Monday, December 31, 2007

Good Hogmanay, all!

Have a good Hogmanay, everyone!

http://www.stonehavenfireballs.co.uk/ and other sites linked from the article above have videos of the fire-swinging processions, including live webcams for the festivities tonight (which will center around midnight, Stonehaven time).

High Street webcam: http://www.stonehavenfireballs.co.uk/firecam

Slàinte Mhath, a h-uile duine!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Floyd Red Crow Westerman (1936 - 2007)

Floyd Red Crow Westerman passes away

Native Times 12/13/2007

Floyd Red Crow Westerman (1936 - 2007)

Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Sisseton-Wapheton Dakota musician, actor, and activist, passed away at 5:00 a.m. PST, at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles after an extended illness. He was 71.

Westerman, who began his career as a country singer, appeared in over 50 films and televison productions, including Dances with Wolves, Hidalgo, The Doors, Poltergeist, and Northern Exposure. He appeared in 12 episodes of the 1990s TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger, as Uncle Ray Firewalker.

As a young man, he was educated at the Wapheton and Flandreau Boarding Schools, where he became a close companion and life-long friend of Dennis Banks.
He left his home on the Lake Traverse reservation in South Dakota, with a suitcase and an old guitar in hand. He rambled across the country playing country music and original tunes in bars and clubs, living for some time in Denver. In 1969, his first album Custer Died for Your Sins became the background theme of the emerging Red Power Movement.

As a member of American Indian Movement, and a spokesman for the International Indian Treaty Council, Westerman traveled the world extensively working for the betterment of native people. His vision of improved social conditions for indigenous people around the globe is reflected in the music of his second album, The Land is Your Mother, 1982. In 2006, he won a NAMMY Award for his third album, A Tribute to Johnny Cash. During his career, he played and collaborated with a number of notable musicians including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristopherson, Buffy St. Marie, Jackson Browne, Harry Belafonte, and Sting.

Westerman also worked throughout his life to empower Indian youth. "They are our future," he said in a November interview. "Today we are fighting a great battle against the popular culture that surrounds them. It's a battle for their hearts and minds. We need to work to inspire them to embrace their own history and culture. Without them, we Indians have no future."

Westerman will be taken home to Sisseton, South Dakota for memorial services and burial. Plans for a memorial service in Los Angeles are also being made.

This was taken from:
http://nativetimes.com/index.asp?action=displayarticle&article_id=9182 and various communities and personal blogs

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pictures and Report from Samhain on the Hill of Tara

Organizers of the Samhain bonfires in Ireland have posted a report and pictures from the ceremony on the Hill of Tara.


Re-lighting the Sacred Fire on the Hill of Tara

Those we've heard from who were at the main fire have said they could really feel the energy, the love and protection coming to them from all over the world. *does happy dance*

Groups and individuals in fourteen countries, nineteen areas of Ireland, and twenty-one US states participated.

* Countries: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, England, New Zealand and Venezuela, Canada and the United States

* Areas of Ireland: Antrim, Armagh, Cork, Down, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, and West Meath

* US States: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington

These are the areas we know of. We're still hearing about more participants who have only contacted us after the fact. The oldest participant we know of was one officiant who is eighty, the youngest an infant in his mother's arms. All joined in Gaelic Polytheist ritual to protect Tara.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More pledges for Tara

Since my last post, we have continued to receive messages from those committed to participating in the "I Stand with Tara" Samhain ritual. Many will be lighting at whatever local time coincides with the fire-lighting in Ireland (8pm Irish Time on the 31st, which is 3pm on the East Coast of the US), and leaving the fires lit into the night. Others will be lighting at sunset or after dark, local time.

We have now received confirmation from ten countries and eighteen US states. The Irish coordinators have heard from six countries and nineteen areas of Ireland. The age of participants ranges from children who will be included in the ritual to an officiant who is eighty years old.

Our current list:
  • Countries: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Canada and the United States
  • US States: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington
Current list from the Irish coordinators:
  • Areas of Ireland: Antrim, Armagh, Cork, Down, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, and West Meath
  • Countries: Canada, the US, Wales, New Zealand and Venezuela
We are especially pleased with the international cooperation that's been taking place, and the new friendships being forged.

BTW, it looks like the natural fires, rituals, and sharing of traditional songs and poetry will be the main event. We haven't heard much about the electric beacons idea lately, but one can watch the reports on Irish Indymedia, Tarapixie, Save Tara or the YahooGroup for updates.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Religion - what we make public, what we keep private

As members of a reconstructed, work-in-progress religion, Celtic Reconstructionists, and Polytheistic Reconstructionists in general, are in an odd place. I believe our ancestors had many of the same attitudes about privacy as are found in contemporary indigenous religions: You don't share ceremony, or details about ceremony, with outsiders.

From ancient Celtic formulas like "I swear by the Gods by Whom my people swear", it seems clear that people probably didn't even share the names of their deities with outsiders, let alone the details of their religious practices. In other cases, we know that collections of traditional prayers and poetry such as the Carmina Gadelica are so valuable because, while a practice may have been fairly common knowledge, the actual prayers that accompanied that practice were usually a well-guarded secret. So much so that in some families where the practices may have survived, the prayers did not.

Fast-forward to my childhood in the seventies. The lines that passed down our ancestral, earth-honouring spiritualities have been broken. Bits and pieces - some of them rather substantial - live on in folklore, some customs and beliefs survive in our families, but no contemporary individual has inherited a completely intact, fully polytheistic tradition that covers all the needs for rites of passage, healing, seasonal ceremonies and other cultural rites that were lost or subsumed by Christianity. Misinformation about our ancestral traditions is so common, even the sincere can rarely get a foothold in anything authentic.

Some of us, perhaps many of us, were raised in families where religious experience is something private. Pre-Christian customs that survived - such as blessing the fields with fire, holding bonfires on the holy days, reciting charms for healing or other forms of folk magic, or even performing divination and leaving offerings for the spirits - have usually been stripped of religious meaning. In order to survive, these customs generally had to be Christianised or secularised. If we're really lucky, a deity will be still attached to a practice, though usually now remembered as a saint, ancestor, or "fairy" - this is the way aspects of polytheism survived into the present day, even if those aspects were generally minimized enough to not be threatening to monotheists. In other cases, something that was once an offering to a spirit or deity is now just done "for luck". In most cases that I've seen, surviving Celtic customs are "just the way we do things," without a lot of analysis or religiosity connected to them. It's more cultural than religious.

As I grew older, I hooked up with others who wanted to rebuild something more authentic, and we were able to start putting together the various bits of folklore with the pieces in manuscripts, along with the personal religious experiences we were having as we worked with the traditional material and experimented with reconstructed forms. By combining the manuscript traditions with the folklore, things were fleshed out a great deal. But then the choice we had to make, the only way to rebuild something that worked for more than one person (or small group of people), was to overcome that natural sense of privacy and discuss things more openly... even to the extent of publishing some details of our practices in articles, books or on the Internet. This has created a certain tension; one that is not going to be resolved in the near future.

Mystics have always been rare. I think that even among our ancestors who routinely noticed the intrusion of the Otherworld into this one, or who attended the cultural/religious festivals and left offerings for the spirits, there were only a minority of the people who were really connecting deeply with the spirits and deities. While we can get some hints about their degree of openness from what was recorded in the old manuscripts, and from what people were willing to reveal to those who recorded the folklore, we don't know for certain how much of the deep information they chose to share with the community at large.

It's possible that the modern hesitation about discussing personal religious experience has always been there, and the tendency for many modern spiritualists to gush publicly about their experiences is an anomaly... so much of an anomaly that it drives outsiders away - even those who may be sympathetic to spiritual work or even a variety of practitioner themselves. It's also likely that the knowledge that some things were kept private has led to the tendency for some people to fill in perceived gaps with pure fantasy or things stolen from other cultures, rather than doing the hard work of looking deeper into the actual cultural practices. Just because not everything can be found in the books or family lore doesn't mean it wasn't there; but neither does it mean that what was hidden is going to bear no resemblance to the more well-known practices and beliefs of the culture.

There is also the tension between wanting to share our deep, personal religious experiences with a wider group, and the vulnerability that comes along with that. Sometimes I, and others, have really wanted to not share, and to have newer people work it out on their own. When people work it out on their own, there is more of an opportunity to see if they're really keying in to the spirits, as well as to tell if they're going to pull their weight in community. But not everyone can work it out on their own. This is at the core of some of the ambivalence I've had about teaching. I've found for myself that if someone is really enthused and working on their own, I love sharing with them. But it does take mutual trust to be able to share the really personal stuff, and I have to feel like it's reciprocal - that they're also being vulnerable.

We're at an odd point with CR. Sometimes (often, actually), there can be stuff I would really prefer to keep private, but I sometimes take the risk of making it public in an effort to help people get an idea of how to build their personal or small-group practices, and in the interest of helping CR grow. We do have a lot of things we keep private, but if we keep everything private a lot of people will have a much harder time finding their way.

At times, I have been surprisingly neutral about whether I want this tradition to grow, and how much. If CR can help people live their lives in a more honorable manner, if it can spiritually nourish people of Celtic heritage so they don't feel the need to rip off the religion of other cultures, if it can lead people to treat the Earth and her creatures with respect... Yes, I want CR to grow. But I'm also not interested in pushing it at anyone, and I care more about quality than quantity.

And I care deeply about making sure that people don't co-opt CR as just another term under which they can promote their fantasies, lies, or cultural appropriation. We started CR to avoid all those things, so imagine my horror on the occasions where I get an inkling that some people might do that.

We will probably always have our solitary mystics, our outsiders, our people at varying points on the social/family spectrum. Our private sorts and those who are comfortable sharing publicly. But ultimately, the future of CR is in rebuilding home groups and extended communities where people feel nurtured and supported on a group level, and the religious and cultural practices of CR are inseparable from the rest of their lives. Some of us are lucky to have that on a small level, whether with intentional families or our families of origin, but to truly be a living, vital tradition again, we will need to reach a point where that is the norm, rather than the exception. I see us heading there; all we need is time.

The tension between private practices and public sharing is a situation that won't be resolved until CR is more established, and we have more groups and experienced teachers who can work with people who've earned their trust. Ultimately, some of the resolution will only come when we have another generation or two who have been raised in the religion, learning these customs in an organic way, but now with the religious aspects re-attached. At that point, I think we will be back to a more natural state - where extended families (of origin and/or choice) will have their private practices, and you will have to work with people in person to join the tradition. We have some of that now, but I believe it will grow as we have more people who belong to stable, in-person groups. I look forward to that time, and I hope I live to see it.

*** *** ***

Read this post in Russian: Кэтрин Прайс. Религия - о публичном и приватном

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Samhain at Tara: Ritual Fires vs Photo Ops - collective actions and compromises

A bit of, shall we say, spirited discussion has been going on about how to do both ceremonial fires and media-grabbing beacons during the Samhain event in Ireland. Understandably, the traditional fire and ritual crowd is not too happy about any electric lights being involved. Also understandably, those who want a big media event in order to mobilize more support for fighting the roadway want to use at least some high-powered electric lights in order to create a headline-grabbing photo op.

The compromise so far is to have a reduced number of electric lights, which will only be on briefly, for the photo op. Organizers who want the electric beacons are promising not to interfere with the more traditional fire ceremonies. Discussions are continuing. Updated plan here: http://tarawatch.org/?p=545

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I Stand with Tara - Samhain Ritual

On Samhain night, Oct. 31 2007, people all over the world will be uniting in a ritual to help protect and preserve one of the most sacred sites in Ireland, and indeed the world: The Hill of Tara and the surrounding Skryne Valley, in County Meath, Ireland.

As many of you know, the site is still threatened with destruction. We are working together with activists in Ireland to help stop this, both with this-world activism and with a ritual we've written to help support the activists spiritually.

In the time of our ancestors, Tara was the center of a ritual complex, where signal fires were lit to mark the holy day, and whose light spread out from hilltop to hilltop across the land. Now, the center has been neglected, so much so that some think it is no matter to desecrate it. So we meet on Samhain to add our energy and prayers to revitalise and resacralise Tara.

In the past, the signal and sacred flames were taken from Tara; but on Samhain we will all unite to send the power and blessings back to Tara, to rebuild the source. We will light our individual fires on hilltops and in fields, and in homes around the world. We will have people climbing the surrounding hills all across Ireland, and in many countries the world around. We will unite our flames with the center. We will unite to protect Tara.

Read more at http://www.paganachd.com/tara

At the end of the pre-ritual briefing we've posted information on how to help physically - by writing letters, sending money, calling with moral support, or going and standing in front of bulldozers. Our other offering is this ritual, which I wrote together with my friend and colleague, Raven nic Rhóisín, after we both got some heavy requests from the spirits.

Note - I will be adding more graphics and smoothing out the visuals of the site a bit more in the coming days, but all the info should be there. We welcome your feedback! If you plan on participating in the ritual, please consider letting us know. We may be posting a list of participants on the site. If you write us, let us know how you'd like to be named. We suggest using one of the formats in the ritual, explained in under the "Introduce yourself (threefold) and Lighting the Signal Fires For Tara" instructions on the pre-ritual briefing page (http://www.paganachd.com/tara/pre-ritual.html).

cross-posted to a handful of other places. feel free to re-post this message and link to the ritual on the website.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Hill of Tara - Samhain


In a few days Raven nic Rhóisín and I will be posting a Celtic Reconstructionist Samhain ritual we've written for the protection of Tara. We were hoping to have it live on paganachd.com before the weekend, but we're still putting the finishing touches on it. We weren't going to announce it until it was done, but today we found out a few other people have also come up with a very similar idea, using the same imagery. Major Shared Gnosis is at work here! We were already co-ordinating efforts with folks on the ground in Ireland, but now it seems there's going to be lots more of us.

The idea is for people all over the world to re-light the signal fires for Tara, but this time we are sending the energy back - focusing the light and protection back at Tara, from wherever we are in the world.

There's been a bit of synchronistic discussion about it here: http://community.livejournal.com/cr_r/254906.html
and now some folks are going big-media with the concept, as seen here: http://tarawatch.org/?p=536

More links to get hip with what's going on on Tara, and why this sacred site, and the people there fighting to save her, deserves our help:

* Send money to the fund for an independent archaeological survey of the site (http://www.hilloftara.info/)

* Sign the online petition to save Tara (http://www.petitiononline.com/hilltara)

* Write letters to Irish government officials (addresses here: http://globalartscollective.org/acf/act_now.htm with guidelines on how to write a good letter here: http://globalartscollective.org/acf/sample_letter.htm However, please note that John Gormley is now Minister for the Environment, not Dick Roche.)

* Write polite letters to Irish and Irish-American (or Irish-Canadian, etc.) newspapers about the issue.

* Send supplies and letters of support to protesters on-site. Tarapixie seems to be doing most of the coordinating on the ground. Reach her and her crew via http://www.tarapixie.net/. Cell phone numbers for the protesters: 086 1758 557
086 1537 146
(they've put these numbers all over the net, so calling should be ok). If you're calling from America, the code you need to dial is 011 + 353 + number.

We'll post again when the ritual is live. The URL will be http://paganachd.com/tara Hope to "see" you on Samhain!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Help needed to get Gaelic language film to Oscars

The makers of the Gaelic-language film Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle are trying to get the film submitted for Oscar consideration. However, BAFTA is refusing to submit non-English films, despite protests.

The film makers also have a MySpace page, with info on where you can see the film.

This is from their blog:

PLEASE REPOST

It's working! BAFTA are coming under pressure from all sides. The Director and Producer of Seachd appeared on news programmes on TV and radio last week, questions have been raised in the Scottish Parliament and hundreds of individuals have begun to petition BAFTA to overturn their decision to neglect to put foward any non-English British films for the the Best Foreign Language category of the Oscars.

WE WOULD LIKE YOU TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE PETITION IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE SO ALREADY

Here are a few articles published around the world in the past couple of days: Variety, The Guardian, The Sunday Herald, Scotland On Sunday

ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS SEND AN EMAIL REGISTERING YOUR DISAPPROVAL AT BAFTAs DECISION...

Of 18 Western European countries invited by the Academy to put non-English language films forward for the Oscars, the UK is the only one to fail to do so.

BAFTAs decision is sensless and really could not have been made on some measure of the "quality" of the film, given the strong early reviews we have had (“excellent” The Sunday Times, “breathtaking” BBC, “tender, graceful…gorgeously-realised” The Herald, “worth shouting about” The Scotsman, “dramatic, funny and spectacular” The List, and “an astonishing production” Eye For Film). And surely they wouldn't have put forward such obviously English language turkeys as they have in recent years if quality really was the issue?

BAFTA is an institution designed to promote British film - in whatever language - and their decision feels dangerously close to censorship and it will mean - ultimately - that less people will get to see the film in the UK internationally.

YOU CAN HELP CHANGE THAT...

We have been able to gather a great deal of support to help overturn their decision within the film industry in the UK, and also from the Academy who have written to BAFTA asking for an explanation. And we have just learned that this issue is on the agenda to be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday this week.

HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP...

Finola Dwyer is the Chair of the BAFTA committee that neglected to put any non-English language British films forward. Her email address is: finola@finoladwyerproductions.co.uk

Amanda Berry is the Chief Exceutive in BAFTA. Her email address is: amandab@bafta.org

We invite you to email Finola and Amanda to let them know IN YOUR OWN WORDS what you think of BAFTAs decision not to any non-English British film forward for the Oscars.

I have received many emails asking when the film will be on release in America, Canada, Europe, Australia and all over the world. If you are able to email, we'll have a far greater chance of getting to you!

MORAN TAING (MANY THANKS) IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR HELP!

The cast and crew of Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle

cross-posted a bit

Award for Spirits for Sale

Spirits for Sale has won the Best International Film award at the 2007 South Dakota Film Festival.

This is good news to hear today - the Day of Indigenous Resistance. May this award be the first of many, and may this early recognition lead to wider distribution for this important film.

my earlier post about the film

Thursday, October 04, 2007

UUs, Pagans, and UU Pagans

This post on The Wild Hunt Blog got me thinking, and my response is a bit long for just a comment. The post is about a recent video released by the UUA, and what traditions are or are not mentioned in it.

It sometimes takes newcomers a while to understand the baseline eclecticism inherent in Unitarian-Universalism (UUism). The tone and content of services, and the beliefs of congregations (and clergy) can, and often does, vary widely from church to church and region to region. What gets put forth as official Unitarian-Universalist Association (UUA) materials can also vary significantly, depending on who is currently employed at 25 Beacon Street (the UUA headquarters). While certainly influenced by various national committees and decisions made at GA (the yearly General Assembly of UUs), it's not surprising that groups who often consider themselves part of the UUA might wind up feeling left out when the official materials come out.

Having worked at the UUA in '80-'81, I was bemused when Pagans "discovered" the UUs in the mid '80s. Some Pagans of my acquaintance actually believed they could, and should, "take over" the UUA. Some of them actually believed that the UUs, by showing interest in Paganism and being welcoming to Pagans, were expressing a desire to become Pagans. The thing is, UUs are welcoming of everyone. Basically, if you don't come in firing weapons or raping and pillaging, they'll be happy to see you, pass the coffee, and engage in conversation about what you believe. But UUs are, well, UUs. If they wanted to be Pagans, or Buddhists, or Christians, they'd go and do that. But they don't. So people who expect part of religion to be commitment - commitment to a specific religion - are generally going to be quite disappointed with the UUA.

I have to admit, I'm one of those who wound up disappointed. I was briefly a UU as a teenager, when I got involved in Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) (a group of us who were more often radical than liberal, spiritual than religious, but yes, we were youth). But after a few years of that, I really wanted something more traditional. I became frustrated with the UU blender - the insistence that all religions are basically equal and come down to the same principles. I found it was a happy home for liberal intellectuals who weren't particularly religious, but not for me. And in recent years I've also become dismayed with how the UU omnivorous approach has at times led to cultural appropriation. For instance, while I think it's great if UUs want to sponsor a local Native American elder or group to give a talk about their culture, hiring shameons and white poseurs to present "Native American" ceremonies at UU events is really, really not cool. The thing is, the UUs have an odd paradox going on - there's a general support for social justice (albeit in a Liberal manner), but there's also the omnivorous religious approach that can turn into consumption. So it's ironic to me that when I was with the UUA we marched in anti-racist demos and supported actions called by First Nations activists, yet now it seems so many of them really don't get it when it comes to respecting the wishes of First Nations people to have their ceremonies protected.

While I still have some friends who are UUs, and I think it's great they let everyone from the local AA meeting to the Pagans use space in their churches, I think maybe the Pagans are starting to realize that being a UU is a specific religious approach. It's an approach that may at times include some forms and aspects of Paganism, and other religions, to a certain extent, but it will never be the same as those specific religions. It's not meant to be.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Successful Appeal in Máire Nic an Bhaird Case

Máire Nic an Bhaird has been acquitted.

From Troops Out Movement, TOM News 14/09/07:

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has said today's decision to throw out the case against Máire Nic an Bhaird on appeal highlights the fact that the case should never have been brought in the first place and has exposed the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service to allegations of malicious prosecution.

The long-running case has been the subject of considerable controversy and Irish speakers across the island have rallied to support the young teacher. Like the political vetting of Glór na nGael in the 1980s, the case Ms Nic an Bhaird was seen as a symbol of official hostility to Irish speakers by authorities in the six counties.

In the magistrates court Ms Nic an Bhaird was originally was found guilty of disorderly conducted and fined £100.

Speaking after the conviction was overturned Ms de Brún said: "The ruling makes a mockery of the original judgement and also exposes the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service to allegations of malicious prosecution.

"This young woman should never have found herself before the courts, and would never have been in court were it not for the fact that she spoke Irish in the streets of Belfast. I was in court to hear the evidence given by the PSNI against her and I must say that I found that evidence staged and unreliable.

"Ms Nic an Bhaird was also denied the right to have the papers relating to the case in Irish or to have the court hearing in Irish. This flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement, the Criminal Justice Review and the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages.

"The Máire Nic an Bhaird case shows the need for strong legislation to promote and protect the rights of Irish speakers. Sinn Féin will continue to press for these rights to be enshrined in an Irish Language Act without delay."

As Gaeilge

One Person's Religion, Another Person's... Bling?

Remember how in the eighties lots of Wiccans were in an uproar about Heavy Metal musicians wearing pentacles to make themselves seem spooky and "satanic"? I do. I remember a great deal of kvetching, a bit of activism, and even some personal confrontations.

Mostly, I remember the indignation, and the sense of violation.

So how come so many Pagans are still pillaging cultures they know little to nothing about for exotic bits of bling? Is it somehow more noble that they're trying to make themselves seem spiritual as opposed to satanic?

Due to the hard work of First Nations activists and their supporters, there's a bit more awareness that it's not cool for a white person to buy a "peace pipe" on eBay, or to pray to their Caucasian ancestors with a stolen chanupa. But notice I only say, "a bit." Now and then I'll make the mistake of picking up one of the more lowbrow Pagan zines and it still looks pretty ugly.

Lately I've been noticing a similar trend with appropriating Hindu religious objects. Look, I don't care if Courtney Love performed on an awards show with a mala hanging off her mike stand - it didn't make her suddenly seem spiritual, and it doesn't make you more spiritual to wrap one around your wrist.

While I have occasionally seen people of actual Hindu traditions wearing beads on their wrists, they're almost always bracelets made of rudraksha or wooden beads, not actual malas (aka japa beads). Actual malas are usually kept in a special bag, and only taken out during a meditation session, not worn as decoration. What's particularly sad is seeing Pagans and others wearing malas in ways and situations that are patently offensive in Hindu cultures.

What people don't seem to understand when they desecrate objects this way is that the only people they're going to impress are the ignorant. People in the know are going to look on this behaviour with, at best, amused tolerance for a noob's mistakes, or, at worst, the complete contempt deserved by someone who should know better, but just doesn't care.

I want to be a reasonably tolerant person. I want to keep my sense of compassion. But those whose traditions are being insulted also deserve compassion, and respect, and yes, justice. I am so tired of Pagans picking up anything that gives them a bit of an energy hit - be it real or imaginary, harmonious with their lives or not - and caring more about how special or intense it makes them feel than what it really means to the people who've maintained those traditions. Without the people of those religions, outsiders wouldn't have sacred objects to rip off and use as bling. And you know what? If outsiders continue to pillage traditional cultures they will contribute to the dilution and possible death of those cultures, and there will be no more sacredness to pillage.

Bad hippie, no patchouli.

Bad newager, no bling.

Bad Pagan, none for you, either.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Spirits for Sale

A film about the exploitation and misrepresentation of First Nations traditions has been completed and will be premiering this month. For more info, check out http://www.spiritsforsale.com

Congratulations to Annika and the rest of the crew for all their hard work!

from their website:

About protection of ceremonies

The information in Europe about Native Americans and Native Canadians is most often full of fantasies and lies. People in general know very little about American Indians and their general view is based on stereotypes, mascots and film clichés. In some cases the belief is that “Indians do not exist.” Europe has also seen a growing interest in so called Native American spirituality. Ceremonies and rituals together with sacred objects are being sold on websites and in papers. Cults and organisations offer people to become “an Indian shaman” or a medicine man during a weekend course. Seldom or never do Native voices get heard and because of the lack of information, con-men make a considerable amount of money while they violate the spirituality of mostly Plains Indians.

This film will address the issue of spiritual exploiters and the harm they do towards Native cultures but also to followers who, in many cases, “don´t have a clue”.

*crossposted a bit*

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Resurrection of NAFPS

The good people at New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans (NAFPS) have been through some hassles lately. A Newage magazine publisher who profits from ripping off Native cultures, and who actively promotes a number of the worst Plastic Shamans and other spiritual frauds, recently trolled the forum and, when that didn't disrupt things to his satisfaction, lied to the group's server and got the message board shut down.

Thankfully, they have found a new host for the board, and it is up and running here: http://www.newagefraud.org/smf/index.php

As this is not the first time this sort of attack has happened, members were prepared and had archived the old board. Hopefully soon the website will be fleshed out again, as there were some very valuable articles on the old site which I would love to see available again. Specifically things on the abuse of the Sacred Pipe and Inipi.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Book Published!

Published Author, here.

(Why am I reminded of the Kliban cartoon where Jesus is walking down the sidewalk, with bouncers strong-arming people aside and growling, "Make way for the Prince of Peace!")

Uh, sorry, I obviously have some ambivalence around the whole self-promotion thing.

Anyway, yes, published author. Make way. Technically, if periodicals and anthologies count, especially ones that pay, I've been "a published author" since... uh... I think it was 1980 (I swear, I was very young). But this is the first full-length book for which I've gotten top billing.

It is, of course, the book version of The CR FAQ. But now it is also incarnated as a book, with a glossary, index, and all those "My Gods, it's a real book!" bells and whistles. You can read more about it here. Or just go ahead and buy a copy, here.

Preen with me, why don't you?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Harry Potter anns a' Ghàidhlig

For the past 10 years readers and speakers of Gaelic, as well as Bòrd na Gàidhlig, have been asking Bloomsbury Publishing to print a Gàidhlig version of the Harry Potter series.

I have heard that a translation of the first book was begun, but for some reason it stalled out. The first book was scheduled for publication in December 2006, but more recently Bloomsbury has stated they have no plans to proceed with publication.

I know that qualified translators have come forward to help, but for some reason nothing is happening.

We have been urged to contact Bloomsbury about it if we want to see any progress on the matter. You can e-mail them at publicity@bloomsbury.com

A few reasons you can give them for why they should publish the books: We'll buy them. They would be helping preserve and revitalize the Gaelic language. They would be providing incentive for children learning Gaelic in school, or who hail from Gaelic-speaking areas, to read. And of course, because we'll buy them.

The Harry Potter books have already been published in 67 other languages, including Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic), Basque, Welsh, and Frisian; and even in languages which have far fewer speakers than Scottish Gaelic, such as Faroese, Greenlandic, and dead languages including Ancient Greek and Latin.

Thanks to the members of Fòram na Gàidhlig for some of this information.

cross-posting encouraged (but don't be obnoxious about it ;-))

Friday, July 13, 2007

Death in the Family

No, not a recent one. But twelve years ago my adopted brother Yuri lost his beloved partner, Todd. He's finally written about his experiences in a harrowing and deeply moving post here: http://yhospodar.blogspot.com/2007/07/end-of-world.html

Todd is among our beloved dead, a member of our extended family that crosses the boundaries of life and death. I think some of you who read this blog will appreciate Yuri's work. The post made me cry, and I also just like to publicize good writing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Anciente Oirish Family Wisdomme

Having spent much of my formative years in Chicago and Boston, here is my old, "Traditional Irish," family wisdom: Stay off the streets on St. Paddy's Day.

As a kid I was embarrassed to be Irish-American. The sight of shamrocks, green fucking beer, the Gods-damned green RIVER and, for many years, the color green itself, all nauseated me. Let alone the roaming packs of drunken boys looking for a fight or worse.

I was a weird kid, and didn't fit neatly into the mold of what a traditional Irish-American girl should be. Even before I became explicitly polytheist, I didn't identify as either Catholic or Protestant (my family has a heritage of both, and my parents are mostly agnostic. I had to figure out the religion thing on my own). The packs of Irish-American disaffected male youth roaming the streets of Dorchester didn't give a damn about our shared ancestry - I was a dykey freak who dressed like a glam-rock boy and a punk rocker, and whom they'd never seen at mass. Therefore, I was a potential target.

Some of the other young white women in our collective household were scared to be living in what was in some ways a "Black" neighborhood. The thing is, Dorchester was mostly Irish Catholic then, with many of the Irish folks being right off the boat. The African-Americans and Haitians were more recent arrivals, and there was significant tension in the neighborhood between the old guard and the new folks. Our household was also mixed-race, and sometimes those tensions were internal, as well. So how ironic is it that Irish-American, white girl me, was never once hassled by Black folks, but was almost gay-bashed, multiple times, by those packs of boys who looked just like me (well, minus the punk haircut and weird clothes. And btw, you don't have to be gay to get gay-bashed. But a woman alone who isn't dressing femmey will often have "dyke" screamed at her by the assailants). I am lucky I got out of that rough neighborhood alive. But wouldn't you know, to this day, whenever I mention that I used to live in Dorchester, people always get it completely backwards as to exactly who it was who made it dangerous.

Now, I've come to terms with the violence in Irish culture. It is true many of us can be a quarrelsome lot, and the alcohol doesn't help. This is why I feel it's important to have spiritual/religious traditions that focus on peace, compassion, and mutual respect. When we have to use violence, we have to know where and how to direct it for positive change rather than community destruction. It also helps to be sober. Now I know why I come from a non-drinking family. Because genetically, it seems for many of my people the choice is either sobriety or alcoholic hell. After experimenting with the other, I choose sobriety.

When I first began exploring pre-Christian, polytheistic and earth-based religions, I actually avoided Irish traditions for the first few years because they just weren't exotic enough for teenage me. At that point in my life, I really didn't appreciate or understand the good parts of my heritage, and the bad points were enough to make me go be a Hindu for a few years.

I eventually came around, and now appreciate my heritage - largely because as I learned more about the older, less-popularized aspects of Irish culture I realized all the things in my family that I knew as "just how we do things," were because we are the product of Irish and Scottish culture (and Welsh, to a much lesser extent). I also discovered that some of the customs we kept, that I thought were just idiosyncratic to my family and some of the neighborhoods I'd lived in, were actually survivals of older spiritual practices.

But the parts of my heritage which I appreciate - the values, the stories, the spirituality, the love of nature, the value of poetry and music - are certainly not all that horrible Plastic Paddy drunkenness, aggression, stupidity and twee. I still can't stand that stuff, and once again feel nauseated (and furious) when people assume that shit has anything to do with Irish (or Celtic) culture. As another blogger put it, it's "greenface".

So, my Anciente Family tradition I'd like to share on this day? Stay home.

Or, if you're lucky to live somewhere (as I do now) where people only use the holiday as an excuse to schedule Gaelic music and arts performances, and there's no more drinking than usual, and no one dyes anything green (except maybe their hair), go out and support real Irish culture. Go to a language class or seisiún, support an Irish-language (Gaeilge) musician or arts group. Make offerings to the deities, spirits and ancestors who roamed the land before anyone ever heard of St. Patrick. Remember what lives below the surface, what sustained us long before anyone commercialized and exploited a few, distorted elements of the culture. These things can, and do, sustain us still. So, if you want to be "Irish for a day," find out what Irish really is, because, for the most part, it's not what you'll see in the streets this weekend.

Slán

Sunday, February 04, 2007