14 movies for your next pagan holiday
In your Ostara bonnet…
- 14 pagan-flavored movies to consider for your next holiday get-together.
- Filmmakers just can't stay way from the pagan love of nature and magic.
- Pagan-themed movies can be excellent training for wee environmentalists.
Hollywood has always loved holiday movies. From Miracle on 34th Street to Die Hard, from Easter Parade to Hop, the big Christian holidays get plenty of Tinseltown love. But what's a pagan to watch on a chilly Imbolc afternoon?
Pagans are not any one thing, of course, since the term encompasses any belief system outside one of the world's major religions. Still, there are three basic principles that most if not all, pagans share:
- A veneration of the natural world
- A belief in polytheism or pantheism
- A belief in feminine divinity
It's a fact that moviegoers seeking pagan holiday flicks are an underserved market. However, there are still plenty of pagan-compatible movies to enjoy on the Wheel of the Year's special days.
Movies for pagan families
Pagan beliefs most consistently find a home in movies for children and families. Certainly the magical and fantastical are more at home in young imaginations. However, there's also the fact pagan beliefs can imbue the young with an enhanced appreciation for the natural world they'll need as grownup climate-change warriors. And some of these movies are simply great films by any standard.
Walt Disney Pictures
Internet Movie Database (IMDB) description: In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches Moana's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.
This wonderful, tuneful, eye-popping hit movie is what kid's movies should be: Full of big, beautiful imagery, positive ideas, humor, unforgettable songs, and reverence for nature. Also, I lassoed the sun — now that's going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You're welcome.
2. My Neighbor Totoro
IMDB description: When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wondrous forest spirits who live nearby.
That's putting it mildly. The mysterious and sweet spirits that inhabit this masterwork by Hayao Miyazaki are charming, Chaplinesque, and profound. A rainy bus stop, a magic tiger taxi, and ineffable truths that remain just beyond one's grasp. Honorable mention, though scarier: Miyazaki's Spirited Away.
3. Song of the Sea
Backup Media/Screen Ireland
IMDB description: Ben, a young Irish boy, and his little sister Saoirse, a girl who can turn into a seal, go on an adventure to free the fairies and save the spirit world.
Another wonderfully magical tale rendered in art that manages to look both modern and ancient at the same time. The story involves Irish Selkies, a missing mother, and haunting music from Lisa Hannigan, who also plays the (late?) mother.
4. Pan’s Labyrinth
Estudios Picasso/Tequila Gang/Esperanto Filmo
IMDB description: In the Falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
This one's for bigger kids, or children who enjoy a good fright. Gullermo Del Toro's bizarre imagery is likely to populate their dreams for a long, long time. Talk to the hand — the one with eyeballs in it.
Walt Disney Pictures
IMDB description: Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.
Is it just us, or is this one of Pixar's most beautiful films ever? The Scottish highlands, the greens and reds, and wee light spirits make this a great story of female empowerment for the young goddess.
6. The Lion King
Walt Disney Pictures
IMDB description: A Lion cub crown prince is tricked by a treacherous uncle into thinking he caused his father's death and flees into exile in despair, only to learn in adulthood his identity and his responsibilities.
Ah, the Circle of Life in all its glory. A powerful story on one hand, and an appreciation of the richness of non-human lives on the other.
7. The Last Keepers
IMDB description: When the teenage daughter of a reclusive family of artists falls in love with an unusual boy at school, she awakens mysterious powers and discovers ancient family secrets that will change her life forever.
For older kids, the story of a pagan teen's struggle to fit in, and her coming to appreciate the power and value of her family's pagan way of life.
Movies for big pagans
These films are more sophisticated fare, though most are still quite heavy on the fantastical. The first one below is an exception.
IMDB description: A historical drama set in Roman Egypt, concerning a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity in the hope of pursuing freedom while falling in love with his mistress, the philosophy and mathematics professor Hypatia of Alexandria.
A sword and sandal epic starring Rachel Weiss that basically asks "what's a pagan supposed to do when Christianity comes to town?" If your town is Alexandria in Egypt, that is.
9. The Mists of Avalon
IMDB description: Based on the bestseller by Marion Zimmer Bradley It tells the story of the women behind King Arthur; including his mother, Igraine; his half-sister, Morgaine; his aunt Viviane, the Lady of the Lake; and his wife, Gwenwyfar.
Pagan movie buff Roy Linford Adams says this flick is "possibly the single most important movie for any Pagan family movie collection." The depiction of pagan beliefs is accurate in its telling of the manner in which British pagans responded to the arrival of Christianity. It's set within a realist take of the story of King Arthur.
Twentieth Century Fox
IMDB description: A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.
James Cameron's classic breakthrough CGI extravaganza centers on the Navii community's Tree of Life, essentially Goddess of their belief system. It's a big, visually thrilling film, and even moving at times. It's also lovely, with Cameron's reverence for the fauna of this made-up world painted everywhere.
IMDB description: The warrior Beowulf must fight and defeat the monster Grendel who is terrorizing Denmark, and later, Grendel's mother, who begins killing out of revenge.
This floridly animated story — using motion capture of its actors — is based on the epic Old English poem. In it, warrior Beowulf slays the monster Grendle and then beds his mother played by Angelina Jolie, because Angelina Jolie. Also, Beowulf becomes king. Not that well-received during its release, the film is intense and pretty dark.
There's a whole sub-genre of movies about witches, and we're not even mentioning Kiki's Delivery Service.
12. Practical Magic
IMDB description: Two witch sisters, raised by their eccentric aunts in a small town, face closed-minded prejudice and a curse which threatens to prevent them ever finding lasting love.
13. The Good Witch
IMDB description: A darkly beautiful and mysterious woman comes in to town and inhabits the local haunted mansion, making everyone wonder if she's a witch or "The Grey Lady."
Answer: She's a witch. A nice one who immediately digs in to help the natives. Her name's Cassandra, and after a bit of persecution, well…
IMDB description: Thinking he can overshadow an unknown actress in the part, an egocentric actor unknowingly gets a witch cast in an upcoming television remake of the classic sitcom Bewitched.
The movie based on the 1960s TV show, this time starring Nicole Kidman as the winsome witch with whom bobblehead actor Will Ferrell falls in love. Definitely a lightweight movie, but perfectly innocuous. Watch it if you're fond of the leads.
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An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.
- A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
- A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
- Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.
The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.
Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .
The Barry Arm Fjord
Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach
Image source: Matt Zimmerman
The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.
Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest
Image source: whrc.org
There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.
The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.
"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."
Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.
What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord
Moving slowly at first...
Image source: whrc.org
"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."
The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.
Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.
Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.
While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.
Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."
How do you prepare for something like this?
Image source: whrc.org
The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:
"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."
In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.
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