Agora (Finally) Comes to America and other Pagan News of Note

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Top Story: Alejandro Amenábar’s film “Agora”, based on the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, is finally seeing a limited release in American theaters  this weekend after achieving financial and critical success in Europe last year. American reviews are starting to trickle in, here’s A. O. Scott from the New York Times.

“Mr. Amenábar, working from an insightful script that he wrote with Mateo Gil, focuses on two moments when the ancient culture war reached a fever pitch and shows that no group is entirely innocent of violence and intolerance. Whoever is in power tries to preserve it by fair means or foul, and whoever wants power uses brutality to acquire it. So in the first half of the film the insurgent Christian mob draws pagan blood, and the beleaguered pagan elite, including Theon and Orestes, meets the threat with savagery.”

Other American reviews can be found at Movieline and Vanity Fair. Here’s pictures from a special screening at NYC’s MOMA on Wednesday. So check with your local art-house theater and see if they’ll be getting it.

So Far So Good For Pagan Festival In Livingston: The much-discussed Memorial weekend Pagan festival in Livingston Parish, Louisiana is now underway, and other than a minor incident of vandalism, there don’t seem to be any major problems.

“Cliff Eakin, owner of Gryphon’s Nest campground on Bull Run Road, said he expected the bulk of the weekend’s participants to arrive today. Eakin said he had one instance of vandalism by teenagers on the campground’s sign, so he hired security personnel to protect participants in the weekend celebration … The event that started Friday night was scheduled to run through Monday. Perry Rushing, chief of operations of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, said he had met with Eakin, the operator of the campground, and was assured that the event would consist of people practicing their religion and would not involve anything illegal. “We have no interest in that,” Rushing said.”

Rushing, who initially said he “vehemently opposed” a Pagan festival in his Parish, now says he doesn’t expect any problems. Let’s hope he’s right, and the locals realize that the world didn’t end simply because a bunch of Pagans decided to congregate in their Parish for a weekend of camping and celebrating.

Is Alternative Right, Wrong? Nick Pell of the socialist-oriented Red Star Times, and one of the former masterminds behind Key23 and Key64 (and now Esozone), puts the spotlight on the conservative “radical traditionalist” site Alternative Right.

“My first subject of study is Alternative Right, a particularly noxious website that brands itself as “radical traditionalist.” For those who aren’t familiar with the term, radical traditionalist is a term used by hipsters, goths and faux-erudite who espouse fascist ideology but want a term with more intellectual cache. Radical traditionalist favorites include Oswald Spengler, Julius Evola and Alain de Benoist. Associated (allegedly) political movements include Eurasianism, metapolitics, third positionism and national anarchism. Alternative right is an exemplar of radical traditionalism and fascism in as much as it begins with hatred of minorities, women and the working class and proceeds to construct a bizarre mish-mash of gobbledygook as “ideology” after the fact.”

My readers may remember my own foray into the world of Alternative Right when I covered their interview with Asatru leader Stephen McNallen (here’s McNallen’s response to that article). There definitely seems to be some nasty elements hiding within some of the rhetoric at Alternative Right, especially their sympathetic coverage of the National Anarchists, who really do seem to be neo-fascist in orientation. I do think one can be a radical traditionalist (at least as some people define it) without being a racist or a crypto-fascist, but you certainly can’t do it while tolerating and including those elements in your “big tent”.

Reviewing the Chaplains Under Fire: Pagan author and poet Erynn Rowan Laurie, who writes for the PNC blog Warriors & Kin, has an in-depth review up at Patheos of the documentary “Chaplains Under Fire”, which explores the world of military chaplains.

“One interview illustrated the difficulties faced by non-Christians quite clearly. Rev. Billy Baughaum of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, a retired military chaplain, verbally and physically expressed absolute disgust and revulsion for the Wiccan faith, openly mocking it. At one point in his interview, he said, “I think the Wicca religion is repulsive, however if there’s a Wicca [sic] chaplain who comes, I will swallow my grimace, but I believe the first amendment, he has a right or she has a right to pray to the horned god of the north. … Although I think it’s a bunch of baloney personally … if that’s what they want to pray to I will put on my greens again and get in a foxhole and I’ll support their right to do that.” A statement that he believes in first amendment rights is not a commitment to neutrality in actually helping servicemembers in need of spiritual counsel. How genuinely can someone serve another spiritually when they are attempting to “swallow my grimace” and disguise hatred and contempt for the person seeking help? I cannot imagine feeling comfortable in the office of a chaplain who openly and publicly states that other religions are false and that they find them repulsive; that hatred cannot help but transfer over to the individual practicing the hated faith.”

The whole thing is very much worth reading, and I encourage you to do so. As we enter Memorial Day weekend, being aware of what our Pagan military personnel (past and present) have to deal with on an ongoing basis is vitally important.

Good Journey Alexei Kondratiev: In a final note, I’d just like to point to a few touching blog memorials for Celtic scholar Alexei Kondratiev, who died earlier this week from a heart attack; including tributes from Jason Fisher, Erynn Rowan Laurie, and Cat Chapin-Bishop.

“Here is what I do know: For twenty-five years, I have been a Pagan, and for all of those years, I have felt that I am weaving something, a kind of cloth or tapestry, together with my friends. Paganism is so new, and, when it is working well, so warming and so full of hospitality, that for me at least, the heart of my experience as a Pagan has been the weaving together all of our separate lives to form one fabric, one community honoring the earth and the old gods. I’ve never cared particularly who called himself a shaman, who a Witch or a Hellene or a Druid, because I have felt it in my bones how much we are woven together as kin. Believe it or not, today is the first day I have properly understood: the whole time I have been weaving, weaving my life and the lives of those I love into this fabric, time has been unweaving it again at the other end. Alexei has died. And part of the world is gone.”

For those who can make it, the wake will be Tuesday, 1st of June, from 2pm-5pm and from 7pm-10pm at Gleason Funeral Home 149-20 Northern Blvd, Flushing, 11358. The funeral, Wednesday, 2nd of June, 10:45am, St Andrew Avellino 158th Street and Northern Blvd, Flushing.

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