Archives For Thailand

I’m back from FaerieCon! First off, I’d like to thank all the wonderful folks who stepped up to do guest-posts while I was away: Sharon Knight, Star Foster, T. Thorn Coyle, Teo BishopLaura LaVoie, and Eric Scott. They all did an excellent job of providing interesting, informative, provocative, and inspiring pieces for you, and I hope you’ll follow them at their own blogs and projects in the future. As for me, I’ve returned to an avalanche of stories of interest to our communities, so I’m going to unleash the hounds in an attempt to get caught up.

That’s all I have time for today, expect a write-up of my FaerieCon adventures in the near-ish future. In the meantime, do check out my interview with Qntal’s Michael Popp at A Darker Shade of Pagan. As always, some of these stories may be expanded upon in future posts.

[This is a guest post by Patrick McCollum. Reverend Patrick McCollum is an internationally recognized spiritual leader in the Pagan/Earth-Based religions who's work toward human rights, social justice, and equality for all religions and spiritual traditions, transcending cultural, religious, and political barriers. McCollum recently made a historic trip to Thailand, and he shares this report on his experiences there.]

My trip to Thailand and the Island of Java at the invitation of the Dhammakaya Buddhists was very successful. I believe it has opened new doors for us and will lead to both a greater understanding between the Buddhist and Pagan communities and increased mutual respect. With that said, it is also important to note that I am not the only Pagan working with other religions and cultures to create partnerships. There are a number of individuals who have stepped up for this work, and I fully honor them and their dedication. It is my strong belief that building these bridges based on common values allows not only a better understanding of our Pagan traditions by others, but more importantly creates the framework for dialogue and action between us and our new partners to stop the rampant destruction of our planet and to counter ideologies that exploit and commodify our fellow human beings. I would also like to point out that all of my interactions as I do this work, stress the importance of each party maintaining their own individual beliefs and spirituality while at the same time acknowledging the sacredness of the other. All of that said, I would now like to share a few high points of my trip and some of the experiences I had on this incredible journey.

Patrick McCollum and the High Lamas preparing to enter the temple at Borbodour.

Patrick McCollum and High Lamas at Borbodour.

I would first like to say, that I was very well received as a Pagan by the Buddhists in Thailand and that I had many opportunities to share information about our community and practices. My hosts provided a team of wonderful people to assist us and I learned a lot about Buddhist thought and particularly their desire to achieve world peace. I was also privileged to be involved in a huge beautiful ritual with over a hundred and fifty thousand Buddhists from around the world which was very similar to some of the Pagan rituals I’ve participated in, in our own spiritual community. The ritual, which was called Maga Phuja, celebrates the light of the Buddha returning to the world. The celebration started with several thousand chanting monks in saffron robes circling around a huge round domed temple three times, acknowledging each of the four directions and the elements. The temple has one million gold Buddha’s (most of which are dispersed all over the top of the temple’s dome) which reflect the light in all directions in a profound way.

When darkness hit and the full moon began to rise, a sacred flame was kindled in the center of the temple which was progressively used to light a consecutive number of additional flames passed from one person to the next as far as you could see. The growing light radiated out in spiraling waves through 150,000 people until the sky actually glowed with the intensity. For me as a Pagan, it was both awesome and familiar. I also had the wonderful privilege of being one of the 5 people who got to light the initial flame, and watching it travel out from my location in the center to the far reaching fringes, was very powerful and moving.

After the main ritual, I had the opportunity to be interviewed on TV and had several more similar opportunities during my stay in Bangkok. I was also filmed for future use as I spoke about how to achieve world peace. I shared my own personal views that we are all sacred and part of one human family, and that if we all began with that premise, peace was possible. I also shared a story about the thirty year long process of creating a sacred violin that I had made for the purpose of connecting the people of the world through sacred music without any knowledge of how to make a violin. The finished instrument which I’d brought with me on the trip, I explained to the crowd and on TV, was constructed of diverse unconventional sacred materials from different countries relating to different spiritualities. I shared with them the fact, that many qualified violin makers said that the materials and process I was following would not work to create a usable instrument or make a good sound. I pointed out to the audience that the bringing together of such unfamiliar and diverse components, especially when those in power said that there is only one right way to make a violin (and my way wasn’t it), was actually a great analogy for what was required to succeed in the peace process. I then showed them that the face of the violin was carved from a tree that I had talked to in the forest for 6 years before harvesting it, so that it would know its purpose, and that the body was made from a rare wood from Africa that was used to make shamanic drums for the indigenous people, rather than the conventional maple. I pointed out the inlayed Celtic knot work was carved from a willow branch taken from Brigit’s Well in Kildare, Ireland, and I described the varnish which I made from scratch from plants sacred to the Native Americans and Pagans. I told them how I combined olive oil from the Greeks, walnut oil from the Germans, and crushed Bluestone from the megalithic circle at Avebury in Cornwall, to include magic in the end result. I also explained to the Buddhists that I created each aspect of the violin in ritual, and that every step of its construction was seen as a sacred quest to bring peace. And I told them that each time I failed in the process or something broke, I turned to a higher source for guidance on how to repair it or re-envision it. This, I told them, is the formula for World Peace … Acceptance of diversity, recognition of the sacredness of one another and the planet we live on, and the ability to constantly re-envision the process as we move forward, drawing on all of our diverse ways of connecting with a higher power or reason.

And then I played the violin and the sound was beautiful, and everyone was very moved, some were even moved to tears.

I finalized my talk by challenging them to join together in their diversity, and to stretch their world view to accept and explore difference as sacred. And then I pressed them to join together like the violin, joining all of our diverse voices to create something beautiful, like the music from the violin … World Peace.

Besides meeting and interacting with Buddhists in Thailand, I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet and make alliances with Elders from other spiritual communities. I spent time with a Native American Chief/Medicine Man and a Medicine Woman, representing the tribes of Canada, a Hindu Yogi who is very active in interfaith and world peace work in Nepal, and a Kahuna from Hawaii. I was invited by each to participate further in discussions and concrete projects in their communities and ours, and I will travel in the near future to meet with each of them separately.

I also got to work on projects for Children of the Earth, a United Nations NGO that I am affiliated with. Children of the Earth is working toward empowering young people to become the leaders of tomorrow, and has a vision of young people informed by their spirituality working together toward a sustainable planet. I had the honor of traveling with Dr. Nina Meyerhof, founder and President of that organization. COE already has several Pagan youth in leadership roles, and I hope to help more Pagans in the future to become involved in various world peace projects.

My time on the island of Java was also productive. I had the privilege of interacting with another major branch of Buddhism and being allowed to participate in sacred space with several world spiritual leaders and many monks. I got to walk nearly every day through one of the most revered Buddhist temples in the world, and I got to share some of our communities ideas about how to create a better world. In the end, I made many friends, and have been invited to participate further in the future. Again, a door has been opened, and I plan to help create opportunities for more Pagans to participate as we move forward.

Lama Ganchen gifting McCollum with his Kata (religious scarf) at the closing ceremony.

Patrick McCollum receiving Lama Ganchen's Kata

In closing I’d like to say, that much of my trip was a powerful spiritual journey for me personally, and I will not share that here. Those who are interested can go to patrickmccollum.org and read my blog. But I had set out with three main goals to accomplish for our community which was the real focus of my trip. My first goal was to have us seen by others as a community with valuable things to contribute to the world. My second goal was to make alliances with other world spiritualities to join together to become a more formidable force for positive change in the world. And my third goal, was to include Pagan ideals into the mix as world leaders strive to construct a plan to achieve world peace and a sustainable planet.

I am hopeful that I accomplished that!

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

Patrick McCollum’s Visit to Thailand: As I mentioned back in January, Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be traveling to Thailand in February at the invitation of Dhammakaya temple in the Pathumtani Province, where he will be honored as a World Inner Peace Ambassador, and share Pagan rituals and practices with Buddhist Lamas. McCollum will then travel to the renowned temple at Borobudur on the Island of Java with Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, of the World Peace Foundation. At the Patrick McCollum Foundation web site, Patrick shares his thoughts as he embarks on this historic journey.

“My journey continues to get increasingly more interesting as more and more opportunities present themselves, and I feel much like I am in an adventure story just waiting to find out what will happen next.  On this trip to Thailand, I will not only be meeting with venerable Buddhist lamas and monks, I will now also be meeting with several distinguished spiritual leaders from other traditions to forge sacred bonds and find common ground.  So far, I will be meeting with Cheif Kapiteotak Dominique Rankin, also known as T8aminik in the Algonquin language, former Grand Chief of the Algonquin nation and Elder in the Circle Of Medicine Men of the Canadian tribes. I will also be meeting with Master Li Hechun, Master of the Longmen (Dragon Gate) branch of the Ch’uan-chen (Complete Perfection) School of Taoism in China and with Guru Chintamani  Yogi of the Hindu VidyaPeethmovement from Nepal, founder of the Shanti Sewa Ashram and Peace Service Center. I will also have the honor to spend part of my journey with Patrick Kuaimoku, Kahuna Lokahi from Hawaii, Keeper of the Ancient Hawaiian wisdom tradition.   In such company, it is hard to imagine any part of my journey being anything less than extraordinary.”

Patrick will be sharing more information and insights about his trip with us when he returns. This is a major interfaith event for modern Pagan faiths, one that could have far-reaching effects on Buddhist-Pagan relations for years to come. Congratulations to Patrick on this great honor. To keep track of Patrick’s journey be sure to follow the Patrick McCollum Foundation’s blog, and the Foundation’s Facebook page.

Sacred Spaces Series: Cara Schulz of PNC Minnesota has started a new video series (Part 1, Part 2) on the creation of modern Pagan sacred spaces, speaking with Priest Drew Jacob from Temple of the River.

Many Pagan groups share the dream of building some type of sacred space.  A temple, a community center, a permanent altar.  It remains a dream because they lack the information, skills, and experience to bring it into reality.  Yet other groups have accomplished what can seem, at times, impossible.  They have learned how to raise funds, deal with city inspectors, and overcome challenges that stymie most groups who attempt these ambitious projects.   In this series, PNC talks with groups who have successfully created their own Sacred Spaces.

You can see part one of this video series, here. Part three will most likely happen after this year’s PantheaCon, as Cara and several other PNC bureau members will be attending that event this weekend. This is an excellent video series, and shows the potential and scope of locally-focused Pagan news bureaus.

The Green Heart of England is Not For Sale: Controversy has raged recently in England over the proposed plans to conduct a massive sell-off of state-owned woodland. A move that sparked almost universal condemnation, and a rare public climb-down from the environment secretary. British Druid Philip Carr-Gomm, leader of The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, had this to say on the issue.

“David Bellamy articulated the feelings of most people when they first heard the news of the government’s proposed disposal of all of England’s public forest: “The green heart of England is not for sale.” It looks as if the message is getting through. Over half a million have signed the ‘Save Our Forests’ petition organised by grass-roots movement 38 degrees and today David Cameron signalled that the plan may be ditched [...] The irony of a party with a tree as its logo behaving in this way has occurred to many. Our Druid group has been working with the idea since it began. Melanie Philips, of the Daily Mail telepathically picked up our thoughts (ha!) and voiced them on TV on the BBC’s Question Time, suggesting a felled oak and a dead stag as the Conservative logo…”

Carr-Gomm promises that efforts to “apply pressure and voice our concerns” will resume should the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government decide once more to sell off large swathes of its green heart, but for now, there is a celebratory mood of victory.

Pagan Newswire News: I’ve got some Pagan Newswire Collective-related announcements to make. First off, a warm welcome to the PNC’s newest bureau, PNC-Bay Area!

“Welcome to the Bay Area Bureau of the Pagan Newswire Collective. We are an all volunteer group (of currently 10 people), reporting on news and events of interest to the pagan communities here in the Bay Area of California. We have bios of our volunteers posted on its own page of the site here. If you would like to join our collective and write for us, email our Bureau Coordinator at bayarea (at) paganewswirecollective (dot) com.”

I am very excited to finally have coverage from the San Francisco Bay Area of California, long a hot-spot of modern Paganism, and look forward to their contributions! Several members of the new bureau will be at this year’s PantheaCon, and I’ve created a special page listing all official PNC-related events for those attending. You may also notice that we’ve quietly debuted the new site design, and you’ll hear more about that as things progress. I think 2011 will be a great year for the PNC, one that will greatly benefit all Pagan media outlets.

Cooking for a Pagan Seminary: In a quick final note, a number of Austin-based Pagan groups are organizing a cook-off and potluck benefit for Cherry Hill Seminary.

“One thing everyone in the Austin Pagan community shares is the love of a good potluck. Diverse organizations and individuals in the Austin area are coming together to co-sponsor a cook-off and silent auction to benefit Cherry Hill Seminary. Cherry Hill Seminary serves all our communities by providing quality higher education and practical training in Pagan Ministry. They offer several master’s degrees, certificate programs, and community education primarily available through distance learning. Many of us have received outstanding training in our chosen tradition, but there are some individuals who feel compelled to go above and beyond with their service to others. While many resources exist to train and assist students as they pursue their chosen Pagan tradition or path, there is an acute need for specific training in areas such as counseling, ethics, marriage and family issues, religion and the law, interfaith work, Pagan scholarship, media and public relations, ritual arts, leadership development, and nonprofit management.”

As a former CHS board member, and occasional teacher, I fully support the idea of communities rallying together to support this venture. One that will ultimately benefit all modern Pagans. Kudos to the Austin, Texas Pagans for putting this together!

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

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

Patrick McCollum Travels to Thailand: Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be traveling to Thailand in February at the invitation of Dhammakaya temple in the Pathumtani Province, where he will be honored as a World Inner Peace Ambassador, and share Pagan rituals and practices with Buddhist Lamas. McCollum will then travel to the renowned temple at Borobudur on the Island of Java with Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, of the World Peace Foundation.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to represent my community in such a significant way.  Perhaps in working to create a better world, my efforts may help reduce the prejudice and discrimination many of our community and other minorities face in the mundane world.  In the end, I hope to show that all people, no matter what their beliefs, are both sacred and connected, and that all the people of the world should be honored as brothers and sisters of the Human race!”

Patrick will be sharing more information and insights about his trip with us when he returns. This is a major interfaith event for modern Pagan faiths, one that could have far-reaching effects on Buddhist-Pagan relations for years to come. Congratulations to Patrick on this great honor.

Wisteria Wants to Clear the Air: The Wisteria campground and nature retreat in Ohio, home to several Pagan festivals and events, is participating in the Pepsi Refresh Project in order to win $5000 dollars for the construction of composting toilets for the facility.

“This project will aid Wisteria in building composting toilets on site for the use of its patrons and guests.  It will also act as a demonstration, showing that the use of composting toilets is a legitimate alternative to the traditional Porta-Johns that are typically used in festival and event settings.  Finally, it will go to helping develop legislation that will be instrumental for state acceptance of the composting toilet scenario.”

As press release sent to my by Wisteria workshop coordinator Adam Hoyt says: “No more walk through camp with friends, timing your conversation with the pause required to avoid the early morning “crispness” of the “Od’air” of the blue box.” If this project gets into the top ten (currently at #91), they will receive the funding. Individuals can vote twice per day by a variety of different methods. So take some time out and support a less smelly Wisteria!

Pagan Perspectives on Marriage: Marriage and Family Therapist Charlton Hall, a member of the Universal Order of Druids, is researching Pagan perspectives on marriage, and is conducting a survey.

“I am a Marriage and Family Therapist, researching this topic. If you practice an Earth-centered spiritual path, would you take a few moments to participate in this ten-question survey? Thanks!”

Feel free to pass the survey link along. The more responses, the more accurate the results!

Penton Magazine Changes With the Times: South African Pagan magazine Penton has shifted gears and relaunched as Penton Independent Pagan Media.

“Penton has just launched our new site – a more user friendly option. I’ll be uploading archived articles and interviews published in Penton Magazine (dating back to 2004) over the next few weeks. Penton Magazine’s new release as Penton Independent Pagan Media offers a change in both visual format, functionality and publication frequency. Penton’s readers can now interact online with our contributing authors, regular columnists and new bloggers directly. Instead of quarterly publications, Penton will now publish new articles and blogs more frequently (weekly).”

This is an encouraging step, and I look forward to more perspectives and news from South African Pagans from this relaunched venture. You can contact Penton Independent Pagan Media, here.

Maetreum of Cybele Continues the Fight: The Daily Mail in Greene County, New York, checks in with the Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater’s ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, and finds that the legal stalemate continues.

The Palenville pagan sect fighting for the town’s recognition as a religious entity says it will not stop, even if it needs to go federal. The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater’s ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill has entered its fifth year, with the municipality continuing to deny a religious property tax exemption it once granted for 2006. [...] “This isn’t just for us, this is for all minority religions,” [Cathryn] Platine said. “They took on the wrong people this time and I don’t understand why they don’t just cut their losses.” Platine said the Maetreum has spent about $10,000 in legal fees fighting to preserve their property in Palenville with a “very, very reasonably priced attorney.” The town, Platine estimated, has spent over $50,000 on attorney fees to remove an exemption that would net the town less than $750 annually at the current town tax rate.

You can read more about this ongoing battle in the Wild Hunt’s archives.

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

Reading through the news today, I noticed an odd story that ends up painting at least one corner of the online Pagan world as lacking in ethical common sense. It regards a woman, Spokane resident Gypsy Lawson, who was convicted of smuggling a rhesus macaque monkey from Thailand.

“Gypsy Lawson took the rhesus macaque monkey on a flight from Thailand to Los Angeles in the United States. The 29-year-old drugged it with sleeping pills and hid it under her blouse during the trip. A month later she bragged about the monkey she called Apoo to a shop assistant who then called police.”

Seems pretty cut and dried, but there was an interesting wrinkle to the story. Seems that Ms. Lawson is a Pagan and turned to a local Pagan e-list for magical/energetic “help” in smuggling the monkey out of Thailand.

“On their way back, Ogren reportedly emailed an online witches and pagan community asking for “last-minute energy” to help them smuggle the animal.”

Doing some more digging, I found a Spokesman Review article from July that gives a bit more detail regarding this online request.

“The following day, the indictment alleges, Ogren sent an e-mail to “NE Washington Witches and Pagans” at a Yahoo account “and asked for last-minute energy” to help them safely smuggle the monkey into the United States. “The Witches group replied by e-mail ‘consider it done,’ ” the indictment says.”

I can’t seem to find the list at Yahoogroups any longer, so perhaps the negative publicity forced it to close down, but a serious question remains: why didn’t these Pagans realize an illegal act was taking place and report it? Indeed, why did Witches and Pagans offer spiritual aid to enable this foolish woman to smuggle an animal into the country? Leaving aside the serious legal issues involved here, there are also moral and health-related issues involved in keeping primates as pets.

“If you try to keep them as pets you’re creating a mentally disturbed animal in 99.9 percent of the cases,” said Wright, director of conservation, science and sanctuary at the zoo. “The animal will never be able to fit in any other home. Never learn how to get along with other monkeys. And, more often than not, will end up with a lot of behavioral traits that are self-destructive.”

The article about Lawson’s conviction should have read “she bragged about the monkey she called Apoo to a local Pagan list, many members of that group then called the police”*, that it didn’t should cause us to examine why members of the Pagan community were enablers in this drama rather than heroes. As for “Apoo” the monkey, he is now safe at a primate rescue center in Oregon.

* This isn’t to say we should all become informants for any perceived or suspected violation of law, there is a range of justifiable opinion on certain ordinances, and such a thing as unjust laws, but the ethical course here was rather plain and obvious.