(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 23, 2009 — 3 Comments

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

Looks like all is not happy in the land of the Cabot Witches, it seems that Laurie “Official Witch of Salem” Cabot accused her daughter Jody Cabot (also a Witch) of forging a check in her name two years ago. A restitution agreement was made, but due to non-compliance and failing to appear in court, a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.

“Last year, Jody Cabot was granted a general continuance in the case on the condition that she pay restitution of $1,328 to her elderly mother. Had she done that, the charges would have been dismissed. But earlier this year, Jody Cabot defaulted on the agreement and the case was put back on the court’s docket, where it was heading for trial. Attorney Steve Reardon tried to convince Judge Richard Mori not to issue a warrant for his client, saying she had stayed home because she had a severe headache that was a result of a past head injury.”

However, this tale doesn’t end in tragedy, Jody Cabot went to court the next day and thanks to her mother’s current reluctance to testify against her daughter a new plea agreement was made. According to reports Jody, as her mother has in the past, appeared in “traditional witch garb” for the hearing. Now that this unpleasantness is done with for the moment, lets remember Jody from (seemingly) happier times when she posed for pictures with sister Penny (taken by photographer Stephen Muskie).

Two teenage female ringleaders of a racist gang accused of orchestrating a spate of brutal attacks against non-Slavic foreigners were sentenced to jail terms of up to ten years. The gang is believed to be an offshoot of a Slavic Pagan group called “Native Belief”, a group accused of bombing a McDonalds and murdering several people.

“The verdicts were the latest convictions of young people for racist attacks in Russia and come amid growing concern over the frequency of attacks on non-Slavic foreigners in the country. The presumed ringleaders, Yevgenia Zhikhareva – a 17-year-old girl linked to pagan sects that worshipped ancient Slavic gods – and Ilya Shutko, 19, were jailed for eight and 10 years respectively, Russian news agencies reported … Zhikhareva is also suspected of involvement in a series of blasts in Moscow between 2008-09, including at a branch of US fast food chain McDonalds, carried out by a pagan group calling itself ‘Native Belief.’ The gang members were accused of carrying out up to four attempted murders and one actual murder of citizens of China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan between February 12 and March 7, 2008.”

Sadly there is a strong undercurrent of racism and antisemitism within some Slavic Pagans groups, though that isn’t  universally true. However, it seems that the groups who do espouse racism are becoming increasingly strident and violent. No doubt economic hardship and social upheaval have much to do with this development, but these excuses don’t justify distorting pre-Christian beliefs for racist political causes.

Religion Dispatches brings us two interesting articles on African diasporic faiths, starting with an interview with sociologist Salvador Vidal-Ortiz concerning the recent animal sacrifice court victory for Santero Jose Merced, the place made for gays and lesbians within Santeria, and how perceptions of Santeria are (slowly) evolving in America.

“Generally speaking, when we are talking about racial and ethnic minorities, the United States’ racial (and racist) system tends to find much of what is non-white “suspicious.” That’s why Santería continues to be categorized as a cult by some, and why the media usually frame practitioners as somehow “criminal” in the coverage we see in the news. That tendency is mirrored in entertainment media. For at least the past two decades, portrayals of Santería practitioners in movies and television shows have resisted the opportunity to represent them as religious people and focused instead on Santería as a hypersexual space, recalling earlier representations of Africans as savages. That does seem to be changing, at least incrementally.”

Then, religion scholar Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado takes possession of a Vodou doll/poppet that had several seemingly rational faculty members at her university seriously spooked.

“The doll who sits in my office is not the type of doll you stick needles in. I am not even sure he is a Vodou doll. And yet, his black cloth skin and his scarf evoked feelings of fear and mistrust among a group of university professors. The mythology of evil surrounding Vodou, surrounding black religion, remains. I have nestled him between an image of the Mayan god Maximon and an image of the Yoruban orisha Bablú Ayé. I decided he would feel at home with other marginalized and often misinterpreted religious figures. He has been with me now for twenty-four hours. I am happy to say, as a type this reflection, that my computer is working fine.”

A simple rule to remember is that most mysterious dolls aren’t actually magical poppets, and even if they were, not every poppet is aimed at you. If it were simply some child’s toy I’m glad it ended up on her shelf, where it could be reclaimed some day, and not buried in a hole with rum and gunpowder as on faculty member suggested.

The Taliban are now targeting the Kalash in Pakistan, Indo-European pagans believed by some to be descended from a commingling of Alexander the Great’s army and local peoples, who have survived in prominently Muslim areas thanks to living in remote valleys. Now, an outsider who had been raising money for the Kalash has been kidnapped.

“While Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians were slowly driven out of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province by Muslim militants, the Kalash were free to drink their own distilled spirits and smoke cannabis. But the militant maulanas of the Taliban have finally caught up with them and declared war on their culture and heritage by kidnapping their most devoted supporter. Taliban commanders have taken Professor Athanasion Larounis, a Greek aid worker who has generated £2.5 million in donations to build schools, clinics, clean water projects and a museum. They are now demanding £1.25 million and the release of three militant leaders in exchange for his safe return.”

I don’t know if this is a sign of desperation on the part of the Taliban in Pakistan, or simply an escalation in their fervor to eliminate any group that theologically deviates from their extremist form of monotheism (or maybe both). Kalash leaders are attempting to negotiate a release, and it remains to be seen what the government of Pakistan can really do to help, especially amidst recent accusations that the government’s spy organization can’t disentangle itself from the Taliban and that US aid money has been going towards anti-Indian defenses.

In a final note, Boing Boing reports on a legal ruling that may make some Pagan festival/event organizers rest easier.

“The California Supreme Court has denied the appeal of Anthony Beninati, the Los Angeles real estate manager who unsuccessfully sued Burning Man organizers for failing to restrain him from walking into a fire.”

So if some idiot waltzes, jumps, or walks into a fire-pit, you aren’t liable for their stupidity concerning “obvious dangers”.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters