Monday, January 25, 2010

Around the Pagan Blogosphere

• "Hard versus Soft Polytheism is a False Dichotomy."

• A recently discovered statue described as the god Odin and welcomed by some reconstructionist Norse Pagans, is--by Viking Period artistic conventions--either a woman or the goddess Freya, says a Swedish archaeologist. 

• The Necronomicon: "It's like the Bible but different" (YouTube video). Via

• At The Soccer Moms' Guide to Wicca: Unintentionally outed by the school district.

• Something that I wish more people would think about about: When is a wild animal an omen, and when is it just a wild animal?

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Me

Yesterday M. pointed out to me a small AP story in Sunday's Denver Post that I had overlooked: the death of Elizabeth Clare Prophet, head of the Church Universal and Triumphant, one of the chief motivators of the "cults scare" of the 1970s-1980s.

("Suffered from dementia for years" -- there may be some cynical chuckles at that line from ex-CUT members and their families, even though it was Alzheimer's dementia.)

Her hometown newspaper in New Jersey offers photos of her at various ages and more links.

But I owe her thanks for sending me to graduate school, for in the 1970s, when I came back to Colorado after my undergraduate years at Reed, CUT (then called "Summit Lighthouse") was headquartered at One Broadmoor Avenue, Colorado Springs, a prestigious address, in a red-brick 1930s mansion built by some Oklahoman oilman.

I had never heard of Summit Lighthouse and as a Pagan was not too interested in quasi-gnostic metaphysical magical chanting--they called it "decreeing"--but a visiting friend wanted to see it, and so we went.

We picked up some pamphlets and got a tour of the public rooms from some of the followers, who despite the content of the teachings, had a definite Young Republican vibe too them. We did not meet Elizabeth Clare Prophet herself.

(If there was magic worked on behalf of President Reagan, CUT was working it.)

Later, as a reporter for the Colorado Springs Sun, I was approached by Mrs. Prophet's disaffected ex-secretary, who offered herself as a source for a feature story on the group. Mrs. Prophet herself did not do interviews--as high as an outsider could go was the group's spokesman, Murray Steinman.

And I was introduced to the whole network of "anti-cult" groups, parents' groups, and so on, not to mention one stream of American metaphysical religion, going back to the "I Am" movement and even farther.

Writing that story (and a couple of others on other groups) gave me more satisfaction than my regular work on the business beat. I credit them with nudging me towards an eventual decision to go to graduate school in religious studies, because I realized that as a newspaperman I could not really examine new religious movements in any depth.

Later, too, my chief interest in CUT was whether they would sell some of the land they bought for their "end of the world" retreat north of Yellowstone National Park in a deal arranged by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to keep an elk-migration corridor open.

Metaphysical movements come and go, but the elk should endure.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Seeking the Blessing of the Wolves

A few years ago, when I was on the board of a local environmental-education group, I helped organize a couple of presentations by the staff of Mission: Wolf, a sanctuary located one county south of me. As part of their mission, "Socialized ambassador wolves travel nationally, offering public education while stimulating people to care about and respect nature."

Often they have the audience sit in a circle on the floor, if the group is small enough, and the leashed ambassador wolf comes around to give each a quick sniff. If you get a wolf kiss (and I have), that's supposed to be something special.

One day last summer, M. and I were at the farmers' market in Florence, Colo., and people from a different, smaller, wolf sanctuary were there. They seemed less focused on environmental ed. and more on magic, in the form of "Cheyenne, the Healing Wolf."

I don't see it on the web site, but the people from this second sanctuary insisted that their oldest wolf could diagnose cancer and other illnesses. They were less into teaching about wolves in the wild and more into presenting these predators as healing beings.

Third, at the beginning of October, M. and I returned to Yellowstone National Park for the first time in some years. Our last visit, in fact, came just before the reintroduction of wolves to the park in the mid-1990s.

And how the northern edge of the park, in particular, had changed. There were wolf tourists. Every pull-out between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance contained serious-looking individuals with spotting scopes and expensive telephoto lenses, scanning the hillsides of the Lamar Valley. The nearby Slough Creek Campground, which used to be half-empty in autumn, is always full.

Imagine, if you have not seen one, a full-size tour bus with wolves painted on it, picking up forty or so hikers who have been on a wildlife walk to look for . . . wolves, of course. When someone sees a wolf, the news spreads around the park by "bush telegraph."

Not everyone is keen on wolves, however. I spotted this sticker on a truck in Cooke City, Wyo., just outside the park.

Cat Urbigkit's Yellowstone Wolves: A Chronicle of the Animal, the People, and the Politics is a definitive history of the issue.

But I think that is the minority view. It is as though we have flipped 180 degrees from when Barry Lopez wrote Of Wolves and Men in the 1970s. He was trying to convince readers that wolves were more than mere vermin. Now they are emissaries of nature religion, furry saints.

American nature religion often has a therapeutic slant, that's for sure. "The wolf will heal you." It's a change from "The wolf will eat you," but is it any more truthful from the wolf's point of view?

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Things Black Bears Like

We have several of these gopher-deterring gadgets in the vegetable garden and flower beds, hoping to deter the pocket gophers. (The jury is still not in on whether they work as advertised.)

I came outside this morning and found one of them plucked from the ground and inverted, spike pointing into the air.

There were largish circular impressions -- about six inches across -- in the soil next to it.

Curious bear, I think. It must have heard the high-pitched moans that the "moler" makes and come to investigate, in the way that bears investigate something--by swatting it.