Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bring Rituals outside!

Here's two fine essays at WitchVox that I liked, both concerning the importance of Nature in Neo-Paganism:

Finding Ritual Space in the Wild by Juniper

...Many Pagans, especially those who follow a strongly Nature oriented path often enjoy practicing their rituals, meditations and spellwork outdoors.Celebrating rituals outside is growing in popularity...

That's so true. Our church is the outdoors, our cathedrals the Vault of Heaven.

...Sometimes however, we feel the urge to get outside that comfort zone and head out into the more wild places on Earth...

Juniper next proceeds to give us some basic advice about conducting outdoor rituals. She offers some great advice, as the trickster deities always seem to enjoy sending city Pagans into the biggest patch of poison ivy imaginable! Heh. She points out something that has tripped-up many outdoor newbies--cell phones often don't work in remote areas. In other words, they can't be counted on for help if you get lost in the wilderness.

...Make sure someone knows where you are going to be if you are heading into the bush or wild. Make sure they know when you expect to be back...

Survival books are packed with tales of those who neglected that simple caution. Always tell someone from home about your plans, even if you are just going on a short hike. Most importantly, tell them when you expect to be back. That way, someone will an idea where you are if you go missing.

...Head home well before dark. Do not travel through the wild places on Earth at night alone unless you are an experienced outdoorsman...

The darkness factor has played a roll in many wilderness disasters. What's most dangerous is the combination of starting late and underestimation of the round trip time. People wind up stranded in the dark half way through their trip.

The next article is Pagans and Environmental Issues: Can We Save the World? by Lady Abigail.

...I fear the Mother Goddess cries and weeps for all life on the planet. Her heart is broken from our lack of care. She wails in pain as Her heart is distorted and the seas swell. Her once mighty glaciers of ice melt and shatter into the oceans and life, as we know it, is changed forever. We don’t even respect Her enough to see Her cry...If we, each one of us -- one at a time -- stand together, we are a force for nature. Alone but a part of the masses; possibly we can show how much we truly honor the Goddess of Earth. Perhaps it is time we step up and take care of Her...

Wicca is an Earth-based religion, as Lady Abigail reminds us. Her essay gives us some useful suggestions and practicing to help us tread lightly on our Planet.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Spiritual Atheists

Andrew: When science and faith find common ground

Many of us are familiar with the great scientific writing of 'DarkSyde' over at DailyKos. DarkSyde has come out of the blogger closet with an article attacking the media driven dichotomy of Science Vs. Religion:

...Some of the most popular forms of Creationism attack not just biology, but geology, astronomy and physics with an endless array of recycled talking points, most of which were refuted before most of us were born...

That's a profound difference between science and religion. In science, bad ideas eventually die. It may take time, but eventually the truth comes out. But in religion (and politics), bad ideas take on a life of their own. Many of us who have been battling the Creationist for years keep seeing the same arguments rise from the dead, again and again, like zombies in some cheesie horror movie. But soon Andrew (aka: Darksyde)really hits his stride:

..But Creationism in all its many forms ignores that there are millions of Christians in the U.S. who have found find great comfort in the idea of a Creator that is consistent with science...

Of course, for striking this accommodating and fair tone, Andrew gets flamed by Movement Atheists. Most of it's a waste of bandwidth, except near the end there's and interesting post by someone named 'JanKees'.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Love and War

Go out and enjoy the wonderful sight of Mars and the Moon, together in the sky. From SpaceWeather.com:

MOON & MARS: When the sun sets tonight, go outside and look east. The Moon and Mars are having a beautiful close encounter all weekend long. The best night to look is Saturday when the distance between the pair shrinks to less than 2 degrees. Campfire-red Mars so close to the silvery Moon is a sight wonderful to behold. Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps and photos.

The Goddess is challenging us this weekend in the NorthEast...it's colder outside than a witch's tit! Heh!

Our own "Dr. Phil"

Excommunicated from his church, pastor draws praise and condemnation from pagans and Christians

I've posted a number of times about Wyman and his work in Salem. This article does an excellent job summarising the events of the last year:

...A little over a year ago Wyman was excommunicated from his church, accused of getting too amicable with the city’s Wiccan community because of controversial missionary tactics that included operating a pagan-Christian discussion forum, offering Web site links to pagan sites and fostering personal friendships with witches...“Christians have a National Enquirer view of pagans,” he says. “They think they must be worshipping Satan or sacrificing babies ... or they view the pagan community as a well organized machine that’s after the church. That’s a sad picture. In turn, because a few Christians have taken advantage of that to make money in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the pagans have a bad view of the Christians. We want to break that.”

It's great to foster dialog between the two communities. In many ways, his excommunication has been a good thing. He has not lost any members of his church, and it' been a somewhat liberating experience for him:

...his newfound freedom has allowed him to offer more experimental programs at his Essex Street church, The Gathering — things like Lectio Divina, a type of ancient meditation using the Bible, meant to build two-way communication between the reader and God...Wyman is still running...an e-mail discussion group between pagans and Christians called Circle and Cross Talk. He’s continued to grow his church’s array of controversial street theater events, offered during the month of October, things like dream interpretation; psalm readings, where a costumed monk confesses the ancient sins of the church; and the Brimstone Chronicles, where participants “travel” through Dante’s heaven and hell and are forced to face their own mortality...

Great ideas! That's one of the great things about Wiccan and Neo-Pagan spirituality, you actually get to do things and participate. You are not told to 'shut up and sit down' by some drunk pedophile reading from a moldy bible.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Avoid Choteu, Montana

Climate Talk’s Cancellation Splits a Town

Complaining conservatives manage to have lecture cancelled by Nobel prize-winning climate researcher, Steven W Running:

...But when some residents complained that his presentation here would be one-sided because no opposing view would be offered, the superintendent of Choteau School District No. 1, Kevin St. John, canceled it...

Only in America do you have to have opposing views when presented with facts. Running admits he was gob-smacked by the cancellation of his lecture:

“...Disbelief was the primary reaction,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’ve never been canceled before. But it was almost comical. I had a pretty candid discussion with the superintendent and the school board, and they said there were some conservative citizens who didn’t want me to speak...”

We are in so much trouble in this country.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Is there religious freedom in the USA?

Is U.S. religious freedom eroding?

Great article on the tradition of religious freedom in the USA:

...One obstacle is a growing tendency on the part of some people to feel that Christianity, the majority faith, should be privileged, and minority faiths only tolerated, if that. This belief is a product of the popular notion that the United States Constitution established a Christian nation. It did not. It created a secular republic committed to freedom of religion and conscience for all...

Agreed. Just attaining a state of "toleration" is not what it's all about. This is a must read article, which hits the right stride. The only crit I'd offer is that mentioning "freedom _from_ religion" would have been a good idea, as that's a viable choice--as Atheism demonstrates.

(via WitchVox)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Maila Murni (aka: Vampira) RIP

Oh Dammit! The great Maila Murni, known to many as Vampira, has died. From VampirasAttic:

...In the early morning hours of January 10th, 2008, while sleeping peacefully, Maila Nurmi suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away. Maila had recently turned 86 and was in seemingly good health and spirits...

Who can forget her in Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space"? She could really sport a mean corset! Fetishists and Cult movie fans are really mourning the passing of this fine lady.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Krater flies home

Ciao to a Met Prize Returning to Italy
The other day I posted about the return of two Greek acroliths that had been acquired under dubious circumstances. Now another antiquity is returning home, this time one of considerable fame:

...In the coda to a long tug of war, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is bidding goodbye to the Euphronios krater, a 2,500-year-old vessel that has been a showpiece of its collection for more than three decades. Sunday is the last viewing day...

The Krater was prominently displayed at the MET, and had been a icon for art history students and Pagans for years. Just as life imitates myth depicted by acroliths, the Krater has the speedy messenger God Hermes depicted on one side. So the Krater returns home in good hands.

(Image from AncientWorlds, which has a good article on the Krater.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Riot Grrrl teacher pink-slipped

Editorial: the fine line between fashion and policy

...A recent controversy surrounding a substitute teacher called on the carpet for sporting blue hair and a nose piercing begs an explanation...Jennifer Harmon, after nearly a week of teaching at Vivian Elementary/Middle School, was told by the principal that her blue hair was unacceptable...

Blue hair and a nose piercing! I'm so jealous--I never had Tank Girl for a teacher. Then again, I never would have gotten anything done as I'd be fantasizing about her all day. But it gets better:

...another substitute teacher asked Harmon if she was Wiccan...

Didn't you know Wicca was going to raise its ugly head any second?

...Harmon denied being Wiccan, (she) was called into the principal's office, where she was questioned not only about whether she discussed religion with students but also about her appearance...

Sorry kids, your cool teacher gets fired! I guess bringing a baseball bat to class doesn't cut it! Who'd of thunk?

(image: http://ink2push.com/LINKS.htm )

Greek Goddesses return home

U.Va. to Return Looted Greek Statues to Italy

It's always good hearing about the repatriation of treasured antiquities:

...The University of Virginia plans to return two ancient Greek sculptures to Italy nearly three decades after tomb raiders looted them from Sicily...The acroliths of the Greek goddesses were created about 525 B.C. out of cloth, wood and marble...The life-size statues were originally displayed inside a temple in Morgantina, an ancient Greek settlement near what is now the Italian city of Aidone. They are thought to represent Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture and grain, and her daughter Persephone, the queen of the underworld...

According to U.Va. art history professor Malcolm Bell, the return of the acroliths is especially appropriate because:

...the myths of Demeter and Persephone involved themes of traveling and returning. After Persephone is kidnapped and taken to the underworld, her mother searches for her across the Earth. Meanwhile, Persephone returns to Earth once a year, heralding spring and rebirth...

The Goddess must be very pleased! Additional article here.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What is Christopher Hitchens smoking?

We know what Carl Sagan smoked. It's interesting the so-called 'evil weed' had nothing but a good effect on the gentle scientist. But whatever un-Godly concoction Chris Hitchens must torch-up (a crack-meth-DMT combo, perhaps?) has finally killed too many brain cells. Chet Scoville does an excellent job deconstructing Hitchen's latest racist, sexist, religion-bashing, war mongering screed published in the Slate:

...This is the thing that annoys me the most about Hitchens: he's at this point almost nothing but a parrot of the right's talking points. Even his atheist polemics are, as often as not, in the service of some kind of lunatic imperialistic agenda. He gives talks and attends events sponsored by the likes of David Horowitz, and defends his old pal Ahmed Chalabi. He has no sense of social class, and almost no economics. Yet he still fancies himself a leftist, and even a Marxist. He clearly considers himself an important thinker. He's not. He's the crudest sort of right-wing hack, and he doesn't even realize it...

Chet provides some interesting links documenting other Hitchen's foibles, such as the time he called the Dixie Chicks "...fat fucking slags" for having the audacity to question the Iraq War. Well, I suppose it's no matter that the Dixie Chicks were right all along. It's strange how somebody who claims to be an atheist can come-off sounding like a bible thumping Dominionist. Well, maybe not that strange.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Atheists can dish it out, but can they take it?

Atheism as a Stealth Religion II: Let's Get Real

An article by David Sloan, warning his brethren that some of the shrill dialog generated by "The New" atheists sounds dangerously close to religious pontification. Not only that, it's cult-like:

...can there be any doubt that authors such as Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Sam Harris are trying to start a movement? They even have their own label -- "The Brights", which thankfully seems to be going nowhere...

I guess being a "Bright" implies being in the outs means you are a "Dullard"! Kudos for coming up with a nick that makes you sound cute and smart, yet implies everyone else is dumb. I suppose it's easy to get intoxicated when you delude yourself into thinking truth is on your side, yet Sloan seems more concerned with atheism becoming a'stealth religion':

...I clearly define a stealth religion as any belief system that distorts the facts of the real world (yes, there is a real world out there, and it does not include people sitting on clouds) for the purpose of motivating a given suite of behaviors. Beliefs in supernatural agents are a particular distortion of factual reality and I want to broaden the discussion to include all distortions of factual reality...

In other words, the ends don't justify the means? Those are words you don't hear coming from a Neo-con too often. Further on:

...Sinclair Lewis (recently quoted by presidential candidate Ron Paul) said "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross." To that we can add "and claiming to be supported by science and reason." No, I am not accusing the New Atheists of having a hidden fascist agenda, but I am making the reasonable point that all forms of authority are vulnerable to abuse, as the sorry history of Social Darwinism attests. We need to be suspicious about arguments cloaked in all forms of authority...

Many in the recent crop of atheists make fantastical claims, for which there is scant evidence. My favorite is the "religion is a virus" clap-trap spouted by Dawkins and others and that ultimately, civilization would be better off if religion went the way of the dinosaur. But they offer no proof of this. Even worse, when challenged, they make claims of special powers! Only they have the ability to perceive reality. Their ideas and opinions are not--heaven forbid--BELIEFS. They are based some acid test of for objective reality which only they can perform. Anyone who offers a contrary opinion is contaminated by 'magical thinking' and is a danger to the human race.

As pointed out by some of the commenters to the piece, history is littered with failed social experiments of those who claimed the mantle of reason and science. One comment about the article was to the point (by 'Bateman'):

"...there is a long history of creeds claiming to be wholly "scientific" and rational that lend themselves to Utopian, authoritarian and/or cultic tendencies: the Cult of Reason, dialectical materialism, Haeckel's Monism, Rand's Objectivism, Fabianism, the Technocracy movement, transhumanism. While they are far fewer in number (and in number of adherents) the ideological variety of atheistic/scientific faiths rivals that of the theistic/supernatural faiths...

I'm glad criticisms such as these are coming from Atheists within the movement. It's healthy.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Download Evolution today!

Evolution Book Sees No Science-Religion Gap

How cool is this:

...In 1984 and again in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences, the nation’s most eminent scientific organization, produced books on the evidence supporting the theory of evolution and arguing against the introduction of creationism or other religious alternatives in public school science classes...On Thursday, it produced a third. But this volume is unusual...because it is intended specifically for the lay public and because it devotes much of its space to explaining the differences between science and religion, and asserting that acceptance of evolution does not require abandoning belief in God....

This is just what our traditional media fails to grasp. The person offering the "religious" perspective is always some Dominionist knuckle-dragger. The fact is, most spiritual or religious people are not at odds with science:

...The 70-page book, “Science, Evolution and Creationism,” says...“attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.” And it offers statements from several eminent biologists and members of the clergy to support the view...

You can order a hard copy of the booklet, dl a copy, or listen to a webcast here.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Quadrantid meteor shower

From SpaceWeather.com:
...METEOR SHOWER: Earth is about to pass through a stream of dusty debris from near-Earth asteroid 2003 EH1, producing the annual Quadrantid meteor shower. Forecasters expect a brief but intense peak of 50+ meteors per hour over Earth's northern hemisphere sometime between 0200 UTC and 0700 UTC on Friday morning, Jan. 4th. (Subtract 5 hours to convert UTC to EST.) The timing favors observers in the eastern USA, Europe and western parts of Asia. Winter storms frequently hide this shower from observers on the ground. To avoid such problems, a team of astronomers led by Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute plan to fly a plane above the clouds where they can train their cameras on the Quadrantids. Their data may reveal whether asteroid 2003 EH1 is the fragment of a broken-apart comet. Visit http://spaceweather.com for sky maps and more information...

This is one of my favorite showers. I can't help calling it my 'birthday' shower, as it falls close to that date. Years ago, I unexpectedly saw an outburst of nearly a dozen meteors falling within a few seconds of each other. Sadly for me this year, I have to pass. I am getting over a cold, it's in the teens outside (brrr!) and I have to be up early in the morning. So I don't get to freeze my balls off like a good science geek this year. But try to get out and enjoy this one, it can really pack a punch.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ancient Egyptian healing

Honey Making A Medical Comeback

...(AP) Amid growing concern over drug-resistant superbugs and nonhealing wounds that endanger diabetes patients, nature's original antibiotic - honey - is making a comeback...More than 4,000 years after Egyptians began applying honey to wounds, Derma Sciences Inc., a West Windsor company that makes medicated and other advanced wound care products, began selling the first honey-based dressing this fall after it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Containers of honey have been found buried in Egyption tombs--thousands of years old--still edible and flowing. As pointed out by posters over at WitchVox, some are trying 'do-it-yourself' treatments instead of the "medically approved" dressings.