Pagans in the (UK) Military and other Pagan News of Note

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Top Story: The British tabloids, hungry for some controversy, decided to ask the Ministry of Defense for the religious breakdown of active military personnel. They discovered that 100 voluntarily list themselves as Pagan, and another 30 list themselves to be Witches.

“As fighters they are capable of crushing an enemy with terrifying might. But when some members of Britain’s Armed Forces take off their uniforms, they like nothing more than casting spells and taking part in midnight rituals. Around 100 UK service personnel – some taking part in the war on terror – class themselves as pagans. Another 30 are witches, according to figures. The intriguing details about the beliefs of soldiers, sailors and airmen were obtained from the Ministry of Defence using the Freedom of Information Act.”

The problem with there only being 130 “out” Pagans in the British Armed Forces is that it isn’t a very salacious headline. That’s hardly Pagans taking over, especially when they are forced to admit that the “overwhelming majority of servicemen and women record themselves as being Christian”. To try to salvage something they get a local Pagan to speculate that there may be far more Pagans in the military who are in the “broom closet”.

“Phil Ryder, chair of the British Druid Network, said there were in fact far more pagans than the figures suggested. He said: “They tend not to publicise their beliefs for fear of discrimination. In some areas it’s seen as odd. Although the Army doesn’t like people to join secret groups there’s no reason why being a druid or a witch should affect someone’s ability to perform on the front line. “Druidry, in particular, is quite open.” A spokesman for the MoD said that members of the armed forces were free to worship whoever they like, provided it did not interfere with their work.”

Still, it’s not exactly the “ring the alarm” sort of headline these culturally conservative rags were hoping for. This was obviously intended to build on the recent media hype over the Pagan Police Association gaining official recognition as aDiversity Staff Support Association, but it looks like the Freedom of Information Act request didn’t come through for them. Still, they did provide some interesting data, and Phil Ryder is most likely correct that there are more than 130 British Armed Forces personnel, maybe some serious British news organizations will decide to explore the issue now that it’s been brought up by the tabloids.

Speaking of Pagans and British Tabloids: If Pagans in the military won’t titillate or enrage their readership, maybe English footballer Ashley Cole dating an ex-lapdancer and “white witch” will.

“The woman linked to Ashley Cole over the weekend is a former ex-lapdancer who claims to be ‘part white witch’. Mother-of-one Sarah Purnell, 23, says she can cast spells to tame her men and even claims to have reunited a friend with her ex-boyfriend simply by taking a lock of his hair … As of yet it is unclear whether she has told Ashley of her secret life as a white witch, a female who casts good spells, or whether she used her ‘powers’ to snare the footballer.”

Now we’re talking! This one has lit up the gossip pages and tabloids. It’s got it all, sex, witchcraft, (ex) strippers, and football (a topic far more likely to inflame British passions than Druids in the military). They can only hope the fling lasts, or at least lasts long enough to sell a lot of papers.

The Return of the Hippy Witch: The Irish Times puts the spotlight on Alison O’Donnell, singer of the cult folk-rock band Mellow Candle, and how her work has influenced a new generation of singers and songwriters.

“Fast forward 30-plus years and O’Donnell is still around, still making music. Since returning to Ireland some years ago from the UK and raising a daughter, and a period of time spent in Flanders, she has slowly re-emerged as a leading, if somewhat heretofore unheralded, light of the psych-folk movement. She can (and does) thank Mellow Candle for the recognition factor. Over the past few decades, the band has grown in cult status. The likes of psych-folk leaders Devendra Banhart and Espers have cottoned on to the scant Mellow Candle back catalogue, while O’Donnell herself has (and will be) collaborating with the likes of Espers’ Greg Weeks, low-key UK psych-folk act, The Owl Service, Celtic folk/metal act, Moonroot, Winnipeg-based psych-folk band, Mr Pine, and Ireland’s experimental unit, United Bible Studies.”

O’Donnell has released a new solo album entitled “Hey Hey Hippy Witch” that should be a treat for lovers of classic folk-rock in the vein of Fairport, Trees, or Mellow Candle. You may also want to check out The Owl Service, Moonroot, and Espers as well.

Why Are We Saving Christian Crosses But Not Buddhist Stupas? Buddhists are protesting the planned destruction of a Tibetan Buddhist Stupa in New Mexico after the National Park Service seized the (formerly private) land using the power of eminent domain.

“The question has to be raised, is there an attempt to establish a de facto ‘official’ religion in the United States, as demonstrated by the actions of several govermental agencies the over the past 5 years? Ken Salazar, the Secretary for the Department of the Interior, which runs the National Park Service, has been eerily quiet about these actions, as has the Obama administration. Unquestionably, the volunteer caretakers of the Stupa have been more than willing to work with the NPS to preserve the Buddhist symbol within the confines of its amphitheater plans, however, any attempts to open dialogue have been met with no success. One of the ongoing advertising campaigns of the NPS has been “Get Involved!”; I suppose they only wish those to get involved if they are indeed Christian.”

Considering the eerie similarities between this case and the WWI Christian cross memorial that was ruled “secular” by the Supreme Court, will it too be spared? Or will the defenders the “secular” cross now fall silent? For more Pagan exploration of this issue, see this recent post at Pagan+Politics. I’ll be reporting more on this issue in the future, so stay tuned.

Is Dan Halloran Abusing His Power? The NY Politics Examiner has accused conservative New York City Councilman, and out TheodsmanDan Halloran of abusing the power of his office by using a City Council parking permit and license plate to ignore parking laws.

“In the neighborhood known to be impossible to find a legal parking space on the street, Halloran’s white Jaguar with a city parking permit on the dashboard and “NYC COUNCIL 19” on his license plate is parked right next to a sign that clearly reads “NO STANDING HOTEL LOADING ZONE” in front of the entrance to the Sheraton New York Towers.  The placard and plate do not make it legal for Halloran to park there, but most police officers and traffic agents will leave such a car alone.  As of publication Halloran’s car had not been ticketed and towed … Halloran could not immediately be located for comment, but will keep trying and update with whatever answer he gives us as to why while everyone is else is spending an arm and a leg on the hotel parking lot, he saw fit to violate the very laws he helps write.”

What do you think? Serious ethical breach, or tempest in a tea (party)-pot?

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