Archives For San Francisco Peaks

A few quick news notes for you on this Saturday morning.

Grant Morrison Awarded MBE: It isn’t every day that an avowed ritual magician is made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Comics writer Grant Morrison, famous for works like “The Invisibles,” and the recent “Supergods,” was recognized “for services to film and literature” on the Queen’s annual birthday honors list. Morrison has long advocated the use of magic(k), sigil magick in particular.

“All you need to begin the practice of magic is concentration, imagination and the ability to laugh at yourself and learn from mistakes. Some people like to dress up as Egyptians or monks to get themselves in the mood; others wear animal masks or Barbarella costumes. The use of ritual paraphernalia functions as an aid to the imagination only. Anything you can imagine, anything you can symbolize, can be made to produce magical changes in your environment.”

One has to wonder if Morrison did magic to become a part of chivalric order, and if so, what he plans to use his new status for. I have no doubt that it has something to do with bringing about global enlightenment in time for December. Alan Moore could not be reached for comment.

Klee Benally Found Guilty of Trespassing and Disorderly Conduct: Klee Benally, lead singer of the Navajo punk band Blackfire, was convicted of trespassing and disorderly conduct for chaining himself to excavator in protest of construction, the expansion of a ski resort, and the pumping of treated wastewater snow onto the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona. A coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations see this “development” as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.”

“How can I be ‘trespassing’ on this site that is so sacred to me? This is my church. It is the Forest Service and Snowbowl who are violating human rights and religious freedom by desecrating this holy Mountain [...] Their actions are far beyond ‘disorderly’. [...]  The Forest Service, the City of Flagstaff, & the courts have proven that they do not understand or respect our spiritual ceremonies and practices and our spiritual relationship to the Earth [...] We have no guaranteed protection for our religious freedom as Indigenous Peoples in the United States.”

I’ve covered this story in depth, and it is a stark example of how arbitrary “religious freedom” can be in the United States, particularly if your ancestral sacred lands are getting in the way of marginally increased revenue for a ski resort. The protection of Native sacred lands is an ongoing issue in Indian country, encroachments and construction on sacred lands often done in the arbitrary name of economic development, or sometimes just for simple convenience (to non-Native folks of course). For some politicians it seems very plain there is no such thing as sacred land at all. However, we know there are consequences and a price to the eradication or desecration of sacred ground, whether it is Tara in Ireland or the peaks in Arizona.

A Pardon for Britain’s Last Witch? In 1944 Spiritualist Helen Duncan was convicted under the Witchcraft Act, and was the last individual to be imprisoned for the crime of witchcraft before its repeal in 1951. Since then, there been an ongoing campaign to clear Duncan’s name, and win her a pardon. The BBC reports on the ongoing efforts, speculating that they may seek judicial review after a 2008 petition to the Scottish Parliament was rejected.

Graham Hewitt, who is fighting the case on behalf of her grandchildren, said: “She was tried under an old piece of legislation that shouldn’t have been used at the time and advice had been issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions that alternatives were available.”

The conviction and imprisonment of Duncan looms large in the history of Wicca and religious Witchcraft. Gerald Gardner’s novel “High Magic’s Aid,” which contained elements of the soon-to-be-made public faith, was published in 1949, before the repeal. It was only in 1954, after the Witchcraft Act’s repeal, that his non-fiction work “Witchcraft Today” was released, sparking what would become an international religious phenomenon. Pardons for individuals like Duncan, or the Pendle Witches, or the witches of Salem, are seen as a corrective to the historical record, that the conviction and punishment for witchcraft is mistake that must be remedied so that it cannot happen again. Considering the grim reality of witch-hunts, witch-arrests, and witch-killings in many parts of the world today, such actions could help send a strong signal.

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

I’m in Seattle, Washington this weekend, part of the team that’s putting on FaerieCon West, a transformational celebration of music, myth, fantasy, and, of course, faerie. While FaerieCon West, and events like it, are not explicitly Pagan, the openness and embrace of Pagan culture can’t be missed by anyone whose eyes are open to it.

While there are many presentations and performances I’m looking forward to, I’m perhaps most excited about participating in a panel discussion with Jeet Kei Leung, who’s writing a book entitled “Dancing Together into The Great Shift: Transformational Festivals & The New Evolutionary Culture”, and once again getting to interview famed urban fantasy author Charles de Lint, best known for his “Newford” novels. I hope to bring you photos, interviews, and coverage from what I’m hoping will be amazing weekend. If you’re in the Seattle area, I hope you’ll drop by, experience it for yourself, and say hello!

In the meantime, before I head off, here’s a few quick Pagan news notes that I thought you should know about.

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

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.

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.

For those of you who have been following my coverage of the fight over expansion of a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, a process that would pump treated wastewater snow on the mountain, I would like to direct you to Censored News and Indigenous Action Media, who covered a week of planned protests and actions that just took place at the peaks.

“The action we took today is one part of a series of events with the intent to stop Snowbowl, the US Forest Service, and other corporations from further desecrating the Holy San Francisco Peaks,” stated Haley Coles after being released from jail. “The pipeline will not be tolerated. Spewed waste water turned into artificial snow will not be tolerated. Clear cuts, slash piles, and burning of hundred-year old trees will not be tolerated. The Holy mountain will be defended, and the desecration will be stopped; at whatever cost. We have the mountain on our side,” said Coles.

The already in-progress construction is considered sacrilegious by a coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations who see this as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” According to Brenda Norrell at Censored News 17 people have been arrested so far, some for civil disobedience, and some for no apparent reason at legal protests.

“Six people protecting San Francisco Peaks were targeted and arrested during a peaceful march for the protection of San Francisco Peaks. San Francisco Peaks defender Klee Benally, Navajo, was among those arrested. In front of Macy’s Coffeehouse on Sunday afternoon, undercover police infiltrated the hundred person march in an attempt to squash the growing anti-Snowbowl movement. The peaceful march by Native Americans and supporters was surrounded by police from the moment the march formed, marchers said.”

While the week of planned protests has ended, protest camps still remain. For those wanting to make their voice heard on this issue, Indigenous Action Media has sidebar on its site of all the relevant contact information. I will be periodically checking in on this issue as it progresses.

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.

Just a few quick notes for you on this Saturday afternoon.

Bjork’s Biophilia: Way back in 2007 I covered the very Pagan inclinations of Iceland’s favorite musical export, Björk, as she released her then-new album “Volta.” Now Bjork’s back with an ambitious new interactive album project entitled “Biophilia,” and she talks to The Quietus about politics, the sacredness of nature, and why she’s against the “Christian idea” of how music should be constructed.

“So for me, how I hear music, is kind of more related to nature, it’s not related to some Christian idea, these German guys, Bach and Beethoven. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I totally respect Christians and Germans, it’s just monopoly is never a good idea, there should be versatility.”

You can read more about the app-based project, expansive tour plans, and the actual album, here. I’ve long been a fan of Bjork, and I’m very much looking forward to this new and ambitious project.

Why the San Francisco Peaks are Sacred: Censored News showcases a Dine’ youth film that explores why the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona are sacred to the Dine’ (Navajo) people.

It’s a short film that’s well worth watching, and gives a clear idea of why the peaks are so important. The issue of development on the peaks in defiance of protests from 13 different indigenous groups and Tribal Nations has seen renewed interest recently, including direct nonviolent action to stop construction of a water pipeline that would pump treated wastewater snow onto the mountain. You can find out more about activist efforts, here.

Pagan Podcast News: I wanted to quickly mention some news from the world of Pagan podcasting. First, Alison (of No Unsacred Place fame) and Jeff Lilly (a contributor to Pagan+Politics) have launched Dining With Druids, a podcast that’s actually pretty self-explanatory.

Dining with Druids is your opportunity to sit in once a week and eavesdrop on the wild and rambling dinner conversation of two Druids as they discuss the news of the day and other interesting tidbits, informed by their backgrounds in political philosophy, linguistics, religious studies, history, science and modern-day spirituality.

Don’t be fooled by the name — this is no cooking show! It’s a chance for you to unwind with some friendly table talk about the intersection of religion, politics, community and spirituality in an ever-changing, multicultural world. Enjoy conversation about diverse issues with hosts who know a little bit of everything, or at least enough to be curious, confused and endlessly amused. If there’s one thing you can say about dining with Druids, it’s that they always serve up plenty of food for thought!

Sounds interesting! There are already episodes up to check out. Meanwhile, there are some new episodes up from some of my favorite podcasts that you should check out: Thorn Coyle interviews Starhawk at Elemental Castings, The CUUPS Podcast interviews Rev. Christa Landon and Phaedra Bonewits about the founding of Panthea Pagan Temple, and Ravencast interviews Jon Cyr, the founder of the Young Vikings Club. Finally, I’ll soon be on The Modern Witch Podcast, details soon.

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

A few quick news notes to start off your Wednesday.

Problems With Summer Solstice at Stonehenge: Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones lashes out at Pagans and other revelers who congregate each year at Stonehenge, noting the lack of (ancient) historical grounding and implying that it is only permitted now to avoid “public violence.”

“Eighteen thousand pagans, druids and – for all I know – modern Aztecsgathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice. There were some drugs arrests, but judging from reports, English Heritage seem pleased with the numbers. Er, why? And why is this daft festival even allowed? In the 1980s hippies fought the police for their right to revel. So that is why it is permitted: because otherwise there would be public violence on Salisbury Plain. But there is no historical tradition justifying the pagan takeover of Britain’s most celebrated ancient monument every midsummer. There is not even a theological justification, for no connection exists between Stonehenge and modern paganism.”

Jones bemoans Stonehenge becoming “a stage for feeble pseudo-religious, pseudo-communal fantasies,” calling the gatherings “abusive” and “ugly.” I’m not sure why Jones is so against Summer Solstice gatherings at Stonehenge, he doesn’t seem to be arguing from a stance of preservation, simply aesthetics. Anyone who actually studies religion or folk tradition will tell you that a solid grounding in current historical information isn’t required for a popular tradition to form. Allowing the Druids, Pagans, hippies, and tourists to gather in a managed fashion harms no one, and indeed creates important liminal moments of communal sentiment that helps bind a nation and its people together. Stonehenge is a symbol of Britain now, something the national tourism industry knows full well,  and it’s bizarre to discourage people from having celebrations around it.

Direct Action at the San Francisco Peaks: While this week saw a lot of attention on the issue of protecting and preserving Native sacred places in the United States, particularly the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, one event seemed to get overlooked in the coverage. Last week six activists were arrested in non-violent direct action in an attempt to halt construction of water pipeline that will be used to pump treated waste-water snow on the mountain, a move many indigenous peoples and Tribal Nations see as a blasphemy.

Kristopher Barney, Dine’ (Navajo) & one of the six who locked himself to an excavator stated, “This is a continuation of years of prayers and resistance. It is our hope that all Indigenous Peoples, and all others,  throughout the North, East, South and West come together to offer support to the San Francisco Peaks and help put a stop to Snowbowl’s plan to further destroy and desecrate such a sacred, beautiful and pristine mountain!”

“What part of sacred don’t they understand? Through our actions today, we say enough! The destruction and desecration has to end!” said Marlena Teresa Garcia, 16, a young Diné woman and one of the six who chose to lock down. “The Holy San Francisco Peaks is home, tradition, culture, and a sanctuary to me, and all this is being desecrated by the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort.  So now I, as a young Diné woman, stand by Dook’o’osliid’s side taking action to stop cultural genocide.  I encourage all indigenous youth to stand against the desecration that is happening on the Holy San Francisco Peaks and all other sacred sites”, said Garcia after being arrested and released.

There are accusations that police used excessive force in removing the protesters. You can read a press release sent out by the activists, as well as suggestions on how you can support their efforts, here. You can read all of my coverage concerning efforts to protect the San Francisco Peaks, here. Thanks to Kathryn Price NicDhàna for bringing this to my attention.

Vodun and Vaccines in Benin: CNN features an editorial from columnist Michael Gerson on efforts to get life-saving vaccines to people who need it in the developing world. In the piece Gerson promotes a new documentary collaboration between ONE and VBS called  “Voodoo and Vaccines” about how health workers reached out to Vodun and traditional healers in Benin to overcome skepticism and misinformation.

“Voodoo and Vaccines” shows how government and health officials have reached out to religious leaders, and how many traditional healers are now carrying a pro-vaccination message. They are combining a belief in traditional medicine with an acceptance of modern medicine. And this is benefiting the people of Benin.

This is not the first time activists and health workers have reached out to Vodun healers in order to reach the people of Benin, and it is encouraging to see a politically connected conservative Christian talk about the necessity of involving Vodun practitioners without descending into the smears and triumphalism that so tainted some outreach efforts in Haiti.

That’s all I have for now, perhaps more later. Have a great day!

June 17th through June 21st of this year are the official 2011 days of prayer to protect Native American sacred places. Observances and ceremonies are being held across the country to honor and bring attention to the plight of Native sacred sites culminating in a Washington, D.C. Solstice observance on Tuesday, June 21 at 7:30 a.m. on the United States Capitol Grounds, West Front Grassy Area.

“Native and non-Native people nationwide gather at this time for Solstice ceremonies and to honor sacred places,” said Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne & Hodulgee Muscogee). She is President of The Morning Star Institute, which organizes the National Sacred Places Prayer Days. “Ceremonies are being conducted as Native American peoples engage in legal struggles with federal agencies that side with developers that endanger or destroy Native sacred places,” said Ms. Harjo. “Once again, we call on Congress to build a door to the courts for Native nations to protect our traditional churches. Many sacred places are being damaged because Native nations do not have equal access under the First Amendment to defend them.”

All other peoples in the United States can use the First Amendment to protect their churches, but the Supreme Court closed that door to Native Americans in 1988. The Court, in the 23 years from 1988 to 2011, has declined to allow federal religious freedom statutes to be used to protect Native American sacred places or the exercise of Native American religious freedom at sacred places.

National Sacred Places Prayer Days organizer Suzan Shown Harjo makes special note of the recent fight over stopping the expansion of a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona (an issue I’ve covered at some length here), which involves creating fake snow from treated wastewater. A coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations see this as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” In the official National Sacred Places Prayer Days press release (PDF) special mention is given to the San Francisco Peaks fight, making plain that they’ve brought their concerns directly to President Obama at a December 2010 tribal leaders meeting. Indian Country Today, which has been running a special series on Native sacred places in conjunction with these days of prayer, has also highlighted this specific struggle.

“Ben Shelly, Navajo Nation president, is apologetic yet determined when it comes to one of the country’s special places, a place he calls “very important.” He is one of the leaders in the fight to protect the San Francisco Peaks—sacred to more than 13 Southwestern tribes—from using treated sewage water for artificial snowmaking at the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort near Flagstaff. [...]  “In the city of Flagstaff, some of the people there are starting to voice concerns that the wastewater is not going to meet the [snowmaking] needs—they are kind of afraid drinking water will be used,” Shelly said, explaining that millions of gallons might be required to create just two feet of artificial snow over the ski season. The Navajo Nation may retain its own attorney on water issues and on what he said was the unsatisfactory level of government-to-government consultation by the Forest Service, which approved the snowmaking and authorized the start of construction on conveyance pipes even as it scheduled a first-time “listening session” with a Hopi group.”

While many tribal peoples are pleased with the Obama administration signing the Tribal Law and Order Act and Obama’s willingness to support the (not legally binding) United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, they are unhappy with the anti-sacred sites stance of his Justice Department and are asking for Obama to push for a “right of action” under the First Amendment to protect sacred lands (something the Supreme Court ruled Native peoples and tribes do not have in 1988).

“The President has been asked directly to call on Congress to create a right of action so we can defend our holy places, to improve the Executive Order for Indian Sacred Sites and to stop the Forest Service and other agencies from continuing their decades-long assault against Native sacred places,” said Ms. Harjo. “I’m still optimistic that the President will do these things, but not everyone is as hopeful as I am. Nonetheless, we pray that this will be the last year we are denied justice by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches.”

I personally feel that solidarity with Native peoples and tribes on issues like this are essential. Something that goes straight to the core of many of our own values and beliefs. The encroachments and construction on sacred lands is often done in the arbitrary name of economic development, or sometimes just for simple convenience (to non-Native folks of course). During hearings for the ski resort expansion on San Francisco Peaks a government lawyer displayed shocking levels of cultural insensitivity comparing sacred plants gathered on the mountain to “herbs at health food stores.” For some politicians it seems very plain there is no such thing as sacred land at all. However, we know there are consequences and a price to the eradication or desecration of sacred ground, whether it is Tara in Ireland or the peaks in Arizona.

Top Stories:

San Francisco Peaks Update: I have written at some length concerning the battle over a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona creating snow from treated wastewater, what a coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations see as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” It seemed to me like Arizona politicians didn’t believe there could be sacred land in their state. Now Indian Country follows up on this story with the latest insult to the beliefs of Native Americans living in Arizona.

“The Forest Service has scheduled a meeting to hear Hopi Tribe objections to wastewater-enabled snowmaking for a ski resort on Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks at the same time it has approved the start of construction on the snowmaking’s infrastructure. A former Hopi Tribal chairman and the grassroots group of which he is a part of hope an upcoming meeting on the San Francisco Peaks (Nuvatuqui) will provide a voice for tribal members who oppose the use of wastewater for the snowmaking at a resort on mountains sacred to a number of area tribes. But at about the same time the Forest Service planned the May 31 “listening session” with Hopi tribal members it also authorized construction to begin on a pipeline to convey the wastewater used to make the artificial snow.”

An emergency injunction appeal to construction was denied, despite there being an active appeal on environmental grounds underway. The “listening session” with the Hopi Tribe will be the only forum at this point that includes Native voices, it looks like Coconino National Forest supervisor M. Earl Stewart won’t be much different from former supervisor Nora B. Rasure, who doesn’t see any issue with desecrating a sacred mountain for the purpose of a prolonged skiing season. As indigenous leaders tell the United Nations that respecting their beliefs will help preserve the environment, the Forest Service in Coconino has seemingly decided that money and politics trump everything else.

Pagans on Wikipedia: Over at PNC-Minnesota (and reprinted at Patheos.com) Cara Schulz writes an editorial concerning a snowballing trend of Wikipedia deleting Pagan-oriented articles. She cites the a policy of goal-post shifting regarding what sources are deemed acceptable. For instance, the Pagan Newswire Collective doesn’t meet guidelines, nor do the published writings of Pagan academics.

“PNC has staff with formal journalism degrees, experience working as a reporters, producers, and editors in mainstream media, and PNC-Minnesota follows an editorial process similar to most any other newsroom in the country.   Yet PNC-Minnesota is dismissed as  “a self-published group blog which isn’t going to meet guidelines for reliable sources.” Discounting sources is a common theme in the Paganistan deletion discussion.  A paper by Dr. Murphy Pizza, an anthropologist who spent five years studying the Paganistan community, is also considered not a reliable source because she is a Pagan. I’m assuming this same standard would then apply to The Pomegranate:  The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Chas Clifton’s book “Her Hidden Children:  The Rise of Wicca And Paganism in America,” and is probably the reason Ronald Hutton will not publicly say he is a Pagan.”

Schulz wonders if there’s a double-standard going on where papers and articles published by Christian academics are accepted as reliable sources on Christian articles or if the work of environmentalist-minded scholars pass muster on climate-related articles. I personally think that much of this problem can be solved by having a more engaged team of Pagan-friendly editors at Wikipedia who are willing to go to bat for these articles, and work to constantly improve them, not just when items are flagged for deletion. The rest of the problem will only be solved once we take our media seriously, and move collectively forward in building institutions and reputations that pass muster.

In Other News:

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