Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pagan Studies Barbie

After Pagan Barbie, why not Grad School Barbie?

Put them together, and you have Pagan Studies Barbie?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Christian mutilation of Pagan inscriptions

Towards an Archaeology of Iconoclasm is an ongoing academic project about early Christian attacks on Pagan art, architecture, and writing. In this example, an athlete's inscription was attacked.

Now, as mentioned, it's a different "religion of peace" doing the same things. Sigh.

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The unsettling wisdom of dreams

As some of my readers know, my oldest sister died in February. She was living in Lithuania, and I had not seen her for two years, although we were in touch by letters and email until just a few days before the end.

In fact, one thing keeping me from working more both on this blog and other writing has been my new part-time job as her executor and trustee of her family trust.

Some time in March (I forgot to write it down), I did dream of her. I pay attention to dreams about the recently deceased. There is a special quality to them. At times they seem to carry a definite message from the Other Side.

I tossed a couple such dreams into "Ghosts," an essay about my parents that I wrote partly to show my creative-nonfiction students that such work could be sold for money.

The dream about my sister, however, was not as clear-cut as those I summarized in "Ghosts." In it I was following her across down a sidewalk at a small shopping center, carying my cat Victor in my arms. For some reason, I wanted to show him to her.

Today, as the Brits like to say, I'm gobsmacked. I had it all wrong. I thought the dream was about her, but it was not.

It took a message from a friend in Arizona to enlighten me. Her dog may have terminal cancer, and she was talking about how animals will sometimes tell you when it's time to go.

Victor had been sick in late December, including a Christmas Day visit to the 24-hour emergency vet. Because we could not leave him at home alone, with the cat-sitter dropping by every other day, we canceled our planned trip to Arizona.

In April, his medical problems returned. With him sprawled on the metal table in the examining room, clearly in pain, M. and I made the tough choice between more treatment and euthanasia.

But not until my Arizona friend wrote to me about her dog did I understand the dream from weeks before. It was not just about my late sister.

A month before the vet gave him the injection, I had already carried him in my arms to the Land of the Dead.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Celts, Wine, and the Northern League

Northern Italy's wine industry may owe its origin to the Celts.

Let's remember, though, that "Celtic" most accurately describes a group of languages, not an ethnic group.

But this bit caught my eye:

Interest in all things Celtic -- from music to mystical rites -- took off in northern Italy in the mid 1990s, fanned by the Northern League party which rose to prominence with demands for independence for the north.

It's eerily parallel to the way that the neo-Confederate League of the South in this country, jumped on the (Anglo-) "Celtic" bandwagon a few years ago. In Italy, however, the Northern League has some degree of political clout.

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Llewellyn takes on a school board

Llewellyn, the largest New Age/Pagan/astrological publisher in the US, has pushed a North Carolina school board into a corner. When the board said that "religious groups" could distribute "scripture" in the school's, Llewellyn's publicist decided that the works of Silver Ravenwolf would qualify as well.

Jason Pitzl-Waters has the details.

The whole issue reminds me of the plot line of Heathens Idolize School Prayer, one of the Chick-style pamphlets distributed by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church.

It's been almost a decade since I was working with Llewellyn, and everyone whom I knew there has since moved on, except the Weschckes, who own the company. Carl Weschcke has always taken a slightly messianic view of his business, which is not a bad thing for a publisher to do. But he does so while looking at the bottom line.

"The move was definitely more of an educational motive than a political motive," says the publicist. Yes, and, if successful, it's reaching the teen and young-adult customer base that Llewellyn targets.

This calls for a Glenn Reynolds-ish "heh."


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Fatwa against Egyptian Sculpture

A high Islamic cleric has issued a fatwa against the classical sculpture of Egypt.

In his fatwa - or religious ruling - issued earlier this month, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa quoted a saying of the prophet Muhammad that sculptors will be among those receiving the harshest punishment on Judgment Day.

Artists and intellectuals here say the edict, whose ban on producing and displaying sculptures overturns a century-old fatwa, runs counter to Islam. They also worry that extremists may use the ruling as a pretense for destroying Egypt's ancient relics, which form a pillar of the country's multibillion-dollar tourist industry.

Islam and the Pagan religions have one thing in common: there is no central authority. But the Grand Mufti's pronouncement might encourage the wackos to blow up a statue of Rameses II or otherwise interfere with the economically important tourist industry.

And money is money, as one of the many sellers of ancient-Egyptian replicas attests:

But in downtown Cairo, tourist shop owner Fathi Ibrahim says, "It's not my role to disagree with the mufti. Anything he says, we must obey."

However, Mr. Ibrahim contends that the mufti's fatwa may have been misunderstood, finding it hard to believe that his merchandise is "un-Islamic." After all, he says, "We're not selling statues for people to worship. They're just souvenirs."

Don't anyone tell Mr. Ibrahim about Egyptian reconstructionist Pagans.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Unitarian Easter sermon

"Praire Mary" Scriver, one of my favorite bloggers, re-creates the thread (or whole tangled mess of threads) of one of her Easter sermons from her days as a UU minister.

And she concludes,

When I explored this stuff, members of my congregations often said afterward, "I didn't understand one damn thing you said!" Well, that's why they call them Mysteries. Unsolvable but eminently ponderable.

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The Joy of Indexing

Blogging may slow down this week while I work on indexing the book.

Looking for more than the brief instructions given by the publisher, I came upon this site, which was useful in thinking about constructing the index as a mental map of the book.

It's not as simple and straight-forward as it looks. And you have to think about the mental search terms that different groups of readers might bring to the book, which leads to entries like "'Drawing down.' See Trance possession."

The designer put in the little crescent at the beginning of each chapter and each section in the front matter. I like it.
Pagans and the Dalai Lama

Some California Pagan friends attended this event with the Dalai Lama. Yes, the headline says that it was about the image of Islam, but apparently the 500 "scholars and religious leaders" included some Pagans, including the Pagan chaplain of the state prison system.

One of them, M. Macha NightMare, writes about getting ready for the event.

I confess that I would normally rather clean my closets than attend large interfaith events, but that's just me. Huston Smith would have been interesting to hear.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The encylopedic mind of J. Gordon Melton

The Los Angeles Times interviews J. Gordon Melton, a major figure in the study of new religious movements.

It's often said of academics, but for J. Gordon Melton it's true: He really does have an encyclopedic mind.

After all, Melton is the author of the
Encyclopedia of American Religions, the Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology and the Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena.

Then, for fun, there's
The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead.

"It's my little niche," Melton said.

Actually, it's a big niche.

Erudite and eternally curious, Melton, 64, is one of the nation's foremost authorities on religion (and vampires too, but more on that later). The research specialist with the department of religious studies at UC Santa Barbara has written 30 books and co-written or edited 17 more, all of which are expansive and eclectic, and weave a colorful and diverse history of the currents of spiritual worship and tensions around the world.

He is the reason that I was shipping cartons of old Pagan magazines to Santa Barbara.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Having been knocked down by a head cold the past week, I am just cleaning out some old links.

• Should you use digital cameras for ghost-hunting?

I notice that a lot of the ghost-hunting articles in Fate magazine count "orbs" as evidence of spirits. But are they just artifacts of the digital photographic process?

• I think I want to read Breaking Open the Head.

In a similar vein, I recently bought Dale Pendell's latest, Pharmako/Gnosis, and it is another stunning combination of entheogenic analysis, poetry, and pharmacology.

• You won't find "Paganistan" here, but these religious-affiliation maps are interesting.

I note from the low affiliation counts in counties that match the Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona and much of the Lakota reservations in South Dakota that tribal religions were not censused either. This map's concentration of Episcopalians in western South Dakota, however, is the result of that church's presence on the various reservations.

• Bloggers like to note odd Google searches that brought readers to their blogs. Mine today is from Google Turkey: "sacrifice sheep watch woman video." Does that seem a little creepy to you too?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Wiccan children running wild

Apparently Wiccans are now a go-to minority group. I just got an email from someone with Ricochet Television soliciting my help in locating Wiccan families with rowdy kids who might want to appear on Supernanny

That's the show in which "supernanny" Jo Frost sets things right by emphasizing household responsibility, regular family meals, and other such startling concepts.

It's all about "diversity," don't you know:

We're very interested in having a fully diverse group of families on the show this season, including non-traditional families, Wiccan families, etc.

I don't know how much the producers pay people in return for having their child-rearing problems broadcast around the English-speaking world, but I will ask, and if I find out, I will update this post.

But will it be like Wife Swap? Probably.

UPDATE: As promised, here are some excerpts of the Ricochet Television staffer's response to my questions about "Why Wicca?" and "How much money?"

Religion doesn't play a role in the show, any more than geographic location. By that I mean that Jo [Frost, the "supernanny"] doesn't address religion directly any more than she says "you live in the mountains, let's talk about that". That being said, as I'm sure you agree, the philisophical framework that a family has, much like their environment, effects many of the choices they make and attitudes they have. When I say we'd like to get more diverse families on the show, this is exactly what we mean, people and families who can offer perspectives that arise from their diverse circumstances, even if those circumstances are not a direct focus of the show.

I'm not at all certain what that means. Apparently religion does not matter except when it makes participants "diverse," and then it does.

there is a stipend we offer to re-imburse families for any time off work, expenses incurred, etc. It's minimal, a few thousand dollars. We typically hesitate to mention it when casting, for a couple reasons: 1) we normally don't need to; families who've seen the show, and know the show recognize that it really is a service that we provide, and 2) the mention of money tends to attract families who want to do it solely for the money. These families are not who we're looking for, and it tends to waste our time and theirs.

I think that that could be translated as "We want pure exhibitionists, not exhibitionists who are motivated by money."

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

When does a polytheist pray?

Dave Haxton at MacRaven reflects on the latest scientific study on the power of prayer:

If God's omniscient than He already knows if the folks are going to pray or not, and if he's not, well, then the whole paradigm sort of breaks down, and God's no longer in total control of things.

Which is precisely the position my gods and goddesses are in: they're within and part of the natural world, and while I believe they have some influence over events in Midgard, they're neither omniscient or omnipotent - and I wouldn't want them to be. Because the very existence of such a being would make all other beings essentially slaves, and the universe naught but a clockwork. There can be no free will at all in such a deterministic universe.