Back in the Saddle Again…

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Now that I’ve safely arrived in the Pacific Northwest (the journey was only a little like this), unloaded my relocubes, and started the long and arduous process of unpacking my books, it’s time to resume my duties here at The Wild Hunt. I would first like to deeply thank all the wonderful folks who filled in at my blog while I was gone, they made my life much easier, and raised the bar for the writing on this blog in the process. I hope you’ll continue to follow their work at their own blogs and web sites. As for me, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, it’s amazing how much Pagan news you can miss in eleven days. So here’s a quick catch-up of some news of note that emerged during my sojourn.

Professor Ronald Hutton (author of “Triumph of the Moon”), scholar of modern Witchcraft, Druidry, and the English ritual year, has been named a Commissioner of English Heritage.

“The Minister for Culture has appointed Professor Ronald Hutton as the historian to sit on the commission that governs English Heritage. The commission has overall charge of the affairs of the official national body concerned with heritage, and its members act as statutory advisors to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (and so effectively to the government) in all matters that involve the understanding and conservation of England’s past. As such, the appointment carries with it a broader responsibility of acting as an advocate for the importance of history in national life. It will commence in October and last for four years with the possibility of renewal.”

Pagans for Archeology called the news “fantastic” and a “well-deserved honour”. To have such a sympathetic voice for the modern Pagan movement advising the government on England’s heritage could change the existing dynamic over issues of access and preservation for sites like  Avebury and Stonehenge.

Speaking of Ronald Hutton, he makes a brief appearance in a preview for a new documentary about Druids (ancient and modern) produced by the Holistic Channel (no doubt to be re-edited soon for a History Channel program).

This, among other recent developments we’ll get to in a moment, have really peeved off a British academic blogger who calls for more discrimination of modern Pagans (they must, in his mind, prove themselves worthy of “respect”), and resorts to quite a bit of name-calling. He also describes Ronald Hutton as Paganism’s “brain in a jar”, excusing the rest of us from developing critical thinking skills. I personally think my “intellectual depth and rigour” is doing just fine.

Before we leave the isle of Britain, I would be amiss in not noting the fact that there are now enough Pagan police to necessitate the formation of a Pagan Police Association, complete with time off for the various high-holidays (oh, and two official Pagan chaplains serving officers on the force).

“Most recently, the Pagan Police Association has been created, allowing police officers to explore their beliefs with other officers. Alongside this, in some forces, officers are being allowed the opportunity to move away from traditional Christian holidays. In practice this means that Pagan officers, rather like those from more mainstream faiths, can take their holidays on the dates which support their beliefs.”

Not everyone is happy about this, but the growing prevalence of Paganism in Britain seems unavoidable lately. Even the Scottish government has more Pagan civil servants than it does Jews, Sikhs, or Hindus. Maybe the British soul really is Pagan.

Turning our eyes back to the USA, specifically Philadelphia, sensationalism seems almost unavoidable in the case of a trans-gendered woman who died while at a three-day Vodou cleansing ceremony in New Jersey. While no charges have been filed, and no apparent wrong-doing has yet been discovered (nor did any harm come to the six other clients undergoing the same process), that hasn’t stopped the press from airing requests from friends of the deceased for “accountability” from “Houngan Hector” over the matter.

“Her friends there say they want answers and an apology from Salva, who goes by the name “Houngan Hector” on his Gade Nou Leve Society Web site. “I’m certain no one meant to hurt anyone, but she was in their care and there has to be some accountability,” said Randi M. Romo, executive director of the Center for Artistic Revolution, a Little Rock-based nonprofit agency for which Hamilton worked as a youth counselor. “They haven’t even contacted her mother.” No one answered at the door of the Loch Lomond Drive townhouse yesterday, and Salva, who claims he was initiated as a senior priest in Haiti, did not respond to e-mails for comment.”

Considering they may not know why she died, going around and taking responsibility for her death seems a little premature. Plus, with the press running headlines like “Voodoo became a fatal obsession”, and the health department and child services being called on them, I doubt the residents of that house are feeling like opening up. I wonder, if tests reveal that this poor woman died of a brain aneurysm, heart defect, or some other natural cause that had nothing to do with Vodou, will the Philadelphia Daily News vindicate Houngan Hector, or simply move on?

In a final note, for years many Pagans have been trying to separate themselves from the “New Age” label, but in an increasingly shifting economy and world, it looks as if  some New Agers, like The Edge editor Tim Miejan, want that seperation to happen too (much to the chagrin of some).

“Miejan favors articles on stress reduction and spiritual quests … But even Miejan’s open mind sometimes snaps shut. Channelers — people possessed by spirits of the dead — are out. So is the belief that reptile-like aliens have taken over the bodies of celebrities, including Queen Elizabeth and — according to one Web site — former Minnesota U.S. Rep. Bill Luther. Paganism? Out. “I am not saying that because paganism offends anyone,” Miejan said. “But it is a complete niche by itself.” Other New Age leaders are appalled. “He is excluding channeling? Yikes. Or pagans? He should not be doing that,” said Kathy McGee, editor of the Washington-state-based magazine New Age Retailer.”

Call it a result of the Oprah-fication of the New Age section, it’s all about personal growth (and “The Secret”) now, not Atlantean masters or Pagan gods. Those who want to keep Pagans (and Chiropractors, and organic farmers) under the “New Age” rubric are probably more concerned about a shrinking pool of markets to target, rather than if we truly belong with the newly-mainstreamed gurus of self-actualization.

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