Saturday, December 29, 2007

Calling all Kiwis

New Zealand Builds a Nest Big Enough to Save Kiwis
Progress being made in New Zealand to save the various species of Kiwis:

...There are five species of kiwi, a smaller nocturnal relative of New Zealand’s now-extinct moa, and, more distantly, the emu and the ostrich. All kiwi species are listed on the country’s endangered species list. But two of them, the Rowi and Haast Tokoeka, are down to fewer than 300 birds, earning them a place on New Zealand’s “nationally critical” list, its most extreme category of endangered species...

Fortunately, New Zealand has the right attitude:

...So New Zealand’s government agencies have partnered with local communities, nonprofit groups like Save the Kiwi and commercial operations like the Willowbank reserve, to tackle the problem by trying to protect the birds until they have a better chance of defending themselves...

Captive breading and egg collection are risky policies, but for the Kiwi they have resutled in progress:

...Eggs are taken from kiwi nests in the wild and incubated in places like Willowbank. The newly hatched chicks are then taken to protected areas, many of them on isolated islands off the coast without predators, for about a year until they are big enough to fend for themselves. Then they are returned to the place their egg was found.After a slow start, Operation Nest Egg is picking up momentum. Its success rate is rising, and similar programs are starting throughout the country...Mr. McLennan is cautiously optimistic that Operation Nest Egg will stem the kiwis’ decline...“Because the rates of decline are relatively low at 2 to 5 percent, you don’t have to add many birds back into the population to make it break even,” he said...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nativity, WTF

Unholy dust-up at Nativity church

Once again, our War on Christmas is put to shame. Our Nativity battles are minor league compared to this:

...Members of rival Christian orders have traded blows at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, with four people reported wounded in the fray...Reports say some Orthodox faithful encroached on the Armenian section, prompting pitched battles with brooms...

Brooms! How very Wiccan of them! Now try to visualize this scene in your mind:

...police formed a human cordon to separate the battling dark-robed and bearded priests and deacons, said to number about 80...

US Dominionists are really slacking off. Then again, maybe they had a hand in it:

...One report says the dispute started when the Greek Orthodox contingent wanted to place a ladder over the Armenian portion...

Hmm, ladders!

(Thanx to Green Ghost for the link.)

The Flushing Remonstrance

A Colony With a Conscience

Remarkable opinion piece on the history of religious tolerance in the USA by Kenneth T. Jackson:

...Religious tolerance did not begin with the Bill of Rights...this republic really owes its enduring strength to a fragile, scorched and little-known document that was signed by some 30 ordinary citizens on Dec. 27, 1657...

Even thought the Dutch were remarkably tolerant, the provincial director general of New Amsterdam was fed-up with with the Quakers, who were quickly getting a reputation as troublemakers. He signed a harsh ordinance against the religious group and bared anyone from harboring them. A man named Edward Hart, along with other like-minded individuals, quickly signed a petition protesting the general's act:

“...We desire therefore in this case not to judge least we be judged, neither to condemn least we be condemned, but rather let every man stand and fall to his own master...the power of this world can neither attack us, neither excuse us, for if God justify, who can condemn, and if God condemn, there is none can justify..If any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egress and regress unto our town...For we are bound by the law of God and man to do good unto all men and evil to no man...”

Adding more import to this historic document is the fact none of the signers were Quakers. Predictably, the general had Hart and others arrested or jailed. Some were made to recant. One farmer, John Browne, was banished but eventually made it back to Amsterdam to plead his case. He won! The harsh ordinance was overruled.

Jackson ends the piece poignantly:

...The Bowne house is still standing. And within a few blocks of it a modern visitor to Flushing will encounter a Quaker meeting house, a Dutch Reformed church, an Episcopal church, a Catholic church, a synagogue, a Hindu temple and a mosque. All coexist in peace, appropriately in the most diverse neighborhood in the most diverse borough in the most diverse city on the planet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Nice Yule Adventure and Articles

Earth-based spirituality fosters respect for environment, others

I did not want to forget about this positive article in The News Leader from Central Shenandoah Valley:

STAUNTON — On Saturday, whether alone or in covens, area residents who call themselves Pagans will celebrate Yule, a celebration of the changing seasons on winter solstice. “As Pagans, we celebrate the turning of the wheel,” said Elaine Sutherland. “This is a celebration of nature.” Nature is a focal point for the wide variety of Neo-Pagan religions in Augusta County that stress a communion with the Earth and all people on it....Sutherland said she was attracted to Wicca and other nature-based religions because of the equality of men and women, celebration of the elderly and belief in treating the Earth and others with respect and dignity...

Amen to that, sister. Or should I say 'Amen-Ra'? Heh! We celebrated with our coven, we were all smiles and had a good time. A couple days later I attended a Xmas party of a distant friend of mine. For a kick, we decided to bring some frankincense and myrrh to the party. I figured most regular Xtain folk did not actually see the real-deal up close too often. We showed the resinous globs around and everyone seemed interested. Not one person had a clue what they were. I off hand said, "Well, this is what the Three Wise Men brought to the baby Jesus in the manger". You could not believe the blank stares that elicited! Not one person among about 20 knew that fact. Ah, Xtains!

Jason at Wild Hunt has an excellent post "A Blessed Solstice" all about Yule. It's a great post to point someone to if you want to expose people to the Pagan roots of Christmas.

Speaking of pagan roots, I highly recommend the book "Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide", by Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling. The authors are two German ethonbotonists who have packed their book with a ton of herbal lore. The book also includes some interesting recipies for cookies, candies, and even incense (there's a recipe for 'kyphi', the sacred incense of Ancient Egypt.) I bet you did not know the red clothes and white buttons of Santa's suite was inspired by hallucinogenic mushrooms! My suggestion is to act fast on this book: It looks like it's from a small publisher and I have a feeling it will go out of print in the not too distant future.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2nd Annual Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon: Carl's marching orders

I can't remember exactly where I first read this Sagan quote. But Carl was finishing a lecture when an inquisitive student came forward with a question. "I have many interests," she said, " I'm not sure what I should study or what I should do. But I really want to make a difference in this world." Carl replied, "Anything else you're interested in is not going to happen if you can't breathe the air and drink the water. Don't sit this one out. DO SOMETHING."

Those words always stuck in my mind. But what can I do? I have many interests, but am I actually contributing anything to this planet?

This year, a friend told me about a workshop by an entomologist who studies dragonflies. I've had a life long obsession with insects and spiders, even participating in some research and collecting expeditions, but I knew little about dragonflies--so I decided to go.

Well, now I'm an official 'volunteer entomologist' for the State of New York in the "New York Dragonfly And Damselfly Survey". The goal of this project is to survey the "Odonate" (dragonflies and damselflies) populations of the state. Although NYState has a rich population of these insects, no thorough survey has ever been conducted.

These are significant insects. For one--they eat mosquitoes! Even your most bug-phobic friend will be enamored with that fact! Because the immature stages of Odonates are aquatic, they are indicators of water quality. Although some species can tolerate a mild pollution, most tend to be sensitive to water quality issues. A sudden drop in diversity might indicate someone is dumping something nasty into your swimming hole, recreational lake, or water supply. In a broad sense, a healthy and diverse population of dragonflies may mean a healthy and diverse local environment.

Interest by the general public for these insects is growing, some claiming "dragon watching" is nearly as popular as bird watching. And no wonder! Dragonflies are swift predators, catching their prey on the wing. They exhibit complex behaviors, such as guarding territories and performing unusual mating rituals. Close-up, many are revealed to be beautifully colored with lovely wing patters. Not only that, these insects are completely harmless: they don't have stingers. Even if carelessly handled, the largest ones are only capable of a feeble bite.

If you have a knack for bugs, a love a nature or some time to contribute, consider joining the project. It's funded through 2008. Click on the DDNYS link, and that will get you started.

Even if you are not interested in the survey, dragon watching is a great hobby. If you are a deep bio-geek like I am, you know nature focused hobbies are only as good as their field guides. Up till recently, there was not much in the book department to help the amateur identify these insects. Fortunately, that is changing. Here's two recommendations if you live in the Northeast:

"Damselflies of the Northeast: a Guide to the species of Eastern Canada and the Northeast" by E. Lam. EO Wilson described this book as "a small masterpiece". This is one of the most beautiful guide books I have ever seen. The artwork is stunning.

"A Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Massachusetts" by B. Nikula, J. Ryan, and M. Burne. This book is considered the bible among Odonate fans in the Northeast. There's great macrophotography and detailed drawings to help you key-out the more problematic species.

Click on the titles to find out how to order the books. They are small press, so you order them directly from the publisher.

A more general guide is "Dragonflies through Binoculars" by S. Dunkle. Although not as detailed as the above two books, it covers the entire USA. It's a good book to start with if you just want to test the waters. It's available from online booksellers.

Among us Neo-Pagans, Carl Sagan is considered something of an Avitar, a special individual of great power who brings an important message. (If you think Dalai Lama or Ghandi, you'll have an idea what we mean by Avatar.) When I was new to Wicca, I remember mentioning Sagan and his 'Cosmos' series at a meeting. The entire room got quite at the mention of his name! I asked someone about this later. She rolled her eyes a bit, kidding me about my newbie question. "Of couse" she said, "Sagan was an amazing man, he's an incredible source of inspiration."

One of the primary characteristics of Neo-Paganism is a love of and identification with the Earth. We perform our Sabbats and Rituals to the tune this planet plays. Why not do more than pay lip service to helping the Goddess. She has done so much and shown us so much. Yet it's now so clear she needs our help. In my small way, I think now I have found an area where I can contribute. Whether it's planting trees, saving the whales...whatever, all of us should try to find some niche where we can contribute.

So Wiccans and Neo-Pagans who are reading this, listen to Carl Sagan: DO SOMETHING!

(Check out Joel's Page for more information on Carl Sagan blog-a-thon. Pic from the cover of Ed Lam's "Damselfies of the Norheast")

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John Haught Vs The Movement Atheists

The Atheist Delusion

Can hope exist in a Godless universe? Is Darwinian evolution a boon to religion--not the final nail in the coffin, as Fundamentalists would have you believe? There's an excellent interview in Salon with John Haught, author of "God after Darwin", "Is Nature Enough?" and the forthcoming "God and the New Atheism". This man has the bone fides to adequately address both sides of the science verses religion argument:

...He was the only theologian to testify as an expert witness in the landmark 2005 Dover trial... Haught testified against intelligent design, arguing that it's both phony science and bad theology. But Haught is also a fierce critic of hard-core atheists like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, who claim that evolution leads logically to atheism. He says both sides place too much faith in science. "Ironically," Haught writes, "ID advocates share with their ideological enemies, the evolutionary materialists, the assumption that science itself can provide ultimate explanations..."

I have good friends who are Atheists. But I think some should be mindful of the expression, "When you hunt dragons for too long, you become one yourself". One of Haught's peeves is the sloppy theology expressed in certain Atheist bestsellers:

...My chief objection to the new atheists is that they are almost completely ignorant of what's going on in the world of theology. They talk about the most fundamentalist and extremist versions of faith, and they hold these up as though they're the normative, central core of faith...They miss the moral core of Judaism and Christianity -- the theme of social justice, which takes those who are marginalized and brings them to the center of society. They give us an extreme caricature of faith and religion...

I would add that it's dangerous for people to define themselves primarily by what they are against. You risk the danger of becoming reverse image of your own straw man. Haught continues:

...The only thing new in the so-called new atheism is the sense that we should not tolerate faith because, by doing so, we open people's minds to any crazy idea -- including dangerous ideas like those that led to 9/11. In every other respect, this atheism is similar to the secular humanism of the modern period, which said that faith is incompatible with science, that religion and belief in God are bad for morality, and that theology should be purged from culture and academic life. These are not new ideas...

If I understand Haught correctly, he advocates a "layered" understanding of the universe. He gives this fun example:

...if a pot of tea is boiling on the stove, and someone asks you why it's boiling, one answer is to say it's boiling because H2O molecules are moving around excitedly, making a transition from the liquid state to the gaseous state. And that's a very good answer. But you could also say it's boiling because my wife turned the gas on. Or you could say it's boiling because I want tea. Here you have three levels of explanation which are approaching phenomena from different points of view. This is how I see the relationship of theology to science...

In the case of the boiling tea pot, all three "levels of explanation" enrich the answer as to why it's boiling. I guess this means that everyone should behave, and if anyone insists their explanation is the only reason the water is boiling--they don't get any tea! OUCH--I just burned my hand on the kettle! Heh!

Haught testified against Intelligent Design in the Dover Case. He makes a compelling case for spiritual people to embrace Darwin:

...Darwin's thought seems to be more important intellectually and culturally than it's ever been. My view is that theology, instead of ignoring or closing its eyes to it, should look it squarely in the face. It has everything to gain and nothing to lose by doing so. In my view, Darwin's thought is a gift to theology...

Haught address the issue of Gov. Mike Huckabee and his creationist comments:

...To admit that he "personally" rejects evolution may sound harmless enough at first sight. But when any Christians reject evolution these days, one may presume that they usually, though not always, do so on the basis of a literalist style of biblical interpretation. It's this that concerns me. Combined with the principle of private interpretation of Scripture, biblical literalism can end up short-circuiting the process of public debate, justifying almost any domestic and international policies one finds convenient. I don't know for sure that this is the case with Huckabee, but I'm still worried...

We all should be worried. I don't buy this "it's my personal" belief nonsense. That's like saying 'we hate the sin, not the sinner'. Thinking like that was a excuse to persecute witches: 'Oh, you are guilty of witchcraft, so we are going to burn you alive--but don't take it personally. We don't have anything against you--personally--it's the sin of witchcraft we are trying to eliminate. Hey, cheer up! Your body may be burnt up, but your soul will be saved in Heaven. So you should really look at it like we are doing you a favor.' Someone who is willing to discard heaps of evidence for something (in this case, evolution), and go with their personal views--is a dangerous person. They should not inhabit the highest office of the USA.

But I've already quoted too much from this wide ranging and informative interview. Please check it out yourself.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Giant Rat of Sumatra

Giant rat found in 'lost world'

I knew it was out there! I tried to warn you all. OK, you would not take my word for it, but what more convincing did you need than the immortal words of the greatest detective of them all, Sherlock Holmes:

"...Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson," said Holmes in a reminiscent voice. "It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared."

Prepared or not, it's out there. Perhaps to steel our nerves, it would be best to listen to the words of another great detective, Hemlock Stones and his "patient, doctor, and biographer" Dr. Flotsam. You can learn more about the rat here. Why not listen to the words of the great detective himself!

Xtains making the Baby Jesus proud on his Birthday

Wiccan Display at City Hall Vandalized

...Green Bay police say at about 12:45 Monday morning, someone used a ladder to remove a Wiccan wreath from the awning over the entrance to City Hall.

Is anyone surprised by this? It's a wonder how certain Xtains drool at the chance to deface the symbols of other religions. But I wonder if this would have been done to a Menorah?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pentacle and Nativity Scene at pease

Wiccan symbol added to City Hall roof alongside nativity scene

...GREEN BAY, Wis. - A nativity scene on the roof of the local City Hall will share the spotlight this year with at least one other religious symbol _ the Wiccan pentacle...

Great idea to put it on the roof! Now some jackass can't drive over it in his pickup.

...The Wiccan display added Friday consists of an evergreen wreath, about three feet across, encircling a gold five-pointed star. Perched a few feet away is a statue of Mary, in a nativity setting installed this week by City Council president Chad Fradette...

Beautiful display. I know what I'm making this afternoon.

...Fradette initially decided to install the nativity scene to defy an anti-religion group that was protesting a similar display in Peshtigo, a smaller town about 40 miles northeast of Green Bay. "So now the Freedom From Religion Foundation can pick on somebody a little larger than Peshtigo," Fradette told a city committee. The committee approved the nativity scene 4-1 Tuesday night...

I have no objection to Nativity scenes. Hey, Wiccan's have no bone to pick with the baby Jesus! Heh! As pointed out by the ACLU and other orgs, the concept of 'separation of church and state' does not necessarily excluded religious holiday displays from public property. This is especially true if some private individual or group bares the expense of setting up and maintaining the display (and tax dollars are not being uses), as happened in a town near me:

Update: Jewish Federation rescinds request, apologizes

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Presidential Debate: Science and Technology

A Call for a Presidential Debate on Science and Technology

After sitting through the recent disgraceful and Xtain pandering Republican candidate debate on CNN, this strikes me as a very good idea--actually asking candidates about issues of vital importance:

...As you watched the scores of U.S. Presidential debates, did you ever wonder why there has been no debate devoted to policy surrounding what may be the most important social issue of our time: Science and Technology...?

Yeah. I have wondered. It was really jaw-dropping watching Anderson Cooper lob softball "what would Jesus do" questions to preachers and Dominionists:

...We have noticed that science and technology lie at the center of a very large number of the policy issues facing our nation and the world - issues that profoundly affect our national and economic security...

And I might add 'our survival as a species', yet: science and technology continue to transform our lives...We believe a debate on these issues would be the ideal opportunity for America and the candidates to explore our national priorities on the issues, and it is hard to imagine any candidate not wishing to be involved in such an occasion. Please join us and make Science Debate 2008 a reality...

(via Josh at TFK)

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Wiccan for President?

Wiccan politics by Puck Goodfellow

Great post at DailyKos about being born Wiccan:

...Even though Wiccans are usually WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Pagans) we are a small enough minority to face Religious Discrimination. For the most part it's little things like the constant question of ",So you cast spells?"

That's just kid stuff. I usually get "So, you worship Satan!, but I'm hard-core.

...My Religious Beliefs are actually what made me heavily anti-George W. Bush during the 2000 election...

Heh, welcome to the club.

...What would happen if I, a Wiccan, ran for office? This latest kerfuffle definitely has reinforced my feeling of being shut out of the political process.

I have a feeling my religion would be at the bottom of the list of factors precluding my run for high office. Well, probably even low office. :)

Check out the excellent comments following the post. Nice to know there are so many supportive Kossaks.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I want my Zeus TV!

Greek Gods Come to Television

Jason over at Wild Hunt asks:

...Is the world ready for a comedy television series starring Zeus, Dionysus, Apollo, and Artemis...?

I don't know. I always look at these things with a mix of anticipation and dread.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Evolutionary Conversion

Former Evangelical Minister Has a New Message: Jesus Hearts Darwin

Fun (and short) interview from Wired News with former Evangelical preacher Micheal Dowd, who now embraces Darwin. There's a number of interesting comments. When asked if 'evolutionary theology' might trump scriptural truths, Dowd answers:

...God didn't stop communicating truth vital to human well-being thousands of years ago, when people preserved insights on animal skins. God communicates through science. Facts are God's native tongue. Who of us would let a first-century dentist fix our children's teeth? Yet every day we let first-century theologians fill our children's brains...

Heh, that one's a keeper! I have to admit I'd like to see a 'fire and brimstone' pro-evolution revival meeting. If the spirit called me, I'd start knuckle walking around the tent! :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Peking Man, Science, and God

Faith, science, censorship, and the search for Peking Man

Excellent review of the book "The Jesuit and the Skull", about the man who discovered 'Peking Man':

...Teilhard De Chardin (1881-1955) helped uncover one of the most important scientific finds of the 20th century: Peking Man. The French scientist was working in China alongside an international team of anthropologists, geologists, and paleontologists in December 1929...

But Teilhard was a Jesuit priest, so his findings were subject to review and censorship by the Vatican:

...Not only did the Vatican censor Teilhard's groundbreaking scientific work in his own life, it continues to limit 2006...documents containing the Vatican's decision to censor the French priest's work remained unavailable for review...

The book combines biography, the history of evolutionary thought, and the conflict between science and religion:

...Teilhard himself saw no contradiction between his role as a scientist and man of God. Indeed, he viewed evolution as bolstering his faith. In his "The Phenomenon of Man," censored during his lifetime, Teilhard wrote that "Man is not the centre of the universe as was naively believed in the past, but something much more beautiful - Man the ascending arrow of the great biological synthesis...

This book sounds like a must read.

Chinese Turtle at brink of extinction

China’s Turtles, Emblems of a Crisis

Only two remaining Giant Yangtze Soft Shell Turtles are known to exist. A male and female, both are in captivity at separate zoos:

...The agenda is simple: The turtle must not die. Earlier this year, scientists concluded that she was the planet’s last known female Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle. She is about 80 years old and weighs almost 90 pounds...As it happens, the planet also has only one undisputed, known male. He lives at a zoo in the city of Suzhou. He is 100 years old and weighs about 200 pounds. They are the last hope of saving a species believed to be the largest freshwater turtles in the world...

China contains some of the worlds richest biodiversity. Yet China's wildlife has been under unrelenting pressure due to economic development. 40 percent of animals are threatened, as well as 70 percent of non-flowering and 86 percent of flowering plants.

...“It’s a very dire situation,” said Peter Pritchard, a prominent turtle expert in the United States who has helped in trying to save the species. “This one is so big and it has such an aura of mystery...

How the turtle wound up at the zoo is an amazing story:

...Fifty-one years ago, a traveling circus performed at the new zoo in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province in southern China. For a cash payment, the circus left behind a large female turtle. Zookeepers slipped the turtle into a large pond, where for a half-century it hibernated in winters and poked its pig-like snout above the water’s surface every spring. The walls of the zoo became the equivalent of a time capsule...Outside, the convulsions of modern Chinese history were scarring an already damaged landscape...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beliefnet: RIP

Well, Beliefnet was not a complete hosejob, but pretty close too. Now it can sleep comfortably in the Dominionist hands of News Corp (aka: Fox News). Yes, Murdock has purchased Beliefnet! As Jason points out on WildHunt:

...No doubt promises of independence and a glorious future are forthcoming, but I'm not sure this will be good for the already-marginalized religious minorities who were once strong supporters of Beliefnet. I wouldn't be surprised at all if, over the next few years, Beliefnet grows ever-more Christian and conservative in tone. A "family friendly" site to help promote Fox Faith films and hype new Christian book releases from (coincidentally) Zondervan...

Jason provides a great screen grab of a recent Beliefnet article, giving you a good example of what they considered 'balance' in their articles.

WitchVox, WTF?

I think it was the Atheist Richard Dawkins who said "It's good to keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains drip out your ears". Maybe we Neo-Pagans can learn a thing or two from our Atheist friends.

I know WitchVox has a policy of not "taking sides" when publishing essays from its members. But do we really need 3 different essays from Global Warming deniers? (Heh, and I sure am not linking to them.) None of the essayists offer any proof of their claims. Sheesh, anyone willing to spend 3 minutes on 'the google' can make mince meat out of their arguments. I wish I had the time to waste taking them on point for point, but all they manage are oil industry talking points or sad displays of scientific illiteracy.

But if you want to check out an article which debunks such propaganda, read BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER:
The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

Just a preview, in regards to the tired 'there's no consensus among the experts' ploy:

...For example, the National Academy of Sciences report, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, begins: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise"... The report explicitly asks whether the IPCC assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and answers yes: "The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue"...Others agree. The American Meteorological Society..., the American Geophysical Union..., and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling...

So, what next Witchvox? Yule Sabbat suggestions from Holocaust deniers!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pullman and Rowling, what good company!

The sum of all fears: organized religion

According to Dominionist and Absolutist Xtians, do you know what occupies even a lower step in Hell than Neo-Paganism? ATHEISM, that's what! I guess those who protest Harry Potter, claiming it's the Communist Manifesto of Wicca, have found an even more dreadful target. Move over J.K. Rowling, make room for our friend Phillip Pullman:

...If there is a piece of art, a TV show, a column, a book, a movie, a blog, a movement, a wine bottle or sexual position that somehow deeply threatens the various ultraconservative sects of Christian-blasted America to the point where their pale, dour representatives demand boycotts and distribute angry pamphlets to try to stop people from experiencing said hunk of culture because of how negatively it portrays their seething, condemnatory God, well, it's time to break out the Champagne. Or buy that book. Or get very, very naked. Or all of the above...

What great advice. Mark Morford's opinion in the SFGate hits even more perfect stride when he identifies the target of Pullman's "The Golden Compass":

...The nefarious thing the books aim to kill is religious authority. It's about the destruction of dogma....the God of organized religion...the false deity that promotes numb groupthink, inhibits growth and abhors the feminine divine (perhaps the books' most beautiful, inspiring theme), the same paranoid, dreadful God that votes for George W. Bush because he will smite the icky gays and protect us from vile pagans and Buddhists and Muslims and feminists and frumpy genius atheist British writers. If humanity is to flourish, to get over its addiction to war and guilt and fear, this is the false God that should - that must - die...

OK, I'm sold. I feel like such a jerk that I have not read Pullman's work.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Deep in the Heart of...

Questioning “Intelligent Design” in Texas? You’re Fired.

Science bloggers let out a collective scream today. It seems Dominionists are up to their old tricks trying to subvert the education system of the USA (In Texas, no less! Who'd of thunk? Heh!): Bluegal at CrooksandLiars covers it well:

...Comer was put on 30 days paid administrative leave shortly after she forwarded an e-mail...announcing a presentation being given by Barbara Forrest, author of “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” a book that says creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. Forrest was also a key witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case concerning the introduction of intelligent design in a Pennsylvania school district...

Of course, the person responsible for this latest stink is a Bush crony:

...The call to fire Comer came from Lizzette Reynolds, who previously worked in the U.S. Department of Education. She also served as deputy legislative director for Gov. George W. Bush. She joined the Texas Education Agency as the senior adviser on statewide initiatives in January...

Josh over at Thoughts from Kansas says it best:

...Horrors! The state's science curriculum supervisor supports … science!
Indeed, Comer was fired for exactly that radical interpretation of her job responsibilities...

Do check out Josh's post above, as he's posted Comer's original email.

Bluegal makes an interesting side observation:

...Update: Some commenters are taking offense that this post is anti-Christian. I wrote it. I’m a Christian (believing Quaker). A great many members of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State believe as I do that intelligent design is a specific attempt by Fundamentalists to inject religion into the public schools, and some of us also believe that if the State teaches the Bible they will misinterpret it for our children. Religious freedom requires freedom from anyone’s individual religious beliefs being force taught in the public schools as scientific fact...

Bravo Bluegal! As a fellow member of Americans United, I fully embrace the fact one can be spiritual yet support science. It's funny, but I sometimes get flack coming in the opposite direction, as some of my deep science geek friends can't fathom how I can be Wiccan.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Our hellish sister planet, Venus

New Findings Underscore an Earth-Venus Kinship

Recent finding of the Venus Express spacecraft include wide temperature swings, signs of lightning, and evidence the planet may have had oceans the size of earth's:

“...They’re really twins which are just separated at birth,” said Dmitri Titov, the mission’s science coordinator. “The key question is why those twins are so different...”

In the NE USA, Venus is high and bright in the morning sky and easy to spot before sunrise. Understanding Venus is relevant for us here on earth, as the article points out:

...Understanding the dynamics and history of Venus’s turbulent atmosphere could lead to a better understanding of the role that heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide play in shaping the climate of planets including Earth...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mourning Moon, the Lament of Isis

We celebrated a full moon Esbat last weekend, the Mourning Moon. I have to admit I don't attend Esbats as regularly as I should. But our High Priestess is a follower of Hecate, and the Greeks had celebrations for her at this time of year. In addition, Nov. 24th is the Egyptian 'Festival of Burning Lamps' for Isis and Osiris. Not only that, there was just a celebration for Bast. So I figured I should attend. During the ritual, I read "The Lament of Isis", from James Frazer's 'Golden Bough'. After the ritual, one of our coveners said she really liked the reading. So I've posted it here.

When Isis and her sister Nephthys found the body of the murdered Osiris, they collapsed beside him. The two Goddess then commenced with this lamentation, which was heard throughout the world, even reaching Heaven and the Underworld:

Come to thy House, Come to thy House.
Oh god On! Come to thy house, thou who has no foes.
O fair youth, come to thy house, that thou mayest see me.
O fair boy, come to thy house...

I see thee not, yet doth my heart yearn after thee and mine eyes desire thee. Come to her who loves thee, who loves thee, Unnefer, thou blessed one!

Come to thy sister, come to thy wife, to thy wife, thou whose heart stands still. Come to thy housewife. I am thy sister by the same mother, thou shalt not be far from me. Gods and men have turned their faces toward thee and weep for thee together...

I call after thee and weep, so that my cry is heard to heaven, thou hearest not my voice; yet am I thy sister, whom thou didst love on earth; thou didst love none but me, my brother! my brother!

No God or mortal ever mourned more than Isis. Even the Nile could not contain her immeasurable tears, causing the mighy river to flood for the first time. (In the lament, Isis refers to Osiris as 'Unnefer' , which means 'Good Being", a title bestowed on the kindly God.)

The words of Isis come to me whenever I recall the events surrounding the untimely death of a friend. I remember her mother crying, "I only wish I could bring her home". Everyone suffers from loss. But I feel we experience the most searing grief when someone is taken from us tragically, randomly, or prematurely. We have all felt what Isis felt: the loss of someone good and dear, taken far too soon, who is actually a part of us.

We thank and honor you, Isis, for showing us that even a Goddess can suffer tragedy. "Come to thy House" you wailed. Like us, all you wished to do was bring your loved-one home.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hug a monotheist today

Archbishop of Canterbury: U.S 'is worse than the British Empire at its peak'


...He said the modern Western definition of humanity is "clearly not working very well" and said there is something about Western modernity "which really does eat away at the soul...".

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My so called past life

Ancient sea scorpion was 8 feet long

Obviously this is what I was in a past life. No wonder Dr. Zaius had me classified as a 'crab person' for a while. Heh!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Welcome to America (*UPDATED*)

Potter Creator Tells Of Religious Fanatic's Attack

JK Rowlling was accosted by Xtain fundy recently while out with her children. She found the encounter unnerving:

"...The next thing, a man came up to me and said, 'Aren't you that Potter woman?' Then he brought his face close to me and said, very aggressively, 'I pray for you every evening.' "...I was stunned. It was very frightening..."

That's pretty mild by Bible thumper standards. Here in the US, where religious tolerance is suppose to be a virtue and wired into our Constitution, you get use to such in-your-face tactics when you're not among the Chosen.

I have to admit that lines like "I pray for you every evening" always makes me cringe. I can't help feeling they really mean "I hope Jesus gives me a ring-side seat so I can watch you burn in hell." We need a snappy comeback to such condescending dribble. Here's some suggestions:

1)"I saw your future in the chicken entrails last night. Don't worry, people with short lives usually die happy."

2)"Thanx, but where's the neighborhood abortion clinic? I have to render some baby fat for my flying potion."

3)"Instead of wasting time on my soul, don't you have gay nightclubs to bomb or something?"

4)"Pray for me? I ate the liver of the last person who prayed for me with fava beans and a fine Chianti."

These are just a few suggestions. Have fun with the whole family thinking of more!


LiviaIndica adds a good one:

5)"If you want to pray for me you've got a pray to a different god."

(thanx to Witchvox for this)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How to Stone Someone

Thou Shalt Find It Impossible to Live Like the Bible Tells You to

Great article by Anneli Rufus about author A.J. Jacobs book "The Year of Living Biblically", which documents his year following the 600+ laws proscribed in the Bible-- hilarity follows:

"...The Hebrew scriptures prescribe a tremendous amount of capital punishment... Think Saudi Arabia, multiply by Texas, then triple that. It wasn't just for murder. You could also be executed for adultery, blasphemy, breaking the Sabbath, perjury, incest, bestiality, and witchcraft...The most commonly mentioned punishment method in the Hebrew Bible is stoning. So I figure, at the very least, I should try to stone. But how...?"

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

comments on comments (or 'zeus', sam iii)

The creatrix of toomanytribbles and I started this conversation because of our opposing views on Mary Lefkowitz's opinion piece. For clarity, here's my original post and here is her's. Our discussions evolved in the comments section of her post. To more adequately reply, she elevated one of my comments to a post. Thanx, toomanytribbles.

Is polytheism more tolerant and multicultural than monotheism?

When different pagan cultures met, their respective Gods and Goddesses got right to work comparing notes on the strange human creatures that danced before them. Then they quickly started trying on each other's clothes. :) They did not command their subjects to wage ideological wars or chop the heads off infidels. Why is this?

Here are a few possibilities: a crowd of deities with many shared characteristics encourages numerous interpretations of the divine, making the religion accommodating to outsiders; numerous cults of contradictory beliefs tend to diverge and not unify; polytheism lacks a dogmatic and politically charged bible (such as the one of Christianity and Islam), so there's nothing for a manipulative government or clergy to latch onto; and most texts on morality and ethics are attributed to historical figures, not deities.

The characteristics above are true of Egyptian mythology, except for one glaring exception:

The Armana period encompassed the rule of the "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaten. During his infamous reign, Akhenaten forcibly instituted a strict form of monotheism. He claimed the God "Aten" as the one true God. Temples were closed and priesthoods disbanded. Images of the other Gods and Goddesses were rounded up and destroyed, even confiscating statuary from household altars. Akhenaten claimed one could only contact the Aten through him: worship Akhenaten--and you worshiped God! In Egyptian art until this time, you'd often see people bowing, kneeling, or making offerings before the divine. But in the Armana period you see citizens prostrate on the ground, groveling before Akhenaten and the Aten. Not only that, there's evidence nay sayers faced execution. All this didn't go over well with the Egyptian people. When Akhenaten was overthrown, the old Gods and Goddesses were quickly re-instituted.

Could Akhenaten's behavior have anything to do with monotheism? People should draw their own conclusions. But, returning to Mount Olympus, I'm impressed with Lefkowitz's findings about Greek mythology. I'm not entirely surprised how it dovetails with other Pagan beliefs. I'm glad there's good research supporting such claims.

As in other polytheistic religions, Wiccans don't proselytize or express their beliefs fanatically. We aren't hobbled by a concept of sin (phew!), yet trying to convince someone of the fallacy of their belief system--or persuade them of the superiority of our own--are big no-nos. We feel that everyone is on their proper spiritual path. Atheism is exactly where you are supposed to be. I'm not stating there's anything wrong with discussing important issues. But pushing opinions down people's throats, or denigrating those who hold alternative viewpoints, is just showboating and egoism. If people are happy, have good friends and family, are satisfied and lead productive lives and mind their own business--who the heck am I to take issue? Happiness is elusive. So, if someone ekes out comfort in their short lives by envisioning a blissful afterlife or casting fortunes, I'm not going to spoil their fun. There's enough suffering in this ragged-clawed world. I'm trying my best not to add to more.

(OTOH, I've been attacked. By that I mean seriously so, not just on internet forums by religionious zealots of the Xtain persuasion. In the USA, there's a movement afoot to spawn a Dominionist, "Big Brother", Right-Wing government. A small yet powerful minority pines for a country that resembles East Germany before the fall of communism, where neighbor spies on neighbor. This is not God, mythology, or the Bible doing any of these things--it's people who happen to be bat-shit crazy. I don't think I am compromising myself by taking such people on.)

There's server filling debates on the topic of Science vs. Religion. Do we really need to add more of these? Some people relish such exercises. Like Ann_C0ulter's fan base, they never grow tired of listening to her screeds. I think you and I are comfortable enough in our beliefs not to need reinforcement from soap-boxers.

Now, on to some of your comments:

...we're animals with an enormous evolutionary history...

OK, I think that's something we can agree on. :)

...even though our ability to reason is a fairly new 'trick,' it's obvious that it has done more good than harm. Think about what life was actually like for us humans 10,000 years ago -- or 500 or >even 100. isn't our moral standard changing and improving...

Of course there's great strides in science and medicine. However, we elite are the ones sucking that teat. (I don't buy Pinker's assessment of genocide and crime in the last century. He conveniently qualifies his data with " least in Western society." Of course, you realize Pinker has his critics, but I'm not interested in fighting that battle.) Since you brought up animals, I'm sure the Blue whale is very impressed with our noble standard. Mother Earth must think this Global Warming thing is a real kick! Thanx to our bone-headed behavior, our recent history has brought a global wide extinction, rivaling the effects of a cometary impact. Those are quite some accomplishments. To be clear, I feel the quotient of human suffering has not changed much over the centuries. Too few fruits of Western society are benefiting the rest of humanity.

...are you actually saying that fascism or totalitarianism is a result of critical thinking and rationality? were these dark episodes, truly, supported by logic and reason? in what way? or were they simply purported to, then and now?

Exactly my point: I'm not saying that. Our better qualities are not to blame. No Luddite arguments from me, my friend. :)

...mary lefkowitz says, '...but the poison isn't religion; it's monotheism.' i disagree.. the poison isn't monotheism -- the poison is belief in the supernatural without evidence -- i.e. religion

Yikes! Religion=Poison? If you hold the reactionary position that practicing religion is equivalent to everything anal, banal, and dread, such as slavery, human sacrifice, or genital warts, we are just wasting our time. Is there a point in having this discussion if you won't consider anything I say? Why not just blame cooking technology for the fact that people got shoved alive into ovens during WWII.

...we're 'way more' enlightened than our ancestors. we know so much more about our cosmos, our bodies, our origins and history and our place in the universe. isn't this enlightenment helping us reject slavery and racism and the burning of witches?

Who would argue against reason and enlightenment? That would be like arguing against truth and beauty. I know Atheists are capable of great truth and beauty. The sad thing is, not everybody likes science. Many people don't feel the quality of fulfillment you or I receive from it. Yet, I think we should work together on the issues facing us. Btw, thanx for throwing in the 'witch' part! :) The sad thing is, some people never learn.

...of course we act differently than we used to. not all of us, and not always -- but i think there's a definite shift towards the better, with ample evidence.

OK. We just have a difference of opinion. I feel there's evidence in support of my position.

...of course we can't know of every possible thing in the universe. scientists, in fact, don't claim to -- but theists do... and not just nebulous suspicions, but specifics as to what we can eat or how we can dress or against whom we can rub our bodies (or, as hitchens says, what bits of them we should saw off with sharp stones...

Ouch! This is a "frame" free blog! Besides, the last straw man here was burnt up at Lugh. Wicca in no way resembles what you just described. We are not faith based or absolutist. We don't enforce hurtful proscriptions. the face of not only a complete lack of evidence, but a complete lack of any concrete indication for deities (ancient polytheistic or primitive monotheistic), xenus, leprechauns, >poltergeists, fairies, etc., etc...the most intellectually honest stance is not believing in these things until we have sufficient reason to. maybe these things are not disprovable -- but are they even probable?

Heh! Why do you Atheists always bring up these weird creatures? It's as if you're in love with those things! Do you & your Atheist friends have some kinky/erotic thing going on with them or something? If you do, why not let us in on the fun! :)

Having spent time practicing my religion with like-minded people, let me assure you: leprechauns don't find their way into the conversation too often. But I fear this is arguing from the extremes. Next you'll be saying "You like to read your horoscope in the newspapers--SO YOU BELIEVE IN LEPRECHAUNS!"

I know you're aware there's considerable evidence that "little people" did exist. It's even possible the Amazons of Greek mythology existed. But Fairies, you ask? I'm just finding out about the branch of Wicca known as the Feri Tradition. Recently, I had the pleasure of being befriended by two such beings. (wink!) . Also, one of the contributors to the fine tradition posts here from time to time. I agree there's scant evidence of ghosts, but I have a horrific story that happened to me:

I came to Atheism gradually. By the time I was a teenager, I figured God did not exist. Years later, a friend who really trusted me confessed she was plagued with ghosts. She had been seeing them since she was a child. She was someone who experienced many hardships in life, and suddenly found herself thrust into a bad living situation. Once ensconced in her new place, she discovered it had a history putting the "The Sentinel" to shame! She was terrified, hearing strange noises at night and seeing things in the shadows. She was in sorry state when finally telling me all this. How did I react? Basically I gave her the spiritual back of my hand and laughed off her concerns. You could not escape the look of shock and betrayal that swept over her. It was much later that I discovered the harm I had done. Why didn't I just commit to losing a night while holding someone's hand? Would it have helped explaining it was only a creaky radiator, or those angry voices were nothing but the drunken fights of upstairs neighbors? Would this have been handled differently if I was not so full of my Atheist self? I don't know, I have not figured that out. Someday, I hope to make it up to her. Until then, I am still haunted by the look on her face. I told you this was a horrific ghost story!, back to the ancient greeks -- from what i's quite probable that theirs was amore multicultural and tolerant religion...the greek myths have a great deal to teach us, when not >taken literally, and they do lack the arrogance and narcisism present in even non-literal christianity...on the other hand, the greek gods were spiteful and petty and humanity was a minor irritant.

I'm also trying to figure these things out. Seeking people to challenge assumptions always helps. I'm fascinated that many scholars may have it wrong about the Greek Gods. Your mileage may vary.

...but you see, today we don't have to choose either. so can we just keep the tolerance and multiculturalism, insights and relevance to the human condition, and leave out the religion? can't we study and learn from them without espousing them?

Heh! Can we dance without paying the piper? Do we have to "believe in" the religion in order to learn from it? Good question. I-have-no-clue! But can we look at it like this: someone can intellectualize meditation, but won't get the benefits until it's practiced and experienced. In certain Buddhist traditions, after hours of chanting, music, and prayer, the group evokes certain Deities. If those entities can't be manifested--in all their beauty and terror--the students don't advance in training. I get the impression "believing in" is the stumbling block for you. You demand proof! Faith is not good enough. Those are reasonable demands. But instead of "believing in", what would you say to "practicing a" religion? Would that be entirely objectionable?

Could this insistence on belief and faith and diaphanous beings be a requirement of monotheism--not polytheism? In Egypt, the Gods and Goddesses rarely ask for testaments of belief. The questions from the Gods and Goddesses found carved into temples, or written in Books of the Dead, ask us to honored them, keep the Sabbats, and make proper offerings. Demonstrations of belief and faith are minor issues, compared to good intentions and encouraging justice. They don't ask us to abandon reason or intelligence, qualities they highly valued in themselves, and most importantly--in us. I'm discovering the same holds true for the Greek Gods and Goddesses.

Since the deities have never ask me to believe in them, why should I have too? It seems that's not part of the bargain. The Gods and Goddesses have given us much. Honoring them is little payment, especially when we don't have to swallow their theology whole.

...bring back the ancient greek gods? no, let's not.

I'm not so sure they ever left. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Comet Holmes, now biggest object in solar system!

Comet Holmes now bigger than the the sun!

From astronomer David Jewett's page:

...Formerly, the Sun was the largest object in the Solar System. Now, comet 17P/Holmes holds that distinction...Spectacular outbursting comet 17P/Holmes exploded in size and brightness on October 24. It continues to expand and is now the largest single object in the Solar system, being bigger than the Sun (see Figure). The diameter of the tenuous dust atmosphere of the comet was measured at 1.4 million kilometers...

The "Goblin" comet could almost gobble up the sun!

(photo, Sebastian Voltmer, Spichern, France.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monkey Trials, again

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Get out the popcorn! Tonight, in the USA on PBS, a special 2 hour NOVA
concerning the Dover decision.

From a review in Variety:

...Through the expert testimony as well as interviews with the actual scientists, the production drives home that whatever one’s religious beliefs, incorporating an untestable theory based on faith into school curriculum bastardizes the long-held definition of science as something that can be challenged, examined and proven...
Finally, there’s even a kind of “Perry Mason” moment, where researchers expose intelligent design advocates using the term interchangeably with “creationism” in published materials, despite their insistence that the two are not directly linked...

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Green Fairy is back

Absinthe Returns in a Glass Half Full of Mystique and Misery

Goths and poets rejoice! Absinthe now more widely available in America. My favorite snippet from the article describes Oscar Wilde's impressions:

...But even those who hailed absinthe saw unsettling shadows. Wilde explained: “After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world...”

Now I don't have to hang out till afterhours or beg for it at Horror writer conventions. :)

(image from Absinthe Green Fairy)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tail Breaks off Comet Holmes

It's been cloudy here the last day, so I've missed this turn of events. But the Goblin Comet is sure putting on a light show! To the unaided eye, it still looks like a blurry star. Yet just about any optical aid, such as a pair of binoculars or small telescope, will really much greater detail. From

...COMET TAIL: Exploding Comet 17P/Holmes continues to amaze onlookers. On Nov. 8th and 9th part of the comet's blue tail broke away in view of many backyard telescopes. Visit to see photos of the "disconnection event" and speculation about what might have caused it...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Delicious Divination on Halloween: Colcannon and Grilled Pumpkin

Colcannon is a great dish to prepare for Samhain. It's a traditional Irish dish with a long history. Do a Google search and a number of versions will turn up. My friend Green Ghost recommends the web page of the band Colcannon, which in addition to a good recipe, features other traditional meals.

However, most recipes for Colcannon are just versions on a theme. The recipe below is based on the one featured in Edain Mcoy's book 'The Sabbats'. Colcannon is based on potatoes and cabbage, subsistence vegetables people counted on to sustain them through the cruel winter. Reflecting its Pagan roots, the dish can be prepared in a way that features an entertaining form of deviation. This recipe serves 8:

4 cups mashed potatoes
2 1/2 cups cabbage, cooked and chopped fine
1/2 cup butter (do not use margarine)
1/2 cup evaporated milk or cream
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Sauté the onion in butter. When the onions are translucent, add all the ingredients together, except the cabbage, into a large pan. Stir with medium heat, blending the ingredients well. Next, add the cabbage, continuing heating and stirring until the mix takes on a green hue. Your colconnan is now ready to serve.

If you live by the adage 'The Olde Ways are Best', now mix in a thimble, ring, coin, and button! This was a type of deviation. If you wound up with the button in your portion, you'd remain a bachelor for the next year, the thimble meant spinsterhood, getting the coin foretold a coming fortune, and the lucky lass who got the ring would soon be married. Of course, if you're going to so honor your guests and the Pagan roots of this meal, by all means WARN THEM! There's an obvious choking hazard here. This is suppose to be a celebration, not a performance of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.

Note: most recipes include strong admonitions against using margarine. It seems margarine renders this dish into horrible tasting glop. Some use kale instead of cabbage, but most maintain cabbage is more authentic. This year, on the recommendation of a friend, I used 'Savory' cabbage, which has a darker green and more crinkled leaf form than the varieties I've used in the past. It did indeed impart more greenish to the mix, just as I desired.

Now onto Grilled Pumpkin!

I just found this recipe in an issue of Mother Jones Magazine. It's a great finger food and one of the easiest treats to prepare. It sure beat getting pumpkin pie together from scratch! Above all, make sure you are using cooking or sugar pumpkins and not the tasteless behemoths intended for jack-o'-lanterns:

1 sugar Pumpkin
Olive oil

Seed then cut the pumpkin into long slices. Next, brush slices with olive oil. Then sprinkle the slices with rosemary. Now toss the slices onto a hot grill. After a minute or two, when the one side is browned and has nice grill marks, turn over with tongs or spatula and cook the other sides.

This treat was really fun to prepare this year. The warm grill was across the porch from my altar, where we stood in the cool air, enjoying at all the Halloween decorations.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Samhain Altar

Isis looks on, along with her friend Bast who seems to be studying her reflection in the water. The God is a pine cone collected from under a tree at 'The Witch House' in Salem, Mass. Under it rests a pic of friend who has moved onto SummerIsle. The cauldron in the back, sporting flames to burn intentions, is supported by a tripod I made. (You can see the candle for the Southern Quarter under it--I like to face South, with North holding court over my shoulder.) My new athame is prominently in place, freshly dedicated with consecration oil prepared special for this ritual. The table is a spare 'pine round', volunteering for ritual use instead of its usual role as target for knife throwing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Real Hogwarts to open

Wiccan lottery winner plans to open witch school

Bunky is keeping his promise to the Lady and Lord! You know it's a good Sabbat when we have a comet in the sky and someone figures how to piss-off the Xtain Right even more:

...Wiccan high priest Elwood "Bunky" Bartlett, who won an estimated $49 million in the Maryland lottery last month, intends to use his money to set up a school for witches -- a real-life Hogwarts...Bartlett has already contributed to a Special Olympics event, to Mystickal Voyage, a New Age shop where he currently teaches, and to a Stonehenge preservation group in England...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Goblin Comet for Samhain

We have a naked-eye visible comet gracing our skies for Samhain! Some have dubbed it the 'Goblin Comet'. Last night, the comet was an easy target through binoculars, and looked spectacular in my Astroscan. It's easy to spot in the constellation Perseus (in the early evening, this is in the North Eastern sky):


...Last week, Comet 17P/Holmes shocked sky watchers around the world with a sudden million-fold increase in brightness. It literally exploded into view, rapidly becoming a naked eye "star" in the constellation Perseus. Since then the comet has expanded dramatically. It is now physically larger than the planet Jupiter and subtends an angle in the night sky similar to the Moon's Sea of Tranquility, the right eye of the "Man in the Moon." Photographers, this amazing comet is an excellent target for off-the-shelf digital cameras and backyard telescopes. It grows visibly from night to night and no one knows how large it will become...

See for skymaps and all the latest info.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Greek and Roman Gods were best!

Bring back the Greek gods: Mere mortals had a better life when more than one ruler presided from on high.

Excellent opinion piece by Mary Lefkowitz, author of ""Greek Gods, Human Lives".:

...Prominent secular and atheist commentators have argued lately that religion "poisons" human life and causes endless violence and suffering. But the poison isn't religion; it's monotheism...

I could not agree more! It's great that a respected historian with a PhD after her name is finally saying it.

...The polytheistic Greeks didn't advocate killing those who worshiped different gods, and they did not pretend that their religion provided the right answers. Their religion made the ancient Greeks aware of their ignorance and weakness, letting them recognize multiple points of view...

...The world, as the Greek philosopher Thales wrote, is full of gods, and all deserve respect and honor. Such a generous understanding of the nature of divinity allowed the ancient Greeks and Romans to accept and respect other people's gods and to admire (rather than despise) other nations for their own notions of piety. If the Greeks were in close contact with a particular nation, they gave the foreign gods names of their own gods: the Egyptian goddess Isis was Demeter, Horus was Apollo, and so on. Thus they incorporated other people's gods into their pantheon...

Lefkowitz rightfully points out the the Romans certainly persecuted the early Christians. But they were perceived more as insurgents and terrorists, working to undermine social order, than just members of some obscure religious cult.

...Ancient Greek religion gives an account of the world that in many respects is more plausible than that offered by the monotheistic traditions. Greek theology openly discourages blind confidence based on unrealistic hopes that everything will work out in the end. Such healthy skepticism about human intelligence and achievements has never been needed more than it is today...

That hits the nail on the head. When one finally abandons the paternalistic concept of godhead, many of the philosophical contradictions inherent in monotheism simply melt away.

It's such a relief to be done with monotheism.

(Image from the great Benny Hill tribute site Benny's Place.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Damien Dempsey

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm a new fan of Damien Dempsey. There's a good review of his album "To Hell or Barbados" at Celtic Lounge News. I want to point out some comments about the song 'Maasai':

...When I die/I want to die not in a home for the unknown/when I love I want to love not like a swine with no spine but love like a flower loves sunshine,” he wails about the ancient tribe that “co-existed with Mother Nature;” Damo says it’s also a song about the old warrior spirit of the Celtic people in the liner notes.

This song gets my vote for the new Pagan National Anthem, heh! Here's a thunderous version, recently recorded on the Sinead O'Connor tour, featuring members of Sinead's band as backup:

Monday, October 22, 2007

I saw Sinead O'Connor

Yes, I finally saw Sinead O'Connor. I saw her at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie, NY. What a great show. For a great review and comments on her current tour, see Cale's page:

...A setlist that includes gems she hasn't performed in over a decade ('Never Get Old,' 'Three Babies') are mingled with spine-tingling renditions from 'Theology,' ('Something Beautiful' and 'If You Had a Vineyard'). Her glorious 'Universal Mother' and 'Faith & Courage' albums are wonderfully represented by moving performances of fan favorites like 'In This Heart' and 'Lamb's Book of Life.' An extra treat is provided by the introduction of 'Back Where You Belong,' a stunning, elegiac ballad Sinead wrote and performed for the upcoming major motion-picture, 'The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.'...The theater was charged with an almost messianic atmosphere as fans screamed approval, wept, sang-along with songs that had been life-defining, and even complimented the petite dynamo on her agelessly haunting beauty....

How true! The opening act for Sinead was the great Irish folksinger Damien Dempsey. His song "Maasai" from the CD "To Hell or Barbados" was one of the most rousing Pagan anthems I have ever heard--I thought the audience was going to start pulling up the seats!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Harry Potter's Dumbledore outed!

J.K. Rowling outs Hogwarts character

Ah, yet another reason for the Religious Right Wingnut-o-sphere to hate the Potter series:

...Rowling, finishing a brief "Open Book Tour"...said that she regarded her Potter books as a "prolonged argument for tolerance" and urged her fans to "question authority"...

It's days like this that make me proud to be a Wiccan. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another hearty for Capt'n Dyke?

Woman fired after stopping robbery

Walmart is at it again, this time in my neighborhood:

...In the corporate world, the customer is always right. But what if the customer steals handbags and belts and then punches you in the face? What if you, the customer service manager, raise your arm to protect yourself or strike back and then get fired for touching the customer?...

Yup, that's what happened to Victoria Smith. It will be a cold day in Hell (which is weird, because I don't believe in Hell) before I walk into a Walmart. Note that there is a poll at the link above, asking whether people think Smith should be given her job back. I see that, so far, 7% don't think so. What assholes!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Of Atheists and forskins

Man and God (and God’s Sick Punch Lines)

Shalam Auslander's new book "Forskin's Lament" details his flight from orthodox religion:

“...The people who raised me will say I am not religious,” he writes. “They are mistaken.” He adds: “I am painfully, cripplingly, incurably, miserably religious, and I have watched lately, dumbfounded and distraught, as around the world, more and more people seem to be finding Gods, each more hateful and bloody than the next, as I’m doing my best to lose Him. I’m failing miserably...”

In the above article, he revisits the orthodox Jewish community he grew up in, noting the disapproving stares of people who pass him by:

"I try sometimes to see myself through their eyes — as someone who has made a huge mistake. On the other hand, what if the big joke is that God has nothing to do with any of this, and doesn’t care about it at all?...It all feels very ‘Twilight Zone’ to me,” he said. “It seems more and more odd and more and more familiar at the same time.”

From the first chapter of his book:

...The people of Monsey were terrified of God, and they taught me to be terrified of Him, too—they taught me about a woman named Sarah who would giggle, so He made her barren; about a man named Job who was sad and asked, —Why?, so God came down to the Earth, grabbed Job by the collar, and howled, —Who the fuck do you think you are?; about a man named Moses, who escaped from Egypt, and who roamed through the desert for forty years in search of a Promised Land, and whom God killed just before he reached it—face-plant on the one-yard line—because Moses had sinned, once, forty years earlier. His crime? Hitting a rock. And so, in early autumn, when the leaves choked, turned colors, and fell to their deaths, the people of Monsey gathered together in synagogues across the town and wondered, aloud and in unison, how God was going to kill them: —Who will live and who will die, they prayed, —who at his predestined time and who before his time, who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

John McCain: Dominionist

John McCain: Constitution Established a 'Christian Nation'

In a candid moment, John McCain reveals who and what he really is:

...But, no, I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles....

Uh, what the Hell is he talking about?

...I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith...(I would not rule out)under any circumstances someone of a different faith...I just feel that that's an important part of our qualifications to lead.

Oh, I get it. He buys into the alternative history spun by other reactionary Xtains. Goddess and God help this poor country if this lunatic gets elected.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blessed Be Landover Baptist Church

God Has Zero Tolerance for Wicca!

Absolutely Hysterical:

...Activities Associated with Wicca:

#10) Defecating or Urinating in Public - Especially Near a House of Christian Worship...Wiccans managed to poop out a giant pentagram over two square miles in just three days! The church they marked in the center of the Devil's star was smacked down by Satan and went up in flames on Halloween night! Don't let this happen in your community! Report these people to the authorities...!

Indeed! Now somebody please alert the Dominionist press, so we can have even more LOL's when they fall for this one (like they did the other one).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

This Mabon, keep Esmeralda in your thoughts

'Bewitched' actress Alice Ghostley dies at 81

...From 1969 to 1972, she played the good witch and ditzy housekeeper Esmeralda on TV's "Bewitched." She played Bernice Clifton on "Designing Women" from 1987 to 1993, for which she earned an Emmy nomination in 1992...Ghostley's film credits include "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Graduate," "Gator" and "Grease."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Do you believe in the Little People?

Study Says Bones Found in Far East Are of a Distinct Species

Maybe Richard Dawkins would like to rethink one of his standard comebacks? More evidence that an island species of diminutive hominids, sometimes termed "Hobbit people" in the press, once existed:

...In the continuing debate over the origin of the extinct “little people” of Indonesia, a team of scientists says it has found evidence in three wrist bones that these people were members of a distinct species rather than humans with a physical disorder...

I recently saw an exhibit on these fossils at the AMNH. What's interesting is that a number of scientists who were initially critical of the validity of "Homo floresiensis", now seem to have tempered their views. There's a good discussion of this over at Gene Expression .

But for me, it once again points up the value of myth. The people of Flores had local legends about the 'little people' who lived deep in the forest. There are similar legends in the British Isles.

Kathy Griffin targeted

Christian Theater Troupe Scolds Griffin

Smart, educated, outspoken, AND A WOMAN. The perfect target for the Xtain Right:

...Members of a Christian theater troupe are spreading the word that they're irate about Kathy Griffin's off-color speech in accepting a creative arts Emmy earlier this month. The Miracle Theater in Pigeon Forge spent $90,440 on a full-page advertisement in USA Today that ran nationally Monday, proclaiming "enough is enough..."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Help for Accused Witches

Fund to fight 'witchcraft' abuse

From the BBC:

...In June 2005...three people were sent to prison for abusing a child they claimed was possessed by evil spirits...The child...had been stabbed, beaten and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes...Five years earlier eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was tortured to death - her killers attacked her in part because they believed her to be possessed...
When she died she had 128 individual injuries...

It's hard to believe that stuff sounding like it came right out of the Burning Times is happening today. But at least people in the UK are doing something about it.

(thanx to Green Ghost for the heads up)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hysterical Anti-Potter Hoax fools Xtains


It seems a hoax, based on a parody once featured in "The Onion", is being taken seriously by Dominionists. Hoaxes like this have be about for a while, check-out Snopes. However, even if all you know about Wicca & Witchcraft is from a few minutes googling, you can spot this as a fake. Then again, some people are easily fooled and lying about the Potter books is a cottage industry among Dominionists. For the benefit of those who know how to configure their spam filters, here's some of the knee-slapping highlights:

...By means of spells and magic...and fly upon the night winds transcending the astral plane...

Damn, so I suppose I'm the only witch that can't fly!

...Halloween was my favorite time of the year...

Guilty as charged!

...As time went on, I watched the so-called “Christian” churches compromising and unifying.

I think I must have missed the commandment, "Thou shall not compromise". And the blaspheme of "unifying"--well, perish the thought!

...The occult songs of the 1960’s launched the Luciferian project of capturing the minds of an entire generation. In the song “Sound Of Silence” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel...

Yup, "The Sound of Silence" is the Mark of the Beast. The boogie man of the "1960's" frequently raises it's head in such Dominionist screeds.

...real witches greet each other by saying “Blessed be”, and when they part, they say “The Force be with you.”

Don't you hate it when someone mixes low budged genre horror with Science Fiction!

I hope the good folks over at PrayerWeb are aware of some of the other nightmares lurching towards Bethlehem, such as the spider nest in a cactus, or the fact you might wake up in a hotel room without your kidneys.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

She paints with a feather of Quetzalcoatl

My friend and fellow covener Moya is a painter. She integrates features of Wicca and Neo-Paganism (such as the various Goddesses & Gods, totems & Elements) into her impressionistic visions. The pic above is "Hecate".

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Clockwork Tucker

When self-loathing bloviator Tucker Carlson is not out organizing "Tucker Squads" and policing pubic bathrooms with his Droogs, he's preaching religious intolerance over at MSNBC. Trying to rain on the parade of a Wiccan who won a lottery jackpot, he offered this:

"...You're saying basically the U.S. government is subsidizing some kind of devil worshiper, Satanism ... That's perfect."

As skillfully pointed out over at Wild Hunt, this is not the first time Tucker has parroted Dominionist taking points. But it seems what really got Tucker's panties in a twist was the fact that the winner of the lottery, accountant and part-time teacher of Wicca Elwood "Bunky" Bartlett, actually prayed to Pagan Gods and Goddesses for the win:

...Bartlett, an accountant from Dundalk, said he made a bargain with the multiple gods associated with his Wiccan beliefs: "You let me win the lottery and I'll teach." Both tickets he purchased had numbers chosen randomly from the computer....

Now he can teach Wicca full time. What a beautful way to honor the Goddess and God...and piss off lots of Dominionsts in the process! Heh!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Didge freaks-out Bush

Welcome to the Dreamtime

It figures that the sounds of the Earth would strike the fear of God in Bush.

It appears our xenophobic president was frightened by the sounds didgeradoos and clapsticks, as well as by the appearance of the Yolngu people of Arhnern Land:

"...The meeting took place at the Australian National Maritime Museum on Darling Harbour against a background of 80 spectacular bark paintings featuring snakes, crocodiles, fish, turtles and birds..."It is very important for us to have our own rights", Djambawa Marawili, an elder from Blue Mud Bay, told a slightly puzzled President. Mr Bush politely nodded in vigorous agreement as he wondered what would happen next...But the sound of boomerangs being suddenly clapped together made the Secret Service nervous..."

It's sometimes risky for a business to take a political stand, so I want to send out a shout-out to LA Outback. They sent the above item out in their newsletter. A short while ago I purchased an awesome eucalyptus Didge from them. I had 'no worries', as the owner of this shop played different instruments over the phone for me to help with my selection.

Whatever the Yulongu people did to Bush, it seemed to work. Afterwards, he was plagued by hysterical and embarrassing missteps throughout his visit. I know what I'm doing---I'm purchasing a pair of clapsticks!