Butterfly Cauldron

Thursday, September 14, 2006

So much drama over a pentacle?

At last, common sense prevails. If a soldier can put the symbol of their faith -- including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and 20-plus other religions -- on their headstone, then Wiccans should get fair play too.

ENO, Nev. (AP) — The widow of a soldier killed in Afghanistan won state approval Wednesday to place a Wiccan religious symbol on his memorial plaque, something the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had refused.

“I’m honored and ecstatic. I’ve been waiting a year for this,” Roberta Stewart said from her home in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.

Sgt. Patrick Stewart, 34, was killed in Afghanistan last September when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his helicopter. Four others also died. Stewart was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

He was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize and therefore prohibits on veterans’ headstones in national cemeteries.

But state officials said they had received a legal opinion from the Nevada attorney general’s office that concluded federal officials have no authority over state veterans’ cemeteries. They now plan to have a contractor construct a plaque with the Wiccan pentacle — a circle around a five-pointed star — to be added to the Veterans’ Memorial Wall in Fernley.

“The VA still has not determined yet if a Wiccan symbol can go on the headstone,” said Tim Tetz, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services. “But we have determined we control the state cemetery and that we therefore have the ability to recognize him for his service to his country.”

Wiccans worship the earth and believe they must give to the community. Some consider themselves good witches, pagans or neo-pagans.

The Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration allows only approved emblems of religious beliefs on government headstones. Over the years, it has approved more than 30, including symbols for the Tenrikyo Church, United Moravian Church and Sikhs. There is also an emblem for atheists.

This always seemed to be a no-brainer to me. If you allow one faith, you have to allow all faiths. Period. (Although -- what symbol would be used for athiests? I'm curious, really, that's not a snarky question.)

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posted by Zan at 12:24 PM


I was flabbergasted when I heard about this some time ago. All the crying about Christians and how the country is anti-Xmas or whatever, and support our troops...unless they're gay or we otherwise don't approve.

I'm an atheist, but I want to be cremated, and I wouldn't want to share a symbol with other atheists. But I love a full moon. In college, I referred to myself as moonrose, and I have a symbol that goes w/ it. The head of the rose is in the full moon, and the stem/two leaves, w/ the circle of the moon, form the "female" symbol: o+. That would be cool. Maybe they can put that on a plaque somewhere, since I'd like my ashes scattered in the ocean. (Despite these plans, I don't really believe I'm going to die.)

4:07 PM  

Oooh! That sounds nice. And like it would make an awesome tatoo :)

I'm actually fond of the three moons myself. You know, the full moon in the center, with the crescent and half moon on either side. I have a silver pendant that I wear all the time. My mother thought it was pretty, but she has no idea what it means. (It's traditionally a symbol of the Triple Goddess in her three phases. Oops?) I keep thinking of getting a tattoo of it on my lower back. Hrm.

4:10 PM  

Of course the Veteran's Administration opposes the Wiccan symbol. The federal government is in thrall to the fundies, and they hold that Wiccan = witch = Satan worshiper = evil. The fact that witches predate Christianity means nothing to them. When Christianity moved into Europe, they outlawed the Wiccan religion, turning the horned god into the devil, just as when they moved into Egypt they outlawed those religions, turning Bast (the sacred cat) into a symbol of evil.

And then, evil dufuses that they were, they slaughtered cats in the middle ages and so there weren't enough cats to keep the rats down and the rats carried plague infested fleas and we had the black plague. A case of "You asked for it, you got it" if ever I heard of one.

As an atheist, I would like to know what that symbol is, myself.

6:37 PM  

I have always loved the irony of that, personally. Cats = witches = evil so we kill them and then a huge chunk of Europe gets wiped out by a disease that could have been kept in check by the cats! Whoohoo.

I've always thought the dislike for the Horned God came from the fact that he treated the Goddess as his full equal. Can't have that, can we? I mean, a God treating a woman as his equal??

7:16 PM  

Zan, your mom probably thinks the moons represent her Trinity!

MG, I am just always surprised that even if you die for the whims of rotten bastards, you're not good enough to be respected the way you'd like. I was also surprised they allow the Islamic symbol. I saw some show about how the Army or the Marines discriminate against and pressure non-Protestants. I would think they'd realize that anyone who believes enough to take orders without question is worthy of the military as it is, and that servicepeople have more in common with each other, based solely on that, than with anyone else who shares their religion. Of course, that's why I don't understand war. You've got no beef w/ the enemy, and (s)he too is fighting for his/her country. Whereas I would be constantly hazed or just jailed outright for insubordination and failure to follow orders.

I didn't know about the cats! I saw a show on the Black Death, but all I remember is, it was spread by travelers. There's no way I'd forget my brethren.

Is the Horned God Lucifer? What Goddess? I just adored all the references to Gods and the Goddess in your story. When I have a calm space, I'll read the other one.

8:42 PM  

or even having a partner...! What is it with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions having a partnerless God. No wonder he's such a grumpy bastard. All that testosterone with nowhere to go...

10:02 PM  

*snicker* You may have something there Mouse. And really, since when was procreation possible without two partners? (Yeah, I know, there are some critters than can divide without it, but most of the time? Ya need two.)

And the Horned God didn't start out as Lucifer, but he eventually became that symbol. He's called the Horned God or the Hunter, because he has animal horns on his head. He, along with the Goddess, are the generative force of the Universe. Now, depending on which particular path you follow, they have different names. Since most of my ancestors were some version of Celtic, I tend to think of him as Cernnunos.

I like the stories because they always seem much more balanced. You have male and female, both of which have strengths and weaknesses, but neither of which is dominant to the other. A lot of pagans tend to put more focus on one of the other, but it's always clear that neither is 'supreme' in the sense we use it now.

7:43 AM  

I've been thinking if God hates sex, it's because He's jealous that He doesn't have a body.

My mother, who programmed me Catholic, once said that Gabriel must have been packing some semen when he visited Mary. I was too stunned to ask what the point of religion without faith was. But I suspect she raised us that way just in case, or for appearances' sake, thinking it would be wrong to share what I think were her true, radical views. After all, she was thrown out of school at age two or three for telling a classmate there was no Stork, and why.

4:24 PM  

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