Archives For Starz

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.

Just a few quick notes for you on this Saturday.

The Ramifications of Playing Morgan: In a recent interview actress Eva Green, who currently plays the role of Morgan in Starz new series “Camelot”, admitted to “reading extensively” on the subject of magic.

“Real magic is everywhere,” says the 30-year-old actress. “It’s in the winds and the sun and the moon; the earth and the trees.” [...] she had no interest in magic before she began work on the series, but has now read extensively on the subject. She urges others to do the same. “People are not connected to nature any more. My character in the series is trying to restore the pagan ways.”

I’ve long been a fan of Morgan Le Fay in all her aspects, and I’ve developed a working theory that actresses playing her find themselves more interested in magic, mysteries, and pre-Christian religion than before. Most famously would be Dame Helen Mirren who played Morgana in Excalibur and recently took on the role of Prospera in a gender-bending version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” In an interview during the run-up to that film Mirren noted that women with any interest in education are persecuted for being witches, herbalists, evil. I thought of all these women, now and throughout history, as I was playing Prospera. Perhaps Mirren and Green should meet up and chat.

Religion Journalist Looks at Modern Paganism: Former Get Religion contributor and religion journalist Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans has started a series in her religion column for the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal concerning Pagan and New Age religions.

“American religious history has always included those who marched to the beat of different drummers, and those who tried to shoo them back into line (happily, they no longer cut off their heads or subject them to torture). American religious practices reflect the diversity of our history, our democracy and our culture, confounding those who believe in “pure” heritage passed on from one generation to another. In the weeks to come, we’ll step back and take a look at the wider context of American religious life, and where New Age and pagan denominations fit in.”

I’m quoted in the column, as is a local Lancaster-area Pagan. It should be worth checking out and keeping tabs on future columns. Evans also passed word to me that she tried to capitalize ”Pagan” for this piece but was overruled by her editor, so don’t be too hard on her for it. On the whole, this is a pretty balanced and fair initial look at our family of faiths and I look forward to seeing where she goes with it.

The Return of Dead Can Dance: A massive favorite among many Pagans, and an influence on several bands embraced by the Pagan community, the duo of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry, more popularly known as Dead Can Dance, are planning to put out a new album in 2012.

I have been talking with Lisa Gerrard this past week with regard to recording a new DCD album this coming winter. We hope to complete the album by the summer of 2012 and then embark on an extensive two month world tour in late 2012. I will be posting updates from time to time with regard to our progress……. and remember….. you heard it here first and yes it is official!

The band’s last full-length album of new material, “Spiritchaser,” came out in 1996. In the interim, both Gerrard and Perry have put out solo material and collaborated with other musicians (Gerrard has become particularly well-known for her soundtrack work). At my music blog TheSkysGoneOut (a companion of sorts to my A Darker Shade of Pagan project) I recently discussed the massive influence DCD has had on a generation of musicians. I’ll keep you posted once I know more.

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

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Friday.

Swords, Sandals, and Sex: I know I’ve been talking about Starz new series “Camelot” quite a bit lately, so today I’d like to highlight an excellent essay concerning its stylistic predecessor at the cable network: “Spartacus.” Academic and Patheos.com columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has recently watched both seasons of “Spartacus,” and files this examination of how the show treats sex, history, and religion at his personal blog.

“However, my main critique of the newer Spartacus isn’t its history, nor its sexuality (although more will be said on the latter in a moment), it is precisely the matter that Rome got right (even though some bits weren’t quite right in terms of timing, e.g. the taurobolium in the first episode)–the religious aspects of Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its successors is very off. In the 1960 Spartacus, the character of Crassus (a member of the First Triumvirate) says to the very young Julius Caesar at one point that he’d like to obtain a pigeon for a sacrifice, to which Caesar replies that he thought Crassus did not believe in the gods; Crassus replies, “Privately, I believe in none of them; publicly, I believe in them all!” And this is precisely the matter that the newer incarnation of Spartacus goes wrong on–it makes the matter of the gods too much about “belief,” when that is not what pre-creedal religion’s spirituality was based upon.”

The entire essay is fascinating reading, and I’m glad P. Sufenas Virius Lupus took the time share his analysis. Popular entertainment does influence how we engage with history, and the spate of films and television set in the ancient world that depict the protagonists as modern-style atheist/agnostics (“Agora,” “Troy,” “Clash of the Titans”) do a disservice to  the adherents to pre-Christian faiths.

American Gods Coming to HBO: While fan expectation is ramping up for the epic fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” there’s another project in development for HBO that may interest modern Pagans quite a bit. It seems there’s been serious movement on bringing Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” to the cable network.

“As HBO prepares to unveil its epic-sized series adaptation of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones this Sunday, the payweb has begun talks to acquire the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods to be developed into another fantasy series. The project was brought to HBO by Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, and it was brought to them by Robert Richardson. The plan is for Richardson and Gaiman to write the pilot together.”

Robert Richardson, for those who don’t recognize the name, is a famous cinematographer who has worked with directors like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. Since the show features an assortment of Pagan gods and goddesses in a variety of contexts, it will no doubt draw quite a bit of comment and interest from modern worshipers/followers/devotees of said gods. The book has been matter of conversation within our communities since it was first published in 2001, mostly centered on the treatment and depiction of various deities. I expect those conversations will heat up once again when production gets underway.

James Arthur Ray Mistrial Request Denied: For those who’ve been following the trial of James Arthur Ray, accused of negligent homicide when a sweat lodge ceremony went horribly wrong and killed three people, this past week has been particularly event-filled. Ray’s lawyers filed for a mistrial after it was revealed that a preliminary report by environmental investigator Richard Haddow was not sent to them. However, prosecutors claim that the situation was inadvertent, and that the report’s finding were repeated in other material sent to the defense team.

“Monday’s motion by Ray’s legal teams cited the omission of environmental investigator Richard Haddow as a means for the state to withhold an alternate cause in the deaths of Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman after a Ray-led sweat lodge at the Angel Valley Retreat Center on Oct. 8, 2009. The state’s response, however, signed by co-counsel Bill Hughes, states that information about the construction of the sweat lodge, with its off-center rock pit and lack of air circulation, had been provided to the defense in other forms. Further, the motion contends that the evidence contained in Haddow’s report is not exculpatory, but rather further proof that Ray is guilty of the three counts of manslaughter raised against him.

If the evidence truly is damaging rather than exculpatory, it can only mean that Ray’s defense team is grasping at straws trying to derail this trial by any means necessary. A desperation perhaps incited by last week’s damaging decision by Judge Darrow to allow testimony regarding previous sweat lodge ceremonies that Ray has held. In any case, there won’t be a mistrial, and instead defense will be granted extra time to analyze the data and witness.

“While Ray’s attorneys pushed for a mistrial, prosecutors argued an appropriate remedy would be to allow the defense to interview Haddow and gather its own witnesses if it chooses. Darrow didn’t immediately elaborate on his decision to allow the trial to move forward, but said he would issue an expanded ruling later.”

Blogger LaVaughn, who’s been following the trial in-depth, says that “the Haddock email was a red herring to get a mistrial and now they’re stuck with it.” Meanwhile, public opinion and the press have not been on Ray’s side. CNN recently profiled the life of Kirby Brown, one of the three killed in the 2009 sweat lodge incident, describing a horrific death where she “wheezed and gurgled and foamed at the mouth.” Even if Ray somehow manages to escape all this with no legal repercussions, his “brand” will be permanently tainted by these deaths.

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

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

The Issue of Salem Psychics: While I’ve been covering the back-and-forth over the issue of licensing psychics in Salem, Massachusetts, this Atlantic Wire does a darn good job of encapsulating the issue to date.

What the Fight Is Really About: Government regulation vs. the free market. The Boston Globe’sRob Anderson puts it into context. “While it may not be the most conventional of examples, the dispute is not all that different from the dilemmas cities have dealt with licensing other businesses like taxicabs,” he notes. “In fact, the episode makes for what University of Michigan economics professor Mark Perry calls ‘a good case study of occupational licensing, with economic lessons in barriers to entry, contestable markets, and government regulation vs. market competition.’”

Barring some major political or cultural shift I can’t see Salem returning to its far stricter licensing policies. The last battle over regulations in Salem back in 2007 got truly strange, and what we have now is a compromise solution. For more on this issue, see my Psychic Services and the Law series.

Checking In with No Unsacred Place: This past Monday I introduced the latest Pagan Newswire Collective topic-focused group blog No Unsacred Place. Now that we are a solid week in, I wanted to check back in as it “explores the relationships between religion and science, nature and civilization from a diversity of modern Pagan perspectives.”

This is a very impressive set of opening posts, and I look forward to many more. I hope that you’ll head over and check out No Unsacred Place, participate in conversation, and subscribe to their feed (or like them on Facebook).

Morgan, Merlin, Paganism: I feel somewhat silly writing about a show I’ve only seen brief clips of, but until the witch-heavy season of True Blood starts in June, Starz new series “Camelot” is the most pagan-y television show going at the moment. Anyway, the A.V. Club has a wrap-up of the latest episode (beware, spoilers!) and touches on themes of paganism, magic, and proto-feminism.

“I can’t help but wonder how this series would be had it gone the same route (perspective-wise, if not in execution) as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. Avalon made Morgan a distinctively more heroic figure than Camelot does, but there’s an argument to be made that this iteration of Morgan could have, and perhaps should have, been the entry point for the series. [...] The show’s conflation of paganism and proto-feminism could be potentially problematic, but it recognizes that the mix of the two is a sociological product, not something to be admired or emulated. Morgan’s time in a nunnery, away from Uther, fostered a desire to both connect with and overcome her father’s place on the throne.”

I’m fully supportive of making Morgan the focal character. So much has been made of the Arthur-Lancelot-Guinevere theme in modern Arthuriana that more outside perspectives would be a breath of fresh air. In fact, a creative writer or director has dozens of viewpoints to choose from, and some of the more successful recent takes (like Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles) took advantage of that possibility. In any case, I know this series has plenty of cheese, but I can’t help but anticipate when it’ll finally hit Netflix and I can watch it for myself.

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

Like many modern Pagans I’ve been long fascinated with Arthurian myth and its ties to pre-Christian religion. So little is actually known about the historical reality of Britain’s King Arthur that both Christians and Pagans alike have claimed him for their own. In the early 1980s, a mini cultural movement of sorts began that either gave greater emphasis to “pagan” elements in the story or imagined the entire mythos through a lens of Celtic pre-Christian religion. A precursor was Mary Stewart’s “Merlin Trilogy,” which saw an omnibus edition released in 1980, then came John Boorman’s 1981 film “Excalibur,” which explicitly counted Merlin and Morgan Le Fay as followers of the “old ways,” followed by Marion Zimmer Bradley in 1982 with her revisionist (and highly influential) novel “The Mists of Avalon”. In 1984, the first novel of The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay, which explicitly tied Arthur to Welsh and Celtic myth in a fantasy setting, was published.

This movement utterly changed the way the Arthurian story was told in modern times. While King Arthur was considered a Christian story for hundreds of years, it was now accepted that pre-Christian themes be included in any modern retelling of the legend. From Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles to 2004′s big-budget film “King Arthur.” Some tellings were good, and some were not-so-good, but few can deny that the tension between pagan religion and Christianity has now become a fairly integrated trope in the story. Much like the modern introduction of a Muslim character into the Robin Hood cycle, which also underwent a process of “paganization” in the 1980s, but that’s a different story.

This Christian-pagan trope in the Arthurian cycles sees its latest expression in Starz new series “Camelot.” Yesterday, I briefly mentioned an Assignment X interview with actor Joseph Fiennes, who plays Merlin in the series. In it, Fiennes talks about the pagan nature of his character.

“…we wanted the magic to be something very organic, elemental, true to [Merlin as] a pagan character. He’s not of this newfangled Christian age. He has a very different belief system…”

This theme is repeated in an interview with actress Eva Green who plays Morgan.

“She’s not the image that we first have in mind: a sorceress. She wants to restore pagan ways — celebrate sexuality, love.”

And again, in an interview with Executive Producer/Showrunner Chris Chibnall.

“He says his focus is on credible, relatable characters built off of the struggles of the time, the conflict between emerging Christianity and fading paganism, which is personified in the characters of Arthur and Merlin. But, according to Chibnall, there are other characters, like Morgan, who have a much more complex relationship with those traditions.”

So whether it’s bad or good, pagan themes in the Arthurian cycle are further solidified in “Camelot.”

I don’t have Starz at home, so I’ll have to wait 90 days before I can watch it on Netflix streaming, but if you’ve seen the first episode, do let us know what you thought. Were the pre-Christian elements handled well? How was Merlin? Morgan?

I’m taking a personal day today as it’s my wedding anniversary and we’re headed out to the coast for a bit of celebration. But before I go here’s a few quick news notes to tide you over until tomorrow.

First off, Stone City Pagan Sanctuary has started a memorial fund for Fay Campagnola, an active part of the Pagan community in California who helped with several important events, and worked for years as live-in caretaker at the Annwfn sanctuary.

“Due to the suddenness [of her passing], the family is struggling with funeral costs and Fay’s memorial service, which was planned for earlier this month, had to be postponed due to a lack of funds. Stone City is now collecting donations from the community to raise the funds needed to hold Fay’s memorial and help her family through this difficult time. We feel it’s important for the community to honor Fay’s life and service by providing a proper memorial rite. It would be tragic both for her family and the community if a dedicated community builder such as Fay could not be properly memorialized at her passing simply because of a lack of funds.”

Stone City is looking to raise $600.00 to cover memorial costs, and help support Fay’s family. All donations are tax-deductible. If your life has been touched by Fay’s work, or if you want to help out a family in need, do consider making a donation.

Over at HuffPo, religion professor Ramdas Lamb writes about polytheism and monotheism from a Hindu perspective.

“The purpose here, then is to make the case for the inclusion of polytheism as a legitimate belief system, for it has animated people throughout the world since ancient times and has often provided an understanding of divinity and reality that is more rational than Abrahamic monotheism and has been the cause of far less violence in the world. Hinduism will be used as a primary example, since it offers a good example of polytheism and how it can be blended with the Hindu understanding of monotheism into a useful and practical theology.”

For more Hinduism-related content from the Huffington Post, click here.

Yesterday I mentioned  the new Arthurian-based Starz series “Camelot,” and how one reviewer found it “almost completely devoid of ideas or values.” However, perhaps this interview with actor Joseph Fiennes, who plays Merlin in the series, will make you want to check it out for yourself?

“…we wanted the magic to be something very organic, elemental, true to [Merlin as] a pagan character. He’s not of this newfangled Christian age. He has a very different belief system and also, we both decided that it’d be great to look at the magic where it wasn’t, you could just wield it and walk off, but actually, like all of us, if we have a power, whether it’s with our pen, the microphone or whatever, there’s a level of, you know we can’t abuse it. The moment we step up, we know that abuse comes back to haunt you. So with the magic like that, [it can’t be abused without a price]. Even in politics, you can’t abuse politics.”

As for positive advance reviews? Well, the more fannish-oriented sites seem to think it’s OK. Once it comes to Netflix, I’ll certainly give it a chance.

That’s all I have for now, have a good day, and watch out for the April Fools posts!

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.