Pagan Community Notes: Week of December 6, 2021

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Comet NEOWISE – Image credit: SimgDe, CC BY-SA 4.0

TWH – December has some notable celestial events on offer for this year. The comet Leonard (Comet C/2021 A1), discovered in January of this year, is making an appearance in the northern hemisphere through December 11 and will begin to be more visible in the southern hemisphere around December 12 through to the beginning of January.

Comet Leonard is named for senior research specialist Greg Leonard at the Mt. Lemmon Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, who first discovered the comet on January 3, 2021.

While the comet Leonard will not be as bright or as easily viewable as last year’s comet NEOWISE, if current predictions are correct, the mornings surrounding Thursday, December 9 will offer the best opportunities to view Leonard in the northern hemisphere. At that time it will be higher and brighter in a dark, moonless sky.

Despite the comet not reaching reach peak brightness for several more days, its location of being a third of the way up the eastern sky, and near the circle of stars that form the head of Serpens Caput (the Snake’s Head), should allow for good viewing with binoculars or a telescope and possibly even with unaided eyes.

On the morning of December 9, the comet Leonard will rise in the southeastern sky at about 3:30 a.m. EST, but viewing attempts should be before 5:30 a.m. since the dawn sky will begin to brighten. After December 12, Leonard will be viewable after sunset in the southwestern sky.

While comets are notoriously unpredictable, skywatchers have high hopes for a great showing from comet Leonard.

The annual Geminids meteor shower occurs from December 7 – 17 with the peak viewing coming on the nights of December 13 and the morning of December 14. The waxing moon will obscure fainter meteors, but the Geminids is considered one of the brightest and most prolific meteor showers of the year, sometimes with as many as 120-150 meteors per hour.

The annual Ursids meteor shower also will be occurring from December 17 – 26, with peak viewing on December 22. However, the full moon on December 19 will likely make most of them unviewable, especially since the Ursids generally only offer between 5 to 10 meteors an hour.

Sandwiched between the two meteor showers and after the full moon, the December solstice occurs on December 21 at 15:50 UTC (10:30 a.m. EST), marking the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Image credit: Basspildstelle – CC BY-SA 4.0 

LONDON – The debate over the Stonehenge tunnel by-pass, A303 appears to be getting a reprisal. Last week, according to the BBC, U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps published a “statement of matters” inviting the case for the two-mile Stonehenge tunnel to be made again.

A ruling by the High Court in August upheld two of the objections submitted; the impact on heritage assets and the failure to consider alternative schemes, suspending plans for the project.

From TWH article written by Liz Williams:

The decision has been dependent on points of law, not on the archaeological or heritage basis of the claims made. Justice Houlgate ruled that the Secretary of State did not have legally sufficient material to make the assessments that are required by law.

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, was obliged to consider alternative proposals, including the much longer tunnel and a cut and cover option, but did not do so: this omission has vitiated his decision in the eyes of the Court. The primary reason why these options were not considered is presumably cost: the cut and cover option would cost a further £264m; the tunnel extension would cost £578m.

The Court also said that Shapps did not give adequate weight to the impact on individual heritage assets within the site, “unlawfully” disagreed with the Planning Inspectorate (who had counselled him to reject the proposal), had also “misconstrued” Historic England’s advice, and “adopted an unlawful approach” to the degree of harm that the project would cause to the site.

Last Tuesday, the Department for Transport invited National Highways, to provide additional information as to why the tunnel should be looked at again, particularly new information concerning the impact of the tunnel on the government’s carbon budgets and climate change targets.

The Wiltshire Council had backed the plan the build the A303 bypass to reduce traffic congestion and make travel quicker through the South East and South West section of the country.

The legal challenge that suspended the plans for the A303 tunnel in August was brought by the Stonehenge Alliance (a collaboration which included the British Archaeological Trust, The Council for British Archaeology, and the Consortium of Archaeologists), and the Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site Ltd.

The Stonehenge tunnel has been a hotly contested and divisive issue within the U.K., with locals, the heritage and archaeological communities, and the pagan community all being somewhat divided. It is hard to say what new challenges and divisions are likely to occur if a new plan to build a bypass or tunnel becomes a reality.

The deadline for new information to be sent to the Department for Transport is 11 January.


In other news:

    • In the news of the absurd and debunked, a recent conspiracy floating around on the internet claimed that “science” spelled backward “Ecneics” was a Pagan word or name for “Satan.” Though the originating post was riddled with misspellings, including “Satan” spelled as “satin.” made short work of dispelling this idea and marking it false. They also noted that they were unable to find such a word in any English-language dictionaries, nor was it or any mention of it found in searches done within “The Dictionary of Wicca, Witchcraft and Magick,” “A Popular Dictionary of Paganism,” “The Wiccan’s Dictionary of Prophecy and Omens,” and “A Dictionary of Pagan Religions.”

    • An article published by the Norwegian media site, NRK explored the rise in the practice and beliefs of Witchcraft within Norway as part of the international trend in Pagans beliefs. Two Norwegian Witches, Sandra Nystad Johansen, 22 from Fredrikstad, and Nelly Alapnes, 23 from Sørreisa were interviewed for the piece. Johansen said, “We take back the power of the word so that it will not be condescending. It is very conscious.” Alapnes offered that being a witch means taking control of her own life, “I really just want to achieve to love myself and others. Things that sound very basic to some may not be so to everyone.” Historian Rune Blix Hagen at the University of Tromsø noted the trend seems to be “about independence, pride, quality and power,” and that “I experience it strongly in my work as a historian, that there is a growing interest in witchcraft and witchcraft in music, film, theater, and not least literature. We have obviously a new witch wave underway.”

    • A new museum in Japan, the Tokyo Tarot Museum opened on November 16 and features rare and unusual tarot cards from the novelty company Nichiyu’s collection of over 3,000 cards. The museum is also run by Nichiyu, the first Japanese company to sell tarot cards, which it began doing in 1974. It will also offer a continuous display of 500 out-of-print, and hard-to-find cards, that will be for sale. Additionally, there is an adjoining library with original catalogs featuring the many cards the company has offered over the years, and books on tarot and related subjects. The museum is situated within the Tokyo neighborhood of Yanagibashi which is known for itself fortune-tellers and was once one of Tokyo’s geisha districts. According to Japan Today, the museum plans to eventually offer events that will feature lectures and workshops all centered around tarot.

    •  Archaeological Service of Graubünden (ADG) is displaying for the first time the incredible finds brought to light by an amateur archaeologist in 2019. Lucas Schmid used a metal detector near the Crap Ses Gorge and the mountain village of Tiefencastel in Switzerland’s Graubünden canton when he discovered an ornate Roman dagger known as a “pugio.” Schmid’s find led to hundreds of artifacts–everything from coins and horseshoe nails to parts of Roman shields and slingshots being unearthed that date to 15 BCE. When research teams began combing the site they turned up a veritable hoard of hoards of both Roman and Rhaetian artifacts. Researchers knew that the Rhaetians, or Raeti, a confederation of tribes that lived in the Alpine regions at that time had clashed with Romans when Emperor Augustus ordered his troops to take control of the Alps.

    Positively Noteworthy

    The Friday after the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, FAUN released a second song, Galdra from their upcoming album, Pagan. Galdra features Lindy-Fay Hella of Wardruna who appears in the video along with actress Freya Bergander, and of course the members of FAUN. The word “galdra” comes from Norwegian Nynorsk and means “to perform magic, wizardry, witchcraft.”

    The band intends to release a new song from the album Pagan each month until the entire album is released in April of 2022.

    The video was filmed on location in Norway and Germany (Bogenwald and Jurlund Village), and produced by Kilian Keuchel & FAUN Phoenix GBR. The band’s performance was filmed and directed by Matteo vDiva Fabbiani and Chiara Cerami for, the story was filmed by Nico Lindner and directed by Kilian Keuchel, with Lindy-Fay Hella filmed and directed by Ferruccio Goia.

    Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

    Deck: Dream of Gaia Tarot, Pocket Edition, by Ravynne Phelan, published by Blue Angel Publishing.

    Card: Major arcana (XXIII), Integrity

    The week ahead is likely to highlight the elements of ethics and honesty and the principles of fairness and sincerity. There may be ample opportunities to oppose dishonest, unjust, and hypocritical behavior and ideology.

    Conversely, be mindful of behavior that has the potential to cross the line into deceitful and harmful territory. “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” seems like solid advice to be heeded.

    Decks generously provided by Asheville Pagan Supply.

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