Score a BIG One For The Pagans
by Pat Carbonell
From the ABCNews website:
A settlement between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Wiccans adds the five-pointed star to the list of "emblems of belief" allowed on VA grave markers.
The settlement calls for the pentacle, whose five points represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit, to be placed on grave markers within 14 days for those who have pending requests with the VA.
The pentacle has been added to 38 symbols the VA already permits on gravestones. They include commonly recognized symbols for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, as well as those for smaller religions such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckiankar and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie.
VA-issued headstones, markers and plaques can be used in any cemetery, whether it is a national one such as Arlington or a private burial ground like that on Circle Sanctuary's property.
Wicca is a nature-based religion based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons. Variations of the pentacle not accepted by Wiccans have been used in horror movies as a sign of the devil.
For those of you who don't know the difference, the pentacle is a five-pointed star, single point up, surrounded by a circle. The variation used to represent the devil is two-points up, implying demonic horns... and we won't go into the whole sorry tale of the demonizing of pagan horned gods like Pan and Herne.
From the Austin American-Statesman/May 11, 1999 "Practicing their old-time religion":
. . . . Navy Capt. Russell Gunter, executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board at the Pentagon, said the military is obligated to respect and make provisions for the religious needs of its members without passing judgment on their beliefs.
Haberek, the III Corps head chaplain, agreed. "You know, I raised my right hand when I came in the Army to support and defend the Constitution, and that's what I'm doing, defending the constitutional right of soldiers and family members."
From the U.S. Department of the Army, "Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains," University Press of the Pacific, (2001):
The rest of the entry on Wicca in the Handbook (which runs for several pages) is very accurate, factual and supportive. So, if the Pentagon has recognized Wicca for at least eight years, what took the V.A. so long?
In the end, even that question is only out of curiosity. What truly matters is that my fallen brothers and sisters can now have their faith publicly displayed on their grave markers. Anyone walking through Arlington National Cemetery from now on will know that Wiccans are Americans too, and we have bled and died for our religious freedom.
Vermont Village Witch Archives
I remember hearing some of the controversy over this in the past. I hadn't heard that they finally were allowing the symbol on headstones. It's about damn time--I never understood what the problem was in the first place.
Also cool to see that the Pentagon officially recognizes the religion. I'm a little surprised, to be honest, but it's a nice way to be surprised.
Posted by: Joel | April 26, 2007 12:35 PM
Being a recovering Catholic who's spent time studying some Wiccan religions, I have lots of fun pointing out how much of Catholicism was "borrowed" from the Pagan. The deification of mother Mary alone...you can write volumes.
Posted by: Timmer | April 26, 2007 8:48 PM
One of my bumper stickers says "Christianity has Pagan DNA". It can be a fun topic of discussion, particularly if you start out with a question like "What do baby bunnies and eggs have to do with the Resurrection of Christ?"
Posted by: Pat | April 26, 2007 11:43 PM
Well, the chocolate is because the cross was brown and the bunnies are because of...um....they ate the entrails of the other people on crosses?
Just kidding. Its the funniest explanation I ever got from asking that question.
Posted by: jo (from Amie) | April 28, 2007 1:39 PM
I wasn't aware of Pentacles finally being allowed on tombstones. Score one indeed!
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