(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 20, 2009 — 4 Comments

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Our top story concerns a messy divorce, accusations of abuse and child-porn, and the practice of “Wiccanism”. Scott Starnes is being accused by his wife Christine of “using her and the children without their knowledge or consent.” In addition, there seems to be allegations that this is all tied into the practice of Witchcraft somehow.

“Investigators said that Christine Starnes also reported that her husband was studying witchcraft. A Williamston police sergeant confirmed through investigating e-mails and Web sites that Scott Starnes had enrolled in school of witchcraft and had been looking up information on how to cast spells, do evil and “banish a troublesome person.” But there are no charges in connection to any of the witchcraft-related activities, and no immediate indication that any of Starnes’ witchcraft-related interests were in any way illegal.”

After a month-long investigation, child-porn images were found on his computer, though reports of abusive behavior were inconclusive. The police are currently examining the computer for further evidence. According to John Newkirk, Scott Starnes’ lawyer, he is innocent of all charges and this is merely fall-out from messy divorce proceedings. Then again, lawyers are paid very well to say things like that. I would have no trouble writing off Mr. Starnes completely as sick individual if it weren’t for the eagerness of Mrs. Starnes and the police (you can see the list of witchcraft-related items confiscated during the investigation) in dragging the Witchcraft element into this. I’ll be paying close attention to the trial, and the forensic investigation results of the computer, with great interest.

Wiccan comic-book artist Holly G participated in a recent panel at Chicago’s Comic-Con concerning religious themes in comic books. She was joined by two Christians and one agnostic who were also involved in the comics industry. It seems that everyone got along just fine despite the theological differences.

“Remarkably, there were no fights or bitter accusations flung across the table, but rather a unified sense of pride and communion as storytellers focus on spirituality in their work, whether it’s of a religious or metaphysical nature … The panelists were then challenged about their methods of handling faith in their own stories. While the witch talked of unwittingly (and unwillingly) gaining obedient converts through her pagan comics, the pro-life Christian Tennapel talked about the great fulfillment of winning over non-believers. He went on to talk about his most filthy comic, “Black Cherry”, a rated-R mafia, demon story that he billed as his “most religious” book and the most successful among non-believers. The non-Christian audience was drawn to it, he suggested, because of its richly dark, demonic story, but in the process of believing in the tale, were forced to believe in the Christian hierarchy of metaphysical beings. In a sense, this is Tennapel’s way of evangelizing.”

So Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose is gaining us converts? I’m not sure how I feel about that. To see why, you might want to check out some of my previous coverage concerning the intersections between well-known modern Pagans and this not-safe-for-work cheesecake comic.

As plastic “shamans” and various New Age seekers continue to abuse the trust of Native American spiritual leaders, more tribes decide that the best recourse is to shut out all outsiders. That is the case with the Hopi, who have decided to close their annual Hopi Snake Dance to outsiders due to illegal photography and a lack of respect.

“The traditional Hopi Snake Dance, part of an elaborate dayslong ceremony in which tribal members pray for rain, is closed to non-American Indians this year. Mishongnovi village administrator Robert Mahkewa Jr. says illegal photography and a lack of respect for the traditions and ceremonial practices led to the decision to bar non-Indians from this weekend’s event.”

In addition, an editorial from The Native Sun News urges all tribes to restrict access to their ceremonies, saying that the era of outsiders cashing in on their religious practices must come to an end. It truly is a shame that a small population of self-absorbed seekers and con-artists are so damaging relations between Natives and non-Native peoples.

The Washington Post looks at the efforts of Nick Nefedro and the ACLU to overturn a law barring fortune-telling in Montgomery County, Maryland. But unlike previous successful efforts to overturn such bans, Nefedro (a self-described gypsy) isn’t claiming a religious reason that the law should be overturned, a fact that is making local authorities confident they’ll withstand a lawsuit.

“I don’t think it’s strange for us to have laws that protect against fraud,” said Clifford Royalty, zoning division chief in the Montgomery County attorney’s office, adding that “religion has nothing to do with it. He’s not made that allegation in the lawsuit.” “The practice is fraudulent,” Royalty said, “because no one can forecast the future.”

While I wish Mr. Nefedro every success in getting this antiquated law stricken from the books, I think the ACLU should have explored getting a local Pagan involved so that they could bring the religious aspect of these laws into the proceedings. For all of my past coverage of anti-psychic/fortune-telling laws click, here.

In regards to my ongoing look at Pagan periodicals, you might be interested to read this report from the Philadelphia Inquirer on how several smaller religiously-oriented newspapers and newsletters are also falling on hard times.

“They land politely – in mailboxes, not driveways – and deliver their good news gently. “Relics blessed in advance of tour.” “Young Israelis at Medford Camps.” “Our Lady of Pompeii Church Celebrates 100 Years.” “Local Concert Raises $2,600 for Mitzvah Food Project.” But with advertising revenues in decline, these are challenging times for some local religious newspapers – and perhaps the end times for one.”

When pundits and anylists talk about the hard times falling on newspapers and magazines, smaller niche-oriented publications like these are often overlooked. But we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of these journalistic undergrounds for gestating and investigating the stories that eventually become “big news”.

In a final note, the snarky political blog Wonkette rightly mocks the absurd and un-sourced rumours among right-wing blogs that Michelle Obama’s mother participates in Santeria rituals.

“Apparently Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother, performs Satanic “Afro-Hispanic” witchcraft rituals, in the White House. Barack Obama is piping mad, because how would this affect his IMAGE? Poorly! This story and all of its quotes are true. Jane Mayer of the New Yorker is one helluva reporter and would never make up something this incendiary. Oh… what is that, Intern Riley?… It’s from Townhall, not Jane Mayer of the New Yorker?… THEN IT’S EVEN TRUER.”

I guess when all else fails, when being called a Nazi doesn’t hold water, you can always accuse the women of practicing witchcraft. Somehow I don’t think this is what right-wing thinkers mean when they talk of holding onto “traditional values”.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters