Archives For polygamy

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.

Akhenaten's daughter (Tutankhamun's sister). from Mallawi Museum in Mallawi town.

Akhenaten’s daughter (Tutankhamun’s sister). from Mallawi Museum in Mallawi town.

  • One ongoing issue relating to the political tumult within Egypt (which is ongoing) has been the fate of art and antiquities looted during these times of crisis. So, it’s a small ray of light that French officials are returning five pieces that were spotted by Egyptian officials at auction. Quote: “Five antiquities looted and removed from Egypt after the Arab Spring uprising in 2011 have been returned by the French government to the Egyptian authorities. “Egyptian officials in charge of monitoring antiquities sales abroad spotted five Ptolemaic dynasty objects [323BC-30BC] for sale online, including two that were posted by a Toulouse-based auction house,” Ali Ahmed, an official at the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, told the French newspaper Le Figaro. A head, torso and arm, which were part of a glass sculpture of a man, were among the stolen items.” Egypt’s vast and rich archeological heritage has been an engine of it’s once-booming tourism industry (currently hobbled by the chaos), and the preservation of this legacy a key component of recovery. For now, it’s a hunt to restore priceless treasures of one of the ancient world’s greatest civilizations.
  • If you wanted to know more about the painting of famous Voodoo/Vodou Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb in New Orleans being painting pink, The Art of Conjure has a very good round-up of the story. Quote: “Whether it is vandalism or devotion is not the issue here, however. Rather, according to Morrison, it is the fact that it was apparently done without Mam’zelle’s consent. At least, that’s what Morrison expressed after being there in person and informing Mam’zelle that her tomb had been painted pink. Traditionally in New Orleans Voudou, Marie Laveaux is associated with the color blue, perhaps because of her association with water.” On Thursday I featured Lilith Dorsey’s views on this incident.
  • NPR has a deeper look at the recent controversy over the auction of Hopi sacred artifacts, and the struggles in general of preserving Native/indigenous sacred lands, places, and objects. Quote: “‘Indians in Arizona and elsewhere continue to be guided by religious traditions that have been handed down by the Creator,’ said James Riding In, a member of the Pawnee Nation and Indian Studies professor at Arizona State University. He adds it’s difficult for those who are not Indian to understand the spiritual connection many tribes have with their land and with items such as the Hopi sacred objects.” A nice summary of several stories that I’ve touch on over the years here at The Wild Hunt.
  • The New York Times profiles Kumar Natarajanaidu, a Hindu priest who set up a temple in the back of a retail space in Queens. Quote: “To pay the rent, Mr. Natarajanaidu uses the front portion of his temple to frame pictures and sell videos, flowers and religious apparel. But beyond the DVD counter, the temple begins, pieced together by his untrained hand. It is a hodgepodge of cleverly rigged curtains and shrines made from stray planks, tape, string and ornate wall coverings. The carpet segments are duct-taped together, and overhead is a water-stained drop ceiling. But as if by divine intervention, it all comes together as a glowing, opulent holy place, with a seductive mélange of colors and a flood of fragrant incense.”
  • Here’s BBC coverage of the Druid leader Arthur Pendragon-led protest against the display of human remains at the new Stonehenge visitor center. Quote: “Mr Pendragon said that until the bones were taken off display and reburied, he would continue a campaign that will cost English Heritage money and turn the public against them. He has claimed the bones discovered in 2008 are the remains of members of the royal line and wants them reinterred. ‘Today was just a shot across the bows – it was just a taster,’ he said.” For another perspective, I spotlighted a review of the new center, here. Here’s an excerpt from his announcement to protest.
The reality television family at the center of the Utah polygamy decision.

The reality television family at the center of the Utah polygamy decision.

  • The (much-reported) decision in Brown v. Buhman may not have legalized polygamy, but it is a victory for polyamory (and privacy). Quote: “The problems with this statutory language under the right to privacy most recently re-established in Lawrence v. Texas should be obvious. On its face, the law would prohibit not only informal consensual polyamorous relationships—problematic in itself—but any kind of intimate cohabitation between unmarried partners. Based onLawrence’s recognition of the fundamental right consenting adults have to engage in same-sex relations, it is very hard to argue that this section of the Utah statute doesn’t violate the right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.” Is this the beginning of the end of morality laws?
  • Would you like to know what author Dan “The Da Vinci Code” Brown’s superpowers are? Quote: “Given the powers of ‘Inferno’, showing a glimpse of hell with every three line poem he writes, that reflects the future in 33 minutes.”
  • You know you’ve arrived as a minority religion when conservative Christians call you out. Yes, it’s from the Duck Dynasty dude. Quote: “All you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero,” Robertson explained. “That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups.” Charming, isn’t he? He should get his own TV show! Oh… wait…
  • Here’s the backstory on how the Annenberg Foundation saved those Hopi and Apache sacred items at a French auction.
  • Here’s the complete “American Gods” soundtrack, if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and “The Dark Knight” screenwriter David S. Goyer are producing an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” at Warner Bros. What could possibly go wrong? For the record, Gordon-Levitt was brilliant in “Brick.”

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.

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.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld Canada’s law banning the practice of polygamy (multiple-partner marriages). This legal battle was somewhat unique in that a legal alliance of fundamentalist Mormons and a polyamory advocacy group (the CPAA) stood together to challenge the law. In addition, Pagan families and clergy in Canada have filed affidavits of support in the decriminalization case there. The reason for this somewhat unlikely fellowship was made clear during the trial when the B.C. Attorney General’s office made very clear that polyamorous families would be treated like polygamous families in the eyes of the law.

When multi-partner, conjugal relationships are like “duplicative marriages,” Jones said they are criminal regardless of whether the individuals are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.Although he said ‘duplicative marriage’ need not be “exhaustively defined in advance,” Jones said all conjugal relationships involving more than two people are criminal if they go beyond “mere cohabitation” and have some form of imposed consequences related to entering or remaining in the relationship.”

However, while Chief Justice Robert Bauman upheld the law, he did seem to carve out exceptions for informal multiple-partner couplings, and provided a “road-map” for future challenges.

Robert Wickett, the lawyer for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the polygamous community in Bountiful, said the B.C. Supreme Court decision actually offers a “road map” for would-be polygamists on how to avoid prosecution. [...]  “[Judge Bauman] lays out for prosecutors and defendants what is lawful and not lawful,” Mr. Wickett said. “He has not said that three people living together is unlawful, but only [that] three people living together in a form of ‘marriage’ that had a sanctioning event or a religious ceremony. And so people looking at that definition, then, you could imagine how they [could] structure their affairs to stay within his definition.”

The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association says it is “relieved” at the exceptions in the ruling, but points out that polyamorous couples who have had a “sanctioning event or religious ceremony” could still be targeted by the polygamy law.

“Many polyamorous women, as well as men, have multiple partners, and polyamorists think men and women have equal freedom to define their relationships. The CPAA says the decision will relieve most polyamorists but, alarmingly, will harm those who make certain formal commitments. “The decision still criminalizes a segment of the polyamorous community if they have a marriage ceremony,” said Zoe Duff, a CPAA director and spokesperson. Duff also represents one of the five polyamorous families who provided evidence to the court. The decision clarifies that she is living legally with her two male partners.”

Considering how many Canadian Pagan polyamorous families have had public marriage/handfasting ceremonies this interpretation of the law places them on the same legal footing as a polygamous Mormon (or Muslim) household. This, in essence, forces consensual multi-partner arrangements to stay in the closet, and avoid anything that might be interpreted by a “sanctioning” event within their community. Thus, monogamy as a relationship structure is privileged above all others, even though the judge in this case acknowledges that this arrangement limits personal autonomy and religious freedom. As Jonathan Korman told me in my last piece on Paganism and polyamory, consensual multiple-partner arrangements present a fundamental challenge to the status quo that isn’t so easily swept under the rug.

“Polyamory constitutes a direct confrontation with questions about how we define our relationships. It says that we should not accept that our loving relationships must conform to a single standard. From that rejection of the cookie-cutter relationship standard follows hard personal and cultural questions about how we want relationships to work. Cultural conservatives find these questions frightening; without the standards they know and recognize, they fear that we would have no ethical standards at all. But many other people feel that the conception of marriage offered to them does not serve their needs but cannot imagine alternatives. Perhaps same-sex marriage has opened the door to more people thinking about these questions, creating an opportunity for a broader cultural conversation about the cultural and legal implications of polyamorous families. We may see a growing fascination with poly families coming, as people respond to them as a way to talk about the questions they encounter in their own relationships.”

This ruling seems to be something of a punt by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, all but acknowledging that this won’t be the end of the matter in his decision, while trying his best to create an understanding of the polygamy law that will only affect “harmful” manifestations of the practice. But his reliance on ceremony as a threshold for illegality creates more problems than it does solutions, and I have little doubt that we will see this issue back in the courts once again sometime soon.

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.

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.

Our modern society is both fascinated and repulsed by the practice of polygamy (multiple-partner marriages), particularly the practices of fundamentalist Mormons, who allow polygyny (one husband, many wives), and who have been given both sympathetic (Big Love, Sister Wives) and critical (any number of documentaries and news reports) treatment by mainstream media. While the custom of monogamy has been called “ridiculous” by some, and perhaps even unnatural by others, non-monogamous relationships have been generally been portrayed as either lurid fantasy, inherently abusive, or yet another step on a slippery slope towards cultural ruin (particularly within the context of the same-sex marriage debate). Recently, Mormon polygamists have been fighting to decriminalize what they see as a consensual relationship model, arguing that allegations of abuse within these structures should be dealt with separately from the issue of multiple-marriage. In Canada a high-profile decriminalization case is currently before the British Columbia Supreme Court, and now the multiple-partner family behind  Sister Wives has filed suit to challenge Utah’s law against bigamy.

“Attorney Jonathan Turley told the Associated Press that he believes the family’s case represents the strongest challenge to the criminalization of polygamy ever filed in federal courts. It builds on a 2003 case in which the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy laws as a violation of privacy. “We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs,” Brown said in the attorney’s statement.”

As this issue over polygamy, and whether or not it should be decriminalized, heats up, some Pagans are wondering how these developments will affect our interconnected communities, and whether our general acceptance of non-monogamous relationship models will cause reverberations we can’t predict. While polygamy is not a common practice within contemporary Pagan religions, polyamorous groups can often be found. Polyamory is a consensual multiple-partner relationship model that rejects the patriarchal, and sometimes abusive, forms of traditional polygamy that most people envision (polyamory widely values transparency and honesty, along with what’s known as “compersion”). Several prominent Pagans are polyamorous, including Oberon and Morning Glory ZellRaven Kaldera (author of “Pagan Polyamory”), Phaedra Bonewits, and her late husband, the author Isaac Bonewits. Around 30% of poly families identify as Pagan according to one survey conducted in 2002. So as polyamory gets drawn into the polygamy decriminalization battles, it seems likely that poly Pagans will play a role, whether chosen or not. Already, Pagan families and clergy in Canada have filed affidavits of support in the decriminalization case there, and Craig Jones, lead attorney for the B.C. Attorney General’s office, made very clear that polyamorous families would be treated like polygamous families in the eyes of the law.

When multi-partner, conjugal relationships are like “duplicative marriages,” Jones said they are criminal regardless of whether the individuals are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Although he said ‘duplicative marriage’ need not be “exhaustively defined in advance,” Jones said all conjugal relationships involving more than two people are criminal if they go beyond “mere cohabitation” and have some form of imposed consequences related to entering or remaining in the relationship.”

In talking with several polyamorous Pagan individuals for this article I found some apprehension and mixed emotions about being seen as allied with polygamous Mormon groups. While some, like Natalie Smith, think that if “people on the ‘outside’ were to see two opposite groups like Mormons and Pagans working side-by-side towards a common goal, it is more likely to help someone think.” Others, like Jonathan Korman, feel conflicted about making common cause with polygamists.

“I can conceive of legal efforts which serve both groups’ interests, but I have difficulty imagining it politically. The movements have different cultural aims and have different relationships with the society at large. People in each movement tend to find the practices of the other distasteful, making any alliance fraught. Both groups would hesitate to focus only on tactics which support both groups. Both groups may fear that it will compromise their efforts if the public foresees benefits to the other group.”

That said, all the polyamorous Pagans I talked to supported decriminalization, and were in favor of creating a legal framework for legal multiple-partner marriages. Storm Faerywolf, an initiate of the Feri tradition of Witchcraft, noted that “adult individuals should have the right to enter into whatever contracts they choose,” while Pagan podcaster and metaphysical shop manager Devin Hunter emphasized that “in a perfect world this would not even be a question. The rights of a minority group should never be in the hands of the majority. Plural marriages should absolutely be legal within the system, and at the very least it should become decriminalized.” While none of the individuals I talked to held much credence with the slippery slope arguments put forward by figures like Archbishop Timothy Dolan, one respondent, David Shorey, did point out that the “dominant paradigm still revolves around a polar perspective,” and “those who have adopted the polar perspective will see two men or two women fitting into that.” In short, any relationship that exceeds two partners breaks the mold many are comfortable with.

Shorey’s musings on the “polar perspective” seems to tie into some further comments made by Korman, who broached the question of if this issue of multiple-partner marriages touches on a much larger question of the current legal limitations in defining relationship models outside what some may be accustomed to.

“The law currently supports a very limited vocabulary of personal relationships with enforced rights and obligations. We have legal rules for blood relations, for adoptive parents, and for married couples, but almost no other legal support for personal relationships. I believe that many people sense that this gives us too limited a vocabulary for dealing with the complexity of people’s lives but lack a framework for thinking about it. Many people who reach for same-sex civil unions as a compromise may feel open to more sophisticated ways of thinking about how the law addresses our relationships.

Polyamory constitutes a direct confrontation with questions about how we define our relationships. It says that we should not accept that our loving relationships must conform to a single standard. From that rejection of the cookie-cutter relationship standard follows hard personal and cultural questions about how we want relationships to work. Cultural conservatives find these questions frightening; without the standards they know and recognize, they fear that we would have no ethical standards at all. But many other people feel that the conception of marriage offered to them does not serve their needs but cannot imagine alternatives. Perhaps same-sex marriage has opened the door to more people thinking about these questions, creating an opportunity for a broader cultural conversation about the cultural and legal implications of polyamorous families. We may see a growing fascination with poly families coming, as people respond to them as a way to talk about the questions they encounter in their own relationships.”

As this conversation moves forward, can polyamorous Pagans bring more complexity, nuance, and new ideas to the table? So far, the lion’s share of attention has been on contrasting monogamy with abusive forms of polygamy, but shouldn’t there be room to consider that there are other models of multiple-partner families, and that blanket laws against polygamy also impact their lives as well? In defining polyamory, the poly Pagans I talked to described it as “the admission that honesty is more important than monogamy, “ that “each individual member among the relationship shares in responsibility equally,” and is “focused on the individual and their ability to have mutiple loving relationships.” This seems a far cry from the abusive compound narrative often presented when talk of decriminalizing polygamy comes up, and should not be ignored as this debate continues to gain attention.

Whether Pagans wish it or not, the coming polygamy decriminalization fight will have ramifications that will need to be addressed. Many Pagan clergy members bless multiple-partner marriages, many polyamorous families are Pagan, and in Canada, it has been made clear that distinctions between polygamy and polyamory won’t be recognized should the relationships evolve beyond mere “cohabitation.” While the Utah “Sister Wives” case may be something that Pagan communities in the United States can largely avoid, that is no promise the issue will remain dormant, especially if the Canada legal case ends up in the Canadian Supreme Court and results in polygamy being decriminalized. Many of the polyamorous Pagans I talked to said that the time for more vocal activism on this issue was now, for Devin Hunter “the time has come to become even more vocal, “ while Natalie Smith, when asked about being vocal, said that “the road to equality lies through the fields of visibility.” The question is whether Pagan leaders, clergy, and organizations will be willing or able to join them on that road.

The always-informative Religion Clause blog points to a Vancouver Sun article about closing arguments in the B.C. Supreme Court case concerning Canada’s law banning the practice of polygamy. I’ve taken an active interest in this case because Pagan families and clergy in Canada had been filing affidavits in support of decriminalizing the law under the assumption that it affects polyamorous families in addition to the stereotypical fundamentalist Mormon groups. Indeed, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association has sought clarification for some time as to whether governmental defenders of the anti-polygamy statutes  think polyamory falls under their definition of polygamy.

“The CPAA wants to know if polyamorists will be caught under Section 293 should it be determined that the section is constitutional. CPAA lawyer John Ince told Bauman the attorneys general for Canada and BC have not delineated what their thinking is on the polyamorists.”

However, the Canadian and B.C. attorneys general have been tight-lipped on the subject, until now. In his closing remarks, Craig Jones, lead attorney for the B.C. Attorney General’s office, made very clear that polyamorous families would be treated like polygamous families in the eyes of the law.

When multi-partner, conjugal relationships are like “duplicative marriages,” Jones said they are criminal regardless of whether the individuals are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Although he said ‘duplicative marriage’ need not be “exhaustively defined in advance,” Jones said all conjugal relationships involving more than two people are criminal if they go beyond “mere cohabitation” and have some form of imposed consequences related to entering or remaining in the relationship.”

So now we know the true stakes in this decriminalization effort, and very likely why they kept this viewpoint under wraps until the very end. They aren’t simply seeking to crack down on abusive forms of polygamy, they see all “duplicative marriages” as criminal and potentially open for prosecution. Never mind that polyamory isn’t the same as polygamy, isn’t patriarchal, isn’t intergenerationally normalized, and isn’t restricted by gender pairing or sexual orientation.

“This law is not just about people living in Bountiful, British Columbia as the media and the Attorneys General would have us all believe.  This law impacts many many people who have loving healthy families and live right next door to us.  This law would break up families who are doing no wrong and just dare to love and build solid healthy empowering relationships in a different manner than perhaps you do.  This law impacts our rights and paints us with a wide brush that is both terribly unfair and terribly inaccurate.”Dear Polly Amorie

If you think that since you’re not Mormon, you’d never get prosecuted under the polygamy law, think again. Canada has had no seeming qualms charging people with antiquated laws against “pretending” to practice witchcraft, so tacking on a polygamy charge when you’re already under arrest for something else isn’t out of the question. The failure to end criminalization of polygamy could have far-reaching impacts on Canadian Pagan poly families and Pagan clergy willing to perform multiple-partner ceremonies. However, even if this current effort at decriminalization fails, I think the defense made a tactical error by lumping all “duplicative marriages” together. This may create more outrage, new activists, and new trials now that the scope of the law is interpreted as expanding beyond a fundamentalist Mormon context.

Closing arguments continue through this week. You can see live-streaming of the trial, here. Hundreds of transcripts and documents from the trial are available online. I’ll update you once I have more.

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. Before I begin, let me just remind everyone that the Pagan Japan Relief project, an initiative to raise 30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières is just over 3,000 dollars from its final goal! That the Pagan community has been able to collectively raise nearly 27,000 dollars already is a monumental achievement, but lets do a final push, spread the word, and prove that serious fundraising for worthy causes can happen among our interconnected communities. For more background on this initiative, and why it’s important, check out Peter Dybing’s blog.

Now then, unleash the hounds!

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.

A few quick news notes to start your Monday.

Will a Ghanaian Witch-Burning Turn the Tide? Last week a 72-year-old woman in Ghana was accused of being a witch, tortured, doused with kerosene, and lit on fire. This is nothing new; the United Nations and various NGOs have been talking about the global epidemic of witch-killings and witch-hunts for some time now. But will this latest gruesome case spark a change in Ghana? It could just be an illusion created by international press attention, but there seems to be widespread revulsion and outcry over this case, and those forced to live in “witch camps” are agitating for justice.

“Inmates of the alleged witches camp at Kukuo numbering about 700 in the Nanumba South District of the Northern Region have threatened to go on a naked demonstration if government fails to punish the murderers of 72 year old Grandma Ama Hemmar, who was allegedly murdered at Tema Community 15 under the pretence of alleged witchcraft.”

Could we finally be seeing the collective cry of “enough” from the people of Ghana? Has this madness finally begun to run its course? There are some promising signs, like a massive decrease in hungry people, and a growing influx of oil money, that could diminish the social pressures that help fuel these moral panics. As members of communities that have been caught in the crossfire of moral panics against “Satanism” and “the occult”  we should take special interest in seeing these injustices ended, and ensuring their madness isn’t allowed to spread. For those looking for a way to directly aid women and children in Ghana, please check out WISE (Women Initiative for Self Empowerment).

Problems with The Power: Mark Vernon at Religion Dispatches reviews Rhonda “The Secret” Byrne’s latest New Thought opus “The Secret: The Power”. While Vernon points out that the “Law of Attraction” is nothing new, Byrne’s version relies on a “relentless optimism” that doesn’t encompass tragedy as anything but a failure of vision, ignoring the uncontrollable “absurdities” of life.

“…there are critical differences between Stoicism and The Power, for the ancients were wise to life’s tragedies too. Some things do, apparently, go badly. (They could hardly think otherwise, living during that long period of history in which death was associated with the young, not the old.) So, their instruction was to ‘go with the flow’ even when that is hard to stomach. Theirs is not a relentless optimism, expecting everything, like Byrne’s. Rather, the Stoics advocated expecting nothing, but working at everything. Be lightened by life’s absurdities too, they recommended. That way you won’t be disappointed when you don’t, apparently, make progress. You’ll be able to maintain your trust in the logos.”

In the end, the problem with “The Secret” is that it’s only half a philosophy, encouraging gain through positive attitudes while empowering dangerous “teachers” who rake in millions. A “smile or die” world that leaves no place for the millions placed in inhuman conditions by environmental, social, and political causes beyond their control.

As Pagans, one of our greatest gifts to the world can be to reject The Secret’s “moral callousness” and replace it with encompassing philosophies of life that don’t blame your brain for every tragedy.

Polyamorists Ask to Not Be Criminalized: As the Canadian polygamy trial moves forward, which I’ve covered here for several months, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) asks the BC Supreme Court to stop breaking up loving families.

By criminalizing consensual polyamorists along with patriarchal polygamists, the BC and federal governments will break up loving families, a Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) lawyer said on Nov 25. “The attorneys general have lost their moral compass,” John Ince told a BC Supreme Court reference on the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code. A British Columbia court began hearings Nov 22 to determine whether Canada’s law prohibiting polygamy violates basic human rights. The polyamorists maintain Section 293 infringes on their constitutional rights of association, religion, equality and the life, liberty and security of the person as outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A subsection of the law prohibits any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship.”

Polyamorists are justifiably worried that they will be lumped in with patriarchal, and sometimes abusive, forms of polygamy. Nor has the government been forthcoming on whether it would prosecute polyamorist families should this effort to decriminalize polygamy fail. This creates a tense situation for the many Pagan poly families living in Canada, forcing their life choices underground for fear of persecution. Hearings are just beginning on this case, and I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

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

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Just  a few quick news notes for you on this Saturday morning.

Canadian Polygamy/Polyamory Case: For the past few months I’ve been covering an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). That trial will hear opening arguments on Monday, and the Vancouver Sun gives a run-down of case’s history, the players on each side, and what the arguments will be.

George Macintosh — the amicus appointed to argue in favour of polygamy — will come out with guns blazing: The anti-polygamy law, which was enacted in 1890 and revised in 1954, was “aimed at defending a Christian view of proper family life and was employed in the state’s cultural colonization of aboriginal peoples.” His opening statement, filed in advance, says Section 293 “is based on an assumption that polygamy is a practice uniformly associated with harm; essentially, that it is ‘barbarous’. The law is based entirely on presumed, stereotypical characteristics, is not responsive to the actual characteristics of the particular polygamous relationships, and has the effect of demeaning the dignity of practitioners of polygamy.”

While the case will give a large part if its focus to polygamy, Canadian polyamorists also have a stake in this ruling, and many polyamorous families have filed affidavits in support of changing the Criminal Code.

She says the polygamy law “places us in a moral dilemma as parents who have raised children to be law-abiding citizens.” It has meant their children have had difficult conversations with their friends and friends’ parents about their family triad. Their children “love and respect us as parents and know that our relationship is supportive and loving, but we have trouble explaining why our breaking that law is fine but such things as underage drinking and recreational drug use have never been tolerated in or around our home.” Duff is a pagan and her Wiccan priest has declined to perform “polyamorous handfastings.” (A handfasting is a ceremony in which participants are symbolically joined by having their hands bound together with a ribbon.)

Attempts to have the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy have been rejected by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, meaning that if the attempt to decriminalize polygamy fails, we’ll have no way of knowing if polyamorists would be targeted by law enforcement along with members of FLDS. Pagan clergy in Canada who have the right to legally marry couples, while generally supportive of polyamory, will not perform polyamorous handfastings lest they risk breaking the law. We’ll keep you posted as this case progresses.

Christians Leaving the Fold: Christianity Today features an article by editor Drew Dyck, author of “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith. . .and How to Bring Them Back”. In it, Dyck explores the growing number of “nones”, those who claim no religious affiliation, and whether these “leavers” are gone for good. He also mentions that many are leaving Christianity for “alternative spiritualities.”

A sizable minority of leavers have adopted alternative spiritualities. A popular choice is Wicca. Morninghawk Apollo (who renamed himself as is common in Wiccan practice) discussed his rejection of Christianity with candor. “Ultimately why I left is that the Christian God demands that you submit to his will. In Wicca, it’s just the other way around. Your will is paramount. We believe in gods and goddesses, but the deities we choose to serve are based on our wills.” That Morninghawk had a Christian past was hardly unique among his friends. “It is rare to meet a new Wiccan who wasn’t raised in the church,” he told me.

In the CT article, as he did in a previous article I mentioned on this blog, Dyck, like many of his contemporaries, feels the problem lies with being “exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculated them against authentic faith.” While I don’t agree with the superficial/authentic line of reasoning for the problem/solution of Christian leavers, I do give Dyck credit for his willingness to engage with my criticisms in the comments of this blog. If Christianity in the West solves the “leavers” problem, the answer will no doubt lay more with the ideas of clear-headed thinkers like Dyck instead of the political anti-Pagan string-pullers like David Barton (or at least, one would hope that’s the case).

Pagan Hunters: In a final note, I’d like point out an editorial at PNC-Minnesota by Nels Linde that explores hunting from a Pagan perspective, and interviews three Pagan hunters in the process.

“For most Pagan hunters,  hunting is a deeply personal,  individual,  and often solitary experience.  Common to all the Pagan hunters I talked to was the idea of sharing this bounty of the woods with others.  Whether with family, friends,or community, the tribal nature of sharing the fruits of the hunt is deeply embedded in the human psyche.  All felt their experiences while hunting were not coincidences, or solely the result of their skill as hunters.  Some spiritual presence was felt.  They felt the animals in some way ‘gave’ themselves to them, in offering, and for their family’s sustenance. None practiced the often used technique of large hunter groups ‘driving’ deer from the woods at full run to standing shooters. Pagan hunters feel the chances of wounding a magnificent animal using this method was too risky and disrespectful.  They feel they are rewarded for honoring the sacred nature of the deer hunt with full freezers.”

It’s a fascinating look at how modern Paganism resacralizes activities in our lives, and how their experiences go far beyond simply hunting for sport or meat. The whole thing is well worth reading.

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

I have some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

Witch-Burning Beer Controversy Comes to A Close? As I reported exactly one week ago, Motherpeace Tarot co-creator Vicki Noble had started a campaign against The Lost Abbey brewery for their decision to feature a woman being burned at the stake for their “Witch’s Wit” wheat ale. While the brewery eventually released a statement defending their artistic choices, saying their intent was misunderstood, an intense debate over the matter raged within the Pagan community. Now it looks like the brewery will be changing the label thanks to the unlikely combined efforts of Noble and religion professor Cynthia Eller, author of “The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory”.

In his e-mail to Ms. Eller, Mr. Marsaglia also wrote, contritely, that he and his colleagues “would really like to have some kind of contest for a great label.” Mr. Arthur said the board would meet after Halloween to determine exactly how to decide on that new label. But whatever the means, the incident has made allies of Ms. Eller, often derided as an enemy of modern paganism, and Ms. Noble, its defender. Ms. Noble looks forward to a time when she can, with clear conscience, sample a Witch’s Wit. “I think that would be fun,” she says. “Maybe we can make a ceremony out of it.”

Reaction to news of the impending label-change has been mixed. While Noble, Eller, and their supporters, are no doubt pleased, others like media critic Peg Aloi thought the whole matter was a  “ludicrous campaign of whiny nonsense”, while Chas Clifton notes that “when it comes to the word “witch,” we want it both ways—safe and edgy.” As for why the New York Times would cover this little tempest between Pagans, Goddess-worshipers, and a small brewery in California, you only need to look at the byline. Author/journalist Mark Oppenheimer rarely misses an opportunity to point out the historical exaggerations or revisions of the Pagan community, so I doubt he could resist reporting on the confluence of Noble, Eller, and a controversy involving a beer label.

More Attention For Pagans at the Air Force Academy: Pagans at the Air Force Academy got a lot of attention at the beginning of 2010, with the news of a Pagan worship area being installed, and the subsequent vandalism of said site. Now it looks like the AFA is ready for round two in its attempts to paint a picture of improved interfaith relations and tolerance at the Academy. The AFA released a feature news story on Tuesday about a meeting between Pagans and freethinkers at the Academy, which then got picked up by Wired’s Danger Room blog (as “Air Force Academy Now Welcomes Spell-Casters”).

“Just a few years ago, the Air Force Academy was considered such an evangelical hothouse that the place got sued for its alleged discrimination against non-Christians. Today, the Academy is boasting of its thriving pagan community — and its friendliness towards spell-casters.”

This got the notice of Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing, who praised Wired’s choice of headline, zeroed in on the silliest quote they could find in the article, and set the stage for lulz in the comments, with various Goat-staring and “magic-user” comments. While I’m sure that smirking coverage from Wired and Boing Boing isn’t exactly what they wanted with this latest press release, I’m sure the AFA prefers it over reminders of their controversial recent past, and accusations that the climate at the AFA isn’t as improved as they would like to portray. Still, the fact that the AFA is willing to accommodate the religious lives of modern Pagans is a vast improvement within a military culture that still privileges Christian forms of religious expression.

Canadian Polyamory Case: For the past few months I’ve been covering an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). While the case is being led by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) (and supported by several Canadian Pagansincluding one who filed an affidavit in support), coverage (and the government’s case) has hinged on the practice of polygamy by Mormons and Muslims. Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a controversial polygamist group that has around 500 members living in British Columbia, has been filing anonymous affidavits that paint a rosy picture of polygamy, which hasn’t pleased anti-polygamist voices who want to see the laws against it stay intact.

“But what is clear is that fundamentalist Mormons members believe that a win in court would clear the way for them to set up a distinct society – a theocracy within our secular, liberal democracy.”

The fact that one of the hottest new reality television shows is also about a polygamist family hasn’t done much to spark reasoned or civil discourse on the issue of if the practice should be illegal. Meanwhile, polyamorists, who share little in common culturally with most polygamists, are stuck somewhere in the middle. Attempts to have the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy have been rejected by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, meaning that if the attempt to decriminalize polygamy fails, we’ll have no way of knowing if polyamorists would be targeted by law enforcement along with members of FLDS. The trial starts on November 22nd, and no doubt all (Canadian) eyes will be on the result. For more on this case see the CPAA’s web site. You can be sure I’ll be covering this as things progress.

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