Archives For Oprah

Welcome to the working week! I hope you’re all having as good a Monday as possible. Let’s start off with an important update on a previously reported story, and then move on to some Pagan news of note.

Haitian Government Reassures Vodouisants in Wake of Constitutional Changes: Last week I reported on the newly-amended Haitian constitution, and an assertion from Euvonie Auguste, head of the National Confederation of Haitian Vodou (KNVA), that it removes legal protections for Vodou practitioners.

Haitian Vodou Ceremony (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty).

Haitian Vodou Ceremony (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty).

“Voodoo would be no longer protected by the Constitution amended. The Priestess Euvonie Auguste, Head of the National Confederation of voodoo in Haiti, deplores the abrogation of Article 297 of the Constitution which, accrding to her protected the sector voodoo against all forms of discrimination. Recall that Article 297 abrogated amongst other things the Decree-Law of 5 September 1935 on superstitious beliefs that restricted arbitrarily the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. Given this new constitutional situation, the priestess Euvonie Augustus, stated that now, the vodoo practitioners will have to use their own means to protect themselves from any attacks against them.

At the time I cast some doubt on this assertion, noting that Haitian President Michel Martelly wants to build a tourism industry around Vodou, making a new crackdown on the faith unlikely. Now, Joël Turenne, Director of Legal Affairs of the Directorate General of Ministry of Religious Affairs, who apparently was stunned by these accusations, has released a statement denying that Vodou is in any way unprotected or endangered by the new constitution.

“…with stupefaction the apprehensions of Voodoo sector concerning the abrogation of Article 297 of the amended Constitution” brings to the attention of all concerned, that “the constitutional amendment is and can not be prejudicial in any way, nor to the functioning of voodoo, or the rights of its adherents”. Especially, he specifies that “the presidential decree of April 4, 2003 make of the Voodoo a religion recognized which should in no way be confused with a superstitious practice.”

The Director went on to claim that the infamous 1935 anti-Vodou law concerning superstitious practices is not applicable under the law as it has “never been promulgated.” This sentiment was echoed by American Haitian Vodou practioner Mambo Racine, who noted that the “definition of Vodou as a “superstitious practice” has gone out the window, that’s why the amendment regarding the prohibition of “superstitious practices” promoted during the long-ago regime of Haitian President Stenio Vincent is no longer needed.”  It remains to be seen if this clarification from the government will mollify the National Confederation of Haitian Vodou. I’ll keep you posted of any further developments.

Witchtalk Talks to A Witch Queen: Karagan Griffith’s Witchtalk interviewed Maxine Sanders on the most recent episode, and you can now listen to it on Youtube.

“Maxine was initiated into the Circle of Witchcraft in 1964. The High Priest of that Coven was Alex Sanders, known throughout the world as ‘King of the Witches’. Maxine and Alex were Handfasted in 1965, and legally married in 1968. The Sanders became household names during the sixties and seventies, dramatically bringing Witchcraft, its practices and reality into global consciousness.”

Sanders released a autobiography entitled “Fire Child: The Life & Magic of Maxine Sanders ‘Witch Queen'” back in 2007, and truly is an important figure in the history of modern Paganism. This interview is a must-listen, so share widely!

In Other News:

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

CNN got a bit of flak for doing a puff piece this past Thursday on psychic prognosticators making predictions about the American (and global) economy. Roger Ebert helpfully clarified that, “no, this is not an Onion news report” (a point reiterated by Sheril Kirshenbaum at Wired). Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars calls the report “more insidious than stupid,” while Josh Feldman at Mediaite called the segment “the most mind-bogglingly idiotic thing I have ever seen on cable news.”

I’m not sure why this particular piece of filler should be the breaking point that makes critics groan and shake their heads ruefully. CNN has long dabbled in what I affectionately call “the woo.” Just look at the career of Nancy Grace, or former CNN stalwart Larry King, who fell head-over-heels for the now-convicted “Secret” peddler James Arthur Ray. Nor is CNN alone in this, just check out the special Nightline “Beyond Belief” Summer series that looks at psychics, exorcism, and out-of-body experiences.

“ABC’s “Nightline” is creeping into prime time this summer — or maybe it’s just getting creepy. The late-night show begins a summertime series at 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday, covering topics such as satanic possession, religious miracles, psychics and out-of-body experiences. […] Following the Anthony hour, “Nightline” will begin a five-part series titled, “Beyond Belief,” an exploration of topics that defy easy scientific explanation. Bill Weir travels the world to investigate episodes where people claim to have seen and communicated with the Virgin Mary, while Terry Moran looks at a belief that satanic will or demonic possession can cause people to commit acts of evil.”

The fact is, people love psychics and tales of the paranormal. I can’t even keep track of how many paranormal/ghost-hunting reality shows there are these days. We live in a world where psychic tips get attention (though not as much as some people would suspect), much to the chagrin of those who’d prefer a far more logical and rational news media. I personally see fortune telling as more a psychological/social tool/aid than as a pole-star to guide my life, but why does the mainstream media go into these phases of covering psychics and fortune-tellers, giving them valuable airtime in the news?

I have three theories:

  1. According to the Pew Forum 15% of Americans have consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic. That’s a lot of people. Summer is a lull time for programming, and fewer people are watching television. So anything that might draw attention is welcome. As CNN previous reported, the psychic industry is recession-proof (though perhaps not entirely). It’s a no-brainer to do the occasional spotlight on these topics.
  2. News outlets like Time Magazine and the BBC have recently looked at regulatory push-back against psychic practices, which has forced psychics and fortune-tellers to organize and become more public in asserting their rights. That coupled with the high visibility of psychic practitioners on reality television has made these businesses and practitioners more newsworthy in general. In 2010 alone towns and cities created subcultural “red light districts”stood by total bans, and argued over whether psychic services could be classified as “spiritual counseling”, while in Canada, obscure laws against “witchcraft” were used to pursue fraud cases. We also saw a big win as the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that fortunetelling and other psychic services are protected speech, setting a precedent that could affect laws across the country. Like it or not, psychic stuff is “news.”
  3. The producers and reporters are true believers. There a lot of followers in the “Church of Oprah”. Many of them are powerful people with influence and an ability to get on television. The trial and conviction of James Arthur Ray may have taken some wind from the sails of the New Age movement, but you can bet they’ll retool and be back riding high again soon. So they’ll keep sending “skeptics” to Sedona to be converted, and Oprah-anointed figures like Dr. Oz will keep on endorsing Reiki.

Very likely a mixture of the three reasons above helps produce all this coverage. The simple truth is that we as a society have always searched for answers to questions that seem impossible to predict by mundane means (the harder the times, the further we seek). Psychics have been handing out stock tips since there was a market, and so long as people are listening, reporters will be right behind them to see if their mojo actually pans out. For modern Pagans who engage in divination, or even make their money performing psychic services, we should keep an eye on this coverage. How these topics are approached and treated can tell us a lot about how the religions who engage in these practices are likely to be received as well. As for the skeptics? It’s Summertime! File it away with bigfoot, and head to the beach (or watch the new season of True Blood), everyone knows that nothing serious happens until September (at least as far as television programming is concerned). Besides, mockery and scorn bounce off this stuff like bullets off Superman, save your ammunition for certain politicians or climate science denial.

The undisputed queen of the “spiritual but not religious” demographic in America, Oprah Winfrey, is done merely dipping her toes into the shallow waters of reality television and is diving right in with “Your OWN Show”. Seemingly a contest to pick a new show for the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) cable network (launching 1/11/11), it is actually a sophisticated vetting process for reality television program contestants, who will then compete for the actual show (maybe).

“The online contest is really a search for contestants for an OWN reality series in which competitors will then vie for their own show on the network.”

At least one prominent Pagan, Karen Tate, author of “Walking An Ancient Path: Rebirthing Goddess on Planet Earth”, is vying for a shot on the program, and has garnered over half-a-million votes in the process.

“Empowering Women to Save the World” – that’s been the mission of author and radio show host Karen Tate. Karen wants to go in search of sacred knowledge, hidden history, and places other talk shows have dared not tread, examining the provocative and politically incorrect to raise awareness, empower and uplift women and our like-minded brothers. Karen will interview scholars and practitioners about social, spiritual and political subjects such as female genital mutilation, women reclaiming their bodies as sacred and why the Vatican refuses to ordain women. Hear what they didn’t teach you in Sunday School but you wish they had! No celebrity gossip, diets and cooking demonstrations on this show! Karen is more interested in viewers having an aware mind and being turned on to ideas that contribute toward a caring culture. We’ll talk about all those important things Mom warned were not suitable for dinner table conversation – sex, power and politics!”

While that vote tally is certainly impressive, we have to remember that OWN has total control over who gets picked, and they’ve made it clear that some of the contestants will be selected from auditions, not from who gets the most votes. We should also be very clear that the chosen contestants will be put through the reality television ringer just like on any other program, one has to only look at the fact that reality TV producer Mark Burnett (the man behind Survivor and The Apprentice) is pulling strings behind the scenes. It is this reality contest aspect that has Pagan author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle steering clear, despite the temptations of mass audience.

“What is the goal of “Your OWN Show”? I do not know. But it does involve the search for a new talk show host, which means it has to make for what is considered to be ‘good television’ which often means jealousy, petty conflict, and the tearing down of others. I can hope this show will not go this way, but I am not sanguine. I’m sure that those people I know who auditioned for the privilege of getting onto a reality show think that they can keep it together under the pressure cooker of filming while being placed under unusual stressors and that their message will shine through. My thinking is that the cutting floor is filled with our good intentions. No matter how well a person stays on point, maintains center, or tries to foster good will, I do not trust that this will end up part of the show. Likelihood is, the biggest personality will win. I hope I am proven wrong.”

To quote many a Quaker, this friend speaks my mind. Despite every good intention, almost every instance of modern Pagans engaging in reality television has resulted in them being made to look like fools (or at the very least, distorted their personality). Which is why I’ve long counseled my readers to resist the temptations and fat pay-days involved.  We may think that Oprah’s network will be different, but she has a long history of engaging in stories that will produce the most emotional highs and lows. Don’t believe for a second that situations won’t be arranged that will aim to draw out your worst qualities or weakest moments. It’s akin to undergoing an initiatory trial, only, instead of being surrounded my friends and loved ones, you are paraded in front of millions wanting to be entertained by your discomfort and pain. No soul escapes from that unscathed.

In addition, modern Pagans should be careful of questing for Oprah’s spotlight. For every truly inspirational figure she endorses, there is a James Arthur Ray or Jenny McCarthy that seems to slip through the rigorous vetting process. Her engagement with popular New Age trends like The Secret have been problematic at times (not to mention other fads), and like many talk show hosts that emerged in the 1980s, she uncritically engaged in the SRA panics (and never apologized for it after the fact). In that sense, Oprah is a true mirror to the bright and dark sides of the New Age/metaphysical movement. In the end, Oprah’s projects are meant to reflect the power, influence, and inspirational quality of Oprah. As a people who acknowledge the true power of our thoughts and deeds, we should be mindful of who and what these contests are really for. Are inspirational folks being given an opportunity, or are they being recruited to generate more wealth and fame for Oprah’s empire?

It’s no secret that I believe modern Pagans should be building their own media networks and institutions instead of simply trying to gain the attention of existing conglomerates that don’t necessarily share our values; it’s about control, control over our own image and control over what we decide is news, that what is truly important to us. We have never been in a better position than now to start this process, which is why I’m excited to learn that Thorn is going to be moving into making professionally produced video-casts in addition to her podcasts, because it signals an alternative to simply hoping reality television producers will treat us fairly. I do wish Karen Tate well, and hope this experience brings her to new levels of success, but I remain, as ever, deeply skeptical of the reality television industry, and our largely negative role within it.

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 22, 2009 — 3 Comments

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

Let’s start off with the latest news in the ongoing James A. Ray sweat-lodge death saga. The AP has an interview with one of the survivors, and it isn’t good news for Ray or his lawyers.

“More than 50 followers of spiritual guru James Arthur Ray had just endured five strenuous days of fasting, sleep-deprivation and mind-altering breathing exercises when he led them into a sweat lodge ceremony … When participants exhibited weakness, Ray urged them to push past it and chided those who wanted to leave, she said. “I can’t get her to move. I can’t get her to wake up,” Bunn recalls hearing from two sides of the 415-square-foot sweat lodge. Ray’s response: “Leave her alone, she’ll be dealt with in the next round.” … Looking back, she said it’s easy to see how so many people were overcome. No one was well-hydrated, the sweat lodge was poorly ventilated, no safety tips were provided and appropriate medical care wasn’t available, she said.”

To put it simply, Ray is in big big trouble. Despite that, his spokesman is actually arguing that since some had “amazing experiences,” he shouldn’t be arrested for negligent homicide immediately. Meanwhile, as the faux-Native American spirituality of the ceremony has been confirmed (“he led the group in chants and prayers in a Native American tongue”), American Indians in Arizona are “appalled” by the demeaning commercialization of their rites. Somehow I don’t think Ray will ever be invited back on Oprah again, do you?

Speaking of Oprah, that titan of promoting the New Age flavor-of-the-month will be having a rather unexpected guest on her show in November. That’s right, not a dream! Not an imaginary story! Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah “blessed by Muthee” Palin will be on Oprah to promote her new book!

“Oprah Winfrey, on a campaign to climb back from last season’s ratings slump, will attempt to kiss and make up with conservative viewers on Nov. 16 when she has Sarah Palin on her syndicated talk show. You may have noticed that the appearance by the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate is happening smack dab in the middle of the November ratings derby. It’s also the day before Palin’s new book, “Going Rogue: An American Life” is scheduled to hit bookstores.”

I guess we’ll finally learn what the world’s most famous New Ager and an infamous politician with deep ties to extremist anti-Pagan forms of Christianity have in common. Maybe they’re both fans of Jenny McCarthy? But seriously folks, I guess this proves that money, fame, and power trump all ideological barriers in the end.

Moving away from Oprah, Palin, and Ray, let’s revisit another story that has been extensively covered on this blog. The legal battles, and subsequent victory, of Santero Jose Merced to practice animal sacrifice in his home. The Dallas Observer checks in with Merced after the legal dust has settled and he’s once more able to perform his rites.

“It’s been nearly three and a half years since he stopped the ritual slaughter of four-legged animals in his home to pursue litigation against the city over his right to do so. With a decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in his favor and against the city’s health and safety concerns, Merced, a flight attendant, will resume his full religious practices tonight.”

Merced speaks at length about the struggles with his fellow Santeros/Santeras over issues of secrecy and support, his long battle with neighbors, police, and politicians, and becoming “the face of Santería in North Texas”. It’s engrossing reading, and you should take the time to read the whole thing.

Two years after two Pagans, the Rev. Angie Buchanan, director of Gaia’s Womb, and the Rev. Andras Corban-Arthen, a director of the EarthSpirit Community, were elected to the executive council of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a third joins them. Priestess, author, and attorney, Phyllis Curott.

“…it is my honor and privilege to announce the newest member of the Board of Trustees for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions; Pagan Priestess, Author, Attorney, and dear friend — Ms. Phyllis Curott. This makes the third Pagan to join the largest, oldest and one of the most well respected Interfaith organizations in the world; Myself in 2002, Andras Corban-Arthen, in 2006, and now Phyllis. The current Chair, a Lutheran minister, made the statement that he believed “Paganism to be the most misunderstood religion on the planet”.”

In addition, Buchanan and Corban-Arthen are planning to meet with leaders from the Greek Orthodox Church to create a new understanding after the Greek Orthodox walked out of the 1993 Chicago meeting due to the presense of Pagans. Considering the Greek Orthodox view of the Pagans in their own back yard, we’ll see if this brings any success. Buchanan, Corban-Arthen, and Curott are all planning on attending the December Paliament gathering in Melbourne, Australia along with several other Pagan representatives, including Margot Adler, Thorn Coyle, and Patrick McCollum.

In a final note, the East Bay Express spotlights a new documentary “Power Trip: Theatrically Berkeley” by Emio Tomeoni that explores what happens when various forms of spirituality and ideology mix with local politics.

“These and other scenes in Tomeoni’s new documentary Power Trip: Theatrically Berkeley reveal what happens when matters of the body and soul mix with politics. In the film, which will screen at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley) on Monday, October 26, tree-sitters and other dreamers anguish over pollution, civilization, and human alienation from plant and animal spirits. And their agendas drown each other out.”

Sounds like an excellent study, and I can’t wait to Netflix-it.

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

The blogosphere is abuzz over the news that two people died, and several more sickened at a retreat held by New Age huckster, “Secret” booster, and two-time Oprah guest James Arthur Ray. The deaths occurred as a result of the careless use of a large plastic “sweat lodge” that held 64 people at the time of the incident (you can hear the 911 calls, here), and was the culmination of  a 9695.00-per-head “spiritual warrior” workshop.

In all, 21 of the 64 people crowded inside the sweat lodge Thursday evening received medical care at hospitals and a fire station. Four remained hospitalized Friday evening – one in critical condition and the others in fair condition … Among those sickened were a middle-aged man and a woman who were unconscious, according to a 911 call, and a third person who was found not breathing. “It’s not something you’d normally see at one of the resorts there, and it’s unfortunate regardless of the cause,” D’Evelyn said. Investigators were working to determine whether criminal actions might have been a factor in the incident, D’Evelyn said. The Angel Valley Retreat Center sits on 70 acres nestled in a scrub forest just outside Sedona, a resort town 115 miles north of Phoenix that draws many in the New Age spiritual movement. Self-help expert and author James Arthur Ray rented the facility as part of his “Spiritual Warrior” retreat that began Oct. 3 and that promised to “absolutely change your life.”

Well it certainly did change several people’s lives, two it changed rather permanently. It makes Chas Clifton wonder if you can sue your shaman, especially if you signed a lengthy liability-release form beforehand. Meanwhile, Gus diZerega and Kathryn Price NicDhana point out the dangers of this kind of ignorant appropriation.

“The newage, pyramid-scheming, scam artist crammed 21 people into a plastic sweatlodge. In the hot, wet dark with the man who had no idea how to lead an Indian ceremony, and no connection to any culture that could have taught him how (or told him this was a really bad idea), they sweated for two hours… till two were dead, three were unconscious, and everyone else went to the hospital.  Hazmat teams and crime scene tape now surround the site. Native American ceremonial people from the area are saying that, by imitating a ceremony he was not trained to perform, this newage plastic shaman killed these people. I agree. They used materials in this fake ceremony that should not be used, they used things that were physically and spiritually dangerous. They payed $9,000 for a sad death at the hands of a greedy con man.”

The Beyond Growth blog, a longtime critic of James Ray, points out that these “large group awareness trainings” often push people past their safe limits through peer pressure and the fear of failure.

“I know several people who have gone to the hospital for various reasons after “large group awareness trainings” such as Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior Event.” … It’s time we brought these gurus to justice and demanded that personal change workshops be safe for all. When something goes wrong in such a seminar due to it being overly intense and dangerous, usually the victims are blamed for “not taking 100% responsibility,” thus dodging the responsibility of the seminar leaders. Personally, I think we should hold James Arthur Ray 100% personally responsible for the death of these two seminar participants, up to and including going to jail. Seminar leaders are responsible for making their workshops both effective and safe for all.”

Beyond Growth’s post also has a screen-shot of Ray’s creepy death-haunted Twitter posts made before and during the event, since deleted after the sweat-lodge debacle. I highly recommend reading his follow-up post “The Dark Side of The Secret” for more insight.

This mixture of cultural appropriation, magical thinking, New Age brainwashing, and a success at all costs mentality ends up creating unsafe environments for those merely looking to improve themselves. I’m not sure his liability release forms will protect Ray (not to mention Michael and Amayra Hamilton, who hosted the event) from the coming storm of inquiries, litigation, and increased scrutiny that are sure to follow. Lets hope this tragedy opens the eyes of those gulled by the Secret-peddlers and Plastic Shamans interested only in improving their bank-accounts, not your life.

Publishers Weekly has posted a fascinating article about shifts in the “New Age” section at bookstores. According to Juan Martinez, the occult is out, and Oprah-style spiritual awareness is in.

“Traditionally, the New Age category has catered to aficionados of the esoteric and the occult. Today the genre gratifies a more mainstream consumer. Fading is the era of crystals and tarots. Nowadays, readers seek science-based titles that will help them become healthier and more spiritually aware. As New Age is continuing to expand into other categories, many titles that were once the provinces of health, psychology, self-help and spirituality (to name a few) have now assumed the New Age mantle. According to Jo Ann Deck, publisher of Celestial Arts and Crossing Press, the new New Age reader is “more practical and less interested in nebulous philosophical and spiritual exploration.” As a result, the genre reads more like Dr. Phil and Jack LaLanne than Carlos Castaneda and Ram Dass.”

While most of the publishers interviewed agree that there is an increasing dominance of New Age “hybrids” that intersect with self-help and “mind/body” subject matter (which they heavily credit Oprah for), there is some disagreement over how poorly “traditional” New Age books are actually doing. While a Llewellyn spokesperson claims that recent fiscal and political troubles have spurred the rise of the “hybrids”, Jan Johnson of Weiser books claims those same factors are selling “old-school” New Age titles (crystals, channeled entities, aliens, etc) like hotcakes.

“Jan Johnson credits the “shaky economy… unpopular war… and the global economic crises” as the impetus for more readers turning to “books that admit the possibilities of extraterrestrials and other entities.” Cosmic Connection: Messages for a Better World by Carole Lynne (Apr., 2009) looks to outer space to answer Earth’s difficult questions. According to Johnson, “Lynne shares information from her off-planet guidance about what we can do to survive the coming changes.” Johnson promises more books from Weiser on topics similar to Cosmic Connection—’We’re seeing much more openness to what used to be considered esoteric, strange or weird.'”

Everyone seems to agree that the “New Age” section itself is recession-proof, but what does that mean for occult, magical, and Pagan-oriented titles? This is completely anecdotal, but I’ve certainly noticed that the magical/Pagan section at my local Barnes & Noble has shrunk down to a few shelves, while the “New Age” section next to it is as large as ever. Are tomes concerning “The Secret” overwhelming studies of the Sefirot? Do retail bookstore buyers prefer Eckhart Tolle’s “Inspiration Deck” to Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck? Only the balance sheets of the Pagan and occult publishers know for sure.

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

We start off in Central Asia where the government of Tajikistan has banned “witchcraft” and all forms of divination at the behest of President Emomali Rakhmon. A move done supposedly for the benefit of the poor in the former Soviet-controlled country.

“The law’s sponsors said that their purpose was threefold: to eliminate a drain on the poverty-stricken population’s finances, to crack down on “un-Islamic” activity and to reduce the number of people practicing medicine without a license — since the fortunetellers often also prescribe folk remedies.”

The problem is that fortune-telling is a popular profession among the very poor they hope to protect, and Tajikistan, while being Islamic, is drenched in mysticism.

“Belief in spells, soothsaying and the paranormal is widespread throughout the former Soviet sphere, where suppression of religion under Communism led to a search for other forms of spirituality … A mystic, almost pagan, tradition also runs deep here, though the country is primarily Sunni Muslim. Mullahs in the high Pamir Mountains, which dominate the country, are believed to have extra powers to discern the future, and they are often sought out for their powers of prophecy. A good fortuneteller is considered a prize, and word circulates quickly if one is perceived to be particularly gifted.”

Will this be an unenforceable law? Or will government forces try to actively suppress “un-Islamic” activity by arresting women trying to scratch out a living in the economically depressed country. We’ll have to wait and see.

Author Erik Davis profiles the Heathen Metal of the Bindrune Recordings label.

“I’ve sifted through a fair amount of gothic ambient music, forest metal, and dark folk looking for this sort of sepulchral traditionalism, this sense of ancient mysteries seeping up like clammy moisture through the moss underfoot, and most of it is as corny as clove cigarettes and black nail polish. In contrast, Celestiial’s haunting and glacial Desolate North album made me feel like I was alone and paddling into a dark fjord toward some ancient whale cemetery that was way spookier than the one I vaguely remember from that Disney movie I saw as a kid. I finish listening to this record feeling cold and clean.”

For those wanting an audio sample of the bands Davis discusses, head over to Bindrune’s MySpace page.

A variety of (mostly conservative) Christians are teaming up and using journalism to criticize the theology of Oprah Winfrey.

“Oprah Winfrey has become a catalyst for a new journalistic project and increasing news coverage by conservative Christians questioning and criticizing her spiritual beliefs.”

While this in of itself isn’t surprising, I did find the comments of religion writer Marcia Nelson, who authored a book on Oprah’s beliefs, interesting. Nelson contends that Oprah isn’t “New Age”, but a “New Thought” Christian.

“Nelson, who studied a year of Winfrey’s shows, differs with those who call Winfrey’s spiritual ideas “New Age.” She says Winfrey would be more related to the “New Thought” movement, which is more mainstream, focusing on positive thinking as a spiritual tool rather than crystals, for example. “I absolutely regard her as a Christian but … she’s one of those capacious Christians,” Nelson said.”

New Thought is indeed a separate strain of belief(s) from New Age, though the differences can seem somewhat arbitrary and esoteric to the outsider looking in, and the two subcultures overlap in many places, making distinctions somewhat hard to make.

Drexel University’s online publication The Smart Set features what I suppose one could call “travel writing” by Steven Wells (the punk poet formerly known as “Susan Williams”). In “Let the Sunshine In”, Wells writes about a visit to Glastonbury Tor, and substitutes mean-spirited mocking cynicism for cleverness.

“All over the Anglophone world, witches and druids will be conducting (or already have conducted) similar ceremonies, despite the fact the last real druids were exterminated by the Romans in A.D. 60. And that far from being an authentic ancient tradition, Western witchcraft (or Wicca) was invented from scratch by an outrageous liar in England in 1946. And the rest of this New Age menagerie has equally sketchy and recent roots — most of them right here, in the probably non-existent King Arthur’s sacred Glastonbury, where Jesus’ uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, almost certainly didn’t hide the Holy Grail (but there are plenty who reckon he did). Mohammed and Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard have nothing on the New Age ningnangnongers. Not that I think that matters. I’m guessing the original druids and witches kinda made it up as they went along as well.”

For Pagans, this isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. Though if your looking for a low-rent H.L. Mencken to amuse you for a few minutes, I suppose Wells might be your man.

In a final note, I have a couple of pieces of book-related news. First, two Llewellyn titles have won awards from a trade organization I’ve never heard of until today.

“Two Llewellyn titles, The Temple of High Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak and Natural Witchery by Ellen Dugan, have been awarded prestigious awards from the Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR), with several other Llewellyn titles being noted as award finalists … COVR is an organization formed by a unique group of businesses that deal in “Visionary Resources,” and who work with and support each other as independent retailers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and publishers of visionary books, music, and merchandise.”

Congratulations to Llewellyn, if you say the COVR awards are prestigious, I’ll take your word on it. Secondly, calling all horned-god fanatics, Avalonia Books announces the forthcoming release of “Horns of Power, Manifestations of the Horned God”.

“This anthology is the first of its kind to be focussed on the horned gods of our ancestors and includes both scholarly essays, bardic retellings of stories such as that of Herne the Hunter and a number of experiential essays. Invocations and meditation journeys are also included.”

Sounds interesting! But then we here at The Wild Hunt are a little biased. For a similar Pagan anthology of note, be sure to also check out “Written in Wine”, an anthology of writings concerning Dionysos.

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