Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Soldier and the Pentacle

Now is a time of great rejoicing in the Pagan community, as the VA has finally added the Pentacle, the symbol of the Wiccan faith to their list of approved symbols for veterans' memorials and headstones. Here is a lovely article with a tearjerking picture to go with it from Nevada, the home state of the late Sgt Patrick Stewart and his brave wife Roberta.

Here is a briefer article out of Wisconson, home to Circle Sanctuary.

The statement may seem a bit mellowdramatic, and it feels mellowdramatic as I say it, but it's a serious issue. The United States is built upon the foundation of equality and the VA having the right to chose who is equal and who is not is rediculous. Roberta Stewart will be remembered, and so will those who faught alongside her. Circle Sanctuary and many other military wives and families. Let us especially not forget Rosemary Kooiman who went to her grave without seeing her husband Abraham's properly marked.

Most important is that the VA has admitted that the reason the pentacle wasn't approved after 10 years was pure straighforward religious bias. Beautiful. That is so important because it means that when other Pagans apply, they will have this behind them. When the triquetra, the ankh, the hammer and others are requested, this case will be there to hold over their heads. The Pagan community won't just sit down, because we know that this is a fight we can win, and win we will. And when something else comes up, some different religous bias case, we will have the memory of this victory to stir us on.

And here is the key quote from this article
"When President Bush was governor of Texas in 1999, Katskee said he commented on "Good Morning America" television show that Wicca was not a religion and criticized the army base in Fort Hood, Texas, for allowing the religious group to meet.

"What we found is that they (the VA) took his comments into account and made a political decision, not a legal one to exclude the pentacle," he said."

I knew when he said that it would kick us in the ass. I have never understood how Pagans could support him after he said that (and many do), but clearly it hasn't done him any harm. It has, however, done us harm and we as a community would do well to remember it. I would be very curious to hear his comments now.

Of course, all this press has gained the attention, not only of Pagan bloggers, such as myself, but others as well. Mark Oppenheimer is quick to turn attention away from the issue of religous rights to debunk Wiccan history, but I can forgive him this, because he is, after all, mostly right and he does finish up by pointing out that a religion need not have factual history supporting it to be valid and meaningful. His commenters make similar points.

And the tabloids have gotten ahold of it too. Check out The Sun (I actually really really like this article.)

Echoing another writer's sentiments as I wonder why the US VA has an approved symbols list anyway, here is the list.

Last fall my friends and I evoked Hermes and asked Him to stand behind Circle Sanctuary and Roberta Stewart in this matter and to help all of our voices be heard. I have prayed to Him many times alone as well. I would just like to thank Him. I don't have an eloquent prayer for Him at the moment, but I believe I now owe Him a bottle of wine and some honey. I'll get on that right away!