Friday, June 30, 2006

When students Google their teacher

At Quaker Pagan Reflections, Cat Chapin-Bishop struggles with levels of meaning and definition after one of her 9th-graders asks, "Are you a Witch?"

So there I am, clock ticking, a stack of quizzes in my hand, and for once all student eyes are on me. And about 50,000 things are going through my head at once, including:

- The urgent question, what does this kid think the word, "Witch" means?
- The urgent question, what do all the other kids in this classroom, and every member of their extended families, think the word "Witch" means?
- The comic comeback, "Nope, I stopped practicing and now I'm the real thing."
- The importance of the separation of church and state.
- The reasonably large population of fundamentalist Christian families in my school district.
- The importance of plain speech and truth-telling.

Read the whole thing.

Tags: ,

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

In my hot, sweaty hands

Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in AmericaYesterday I had my first email from someone who was reading Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. That was great, but where were my copies? I fired off a plaintive email to my editor.

Today I came to the university, and there they were, sitting on a sofa in the departmental office. The secretary explained that she had needed a box. . . so she took mine. No problem. I had not come in last week because I was traveling.

I came up for a new description of the book, meanwhile:"How British Wicca Met American Nature Religion."

It's a good feeling, having it in my hands. Maybe now I can start concentrating on new projects.

The paperback is only $20 and it's available from all the usual online sources. But if you order online from the publisher, you get 15 percent off, they say.

Tags: , ,

Monday, June 26, 2006

Techno-Pagans at work

A blogger covering the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalists writes,

Dinner with Niko, the one other member of the New Bedford church besides me to be at General Assembly. He told me about the big outdoor solstice ritual that the pagan group held today. And how did they find a suitable outdoor space in downtown St. Louis within walking distance of the convention center? They used the satellite photos in Google Maps, and found a perfect little green space. There was even a grassy circle within a grove of trees.

I should mention that I am big fan of Mary Oliver too.

(Pointy) hat tip to Prairie Mary.

Tags: ,

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Brief blogging hiatus

I'm on the road this week. Blogging will re-commence after the 25th. Happy solstice, everyone.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why Muslims want to kill us

Gordon Nickel, who teaches at a Christian university in Canada, discusses--verse by verse--all those Koranic commands about killing "unbelievers," "idolators," and "polytheists".

At face value, therefore, polytheists appear to be at greater risk than Jews or Christians.

Yes, that would be us Pagans today, I think, not just someone in the Middle East centuries ago. You think differently?

Tags: ,
What is 'academic writing'?

I have been looking at a book proposal for the Pagan Studies series that I fear would not be an "academic" book. (Of course, the proposers might revise it yet.)

Too often, people think that the definition of "academic" writing is (1) writing by people with advanced degrees that (2) no one else would care about.

Try this instead.

Some of the writer's subtitles:
  • Scholarship does more than evoke feelings
  • Scholarship goes beyond self-justification
  • Scholarship transcends group advocacy
  • Scholarship makes appeals beyond personal experience
  • Scholarship utilizes theory in non-cosmetic ways
  • Scholarship admits to reasoned criticism
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

MacRaven: "Odin Lives"

In a long and interesting post, Dave Haxton discusses Heathenry's resiliance and his own encounter with a certain wandering god.

UPDATE: Bad link corrected.
Let's drop 'Neopagan'

Back in the 1970s, when Tim (now Oberon) Zell was editing Green Egg (America's leading Pagan zine at the time), "Neopagan" or "Neo-Pagan" was a cutting-edge term for a collection of religious movements from Wicca to Egyptian Reconstructionism.

More recently, the British Pagan scholar Graham Harvey has suggested dropping the term on the grounds that after fifty or more years, we are not so "neo" anymore.

In academia, it is more and more replaced with "contemporary Paganism(s)," as in the Consultation on Contemporary Pagan Studies in the American Academy of Religion. (A "consultation" is a type of program unit.)

Meanwhile, various conservative Catholic writers seem to be re-discovering "pagan" and "neo-pagan" as a term of abuse, starting at the Vatican.

Here the pope's astronomer refers to "creationism" as "a kind of paganism." I think that is because the Vatican accepts evolution; therefore, creationism is non-Christian, or pagan and superstitious.

G.K. Chesterton, patron saint of all rightwing Catholic writers, referred to the Nazis as pagan and in fact used the term neo-Pagan (as modern "anti-Christian") at least forty years before Green Egg came along.

Here's a Catholic blogger doing the same thing. He seems to equate Sir Edmund Hilary's "neo-paganism" with merely being worldly and irreligious.

So they are not talking about us directly because we are not really on their radar yet.

In Pagan Theology, Michael York (who does not capitalize the term) argues for both the existence of Pagan religion as a category, whether ancient or contemporary, as well as for Pagan elements (pilgrimages, veneration of shrines, etc.) in the bookish religions. In a future post, I can discuss his definition. But buy the book anyway.

To me, "Pagan" has value as a term defining polytheistic, nondualistic religions whether ancient or present-day. Eventually even the pope will realize that.

But Roman Catholics aside, I find Graham Harvey's argument convincing.

Tags: ,

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Courting the Lady, a Wiccan Autobiography

Some know Patrick McCollum as California's official state Pagan prison chaplain, who has advised correctional systems across the country. Some know him as a jewelry designer.

But he has also been working on his autobiography as a Witch, beginning with his teenage years, and the first volume is now available for order.

I will be ordering the book and will post my own review later.

Tags: ,

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Rutherford Institute defends Wicca (sort of)

John W. Whitehead, founder of The Rutherford Institute, a sort of ACLU of the religious right, says that Christians should support Wiccans' efforts to get tombstones for military veterans.

Although our country was founded on a Judeo-Christian base, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood that religious freedom was for everyone, not just Christians. In other words, the only way that freedom can prevail for Christians is for Christians to stand up and fight for the minority beliefs and religions of others.

Without it, freedom will most likely be lost. And we will be left wondering whose freedoms we are really fighting for.

OK, he does have to slip in the "founded on a Judeo-Christian base" line. It would be more accurate to say "founded on a Neoclassical Deist base." Remember what the Constitution says about Jesus Christ? Nothing at all. But his overall point is a good one.

Tags: ,

Monday, June 05, 2006

Tinfoil hats aid government mind control

Researchers at MIT have determined that tinfoil (actually aluminum foil) hats actually increase the effectiveness of government mind-control satellite transmissions.

Please take appropriate action.

Tags: ,

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Woman marries cobra

In the Indian state of Orissa, a woman has married a cobra. Apparently that is no big deal. Don't let Ted Haggard find out.

Villagers were thrilled when Das confessed her love for the snake. Some even offered to arrange a grand feast.

Hat tip to Steve Bodio. And, no, I'm not marrying any rattlesnakes.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Witches of TV

In a post titled "Farewell, Primetime Pagans," Idol Chatter blogger Ellen Leventry marks the end of Charmed.

And while the show took artistic, action-driven license, it also provided a decent representation of a belief system not often portrayed on television. Reviewer Wren Walker noted that while warlocks don't actually try to steal witches' powers, "The pronunciations were good, the tools were explained well, and some ethical considerations were mentioned. The altars looked messy enough to be real--I guess not even Hollywood magick do anything about wax drippings--and the sisters wore-gasp!-regular clothing even when casting spells!"
The parallel universe of train travel

Making train reservations for M. and me to travel to AAR-SBL in November, I discovered that there were already no basic sleeper rooms left to reserve for one part of the trip--outbound from La Junta, Colorado, to Chicago.

Who says Americans don't like train travel?

Every time I take the (always politically threatened) cross-country trains, I am amazed at how full they are. And yet when the news media talk about travel, it's always airplanes/cars/airplanes/cars.

Train travel is like a parallel universe. You see America passing outside the window, the crew members and most passengers are Americans, you pay and tip in American dollars, and yet you feel somehow sort of invisible.

Forget your Lear jets. If I were rich, I would have my own rail car. Some people do. If I were merely well-to-do, I would rent one. If I could not have my private rail car hauled to my destination, I would have a member of my staff meet me with an automobile at the nearest railway station.

Why do air travelers put up with being jammed into tiny seats after being groped by TSA agents, only to be dumped at an airport many miles away from their destination?

Tags: ,