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I finally got around to watching “The Secret of Kells,” the animated feature from Cartoon Saloon.  It was recently added to the Netflix Instant Queue and several Druid friends were recommending it on the ADF mailing list.

The story is about Brendan, a young brother in the Abbey of Kells in Ireland.  His uncle, the Abbot, forbids Brendan from leaving the abbey and insists that he helps fortify the walls in preparation for the impending Viking raids.  When the illuminator, Brother Aidan, arrives with his cat and unfinished manuscript, Brendan is suddenly encouraged to explore his more creative side and pay more attention to the natural world – which Aidan claims can teach more than any book.  When asked to fetch an ingredient for ink, Brendan encounters the wolf spirit  Aisling who befriends and helps him throughout the story.

Despite the presence of Christianity, the Pagan world is still alive in “The Secret of Kells.”  The Vikings are referred to as Pagans (which they were at this time).  On some levels, the portrayal of the Vikings was unfortunate as they were shown as dark, almost infernal monsters.  As they invade, one of them slashes through a cross – a scene that even made me sit up.  One must remember, though, that the Irish probably saw the invaders as monstrous. Cromm Crúaich, a dubious Irish deity, is also in the film.  There is mention of him in Irish lore – mostly in association with St. Patrick.  Cromm is known for demanding the sacrifice of children for a good harvest.  He is a very negative, demonic being in “The Secret of Kells.”  He’s portrayed as a snake who, once dealt with, is drawn as an ouroboros – one of many spiraling symbols in the movie. What could be a negative portrayal of Paganism is balanced by the sidhe Aisling.  She is the protector of the forest, a shape-shifter who, while friendly with Brendan, is also a hunter and a killer as a wolf.  Aisling, to me, represents one of the best portrayals of a Pagan deity in modern culture.  She is mischievous, powerful, and ageless yet benevolent to the deserving, and possessing of her own faults and weaknesses.  

The animation was stunning.  You will see triquetras and spirals in the forest that will make you gasp.  The Celtic knots are just amazing.  The cat, Pangur Bán, is transformed into a spirit that looks like a feline Celtic knot.  The Book of Kells is brought to life at the end with exquisite detail and love.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves Ireland, mythology, or a good story.  There are possibly some frightening scenes for children, so I recommend that parents watch it first if you’re uncertain.  If your child wasn’t bothered by Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog,” he or she will probably love “The Secret of Kells.”  If you’re concerned that your son or daughter will come away from the film with a poor impression of the Vikings, make sure to expose them to “How to Train Your Dragon” for a more positive representation.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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“Lugh” by Mickie Mueller
 
May your harvest be plentiful, your strength be true, and your company great!
May the sun shine warm upon you and may your August be filled with joy!
Here, enjoy this lovely ditty by Omnia.  It should get you into the mood.

http://www.youtube.com/v/PGvwVWz_yjw&hl=en_US&fs=1?color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00

“Lughnasadh” by Omnia
 
Also, for your viewing and listening pleasure, a song from the infamous “Wicker Man.”  Weretoad thinks it’s strange that I find enjoyment from the movie, what with its murder and misrepresentation, but I do so love the music.  While listening to the latest edition of A Darker Shade of Pagan, I heard a familiar tune.  Where did I hear that before?  I googled the name and, sure enough, it was one of those lovely pieces from “The Wicker Man” – “Corn Rigs” by Magnet.
I will post later about my Lughnasadh, complete with photos of the Tailtiu doll.
 
 

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I saw Christopher Nolan’s latest film “Inception” with some of my tribe on Friday.  It was an amazing film complete with an intricate and fascinating plot, gasp-worthy special effects, and a riveting soundtrack*.  One thing that kept striking me were the similarities between the concepts of traveling into dreams in the film and the beliefs/teachings/experiences Pagans and such ilk have in meditation, trance, astral travel, and/or lucid dreaming.  I’ll just bullet a few.

  • The characters in the movie had personal totems that only they held and touched.  The intimate knowledge of the totem would help its owner determine whether or not they were in the dream world.  Many people who try to “cross the veil” have totems, charms, or talismans for protection, the facilitation of psychic abilities, a connection to “reality,” etc…
  • “Inception” used architects, or highly imaginative, visual, and spacial thinkers who constructed dream worlds.  This is similar to the belief of many that safe houses/circles/groves/etc can be constructed in the Otherworld, or that your will can manipulate it with enough focus.
  • Dreams are dangerous places.  In “Inception,” a person’s subconscious projections or memories can become hostile.  There are dangers in the Otherworld too.  Some Pagan authors, like Paxson, even suggest a practitioner go through therapy before beginning to trance** due to possible projections.
  • Cobb, Arthur, Ariadne, and company travel into dreams together as they all have a job and there is strength in numbers.  I’ve heard of people astrally projecting together, into other people’s dreams and the like.  I’ve never experienced it or tried it myself but the concept is there.  The casts’ teamwork also reminds me of spiritual teachers or guides.  Working with and developing a relationship with one is supposed to make your Otherworldly travels safer, perhaps even easier.
  • There’s one dream scene, when Cobb is first training Ariadne*** at a cafe.  He reveals to her that she’s in a dream and things start to fall apart.  Cobb tells her to relax, but the dream shatters. I’ve never been able to dream lucidly, but everything I’ve read about it speaks of the practitioner realizing that he or she is dreaming and using that knowledge to manipulate the dream, to seek inner information, or to connect with Otherworldly beings in the dream world.
  • As many of us already believe, and as is evident in the fictional world of “Inception,” the dream world and what happens there is incredibly influential on this world.
The film has me thinking more about the concept of the Otherworld.  What exactly is its nature?  Is the dream world the same as the Otherworld?  Are they connected so that one can lead to the other?  Could people who achieve states of insanity or coma be stuck in such a place?  If the Otherworld is really the dream world and we can manipulate it and create places there, are the fairy realms people stumble into something people made, Gods made, or the fairies made?  What came first?  Are we really just another island in the Otherworldly land of dreams?  Interesting and complicated questions.  They are the essence of many Pagan festival discussions, that’s for sure!



* The song “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” by Edith Piaf is featured which was amusing because the actress who played the French chanteuse in the biopic “La Vie en Rose,” Marion Cotillard, played Mal in “Inception.” 


** I think anyone who has had the usual ups and downs of life should be fine, especially if ones talents are average and one has minimal danger of getting in over one’s head.  If something really nasty showed up in trance, then perhaps…  but unless you have an unsettling background, I wouldn’t worry.  That’s just my belief.  As long as people can differentiate one world from the other and lead a productive life, things are peachy!


*** I loved Ariadne’s character and the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the director drew on the original myth.  


(The photos are scenes from “Inception.”)

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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From Friday to Saturday, I underwent the vigil to become an official “folk” of Muin Mound Grove along with Candee.  What this means is that, along with having a history of attending the grove and a good relationship with everyone there, I am taking on more responsibility.  If need be, I could be asked to lead a significant part of a ritual.  I’m expected to do more for the grove.  It’s really exciting for me.  I love everyone there and I’m proud to be a part of it.   I want to do more for my Grovies of my religion in general.

Muin Mound has various traditions that are part of becoming a folk.  Along with staying up until just after sunrise, we made Muin Mound pins to wear at ritual, underwent a long guided meditation, participated in a ritual, were formally welcomed during the main worship service, and watched the Wicker Man.

Now, I’d never seen the Wicker Man before.  It’s not the sort of film my parents would have had around the house.  It also has the reputation as a horror film and, for all my recent posts about ghosts and zombies, I don’t often watch such things.  When I found out what becoming a folk entailed, I decided to put off watching it until my vigil.

Why is the Wicker Man part of our vigil tradition?  Well, it’s a hugely popular movie in the Neo-Pagan community.  Everyone seems to rave about it.  Groups are even organizing Rocky Horror-like parties where people watch the movie and sing along to the beautiful songs.  I suppose we watch it because it’s become such a huge part of our Pagan culture and to become so involved in said culture is to experience its art*.

So what did I think of it?

Let me just get it out right now and say that I didn’t enjoy the end.  If you’ve never seen the movie, look away right now.  Did the uninitiated leave?  Ok, good.  Now, the movie is called The Wicker Man because, at the end, the investigator, who also happens to be a virgin Christian, is sacrificed to the Gods by being burned alive (along with various animals) to ensure the fertility of the land.  The residents of the all-Pagan island of Summer Isle, known for their apples, had a poor harvest the year before and wanted to give a really large sacrifice to aid them.  Now, I always knew this was going to happen because of the movie’s reputation and my background knowledge.  Julius Caesar wrote about the Gauls use of wicker men but, other than that literary blurb, no other evidence for the practice exists.  We know that the Celts did sacrifice people and animals, but the wicker man method was either incredibly rare, a one-time event, or a rumor that Caesar noted/created.

The film, over all, did not meet my definition of a horror film.  It simply did not “horrify” me until the very end.  I’m sure it’s more horrible to Christians who are easily offended by nudity, sex, and polytheism.  I spent most of the film giggling at the protagonist’s discomfort (or growling at his rudeness) and wishing that I lived on an island of Pagans.

And this brings me to why I didn’t like the end.  As stated, I know our ancestors sacrificed animals and people to the Gods.  I don’t feel that we have to do that any more.  Our society has evolved and, while I know some people still maintain such practices, I feel that we are in an age that requires less killing and destruction. We ravage our environment enough.  We kill too many factory farmed animals.  We have too many hungry humans in the world to justify killing animals to use up other important resources like grain and water.  Human sacrifice is now murder and animal sacrifice is now arguably unsustainable.  A better sacrifice to the Gods in this day and age would be to give up something you worked hard on, or, better yet, an environmentally damaging practice that is convenient to you (I could do more of this).  There’s also giving up time for community service.  There are many types of sacrifice and all are appropriate, in my opinion.  If you really feel that the Gods desire blood, put a razor to your own fingers.  If you must offer an animal, buy an animal to feed an unfortunate family in the name of your Gods.

Some people giggle at the sacrifice of the Christian at the end.  Me…  I was uncomfortable with it.  In the modern sense, it was a murder.  The Pagans of Summer Isle claim that he was a willing sacrifice because he came to the island by his own free will, but that isn’t so.  They tricked him and then sabotaged his means of escape.  I worry that many Pagans love the film because of their own bitterness towards Christianity.  As much as the religion makes me uncomfortable, I know too many good Christian people.

Now, I know that most Pagans wouldn’t dream of doing an actual wicker man.  Most are level-headed enough to know that such practices are best left to ancient history.  Hopefully most are aware that The Wicker Man is fictitious and that modern groups just don’t do that (knock on wood).**  After watching it with some of my grove mates, we had a brief conversation about how it was fictitious.  I think the key to Pagans watching and enjoying the movie is that it must be followed by discussion because it can be educational and inspirational.  When showing it to new Pagans or the highly impressionable, it should be prefaced in some way so as to cushion the blow.

Ending aside, I actually really liked the movie.  A level-headed person should know that it’s all fiction and that it’s not an accurate portrayal of modern Pagans (Are any movies?).  The music was beautiful.  I was familiar with a majority of it.  Damh the Bard does an excellent cover of “Gently Johnny,” and Mediaeval Baebes produced a playfully melodic “Maypole Song.”  Also present was the traditional “Sumer is a Cummin In” that I so loved from MVPN’s Beltaine rituals.

http://www.youtube.com/v/7pwXFVCsuvU&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00

Mediaeval Baebes’ “Summer Isle (The Maypole Song).”


In the end, and after a night to think about it, I really did enjoy “The Wicker Man.”  The ending made me uncomfortable, but that is the point of horror films, I suppose.  Even though the movie wasn’t much of a horror film otherwise, it gave me something to reflect upon.  “The Wicker Man” can be a useful educational tool, is fun to watch as a fictional piece***, and has a lovely soundtrack.  I think I would like to add it to my DVD collection.

*I say this is Pagan art because I’ve read that the crew consulted with Pagans for ideas and traditions.


** My brain would explode if someone showed up for a Beltaine rite with an animal to put in a wicker man.  “But I thought that’s what you guys did!”  Oh that would be so weird…


*** …as opposed to a basis for practice or belief.

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The sky is overcast and it’s a little windy out.  It rained earlier.  I wish it would storm.  I haven’t experienced a good storm in I don’t know how long.  You know?  The loud kind that causes lights to go out and everyone gathers in one room to cuddle in blankets while listening to the majesty of nature?  I’d love one of those…

Now if it were to happen tonight, I would like my husband to be home from work so I can cuddle with him under a blanket.

I love storms but I don’t feel like I have any real connection to storm spirits or Gods*.  At least not in my hearth culture.  Whenever I hear thunder, my thoughts first turn to Thor – not to Taranis.  I don’t feel any pull to the Gaulish deities, actually.  My husband has this “thing” with Thor.  I say it like that because he doesn’t worship him or necessarily consider him real**.  To Weretoad, Thor is an entity (mythical, fictional, or real) to be admired.  He bonds with him through comics like Marvel’s “Thor” or Eric Evensen’s “Gods of Asgard***.”  My husband thinks Thor is “cool” but in a distant way and I so dig it.

Weretoad is agnostic but we actually have more spiritually in common than most think.  For example, I’m pretty agnostic about some things – like the afterlife – and we are both animistic to some degree (although he doesn’t label himself as such).  Needless to say, my agnostic, semi-animistic Thor fanboy gets along quite well with myself and other ADFers most of the time.

There was a time I worried about our religious differences.  I wish I could go back and whisper in my younger self’s ear about how compatible we really are, how we’re happily married, and how I can’t wait for a thunderstorm so that the two of us can cuddle up and think about the amazing Thor throwing Mjöllnir around****.

*Really, my life is more consumed in art and study, so the patrons I have are very fitting!  I’m not complaining at all. 🙂


**Nor does he consider him unreal.


*** “Gods of Asgard” is very good.  I’m not as well-read on Norse mythology, but from what I know it seems in tune with the lore.




**** We both grinned giddily when Mjöllnir appeared after the credits ran for Ironman 2.  😛

[ For my LJ friends, please visit me at: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ ]

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"Dark Crystal" Sequel?!

http://www.youtube.com/v/_rY74EoIhHg&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00

Gods, I still need to see the first one! I know, I know… I’m horrible. I’m a huge “Labyrinth” fan and I adore the Frouds. Brian’s drawings are amazing and Wendy’s dolls have always inspired me. I’m so relieved that they’re using puppets instead of CG for the characters. I would have vomited if it were otherwise. There’s something very magical about the puppets.

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Gus diZerega, Pagan blogger on Beliefnet, posted a list* of what his readers believe to be the worst cinematic (or television) portrayals of Pagans – specifically the much maligned witch.  It was an interesting read.  “Hocus Pocus” was one of the top worst offenders.  Although I completely agree with the argument, it’s still a favorite movie of mine.  I love the singing and the over-the-top witches.  It’s just a fun story.

I’m ashamed to say that I have yet to see the original (or the remake) of “The Wicker Man.”  I’m saving that for Muin Mound.  Apparently it’s a tradition to watch it after initiation into the grove!  I’ve also yet to see “The Craft.”  My hubby owns it, so one of these days…  I never really got into “Buffy”, mostly because I didn’t have cable.  Someone commented about the character Willow and how she was “dismissive of Wiccans as: ‘Bunch of wanna blessed be’s. Nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she’s a sister to the dark ones.'”  Yes it’s a fictitious story, and real magic as we know it is not so spectacular on the movie screen, but it’s annoying all the same.  And really, ‘the dark ones’?  Give me a break!  I tend to write off anyone who uses that sort of ignorant, goth-tinted language.    I’ve never seen “Charmed,” however I must say I’m always extremely annoyed when someone sees my triquetra tattoo or necklace and thinks I’m a fan, as if the symbol came from the show!  




At the same time, one has to have a sense of humor.  Like I said, “Hocus Pocus” remains a favorite of mine, in part because it is so over the top and makes no references to Wiccans or people who actually practice Paganism.  There’s also a wicked little part of me that thinks, if I was going to be some sort of supernatural bad girl, I’d want to be like that. **  And how many Christians find various church-bashing Monty Python skits hilarious?  Most can’t help but crack a grin because there is a grain of truth there.  Perhaps it’s the same with negative Pagan portrayals.  The characters represent what some in our community have deluded themselves into thinking is real or possible because they have no concept of reality in this plane/dimension/world/existence.  Some Pagans are, for lack of a better term, bat shit crazy.  Some really do see the world through purely dark or purely sparkly white lenses.


So what do you think are some of the best portrayals of Paganism in modern entertainment?  For my readers who are not Pagan, what are the best and worst portrayals of your religion?

*For my lj friends: http://blog.beliefnet.com/apagansblog/2010/03/the-worst-movie-depicting-witches-and-other-pagans.html

** For the record, I don’t really want to be that way.  I’m just saying.  It would be cool to (temporarily) change people into cats though.

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