel drum).

Perhaps the greatest sin of “Stardust” is that it doesn’t trust the audience to make connections for themselves, everything is explained and narrated to a point where the characters don’t have a chance to expand and breathe. We all know that fairy tales involving dashing heroes will (generally) end up with a happy ending, but most of us don’t watch for the pay-off happy ending, we watch to see how well the storyteller convinces us that it might NOT work. In “Princess Bride” we are shown an array of characters with their own fully-formed motivations helping, hindering, or confusing the main quest for true love, in “Stardust” every plot point seems like just another tick on a check-list to “happily ever after”. “Stardust” isn’t a bad film per-say, like I said before there some bright moments that can charm you, but I was hoping for a classic and ended up with a trifle.

On a completely different note, I started watching the second (and last) season of the HBO television drama “Rome”, which recently came out on DVD. I don’t have cable, so it has been quite awhile since I visited these characters, and I must say that I had forgotten how fresh “Rome” is in its ambition and scope. The aftermath of Ceasar’s death (which happened at the end of the first season) is handled very well (though history is always fudged a bit in this show), and as always religion is everywhere in the series.

“If the past is a foreign country, then ancient religion may be its most exotic locale. The HBO series “Rome,” which returns for its second season on Sunday, is hardly “Fodor’s Guide to Paganism,” but by venturing off some well-worn cinematic paths, the show has given the worship of the gods a generous treatment in a genre dominated by stories of gladiators and the advent of Christ. The creators of the serial drama, which focuses on the power struggles during the last days of the Roman Republic in the first century B.C.E., wanted to portray Roman religion not as a doomed prologue to Christianity but as a vibrant and meaningful part of everyday life.”

Religion is taken so seriously that when a character commits a major act of blasphemy in the second episode, you feel truly shocked by the action. It is a shame that “Rome” will not see a third season (due to the staggeringly large budget), but we can at least enjoy the two soap-operatic seasons of the Roman Empire’s rise.

Stardust Trailer

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 27, 2007 — 1 Comment

The trailer for the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel “Stardust” has been released, and can now be found on YouTube.

With the magical themes and adventures within the land of Faerie, not to mention Gaiman’s already enormous popularity among modern Pagans, I’m sure many of my readers will be looking forward to this one. No doubt you’ll hear more about the film on this blog as news and interviews start to surface.