Just News, No Fooling

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 1, 2010 — 16 Comments

I’ll spare all of you the seemingly obligatory April Fools’ Day post, where I pretend I’ve converted to Christianity (or atheism), or run some clearly farcical story where a famous Pagan does something out-of-character. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy a well-done joke, it’s just that I like to leave such things to the professionals. Besides, April 1st is not only my lovely wife’s birthday, but our wedding anniversary as well. So I’ll be out for most of today properly celebrating both occasions. So before I head off, let’s do a very quick round-up of some (real) Pagan news.

The Assassination of a Lebanese Citizen, and the Pagans in Lebanon: I’ve written before about Saudi Arabia’s plan to murder a Lebanese citizen, and former television host, for the “crime” of sorcery. After seemingly exhausting all legal appeals to his death sentence, alarming reports went out that Ali Sabat would be executed within a matter of days. Now, the AFP reports that Lebanon’s ambassador to Riyadh says that the execution is not imminent, though Sibat is still on death-row with a pardon being the only thing that could save him.

“Lebanon’s ambassador to Riyadh said Thursday that he had not been informed by the Saudi authorities of the imminent execution of a Lebanese man found guilty of sorcery, as his lawyer has warned. “Until now, the embassy has not been informed” that former TV presenter Ali Sabat has been condemned to death, Ambassador Marwan Zein told AFP by telephone. Sabat’s case is “still being considered by the court,” Zein said.”

Here’s hoping the two nations are doing some diplomatic behind-the-scenes efforts to save Sibat’s life. Sibat’s looming death is troubling, not only for the barbarity of executing innocent men and women for “sorcery” and “witchcraft”, but also because it endangers anyone traveling through the Middle East who doesn’t meet the arbitrary and exacting specifications of the local religious police, including modern Pagans. What’s that? There are no modern Pagans in the Middle East? Well, it seems that there are indeed Pagans in Lebanon. Lebanese blogger Hanibaael explores the phenomenon (in an Arabic-only post, here’s a rough Google translation).

“Pagans didn’t fade away. They are here among us, living by their beliefs in the shadows despite 2000 years of persecution. Here in Lebanon, despite the lack of official legal recognition of anyone who’s not affiliated with the three main religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism), they are young people who have taken alternative spiritual paths different from the dominant currents rooted in the general education. They converted to the esoteric and pagan beliefs, on their own, without being preached of it by anyone” (Thanks to Lebanese Pagan Adonis for the improved translation.)

The next head on the chopping block could be a Lebanese Wiccan traveling with her family through Saudi Arabia for The Hajj, just as Ali Sibat once did. Never suspecting he would be arrested for the predictions he made on television. Stopping these witch-hunts around the world isn’t just a humanitarian issue, it also increasingly endangers our faith traditions as modern Paganism emerges as a truly global movement.

Hey You Kids! Get Off My Lawn Sacred Well! It seems that both local Christians and Pagans are concerned about groups of younger Pagans frequenting the famous St. Anthony’s Well in Gloucestershire. What horrible things are these inexperienced Pagans doing? Well, they are apparently making pentagrams from leaves, arranging sticks in patterns, leaving flowers, and making small altars with natural materials!

[High priest Tim] Oakes says it is also among the top 20 pagan water sites in the country and added: “St Anthony’s Well has become a target for what I can only describe as amateur pagans. It is a beautiful sacred place and we deplore any attempts to redecorate it. Our view is that these things should not be there, you should not have these symbols in the middle of a glade. There are a series of books aimed at encouraging teen witches but no reputable coven will accept anybody under 18 so they have nowhere to go. They read these books and go down there armed with a little bit of knowledge to try to get involved.”

How dare these “amateur pagans”! Don’t they know they should wait until they are 18, join a proper coven, and receive training before they ever dare leave flowers at a holy well?!? I’m sorry, but while I can understand the local Christian clergy getting bent out of shape because young Pagans are trouncing about the well, Mr. Oakes sounds like someone who’s peeved because the kids aren’t all bowing to his superior wisdom. If this was some sort of vandalism, the kind that can’t be removed with a broom, I’d be worried, but this is much ado over very little indeed.

Native American Names? Reality television stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt have decided to give themselves the “Native American” names of White Wolf and Running Bear, and Native American organizations aren’t amused.

TMZ spoke with a rep from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, who told us, “Continued stereotyping such as this by people ignorant of our traditional ways is very disrespectful and only hurts our efforts to curtail these stereotypes.” The rep claims they’re especially upset because “the names they have given themselves are legitimate names in our tribe.” And they’re not the only ones pissed at the MTV couple … The National Indian Education Association tells us, “they have taken an inaccurate stereotypical approach to enhance their public image which is offensive to our diverse American Indian cultures.”

If Heidi and Spencer White Wolf and Running Bear had decided to take magick Wiccan/Pagan names instead, they could have avoided most of this negative backlash over the issue of cultural appropriation, though it wouldn’t have saved them from rounds of mockery. Though I suppose that generating attention was what this move was all about, so, mission accomplished?

Call For Writers: In a final note, the The Pagan Newswire Collective is seeking writers for two new topic-focused group-blog projects. Just as the PNC’s new Pagan+Politics site aims to give a Pagan voice to our  political discourse, so too will these new projects help provide a vital Pagan perspective in their respective subject areas.

Pagans in the Military Group-Blog Project:

The PNC is looking for 7-10 Pagans interested in joining a group blog concerning Pagans in the military. We are hoping to encompass a wide range of news, opinions, and perspectives, and we want to not only include active-duty military personnel and military veterans, but  military spouses and activists involved in working to advance the equal treatment of Pagans in the armed forces. All political perspectives welcome.

Requirements: We prefer all participants be able to contribute at least one post per week. However, we are willing to make exceptions for active-duty military personnel who are stationed overseas. Writing and journalism experience is a plus, but we are also willing to take on dedicated beginners who can demonstrate they know their way around a sentence.

Pagan Pop-Culture/Arts Group-Blog Project:

The PNC is looking for 7-10 Pagans interested in joining a group blog concerning Pagan opinions on pop-culture and the arts, both mainstream and Pagan-created. Movies, books, comics, art, games, music, theater, and dance, we want to cover it all!

Requirements: Participants should be able to contribute at least one post per week (more is even better). A history of writing arts-oriented reviews is a big plus, as is demonstrating a breadth of knowledge about pop-culture and the arts.  Having a specialty is fine, and even encouraged! Remember we are looking for specifically Pagan reactions to, and analysis of, these creative fields.

To apply for either project send an e-mail with your name, contact information, location, and writing samples to projects at pagannewswirecollective dot com.

That’s all I have for now, have a great (April Fools’) day.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • kenneth

    Ever since Gardner got the ball rolling again in the 50s, self-appointed “old guard” leaders have tried to turn paganism into a new Judeo-Christianity with themselves as bishops. They’re as bad in their own way as the fluff that gets cranked out by the shelf-mile in bookstores these days. Don’t get me wrong, there are some with talent and worthwhile things to teach, but I’ve found very few whose ability was commesurate with their egos. He has no special right to dictate what “authentic” pagan practice is, nor any true insight into how the ancients works there. Our paths are about practice and cultivation of personal relationships with deity, not doctrinal purity and apostolic succession (oops, “lineages”)