Archives For Robin Hardy

CAYA Coven 2016

CAYA Coven 2016

SAN FRANCISCO — The Divine Spiraling Rainbow Tribe, a division of Come As You Are Coven (CAYA), joined Planned Parenthood, Good Vibrations, and others to help sponsor the 2016 San Francisco Trans March, held June 24. The group set up a booth and offered “blessings for good health, love, home, abundance, and tarot readings on the spot.” They also provided interested marchers with “protection charms, handmade and blessed by members.”

Divine Spiraling Rainbow Tribe Dedicant Root Holden said, “People were curious and a bit shy in coming up to the booth, but once they saw that we were just part of the community, all of us are queer, non-binary, and/or trans, they were really interested in what we had to offer. This may the first time many of these folks have been in contact with priest/ess/exes from a tradition that fully embraces and celebrates them.”

Divine Spiraling Rainbow Tribe is a “Mxgender Mxtery Tradition within CAYA Coven.” As noted on its website, the group is “devoted to exploring and honoring sacred mxgender Mysteries. Our Priestxes embody the experience of identity beyond the gender binary, and celebrate the glittering prism of Divine existence that is Powerful, Delightful, Enthusiastic, Playful, Transformative, Magickal, Compassionate, and Reverent.” 

Holden said, “The group’s priest/ess/xes provided marchers with a chance to meet the many queer, transgender, mxgender, non-binary witches next door, and get a taste of what CAYA Coven has to offer.” From its booth, CAYA members offered a variety of blessings including ones for health, prosperity, love, and home. They also had a glitter blessing to “shine with your own inner sparkliness.” Melissa ra Karit said, “Blessing people with glitter was magical and very queer.”  The group considered their work a success. 

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1157423_151040095096531_1406229761_nDENVER – Hesperides Garden, a Pagan community located in Denver Colorado, has launched a Facebook event asking for people to help them define the world “Pagan” in modern terms. On that page, the group writes, “For too long the word ‘Pagan’ has been defined by outsiders, the time has come for Pagans to define the word that describes us collectively. With respect to all the many paths ‘Pagan’ is..?”

The group is asking for Pagans everywhere to post in the page’s discussion comment area a definition of Pagan. On July 15, the event page will close and the group will “compile the responses,” generating a full report. Organizers said, “In an effort to create the most accurate representation we will then take your feedback on creating a unified definition through compiling and voting.”

Hesperides Garden defines this effort as a “coming together” and asks for respectful discourse within any online discussions. The group is also collecting definitions through a Google + account.

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[public domain]

[public domain]

UNITED STATES – Today many people around the U.S. will be celebrating Independence Day with fireworks, picnics, and other outdoor activities. As has been written here in the past, “The United States of America that we know today, for better or worse, was built and shaped by an incredible diversity of lives, experiences, religions and cultures; by every person that has walked on its soil and stood beneath its skies.”

The holiday weekend means different things to different people within American subcultures, birthing many discussions concerning the concept of freedom. American Pagans, Heathens and polytheists often use this day to be thankful specifically for the ideals of religious freedom written into the early documents. Neither Pagan nor Mahamedan nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, quoting John Locke.

At the same time, Americans continue to face difficult challenges, witness profound social changes, confront new problems as well as old ones still not yet resolved. And, together with the world, they continue to look into the face of unthinkable violence. The U.S. is not a country of perfect. But, as a nation, its people continue to try, to debate, to rebel, to speak out, and to evolve.

In Other News

  • As we noted in Unleash the Hounds, it was announced Sunday that film director Robin Hardy had died. Hardy is best known for his direction of the The Wicker Man, a film that has long captured the imagination of many viewers and is considered one of the top horror movies in the world. Blogger Peg Aloi has published a detailed post about the director, the film’s history, and its meaning within the Pagan sphere. She wrote, “I can’t imagine my early years in the pagan community without having this evocative film, its scenery and its music, making an appearance in my subconscious on a regular basis.”
  • In October, Moon Books will be releasing editor Trevor Greenfield’s anthology, titled Goddess in America. According to the publisher’s site, the anthology “identifies the enduring experience of Goddess Spirituality through a four-part discussion focused on the Native Goddess, the Migrant Goddess, the Goddess in relation to other aspects of American culture (Feminism, Christianity, Witchcraft etc.) and the Goddess in contemporary America.” The book includes the voices of nineteen different writers. It will be released Oct. 28 in both paperback and e-book.
  • Also coming in October is a “new type of theater experience directed by co-founder and co-producer of OCCULT, Sarah Jezebel Wood.” Titled Sub Rosa, the theatrical performance is a “multimedia production featuring the talents of LUNARIS” and various guest artists. It includes dance, ritual, music, singing and visual art. Sub Rosa tells a “darkly feminine tale of pathworking through the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.” The performance will be held Oct 7 and 8 at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, New York.
  • The Dallas Observer posted an article featuring the work of feminst and witch Dr. Susan Harper. The article captures not only her practice of Witchcraft, but also her strong feminist views. Harper is quoted as saying, “‘It’s an incredibly powerful political act for anybody, women in particular, to put female images and feminine pronouns on god, because the idea that god is male has been used to justify the oppression of women and queer folks and gender nonconforming folks for a long time.”
  • The editors of Walking the Worlds have announced a submission call for issue number five. As noted, “The topic for Issue 5 will be Ecstatic Practices and we’re looking for essays and articles dealing with traditional and perhaps not so traditional ecstatic practices, ways of achieving an altered state throughout the vast array of our polytheisms.” The deadline is Oct. 1.
  • Coming soon… The Wild Hunt will be bringing back its popular Pagan Voices feature. On one Sunday every month, we will be sharing a groups of quotes, opinions from the many diverse voices found in the online Pagan community. TWH’s Pagan Voices will return on July 24.

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

[Public Facebook Profile Photo]

[via Facebook]

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Michael and Cheyenne Kupper were arrested and charged with felony child abuse and human trafficking Friday June 10. According to local news reports, the couple was “harboring a 27-year-old female victim as a servant,” and their six children showed signs of neglect. A New Hanover County Services representative added, “One of the children reportedly had fleas in their hair.”

According to the same reports, a relative, Elisa Barrett, is claiming that the charges of child neglect and human trafficking are ridiculous. Barrett believes that the alleged victim “is framing the Kuppers” because she lost her job and “could not have Michael Kupper for herself.”

Barrett also added that she believes that the arrests show a sign of “religious bigotry” on the part of the police. The couple is Wiccan. According to the reports, they were in a coven with the alleged victim. Barrett told reporters that “the woman lived with them, participating in sexual activities with the two. Part of those activities included ‘dominance and submission.'”

In response, a police spokeswoman said that there was no mention of Wicca in the police reports and “WPD does not discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs.”

Both Michael and Cheyenne Kupper are currently being held at the New Hanover County jail with bond set at $1 million each. The children were taken into custody by the county services. We will have more on this story as it unfolds.

Religious Freedom

  • A two-decade-old religious freedom court case made headlines again when California’s Ninth Circuit “found that a federal judge didn’t check whether prison officials were complying with a consent decree about an inmate’s Wiccan religion before he dismissed it.” The panel found that the federal judge “overlooked [inmate William] Rouser’s dispute to the prison officials’ compliance claims.” According to the court’s opinion, the judge neglected to address the prison’s full compliance and did not “analyze whether the purposes of the 2011 decree had been ‘adequately served.'” The full story is outlined at courthousenews.com.
  • In another religious freedom story, Native News Online reports that the “federal government admitted that it was wrong to send an undercover agent to raid a American Indian powwow and seize nearly 50 eagle feathers used for religious worship.” Federal law restricts the possession and use of eagle feathers without a permit, which are available to “federally recognized tribes.” The Lipan Apache tribe of Texas, however, is not federally recognized, which led to the raid and court case. The subsequent settlement agreement has been called “historic.” As reported, “It ends a decade of litigation by recognizing the right of Pastor Robert Soto […] and 400 other Native Americans to freely use eagle feathers for Native American worship.”
  • The Satanic Temple now has its first member running for public office, while openly “acknowledging affiliation.” Steve Hill, a former U.S. Marine Sergeant, is running as a Democrat for the California State Senate (D-21). In a TST press release, Hill said, “I am not an establishment politician and my sense of civic responsibility is not compromised by religious loyalties. As an atheist and organizer for The Satanic Temple’s Los Angeles Chapter, I fight for true religious freedom.” More on Hill’s background and campaign are posted on his own website: Steve Hill for Senate.

Historic Texts and Sacred Spaces

  • According to the Archaelology News Network, the “German Stonehenge” is now open to the public. The site, called Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, “is estimated to be around 4,300 years old and was discovered in 1999 in the forest near the banks of the Elbe River.” Made only of wood, the structure had to be reconstructed, and it sits above a burial ground containing the skeletons of children and young women. The ancient sacred space, which can be visited, has been placed “on the tourist trail known as Himmelsweg.”
  • In Mexico, Jehovah’s Witnesses are being blamed for damaging an ancient temple of the Otomi Indians. According to AP, “the assailants [… are blamed for] toppling stone structures used as altars, breaking carved stones and scattering offerings of flowers, fruit and paintings at the remote mountain shrine known as Mayonihka or Mexico Chiquito.” A spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico denied any connection with the attack. However, local witnesses maintain it was them.
  • In Tibet, the Chinese government has reportedly ordered the eviction of the Buddhist monastery Larung Gar. According to Lion’s Roar, and confirmed by other sources, 5,000 monks and nuns now “face eviction.” According to these reports, the order was placed due to the government’s concern over the area’s growing population and associated risks. There is now an online petition to stop the eviction. The Lion’s Roar reports that this has happened before, and it was stopped by a public outcry. Supporters are hoping that history will repeat itself, and the government will once again back down on its demands.
  • Another sacred space was recently damaged, according to a video news release. Kaniakapupu, considered to be one of Hawaii’s most sacred cultural sites, was vandalized June 23. The historic site was the “King Kamehameha III Summer Palace.” According to the reports, “Vandals etched a series of crosses on at least three of the inside walls of the crumbling structure.” Chairman of the site’s restoration group said, “It’s not the first time they’ve carved all kinds of stuff in there. They’re carving happy faces, all kinds of stupid stuff. This plaster is 180 years old; was put here by the hands of the kapuna. It was the first government building built by the government of Hawai‘i. When you vandalize it or damage it in anyway, there’s no way we can repair that.” Watch the full video news release.
  • According to Quartz, author Dan Brown has donated funds to digitize a number of historic occult and religious texts. These texts include: Corpus Hermeticum, Jakob Böhme’s works in English, Giordano Bruno’s Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, the first printed version of the tree of life, an early Quran printed in Arabic and a first-edition Quran in Latin, and a hand-colored version of the Bible. Quartz reports that most of the collection will be available for free in Spring 2017.
  • In his book The Bad Ass Librarians of TimbuktuJoshua Hammer recounts the race to save the ancient and historic manuscripts from jihadists and al Qaeda. National Geographic’s Simon Worrall interviewed Hammer about his research and the book’s story. Worrall writes, “[Hammer] explains how the Timbuktu manuscripts disprove the myth that Africa had no literary or historical culture, why Henry Louis Gates had an epiphany when he saw them, and why the jihadists found them so threatening.” According to the report, the manuscripts are currently in Bamako, and are being restored and digitized.

The Arts

  • It was just announced that Robin Hardy, director of the British film The Wicker Man (1973) has died at the age of 86. Hardy’s The Wicker Man is one of only three feature length films that he ever directed. However, the film is critically acclaimed and, still more than 40 years later, considered a cult classic. It is often found ranked among the top horror films of the decade and overall. Mr. Hardy was born October 2, 1929 in Surrey, England. He died Friday after being hospitalized for several weeks. The announcement was made public by Hardy’s wife, Ms Victoria Webster. What is remembered, lives!
  • Lastly, violinist Lindsey Stirling shares her original song “The Arena” in a video spectacle, containing a captivating post-apocalyptic, steam punk-inspired atmosphere.

 

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

First, we update a story reported on last week:

Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary has announced its plans to assist all PSG 2015 attendees, who are in need. Several Circle Ministers have volunteered to offer spiritual counseling. Included in this healing work was a special full moon ceremony last night, which was dedicated to “PSG Healing and Renewal.”  In addition, Circle Sanctuary has also announced that it will be “offering a gift to all 2015 PSG paid registrants who request it — a $100 certificate ($50 for minors aged 12-17) that can be used toward any Circle Sanctuary event.”  The announcement explains more about that gift certificate, Circle’s event insurance, and the various struggles faced by the organization itself.  “This year our community was tested and found to be strong, unshakeable and unbreakable.

Now on to the links:

  • We first visit Russia where officials in the city of Nizhnevartovsk have reportedly banned the practice and teaching of yoga in city-owned buildings. The Moscow Times reports that letters to several yoga studios explained that the “move is crucial in order to prevent the spread of new religious cults and movements.” In addition, the Times reported that Nizhnevartovsk city officials claim that yoga is “inextricably linked to religious practices” and has an “occult character.” In 2013, a similar argument was made by parents of an Encinitas, California elementary school. The U.S. courts eventually ruled against the parents, allowing for the practice to continue. More recently, an Austrian elementary school banned yoga for religious reasons and, according to Southern Poverty Law Center, there are a number of American school districts who continue to ban the practice as well. However, it appears today that more American school districts are concerned with the wearing of the pants then the actual physical activity.
  • Another story coming out of the same region tells of the Night Witches. However, they are not who you might expect. According to a story in Vanity Fair, the Night Witches were an “all-female squadron of [Soviet] bomber pilots who ran thousands of daring bombing raids” during World War II. The women, ranging from ages 17-26, flew silently over Nazi soldiers by turning off their engines and gliding. The Nazis reportedly heard only a “whoosh” sound and began calling them the “Nachthexen” or Night Witches. Interestingly, the article claims that the Nazi soldiers had “very real fear of witches.” This statement recalls the 1932 popular German film Blue Light directed by famed filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. In the movie, the townspeople’s fear leads to the labeling of a woman as “witch.” Blue Light was Riefenstahl’s first film and attracted the attention of a young Hitler, who eventually commissioned her to create Nazi propaganda films.
  • Back to 2015, in the United Kingdom, a fear of witches and witchcraft led to an arrest and court hearing. According to the Central Somerset Gazette, “Hilary Joy Osborne took an obsessive dislike to Lynda Brown who was a spiritualist and taught pagan drumming and also practised Druidism, mantra chanting and Buddhist traditions.” This “dislike” led to regular harassment; including threats, the beating on walls and doors, and verbal abuse. Brown called the police and Osborne was charged with harassment to which she pleaded not guilty. However, a magistrate judge slapped Osborne with a 2 year restraining order, fines and other conditions.  Osborne was disappointed with the results, believing that the police “let her down.”
  • Now moving south to a very different climate, witchcraft or the accusation of can lead to far more tragic and distrubing fate. It was reported Tuesday that Daesh, in a first, had beheaded two women for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The terrorist organization killed both the women and their husbands, along with two other women, who were accused of being “agents for the Nusayri regime.” According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Daesh has since seized one couple’s home and property. SOHR has been appealing to the UN for greater assistance in their human rights efforts and is now reporting that the month of June marks the deadliest month in 2015 with a estimated 5247 people killed in Syria alone.
  • In recent months, Americans have faced their own form of home-grown terrorism, including the AME church massacre and the recent church burnings. Religion News Service published an article titled “3 Religions, 3 Approaches to Forgiveness in the Aftermath of Evil.” Through three different voices, the article highlights the concept of forgiveness within the major faith traditions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. For our purposes, this might lead to the question of forgiveness within Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist practices. How and when do we forgive? Are there limits? But the article opens up another concern. None of the three people interviewed represented the American black community – the target of the recent violence. While Charlestonians themselves showed a remarkable unity and Mother Emanuel together with the victims’ families expressed forgiveness, the idea is certainly not universally accepted. A New York Times op-ed piece discusses the other point of view. Writer Roxane Gray writes, “…I do not foresee ever forgiving his crimes, and I am totally at ease with that choice.”
  • On that note, it would be impossible to run a link list without mentioning Bree Newsome, the activist who climbed the South Carolina flag pole to remove the Confederate flag. The photo of her on the flag pole itself is one that will live in the history books alongside famous images, such as the lone activist standing before tanks in Tiannaman square; the coming down of the Berlin Wall; firefighters in the rubble of 9/11; and even the photo of the famous kiss as World War II ended. This iconic image of Newsome will inspire generations to come. According to Jezebel, Newsome said, “We needed that moment to say ‘enough is enough.’ We want an end to the hate.” Newsome was recently interviewed by ABC News. Here is a link that video.
  • Now we travel across the world to Malaysia where a group of teens violated a sacred space – Mount Kinabalu. In this story, however, the only things broken were the rules. “Briton Eleanor Hawkins, Canadians Lindsey and Danielle Peterson, and Dutchman Dylan Snel” climbed Mount Kinabalu and disrobed for an impromptu photo shoot. They were caught, jailed and fined for public indecency. Some reports claimed that the Malaysian people, who consider the mountain sacred, are now blaming the teens for the recent earthquake that killed 18 people. One Malyasian tabloid headline read, “Your boobs have angered mountain gods.” However, some locals are discrediting these sensationalist media accounts, and simply remark that the mountain is a sacred place in Malaysian culture, and that the teens were disrespectful to the local customs, beliefs and rules.
  • According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans’ confidence in religion is at an all time low. The survey, which is limited in its observations, suggests that trust in religious institutions has dropped; now putting it 13 percentage points lower than the historical average. 42% of Americans are estimated to have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in religion; the historical average is 55%. However, as noted, the study is limited in its reporting by only breaking the surveyed sample into three sub-groups: Catholics, Protestants and non-Christian/No-Religion. Additionally, Gallup published a study on America’s overall confidence in various institutions. Until recently, religion was top of the list. Now it falls fourth behind the military, small business and the police. However it is still ahead of Congress, Medical institutions, the media and others.
  • Now for something a bit lighter. Robin Hardy, director of The Wicker Man (1973), has launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce his long-awaited third film based on the original cult classic.  Hardy’s second film, titled The Wicker Tree, was released in 2011. Despite its lackluster reviews, the sequel is considered to be better than the 2006 Hollywood remake of the 1973 original. Now Hardy wants to revisit the story one more time with a script that he has titled “Wrath of the Gods.” Hardy told the Guardian that he had always envisioned the story as a trilogy. Through an IndieGoGo campaign, the 85-year old director is hoping to fund the project. With various perks, he is also offering fans a chance to appear in the film and even act as the film’s producer.
  • And, in our last news link for this month, Japan says goodbye to Tama, the stationmaster cat. According to The Huffington Post, “The calico cat has been credited with saving the struggling station, and its railway line, from financial collapse.”  After she was appointed stationmaster in 2007, the financially struggling train station began to earn revenue from tourists and visitors who stopped by just to see the little cat at work. Tama died at the age of 16 on June 22. Nearly 3,000 people attended her funeral. As reported, “During the Shinto-style ceremony, Tama was elevated to the status of goddess.” In addition, she has been given the title, “honorable eternal stationmaster.”
[Photo Credit: Takobou via Wikimedia Commons]

The Goddess Tama [Photo Credit: Takobou via Wikimedia Commons]

 

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.

The old "missing harvest photo" trick, get 'em every time.

The old “missing harvest photo” trick, gets ’em every time.

  • Director Robin Hardy plans to move forward with the third installment in a thematic trilogy that includes 1973’s “The Wicker Man” and 2012’s “The Wicker Tree.” Quote: “Wicker Man director Robin Hardy has revealed that he is moving ahead with new feature Wrath Of The Gods, which will complete a trilogy of ‘Wicker’ films. […] ‘I am just at the opening stages of financing it (Wrath Of The Gods) and hope to make it next year,’ said Hardy, who will also produce. The writer-director added: “The first two films are all (about) offers to the Gods. The third film is about the Gods.” Considering how long it took The Wicker Tree to get made, Hardy better hurry, he isn’t getting any younger. Meanwhile, the “final cut” of The Wicker Man is indeed coming to American theaters, though no official word on the blu ray release.
  • A “Satanic” horse sacrifice in the UK turned out to be not that Satanic after all. Quote: “Devon and Cornwall police concluded this week that the pony had died of natural causes. The much-discussed “mutilation” was not, in fact, mutilation at all, but instead the normal result of wild animals eating the pony’s organs and scattering its entrails. ‘Initial media reports linked the death of the pony to satanic cults and ritualistic killing,’ the police said in a statement. ‘The police have sought the advice of experts and have come to the view that the death of this pony was through natural causes. All the injuries can be attributed to those caused by other wild animals. This incident received significant media reporting, some of which was clearly sensationalist.'” Clearly. I’m sure this debunking will get just as much traffic as the headlines that scream “Satan,” right?
  • The trial of Rose Marks began this week, a psychic practitioner accused of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, to the tune of millions of dollars. Already amazing claims of money and gold being destroying during 9/11 are being put forward. That said, judges have been critical of the prosecution’s work in this case, calling it “slipshod” and even “shameful.” Quote: “Prosecutors responded by filing additional charges against Marks, accusing her of filing false tax returns and not reporting the income, essentially going after her criminally under two theories — that she defrauded the money or earned it legitimately, but didn’t pay taxes on it either way. The latest version of the 15-count federal indictment charges Marks with mail and wire fraud conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and the income tax charges. If convicted of all charges, sentencing guidelines could send her to prison for about 18 years, her lawyer said.” I’ve reported on this case before, and we should keep a close on eye on it, to see how the verdict may impact divination services.
  • The Oklahoma Gazette profiles Sekhet Bast Ra Oasis, a local chapter of the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis). Quote: “While one might think an occult organization in the Bible Belt would have difficulty thriving, local OTO members believe that ‘Oasis’ is more than just a title. ‘In this area of the state, the big majority of people are conservative Christian, and people who aren’t into that, they might see this area as a desert,’ David said. ‘But we’re one little oasis right here, so we’re available for those people who would like to commune with others of their kind, or close to their kind. We’re just one of many ways for people to find their true will, but the ultimate goal is to come in contact with the divine and become better human beings.'” You can see the official website for the Sekhet Bast Ra Oasis, here.
  • More news reports are emerging on the case of Pagan prison chaplain Jamyi J. Witch, who recently had criminal charges against her dropped after it was alleged she staged her own rape and hostage-taking by an inmate. The Oshkosh Northwestern, FOX 11, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel point out that the case fell apart as the inmate changed his story. Quote:  “On July 23, the inmate, John Washington, filed a motion for sentence modification in Milwaukee County based primarily on his cooperation with authorities in the Winnebago County case. In the motion, Washington’s account of the incident were a ‘radical departure’ from previous statements, according to the motion to dismiss that Ceman filed last week.” Witch has stated that she intends to sue the Department of Corrections.
  • NPR spotlights Baba Ifagbemi Faseye, an initiate and practitioner of Ifa and Orisa traditions, and the growing number of African Americans drawn to “ancient African religion.” Quote: “There’s a long table covered with pure white cloth and spread with sliced watermelon, bananas and gin — gifts to the divine. Along with a life of worship, Ifagbemi says part of his job as a full-time priest is to help people adapt this ancient religion to a modern, American reality. ‘We’re not African anymore,’ he says. ‘I need to sort of emphasize to a lot of African-Americans that yes, this is an African tradition, yes, we want to connect with our roots and whatever else. But our roots are here, too.'” I note that the NPR article calls the faith “Yoruba” even though Baba Ifagbemi Faseye quite clearly refers to his spiritual practice as Ifa.
Hell Money, the kind burned at The Ghost Festival. Photo: randomwire (Creative Commons).

Hell Money, the kind burned at The Ghost Festival. Photo: randomwire (Creative Commons).

  • The Ghost Festival, a Chinese ancestor holiday in which the deceased come to visit the living, was held this month. The Associated Press files a report. Quote: “To appease the hungry spirits, ethnic Chinese step up prayers, aided by giant colorful joss sticks shaped like dragons. They also burn mock currency and miniature paper television sets, mobile phones and furniture as offering to the ancestors for their use in the other world. For 15 days, neighborhoods hold nightly shows of shrill Chinese operas and pop concerts to entertain the dead. The shows are accompanied by lavish feasts of grilled pork, broiled chicken, rice and fruit. People appease the ghosts in the hopes that the spirits will help them with jobs, school exams or even the lottery. On the 15th day of the month – the most auspicious – families offer cooked food to the ghosts.”
  • A coalition of Navajo Medicine People have come out in opposition to horse slaughter by the Navajo Nation. Quote: “We see this mass execution of our relatives, the horses, as the bad seed that was planted in the minds of our children in the earlier days […] Our children must be taught to value life, otherwise they will treat their own lives recklessly and be drawn toward substance abuse, domestic violence, suicide and other behaviors that are not in accordance with Our Way of Life.”  It should be noted that the issue of horse slaughter on tribal lands is a divisive one inside and outside of tribal nations. More on that, here.
  • South Coast Today columnist Jack Spillane shares his experiences with modern Pagans. Quote: “There’s something about the pagans and the direct connection of their ancient structures meant to concentrate the mind on the natural world — the change of the seasons, the rhythms of day and night, the connections of sky to land to sea — that’s awfully appealing. I was reminded again of this a few months ago when I happened to be at the First Unitarian Church when Karen Andersen, a contemporary Pagan (capital ‘P’ for the religion), gave a terrific talk about the struggles for religious acceptance of Pagans, at least for the ones who define themselves as religious.”
  • Right Wing Watch notes that Pat Robertson’s 700 Club has run another ex-gay segment, this one also happens to be an ex-Witch as well. Quote: “As I got deeper into spiritualism, a gift of discerning spirits was activated in me. At the time I was dating Diana, a practicing witch whom I had met at a New Age conference. Diana introduced me to demon worship and a new level of darkness. One evening as she began to seduce me, my spiritual eyes were opened, and I saw the demon in her sneering back at me. It horrified me! I jumped up, quickly got dressed, and ran out of there.” Wiccans, bringing you new levels of darkness, because apparently darkness has levels.
  • The Daily Beast profiles “Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison” by Joshua Dubler. Quote: “In one passage, we join Dubler and a Native American prisoner named Claw in a traditional smudging ritual, complete with an eagle wing, turtle shell, and sage and sweetgrass to smoke. In the corner of the prison yard next to the E Block section, the author stands next to Claw, Bobby Hawk, Lucas Sparrowhawk, and a few others as they pray for their families, the weather, and their friend Chipmunk, who’s in the hole.” I can’t tell if Dubler tackles modern Paganism behind bars, but it still might make fascinating reading.

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 Monday morning the film production and distribution company StudioCanal announced, via director Robin Hardy, that they have acquired an existing film print of 1973 cult film “The Wicker Man,” long missing, and are restoring the film, converting it to Blu-Ray format, and overseeing a short theatrical run in the Fall. For devotees of the film, which includes myself, this is exciting news. Up until now, the only versions of the film you could easily get were the mangled “Theatrical Version” (aka the “short” version) which is what usually pops up on streaming services and DVD, and “The Extended Version” (aka the director’s cut/the “long” version) which was included in the two-disc edition released in 2006 (and earlier VHS releases). The problem with the previously released extended version was that it melded film-quality material from the short version with NTSC tape of the additional footage, creating rather glaring differences in video (and audio) quality. Better than nothing, surely, but hardly optimal.

Robin Hardy

Robin Hardy

“I’m very pleased to announce that StudioCanal has been able to find an actual print of The Wicker Man, which is based on my original cut, working with Abraxas, the American distributors, all those years ago […] this version has never been restored before, has never been shown in UK theaters before, has never been released on Blu-Ray before. This version of The Wicker Man will be known, optimistically, as the ‘Final Cut.'”Robin Hardy, director of “The Wicker Man”

So what does this all mean? It most likely means some version of the extended “director’s” cut, but with top-notch audio/video quality (for a definitive run-down of the various “Wicker Man” versions out there, see this site). What it most likely doesn’t mean is a return of material from the original filming that never made it into any version of the film. So not the completists dream, the Platonic ideal of “The Wicker Man,” but still, exciting news. This “Final Cut,” according to SFX Magazine, “will be released in selected cinemas on 27 September, and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on 14 October.”

Still from "The Wicker Man."

Still from “The Wicker Man.”

For modern Pagans, “The Wicker Man” can be a divisive film. Many Pagans, especially those who saw it in American theaters in 1979 when it was re-released in it’s “middle” cut version and became a cult sensation, love the way Summerisle was portrayed: a village of happy, fun-loving, musical, Pagans. A depiction that cut deep into the psyche of many Pagans longing for a society and culture that reflected their ideals. However, there has always been a vocal minority of Pagans who detest the film due to the small fact that the fun-loving Pagans perform a human sacrifice at the end, thus undercutting all the smiley-faced folk songs and revels. While I was not quite old enough to see “The Wicker Man” in the cinema, I was part of a coven that provided my first viewing of the film, and I’ll admit I fell in instant love. A Pagan thriller-musical-procedural that invited deeper questions about belief.

 

1979 re-release era poster.

1979 re-release era poster.

I have long felt that there are no “heroes” or “villains” in the piece, but two world views in crisis clashing with tragic results. The sting is in undercutting our expectations for both the Christian policeman “hero” and the, in theory, villainous Pagan village. Over the course of the film we find that the hero is a stuffy, priggish, and deeply flawed man who has a hard time separating his duties as a Christian from his duties as a police officer (indeed he sees them as one and the same, which in turn helps lead him to his doom). Likewise, the Pagan villagers, who would be portrayed as creepy and devious in a true b-movie picture, are shown to be rather wholesome and moral, at least within the context of their worldview (something truly unexpected for a thriller feature from the early 1970s). You find yourself quickly rooting for them, and against the traditional hero. Robin Hardy and screenwriter Anthony Shaffer were smart enough to give an ending that, in a sense, gives everyone what they “want” within a religious context.

Sergeant Neil Howie: No matter what you do, you can’t change the fact that I believe in the life eternal, as promised to us by our Lord, Jesus Christ. I believe in the life eternal, as promised to us by our Lord, Jesus Christ! Lord Summerisle: That is good, for believing what you do, we confer upon you a rare gift, these days – a martyr’s death. You will not only have life eternal, but you will sit with the saints among the elect. Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker man.”

The Wicker Man is the first truly excellent film to be made in a post Pagan revival world. It plays with the same sources and mythic themes that the actual Pagan community used in reconstructing their own faiths, and as such strikes at something honest almost by accident. It struck at a moment when the idea of a “Pagan Community” was still forming and in flux. This was before “Drawing Down the Moon,” before “The Spiral Dance,” and well before the Internet. If you view it in this context, you can understand why “The Wicker Man” was so beloved for its portrayal of a Pagan village, because it gave a vision of “us” as a community. Something that was, and largely still is, rare on the big screen (I’d argue the 1980s television series “Robin of Sherwood” is important for similar reasons). So despite the sacrifice at the end, it has been deeply embraced, and continues to be heralded. Even today, a new generation are sharing images and animated gifs of the film on Tumblr, celebrating the Pagan imagery.

One hopes this “final cut” will finally enable a mass audience to see the film as it was meant to be seen, and in high quality, taking its place in a pantheon of provocative 1970s films that explore the tensions between the dominant Christian paradigm, and a religious/cultural “other.” I have no doubt that come October, there will be many, many gatherings and parties to re-introduce this film, and one can only hope it will come to a movie theater near me in September. I don’t know about you, but I plan to keep my appointment with “The Wicker Man.”

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! I may not be near a computer for much of today as I’ll be visiting one of Oregon’s sacred sites, so please forgive me if I don’t respond to comments or emails in a timely fashion. 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.

 

Top Story: There has been a noticeable increase in anti-Native rhetoric from conservative media outlets lately, some of it a result from a blessing given by Dr. Carlos Gonzales at a memorial service for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona, and some of it a by-product of anti-Obama administration attacks. Now things are seeming to get far more personal in nature, starting with a disturbingly ugly editorial from talk radio host, and Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer.

“In all the discussions about the European settlement of the New World, one feature has been conspicuously absent: the role that the superstition, savagery and sexual immorality of native Americans played in making them morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil […] Many of the tribal reservations today remain mired in poverty and alcoholism because many native Americans continue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition instead of coming into the light of Christianity and assimilating into Christian culture.”

This isn’t first time Fischer has displayed his profoundly anti-Native feelings to the world, but this may be the most starkly ugly display of Christian triumphalism and revisionism I’ve seen in a long while. Do I even need to add that Fischer is also part of the “Green Dragon” hysteria, or would that be redundant? As ugly as this editorial is, some will argue that it’s one isolated extremist, shouting to his avid followers. I would even be moved by that argument if I hadn’t also seen the plan by Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul to cut the federal budget by, in essence, breaking all remaining treaties with Native American tribal nations.

“Check out the proposal introduced in Congress Jan. 25 by the newly elected senator. It calls for the elimination of funding to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Department of the Interior agency that oversees a variety of Indian programs. That’s not all. The senator, who is a medical doctor (an eye surgeon, although seemingly myopic), also proposes trimming almost half of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service (IHS) budget this year. Republicans and Democrats don’t tend to agree on much, but one thing they have agreed on over the years is that IHS has been dramatically underfunded. Like them or not, the BIA and IHS are the main agencies of the federal government that have worked with and for Indians, carrying out federal trust responsibility and treaty obligations called for in the U.S. Constitution.”

Right now American Indians are debating whether Paul simply doesn’t understand the complex issue of (Constitutionally recognized) treaty obligations in a fervor to cut the budget, or if he’s actively trying to limit the power and influence of Native Americans within the federal government. So far Paul has not responded to reporters looking for clarification. Whatever his true motives, this move, coming during a particularly venomous stream of anti-Native sentiment (or simple indifference to Native issues), risks alienating American Indians from conservative political movements for the foreseeable future. This didn’t have to be the case, as many Republicans have been, and are, friendly to Native issues. Some feel that Native Americans are being caught in the crossfire of rising anti-immigration hostility, but whatever the reason, the alienating effects of recent events could have long-term ramifications.

Romanian Fortune-Telling Laws Getting Tougher? I’ve given quite a bit of attention to the recent issue of Romania’s “witch tax,” and the mixed reaction it’s been getting from Romanian witches and fortune-tellers. Now the government has introduced a new bill that would fine, and even imprison, fortune tellers that give bad predictions.

“Witches argue they shouldn’t be blamed for the failure of their tools. “They can’t condemn witches, they should condemn the cards,” Queen Witch Bratara Buzea told The Associated Press by telephone. Critics say the proposal is a ruse to deflect public attention from the country’s many problems. In 2009, Romania needed a euro20 billion ($27.31 billion) International Monetary Fund-led bailout loan to pay salaries and pensions when its economy contracted more than 7 percent. Last year, the economy shrank again. However, this year a slight recovery of 1.5 percent growth is forecast.”

The bill would also bar fortune tellers from practicing near schools and churches. One wonders if this new law would also apply to financial analysts, weather forecasters, and other professionals who make predictions in exchange for money. If this bill passes, how long before a witch is fined or imprisoned? What would it mean for the European Union? This goes far beyond protection from outright fraud, and into restricting speech and commerce.

Alleged Pedophile Cult Cited Crowley: The British press is swarming over the trial of alleged cult leader Colin Batley, who is accused of intimidating an underage teenage girl (and four other complainants) into becoming the sexual plaything of his inner circle. According to the prosecution, Batley and the group would wear robes and read from the Thelemic sacred text The Book of the Law, penned by influential occultist Aleister Crowley.

He claimed Batley would preach from a text, The Book of the Law, written in Cairo by English occultist and magician Aleister Crowley and warned about the consequences of failing to do what they were told. He described Batley as “evil and manipulative” and claimed he used the cult to justify his sexual behaviour. The prosecutor said of Batley: “He is the principal. He and the others became entwined. It became much more than that, a cult. The usual restraints went out of the window. Some took part in wife swapping.” The jury heard how the five defendants moved from London to the seaside village of Kidwelly, near Carmarthen in the 1990s.

Batley claims he “gave up” trying to read Crowley, and that he’s a devout Mormon who’s innocent of the charges against him. The trial so far has included selective readings from the Liber AL, including: “Sex with anyone is not just permissible but to be encouraged. Prostitution is to be admired.” With the main defendant claiming to know nothing of Crowley’s work, it seems unlikely an expert on the text will be brought forward to provide context. Prosecution also claims that all the women in the alleged cult had matching tattoos. As you can imagine, the tabloids are having a field day with this story, I can only hope that justice is done to those harmed. I will keep you updated as more details emerge.

Yoga Is For All: The Times of India reports that the Indian government, in order to stop unscrupulous Yoga gurus from copyrighting various asanas (body positions) and practices, have documented 1,300 asanas and are uploading them to a public database for all to use and study.

“Nine well known yoga institutions in India have helped with the documentation. “The data will be up online in the next two months. In the first phase, we have videographed 250 ‘asanas’ — the most popular ones. Chances of misappropriation with them are higher. So if somebody wants to teach yoga, he does not have to fight copyright issues. He can just refer to the TKDL [Traditional Knowledge Digital Library].”

One of the main culprits in copyrighting and profiting from traditional Yoga positions is Bikram Choudhury, whose Bikram Yoga system has become very popular in the West. Choudhury has been famously litigious, and has become famously wealthy as a result. According the the Times of India, the US patent office alone has issued over 200 yoga-related copyrights. Now, many of these copyrights risk being undermined by Yoga’s birthplace, as practitioners and teachers can reference the TKDL as their source. This move may also have the added benefit of asserting the essential Hindu and Indian character of Yoga, something American Hindu activists have been concerned about.

The Wicker Tree Trailer: Dread Central has gotten their hands on the full official trailer of Robin Hardy’s upcoming “spiritual sequel” to The Wicker Man, The Wicker Tree. Warning, it’s slightly NSFW (that’s “not safe for work” for those playing at home) due to some brief flashes of nudity.

There’s still no release date, but hopefully that information will be released soon. You can read all of my “Wicker Tree” coverage, here.

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

It’s no secret that we here at The Wild Hunt are big fans of the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man, and are very much looking forward to writer/director Robin Hardy’s recently completed “spiritual sequel” The Wicker Tree; so I was pleased to hear that Hardy screened a 12-minute teaser of the film this Sunday at the Abertoir Horror Festival in Aberystwyth.

Robin Hardy will show a 12-minute promo of The Wicker Tree at the Abertoir Horror Festival in Aberystwyth on Sunday 14 November. The new film features a cameo by Christopher Lee who starred as Lord Summerisle in the original Wicker Man … “I am happy with this film because it is in the same genre as The Wicker Man, although it is not a sequel. There are lots of songs, sex, comedy and something terrible happens when you least expect it.”

Two interesting tidbits from the BBC piece is that Hardy was motived by the (unintentionally, awfully) comedic Nicolas Cage-starring 2006 remake to return to working on a follow-up to The Wicker Man (“That film took the original plot and threw away the rest of what made the original film work.”), and that he’s already at work on the third film in the “Wicker trilogy”.

“Mr Hardy has just finished writing a script for what he describes as ‘the third film in the Wicker trilogy’, The Wrath of the Gods, which he intends to start filming next year.”

The Wicker Tree is due to be released in 2011, but will it draw crowds? The Guardian thinks the original is one of the best horror films of all time, and it still receives generous critical praise, not to mention the ever-renewing cult fanbase, so there should be enough excitement for the film to give it a decent chance at wider success. If so, here’s hoping the 88-year-old Hardy is spry enough to finish the third film! We will, naturally, keep you updated on release dates and other related news items. Now to see if the Daily Mail will rage at the BBC for being too Pagan friendly because it covered this film.

A few quick news notes and updates for your Sunday.

First Livingston Parish Event Goes Smoothly: The first of two Pagan events being held at Gryphon’s Nest Campground in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, seems to have happened without any trouble despite rumors of Christian protests and some rather one-sided local journalism.

“Saturday’s event, which turned from fundraiser to private gathering, was organized by a Wiccan group and offered speakers, workshops and other activities. “We’re sharing our love and peace,” said Valli Harry, president of the Louisiana Alliance of Wiccans. For Rhye Gray, a high priest of Spiritwheel Coven, a Wiccan for 22 years and Baton Rouge resident, the gathering aimed to raise consciousness “for our community to connect to one another and to have a positive experience with one another.” The gathering also was designed to raise community awareness “that we are very much like others,” Rhye Gray said.”

Saturday’s event, initially a fundraiser for the Louisiana Alliance of Wiccans (LAW), was moved to the Gryphon’s Nest Campground in the wake of local opposition to a festival at the site planned for later this month. In addition to area Pagans, the event also drew members of other minority faiths, who came to show solidarity and seek community.

“Mukunda Datta, of Baton Rouge, a practicing Hindu, decided to attend Saturday’s gathering after reading about it in the newspaper. He said he was hoping to find “some like-minded individuals at the event.” “When I moved here from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, everyone thought I was some kind of demon or something,” Datta said. “Now, they all love me. They know that I’m not a threat.” His advice for others who may be skeptical of the pagan religion was simple: “Be open and don’t close your mind off before you find out. There’s a lot to offer in all of the traditions,” Datta said.”

This all seems like a hopeful sign that the larger festival set for Memorial Day weekend will happen without incident. I’ll keep you posted of any further developments.

The Goddess of English: Dalits in the village of Bankagaon near Lakhimpur Khiri in India, inspired by stories of social and financial advancement, have decided to start worshiping the English language as a goddess and are erecting a temple in her honor.

“April 30, the day Bankagaon’s dalits pledged to learn the English language as well as worship it as a goddess. It was the day they laid the foundations of a temple dedicated to “English, the Dalit Goddess”. One of those listening to Gangania was Chandra Bhan Prasad, a self-taught Dalit social psychologist who thought up the idea of worshipping English as a goddess … The dalits’ new appreciation of English highlights the new class divide in modern India — between a minority of the English-speaking elite and others. For dalits, the medium is the message. Prasad says Indians have figured out that English is the password that can open the doors to a better life … the message of the English Goddess is simple: “Come to me, I will empower you.” That is why the temple ceremony was an all-dalit affair. The premises of a dalit-run school are being used for the temple.”

For those not familiar with India’s caste/class system, the Dalits are members of several caste groups that were once labeled as “untouchable”. While the caste system was formally outlawed in India’s constitution, these groups still face prejudice, discrimination, and barriers to social and fiscal advancement. In the past, Dalits have performed mass conversions to Buddhism or Christianity as a method to transcend the specter of untouchability.  Will worshiping the English Goddess, and learning her language, bring them the advancement they seek?

Robin Hardy and The Wicker Tree: Fangoria Magazine has a new feature up focusing on writer/director Robin Hardy and the upcoming film “The Wicker Tree”, a spiritual sequel of sorts to the 1973 cult-classic “The Wicker Man”.

“It had been in my mind to do another movie,” Hardy says, “and when they made the Nicolas Cage version, I thought they missed the point of the first film completely. I say point, but I mean points, really. They just used the plot and threw away all the atmosphere and charm, the things which lulled you into a sense of this being a marvelous, fun kind of community, and then wham!—at the end you get the nasty surprise of how wicked people can be en masse when they feel they’ve got a good reason. And that made me want to do the other one that had been in my mind for a few years. Since I’d already written the book, COWBOYS FOR CHRIST, I decided to make a movie of it.”

Still no word on when the film will be coming out, but I’m definitely looking forward to it, especially since Christopher Lee is heavily rumored to be appearing as Lord Summerisle in a cameo.

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