Posts tagged “paganism

Conversation With an Iraqi Metalhead: Politics, Paganism and Metal

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(This is the album cover of Risala’s “Patterns of War,” a band containing Tony Aziz Yaqoo, former member of Iraqi Thrash Metal Band Acrassicauda)

On this blog I like to get opinions about all things metal and pagan from different corners of the globe. I have a fan in Iraq who has been a very helpful supporter of this blog, so I decided to have a conversation with him and get his opinion on some things. Also (as a U.S. citizen myself) I thought it might be interesting to get some of his opinions on America’s increasingly bat-shit-crazy-political situation with President Trump and his travel ban.


MG: Hey there, I was curious…you said you were from…Iraq? I’m just asking because I like seeing what people in other parts of the world think about some of the topics that I discuss.

AA: Hey. Yes, that is right. I’m from Iraq. I would be glad to answer any question you may have. Although you shouldn’t count me as a typical Iraqi since most my education and culture is very western oriented.

MG: Are you still living in Iraq? And did you study in a Western country, or that’s just your interest?

AA: Yes i still live in Iraq. Depends on what you call study. I didn’t go to college outside the country but I speak English ever since I was 15. Most books I read are in the English language.

MG: If you don’t mind me asking, what part of Iraq do you live in?

AA: I live in Baghdad. So the very middle hahaha.

MG: This might be a dumb question…but in that part of Iraq are things relatively stable now? Or is there violence as an after effect of U.S. involvement and current violence in Syria and what not?

AA: It’s not a dumb question at all. Yes things are relatively stable now. Which seems to be the perfect way to describe it. Most cities are being taking back from ISIS, but because of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, many things are now broken and seems to be beyond repair. Not in the short run, anyway.

MG: Agh that sucks. But yeah I heard that ISIS was losing ground, so that’s good.
Do you know anyone who was stuck living in an ISIS taken city like Mosul?

AA: No, they moved before things went REALLY bad. And good thing too since everything happen over night.

MG: That’s good!

AA: ISIS was never that strong but we made it so ourselves. Our government did by giving it land and making it the bogeyman that it is now.I remember not knowing anything about it. However, saw large billboards on the streets with a text saying “No for ISIS”. Which seems to be a free ad campaign for them made by the government. That and the fact that the military left in one night without any battle or anything.

MG: Yeah, people in the U.S. have obviously gone full retard about it. They’re so afraid of ISIS, but we have more deaths caused by cows and toddlers with guns than ISIS.
Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on Trump’s travel ban?

AA:We have people who are misinformed and call it a Muslim ban. Which is not. Since over 700 million Muslims are excluded from it. They seems to be going crazy about it. On the other hand, we have those who believes it’s very well-intentioned and harmless, which is far from it. Because Trump have always had it for Muslims and talked about it across his campaign. The fact that also affects those who already have green cards. They don’t know if they left the US, they’ll ever be able to go back. Not to mention that most of those countries haven’t had anything to do with any terrorist act in the US. Even though this list been made by the Obama, not Trump’s administration. It wasn’t as absolute and as strong as it is now.

I’m personally against immigration. We should stay and try to fix our country instead. So I might think it’s a step in the right direction. It’s just the fact that it was like this. And from someone like Trump, makes me uneasy. And we have those who prepared their whole life to leave and sold all their belongings. Only to be put on hold for 90 days.

MG: Yeah, that’s harsh. I feel bad for the people who are stuck in limbo because of this.Or the people who went to Iraq to go visit their families and now can’t come back.Trump should have at least given people a few weeks to prepare for this instead of just springing it on people. But yeah…what a mess. But anyways…to take things in a completely different direction…I wanted to ask, how is the metal scene over there in Baghdad?

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(Iraqi Thrash Metal Band, Acrassicauda)

AA: It’s not very common. But it DOES exist. Metal has always been misunderstood and simply not for everyone. I guess you know that better than anyone. I don’t know if you heard that few years back there was a phase where people were killed in a very horrible way for dressing, hair style and tattoos that got to do with metal. The main attack was against gays. But it also included all that isn’t considered “Good” For social standards.But with all that, we still have many die-hard fans here.

MG: Wow. Yeah, you definitely have to be hard-core to be able to face that kind of threat.

AA: Hahaha yeah. My look, and some of my friends, still haven’t changed. Not because we are metal fans, but we simply don’t want change by following people who have no idea about what’s considered a good taste. We rather die than to live their lives, not ours.

MG: That’s awesome. Power to you man.

AA: Thanks.

MG: Was that the government killing people? Or just some crazies who took matters into their own hands?

AA: Little of both. The people who took things to their own hands, had a lot of influence in the government and they are well known. People are just too afraid of saying it. The government says, “We are unable to protect you if you keep dressing and behaving like this.” So the government isn’t literally doing it. But they aren’t doing anything to stop it either.

MG: Ahh that sucks. Just curious, are bands able to play shows anywhere or is that just…impossible?

AA: Yeah that’s impossible. Just so few people that it’s not worth it. Maybe for the best, if too many people, it will bring a lot of attention to us. It’s very different to our culture. The closest thing to it that people interested in it is rap. So you can imagine.

MG: Can people actually gather to listen to rap, or is that impossible too?

AA: Yeah they can. We have people who go drinking and whoring and no one beats an eye. We also have bars and parties and all that. It’s not as grim as it might seem. It’s just that, people like us (excuse the expression) , the fewer, and the more strange to society they are, they are easiest as a target.

MG: Ah I see. So among you and the people you know, what metal bands are pretty popular?

AA: Depends.. For me, Eternal tears of sorrow, not saying they are the best, has always had a place in my heart. Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Death, Black Sabbath and Megadeth are the most common. For good reason too.

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(Metallica fans in Abu Dhabi, Dubai)

MG: Hell yeah!

AA: \w/

MG: So I was also curious about something else. I obviously post about ancient Earth religions on my blog like paganism. How common is it for people to talk about or explore things like alternative spirituality over there?

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AA: Not very common. To tell you the truth, I’m yet to find someone who’s interested in spirituality and the old religions as I am. When society is at it’s weakest point, they turn to religion. When they get comfortable with their lives, they tend to move away from it and from the concept of god, and it always seems to be one of the reasons of their downfalls. It’s like they lose their reason to live. As in example, you know how things ended in Rome. You can also see it in Europe today . I always try to find a place in between.

MG: Yeah. That’s very true. [After much further discussion about religion and what not I asked] What do you see yourself as?

AA: Well, for me I left Islam or simply stopped caring much about it years ago. Even though I studied it more than the average Muslim. And memorized almost half of the Quran. But there were things I noticed made no sense. Other are simply too harsh. Aside from stuff in the Quran and Muhammad’s life that I simply rejected all together.

About 6 years ago, I went through clinical depression. Didn’t like the proscribed drugs at all and the way it made me feel. So as I was looking for an alternative treatment, I stumbled on meditation. Maybe it was just me but, it worked great. From it, I started to learn more about Buddhism and Hinduism. As much as I loved their teachings, didn’t want to follow them but rather learn from them. After that I got into witchcraft and self-empowering. Didn’t practice any black magic, but I continued to clean my chakras, empower them, my aura and heal myself as god knows I have a lot of emotional baggage and can see how broken my soul is. I got to a point where it’s very hard to explain. I know it seems crazy but, I feel very connected to higher powers than ourselves. Don’t know what it is. But I know it’s guiding and helping me. I’m still looking to this day to recognize it. Maybe it’s just like Michelangelo’s creation of Adam’s painting. That god is in our mind all along.

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“The Creation of Adam.”

MG: That’s awesome! Maybe this just shows my ignorance, but I know in some parts of the Middle East there are pretty harsh apostasy laws that can punish or even kill people for leaving Islam. Is this something you have to worry about?

AA: Yeah, but. I don’t mind. Not many people know about me anyway. But those who follow my posts and got close to me, might notice. But there is nothing I can do about that.

As for metal, well, you know how they always use Satan as an inspiration. Even when I was a Muslim, kinda admired him in a way. His story in the Quran is different than the bible. He was fallen from heaven because he refused to bow to Adam when asked by god and said “I’m better than him. I am fire and he is mere mud”. I thought that he saw and knew heaven and hell, yet he chose hell for what he believed in. Right or wrong, it was really something to admire. Because I was in a very authoritarian household myself. He really is the symbol of freedom, I thought. So metal music kinda just came with it.

MG: That’s pretty badass. 

MG: Do you think things will ever change in Iraq…like people will eventually be more open to these ideas that we’ve talked about, metal and alternative spirituality…or that people may embrace a more secular form of Islam that permits more freedom of expression and so on?

AA: Little bit of both. If things got better like it did before, some people will turn to science, others will follow spirituality or a form of it. Like the Sufi, for instance. But never Paganism or Hinduism. They have a very strong reaction toward it. Because it’s the main thing Islam is out to destroy. I’ll just be happy to reach a point where we have freedom and tolerance like in the US or the West. Where no one cares about what you do or believe as long as you keep it to yourself.

What I told you about civilization rise and fall. History repeat itself. I’m very afraid for Europe and the US. Because when they strayed away from religion, they didn’t make up for it with spirituality or philosophy or maybe both. I’m sure you see it yourself. People lack direction and morals. But with the internet, where it’s so easy to share knowledge, I believe there is hope. That’s why I love your blog. I believe it’s a form of what the world need. A form of mindset and understanding I mean.

square

(Scenes from Baghdad)

MG: I guess in your opinion, what do you think needs to change in the Middle East — or at least just Iraq — for people to move toward a more secular, less religiously extreme direction?

AA: Every era comes to the country; it puts its mood on it. Right after the fall of Saddam, there was a strong movement toured a secular direction. That quickly changed after Shia religious fundamentalists took over.

To answer your question, the policy and the parliament needs to change. They are all thieves and killers. Most of them hide behind religion to command their followers. As we are neck-deep in ignorance and the lack of objective thinking, we come to Islam for the solution to all our problems. And that’s where politicians get their votes, thus their power.

And so, we should either change the whole system because democracy only work as well as people’s education and common knowledge. Alternatively, wait for things to slowly change as it doing now since we have something we never had in a very long time. And that is the freedom of speech that the internet provides. Which gives us the power to criticize Islam and show its true face. ISIS, as bad as it was, it did us a favor. It showed the people the elephant in the room. And that’s Islam is NOT unrelated to terrorism and jihadist.

Other ways I don’t see how we can convince people in doing it. People need to read in order to have an argument with them. It works both sides, you see. You can’t play football with someone without legs. The problem is they only read school curriculums, the Quran and dream explanation books. They also need to speak English. As it will give them, a prospective they never had before and show them the world outside their sphere.

MG: Wow, very well thought out answers. Thank you!

AA: Hahaha you’re very much welcome.


Comedian Russell Brand On the Pre-Christian Man

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 “If like the Celtic people we revered the rivers we would prioritise this sacred knowledge and curtail the attempts of any that sought to pollute the rivers. If like the Nordic people we believed the souls of our ancestors lived in the trees, this connection would make mass deforestation anathema. If like the native people of America we believed God was in the soil what would our intuitive response be to the implementation of fracking?” ~ Russell Brand (Newstatesman)

I’m neither endorsing nor rejecting Russell Brand’s political views. I’m simply sharing a quote from a famous comedian and pop culture icon that discusses the world of the Pre-Christian man.


Heathen Foray – Inner Force

New HD Single was released September 11th

Genre: Melodic, Viking Metal

Country of Origin: Austria

Themes: Norse, German Mythology, Paganism, Fantasy, Battles

If this song doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what will. Great driving melodies, powerful clean vocals, Heathen Foray certainly embraced their inner force of creativity for this single.


Paganism Apparently on the Rise in Britain

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A Slide Show and More Details Included in Article

[Fun Note: One of the people in the slides is someone I’ve met in person at a local Druid Seed Group. Small world]

This article in the Examiner discusses the rise of Paganism in Britain.

However, as Pagans, we must be careful not to be sensationalists.

I did a previous article about the rapid rise of Paganism HERE.

The problem with the Examiner’s article is that they don’t actually link to a poll with real statistics and numbers. Their “poll” link just goes to a series of Examiner’s British articles.

They say that 38% of British people don’t believe in a Christian God, but that doesn’t automatically lump these British folk into Paganism. That’s like saying all people who don’t like Vanilla Ice Cream automatically love Chocolate – a gross over simplification of the facts. Many of these Non-Christians could be Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists or Muslims. As Pagans, we are definitely a rapidly growing demographic, but our numbers are still quite small for now.

Also, it is a well discussed fact that the number of Pagans has doubled in many polls since the 90’s. Yet part of this recorded growth simply be because more Pagans are coming out of the broom closet so to speak. The internet has also played a liberating factor here. Before the internet, many Pagans practiced alone and generally didn’t discuss their practice with those in their community – if they couldn’t find an appropriate coven/group. Yet the internet has drastically amped up Pagans’ abilities to meet those with similar beliefs in their area.

We can recognize that there have been gradual changes in society that reflect our growing numbers: such as the increase in workplace rights for British Pagans, a recognition that students and workers should be allowed to take off on Pagan Holidays and symbols like the Norse Hammer and the Wiccan Pentacle have been accepted as symbols of faith in the U.S Airforce. The growth of our numbers and acceptance in society makes my heart swell. But let’s be careful to depict the facts of the matter accurately please.


The Sanctity of Death

If you live in America like I do, you’ve probably heard a lot about the “Sanctity of Life.” You’ve seen the pro life protesters outside of Abortion Clinics with their posters of half alive fetuses. And who can forget the “big ta do” that was made about Terri Schiavo (The woman whose husband wanted to pull the plug on her because she was in a permanently vegetative state). If someone has suffered permanent brain damage and is hooked up to a machine that keeps them alive – their family will be forced to shell out astronomical amounts of money to keep a brainless body filled with air (unless the person made specifications in a living will before-hand).

Also, we have an insistence on keeping people alive for as long as possible: the elderly and cancer patients. Even if these people want to die, they are kept alive against their wishes.

What is this obsession we have with perpetuating life?

Okay, I’m not going to lie, I’m happy to be alive. I’m happy that out of the millions of sperms my father had, I was the one that landed in my mother’s ovum. I’m happy that our planet is just the right distance from the sun to harbor a rich and complex Eco System of life. And yes, life itself is endowed with much beauty and power.

But life is only one aspect of that beauty and power that defines the natural world. The other necessary stage is death.

Death is almost always thought of as a tragedy and a morbid affair in our culture. In the Disney movie Hercules, Hades (Lord of the Underworld) played the bad guy for example. Even though in the real Greek Legend of Hercules, Hera (Zeus’s wife) was more of an Antagonist than Hades.

Yet think of how horrible life on this planet would be if nothing died? We’d be overrun with rabid creatures, competing for the tiniest molecule of space.

There are many cultures in the world that actually celebrate and accept death as a natural process, a necessary stage of life if you will.

In the Hindu Religion life is seen as a type of suffering. The wheel of life and death is called Samsara. This is the wheel of constant reincarnation and death. When someone dies, their soul will have a short resting period, and then come back in a different body. The goal of existence is to be released from the wheel so that one can finally achieve the peace of non-existence.

With the Vikings, dying an honorable death in battle was important. Dying of old age was an embarrassment because it signified cowardice. Death wasn’t the end, but merely a new beginning. Those who died in battle got to go to Valhalla, a perpetual feast where they got to battle, hunt and drink forever. Those who died a boring, natural death went to a less spectacular and probably equally boring realm of existence. Some warriors would even wound themselves with spears before dying, in order to trick Hel (A Goddess who received a portion of the dead) into thinking they died heroic deaths in battle. (Norse Concepts of the Afterlife)

Many cultures in the world practice Ancestor Worship and keep the spirits of the dead around them as they go about their daily lives. Some keep the bodies of the dead near their homes in ancestral shrines. Others keep a token of the dead relative. Many even consult the spirit of that dead relative for wisdom.

Am I saying that we should go on a killing spree because death is good? No. Death is neither good nor bad. It is simply a natural phase that all life must transition through. It can be mourned, but it can also be celebrated. Death is the harbinger of new beginnings. He is the reaper that harvests the grain of life, so that new life may one day grow. This is why fire is often characterized as the element of creativity. Destruction is a necessary part of creativity. Kenaz itself is the rune of creativity, symbolizing the union of fire and wood. It is the congregation of destruction and life for the creation of heat. Brigid is the Celtic Goddess of inspiration, which is why the flame is one of her symbols.

When my grandmother died many told me how sorry they were. But I wasn’t sorry. Why should I be? She was an 86 year old woman who was in pain and having delusions. She even repeated that she wanted to die.

For all things have a time and a season. When the leaves begin to brown and the sunshine dims, we should anticipate and welcome the coming winter ahead.

We talk about “the right to life.” But shouldn’t there equally be a “right to death?” Each person’s life is their own. They should have the right to choose when and how they want it to end.

So let’s stop keeping people alive against their will. Let’s stop limiting condom use and abortion use. We don’t need to live on a planet where life has great quantity but little quality. Let’s stop tip toeing around the issue of death, but instead, celebrate death – the sanctity of death. For it is the reaper that keeps the field bountiful, it is the scythe of death that gives life its meaning.

Don’t fear the reaper.

Enjoy that cowbell!


Be’lakor – From Scythe to Scythe

From scythe to scythe and measure to measure, this song is driving and pumping. The melody builds and gains power like an amassing swarm of Orcs. Speaking of which, the band is named “Be-lakor,” after a demon in the table top game Warhammer. These nerds hail from a land of untamed monsters and salty sandwiches. Lustria, the jungle where the lizard men roam you say? No, but that was a good guess. They actually come from Victoria Australia. The singer sounds like a mighty warrior himself and reminds me of Joahan Hegg (Amon Amarth Vocalist).

They are a melodic death metal band that builds on themes of nature, paganism, gaming and Greek mythology.

So if you need some mood music while you swing your scythe into some oozing green orc skulls, check this song out.

Be’lakor Encylopedia Metallum Entry 

Be’lakor Facebook

Be’lakor Myspace

 

 


The Social Narrative of Paganism

What is a social narrative? It is a story. The myth that people place themselves into. The cultures that are successful historically didn’t just have the most pointy sticks or people to wield them. They were the cultures that had a compelling story, that other people could find themselves a part of. Every culture will have its legends.

Story is powerful. In Lord of the Rings, Tolkien evokes the ancient Pagan Mythos of Northern European people. Elves and dwarfs are characters in the Viking Legends that were told hundreds of years ago and are still popular today.

Symbols, emotion and legend hold the keys to the chambers of the heart.

As Pagans, we must examine how we achieve things with the use of symbol and story. We must examine how we place ourselves inside of the context of this story, and how we can create a positive change in the world.

Who are the leaders that will usher in the dawn of a new day? Who are the Gods and Goddesses who will rise up against current systems and insist on a world reverent of nature? It is easy to chop down a tree when we see it as a mere thing, like a paper clip or toilet paper. It is very difficult when we realize that it is a spiritual entity, a hub for hundreds of life forms.

In forming the movements that transform the future, we must find ways to establish relationships and feelings with our goals. In the Green Movement, we cannot merely hope for the curbing of Carbon Emissions (although that would be a great goal). We must hope for something more. We must aspire to fix the relationship with our Mother Earth and Father Sky. We have chopped off our mother’s limbs. We have clogged our father’s lungs with filth. We must humble ourselves before the Earth and realize that we are connected to it – like a vein in the body.

In the Ancient Egyptian tale of the great Gods Isis and Osiris, they were born into a kingdom ruled by very corrupt people. Eventually they overthrow the corrupt rulers and rule with the true authority of a righteous God and Goddess. We are living in corrupt times today and must look to the heroic examples of the ancient Gods and Goddesses.