Contemporary Pagan Studies in the New York Times
Some of us have been joking about "the I-word" (idolatry). I wondered if that would catch some journalist's interest.
A Pagan Writer's Blog
According to Ray's Web site, Neuman was the leader of the Minneapolis-area "Journey Expansion Team." The teams, developed by Ray's friends and followers around the country, meet to exchange ideas on his principles. The next Minneapolis-area meeting is scheduled for Oct. 23.
But here is the delicious part. Ray, facing homicide charges, is evidently bobbing and weaving:
In his first public appearance Tuesday in Los Angeles, Ray told a crowd of about 200 that he has hired his own investigative team to determine what went wrong.
Sheesh, Veronica Mars could tell him what went wrong. He was greedy and heedless of the safety of his followers.
Sweat lodges have been around for a long time in many places. I see them as part of the old Stone Age circumpolar religion, along with flat-headed drums and a special relationship with bears.
Whether used for physical health, for contacting the spirits, or both together, they are a small-scale magical technology. It sounds as though Ray tried the "megachurch" approach to sweat lodges--at $9,000-plus per person.
Aside from all the issues that this case raises, it speaks as well to the difficulty of turning small-scale mysteries into congregation-size events.
UPDATE: Tim Giago, a veteran American Indian journalist in South Dakota, asks why, if traditional sweat-lodge ceremonies are so special and good, are they not doing more good for the Lakota:
Arvol [Looking Horse], why are the sacred rites you represent not being used to bring our own people back from the brink? Why aren't they being used to bring back the good health our people once enjoyed? Why is there an unemployment rate of 80 percent on the lands you call home? Why is there such a high rate of STD's and teen pregnancies in Lakota country?
What good does it do to speak out and criticize an event that happened in Sedona, Arizona, when it had no lasting impact upon the Sioux people? Aren't there terrible things happening in our own homelands, right under our noses, to worry about and try to change?
Labels: American religion
The Sun Dance is a ritual of community and praise for the sun and the great spirit that the natives of this continent felt drew them together. Regardless of our faith, everyone can appreciate the sun's power and importance to all life on Earth. So this will be an upbeat celebration of the sun, the summer we have just had and community. It is also a ritual praising the sun and saying farewell for another year.
Since there is no one ritual for the Sun Dance, and so many tribes viewed and practiced this event differently, we will have a blending of many traditions in our Sun Dance. Please bring drums, bells, noise makers, whistles, rain sticks, musical instruments, or anything else you'd like to celebrate and make a joyful sound with. This event will be outdoors so please wear appropriate clothing as the weather dictates. Also, as part of the ritual involves body and face painting, if possible please wear something that gives you access to your collarbones.
And ol' Cultural Appropriation stayed in his stall. No one said a word online.
In the long run, religious creativity will always trump the kind of finger-pointing accusations that you hear about "cultural appropriation" — even before you come to the theological argument that "the gods choose whom they will."
We have freedom of religion. You cannot stop someone from holding a Sun Dance and calling it such unless you show up and threaten bodily harm. You can threaten other sorts of consequences—that it will offend the spirits or the Grandfathers and someone will suffer—but you cannot guarantee such threats. What if the spirits like the other person better?
As Shawn Spencer, the fake psychic detective, says in the TV series Psych, séances—or in this case, Sun Dances—are like garage sales and plastic surgery: Anyone can have them.
Pagans are well-placed to realize that religion is a creative activity. Writers incorporate the influence of other writers, musicians "steal" from other musicians, actors learn from other actors—why should religious practitioners be any different.
I have complained about some "plastic shamans" in my time too, but to what effect? Just do it. See what happens.
Labels: American religion