(Pagan) News of Note

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

Getting excited about Hellboy II yet? I sure am! The film, directed and co-written by “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro, is chock-full of pagan-friendly elements. To whet your appetite for the July 11th release date, an animated comic prologue has been released.

For more pre-release fun, check out the multiple trailers at the Apple site. You might also want to read some advance reviews from Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and Cinematical.

While I’m on the subject of movie news, a recent Virgin Media survey places “The Wicker Man” in the top ten best British films of all time.

“Four Weddings And A Funeral has been named best British film of all time in a survey out yesterday. The 1994 romantic comedy just beat Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, and made a star of Hugh Grant, who comes fourth in the Best Actor poll. Trainspotting, Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Lawrence Of Arabia, Withnail And I, Atonement, The Wicker Man and Get Carter completed the top 10 in the Virgin Media survey.”

Speaking of “The Wicker Man”, star Christopher Lee has lashed out in the press about ageism in the film industry after his role in the Scottish movie “Stone of Destiny” was edited out.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama seems to embody the religious hopes and fears of America. He’s been called a secret Muslim, spurred claims that he might be the messiah, or a perhaps a “light worker”, pissed off James Dobson, gained the support of a Pagan delegate (and had supposed Pagan ties used against him), and was formally adopted into the Crow Indian Nation. Now Hindus think he might be one of them.

Spot the Monkey God!

“If charges of being a “secret Muslim” weren’t enough, Barack Obama may now need to prove he’s not a secret Hindu as well. According to the Times of India, a group of supporters in New Delhi have sent Obama a two-foot, gold-plated statue of the monkey god Hanuman. According to Indian politician Brijmohan Bhama, “Obama has deep faith in Lord Hanuman and that is why we are presenting an idol of Hanuman to him.” The apparent source of this pronouncement of Obama’s newly-discovered faith is this photo from Time magazine, which shows a collection of lucky charms Obama carries with him, including a small Hanuman charm.”

What better way to debunk “secret Muslim” smears than to have the Hindus claim you! Of course Obama is actually a liberal Christian, but this swirl of activity proves just how far America has moved from its “Christian” identity.

The Miami Herald has put out a very nice story about the shrine of la Ermita de La Caridad, a place where Cuban refugees come for solace and to pray. Though technically a Catholic shrine, it also attracts followers of Santeria who see la Caridad as a manifestation of Ochun.

“At the northern end of the seawall, where historic Vizcaya serves as a foreground to the glossy towers of Brickell Avenue, a stone Eleggua (the Santeria god known as the opener of paths) with cowrie-shell eyes gazes up toward the water’s surface. At the southern end, near Mercy Hospital, someone’s Santeria necklaces cling to a rock, a school of little silver fish brushing by the yellow and amber beads for Ochun, the blue and white ones for Yemaya … As Catholic as the shrine is, many of the devoted who come here are also followers of Santeria. In the religious syncretism of Cuba, la Caridad, an apparition of the Virgin Mary, is also called Ochun, one of the orishas, the Santeria gods. “A sanctuary is precisely a place where the Catholic religion makes contact with el pueblo,” Roman says. “We know there are people who perform rituals out there by the seawall. But they do it very respectfully. They don’t let us see it.”

A touching and balanced story about how culture and shared experience can sometimes overcome the barriers erected by religion.

In a final note, Religion Clause links to a story about how legal peyote used for religious purposes by Native Americans is becoming increasingly scarce due to local land being leased to oil speculators.

“South Texas property owners have realized there is profit in leasing their land as oil or hunting preserves. Suddenly, the small pittances peyoteros could pay for access didn’t seem worth it. “Now, it’s getting to where the ranchers don’t want to give permission for us to look on their land,” he said. “You have to keep going back to the same patches and waiting for it to grow again.” This presents a conundrum. If Morales and his colleagues keep revisiting the same patches, the cactus doesn’t have enough time to re-grow. Repeated overharvesting also affects the potency of the plant, said Martin Terry, an assistant professor of biology at Sul Ross University in Alpine. “If the demand continues to increase – even slowly – and the supply continues to decrease, then the amount available to the church will just keep continuing to decrease,” he said.”

Religious prohibitions prevent greenhouse-grown peyote, and trips to Mexico, where the cactus is still plentiful, is wrought with legal entanglements. With only a few legal peyoteros left, and available land dwindling, it remains to be seen if the Native American Church can find a way to solve this problem.

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