(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 12, 2008 — 1 Comment

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

A conference of indigenous leaders from Mexico, the United States, and Canada met in Palenque, Mexico to discuss traditional solutions to environmental problems. The event, ‘Indigenous People to Heal Our Mother Earth’, gathered 200 leaders from 71 American Indian nations, and was supported by Mexico’s environment secretary, Juan Elvira Quesada.

“Our Mother Earth is being polluted at an alarming rate, and our elders say that she is dying,” said Raymond Sensmeier, a Tlingit leader from Yakutat, Alaska. “The way the weather is around the world … a cleansing is needed” … “I sometimes talk to scientists,” said Sensmeier, “and they compartmentalize things, put things in boxes and disconnect them, and doing so promotes disharmony and imbalance.” Kuetlachtli Texotik, a Nahuatl healer from Mexico whose name means “Blue Wolf,” agreed. “Our grandfathers taught us to have an integrated vision,” he said. “The important thing is to look for balance. We should take care of what does not belong to us, for the future, because it is only ours temporarily.”

Organizers hope that indigenous American leaders can become guides in “restoring balance and harmony in the world”. To “wake up the world” to the environmental problems surrounding them.

Reuters interviews David Domke, co-author of the new book “The God Strategy: How Religion Became A Political Weapon In America,” who explains just how entwined (predominately Christian) religion has become in our political process.

“The reality is that in American presidential politics not willing to publicly emphasize your faith will mean you will not be a serious candidate on either side of the partisan aisle … the fusion of religion and politics is absolutely contrary to what the founders desired for the country. They fled religious sectarian violence, religious persecution and they set out build a new place where God would be part of the equation but there wouldn’t be a state, a national religion.”

A political atmosphere like this is decidedly hostile to religious minorities taking power, an exclusive “Christ-centered” politics that transcends the usual Republican party suspects to include Democratic presidential candidates as well. Can the wall of separation between Church and State remain strong when both political parties now “emphasize their faith” as a campaign tool?

The Boston Herald reports
on Laurie “Official Witch of Salem” Cabot’s 75th birthday-bash over the weekend. The extravagant affair included a dancing snake charmer, fire-spinning, and the attendance of Godsmack frontman Sully Erna.

“Godsmack frontman Sully Erna was among the 100 Wiccans who flew in from around the country over the weekend for a surprise 75th birthday party for Laurie Cabot, the Official Witch of Salem. “Before I met Laurie, I was in a really low point in my life,” Sully told the crowd. “I owe Laurie everything. (She) changed my life around.” Apparently, the headbanger and the high priestess of witchcraft have been tight for years … Cabot’s bewitching birthday bash was thrown by fun couple Tom Lang and Alexander Westerhoff at their Manchester-by-the-Sea stone villa.”

A happy birthday to Ms. Cabot, may she enjoy happiness and good health.

Kathryn Price NicDhana brings us the latest in the ongoing struggles to halt the M3 motorway expansion through the Tara-Skryne valley, the spiritual heart of Ireland.

“As bulldozers and chainsaws cut into the forest and hill of Rath Lugh – one of a number of ancient tombs and holy wells in peril due to the road work in the Tara-Skryne Valley – protesters have announced that they have dug tunnels under the proposed roadway, and are willing to risk their lives in defense of the land.”

While these new actions have succeeded in delaying construction, it remains to be seen if this expensive (and increasingly unpopular) project can ultimately be stopped. Irish Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney recently called the M3 construction a “ruthless desecration”, and the site has been declared an “endangered monument” by the World Monuments Fund.

In a final note, two recent legal decisions affecting modern Pagans have come to my attention. First, Tropaion reports that the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Greece can not require a statement of religious belief as part of the admission ceremony to the state bar.

“Legal Court rulings are one of the few forums where precedents are truly set. This landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Alexandrididis vs Greece (application number 19516/2006) will definitely make it much easier for others in the legal and other professions to follow suit. It will mean that people will not have to state their religious beliefs in what are clearly state matters.”

This is an important precedent for the small groups of Hellenic polytheists (and other religious minorities) in the Orthodox Christian dominated State. Further updates to this story are expected to be posted, here.

Meanwhile, another prisoner free-exercise case involving a member of the Asatru faith has made the news. A judge has recommended the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by inmate Darrell Hoadley. Hoadley, who is serving a life sentence for a 2000 torture-killing, brought suit requesting items he says are necessary for his faith.

“The penitentiary has allowed several Asatru items since settling a 2000 lawsuit – including a ritual drinking horn, wooden wand and wooden hammer – but Hoadley wanted more, such as horse meat and a plastic sword. In a motion to dismiss, prison officials said some requests are ‘too outrageous to merit serious consideration.’ U.S. Magistrate Judge John Simko, who was taken off the case in favor of U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol, said in a report filed Wednesday that the case should be dismissed.”

I can’t think of any Asatru tradition that requires a sword and the partaking of horse meat in order to honor the gods. Considering Hoadley’s security status (he is isolated from the general population), and the concessions already made, it doesn’t look like he has much of a case. The judge looks on solid ground for recommending dismissal.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters