Archives For Norway

Top Story: Indian Country Today reports on a new documentary, “Holy Man: The USA vs. Douglas White,” that looks at the case of a Lakota medicine man who was accused of abusing his two grandchildren. Jennifer Jessum and Simon Joseph, a husband and wife duo who produced and directed the film, knew White through a member of his family, and were shocked to hear about the charges made against him. After White was convicted and sentenced to prison, they investigated the matter and uncovered several “holes” in the prosecution, and eventually, saw one of the grandchildren recant his testimony.

[Roy Helper Jr.] met the film crew at a hotel in Rapid City, and he confessed on film that he had lied about the alleged abuse. He said that he and his brother, Lloyd, were under tremendous pressure from lawyers, judges and “people in suits,” and he said the experience was frightening. He also indicated that they were coaxed to say certain things. In return, they were told they would get money, toys, even a horse. (They received none of those things.) “We were just little, dumb, stupid Indian kids, being tossed around,” Helper says in Holy Man, his voice choked with emotion. “Eventually it’s going to come out. Like today.”

Despite a cascading series of events that proved White’s innocence, the U.S. Attorney’s office engaged in stalling and delaying tactics, and White died in prison in 2009 before he could be exonerated. There is now a petition to have President Obama posthumously exonerate Douglas White, apologize for his wrongful conviction, make reparations to White’s family, and initiate an investigation into the agents who pursued the case against White. The filmmakers are now working on issues of Tribal sovereignty, and the epidemic of teen suicide in Indian country. DVDs of the film are expected to be available this Summer.

In Other News:

  • Actress Lynn Collins, one of the stars of the new Disney film “John Carter,” tells an Irish reporter that she studied “mysticism, paganism, everything” and that ultimately “they’re all the same thing.”
  • Pagan and political scientist Gus diZerega has a new article published in The Independent Review entitled “Spontaneous Order and Liberalism’s Complex Relation to Democracy.” Here’s the abstract: “American and European liberalism began to take different paths in the nineteenth century, particularly with respect to their views on democracy. This divergence stems in part from the fact that liberal principles give rise to different types of spontaneous order, each of which generates unique patterns of social coordination.” You can download the article for free. For diZerega’s Pagan work, check out his column at Patheos, and his blog at Beliefnet.
  • Archaeologists in Norway have apparently uncovered a “unique” and “unparalleled” pre-Christian temple site. It is believed the temple was built around 400AD and that “the last people who used it over 1,000 years ago did their utmost to hide the entire system with an unusually thick layer of soil.” Despite the historic nature of the site, the land is scheduled to be cleared for a housing development. Applications are currently being made to have the site preserved.
  • Rev. G. Jude Geiger, a Unitarian Universalist minister, writes about the concept of religious freedom in our highly polarized political atmosphere. Quote: “By requiring citizens to follow the religious teachings of certain faith traditions, we in essence are asking our country to follow and abide by those particular traditions.”
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to hear an appeal to a 9th Circuit Court decision that upheld a California state universities policy requiring all student groups, including religious groups, to not discriminate in membership on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. More on this, here. You’ll be hearing a LOT about this decision in the coming weeks, and I expect I’ll put in my two cents sooner rather than later.

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

If you were going to make a major motion picture that casts the modern Pagan impulse in the worst possible light, you couldn’t do much better than picking Varg Vikernes as the subject. Vikernes, founder of the infamous Norwegian black metal band Burzum, was convicted of the arson of a string of Christian churches (which he described as “revenge” for the desecration of heathen graves), and the murder of guitarist Oystein Aarseth. Vikernes also subscribes to racialist form of Heathenry, and has claimed in the past to be a Nazi. So we’re talking about a figure who personally fulfilled all the hysterical extremist Christian stereotypes about what modern Pagans are. Naturally, this means his story is being made into a movie that will be starring one of the teen heartthrobs from the movie “Twilight”.

Jackson Rathbone and Varg Vikernes

“Jackson Rathbone, the teen heartthrob from “Twilight”, has reportedly agreed to play Varg Vikernes (a.k.a. Count Grishnackh) — the former BURZUM mastermind who is currently serving a Norwegian prison term for the August 1993 murder of MAYHEM guitarist Oystein Aarseth (a.k.a. Euronymous) and setting fire to three churches — in the upcoming movie “Lords Of Chaos”. Based on Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind’s book of the same name, the film depicts true events and revolves around the black metal sub-culture that spawned a wave of murders and church arsons across Norway in the early 1990s. Making his English-language debut with “Lords Of Chaos” will be hot Japanese director Sion Sono.”

The weird confluence of a hot teen-film star, a hugely popular avant-garde Japanese film-maker, and a notoriously influential member of the black metal underground almost guarantee “Lords of Chaos” instant cult status. The open question now is will the film be a critical examinaiton of the black metal scene and Vikernes’ life and mistakes, or will it turn him into a romantic anti-hero? Producer Stuart Pollock of Saltire Entertainment called the yet-to-be-shot film “a fun portrayal of Norway”, which doesn’t exactly reassure me that this will be some sort of arty morality play. As for Varg Vikernes, he’s just been released from prison after 16 years, so he’ll be able to see the film, and if he and the film’s producers are desperate enough for publicicty maybe help promote it as well. “Lords of Chaos” is set for a 2010 release, consider it the anti-“Agora” in terms of depicting paganism in a positive light. Oh, and if you’re looking for some more information on black metal, you might want to check out the book “Lords of Chaos” by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind. Vikernes calls the book “a pool of mud”, so you can’t get a better endorsement than that.

Four recent news reports tie into two larger stories, the first is the issue of Pagan burial space, a matter that will become more prominent as the Baby Boomers travel further into their retirement years. There are already dedicated spaces in Wisconsin and Washington in America, and an Asatru-dedicated space in Denmark. Now we can add at least two more, an Asatru space in Norway, and a Pagan-inclusive interfaith woodland burial park in the UK.

“Leaders of 11 faiths travelled to Beaconsfield to dedicate the largest woodland burial park in the country yesterday. Set in ancient woodlands off the A40, the £3.2 million Chilterns Woodland Burial Park at Potkiln Lane opened in October and so far around 40 people are buried there. By the time it is full around 2000 people will have been laid to rest there, as part of a growing trend away from traditional funerals. The service was opened by Bishop of Buckinghamshire Rev Allan Wilson who said he was struck by how much nicer it would be to attend a service in a woodland setting than in a crematorium “with terylene curtains.”  Also speaking were Father Francis Higgins of St Teresa’s Church Beaconsfield and Professor Ann Floyd of Jordans Quakers, along with a Rabbi from Harlow, a Hindu leader from Watford, a Pagan, a humanist, a Buddhist, and a Reverend from the Interfaith Ministry…”

This is certainly one of the better manifestations of interfaith efforts, it’s nice to see Pagans included in the dedication, moving away from the idea that the earth can only be hallowed by a certain faith (or that the earth needs “hallowing” at all). Of course this is just a start, two small spaces in America and one in the UK won’t be sufficient if a large percentage of modern Pagans end up wanting to be buried in a dedicated Pagan cemetery, and there are still many obstacles for those who want to engage in rituals and practices that are frowned upon by an overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian funeral industry. Still, this is a step in the right direction. No doubt as the Pagan community grows in size and influence, so too will the issue of Pagan (or Pagan-friendly) burial gain more attention.

Turning away from the issue of human mortality, we tackle the ongoing issue of animal sacrifice. While the Supreme Court ruled the animal sacrifice is indeed legal, court battles are still raging over what limits local governments can place on the activity. Meanwhile, in the resulting legal gray area, cops continue to arrest practitioners of Santeria, Vodou, and other faiths the practice animal sacrifice on grounds of “animal cruelty”. Recently police in Los Angeles, acting on an “anonymous tip”, arrested a man for animal cruelty, only to see the local DA drop the charges due to lack of evidence.

“Prosecutors dropped animal cruelty charges Thursday against a man who was sacrificing animals in his Lawndale home for religious purposes. However, the case against Rafael Giralt was dismissed not for any kind of freedom of religion issues, said Deputy District Attorney Paul Guthrie. “At some point we would have to prove that the animals suffered needlessly or excessively,” Guthrie said. “We didn’t have the proof.” Giralt, 58, was about to go to trial in Torrance Superior Court when the case was withdrawn.”

Then, two women were arrested in the Bay Area for animal cruelty.

“Two Bay Area women were arrested Thursday afternoon for felony animal cruelty in connection with the killing of four chickens in the Mill Valley area, Marin County Sheriff’s Office officials said.”

Of course police have no idea if the animals were actually slaughtered cruelly, and they too will no doubt see charges dropped or reduced once the matter comes to trial. Still the spectre of a possible three years in prison for engaging in what might have been a sacred rite is certainly chilling. The problem is that until a definitive SCOTUS decision absolutely declares that animal sacrifice is a protected religious activity (the previous SCOTUS ruling only said that Florida’s law unfairly suppressed a single group instead of being a neutral application for all) we will continue to see arrests and lower-court battles over the issue. Once legality is firmly established, we can start to have a sane set of regulations and guidelines for those who want to engage in animal sacrifice, avoiding (mostly) bogus arrests prompted by adversarial neighbors, prejudicial laws from biased city councils, and cops treating adherents of Santeria like terrorists.