Once More Unto the Breach Dear Friends

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After three years of letting this blog sit and stew I am back up.  I have been amazed at the amount of traffic I still get on this backwaters blog considering the myriad of amazing pagan blogging on the net nowadays.  But with the launch of my new podcast, “Mountains of the Sun” my interest and desire to speak on issues in paganism that are dear to my heart is back.  So if any of you are still out there I hope I can stir your interest once more.

First of I want to brag about my latest project, a podcast produced by my wife Hilary and I.  “Mountains of the Sun” is only on it’s second episode but I have enjoyed only a few other projects as much as I adore this one.  If you are interested in tuning in you can subscribe to the show on iTunes; just do a search for “Mountains of the Sun” and we will pop up.  You can also find us on the web by clicking here.

Our first show covered our musings of the future of paganism, and the second was all about 2012.  We will be heading up to Denver’s Pagan Pride Day on October 20th.  I will be doing a workshop entitled, “Working with Ancestors”, and will be conducting some interviews for our November show.  October’s show (to be released around the middle of this month) will be a discussion related to Samhain, again all about ancestors.  I hope you give a listen and tell me what you think!

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Agora Gets US Distributor

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Good news!  It looks like Agora will be getting released here in the United States!  For those of you who may not know, Agora directed by Alejandro Amenábar tells the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, (played by the stunning Rachel Weisz) and the turmoil of the early days of Christianity in the Roman Empire.  I was growing concerned that it may not find a distributor here in the US because of it’s controversial statements abut Christianity’s early days in Rome and Alexandria.  Thankfully, however, Newmarket Films will be releasing the movie here.  Way to go Newmarket!  I said in an earlier post, that I would keep you all posted if the movie came to the United States, and I am glad to report that it is!  The release date seems uncertain at this point only stated as “early 2010”.

Agora has already raked in over $30 million in Spain and looks to be a visual masterpiece.  It promises to be a very compelling tale of Hypatia’s heroism, love, sex, violence, paganism, and Christian zealots.  What more could you ask for?  Check out the trailer here. (Click on “Multimedia” the “Trailer” link goes nowhere.)

Ice Circles?

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I know that many of you have heard of the Crop Circles phenomenon, but have you heard of Ice Circles?  This is a very strange occurrence that some attribute to natural phenomenon and others to supernatural or extraterrestrial agency.  I am fascinated by this and am puzzled as to why I have not seen these beautiful circles given more attention in media circles.  What are some of the theories out there about their formation?  It depends on the circle.

Some form in streams and rivers and actually rotate!  The most common scientific explanation is the rotational sheer of a slow current at a rivers bend or turn.  This rotational sheer breaks of a chunk of ice and then grinds it against other pieces of ice creating circles.  Seems plausible enough to me.  They are simply gorgeous works of art in my opinion, sculpted by Mother Earth herself.  From my point of view all of nature is conscious and alive.  I look at these circles and am simply astonished at the precision of the shape, and their hypnotic rotation.

I am not an Hydrologist but I can say that water has always fascinated me, and these Ice Circles are no exception.  To me the scientific explanation is certainly valid and I am sure very true.  But how do we look at these from a pagans and a poets point of view?  To me it is a coalesence of spirit and nature showing us it’s beauty and intelligence.  And yes I do mean intelligence.  Nothing other than water, creek beds, organic matter, and cold air can form a circle like this.  Nothing.  I see the hands of the Sídhe in these kind of things and am always amazed at their cleverness and power.  I mean, look at that!

They mimic the turning of the planet, the galaxy, and the seasons.  What I see when I look at these beautiful works of art is consciousness.  I do not pretend to know what kind of consciousness, but consciousness nonetheless.  It turns like King Arthur’s table or the witches magic mill dance, or the circular dance of the Sídhe.  They can also be rather ominous.

This circle was first observed from the International Space Station on Lake Baikal in Siberia.  It is believed to be caused by raising methane gas from the lake bed and spun by the Coriolis Effect as it rises through the water.  This spinning reaches the ice above and swirls below it melting it in a circle.  Circles so big they can only be seen from far above.  That is the scientific explanation.  Poetically this is like a giant warning sign of global climate change.  Almost as if the land is telling us that we have come almost full circle and time is running out to change our environmentally destructive ways.  Like the Sídhe dancing the worlds end on ice for all to see.

Whether beautiful or terrible they are fascinating signs of an intelligence and consciousness in the workings of the universe that are far older, and infinitely more powerful than man.  Check out some great pictures here.  I highly recommend watching one of these babies actually turn in the video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JoGXbP0bVg

More Cattle Mutilations in Colorado

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Well here we go again . . .

As seems to be common in the San Luis Valley here in Colorado since the 1960’s (and perhaps earlier) more bodies of domesticated animals have been found mutilated on a ranch near the New Mexico line.  These bizarre mutilations stretch back, in documented form, to Snippy the Horse back in 1967.  Like other incidents of this kind the cuts are precise and the skin is found peeled back and organs removed.

Now there are, of course, many theories about what exactly causes these mutilations.  Things such as alien spacecraft, governmental black helicopters, and even the infamous chupacabra, have been blamed.  I personally do not think that the government theory holds a lot of water.  If it was a government experiment why leave any body at all?  Why not just buy calves on the open market (or steal them) take them to a government facility and conduct your experiments/mutilations there?  I am not saying that these things are the result of alien activity, I have no clue what does this.  But I am always surprised at our ability to simply ignore these kind of things and pass them off as “weird” and not warranting any more investigation.  Shouldn’t someone with a little more technical expertise look into these kind of things, compile the data centrally and treat it with some seriousness?

For more information about this incident I recommend looking at http://www.ufonut.com.  It is an excellent blog by the current amateur researcher Chuck Zukowski, who lives here in the Springs.  He also has a YouTube video of one of the scenes and the calves here.

Orion Foxwood on the Winds of Change

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I often find myself in a state of fear regarding the state of the world at the present time.  I have been especially concerned with the apparent state of the worlds oceans and the impact that our society is having on coral reefs.  I spend a lot of my time during my morning and evening practice praying to Manannán mac Lír for the healing of our oceans and waterways.  Along with this I take as much action as possible to respect water, reduce my usage, and keep it clean.  Regardless of the state of the world, however, some part of me still feels hope.  I thank the gods for that.  I wanted to share this excellent essay by Orion Foxwood, written not long after Katrina and the Tsunami, that has been a real help to me when the world seems dark.

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The Winds of Change: Insights of a Faery Seer by Orion Foxwood

A World in Change
Our world is currently being pummeled by devastating climate changes that are exacting high fees in human life, reconstruction efforts and in all that is familiar to us. We see this pattern in the macrocosm in the form of major destructive weather occurrences and in the microcosm as major shifts in our personal lives. “For the mill of the Gods grinds slow, but exceedingly fine,” quoted one of my Elders many years ago. All levels of our world, inner and outer, are being affected by the apparent changes. We can see it. We can feel it. And often, we are dreaming about it. No doubt, the whirlwind of changes is picking apart the old pattern and rearranging them into new forms that are congruent with new states of consciousness. Now, more than ever, we must look to our wisdom traditions to help us understand what is happening and what, if anything, we should do about it. For those of us in Faery Traditions (and one could say the Hermetic Traditions as well), who revere the potent powers of the primal underworld, we see through our second-sightedness that the inner temples are opening and ancient regenerative power (creation through destruction) is surfacing from the core of our world. This power arrives in waves of change that “cleans the house” and makes ready for the new. In this core is the heart of our planet, which beats forth pulses of life and inner spirit. It is the star beneath our feet….the molten earth’s core and it reflects its nature in our hearts. However, its heartbeat rattles, and even decomposes, the foundations of apathy, stagnation and worn out paradigms. This is good, but not comfortable…initially.

A Challenge to Faith and a Call to Action
As we witness these changes, the graphic destruction we see may cause us to question our faith in spiritual purpose and the will of the Gods (however we understand them) leading to feelings of hopelessness or fear. The fact is, humanity stands at a major “crossroads” and the purifying powers of the Underworld are rising and bringing forth new waves of change…new patterns of being. Nature and the spirit world are not shocked by such changes. But, humanity fears the titanic powers, which it cannot control. This a time when magical and esoteric people are called to task to support the unfolding balance and help those around us to translate the meaning out of what appears to be meaningless chaos. In short, these are the times we have been trained for. The hurricanes, tidal waves and other major elemental forces that are rearranging our lives are but outer reflections of inner dynamics surfacing through imbalanced patterns anchored in the surface world by humanity. Sadly, many of these patterns must be blown apart. As we have already seen, these arising forces may take away much of what is familiar to us. These forces are a call to action for people who consider themselves to be wisdom keepers, magic workers, Priest(esse)s, witches, alchemists, magicians, shaman and the host of other titles used to describe threshold guardians and mediators of spiritual truth.

The Dreamer Awakens
Deep in the inner soul of our planet is the core spiritual being of our natural world. In Faery Seership , we call this being “the Dreamer in the Land” – it is the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World, of the Renaissance alchemists and magi. This being embodies the collective intelligence and sprit of our planet and its nature lives in everything in the surface world (and this includes all of humanity too). It is, in folkloric tradition, envisioned as an ever young, androgynous child that lays sleeping and dreaming on a bed of blue flame. It is also what tradition calls “the star within the stone”, which is the true stone of destiny. Between aeons of time that marks major ages or chapters in the unfolding vision of our planet, this Dreamer opens one eye and realizes one of its visions. Otherwise, it dreams and these dreams are carried into our world through visions, inspirations, epiphany and invention. Each of us is a part of this vision and thus, why currently so many of our fellow humans are being driven by a sort of “divine restlessness” to quest for truth and meaning and put action behind its realization. They are shaking free from outworn patterns to make rooms for new ones…or old ones revealed again.

We are living in a time when one era is opening and one era is closing to open to another. The blue flame of the underworld is rising through this awakening and bringing forth major regenerative change in the primary forms of wind and water. Another way of looking at it is that the inner sea temples are opening and the “aeonic” waters of the underworld are rising in the form of climate changes. Sadly, this means major change that also requires sacrifice in human and other lives. These dear ones who transition from this world to the inner worlds through the gates of death during this transition become a part of a greater, more powerful inner tide then we can imagine. May the Ancient One bless them as they walk the secret roads between the worlds and open the way for wisdom to come forth and balance to be realized. We must hold their sacrifices as holy.

Spiritual Work Actualized
So, what should we, the magical folk do? I recommend the following:

  • Remain calm and do not become intoxicated by fear of impermanence.
  • Send your spirits deep through the substance of the plant and touch the unfolding vision of our world through prayer, mediation, ritual and visionary processes.
  • Commit your spiritual and magical workings to a balanced fulfillment of the surfacing changes to help reduce and buffer the harm.
  • Remain steadfast in your commitment to maintain this time as a holy time of change… by not fearing it.
  • Light the flames of your altars and send forth prayers and magic for inner stillness and clarity, so that your inner contacts can reveal your individual role in the unfolding changes.
  • Eat, sleep, exercise, pray and meditate to keep your tools sharp so that you can mediate the balanced forces into imbalanced chaos fueled by human fear.

Good luck to you all, May the Dreamer reveal your place in the sacred circle the unfolding patterns of change. Keep it sacred.

Pagan and Christian Apologetics

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Apologetics fascinates me.  The rhetorical and written art of defending one’s religious or spiritual path with the focus of an archer.  Now, I am not in the habit of attacking anyone’s religious path in life.  I consider it to be arrogant and a huge waste of my time.  I have, however, been the subject of attempts at conversion as well as occasional brushes with the press regarding the nature and character of paganism.

Paganism is spreading and growing all over the globe.  And we are not the only ones aware of this fact.  Christians are seeing the same phenomenon, paganism capturing the spiritual hearts and minds of many people all over the globe.  This was made keenly apparent to me when I ran across this online course titled “Neo-Paganism: Is Dialogue Possible?”, written from a Christian (I believe a Catholic) perspective.  I highly encourage a full reading of this text, as it really gives a number of good insights for the patient and debate loving pagan.  The course is tolerant and not invective and because of this it stands out:

It is easy to parody another religion, and neopaganism is a parodist’s delight. One can easily brand its ritual as primitive or just plain weird.  Yet serious apologetics requires that one exercise a hermeneutic of respect in the attempt to understand another faith.  St. Paul obviously spent time with the Athenians, reading their poets and watching people at worship before daring to address them. Only in this way can Christians begin to dialogue with pagans.  We need to put aside fifteen hundred years of offhanded dismissal and listen to pagans as having something intellectually serious and spiritually viable to say. This does not mean agreeing with them but having enough respect to listen and learn.

Some of you may already be aware of this course, some of you may not.  What I find fascinating, and well worth consideration are the following critiques:

  1. “The apologist must ensure that if pagans reject Christianity it is because of the gospel and no human stumbling block.”
  2. “We need to present God’s ‘maternal’ qualities,[24] likewise the immanence of God.  God shares our flesh, becomes God with us’ and suffers.  This God comes to us corporeally in worship!  There is nothing more immanent than the consumption of Christ’s body and blood.”

The first point.  Pagans when explaining and/or dialoguing with Christians need to keep in mind a few things.  The indictment against the existence of God by many Atheists is the history of the Church.  Now as much as many pagans would like to pretend that paganism has no blood on it’s hands from the past, this is a provable historic falsehood.  I have done an earlier post about this. However, I do think it is fair to point out to Christians that the Bible was written down by humans and could contain many “human stumbling blocks” of it’s own.  Regardless it fosters greater dialogue between Christians and pagans by discussing our present beliefs more than our past actions.  Pointing out the past evils of the church (in this context anyway) will not work for long as Christians will eventually start pointing out the dark history that paganism has as well.

The second point.  The immanence of God in Christianity is indeed shown in the Eucharist and the incarnation of the Nazarene.  But, from my perspective, that immanence is limited to those particular incarnations.  With the planet in as much peril as it is, this kind of artificial separation is a falsehood that could cause suffering on a scale that humanity has experienced before.  Why is the body seen as corrupt?  Why is sex seen as a barrier to knowing God rather than a key?

There are of course many juicy topics for debate when speaking with Christians or any other flavor of monotheism.  I think it is going to become increasing important for pagans to genuinely prepare to defend and present their spirituality in an intelligent, kind, and direct way.  Emotional reactions end up reflecting bad on all of us, and *will* be covered by the press when we do.  One thing the press loves most?  A fight.

I would recommend reading the following articles as food for thought if you are interested in pagan apologetics and or pagan public relations.  The first is a treatise written by the the last pagan Roman Emperor, Julian.  Called, “Against the Galilaeans“, it provides an excellent (if slightly more invective) overview of the differences between Christianity and paganism from an ancient pagans perspective.  The other is a short but succinct essay called “Paganism as a Metagrid of the Future” by the impeccable scholar and pagan, Professor Lokesh Chandra.  This poetic and thoughtful essay takes the very complicated belief structure of paganism and distills it in a way that is beautiful, easy to understand, and defend.

New Atheism?

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On my way to drop my two boys off at school this morning I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR.  The story entitled, “A Bitter Rift Divides Atheists“, gave me a profound sense of frustration, pity, and dark amusement.  I want to be clear from the outset that Atheism does not bother me.  I will fight just as hard for someone’s right *not* to believe as much as I would fight for someones right to worship a plate of spaghetti.  What I disagree with is intolerance and bigotry, the source or target of that bigotry and intolerance really is not relevant to me.  Hence, my great frustration with what has come to be known as “New Atheism“.  Give the show a listen if you have a few minutes, here.

I find this neo-atheist approach to be historically ignorant and capable of inciting just as much hatred and intolerance as the fundamentalist religions they so vehemently oppose.  It is a sad but oft repeated human characteristic that those who crusade against a belief system end up becoming exactly what they hate.  And, unfortunately, New Atheism is well on it’s way to becoming exactly what they claim to fight against.  How ironic.  And how sad.  A quote that really struck me from the story was from Christopher Hitchens who said:

I think it should be religion, treated with ridicule and hatred, and contempt, and I claim that right!

What is so sadly ironic about this is how easily this kind of language lends itself to violence against religious people, and hatred.  How is this different from the same sentence written thus:

I think it should be Muslims, treated with ridicule and hatred, and contempt, and I claim that right!

Quite simply it is not in any way different.  What is being defended in these statements is not reason and science in the former, and not holiness and charity in the latter.   But instead both positions advocate for greater fear and hatred of those who dare to disagree with you.  What a person of fundamentalist mentality (believer and non-believer alike) fails to realize is that the methods they use for change are directly represented in the changes they end up manifesting.  Want to use hate to get rid of hate?  You will create more hate.  It is a very clear and predictable outcome to anyone who is able to put their heated emotions aside and use reason, tolerance, and love.

To be fair many Atheists find this new approach reprehensible.  Paul Kurtz, the founder of the Center for Inquiry made a sensible and clear case against the approach of New Atheism by saying:

They are anti-religious, they are mean spirited unfortunately, and I think that does more damage than good.  I consider them ‘Atheist Fundamentalists’.  Merely to critically attack religious beliefs is not sufficient.  What are you for?  We know what you are against, but what are you going to defend?

As a polytheist I know that many people in this country ridicule and make fun of my belief system.  I simply believe what I believe and relish the challenge of being in a minority faith as it forces me to give real thought and feeling to my beliefs and values.  I will never preach for others to believe what I do.  Why stand up for the intolerance that drove me away from established religion in the first place?  Would that not be the height of hypocrisy?  For all of my atheist brothers and sisters out there I declare my public support for your right *not* to believe.  In fact, I think many aspects of Atheism can be helpful to questions of morality and social justice.  But when individual atheists call for religious people to be treated with ridicule and hatred, you can expect my vociferous opposition.  What if Hitchens has said this?

I think it should be blacks, treated with ridicule and hatred, and contempt, and I claim that right!

Rightfully, his career would be over.  Intolerance, bigotry, and hatred, these are the real problems we have as a society.  Democrats, Republicans, Atheists, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Agnostics, and Pagans, are all capable of violence and hatred.  Can’t we all be honest and acknowledge that?  Only when we stop advocating simply for our pet cause, in a juvenile need to “win”, will we really stand up for tolerance and respect for *all*.  But until that time, crusaders of all types walk the same road to Hell hand in hand.

Obama’s Diwali Message

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I woke up today to news (from the 14th) that made me smile from ear to ear.  President Obama took some time out of his schedule on Wednesday to mark the holiday of Diwali, making him the first president to ever observe it.  My friend Vinai Thummalapally, was in attendance!  He is the new ambassador to Belize and I had the pleasure of making his acquaintance and working with him during the ’08 campaign here in Colorado Springs.  Both him and his wife Barbara (a kind and amazing woman) went to college with Obama, and I was privy to many personal stories about Obama that convinced me that he was the right man for the Presidency.  I highly recommend reading the White House blog entry on this, and watching the Presidents video relaying his thoughts on this auspicious day:

It is a great symbol of hope for me to see the President of the United States take time to pay homage to this holiday celebrated by many Sikh, Hindu, and Jainist Americans.  As a member of a minority faith myself, it reaffirms my feeling of having a place in Americans spiritual and religious heritage, and gives me hope that my children will grow up in a more tolerant and religiously diverse America.