Sunday, 29 November 2009

Beaker Folk wisdom

Her Reverence the Archdruid Eileen has posted a marvellous exposition of how the Christians "stole" the Pagan festivals - including some less well known ones like the feast of the Norse god of hangovers, Bleindin.
January 1 - "The Feast of the Holy Name" was originally a feast dedicated to the Norse god of headaches, Bleindin. Believers would stay in their houses, with the blinds down and the lights off. A day of fasting and silence - the fast only broken by special ceremonial food such as raw egg yolks with Worcestershire sauce, and fry-ups.
Anyone who still thinks that the Christians stole the Pagan festivals would do well to read the excellent book Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton, which carefully examines the evidence for the origins of the modern Pagan festivals. It's a lot more complicated than you think.

It's also worth reading the following articles from the Association of Polytheist Traditions:

Ritual and Festivals

Friday, 13 November 2009

Why reburial won't work

Some people claim that reburying ancient "pagan" bones is more respectful.

There are several problems with this:
  • We don't know what burial rites they would have preferred
  • If you rebury them with their grave-goods, it's very likely that the grave may be looted
  • Even if we know where and how they were buried, we do not necessarily know if they subscribed to the religious rites according to which they were buried, nor do we know what liturgy was used
  • We do not know that any ritual we perform for them would be acceptable
  • We do not know if contemporary Pagan beliefs are similar to Neolithic, Bronze Age, or even Iron Age beliefs
  • The original site is often no longer available as a burial place
  • Studying them means we can find out more about them - how they lived, where they were born, what illnesses they had - which is the nearest you can get to reconstructing their actual identity
  • Scientific techniques that will be available in the future for bone analysis will be better than those available now
  • If you accept the hypothesis that the bones have some "spirit" residing in them, that spirit might be pleased to be getting all the attention from archaeologists and museum staff
  • Respect does not automatically equate to reburial - it can also mean remembering the dead
  • Some cultures believe that once the grave site has been disturbed, it cannot be re-consecrated
  • There were radically different burial customs in the past - excarnation, display in burial mounds, cremation, and so on - which presumably reflected different beliefs about the body and consciousness (though we can only guess what those beliefs might be by using ethnographic parallels)
  • Many ancient cultures (e.g. the Egyptians and the Norse) believed that the continuation of the name of the deceased was very important. When the Egyptians wanted to erase someone from history, they removed their name from all the monuments. Reburying the ancient dead resigns them to oblivion once more.
  • Everyone in modern Britain is descended from ancient people, and no cultural affinity between modern Pagans and ancient people can be proven, so Pagans have no more right than anyone else to say what happens to the bones of ancient people

Protect First Nations' heritage

An article in the Vancouver Sun points out the shameful neglect and destruction of First Nations' heritage in British Columbia.
In North Cowichan on Vancouver Island, for example, a site on Somenos Creek shows evidence of being occupied since before the pyramids. There are both human remains and remnants of a mysterious structure whose significance still isn't understood but which might be part of some larger complex.

Yet, despite 17 years of requests from local first nations that it be protected and that the owner of the land compensated by the province, Somenos Creek still languishes in land use limbo without formal protection. Renewed requests by Cowichan first nations to discuss the matter have been repeatedly been put off by the province.
Canadians: please write to your MP and ask them to support the private member's bill to protect First Nations heritage.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Prehistoric Oxford

Archaeologists uncover prehistoric landscape beneath Oxford
Archaeologists excavating the former Radcliffe Infirmary site in Oxford have uncovered evidence of a prehistoric monumental landscape stretching across the gravel terrace between the Thames and Cherwell rivers.

A team from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has been excavating parts of the 3.7 hectare site. The excavation has revealed evidence of three large prehistoric ‘ring ditches’ along with some evidence of possible associated cremation burials and an enigmatic rectangular enclosure, finds from which are currently being subjected to radio carbon dating.

Friday, 6 November 2009

A triumphal progress

Ten Years of Triumph of the Moon
Academic approaches to studying magic and the occult: examining scholarship into witchcraft and paganism, ten years after Ronald Hutton’s The Triumph of the Moon

A collection of essays edited by Dave Evans and Dave Green

Contributions by: Ronald Hutton, Amy Hale, Sabina Magliocco, Dave Green, Henrik Bogdan, Phillip Bernhardt-House, R.A. Priddle, Geoffrey Samuel, Caroline Tully & Dave Evans

Congratulations to all involved in this - it looks great.

Pagans and academics alike should find this anthology useful, as it explores the changes in contemporary Paganism brought about by the publication of Triumph of the Moon - not least among these changes being the abandonment (by the vast majority of Wiccans) of any idea that Wicca is ancient.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Romani ite domum

A new website has been launched to mark the 1600th anniversary of the end of Roman Britain. There will be digs, conferences, lectures, festivals and exhibitions. Proposed digs include Binchester Fort, Caerleon Fortress, Carr Dyke, Colworth Villa, St Albans, and Vindolanda Fort. There's also a lot of lectures and conferences lined up already. There will also be festivals at Caerleon, St Albans, and Hadrian's Wall.

As you can see from this photo I took on Oxford station in 2007, it's still a live issue...

Romans go home

Life of Brian - Romani ite domum