Updates: Witch’s Wit, Air Force Academy, Canadian Polyamory Case

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 23, 2010 — 11 Comments

I have some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

Witch-Burning Beer Controversy Comes to A Close? As I reported exactly one week ago, Motherpeace Tarot co-creator Vicki Noble had started a campaign against The Lost Abbey brewery for their decision to feature a woman being burned at the stake for their “Witch’s Wit” wheat ale. While the brewery eventually released a statement defending their artistic choices, saying their intent was misunderstood, an intense debate over the matter raged within the Pagan community. Now it looks like the brewery will be changing the label thanks to the unlikely combined efforts of Noble and religion professor Cynthia Eller, author of “The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory”.

In his e-mail to Ms. Eller, Mr. Marsaglia also wrote, contritely, that he and his colleagues “would really like to have some kind of contest for a great label.” Mr. Arthur said the board would meet after Halloween to determine exactly how to decide on that new label. But whatever the means, the incident has made allies of Ms. Eller, often derided as an enemy of modern paganism, and Ms. Noble, its defender. Ms. Noble looks forward to a time when she can, with clear conscience, sample a Witch’s Wit. “I think that would be fun,” she says. “Maybe we can make a ceremony out of it.”

Reaction to news of the impending label-change has been mixed. While Noble, Eller, and their supporters, are no doubt pleased, others like media critic Peg Aloi thought the whole matter was a  “ludicrous campaign of whiny nonsense”, while Chas Clifton notes that “when it comes to the word “witch,” we want it both ways—safe and edgy.” As for why the New York Times would cover this little tempest between Pagans, Goddess-worshipers, and a small brewery in California, you only need to look at the byline. Author/journalist Mark Oppenheimer rarely misses an opportunity to point out the historical exaggerations or revisions of the Pagan community, so I doubt he could resist reporting on the confluence of Noble, Eller, and a controversy involving a beer label.

More Attention For Pagans at the Air Force Academy: Pagans at the Air Force Academy got a lot of attention at the beginning of 2010, with the news of a Pagan worship area being installed, and the subsequent vandalism of said site. Now it looks like the AFA is ready for round two in its attempts to paint a picture of improved interfaith relations and tolerance at the Academy. The AFA released a feature news story on Tuesday about a meeting between Pagans and freethinkers at the Academy, which then got picked up by Wired’s Danger Room blog (as “Air Force Academy Now Welcomes Spell-Casters”).

“Just a few years ago, the Air Force Academy was considered such an evangelical hothouse that the place got sued for its alleged discrimination against non-Christians. Today, the Academy is boasting of its thriving pagan community — and its friendliness towards spell-casters.”

This got the notice of Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing, who praised Wired’s choice of headline, zeroed in on the silliest quote they could find in the article, and set the stage for lulz in the comments, with various Goat-staring and “magic-user” comments. While I’m sure that smirking coverage from Wired and Boing Boing isn’t exactly what they wanted with this latest press release, I’m sure the AFA prefers it over reminders of their controversial recent past, and accusations that the climate at the AFA isn’t as improved as they would like to portray. Still, the fact that the AFA is willing to accommodate the religious lives of modern Pagans is a vast improvement within a military culture that still privileges Christian forms of religious expression.

Canadian Polyamory Case: For the past few months I’ve been covering an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). While the case is being led by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) (and supported by several Canadian Pagansincluding one who filed an affidavit in support), coverage (and the government’s case) has hinged on the practice of polygamy by Mormons and Muslims. Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a controversial polygamist group that has around 500 members living in British Columbia, has been filing anonymous affidavits that paint a rosy picture of polygamy, which hasn’t pleased anti-polygamist voices who want to see the laws against it stay intact.

“But what is clear is that fundamentalist Mormons members believe that a win in court would clear the way for them to set up a distinct society – a theocracy within our secular, liberal democracy.”

The fact that one of the hottest new reality television shows is also about a polygamist family hasn’t done much to spark reasoned or civil discourse on the issue of if the practice should be illegal. Meanwhile, polyamorists, who share little in common culturally with most polygamists, are stuck somewhere in the middle. Attempts to have the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy have been rejected by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, meaning that if the attempt to decriminalize polygamy fails, we’ll have no way of knowing if polyamorists would be targeted by law enforcement along with members of FLDS. The trial starts on November 22nd, and no doubt all (Canadian) eyes will be on the result. For more on this case see the CPAA’s web site. You can be sure I’ll be covering this as things progress.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters