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Weekly Update: 7/30/2001

Author: Witchvox Central
Posted: July 30th. 2001
Times Viewed: 5,593

Excavating the Dinosaur Altar...

Greetings Witches, Wiccans and Pagans,

The chipmunk was obviously feeling particularly brave and feisty that day. It was the beginning of August in 1961 and the New England wood was at its peak of lush green beauty. Wren always thought it a bit odd that the forest seemed to wear many more layers of clothing in the hottest month than it did in the coldest one. But then again, maybe that is what a thick white December blanket of snow is for. In any case, there certainly was no snow in sight on that day. It was one of those three-H days- hazy, hot and humid. And the chipmunk was plotting a raid.

From the corner of her eye, Wren spied the little striped scamp pop his head over the stone column. Little dark eyes quickly scanned the objects lying upon the stones before he dunked back down. Wren could picture him in her mind leaning his back up against the entrance to his hidden domain and working on a diagram complete with directional arrows and a timetable: "Okay, first I'll sneak around the back of the old tree stump. Then from there, it is a short munk-jump to that pink colored granite slab, a few hops up the side of the rounded boulders -watch out for the loose ones!- and then a quick in-and-out of the secret tunnel and-- whoo-hoo, lunch is served!"

The 'lunch' that was the target of our plotting bandito consisted of a few ears of early sugar-and-gold corn, a handful of tiny red potatoes, a string of pole beans and a few summer squash. All of these first harvest goodies came from Dad's organic garden and most of them were there with his permission. (Dad was REAL possessive about his little potatoes, but hey-- this WAS a special occasion!) Daisy chains and some early purple asters surrounded the harvest spread. It was still a bit too early in the season for grapes, but the vines made for a nice picture frame effect around the center of the stone. Left over granite chunks from some old homestead project, the pile had been left in the wood and forgotten. It looked much like some ancient archaeological site might appear if one suddenly stumbled upon it and the long slab resting on the top of the pile could easily have been taken for an archaic altar. That is exactly how Wren always viewed it anyway and that is how she always used it. There was a feeling of silent patience in the little grove surrounding the stones. New England woods and New England stones are old. They have seen a lot. They know a lot. And they wait to be discovered in the forgotten places. Wren and her Dad knew that this was such a place of old wood and old stone and they visited often. So did the chipmunk.

Forty years later, Wren puts down her book and chuckles. Rereading "The Triumph of the Moon" by Ronald Hutton for the umpteenth time, she recalls that August day in the wood and wonders what would happen if hundreds of years from both that August day and this August day some archaeologist or anthropologist stumbled upon her little altar set-up in the New England countryside. Perhaps traces of vegetable fibers and plant materials had miraculously survived. Perhaps the trail marks to the grotto were still barely discernable and maybe the scientist- like the child- saw an altar in the tumbled pile of granite. And perhaps this scientist also might uncover the secret stash of 'sacred writings' which the child had left bundled up in a piece of sailcloth and had so carefully placed in the natural cave-like opening beneath the entire structure. What would this archaeologist, this anthropologist think that he/she had found? And that is what made Wren chuckle. For the secret and 'sacred writings' that she often removed from the nook to ponder as a ten-year-old were those of considerable interest to many a ten-year-old: dinosaurs. Yes, Wren brought her favorite books and plastic dinosaur figures-which at this time in her life were mainly stegosauruses and brontosaurs- into the woods during the quiet days of August and stocked them away again when she left. So here based upon such evidence, our future anthropologist might easily decide that he/she had found some ancient forgotten shrine dedicated to the worship and veneration of dinosaurs!

In our present age of incredible medical and scientific breakthroughs, the discovering, uncovering and dissecting of our human past and parts is considered to be an admirable vocation and pursuit. Much knowledge of how our Ancestors lived and worshipped and what they believe may indeed come to be discerned by such worthy investigations. Many people-and scientists, archaeologists and anthropologists in particular- believe that the more one can pick apart a thing, the more one can learn about its nature and function. And the more one can learn about its nature and function, the more one can classify it as being part of a particular family of biological genus or cultural class of humanity. We can then define it. We can then describe it. We can then say what it is and what it is not. We can then give it a name. And what we can name, we can control.

Many Pagans and those who are interested in Paganism as a sociological or religious movement are trying to name the thing. "What is Paganism? What is a Witch?" are common questions in many discussions. For if Paganism is this or that and a Witch is such and such, then anything outside of the definitions agreed upon is NOT Paganism or is NOT a Witch. That satisfies greatly those who need those 'established facts' upon which they may begin to plan their intellectual arguments which in turn may control what Paganism and Witch and Wiccan and Heathen must conform to in order to be considered legitimate and 'real'. And then both Paganism and Witch and all of the other aspects of the emerging new paradigm can be controlled. Appeals to historical accuracy, while noble in their efforts to maintain a continuum of beliefs and rituals, may in themselves be flawed if the intellectual or scientific discovery is rendered wrong via the interpretation of the evidence. If the Ancestors always did it this way-and we can determine what 'this way' definitively was- anything outside of 'this way' would be not the 'right way'. But what the 'right way' may have been is still unknown and will probably ever remain so if the sole reliance or burden of proof rests with academia alone.

Scientists and sundry other investigators of that persuasion cannot really dig up anything more than what remains of the physical traces of some human activity. They may guess-and they may be correct or not- on what a certain thing was used for or what it might have represented. Without a written record, ancient sites can only tell us just so much about the religions, beliefs, values and rituals of our Pagan Ancestors. But these things alone cannot tell us everything and even more to the point, they perhaps cannot even tell us the most important thing.

Ancient sacred sites were used, constructed, venerated or found by real people just like us. Some of the people who sometimes frequented these sites may have been the equivalent of a Pagan clergy if such a thing existed at the time. But most of the days and months and years, the place was left alone and wild and open. And if indeed our Ancestors and we today are not that far removed from each other in spirit, people would wander over to these special powerful spots in woods and upon hills and leave their own personal offerings as they were moved to do. No one told them what was the 'proper' offering to leave or the proper time in which to leave it: they just gathered up what they had or what was available in that time when they felt moved to visit the place and they then lay them there. And maybe they had brought a little picnic lunch and sat a while and enjoyed the feel of the place for a while. And the children played games and chased each other around the rocks and throughout the woods. And perhaps some bandit of a squirrel or chipmunk or raven plotted a raid on the goodies and it didn't seem to spoil the 'sacredness' of the moment one bit. And the People then heard the woods and the stones. The People, the Ancestors dreamed mighty dreams there and saw many wonderful omens and portents and signs. And these dreams, these rememberings, these feelings of the place, these truths concerning the beliefs and practices of our Pagan Ancestors will never be unearthed by any scientist digging in the dirt or pulling up the stones.

The beauty, the wisdom and the beliefs of our Ancestors can be found where they always have been and where they always remain. In the wild places of the wood and of the stone lie keys that open the doors of perception. But it has always been and will always be in the things that cannot be dissected, cannot be properly catalogued, cannot be fully pigeonholed or cannot be properly and scientifically defined that the real essence of Paganism and Witchcraft exist.

Forever free, it is in the unfettered dreams and visions of our People, our Ancestors and ourselves where the spirit of Paganism will always be found.

Walk in Love and Light,

Wren Walker
The Witches' Voice Inc.

Image Credit: The forest shot to your upper right was taken at CMA Beltane by Don Waterhawk

The Mists of Avalon: Faithful? Or Flawed?

by Peg Aloi

This week Peg offers her thoughts (and those of others) on M.O.A. For additional community thoughts and opinions see last week's Pagan Perspectives "Question of the week".

After years of anticipation our community has finally been gifted with a cinematic expression of Marion Zimmer Bradley's beloved and influential novel The Mists of Avalon. Although my feelings as the preview date came closer wavered between eager impatience and nervous trepidation, I think it can be said that, for the most part, this television adaptation was a satisfying one. However, there were some major omissions and diversions from Bradley's story, some of which were disappointing, and some which actually managed to enhance the experience. The potential of this mini-series to both educate and intrigue pagan and non-pagan audiences should not be underestimated (I hear there are certain segments of the right-wing Christian population who are already outraged by it).

I was camping in the wilds of western New York State during the premiere, but thanks to the publicity department of TNT I was able to show the press screening tapes to a small audience attending Sirius Rising (a great gathering which occurs just prior to Starwood at Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, NY). We showed it on two nights, and each night as the episode ended I appeared with my trusty imaginary microphone to interview departing audience members. Some memorable quotes garnered by your intrepid Media Witch:

"It brought tears to my eyes."
--guy wearing little Pan horns

"Beautiful."
--woman in black with silver jewelry

"I didn't read the book yet but now I must!"
--woman with multi-colored shawl

"It was great but they really screwed up that scene after the Beltane fertility rite. Morgaine and Arthur are supposed to recognize each other immediately that next morning." -- Cate Dalton (pictured on this week's cover page)

A week after the "private" screening at Sirius Rising, I got to talk to community elders/authors/icons Isaac Bonewits and Oberon Zell on their responses. Both men, it turns out, had been around while Marion was writing the book and both attended little salons wherein she read chapters-in-progress. Both also were consulted for various scenes and plot elements in the book and are thanked by the author for their contributions. Oberon says the magickal setting for the Beltane Kingmaking (wherein Morgaine and half-brother Arthur make love, not knowing each other's identities) was his work, and Isaac says he advised on various theological matters. Isaac was, he says, disappointed that the book ended up with a more feminist slant than he thought appropriate (so he told me as we strolled in the moonlight by the bullfrog pond and I thought "Wow! I am walking around at a pagan gathering at midnight with Isaac Bonewits and he's giving me this inside scoop on the most well-loved pagan novel of all time!"), and his main complaint was the concept that the priestesses of Avalon would be virginal and not more sexually involved with men throughout their lives. This, he thinks, is not a very pagan (or historically accurate) depiction.

(Peg's Full Review).


Sirius Rising 2001
Sherman, New York
(July 9-15, 2001)
attendance: 800+

Review by Don "Two Eagles" WaterHawk

After a long drive, from our beloved Florida, we arrived safely at Brushwood on Sunday. After saying our hello's to the Brushwood staff and the Barneys', we headed down to the Field. The field looked like there had been a festival going on for some time, people setting up and some tearing down. We were grateful that the weather was being gentle for the setup, but were warned that it was going to be cold tonight. Tell that info to Florida people and watch the terror fill their eyes... it filled ours. But it was okay, for we had brought our 5000 btu propane heater... course, we only use that because of Kokopelli... not for ourselves. We actually like the harshness of camping up north... (cough, hack, #*^&, bull(@#&+shit#@(&)! So we pitched camp in record time, put on our long underwear, and began the happy trail of saying hello to our wonderful northern friends. That night it did get cold... went down to the low 50's. Okay..so we're wuss'es... where we live, 50 degrees is the sign of a incoming ice age.

The next day, Monday, I stayed at the campsite and Daniella went to pick up our daughter Tia from the airport. This was a special festival for us as both our daughters, Tara and Tia, were going to be with us for both festivals. As people began arriving, a big safety problem had arisen in reference to speeding cars on the roads in the field. A young girl was narrowly missed by someone driving way to fast and Frank Barney decided to take steps to avoid accidents...

(Full Review Parts I & II).



Two Major Pagan Orgs. Purchase Land...
This past week rendered some glorious news from the "Out of the Dark Inc." and "Phoenix Festivals" Camps... They both are or have finalized deals or their own land.

  • Out of the Dark Inc. (Virginia)
    "We just signed a big stack of papers to buy the American Sportsman Campground in Isle of Wight Virginia :-) Our new campground meets... no... exceeds all our needs. It is over 30 years old and in need of a bit of paint and a few petunias, but it has everything you would expect to find in a full service campground. 100+ RV water, sewer and electric hookups, a BEAUTIFUL 5 acre lake, a well that goes down 480 feet and brings up some of the best water you have ever tasted, a full size swimming pool, a bath house (yes we have HOT showers now :-), a 60 x 80 foot main building, a stage, and most importantly a zoning recreational use permit :-)"

    "What this means is that in addition to offering individual camping on a daily basis we can host events ...ANY events we want to, as often as we want to. Of course this means the Gathering of the Tribes now has a permanent home, but what this also means is that we are free to offer the site to other groups that want to hold a public event. We are going to do that very thing. Our site is available to any group, regardless of religion, race, sex, shoe size, etc. As long as we are convinced that the organization in question won't tear up the land and will honor the conservation and recycling policies we intend to develop, anyone is welcome".

    Visit the Out of the Dark Website "www.OutoftheDark.com" for more information on this exciting news.

  • Phoenix Festivals (Florida)
    "AutumnMeet 2001 is likely to be our last event at the Riverboat Club in Land O Lakes (we are trying hard to have our 10th anniversary, PhoenixPhyre 2002, on the new property.), the paperwork we need to close and begin development on the new property is working within our timeline at the moment, and that puts us on the new property for March, although it's still possible we'll have one more event At the Riverboat club if something slows down".

    "Expect the aerial photos and site surveys of the land to go on to the Website this week, and we've started a contest to name the new property. We've been working the project under the in house name "Phoenix Ranch" but we know the community can come up with a name that's much more appropriate. And the winner not only gets acknowledgment for the naming, but also gets a 1 year membership for the campground. Speaking of which, memberships for the property are now available, information can be gotten off of the Website".

    Visit the Phoenix Festivals Website "http://www.phoenixfestivals.com" for more info, registration for AutumnMeet and current details on the status of the land.



Notes from a WebCrafter
A Beief Get-a-way and Some quick Notes

Greetings Everyone,

This past week was one of connecting directly and indirectly with many old friends. Wren and I snuck away Friday night for some much needed R&R with our friends the Waterhawks (2 hours south)... These monthly trips are brief (just an over night) but critical to our balance. To our surprise, famous Pagan author Trish Telesco was also a guest at the Waterhawks. Trish is an amazing woman with more energy that anyone I have met IN this community. If you stand close enough to her you can actually feel her vibrate <grin>. Since we are big fans of those that "get things done" we love folks like Trish

The Waterhawks brought us a special treat (from Starwood) from our dear friend and Pagan "wise woman" Arachne (AKA Deborah Fields Berry - famous for way too much to list here). Arachne is the real deal, and a true asset to this community for the past couple of decades. The Treat? Beautiful hand made tops for Wren and I. Thank YOU, you cutie, we miss you so much and will someday return to N.E. just for a hug (with eye contact and everything).

As always, our visit was a joyous and relaxing one ... We thank Don, Daniella and Tia for their love, their light and for a place to hide every month or so.

Some Quick Notes:

A Backlog of Cover Shots
In the past few months we have received dozens of "group shots", "handfasting shots" and various other images that are more than 'worthy' of gracing the home front page of Witchvox. Trouble is, we have more than we can feature. Typically, we really do try and create a theme for our weekly updates, balancing the cover shot with related content. Do know that it gnaws at us that we haven't featured YOUR image and are working on ways to work more of them in. AS ALWAYS, if you have a fabulous Pagan photo that you have taken of folks in the our community (with their permission of course) DO send it in. This IS your community and YOUR web site.

Witchvox.NET ... Some of YOU can't connect!
This past week we received a dozen pieces of email from folks that cannot get into our networking section (www.witchvox.NET)... After much research, it is clear that the problem lies with our ISP "oasistech.net" ... Simply stated, they have our DNS screwed up and we are presently 'breathing all over them' to get this together. Traffic at witchvox.net has never been busier, but we estimate that 10% of you get 'server not found' messages. We apologize for this frustration and will get this resolved this coming week. It is worth noting that this is NOT a problem with Witchvox.COM which is hosted by Drak.net.

Blade of the Sidhe - Enjoyed by Many
This past week we released a new tune that aligned nicely with the TNT showing of "Mists of Avalon"... Over 500 of you downloaded it and dozens of you emailed us with a note of thanks... Wren and I take this opportunity to thank YOU for these kind words and to say that there are several more tunes to come. For our overview/story of "Blade of the Sidhe" and to fire off the mp3 file... Click HERE

Witchvox.net = Record number of submissions!
Submissions to the witchvox networking pages (Witches of the World) continue to break all records here at TWV. Of late, we are experiencing nearly 1,000 submissions (both new and modified) a week. This means YOUR State/Province Page is in a constant state of change, and more than likely, contains many new events, people, groups, announcements and websites since your last visit (we process submissions every 48 hours). Thank you for making this such a critical resource for us all.

Proudly in Your Service,


Fritz Jung (WebCrafter - Witchvox)
Monday, July 30th. 2001


Starhawk... The Latest Notes from Genoa, Italy (G8 protests!)
Just posted at Starhawk.org

I was there when the carabinieri raided the IndyMedia Center and the Diaz school, in Genoa, at the end of the protest against the G8 meeting. We heard the shouts and screams, couldn't get out the door, ran upstairs and hid, fearing for our lives. Eventually the cops found us, but we were the lucky ones. A Member of Parliament was in our building; lawyers and media arrived. There was some obscure Italian legal reason why the police could be deterred. They withdrew. But nothing could save our friends across the street, at the school where people were sleeping and where another section of the Independent Media were located. The police entered: the media and the politicians were kept out. And they beat people. They beat people who had been sleeping, who held up their hands in a gesture of innocence and cried out, "Pacifisti! Pacifisti!" They beat the men and the women. They broke bones, smashed teeth, shattered skulls. They left blood on the walls, on the windows, a pool of it in every spot where people had been sleeping. When they had finished their work, they brought in the ambulances. All night long we watched from across the street as the stretchers were carried out, as people were taken to the jail ward of the hospital, or simply to jail. And in the jail, many of them were tortured again, in rooms with pictures of Mussolini on the wall.

This really happened. Not back in the nineteen thirties, but on the night of July 21 and the morning of July 22, 2001. Not in some third world country, but in Italy: prosperous, civilized, sunny Italy. And most of the victims are still in the hospital or in jail, as I write this four days later.

For the complete daily writings visit Starhawk.org.

Pagan Perspectives
WitchVox Question of the Week!

Last week, we asked...

What Did You Think of 'The Mists of Avalon"? - Two weeks ago the "Mists of Avalon" made for TV movie debuted on TNT. This past week we asked for YOUR thoughts. Many of you were disappointed that it wasn't true to the book and many of you didn't appreciate the liberties they took with the story. Some of you cut this project a bit more slack and enjoyed it for what it was. Many of you (that haven't read the book) indicated that the TV special has inspired you to go out and purchase the book (a "special edition" is conveniently available)... View the Responses.

This week, we ask the question:

Have you ever been to a Pagan Festival? What did you like Most about the experience? - NeoPagan festivals have been going on for over 2 decades and continue to rise in both attendance and numbers of different festivals. If you have attended a fest, what did like best? If you have never been to Pagan festival, what do you think you would enjoy most? The community interaction? Meeting the Big Name Pagans? The Dancing? The Drumming? The Music? The large group rituals? There is no right or wrong answer to this question... There is only YOUR answer. -- Post YOUR Opinion or view the Responses of others.

In Closing...

"The need of literary, academic, or cafe-society intellectuals to include religious feelings in the inventory of their sources of impressions and sensations, and among their topics for discussion, has never yet given rise to a new religion. Nor can a religious renascence be generated by the need of authors to compose books, or by the far more effective need of clever publishers to sell such books. No matter how much the appearance of a widespread religious interest may be stimulated, no new religion has ever resulted from the needs of intellectuals or from their chatter."

- Max Weber; The Sociology of Religion (1922); (Ephraim Fischoff translation.).

In Your Service,

 

The Witches' Voice Inc.
Monday, July 30th., 2001






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