Archives For reburial

King Arthur vs. Archeology: British Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon) has failed in his attempt to force reburial of human remains found at Stonehenge, claiming the 5000-year-old cremated remains were of a royal “priest caste,” potential founding fathers of Britain.

Stonehenge

“Mr Justice Wyn Williams refused to give King Arthur permission to launch a judicial review action – ruling at a High Court hearing in London that there was insufficient evidence to show that the Ministry of Justice might have acted unreasonably. The judge heard that the cremated remains of more than 40 bodies – thought to be at least 5,000 years old – were removed from a burial site at Stonehenge in 2008 and ministers gave researchers from Sheffield University permission to keep the bones until 2015.”

While King Arthur was calling for a “day of action” to protest this decision, another group, Pagans For Archaeology, were pleased that scientific exploration of the remains will continue uninterrupted.

“The very reason we know what we do about Stonehenge and the people buried there is due to archaeology, without it you would know naff all about it, the people and the relationship between the two.”

At their website, PFA makes their case for why the retention and study of human remains is important. As for King Arthur, he insists that this “is not a Pagan argument, it is not a Druid argument. It is a matter of common decency.” Stonhenge is matter of great emotional, religious, and psychological import for many Britons. With the London 2012 Olympics fast approaching, you can be sure that the treatment, preservation, and study of this site will continue to be a newsmaking issue.

Maetreum of Cybele Sends Out a Call for Help: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, have sent out an urgent plea for funds as what they hope will be the final trial in the matter approaches.

“All along the Town knew they would lose this battle if we could just get it to trial so they have attempted to bury us under legal motions to break us financially and have spent somewhere between 100 to 150 thousand dollars to do so.  I am sad to report that unless we get significant help in this final stages, they might succeed.  Donations so far have helped but we have had to hire a new attorney at about three times the cost as our original attorney.  She is much more experienced and worth the expense but has informed me that the rest of our case will cost us an approximate additional 10 thousand dollars which simply is impossible for us to come up with ourselves at this stage.

Our priestesses have stepped forward to the point of tens of thousands so far but now we are all broke.  Please, this case is important, a milestone for minority religion rights.  If this can be done to us, a legally incorporated religious charitable organization with full IRS 501 c3 recognition, it literally can be done to any minority religious group.  A victory, which is fairly well assured if we can finish the battle, is especially important when political groups are pushing back against non Christians, clean air and water and the basic concept of taking care of each other and our common planet home.”

The law in this case seems pretty clearly on the side of the Maetreum of Cybele, but Catskill is going to wage a scorched earth legal campaign in hopes the Pagans run out of money and energy first, stating that the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.” A court date is set for November 15th. We’ll keep you updated on further developments. For those wanting to an make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so directly via paypal to: centralhouse@gallae.com. Or you can contact them through their website.

In Other News:

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

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

Scarlet Imprint Declares War: The esoteric publishing house Scarlet Imprint, after learning of the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has thrown down the magickal gauntlet.

“It is not enough to dither or ask What would Aleister Crowley do? We are here NOW. It is for us to confront this direct attack on our freedom. This is a critical time, and magick, if it is to prove anything at all, is the art of applying leverage at critical moments in time, as the Temple of Psychic Youth would say: To force thee hand of chance. […] We will use our art to envisage a different future. We will take magic onto the streets. We swear vengeance. And we, we are Legion.”

The publisher also suggests closing your Amazon account (because they closed Wikileak’s hosting account), closing your Mastercard and Visa account (because they froze donations to Wikileaks), and supporting the hacker attacks of Anonymous. However, they don’t suggest cancelling your Paypal account, nor have they closed theirs, even though that site has also frozen donations to Wikileaks. Then again, they also stress that the most important action is to “enchant for freedom.”

“This is a time for Witchcraft, for the birth of a rhizomatic underground of resistance. This is the Witchcraft advocated by Jack Parsons in the face of McCarthyism. This is the Witchcraft that has drunk wisdom from the bloody grail of mystery.”

The problem with all the outrage, media blitz, and no-doubt politically motivated pressure to have Assange extradited is that it is causing some reasonable people to whitewash what might have actually been rapeEngaging in some troubling victim-blaming. Perhaps these accusations are being overblown, or used as a way to “get Assange,” but they shouldn’t be erased because we support the leaking of government documents. As for Wikileaks itself, I’m generally a fan of transparency and whistle-blowers, and I’m even a fan of occasionally “crushing bastards,” but I’m not sure I’m ready to swear vengeance on its behalf just yet.

Pulling the Trigger: LAShTal points us to the launch of Trigger93: A Journal of Magic(k), Culture, and The Issues.

“Trigger93 is a radical new journal of literature, art, and the uncanny—a journal that juxtaposes magic(k)ally informed works created by established artists and academics with similar works created by established practitioners of magic(k). Our first issue, The Word, explores the relationship between language and the spirit, and includes contributions from writer and Columbia Professor, Michael Taussig; ceremonial magician, James A. Eshelman; artists Simryn Gill, Mikala Dwyer and Tamara Wyndham; and cartoonist, Seth Tobocman, to name a few. Trigger93: The Word will be available 12/17/10″

You can pre-order your copy now. Always nice to see a new esoteric/magickal publication hitting the “stands”.

The Difference Between Scholars and Practitioners: Over at Letter From Hardscrabble Creek, Chas Clifton talks about being a Pagan within Pagan Studies, and how what religion scholars do is very different from what practitioners writing for their own communities do.

So if I were revising Her Hidden Children (I have no plan to do so), I would have to take [Bron Taylor’s] ideas into account. The conversation would continue. Not that I am right and he is wrong, or vice versa, but I would have to sort out the differences and similarities, intellectual influences (e.g., he gives Henry Thoreau much more space than I do), and so on, because I think that Dark Green Religion is a significant book, and it would be a glaring omission to ignore it now.

These are just two books, against the flood of practitioner-oriented texts coming out from Llewellyn and other publishers.  And neither I nor Bron (so far as I know) are teaching workshops on “How to be a better nature-religionist,” complete with breathing exercises, movement, and song. Other people could do that much better. Audiences want to hear a speaker with a schtick.

I think some of us have fallen into the trap of labeling Pagan Studies works as “advanced” books for our faiths, when they should instead be seen as an illuminating aid towards deeper understanding of how and why we do what we do. How we got to where we are today, and what that might mean for our future. This should be separated from books that actually seek to deepen our own practices, works on practice and theology from authors like Brendan Myers or Thorn Coyle.

King Arthur Wants Reburial: The Salisbury Journal reports that Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon is seeking judicial review and reburial of cremated remains taken from Stonehenge in 2008.

King Arthur said: ‘This is not just a Druid or Pagan issue, and we have the support of thousands of people from all walks of life from nations around the world and all the major faiths, who have signed our petition demanding that the remains be re-interred at what should have been their final resting place. ‘The remains will never go on display and they should just be reburied.’ The remains were removed from the site for tests to be carried out as part of The Stonehenge Riverside Archaeological Project.

This move was sparked by Sheffield University asking for an extension to retain the remains for five years, something Pendragon vociferously opposes, calling for the “timely return of our ancestors.” As I’ve noted several times before on this site, there is no consensus among British Pagans on this issue, with many, most notably Pagans for Archeology, opposed to the reburial of ancient human remains. Other groups, like Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD), only call for the reburial of remains that “have no scientific or research potential”.

Reminder on Operation Circle Care: I’d just like to end with a quick reminder that it’s not too late to donate towards Operation Circle Care, which sends care packages to Pagan military personnel serving in war zones.

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

You can find a list of donation suggestions, and ways to help, at their web site.

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

Top Story: Some crazy things get said and done during an election season, and Pagans certainly haven’t been immune from that phenomenon this year, but this may take the cake. Washington, D.C., Republican congressional delegate candidate Missy Reilly Smith, in an interview with The Daily Caller, talks about using her candidacy as a way to air her anti-abortion views and lets slip some rather interesting opinions about Wicca.

“The more that you’re involved in this organization [Planned Parenthood] the more demonic you realize it is,” Smith said. “Many of the employees of Planned Parenthood and abortion mills, the actual killing centers, the employees are actual witches. They belong to Wiccan and there’s nothing more valuable to Satan than the blood of innocent babies.”

She also proclaims on her website that the Tea Party’s “number one mission” is to “end legalized child killing” which might come as a shock to the pro-choice Tea Partiers in the movement who are more concerned with taxes. While it’s shocking to hear any (supposedly) mainstream candidate say this about Wiccans, it’s actually a fairly common belief within the hardcore anti-abortion groups. Do a search for “the sacrament of abortion” on Google and you’ll see a near-obsession with an obscure book written by Ginette Paris in 1992 that discusses abortion as a sacred act, and uses the metaphor of the procedure being seen as a sacrifice to Artemis. This, along with other isolated comments by a former abortion practitionerwas pounced on as “proof” that Satanic Witches were behind the abortion industry. Various “insider” accounts still push the Wiccan abortionist meme today, putting Smith’s seemingly random outburst into context.

“Since then the Toledo, Ohio, abortion clinic where Abigail’s mother worked has moved to a new location, although it is still owned by the same woman, a Wiccan when Abigail knew her. Abigail’s mother has also moved on, so I don’t know if the nefarious practices and conditions Abigail observed are ongoing.”

Star Foster at Patheos.com has already expressed her disgust and anger at Smith’s slandering of Paganism in the interview, and I imagine more responses are being written as news of this slur spreads. It should be noted that Smith does not have the support of the Republican Party, despite having won the primary. It is also very unlikely that she’ll win (Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in the District of Columbia). So, if anything, her candidacy should be a reminder of what the activist base of the anti-abortion movement believes about modern Paganism.

The Future of Pagan Lands: Pagan journalist Kathy Nance talks with acclaimed Pagan author and activist Starhawk during her visit to Diana’s Grove in Missouri;  the key topic of discussion is the fact that Diana’s Grove is currently on the market, and how land prices and the current economy are calling into question the future of Pagan-owned retreats and sanctuaries.

First, she said, the changing of the generational guard is being affected by a change in land values. Many of the groups—Pagan and otherwise—that bought land and set up intentional communities in the 1970s and 1980s were able to live off the land with little or no outside income. Now that land prices have increased so greatly in some areas, buyers need outside income to make the mortgage payments. Or, they need to be retired people with sufficient assets to invest and use for living expenses.

“I see now on my land in Northern California that the community is aging. The people who are moving in who can afford to buy tend to be retired,” she said. “You can’t ask Cynthea and Patricia to just give it (the Diana’s Grove acreage) away. That’s their retirement money. But the people who might be interested in taking it on, may not have the resources.”

It all comes back to the need for infrastructure, and how hard that can be to manage for a movement as decentralized and diverse as modern Paganism. While our growing (and aging) community often wants some of the amenities that other faith communities have (land, buildings, retirement communities, service organizations, charities), the individual faiths within Paganism are still too small to build/buy such resources, and the movement as a whole is often too diverse to effectively pool resources for such things. I have no doubt that eventually we’ll see more infrastructure within modern Paganism, but it may not come as soon as some would wish.

Baltic Paganism Around the World: After doing an article on the rise of new religious movements in the Baltic States (EstoniaLatvia, and Lithuania), the Baltic Times takes a closer look at Baltic forms of Paganism at home and in the diaspora.

“Evangelical movements along with neo-pagan movements locally and abroad are possibly the beginnings of something much larger. Next, we take a look at the rebirth of ancient religions. To call it an actual rebirth is somewhat of a misnomer since the neo-pagan movements are not a true revival of a religion once practiced in the region. Instead, as with the example of the Latvian Dievturiba (literally ‘keeping God’) movement, we see religion constructed from ancient practices.”

The article looks at Dievturiba, Romuva, Maausk, and Taaralased, many of which are seeing thriving communities growing in the Baltic diaspora. Also mentioned is the upcoming observance of Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”), which share many commonalities with the holidays like Samhain.

Hiding Bones Because of Pagans? The Daily Mail reports on the trend of museums increasingly hiding or deemphasizing ancient human remains due to protests from various groups, including Pagans. Centered on the new book by sociologist Dr Tiffany Jenkins entitled “Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The Crisis of Cultural Authority”, the article claims museums are over-reacting to protests by groups like Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD).

Since the late 1970s, human remains in museum collections have been subject to claims and controversies, such as demands for repatriation by indigenous groups who suffered under colonisation, particularly in Australia, North America and Canada. But Dr Jenkins says that such appeals are not confined to once-colonised groups. British pagans formed Honouring the Ancient Dead in 2004 to campaign for reburial and respect for pre-Christian skeletons from the British Isles. Dr Jenkins said: “The profession is over-reacting to the claims of small minority groups – such as the Pagan organisation, Honouring the Ancient Dead. Most remarkable of all is that human remains of all ages, and which are not the subject of claims-making by any community group, have become subject to concerns about their handling, display and storage, expressed by influential members of the museum profession.”

As I’ve noted before on this site, there is no consensus among British Pagans on this issue, with many, most notably Pagans for Archeology, opposed to the reburial of ancient human remains. In fact HAD occupies something of a middle ground on this issue, only calling for the reburial of remains that “have no scientific or research potential,” as opposed to other groups who take a far harder line. Whether museum curators are “over-reacting” to demands by various Pagan groups is an open question. Who sets the metric for what’s an over-reaction? The Daily Mail? They don’t have a great track record for being fair and balanced when it comes to Pagan religion in the UK.

No Deal on Witch’s Wit? While I’m hesitant to bring this topic up again, it seem the New York Times was a bit too hasty in saying there was a deal between protesting Pagans and California brewery Lost Abbey over their witch-burning beer label. Peter Rowe with the San Diego Union Tribune interviews Tomme Arthur, Lost Abbey’s brewmaster and part owner, who says that he isn’t budging on this issue.

“I’m sorry we offended the pagan community. But our labels are original pieces of artwork. I’m standing behind the art and the artist’s imagination.” … At least one of Lost Abbey’s four co-owners would bow to these concerns. “I would change the label,” Vince Marsaglia said. “That’s one of a million labels you could put on that beer.” But Marsaglia said he’ll defer to the person who runs Lost Abbey day-to-day. And what would that person change about the label? “Nothing,” Tomme Arthur insisted.”

Observant readers will also note that Rowe interviewed me for the article. I’m afraid our nuanced conversation about Pagan opinions over this controversy were somewhat cherry-picked in the rather glib final version, but I tried to emphasize to him that there is no clear consensus within our communities over this issue. Whether this controversy dies down, or continues to gain stream, remains to be seen.

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

Top Story: While traditional media outlets continue to cut back on their coverage of religion, there’s been a slow expansion on the Internet. Beliefnet, one of the first Internet religion-news hubs, continues to reign supreme in terms of size and traffic, but it’s starting to see some competition from sites like Patheos and the Newsweek/Washington Post-supported On Faith. Now, another new-media contender is entering the God(s)-beat, as the left-leaning Huffington Post launches a religion section.

Site founder Arianna Huffington explains:

“Like all our sections, HuffPost Religion will bring you the latest news — in this case about all things religion-related — served up in the HuffPost style. It will also be home to an open and fearless dialogue about all the ways religion affects both our personal and our public lives. And it will do so in a way that moves beyond the pigeonhole depictions of both the faithful and the agnostic we see so frequently — and also beyond the tired assumption that God is a card-carrying member of one political party or another.

HuffPost Religion is being edited by Paul Raushenbush, an Associate Dean of Religious Life at Princeton University and an ordained Baptist minister. As a passionate and brilliant religious thinker, pastor, writer and college dean, Paul is ideally suited to the challenge of presenting multiple viewpoints and insights, as well as the real-world implications of religion for American life.”

Some of the big-name contributors include Jim Wallis, Deepak Chopra, Sister Joan Chittister, and Eboo Patel. But will HuffPost Religion cover modern Paganism? I’ve received some initial signs from folks working there that they are looking to add Pagan voices to the section, so we’ll see how things play out in the weeks ahead. Patheos, Beliefnet, and On Faith all now include a Pagan perspective (to varying degrees), so I can’t imagine HuffPost Religion will be far behind (especially since they have Pagans writing for them in other sections). I’ll keep you posted on developments.

In Other News:

An Earth-Based Discussion: Thorn Coyle has posted the audio from a panel discussion she led at this year’s Pantheacon on the question: “Earth-Based: Are We Really?”

“Organized by T. Thorn Coyle, this panel features Weiser authors T. Thorn Coyle, Diana Paxson, Zee Budapest, Orion Foxwood, and Lon Milo DuQuette. Discussion spans our definitions of ourselves as Earth- based, Nature-Based, Cosmos-based, etc. and addresses some of the problems of our times as well as positive media influences such as the movie Avatar.”

I briefly covered (and live-tweeted) this panel in my Pantheacon coverage, so I’m glad to see the audio for it released. While the panel didn’t really dig too deep into the question of how “earth-based” modern Pagan traditions really are, there were some fascinating and insightful things said and discussed, and I highly recommend checking it out.

The Fake Child Sacrifices: Earlier this year I noted the story of Ugandan anti-human-sacrifice campaigner Polino Angela, who claimed to have personally killed several children, including his own son. At the time I was deeply skeptical of his claims, seeing them as a strong echo of similar stories peddled by various ex-Satanists and Witches in America. Nor was I the only one to wonder if Angela was fabricating the story, and if he wasn’t, why he wasn’t in custody for his crimes. Now the house of cards has come tumbling down, as he’s been arrested for lying to a public officer.

“He allegedly repeated his claims to a Ugandan police officer and has been charged with “giving false information to a public officer”. He denied the charges and was remanded in custody in Lira Central Prison. Police officer Godwin Tumugumye, an officer at Lira Police Station, said BBC correspondent Tim Whewell is also wanted by the police over the case, reports Uganda’s New Vision newspaper.”

In another report, it’s come out that Angela was paid 200,000 Uganda shillings to play up child sacrifice, and has now confessed to lying.  If only we could do the same to some of the professional “ex”-workers in America. As I said in my initial post on this story, it isn’t that I don’t believe children aren’t being abducted, abused, and killed in several African nations. There’s of plenty of evidence for that. I also acknowledge that some witch-doctors are indeed killing and mutilating certain children for various reasons. But the lurid portrait painted by the BBC, with help from Mr. Angela, raised many of my old “Satanic Panic” red flags (most notably the idea of a centralized sacrifice industry/conspiracy). I’m glad that the truth has come to light in this story.

Max Beauvoir Declares War: After Tuesday’s incident in Haiti, where a mob of Christians drove off a small group of Vodouisants performing a ceremony for the dead, Vodou leader Max Beauvoir says it’s war.

“It will be war, open war,” Max Beauvoir, supreme head of Haitian voodoo, said at his home and temple outside the capital. “It’s unfortunate that at this moment where everybody’s suffering that they have to go to war. But if that is what they need, I think that is what they’ll get.”

You can see a photo essay of the inciting incident, here (thanks to Jennifer for the link). Since the clash of religions, Haitian officials have ensured that Vodou practitioners will be able to perform ceremonies at Cité Soleil in the future, but that seems cold comfort to those who were driven away with stones. However, not everyone in Haiti is seeing a religious war in the future, Mambos Elsie Théanou Joseph and Silviana Désir are busy working to feed and shelter the homeless, while Catholic priest Rev. Frantz-Michel Grandoit sees a new unity developing between Christians and Vodouisants.

“Humanity doesn’t want us to be separated,” said the Rev. Frantz-Michel Grandoit, a Catholic priest. Grandoit has planned several interfaith prayer vigils with Voodoo priests, including a three-day national prayer for rebuilding, held earlier this month and sponsored by the Global Network of Religions for Children, an international nongovernmental organization. In a ceremony at the Croix-des-Bouquets temple earlier this month, priestesses and parishioners knelt at the base of a tree trunk, lighted candles and solemnly chanted prayers for the earthquake’s victims and for the future of their country. “Hold Haiti’s sweet hand!” they sang as they threw water on the tree trunk and conjured up what is known as the Veve, a mystical symbol embodying the Voodoo deities. “Save us! Give us grace and deliverance!”

So while Max Beauvoir is an important voice right now in post-earthquake Haiti, we must remember, despite his claims, that Vodou has no “supreme chief” that all Vodouisants, Mambos, and Houngans bow before. Beauvoir leads a faction, a group of practitioners who have acknowledged him as their leader, and is not a Vodou “pope”. Reporters must move beyond Beauvoir, and talk to many practitioners from different areas to get a fuller picture of religious interactions in Haiti. To be sure there are those how want a religious war, but I would say there are also many who want a sense of national unity to trump theological differences at this critical stage.

The UK Reburial Issue: The BBC tackles the issue of reburying “pagan” remains, and interviews Druid priestess Emma Restall Orr, and representatives from Honouring the Ancient Dead, about the connection some modern Pagans feel to their pre-Christian ancestors.

“Pagan groups are increasingly asking for human remains and grave goods from pre-Christian burials to be returned to the ground, and their voices are being taken increasingly seriously in the museum world.”

As I’ve said before on this site, there is no consensus among British Pagans on this issue, with many, most notably Pagans for Archeology, opposed to the reburial of ancient human remains. It would have been nice for the BBC to get more perspectives on this, rather than simply portraying HAD and Orr as representative of Pagan stances on this issue.

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

The National Secular Society has released a response to the The National Trust and English Heritage holding a public consultation on the proposed reburial of a neolithic skeleton found at Avebury that has been dubbed “Charlie”. An issue raised by The Council of British Druid Orders (and a CoBDO splinter group) on the grounds that these remains represent their spiritual and genetic ancestors, and that it is ‘disrespectful’ to treat them differently from exhumed Christian remains. Unsurprisingly, the NSS takes a dim view of these demands, and the deference shown to them by The National Trust.

The NSS believes that the National Trust and English Heritage have abdicated their clear responsibility to the nation to turn down the requests from the Council of British Druid Orders (CoBDO), an unelected and unaccountable group, for the reburial of ancient human remains at the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury. It is important that the demands of one small group are not allowed to overwhelm those of the general public and interested groups, including those of scientists seeking to understand and to spread understanding of the lives of our ancestors in prehistory. Rather than take issue with the theology of the various “druid” groups represented by the CoBDO, the NSS wishes to stress the danger of creating a precedent in this case, whilst also refuting any claims that one specific religious group has over important scientific material which is the property of everyone.

The NSS goes on to call the demands, and the process of CoBDO setting itself up as “indigenous” spokespersons “an act of political expediency” rather than stemming from any real grievence. This particular criticism is echoed by cultural sociologist Dr Tiffany Jenkins in a recent article for Spiked.

CoBDO is an organisation which represents some Pagan groups. The request fronted by Paul Davies claims a genetic relationship with the human remains that are aged between 4,000 and 5,700 years old. But the demands are less about old bones than about winning affirmation of the legitimacy of Paganism from cultural organisations. These are, fundamentally, claims for recognition.

In the end, if the demands by some modern British Druid groups are met, it will raise a host of issues about the future of archeology in the UK and who exactly gets to speak for remains that are thousands of years old. Even if there was proof of some sort of spiritual link between these bones and modern Pagan practice, is CoBDO (or ‘CoBDO West’ for that matter) the organization that British Pagans want representing their interests and views? While secularists and scholars can be needlessly snarky about this issue, they do raise awareness of some important problems with these issues of identity and ownership. There has to be a better way of introducing a measured Pagan perspective to these debates than to allow scattered (and often self-appointed) individuals to claim the authority to speak with our collective voice.

Sometimes you learn more by reporting the gossip than you do by merely stating the facts. For instance, last week a story appeared about a British Druid demanding the reburial of a 4000-year-old skeleton on religious grounds. What that article didn’t tell you was that Paul Davies, the man supposedly speaking for The Council of British Druid Orders, is actually leading a small splinter group calling itself CoBDO West.

The ‘row’ concerns a small breakaway group of druids (known to some as COBDO West) who’ve requested the museum release the remains so they can rebury them where they came from. King Arthur and mainstream COBDO want the same thing — but are upset that COBDO West have taken matters into their own hands. ‘COBDO West are just a joke — three men and a dog, without even the dog,’ splutters King Arthur.

Further sniping between CoBDO and CoBDO West can be seen in the comments section of this article. And yes, I too instantly thought of the “splitters” scene from Life of Brian. Needless to say, other British Pagan and Druid groups are increasingly embarrassed by the public fighting.

‘A lot of people are embarrassed by it all — very embarrassed,’ says Emma Restall Orr, a druidic teacher and priestess from Warwick-shire. ‘They’re feisty, burly lads who are very much on the edge of druidism but are rowing in public and giving druids a bad name.’

It should also be noted that neither CoBDO nor CoBDO West speak for all British Pagans or Druids on the issue of reburial and archeology. PEBBLE (The Public Bodies Liaison Committee for British Paganism), and the related group HAD (Honouring the Ancient Dead), are pursuing a more nuanced course that acknowledges the need and importance of archaeological study.

HAD is not declaring one policy in terms of action. HAD’s focus is to ensure that there is discussion, consultation and shared decision-making around ancient human remains. In this way, all interested parties, including local communities and Pagans, will be heard when it comes to human remains (ancestors) exhumed within their landscape, ensuring that the spiritual, religious and social value of these remains is presented alongside any scientific, monetary or political value discerned by those funding or carrying out that excavation.

One important voice of dissent on the reburial issue  is fellow Pagan blogger Yewtree, who is a member of Pagans For Archeology. Check out the article “Finding a Compromise – Keeping Places” for some of her views on the subject (an article by Jenny Blain and RJ Wallis is also worth a look). As for the warring CoBDO’s, they may soon find themselves left behind by a modern Druidry that doesn’t want to be associated with punch-ups at the pub and media stunts.

Terry Dobney has been a druid for 50 years and has been Chief Druid and Keeper of the Stones at Avebury for the past 11. He wears long white robes and an antler on his belt, clasps a hazel staff and has a rook’s feather in his cap. ‘Druids are supposed to have a balanced view and see both sides of the argument,’ he explains. ‘But there are some strong egotistical characters who need keeping in check. We’re drawing up a code of conduct for being a druid.’

Looks like some “egotistical characters” better watch out before they are seen in the same light as Kevin Carlyon, and become leaders of nothing more than a fancy acronym.