Culture and Community: The Ritual of Commencement

It is graduation season. Pictures are popping up all over the internet of people who have walked the stage in accomplishment of achieving their educational goals. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), it is estimated that approximately 1,855,000 students will graduate in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree.The Institute of Education Sciences states that “18.0 million students are expected to enroll in undergraduate programs and about 3.0 million will enroll in post-baccalaureate programs.” The higher learning academic machine continues to see an increase in students signing up for college, and an increase in students striving for the end goal of a graduating with a degree in hand. Years of study and college classes lead to more than just a diploma or certification. The ritual of completion is a part of many individual’s journey to celebrate achievement, and this is seen in many areas of spirituality as well.

The Struggle over Cultural Perception in the Wake of Violence

A Turkish media outlet, The Anadolu Agency, reported yesterday that ancient artifacts, stolen from the Mosul Museum, were turning up in European markets and being sold in order to help fund the terrorist activity. Which terrorist organization? Depends who you ask. Daesh. Or to some, ISIL  or the IS.

Odinist Inmate Claims Religious Freedom Violations

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – On the morning Feb. 10, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court heard arguments in the case of Dennis Walker v. Matthew Cates. Walker is an inmate at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. His claim, which was originally filed in 2011, is that prison administrators violated his religious rights by forcing him to have a “non-Aryan” cellmate. As noted in the case text from a 2011 court document, Walker “is an Aryan Christian/Odinist, ethnically white without gang affiliation.”

Art, Religion and the “Gods of Suburbia”

In 2014, artist and pop surrealist Dina Goldstein finished her third large-scale project called “Gods of Suburbia.” The series is comprised of 11 photographs that depict gods, goddesses, prophets and other figures of religious import within a thoroughly unexpected composition. Each photograph challenges the dominant visual and narrative concept of deity by tearing down religious stagecraft and putting up something completely mundane. In other words, Goldstein takes these sacred or celebrated figures and drops them into the framework of contemporary Western society. “‘Gods of Suburbia’ is a visual analysis of religious faith within the context of modern forces of technology, science and secularism.

Column: Ending Silence to End the Bigotry

[The following is a guest post from Ryan Smith. He is one of the co-founders of Heathens United Against Racism and a graduate student studying modern history. He practices with his kindred in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He has been a Heathen for seven years and a Pagan for seventeen.]

In Pagan and Heathen communities, topics related to discrimination, prejudice and bigotry are often uncomfortably avoided with a telling silence and knowing glance. After all, as goes the common narrative, we are, as a community, accepting of everyone. We welcome people of different walks of life, religion, perspectives, Gods, and forms of worship so how could racism possibly be a problem?