NEW YORK –A replica statue of a goddess sometimes equated with Athena, destroyed in Palmyra in 2015, is the centerpiece of an exhibit on display at the United Nations headquarters. While the destruction of that historic Syrian city by members of Daesh led to near-universal outrage, the display of this and other reproductions is not without controversy of its own. When Daesh troops occupied Palmyra, they set about on a systematic destruction of all traces of that city’s Pagan history. They accomplished this with brutal efficiency, using hammers and explosives to accomplish the task, which was carried out in August 2015. Violence was also part of formula; Khaled al-Asaad, head of antiquities there, hid many valuables and died rather than disclose where they were.
The fourth century C.E. Neoplatonist Sallustius, a friend of the Roman Emperor Julian (who revoked Christianity’s status as state religion and attempted to revive polytheist worship), wrote in On the Gods and the Cosmos that the myths told in religious initiations “never happened, but always are,” and that “as the myth is in accord with the cosmos, we for that reason keep a festival imitating the cosmos, for how could we attain higher order?” (section 4) Sallustius wrote that myths which mix both psychic and material interpretations particularly “suit religious initiations, since every initiation aims at uniting us with the world and the gods.” As an example of a “mixed” psychic and material myth, he cites the story of Kybele and Attis, putting forth the interpretation that Kybele “is the principle that generates life,” that Attis “is the creator of all things which are born and die,” and that “the creator who makes these things casts away his generative powers into the creation and is joined to the gods again.” Kybele’s priests, the Galli or Gallai (the latter term, of feminine linguistic gender, found in a fragment of Callimachus), were known for re-enacting Attis’ self-castration in their own ecstatic rituals. There is also a cave in at Hierapolis in Phrygia, of which Daniel Ogden writes in Greek and Roman Necromancy: “The …
In these last few weeks, we have witnessed not only natural disasters of flood, wind, and fire in the North America, Europe and Asia but also human-made events that have left many of us — based on broadcast and social media — wondering what type of world is unfolding around us. We’ve witnessed a hate-driven massacre of historic proportions in Orlando that united the civil world in mourning. We have seen a rebuking of globalization while also ripping off the veneer of tolerance across Europe, exposing rampant and unhealed xenophobia. We may be witnessing the shattering of the United Kingdom with Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as the British overseas territory of Gibraltar questioning their continued home under the British crown. And this week, the Daesh attacks in Istanbul reignited our mourning. The assault in Ataturk airport is itself an act of hate against the liberties of the West.
While the hate group Daesh continues to make headlines for its military and terrorist acts, attacks upon the the Goddess Isis for simply sharing a name with a common acronym for these Islamic extremists continues to be under reported. The number of Isis worshippers is eclipsed by those who follow an Abrahamic path, making it understandable on some level that mainstream media outlets dismiss those concerns, such as the statement by the Fellowship of Isis requesting that the name of their goddess not be used in such a manner. However, incidents such as the vandalism at Isis Books & Gifts, which has led the owner to erect a new sign downplaying the name of the goddess, demonstrate that the confusion continues to have a very real impact on members of the Pagan community. More recently, a small Facebook group called “Following Isis” was removed, purportedly for violating the site’s terms of service. Its creator, AJ Melia Brokaw, was confronted with that news when she logged into the site on Feb 5.
Now that the season has turned and we are nearing the end of the 2015, we look back, one last time, to review the year. What happened? What didn’t happen? What events shaped our thoughts or guided our actions? In our collective worlds, both big and small, what were the major discussions?