Archives For Zeus

As some Pagans and Heathens attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles.

The Land Bridge Theory Collapses

Humans first came to the Americas by crossing from Russia into Alaska using the Bering land bridge. Or did they?

In May, archaeologists uncovered a set of stone tools and butchered mastodon bones at the bottom of a river in southern Florida. The tools and bones are dated to 14,550-years ago, more than 1000 years earlier than archaeologists first thought.

[Image Credit: Roblespep / Wikipedia]

[Image Credit: Roblespep / Wikipedia]

So why couldn’t those mastodon munching humans have crossed using the Bering land bridge?

Researches took ice core samples out of areas where the Bering land bridge used to exist. They found out that animals and plants weren’t established until about 12,600 years ago. Simply put, humans couldn’t have used the corridor until 12,600 years ago because they couldn’t have walked along a thousand kilometer stretch of land without any food.


New Images in Mayan Codex  Revealed

Archaeologists have discovered hidden pictographs on a Mayan codex previously thought to be blank. The Seldon Codex is a 20 page long document created by the Mayans in the 16th century and pre-dates the Spanish invasion. While scientists have long suspected that the specially prepared deer hide may have images under the layer of white chalk and plaster, it wasn’t until they were able to use a new imaging process called hyperspectral imaging that they were able to see what those images are.

The pictographs are brightly colored images of figures and glyphs. Some of the images appear to be of two figures thought to represent siblings, since they are connected with a red umbilical cord. Other figures depict people walking with sticks or spears, and some of the female figures have appear to have red hair. The name of one individual preserved in Codex Selden resembles that of an important ancestral figure recorded in other codices, but archaeologists say more research is needed before they can confirm that interpretation.

This new Codex information is one of only 20 left in existence and helps piece together the religion, customs, and political systems of the Mayans.


Hawaii Has Pictures, Too

Shifting sands revealed 17 petroglyphs on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The images are 400 years old and were etched into sandstone. One of the glyphs measures between four and five feet, and depicts a detailed human.

In an interview with the Star Advertiser, Glen Kila, a lineal descendant of the aboriginal families who first settled on the Waianae Coast, said petroglyphs record genealogy and religion. “It’s very important to know about the lineal descendants of the area and their understanding of these petroglyphs,” Kila said. “The interpretation of these petroglyphs can only be interpreted by the lineal descendants who are familiar with its history and culture.”

The land the glyphs are on is currently managed by the US Army.


Magic Shoe Wards off Evil

Looking to keep evil spirits at bay? It has been discovered that the Master of Cambridge University’s St. John’s College protected his personal quarters by burying a shoe, possibly his own, in the portion of the wall between the fireplace and window. The found shoe dates back about 300 years and was discovered during maintenance work on the structure. The college plans to replace the shoe inside the wall together with a time capsule once work in the room is complete.

[via ancient-origins.net]

[via ancient-origins.net]


While Gold Tablets Can Curse

Curse tablets were a common practice among the Greeks and Romans, and a Roman example of such a tablet may have been found in Serbia.

Curse tablets were usually tiny pieces of thin lead that persons would engrave detailed and very explicit things they wished to befall an enemy. Normally these were stuck into the wall of the enemy’s home, neatly breaking through any protections that the intended target may have placed on their home. In dire cases, the tablets were buried with a trusted dead relative or friend for personal delivery to the Gods.

The tablets found in Serbia date to the 4th century and are engraved pieces of gold and silver, encased in lead amulets and placed inside of a grave. The tablets haven’t been deciphered yet, but could contain curses or they could contain an important message or request. While the alphabet used is Greek, the language appear to be Aramaic. What linguists have discovered is that the names of powerful spirits were carved onto the tiny scrolls.


Uni May Finally Be Known

Not much is known about the chief female Etruscan deity named Uni, and almost nothing is known about her worship. The Etruscans flourished in Northern Italy from around 700 BCE until the Romans gradually absorbed them starting in 500 BCE. Most surviving written accounts are from later Roman period and conflate Uni with the Roman Goddess Juno.

But that has now changed. Archaeologists have discovered a 2,500 year old stella at an Etruscan sanctuary. The stella, which measures four feet by two feet, is the longest example of Etruscan writing found to date. One name, Uni, has already been deciphered and lends credence to the theory that the sanctuary was once dedicated to the Goddess. The stella appears to focus on the Goddess Uni and may include information on the laws of the sanctuary or the ceremonies that took place there.

Mount Lykaion [Photo Credit: Danno1 / Wikipedia]

Mount Lykaion [Photo Credit: Danno1 / Wikipedia]


Are the Rumors About Zeus True?

It’s long been whispered that human sacrifice took place at the remote sanctuary of Zeus on the summit of Mount Lykaion. Only animal bones have been found there. Until now.

Starting in the sixteenth century BCE, thousands of animals were sacrificed to Zeus at the site. But around the eleventh century BCE a young teen also met an end atop the mountain. Archaeologists found this human body mixed in with ashes of animals. It was laid out between two lines of stones on an east-west axis.

But was this teen sacrificed? As of yet, archaeologists don’t know.

Column: Godsend

Eric O. Scott —  May 13, 2016 — 2 Comments

Last year saw the release of Apotheon, a computer game set in the milieu of Greek myth. The game’s striking visuals mimic the black-figure pottery of the 7th through 5th centuries BCE, which has the effect of making the game feel more distinctively identified with its source material than any of its predecessors. We look at the ancient vases and feel an aura of myth that cannot be replicated by modern illustrations; Apotheon plays on that aura to deliver a sense of wonder that could not be matched by more sophisticated, “realistic” graphics.

But despite Apotheon’s enchanting presentation, its plot engages in a common pattern not at all faithful to the mythology. The game begins by announcing that the gods have abandoned humanity and seek to punish mortals by denying divine gifts, up to and including the light of Helios, shrouding the world in darkness. A young hero named Nikandreos receives the blessing of Hera to fight back against the gods, climbing Mount Olympus and challenging them to battle. By the end of the game, Nikandreos has slain more than half of the Olympian deities, culminating in a final battle against Zeus. In the process of killing the gods, Nikandreos acquires their special tools – -Apollo’s lyre, Zeus’s thunderbolt, and so on -– and thus their powers. By the end of the game, Nikandreos has effectively become a single omnipotent god, commanding the might of every Olympian at once.

This plot bears a strong resemblance to that of the earlier God of War series, in which the protagonist, Kratos, similarly slays and replaces Ares as the titular god of war, and then goes on to slay other deities, culminating, just as in Apotheon, in a battle against Zeus. The pattern continues in other media as well: by the end of Wrath of the Titans (2012), the gods have perished, as much at the hands of mortal indifference as monsters. Even in the Greek mythology-inspired Theros set of the card game Magic: The Gathering, the plot revolves around a mortal hero, the planeswalker Elspeth, slaying a rogue deity with the ambiguously-named magical weapon Godsend.

One would think the gods only exist to die.

Elspeth slays Xenagos, God of Revels. (Art from the Magic: The Gathering card "Deicide" by Jason Chan.)

Elspeth slays Xenagos, God of Revels [Art from the Magic: The Gathering card “Deicide” by Jason Chan]

What’s puzzling is that all of these stories take as their basis Greek mythology, in particular; a mythology which makes a point of the immortality of its gods, in contrast to other myth-systems in which gods can and do die. The trope of mortals doing battle with the Olympians occurs very infrequently in the myths; Diomedes’ battle with Aphrodite, Apollo, and Ares in the Iliad is a rare example. Diomedes just manages to wound the gods, and even then only with the aid of Athena. The idea of a mortal actually slaying a god -– much less the “kill and absorb” motif found in Apotheon and God of War –- is unthinkable within the mythic worldview.

Now, it could be argued that this recurring plot line merely reflects the genre: namely, all the works mentioned have belonged to the action genre. This is especially true for video games; the notion that games must employ combat as a core mechanic remains entrenched in the medium, and games that eschew combat altogether are few and far between. In Apotheon and God of War, the vast majority of “characters” Nikandreos and Kratos interact with are merely targets for their weapons. The argument goes that a combat game requires enemies to fight, so in a game inspired by Greek mythology, one might as well fight against the Olympians. But that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny: Greek myth hardly lacks for fantastic monsters that players could battle, monsters with much more visual appeal and potential for interesting mechanics than the gods (who, in the end, tend to just resemble large humans).

I suspect there is more to it than a simple need for game mechanics. Notably, these works tend to also feature a story wherein the bond between the gods and humanity ruptures. In Apotheon, the gods turn against mortals as punishment for human arrogance; in God of War, Zeus betrays and attempts to murder Kratos; in Theros, the Zeus stand-in, Heliod, similarly betrays his follower Elspeth after she discharges her duty to him. (The Titans films, breaking with this pattern, have the bond severed on the other end: humans stop believing in the gods, and thus the gods become mortal and die.) The pattern is not just one of mortals fighting against gods: it is specifically the revelation that the Father God is a liar, hypocrite, and oath-breaker, who unjustly attacks his human subjects and must be deposed in response.

In other words, it seems to me that Greek mythology is being used in its traditional post-classical role as a stalking horse for Christianity, a version of religion that can be invoked and critiqued without exposing an author to the dangers of openly discussing the dominant religion. Gods -– mainly Zeus, a proxy for the monotheistic God -– act as open antagonists to humanity, and can be used metaphorically to condemn the perceived corruption of religion as a concept. The mortal human grows to have more power and agency than the gods themselves, and in their destruction, rises to a mastery of the cosmos; in the case of Apotheon, ultimately recreating human life as a new, singular deity.

The narrative parallels the decrease in religiosity in western societies. As the nones increase in number, this narrative becomes more and more attractive, for it allows a generation of nonreligious gamers to role-play their resistance to religion within the safe confines of a “dead” mythos. (A God of War where the hero kills Zeus is a fun action game; a God of War where the hero kills Yahweh is grounds for international controversy.) The Titans storyline, if anything, displays this atheistic motif more obviously: the rise of nones in their film universe is directly responsible for their demise.

It’s fascinating, if I’m sure disheartening to those who worship them, that the Greek gods get chosen for this duty. For the most part, gods of other mythologies get more sympathetic treatment in popular culture, even though their stories contain just as many incidents of jerking around their followers. But then, it’s nothing new for the classical gods to be used in this way: when King Lear laments that humans are as flies to the gods, he’s also referring to the Olympians.

Jean Genet’s text “The Criminal Child,” previously unavailable in English, was translated and published in December 2015. An anonymous commentary on the text, included as an afterword within the same pamphlet, reads “The Criminal Child” as an intricately coded set of instructions for magical initiation and ordeal.

criminal_child“The Criminal Child” was originally written in 1948 as a speech to be read on a radio show in order to address reforms to France’s youth prisons that had been proposed at the time. It was rejected and never read on the air. When Genet published the censored text the following year, he wrote in his introduction, “I would have liked to make the voice of the criminal audible. Not his plaint; rather his song of glory.” 1

Genet, who had spent two and a half years as a teenager imprisoned in France’s notorious Mettray penal colony (punctuated by a brief but glorious escape), clearly intended to prove himself the exception to Nietzsche’s observations that “the criminal is often enough not equal to his deed: he extenuates and maligns it,” and that “the advocates of a criminal are seldom artists enough to turn the beautiful terribleness of the deed to the advantage of the doer.” 2

Though perhaps expected to be supportive of prison reforms due to his own past experience, Genet instead recalled that he and his fellow delinquents took pride in the harshness of their treatment, and were ashamed to admit to light sentences: “It’s with a sort of shame that the child confesses that they have just acquitted him or that they have condemned him to a light sentence. He wishes for rigor. He demands it.” 3  From my own teenage years, I can corroborate this worldview.

Of course, Genet never claimed that all incarcerated youth share this adversarial attitude. As an adult and a well-respected writer, he (re)visited a youth prison where the director pointed out to him a “scout team he formed to reward the most docile children.” Scathingly, Genet wrote that these were not the “chosen” of whom he spoke:

Looking at those twelve kids, it was clear that none of them was chosen, elected, so as to take on some audacious expedition, even an entirely imaginary one. But I knew that in the interior of the Penitentiary, in spite of the educators, there existed groups, gangs really, where the bond, what made them stick together, was friendship, audacity, ruse, insolence, a taste for laziness, an air about the forehead at once somber and joyful—this taste for adventure against the rules of the Good.5

For this latter category of youth, Genet argued that imprisonment is an ordeal: “Their demand is that the ordeal be terrible—so as, perhaps, to exhaust an impatient need for heroism.” 6 The youth prison is imagined to be a “corner of the world from which you don’t come back.” 7 And this premonition conceals an underlying, occult truth: “In fact, you didn’t come back. When you came back, you were someone else. You had come across a blazing fire.” 8

His Unique Magical System

“Notes on ‘The Criminal Child,’ ” the exegetical essay published alongside Genet’s text, treats Genet as a sorcerer: “Here Genet details some of the workings of his own internal cosmology, the rites and methods of his unique magical system.” 9

Genet’s system of “criminal rites” offers initiation “not into an order, but into an adventure;” nonetheless, like any initiatory system, it is “ineffable to the uninitiated, but shared between himself and other youthful offenders.” 10

The author(s) of “Notes” fill five pages with their distillation of Genet’s occultism. I cannot quote them in their entirety here, so I must pour these words through yet another alembic:

The youth prison is Genet’s fountain of memory, but each of us has our own clandestine world into which we were initiated as youth. It was there in those spaces that we learned magic as a force of liberation, self-creation, and world-building. Though our childhoods are gone, we can access that space again in remembrance and invocation.11

Mercury, Barcelona [Photo Credit: Ed Uthman / Flickr]

Mercury, Barcelona [Photo Credit: Ed Uthman / Flickr]

This space is what Genet called “the nocturnal part of man, which you cannot explore, which you cannot enter unless you are armed, unless you are coated, embalmed, unless you are covered with all the ornaments of language.” 12 Genet’s “ritual work prepares the initiate to enter this nocturnal space.” 13

Drawing heavily upon Genet’s novel Miracle of the Rose, “Notes” observes that this “nocturnal heaven” is populated “with spirits, demons, deities, ancestors, and figures from his past with blue eagles carved across their chests, youths who stand ‘the way Mercury is depicted.‘” 14 You know the look.

And how does one arm oneself to enter this “nocturnal heaven?” The same prison director who introduced Genet to the “scout team” of “the most docile children” also showed him a collection of improvised knives, but patronizingly confided in Genet that he didn’t really believe in the need to confiscate the knives: they were made of tin, and therefore harmless.

In his mind, Genet could only laugh at the jailer’s obliviousness—confiscating the knives was indeed pointless, but they were far from harmless, and would only be replaced by more dangerous weapons:

Did he not know that, the more it deviates from its practical destination, the more the object is transformed, becoming a symbol? […] What is the point of taking it from him? The child will choose another object to signify murder, something apparently more benign, and if someone doesn’t take that as well, he’ll keep in himself, preciously, the more precise image of the weapon.15

Armed with symbols, the initiate must “pay attention to signs and signs and sigils carved and painted onto walls—M.A.V. (Mort aux vaches), B.A.A.D.M. (Bonjour aux amis du malheur)—and read these as you’d read inscriptions on the walls of an ancient temple.” 16 “Notes” instructs the initiate to build a temple within as well: “Build your inner temple here and consecrate it to ‘amorous passion.’ In this temple you can now face your ordeal.”17

[Photo Credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia]

“Notes” recalls the eponymous flowers of Miracle of the Rose—in which Harcamone, convicted of murdering a prison guard, transformed “his chains into a garland of roses, one of which Genet clipped and concealed”—and further explicates the term “ordeal” by quoting Raven Kaldera:

Take the rose into your hands, and squeeze the thorns until your hands bleed, even as you smell the scent of Aphrodite. When you can understand why there is no contradiction there, the first step of the path will be open to you.18

To Insult the Insulters

If mysteries can only be understood through experience, why write of them at all? Sannion, of the Starry Bull tradition of Bacchic Orphism, writes that “There are two ways to keep a religious secret concealed: the first is to never talk about it at all and the second is to talk about it all the time.” Like the Starry Bull tradition, Genet opted for the latter approach.

Genet’s primary objective, of course, was to speak directly to the initiated:

This whole time I haven’t been speaking to the educators, but to the guilty […] I ask them to never be embarrassed by what they do, to keep intact inside themselves the revolt that has made them so beautiful. There are no remedies, I hope, for heroism.” 19

Once his speech was censored from the radio, he despaired of reaching his target audience, but decided to publish anyway: “I speak in the void and in the darkness; but even if it were just for myself, I would still want to insult the insulters.” 20 

For the uninitiated, Genet’s counsel is as harsh as it sounds: “Refuse all pity to the kids who don’t want any.” 21 He is explicitly and unapologetically hostile to mainstream society: “Let a poet, who is also an enemy, speak to you as a poet, and as an enemy.” 22 Even Edmund White, Genet’s biographer, found his “poetry” in “The Criminal Child” difficult to translate: “since for Genet crime itself is beautiful, he supports the cruelty of the unreformed prison system because it turns youngsters into hardened criminals.” 23 But that’s not quite right:

“Supports”White’s word—doesn’t quite fit here. Genet is explicitly in his enmity toward this society, its prisons surely included. He sees the prison as an obstacle to be overcome in a path of criminal becoming, a path of individuation.

This is the folly of trying to read him as “the political Genet.” To say that Genet supports (or doesn’t) any given state policy enmeshes his words in a political mode unbefitting the text at hand. Genet neither supports the prison nor desires to reform it. He seeks to escape it […] 24

Flammarion

[Credit: Public Domain / Wikimedia]

Blinded by Their Brilliance

In Miracle of the Rose, Genet compared religion to prison, but his comparison was based upon the possibility that the bounded space of the finite (as opposed to the infinite) can lead to a “minute” exploration of the heart:

Abhorring the infinite, religions imprison us in a universe as limited as the universe of prison–but as unlimited, for our hope in it lights up perspectives just as sudden, reveals gardens just as fresh, characters just as monstrous, deserts, fountains; and our more ardent love, drawing greater richness from the heart, projects them on the thick walls; and this heart is sometimes explored so minutely that a secret chamber is breached an allows a ray to slip through, to alight on the door of a cell and to show God.25

Similarly, Genet wrote that prisoners “sentenced to death for life” (i.e. those serving life imprisonment) become hardened and brilliant in their captivity:

Living in so restricted a universe, they thus had the boldness to live in it as passionately as they lived in your world of freedom, and as a result of being contained in a narrower frame their lives became so intense, so hard, that anyone–journalists, wardens, inspectors–who so much as glanced at them was blinded by their brilliance.26

One recalls, of course, that Zeus’s name is etymologically derived from Proto-Indo-European *dewos, meaning “god,” is cognate with Latin deus and Sanskrit deva, and ultimately comes from the root *dyeu- meaning “to gleam, to shine.” The “deities” are “the shining ones.” And so the “shining ones” among the living are touched by gods as well.

Indeed, Genet canonized the prisoners he wrote of as saints:

The audacity to live (and to live with all one’s might) within that world whose only outlet is death has the beauty of the great maledictions, for it is worthy of what was done in the course of all the ages by the Mankind that had been expelled from Heaven. And this, in effect, is saintliness, which is to live according to Heaven, in spite of God.27

Genet hated Sartre’s biography of him (Saint Genet) and said of it, “In all my books I strip myself, but at the same time I disguise myself with words, choices, attitudes, magic. Sartre stripped me without mercy. He wrote about me in the present tense.” The “words, choices, attitudes, magic” that Genet spoke of are surely the same “ornaments of language” required to explore the “nocturnal part of man.” Sartre stripped Genet of his magic, perhaps because he was afraid of being blinded by it. We honor him for it.

The Ekklesía Antínoou honors Jean Genet as a Sanctus, especially on his birthday (December 19) and the date of his death (April 15). Similarly, Brennos Agrocunos has declared David Bowie to be “Saint Bowie, Patron Saint of Enchanted Misfits.” And at the shrine of Jesús Malverde (the unofficial “Santo de los Narcos”) in Culiacán, Sinaloa, women who have never met Joaquín Guzmán Loera (A.K.A. El Chapo, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and two-time prison escapee) pray fervently on his behalf: “I ask God to take care of him wherever he is, to take care of his sons, his wife.”

In “The Criminal Child,” Genet expressed the ethic of veneration in simple but elegant terms:

I don’t know of any other criterion for the beauty of an act, an object, or an entity, than the song it arouses in me, which I translate into words so as to communicate it to you: this is lyricism. If my song is lovely, if it has upset you, will you dare say that he who inspired it is vile?

You can say that there have always been words charged with expressing the haughtiest attitudes, and that I would have recourse to them so that the least appears haughty. But I can respond that my emotion calls for precisely these words and that they come naturally to serve it.28

Jean Genet, 1983. [Photo Credit: International Progress Organization / Wikimedia]

Jean Genet, 1983. [Photo Credit: International Progress Organization / Wikimedia]

Genet also castigated mainstream French society for its hypocrisy: “Your literature, your fine arts, your after-dinner entertainment all celebrate crime. The talent of your poets has glorified the criminal who, in life, you hate. So deal with the fact that, for our part, we despise your poets and your artists.” 29

TV shows and films portray outlaws as protagonists, but “those who were their more or less exact models suffered for real. […] You know nothing of heroism in its true nature, in the flesh, how it suffers in the same everyday way that you do. True greatness brushes past you. You ignore it, and prefer a fake.”30

Endnotes

  1. Jean Genet, “The Criminal Child,” v.
  2. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Chapter 4, Aphorisms 109 and 110.
  3. Jean Genet, “The Criminal Child,” 3.
  4. Ibid., 11.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., 4.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. “Notes on ‘The Criminal Child,'” 37.
  10. Ibid., 37-39.
  11. Ibid., 41-42.
  12. Jean Genet, “The Criminal Child,” 12.
  13. “Notes on ‘The Criminal Child,'” 46.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Jean Genet, “The Criminal Child,” 10-11.
  16. “Notes on ‘The Criminal Child,'” 40. “Mort aux vaches” is translated as “death to cops,” “Bonjour aux amis de malheur” as “Greetings to friends of misfortune.”
  17. Ibid., 42.
  18. Raven Kaldera, qtd. in “Notes on ‘The Criminal Child,'” 43-44.
  19. Jean Genet, “The Criminal Child,” 14-15.
  20. Ibid., 25.
  21. Ibid., 16.
  22. Ibid.
  23. “Notes on ‘The Criminal Child,'” 45.
  24. Ibid. Emphasis added.
  25. Jean Genet, Miracle of the Rose, 43.
  26. Ibid., 42-43.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Jean Genet, “The Criminal Child,” 13.
  29. Ibid., 20.
  30. Ibid., 21-22.

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.

Godsmack

Godsmack

The Weird Sisters from Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' After Henry Fuseli (1741-1825); mezzotint by John Raphael Smith (1751-1812)

The Weird Sisters from Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’
After Henry Fuseli (1741-1825); mezzotint by John Raphael Smith (1751-1812)

  • Witches & Wicked Bodies, an exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, has just opened. Quote: “Witches and Wicked Bodies will be an investigation of extremes, exploring the highly exaggerated ways in which witches have been represented, from hideous hags to beautiful seductresses.” Highlights of the show can be found, here. Wish I could go! 
  • A warrant for the arrest of Satanist who did a graveside ritual to turn Fred Phelp’s mother gay in the afterlife has been issued. Quote: “Greaves said nine satanic church members from New York and other states descended on Mississippi for the ceremony.  He insists that no physical damage was done. ‘Desecration, by all the legal definitions I’ve read, usually involves digging up the grave,’ he said. ‘But we left it as we found it.’ The charges have sparked a huge amount of interest in the Satanic Temple. ‘The news of the gravesite ceremony was very slow to get out at first,’ he said. ‘But now it’s really gaining momentum. They’re threatening to arrest me. What it has done is rally support behind us. It keeps snowballing.'”
  • There should be Humanist chaplains because Wiccans! Quote: “Fleming’s rationale was that ‘there is no way that an atheist chaplain or atheist whatever can minister to the spiritual needs of a Christian or a Muslim, or a Jew, for that matter.’ I’d like to ask Fleming whether an atheist chaplain would be less preferable than a Wiccan (i.e. pagan) chaplain, inasmuch as Wicca is recognized as a religion by the military. In fact, Wicca has to be so recognized, under the Free Exercise Clause of the of the Constitution. It’s because Americans are guaranteed the right to practice their faith — and serving in the military makes that more difficult — that the hiring of military chaplains does not represent a violation of the Establishment Clause.” It’s always weird when your faith is used as prop in someone else’s argument, don’t you think? 
  • Stop trying to curse the IRS, I’m sure they’ve got whole teams of magicians working around the clock to counter-act the constant spiritual bombardment aimed at them. Plus, you no doubt risk getting audited. Quote: “Internal Revenue Service agents found an unwelcome surprise — and a possible witchcraft curse — on Friday when unknown individuals left a trio of charred, headless chickens outside the agency’s McAllen offices.” 
  • A Catholic rants against flameless candles, and no doubt echoes the sympathies of many Pagans. Quote: “But in the holy place, the flameless candle preaches a gospel of irrelevance. The simple flipping of the switch extinguishes the profound semiotic value of the votive candle. The flameless candle says that there is nothing significant in a flame’s dance of ascent, or in wax itself produced by the labor of bees and utterly exhausted by the peaceful but consuming flame.”

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.

Spencer Butte in Eugene, Oregon

Spencer Butte in Eugene, Oregon

  • This just in: walking in the woods is good for you! Quote: “In an effort to benefit the Japanese and find nonextractive ways to use forests, which cover 67 percent of the country’s landmass, the government has funded about $4 million in forest-bathing research since 2004. It intends to designate a total of 100 Forest Therapy sites within 10 years. Visitors here are routinely hauled off to a cabin where rangers measure their blood pressure, part of an effort to provide ever more data to support the project.” Those of us who love to sojourn into nature regularly can most likely attest to the salubrious effects of wooded terrain.
  • Religion Clause reports that the USDA has “released a lengthy report titled USDA Policy and Procedures Review and Recommendations: Indian Sacred Sites.” Quote from the summary: “[The report calls] for USDA and the U.S. Forest Service to work more closely with Tribal governments in the protection, respectful interpretation and appropriate access to American Indian and Alaska Native sacred sites on national forests and grasslands. The report recommends steps the Forest Service should take to strengthen the partnerships between the agency, Tribal governments, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities to help preserve America’s rich native traditions.” This seems a welcome step forward after some recent incidents involving sacred lands.
  • Moral panics often help promote the very thing they (sometimes literally) demonize. Quote: “The most common way for music to blow up from a small scene into global pop is for a controversy to erupt. Music history is littered with examples of “moral panics”: be-bop jazz was blamed for white-on-black race riots in the mid-1940s, just as rap music was blamed when riots erupted in Los Angeles following the Rodney King trial. In both cases, sensationalized news reports and especially a focus on the “dangerous” elements in the music attracted young people in droves. Moral panics, like magnets, repel and attract.” That quote is from Jennifer Lena, whose book “Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music,” looks very interesting. To give this a Pagan spin, one wonders if the “Satanic” panics of the 1980s and 1990s actually drew people into the occult and modern Paganism? Yet another factor to explore in the “teen witch” boom?
  • Remember folks, reality television, all reality television, distorts its subjects.
  • In a final note, Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish is going independent, and will subsist on reader donations. Which makes me wonder, will the future of media not be with massive ever-expanding content hubs, but with smaller, curated, islands that are more responsive to the communities they serve? Or, at the very least, will the new media ecosystem allow for both to thrive?

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.

Sunday Comics

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 19, 2008 — Leave a comment

If you’re a fan of “Oh My Gods!” and wish there were more Pagan-friendly comic strips, why not check out Mark Weinstein’s “Prometheus”, the wacky adventures of a Titan who was cursed by Zeus to have his liver eaten by a eagle on a daily basis.

The strip is published three times a week, and runs in two Greek publications. To read every strip in order, click here.

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

We’ll start off with the shameless plug department of The Wild Hunt, head over to John Morehead’s blog to read an interview with me concerning issues in Pagan-Christian dialog.

“I’m a big believer that Pagans shouldn’t isolate themselves. While we are growing quickly, we are still a tiny, and often misunderstood, minority. What Christians do and think can have serious ramifications on us, and we would be foolish to ignore that. Not to mention the fact that the million-plus Pagans in America alone have millions of Christian relatives, friends, and co-workers. A rational and peaceful dialog is the only way forward from the tensions that produce “Satanic Panics”, bitter custody fights, lost jobs, broken friendships, and isolated families. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to find away to get along.”

This discussion is just one of many to be spurred by the new book “Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue”. Expect interviews with the two main participants of “Beyond the Burning Times”, Philip Johnson and Gus diZerega, on this blog in the near future.

Christian prayer or Pagan spells, which will prevail!? We may soon find out. Focus on the Family’s Stuart Shepard is imploring Christians to pray for “umbrellas-aint-gonna-help-you” amounts of rain to fall on Barack Obama’s outdoor acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Meanwhile, Isaac Bonewits unveils the latest edition of “Spells for Democracy” where he asks for coordinated (ethical) spell-work to, among other things, unearth scandals or personality flaws of your “least favorite candidate”.

“Cast a revelation spell around your least-favorite candidate, to expose any aspects of their history or personality that would make them unfit for office.”

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Obama gets rained on, while McCain get embroiled in a major ethical scandal? Would we be left with a celestial stalemate? The theological implications are boggling.

Racist idiots are garnering more bad press for Asatru. A skinhead in Arizona was arrested after threatening a group of Hispanic people (who were quietly mourning the death of a loved one) with a shovel and a knife.

“Peters then yelled that he wanted his step-daughter and raised a shovel saying he was a skinhead and would kill someone, court records say. Peters realized he was outnumbered and backed down from the confrontation. He was arrested nearby, court records say. Court records said Peters told police he was looking for his step-daughter and said he was a skinhead and wanted to intimidate the group of Hispanic people. He also told Mesa police he pulled out a knife, court records say.”

Once in custody, Kelley Peters thought it was a good idea to tell the court that he had Hitler tattoos and that he was an adherent of Asatru (which the article claims is “a common practice in the Skinhead culture”). Another moron without honor sullying a religion he probably has no deep understanding of.

The Ashland Daily Tidings reports on the formation of a new Pagan preschool by Rowan Tree Pagan Ministries.

“Rowan Tree Director of Children’s Programs Selyna Faola’n plans to offer Rowan Academy, a preschool and kindergarten program for children ages 3 to 5, starting Sept. 22. The program can proceed if it meets an enrollment minimum of 10 students, but Faola’n said she could go ahead with as few as seven. Rowan Tree Pagan Ministries is an organization that offers programs and resources for the Southern Oregon pagan community. The group received its nonprofit certificate this week. The Rowan Tree Pagan Art and Ritual Supply Shop, which serves as a community hub, is located in the Underground Marketplace downtown.”

The article, unfortunately, has attracted some anonymous trolls who begin to find any weak points (real or imagined) in which to mock the subjects of the piece. A sadly common event now proving John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F*****d Theory, and calling into question the utility of appending the ability to comment to everything on the web. Luckily, I’m blessed with a thoughtful and intelligent bunch of commenters here, and have never had to entertain abandoning the ongoing dialog with my readers.

In the wake of tragedy, Unitarian-Universalists keep the faith.

“Across the country, as well as in the Washington area, hundreds of Unitarian Universalist congregations held services and candlelight vigils this week after a deadly rampage at a Knoxville, Tenn., church to show support for their denomination’s long-standing progressive tradition … At the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax in Oakton, about 60 people from five UU congregations in Northern Virginia came together for a service Monday evening. Bill Welch, the congregation’s minister for programs, talked about how isolating it can be to be a liberal in today’s world of right-wing talk radio and conservative Christians “that talk about liberals as if we are bad people.” “In our prayers, we should remember that we’re not alone, that there are people who share our beliefs, that we are part of a larger body,” Welch said.”

The article notes the Unitarian-Universalism’s post-Christian identity, and that modern Pagans are included and welcomed within the denomination.

In a final note, Canada’s National Press pays tribute to the “riches of ancient Greece”, and raises some interesting questions about the goddess Nike.

“Nike, goddess of victory, has emerged in our time as the greatest celebrity among all the Greek divinities. On the streets of every city, sweaty worshippers proclaim their love on T-shirts and shoes. Nike was always impressive: Look at her as the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a don’t-miss-this stop for every tourist in Paris who gets to the Louvre. Still, she was hardly in the top rank. She was an attendant of Zeus, the chief god, and now she’s eclipsed him in every gym in the world. Zeus doesn’t even have a line of underwear named after him. She’s made him an also ran.”

Is Zeus still the king? Perhaps we should consult Tom
Stone
, who recently published a biography of the great thunderer.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

Zeus, by Jove!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 5, 2008 — 1 Comment

Novelist and travel writer Tom Stone has released a new book entitled “Zeus: A Journey Through Greece in the Footsteps of a God” that traces the birth, death, rebirth, and eventual decline of the great Greek thunderer.

“Lusty, lightning-tempered, polyamorous Zeus was the most powerful and charismatic of the Greek gods, and the progenitor of some of the most enduring stories of world mythology. In Zeus, author Tom Stone takes readers on a 4,000-year journey through the god’s tumultuous life, from his origins as a sky god in the Russian steppes and his scandalous reign on Mt. Olympus to his approaching end in a palace storeroom in Christian Constantinople. Crossing the length and breadth of Greece, Stone and his Iranian wife explore the most significant sites in Greek myth, from mountaintops to subterranean caves, Olympus to Crete, and Mycenae to Macedonia. Along the way, he reveals how Zeus’s story grew from the soil of Greece and changed along with the country’s history, all with a brilliant mix of erudition and bravura storytelling.”

Some Pagans and Heathens, most notably Hrafknell at A Heathen’s World, wondered at the content of the book. Was it simply a travelogue with Zeus as the hook? Were there any deeper religious impulses in writing a work about the life of Zeus? In response to these questions Tom Stone has started his own blog, and essentially outs himself as a (qualified) polytheist.

“I followed up my comments in the Foreward by dropping very heavy hints along the way that for me, personally, the presence of the Greek deities in the Greek landscape was quite palpable (can’t say the same about LA!). And – more important – that a belief in them was not only preferable, but much more “realistic” than a belief in a single deity (except, perhaps, Mother Earth).”

Stone also unfavorably (to put it mildly) compares monotheism to polytheism.

“I believe that most monotheism is fundamentally ‘evil’ in the terrible ways that it attempts to impose its structures and strictures on great masses of people, espousing its glorious virtues with one hand and, with the other, attempting to eradicate all opposing beliefs (as the Christians tried to do with the Greek religion. – among others…). In contrast, polytheism and pantheism not only admit each individual’s (and community’s) personal relationship to the Ineffable, but their writings and oral traditions embrace not only the good but the bad in the way their deities manifest themselves.”

Stone’s religious mindset and opinions came about from twenty years of “rumination and research” after being being “haunted” by images and stories of Zeus at Crete. Opinions that Stone promises to further expand on at his new blog (which I look forward to reading). So “Zeus” is no mere travelogue, but a somewhat veiled religious pilgrimage, one that could open new doors of insight and discussion into the history and future of Western polytheism.