Saturday, August 21, 2010

Central NJ Pagan Pride

Arfstoll had a table at the Central NJ Pagan Pride Day event, and it was a smashing success! I'm a bit too sunburned and exhausted to give a full accounting here, but we met a lot of wonderful folks, got to spread the word about what it is we're doing, and had the bonus of hanging out with a half-dozen fellow Arfstoll members.

Good times, good times.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Intro to Rune Magic at the Pagan Picnic

had the opportunity to do an "Introduction to Rune Magic" at this year's Pagan Picnic, put on by the Hands of Change Coven in Piscataway, NJ.

At the risk of appearing immodest (which, for a Theodsman, is simply standard fare), the class was a huge success. It was easily the best-attended class at the event, with about two dozen people, and only a few drifted off (and those were folks who asked questions early, so probably came to ask their questions, got their answers, and left). I only had an hour, but covered:
  • What are runes?
  • How do we know the esoteric meanings of the runes?
  • The futharks and their relationship with the rune poems
  • The use of the word "rune" in the Havamal
  • Archaeological evidence of runic talismans
  • Bind runes
  • Galdr
  • Runic divination
  • And a demonstration of stadthagaldr ("runic yoga")

A lot to cover in just an hour, and it felt to me like I was racing through things at warp speed, but folks really seemed to like it, and I got a lot of positive comments afterwards. It was sort of a survey of a survey, but I hope some important points got made, and the people in the audience got a taste of what more there is to be had if they delve more deeply into the runes. Which, for a class like this, is all that I can hope for.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Odin, Loki, and Thor

From the upcoming Thor film.

Hmmm... I find the costuming dubious (although it does kinda look like the costumes in the comic book), but Anthony Hopkins as Odin... I've got to say that has me intrigued.

(Via AICN)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Why We Celebrate the Day

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Getting Focused

Lately, it seems as if my creative energies have been all over the place. I'm halfway through two different books on Heathenry, writing a three volume roleplaying game rules set, putting together an entire set of courses for an online/FTF school I'm setting up, considering starting two part-time businesses (three including the school), maintaining three blogs and three websites, plus the usual job, family, and tribal obligations.


I'm going to be prioritizing these initiatives, evaluating whether or not they're worth the (relatively heavy, most of them) investment in time and energy, and hopefully trimming some of the excess and focusing in on the more important stuff. Hopefully this means I'll have some concrete announcements about things coming up in the near future.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The National Day of Prayer

For those who might not have felt the overwhelming wave of sacredness washing over the country today, May 6th marks the National Day of Prayer. Aside from the day itself, the event has been burning up the news in certain quarters, as a Federal Judge in Wisconsin ruled that the National Day of Prayer is in fact unconstitutional. On its face, it seems like a now-brainer, given that the Supreme Court itself established the "Lemon Test" for determining when public displays of religion are allowed. Basically:
  1. The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;
  2. The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
  3. The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.
So, let's see. 1, check. There is no secular purpose in a National Day of Prayer. 2, check. Prayer by definition advances religion. 3, check. By the government officially advocating, and indeed actively instructing, its citizens to engage in prayer, we have an entanglement with religion.

The case is, naturally, on appeal.

Here's the actual law:
The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.
But a look at the National Day of Prayer website has been quite informative. While there are some who tout the National Day of Prayer as completely ecumenical, it is about as far from neutral on the question of just which God is being prayed to as is possible (the fact that Strom Thurman wrote the bill might be another clue). Here's the money quote:
The National Day of Prayer Task Force’s mission is to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family.
Everywhere, this event is celebrated as a chance for evangelical Christians to get their message out. I'm pretty sure that there has never been a Wiccan or Asatruar giving a benediction at the White House. The law makes reference to "God" explicitly in the singular, and thus cuts out all polytheists (including, naturally, pagans and heathens). In fact, it even mentions churches specifically.

Let us indeed pray to our many, wondrous, and various Gods that this National Day of Prayer, as it is currently constituted, is the last.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sumarmál 2010

I just got back from Arfstoll Thjod's Sumarmál celebration at beautiful Camp Netimus, PA*. It was a blast!

The camp itself was terrific as always; the staff were eager to do anything they could to make our event a success, and the food was terrific.

This event was Theodish, and members of no less than three different Theods were in attendance, as well as many guests and newcomers.

There were four rituals along the course of the weekend. Friday kicked everything off with an offering of cakes and ale to the local land wights in thanks for their hospitality. Friday night, Álfröðull theod put on a Freyja ritual, wherein the Goddess was invoked, offerings were made, and blessings bestowed on the assembled folk.

Saturday saw the kids doing a traditional May Pole dance (with live music, including some completely mediocre drumming by yours truly), and then the presentation of the final ritual drama in our cycle; the Return of Odin, which sees the restoration of Odin as king of the Gods, the death of the winter-king Ullr, and the avenging of Baldr's death as Bui slays Hoder, and is in turn slain. It was a blast, especially considering we had no rehearsals and the cast saw the script about 10 minutes before the play. There followed a very powerful Sigrblót, where weapons and other items of appropriate nature were sacrificed in the fire in exchange for victory and success in the coming year. Finally, we had sumbl, which was unique in that it lasted for three hours, but only felt like one. Nobody was "forced" to take the horn for three rounds, making the toasts that were made all the more significant, and the folks in attendance seemed to appreciate that fact.

In and amongst the rituals, there were many other activities, including classes and discussions, an archery competition, and kid's activities. Whew!

This was an exceedingly non-aggravating weekend, it felt. No drama, no petty whispering behind other folks' backs, no bad injuries, no excessive late starts to anything (the only real late-starting event was sumbl, but even then it was over on time, and folks didn't feel rushed). The kids were a dream, usually taking care of one another (and even the older kids taking turns often with keeping track of the smaller ones), and everybody seemed genuinely glad to see everyone else.

We'll be doing this again next year (same weekend; April 29-May 1, 2011), and I hope we'll see even more friends then.
* If any pagan group in the New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania area is looking for a place to hold an event, this is the place to look. I'd be happy to put you in touch with them, or answer any questions about how they handled our group and our event. Just ask.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Repent Amarillo

I don't normally follow the Christian nutjob scene in Texas, but this caught my eye while I was reading Pharyngula; a group called Repent Amarillo.

Aside from having one of the most ghastly looking websites it's ever been my displeasure to have to see (complete with little java snowflakes in the background and an unreadable font color on a dark background), these yahoos seem to have taken it upon themselves to be the religious enforcers for the greater Amarillo area. Anyone care to guess which religion it is?

A couple of things of immediate impact to the Pagan and Heathen community are these items from their "mission". Places and things that will be "targeted" by their "groups' include:
Earth worship events such as “Earth Day”

Halloween events

Idolatry locations such as palm readers, false religions, and witchcraft. Many of the smaller missions listed above may be just prayer oriented missions for tearing down demonic strongholds or they may involve more aggressive use of soldiers and prayer warriors. Some other missions occasionally employed may be “undercover operations” where the groups show up together but are not publicly visible together to effect the outcome of a public meeting such as city commissioners meetings, etc.
I am particularly intrigued by the use of the phrase "more aggressive use of soldiers and prayer warriors". What might that entail? Breaking the windows at Night Sky? Busting up a psychic fair at the local Unitarian church? (They apparently have a problem with Unitarians, too.) Disrupting a Pagan Pride Day picnic at a public park? Just how "aggressive" are they prepared to go? The imagery on the website certainly suggests it's a step or two beyond just handing out Chick Tracts and silent prayer.

In fact, they've got a whole map of places they're none too pleased with (which Patty Wigington mentioned a month or two ago on her blog). Pagans, sex, the occult, and idolotry! Or, perhaps worst of all, they list all the Christian churches in town they deem to be "heretical".

Although I must say I'd love to see how these guys fare trying to bust up an Asatru or Theodish gathering. See how much of a stomach they really have for fighting.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stupid Poll Question of the Month

The dullards over at have a lulu of a poll question up:

Does nature seem as if it's out of control?

Is it just me, or does that seem to imply that nature has, at one time or another, actually been under control by human beings? Have agriculture and the internal combustion engine really made us that full of hubris as a species?

One of the central themes of Germanic cosmology is that the forces of nature are those of chaos, embodied by the Jotuns. They can, on a selective and temporary basis, be tamed by the forces of the Aesir, either by slaying specific Jotuns (as does Thor) or by marrying into the tribe of the Aesir (as we see with several Jotun-wives). But in the end, the forces of order contest at the Ragnarok with the forces of chaos, and at best the outcome can be said to be a draw.

Is nature spinning out of control? Of course! And it always has been. Nothing new about that, earthquakes or no.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Open Letter to Anna Lucas of Peyton, CO

Dear Ms. Lucas,

I am writing in response to your letter to the Editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, dated February 13, 2010, entitled "Respect Founding Principles". I must say that your choice of title was quite ironic, as it is very apparent that you yourself have no respect for the founding principle of freedom of belief. For example, when you state,

I am sad that the entire Academy is being conditioned to respect paganism, and that anything Christian is becoming a hate crime.
You are doing a grave injustice to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which does not single out Christianity as having any sort of favored status in this nation, but merely gives protection to "religion":

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
That very deliberate choice must, despite your personal opinion of non-Christian faiths, include all religion. Respect for Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Islam, or Judaism, or, yes, even Paganism is a cornerstone of our nation's concepts of the rights of the individual. First and foremost is the right of every individual to choose his or her own religion, or lack thereof. And the government, particularly in a coercive environment such as a military academy, is duty-bound to respect each and every one of those choices.

When you make reference to "anything Christian is becoming a hate crime" you are being quite disingenuous. The Air Force Academy maintains several facilities for Christian worship, all of them much more grandiose than the simple circle of stones that has so inconvenienced your world-view that, Christianity being the only "true" religion, the government must therefore impose your own personal prejudice by force of law.

You display a shocking double-standard when you make statements such as,

If “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” what authority did Air Force Superintendent Gould have to order Air Force chaplains, engineers and heavy equipment operators to help build the pagan worship site? Superintendent Gould could have allowed the pagans to have their worship ceremonies at the site, but he had no constitutional authority to order anyone of any other faith to move one pound of dirt or one stone.
That is, in fact, a possibly valid interpretation of the Establishment Clause. However, the Air Force Academy also has spent millions of taxpayer dollars building and maintaining no less than three separate chapels for Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish cadets. Having thus set the precedent that some faiths are supported, the Supreme Court has maintained consistently that all faiths must thus be supported. I daresay moving a few rocks cost the taxpayers quite a few million dollars less than the construction of three entire chapels. Certainly the pagans have not yet demanded the installation of a pipe organ, let alone two, as other faiths have.

Yet you don't seem to have a problem with that use of taxpayer money. You cannot have it both ways, Ms. Lucas; either it's wrong to fund them all, or it's right to fund them all.

(Photo source: Military Religious Freedom Association)

Your double-standard continues when you state,

If the worship site is on federal property and does not belong to the pagans who are using federal property to worship on, why is it any more a hate crime to place a cross on those rocks than it would be for some overly zealous pagan worshipper [sic] to place a rock in the Air Force Chapel in front of the cross?
Placing a rock in the Air Force Chapel is not a fair comparison; would you think it a hate crime to paint a pentagram on the chapel door? Or place a statue of Zeus on one of the altars? Or paint a swastika on the Aron Kodesh of the Jewish chapel? After all, if they're on Federal property, they don't belong to the Christians or the Jews, right?

You seem to have a mind-set that claims the First Amendment as an exclusive franchise for your own religion. Fortunately, the legal tradition of this nation runs counter to your prejudices and bigotry.

The First Amendment protects all religion, not just yours. That's why it was right for the Academy to create the worship space in the first place, and why it was a hate crime for that space to be vandalized by over-zealous Christians.

We must respect each others right to choose, even though we might disagree with that choice. Once folks like you stop trying to impose their choices on other people, this nation will be a freer place.