Saturday, September 30, 2006

Subduing the uilleann pipes

William Jackson, Jerry O'Sullivan, Grainne HambleyOn stage at the second annual Spanish Peaks Celtic Music Festival, from left, William Jackson, Jerry O'Sullivan, Grainne Hambly.

Jerry O'Sullivan of New York City is an outstanding player of the uilleann pipes. I just bought one of his CDs.

It had been a few years since I watched the pipes played close-up. If you have not, consider that the uilleann pipes look like a three-way collision between a musket, a fife, and a sofa pillow.

During a jig or other fast-moving piece, the player does not look so much as though he is playing the instrument, but rather as though he is trying to subdue it.

But in the hands of a master, it sounds so grand!



An occasional blog stew.

--Yvonne Aburrow, writer, blogger, and Web developer, has created a Pagan theologies wiki, with this entry on "conversion" as understood in Paganism and some parallel academic theory.

--Oral traditions--literary, religious, folkloric, and other--are the focus of the Journal of Oral Tradition, now online with downloadable PDF files of articles, such as Stephen Mitchell on "Reconstructing Old Norse Tradition".

--I have a whole multi-part series coming up on new thinking about "Celts," but meanwhile, I heard the music of Turlough O'Carolan performed last night in Walsenburg, Colorado, which is probably only the second time in history that that has happened. The first time would have been a year ago during the first Spanish Peaks International Celtic Festival, which is still going on.

--Speaking of music, my old friend Bryan Frink is collecting political songs (generally satirical) at a new website. Check out the post-Katrina "Battle of New Orleans."

The Pagan Muse

The call for papers for the next Canadian Pagan conference is now online. The conference will be held May 18-21, 2007 at the University of Winnipeg. Its theme is "The Pagan Muse: Inspiration, Creativity, and the Art of Pagan Practice." Both academic and "grassroots" scholars are invited.

Typing this brought back a memory from the 1970s, when I read in a tiny Denver literary magazine, Mano a Mano, an opinion that went something like this: "Just because [Poet So-and-so] is in the Craft, he thinks that he has a direct line to the Muse."

Heh. To paraphrase that eminent Deist Benjamin Franklin, the Muse helps those who help themselves.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The "diversity" of food

Why do bureaucratic organizations like universities have "affirmative action directors" and "diversity committees" that skirt the edges of the Constitution when what humans really respond to is food?

I have never felt that the autumn equinox required big-time ritual, but it is fun to celebrate with with a food fest, like Pueblo's annual Chile & Frijoles [beans] festival.

It's mostly about food, although the sound track pits classic rock against thumping norteño music against folk music, all from different stages and loudspeakers.

Italian burritos. Kielbasa with green chile sauce. And not pictured here but doing a good business, the inevitable American Indian fry bread stand.

And the vegetal star of last weekend, green chile peppers roasted in the mesh cylinders rotated over flames, here at Musso Farms' booth.


Americans United threatens suit over veteran's pentacle

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is now threatening a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration for its foot-dragging over a Wiccan soldier's memorial plaque.

Previous post here. Right: artist's rendition of what Sgt. Stewart's plaque should look like.

From the news release: Americans United for Separation of Church and State today [26 Sept.] warned the Department of Veterans Affairs that litigation will become unavoidable if it continues to discriminate against Wiccans by denying the right to include the Pentacle, the Wiccan emblem of belief, on government-furnished headstones, plaques, and other memorials for fallen veterans. In a letter issued today, Americans United gave the VA fourteen days to approve the Pentacle or face litigation.

There is ongoing coverage Circle Sanctuary's Web site.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

A temple tour of California

I have been reading Erik Davis's fantastic (in all senses of the world) book The Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape, illustrated with lucious photos by Michael Rauner.

You can read an excerpt on Davis's Web site.

I know just few of the Bay Area places, such as the San Francisco Zen Center (didn't know it was a Julia Morgan building though) or the Swedenborgian Church. I want to just jump in the car with the book and a road map and find the rest.

Of course, they had to draw the line somewhere, but this story makes me think that maybe the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library should have included with some of the other shrines.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Anachronisms in Rome

Living beyond the range of cable television and not willing to pay for a satellite dish, M. and I watch HBO series with a year's delay.

Right now we're working our way through the first season of Rome. And we like it, right from the starting sequence of the animated graffiti (based on originals in Pompeii, or so they say.

But despite the presence of historical advisors, anachronisms both religious and mundane creep in.

For instance, in Episode 8, Cleopatra is shown smoking opium, which is wrong on two counts. First, as far as I can tell--and I have researched this some--the technology of smoking with a pipe, as opposed to throwing herbs or resins onto glowing coals, was unknown in Eurasia until Columbus sailed to the Western Hemisphere.

Second, the pipe shown is not an opium pipe, but an East Asian tobacco pipe. The bowl is wrong.

Opium had been used in Europe since the Bronze Age, at least, but not in pipes.

Steven Saylor felt that Cleopatra's character was wrong, as well, but that is another story.

The show's makers fudged the stirrup question. The Romans did not have stirrups--no Europeans knew them until a few centuries later. Yet if you look, you can see that riders in long shots are riding with them. Close up, however, they have been removed for verisimitude's sake.

I was skeptical about the brothel-keeper in Episode 7 counting with her abacus, but apparently the Romans indeed did have them. The one in the scene looked more Chinese, however.

And I wonder at seeing candles everywhere instead of cheap ceramic oil lamps. The latter are not hard to find--they are still made for the Middle Eastern souvenir trade.

On the religious side, in one of the early episodes, there is a brief depiction of the taurobolium, or purification in the blood of a sacrificed bull. That rite was not known in the last days of the Roman Republic, which is when the series begins.

The other rites, whether in temples or at home altars, have to be admitted as reconstructions. There is so much of basic religious practice that we do not know, really. Music, too, can only be guessed at.

Quibbles aside, it's worth renting the series on DVD if you have not seen it.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pagans and Unitarians

I have been an interested bystander watching the trend of Pagans joining Unitarian congregations. One group, it seemed to me, had nice buildings but less "juice." One group was just the opposite.

But I knew there were tensions. Jason Pitzl-Waters rounds up some of them.

Go read his post, and I will go back to grading student papers.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Autumn tumbles in

M. and I came home last evening from Colorado Springs, and then we got involved with an unexpected refrigerator problem. (Temporarily fixed, but I think it is time to go shopping.) Meanwhile, we forgot to cover some outdoor plants.

Meanwhile, the temperature dropped: Bye-bye, yellow squash and zucchini, bye-bye to the tomato plants outside the greenhouse. Bye-bye, beans. Bye-bye, datura.

Aspens are turning yellow on the ridges, and the Gambel's oak and willows here are orange at the edges. Only a few hummingbirds remain.

Next weekend, we will welcome the new season with a hike in the golden aspen forest and a trip down to Pueblo for the chile festival.

Cross-posted to Nature Blog. Tag:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wiccan soldier's plaque to show pentagram

The memorial plaque for Sgt. Patrick Stewart, who died in Afghanistan, will display a Wiccan pentagram.

[Nevada] state officials said they had received a legal opinion from the Nevada attorney general's office that concluded federal officials have no authority over state veterans' cemeteries. They now plan to have a contractor construct a plaque with the Wiccan pentacle - a circle around a five-pointed star - to be added to the Veterans' Memorial Wall in Fernley.

So this decision does not apply across the country, just in Nevada, but it's a step forward.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Troth republished

Volume 1 of a new edition of Kveldulf Gundarsson's The Troth has been published. Volume 2 is expected this winter.

Speaking of Heathenry, Wikipedia has a historically interesting entry.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Drumming for peas

Under the Federal Blogging Act of 2004, often referred to for short as the Reynolds-Sullivan Act, all bloggers are required to post something about 9/11/2001.

So here is my post.

Maybe if we had more drumming groups for peas, then the more totally whacked-out followers of the Prophet Mohammed (peas be upon him) would not want to kill us all, and our little dogs too.

Yeah, right.

Speaking magically, I think that rituals "for peace," just like rituals to "heal the earth," are doomed to failure, because humans cannot visualize just what "peace" means. Absence of war? Everyone thinks like me? Salvation by the Space Brothers or Jesus?

Who knows?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Nostradamus and 9-11

Richard Smoley, the former editor of Gnosis, was desperate enought to publish a few of my articles during the journal's existence.

He has continued writing and editing elsewhere, and his most recent book was The Essential Nostradamus.

The five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack by Muslim fanatics on the United States has some people saying, "Nostradamus predicted that the Twin Towers would fall."

Not so, says Smoley, in this online interview.

His assessment of the French prophet: By the way, when Nostradamus did try to forecast something specifically, he was usually wrong. . . .

The cause of his perennial popularity is that, although he was apparently of middling ability in most of the areas he worked—his astrological contemporaries said he didn’t know how to cast a chart—in his way he was a superb surrealist poet. There is something haunting and evocative in his verses, a continuation of the great apocalyptic tradition of Christianity and, before it, Judaism. These traditions are powerful, not as actual prophecies, but as glimpses into the collective storehouse of images, in which all of us, like it or not, share.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to the caves in academia

Professor deconstructs literature, philosophy, science--everything except careerism. Satire from Iowahawk.

While it has been tough at times, Grok says he has no regrets. "Western culture is a cancer, and I'm committed to wiping it out. Plus, the whole cave-dwelling thing should help with my promotion case and journal articles."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Online lecture: Paganism and Nature Religion

This Sunday, Sept. 10, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time I will be kicking off the first of Cherry Hill Seminary's online mini-classes with a real-time "lecture" on Paganism and nature religion.

Cost is $25. You do not have to be enrolled in any Cherry Hill classes to participate in my online lecture or in the following ones by Patricia Monaghan, Sabina Magliocco, and Nikki Bado-Fralick.

While I cannot put all of Her Hidden Children into it, I will covering the main points and answering questions afterwards.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Drum circles in northern Colorado

The Longmont Times-Call goes to some drum circles.

Drumming circles allow drummers of all levels to participate, and individuals walk away feeling enlightened, energized, empowered, cleansed and blessed.

“We’re just as passionate about our religion as anybody,” said Bob Anzlovar, who holds a monthly drumming circle, magical in nature, that draws upward of 100 people.

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