HEALDSBURG, Calif –The light of the full moon which shines down on the mighty redwoods here will, in August, illuminate a gathering of non-theistic Pagans as the second annual Moon Meet is convened. Hidden deep in the forest, they will share meals, share knowledge, and share sacred space in much the same way that other Pagans do. Event organizer Mark Green prefers the term “Atheopagans” to describe this particular subculture-within-a-subculture, but that relatively new term describes a mindset that has been part of the contemporary Pagan movement for decades. He wrote about becoming Pagan in the 1980s for Witches & Pagans issue 35: “Several prominent voices in the community at that time were clearly in the gods-as-metaphors camp,” he recalled, also noting that he “found deep meaning and joy in celebrating the changing of the seasons, in the ritual circles that I shared with community . .
From the point of view of many global onlookers, most of Western and Northern Europe might seem an oddly secular, even religion-less place. Despite a history of (ofttimes violent) religious upheaval during the Christian era and a relative growth of Islam in the present day, there is no denying that religion, and more specifically the expression of religious sentiment, has little to no place in the public sphere in many European nations. As such, even simply discussing religion, and especially Pagan and magical ones, isn’t something nearly as self-evident as in other regions, like North America, where a similar degree of religious freedom is the law of the land. In such a context, the experiences of individuals who might want to experiment with various spiritual paths are rarely if ever publicized or talked about. Yet under this veneer of secularism lies a dynamic and ever-changing religious landscape that has much to offer to those willing to get real with religion.
While I may live in a relatively tiny city by most standards, my Norwegian hometown of Tromsø, with just over 70,000 inhabitants, still has all the characteristics of a much larger metropolis, including a unique architectural heritage. While some of the town’s most famed constructions are old wooden wharfs and shoddy fishermen’s cabins, the one building that is maybe the most closely associated with the image of the city is, as it is often the case with other cities in Europe, its church: the Arctic Cathedral. Designed and built in 1965 by the Norwegian architect Jon Inge Hovig, the church, which is in fact not a cathedral but a “mere” parish church, was thought of from the start as a symbolic focal point for the town. Located across the bridge leading to the mainland, the church, which can be seen from any point in the city center, attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year who come to gaze at its inspired architecture or attend one of the numerous concerts organized daily in its main hall. The Arctic Cathedral is, by all means, a beautiful building.
Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started! In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which has wreaked havoc and destruction through the Philippines, the Pagan Federation International in Philippines has started raising funds to aid in providing food, water, and shelter to those directly affected by the storm.
Today’s the day. The Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, which centers on the role of prayer at government meetings, and could shape the legal landscape on this issue for decades to come. I have written extensively on this case, and you can find a round-up of my coverage here. The ever-essential SCOTUSblog gives us a preview of the arguments expected to be made today. “It is no exaggeration to say, then, that the constitutional meaning of church-state separation is very much in flux, and it is tempting to think that the Court has taken on a case from a town in New York to reach for some new clarity. At its core, the Town of Greece case is about the constitutional test to review government involvement in practices that have or can have religious meaning. Should such involvement be judged by its potential effect in endorsing or promoting one religious faith over others?