Sunday, July 24, 2005

Road trip

Suitably stocked with guns and whiskey, M. and I leave today for the Wyoming border. Tomorrow, in daylight, we plan to travel north on the old smugglers' route, past the desolate frontier fortress of Baggs, and moving quickly through the lawless caravan town of Rock Springs, thence north toward the fantasy kingdom of Jackson. There we plan to annoy the trout in the water of the Snake and do other things. Blogging will be erratic.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Changing my religion

No, you won't see this blog recategorized or bounced from Blog Heaven (I hope). I mean my automotive religion.

After a process of conversion that began in 1997 but like all conversions had its precursors, M. and I have moved from the Volkswagenkirche to the Cult of Jeep.

It's the woman's fault, of course. I only bit the apple, uh, Wrangler, because she asked me to.

In 1977, before we were married, M.'s Dodge convertible was failing and, with my guidance and promise to do maintenance, she bought a used 1970 VW Bug. That car went through fire and flood, war and revolution, before we finally let it go about 1990.

It was followed by a 1969 pop-top camper bus (1982-94), a 1980 Rabbit pickup truck (1990-1997), and a 1984 pop-top Vanagon camper (1994-2005). The '69 bus went to a woman who was born in 1969.

The Rabbit pickup was M.'s daily driver, but its low ground clearance and so-so snow performance were a hindrance after we moved into the mountains. One day she expressed a desire to have a TJ/Wrangler, and after some time had passed, lo, there was a Wrangler in the garage. And many a snowdrift it has blasted through (only occasionally having to be dug out).

Then I bought a neighbor's '73 CJ-5. And Granville King's bible replaced the gospel according to John Muir on the automotive bookshelf.

It was only a matter of time. Parts for the Vanagon were becoming rarer, although we had a great European-car mechanic to keep it running. Its camping function was replaced by a pop-up trailer and a Jeep Liberty to pull the trailer with; and last Saturday I sold the Vanagon.

Now we are pure Jeep cultists and can do things like complain about anachronistic Jeeps in movies such as Patton.

Maybe Dad started it,bringing home National Guard Jeeps and giving us kids rides when we were little. And I liked his Forest Service Willys wagon, although he preferred pickups. (But he had two Wagoneers, so it's famtrad.) And I still somewhere yearn for a yellow Commando like one of the cool girls in my high school drove. You know what they say: It's like coming home.
Hogwarts versus Cherry Hill

BeliefNet offers a side-by-side comparison of a certain wizard's school versus real-life Pagan seminaries.

Click the graphic on the sidebar for more of the wacky world of BeliefNet's religion blogs.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Historic preservation leads to . . . polytheism?

Those fun-loving Wahabi Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia fear that preserving historic buildings in their holy city of Mecca--even sites associated with the prophet Muhammed himself--might lead to polytheism.

Their reasoning is so convoluted that I cannot easily summarize it. But an Arab architectural historian (apparently) says, "They (Wahhabis) have not allowed preservation of old buildings, especially those related to the prophet. They fear other Muslims will come to see these buildings as blessed and this could lead to polytheism and idolatry."

So it is better to let them be bulldozed. (Does the developer pay off the clerics?) It's a pity that this Saudi blogger felt afraid to keep blogging: he would have had some interesting comments. Read his archives.

Letting women drive cars leads to polytheism too. But you knew that.
Headstones and bureaucrats

Non-Fluffy Wicca posts about bureaucratic foot-dragging and stonewalling over the issue of headstones for Pagan military service members.

Beginning in 1997 with a request by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Washington state, various Wiccan groups have requested a pentagram headstone for military cemeteries and been ignored or turned down on technical reasons.

Incompetence or malevolence on the part of the National Cemetery Administration?

In a review of Carol Barner-Barry's new book, Contemporary Paganism: Minority Religions in a Majoritarian America , Doug Cowan of the University of Missouri-Kansas City writes, "Contrary to what many Pagans may suspect, however, what the author reveals is not an organized persecution of minority religions, but rather the logical consequences of a constitutional process that could not imagine their existence, a legal system ill-equipped to deal with the special problems they face, a political system unwilling to work proactively to enshrine their protection, and a social system that has, on the other hand, embedded Christian demographic dominance with majoritarian privilege."

The entire review will be in the November issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

The First Amendment was set up to prevent one Christian denomination discriminating against another. The framers of the Constitution remembered western Europe's history of wars between Catholics and Protestants, of state-supported churches such as the Church of England, and of religiously based tests for employment. They tried to eliminate all those evils.

To them, Jews were a tiny, odd but ancient minority, "Hindoos" lived on the other side of the world, Muslims likewise, and American Indian tribes did not have real religions worth mentioning.

It is no coincidence that beginning early in the last century, the Native American Church began to "push the envelope" of the First Amendment. Its theology was really not that unusual, but its use of the entheogen peyote ran contrary to majoritarian ideas about "drugs," despite the long Christian use of a sacramental intoxicant.

Now come the Pagans, of whom it cannot be said that "we all worship the same god in different ways." Paganism's religious vision is so different. A divine Feminine (or several of them) is a greater challenge to the majority world view than even some Pagans recognize.

On the other hand, religion as a category is strong in America because we have no state church. Americans generally are quite tolerant people, as long as one's religion does not lead to flying airplanes into office buildings. I suspect that we Pagans will get the military headstones eventually, somehow.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Online goddess-spirituality study

A doctoral student at the California Institute for Integrative Studies (a pricey, private graduate school) is seeking female participants for her research on "A Survey of Women’s Experiences and Implications for Therapy."

If you are part of a "hidden population," you have just been "snowballed."
Back on track

M. and I have been home for three days, and life is beginning to settle down. It will be a long time before we forget the 3 a.m. evacuation and the drive into the dark mountains, not knowing if we would see our little house in the woods again.

You can read all about it at Nature Blog, probably more than you want to know.

I was on deadline with The Pomegranate when all this started. Most people, it seems, grab photo albums and such when they are forced to evacuate; I've seen that time and again. M. took her parents' wedding picture, I know that. But I had the little box of 3x5 cards for tracking article submissions to The Pom and a flash memory stick with all the files on it.

We arrived at a friend's house at what would become "Burro Camp" about 4 a.m. and spent the next three hours trying to sleep on sofas. When we had left home, our gravel county road was the new fire line, so in the state between waking and sleeping I tried to visualize a shimmering blue curtain running along it between the national forest and the home sites. All the fire had to do was move into a stand of dry, beetle-killed ponderosa pines, burn hot, and then toss embers down the hill to the road.

That never happened. When I returned, I could see that it stopped about 30 yards short of the dead trees. The wind shifted, I suppose. And the firefighters never had to make a desperate fight along the road to save the houses.

The fire did cross the road at a higher point, but quickly stopped, whether due to a wind shift or to daytime aerial slurry drops I don't know, since I don't know whether that part burned before dawn or not.

Of course, it is hard to keep from running a mental movie of yourself sifting through the ashes. I was kicking myself a little for not grabbing items from the outdoor shrine, located in a little grove uphill from the house. (Would a brass statue of Hekate from Sacred Source survive a fire?) What sort of Pagan leaves behind the household gods? On the other land, leaving those "graven images" there provides a focus point of magical work.

Anyway, it's nice to be back, on several levels.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Displaced people

This blog is having a brief hiatus, as M. and I have been displaced from our home by a forest fire. More details on my shared blog, Nature Blog.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Sacred sites

Some evocative photos of sacred sites in the UK and Iceland are on view in the Sacred Sites, Contested Rights/Rites project's photo gallery.

Visit the main page too.
Buffy studies

I live beyond the reach of cable television, and mine is one of maybe two houses on this road without a satellite dish. Consequently, I could never have made my mark in the field of "Buffy studies." During its run I saw the program only sporadically when staying in hotels, not enough to really follow the story arcs.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, however, drew plenty of attention from those Christians who saw it as luring teens into "the occult," part of a general viewing-with-alarm of "teen witchcraft".

But, says Rochester College religion professor Gregory Stevenson, the show was not about "the occult" at all. It actually presents a universe filled with moral discourse and the "occult" elements chiefly function as extended metaphor, for example, "high school is hell (mouth)."

His book Televised Morality: The Case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer goes so far as to suggest that "Buffy employs Christian teachings as a vital piece of its moral foundation." (Xander as the Christ-figure, for instance.) This "modern fairy tale" does not glorify evil, Stevenson argues, but rather exhorts viewers to make better moral choices. He urges television critiques to move past superificial judgments based upon images of sexuality, violence, and the demonic.

Maybe I should go rent the DVDs.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Trance dance

Jason Pitzl-Waters links to an article arguing that "house music" and other descendents of disco are the true soundtrack of the Pagan movement. (There are some examples to be downloaded.)

Like the writer, I too, am tired of "boring stereotypes of what witchy, pagan music should be." And I can understand both the "Dionysian" argument and the desire to get away from fake old-timey ballads about the Queen of Elphame.

On the other hand, the late Gwydion Pendderwen, the first Pagan musician to have a national reputation in the 1970s and early 1980s, once left his usual folky groove to write a twangy Country & Western number that managed to conceal a strongly Pagan message in completely mundane lyrics, but it never became as popular as "Spring Strathspey" or any of his other Celtic Twilight-via-Robert Graves stuff.

Friday, July 01, 2005

A difference between free people and slaves

Oleg Volk strikes again with this image illustrating the difference between slaves and free persons, via SF writer and firearms instructor Joel Rosenberg's blog.
Blogroll housekeeping

Deleted: A Simpler Way, which has not been updated since January, and Kensho Godchaser, now folded into Jay Allen's other blog, The Zero Boss.

Added: Red Raven's Roost, a Celtic Reconstructionist blog, and The Marigold Trail, the blog of a San Juan Pueblo Indian from northern New Mexico in law school at UNM.

And under "Academic Life," I am belatedly adding The Phantom Professor, an ironic commentary on teaching at a large private university in a large state to the southeast of me.