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Posts Tagged ‘news’

The air sizzles with tension.  I see so much hatred on the news.  I see and hear about rising conflicts in the world.  I hear the noise from the nearby military base as they practice, and it makes my gut twist.

Rev. Melissa Hill of ADF wrote a great piece that really sums up a lot of my feelings, and highlights how I, and so many, could do more to improve things.

I’ve been mentally exhausted lately.  Sometimes I feel too weighed down by my own stress to feel that I can make a difference. Sometimes I just want to lose myself in my writing, in fantasy stories from others…  Hill’s piece renewed my strength.  Until I’m financially in a place to give monetary support, I will continue to do my best to speak out when I see racism and oppression.  I’ll do my best to give my students a safe place to be themselves and discuss their worries.  I’ll work to communicate better with parents, to show them that I value diversity, respect their language, their cultures, and try to include them in the school community more often.  I’ll continue to make sure others know my grove strives to be a safe, inclusive place.  As I work on my book, I’ll try to be more mindful of diversity.  I will remain open and receptive when others approach me with ways to improve in these areas.

Be it so.

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Recently on Facebook, someone posted a story and the headline read that the black rhino was now extinct.  The story must have been hyperbolized, because my reading revealed that the black rhino is extinct in certain regions but not entirely (thank the Gods!).  They are critically endangered and some still exist in captivity or in sanctuaries.  So there’s still time, but something needs to change fast.  The frequency of news stories and environmental blog updates about illegal ivory poaching is absolutely alarming.  It all goes back to greed, a desire for status, and traditional Asian medicine.  The last is what is most troublesome to me in a spiritual sense.

To me, this is such a difficult topic to wade into because, despite my desire to do what is best for the environment and preserve our biodiversity, this is wrapped up in culture.  Normally, I can maintain a sense of cultural relativism, but some things raise hackles because they no longer seem correct in the given context.  And yet how do you stop a culture from wanting something that has been part of their traditional medicinal practices for centuries?

Vu Quoc Trung, a traditional medicine doctor who works out of a Buddhist pagoda in Hanoi, thinks [ivory] has some limited value.

“According to ancient medicine books, there are only three uses for rhino horn,” says Vu. “The first is to decrease temperature, the second is to detoxify and the third is to improve blood quality.”

(From NPR)

Think of the many correspondences that exist within Western practices – whether for magic or traditional healing (and yes, I know there is a crossover).  Once upon a time, it was customary to wall cats into buildings to protect the homes against evil spirits, for example.  I doubt most modern Pagans would do that (perhaps some would if the cat were already dead…).  Now that’s not the best analogy because cats aren’t endangered, but it suggests that people are able to change their practices despite what tradition tells us.

And yet we aren’t perfect here in the West.  For example, we know how damaging mining for gems and metals can be, and yet we constantly buy them for our magical workings.  Many vendors I speak to don’t actually know where their gems came from or, if they do, how they were mined.  Who knows what ecosystem the mining is devastating?  Who knows how the workers were treated as it was extracted from the Earth Mama?  When you live in the US and import, you don’t really know the conditions unless you go there yourself. Perhaps access is the biggest problem – East and West.  We feel that everyone who wants to practice magic (or traditional Chinese medicine) should have access to the materials.  Therefore, they should be affordable.  To keep things affordable, greedy people are willing to engage in unscrupulous practices to obtain and sell what we consumers demand.  Often, the consumers ignorantly or willfully look the other way just so they can have their shiny crystals or ivory.

Unless our ancestors were wealthy, those who used natural resources in their magic and healing used what was readily available. Local herbs, local wood, local bones, river rocks, and the odd crystal or rough gem revealed beneath an upturned tree or boulder.  Really rare and precious materials would be expensive.  If an ancestor felt the need to utilize one in some sort of working, and if he or she could afford it, I bet it would have been purchased only for the most important workings or sacrifices.  (I don’t have anything to cite for this, but if it was true for cloth and spice, I assume it was true for gems, ivory, and rare resins.)

So I don’t have any answer to the ivory problem.  I’m hopeful the efforts to educate people in Asian countries about the plight of the elephants and rhinos will change their practices.  Yet we also need to be more aware of where we get our own magical ingredients.  We need to be conscious consumers and weigh our priorities. Personally, I find the best magical ingredients to be those grown and/or harvested by your own hands.  It’s not always possible, but at least you know how they were obtained.  When you work with the spirits of Nature and the Earth Mother, when you find them to be sacred, you simply must make these considerations.

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Investigation after Hill of Tara monument vandalised – RTÉ News.

Very disappointing news.

EDIT: More from Tairis, including a link to photos of the damage.

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Some of you may have read that the infamous, contemporary Arthur Pendragon (who apparently likes to think of himself as the king of the Druids), was attempting to take legal action in regards to cremated remains found around Stonehenge.  He argued that removing them from the site was disrespectful and that they would likely be placed in a museum and never returned to their original resting place.

I must admit, I used to have some mixed feelings about placing exhumed bodies in museums.  I saw my first bog body in person in Toronto a few years ago.  I had reservations about photographing the body.  I wasn’t sure what to think of it.  I was less bothered in Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, which is strange because the bodies there are often medically rare (oversized colons, bodies turned to soap, unusual deformities, etc).  I felt a little sick to my stomach in front of a wax collection of eye injuries, but I digress…  I suppose it’s because most of those bodies were donated to science.  This past year I visited the National Museum of Ireland’s archaeology collection, which included the largest sample of bog bodies I’d ever seen.  This time I did not feel bothered at all beyond a faint relief that we don’t practice that form of sacrifice anymore*.   Otherwise, the bodies were tastefully laid out in their own private areas.  The exhibit had the feeling of an open-casket wake.  Everyone spoke in hushed tones, there was soft lighting, and you could tell that most people were in deep thought about life, death, decay, and human nature**.

I can get on board with Mr. Pendragon’s concern that bodies in museums should be treated with respect, but we live in an era where the opposite is hardly true.  It’s easy for me to say that about British and Celtic bodies because they are my ancestors.  I cannot speak for other cultures and heritages in regards to their own remains.  I’ve come to see the exhibitions as good things.  As a Pagan, I’m not alone in my sentiments.  Especially as someone who values and wants to continue learning about what my ancestors really did and believed.  Our body of knowledge will grow too slowly, if at all, without good archaeology.

And is exhuming bodies for archaeology really all that disrespectful to Indo-Europeans?  While it’s hard to know for sure, I’ve read about some recent theories surrounding Stonehenge which suggest the people who used it had a belief in an afterlife.  The Celts, when they came to Britain***, definitely believed in a continuation of life.  The lore tells us they believed in Otherworlds and there is evidence that they believed in some sort of soulful transmigration.  I wonder if they would mind archaeologists studying their bones?  So many ancient people were obsessed with immortality and that came when your name and story lived on.  The bodies in museums have visitors everyday.  While many look with a mixture of fear, disgust, and religious bias, I’m sure there are others, like yours truly, who go to honor the ancestors – even if it’s only by learning their stories.

I’m glad Mr. Pendragon’s battle did not get very far.  I think there are bigger battles for modern Pagans to fight.

* Although the constant childish behavior in our government makes me wonder if resurrecting the tradition would be such a bad thing.  (I kid, I kid…)

** Seeing bog bodies in person is really something else.  You should make a point to find an exhibit.  They really make you think…

*** However and whenever that was…  I’m not interested in discussing that here…or even now.  I don’t know enough to have a meaningful dialogue.

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Most of you have probably seen this already, but I wanted to share it anyway.  When I was living with my parents, I used to watch Nightline with my mum before bed.  I remember their “Faith Matters” segments and always bemoaned that they were only devoted to the  big monotheistic religions.  I just wanted one segment…  Just one?

Well here it is!  Finally!  Only, it focuses on British Paganism.  Not a terrible thing, of course!  I wish they would look at what’s going on in America.  Maybe they felt it would be easier for Americans to digest if it were about those eccentric Brits.  I don’t know…

The video is dramatized, but it could be much worse.  I’m impressed that they interviewed a rather level-headed policeman rather than the strangest person they could find (which usually happens).  The newscasters seem more amused…  so much for an unbiased tone.  I guess that’s rare in any news media these days…

The Wild Hunt » Pagans on ABC’s Nightline.

 

 

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Here’s an interesting article from the Irish Times by Brian O’Connell.  It’s all about how many people view and/or observe older traditions in Ireland.  It also expresses concern that, while some traditions remain or are being transformed, the newer generation is less interested in them.

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