An Un-Official Publication of the Reformed Druids
Summer Solstice, Year 42
(June 21st, 2004)
Volume 20, Number 4
CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE:
Summer Solstice Essay
idsummer Solstice, one of the four minor High Days of the Reformed Druid Calendar, is associated with the Celtic Goddess Danu, Mother of the Gods, the Tuath de Danann. She is particularly associated with rivers, and rivers from the Don in Russia to the Don in Scotland are thought to be named for Her. She is probably the same figure as the Irish Goddess, Anu, and the Bretons' Ana. Roman Diana and Greek Artemis may be other cognates of this Pan-Indo-European deity. These theories are based on the study of word origins, and on the witness of Gallo-Roman writers of the period who noted the similarities in character, rituals, and Seasons of Worship between Danu and Diana. These primary historical sources, written when the Celtic religion was still practiced in Gaul, corroborate the evidence from linguistic studies. There is opinion about that Danu was not an important Deity, or even that the Celts lacked a Mother-Goddess figure, but I can find no hard evidence in Philology, history, or Celtic Mythology for this point of view.
Like Roman Diana, Danu's totem is the boar, an animal also associated with a female agricultural deity in the Balkans. Danu, like Frigga of the Germans, presides over marriage and fertility. The luckiness of June weddings may be a distant memory of Her festivities. Mugwort is Her flower, an herb also sacred to Roman Diana; the ripe ear of grain is Her token. (This fits T. Edwards' theory that the Christian Madonna was modeled after (to co-opt?) the various Mother-Grain Goddesses of pagan Europe.) On the Isle of Man it is customary to wear a sprig of mugwort to the Midsummer dance, and in England, placing mugwort under her pillow is said to bring a young woman dreams of their future husband.
This is the morning on which the Sun used to rise over the heel stone at Stonehenge, thus beginning the new season in the Megalithic calendar. It no longer rises at that point owing to the procession of the Earth's axis, but celebrations are held there, anyway.
The Druids did NOT build Stonehenge. It antedates their arrival in Britain by centuries. It was William Stuckeley in 1717 who mislocated the Druids there. He did some of the best archeological field work of his day, but his theorizing later wildly outstripped his data. The mistake was an honest one, however, considering what was known in his time. He showed that the stones were not a memorial to King Arthur nor a Roman temple, the two then common theories. He was the first to establish the monument as definitely pre-Roman. The only knowledge of pre-Roman Britain he had came from Roman and Greek writers of the Classical Period. They said that Britain was inhabited by Celts whose priests were the Druids. So, if the stones were older than any Roman constructions, Stuckeley reasoned, they must have been put there by Druids. He knew of no other candidates. But in the last two centuries, archeology has provided us with many, even too many other possibilities. The currently favored candidates are the early Neolithic farmers of Natufian stock, a longheaded, slender, fine-boned people who inhabited the Salisbury area from 2900-2500 B.C. coinciding with the most accurate modern date for the first cycle of building at Stonehenge. A larger boned hardier people later took over the monument and set up the Blue Stones, but they too had disappeared before the arrival of the Celts around 480 B.C.
This is not to say that the Celts did not take cognizance of the huge stones. They worked monuments of other prehistoric peoples into their mythology and song. Numerous Bardic compositions refer to the Sidh Mounds of Ireland and the Carnes of Scotland as sacred places and the long abandoned abodes of the Gods. They may have done the same for Stonehenge, but the English traditions and Bardic works were almost all lost, while the Irish are among the best preserved of any oral lore.
"The Sidhe of Donegal,"
a seminar by Prof. Duran.
Two or more different groups of peoples, sharing the same or similar astronomically oriented beliefs, contributed to the five cycles of construction and reconstruction at Stonehenge. Theirs was a fairly sophisticated culture for the time. They knew that the Solstices, eclipses of the Moon, and the courses of the stars were regular predictable events. Their stone moving techniques were on a par with the times. Though not aligned accurately enough for an "observatory" in the modern sense, the stones can serve as a calendar rectifier, an eclipse predictor, and, of course, as a ritual site for religious ceremonies. But what those religions were must remain a matter of conjecture. Clearly they had something to do with sunrise, Midsummer Solstice, moonrise, and lunar eclipses, but what they meant, and what the people did there, is probably not recoverable. As Clannad sings "Forgotten is the race that no one knows."
1 A friend of mine tried the experiment of putting mugwort under her pillow, but reported she had no dreams at all. "I guess I'm just going to stay single." She is till fancy-free three years later. If anyone wants to try this, you can get mugwort in most herb shops. Send in your results and we'll publish them for Lughnasadh.
2 Clannad, a modern Irish Folk Group. "Ring of Stones," good album.
--Emmon Bodfish, reprinted from A Druid Missal-Any 1987
Sylvagaia/Elder Grove: News from France
Sylvagaia/Elder Grove is happy to present itself to the Druidic world. Although this grove consists mainly of trees, shrubs, lichens, woodland animals and myriad other life forms, we are represented by a spokesperson of the sapient persuasion. Who greets fellow sisters and brothers with joy. We strongly belief that nature is good, very good even (since we like to look after ourselves). We seek awareness in many of the things we do - even in some of the things we don't do. Our number is indefinite, since life forms come and go. A small family of humans have the honor to look after us in our divers encounters with the human race. Let's see how they will do.
The humans garden a lot and enjoy the freedom of not buying food to others. They think it makes them more self sufficient and independent. Furthermore they belief that various degrees of self sufficiency, coupled with a simple, frugal lifestyle will do good to the planet, the Earth-Mother, and consider this a holy act. Perhaps a personal and spiritual duty.
To contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Green Willem; Homo Sapiens Sapiens spokesbeing for Sylvagaia/Elder Grove, France).
To not contact us: ................/I\
Peace, in the Earth Mother,
Creeks Called Rivers Grove: News from West Virginia
Hey, it's Darren from Creeks Called Rivers.
Time comes and time goes, and in time two of us have moved from Columbus and back to West Virginia. This doesn't mean that Creeks Called Rivers Grove is dead, it just means that without the 2 of us, it's much less likely to be particularly active. If you still want to keep CCR listed on the page, go ahead and direct email to this account.
Now, as for the future...we're pressing on as Little Mountains Grove (with the fine tradition of my fig tree as Archdruid). For the record, we are just outside of Parkersburg, WV, nestled among the oak and ash.
And, um, sorry for the lapse in communication.
From the bounty of the Earth Mother,
Eurisko Grove: News from Virginia
I would like to announce the return of Eurisko Grove, an RDNA protogrove. In conjunction with PagaNet, we conducted a Beltaine ritual in Hampton Va. for approximately 30 people. For midsummer, members of our group will be celebrating with Earthrising, a CUUPs chapter in Newport News Va., & conducting a private ritual at Natural chimneys park in Mt. Solon Va. based on reading from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Swamp Grove: News from Florida
Please add my new e-mail : email@example.com and note that our little group is now located in Ft. Myers rather than Naples. We moved about a half hour north but we still have some of the old gang and some new folks as well. Saint Herbert (One of our longtime members) is helping me to make a new website, so I will let you know as soon as it is up. The move was hectic and many adventures occurred since our last contact, but the damn grove just won't die. I guess it is meant to be.
Summer comes quickly to the swamp Grove, filling us with more lethargy than usual. Our rainy season has started and it will rain for about 30-45 minutes each day until late september or early october. The summer Solstice is upon us and we shall celebrate another year with food and drink and the playing and smoking of the pipes. We look forward to winter the same way our northern brothers and sisters long for the summer, everything about our grove seems to be backwards but thatfs just the way we are. Our fruit trees are doing well enough to produce most of the year round; Figs, Oranges, Lemons, Bananas, Miracle Fruit, Surinam Cherries, Avocados, Papayas and Grapefruit. This year's garden was not the best, as we planted it too late and the sun gets too hot for veggies early here.
Dravidia Grove: News from Indiana
All is well here, had a lot of Tornado Warnings this past month, and not much time between work and them to scout a new location for the ceremonies.. Settling in nicely though...Did some research at the library on Mistletoe growth in Southern Indiana, and it is all over the place here, just have to find a few patches and get a good out the way location setup... Still have to finish the unpack of my Altar and Books, and have not a lot of time to do it with work.. Have to work a few more hours than normal to make ends meet here... Well that about ends it here.
Yours in the Mother.
Cat-in-the-Corner Grove: News from Colorado
Cat-in-the-Corner Grove is still here, albeit in a rather inward-focused state at present (not hibernation, more like introspection). Nothing wrong with that, Nature has cycles of rest & activity too.
Sunset Proto-Grove: News from California
June 5, 2004
Green Valley, CA
As I sit upon this mossy rock
underneath the trees
I smell the earth and summer scent
...listen to the rustle of the leaves.
I leave an offering to the one
and have a drink of water.
I quietly listen to the passing deer
and birds chasing one another.
the sun shines through the gaps in the trees
as though a miracle has occurred
...and so it has.
a wonderful midsummer to all!
Don't leap to close the fire.
Poison Oak Grove, News from California
Publisher of "A Druid Missal-Any"
This Summer Solstice is the last High Day we will have the little cabin on Emmonfs land. The new tenant of the main house decided he wanted it as a playroom for his kids, and being good friends with the director of the Muir Heritage Land Trust, guess who lost out. It is with tremendous sadness that I will be vacating the cabin by the end of July. Yes, I will have my own pity party. I've been the only friend of Emmon's who has been involved with the maintenance of the property, organized the creation of the memorial boulder, attended any of the town council meetings, or meeting the neighborhood associations to set up the land as open space. Not even a family member has taken part. I've been a good tenant and even paid for repairs out of my own pocket. It's like it hasn't even mattered. It just seems wrong. My greatest fear is that this is a pissing contest and we will no longer be able to use and enjoy the grove site, but have been assured this is not the case and I still have the support of the community. All things are ephemeral. We will learn to adapt. We have been incredibly lucky to have been able to use the cabin at all. For this we will always be grateful.
Sunrise 5:00 a.m. & Sunset 7:30 p.m.
Sunday & Monday
June 20 & 21, 2004
Members of the University community and the general public are invited to witness the passing of the seasons by joining Dr. Judith Young of the U.Mass. Dept. of Astronomy to watch the Sun rise and set over the tall standing stones in the UMass Sunwheel for the upcoming SUMMER SOLSTICE. Visitors for the sunrise viewing should arrive at 5:00 a.m., and visitors for the sunset viewing should arrive at 7:30 p.m. The sunrise and sunset events will be held on both Sunday & Monday, June 20 and 21, 2004. The sky will be particularly beautiful at sunset both evenings with the waxing crescent Moon toward the west.
For those interested in learning about the sky, there will be a presentation which will include the cause of the seasons, the Sun's path in the sky, the phases of the Moon, and the story of building the Sunwheel. Bring your questions, your curiosity, insect repellent, and be prepared for cool temperatures when the Sun is down. Visitors are also welcome to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on. A $3 donation is requested to help with the cost of stone pathworks and exhibit expansion which are planned for the Sunwheel. Sunwheel T-shirts & sweatshirts will be available for purchase.
At the time of the summer solstice, when the days are longest and the nights are shortest, the Sun rises and sets at its most northerly location, over the tallest stones in the Sunwheel. The word 'solstice' means standstill, and refers to the fact that at solstice, the Sun appears to rise and set in the same direction for over a week. Even though the instant when the Sun is most northerly is on June 20 @ 8:57 p.m., visitors will be able to see the Sun rising and setting over the summer solstice stones from about June 17-26. The astronomical cause of the Sun's standstill is one of the topics which will be explained during the Sunwheel gathering.
The UMass Sunwheel is located south of Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road and across from the maze. The Sunwheel can be easily reached from the center of Amherst, following Amity St. to the west, on the right hand side of the road about 1/4 mile after crossing University Drive. In the event of rain, the events will be cancelled, and visitors are encouraged to visit the Sunwheel on their own.
For more information on the UMass Sunwheel, check out the web site at http://www.umass.edu/sunwheel
Dr. Judith S. Young
Dept. of Astronomy
620 GRC Tower B
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
On Saturday May 15th pagans of all colors and stripes turned out for the Third Annual (and Final) Interfaith Pagan Pride Parade in Berkeley. This year's theme was "Divine Feminine: Celebrating the Spirit of the Earth Mother." Among the variety of groups participating were NROOGD, Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, ADF, OBOD, Tambores do Brasil, Temple of the Hebrew Goddess, and it was the biggest, most colorful, and best attended parade in its three-year history. Diana Paxon, noted science fiction author was this year's parade marshal.
The very local paper, the Berkeley Daily Planet covered the event that was followed by a celebrations in Civic Center Park, with speakers, ritual, blessings, and music. Rather than covering the event in a fair and informative manner this paper publishes a scathing, mocking article, taking us back 20 years to the era of misunderstanding and prejudice of the pagan community.
It made me spitting mad! Berkeley, that so-called bastion of liberalness, treats and considers pagans this way? The same town that banned American flags on fire trucks after 9/11? One of the centers of the anti-war and civil rights movements? It makes me realize the town is only open-minded and alternative when it suits it, like a permanently rebellious teenager.
There was a tremendous outpouring of anger and resentment by the pagan community in the form of well-written letters to the paper. And the Berkeley Daily Planet downplayed the biased article and wrote off the negative comments by saying the article was "only poking fun." What if it did that towards blacks or Christianity or Judaism or pot smoking? You betcha it never would. How convenient.
By the way, the organizers had decided to resign before the article because of all the bureaucracy they had to go to. The parade was relegated to a single lane on Shattuck Ave (a four-lane busy street in downtown Berkeley). No one could really see it unless they were on the sidewalk next lane the parade was in. It was very insulting and I wanted to cry.
They wanted the endorsement of the Sierra Club but had to change the name to do it. That's why it's no longer the Interfaith Pagan Pride Parade any more. How sad. How very sad. Stay tuned for next year's "Earth Heart Parade and Festival." Back in the closet again? At least we will be able to show our faces in public and not risk being burned at the stake.
Included below is original article, readers' responses, and the response of the Daily Planet.
By RICHARD BRENNEMAN, Berkeley Daily Planet, 05-18-04
Bay Area tree-worshippers, Goddess-worshippers, gay and straight wiccans, Shinto devotees and their kindred—many of them clad in lavish costumes—gathered in Berkeley Saturday for the always colorful Pagan Pride Parade and Celebration.
The day began with a parade through downtown city streets—where most of the spectators seemed to be equipped with digital cameras—before winding up in Civic Center Park.
The city managed to keep traffic flowing in both directions along Shattuck Avenue as the parade passed by, with parking enforcement and police officers, aided by barricades and cones, confining celebrants to one southbound lane.
Drivers hoping to use Milvia Street along the length of the Berkeley High School campus were less fortunate, finding traffic blocked in both directions. Allston Way adjacent to Civic Center Park was also closed, and traffic on several downtown side streets was restricted to a single lane.
Though paganism was nowhere defined in event literature, a visitor to the affair could have walked away from the festivities with the notion many adherents were polytheist peddlers.
The grassy area of Civic Center Park was encircled by a ring of booths offering crystals, dolls, drinking horns, clothing, jewelry, idols, drawings, prints, ointments, oils, incense, and palm and card readings.
One clothing seller was decidedly perturbed to see a reporter's camera aimed at his ware. "What're you doing?" he asked. "Tryin' to conduct an inventory?"
The Internal Revenue Service, it seems, has taken to wandering various shows and taking before-and-after merchandise photos in search of vendors underreporting their sales.
One notable exception to the commercialism was a group of five neatly groomed young adults standing next to a plastic barrel propping up a FREE WATER sign. Asking all comers, "free water?," they dispensed their refreshing libations with a smile and no further comment.
A curious reporter, pleased to have quenched his thirst after an hour shooting pictures under the bright, warm sun, asked one of the quintet, "Who are you, and why are you doing this?"
"Oh, it's Michael's birthday, and he thought it would be nice to come down here today and pass out water," one of them answered.
Michael turned out to be Michael Duenes, a distinctly non-pagan teacher at Redwood Christian High School in San Lorenzo, and a little more coaxing revealed his story.
"When we came down here, I didn't even know that there'd be a pagan festival today, but I figured there'd be a lot of a thirsty people. We don't mention who we are, because God's love is free," Duenes explained.
He said he opted to pass out the bottled water on his birthday as a symbol of the living water of Christ.
Duenes and his fellow water dispensers are members of The Berkeley Mosaic—"We think of ourselves as broken people united by Christ" —a congregation led by Pastor Dennis Tuma.
"I'm glad to see the Daily Planet here," Duenes said. "I got one of your t-shirts at the Solano Stroll, and I wear it to school sometimes on Fridays. The students seem surprised I'm from Berkeley, but I tell them I love it here."
The other dispensers of free things—recruiters for the Covenant of the Goddess and the Temple of the Hebrew Goddess and promoters of gay marriage, immigration rights for same-sex partners, and legalized prostitution (itself a fine old pagan tradition)—were restricted to the elevated plaza around the defunct fountain, an area that attracted few visitors.
The paganisms on offer were distinctly New Age version of ancient traditions. No animals (or humans) were offered up as sacrifices, and the closest thing to ritual scarification on view were tattoos.
There were no temple prostitutes and no orgies, though several costumed males wore the horns of satyrs and the ever-randy Pan, and the only bared female breasts appeared on modern-day replicas of ancient Minoan statues.
And the only equivalent of the All-Seeing Eye was the tripod-mounted video camera run by a red-coated gentleman from atop the tower of old city hall building.
Berkeley Daily Planet (06-01-04)
Editors, Daily Planet:
I appreciated that your paper's coverage of the Berkeley Pagan Parade ("Pagans on Parade Cavort in Downtown Berkeley," Daily Planet, May 18-20). However I felt that focusing at least half of the article on a little Christian group giving out water, and not on the actual Pagans (which, by the way, should be capitalized out of respect, just like Christianity and Hinduism) and what their parade was even about. Turning one of the few times in a year that (minority) Pagans can come into the spotlight into yet another excuse to write about (dominant) Christians is very unfortunate. Not only that, but the article not-so-subtly compares the gentle Christian act of giving water to hypothetical Pagan orgies and animal sacrifice; this is downright insulting innuendo, and utterly unprofessional in the extreme.
Also, why must Pagans "cavort" when they have a parade? If it were a Catholic parade, would your journalists say they were "cavorting"? Or imply that one should expect to see Jews being tortured (as they were by Catholics centuries ago)? Of course not! And why? Because such innuendoes would be very offensive and insulting to Catholics. Yet your paper seems to think it's perfectly fine to say and imply similar things to Pagans.
Please show our religion the same respect you show the dominant ones in our country and keep these things in mind when your paper next covers a Pagan activity.
Editors, Daily Planet:
I assume Richard Brenneman's article on the Interfaith Pagan Pride Parade and Celebration was an attempt to narrate a visitor's experiences of the festival. However, Mr. Brenneman did resort to gratuitous negatives and common biases in order to define the event. I quote "paganism... nowhere defined in event literature," "no animals (or humans) were offered up as sacrifices," and "no temple prostitutes and no orgies" and "only equivalent of the "All-Seeing Eye was the tripod-mounted video camera... atop the tower of old city hall," and "promoters of ...legalized prostitution (itself a fine old pagan tradition) were restricted to...the elevated plaza..."
My impression of the event was entirely different. I read the program guide and found a wealth of information. I saw a wholesome celebration of interfaith groups, good selection of arts and crafts, plus marvelous music performances. The "all-seeing eye" happened to be Berkeley Community Media, Berkeley's own cable TV station, which filmed the festival from various locations including the old city hall tower. Also, proponents of the Berkeley ballot measure on prostitution were not part of the approved pagan pride event, though I did see one unauthorized petition gatherer walking from the adjacent Farmer's Market into the festival.
There is already too much divisiveness in the world to add "paganism in Berkeley" to the roster. I hope the Berkeley Daily Planet will do a followup story, an interview with an event representative, or a retraction regarding the above article. A follow-up would be an ideal opportunity for Berkeley's premier voice to dispel prejudice and inform the public about modern neo-paganism.
Editors, Daily Planet:
My father, Phillip Potter of the Baltimore Sun, brought me up to respect the profession of journalism, and used to revile "yellow sheet journalism" as an insidious betrayal of the public trust. Your recent article, "Pagans on Parade Cavort in Downtown Berkeley," is a fine example of the worst sort of journalism. I was there for the entire day, and note that almost every word of Richard Brenneman's article was spurious, inciteful, and devoid of truth. In this day and age of Christian and Islamic fundamentalism, hate mongering and violence, the last thing we need is journalistic religious intolerance. You owe the organizers of the event, the participants, and the community an apology.
Shame on you.
Editors, Daily Planet:
As a dedicated reader of the Daily Planet I'm ashamed, disgusted and most of all insulted by your horrible, poorly researched article about The Interfaith Pagan Pride Parade. As an independent paper you require the support of your community, and you managed to disrespect a large number of us with this article. If you continue to publish this kind of garbage your going to see your support base start slipping away. I will never read the Daily Planet again, you are a disgrace to Berkeley and all that it stands for. Fundamentalists would be (and I'm sure are) proud!
With regret and disdain,
Editors, Daily Planet:
I am personally offended by the article by Richard Brenneman on Pagan Pride Day in Berkeley. I am a Pagan myself and attended the event. I found it peaceful and a celebration of religions that are fairly new and religions that predate Christianity and not the prostitution peddling festival of tax evasion evil that Mr. Brenneman made it out to be. The way the article was written reveals his ignorance and bigotry of the pagan community.
I was really offended by his contrasting of the Christians who dispense free water (which was much appreciated) and the vendors at the event. He made no mistake portraying the scene like the pagans are a bunch of tax evading, religion peddling misfits and the water dispensing Christians as an island of righteousness in a sea of sinfulness.
I will not put up with this and will be distributing the article among other pagans as far as I can reach. I will be encouraging them to not read the Berkeley Daily Planet and it's affiliates until a full page apology is made.
I have to congratulate Mr. Brenneman and the Berkeley Daily Planet on offending an entire religious community that practices nothing but love of each other, the earth and love of peace with his venom. If that's what was intended, it has been done.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Regarding your article on the Pagan Parade: What a poor excuse for journalism. And, to assign blame where blame is due, what a lazy, irresponsible editorial choice to allow this story to run as written. Certainly the cynical, world-weary, sarcastically tongue-in-cheek approach to writing has its place, and one has to look no further than the East Bay Express and the Bay Guardian to find countless examples of this style, in which informative content is wholly subsumed by attitude. Until now, I've viewed the Daily Planet as a publication with a sincere interest in serving the Berkeley community. Mr. Brenneman's approach to his reportage of the parade, however, reveals a complete lack of interest in his subject matter, as well as an arbitrary, mean-spirited willingness to cast the volunteer efforts of a large group of community-minded participants in a negative light.
As someone who has regularly volunteered my own time as a professional musician to help with fundraising events for the Parade, it pisses me off no end to see the efforts of a talented, hard-working community of people dismissed out of hand as nothing more than selfish, immoral, parasitic indulgence. I pity the journalist who refuses to do even the minimum of research on his subject in order to free his sarcastic "wit" to function unencumbered by the facts. Brenneman is no Steve Rubenstein or Dave Barry, but if that's the type of writing he aspires to, maybe you should give him a column Ethat way, your readers won’t mistake him for an actual reporter.
Editors, Daily Planet:
I found your article "Pagans on Parade" by Richard Brenneman to be really lame and disrespectful. Why does he delight in criticizing the hard work and positive energy of others? Here we have a group of people singing, dancing, drumming, and adding beauty to Berkeley, and the only good thing he has to say is about someone who wasn't part of the event (the Christian dispersing water). As a pagan, and a druid, I found his denegration of the celebration of my faith to be completely inappropriate. Does he walk by Bar Mitzvahs and find things to mock about the celebrants? Get a clue, dude!
Here's hoping he sleeps well at night with the comforting thought that 1,500 witches are pissed off at him.
Editors, Daily Planet:
I was shocked that a city with the reputation for fairness that Berkeley used to enjoy would cover an event as all-inclusive and supportive of minorities as the Pagan Pride Parade with such poor journalism and unfairness.
A large portion of the feature was devoted to how Christians were dispensing "the living water" of Christ, while nowhere did the Planet's intrepid reporter get to the heart of what paganism is all about.
An article of this nature might have been appropriate on the op-ed page, or better yet in a Christian newspaper. The Planet is apparently turning Moonie.
former Berkeley resident
Editors, Daily Planet:
I was extremely disappointed by the May 18 article by Richard Brenneman entitled "Pagans on Parade Cavort in Downtown Berkeley." I have never attended the parade. I heard about the event on KPFA and in the SF Bay Guardian. I support events that attempt to build bridges between spiritual communities, particularly in these extremely troubled times. I was hoping to read a comprehensive article in your paper describing the events of the day. Instead I found an article that was heavily biased and extremely disrespectful in tone.
Except for his section on the Christian group, Mr. Brenneman repeatedly utilized gross stereotype to frame his so-called report. I was touched and enjoyed the reporter's description of the Christian group offering water. Curiously there were no other attempts to personalize other less mainstream participants at the parade. I can only assume that Mr. Brenneman was unable to maintain the objectivity required of a reporter when he went on this assignment. I am puzzled that his editors were unable to recognize the manifest problems with this story. I hope that in the future the Daily Planet will be more careful about whom they assign to write and edit such stories. Please let me know how the Daily Planet intends to proceed in this matter. Thank you.
Editors, Daily Planet:
Becky O'Malley's editorial, "Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us" in the May 25 edition, cuts to the crux of the matter. The point of Richard Brenneman's piece "Pagan's Parade..." in fact was to "poke gentle fun" at those with whom your paper does not purportedly agree on a religious basis. But his piece-however innocently intended - had missed its mark, as did her support for it.
What makes Garrison Keillor's prodding at Lutherans, Unitarians, Catholics, etc., humorous and effective is that Keillor makes his living as a humorist. Perhaps more importantly, Keillor makes clear his own beliefs in God, and with his one foot on that ground, he allows an audience or a reader see him as a part of his joke, rather than apart from it.
Mark Twain's letters regarding Mormons and Christian evangelicals to the journal Alta California were simply that: letters.
While objectivity is a goal difficult to achieve by any writer, it is the goal of a journalist. Based on previously authored articles, I've been under the impression that Mr. Brenneman is a journalist, and therefore, follows basic journalistic principles. One of which is to offer a fair and balanced report.
Brenneman's Pagan article had other intentions and was inappropriate for the main body of your newspaper. Its placement did nothing short of alienating a harmless group of people at a harmless gathering. The article would have better served the readership as an editorial opinion, a review or column.
For Brenneman to willingly show bias in an inappropriate format is self-indulgent. To then to be supported by a top executive, whose tone is to trivialize the matter, is patronizing, and it leaves the Berkeley Daily Planet and its journalists suspect in their endeavors to serve the community as something more than just a self-aggrandizing vehicle for advertisers. Bob Ferrer
Editors, Daily Planet:
I read an article that greatly disturbed me, and I wanted to bring this to your attention.
There was a gathering In Berkeley, and it was covered and written with such disdain for the Pagan Society, I and my fellow sisterhood and brotherhood of witches and pagans are appalled, that you would allow this inflammatory article to be written. I understand freedom of speech, however this goes far beyond that, and I would only hope you will take a closer look at this article and justify why you would think this article was written fairly and without prejudice.
I am proud to call my self a Witch.. I am Pagan, and I for one take extreme exception to your article sir. Who ever wrote this should indeed be careful that they have not set them selves up for slander and libel.
Freedom of Religion, means all religions...
Becky O'Malley, Berkeley Daily Planet (05-25-04)
A famous Celtic bard once wrote:
"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!"
In modern English,
"Oh would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would free us from many a blunder
And foolish notion.
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!"
That's from Robert Burns' poem "To a Louse," in which the poet describes his reaction on seeing a louse crawling on the bonnet of a pretentious and well-dressed churchgoer.
The Daily Planet has been deluged with letters from pagans around the world, as far away as South Africa, because our man Richard Brenneman dared to poke a little gentle fun at last week's Interfaith Pagan Pride Parade. Or perhaps we should say from Pagans, since we got at least one letter saying that (contrary to the advice of our dictionaries and style books), the word should be capitalized, as is Christian, because Pagans have a real religion too.
We certainly agree that they have a real religion. Which is precisely why they, like all other religions, are fair game for having fun poked at them by the irreligious. Making fun of religion is a tradition as old as some of the traditions which today's neo-Pagans believe themselves to be reviving. Mark Twain practiced it. While the irate p/Pagans are web-surfing, they should check out, for example, his 1867-1869 letters to the San Francisco journal Alta California, in which he makes fun of both Mormons and Christian evangelicals. Today, Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion regularly ridicules Lutherans, Catholics, and any other representatives of mainstream religions who live in his fictional Lake Woebegon, Minnesota. (He never mentions p/Pagans, so there must not be any in Lake Woebegon.) We reprinted a long angry letter from the p/Pagan parade co-coordinators on the same page with our regular comic strip from Dan O'Neill, who chose on that very day to make fun of Christians, Jews and Muslims all in one strip.
San Francisco's Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of gay guys, make fun of Catholic nuns. As someone who was educated by nuns, and who found them in the main to be women of kindness, intelligence and strong character, I might take offense at the parody. As a feminist, I might complain that the SPIs are secretly resentful of women who are in a position of power. But over the years I've noticed that, while seeming to mock nuns, they're also noted the good works nuns have done, and have imitated them by doing good works in their own community, the sincerest form of flattery.
By the way, Brenneman's description of the Christian group giving out free water at the event was also tongue-in-cheek, but the ironic tone he employed seems to have escaped many of the letter writers. Some of them, of course, admit that they didn't read the piece, but are just responding to an alert broadcast on p/Pagan blogs on the Internet.
A few of the letters we've received from the p/Pagans have threatened to sue the Planet for libel, and one cited the ACLU's sponsorship of their parade as justification for that point of view. I'd check with the ACLU before taking that theory too far. If one wanted to get into a deep First Amendment analysis of the p/Pagan event, questions might be raised about whether or not fees paid to the city of Berkeley were 100 percent compensation for the cost to the city of policing and cleaning up, and if not, why not? Would the same courtesies have been extended to, for example, Lutherans on the Loose, as to p/Pagans on Parade? Under the U.S. Constitution, governments are not supposed to do special favors for any particular religion.
And who's going to compensate the farmer's market vendors for lost business? One farmer told me that one might expect that events in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park would be good for business, but in fact the reverse is true: Big gatherings with blocked-off streets and amplified sound drive away food shoppers.
In our book, people are welcome to hold any religious beliefs that they choose, but that doesn't give them a free pass from criticism, whether it's in the form of ridicule or as serious disagreement. Religious belief has always been used as justification for outrageous and intolerable actions, and that includes some of the beliefs and practices espoused by today's new Pagans. Many people believe that the world would be a better place without religion, and a cursory look at today's activities in the region which spawned the three desert monotheistic religions suggests that they might be right.
By Robin Goodfellow
Modified for the RDNA with permission.
Earth Mother, rock me in your arms; Be'al, guard my rest from fear, regret, doubt and anxiety. Refresh me in soul, mind and body. Bestow this blessing; I offer my prayer. Sustain me in that perfect peace and awareness promised us who have you in our minds and hearts.
Let me never forget You. Let me feel your warm embrace that comforts me in my troubles, that reminds me that all is not as fearsome as it seems at times, and that I am never alone and without You. Your loving presence gives my heart the reassurance and my mind the courage to carry on peacefully this night and in the days to follow after and after again. In your presence am I safely held secure.
Through the divine connection we share, You and I, this is so, and I am at peace.
Peace, Peace, Peace!
July 10 - Celtic Pagan Study Group - Redwood City Imbas, a Celtic Restorationist organization, invites you to a Celtic Pagan Study Group at the Redwood City Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (back lounge), 2124 Brewster Avenue, at 1:00pm. The group plans to meet monthly. Please, no small children or food. Cost: $5; nobody turned away for lack of funds. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org
GODDESS SCREENINGS: "Signs Out of Time: the story of Marija Gimbutas" by Donna Read & Starhawk and "Mother Earth: Revisioning the Sacred" by Mary R. Hopkins. July 10, 2004 7:00 pm. $10 - $20 sliding scale. All genders are welcome!
AT: Change Makers Books and Gifts for Women 6536 Telegraph Ave and 66th Street. PH. 510-655-2405. 4 blocks south of Ashby near Ashby Bart station Open 11-7, Closed Tuesdays. www.ChangeMakersForWomen.com
Review by Daven
One would think that a book on the Ogham by the current Arch Druid of the Ar nDraiocht Fein would be a book a cut above many others, and that thinking would be correct in this work.
I got this book to continue my studies in the Ogham and I was expecting something very different from what I got. I was expecting a work on the divination of the Ogham, but instead I got almost a masterwork on the Ogham Alphabet itself. Contained in this work are examples of the 120 different Ogham sets that the Druids used, with graphic examples taken from the various museums that still have them in their collection, and much other lore on the Ogham. There is information on the Bird Ogham, the River Pool Ogham, and all of it points to the Ogham associations that we have now being a way to remember the letters, much like today's alphabet of A is for Apple, B is for.
The section on the different types of Ogham script and the different associations that the letters have makes this work invaluable in and of itself. But there is some more.
Skip's first few chapters give common meanings for the Ogham, and explain why extra letters have been added to some of the current sets of letters. Later chapters gives a brief discussion of divination and what it is (although there are no associations and meanings of the Ogham letters included), a brief history of the ADF and a brief warning about Robert Graves and his work "The White Goddess". I feel the latter is necessary as the Celtic Tree Calendar many use now is completely made up out of whole cloth, and the author points this out directly.
After that are multiple translations from multiple sources for the Battle of the Trees. Then there is a correspondence chart that has very brief divinatory meanings along with instructions of how to make "Ogham disks" for use in divination.
The author states in his introduction that this work is a culmination of the texts he has written for the ADF on the Ogham, published for the first time and available to the public. That's how this text reads like. Understanding that is essential, as there seem to be some holes in the material. Logical trains of thought stop and (for example) the things that one would expect to be present are not. I can only assume that this is due to those sections of the material considered secret and for the ADF only. Which is fair enough since there is material in every tradition that is secret.
I'm giving this book 4 1/2 stars of 5. I feel that for a serious student of the Ogham this is a necessary reference work, a companion to all the other works on the Ogham there are. It will fill in many holes in the information, and it is written in an easy to understand style that makes it a gentle read while not detracting from the weight of the work itself at all.
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