Archives For Rajan Zed

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.

Damien Echols, showing off his Theban tattoo.

Damien Echols, showing off his Theban tattoo.

  • South Korea, one of the most Christian countries in Asia, is witnessing a revival of interest in its indigenous shamanistic practices, with local mudangs (priests or priestesses) being consulted by politicians and featuring on popular television shows. Sociology professor Shin Kwang-yeong thinks the popularity is due to Koreans dealing with the “strong uncertainties” of their modern existence, with many crediting shamanism with bringing healing and piece of mind to their lives. Quote:  “I felt something from my heart. This ritual has everything in there – happiness, sadness, anger and fun […] Sometimes tears pour out from my heart. Sometimes it’s just fun when everyone is dancing and bowing. And, it’s healing.”
  • Father Thomas Euteneuer, a star in the Catholic pro-life activist ranks, and vehement anti-Pagan exorcist, admitted to having inappropriate sexual relations with at least one woman back in 2011. Now, a Jane Doe is filing suit against Euteneuer, alleging that the priest sexually abused and assaulted her, using his position as an exorcist as a means to force sexual contact. This spiritual/physical rape of the Jane Doe has caused the Catholic church to recall him for counselling and remove his “priestly faculties,” meaning he can no longer perform mass or other sacred rites.
  • There’s a deep connection between synthesizer music and the occult, Klint Finley explores it for Boing Boing. Quote: “You can find traces of the occult throughout the history of electronic music. The occult obsessed Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo built his own mechanical instruments around 1917. The famous Moog synthesizer made an early appearance in Mick Jagger’s soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s occult film Invocation of My Demon Brother in 1969. And in the late 1970s Throbbing Gristle built their own electronic instruments for their occult sound experiments, setting the stage for many of the occult themed industrial bands who followed. The witch house genre keeps this tradition alive today.”
  • The Border House looks at the controversy surrounding the upcoming game SMITE, and the protests from Hindu activist Rajan Zed over the depiction and ability to control their gods and goddesses, most notably Kali, in the game. The Border House also calls out the “pornification” of Kali. Quote: “This is truly disgusting. Not only is a faith appropriated, but it is done so in a way which turns a widely revered deity into a male sexual fantasy. A goddess in non-sexual nudity is somehow less preferable to a caricature in which she is put in a costume for the male gaze. Whether you agree with Rajan Zed or not about controlling Hindu deities as combat tools is not the issue. The cultural imperialistic mindset which allows a westerner to pornify symbols of Hinduism and yet think he has the right to lecture a Hindu about the religion, this is the issue.”
  • Associated Press reporter Christopher Torchia says that ancient Greek myths lend valuable context to the country’s current fiscal and political crisis. Quote: “Greek mythology is full of examples of how mortals should find the middle way in order to live a happy life, or as it said on the walls of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, ‘Nothing in Excess,’” Peter Meineck, associate professor of classics at New York University, wrote in an email. He noted that, according to the Greek poet Hesiod, “the first divine agent that caused creation was Eros — the spirit of erotic drive or the impulse to create anything.”
  • Tammy Trotter-Bazzle, a Pagan priestess living in South Carolina, shares her experience advising the pastoral staff at AnMed Health after a Pagan patience was admitted. Quote: “I feel blessed and honored to have had that opportunity. At the end of a day, good was done for the greater good. Pagan patients will be better understood at AnMed. And that was, after all, the reason for this class; to help the patient. I, along with many of the local Pagan community, are happy to see this step forward.”
  • A majority percentage of Jews, Catholics, Mainline Protestants, non-Christian faiths, and unaffiliated religious believers favor same-sex marriage rights. Yet we are told that we must “protect” the conservative Christian viewpoint on marriage by denying all other faiths and traditions the ability to perform legal same-sex rites. How is this about religious freedom again?
  • Is polyamory ready for its close-up? A Showtime reality program is on its way, featuring neo-tantra practitioner and “bliss coach” Kamala Devi. Will Paganism make an appearance? Are we ready for the questions if and when it does?

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: Though still small religious minorities throughout the world, contemporary Pagan groups have increasingly involved themselves in charitable campaigns, and created charities of their own. In Kansas City, Missouri Gaia Community, a Pagan Unitarian-Universalist congregation, raised a half-ton of food at the 2011 God Auction, which was donated to Harvesters Community Food Nework. It was estimated that the food raised was enough to provide for 795 meals.

Food raised by Gaia Community

“…one of the reasons we schedule this fund raiser in the summer is we know it’s a time when donations to Harvesters tend to be low, while demand for food is high with children out of school.” – David Reynolds, Gaia Community member

You can read more about Gaia Community’s efforts by downloading the press release for the event, or visiting their website. While Gaia Community raised food for an already existing charity, in Australia the Community Church of Inclusive Wicca Inc. (CCIWI) has started their own food pantry, which was just granted full tax deductibility status. The first Wiccan group, though not the first Pagan group, to achieve this. Founder Amethyst Treleven said that she was “very proud” to have her charity receive “the same recognition as other religious based charities which have traditionally been Christian organised.” CCIWI’s food pantry was founded so that Pagans in need could find aid without feeling pressured to “accept the faith of that charitable body,” and won’t have to “compromise their spiritual and religious beliefs.”

Those are just two examples of how Pagans are helping each other, and reaching out to help the communities we live in. Every year Pagans collect tons of food for charity though the annual Pagan Pride days, while several Pagan organizations engage in outreach, fundraising, and volunteer efforts. Back in 2003 Jim Towey, then-Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives, questioned the charitable instincts of Pagan groups. Since then Pagans in the United States, and around the world, have worked to show that though small in number, we have a true commitment to charity and helping others.

In Other News:

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

A few quick notes for you on this Sunday.

Death Threats Against Sacred Source: Back on the 10th, I reported that Rajan Zed‘s Universal Society of Hinduism, and the Forum for Hindu Awakening were protesting several Hindu statues made by Sacred Source, claiming that they were “denigrating” to their gods and their faith. Since then it seems that Sacred Source has been receiving death threats via e-mail.

“Since then, the company has received about two dozen unhappy e-mails, said Liana Kowalzik, who owns the company, Sacred Source, with her husband. About half of those were threats, she said. “How hard you pray and how hard you try, you shall not escape, the days are coming, when each part of your body starts decomposing while you are alive,” one angry person wrote. Wrote another, “I want to kill you at least cut your tongue for doing this. Regards.” Kowalzik said she won’t be swayed by the violent messages. “Who are they going to threaten with death next if I cave?” she asked.”

There has been no response or statement from Zed or the Forum for Hindu Awakening condemning these death threats that their media exploits have seemingly spurred.  According to a post on Sacred Source’s Facebook page made by Liana Kowalzik, the threats are being forwarded from the Forum for Hindu Awakening site. The FBI and local authorities have been notified.

So far, there’s been no sign that this cause is being taken up by other national Hindu organizations. Neither the American Hindu Association, or the Hindu American Foundation, have mentioned the controversy or issues in an official statement. As for Rajan Zed, it should be noted that he doesn’t speak for all Hindus in America, and some Hindu groups have never heard of him outside his press clippings. In fact, some Hindus are alternately amused and annoyed by Zed’s ongoing media antics. Meanwhile, Zed’s getting the Global Civil Rights Hindu Jewel Award at the 1st annual California Hinduism Summit, organized by, you guessed it, the Forum for Hindu Awakening.

Religion and Custody Battles: An ongoing fear for all religious minorities is having their religion and beliefs used against them in divorce child custody hearings. There, misinformation and bias can become life-wrecking, forcing some Pagans deep into the closet, cut off from their religious community for fear of losing custody.

“Katie fought for her marriage with an attempt at joint counseling, then she fought for her faith in court, now she is reduced to just fighting daily to keep her child. Could she have taken a chance that the judge would be open-minded enough to view her religion as “real” and benign? Sure, but the risk was too great. She gave in.  Katie left the coven and she no no longer goes to festivals or meets with other Pagans. She prays alone, in secret. Her husband was, and continues to, pushing hard for full custody to save his little girl from the evil inside her mother.”

The only solution for people like Katie, forced into the closet because she doesn’t have the resources to fight,  is to build the resources within our communities for all the individuals who don’t win the ACLU intervention lottery so they can fight. For those working in the judicial system to come out and fight the prejudices that make judges think a Pagan religion is less moral and healthy than Christianity. To build on the precedents set in cases like Harrison v. Tauheed, where a Kansas appellate court ruled that a mother’s religious practices are inadmissible in a custody dispute. Until the day comes when vengeful ex-spouses stop using our faiths as a weapon in custody hearings.

Polygamy’s Social Evils: I’ve reported before on the upcoming Supreme Court case in B.C., Canada that is looking to decriminalize the practice of multiple marriage. The family behind the case is a polyamorous triad, and a local Wiccan (among others) has filed an affidavit in support of decriminalization. Now the defense is filing their own affidavits, with one scholarly paper essentially saying that legalized polygamy would cause far more social harm than the harms of limiting religious freedom and freedom of expression.

“Increased crime, prostitution and anti-social behaviour. Greater inequality between men and women. Less parental investment in children. And, a general driving down of the age of marriage for all women. These are some of the harms of polygamy (or more correctly, polygyny, since it is almost always men marrying more than once) that are outlined in a 45-page research paper by noted Canadian scholar Joseph Henrich, filed Friday in B.C. Supreme Court.”

The government plans to go the “Muslims and Mormons” route in order to show that a decriminalized, let alone legalized, multiple marriage would cause massive social ills. Consider this a preview of what will come should a similar movement try to challenge the laws of the United States. Can we have healthy, legal, multiple marriages without also empowering the abusive patriarchal excesses of fundamentalist Mormons and other polygamous-friendly sects? If this becomes a high-profile issue, how will various Pagan groups, many of whom have endorsed, or at least tolerate, poly marriages, react?

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

Hindu leader Rajan Zed seems like a pretty busy guy, at least on paper. Ever since he catapulted to widespread public attention for giving a disrupted opening invocation in the US Senate chambers, he’s been giving opinions and issuing press releases on a myriad of issues. He’s for women bishops in the Church of England, a tax-free Yoga industry, and rich people giving to charity (among other things). What’s he against? That one episode of Supernatural with the Hindu deities, curry-flavored Kali mints, and now Sacred Source’s Shiva Shakti statue.

The Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism and the New Jersey-based Forum for Hindu Awakening on Tuesday urged Sacred Source, a longtime distributor of deity statues headquartered in Crozet, to stop selling certain statues depicting Hindu gods. Rajan Zed, president of the Nevada organization, said Sacred Source is selling statues that depict Hindu deities in ways he deems “inappropriate.” Zed said in a news release: “These deities were highly revered in Hinduism and inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or con-cepts for commercial or other agenda was not okay.” Bhavna Shinde, of the Forum for Hindu Awakening, cited the example of one statue offered by Sacred Source that shows Shiva sitting cross-legged with a nude woman in his lap, facing him. “They are selling statues of our deities … in denigrating positions,” she said.

So is this a case of Westerners offensively exploiting Hindu culture? It doesn’t seem so cut-and-dried an issue. The statue mentioned, Shakti Shiva, and all the rest for that matter, are produced in India by Hindus and subsequently sold to Hindus (and everyone else in the world) according to Sacred Source. Further, journalist Brian McNeil actually went to get other opinions, rather than just take Zed’s word on the offensiveness of Sacred Source’s Hindu line of statuary.

There is nothing in Hinduism that would forbid the sale of statues depicting the religion’s deities, said Krishna Karimikonda, president of the American Hindu Association. “They can sell,” he said. “They’re not selling artifacts. They’re not breaking any law. Some of the statues in India are not to be sold, but reproduced statues made of wood or some other material? There’s nothing wrong with that.” John Nemec, a religious studies professor at the University of Virginia who teaches about Hinduism, said the statue depicting Shiva in a sexual pose with a naked woman is a “knockoff of tantric images that are sometimes seen in temples in India and Nepal.”

So there’s the American Hindu Association president saying that there isn’t anything wrong with the statues, though the Forum for Hindu Awakening, who are also protesting Sacred Source, say that Krishna Karimikonda actually was offended, and that he was quoted out of context.

“Even the American Hindu Association’s Krishna Karimikonda, whose comment has been published in the above news report, was offended (and said he was quoted out of context by the news reporter) when we contacted him and informed him about these statues of our Deities in sexual positions. So would be the case with every practicing Hindu – should he come to know about this, he would be offended at this blatant denigration.”

We’ll have to await actual word from Karimikonda to see if the American Hindu Association is going join the protest, or stand by the initial quote. Will other Hindu groups, like the Hindu American Foundation, take a stance? Is this an isolated outrage, or one that is spreading to other national Hindu groups?

Unlike the Kali mints episode, this issue could turn into something that may draw in the Pagan community, and force both individuals and organizations to take a stance in one direction or another. Sacred Source does considerable business with the modern Pagan community, and it’s rare to find a metaphysical store, or Pagan altar, that isn’t adorned with one of their pieces (or magazine that doesn’t carry their advertising for that matter). So what do we say, what do we do, when American Hindus say the company offends them?

I’m personally going to see what stances, if any, the larger American Hindu groups take, and I welcome feedback from my Hindu and Indo-Pagan readers on this subject. What do you think? Is this just another tempest in a teapot, or are the statues truly offensive and American Hindus just never noticed them before?

The Cook County Crackdown: If you thought unconstitutional and redundant laws against fortune telling only happened down south, think again. The Cook County Illinois board of commissioners (that would be the county Chicago is located in) are proposing a new ordinance that would ban “fraud” under the guise of spiritual services for pay.

“The proposal, from Commissioners Edwin Reyes, Bridget Gainer and Gregg Goslin, includes a swath of spirituality. It would affect mediumship, palmistry, card reading, astrology, seership, “crafty science,” and fortune telling that might take place as gatherings, circles and seances. “This was something that was highlighted to say there is a variety of different things out there that could be covered by certain deceptive practices,” Gainer says. She says the measure was suggested by the sheriff’s department, and that more people dealing with a tough economy might be hoodwinked by frauds posing as spiritual leaders.”

First off, there are already laws against fraud and deceptive business practices in Illinois, and I can’t see how this new ordinance would have protected a recent high-profile Chicago-area victim of the old-as-the-hills “cursed money” scam. Further, how will this ordinance, if passed, be enforced, and who gets to decide what’s fraud? If you pay for a reading at a party, can you call the cops the next day? If you drop $20 when the local Pagan group passes the hat and you later have buyers remorse, can you press charges? The language is so broad (“circles”, “gatherings”), that it easily includes any Pagan ritual where any sort of money changes hands. Since this proposed ordinance doesn’t seem to ban charging for “spiritual services” per-se, how will it actually prevent the most outrageous instances of blatant grifting?

Another Interview with Alex Mar: “American Mystic” director Alex Mar is interviewed by MTV Tr3s about her documentary, which features Pagan priestess Morpheus Ravenna, and discusses gaining the trust of her subjects, her own background, and resources for folks interested in modern Paganism.

“That’s an interesting question. First off, let me say that I’m not advocating any one spiritual path over another. But that said, I know WitchVox to be a useful site for pagans or people who are pagan-curious to connect locally. I was told over and over again how much easier it’s become for people who are curious about different forms of witchcraft to find mentors now that the Internet exists. The Wild Hunt is a widely read pagan blog about the latest politics and culture that’s relevant to the pagan community. And there are major conventions a few times a year where young witches, warlocks, Druids, you name it, get together and mix and network and learn new techniques and dance to gothic metal bands.”

I’d like to thank Alex for the plug, and note that the “gothic metal band” she’s most likely referring to is Pandemonaeon, who played at this year’s Pantheacon. “American Mystic” is currently playing at the The Tribeca Film Festival, and is one of twelve entries in the festival’s World Documentary Feature Competition for 2010.

Guess Who Else Didn’t Like That Episode of  Supernatural: It wasn’t just Pagans who were a bit annoyed by the Supernatural episode “Hammer of the Gods”, where various non-Christian deities were portrayed as shallow flesh-eaters getting worked over by Satan, Hindu activist Rajan Zed (you may remember him as the Hindu priest who got heckled by Christians on the Senate floor) blasts the show for its portrayal of Ganesha and Kali.

“Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Lord Ganesh and Goddess Kali were highly revered in Hinduism and such absurd depiction of them with no scriptural backing was hurtful to the devotees. Ganesh and Kali were meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be thrown around loosely in reimagined versions for dramatic effects in TV series.”

Even Annalee Newitz at io9, a fan of the show, slammed the episode, saying it should never have been made.

“My point is just that this episode, in attempting to answer that “what about other gods?” question, made things infinitely worse than if we’d just been left wondering. Now we’re left thinking that somehow Christian deities are more powerful than any other deities in the world. Dean goes so far as to call them “just monsters.” Which A) doesn’t really fit the show’s premise, which is that Christianity is one mythological system among many; and B) makes it seem that Supernatural buys into the idea that Christianity is somehow the “best” or “most powerful” mythological system out there. Thumbs down on that one.”

Many have defended Supernatural as an “equal opportunity offender”, but I’m not sure that’s true. While Christian themes are treated lightly and irreverently at times, it still acknowledges and reinforces the inherent supreme power of the Christian mythos. It has also been careful to steer clear of the third rail of secular pop-culture fantasy portrayals of Christianity by not making Jesus (or even God for that matter) a character. Supernatural, in other words, doesn’t mind being flip about Hinduism, Taoism, Vodou, or Paganism, but won’t court real controversy by having Jesus (or the Virgin Mary) show up and throw down.

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