Archives For Poland

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

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

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

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

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.

Chantal Commons, left, and Star Raven Hawk. Photo by Lael Hines.

Chantal Commons, left, and Star Raven Hawk. Photo by Lael Hines.

  • The Villager profiles two Wiccans on the Lower East Side of New York who are working with their local community to try and open a Pagan community center in the Village. Quote: “This religion allows people to connect with each other,” she said. “In most religions it’s about the man being above the woman or parents being above the kids in a constant struggle for power. In this religion we can have power with each other. A lot of women flock to this religion because women are honored, respected and treated as equals; it’s like a breath of fresh air. We are open to people of all orientations, all races and all ages. I have a lot of gay friends who come to this religion because other religions condemn them; this religion isn’t about that, it’s about your growth.” Their goal will start with funds raised at the 2nd annual WitchFest USA on Sat., June 29, on Astor Place.
  • In England, David Novakovic King, who is a practicing Pagan, has been found guilty of murdering his partner’s father in 2009, after having squandered an inheritance the man had received. Quote: “A practicing pagan murdered his partner’s dad before dumping the remains in woodland he used for regular rituals. David Novakovic King, of Middleborough Crescent, Radford, even hid tools in Wainbody Wood – the patch of land where he buried the remains of Hiralal Chauhan. He faces a life sentence after being found guilty of murder earlier today (Thursday) at Leamington Justice Centre. Police said the 44-year-old, who will be sentenced tomorrow, had thought he carried out the perfect murder before a determined investigation by officers.” It should be noted that there were no religious elements to the “Killer of Keresley’s” actions, despite his victim being buried in a grove, and the motivations were all too mundane (and terrible). His Paganism, simply a detail of questioning during the trial that was seized on by the newspapers. I’m glad he has been brought to justice, and hope he pays fully for his crimes.
  • Archbishop Charles Chaput says that “many self-described Christians” are “in fact pagan.”  This comment was not taken very well by some Christians it seems, so Philadelphia’s NBC affilate got some Catholics to expound on all the wonderful things “pagan” can mean. Quote: “Pagan can mean anyone who isn’t a believer, anyone who doesn’t practice Catholicism or even a term some Catholics who believe in a more ethereal interpretation of the religion use for themselves. ‘The word pagan can mean several things to different Catholics in different contexts,’ said Father James Halstead, associate professor & chair of the Department of Religious Studies at DePaul University. ‘In my university here when people claim to be pagans or neo-pagans they claim to be very spiritual, very religious and very moral.’ ‘It is not always a disparaging term,’ added Priest Michael Driscoll, theology professor and co-director of the sacred music program at Notre Dame University.” I think this may be the first time Catholics have (sorta) praised modern Pagans in order to soften an insult towards other Christians.
  • Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath fame wants you to know that while the band dabbled in the occult back in the day, they weren’t Satanists. Quote: “Asked about whether the band had performed in a way that played up to their Satanic image, the band’s guitarist Tony Iommi told HARDtalk’s Shaun Ley they had ‘dabbled’ in the occult in the early days, but said they had never been Satanists. ‘It was creating music, and that’s all I do. I don’t try to create anything to destroy people or to upset anybody,’ he added.” 
  • Chas Clifton points to an article by Thad Horrell, a Heathen and graduate student, published in the Journal of Religion, Identity and Politics, that explores Heathenry as a postcolonial movement. Quote: “In this paper, I explore the relationship of the contemporary white racial identification of the vast majority of Heathens and the postcolonial stances taken in common Heathen discourses. I will argue that Heathenry is a postcolonial movement both in the sense that it combats and challenges elements of colonial history and the contemporary expectations derived from it (anti-colonial), and in the much more problematic sense that it serves to justify current social and racial inequalities by pushing the structures of colonialism off as a thing of the past (pro-colonial). Rather than promoting a sense of solidarity with colonized populations, Heathen critiques of colonialism and imperialism often serve to justify disregard for claims of oppression by colonized minorities. After all, if we’ve all been colonized, what is there to complain about?”
Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

  • Summer is here again, time for a new, new, theory about what Stonehenge was for. Quote: “Stonehenge wasn’t built in order to do something, in the same way you might build a Greek temple to use it for worship. It seems much more likely that everything was in the act of building—that you’d construct it, then you’d go away. You’d come back 500 years later, you’d rebuild it in a new format, and then you’d go away. I think we have to shake off this idea of various sorts of priests or shamans coming in every year over centuries to do their thing. This is a very different attitude to religious belief. It’s much more about the moment. It’s about what must have been these upwellings of religious—almost millennial—belief, and once the thing is done, then everyone disperses and goes back to their lives.” If you’re interested in hearing more, there’s a book out from the scientists involved.
  • Shanghaiist interviews a Witch in Shanghai who uses tarot cards as her primary medium. Quote: “Mache’s own credentials as a witch include working with a doctor, treating people with terminal illnesses by using different techniques of energy healing and alternative therapies. As much as she would like the tarot cards to reveal a happy ending for all her clients, ‘life is not always happy.’ ‘More important than anything I’ve learnt as a witch, is how to communicate with people. Someone can think square, say triangle and the other person will hear circle. Still I am very far from being a perfect human being, of course. But I’m learning like everybody else.’”
  • You may not believe in magic, by why tempt fate? Quote: “I don’t believe in any of that witchcraft mumbo-jumbo junk, but this morning I woke up with a stiff neck of unholy proportions. I’m talking supernatural stiff. Like, I can’t look to the right because I have a bad case of taco-neck kind of stiff. Any person with a hint of common sense would say it’s from sleeping on it wrong. But I’ll have you know I have a memory-foam mattress, meaning I sleep like a stoic statue surrounded by contoured foam. In all honesty, I have this haunting feeling it’s because I trolled an Internet con man and he turned out to be a goddamned voodoo shaman.”
  • The gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court has repercussions outside the South, Native Americans in Arizona and Alaska are deeply concerned about discrimination at the polls. Quote: “By a 5-4 vote, the justices held that Section 4 was based on an outdated formula that does not reflect current attitudes about racial discrimination. The decision means that several states — including Alaska and Arizona, where American Indians and Alaska Natives have been subject to discrimination at the polls — won’t be subject to extra scrutiny by the Department of Justice until Congress updates the law.” Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has formed the White House Council on Native American Affairs to foster more effective government-to-government relations. 
  • In another piece brought to light by Chas Clifton, it seems that Pagans in Poland held a historic conference to overcome theological differences and find ways to work together towards common interests. Quote: “In the registry of the Ministry of Administration and Digitization there are currently four religious Rodzimowiersto organisations: the Polish Slavic Church, Native Faith, Slavic Faith and the Native Polish Church. They try to find the principles of the faith of their ancestors in historical sources. They believe in the gods, who are identified with the forces of nature. Mother Earth is Mokosh, the Sky — Swiatowid, the Sun — Svarog, and Lightning — Perun. However, there have arisen theological differences between the adherents. ‘Some Rodzimowiercy claim that their religion can be combined with other faiths. I think that is unacceptable. I am counting on the congress helping to dispel theological doubts,’ says Stanislaw Potrzebowski of Native Faith.” 
  • Oh, and before I go, it isn’t just Archbishop Charles Chaput who has a “pagan” problem, Irish Catholic priests are also perturbed by “pagan” urges within their flocks. Quote: “The people, they told us, have bought into the evils of materialism and consumerism, and don’t have time or interest in faith any more. They have, to all intents and purposes, become pagan. And they believe that ‘evangelisation’ is the answer [...] there didn’t seem to us to be any practical ideas, or indeed energy, around how this evangelisation could be progressed.” Things are tough all over it seems. 

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.

Before we move too far into the future, let’s pause a moment to talk about Halloween. Not the spiritual vigil of Samhain or seasonal harvest celebrations.  Let’s discuss the wholly secular, American and Canadian holiday of Halloween, complete with candy, costumes and PVC pumpkins.

Vintage Halloween Pumpkin Men

Vintage Plastic Halloween Pumpkin Men by riptheskull

It’s fair to say that Halloween has a somewhat uneasy place in the family of North American holidays.  On the one hand, we, as Pagans, fully embrace the festivities. It is the one calendar event that openly clings to its Pagan origins. When else can you buy a pentacle in TJ Maxx?   But, on the other hand, the celebration mocks its own spiritual roots, something that we hold very dear.

We aren’t alone in our unsettled attempts to navigate through the Halloween season.  American religious and community leaders repeatedly attempt to ban the holiday.  Why?  The list is endless including concerns over the overindulgence in candy, the potential dangers of trick-or-treating, the increased popularity of over-sexualized or violently graphic costumes and, of course, its Pagan origins. But the majority of folks really just want an excuse to party. Halloween provides a unique canvas that can only be topped by the decadent bacchanalia that is Mardi Gras. (The Atlantic, 10-30-12)

Japanese McDonalds Costumes

Ronald McDonalds Girls
Photo courtesy of Japan-Talk.com

More recently, the Halloween debate has been getting larger – much larger. Over the past two decades, our secular holiday has been spreading across the globe, seizing the imaginations of youth cultures on every continent. The holiday has hitched a ride with missionaries, English language teachers and ex-pats. It’s being promoted by imported American cultural commodities like internationally-based Theme Parks, McDonald’s stores, Coca Cola products and Hollywood movies.  And, of course, the ever-increasing accessibility to the internet only fuels the proverbial fire.

In some regions, Halloween has been readily incorporated into long-established fall cultural traditions. In the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, Halloween finds itself at its ancestral birthplace. Today, the newly-imported version has mixed with surviving local customs associated with, among others, Guy Fawkes Day.  As noted by English writer, Chris Bitcher:

“Trick or treat has now actually become a bona fide tradition in the UK ….Fireworks were our autumnal treat of choice and for a good little while we fought off any competitor to it. But then we gave that up and decided to embrace both.” (Your Canterbury)

Disneyland Honk Kong on Halloween

Disneyland Honk Kong
During Halloween

Across the globe in China, Hong Kong and Japan, people have been enthusiastically adopting the holiday. Lisa Morton, award-winning writer of Trick or Treat: The History of Halloween, and noted Halloween authority, attributes this acceptance to the presence of two Disney Theme Parks  (Tokyo and Hong Kong), Hollywood horror movies and a fascination with American pop-culture. During my own discussion with her, Lisa added, “In Japan, there is a love of festivals and affection for costuming or “cosplay,” which is associated with anime and manga.”  In mainland China, Halloween is slowly replacing Yue Laan or “ Hungry Ghost Festivals,” during which people appease and entertain ancestral ghosts.  To fuel and solidify this cultural shift, China will be getting its very own “Haunted Mansion” at Shanghai Disneyland in 2015.

On the contrary, in continental Europe, Halloween has been receiving a less than welcome reception. In Oct 2012, the Polish Archbishop Andzej Dzięga, was quoted on Polskie Radio, as saying, “This kind of fun, tempting children [with] candy, poses the real possibility of great spiritual damage, even destroying spiritual life.” He warned against the “promotion of paganism” and a “culture of death.”  In 2003, CNN.com reported that France’s Catholics are trying everything to fend off a Halloween celebration they say is an “ungodly U.S. import.”

More recently, in Russia, the war over Halloween rages on. ABC Online reports that one Russian Education Ministry official called the holiday, a destructive influence “on young people’s morals and mental health.” The Moscow city schools banned Halloween celebrations claiming that they were concerned about, “rituals of Satanically-oriented religious sects and… the promotion of the cult of death.”  In the same article, an unamed Russian psychologist warned:

Halloween poses a great danger to children and their mental health, suggesting it could make young people more likely to commit suicide.”(ABC Online)

Despite this heavily Christian rhetoric, the resistance is not entirely about religion.  In our discussion, Lisa explained that, “While it is difficult to fully separate the expression of nationalism from religious tradition, many European countries, like France and Slovenia, have strong anti-American undercurrents.”  Religious fervor may, in fact, be serving nationalist interests.  Lisa said, in the end, she “believes the protests are far more about nationalism than religion.”

This is expressed in an article by Paul Wood, an Englishman living in Bucharest:

Just as the North American grey squirrel has made the red squirrel almost extinct so has the North American Hallowe’en taken over with extraordinary swiftness, extinguishing older, weaker traditions. This too is life, I suppose, but it is part of the process by which the whole world is becoming plastic. (Romania Insider)

Despite the rejection, Halloween is still growing, albeit very slowly, deep within European youth cultures.  In Italy, Halloween is called La Notte delle Streghe or “Night of the Witches.”  In Romania, home of the Carpathian Mountains, the local economy is profiting from world’s fascination with Count Dracula. What a better way to spend Halloween than in Transylvania on a “real Dracula Halloween tour” complete with a four-course dinner and prizes!

Now, let’s move into the Southern Hemisphere where Halloween faces a new obstacle. Simply put, the harvest-based holiday does not apply. In this part of the world, October 31st marks the middle of Spring, not Fall.  Over the summer, I was reminded of this fact when wishing an Australian friend, “Joyous Lughnasah.” She responded with an equally joyful, “Happy Imbolc.”

2671887 eeda9c5cIn the Southern Hemisphere, traditional festivals continue to be celebrated in accordance with appropriate seasonal shifts with no noticeable attempt to transplant Halloween to May.  However, youth cultures have been showing a small amount of interest in an October-based Halloween celebration, particularly in the English-speaking countries of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.  If for no other reason, the Northern holiday offers a chance to party and dabble in the macabre – even if it’s completely devoid of its seasonal aspects.

What about the Americas?  As noted above, the countries in the Southern Hemisphere do not recognize Halloween chiefly due to geographical complications.  However, the closer you get to the U.S., the more our secular Halloween has influenced local October traditions.  In Costa Rica, for example, locals “have taken this “foreign” holiday and used it to revive an ancient Costa Rican custom: Dia de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense or Masquerade Day,” reports the Costa Rican News.

Closer to home, in Mexico, the famous and mystical celebration of Dias de los Muertos is, now, often called Dias de las Brujas or “Day of the Witches.”  Halloween practices have been woven in to this largely religious holiday.  As expected, there has been backlash from Mexican nationalists and religious leaders.  However, Mexico is just too close to the U.S. to prevent the blending of two very similar October holidays. And that continues to happen in both directions.

Just as Halloween has infiltrated Mexican culture, elements of Dias de los Muertos are now showing up within U.S. Halloween celebrations.  In an interview, Lisa Morton explained:

Last year I saw my first piece of major Dias de los Muertos American retailing – the Russell Stover candy company released several themed candy bars… That’s probably a sign that Dias de los Muertos is starting to be accepted into the American mainstream. It’s certainly very popular in those areas of the U.S. with large Latino populations.  More people seem to be joining in large-scale Dias de los Muertos celebrations in America every year.

Dias de los Muertos Candy

Dias de los Muertos Candy
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Morton

There are some areas of the world in which Halloween has yet to find a home for reasons already listed. These areas include the Islamic Middle East, the heavily Christian areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Israel, India and parts of South East Asia.  I’ll go out on a limb and add Antarctica to that list – just to complete the geography lesson.

What does all this mean for Pagans? First of all, in every article for or against Halloween, a discourse emerges surrounding the origins the holiday.  In many of these reports, the author includes a reasonable account of Halloween’s Celtic origins and Samhain-based traditions. Modern Pagan language is, unwittingly, hitching a ride on Halloween’s broomstick.

With the growing public interest in Halloween, we may find ourselves more able to openly join in the global conversation and, at the same time, deal with our own reservations. Maybe we should embrace the evolving holiday, “seize the spotlight” and become the stewards of Halloween worldwide?  After all, the U.S. media loves interviewing witches in October.  Or, we could completely renounce the secular holiday and its derogatory effigies. We could join others in protest with slogans like “We’re a culture. Not a costume.”

Regardless of our personal feelings about the secular celebration, Halloween continues to gain popularity worldwide, year after year.  As a result, every October when the veil thins, a brand-new door opens for us providing a unique opportunity for a teachable moment.  Now, we can say that both the ancestors and the world are listening.

 

Trick or Treat: The History of Halloween

Note about Lisa Morton: Trick or Treat:  A History of Halloween. This book is an historical and cultural survay of Halloween’s evolution from early Celtic traditions and lore through the ages and across the globe. It is a good read for history junkies, like myself, or students of comparative culture. Within her detailed work, Lisa did reach out to consult Wiccans, world-wide, and gave a decent nod to the modern-day Pagan spiritual celebrations of Samhain or Halloween. 

Before we start today’s post I’d like to wish safety, security, and good health to all those in path of the Hurricane Sandy. If you’re a reader of The Wild Hunt, please check in at the comments and let us know you’re OK.

Now then, Samhain. Or should I say Halloween? Because while the two holidays are distinct, their connections and associations have reporters heading out to find some real-live Witches and Pagans to interview each October. While it’s not as bad as in times past, there’s still a flood of stories each year; some good, some bad, and some that just make you scratch your head. So here’s some selections from the Samhain Silly Season.

  • Every Halloween has to have a story from Salem, home to so many real-live Witches, and this year is no different. However, this year the East Coast is contending with Hurricane Sandy, so we get a “how’s the Halloween tourist industry doing in the inclement weather” story. Quote: “To me, the entire season this year has seemed a little quiet,” said Lynn Lazdowski, co-owner of Bewitched in Salem. “I don’t know if it’s the economy; gas prices are still high, after all. So for me, evaluating the crowds today are a tough call – it does seem down from previous years, but I don’t know what to attribute that to.”
  • What do you do when you’re a Christian media outlet but you want to have a Witch-themed story in time for Halloween? Interview a Christian ex-Witch of course! Christian Today Australia interviews S.A. (Seleah Ally) Tower (who I’ve reported on before) about this dangerous, dangerous holiday. Quote: “Putting on a costume is like temporarily putting on the persona of the costume so I would suggest using discernment in the costume choice. I would certainly not encourage a witch or sorcerer costume, but I don’t think a parent should overreact to a child’s choice of one either. It can be a great learning experience and help the child make another choice on their own.”
  • However, Henry Brinton a pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church, writing for USA Today, says that Christians shouldn’t fear Samhain (or Halloween). Quote: “…the ancient Celts were right to focus on “summer’s end.” Halloween is about the transition from summer to winter, from life to death. Even young children are beginning to wonder about mortality, so what is the harm in having them dress up as ghosts or skeletons? As Christians, we believe that God is with us in both life and in death. Bioethicist George Annas says America has a “death-denying culture that cannot accept death as anything but defeat.” This attitude makes it hard for us to prepare for death. But Halloween reminds us that we all must die.”
  • Canadian paper The Province interviews Witch Sarah Lawless about Samhain and Halloween. Quote: “The biggest pagan celebration of the year is Oct. 31. Most people know it as Halloween. “This is the one time of year when magic is acceptable. It’s okay to be a pagan,” says Sarah Lawless, 28, a Maple Ridge native who got into paganism 10 years ago as a way of celebrating the natural world. She says it’s fun being scared, but most of the time there’s no reason to be.”
  • Meanwhile, in Poland, the growing popularity of Halloween has got Archbishop Andzej Dzięga very, very concerned! Quote: “It is with growing sadness that we see in the last few years a trend of so-called Halloween celebrations growing in Poland. I am particularly concerned about such initiatives [being introduced] in school, where only mature attitudes should shape the social, intellectual and spiritual growth of the younger generation,” writes the archbishop [...] Halloween is also the “promotion of paganism” and a “culture of death” he claims.” Sorry Archbishop, but when you get rid of totalitarian government, you have to deal with the messiness of actual freedom.

That’s just a selection, there’s more, of course. A Witches Ball in Toledo, Unitarians considering the thinning of the veil, eclectic Pagans in Framingham, speaking with the spirits in Salem, and all the occult origins reporters can dig up on short notice. Why not share your favorite Samhain-themed stories in the comments, I have no doubt there’s plenty I’m missing.

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.

Herdswomen with beautiful floral cow. (Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

  • The altar of art: “The faithful who came to meditate on a fresco of Giotto’s or a painting by Caravaggio sought a personal experience of the divine, the feeling that they themselves were present, witnessing the mystery being represented, a miracle that was being enacted specially for them. At the MoMA show, the artist’s presence offered transcendence through communion and intimacy, in the privacy that Abramović was able to create in a crowded atrium. Watching the documentary, I thought: This is the moment in which we live. Alienated, unmoored, we seek our salvation, one by one, from the artist who brings us the comforting news: I see you. I weep when you weep. The mystery, and the miracle, is that you exist.”
  • This is awesome. So is this.

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

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Happy World Tarot Day!

Happy World Tarot Day!

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.

Top Story: We start with the ongoing James Arthur Ray controversy. The “Secret”-selling guru was arrested and charged with three counts of manslaughter last week, this came in the wake of a long investigation into the deaths of three participants at a “spiritual warrior” sweat lodge ceremony led by Ray in October. Now, after Ray’s lawyer appeared on Larry King (a fan of Ray and “The Secret”), the prosecution is seeking a gag-order on further press appearances. The idea is to stop Ray’s supporters from using the bully pulpit of popular media to pollute possible jury pools, but the Don’t Pay To Pray blog points out that this will also restrict all information about the trial from the public (including damning interviews with sweat-lodge participants).

“After James Arthur Ray’s attorneys plastered their faces all over the media, on Good Morning America and Larry King Live, in a transparent attempt to influence a potential jury, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, has requested a “gag order” hearing. A gag order is a judge’s order prohibiting the attorneys and the parties to a pending lawsuit or criminal prosecution from talking to the media or the public about the case. The intent is usually to prevent prejudice due to pre-trial publicity which would influence potential jurors. Based on the “freedom of the press” provision of the First Amendment, the court cannot constitutionally restrict the media from printing or broadcasting information about the case. The prosecutor’s tool to stop a case from being tried in the press is a gag order on the participants under the court’s control. While the Gag Order would stop James Ray’s attorney’s from trying the case in the media, it would also stop the public from having access to any information from Yavapai county staff regarding any aspect of this case with the exception of the scheduling of hearings.”

Don’t Pay To Pray is also concerned that a jury trial in Sedona would result in “a jury composed of several people who conduct the same type of plastic sweat lodges that Ray did.” These concerns are echoed by Johnny P. Flynn, a Potawatomi Indian and  faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies at IUPUI, who says that Native religion will end up being put on trial by various non-Native “experts”.

“I am not a psychic or an attorney, but my experiences through the years with American Indian religious issues tell me this: even though James Ray will be sitting at the defense table, it will be our religious practices on trial in that courtroom. And it will be experts who will argue both sides of the case … In following the Ray story over the past few months, I am amazed at the number of non-Indian sweat lodge experts the media has been able to locate. Few Indians if any have been interviewed … James Ray’s defense might be compelled to bring in experts to argue that he did the ceremony the right way—and to insist that occasional and “unforeseen” death is one of the by-products of American Indian religious practices … The prosecution would then be compelled to bring in their “experts” to argue that a non-Indian, who allegedly learned to do this ceremony from “shamans” all over the world, did the sweat lodge the wrong way. Ray would be guilty of manslaughter by way of “malpractice” even if he is an “expert” on the sweat lodge.”

For the moment, Ray still sits in jail, while his lawyers appeal the 5 million dollar bail, and lawyers on both sides position themselves for the coming trial. If the gag order goes through, news on this issue could dry up until the trial starts. But I suspect there will still be plenty to talk about, like the James Ray true believers who are organizing prayer conference calls on his behalf, or the Native American (and guru-debunking) activists who are using services like Twitter to network and share information. It still remains to be see what reverberations will be felt in the larger New Age community, or if it will be business as usual after a short period of making noises about “accountability”. You can bet I’ll continue to keep you posted as things develop.

In Other News:

Stonehenge’s Modernist Box: Britain’s Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment is protesting the approved design for Stonehenge’s new visitor center, saying it would detract from the landmark, and that the new “twee” footpaths are more appropriate for an “urban garden”.

“We question whether, in this landscape of scale and huge horizons and with a very robust end point that has stood for centuries and centuries, this is the right design approach?” said Diane Haigh, CABE’s director of design review. “You need to feel you are approaching Stonehenge. You want the sense you are walking over Salisbury Plain towards the stones.”

This is quickly becoming a big issue for Britain. The new center was supposed to be a compromise on the scrapped plans to build a tunnel that would reroute traffic away from the site. With the looming influx of Olympics visitors, pressure is mounting to get the site ready for the spotlight. It remains to be seen if CABE’s objections will now slow that process down. You can see a concept photo of the proposed center, here.

Kupala not Valentine: A right-wing nationalist Polish group called Niklot (named after a famous Slavic pagan) is protesting the celebration of Valentine’s Day, saying that Slavic Poles should celebrate Kupala Day instead.

“Niklot claims that Poles should observe the Kupala Day, a Slavic fertility holiday traditionally celebrated on 23-24 June. On Kupala Day young men would jump over the flames of bonfires and girls would float wreaths of flowers often lit with candles on rivers, attempting to gain foresight into their relationship fortunes from the flow patterns of the flowers on the river.”

You can read more about Kupala and Kupala Day at Wikipedia. The Helsinki Federation for Human Rights is calling for city officials to oppose the group, who have been putting up posters that say “F**k Off Valentines”, claiming Niklot promotes racism and fascism. Niklot spokesman Ireneusz Woszczyk disputes these claims, saying the group is only interested in tradition. Could one of our experts on Slavic Paganism weigh in on this? Is this group extremist? Or are they misunderstood reconstructionists?

Haitian Vodou Leaders Lend the UN a Hand: United Nations officials in Haiti are asking for help from the estimated 60,000 voodoo priests and priestesses in that country to perform a census of the dead and injured.

“…in postquake Haiti, the practitioners of voodoo have taken on a more practical role, enlisted by the government to help count the dead, tend to the injured, and soothe the psychologically damaged. “One must understand that Haiti is voodoo,’’ said Max Beauvoir, 75, the “pope’’ of Haitian voodoo and a former biochemical engineer who once worked for Digital Equipment in Maynard, Mass. “Helping Haitians is nothing else but helping ourselves.’’ To make use of that resource, the United Nations has reached out to the vast and influential network of about 60,000 voodoo priests in Haiti, Beauvoir said. And the priests, firmly entrenched in their displaced communities, are eager to lend a hand.”

The article also interviews Vodou “pope” Max Beauvoir, and discusses how Haiti’s Houngans and Mambos are helping a traumatized nation regain its footing. Whatever the future may hold for Haiti, it seems very likely that Vodou will be an ongoing and important part of that future.

The Wicker Tree: In a final note, director Robin Hardy’s long-awaited sequel/re-imagining of 1973 cult-classic “The Wicker Man”, “The Wicker Tree”, finally has its own web site!

Looks nice! No word on a release date other than “2010″, but you can sign up for updates. For all of my previous coverage of “The Wicker Tree”, click here.

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

While small (sometimes nationalist) Pagan groups have existed in Poland for some time, it looks like Wicca is starting to make some headway into the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

“Witches are among us, says the weekly Polityka. Marion calls herself the first stationary witch in Poland. She was initiated in Great Britain in the Wicca cult, a pagan, nature-based religion popularized in 1954 by a retired British civil servant. This petite 30 year old works in a marketing department of a big firm and doesn’t want to reveal her real name. One never knows how her colleagues and bosses would react. It is impossible to say how many Wiccans there are in Poland. They fear intolerance in the predominantly Roman Catholic society. Often even their families don’t know about it. On the other hand, job migration to the British Isles facilitates their contacts with British Wiccans and books on the Wicca cult have sold in 10 thousand copies here.”

You can find a link to the weekly, and downloadable table of contents (featuring a picture of Laurie Cabot), here. As the synopsis mentions, most Polish Wiccans live “in the broom closet”, and often have a hard time coping with the need to remain anonymous.

“A very interesting element is also the relation between the catholic church and polish Wiccans – on one hand in catholic doctrine Wiccans are identified as Satanists; on the other hand Wiccans became discouraged by anonymous rituals and external religiousity of Catholic believers. It seems to be a very important element of Wiccans identity.”

But perhaps as religious freedom continues to grow, and Pagan advocacy groups become more entrenched, the Polish Pagans and Witches there will finally find it safe to live a more public life. In what could be seen by some as a positive sign for redefining the role of “witches” in Poland, government officials recently put a stop to the ceremonial burning of witches in the village of Zielona Gora.

“Polish women’s rights groups and government ministers have banned the display after protests that the stake-burning drama was anti-feminist. “Making peoples’ tragic deaths into a tourist attraction is reprehensible and regrettable,” said Monika Platek, head of Poland’s Association for Legal Education. “The stakes where women were burned were the result of profound misogyny, discrimination against women and ignorance.” Poland’s women’s ministry boss Berenika Anders told the town council it had to scrap the witch sessions.”

Stories like these help to reinforce the fact that the modern Pagan movement isn’t isolated to the UK, America, or Australia, but is a truly global phenomenon spreading from India, to Brazil, to South Africa, and Russia. Paganism isn’t a decadent sign of a post-modern world (as some critics would see it), but a revitalized religious impulse finding its voice once more. So good luck to the Polish Pagans, whether they are Wiccan, follow a revived Slavic tradition, or engage some other path.