There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.
- Considering how many times Wicca has been called the “fastest growing religion in America,” by both supporters and detractors, the latest XKCD comic reminds us to not get too wrapped up with the numbers, because they can be deceptive.
- At Religion Dispatches John Morehead writes about Burning Man, and the fear it generates of an “alternative Pagan social order.” Quote: “For evangelicals like Matthews, Burning Man embodies deep-seated fears which can also be seen playing out in other aspects of American culture. Many conservatives fear that America is undergoing decay, and this is taking place in the spiritual realm as well. A lingering economic malaise, coupled with our continued cultural fascination with apocalyptic scenarios, provides a context in which Burning Man functions as a Rorschach test.” The whole thing is worth a read.
- The University of Texas at Austin has published a new psychology study in the June issue of Child Development that shows a “reliance on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, often increases rather than declines with age.” Study lead author Cristine Legare noted that “the data, which spans diverse cultural contexts across the lifespan, shows supernatural reasoning is not necessarily replaced with scientific explanations following gains in knowledge, education or technology.”
- The Americans United Wall of Separation blog critiques efforts by Focus on the Family (FOF) and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to carve out exceptions for religious bullying at public schools. Quote: “It attempts to carve out an exemption for protected “religious” bullying. In several states, Religious Right groups have attempted to exempt bullying and verbal harassment based on sincere religious beliefs. In other words, a fundamentalist Christian kid can harass a gay student as much as he wants as along as he sincerely believes what he is saying. Some yardstick there!” You can read the FOF-ADF document, here.
- A married couple’s strife leads to arson, and hospitalization for both. Both admit on the record to having marital issues, yet the headline, and part of the article, is about how the wife believes in Voodoo due to past instances where she called the police with, quote, “bizarre accusations.” There doesn’t seem to be anything Voodoo related with this incident, so why include in the headline? Seems prejudicial to the wife, and distorts what could be a tragic, and sadly common, case of domestic violence escalated to extreme levels.
- Rev Dr Peter Mullen must live a small, sad, life. How else can you turn watching the opening of the opening ceremony of the Paralympics into a concern-trolling editorial about how we’re descending into Paganism? Quote: “But then I looked further and thought, at least, that I glimpsed a little of what this confusion says about modern society. We are indeed eclectic. And the old word for this, when applied to widely held beliefs and practical behaviour was “paganism” – the worship of many gods: that mountain of confusion classically represented by the panoply of argumentative deities on Olympus. Only an eclectic contemporary paganism could allow the godless Big Bang to walk hand in hand with the sacred flame.” Seriously. Can someone take this guy out to a movie or something?
- The Republican National Convention is now over, and I know everyone wants to talk about Clint Eastwood’s interview with Invisible Obama, but I wanted to point out this exploration of Tuesday night’s closing invocation by Samuel Rodriguez, a member of the radical spiritual warriors of the New Apostolic Reformation. Quote: “Blessing the convention was National Hispanic Leadership Conference President Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who has served as an apostle in C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles and has extensive ties to Wagner’s movement.” I’ve covered this movement quite a bit over the years, and their ascendancy/integration within the Religious Right is troubling for those hoping for a “big tent” religious conservatism, or a more moderate conservative Christianity.
- Erynn Rowan Laurie, author of “A Circle of Stones” recently completed a pilgrimage to Ireland, and she has posted the first installment of her write-up. Quote: “Our visit to both of the wells was held in a deluge. I think every well we visited while we were in Ireland, with the exception of Brigid’s Well in Mullingar, was rained on. We certainly connected with the watery side of Brigid’s powers during our pilgrimage! Prayers were offered for Brigid’s blessing on our work, offerings were made, and intentions set in the pouring rain. I remembered all my friends and the folks who had donated to my travel funds for the pilgrimage at her well, offering prayers for them, as well.” I look forward to future installments!
- We carved and shaped a giant goddess image into the earth, but please don’t think it’s Pagan, says a spokesperson. ”Northumberlandia is just a lady, she doesn’t represent anything, but I think it’s understandable that people have their own interpretations.” Chas Clifton retorts: “Check back at one of the quarter or cross-quarter days.”
- For those inspired by Aristophanes classic play Lysistrata, you might wonder, do sex strikes really work? Slate.com says “yes,” but mostly as way to draw attention to an issue. Quote: “The Togolese group cites as its inspiration a strike organized in 2003 by a women’s peace group to encourage the end of the Second Liberian Civil War. (The effort was chronicled in the 2008 documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell.) Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace did force an end to the war, but their tactics were more complicated than a simple sex strike: They also staged sit-ins and mass demonstrations, which were arguably far more effective than the sex strike. Leymah Gbowee, the leader of the peace group, wrote in her memoir that the months-long sex strike had little or no practical effect, but it was extremely valuable in getting us media attention. Until today, nearly 10 years later, whenever I talk about the Mass Action, “What about the sex strike?” is the first question everyone asks.”
That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.
The Morehead piece is worth a read. I regard the negative Christian response to Burning Man as pure projection: These commentators are throwing their own repressed impulses onto Burning Man and sounding the alarm.
In Morehead’s article on Burning Man he tries to draw a parallel between contemporary counter-cultural movements and early Christianity. This is one of the more pernicious myths about Christianity, that in its “early” stage it was some kind of groovy hippie-woodstock love-in or some such malarky right out of Jesus Christ Superstar and/or Godspell.
In fact, early Christians were cut from the same cloth as contemporary fundamentalist types, such as Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum. Their most distinguishing characteristic, the one thing that really set them apart from everyone else and that caused them to be the center of a certain amount of negative attention, was their open contempt for everyone else’s religious beliefs.
In its mildest forms this contempt was expressed by Christians mocking the traditional religious beliefs and practices of their neighbors. In more extreme forms it manifested as violence including the cutting down of sacred groves, the desecration of altars and temples, the disruption of sacred processions and other rituals, and physical violence against Pagans themselves.
While early Christians could not agree on whether Jesus was a man or a god of both or neither, or whether he every really lived or every really died, or ever really resurrected, etc, the one thing that held “early” Christians together was their hatred of Paganism. This “Paganism” that the early Christians defined themselves in opposition to was a set of beliefs and practices that were inextricably interwoven into every aspect of society, and that were deeply ingrained in the individual psyche as well. The “Paganism” that the Christians so detested was not merely a “church of one’s choice” that people attended once a week. It was a whole way of life. In fact, it was the only way of life that humanity had ever known.
Burning Man, far from being reminiscent of “early” Christianity, is a spontaneous eruption of the irrepressible urge to recover what the “triumph” of early Christianity ripped out of the collective soul of humanity.
With all due respect I believe you misunderstand the early nature of the Christian community in the first century. I did not state that I believed Christianity was hippie style movement paralleling something in 1960s America. That is not the usage of “counterculture” as I intended it in the RD essay, or my thesis. See my thesis (now a book) for the bibliographical references to various scholarly sources on countercultures, as well as the sociological analyses of early Christianity such as that by Wayne Meeks and Rodney Stark to put all this in context. Given this, I was sharing no myth about Christianity and countercultures. I hope you can try a fairer and more charitable reading of my essay with another read, and that you might also appreciate my critique of a misrepresentation of Paganism in the evangelical community.
The Northumberlandia story is fascinating in ways it brings out differences between English and American culture. The fact that it’s made of mine tailings, that the mine owners commissioned an environmental art installation as a way of meeting their remediation obligation, that locals resent that the company was allowed to have an open pit mine there in the first place and think the company got off cheaply, that the locals hope it will be a tourist attraction, and so forth.
Contrast that with mountaintop removal in West Virginia.
The most striking difference is that a project of this kind anywhere in the United States would be vandalized the moment it opened to the public, if not before. Fundamentalist Christians would vandalize the Statue of Liberty if they could get at her; gangs would cover her with graffiti, and other gangs would strip her to the armatures to steal her copper skin.
Good luck to Northumberlandia; long may she recline and bless the district.
The domestic violence voodoo article is infuriating. Anytime anyone does something bad they immediately want to blame it on voodoo, demons or the devil. Take some responsibility uggh. And that headline was pathetic.
Oh, I doubt it will be long before the artpiece is defaced in some way. We may not remove mountaintops here, but we do cover them in rubbish.
The problem here is a failure to distinguish between that which is “counter-cultural” and that which is merely “anti-social”.
Early Christianity did not “speak truth to power”, nor did it seek to bring greater freedom to people living under Roman rule. Instead, early Christians claimed to have an exclusive monopoly on the very source of truth, which is the polar opposite of “speaking truth to power.” Moreover, early Christians sought to deprive Romans of rights that they already enjoyed, including especially freedom of religion.
The prophets who gave us the meme of speaking truth to power, also claimed a monopoly on the source of truth; they believed their Lord was speaking through them.
The question is, does “counterculture” mean only a replay or preview of the Sixties, or does it mean what you get when you join “counter” to “culture” in their dictionary definitions.
I liked the article about Burningman. I think of that event as about ART first and foremost. Also CREATIVITY in all its forms. There is always a “Temple” at Burningman, and of course, also, the “Man,” a huge representation of a man…both these are set aflame near the end of the Event. As someone who studied Art in the late 60s, in the time of many art “happenings,” the whole event could be viewed as a “Happening.” Tonight is the Burning of the Man, BTW.
Just like Harry Potter, this Art could be viewed as Pagan, and also can be viewed as Christian. Just depends on your perspective. Usually, though, calling it “Pagan,” in our modern culture, usually is meant as a “put down.” Do you think we’ll ever get to the point where calling somethign “Pagan” is a GOOD thing?
Northumberlandia is probably as inherently and potentially Pagan as various other female personifications of countries, regions, and lands–Brittania, Columbia, Marianne, etc. Some Pagans will incorporate Northumberlandia into their observances and veneration. Pagan statuary on the way, maybe???
And I’m all for upholding Northumberlandia as a Green and Environmental power.
If we choose it to be so.
But, to do that, we would need to start collectively using the term for positive things. I don’t know about you, but when I mention Paganism to people, I brace myself for “So you worship the devil?”
I really hope they don’t try and ‘paganise’ the art piece. It will only draw criticism.
Pagans themselves are often responsible for that, when they mark or take away from areas gathering souvenirs, leave junk places out as “offerings”. I guess they think spirits of places can’t tell when someone’s stupid causing damage and leaving trash or food likely to be needing disposal. If it’d affect another person’s experience, get grotesque, or kill wildlife (aka like chocolate), “take only pictures, leave nothing but footprints”
I wasn’t even counting Pagan defilers. I just mean that you will often find human debris (such as cigarette butts) on mountain paths.
When I visited Wayland’s Smithy earlier this year, I found half a can of some crappy alcoholic beverage sitting on it. I removed it, myself.
Of course, this act got me a lot of disapproving looks on the walk back to the car (a couple miles away at Uffington White Horse) from people who thought I was drinking. No good deed goes unpunished.
The “prophetic” meme is one of the most Orwellian convolutions in the history of language. In the first place it is based on anti-historical poppycock (specifically, the Book of Exodus) that has the same degree of factual validity as Ancient Aliens building the pyramids. In the second place, “prophetic” monotheism is monotheism in its most radically exclusivist, intolerant, antisocial and oppressive form.
I like prophecies. They can often be manipulate to fit whatever situation you want.