Pagan Community Notes: Week of July 26, 2021

BOSTON – Last week a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit brought by The Satanic Temple (TST) against the Boston City Council alleging discrimination could move forward, but only in part. TST suit asserted violation of four state and federal claims: violation of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution (Count I); violation of the Free Speech Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution (Count II); violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution (Count III); and violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the Massachusetts Constitution (Count IV)

Judge Allison Burroughs stated that while TST had not demonstrated it was “selectively discriminated against” by the Boston City Council, or that TST’s right to free speech had been violated, she did conclude that TST’s assertion that the council favors picking representatives of “Abrahamic” religious organizations to deliver the invocation presented a question of possible bias when it came to how the council made their selection.

Burroughs wrote in a 16-page decision Wednesday:

Given the fact-specific nature of the inquiry into the constitutionality of legislative prayer schemes and the lack of controlling authority from the First Circuit or Supreme Court, this Court will not dismiss TST’s Establishment Clause claim at the motion to dismiss stage.

In this unsettled arena, taking into account the specific facts alleged in this case, TST has plausibly raised a claim that Defendant’s prayer selection policy has discriminated against it in violation of the Establishment Clause. Defendant’s [City of Boston] motion therefore is DENIED with respect to Count I.

Burroughs granted the request of dismissal by the city of Boston on the other three claims TST brought before the court.

TST filed its lawsuit against the city of Boston in January after the city council declined to allow TST to present the opening invocation. According to reporting by the Associated Press TST had submitted a request to the city council three times before they filed their lawsuit alleging discrimination and a violation of the 14th Amendment, the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, and the Massachusetts State Constitution.

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MISSION, South Dakota – Last week, the remains of nine children that were disinterred from the grounds of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania were returned to the Sicangu Lakota on the Rosebud Reservation. While the news of the many unmarked graves located on residential schools in Canada has received national and international attention, similar issues within the U.S. have often gone unnoticed by the media.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School was established in 1879 and operated until 1918. It was just one of over 350 boarding schools for Indigenous children overseen by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Over 7,800 Native children over the course of nearly four decades were forcibly removed from their families and homes across the U. S., and sent to Indian boarding schools as part of the U.S. government’s assimilation program.

Lt. Col. Richard Henry Pratt, who was the founder and superintendent of the Carlisle school, sought to remove all of the cultural practices and heritage from the Indigenous peoples in teaching them English and assimilating them into American culture.

A portion of his 1892 speech in Denver delivered before the National Conference of Charities and Correction, highlights Pratt’s ideology when it came to Indigenous peoples: “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”

The remains of the nine children are considered to be ancestors of the tribe and were treated accordingly by the Rosebud’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer who sang ceremonial songs as they wrapped them in buffalo hides for the journey from Pennsylvania back to South Dakota. An escort of motorcycles composed of the Sicangu Lakota American Legion Riders of Post 125 led the procession to the Rosebud reservation.

The mission to recover the remains of the Sicangu Lakota tribal members began in 2015 when a youth group visited the school site. In 2017 and 2019 the Arapaho Nation finally were able to have the remains of tribal members interred at the Carlisle school exhumed and returned after a ten-year fight. According to Northern Arapaho Tribal Chairman, Jordan Dresser, tribal member Yufna Soldier Wolf fought for the return of three Arapaho children who are now re-buried on the reservation in Ethete, Wyo.

The number of Indigenous children that are interred at the Carlisle school is recorded as being 194 but officials believe there are at least a dozen unmarked graves that may contain Indigenous remains.

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Image credit: RuinDig – CC BY 4.0

TOKYO – As the Olympics kicked off last week, Religion News Service published an article on the commonality between the ancient Greek Pagan practices that inspired the modern Olympics and the traditional culture of Japan. In a country where only 1.6% of the population identifies as Christian, the majority (57%) identify as unaffiliated (which encompasses Shinto practices), and Buddhists make up over a third of the population at 36.2% according to the Pew Research Center, Japan has never been subject to fundamentalist beliefs the way most Western countries have.

According to Megan Manson who is a British pagan, a Japanese scholar, and became acquainted with the practice of Shinto while living in Japan, there are aspects shared between Shinto practices and many modern Pagan religions. Both have, for example, more of a focus on actual practice than ascribing to any set doctrine. Both recognize the divine spirit within all forms of life–be it animals, plants, or stones, as well as drawing from folk traditions and other forms of magical practice.

Other forms of Paganism like Witchcraft, do not enjoy the same level of appeal in Japan as in Europe and in the U.S. Practitioners of Witchcraft remain a tiny majority. Their practice combines Japanese folklore and common folk beliefs that set it distinctly apart from what most in the West would recognize as Witchcraft.

In other news:

    • Reports of the optical illusion or “superior mirage” known as a Fata Morgana described a sighting of the phenomenon off the coast of Kent in England earlier this month. The phenomenon is named after Morgan Le Fay of the Arthurian tales due to a false belief that they were castles created by faeries and floated in the air or they were conjured using witchcraft by Morgan Le Fay to lure sailors to their deaths. Fata Morganas occur when atmospheric conditions are just right to create a thermal inversion. A thermal inversion occurs when cooler air exists below warmer air in well-defined layers. Such an inversion can refract light and cause the image of an object, like in this case a cruise ship, to appear above where the object is actually located. Unlike most superior (image appears above the object) or inferior (image appears below the object) mirages, a Fata Morgana is complex, can be made up of several distorted images, and often changes its appearance quickly. Most superior and inferior mirages tend to be more stable and are made up of a single image.

    • The Royal Society published an article last week that outlines how researchers identified the first insect species in the U.S. to become extinct in 1941. The Glaucopsyche xerces or Xerces blue butterfly was identified as a separate species by researchers using genetic material and determined to be the first insect to become extinct due to the habits and practices of humans and urban development. The 93-year-old specimen the DNA was extracted from while degraded, still allowed researchers to show it was a separate species. It also highlights the importance of collecting specimens, as it is impossible to predict how a specimen might be used 100 years in the future or the impact it might have.


    Positively Noteworthy

    An “unusually large meteor” slashed across the night sky near Oslo, Norway on Sunday night. According to the Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) spokesperson, Steinar Midtskogen, the meteor fell about 15 miles west of Oslo in Lier.

    In an email statement to CNN Midtskogen wrote,”Our preliminary analysis suggests that it entered Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of about 15 km/s (9.3 miles per second) and it fragmented in a series of bright flashes between 35 and 25 km (22 and 15.5 miles) above ground.”

    Midtskogen also suggested that initial analysis suggested the meteor was not typical and “its orbit seems to have been confined to the innermost part of the solar system,” indicating it had not originated from the asteroid belt that exists between Mars and Jupiter.

    Midtskogen also pointed out the interest by researchers in finding meteorite fragments, “This would make a recovery of meteorites very valuable for science.”

    While the meteor entering the atmosphere was visible as far as 100 km (62 miles) away from the impact site, the force of its entry created a shockwave experienced by some near Lier.

    “Doors and hatches were blown open and there were gusts of wind. No damage has been reported, though,” Midtskogen said.

    Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

    Deck: Celestial Tarot, by Kay Stevenson and Brian Clark, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

    Card: Four of Wands – Hydra

    This week may offer opportunities to overcome doubts and fears with courage and determination which rest in the center of self-expression. These recent triumphs may also help pave the way for continuing future self-exploration.

    Conversely, allowing fears to rule or failing to sever all the many heads of the hydra by retreating too soon can result in being trapped in a repeating loop of labor.

    Decks generously provided by Asheville Pagan Supply.

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