Archives For Wookey Hole Caves

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.

Nina Davuluri

Nina Davuluri

meet

  • Sometimes the tourist-attraction witch business is so good you decide to go solo, at least that seems to be the case with the latest Wookey Hole witch, Sunny Van der Pas, who wants to launch her own clothing line. Quote: “Actress Sunny Van der Pas is leaving her role after two years to launch her own clothing line based upon her costumes. But now directors at the popular tourist attraction need a little magic of their own to find a replacement witch in time for Halloween. [...] The attraction employs a witch pro rata, largely over the summer holidays, Halloween and Christmas, They are expected to live in the site’s caves during busy periods and to teach witchcraft and magic. The role normally attracts thousands of applicants, who then compete in for the post X Factor style auditions.” For the uninitiated, the Wookey Hole cave system in the UK (about 20 miles from Bath) has become something like the British version of Salem here (except even more tourist-y).
  • NPR highlights Candomblé in Brazil, spurred by a recent survey that saw an uptick in adherents. Quote: “Sitting among the faithful here is Marcilio Costa, who is the commercial officer at a foreign consulate in Sao Paulo. He became an initiate a year and a half ago, and he says he’s open about it. ‘Among Brazilians, yes. People understand better now. … All my friends know my religion, every single one of them,’ Costa says. ‘I don’t hide from no one.'”
  • The Paris Review interviews poet Gregory Orr, who opines on the nature of myths. Quote: “The beautiful thing about myths is that you’re never telling a myth, you’re retelling it. People already know the story. You don’t have to create a narrative structure, and you don’t have to figure out where it ends. As a lyric poet, you can take the moments of greatest intensity in the myth, or the moments that interest you most, or the ways of looking at the story that you think would be most fun to rethink—you don’t have to do the whole story. You want to know what human mystery can be revealed by retelling it. D. H. Lawrence said that myths are symbols of inexhaustible human mysteries. You can tell them a hundred, a thousand times, and you’ll never exhaust the mystery that’s coded into that story. That may be a little hyperbolic, but I believe it.” 
  • The Secular Student Alliance has launched the “Secular Safe Zones” program at high schools and colleges. Quote: “The program enlists ‘allies’ like Schmidt among faculty, administrators, counselors and others on college and high school campuses who are trained in the needs of nonreligious — or ‘secular’ — students. So far, there are Secular Safe Zone allies at 26 college and high school campuses in 14 states, including California, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Illinois, Florida and New York.” This is based off of similar LGBTQ efforts, and you have to wonder how long it will be before various religious groups launch their own “safe zone” programs.
  • Blah, blah, blah, Christian persecution in the United States, blah, blah, blah, Obama is a pagan, blah blah blah. Quote: “As Barber explained, the Obama administration is the “modern-day equivalent” of ancient Rome, demanding that citizens must worship Caesar in the form of progressiveism.”

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.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

  • The Quietus interviews Hexvessel’s Matthew McNerney, who talks about his band’s unique mix of metal, jazz and psychedelic folk, and also opens about Paganism, the natural world, and practicing magick. Quote: “I was brought up a Catholic, so I know about organised religion. I’ve always been interested in the occult and magick. I don’t know how much you can say about practising magick, because I think it’s something that’s very personal and very subjective and I think this album is about that. It’s about “When does magick become objective? When does religion become an objective thing? What does it mean to be holy?” It’s all connected with nature and how we see ourselves in relation to the world around us. It’s definitely the theme of the album, and I believe that we’re creating and practising magick all the time.”
  • Gina Athena Ulysse, Professor of Anthropology & African American Studies at Wesleyan University, writes about defending Vodou in Haiti at The Huffington Post. Quote: “In recent years, defensive tactics have included the formation of umbrella organizations (such as Zantrayand Bode Nasyonal) that brought practitioners together to address common concerns. It must be noted that these groupings are not necessarily representative of all Vodouists and are not without controversy. Nonetheless, with the persistent presence of protestant missions and increasingly aggressive spiritual cleansings and other attacks especially since the 2010 earthquake, Vodouists have become increasingly vulnerable and have to be on the offensive.” Ulysse also notes the recent controversy over the amended Haitian constitution, and the fear that it may have removed protections for Vodou practitioners.
  • Boing Boing’s Gweek podcast interviews Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” about, well, the history of Halloween. Quote: “Have you ever wondered about the origins of Halloween? Where does the word Halloween come from? What is the origin of the term trick or treat? Why do we carve jack-o’-lanterns? And how did costumes come into play?”
  • Tourist-trade witch, living in cave, seeks potential suitors. Seeks someone less “goody-goody” than Merlin, but not as evil as Voldemort.

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.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The BBC Radio 4 program “Beyond Belief” devoted yesterday’s program to Witchcraft, ancient and modern, complete with unnecessary links by the host to the latest Harry Potter film.

“Ernie Rea and guests discuss the beliefs underpinning witchcraft. Do modern witches have anything in common with their forebears? And, have the Harry Potter books and films inspired greater interest in the craft?”

Among those interviewed are Christina Oakley Harrington of Treadwell’s bookshop in London, who handled the rather salacious questions of Ernie Rea quite well. You can listen to the program online, here.

Over at the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, Pagan panelist Starhawk weighs in on Jimmy Carter’s recent stand against the religious justifications for discrimination against women, pointing out a basic assumption prevalent through much of modern Pagan thought.

“Why does it matter if women can hold positions of responsibility and leadership in spiritual and religious life and communities? Many years ago, Mary Daly wrote: “If God is male, then the male is god.” That which is sacred to us is what we most deeply value and care about. It sets the pattern for what we value, all down the line. So if our only images of the sacred are male, and all positions of spiritual authority are held by men only, inevitably women will be devalued.”

One of the great disconnects between women (and men) attracted to various forms of Paganisms and the patriarchal monotheisms is the role of women. Despite our many flaws, feminine conceptions of the divine aren’t placed into a subordinate (or non-existant) role, and women are given full access to positions of spiritual leadership. This assures us that while we may take an occasional misstep, the institutional discrimination and devaluing of women won’t be among them.

In an update to a story I mentioned on Saturday, the Vodou priest at the center of a mysterious death during a cleansing ritual breaks his silence and speaks to the press.

“Authorities are awaiting results of a toxicology test to determine the cause and manner of Hamilton’s death, which has not been deemed suspicious. No charges have been filed, and Salva, who goes by “Houngan Hector,” said he is “100 percent confident” there was no wrongdoing on his part. Salva, soft-spoken and polite with a constant smile, said that no drugs were involved in the spiritual cleansing called the Lave Tet, but that small amounts of rum sometimes are consumed. “Maybe a sip,” he said, but he added that Hamilton had “passed on the rum.” …  “She was happy, very positive,” he said. “She seemed very fine as far as everyone knew.” What happened about 11 p.m., Salva said, is the same scenario he told dispatchers during a frantic 9-1-1 call. “She was taking a nap and we woke her up to see if she was hungry, and she was nonresponsive,” he reiterated yesterday. “We kept calling her name and she wouldn’t respond.” The other participants in the ritual could not be reached for comment. Salva declined to provide their names.”

The report also says that Hector Salva did contact Lucie Marie Hamilton’s mother (something friends of Lucie criticized him for not doing), and sent flowers to her funeral. Due to the firestorm of press, and negative speculation from neighbors, Salva is moving out of his current home to a new location.

In a less serious update to a previous post, the folks at Wookey Hole caves in Somerset, England have found their new professional full-time witch, Carole “Carla Calamity” Bohanan.

In the end, the judges opted for 40-year-old estate agent Carole Bohanan, of Shepton Mallet, Somerset. She will resign from her job and go by the name of Carla Calamity. Carole – or Carla – said: “I am going to be a great witch. All it takes is a little bit of magic and a little pizzazz. It’s a natural progression from my old job as an estate agent. I have been using my witching skills to sell houses for a long time.”

Bohanan apparently won over judges with a song about Wookey Hole and throwing candy snakes to the audience. While many “real” Witches seemingly applied for the job (you can see some pictures, here), there is no official word on if “Carla Calamity” is “one of us” as it were.

In a final note, Louis A. Ruprecht at Religion Dispatches ponders the Christian roots of the New Age movement, specifically “The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ” by Levi H. Dowling. This 1908 publication set the stage for numerous trance-induced gospels to come and helped spark interest in the new idea of an “Age of Aquarius” to come.

“Among the papers Levi Dowling left at his death was one explaining his conviction that the Earth and our Sun were entering the Dispensation of Aquarius, a literal New Age. Aquarius is an air sign, he noted, and the triumphs of the twentieth century were destined to be aerial rather than watery. Think of the Wright Brothers; think of humanity’s first tentative steps into outer space.”

While the “New Age” is often thought to be something that smacks of Paganism (or Eastern mysticism), it’s good to remember that Christianity had a key role in the formation of the “New Thought”.

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

Ever wish you could make a career from your practice of Witchcraft? Wish no longer! Wookey Hole Caves, a tourist attraction in Somerset, England, is looking for a full-time Witch to do witchy things all day long.

“So the job is straightforward: live in the cave, be a witch, and do the things witches do. Wookey Hole is advertising nationally and hopes to attract a strong field of candidates, with the £50K salary serving as a major incentive. Interviews for the post, which will involve on-site assessment incorporating a range or standard tasks, will take place on Tuesday 28th July at 11am. Given the nature of the role, Wookey Hole has decided to run the process on an “open audition” basis. Ambitious witches, looking for a key career move, should turn up dressed for work and bring any essential witch accoutrements. A limited range of potion ingredients will be available.”

Could this be Kevin Carlyon’s big chance? Will they film the auditions? But before some of the more, ahem, flamboyant members of our community consider emigrating for a chance at the job, keep in mind they have some pretty firm ideas of what their ideal witch would be like.

“Wookey Hole wants the appointee to go about her everyday business as a hag, so that people passing through the caves can get a sense of what the place was like in the Dark Ages. This was when an old woman lived in the caves with some goats and a dog, causing a variety of social ills including crop failures and disease. She also turned the local milk rancid.”

I can turn milk rancid, but only by forgetting in the back of the fridge for too long. As for social ills? Well, we support gay marriage. Would that do? They whole thing seems rather embarrassing and offensive, but then again, in this economy a decent salary is hard to come by.