Thursday, June 25, 2009
For many people, especially those outside of Paganism, there is a lingering belief that all Pagans are tree-hugging, pacifist and sometimes militantly anti-military. While this stereotype may fit some, the contrary is also true. There are Pagans who not only support the armed forces but are active members as well as veterans. And believe it or not, some of them are tree huggers too.
The Pentacle Quest
One Wiccan soldier from the US who gave his life in service to his country was Sgt. Patrick Stewart. His wife requested that the pentacle, a symbol commonly used by Wiccans, be placed on his government-provided headstone just as other soldiers are able to have a symbol of their faith on theirs. Her request was denied, but she persisted. With the help of lawyers and organizations such as Lady Liberty League and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the pentacle was approved as a symbol of choice by the Veterans Administration in 2007.
The Hammer Project
Another such effort is underway for heathen soldiers, many of whom follow the Asatru faith. Thor's hammer, also known as Mjollnir, is a symbol associated with this religion. Thor is a warrior god, and Asatru places great value on positive warrior qualities. The Hammer Project is collecting signatures for a petition to be presented to the VA to allow Thor's Hammer to be officially listed as one of the emblems of belief that soldiers can choose for their grave markers.While a petition isn't the official paperwork needed, it certainly is a good start to increase awareness amongst the Pagan community as well as the military that there are Pagan soldiers past and present who love their country every bit as much as those of other faiths.Pagans in the military deserve every right their mainstream counterparts have, not just rights afforded to them after they have died. Wicca is now recognized in the Military Chaplain's Handbook, but there is still a lot of headway to be made. Pagan soldiers who want to practice their religion may experience anything from ignorance to outright discrimination.
One resource for these soldiers and their families is the advocacy group Military Pagan Network. Their website gives information on documents of interest for each branch of the military. There are also military Pagan resources at the Witches' Voice website, one of the largest Pagan networking sites in the world.It's hard to completely erase prejudice, but Pagans can work within the law to have their rights recognized. Every small victory for military Pagans becomes part of the larger victory to help assure freedoms these soldiers are fighting for.
For more information:
The Hammer Project
Military Pagan Network
Witches' Voice Military Pagans Page
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
This book is both powerful and quite facinating; each coven and tradition has its own methods of working the sacred magic's, and 'Craft of the Wise' rather proves this. I am sure Craft of the Wise will prove valuable reading for those interested in the historical beginnings and this particular practice of witchcraft, which is both clear and direct.' - Maxine Sanders, author of 'Fire Child', and 'Maxine: Witch Queen'.
Bringing together both practical experience and innovative research, 'Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism & Witchcraft' communicates a balance of accepted Craft methods together with a wealth of information relating to the origins and beliefs of this ancient Craft.The book is published with O-Books, and is out on the 30th October 2009. For more information about the book, the author, and how to pre-order, please visit the website, http://www.craftofthewise.co.uk/
Already there have been sales in Australia and Canada!
PURCHASE DETAILS: Book can be purchased at the following internet bookstores: ~Amazon ~Books A Million ~Barnes and Nobles
Or an autographed book can be purchased at the author's website http://seakla.tripod.com or through Ebay (search the title).
Author: Deanna Anderson (http://seakla.tripod.com) Genre: Reference Publisher: Andborough Press LLC (www.andborough.com) ISBN: 978-0-9823971-2-1 Pages: 144
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Look out, here come the pagans. It's late May in central London and a man dressed as a tree, a witch in a velvet robe and a woman pretending to be a raven with a long black beak are dancing through the streets of Holborn, with several hundred others, moving to the rhythm of a dozen loud drums. They could wake the god of thunder with their noise but it's OK, the people at the back with the broadswords and shields are followers of Thor. This is a parade to celebrate pagan pride, and it would be wise not to get in the way.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Modern pagans have got the wrong day and should be celebrating tomorrow on Midsummer Eve, says Melanie McDonagh.
By Melanie McDonagh Published: 6:51AM BST 22 Jun 2009
Stonehenge was probably the place not to be yesterday at 4.58am. The site had been turned into a cross between the Glastonbury Festival and the Notting Hill Carnival, with an estimated 36,500 revellers waiting for sunrise on the Summer Solstice, including assorted druids, Wicca devotees, King Arthur Pendragon (formerly known as John Rothwell), a few recreational drug-users and thousands of people out for as good a time as you can have at that hour of day.
According to King Arthur Pendragon, the police and security guards were going round wishing everyone a Happy Solstice. A druid, Frank Somers, reverently interviewed by the BBC, declared that ceremonies were a means of reconnecting with Nature. English Heritage, custodian of the site, was happy; everyone was happy.
I hate to sound a discordant note, but if you want to connect with the past, the day (or night) to celebrate Midsummer Eve is tomorrow, June 23. That's St John's Eve, preceding the feast of St John the Baptist. That night is still marked with bonfires all over Europe. And it was celebrated with the most extraordinary festivities in England until Henry VIII and the Reformation spoiled the fun.
Read the Tudor antiquarian John Stow on what were called the marching watches of St John's Eve: enormous processions of guilds and militia bearing blazing candelabra stretched for miles through London. It was a saint's day combined with what were probably ancient midsummer customs, a bit of cross-dressing of which medieval commentators approved. They thought it was the solstice, too.
The modern pagan solstice is fiction. The distinguished historian Ronald Hutton, author of the most sympathetic accounts of modern paganism, The Triumph of the Moon and Blood and Mistletoe, demolishes the notion that there's the remotest continuity between pre-Christian paganism and the druids and priestesses performing made-up rituals yesterday. Rosemary Hill, author of a wonderful book on Stonehenge, also describes its recent provenance.
In short, if you want to celebrate midsummer in the genuine, time-honoured way, put the bonfires on hold until tomorrow.
*We're in church fete season. I went to one this weekend, and it was the usual glorious display of heroic amateurism, dangerously dependent on good weather. My small boy failed miserably to knock a coconut off a shy, but he did hit a cloth rat with a mallet, and got a rubbish prize, which made his day. Looking at the home-made bunting, the second-hand clothes stall (hand-knit baby cardigans for 75p), the used book stand (the complete Winnie the Pooh for £3), the passed-on bottles for the tombola, it struck me that it's very much of the moment. It's anti-consumerist: practically everything is donated. Like the Freecycle network (which matches people who have things they don't want with people who want them), it keeps bric-a-brac out of landfill. Like the pre-cycle movement (bet you hadn't heard of that one: it's about avoiding waste by making your own things), it's big on homemade items. But the church fete does its bit without making a fuss, except a bit of bragging in the parish newsletter.
*Cameron Diaz stars in a film about saviour siblings, My Sister's Keeper, released this week. It's about the efforts by a girl, genetically selected to save her sister from leukaemia, to fight off her parents' attempts to use her body. It has been criticised as gross exaggeration. But given that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act made it possible to create children to provide organs or bone marrow for sick siblings, I'd say it's right on target.
From Times Online
June 21, 2009
(Barry Batchelor/PA) Revellers for the Summer Solstice gather inside the stone circle at Stonehenge
Druids began their incantations, Wiccan priestesses drew their cowls tight against the damp morning air and four half-naked Papuan dancers waved their hands in the air and went: “Woo, woo, woo”.
Only the guest of honour failed to put in an appearance at Stonehenge.
A record 36,500 people had gathered at the prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain to watch the sun rise. So many turned out to celebrate the solstice that roads had to be shut and the vast field converted into a car park for 6,500 vehicles was full by 3am.
Disappointingly, despite a promising forecast, the sun was unable to break through the thin layer of grey cloud that shrouded the ceremony. But most people did not let that spoil their enjoyment.
The crowds had dispersed by the time it was fully light, revealing the bodies of those who had had too much fun, or had simply had enough, slumbering gently on the grass.
Solstice celebrations have become a summer staple, alongside Wimbledon, Glastonbury and the annual gathering of public school pupils in Rock in Cornwall, at the end of the exams.
Despite the complete lack of entertainment, the less than one in ten chance of seeing the sun and the incessant bongo playing, the solstice has attracted larger numbers every year since the stones were reopened to the public in 2000.
Dave Batchelor, English Heritage’s Stonehenge-based archaeologist, said: “We were expecting a large turnout because of the forecast and the fact it falls on a weekend this year so more people can get here.
“We got the maximum number we had planned for so the infrastructure was able to cope.”
In normal circumstances it is not permitted to approach within spitting distance of the stones, but at solstice, the barriers come down. By 3am, the inner circle was so tightly packed that people could be seen struggling to lift their beer cans to their lips.
Sensibly, the druids held their ceremony beside the heel stone, a leaning monolithic a few dozen yards from the main stone circle. Rollo Maughling, the white-haired, white-robed Archdruid of Stonehenge, started the ceremonies in an elegant straw hat.
No sooner had he formed his followers into a neat circle than King Arthur Pendragon, the white-haired, white-robed leader of the Druid Order of Loyal Arthurian Warbands, arrived and leant his battle honours against a fence ten yards away and began forming his own rival circle.Mr Maughling’s circle distorted and broke as spectators wondered which druid leader would put on the best show.
A truce was swiftly reached when Mr Maughling took on the role of master of ceremonies from within King Arthur’s circle, reuniting the tribes of at least two ancient Britons.
The Papuans, in the country to draw attention to what they claim is persecution by the Indonesian authorities in their own homeland, had been temporarily misplaced.
Meanwhile King Arthur, who has been staging a sit-in at Stonehenge for the past year, explained that he had temporarily suspended his protest when English Heritage found £25 million and promised to re-landscape the historic site.
Within days he was back, this time protesting at the removal of human remains during an archaeological dig last summer. He claims they are the “guardians” of the stones and wants them reinterred in the pit from which they came.
Overhead, Wiltshire Police’s new aerial drone made its debut, sweeping back and forth, lights flashing, as it filmed the crowds from a few hundred feet in the air. Every few minutes some worse-for-wear reveller would mistake it for an alien spacecraft about to abduct an unsuspecting earthling and try to flee.
What would the the builders of Stonehenge have made of the police drone? The science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke observed that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.
A female druid in a huge hooded cape explained that the stones had been moved by the power of thought alone. As they towered above the waiting crowd in the dawn light, that was almost easier to believe than the archaeologists’ theories involving ropes and tree trunks.
'Physick Book' Casts Spell About Salem Witch Trials
By Jessica Harrison
"THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE" by Katherine Howe, Voice, 384 pages, $25.99
Whether it be the Wiccan religion or pop culture, today the world of witches and warlocks is more accepted as part of society.
But that has not always been the case.
In 1692, witch hysteria gripped the Puritan community of Salem, Mass. During a yearlong period, more than 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, ending with the conviction of 29 people for the capital felony of witchcraft.
In the end, 19 people were executed by hanging, a man was crushed to death under heavy stones and at least five more died in prison.
Author Katherine Howe, a descendant of two accused witches (one was found guilty, the other was not), offers an up-close look at 17th-century witchcraft through the lens of a 20th-century grad student in "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane."
Connie Goodwin loves American history. She loves it so much that she's decided to make it her career. All she has left to do is her Ph.D. dissertation at Cambridge. But, as the old adage goes, even the best-made plans have a way of falling apart.
When Connie receives a surprise phone call from her mom, she feels compelled to help with the sale of her grandmother's old home in Marblehead. Upon arrival, though, Connie finds the cottage in a state of disrepair.Abandoned when Connie's grandmother died, nothing in the home has been touched for more than 20 years.
Overwhelmed with the task at hand, Connie starts with what she knows best — books.
While exploring the bookshelves she discovers an ancient key with a slip of paper rolled up inside. On the paper are written two words that will change Connie's life forever: Deliverance Dane.
Connie's curiosity is sufficiently peaked, and with the backing of her adviser, researching Deliverance Dane becomes a top priority. Along the way, Connie meets a handsome steeplejack named Sam who becomes a welcome distraction as she puzzles out the clues.
Everything seems to be falling into place, but something isn't right. Connie begins having visions, and when a dear friend suddenly falls ill, Connie can't help but wonder if there's more to Deliverance Dane's tale than even she ever imagined.
In "Physick Book," the mystery surrounding Deliverance Dane spans three centuries, shifting between the 1690s and the 1990s with seamless ease.
Howe brings excitement to the research process, which can be dull to those outside of academia. The events surrounding the Salem trial are fascinating, and Howe's individualized look at that world is in-depth and imaginative.
Howe's prose is sound and her writing is accessibly fast, making "Physick Book" a good bet for a light, entertaining read.