Column: Heathen South – Interview with Ryan Denison

Pagan Perspectives

For three days beginning on July 13, Atlanta hosted Mystic South: Theory, Practice, and Play. According to the convention’s Facebook page, the Pagan event “highlights the Southern flair and mystic spirit of our own part of the country.”

Headliners this year included John Beckett, Ivo Dominguez, Yaya Nsasi Vence Guerra, Sangoma Oludoye, Mama Gina, and the Night Travelers. The conference schedule included rituals, workshops, papers, panels, presentations, and a live podcast. Several events centered on Norse material and Heathen religions. To get a sense of the conference from a Heathen perspective, I spoke with Ryan Denison of the Mystic South organizing committee.

Column: Sessions Thumps, Clergy Jumps

The executive branch of the federal government of the United States has gone biblical. On June 14, Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible while responding to criticism of his April 6 announcement of a “zero-tolerance policy” for “illegal entry into the United States by an alien” and his May 7 statements that the Department of Justice would work with the Department of Homeland Security to take children away from anyone “smuggling” them into the country. The Attorney General’s comments were made one day after Catholic Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston released a public statement denouncing Sessions’ decisions on family separation. After drawing connections between giving aid to asylum seekers, preserving the right to life, and protecting female victims of domestic violence, Cardinal DiNardo addressed the issue of young children:
Additionally, I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB’s [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration’s zero tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma.

Column: Ásatrú Ritual and Climate Change Ethics, Part Two

This is part two of a two part series. Click here to read part one. Transtemporal Care
The Ásatrú practice of blót builds a concept of care in three temporal directions: sideways, backward, and forward. The ritual life of the religion nurtures a sense of both intra- and intergenerational solidarity. The sideways relationship exists between current practitioners.

Column: Ásatrú Ritual and Climate Change Ethics, Part One

The Ásatrú religion can offer new perspectives on climate change ethics via examination of the modern practice of historically grounded ritual known as blót – a rite that foregrounds reciprocity with the earth, inherent value in the natural world, transtemporal human relationships, global connectedness, and the consequences of human action. In addition to discussing Ásatrú textual sources and examples of ritual, this column offers a new ethical model for responding to issues of climate change. Ásatrú is a religion with a life that already relates to reality in a way that addresses major issues raised by climate change ethicists. Practitioners are both certain and competent in a life-practice that directly engages relationships within the transtemporal human community and with the wider world. Through study of lore and celebration of ritual, the practice of Ásatrú reinforces understanding of reciprocal relationships with the natural world, inherent value of living things, connections to past and future peoples, interrelatedness of all human actors, and consequences of human actions.

Column: The Dark Heart of Billy Graham

On the last day of February and the first day of March, the corpse of evangelical Christian minister Billy Graham was presented for public viewing in the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building. Graham was only the fourth private citizen whose body was honored in a ritual normally reserved for presidents, elected officials, and military officers. The only other exceptions to the rule have been civil rights icon Rosa Parks and two Capitol Police officers who died in the line of duty, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson. Graham is the first religious leader to be awarded this honor by the government of the United States of America. The first clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Laying out a preacher’s dead body in the central building of the nation’s legislative branch does not establish his form of Christianity as an official federal religion, of course, but it is a bold break with 166 years of tradition at the Capitol, and it clearly gives an official stamp of approval to a man who made his living selling one branch of one faith.