Friday, July 16, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Here's a sad story out of Zambia.
Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of the Bemba speaking people in Northern Province has allegedly established an illegal prison at his palace to confine people being suspected of practicing witchcraft in his Chiefdom.
And the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Kasama has threatened to ban the Paramount Chief from Holy Communion because of promoting witch finding in his area.
High placed sources confirmed today in a telephone interview about the creation of an illegal prison at the Chief’s palace in Mungwi district which is said to have been in existence since last February.
The sources disclosed that the illegal prison which is built within the palace premises has no toilet facility and suspected sorcerers are detained overnight. “Yes I can confirm to you that our Paramount Chief has established an illegal prison at his palace where people being accused of practicing witchcraft are being detained overnight and this has been going on for quite sometime now,” said the sources.
The sources explained that Chief Chitimukulu has himself allowed youths aged between 21 and 23 to conduct witch finding in his territory so as to get rid of sorcerers.
The sources revealed that witch finders were persecuting suspected wizards, mainly elderly people before dragging them to Chief retainers, who in turn put them in detention until the following morning when further witch hunting is conducted by a team of quack doctors appointed by the paramount Chief. The sources added that whilst at the palace, those accused of practicing witch craft are brought before a huge crowd that includes the Paramount Chief and a team of witch finders for further divination. “When you see the crowd, you may think it is the Republican President addressing a rally, but people have come to see witch hunting being conducted at the Chief’s palace,” remarked the sources. Once a team of quack doctors endorses that the accused truly practice witch craft, they were being ill treated and fined two cows before chasing them away from their villages, added the sources. The sources added that items being grabbed from the accused people were allegedly being shared between the Paramount Chief himself and the witch finders.
The sources observed that although the Bemba Chief was dividing part of the Northern Province by bringing quack doctors, he was unwell because he uses wheelchair and his sight is very bad because of the sugar disease. The sources said several villagers including one headman Mwalapata have been tortured and driven away form their respective homes and their whereabouts have remained unknown. The sources disclosed that Malole Member of Parliament Emmanuel Munaile was informed about the obtaining situation in Mungwi, but failed to travel to the area with the Police due to lack of transport.
The sources said the situation was very worrying because it might result in the deaths particularly the elderly people who were being accused of practicing witch craft because of their age. The sources further said during the Parish Council meeting held at Malole Catholic Church on June 22nd 2010, it was resolved that Chief Chitimukulu be banned from receiving Eucharist because he was dividing his subjects by allowing Quack doctors to conduct witch hunting in his area. The meeting also resolved to write to Northern Province permanent Secretary Mwalimu Simfukwe, Minister John Chinyanta and Mungwi district commissioner about Chief Chitimukulu’s ungodly behaviour. The sources said the Council meeting was attended by Malole Parish Priest Father Edward Chimbuleni. The Sources said the Catholic Church was very much worried with the traditional ruler involvement in the witch hunting because the practice was not only unchristian, but would bring divisions among the accused families. Efforts to get comments from area MP Munaile, Northern Province Police Chief Charles Lungu failed.>
So I'll admit this hardly reads like objective reporting. And, credit where credit is due, it seems that, as long as it's others doing the witchhunting, cowstealing, harming of old people, the Catholic church seems to be worried about it. The main point is that it's still ok, in the 21st Century, to persecute people for supposedly being Witches.
Picture found here.
Here's a pretty moving account of this year's Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) from St. Louis Today.
Priestess Cynthea Jones once set up a ritual at Diana’s Grove with this thought: “How would you invoke the elements if the harvest depended on it? How would you pray if that harvest was truly a matter of life or death?”
The late summer ritual that followed was filled with a passion and urgency unlike many others I have attended. Until the one at this year’s PSG.
This year’s PSG happened during the ongoing oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. And the growing awareness in the larger society that our modern way of life is causing grave harm to the planet we call home. For many Pagans, it seems as though our beloved Earth’s life is indeed in the balance. And that our individual actions, from filling the recycling bins at each campground to praying for Gaia’s healing, can help tip the balance towards life and health for us all.
So, when we began the final ritual, we were not calling just Earth and Air, Fire and Water. We were calling the planet’s breath and blood, her bones and spirit. When we reached out to touch the glowing globe that moved just above us, we asked for more than the healing of Her wounds. We also asked forgiveness for all the years we have spent as a species taking without giving back.
Eight hundred hands, reaching up. Four hundred people, focused on one illuminated orb. One tall, slim man moving among us, carrying the representation of Gaia, our Mother Earth.
I love the initial question: “How would you invoke the elements if the harvest depended on it? How would you pray if that harvest was truly a matter of life or death?” How many rituals have you been to where the person assigned to call an Element got up and, clearly haven given little or no thought to the process beforehand, began to mumble a free-association about the Element. "Oh, Powers of Air, we um, we call you to help us today. Bring us fresh ideas and help us to communicate. Blow through our hearts and minds and, and, carry our thoughts, and, um, Hail and Welcome." Heck, I've been guilty of it myself enough times to make me blush. How would it be different if we really stopped and considered the import of our actions, the powers that we invoke, the truth that words have power? How would it be different if the life of our tribe depended upon the outcome of our magic? Why do we imagine that it doesn't?
How will you do it differently next time?
Picture found here.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
PZ Meyers is asking some good questions. I admit I've hung around the world of spell-casting for a number of decades without ever learning any specifically atheistic spells.
More importantly, as Meyers asks:
Oh, and if Indianapolis schools [which ban "[s]ites that promote and provide information on religions such as Wicca, Witchcraft or Satanism. Occult Practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or other forms of mysticism, [...] the use of spells, incantations, curses, and magic powers ] ban sites that talk about "paranormal or unexplained events", why aren't they blocking all of the Christian sites? Jesus was one paranormal dude with unexplained magic powers, you know.
Good question, PZ.
Points to IPS, though, for capitalizing Wicca and Witchcraft, but points off for failing to capitalize Voodoo. (Honest, is there ANY rhyme or reason to their capitalization practices? And they're teaching our kids?)
Picture found here.
Here's an interesting article about a Pagan convicted for carrying a knife that he used for religious purposes.
A PAGAN who had a knife at Temple Meads station failed to convince Bristol magistrates that using it for magic while living in the woods was a good enough reason to escape conviction.
Nomadic Alisdair McKee, 34, protested he should have been allowed to carry his "sacred" lock-knife, which had a four-inch blade, after he was stopped and searched by police on April 1.
. . .
Having previously admitted possessing cannabis resin, amphetamine and ketamine on the same day, he was given a community order with 140 hours of unpaid work.
Transport police stopped and searched him and found the knife, which had a brown wooden handle and four- inch blade, in his bag.
The law states someone possessing a fixed or locking knife, with a blade of more than three inches, must be able to prove, on the balance of probability, that they had a "good reason" to have it in a public place.
In interview, McKee said he used the knife do magic and for life in the woods, where he had been living in Carmarthen at the time of the offence.
. . .
"It's a special knife, it's a sacred knife," he said. "I use it in my day-to-day life in the woods."
McKee described it as a "magic tool".
The trained carpenter added: "I would never use a weapon. I want to stress that I'm not a violent person, I'm a pacifist."
Taking to the stand yesterday, McKee said he had been a pagan since he was 18 and had lived off the land in woods for the last few years.
He was given the knife, believed to be French from the early 1900s, by his last girlfriend, with whom he had recently split.
He said he did not want to leave it in the woods because he did not want to lose it.
"I had my precious possessions with me," he said. "It's come from a very special place to me and I use it to do earth magic."
. . .
Giving the guilty verdict, chair of the bench David Hynam said: "We accept your reason but we do not find this reason sufficient to found a defence."
As well as the one-year community order, McKee was ordered to pay £250 in costs.
One supposes, based upon his picture, that his looks had a lot to do with his being stopped and that, after finding the drugs, the knife charge was thrown in for make-weight. There's apparently not much question that Mr. McKee is a Pagan and did use the knife for ritual purposes. So should he have been arrested for carrying it?
Many Sikhs carry a kirpan, a ritual blade. Wiki says that:
According to a mandatory religious commandment given by Guru Gobind Singh (the tenth Guru of Sikhism) at the Baisakhi Amrit Sanchar (a holy religious ceremony that formally baptizes a Sikh) in AD 1699, all baptised Sikhs (Khalsa) must wear a kirpan at all times.
Wiki also explains that, in the UK:
As a bladed article, possession of a large enough kirpan in a public place would be illegal under section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. However, there is a specific defence for a person to prove that he had it with him for "religious reasons". There is an identical defence to the similar offence (section 139A) which relates to school grounds.
It's not clear from the article that section 139 was the relevant statute or that the defense was specifically pled. But certainly an analogy could be made.
Have you ever travelled with your athame? Ever gotten any grief over it? Who's right here: Mr. McKee or the state? Is it the formalized nature of the religion that makes the difference? Are Sikhs, who can point to commandments from the 10th Guru of Sikhism, entitled to carry blades while Pagans, who can't point to any such commandment, aren't?
Points off to the author of the article for failing to capitalize "Pagan" and for putting quotation marks around terms such as "sacred." The court found that it was a sacred blade, but that this did not provide a good reason to allow Mr. McKee to carry it. Would the author put quotation marks around a description of xian relics as "sacred"?
Picture by the author. If you copy, please link back.
Religion is Revelation:
all the Wonders of the Planets striking
all your Only Mind.
Guard the Mysteries:
Constantly reveal Them!
~Lew Welch in Earth Prayers from Around the World, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon
Various forms of Paganism are sometimes described as "mystery religions" or are taught at "mystery schools." Wikipedia says that:
The mystery cults offered a niche for the preservation of archaic religious ritual, and there is reason to assume that they were very conservative. The Eleusian Mysteries persisted for more than a millennium, more likely close to two millennia, during which period the ritual of public religion changed significantly, from the archaic cult of the Bronze to Early Iron Age to the Hero cult of Hellenistic civilization and again to the imperial cult of the Roman era, while the ritual performances of the mysteries for all we know remained unchanged. . . . "They were singularly persistent. The mysteries at Eleusis near Athens lasted for a thousand years; and there is reason to believe that they changed little during that long period." For this reason, what glimpses we do have of the older Greek mysteries have been taken as reflecting certain archaic aspects of common Indo-European religion, with parallels in Indo-Iranian religion in particular.
The mystery cults of Greco-Roman antiquity include the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Dionysian Mysteries, the Orphic Mysteries and the Mithraic Mysteries.
I consider there to be two great Mysteries that are central to my practice, although they are not Mysteries in the sense of being kept secret from those who are not initiated. The first is described in the Charge of the Goddess:
And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.
The second is the Mystery that so many mystics have tried to describe or discuss and that, at its mysterious heart, really cannot be discussed, but only experienced. It is the Mystery that, when we manage to wipe away from our eyes what one speaker described as the "enchantment of forgetfullness," we realize that everything is everything. It's all, to paraphrase J. D. Salinger, just Goddess pouring Goddess into Goddess. Or, as Alexander Pope explained:
All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.
An Essay on Man [sic], 1734
What mysteries are at the core of your practice?
Picture found here.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Thinking about a get together with some magical women coming up in a few weeks where we'll be discussing, inter alia, our daily practice, I think that the story of my daily practice can be summed up in a poem by Rumi:
Wanderers, worshippers, lovers of leaving!
Even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,
Come! Yet again, come, come.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
With my Moon in drifty Pisces, my Ascendent in flighty Gemini, and my Moon in lazy Taurus, it's not as if I am ideally aspected for a practice that requires attention, dedication, focus. And, yet, over and over -- often enough to have almost worn a groove in the pine floors of my ritual room -- I lower my old and creaky body to the floor, sit at my low altar, light the candles, light the incense, shake the seed pod rattle. Over and over, until I imagine that they all laugh, as in the LeGuin story, "Oh, it's that one again," I call the Elements, my allies, the 4 Goddesses with whom I work. Over and over, even when it takes long minutes to bring my monkey mind back, back, back, a thousand times, back to the breathing exercises, I remember: Mine is not a caravan of despair.
Do you have a daily practice? What is it? What is it that keeps you coming back? What would get you to return to it?
Picture found here.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
I admit that I love cemeteries, not only for the interesting "feel" of most of them, but also for the art and the history. Here's an interesting article by the caretaker of Tulocay Cemetery in Napa Valley, California. (Who gets to live on the grounds. Sounds like fun!)
OK, now about those Druids. The United Ancient Order of Druids peaked at about 30,000 members in the 1920s. Northern California, especially Marin County, was a hotbed of Druid activity.
At one time, Napa had two “Groves,” the name for local chapters. Seems the ancient Druid priests met in groves of large trees. Which brings up an important point; many of these groups had what I call a “mythic” history that was very distinct from their empirically based history. A groups’ “mythic” history was the source of their values, practices, rituals, etc. The U.A.O.D. did not directly descend from the Druids. They simply drew their culture from this group-myth of ancient Celtic priests.
Many societies conveniently conflated their “mythic” and empirically history and would have the outsider believe they’re the same. They’re not. There’s still an active Druid “grove” in Novato. Tulocay has it’s own designated Druid section, the William Tell Grove, No. 77. Tulocay is home to 10-12 definitively marked Druid graves.
He might be surprised how many Druids there really are in Northern California these days.
Of course, some Pagans want their remains to rest (often as ashes) in a garden, a grove, the Sea. And some may choose an explicitly Pagan cemetery. We've seen Wiccan headstones at Arlington and there are movements to allow headstones for a number of other Pagan denominations at Arlington, as well. But it's fascinating to consider that there's a long history of allowing Pagan-themed headstones in private cemeteries. One wonders what the reaction would be today to a family wanting to place a headstone with a pentacle and the three-headed Goddess Hecate, for example, upon their loved one's grave.
Picture found here.
The NYT has an interesting article about the impact on art viewers of security alarms that beep when people get too close to a work of art, in this case, the famous Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters in New York. (And these tapestries -- likely created by women -- are amazing; if you ever get a chance to see them, take it!) Fair enough, until you get to the article's description of the Unicorn Tapestries.
Each of the four tapestries depicts an episode in the story of a lone unicorn that is hunted in a forest and eventually killed — a visual narrative rich with religious, pagan or mythological imagery (depending on which scholar one asks). The ambiguity of the imagery, and the vivid details of the weaving — one tapestry shows the unicorn surrounded by a thousand little flowers — explain why visitors to that display want to get near it.
Religious or [small "p"] pagan? Really? Come on.
What the author means to say is that the symbols are seen by some as xian and by some as Pagan. Paganism has always been a form of religious expression, and was so when xians began adopting many of Paganism's symbols, holidays, and sacred sites as their own. Sad to see an otherwise intersting article marred by flat-out ignorance and prejudice.
I'm not even going to start in on calling other people's religions "myths."
Picture found here.