Post-Samhain/Election Pagan News Catch-Up

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 4, 2010 — 1 Comment

The last couple of weeks have been pretty crazy, what with all the Samhain/Halloween coverage, followed immediately by election night, so lets catch up with some Pagan news of note we may have missed.

A Pagan Burial at Circle Sanctuary: The Wisconsin State Journal covers Circle Sanctuary’s green cemetery dedication, which coincided with the cremains burial of Circle Sanctuary Community member Bruce Parsons.

Nora Cedarwind Young, a green burial educator based in Washington state, participated in the burial and open house Sunday. She said that in modern-day burials, the casket is placed in a grave lined with a concrete and steel-reinforced vault. “The body is never truly returned to earth,” said Young, who also identifies as a Wiccan or pagan. “In a green burial, we are not only reducing the unnecessary use of resources and chemicals, we are preserving open spaces and greenways.” Death is a sure thing that’s going to happen to all of us, Young said, adding that today consumers want sustainable choices. “If I eat organic food for 30 years, why would I want to put chemicals in it at the end?” she asked. “I’d much rather be a sandwich for a tree or compost for the earth.”

Circle Cemetery is the first Pagan-run cemetery in the United States that will also allow for full (non-cremated) body burials in addition to the burial of cremated remains. You can read more about Circle’s cemetery, here.

Banning Psychics: The town of Bel Air in Harford County, Maryland won’t be lifting its 30-year ban on fortune telling despite fears of legal action and the recent overturning of a similar ban in nearby Montgomery County.

“The commissioners’ failure to act came after people, including church representatives, spoke out against the practice of fortune-telling, likening it to witchcraft and sorcery. The board is hoping the town won’t face any legal challenges, which three of the commissioners said they would not bother trying to defend. After the Maryland Court of Appeals declared a similar Montgomery County ban unconstitutional in June, Bel Air has been challenged to make fortune-telling legal. The American Civil Liberties Union has also urged the town to overturn the ban because it threatens freedom of speech.”

The fear-mongering from local religious leaders and Christians gets quite dramatic, with one local paster exlaiming that “fortune-tellers always target children”, and a resident calling the “occult” practice “demeaning, destructive, demoralizing and detestable.” The problem is that local law enforcement and the town commissioners know the law is unenforceable, and are stuck trying to please local residents while avoiding a costly lawsuit. Something has to give, and it will no doubt happen soon. For more on this subject, see my Psychic Services and the Law series.

Happy Retailers in Salem: Though slightly smaller than in previous years, an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 people flooded into Salem on Halloween night, and local retailers seem happy (and tired) with how things turned out.

“This Halloween was perfect: perfect weather, perfect family event, perfect shopping and perfect Halloween night finale. And perfectly huge crowds. “It’s been a really good October,” said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce. “You can tally up the money afterwards, but we had the crowds and people did some shopping.” It was so busy almost every store ran out of something. “I couldn’t handle all the readings,” said Lorelei, a witch and psychic who did about 30 readings a day this past weekend at Crow Haven Corner, an Essex Street witch shop.”

In addition crime wasn’t a big problem, and crowds went home promptly on Sunday night. So it looks like Halloween really is recession-proof, at least in Salem. For more on Salem’s festivities, check out my recent interview with Salem business-owner (Hex and Omen) and promoter Christian Day.

Santeria and the Science of Trances: MSNBC/Discovery News reports on a new study about hypnosis and trance, and discusses it within the context of Santeria, a religion that often utilizes trance-states during rituals of divine possession.

In his study “Hypnosis and Hemispheric Asymmetry,” published in the Jan. 2010 edition of the journal Consciousness and Cognition, he noted higher hypnotic susceptibility in those who, before being hypnotized, processed information much more quickly in the left brain hemisphere than the right. But during hypnosis, the situation flipped and the right became faster. No one knows whether they are born with that wiring or if it comes through experience. “Clearly, highly hypnotizable brains are different,” said Naish, “but what you do once you are hypnotized is largely down to expectation. If you have the assumption that you visit the spirit world and can’t remember what you did there, then I dare say that’s what you do.”

You can find the abstract for this study, here. It could be interesting reading for any religious community that works with trance states and hypnotism. As for this article, it’s nice to see a focus on Santeria that steers clear of the usual sensationalism and actually interviews experts and practitioners of the faith.

“Sweetheart, I didn’t bring any cigarette or rum, but I am here.” The Miami Herald reports on Vodou Fete Gede observances in Haiti, the first since the massive earthquake killed a quarter of a million people and left millions more homeless.

Like many, he didn’t know exactly where their bodies were put to their final resting place. So he came to the Universal Tomb, an oversized gray and white concrete structure that long symbolized those who had died violent deaths under army rule. Now it is also symbolic of those killed in the quake as survivors placed flowers, beeswax candles and meals around it, pouring the coffee and perfumed Florida Water on the altar. As each approached the tomb, they knocked its walls with their open palms as if to announce their presence. “Sweetheart, I didn’t bring any cigarette or rum, but I am here,” said one man. Elsewhere in the cemetery, thousands participated in Gede as some became possessed by spirits and others paid homage to Baron Samedi, the Vodou guardian of the cemetery.

While ceremonies for the dead took place the small island nation braced itself for the potentially devastating Tropical Storm Tomas. This is in addition to fighting a cholera outbreak that has already killed nearly 500 people. May the loa of water and wind spare the people of Haiti any further death and suffering this year.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters