Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Oh my iGod!
From a PhotoShop contest with an Apple theme. (Click photo for larger image. Hat tip: Violet Blue.)


Monday, January 29, 2007

Dolores LaChapelle

Dolores LaChapelle of Silverton, Colorado, died January 22 at an advanced age. (She was still skiing deep powder in her seventies.)

She begins the preface to her 1992 deep ecology book Sacred Land, Sacred Sex: Rapture of the Deep: Concerning Deep Ecology and Celebrating Life by stating that it does not fit into any categories:

it's neither psychology nor philosophy, neither history nor anthropology--not even social anthropology. It's most certainly not "eco-feminist," "new age," or "futurist." Yet it takes in all this and much more.

So did she.

The University of Utah has an online collection of her skiing photographs. She was a pioneer of ski mountaineering, among other things.

The Durango Herald ran this feature article about her in 2002.

LaChapelle became renowned in skiing circles for her powder skiing prowess. [While at Alta] she even earned the nickname “Witch of the Wasatch” for her uncanny ability to predict storms.

Look at her article "Ritual is Essential" for an understanding of how she connected human ritual with living "in place"

Ritual is essential because it is truly the pattern that connects. It provides communication at all levels - communication among all the systems within the individual human organism; between people within groups; between one group and another in a city and throughout all these levels between the human and the non-human in the natural environment. Ritual provides us with a tool for learning to think logically, analogically and ecologically as we move toward a sustainable culture. Most important of all, perhaps, during rituals we have the experience, unique in our culture, of neither opposing nature or trying to be in communion with nature; but of finding ourselves within nature, and that is the key to sustainable culture.

More: M. says that Dolores LaChapelle always reminded her a little of Felicitas Goodman. Part of that was physical: both when we met them were no-nonsense elderly women who wore their hair in a single long braid. I wonder if they would have respected each other as rival shamans, or hated each other.

Cross-posted to Nature Blog.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Drug warriors succomb to vanity publishing

Via NeoWayland's Pagan Vigil blog: the National Institute on Drug Abuse was upset with its Wikipedia entry and tried to fight back. The results were not what the "drug warriors" hoped for.

Mark Twain supposedly defined the futility of fighting with a newspaper by saying, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel."

What do we say now? Electrons don't come in barrels.


New Paganism is not Old Paganism

Mary Beard, noted Classics scholar from Cambridge University, writes that today's Greek Pagans are not practicing exactly what their Hellenic ancestors did.

It isn’t entirely clear what this group (“Ellenais”) believes; but it is clear that, whatever they say, it bears very little relationship to ancient Greek religion. You can tell that already from the rather charming prayer to Zeus to bring about world peace. From an ancient point of view, whatever myths are peddled about the “Olympic Truce”, there could hardly be a less likely divine candidate for putting a stop to war in the world.

Her slightly patronizing tone aside, so what? Religions do change--even while their adherents insist on continuity with the past.

I have great respect for Beard as a Classics scholar--I own one or two of her books--but I suspect that she has not given much thought before to new religious movements until she decided to give her opinion on this new development in her blog.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Pomegranate Contents

In the rush of travel and then preparing for the spring semester, I forgot to post the contents of the latest issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies (Volume 8, no. 2, Nov. 2006).

So here is what's happening in Pagan Studies:

"Santeria Sacrificial Rituals: A Reconsideration of Religious Violence (book excerpt)," by Mary Ann Clark.

"'Be Pagan Once Again': Folk Music, Heritage, and Socio-sacred Networks in Contemporary American Paganism" by Christopher Chase

"Wandering Dreams and Social Marches: Varieties of Paganism in Late Victorian and Edwardian England" by Jennifer Hallett.

"Russian Paganism and the Issue of Nationalism: A Case Study of the Circle of Pagan Tradition" by Kaarina Aitamurto.

"Challenging the Morals of Western Society: The Use of Ritualized Sex in Contemporary Occultism" by Henrik Bogdan.

("Sex" plus "occultism." The search engines should have fun with that.)

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Greek Pagans Worship Publicly

Members of a Greek Pagan group were able to perform a ritual at the temple of Zeus in Athens yesterday.

One of its leaders, Doretta Peppa, a writer who calls herself a high priestess [sic], told the BBC the temples were built to respect the gods and now they were going to be put to their proper use.

Ms Peppa said she had been given official permission to use the temple, but there were fears that the culture ministry, which administers the site, might give way to pressure from the church.

According to the longer CNN report,

[The group] Ellinais was founded last year and has 34 official members, mainly academics, lawyers and other professionals. It won a court battle for state recognition of the ancient Greek religion and is demanding the government register its offices as a place of worship, a move that could allow the group to perform weddings and other rites.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Greek Pagans Press for Temple Access

After a long struggle and some victories in their quest for religious freedom, contemporary Greek Pagans continue to seek the right to worship the old gods in the temples that were built for them.

Now it is the turn of the Temple of Zeus in Athens.

"These are our temples and they should be used by followers of our religion," said Doreta Peppa, head of the Athens-based Ellinais, a group campaigning to revive the ancient religion.


Peppa's group, dedicated to reviving worship of the 12 ancient gods, was founded last year and won a court battle for official state recognition of the ancient Greek religion.

Those who seek to revive the ancient Greek religion are split into rival organizations which trade insults over the Internet. Peppa's group is at odds with ultra-nationalists who view a revival as a way to protect Greek identity from foreign influences.

They can't even agree on a name for the religion: One camp calls it Ancient-Religion, another Hellenic Religion.

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The Nigerian (419) Book Scam

In the early 1980s, M. and were dues-paying members of the Fellowship of Isis--sort of a souvenir of our honeymoon in Ireland, when we made a couple of visits to Clonegal Castle, its headquarters.

Our contact details were published in the FOI newsletter, which brought several letters to us from Nigeria.

They always took the same form: "Dear Glorious Wonderful Adepts . . . I so much want to learn blah blah blah . . . Please send me all of the books that you have . . . for free."

Having received a bunch of these letters, I was pretty well inoculated against the "419 scam." You get those emails too, I am sure: the widow of the minister of something-or-other who has millions of dollars stashed in a bank account, and only you (or some other sucker) can help her retrieve them, with the help of God, of course.

(Lots of sample letters here, and if you want to have a little fun scamming the scammers, here are some helpful hints.)

So it was a blast from the past when Llewellyn forwarded to me this week a letter from one "Mr. Inemesit Sanctum" (if I read correctly) of Abia State, Nigeria.

It begins "Dear Spiritual Don," I wonder if he means "Don" in the Spanish/Italian sense, as in "Don Giovanni," or an Oxbridge academic "don." Perhaps the latter?

My edited book Living Between Two Worlds "opened his eyes" blah blah blah.

"I never knew that witchcraft could be so exciting and unassociated with the typical diabolism which I used to be told, which caused me a great dread of it."

Etc. etc. etc. And then the pitch:

"Finally, to cool my thirst, send me such books as [lists four titles from the Llewellyn catalog]. Doing this will give me and my yearning friends hope to climb the strange but exciting spiritual ladder."

No mention of payment, of course. That's the Nigerian touch. They never even offer to cover postage.

And the closing: "Yours spiritually."

Ah, nostalgia. A handwritten begging letter in this day of email 419 scams.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

My Catholic/Wiccan/Asatru ex-girlfriend

Al Billings shares some religious/magickal paths personified as ex-girlfriends.

Thelema and the OTO

The freaky ex-girlfriend who likes her sex kinky, her parties wild, and her drugs. She goes clubbing, dresses all in black, and has the razor scars on the wrists to show that she’s serious. She has a lot of interesting ideas but draws the wrong sort of crowd because of her reputation when she was young. These days she’s more likely to want to go to Mass and do a bake sale but the expectations of youth are hard to live down, and she secretly revels in it.

Read the whole thing.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Helen Duncan's Family Tries Again for a Pardon

Helen Duncan, Spiritualist medium
Mary Martin was 11 years old when her father taught her to box. She would come home from school scratched and bruised, her ears ringing with abuse from the playground. Mary Martin had the unhappy distinction of being the granddaughter of Britain's last convicted witch.

Descendants of Helen Duncan, the "last convicted witch," are trying again for an official pardon.

It was the Spiritualists who worked hardest to get the old Witchcraft Act repealed, but the Wiccans who took advantage of the change.

The Guardian article, in my opinion, is incorrect in this statement:

Gerald Brousseau Gardner founded the modern Wicca movement in the 1940s, 11 years before the repeal of Britain's witchcraft laws. Followers revere nature, worship a goddess and practice ritual magic. In the 2001 census, 7,000 people listed Wicca as their religion.

On the contrary, during the 1940s Gardner was still checking out various esoteric groups and collecting initiations, which gives the lie to his statement about being initiated in 1939 at Dorothy Clutterbuck's house and thus finding the spiritual path that he had always been seeking.

It is much more likely that he and his associates were able to create Wicca in the early 1950s, after it was no longer illegal to call yourself a witch and after he and Cecil Williamson had founded their witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man.

The Boscastle Witch Museum is its successor. And it has a blog.

My earlier post on Helen Duncan is here.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

News about this blog

I finally moved to the "new" Blogger, so, among other things, I can add post labels. I stopped doing Technorati labels because I did not find them personally to be all that useful. You can still get much the same result by searching the blogs listed in Technorati.


Ancient British religion--stranger than we imagined

Were the heads of dead children really a memorial?

In the depths of the cave, there's the first glimpse of the trapped pool of water-- this was the bridge to another world, the high altar of a Bronze Age basilica.

Any BBC Scotland viewers, let me know what you think of the program.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Fundie art and sex

I knew Jeff Sharlet from Killing the Buddha and his great Harper's piece on New Life Church in Colorado Springs. It turns out that he has a quirky personal blog too: Call Me Ishmael.

Check out his comments on Christian fundamentalist art.

My tentative theory: As religious art traditionally uses eroticism to channel worldly desires toward spiritual concerns, contemporary fundamentalist art uses eroticism to channel sex -- the visual currency of power in an advertising culture -- away from women and toward men. Either that, or it's a vast gay conspiracy.

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Robert Anton Wilson's passing

Jason Pitzl-Waters posts today about the death of Robert Anton Wilson. Follow his links.

I spent some time today looking through some files for an article by him that ran in the old Llewellyn Publications magazine Gnostica, but I could not find it. It was an account of a mystical experience involving the Virgin of Guadalupe, and it was there (or somewhere else!) that he wrote how if you treated the gods as archetypes, they could suprise you by acting like gods. And vice versa, of course!

I met him just once, in the mid-1980s, when he came through Boulder, Colorado, where I was in graduate school. By then some people already wanted to treat him like a guru, but Wilson was a writer, not a guru, and he knew it. He was too in love with indeterminacy, with "maybe," as RU Sirius said, to ever be a dogmatic teacher.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Goatheads are good for something?

Every gardening writer likes to write about reading seed catalogs as the midwinter snow falls.

So I won't do that. I will just mention that I was perusing the new Richter's catalog as ten inches of fresh powder--well, OK, it is more than a cliche. It happens.

"What the hell," I said. "They're selling goatheads!" Also called puncturevine. Tribulus terrestis. Nasty, invasive, spreading Eurasian weeds whose multi-pointed seed capsules can bring a dog to a whimpering standstill, not to mention being hard on bicycle inner tubes.

M.'s response was to pass me a copy of Charles W. Kane's Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest, which she had just brought home from the Pueblo library. (We may have to buy it.) She held it open to the section on puncturevine.

It turns out to be helpful for moderate hypertension, to increase male libido (herbal Viagra?), and to contain some natural steroids.

Many men using the plant often notice a related sense of increased physical strength and will -- a good tonic for older men and the metrosexual alike.

I consider Michael Moore (not the filmmaker) to be one of the best Southwestern herbalists.

He contributed the foreword, noting, "Charles has written an impeccable book."

Here is Kane's border-country spin on the usual herbalists' advice on wildcrafting--gathering plants in the wild:

Collect away from roadsides, inner city areas, industrial sites, agricultural areas, and heavily traveled foot trails -- explaining yourself to every busy-body hiker gets to be tiresome, although visibly packin' heat usually limits conversation to furtive glances.

Although a short drive takes us to eastern Fremont County, Colorado, which is sort of the last outlier of the Chihuahuan Desert, a lot of Kane's plants are hundreds of miles away. But about half of them are here.

Methods of preparation are clearly described, and the plants are illustrated with color photos and Frank Rose's meticulous botanical paintings.

If you live in the Southwest and you like to take care of some minor ills yourself or learn some herbal first aid, you should have it.

(Cross-posted to Nature Blog.)


Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Odinist, the Muslims, and a footprint

A British Odinist won a significant court battle against managers who tried to fire him in the name of "multiculturalism." (Scroll down to "Odinist Wins Landmark Trial in England" or try this link instead for the full document from the Odinist Fellowship.)

What are the facts of this case? Many of you will be surprised, as I was, to learn that, increasingly, employers with a large proportion of Muslim staff are being obliged to set aside rooms in the workplace for Muslim prayers, and to allow their employees to take time away from their duties to engage in these prayers. At the Mail Centre where Donald worked, there was just such a room, which was designated as a "Multicultural Room". That is important, because never, at any time, did the Royal Mail claim that the Room was solely for Muslim use, or that non-Muslims might not use it for their own purposes.


One noteworthy feature of this story is that the anti-pagan persecution was not being directed by Donald"s Muslim colleagues, with whom he had no real problem at all, but by a clique of managers, all of them white British, who are dogmatically committed to pursuing their own perverse programme of "multicultural diversity". These managers were absolutely and unswervingly convinced that a trivial action, like placing a plastic chair by a sink, could be viewed as nothing other than a premeditated insult to Islam.

Additional comment from the UK's National Secular Society. Interesting comment thread at another British blog.

Via Yvonne Aburrow's roundup of British Pagan news.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Banned words of 2007

Words and phrases that you are probably sick of and that are banned for 2007.

They forgot "tactical," though, of which the late Col. Jeff Cooper wrote, "We now discover that "tactical" has taken place along with "digital" as a synonym for "improved," "more efficient," or "better." I suppose this is because any suggestion that any article may have fighting as its purpose is unprintable, so we see tactical flashlights, tactical clothing, and, we can expect, tactical running shoes. Well, we keep up the struggle for clarity of expression. It is all uphill, but well worth it."