Monday, December 31, 2007

The Scary Countryside

Jason Pitzl-Waters notes an upcoming Guillermo del Toro movie:

The duo will be co-producing Born, a film adaptation of [Clive] Barker's story about a family who gets more than they bargained for when they move to the English countryside.

The scary countryside is a staple of British--and frequently North American--film-making. Perhaps that cliché is the flip side of the Frazerian notion of the countryside as repository of ancient beliefs and practices.

In movies, ancient practices are always scary. When my book Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America was in production, the first cover design (not used) was referred to as the "Children of the Corn cover" in honor of the movie stereotype.

Urban directors make these pictures for urban audiences -- who already harbor odd fears about nature and wildlife, like purse-snatching elk.

In British film, every picturesque village is controlled by a secret cabal of child-sacrificing Satanists, disguised, for instance, as the local branch of the Women's Institute.

The editor and publisher of our county newspaper came to dinner last night (they are married to each other) and we got to talking about this very cinematic phenomenon.

We decided that the secret cabal in charge hereabouts would have to be the [Blank] County Cattlewomen. Don't get yourself on their bad side.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Solo Mountain Solstice

"Sunrise" in the mountains is a malleable moment. You rise and dress for the -5 F (-20 C). weather, taking a hiking staff and the drum case.

You walk the trail up the east ridge, then shoulder through a grove of Gambel oak until you can see the Sun's glow.

Start drumming softly. A Steller's jay is the only other voice. Faithful Dog snuffles and crunches in the snow. Less Faithful Dog has already gone her own way, following fox tracks through the forest.

Amazingly, not one car is moving on the state highway down in the valley.

The Sun is on your face now. After a time, having thought on what you need for the new solar cycle, you follow your tracks back down. Less Faithful Dog is on the front porch, all wiggly and cheerful.

The temperature has climbed to 0 F.

Best wishes to my readers for a happy and productive solar year.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Why I became a Pagan"

The advent of the Web has made survey-taking much easier, and so when some graduate students want to interview Pagans, they just post a survey on SurveyMonkey.

This link came to me from a trusted source, so I plan to take it myself once I have the free time.

It is interesting how methodology has changed. No one has to go to festivals and try to cajole people into answering a questionnaire anymore.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Where's the Wall? I Need to Hit It

Forgive the melodramatic headline, but I have been grading tests and research papers for about six hours. At least "the big class" is done, and what lies ahead will be more pleasant reading--essays by better student writers.

So to make up for the lack of blogging, some odds and ends:

• A web site devoted to iconography of deities and demons of the ancient Near East. (Thanks to Caroline Tully.)

• I am please to announce that the Consultation on Contemporary Pagan Studies in the American Academy of Religion has been upgraded to "group" status, i.e., it is now the Contemporary Pagan Studies group, although their site does not reflect the change. The change gives us more program slots and a longer period before the next oversight review.

• Via Circle Sanctuary, a program for sending "Care Packages" to Pagan military personnel overseas.

• Mainly because it has a lot about Gleb Botkin, founder of the Church of Aphrodite and hence one of America's Pagan pioneers, I just read Frances Welch's A Romanov Fantasy: Life at the Court of Anna Anderson. (Reviewed in the Los Angeles Times and The Guardian.)

I really didn't learn anything new about the C of A., but there is this tidbit, as close as Welch comes to suggesting how Franziska Schandzkowska [Anna Anderson] (1896-1984) fooled so many people into thinking that she was Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the Russian royal family--including Botkin, who knew the real Anastasia when they were both teenagers. Anastasia's uncle by marriage, Grand Duke Alexander, suggested that Anna was what New Agers call a "walk-in."

A confirmed spiritualist and table-rapper, Alexander claimed that Grand Duchess Anastasia's spirit had returned and incorporated itself into another body. His proclamation revealed the extent to which he was impressed by Anna's memories. 'She knows so much about the intimate life of the Tsar and his family that there is simply no other explanation for it; and of course it wouldn't be the first time that a spirit has returned to earth in a new physical form.'


Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Gallimaufry with Temporal Dislocation

¶ It's not too late to travel in time.

This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing (preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything. Since the culture's set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

¶ Time travel of a different kind: An American soldier in Iraq visits Ur of the Chaldees.

¶ I am a sucker for this kind of thing. For more futures that never happened and dead ends on the road to Now, try Modern Mechanix.

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Is This a Nation of Only Monotheistic Believers?

Under the United Blogging Act of 2005, I should have said something about Mitt Romney's speech about how being a Mormon does not make him unfit to be president.

Hrafnkell picked up on a news release from Americans United, a group that did a lot for us during the pentacle grave-marker quest. The nugget:

“I was particularly outraged that Romney thinks that the Constitution is somehow based on faith and that judges should rule accordingly, “ Lynn said. “That’s a gross misunderstanding of the framework of our constitutional system.

“I think it is telling that Romney quoted John Adams instead of Thomas Jefferson or James Madison,” [the Rev. Barry W.] Lynn continued. “Jefferson and Madison are the towering figures who gave us religious liberty and church-state separation.

In Romney's world, contrary to what comes out of his mouth, there is a religious test for president:

"I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages,[sic] and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims.

And who did he leave out? I can think of a few religious traditions...

UPDATE: And the non-religious, of course, as Ann Althouse points out in her discussion of the speech.

UPDATE 2: Timothy Burke has the best summary of the Romney speech.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Getting What You Ask For

A New York City principal has been effectively fired for spending the school's money for a Santería ceremony to remove negative energy from the school. (Via The Wild Hunt.

What an example of the "be careful what you ask for" principle. Something in the universe decided that Maritza Tamayo herself embodied the negative energy that she was trying to remove.

Tamayo later forced her assistant principal to pay the Santeria priestess $900, then improperly paid [the santera] $350 more to drive children to school for Regents exams.

And the custodial staff was stuck with cleaning up the chicken blood, apparently.

I am reminded of a ritual invoking the god Mercury that some friends and I performed when I was in my early twenties. We followed our source as best we good, even rising early in the morning to utilize the calculated "hour of Mercury" and speaking the lines in Latin.

We all got what we petitioned the god for. One friend, who clerked in a struggling used bookstore, asked that the bookstore's business would improve. And then the owners fired him, moved to a new location, and the store's business did indeed improve.