The music plays a major part, and it is through English folk – or the English folk revival scene – that a new generation of more urbane-minded people of both sexes are finding their way to morris dancing. “1960s and 70s British folk was a cool time for music, and bands such as Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull and even Led Zeppelin took a lot of cues, sonically and visually, from British folk arts,” says music journalist and proud morris dancer Jo Kendall. As the indigenous music of England, folk has never quite been given the same respect that the traditional music of, say, the US or Jamaica is afforded. Yet morris dancing seems to be changing perceptions about the music that soundtracks it. Those songs that sing of farming, courting couples, regional folklore or other archaic topics are capable of evoking a strong sense of place. Not in a nationalistic way – blind patriotism being the last refuge of myopic idiots – but more in a “Wow, I can’t believe they still do this” kind of way.
For more on the popularity of “Morris: A Life With Bells On”, click here and here. For more on the recent resurgence of interest in folk music, check out this article on “Goth-folk”, and a great article from Zeek magazine about how the new folk and psychedelic bands encourage a pagan, immanent, spiritual outlook. You may also want to read my previous posts on the Morris, Wassailing, and folk-dancing resurgence.
The Los Angeles Daily News profiles santero Charles Guelperin and looks at the rise of Santeria in Los Angeles, which some are now calling the “capital” of the faith in the USA.
“We do not have churches, temples or synagogues,” said Guelperin, a chain cigar smoker after his morning rituals. “My home here is my temple.”Today Santeria, a blend of Afro-Caribbean voodoo and the devotion to saints among many Latino Roman Catholics, has become so big in Los Angeles that many consider the city the Santeria capital of the country. It is a phenomenon that has occurred thanks to the influx of immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and court rulings making it easier to sacrifice animals for religious purposes.
The article goes on to touch on the growth of botanicas (which seem to be doing quite well so-far despite the recession), the tensions created by animal sacrifices, and how the faith is becoming more affluent and cosmopolitan as it integrates with American culture.
“One of the reasons why I’m writing the book about Charlie is because his clientele is so cosmopolitan,” said [Donald J. Cosentino, a folklore professor at the University of California, Los Angeles] “He is just down the street from Paramount Studios, and he’s got a lot of people from the film industry who come to his botanica. Sports people. He’s got businessmen. Men from West L.A. Men from Beverly Hills. He’s got foreign clients. “He is a very cosmopolitan man, a very cosmopolitan priest, and that’s what makes him so interesting.”
With the rise of Santeria on the West Coast and a popular resurgence of Vodou in Florida, we may be looking at a larger trend of younger generations turning to pre and post-Christian religions and traditions to face a challenging world and find an identity. I imagine that we’ll see some interesting cross-pollinations between these syncretic faiths and the growing modern Pagan religions in the very near future.
Is a random prayer taken out of context by a killer “consistent with Wicca”? That’s the assertion made by NBC’s Dateline and Virginia police in a special aired last night on Randall Lee Smith, a delusional loner who killed two people on the Appalachian Trail back in 1981, and attempted to kill two more in 2008.
In addition to the gun, police found a treasure trove of evidence Randall Lee Smith had hidden deep in the woods: Scott Johnston’s sunglasses, more than 20 knives, meat cleavers and other items. And they found some bizarre drawings and notes, including this “prayer:” “Hail to the guardians of the watchtower of the north. By the powers of mother and earth hear me…show me thy glory…I invoke thee oh, ancient one.” Police say the notes and symbols are consistent with a religion called Wicca — a pagan group that worships nature, and considers its leading members witches.
Dateline is hardly a bastion of level-headed reporting, but this seems a bit much. If he had scraps of Biblical verse scattered around would they be “consistent with Christianity”? Ceremonial elements and notes do not the religion make, and it was irresponsible for Dateline to report the information this way. Did they think that adding a “Witch angle” would make things more exciting for their viewers? Also,” considers its leading members witches”? So only the “leading” members then? Are we all working our way to witch-hood? As for Randall Lee Smith, we can’t ask him what his actual beliefs were since he died in custody shortly after being apprehended from injuries sustained during a crash. Yet another victory for sensationalism.