Archives For pacifism

Top Story: Today is Veteran’s Day, and we here at The Wild Hunt would like to give our thanks to all military personnel and their families for their service and sacrifices. Today is also an excellent time to think of the modern Pagans and Heathens currently serving in the military and offer them our support. A great way to do that is to support Operation Circle Care.

“For the fourth year in a row, Circle Sanctuary is honoring and supporting active duty Pagan service members through Operation Circle Care. This year, we are widening our focus and sending Yuletide care packages to active duty Pagan troops serving in any overseas theater of operation, including Germany, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, or on board Navy ships. The success of this program is due to the generous support and donations from Pagan community members from many paths and places. With your continued support, it is our goal to honor and remember each and every Pagan US military service member we can with a special personalized gift for Yule, just as we have in years past.”

Operation Circle Care is looking for contacts, donated items, and funds to help in this project. You can find details at their web site. If you know of similar efforts in other countries, or other Pagan organizations that are organizing care packages or other services, please let me know in the comments.

A Warrior’s Conscientious Objection: On a somewhat related note, we turn to the issue of conscientious objection to war. Up till now its been largely treated by the US government as an all-or-nothing enterprise, you either had to be a pacifist who objected to all conflict (like Quakers or some Pagans), or you were signed up to follow orders no matter what (lest risking dishonorable discharge or even a tribunal). But now a coalition of religious leaders and veterans are calling for the right to morally object to individual conflicts.

“In a report issued Wednesday (Nov. 10), the Truth Commission on Conscience in War called on the military to revise its rules to include “selective conscientious objection,” and urged religious leaders to address issues of conscience during wartime … The report states that current rules about conscientious objection requires an objection to “war in any form,” creating a conflict for those who may have specific moral objections to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ”It denies freedom of religious practice and the exercise of moral conscience to those serving in the military who object to a particular war based on the moral criteria of just war, which the military itself teaches and upholds as important,” the report reads. The report notes that military rules dating to the time of the Vietnam draft leave no legal basis for objection for someone who believes “participation implicates them in an immoral war or in war crimes.”

Such a change would be very much in keeping with many Pagan and Heathen ideas of warrior ethics and culture. Allowing participation in honorable or just conflicts while also leaving room for non-participation in situations that they feel could violate their personal/religious/cultural code of honor. Whether the military would ever be open to such a change is an open question. For those who want more information about this initiative, check out the Truth Commission on Conscience in War’s web site.

The Fate of Ali Sibat: When we last checked in with Lebanese citizen Ali Sibat, who was nearly executed for the crime of sorcery in Saudi Arabia but given a last-minute reprieve due to protests and political maneuvering, was still in a cell awaiting some word of his ultimate fate. Now news has come that a Saudi court has formally rejected his death sentence and that he be deported after a new trial.

“Saudi Arabia’s high court has rejected the execution sentence of a Lebanese man convicted of sorcery and recommended that he be deported after a new trial, a newspaper reported Thursday. The Supreme Court in Riyadh said that the death sentence for Ali Sabat was not warranted because he had not harmed anyone and had no prior offences in the country, Okaz said. The court said his case should be sent back to a lower court in Medina to be retried and recommended that Sabat, who has spent 30 months in Saudi prison since his May 2008 arrest, be deported, Okaz said.”

How long this process will take remains to be seen, but it does look like this long nightmare is finally ending for Sibat. Sadly the same can’t be said for other men and women being held in Saudi Arabia for crimes of “sorcery”, like Sudanese citizen Abdul Hamid al-Fakki, or Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali. One can only hope that discontent with the religious police grows, and we see an end to this madness.

The Further Unintended Consequences of Oklahoma’s Anti-Sharia Amendment: I’ve already discussed some of the problems with the recent anti-Sharia amendment passed by Oklahoma voters, but now even more voices are emerging to discuss the unintended consequences of this move to theoretically protect us from “creeping Sharia” law. First, the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission released an official memo on October 20 opposing the amendment, saying it could affect the “damage the sovereignty of all Oklahoma tribes.”

SQ 755, as written, prohibits an Oklahoma state court from applying any law but Oklahoma or U. S. law to settle a dispute. Further, the proposed constitutional amendment inhibits state courts from looking to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures for a decision. The language of this proposed amendment starkly reminds us that some Oklahoma lawmakers forgot that our nation and state were built on the principles, blood, and backs of “other nations and cultures,” namely, our tribes. It also ignores that Oklahoma tribes have become valuable economic partners with the State that it cannot afford to ignore or exclude.

If SQ 755 is approved, the lack of specific tribal law language could easily be interpreted by a state judge to leave no room to refer to a tribe’s law to determine the existence of a valid waiver of a tribe’s sovereign immunity, for example. Thus, SQ 755 has the potential to provide state court judges with yet another opportunity to further erode tribal sovereignty. A state court judge could rely on the amendment’s absence of recognition of any tribal law to avoid or disavow its application. Tribes and tribal members should be aware of this glaring omission for Oklahoma courts to look to and apply our tribal laws when appropriate, and vote on this question accordingly.

In addition to possibly damaging tribal sovereignty in the name of fighting Muslim theocracy the amendment is getting knocked about by the majority of commentators at the center-right politics site Politico. A judge has granted a temporary block to the amendment while the court battles commence.

Medicine Man Confidentiality: A murder trial in Canada is testing whether minority faiths and cultures are afforded the same privileges as the dominant religious traditions. Minneconjou historian Donovin Sprague claims that confidentiality between a medicine man and their clients is a well understood concept in that culture and should be respected.

Sprague said he based his opinions on his own traditional upbringing and knowledge of tribal culture, as well as on his discussions with spiritual leaders Arvol Looking Horse, Rick Two Dogs and Wilmer Mesteth. Seventh Circuit Judge Jack Delaney tried to pin Sprague down on just how far that commitment to confidentiality would go. If a child were found murdered in a traditional camp and someone confessed to a medicine man, he asked, would the medicine man still maintain confidentiality? “Traditionally … I don’t think it would be revealed,” Sprague said, but he was quick to say that one medicine man might not operate in the same way as another medicine man would. “There wasn’t like a written set of rules governing what we’re talking about here, really. … He would use his discretion what he wanted to do.”

The trial involves John Graham, who is charged with the 1975 rape and murder of Annie Mae Aquash. The motion on whether confidentiality would stand has not been ruled on yet. Whichever way the judge decides could have lasting ramifications on indigenous and minority religions in Canada, and how far confidentiality between a spiritual/religious leader and their client can go.

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

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a new series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

The Bonewits Papers: On their official Facebook page, Isaac and Phaedra Bonewits have announced that Isaac’s personal papers will be donated to the American Religions Collection at the library at University of California, Santa Barbara.

“It’s been a rough week, but we’d like to share one piece of good news. Isaac’s personal papers will be going to the American Religions Collection at the library at University of California, Santa Barbara. So all you researchers will be able to rummage through his stuff :-)”

Bonewits has been, and continues to be, an influential author, ritualist, theologian and thinker within modern Paganism. It is heartening to know that as he continues to struggle with cancer, his rich legacy will live on for future generations to benefit from. For those who’d like to support Isaac and Phaedra during this trial, you can still donate to offset their mounting medical bills.

Pagan Pacifists Speak: A month ago I announced a new initiative, the Voices of Pagan Pacifism project, and now their first issue of interviews, essays and articles has been released.

“Part monthly newsletter, part educational archive, part resource directory, the VoPP project hopes to further the causes of peace, nonviolence, social justice, ecological balance and creative living. By providing a forum for conversation and connection, VoPP seeks to dispel misconceptions about the philosophy of pacifism and the spiritual traditions of modern Paganism. To encourage Pagans and non-Pagans, pacifists and non-pacifists alike in pursuing the challenging work of confronting and engaging authentically with that place in all of our lives where the political meets the spiritual, and both are transformed.”

Contributions include an interview with Dana Rose, an article on pacifism in ancient Greece by Jeff Lilly, a meditation from Alison Shaffer, and more. This looks like a strong start to the project, and I look forward to many more issues in the future.

Exploring Pagan Theology: The Pagan Portal at Patheos has posted three new essays exploring Pagan (poly)theology from different angles. First, portal manager Star Foster looks at the challenges of discussing and exploring theology in a pluralistic (and polytheistic) manner. Then, Alison Shaffer examines the problems of relating to the gods through an American capitalist framework. Finally, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (boy that name sounds familiar) discusses syncretism, Process Theology, and “polyamorotheism”.

“The insurmountable divide that people put between humans and gods in terms of our ability to understand them (e.g., “the Gods’ ways are not our ways” — a passage here paraphrased from the Hebrew Bible!), and of our abilities to communicate and negotiate with them, therefore, is not necessarily in operation. The gods may have a great deal more power, or knowledge, or freedom due to their position and their conditions of existence, but if they cannot be understood, communicated with, or related to, then the entire enterprise of religion and spirituality is useless entirely.”

All are well worth the reading, and should provide some food for thought (and discussion). Kudos to Star Foster and Patheos.com for working to bring us quality Pagan content at this multi-faith religion site.

AREN’s Action: The latest issue of the Alternative Religions Education Network’s (AREN) newsletter, ACTION, is now out, and features a wealth of interesting interviews. This includes Selena Fox, Brian Ewing of the Pagan Pride Project, and Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum of Cybele.

“Throughout this mess the “reasons” for denial have been almost impossible to pin down. Apparently the Town attorney is under the mistaken impression that I am the religion and my not living on the property for a short time is significant. He also has argued in his legal opinion that the fact we have always done charitable work, even before formal incorporation, housing women in need is some sort of proof of not being an exclusive religious property which is absurd given that the New York tax law covering mandated exempt classes is quite clear that charitable work, education and other activities are all equal and any two or more activities on the property are still in the mandated exempt class.”

Christopher Blackwell at ACTION is like a Pagan interviewing machine! Seriously, his efforts really do deserve more attention, and I hope that the ACTION archives can be saved for posterity since they provide such a fascinating snapshot of modern Paganism in the last decade.

Finding Eleusis at Fringe: The Chicago-based Pagan/magical performance troupe Terra Mysterium will be performing their new Fall show “Finding Eleusis”, an urban and modern take on the Eleusianian Mysteries, at the Chicago Fringe Festival September 1-5th. Here’s a clip from their previous show, “Professor Marius Mandragore’s Salon Symposium regarding Spirits, Spells, and Eldritch Craft”.

If you’re going to be in the Chicago area, you can buy tickets for the performances now. I wish I could afford to jet-set to the Midwest and catch this show!

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

As a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, I’m starting a new series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Patrick McCollum at the World Forum of Spiritual Culture: Cherry Hill Seminary has announced that Pagan chaplain, Circle minister, and CHS instructor Patrick McCollum will be presenting at the World Forum of Spiritual Culture in Kazakhstan this October. McCollum is the first Pagan invited to address the forum.

“The World Forum of Spiritual Culture is hosted by the Kazakh government, the International Association of Peace Through Culture, the Congress of Spiritual Concord, and other other Kazakhstan, European and Russian organizations. McCollum will become the first Pagan leader to address the World Forum of Spiritual Culture, his remarks becoming part of the international journal published following the event.

The World Forum hopes “to find a solution to the systemic crisis of the modern civilization by realizing the priority of spirituality and culture above all other public values.” The Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, will address the group during the conference.”

McCollum will be joining luminaries like Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter to search for solutions that will “cure our modern civilization from the virus of greediness.” McCollum, whose star is rising across the globe as an ambassador for modern Pagan faiths, is still fighting to get equal treatment for Pagan prisoners in the state of California and across the US.

The World of Witches Museum Opens in Salem: The Witch School-backed World of Witches Museum in Salem is having its official opening today (Friday). Salem’s Mayor Kim Driscoll will be cutting the official ribbon to the museum.

“In celebrating this Independence Day weekend we are reminded that our founding fathers fought for our freedom. In honoring this American tradition, on Friday, July 2nd, The World of Witches Museum will officially be opened in Salem, Massachusetts. This will be a unique museum as the focus will be on the history of Witchcraft from a positive point of view. As part of the opening the Mayor of Salem, The Honorable Kim Driscoll will officially cut the ribbon at a noontime ceremony along with members of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, Staff of the Museum, Bewitched in Salem, and many other friends and supporters. This will be a major milestone for the Wiccan and Pagan community as this will be the first time that their history will be shared with mainstream society in such a public way. It is a showcase for the community that is fighting for the right to practice their religion in modern America.”

Among the displays will be one focusing on Witch School’s travails in Hoopeston, Illinois, which eventually drove them to the more welcoming arms of Salem, Massachusetts. Rev. Don Lewis, Curator of the Museum, says that this project represents “a coming of age for the Witch movement, which allows us to recognize that we do have a history worthy of sharing”.

Voices of Pagan Pacifism: A new initiative from Alison Shaffer, the Voices of Pagan Pacifism project, is working to spotlight voices of pacifism and peace-making from within the Pagan community.

“We hope this website will become an archive of helpful resources, inspiring stories and challenging essays available to the Pagan pacifist community, as well as the larger community of Pagans, Witches, Druids, Heathens and others interested in pre-Christian and earth-centered spirituality. It’s important to know that we are not alone, and to showcase the work and lives of our fellow peace-makers and social activists!

We conceive of this project as providing a showcase and permanent archive for the many voices of Pagan peace-making in the modern world. For this reason, we gladly accept submissions that have already been published elsewhere, provided they are submitted by (or with prior permission from) the original author and are accompanied by appropriate references and credit to the original publication source (including a link, if available). We also welcome new and original work never published before, by aspiring and previously-published writers alike!”

I’ve long thought that pacifism within modern Paganism needed a clearing-house so that conscientious objectors could use it as a resource should the need arise. Kudos to Alison Shaffer for getting this started. They are looking for writers and interviewers now, I recommend checking it out.

Making Mischief With SJ Tucker: Pagan singer-songwriter SJ Tucker’s new album “Mischief” is due to be released on July 16th and is now available for pre-order from her web site. On her personal journal, Tucker has been talking about the process and meanings behind the songs on the new album.

“Love changes us all, makes us broken, makes us brave, makes us deny ourselves and our very breath, makes us refuse to listen when our hearts tell us that the time has come to move on, to break the surface. “Neptune” is the story of what can happen after you’ve drowned yourself willingly in someone else’s hopes and dreams, and you find that saltwater and shadows no longer sustain you. “Neptune” is the story of what can happen when you’ve lived in sin with a god for long enough that the respective piles of dirty laundry and broken promises have started to really get on your nerves.”

Tucker is currently planning a big Fall tour, but you can catch her this Summer in Oregon as part of Tricky Pixie at Faerieworlds.

A Fundraiser for Joe Credit: Musician Joe Credit, a member of the Pagan band SONA, is trying to raise money to remove a a grapefruit sized hernia in his groin area.

“Joe Credit has a grapefruit sized hernia in an especially uncomfortable location on his body. Imagine getting kicked in the groin several times a day. This is his life. He is having trouble finding a way to get the operation because he is currently without insurance. He is slipping through a very unfortunate loophole. Unable to really work because of the hernia, yet unable to get disability or medicaid. He is expected to live with this hernia until it is “life-threatening” at which time he will be able to get an operation with no problem. Joe’s family does not want him to have to wait until his hernia is life-threatening. I wish we could somehow come up with the money ourselves but times are tough. Hence this fund-raiser. Joe has a lot of friends. If we could all pitch in maybe we could raise enough to get him the operation. Or at least get him enough money to be evaluated by a real doctor, not the emergency room. Thanks!”

Living without health insurance, living in pain until a problem is “life-threatening”, is no way to live at all. If you have a few bucks to spare, why not help out one of our own to have a better life.

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

The Washington Post reports on a Quaker who, with the help of the ACLU, is suing the U.S. Government for not providing a way to note conscientious objector status when fulfilling the requirement to register with the Selective Service System.

“The United States, which has an all-volunteer military, has not had a draft since 1973. But the Selective Service System collects information from men ages 18 to 25 in case Congress reinstates conscription into the armed forces. [Tobin] Jacobrown, of Indianola, Wash., said he has not filled out his Selective Service forms, as required by law, because they do not have a space for him to indicate his status as a conscientious objector. As a Quaker, he said, he cannot sign the forms without such a provision. Although Quakers do not have a specific creed, pacifism is a long-standing belief.”

The ACLU points out that adding a line to state a desired CO status would be “easy as pie”, and that Selective Service forms up till 1980 provided a way to record conscientious objector claims. It is currently against the law for any male to refuse to participate in the Selective Service process (and those who do are denied government benefits). It should be interesting to see how this plays out, suing the government into doing anything, no matter how easy it may be for them to accomplish, is a slow and difficult process. As for Tobin Jacobrown, he is already well-positioned to avoid military service in the event of a draft. The Quakers (aka the Religious Society of Friends), with their Peace Testimony and long history of active resistance to military service, are usually given CO status when brought before their local Selective Service board. The contentious issue here, and why I think the government will fight making this “easy” change, is how adding this line might assist members of other religious groups who embrace some form of pacifism, like certain Catholics or various Pagan individuals.

Currently, if you want to get CO status for ethical or religious reasons (CO status isn’t granted for political reasons) you have to appear at a Selective Service board hearing, and you are expected to prove a long-standing commitment to non-participation or resistance to war in all forms. Many religious groups, in anticipation of a new draft, have instructions and forms to prepare in the event that a draft is called and you must prove your CO status. Gathering the proper documentation can be difficult, and division over the issue within religious communities have been used against aspiring objectors. Recent court cases have moved things further into the direction of individual (rather than institutional) matters of conscience that don’t require proof of “rigorous study”, but that doesn’t mean the process is a cake-walk. Allowing teens to indicate a CO claim on the Selective Service form would establish a definable paper-trail of anti-militaristic intent, and could bolster CO cases if a new draft should ever be called. At this time, would-be COs who write objector statements on their Selective Service forms create no paper-trail as the forms are destroyed after the information is recorded.

“Other Quakers, he said, write that they are conscientious objectors on the forms, even though the information is not collected by the government and the documents are discarded. The objectors keep copies of the forms to prove that they raised the issue when they registered.”

For modern Paganism, which encompasses many different religions and traditions, and many different attitudes towards military service, being able to make the government record your individual beliefs regarding service is important. Otherwise a pacifist Pagan could be confronted with the fact that many Pagans serve in the military and that our communities have been very active in having Pagan soldiers acknowledged and honored. As we move away from top-down hierarchical religious institutions, getting to acknowledge that a single religion (or interconnected group of religions) can encompass both pacifists and warriors (and various shades in-between) is an important step, a step that may be taken by Mr. Jacobrown and the ACLU.