Archives For Olympics

This week the world turned its attention to the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, Russia as it became the host of the 2014 winter Olympic Games. Over the past year, the Sochi games have been over shadowed by a dark cloud of controversy stemming from Putin’s new “anti-gay” policies and the country’s on-going conflicts with Muslim extremists. In the face of protests and threats, the games began and have continued on with few minor incidents.

Courtesy of Flickr's Global Sports Forum.

Courtesy of Flickr’s Global Sports Forum.

This is not the first time that the Olympic Games has found itself at the epicenter of the somewhat contentious crossroads of religion and politics. Being a true world stage, the modern Olympic Games create a spotlight that can highlight both the very best and the very worst in humanity. We have seen religious extremism in its ugliest form as well as intense spiritual devotion from an athlete raising a victory medal.

Interestingly, religion wasn’t always a sideshow or catalyst for political tension. It is believed that the Olympics themselves began as a sacred religious rite to honor Zeus. According to the Tufts University Perseus Project:

The Games were held in honor of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, and a sacrifice of 100 oxen was made to the god on the middle day of the festival. Athletes prayed to the gods for victory, and made gifts of animals, produce or small cakes, in thanks for their successes.

During the Games a truce was established that allowed for the safe travel for worshippers, athletes and spectators. Eventually the event grew into a major athletic competition attracting people from all over the Ancient World. Even after Greece lost its political power, the Roman Empire kept the Olympics alive.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Although the Games eventually developed into a more secular event, its Pagan origin had not been forgotten. The Perseus Project explains:

Once the Roman emperors formally adopted Christianity, they discouraged and eventually, outlawed, old “Pagan” religious practices. Since the Olympic Games were first and foremost a religious celebration in honor of Zeus, they held no place in the Christian empire. The emperor Theodosius I legally abolished the games in 393 or 394 A.D.

The Olympics were born as a Pagan religious ritual and were eventually banned for that very same reason. By 393 A.D., the Olympics were gone … More or less.

According to Frank Deford of the Smithsonian magazine, there is historical evidence that small, local Olympic-style games were played around the world for many years. Some even used the name Olympics. For example, in Cotswald, England, a Roman Catholic staged an elaborate Olympick games to counter the “dour Protestantism of the time.”

1908 London Games (public domain photo)

1908 London Games (public domain photo)

Then in 1865 Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern games, traveled to Much Wenlock, England where William Penny Brookes had been holding local Games for years. Together both men aimed to bring back the romance and glory of the Ancient event. After much negotiation, Athens became the first host city for the modern Olympiad in 1896. The games were held in the fully restored ancient panathenaic stadium and the marathon was added to honor Ancient Greece.

The subsequent Olympics in Paris (1900) and St. Louis (1904) were largely disappointments. Needing to bolster more support and publicity for the cause, Coubertin looked to the Olympics’ roots and asked Rome to be the fourth host city. Unfortunately Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1906 which ended the country’s bid. So in 1908, London took up the reins and hosted the fourth Modern Olympic Games. Deford writes, “All else had been pre­­­lude only now had the modern Olympics truly begun.”

Although the Games’ original religious focus had not been resurrected alongside the showcase of athleticism, the modern games were not without religious influence. According to USA Today, De Courbin himself said, “The first essential characteristic of the Olympics, both ancient as well as modern, is to be a religion above and outside the churches.” Additionally, several Olympic mottos were coined by clergy such as “citius, altius, fortius” (faster, higher, stronger.)

Despite this joyful return, the political reality of faith-based conflict would eventually find its way into the Olympic spotlight. For example, at the 1936 Berlin games, Hitler outlawed German Jewish athletes from participating. The games were canceled in both 1940 and 1944 due to the Second World War. In 1972 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were held hostage by Palestinians at the Munich Games. This standoff ended in the death of all 11 Israelis and 5 of the Palestinians. Then in Atlanta in 1996, an Army of God fundamentalist detonated a bomb in a crowded Centennial Olympic Park.

Fortunately these violent conflicts are few and far between. Religious negotiations are more frequently found at the personal level when athletes find their faith in conflict with competition. For Muslims, this might be the wearing of headscarves in competition. For Jews, it might be the need to compete on a Saturday. The Olympics is a cauldron for the world’s cultural and religious diversity. The challenge is not just in the staging of the athletic venues or the choreography of the opening ceremonies. It is also in the bringing together of the world’s people representing an enormous range of beliefs, experiences and cultural expectations.

Sochi Gold Medal design. Photo Courtesy of Flickr's Andy Miah

Sochi Gold Medal design. Photo Courtesy of Flickr’s Andy Miah

Let us return to the Sochi games – a Winter Olympics plaque by religious-inspired political controversy. Russia has certainly downplayed the issues to both the international community and its own population. Gwiddon Harvester, Pagan Federation Coordinator in Russia, says, “Putin will do everything in his power to keep Sochi scandal-free. He invested a lot of money in this project and this is his status-symbol… there is an entire army hidden in the mountains to ensure that terrorists will not disrupt the Games.”

Gwiddon shares that, in general, the Russian people are more upset about the “absurdly high” cost of Sochi than Putin’s policies or extremist threats. At the very most, Russia’s LGBT community is “annoyed that Putin made a ‘special dispensation’ for foreign guests in Sochi, allowing them to say whatever they please about gays, whereas the rest of [Russians] are effectively barred from speaking our minds in public about the issue.”

The Pagan Federation International in Russia has spoken out saying, “PFI supports protection of all human rights under the U.N. Charter of Rights, including the right to freedom from persecution on the grounds of sexual preference. Therefore, we are against the anti-gay laws, because they violate human rights.”

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The issues plaguing Sochi have taken center stage as did the Munich hostage crisis, the Atlanta bombing and many other political conflicts that play out in the Olympic Arena. However religion isn’t only found at a crisis point. It is also found on the field, in the arena and on the slopes as athletes ask and offer blessings to their Gods and Goddesses within their faith’s tradition. In that way, the Olympics echoes its religious origins. Their God may not be Zeus but the ritual of prayer is ever present. Gwiddon remarks:

Several days before the games, the head of Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kyrill, visited Sochi … and blessed the Russian team and the Games, asking for the Grace of God to descend upon them. The irony here is, of course … is that the very act of blessing the sports team is really a magical act, something one would expect in Ancient Rome and Greece.

From the regimented requirements of competition, the running of the marathon, the lighting of the giant cauldron, the torch relay, the Ancient Olympic spirit is alive and well. On Thursday, IOC President Thomas Bach spoke these words which were allegedly edited out of the NBC Friday night broadcast:

It is possible – even as competitors – to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. … [The] Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity … Please respect their Olympic Message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace.

 

The London 2012 Paralympic Games closed on Sunday, featuring a performance by Jay-Z, Rihanna and Coldplay. Artistic director Kim Gavin, Music Director David Arnold and Designer Misty Buckley showcased a seasonal theme for the closing ceremony which “took the audience on a journey through Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.”

Part of the seasonal-themed closing ceremony, spoken by Rory Mackenzie, a representative from Help For Heroes, was in fact written by Druids from the British Druid Order (BDO).

“We were sworn to secrecy beforehand, but Emma Restall Orr and I [Greywolf] were approached by the organisers of the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony with a surprising request. They wanted our permission to use parts of the gorsedd ritual we wrote in 1997. So, about 20 minutes into the ceremony, these words went out to 750 million people around the world,”

Philip Shallcrass (aka Greywolf), Chief of the British Druid Order, says that the original ritual was written to bring people from different backgrounds and faiths together, so “its use in the Paralympics closing ceremony seems perfectly in keeping with this original intention.” While the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony featured brief hints of Britain’s pre-Christian past, it featured no explicit contribution from the vital Pagan threads that exist in the United Kingdom, a nation that has played a huge role in the revival of Pagan religions. So it seems fitting that the last closing ceremony in London, for the Paralympic games, would explicitly reference modern Pagan contributions to British culture. Here’s a brief excerpt of the Druid liturgy used during the closing ceremony.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

The circle is unbroken,
The ancestors awoken.
May the songs of the Earth
and of her people ring true.
Hail to the Festival of the flame
of root and branch, tooth and claw,
fur and feather, of earth and sea and sky.

You can read all of the words used in the ceremony at the British Druid Order’s website.

Emma Restall Orr, author of “Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics”, in addition to co-authoring the ritual used by the Paralympics also founded The Druid Network which recently won religious charity status in the UK, the first Druid group to do so. So it seems fitting that she would also have a hand in this groundbreaking moment for British Druids as well. With this celebration, if you take the Olympics opening and the Paralympics closing ceremonies as one long thematic sweep, it tells the tale of Britain from its earliest days through its progress and challenges, and back to the basics of acknowledging that land’s spirit and the contributions of its reborn Pagans.  A fitting tribute to the amazing athletes at the Paralympics, the pagan origins of the Olympic games, and a pluralistic future where we all have a hand in shaping what is to come.

My thanks to Thorn for tipping me off to this story.

Just a few quick news notes to start off your Monday.

A Heathen in the Holy Land: New York Republican congressional candidate  Dan Halloran, who also happens to be a Theodish Heathen, is currently in Israel for a two-day visit where he’ll meet with Israeli leaders.

“The city councilmember is running in the Sixth Congressional District, which covers parts of Queens and has a large Jewish population. His trip is scheduled to include meetings with Israeli leaders and stops in places in Jerusalem and other locations on Monday and Tuesday. Halloran has criticized President Barack Obama and Democrats for their approach to the U.S. relationship with the Middle East nation.”

Halloran has said that President Obama is “not a real ally” of Israel, while Democratic opponent Grace Meng has tried to hang Ron Paul’s controversial views about Israel around Halloran’s neck despite publicly breaking with the libertarian-leaning Republican on foreign policy. This move by Halloran seems calculated to win more support in the heavily Jewish and Democratic-leaning district, and comes after Grace Meng’s family has been hit with a scandal involving her father, possibly weakening her electoral chances. One wonders if the topic of his personal faith will come up while in Israel, and what he’d say if asked what his beliefs are.

Famous Witch Trial Memorial To Be Rededicated: Salem, Massachusetts’ famous Witch Trials Memorial, originally dedicated in 1992, has been restored and improved and will be rededicated on September 9th. In modern times Salem has become known as the “Witch City” not only for the infamous trials, but because modern Witches and Wiccans have turned the city into a place of pilgrimage which now sports a large Pagan community.

“As in 1992, when the powerful memorial was unveiled, the ceremony will involve descendants of the witch trial victims and Gregory Alan Williams, hero of the 1992 Los Angeles race riots and first recipient of the Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice. […] Hayden Hillsgrove, the memorial’s original stonemason, has reworked and repaired the memorial’s stone. Landscape and lighting elements have also been restored and a plan created for future maintenance.”

You can find out more about the restoration and rededication at the Salem Award Foundation. You can read all of The Wild Hunt’s Salem coverage, here.

Stonehenge on Fire: The 2012 Summer Olympics in London are now over, but one memorable scene from that period was the impressive “Fire Garden” created on Stonehenge for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad that ran concurrently with the Summer games. Lobster Pictures has released a beautiful time-lapse documentary of this installation.

“For Salisbury International Arts Festival, we produced time lapse, stills, video, editing and media services. The French arts group Cie Carabosse transformed Stonehenge into a magical ‘Fire Garden’ for two nights – part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.”

It’s a lovely tribute to one of Britain’s most enigmatic and powerful symbols.

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

Just some quick updates on stories previously discussed here on The Wild Hunt.

More Discussion on Exorcism and Demonic Influences: Last week I took issue with Patheos Catholic columnist Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who made the argument that Aurora, Colorado killer James Holmes may have been demonically possessed. Now, Religion News Service has picked up the story, bringing this controversial view to a much wider audience.

“Longenecker dismissed the range of explanations for what might have motivated Holmes — a bad childhood, mental illness, social awkwardness, extreme political or religious views, or exposure to violent video games or to the Batman movie that was showing when he allegedly opened fire. The real culprit, he says, was spiritual, and malign.”

Meanwhile, other Catholics, like  About.com’s Scott P. Richert, are doubling down on the demonic “infestation” scenario, referencing Ouija board use in the 1973 film “The Exorcist” as an accurate portrayal of how possession begins.

Troubling Expansion of the Ministerial Exception? At the beginning of this year I wrote about the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision in in Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionwhich centered on the question of whether an employee of a religious organization could be fired without recourse to anti-discrimination laws if they were ordained within said faith. The ruling established that a ministerial exception from federal discrimination laws does exist. Now, Religion Clause reports on two linked ruling from the Kentucky Court of Appeals that says the exception applies even when faculty at a seminary aren’t even of the same religion.

“Because Kant’s primary duties involved teaching religious-themed courses at a seminary, his position was one that prepared students for Christian ministry…. Given his position as a faculty member teaching at a seminary, Kant’s personal views are not determinative of the function he served. Rather, we review the function of his position: teaching future Christian ministers primarily on Judeo-Christian subjects and culture. Kant’s personal faith and beliefs do not clash with the actuality that the classes he taught at LTS were for the purpose of preparing future church leaders of the Christian faith.”

So a Jew can be considered a “minister” of a Christian seminary, so long as his role supports the institution’s goals. One wonders how this interpretation could be abused by organizations who want to evade litigation over a firing. More on this particular story, here.

The Olympics and Religion (and those dualistic Greeks): I recently linked to two articles that looked at the ancient (pagan) history of the Olympic games, now underway in London. Now, USA Today spotlights an editorial by Pastor Henry Brinton that also looks at religion and the games, specifically the Christians history of the modern games, and how “muscular Christianity” saved us from the dualism of the ancient Greeks.

“Ancient Greeks are partially to blame. While they provided the inspiration for the modern Games, they also created a dualistic philosophy that included antagonism between the physical and spiritual. Christians embraced this approach for many years, until muscular Christianity came along and people began to reclaim the ancient biblical truth that human beings are created with a unity of flesh and spirit. […] As for the Olympics, perhaps the opening ceremonies should have had a celebration of religions as well as a parade of nations. Most of the world’s great faiths honor both body and spirit, and encourage health and vitality. This would correct the error made by the ancient Greeks, and would pay tribute to the religious leaders who made the modern Olympics possible. It could even inspire a few religious people to get off the couch and into the gym.”

I wish I could stamp a giant “citation needed” on these claims, because it sounds like revisionist triumphalism to me. Ancient Greeks may have believed in a physical world and a world of spirit, but that didn’t create an antagonism between the two realities. It sounds to me like Christians blaming Greek philosophy for their own shortcomings in how they adopted and adapted pagan thought. I’ll leave it to my philosophy and ancient Greece buffs to let me know if my suspicions are correct, or if Greek dualism really did create this antagonism Brinton claims.

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

At past Faerieworlds, Friday is usually seen as the least busy of the three-day event. People have to work, it’s a shorter day, and many are still arriving. However, this year seemed far, far, larger, and the energy level was high, making me think that we’ll see record-breaking attendances on Saturday and Sunday. Like all opening Fridays at Faerieworlds, it started with a ceremony/ritual led by Emilio and Kelly from Woodland, with help from S.J. Tucker. They did a Lammas invocation, including offerings of fruits and grains, with Donovan and his wife as special guests of honor. Then, a giant spiral dance was led by a local priestess while the musicians played.

That kicked off a day of amazing music, headlined by the transcendent Persian fusion ensemble Niyaz, featuring the amazing vocals of Azam Ali. However, I think that the performance by Soriah with Ashkelon Sain is one that truly surprised a lot of people, and created hundreds of new fans. The shamanic throat-singing ensemble, by the end of their set, had entranced the audience, and I feel confident this won’t be the last time they’ll play at Faerieworlds.

Soriah with Ashkelon Sain and Lucretia*Renee

Soriah with Ashkelon Sain and Lucretia*Renee

Check out my A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast tomorrow for an exclusive post-show interview with Soriah and Ashkelon Sain. Today at Faerieworlds I’m hoping to conduct an interview with S.J. Tucker for The Wild Hunt, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, here are some Pagan news links to peruse while I’m away with the faeries.

That’s it for now, back to the Realm for me!

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.

Torch lighting ceremony in Greece. (Associated Press)

Torch lighting ceremony in Greece. (Associated Press)

- The Olympic flame for the 2012 London games was lit yesterday at the Temple of Hera in Greece, though it did go out briefly during the ceremony. Luckily there was a back-up flame, and the torch started on its week-long journey around Greece. Once in Britain it will make a 70-day circuit in the lead-up to the Olympics. Despite the pageantry, some aren’t impressed, while others made snarky jokes about the flame going out. Still, it’s always nice to see echoes, reminders, that the Olympics are a pagan invention. Created to honor Zeus.

- In a historic first yesterday, Galina Krasskova, a Heathen, gave the opening prayer at a conference on women and indigeny being held at the United Nations. The first Heathen to ever do so. You can find the text of her opening ancestor prayer, here. I could be wrong, but I believe this conference was part of the larger 11th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), which I mentioned earlier. Congratulations to Galina on this achievement!

- Andrew Brown at The Guardian interviews an unnamed hip vicar who is allegedly dating a Witch, and opines on how to get the post-Christian generation back in the Anglican pews. Quote: “He said the only way was to go straight for the most improbable part of the story. If you’re teaching the virgin birth, point out at once that there were many virgin birth stories around at the time. Caesar Augustus himself was meant to have been the child of a God. So what was different about a God who chose a poor Jewish girl and not a princess for his bride? What changed if the Christian story were true and not the official one?” So, there you go? I guess?

- Congratulations to everyone’s favorite German Catholic mystic, Hildegard of Bingen, now St. Hildegard of Bingen thanks to Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church. Though, a Catholic blogger points out she was already a de facto saint for years. In any case, here’s to the “Sybil of the Rhine.”

- The Epoch Times profiles New York City Councilman, and congressional candidate, Dan Halloran. Not a single peep about his religion, in any context. Luckily, The Wild Hunt spends plenty of time on the subject.

PNC Managing Editor, Cara Schulz with Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson

PNC Managing Editor, Cara Schulz with Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson

- Speaking of politics, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson recently won the Libertarian Party’s nomination for president. He’s gotten quite a bit of media attention recently, with many wondering if this will be a breakout year for the Libertarians. Pagan Newswire Collective Managing Editor Cara Schulz got to spend the day with Johnson not too long ago, and Schulz followed up with the candidate to see if he regretted courting our community’s vote during a virtual “town hall” session with representatives from Pagan and Hindu media. Quote: “There was no consternation within my campaign about any of the feedback that we got on that event. No consternation.” You can read all of my coverage of Johnson, here.

- An Australian paper reports on two horse killing in England, linking them to the occult, Satanism, and the recent “super moon.” Actual solid evidence for this theory? Zero.

- Peter Berger, writing for The American Interest, defends Andrew Bowen’s Project Conversion, which I’ve mentioned a few times previously here at The Wild Hunt. What I find most interesting about the article is his refutation of “secularization theory—the notion that modernity necessarily brings about a decline in religion.” Berger notes that it “should be replaced by a theory of plurality—a situation in which many religions co-exist and interact with each other.” Sign me up as a proponent of plurality theory.

- TheoFantastique interviews Noel Montague-Etienne Rarignac, author of “The Theology of Dracula: Reading the Book of Stoker as Sacred Text.” The book aims to reread “the horror classic as a Christian text, one that alchemizes Platonism, Gnosticism, Mariology and Christian resurrection in a tale that explores the grotesque.” Sounds very interesting, especially if you’re a fan of Stoker and Dracula.

- An interfaith memorial service for Pagan author, elder, and priestess, De-Anna Alba, also known as Wendy White, will be held tomorrow, Saturday, May 12, 2012 in California at the Church of the Incarnation. De-Anna, author of “The Cauldron of Change: Myths, Mysteries and Magick of the Goddess,” was one of Circle Sanctuary‘s first priestesses and was Circle Sanctuary’s first church secretary. She assisted Selena Fox with publications, events, music, networking, and other endeavors. Selena Fox will give her eulogy and will be among the officiants at De-Anna’s interfaith memorial service this Saturday. Selena also will be among the officiants at De-Anna’s Pagan memorial service and cremains interment at Circle Cemetery in Wisconsin on July 21.

- In a final note, rest in peace Maurice Sendak. Let the wild rumpus start!

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.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Spring is (sorta) here, and UU World reprints an article by Patricia Montley explaining why myths are often better received than coldly rational explanations for natural events (like the changing seasons).

“Why this cold, dreary season when birds abandon us and gardens stop producing their fruits and flowers … What have we done to deserve this? Surely someone has offended the gods. “Poppycock!” say the scientists, who propose some lame theory about the Earth going around the sun. But that can’t really be it. What’s the point of misery if there’s no one to blame? Besides, their story lacks imagination. Perhaps an explanation that we might find more appealing is one offered by the Greek poet Homer some 27 centuries ago.”

Montley then briefly retells the myth of Persephone, and explains that without the “gray” of Winter, “there is no joy in color”. While I might quibble with the idea of Winter being “gray” and “fallow”, after enduring a snow storm the other day, I truly hunger for the “joy” of a true Spring.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, a local reporter profiles a Druid group performing their Spring rites.

“The only thing the ritual shared with Easter was timing – and a few brightly colored eggs constituting an offering to the “shining ones.” They purified their ceremony by making a banishment offering to the “out-dwellers and tricksters.” They chanted, their voices ever rising and ever faster, to “open the gates,” a sign they had formed a spiritual center around their three altars. They drank apple juice from a communal horn in accepting the blessings of the “waters of life” from kindred gods and goddesses of the Celts, Romans, Gauls and Norse.”

The Three Cranes Grove is an ADF group, which explains the pan-Indo-European focus of the ritual.

The Beijing Olympic Flame was lit today in the Temple of Hera in Olympia. A ceremony marred by two protesters who managed to break through a cordon of about 1,000 police officers.


Actress Maria Nafpliotou lighting the torch.

“Two protestors breached a cordon of about 1,000 police officers at Ancient Olympia to display a flag demanding a boycott of the Olympics amid mounting controversy over China’s crackdown in Tibet … The incidents occurred despite drastic security measures taken by Greek police to avoid incidents that would internationally discredit the event, which was televised across the world.”

I don’t know about you, but when two protesters are able to break through 1,000 men to disrupt a tightly-controlled ceremony in the temple of Hera, I would take that as a bad omen. Perhaps the goddess is displeased? Too bad the “high priestess” is simply an actress, and unable to interpret the will of Hera.

The Manchester Evening News interviews popular novelist Sara Paretsky about her new novel “Bleeding Kansas”, and the real-live Wiccans who served as the inspiration for the Wiccan characters in the book.

“For eight years, I’d fiddled with this concept, on and off, of writing about the part of Kansas where I grew up,” explains Paretsky, ahead of a visit to book stores in Manchester and Cheshire. “When my parents got frail they sold the house to two women who were both Wiccan – followers of pagan religions – and lesbians. They thought that they could lead an anonymous life in the countryside, where their nearest neighbour was over a quarter of a mile away. “But they were wrong. There was talk of pagan rituals. Some people said they were naked and one neighbour started pursuing them in a really angry way, and my brother, who was a lawyer, decided to represent them on a pro bono basis.”

It’s rare that a novelist as popular as Paretsky makes a lesbian Wiccan a major character in a novel. “Bleeding Kansas” may open more minds than a dozen titles in the metaphysical section.

In a final note, Scottish hares (as opposed to “silly old rabbits”), which have been steadily dying out, seem to be on the rebound due to a variety of efforts.

“The problem was that – while Scottish rabbits were happily breeding with the enthusiasm for which they are renowned – the “bunny” we have historically associated with Easter is actually the hare, a creature whose prospects were for a while far more precarious. Long before the rather mixed-up imagery we now see on Easter cards of cute bunnies bearing baskets of eggs, the hare had a far more potent symbolism. In pagan mythology the creature represented love, growth and fertility … for the true meaning of the original celebrations surrounding the vernal equinox, only the hare will do. Wild, abandoned and universally appealing, these beautiful creatures are at long last reclaiming their rightful place.”

So welcome back to one of Britain’s (and Europe’s) sacred animals,

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

“As I have always said, unity and stability under brute force is at best a temporary solution. It is unrealistic to expect unity and stability under such a rule and would therefore not be conducive to finding a peaceful and lasting solution.”His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Since March 10th (Tibetan Uprising Day) peaceful protests, and later riots, have broken out in Tibet. The Chinese government, which has controlled Tibet since their 1951 invasion, confirms between 7-10 dead though internal sources say the death toll is much higher. Meanwhile Tibetans and their supporters around the world have engaged in protests and actions in solidarity with those marching in Tibet.


Picture of protesters in Tibet.

“Hundreds of Tibetan exiles pressed ahead Tuesday with a march from northern India to their Himalayan homeland, defying a police ban on the demonstration against Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics … It was one of several events launched around the world Monday by Tibetans commemorating their 1959 uprising against China. … Walking single file, waving Tibetan flags and holding aloft pictures of the Dalai Lama and Indian pacifist icon Mohandas K. Gandhi, some 350 exiles followed the road down from the mountains toward the plains of northern India.”

The US ambassador to China and the EU have urged China to show “restraint” in dealing with the Tibetan protesters, while China has blamed the “sabotage” on a small “Dalai clique”. Tibet’s chief administrator Champa Phunstok claims that the protests are “really nothing” and that “everything is really great.”

“Asked about the march, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said, “Some ignorant monks in Lhasa abetted by a small handful of people did some illegal things that can challenge the social stability.” He said monks were dealt with “according to the law,” but gave no details.”

Yes, we wouldn’t want to give details, not when the upcoming Beijing Olympics are so close. After all, the Olympic torch is passing through Tibet, and we wouldn’t want that marred with talk of human rights abuses. Even the current administration in America seems ready to look the other way, as the State Department drops China from their list of the top ten human rights violators.

“Perhaps it’s because President George W. Bush really wants to go to the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer that China has been dropped from Washington’s list of the top 10 countries violating human rights. There’s nothing in the 63 pages in the annual State Department report on human rights in 190 countries to suggest China has been dropped from the top 10 on merit.”

Anyone familiar with China’s human-rights record knows that China has been brutally suppressing religious freedom for generations. This includes the indigenous faith traditions of China, various Christian denominations, Falun Dafa, and Buddhism. While some (State-controlled) religious freedom has been allowed in recent years, any faith seen as a political threat (that being any faith not controlled and overseen by China) is targeted as an enemy of the government. This is especially true of Tibetan Buddhism which China has been trying to subvert and control in a variety of ways in order to quell all remaining dissent in their occupation of Tibet.

I urge Pagans concerned about the religious freedom and human rights violations happening in Tibet* to consider participating in acts of solidarity on behalf of the Tibetan people. You can send a letter to Olympics organizers asking them to urge China to respect the values of the Olympic Truce. You can send a letter to the UN urging them to take action on behalf of the imprisoned Panchen Lama. You can urge your government officials to back a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, or give your support to Team Tibet.

* For ongoing updates on the Tibetan uprising and connected protests, I would suggest checking out the Phayul.com web site.