A friend recently recommended this movie to me. I looked for some reviews online and found more then I had bargained for (the magical serendipity of Grandmother Spider's world wide web never fails to delight me). The first thing I noticed was the subtitle: which reads "Has the world left you a stray?", a pun that speaks to Pagans in ways the film may not have intended. Then I read several reviews, including one at a Christian movie review website. The reviewer at that site liked the film, but two visitors to the site left very negative comments. Both comments were written by men, and both men feel that this movie is anti-Christian and Pagan in it's tone and it's moral teachings. I haven't seen the film yet (I've got it ordered on Netflix) but I found their reaction very interesting. I am going to quote one of these negative comments in full. I would like to note that I have Christian friends who love dogs, are animal rights activists and even some who are practicing vegans. I frankly don't see how these choices are incompatible with Christian teachings, and neither do these folks.
Below, you will also find some links and a copy of an old essay I wrote about dogs and second chances in 2006. I'm reworking this one for later submission to Vox.
Regards to all here,
Negative Review - This is one of the most blatantly pagan movies I have ever seen. The main character who is grieved over the loss of her dog begins to fall into full blown animal worship. Her whole life is totally controled (sic) by her passion for animals to the point that it directs her moral judgment. She steals from work, breaks in to her neighbors house attacking him with a knife just so he would know what it is like to be hunted, has her house over run by dogs, ruins her sister-in-laws fur coats, and blackmails her friends unfaithful fiance' so that he would adopt a dog. It would be one thing if this was all done to get a laugh but sadly it was all to show her as a real person with valid actions. This is a very subtle movie which could easily sway the unsuspecting or the young. After all who doesn't love animals and want the best for them. The problem is when you break the commnandments (sic) of God in order to get your agenda across, however noble it may seem.
This movie is pagan to the core presenting a cosmic oneness of everything. The way this is done is by valuing animal life to the same degreee (sic) as human life, teaching that to save a chickens life so that it may live free is a honorable cause. At the root of this vegan message is a heart that says it is wrong for man to live off the death of another life. Taking it a step further if you will, consider the death of Christ and how only by His death and resurrection can man truly live. The Cross is the antithesis of the vegan message. And this vegan message is preached loud and clear throughout the movie. It is no wonder meat eating is often given up in pagan earth worshiping environments. In the end their god is the earth and the lives (even chicken) are all worth saving so that we can all live as one. Bad movie.
Offensive / 3
OK, now I just have to see it.
Update 4:25 pm: Jason, over at the Wildhunt Blog, has just offered some links from authors complaining about Hollywood's supposedly "anti-Christian crusade" (ahem...guys, not quite the word you want to use in this context). They cite the new film Beowulf, in particular. You can read that post here.
Art: Lab Coasters
Plot outline (via Wikipedia) for Year of the Dog
Ancient Pagan Symbols - The Dog
Chinese Zodiac - The Dog
Gaia's Guardian Award 2001 - A Very Special Lady and Her Dogs
Was Christ a Vegetarian?
A Vegan Pagan's Prayer
The Year of the Dog (Pagan Style)
from the January 2006 Full Circle Newsletter. (I miss doing this newsletter. One of these day we may revive it).
The Year of the Dog begins January 29thth, 2006
Please note: I write these Lunar New Year essays every February. People seem to like them, so I keep doing it. But I don’t claim to see the future beyond my nose. I write these based on issues I see and hear about in the Earthwise community, on meditations I do in winter and on what my heart tells me is going on around us. Take what you need and leave the rest. Sia
Scott Fitzgerald once famously wrote: "There are no second acts in American lives". (1) It’s a great line, the sort of quip one can easily toss off at parties, but I've seen too many people remake their lives over the years to ever believe it.
Many a young writer has dreamed of creating luminous scenes like Fitzgerald or wrestling prose to the mat the way his friend Hemming could. As an English major I was taught to honor their insights into human nature and their dedication to their craft. To many people in my generation, their lives seemed deeply romantic, played out as they were against the backdrops of Paris, Italy, Africa and Cuba and many an undergraduate has tried to emulate their hard drinking ways, only to discover that talent isn’t found at the bottom of a glass. (2) So when I became a teacher I reminded my students that Fitzgerald and Hemingway wrote their great works, not because of their addictions and fears, but in spite of them. Sadly for our culture we lost any art they might have produced in their later years because both men died too young. The bill for their life choices finally came due, and both men were overcome (repeatedly, and then at last) with illness, sorrow, rage, and regret. Scott’s belief that there are no second chances is false one born out of his severe depression, something Winston Churchill, a fellow sufferer, called “the black dog”.
Lest I prove unfair to Mr. Fitzgerald, let me note that he also said some very wise things, including this quote: “Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over”. This brings me to my theme: We now find ourselves at Imbolc a time of promise, renewal, and change. The birds are mating, and for many Pagans our thoughts turn to the pleasures of love, the promise of love, the search for love, and sometimes, the end of love. Yesterday, I received an email from an old friend who has just separated from her husband of many years. They married young and together they have raised three wonderful children. After twenty-five years of marriage, they choose to part. I don't know the whys or wherefores of their choice but I do know that this sexy, tough, responsible woman is a survivor, and committed to her own growth. I know that she will be happy and fulfilled in this life, even though times are hard for her right now. So today, she encounters another sort of dog, the dog at the crossroads.
This got me to thinking about other friends I know who have stayed together through some very hard times. They got through it and things are looking up for them, now. In fact, this Year of the Dog should be a much better time for us all.
I don't know why some people choose to stay together, and why some need to part. I don't judge it. I do know that we each learn what we need to learn from the people in our lives, whether they are friends, family or loved ones. I believe that is the reason we come into each other's lives. Sometimes we can continue to walk the path together and sometimes our learning is done, and we need to go our separate ways.
I feel for my friend as she packs boxes, and prepares to make a new life for herself. I know what it means to leave a long relationship that I thought would last forever. I remember the fear and resentment my former partner and I both felt at that time. I know what it means to move on and the pain and change that entails. I had to heal, grow, and forgive back then. So did he.
I am married now to someone who is the best possible partner for me, and I'm hoping that he and I can grow old together. I know that life gives no guarantees. He could be hit either by a bus or a blond tomorrow. (And for his sake, it had better be the bus.) Knowing that, I work to stay present and grateful in this moment, and to be the best partner and person I can be. I also know that I can always support myself. My friend can, too. Like Xena she has many skills, which is why I know she’s going to be OK.
When my friend is ready to hear it, I will remind her that love can be found at any age. That’s an old cliche, I know, but I’ve seen it happen many times. My favorite example of this is a friend I’ll call “Jane”. Jane was one of the early proponents of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. She’s attractive but she is much more than the sum of her looks. Think of Penny Lane in Almost Famous, and you’ll have the idea. Jane has never lacked male attention – except, perhaps from her alcoholic, emotionally unavailable father – and she has been married three times. The first time to an abusive partner, the second time to a neglectful workaholic and the third time, well, the third time was the charm. (3)
Our women’s group played a part in her healing. In 2004 I wrote an article titled “Hearts and Flowers: Reclaiming Valentine’s Day”. In that article, I wrote about a dinner put in the 80’s by a group of single women who wanted to celebrate their Best Selves. Jane was at that dinner. As I said, we go way back. As I write this, she is in her late 50’s, retired, living in a beautiful house by the beach. She loves to travel to points unknown on her Harley, and she is now in a very happy marriage with a great guy who adores her. He is a very equal partner, who is capable of intimacy and commitment. I talked to her just the other day and she told me she was happier than she had ever been before.
You go, girl.
Over the years, I've seen partners work through the most serious kinds of issues together, and I've seen others choose to separate, bless each other and move on with their lives. So maybe the idea that love can be found at any age is more than a cultural cliche. Maybe it’s a part of some vital mother wit the Goddess thought we should have. I think its inspiring to see that the joys we find in sex, fun, creativity, adventure and love don’t end for people just because they turn 50.
You go, girls… and guys!
As we enter the Year of the Dog, we may be confronted with issues around loyalty and change in both partnerships and friendships. Loyalty in its negative aspect can be fawning and unthinking. In it’s positive aspect, loyalty involves the ability to make compassionate and conscious choices. It requires we have understanding of the true nature of our relationship, a healthy connection to the person (or group) we are loyal to, and a commitment, in turn, to our authentic selves. As we show loyalty to others, to a cause or to our beliefs, we must also remember to show that same loyalty to our Highest Good. We need to protect our precious life energy as a bitch protects her pups. Sometimes that involves taking risks and sometimes it means we have to let go, in the same way that a mother wolf will move her brood to a different den if she feels that her home has become unsafe.
Some of us may fear change, as a dog fears the stranger at the door. It could be real trouble or it could be the cosmic UPS driver with a delicious box of bones. We never know. The trick is to stay alert and learn to tell friend from foe.
Dogs are known for their sense of smell, and they can tell which sort of animal has passed by, even to it’s age, sex and level of general health, simply by keeping their nose to the ground. (When our dog, Ody, does this, my partner says he is “Reading his pee-mail”.) Dogs know what they need to know and they know they need to know it. In our case, it may be time for us to learn the signs and symbols of our spirit guides, so that we can recognize them when they appear to us. If our attention has been too distracted of late, it may be time to put our nose to the ground again. Our immediate landscape holds messages for us every day, and we need to walk our emotional, mental, and spiritual neighborhoods in order to discover what these are.
Anyone who knows dogs knows that they are truly “doggy” and happy to be so. At the same time, no two dogs are alike; each is unique. Dogs live in the moment – you’ll never find a dog that lives in its head the way people do. They are alert and aware, which is why they make such good guardians. Dogs know when to rest and they also love to play. It is that sort of balance, protection, and self-knowledge that will serve us well in the year to come.
Anyone who has a dog knows that they are Tricksters. K.L. Nocoles notes that “Trickster alternately scandalizes, disgusts, amuses, disrupts, chastises, and humiliates….yet he is also a creative force transforming (the) world, sometimes in bizarre and outrageous ways, with his instinctive energies and cunning.” Two wonderful books that speak to this energy are Skinny Legs and All (which is written by a famous trickster) and Coyote Blue (which has a Trickster as it’s main character).
We’ Moon almanac notes that dog “empathizes with underdog and champions fairness and equality.” Well, yes and no. Dogs can also pick on the weakest among them, and some dogs have been so abused that they are walking bundles of aggression and fear. It’s important to know which sort of dog energy we are dealing with. Susan Levit, the writer of that We’ Moon article, warns that dogs “can at times be judgmental or extreme, acting as if color blind, and only seeing issues as either black or white.” Good point. She goes on to say that we “need to apply very keen senses in order to avoid problems”. In other words: pay attention and don’t get distracted by every rabbit that runs across the road. It may be difficult to focus this year – it’s a time of multiple options for many of us - but we will need to make wise choices, lest we try and do too much. Remember that dogs love anything new. If we arn’t careful, every new scent, hobby, person, request, shiny thing, or opportunity can overwhelm us, drain us, and keep us off focus. Like a wily fox, life can sometimes trick us into taking the wrong trail and we might end up lost in the woods. Someone once asked the writer P.J. O’Rourke how he could be so successful and prolific. He said it was because he had learned early on to focus on what was really important to him and avoid what he called “parasitic interests”. That’s very good advice. We must be careful this year or we could become so overexcited by our choices that we run around in circles, yapping and chasing our own tails. We could also be so afraid of change, that we hide, cowering in a corner. Neither choice will serve us well this year.
Speaking of parasites, dogs are often plagued by ticks and fleas, so I would suggest that we beware of clingy bloodsuckers who will drain our emotions or time. Sometimes these pests assume a sexy and pleasing shape. It is well known that all dogs hate vampires, even the most attractive kinds. If we have an energy vampire lurking in our life, it may be time to deal with that.
Dogs love consistency. They believe that their food should always come on time, and they need exercise at least once a day. They can also be anxious, and great worriers, and they often fear change. As someone who has worked in companion animal rescue for over twenty years, I’ve seen many a lost dog, and they all touch my heart. Sometimes the dog was abandoned, sometimes it strayed, and sometimes it was rescued from a bad situation. They will sit for a time in a cage at the shelter; often scared, confused and afraid, not knowing that the universe has enlisted other forces to help them. But then, finally, someone would come (or would they be sent?) to love this dog and give it the home it has always deserved. Some of us have gone through very difficult times, and maybe we felt lost or trapped. But this year the energy changes dramatically for the better. It’s time again for warm beds, bright futures, and happy endings. It might not happen for us overnight, but for those us who are resourceful, honest, and alert, it will happen. And while we consider this, let us remember that it is not always the dogs who are rescued. Many a dog has rescued its owner, as well. Sometimes they save their owners from fire or floods and sometimes from simple loneliness. We may be asked to offer help to someone else this year. (“What!? You say Timmy is trapped in the well!? Let’s get him, girl!”). Those who answer the call to serve others or a greater cause will find the energy and help they need.
Part of life wisdom comes in knowing when it’s time for us to wait, when it’s time to ask for help, and when it’s time to act on our own. Here is an example: Last month, two dogs, a lovely rottweiler and a pit bull terrier, arrived at the Silicon Valley Animal Shelter from a temporary shelter in New Orleans. The rottweiler is a local hero. After Katrina hit, rescue crews who were working in boats saw the rottweiler swim out from a second story window and cross the flooded waters to rescue it’s neighbor the pit bull trapped on a roof top two houses away. The rottweiler then swam back with her friend in her mouth. She got them both through an open window into her own house. Human rescuers had their hands full saving people, and did not feel they could stop for two dogs (I know, I know) but they noted the number of the house, and returned two days later. They found the rottweiler’s owner dead on the first floor and the dogs together, side by side, in the attic. Thanks to a generous donation from Steve Wozniak the Humane Society was able to fly these two dogs here together, so they, too, have a second chance. They have since been renamed Kanga and Rue. As I write these, Kanga has been adopted and Rue is looking for a good home. As we seek out true love or friendship we might want to ask ourselves if this person would risk his or her own life for us. Let us not forget to ask if we would do the same for them.
This year calls on us to live with integrity and courage. Those who reflect this energy in their lives will prosper, as these are traits the dog shares. Dog also represents joy. I used to think that life was a problem to be solved. Now I know it's a mystery I get to live. So, I'm sorry, Scott, it’s a great line, but I believe in Second Acts, and in Third Acts, too. And when the curtain finally comes down, I'll meet you folks backstage for the party after.
This essay is dedicated to some very special dogs: Brandy * Hoover * Mikey * Leo * Ody * Sally & Shilo (rescues, all) and to all the dogs out there who give us so much more than we give them.
If you want to know how to really connect with your dog, I recommend reading The Other End of the Leash and other books by Patricia McConnell.
1. This quote of his (a mere scribble in an unfinished work) has been too often used, in part because it holds the perfect sort of energy for Posers. It shows what he became in the end: cynical, nihilistic, and full of despair. When I first encountered this quote, I recognized it as the sort of self-pitying line alcoholics love to spout at three o’clock in the morning after all the bars have closed and there’s no place else to go. It is neither fair nor right to judge Fitzgerald by this one quip. Instead, read The Great Gatsby or this article on how he helped Hemmingway finish The Sun Also Rises, and you can see him at his best, both as a writer and as a human being.
2. Don’t get me started on their attitudes towards women.
3. In between those marriages she spent time in a battered woman’s shelter after fleeing her first husband. She has endured poverty since then, and many a failed romance. She worked hard, went back to school, used food stamps, the support of her women friends, and whatever help she could get to keep her family together and safe. When I met her she had come up in the world. She was working an important job at UCLA and her youngest had just finished high school and was off to college. She had also decided to leave her second marriage. She was prosperous, but lonely, scared of being single, and afraid to love again. So in her early forties, she did her emotional homework. She got in touch with her issues and realized that her dysfunctional family had raised her to feel "less than" and to be codependent around people in general. She saw how this teaching had influenced her behavior in her adult life, especially with men. Over time, she began to grow, heal, and find her true power as a woman.