Top Story: As I first mentioned back in September, the snarky fashion show “What Not to Wear” (on the increasingly misnamed TLC network) shot a Salem-themed episode starring Salem Witch and shop co-owner Leanne Marrama. Now it’s finally being aired this Friday.
“The show’s cast and crew descended on Salem in September, where they filmed Marrama’s look being “put on trial” — reminiscent of Salem’s infamous 1692 witch trials — by a jury that included other members of the city’s psychic community. The show then swooped Marrama — and all of her clothes — to New York for a week, where “What Not to Wear” hosts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly weeded out her wardrobe and gave her $5,000 to start anew, and redid her hair and makeup. The results will air Friday at 9 p.m. “I’m so excited to see the episode,” Marrama said. “It’s going to be very funny, and I hope other people can learn something from it.” CinemaSalem will host a free public viewing of the episode as it airs live. Marrama plans to attend, along with her family and friends.”
The article also notes that locals hope the town will be prominently featured, but not everyone in Salem is happy with all the witch-focused attention it gets. Ward 3 Councilor Jean Pelletier, during a discussion over what to name a new bypass road, heaped scorn on the idea of naming it after “stupid witch stuff”, drawing the ire of some Salem residents.
“I hate to tell you, Councilor, but that “stupid witch stuff,” along with the Salem power plant, is the engine that drives the Salem economy. Instead of downplaying those two money-makers, you should promote them. Which would you choose: “Stupid witch stuff” or raising taxes?”
Want to know why non-witchy residents tolerate the massive Halloween-flavored mardi gras every October? Why they don’t seem to mind all the reality television, migrating Witches, and plastic capes? One word: revenue. No, make that two words: revenue and taxes. So long as Witches are good for business, everyone will find a way to get along.
In Other News: A few days ago I highlighted an article about Ugandan anti-sacrifice campaigner Polino Angela, who claims that he himself sacrificed several children, including his own son. Some Ugandans, perhaps unused to the old Christian “Satanic Panic” media-spin where “saved” confessed mass-murderers are somehow allowed to walk free, are straying off-message in an article for the Observer.
“His preaching can’t take away the crimes he has committed against humanity, if there is evidence of the offences against him he may not escape the law,” said Anselm Wandega, the head of policy advocacy at ANPPCAN Uganda Chapter.
Moses Binoga, head of the Police anti-Human Sacrifice Task Force, has also opened an investigation in the Amolatar District, were Angela is said to be living. Uh-oh! Looks like some countries actually take you seriously when you claim to have killed 70 people as a former witch doctor. Will Angela backtrack on his somewhat dubious claims of an organized child-sacrifice network now that he might actually get in trouble? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s looking more and more like my suspicion over this story was warranted. Religion-blogger Richard Bartholomew is also skeptical, and he notes that one of the supportive government officials in the original story is a notorious homophobe more interested in the length of mini-skirts than in police corruption. Just as some Western conservative Christian organizations are quietly funding and supporting Ugandan efforts to pass a draconian anti-homosexuality law, perhaps there are others quietly importing that old Satanic Panic?
Over at EarthSpirit Voices, Andras Corban Arthen shares with us the story of how Nigerian citizen Wande Abimbola, the selected spokesman of the Yoruba religion in Western Africa, had his deities seized from him by an Australian customs agent on his way to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne.
“Finally, the metal doors of the Customs area parted one more time, and Wande Abimbola, his American-born wife Ifaboyede, and their eight-month-old son made their way into the terminal, looking troubled and dismayed. “They have taken our deities away,” they informed their greeters. The Abimbolas were scheduled to offer several presentations on the spiritual traditions of the Yoruba, and they were bringing with them several objects which manifested particular orisas, the ancestral spirits whose veneration is central to Yoruban religion. The objects are not considered to be mere symbolic representations, but extensions and abodes of the orisas themselves — sacred emanations of sacred beings, to be treated with honor and respect. But this was obviously irrelevant to the Australian Customs agents in Melbourne, who unceremoniously confiscated the objects.”
Though Abimbola was able to retrieve his deities on his way back out of the country, the event cut through the idealism of the event for Arthen, reminding him of the hostility, ignorance, and discrimination that exist outside the walls of interfaith gatherings like the Parliament.
“For me, though, this episode continues to ring a sour note in what was mostly a very harmonious event. It’s very easy, when attending a function such as the Parliament, to get so wrapped up in the beauty and idealism present all around us that we can forget some of the harsh realities that lie in wait just beyond these walls. The quarantined gods of the Yoruba were, this time, a constant reminder of the arrogance, the prejudice and the fear that continue to cause so much conflict among nations and cultures, and a reminder as well of how much we need to continue to talk, and teach, and learn from one another, as we do in the Parliament of the World’s Religions.”
I suppose another lesson is that interfaith activities are a first step, not the last step, in normalizing relations and establishing mutual respect between different faith groups. It’s easy to move past differences when most everyone around you is willing to do so, it’s quite another thing to engage a far more hostile and cynical wider world on a regular basis.
Bakersfield, California District Attorney Ed Jagels is retiring from public office after 26 years. Jagels became notorious for his prosecution of several (46) innocent men and women over bogus child-abuse (and “Satanic” child abuse) cases. A situation that was covered in the documentary “Witch Hunt”. Several spent years in prison, some even decades, before finally being freed. A situation that still haunts some of the children coached into giving testimony.
“What Jagels did not witness was the aftermath of his actions. All the children who testified against Stoll and my mother have had to deal with years of life-altering guilt. I was forced to believe that I was molested by my mother, taken from my home and placed into mandatory therapy, where I spent years in counseling trying to recover “blocked” memories.”
Jagels now admits that mistakes may have been made, but seems to feel little remorse for the lives he destroyed.
“If those cases came today, we would have handled them differently,” Jagels said. “But what we had at the time, I think we handled them the best we could.”
Attorney Michael Snedeker of Portland, Oregon, who helped free many of the accused says that “truth and justice meant nothing to him”, meanwhile, Jagels’ supporters are already trying to whitewash his career. This whole story illustrates how the officials who allowed the SRA panic to go forward, to pursue questionable evidence and testimony, go unpunished. Some of them may even become Senators if they play their cards right.
In a final note, more religion-beat reporters are moving on. Boston Globe reporter Michael Paulson is being promoted, so he’s leaving the God-beat behind, and there’s no word yet on who, if anyone, is going to replace him. Meanwhile, AP religion reporter Eric Gorski is also moving to a different beat. All this isn’t making Mollie at Get Religion feel very optimistic about the future of religion reporting.
What a major change. I suppose it is good, in both Paulson’s and Gorski’s cases that they will be moving to new positions with an eye toward the importance of religion coverage. If only we could put former religion beat pros throughout every paper. Still, I have to agree with what another Godbeat pro said about the changes — that they’re “devastating to Godreporting.”
I suppose you can insert my now-standard “this is why we need a robust Pagan-grown journalism” speech, but I’ll save it for Pantheacon and PSG (though I will still throw in a link to the Pagan Newswire Collective, because I can). In any case, it seems to be yet another sign of the incredible shrinking God-beat.
That’s all I have for now, have a great day!