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Inside the AFA worship circle 

Ranger Rich

The new Wiccan, Druid and Earth-centered religious worship circle on a mountaintop at the Air Force Academy is equipped with a propane gas hookup for the ritualistic soul-healing fires — just like the worship circles a thousand years ago, when the High Priestess of Babalashadan would stand by the fire and cry out in an enchanted voice, "Lagaz atha cabyolas," which means, literally, "OK, who brought the marshmallows?"

Seriously, the other day I actually climbed the long, steep, nasty, slippery, snowy and mud-covered crude trail that rises to more than 7,200 feet in elevation to see the Air Force Academy's re-creation of an ancient Pagan worship circle. I can now report, in technical terms as it relates to the history of pantheistic religious worship, that both of my knees ache and I am still throwing up.

I can also report the worship circle consists of 41 large boulders forming the outer ring, a dozen smaller boulders forming the inner circle and, at the center, a fire pit made of six layers of commercial retaining-wall blocks that you can buy at Home Depot (motto: You Can Worship a Horned God. We Can Help.).

The academy, as you know, has long been a model of religious tolerance, encouraging the practice of any faith as long as it was approved by the former football coach and rhymed with the word "grisscheeanity."

The academy also insisted that the religion, whatever it was, involved a carpenter who was crucified and three days later arose from the dead, emerged from the cave and, as I understand it, saw his shadow and promised six more weeks of winter.

(I will now pause for a moment to allow the bolt of lightning to set fire to that tree just outside my office window. There.)

But even with that long tradition of tolerance, few could have predicted that the academy would encourage the worship of Wiccan and Pagan and Druid gods by building a sacred stone circle.

(Update: Sensing that the timing was right, Jewish doolie Saul has filed paperwork seeking permission to prune a seven-branched scrub oak bush into the shape of a menorah. And first-class Hindu cadet Vijay has formally requested an extra bale of hay be delivered to his dorm room every Thursday for his cow.)

The worship circle has not, however, been free of controversy. Just weeks after its construction, a huge, 300-pound cross made from two railroad ties was placed at the site. Those Christians. Such pranksters.

The creation of the Earth-centered worship circle was spearheaded by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, a self-professed Pagan who is in charge of the academy's astronautics lab. Longcrier is best known for discovering a new link between mass and the earth's lunar-phase energy, a formula represented by the equation E=mc2 + eye of newt < the sub-quotient of wing of bat.

There is no such formula, of course, and I hereby apologize. Although judging by the way my lower limbs have just been turned into the hind legs of a toad, perhaps I'm a bit late. Oohhh, I just caught a fly with my tongue.

Anyway, let's take a closer look at Wicca, one of the ancient earth religions.

Wiccans rely heavily on witchcraft and magic and they believe in a great Horned God. At the core is positive thought, positive action and a deep love of nature that comes together in a great harmonic wave to create an atmosphere of positive energies. Did I mention the Horned God?

The central ancient law of Wicca is "An it harm none, do what ye will," which means, basically, "no harm, no foul" or "mind your own hornedgoddamn business."

Another basic belief is that everything you do — good and bad — comes back three-fold. This explains why Wiccans only cast positive spells upon people. It also explains why local anti-tax activist Doug Bruce doubles over in excruciating pain whenever a good person walks past him.

Back to the Horned God thing, here's what the Web site religionfacts.com has to say: "The Horned God is associated with hunting ... He is often portrayed with an erect phallus."

Which would serve as a handy place to rest your rifle when you're shooting an elk.

The Wicca entry on ever-trusty wikipedia.com has more to contribute: "In certain traditions, ritualised sex magic is performed in the form of the Great Rite, whereby a High Priest and High Priestess invoke the God and Goddess to possess them before performing sexual intercourse to raise magical energy for use in spellwork."

Ancient religion scholars believe that to be the only explanation not yet used by former presidential candidate John Edwards.

Wiccans also believe in reincarnation and an afterlife in a place called the Summerlands, a site of great peace, beauty and tranquility — a magical afterlife kingdom that even has trash cans in the parks. And streetlights.

In the meantime, take a day and visit the worship circle high above the Cadet Path just north of the AFA visitors center. Tech. Sgt. Longcrier asks, however, that you call the academy and ask for permission before making the long climb up the steep mountainside to stand at the ancient and sacred site.

It probably wouldn't hurt to mention that you're willing to carry a propane tank.

rangerrich@csindy.com

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