Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hogmanay 2009/2010

Sun Goddess, Hogmanay Street Festival, Edinburgh 2005

Hogmanay - the Scottish celebration of New Year's - incorporates the older, Gaelic traditions of Samhain, as well as the Norse celebrations of Yule. Bonfires, purification (saining), and taking of omens for the new year (First Footing) are common customs.

In the darkest time of the year, we welcome the returning light with fires in the fields and the streets, praises to the returning sun, and welcoming the light into our homes and our hearts. Like at Brú na Bóinne in Ireland, the ancestors further up the coast in Scotland also aligned the megalithic cairns at Maeshowe with the midwinter sun, which illuminates the inner chambers at only this time of year. After the longest night, the light returns, and the ancestors are awakened as the sun enters the earth. Fire without, and fire within. Fàilte ort féin, a ghrian nan tràth, 'S tu siubhail ard nan speur...

Maeshowe, Orkney, Scotland. Photo from Orkneyjar is full of links to activities, including the burning of the Clavie and the ever-popular Fireballs Ceremony, which for those who can't make it will once again be streamed live over the net from the festivities in Stonehaven.

Fireballs Ceremony, Stonehaven High Street, 2003. Photo by Mr. Purple

Via Rudy at ACGA, and the crew at Clì Gàidhlig: The Hogmanay programme anns a' Ghàidhlig will be available worldwide for the first 24 hours of January 1st. The programme can be accessed on BBC Alba's website.

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr agus Slàinte Mhath a h-uile duine!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nollaig anns a' Ghàidhlig

Nollaig bhon Ghàidhealtachd / Christmas from the Highlands

BBC Alba will be broadcasting an ecumenical service from Ness Bank Church, Inverness. Gaelic music by Kathleen MacInnes, Karen Matheson, Maggie MacDonald and James Graham, The Caledonian Canal Ceilidh Trail and pupils from the Inverness Gaelic Primary School (Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis). The Inverness Gaelic Choir and the Ness Bank Congregation join together to sing favourite Gaelic carols. The carols are subtitled in Gaelic so viewers at home are able to join in.

BBC Alba, Christmas Eve, Thursday 24th December at 11pm and repeated on Christmas Day at 3.25pm (Inbhir Nis time / GMT). A special recording will also be played out on Radio nan Gàidheal on Christmas Day at 12.03pm.

Moran Taing to the lovely Kathleen MacInnes for passing this one along, as well as for her ongoing contributions to language and cultural preservation.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grian-Stad Geamhraidh: A' Ghrian

Fàilte ort féin, a ghrian nan tràth,
'S tu siubhail ard nan speur;
Do cheumaibh treun air sgéith nan ard,
'S tu màthair àigh nan reul. 

Thu laighe sìos an cuan na dìth
Gun dìobhail is gun sgàth,
Thu 'g éirigh suas air stuagh na sìth,
Mar rìoghain òg fo bhlàth.

A' Ghrian - Traditional Gaelic song to the sun, 
from the original Gàidhlig, as recited by Iain MacNìll of Barra,
at the turn of the century before last.
#317 in the Ortha nan Gàidheal
And in English:

The Sun

I welcome you, sun of the seasons,
As you travel the skies aloft;
Your steps are strong on the wing of the heavens,
You are the glorious mother of the stars.

You descend into the deadly sea
Without distress and without fear;
You rise up on the wave of peace,
Like a youthful Queen in bloom.

translation ©2009 kpn

Friday, December 18, 2009

Light for the Ancestors: Grian at Brú na Bóinne, 2009

This year's winter sunstanding at Brú na Bóinne will not be broadcast on the web.

People are gathering at Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland, for Sunrise on the mornings around the Solstice (December 18th to December 23rd). Those chosen in the annual lottery will be able to go into the mound. Others will be gathering outside the Brú.

All praises to Grian, and to the ancestors. Light upon your path, as the shortest day begins with the light entering and illuminating the earth, heralding the return of the sun. Sláinte Mhaith.

Thanks to Michael Fox for passing along the info on this year's gathering.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Patrick Stewart speaks out about domestic violence

What he lived through.

I especially appreciate his words about how his abusive father seemed so kind and charming to outsiders.... But at home, behind closed doors with his family captives, it was another story. So typical. And what so many who've never lived with this sort of abuser don't seem to grasp ("But he's such a nice guy!"). I thank him for speaking out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Don't Pay To Pray: Lakota Nation Calls James Arthur Ray on his Disrespect

Don't Pay To Pray: Lakota Nation Calls James Arthur Ray on his Disrespect

More details about the Lakota Lawsuits against DeathRay, the impact of this sort of cultural appropriation, and the harm the desecration of the ceremonies and lands does to the Indigenous peoples of the area.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lakota Nation files lawsuit against James Arthur Ray and Angel Valley Retreat Center

Lakota Nation files lawsuit against parties in sweat lodge incident

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Angel Valley Retreat Center, where an incompetently conducted “sweat lodge” held by Californian self-help guru James Arthur Ray killed three participants, ... the Lakota tribe of North and South Dakota has filed a lawsuit against the United States, the state of Arizona, James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center.

The lawsuit refers to the Treaty of Fort Laramie between the United States and the Lakota Nation from 1868, which states that “if bad men among the whites or other people subject to the authority of the United States shall commit any wrong upon the person or the property of the Indians, the United States will (...) proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States, and also reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained.” The plaintiffs hold that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have “violated the peace between the United States and the Lakota Nation” and have caused the “desecration of our Sacred Oinikiga by causing the death of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore”. The lawsuit further holds that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have committed fraud by impersonating Indians and must be held responsible for causing the deaths of the victims and injuries of the survivors, and for the destruction of evidence through the dismantling of the sweat lodge.

Read the full article here: Lakota Nation files lawsuit against parties in sweat lodge incident. Apologies for the crassly commercial ads on the newspaper's website.

The Fort Laramie Treaty was also instrumental in setting a precedent for justice in a rape case this summer: Justice and Honors for Lakota Women.

Update, Sat. Nov. 14, 2009: More details from Don't Pay to Pray, here: Lakota Nation Calls James Arthur Ray on his Disrespect, calling all supporters of cultural preservation to stand up for the voices of the Indigenous peoples harmed by these appropriations and desecrations.

Thanks to Heather from Don't Pay to Pray for passing this along. Follow her updates on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

How Abused Children Wind Up in Jail

The transition from abusive father to pimp to jail is very common with our young people who wind up prostituted, or doing other illegal things to survive. This has touched my life personally, as it has happened to multiple girls, boys and young women I've known. Children don't run away for no reason.

That abuse in the home sets these children up for further victimization. It's the pimps and battering/raping fathers that belong in jail, not the kids who are struggling to survive.

ASHLAND, Ore. — She ran away from her group home in Medford, Ore., and spent weeks sleeping in parks and under bridges. Finally, Nicole Clark, 14 years old, grew so desperate that she accepted a young man’s offer of a place to stay. The price would come later.

They had sex, and he soon became her boyfriend. Then one day he threatened to kick her out if she did not have sex with several of his friends in exchange for money.

She agreed, fearing she had no choice. “Where was I going to go?” said Nicole, now 17 and living here, just down the Interstate from Medford. That first exchange of money for sex led to a downward spiral of prostitution that lasted for 14 months, until she escaped last year from a pimp who she said often locked her in his garage apartment for months.

Read full article: For Runaways, Sex Buys Survival by Ian Urbina

Thanks to Quileute Tribe New Beginnings

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Age Death Sweats IV: Jackboots at the Seder Table

Comparative Genocide 202:
The Nazi at the Seder Table
and the Myth of the Universal Sweat Lodge

I was talking to a Jewish friend about the pretendians. She said she doesn't understand why white people think it's OK to mimic Native American ceremonies. I told her that she gets it, while many other non-Indians do not, because she knows what it's like to have a culture.

Because she has an ethnic cultural identity, she would find it ridiculous if a bunch of white Baptists from Iowa decided, after seeing the movie Yentl and reading some stuff on the Internet, to hold their idea of a Seder with all their Baptist friends. And then if they were really on a roll, to declare themselves Rabbis. Because, you know, they are "Jewish in their hearts".

Rootless people do ridiculous things. And mainstream white Americans often have no sense of what it is to have an ethnic identity. So they have no understanding of how ceremonies, beliefs and customs are rooted in particular cultures. They also don't get it that not all of us are rootless, and that even melanin-deprived people come from somewhere. All of our ancestors had earth-based traditions. If you weren't raised with them, it's just a matter of looking a bit further back and doing some work. Yet too many "white" people just want to take what they think is the easy way out, and steal from other cultures that seem more "exotic" to them. These things are only "exotic" when you're a clueless outsider.

A witty blogger who often has hilarious things to say about newagers disappointed me with this comment: "If non-Natives want to take part in these traditions ... it may be no different from, say, a Presbyterian sitting in on services at a synagogue."

Now, it's not the best idea to compare genocides. I know a number of Native folks who have made comparisons to the Holocaust in these discussions, assuming that it will have more of an emotional impact on white people. Many white people know more about the Holocaust than they do about American history from the perspective of Native Americans. Ironically though, some of the Jews I brought this up with felt it was insulting to Native people to make that comparison, as the genocide against Native peoples in the Americas has not only taken far more lives, but due to the severe, ongoing oppression of Native peoples it is still taking lives. The Native peoples and cultures are in far more immediate danger than the Jewish ones. So, not an exact analogy, but bear with me.

Even if for the moment we leave aside the well-known, unanimous declarations opposing non-Native involvement in Native religion, I think a more apt analogy would be that of a non-Jew inviting themselves to a Seder. More aptly, a non-Jew who has had zero exposure to Jewish culture, and whose grandfather or great-grandfather was a Nazi. Seriously, we're talking about genocide here.

So this German guy with the Grandfather-history-dilemma talks his kind Jewish acquaintance into letting him tag along to the Seder. The outsider, who has never been to anything Jewish in his life, pays close attention and think it's pretty cool. He likes the way it makes him feel. His family are atheists, and for the first time he feels connected to a culture and religion.

Now the German guy could have chosen to be humble and patient; he could have continued to participate in his friend's life in a mutually supportive and respectful way over time, and maybe he would have been invited back to other things if the people liked him. Not that that would make him a Jew, but maybe he could have been an ally. But he wasn't patient, he didn't really care about his new friend's family, and he didn't much care for all those restrictive rules and customs. And there were ways that the cultural differences made him uncomfortable. So, three months later he decides to hold a Seder himself. With modifications and "improvements". After all, he's been to a REAL SEDER before. He knows his stuff now. He even learned from Elders! (His friend's grandmother was there and said hello to him.)

His Jewish friend tells him that's not cool, and anyway, it's the wrong time of year to hold a Seder, even if he was a Jew, and even if he had a community of Jews supporting him in this endeavour. The non-Jew calls the Jew "a hater", declares himself a Rabbi, puts an ad on Craigslist for participants ("Everyone Welcome! We're no haters here!") and charges other non-Jews money to attend his "Seder". It's a great success.... among the non-Jews.

It's wrong and disgusting even if he stopped before advertising and charging for it. But imagine the insult if he goes on to set up a multimillion-dollar business, selling pieces of this Jewish family's history and customs in get-rich-quick schemes. Imagine if then he goes so far as to kill people by telling them to fast in the desert like that Jew, Jesus, while drinking communion wine, singing songs from "Fiddler on the Roof" and chanting Islamic prayers (because, you know, they're all "desert cultures"). And yeah, he's still calling his made-up ceremony a "Seder". Maybe now it's the "Seder Warrior Training". And for part of the $10,000 fee, you'll get a rabbi costume, too. What?

This is how ridiculous James Arthur Ray and his ilk look to those who are part of ethnic cultures. Obviously, with the cult leader thing and the deaths, DeathRay is one of the worst examples. But it's a continuum of ridiculousness and offensiveness.

"But Sweatlodge is Universal"

On one Neopagan blog where the Death Sweats were discussed, a number of people spoke out against cultural appropriation. What a relief. Maybe things are slowly changing in some quarters. Maybe it's taking something this drastic for people to wise up. But of course there were more than a few comments to the effect that Sweat Lodge is "universal", and that James Ray's criminally negligent homicides had nothing to do with cultural appropriation.

Most of our ancestors were hip to the fact that fire and water together make steam. Many of them figured out that steam can be enclosed in some sort of structure for bathing and humidifying purposes. Not that hard to figure out, really. Even white people can manage that. But steam alone does not a religious ritual make. And for those cultures that had, or still have, prayers and songs and ceremonies associated with sweating, beyond those basics of steam and a structure of some sort to hold it, the ceremonies are culturally-specific; they are based on the unique cosmologies and beliefs of a particular group of people. Steam does not mean the same thing in every culture. Fire does not mean the same thing. Darkness does not mean the same thing. The Earth and the Sun are not conceptualized in the same way, or gendered the same way... ditto for all the other natural phenomena and spirits and powers that may be called on or named in a ceremony.

If some non-Native is going on about their "universal" or "European" sweat that involves "rounds", a "lodge", "grandfather stones", "sacred bundles", "sage", "animal powers", "all my relations", and "the four directions".... sorry, that's a fake Plains-style sweatlodge. Even if they've tacked misused and misunderstood names from European cultures onto it.

"Celtic Sweatlodge"

More recently some have tried to claim sweatlodges are also "Celtic". Here we go again. Unless the participants are heating up a small, drystone, dirt-floored, taigh an fhallais or teach an allais structure with a fire inside, then once the floor and entire structure is hot sweeping the fire out completely and covering the floor with particular plant matter, then lying on the floor and praying in Gaelic ... no, it's not Celtic.

A note for those outside the Celtic field: "Celtic" does not always equal Gaelic. "Gaelic" is a subset of the broader, "Celtic" language grouping.

The only surviving "Celtic" sweathouse structures I am aware of are found in the historically Gaelic-speaking areas of Ireland and Scotland. While we have many old Gaelic prayers for healing, and an understanding of how the spirits work in Gaelic traditions, we have only fragments of Gaelic sweathouse ceremonies; and beyond the bare bones of prayer in a warm, enclosed space, what we have really bears no resemblance to Inipi (or sweat lodge ceremonies by other Native American cultures).

Some have claimed the Burnt Mound (fulachtaí fia) sites in Ireland and Scotland were once "sweatlodge" sites. While these sites may have been used for bathing (and cooking, and dying cloth, and brewing beer - basically an outdoor, multi-purpose kitchen), reconstructions have shown that the structures probably resembled (surprise!) Irish dwellings and camps more than any Plains-style sweatlodges. The oft-cited but faulty Birmingham "reconstruction" was nothing of the sort. An English youth group tried building a sweatlodge based on their ideas of Inipi; they didn't even base it on the English archaelogical site they were "reconstructing". Serious archaeology fail. But some Neopagans and Newagers still cite it, as they want to believe they have a right to do fake Inipis.

You will find people on the Internet, even some I was once on good terms with, who are trying to tack Gaelic names on their outsider fantasies of Inipi. Don't buy it.

I have a work-in-progress article about the use of Gaelic sweat traditions, but I haven't finished it as I am so dismayed about the appropriation out there, and concerned that anything I put out about it will just be abused. You can read it if you want. Maybe one of these days I'll finish it.

Of course there are some ceremonies associated with traditional saunas in the countries where they originated: protocols of use, stories of spirits who attend, songs that are sung at particular times, and sometimes prayers. Some of these rituals still survive in Latvia, and I've heard of survivals in related cultures. Due to the Northern influence in Scotland and Ireland, it's quite possible that the stone sweat houses in Gaelic-speaking areas were based on sauna, and are not even indigenous to Ireland or Scotland. If anyone is seriously interested in Gaelic sweat traditions, that's where they should probably look for parallels, or to the sweathouses in Portugal, rather than trying to co-opt what they think Indians do.

Perhaps the biggest mistake these appropriators make, both in the Americas and in Europe, is the assumption that commonalities of steam and sweat somehow override the fact we're talking about different religions. Even if the structures did turn out to be similar (which they haven't), why would that mean the ceremonies would be the same?

If someone is telling you their eclectic rituals which are clearly based on First Nations ceremonies are "universal," or "Celtic," they're just showing their ignorance.

In closing, In community

If you're going to learn anything from Native ceremonial ways, or Jewish or Gaelic ones for that matter, let it be this: the importance of community, culture and tradition: the songs you grow up singing and hearing, the foods your family eats, the ways you have of speaking to one another, what you do when someone is sick, or a death has happened, or a child born; the phrases or words from your native language that are still used even if you aren't fluent in the language, the political and intellectual things that matter to you because of the hardships your people have survived as well as the victories they've won, and all the ways you are different from the homogenized mainstream melting pot. The ceremonies grew from this matrix, and that's how they have survived. Without that cultural matrix, without the particular religious and cultural beliefs that surround them, you cannot fully understand the ceremonies. And even if you could, the ceremonies are part of the lifeblood of the communities where they live. They can't be bought and sold in watered-down form by outsiders.

Or, rather, there are newage hucksters doing exactly that. But it's bad craziness and junk-food for the soul.

Worse, it's carrying on a tradition of imperialism.

If you come with the intent to steal, there's nothing spiritual about being the Nazi at the Seder table.

And I just know someone will read that and say, "But if we have the sincere Nazis, or descendants of Nazis (Not their fault!) at the table, we will heal them!" Sorry, but someone who really wants to heal from that ancestral wrongdoing will not force their way into where they are not wanted. And if they are truly spiritual and invited in good faith, they won't pretend to be something they are not, they won't steal, and they won't tell the Jews (or Indians) to STFU when they are told to take their hands out of the cookie jar.

And guess what. I was just about to post this when I found this: Qabalah Tree of Life Journeys. Wow. Looks like old DeathRay is a fake Jew, too. The Newage cult leader will sell you the Kabbalah, and he guarantees that if you do it his way, it will make you money. Because for him and his ilk, that is their only god, and the ring of the cash register their only prayer.

And in a cool bit of synchronicity, in the time between my writing this, sending it around to friends for feedback, and finally posting it, Jim Kent of The Rapid City Journal wrote something very similar: "Stealing religion ignored if it’s Native". I'm glad to see others covering this. And, given the degree of training and community recognition required, his comparison of Native ceremonial people to Catholic Priests is in some ways more apt than my comparison to Rabbis. But I chose to stick with the Jewish analogy for the genocide parallels. No analogy is exact. But as so many non-Natives are so clueless about this, we are all struggling with analogies to try to get people to see what's going on here. Check it out; it's a good piece.

Oh, and thanks to everyone, of a variety of ethnicities and perspectives, who gave me feedback on this. Any mistakes are my own.

Wannabe NDN

Rezerella brings us this commentary on DeathRay and his DeathTrap. Show it to all the others out there doing the same thing, but who just haven't killed anyone yet.

Tara Symposium - Live Stream

Ask the speakers a question
Facilities are available to overseas listeners to ask question via the symposium email address As the programme is compact, only a small proportion of questions will be relayed to the symposium auditorium.

Symposium Live Schedule
The Syposium will be streamed live from the venue at approximately these times. Absolute timing may vary.

* Friday 7:30-9:00pm
* Saturday 9:00-11:00am; 11:30-1:30pm; 2:30-4:00pm & 4:30-6:00pm
* Sunday 9:00-11:00am; 11:30-12:00pm; 12:30-1:30pm; 2:30-4:00 pm & 4:30-6:00pm
* Monday 9:00-11:00am; 11:30-1:30pm; 2:30-4:00pm & 4:30-6:30pm

(Note - Times are for Dublin)

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cultural Appropriation Post #949 (but with quotes from... oh no, #HimToo)

Sick of reading about Cultural Appropriation? Bet you're not as sick of hearing about it as I am of having to write about it. But guess what? I'm going to do it some more.

There's nothing new about the James Ray Plastic Death "Sweats". Over the years at least a dozen other newagers have died, and many more have become violently ill, in these pretendian ceremonies with various plastic shamans. You will note however that, with only one exception,* those who have died have not been Indians.

This is almost wholly an appropriator's phenomena. It's what clueless outsiders do when they are messing with something they don't understand; something they don't realize that you can't learn from a book or the Internet; something that is sacred and can't be bought.

It is vitally important that people remember the James Ray Death Camp was not a Native American thing. What happened there were not Native American ceremonies. This was a racist white man exploiting non-Indian people's fantasies of "Vision Quests", "Lodges", "Spiritual Warriors" and wind through their hair while white wolves howl their pretendian names and vast desert vistas sweep away from their yin-yang painted tipis. They didn't want to know anything about real Indians, real Indian lives, and real Indian ceremonies; they want Dances with Wolves and they were gullible and desperate enough to pay some predatory cult leader $10,000 to get that fantasy. The sick irony is that they thought these fake ceremonies, almost-unrecognizable imitations of ways that, when properly embedded in the cultural matrix that is necessary for their existence, are based in humble self-sacrifice for the benefit of one's family and community, would instead make them wealthy and famous, superstars of their lonely ego-driven dramas.

Angel Valley Retreat Center. James Ray's DeathLodge at lower left.

In 1992, the "Men's Movement" amped up the white fascination with romanticized fantasies of Indians. Many white men tried to adopt and adapt a "white man's sweat" as some kind "sweat out the bad shit", misinterpretation of what is actually a prayer ceremony, and not at all what they think it is. Now, after decades of non-Natives teaching non-Natives, we have people who are so far removed from anything authentic, but who fully believe what they are doing is a Native ceremony, that it's no wonder people are still spiritually empty, yet risking their lives for this hollow experience. They try to make it bigger, louder, hotter, and even dangerous now, all the while completely missing the point and purpose of the entire thing.

These appropriators simultaneously believe they can read some books, bang a drum and howl, and become the "better Indian," but that when it all goes off the rails somehow it's Natives that owe them something when they go and damage themselves.

What it keeps coming down to is that non-Natives routinely see Indians solely as spiritual providers, there to tend to their needs. It is so rare to find exceptions to this. White people in particular usually have no shame about being the walking wounded, flinging themselves on the doorsteps of random Indians, often Indians who know no ceremonies, and who are having rougher lives than these entitled white people could ever imagine, yet here come these refugees centering their privileged selves, not caring one bit the damage they do to the people, families and communities they are trying to colonize.

Update: 24 Feb 2018   I originally had an entire section here linking to, and quoting, Sherman Alexie, about appropriation and cultural boundaries, and 101 issues such as "Nothing about us, without us." Today I became aware that about twenty women, most of them Indigenous, have come forward with horrific tales of sexual abuse, harassment and threats from Alexie.

I can no longer in good conscience promote his work. As a rape survivor, as a survivor of stalking, slander and libel by both the serial rapist and the co-conspirators my assailant drafted to help him stalk and libel me, I know what it's like to face this kind of harassment. I know what it's like to be surfing the net and feel punched in the face by seeing someone acting like a man who tried to ruin your life is a great guy.

So, I've removed what Alexie had to say about, cough, listening to the women in your life, ahem, as an analogy for listening to Indigenous people. He went on at length about how other men just don't write or treat women as full human beings, and other writers just don't write Natives as full human beings. I'll let history place his words in context.

In the intervening years plenty has been written about cultural misappropriation. We don't need his words here anymore.

For more on Alexie, and on my own issues with PTSD, CPTSD trauma and disability: Solidarity with other Survivors

* Note - As archived by Heather at Don't Pay to Pray, one 2009 death in a "lodge" was a First Nations man in Canada, Lawrence Catholique. However, there were some very odd and suspicious things about that incident. Despite being a traditional healer, nothing about the circumstances resemble a sweatlodge ceremony from any First Nations culture that I am aware of. A later article says he had changed the ceremony, "experimenting with wood embers in the lodge". It was a tragic death, but if reports are true, he had changed the ceremony, deviating from the time-tested safety protocols. Also, add third James Ray Death Trap victim, Liz Neumann, to the list of dead newagers. She is the woman who was in a coma, who died after the Don't Pay to Pray blog post.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Age Death Sweat III - Response by Chief Arvol Looking Horse (Lakota)

Chief Arvol Looking Horse's statement, released today:

Lakota Pipekeeper’s Statement Concerning Sweatlodge Deaths

As Keeper of our Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle, I am concerned for the 2 deaths and illnesses of the many people that participated in a sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona that brought our sacred rite under fire in the news. I would like to clarify that this lodge and many others, are not our ceremonial way of life, because of the way they are being conducted. My prayers go out for their families and loved ones for their loss.

Our ceremonies are about life and healing, from the time this ancient ceremonial rite was given to our people, never has death been a part of our inikag'a (life within) when conducted properly. Today the rite is interpreted as a sweat lodge, it is much more then that. So the term does not fit our real meaning of purification.

Inikag'a is the oldest ceremony brought to us by Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit). 19 generations ago, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Oyate (people), were given seven sacred rites of healing by a Spirit Woman Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman). She brought these rites along with our sacred C'anupa (pipe) to our People, when our ancestors were suffering from a difficult time. It was also brought for the future to help us for much more difficult times to come. They were brought to help us stay connected to who we are as a traditional cultural People. The values of conduct are very strict in any of these ceremonies, because we work with spirit. The way the Creator, Wakan Tanka told us; that if we stay humble and sincere, we will keep that connection with the inyan oyate (the stone people), who we call the Grandfathers, to be able to heal our selves and loved ones. We have a gift of prayer and healing and have to stay humble with our Unc'i Maka (Grandmother Earth) and with one another. The inikag'a is used in all of the seven sacred rites to prepare and finish the ceremonies, along with the sacred eagle feather. The feather represents the sacred knowledge of our ancestors.

Our First Nations People have to earn the right to pour the mini wic'oni (water of life) upon the inyan oyate (the stone people) in creating Inikag'a - by going on the vision quest for four years and four years Sundance. Then you are put through a ceremony to be painted - to recognize that you have now earned that right to take care of someone's life through purification. They should also be able to understand our sacred language, to be able to understand the messages from the Grandfathers, because they are ancient, they are our spirit ancestors. They walk and teach the values of our culture; in being humble, wise, caring and compassionate.

What has happened in the news with the make shift sauna called the sweat lodge is not our ceremonial way of life!

When you do ceremony - you can not have money on your mind. We deal with the pure sincere energy to create healing that comes from everyone in that circle of ceremony. The heart and mind must be connected. When you involve money, it changes the energy of healing. The person wants to get what they paid for; the Spirit Grandfathers will not be there, our way of life is now being exploited! You do more damage then good. No mention of monetary energy should exist in healing, not even with a can of love donations. When that energy exists, they will not even come. Only after the ceremony, between the person that is being healed and the Intercessor who has helped connect with the Great Spirit, the energy of money can be given out of appreciation. That exchange of energy is from the heart; it is private and does not involve the Grandfathers! Whatever gift of appreciation the person who received the help, can now give the Intercessor what ever they feel their healing is worth.

In our Prophesy of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, she told us that she would return and stand upon the earth when we are having a hard time. In 1994 this began to happen with the birth of the white buffalo, not only their nation, but many animal nations began to show their sacred color, which is white. She predicted that at this time there would be many changes upon Grandmother Earth. There would be things that we never experienced or heard of before; climate changes, earth changes, diseases, disrespect for life and one another would be shocking and there would be also many false prophets!

My Grandmother that passed the bundle to me said I would be the last Keeper if the Oyate (people) do not straighten up. The assaults upon Grandmother Earth are horrendous, the assaults toward one another was not in our culture, the assaults against our People (Oyate) have been termed as genocide, and now we are experiencing spiritual genocide!

Because of the problems that began to arise with our rebirth of being able to do our ceremonies in the open since the Freedom of Religion Act of 1978, our Elders began talking to me about the abuses they seen in our ceremonial way of life, which was once very strict. After many years of witnessing their warnings, we held a meeting to address this very issue of lack of protocol in our ceremonies. After reaching an agreement of addressing the misconduct of our ceremonies and reminding of the proper protocols, a statement was made in March 2003. Every effort was made to insure our way of life of who we are as traditional cultural People was made, because these ways are for our future and all life upon the Grandmother Earth (Mitakuye Oyasin All my relations), so that they may have good health. Because these atrocities are being mocked and practiced all over the world, there was even a film we made called Spirits for Sale.

The non-native people have a right to seek help from our First Nation Intercessors for good health and well-being, it is up to that Intercessor. That is a privilege for all People that we gift for being able to have good health and understand that their protocol is to have respect and appreciate what we have to share. The First Nations Intercessor has to earn that right to our ceremonial way of life in the ways I have explained.

At this time, I would like to ask all Nations upon Grandmother Earth to please respect our sacred ceremonial way of life and stop the exploitation of our Tunka Oyate (Spiritual Grandfathers).

In a Sacred Hoop of Life, where there is no ending and no beginning!

Namah'u yo (hear my words),
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White
Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle.

Note: This statement was released before the third person died as a result of James Arthur Ray's fraudulent ceremony. Ray is also implicated in another death at one of his earlier seminars - a woman who died mysteriously during one of the events. Additionally, it has come out that in at least two previous plastic sweats he led, many people became very ill. There were many warnings that this was coming. There are still many others leading these untrained, unethical, confused attempts at sweats at newage and Neopagan events around the world. If people don't face up to what's going on here, there will be more deaths.

New Age Death Sweat II - NYT Editorial by Dr. Al Carroll

The New York Times has asked Dr. Al Carroll of NAFPS to write an editorial on the Newage Death Sweats. The following is scheduled to appear this coming Thursday or Friday. Al has given permission for this to be reposted or quoted from: original post on NAFPS, and on Oprah Winfrey's forum.

Oprah Winfrey Should Apologize for Promoting Dangerous Fraud James Arthur Ray

By Al Carroll

Two people died in a distorted New Age version of a Native sweatlodge in Sedona. Dozens more were badly injured. They each paid over $9000 for a bastardized version of a ceremony which by tradition must never be charged for. Natives don't believe in "pay to pray," but apparently the New Age movement does. It is far more of a consumerist phenomena than a genuine spiritual movement. Many lost, misguided, and genuinely sincere seekers get caught up in the idea of paying cash for shortcuts to salvation, and Oprah Winfrey seems to be among them.

Winfrey promoted New Age leader James Arthur Ray on her program a number of times. It was Ray who jammed over sixty people into a "sweatbox." Traditionally perhaps a dozen people are in a sweatlodge. The lodge is made from natural materials so the heat will not be too intense. But not Ray's "sweatbox." It was sealed with heavy plastic tarp to deliberately make the heat as intense as possible. People even competed to see who could withstand the highest temperatures, making it a bizarre contest rather than a ceremony to heal. Traditionally most of those in a sweatlodge have been through it before so they could guide novices, but seemingly the clients/victims of Ray's outnumbered those conducting it by at least twenty to one.

Traditionally, you don't charge for spiritual ceremony. You also don't do it out of curiosity, because you think it would be "cool," or for any reason except to heal. Survivors of alcoholism or PTSD are often healed by a sweatlodge. Thrill seekers should go elsewhere, hopefully to some self examination.

Spiritual exploiters like James Arthur Ray should be ashamed of themselves, but rarely are. After all, they get rich and have cult followings of the naïve or lost. Ray may belong in prison for negligent homicide, along with others who conduct extremely dangerous false versions of a sweatlodge. Ray's operation likely knew that a sweatlodge, when run by anyone other than an extensively trained Native traditionalist, routinely results in deaths or injuries. There are deaths from phony New Age sweatlodges in Texas, Britain, Australia, and in California multiple times. The Australian Medical Association issued a warning about phony sweatlodges, something that American and European medical associations should do.

A sweatlodge that is not properly run can result in death from asphyxiation, heart attack, or dehydration. Hapless New Agers routinely get burned or scalded. There are also many cases of psychological damage. You can relive traumas in a sweatlodge, such as child molestation or rape, as well as manic episodes. The rocks heated in a sweatlodge, if not properly chosen, can explode. Finally, many of the worst exploiters sexually abuse their followers. It's easy to pass out in the heat of a sweatlodge. Many women (and men) are molested or raped. No one should trust any operator who insists on a sweatlodge alone or in the nude.

Don't trust anyone who advertises or charges for ceremony. There's a simple standard that non-Natives should use when thinking about going to an alleged "Native" ceremony: If the operators seek out non-Native peoples, they are frauds looking to take your money. Actual Native traditionalists neither seek nor want converts. Native ceremonies are intended for Native communities, always. They lose their power and meaning once taken outside that context.

For her part in promoting the dangerous fraud James Arthur Ray, Oprah Winfrey should publicly apologize and vow to be more careful about who she endorses in the future. How many of the victims in Sedona would never have gone there had they not seen Winfrey's program? How wealthy did Ray become off of his victims because of Winfrey's repeated endorsement of Ray, both on her show and online? Why didn't her show's researchers take the time to look carefully and see what they should have known, that Ray was potentially dangerous to his followers?

Winfrey, I believe, is a good hearted person who sincerely wants to help her audience. She apologized for promoting an author who lied about the life he described in his books and strongly criticized him on her own show. Why can't she do the same to James Arthur Ray and confront him also? She should do the right thing and retract all endorsements of Ray and vow to take greater care in the future and never promote New Age exploiters again.

Bio: Al Carroll is a historian, Fulbright Scholar, and one of the founders of New Age Frauds Plastic Shamans (NAFPS) an activist group dedicated to warning the public about exploiters and imposters who pose as Native medicine people, located online at His first book is Medicine Bags and Dog Tags: Native Veterans from Colonial Times to the Second Iraq War from University of Nebraska Press.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Plastic Death Sweat - 2 Dead, 3 Critical, 16 More Hospitalized

James Arthur Ray promised to make them Spiritual Warriors.

The newage, pyramid-scheming, scam artist crammed 65 people into a plastic death tent, which he claimed was a sweatlodge. In the hot, wet dark with the man who had no idea how to lead an Indian ceremony, and no connection to any culture that could have taught him how (or told him this was a really bad idea), they sweated for two hours... till two were dead, three were unconscious, and 21 others went to the hospital.

Hazmat teams and crime scene tape now surround the site. Native American ceremonial people from the area are saying that, by imitating a ceremony he was not trained to perform, this newage plastic shaman killed these people. I agree. They used materials in this fake ceremony that should not be used, they used things that were physically and spiritually dangerous. They paid $9,000 for a sad death at the hands of a greedy con man.

I have no idea if they prayed in this fake ceremony, or how. I don't think this guy knows any prayers beyond, "Gimme Gimme Money Money".

James Arthur Ray made them to Pay to Pray. And Michael and Amayra Hamilton provided the place to do it.

James Ray makes his living as a self-styled, newage "prosperity" guru. He sells pyramid schemes and "you create your own reality" guilt trips to rich people. He's been on Oprah.

Even if this shameon knew how to run a small sweat, even if by some miracle this non-Native had been authorized to do so (not going to happen, but we're playing "what if") there's no way one person can keep track of 65 people in the dark. Especially 65 people who've never done this before, and been told they have to suffer to learn. 65 ignorant people who thought paying a newage guru for a weekend retreat would make them "warriors". I'm sure these seekers were all trying to out-macho each other; they were dehydrated and suffocating, and may not have said anything about how much distress they were in. And even if this creep were able to tell they were in distress, maybe he just didn't care. I've seen some really ugly, psychopathic predators among these types. These are the sort of callous exploiters who blame suffering people for their illnesses, and claim victims of holocausts and genocide brought it upon themselves with their "negative thoughts".

From James Arthur Ray's webpage:
"Many so-called successful people make a tremendous amount of money, but their relationships are on the rocks. That's not real wealth.

Likewise, there are others who qualify as a creative genius, and they're physically sick all the time. That's not real wealth!

Then there are those who claim to be really "spiritual," and they're always financially broke. That's not wealth either!"

Then he goes on to promise that if you pay him lots of money, he will show you how to fix all this. If it doesn't work, well, you just weren't spiritual enough.

No compassion, no spirituality, just greed.

And the people were willing to pay him so much because he's been on Oprah. Are you listening, Oprah? I know some kick-ass Indian women who could come on your show and talk about how dangerous it is to Pay to Pray.

This is all over the news now, but for analysis that doesn't mislabel this new age fraud as a "Native American" ceremony, I'd suggest the ongoing discussion and posting of links in this thread on the New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans site.

More mainstream coverage via The Huffington Post, AP Video, and this video of the 911 calls.

Note: When I first wrote this, initial reports were unclear, but most said there were 21 people in DeathRay's DeathTrap. Now that we know more, I've changed this to reflect the number that survivors are saying he crammed into the fake lodge (approximately 65). As of this update (Oct 26, 2009) three people have died, and more are suffering with neurological damage and possible organ failure. We now have multiple survivors stating that Ray forced these people to stay in the death tent even when they were severely disoriented, crying for help and passing out, and that he told people to not get medical help for those who were sick and dying. Criminal charges appear to be pending.

Thanks to Diana, LaDonna, Sarah, Lierre, the Iktome Returns Collective, and everyone else who has emailed and posted about this.

Monday, September 21, 2009

White Ego Racist flocks to Long Island

Native American groups are organizing protests against Rachel Holzwarth (aka "Suraj Holzwarth" aka "White Eagle Medicine Woman" aka the name actual Native elders have given her: "White Ego Woman" or "White Ego Fraud"), who is planning on spreading her racist swill on Long Island, NY.

Lisa Hill has written a good summation of the situation so far, including an excellent analysis of Ego Fraud's racism and it's similarities to the ugly, racist philosophies of Rudolf Steiner:
“On one side we find the black race, which is earthly at most. If it moves to the West, it becomes extinct. We also have the yellow race, which is in the middle between earth and the cosmos. If it moves to the East, it becomes brown, attaches itself too much to the cosmos, and becomes extinct. The white race is the future, the race that is creating spirit.” (Rudolf Steiner, The Being of Man and His Future, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1981, pp. 118-119)

A common theme of Holzworth’s talks is the need for the human race to “evolve” to a higher state of vibration and the belief that it is inevitable for the ancient “red race” to go extinct so that the more spiritually evolved “white race” can fulfill its destiny to replace the “red Indian of old.” Holzworth has made no secret of her opinion of modern First Nations people as a degenerate race who have no spirituality because their karma is to live in poverty and alcoholism.

Steiner and Holzworth both find what they call “the red race” to be lacking. Steiner considered First Nations people to be connected with “the forces that have a lot to do with human extinction.” Both Steiner and Holzworth describe contemporary First Nations people as “a degenerated human race” which was the reason why they had succumbed to such a degree. Her teachings are filled with the concept of the more deserving “White Race” evolving spiritually to a higher frequency take the place of the degenerate, corrupt, drunken “Red Race” who exists at a lower frequency than the “White Race” and whose karma is extinction.

Steiner stated that “It isn’t because of the whims of the Europeans that the Indian population has died out, but because of the Indian population had to acquire those forces that led it to die out.” (Steiner, Die Mission einzelner Volksseelen, s. 4:9)

The statements that Holzworth has made in her talks about the Whirling Rainbow prophesy and her public statements about drunken, deranged Native Americans who object to her teachings are virtually identical to Steiner’s views about race.

Read the full article: White Eagle Woman Evokes Anger and Outrage from First Nations People: The Grandmother Drum Project is universally denounced as fraudulent by First Nations Groups

Don't Pay to Pray is continuing to post updates on the actions, related info, and what you can do to help out, on MySpace and Twitter.

Previous White Ego Fraud posts:
* April 18, 2008, Haudenosaunee speak out on Rachel Holzwarth
* October 14, 2008, Update on Plymouth Protests against White Ego Fraud
* September 14, 2009, The Return of White Ego Fraud

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Light for the Ancestors - Loughcrew Illuminaton 2009

In the Slieve na Caillaigh hills, County Meath, Ireland, people gathered this morning at Loughcrew cairn T, to mark the autumnal equinox. On the three days on and around the equinox, the light from the rising sun shines down the passageway, illuminating the megalithic carvings in the inner recesses of the mound. Sunrise today, tomorrow, and the 22nd are the days of illumination for 2009.

Read more about The Cailleach, the powerful Hag for whom the site is named.

Thanks to Michael Fox for the writeup and photos from the Loughcrew Illuminaton, 2009

Here's a video about Loughcrew, including footage from the 2005, Spring Equinox illumination.

More on the video

Good Equinox and Bean-sidhe Moon, everyone, and light upon the paths of the Ancestors. Sláinte Mhaith!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Women Warriors, Protection, Healing and Justice

Tanya Lee writes in Indian Country Today:

Women warriors take on domestic violence and sexual assault

From North Dakota to Arizona, strong, talented, accomplished Native American women are taking up the challenge of protecting themselves and their sisters, their mothers and aunts, their grandmothers and granddaughters, from the devastation of domestic violence and sexual assault.
... ... ...
“Crimes against Indian women and children strike at the very heart of tribal sovereignty,” reads the 2007 Senate Indian Affairs Committee concept paper on law and order that identified domestic violence and sexual assault as one of the five critical areas in which law enforcement in Indian country was failing.

Following the release of the paper in November 2007, the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2008 was introduced in the Senate and the House July 23, 2008. The last action on the bill was Sept. 18, 2008, when the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held hearings. The bill didn’t pass and was reintroduced in the 111th Congress April 2. The Senate held a hearing on the proposed legislation June 25. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has scheduled another hearing for mid-September, and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women is considering a Tribal Consultation Oct. 30 in Minneapolis.
... ... ...
But in North Dakota, Linda Thompson and her colleagues at the First Nations Women’s Alliance and its member organizations are organizing themselves to be more effective in supporting – and healing – the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault on the four North Dakota Indian reservations.

“It’s often thought that young black men are the most victimized in the U.S., but it is actually Native women,” said Thompson, paraphrasing a statement in the Justice Department report, “American Indians and Crime.”

Read the Full Article

In related news, Cangleska is experiencing some financial hardships, and has had to lay off some staff. If you can volunteer or donate time or resources, please consider them.
Embedded within each of the components of Cangleska, Inc. is the concept of sovereign women within a sovereign nation whose safety was paramount. With the Lakota principle of “we are all related” incorporated in all of the work, Cangleska, Inc. offers a comprehensive and collaborative approach on the local, state and national level.

The number of women and their children seeking shelter and other related services continues to increase. Women are now aware that there is safe space on the Pine Ridge Reservation and are using the services provided to them.

In addition to services for women and children, Cangleska also has family programs and services for men such as Ki Wicasa Wo Ohitika and a Men's Re-education Program.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Return of White Ego Fraud

Rachel Holzwarth (aka "Suraj Holzwarth" aka "White Eagle Medicine Woman") laid low for a bit after lots of Native American groups protested her "prayerformances" and workshops. At these events she charges outrageous fees to white people to watch her mimic pipe ceremony and other Native American ceremonies of which she has no knowledge and to which she has no right. She claims to be Seneca, because she had a dream she's Seneca. She's not Seneca. She belongs to no Native American or First Nations community. She parades around in fake ceremonial regalia, and gave herself the oh-so-humble name, "White Eagle Medicine Woman". She's no medicine woman. She is a fraud, making her living off the ignorance of non-Natives who think they can buy their way to enlightenment.

When gig after gig on the mainland US was shut down by Native protestors, she just moved to Hawaii, and used a private mailing list to solicit marks and charge even more money for private workshops. In this video promoting a Hawaii event, she made stunningly racist statements about how she's here to heal Indians of "anger and negativity" and "release their souls" and "heal our stories"... or something. Sickening stuff.

As I mentioned here, at times she has tried to dissemble about her activities by claiming they are "Celtic". Nope, no one bought that lie, either. But it hasn't stopped her. Like all perennial frauds, she just waited it out and has now broken all the promises she made. She has returned to the mainland and is planning more appearances and workshops.

At the Michigan protest she promised not to wear her fake Native regalia anymore, among other things. As all recent photos and videos show, she has broken every promise she made. She is also selling chant books and tapes that appear to me to contain copyright violations from multiple First Nations artists as well as Neopagan ones.

Don't Pay to Pray has posted an update with lots of links here: YouTube Action: White Eagle Woman's At It Again!

Another of Mtig49's videos about Holzwarth. Though I will note that he has reproduced Holzwarth's claims to be "A trained Strega Wiccan priestess". I don't think this is true, either. Obviously, this crap she's selling has nothing to do with Stregheria, and I've never heard of anyone from those communities claiming her, either. It looks like Rachel/Suraj has claimed to be all sorts of things over the years, tailoring her self-description to whatever market she's keen to exploit.

crossposted to craobh caorann

Friday, July 31, 2009

New Tara Petition - Taking it to the U.N.

Tara na Ri, looking west

If you signed months or years ago, this is a new petition.

It's not over yet. There has been irreparable damage to sacred sites in the Tara-Skryne valley (notably Rath Gabhra / Rath Lugh). However, it can get worse. If we don't stop this, it will get much, much worse. If the motorway is finished, the corporations will then push to further develop the valley, placing strip malls and petrol stations atop the graves of our ancestors, bulldozing and paving over the land where they once prayed, and where we pray now.

As a comparison for Americans, this is much like the problems at Bear Butte (Nóávóse / Mato Paha) - this sacred, historical site should be preserved as the beautiful, powerful place it was for our ancestors, and should be for our descendants. Ceremonial people, and respectful spiritual people in general, should be able to spend time on the hill in peace, not be disrupted by cars and lights and urban sprawl. Please sign the petition, spread the word, and do what you can. Go raibh maith agaibh / Thank you.

Read and Sign the Petition:
Extensive updates and links from TaraWatch:
Tara symposium - University College Dublin, School of Archaeology (23rd-26th October 2009):
TaraWatch Details on Symposium:
Alternative plan for Tara:

There is also a need for more letter writing to various officials and government bodies, more than I can cover in one post. Check out the main page on TaraWatch for multiple posts on how to help out. Go raibh maith agaibh! Tara Abu!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Suirbhé Mór na Gaeilge / The Big Irish Language Survey

The Trust for Irish Medium Education / Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta are asking for wide participation in this survey. No matter where you live in the world, no matter what language(s) you speak, they are interested in your opinion on preserving the Irish language (Gaeilge). Go raibh maith agaibh for taking a few minutes to help out.

Please send this to everyone you know / Cuir seo ar aghaidh chuig gach duine a bhfuil aithne agat orthu.

English below

Iontaobhas daonchairdis i mbun Suirbhé Mór na Gaeilge

Tá Iontaobhas an Gaelscolaíochta ( InaG), iontaobhas atá ann le tacaíocht a thabhairt d’fhorbairt na Gaelscolaíochta, i mbun taighde ar dhearcadh an phobail i leith na Gaeilge. Dúirt An Dr Réamaí Mathers de chuid InaG , "Mar eagraíocht daonchairdis bíonn sinne ag obair i gcomhpháirt le pobail agus le daoine aonair ar fud an Domhain. Is é an ról is mó atá againn ná a bheith ag obair go dlúth le deontóirí agus daonchairde le tacaíocht a thabhairt do phobail eagsúla an Ghaelscolaíochta a bheith acu agus chuige sin tá suas do 5 mhilliún caite againn go dtí seo.

Ní féidir praghas ar chur ar luach ár dteanga féin agus tá neart eolais anois ag teacht chun cinn ar éifeacht déarfach na Gaeilge agus an tumoideachais ar pháistí agus ar an phobail ar fad. Is é an mian atá againn mar iontaobhas ná obair s’againn a leathnú ar fud na tíre agus níos faide mar sin de, tá sé de thábhacht go bhfuil eolas domhan againn ar dhearcadh an phobail i leith na dteanga bíodh sin maith nó olc. Tá an Suirbhé Mór anois ar shuíomh idirlíne Iontaobhas an gaelscolaíochta

Philanthropic Trust Fund carrying out 'The Big Irish Language Survey'

Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta (InaG), The Trust Fund for Irish-medium Education have started what they hope to be the biggest ever online survey on attitudes towards the Irish language. Dr Réamaí Mathers from InaG said “As a philanthropic and charitable trust we work closely with communities and individuals throughout the World. Our main role at this stage is to work in partnership with donors and philanthropic bodies to support communities, primarily in the north of Ireland, who wish to fulfil the dream of an education for their children through Irish. The value of our native culture and bilingualism is being increasingly understood in relation a range of social, intellectual and academic benefits. The work we are involved in is exciting; it enriches lives and indeed whole communities

It is an ambition of our Trust to extend our work throughout Ireland and indeed perhaps overseas, it is therefore of paramount of importance for us to hear the opinions of people in relation to the language be they positive or negative. To this end we have devised a survey that will allow people to express their thoughts on a range of issues. The survey will run online from now until the end of July 2009.
The survey can be found on our website:

Go raibh maith agat to Eireannoir over on Óenach for passing this one along. Sláinte Mhaith!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Identifying the Predator: Spiritual, Financial, and Sexual Abusers

As some of you know, I've been involved for decades now in trying to do something about predators in our communities. And as some of you also know, one of the reasons I do it is that I, and some of those I love, have been harmed by these con men (the vicious predators I've dealt with have all been men). The reason they were able to fool some of us long enough to hurt us is because they are skilled at it; it's what they do. Hopefully this information will help those who may have been victimized. Even better, maybe it will help someone spot a predator before they have a chance to harm them.

I think this is the first time I've reposted an entire article by someone else on this blog. It's worth it.

My gratitude to RedRightHand over at NAFPS for permission to repost this in full.

Identifying the Predator: Spiritual, Financial, and Sexual Abusers

There are common traits, common behaviors in human predators of all kinds. Spiritual scammers often operate the same way and use the same methods as other types of criminal con artists, batterers, and rapists. These different kinds of abuse often blend into each other.

A liar doesn’t just tell falsehoods/lies to strangers or only in certain situations. A liar routinely lies to everyone. In the same way, a spiritual fraud is not just a spiritual liar. He or she will always lie about other things as well.

Understanding these patterns of deceit among abusers and rapists gives us direct insight into the patterns of spiritual frauds. The following points are offered specifically about the patterns of physical abusers but the parallels to spiritual exploiters should be clear. The aim of this post is to help people in spotting frauds before they can do harm, and to help those who have been harmed find help.

1. Abusers are charming and tend to be very skilled at social manipulation.

2. They are skilled liars. They will also declare they are very honest and honorable but their actual actions will show otherwise.

3. They are in control of their actions, not out-of-control. They do not harm everyone they meet. They are very careful to abuse people they feel confident they can get away with harming, such as wives/girlfriends, children, “apprentices,” or those they are “instructing” ceremonially. Substance abuse may increase their aggression but you should never accept being high/drunk as an excuse for their actions. They are far more in control of their actions than they let on and they also harm their victims when sober.

4. They blame others for their behavior. “The abuser shifts responsibility for his actions away from himself and onto others, a shift that allows him to justify his abuse because the other person supposedly "caused" his behavior.” The fact is, abusing another person is a choice. It is the fault of no one but the abuser.

5. While “friends” and acquaintances will be subjected to manipulation, lies and sometimes emotional abuse, usually only the abuser’s intimate partners and immediate family will see the monstrous side of them. Abusers are very invested in their public image, and will use acquaintances to lie for them and/or pass on their lies in their defense. They will spend a great deal of time lying to non-intimate “friends” to lay a false trail of misdirection and alibis. On the internet and in long-distance phone calls, it is particularly easy for abusers to construct a good front for their online friends who may never meet them in person.

6. Abusers specialize in finding out your vulnerabilities. In the beginning they will tell you how special you are. They will encourage you to confess your fears and vulnerabilities, and they will make a good show of being vulnerable themselves (even though it is just an act and built on lies). They do this to make you emotionally dependent on them, and so later they can use these things to harm and manipulate you.

7. They will seem too good to be true. And they are.

*** *** ***

There is a common misconception that predators and abusers are easy to spot, that they display obvious signs of their predatory nature. While there are warning signs to look out for (linked below), predators have carefully tailored their disguises through their years of abusing others and getting away with it.

If predators weren’t skilled at convincing potential victims and supporters that they’re a nice guy (and those who commit physical abuse are overwhelmingly male), they wouldn’t be successful at what they do. They’ve learned how to fool and manipulate people. It’s their profession. If they weren’t good at fooling people, they would have moved on to some other way of making a living by now. By the time an abuser is middle-aged or elderly, they are very experienced at it; they are not going to change.

Abusive behavior usually starts after the victim has made an emotional, spiritual, and/or financial commitment to the predator. Abuse usually starts right after some milestone: moving in together, getting married, pregnancy, or the birth of the first child. With spiritual predators, it’s often once the victim has made a ceremonial commitment and/or given the predator a large amount of money. Once that investment on the part of the victim is there, the predator knows the victim will be hesitant to throw away all that time and effort they’ve invested in the relationship. By that point the abuser has probably also isolated the victim from other sources of support and information, and has made sure the victim sees them as the unquestionable source of the truth.

The vast majority of rapists don’t hang out in alleys to commit “stranger” rape. “Over 70% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the survivor knows. Over 40% of sexual assaults occur in the victim's home and another 30% take place in the home of a friend, neighbor or relative.”

If you’ve been abused, there is help available. Once you know the patterns to look for, abusers are much easier to spot. Remember, if someone has harmed you, you can bet there are other victims out there. If everyone who has been abused speaks up, the world will change. Those who work the hotlines, who counsel victims of domestic violence and other forms of sexual and spiritual abuse, have heard it all before. They will recognize your story. They won't be shocked and you don't have to be ashamed. The patterns are all too common.

Web Resources

* No Nonsense Self-Defense is an excellent site with many informative articles. Among them:
** Profile of a Rapist
** Stalking/Domestic Violence

* Domestic Violence: In the Mind of the Abuser

* Warning Signs of an Abusive Personality

* Myths and Facts about Sexual Assault

“Myth: Women frequently "cry rape". Fact: The FBI reports that false accusations account for only 2% of all reported sexual assaults. This is no higher than false reports for any other crime.” Rape and domestic violence are the most under-reported of crimes.

* Patterns of Emotional Abuse

* Be Alert To Common Traits of Stalkers


* Why Does He DO That? - Inside the minds of angry and controlling men by Lundy Bancroft (This book identifies specific types of abusers and their M.O.s, though many abusers are of mixed types)

* The Anatomy of Motive
by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker (Understanding criminal psychology, the reasons predators abuse, the types of victims they target, and why)

* Trauma and Recovery
by Judith Hermann (Help recovering from PTSD, whether from combat in war or surviving domestic violence)

Phone and Internet Resources

* National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)

* RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)

* Sacred Circle: National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women": 1-877-RED-ROAD (1-877-733-7623):
“Women Are Sacred! Violence Against Native Women Is Not Traditional!”

* Mending the Sacred Hoop, Technical Assistance Project

* Red Wind Consulting, Violence Against Native Women

* Domestic Violence and Native Americans

* Native Women's Society of the Great Plains: 1-605-455-2939 (not toll-free)

* South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: 1-800-572-9196

* White Buffalo Calf Woman Society

Permission to re-post granted by the author.

Justice and Honors for Lakota Women

Lakota Woman Wins Unprecedented Rape Case

From the Argus Leader:
A Native American woman from Wounded Knee won a historic ruling in federal court based on a century-old treaty between the U.S. government and the Oglala Sioux Tribe after she was sexually assaulted by a military recruiter.

The U.S. government must pay Lavetta Elk, formerly of Wounded Knee, almost $600,000 in damages after she was sexually assaulted by Army recruiter Staff Sgt. Joseph Kopf in his car January 2003, according to court documents. Judge Francis Allegra based the ruling on a "bad men" provision in the April 29, 1868, treaty between the government and the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

That provision of the Fort Laramie Treaty "provides that if 'bad men' among the whites commit 'any wrong' upon the person or property of any Sioux, the United States will reimburse the injured person for the loss sustained," court documents filed Tuesday indicated.

read the rest of the article...

Lakota Woman Wins National Award

From the Rapid City Journal
A member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and White Buffalo Calf Woman Society has won a national honor recognizing her work and dedication in addressing and preventing sexual violence.

Tillie Black Bear, executive director of White Buffalo Calf Woman Society, the oldest shelter on a Native American reservation, has been awarded The National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s 2009 Visionary Voice Award. Black Bear is considered a leading expert on violence against women and children.

She is a founding mother of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and a founder of the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. She is the first woman of color to lead the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Black Bear has worked as a therapist, school counselor, administrator and a college instructor.

Thanks to Betsy Campisi at Zintkala Waste Win Oti for passing these along.

Tillie Black Bear speaks at Northern Michigan University, September, 2008:

Tribal domestic violence was once punished by death

Friday, April 24, 2009

We Shall Remain - "Through Native Eyes"?

There have been some conflicting statements in the media about how much actual input Native Americans had into the PBS series, "We Shall Remain," currently airing on Monday nights on "American Experience". Hartman Deetz of the Wampanoag Nation commented on what his community has gone through in participating, to one extent or another, in the project: we shall remain episode one

As reiterated in the discussion there, while the series is certainly an improvement on some similar mainstream media projects helmed by non-Natives, I don't think any film or documentary can truly be called "through Native eyes" unless all the key roles in the writing, producing, directing and editing of the production are filled by Natives. While this project aimed at "inclusion," it's not the same as creative control.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Irish activist aims for U.S. support to stop highway at Tara

Campaigner Vincent Salafia marches in Dublin to protest against plans to build a highway through the historic Tara valley - Photo by Julien Behal/PA

Now, with legal avenues and protests in Ireland seemingly exhausted, [TaraWatch founder Vincent] Salafia is looking to the U.S. to try and drum up support for his campaign.

The March edition of the Smithsonian magazine, the magazine of the Smithsonian institute, included a feature on the Hill of Tara that quoted Salafia. It said that the “archeologically rich complex on and about the Hill of Tara is seen by many as the spiritual and historic heart of Ireland.”

Read the rest of the article at TaraWatch

Polls say 2 out of 3 people in Ireland are opposed to the M3 and the continuing destruction of the Tara-Skryne/Gabhra Valley, referred to in the article above as, "the most powerful Celtic pagan site". But after years of front line struggle, many people are worn out and feeling hopeless. Americans have been involved in the fight all along, but I think this call from one of the main organizers is particularly relevant for clearing up some recent confusion I've seen from Americans who are unfamiliar with the situation in Ireland.

crossposted to Óenach

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Online CR Community

From Felmac:

Óenach (Old Irish: assembly, gathering) is an online Celtic Reconstructionist (CR) community and forum--open to newcomers and the experienced alike--for the discussion of CR and other Celtic-related topics from a traditional perspective, that is a perspective more strictly in accordance history, culture and tradition.

"Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (CR) is a polytheistic, animistic, religious and cultural movement. It is an effort to reconstruct, within a modern Celtic cultural context, the aspects of ancient Celtic religions that were lost or subsumed by Christianity." -- From the CR FAQ

Principles and Parameters

What We Mean by CR
1. Celtic Reconstructionism is a methodology to restore and revitalize the pre-Christian worldviews and polytheistic systems of the various Celtic peoples in the context of contemporary yet traditional Celtic cultures.
2. This methodology is part of a manner of living and being that involves a commitment to the living Celtic cultures and their pre-Christian thought and character.
3. History, culture and tradition form the foundation that informs our methodology, everyday lives, and the process of restoring our pre-Christian spirituality, values and conceptions.

What We're Not About
1. Celtic Reconstructionism does not involve and in fact rejects modern and artificial syncretisms, eclectic practices and modernist interpretations, and does not affiliate with Neodruidism or Neopaganism.
2. This community supports and wishes to preserve the space of women in relation to the flame of Brigid, ie male flametending is not a supported practice.
3. While we maintain that reconstructed Celtic Polytheisms are ethno-religious traditions, this is not an excuse for embracing notions of racial or cultural superiority, or racialist ideologies, and we firmly oppose discrimination based on factors such as race, heritage, nationality, gender or sexual orientation.

What's On Topic
Anything directly relating to Celtic cultures (past and extant), history, languages, and polytheisms.

Please consider joining!

Go raibh maith agaibh to Tomás agus Mícheál for all their work on this. There have already been some good discussions, and I look forward to many more.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Imbolc on the Hill of Tara

The TaraWatch crew will be hosting an Imbolc gathering at Teamhair on Sunday, 1st of February.

The intention is to walk sunwards around the hill with lights or lanterns at dusk, pay homage to the festival and by doing so highlight the continued destruction of the Tara Complex due to the works of the M3 Motorway now reaching its end phase.

People are invited to gather in the Hill of Tara car park at 4.30.

Organiser, John Farrelly, said:

"This should also act as a reminder of the hubris style development which ran riot over our country for the last ten years, laying our environment, social system and economy low, something Tara protesters always warned about and which has now came true."

John Farrelly (087)127-6829

Vincent Salafia (087) 132-3365