Bad Solstice Math and other Pagan News of Note

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Top Story: Hey, it happens to the best of us sometimes. Apparently around 300 Pagan revelers showed up to Stonehenge for the Winter Solstice a day early, under the mistaken assumption that the date is fixed on the calendar.

“A crowd of around 300 people, wearing traditional costume, met at the mystical stone circle on Monday morning to mark the rising of the sun on the shortest day of the year. But unfortunately their calculations were slightly out meaning they had in fact arrived 24 hours prematurely … A spokesman for English Heritage said: ‘About 300 people turned up a day early on Monday morning. We took pity on them and opened the stone circle so they could celebrate anyway. They were a day early but no doubt had a wonderful time as well.'”

While this has inspired some snark, it also provides a helpful reminder that the solstices (and equinoxes) are moving targets, and that you should always check before inviting 300 of your closest friends to frolic at the stones.

In Other News: Mistakenly early-bird Pagans weren’t the only bit of Pagan-oriented solstice coverage going on, the South Yorkshire Star interviews 82-year-old Wiccan Elder Patricia Crowther (one of, if not the, last living High Priestesses initiated directly by Gerald Gardner) for the holiday and finds her remarkably well-preserved.

“Patricia’s appearance – a full head of thick curls, barely wrinkled skin, and a razor-sharp mind – belies her years. “On my natal chart the moon is in Gemini, which is the sign of youth and the young-at-heart, and I know that has something to do with it,” she says. Her home is filled with unusual ornaments, most of which represent figures from mythology or the Goddess herself. There are also dozens of pictures of Patricia as a glamorous young woman. One particularly striking image is that of Patricia sitting naked on a stool for her initiation. “That’s what you have to do when you’re initiated – you go as you were born into life,” she explains. “There’s nothing dirty about it.” As with any qualification, becoming a High Priestess takes time and training.”

Crowther has a new book, “Covensense”, that was released this year. According to one review it contains some “narrow convictions” that will please some BTWs, and frustrate some of the more eclectic Wiccans out there. Personally, I think it’s wonderful that she’s still writing books, no matter how opinionated they might be.

Turning from Solstice-related stories for a moment, I want to quickly highlight two interviews with Pagan-friendly band Faith and the Muse, who’s latest Shinto-inspired album, “Ankoku Butoh”, was a top pick in my year-end best-of list. First Liz Ohanesian of the LA Weekly chats with them about the new album, then gets them to pick their favorite supernatural J-Horror films.

“Japan has one of the oldest traditions of ghost tales, even as far back as 1776, scholar and artist Toriyama Sekien attempted to categorize them in his illustrated series of collections of ghosts and spirits. But their origins can be found even earlier, and coincide with oral tales of Nature spirits – these are actually classic Goddess tales, found not only in Japanese Shinto belief, but in Celtic, Nordic and even Native American mythology – all the same foundation of the consequences that await when one messes with Nature. J-Horror has its very own Nature Mother, with snow-white skin and unbelievably long black hair, the vengeful spirit of the Woman Wronged.”

It’s an interesting-sounding round-up of films, especially for those who thought J-Horror began and ended with “Ringu”. For more Faith & The Muse goodness, and to order a copy of “Ankoku Butoh”, check out their official web site.

The Philadelphia Daily News has a cautionary tale about getting into arguments over religion. It seems that after two men had an argument over whose tradition of Santeria was better, one decided to end the argument permanently with a sawed-off shotgun.

“Hernandez, of Camac Street, North Philadelphia, shot Luis Freire, 55, because they had argued over whose version of the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria was better, according to the statement, which the prosecution presented as evidence. “Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s a sad commentary that killings happen over disputes ranging from heated arguments about religion to minor disputes over someone looking at someone the wrong way,” said Assistant District Attorney Brian M. Zarallo.”

Needless to say, Christian Hernandez’s strain of Santeria, whatever it was, won’t be well-served by having a convicted murderer in its ranks. It certainly makes the Internet flame-wars and rampant snark within the Pagan community seem sedate by comparison.

In a final note, the Suwanee, Georgia, school board is wrestling with how to handle public invocations after two substitute teachers, both Wiccans, asked for fair and equal treatment. This led to rumors that invocations would be eliminated entirely, an aim that was denied by the couple.

“Locals John and Rene Checkett addressed board members Tuesday and noted it was in no way their “aim or goal to remove prayer from our school system.” A story in last Friday’s Democrat quoted Rene Checkett to that effect, after rumors to the contrary drew a standing-room only crowd to a scheduled Dec. 15 board meeting. That meeting was canceled due to lack of public notice. The issue, Rene Checkett explained, was fair treatment for those with minority religious views. The couple, both Wiccans, met with Supt. Jerry Scarborough and board chair Jerry Taylor behind closed doors Friday to make their case for fair and equal treatment, particularly in regard to district policies. Both Checketts are substitute teachers. Taylor addressed a full crowd at the 6 p.m. meeting and made clear the district’s intent to handle the matter. “As a school district we need to adopt a policy that deals with religious activities in our school system that adheres to the rights of everyone based on the law of the land, which protects everyone,” Taylor said.”

The school board is going to be unveiling a new policy on public invocations in January, and it should be interesting to see how they address the concerns of religious minorities without causing an uproar with the local Christians.

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