Using Tragedy as a Bludgeon

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 22, 2011 — 73 Comments

At the end of April a Colville, Washington man and his 14-year-old stepdaughter were found dead, the seeming results of a murder-suicide or mutual suicide pact. The two admitted in letters left behind that they were in love, and much was made of the fact that both allegedly claimed to be adherents of Wicca.

“Ann Lykke, 36, said she found letters after the two disappeared that indicated they were having a romantic relationship. “I didn’t believe it until I found the proof when she was gone,” Ann Lykke said in a brief telephone interview Thursday from Colville. Lykke said her husband and daughter practiced the Wicca religion, and shot themselves because they believed they would spend the afterlife together. Lykke, a hypnotherapist, said she is a Christian.”

At this point we know almost nothing about the two, what their beliefs actually were, or what exactly happened that led to their deaths. There is certainly no teaching within Wicca advocating, or even mentioning, the benefits of suicide. The investigation into what happened is ongoing. However, none of that stopped the Canadian-based National Post from highlighting a truly offensive and grotesquely distorted anti-Pagan and anti-New Age screed published by MercatorNet that uses these deaths as a bludgeon to paint these belief systems in a negative light.

“The recent case of an apparent double suicide in Washington state by an English man and his 14-year-old stepdaughter is a stark reminder of the risks involved in neo-pagan worship and certain New Age practices. The pair were involved in a romantic relationship and both were Wiccans. Their Christian wife and mother, the real victim of this horrifying incident, believes they took their lives in the hope of spending eternity together. Wicca is a revival of pagan beliefs and rituals which emerge in the 1950s and 60s. It does not endorse murder, suicide or underage sex, though it does list ritual sex as a “magickal practice”. It could be argued, not without reason, that the ill-fated pair were mentally ill. But it would be wrong to conclude that their practice of Wicca was merely incidental to their actions.”

This offensive attack was written by Sue Alexander-Barnes, a Catholic convert who admits to spending a “couple years” exploring “Eastern and New Age religions.” Like many converts, she has a zeal that seemingly blinds her to the massive planks and logs within her own faith tradition. Hilariously, MercatorNet claims to be above the political fray, that they “respond with logic and evidence” and “do our best to be civil and courteous.” Yet, these ideals don’t seem to stop them from publishing an article that positively quotes a Christian scholar who calls the New Age movement a “spiritual version of AIDS,” ironically grabbing the quote from an article that debunks its fear-mongering.

I could stoop to their level and talk about the massive problems the Catholic church has with sexual abuse, despite its (allegedly) theoretically superior ethical framework. But instead let me point out why I feel Sue Alexander-Barnes has done us an injustice.

  1. She provides no evidence that Wicca condones, encourages, or  accepts murder, suicide, or underage sex. In fact, she even admits this point in the article.
  2. She provides no evidence that the fact of some Wiccans consensually engaging in “ritual sex” in any way promotes illegal or harmful acts. She simply says it “could be argued,” but anything “could be argued,” I could argue that the author’s lifestyle will lead to horrible things but I wouldn’t be right simply because I’m capable of arguing it.
  3. She wrongly conflates New Age and New Thought belief systems with modern Paganism. This is a common rookie mistake (perhaps she should read some academic material that doesn’t come from the Vatican). There may be overlap on certain topics, and some Pagans may exist within both cultures, but they are very different and very separate movements. The fact that she veers so quickly from Wicca to The Secret undermines any real argument she may have had against the religion. It would be like me criticizing Catholicism by invoking the New Apostolic Reformation.
  4. By wrongly conflating the New Age movement with modern Pagan religions she makes sweeping statements that have no foundation in fact. To apply the claim that Pagans have “little time for reason, science or technology,” for instance, shows a massive misunderstanding of our faiths, which largely embrace modern technology and scientific advances.
  5. She cites no credible evidence for any of her claims against us. The only Wiccan document she cites is the 1974 American Council of Witches’ “Principles of Wiccan Belief” to supposedly bolster her assertion that we “encourage the cult of the self” (which then leads to murder-suicides). Yet that very document consistently undermines the idea of a “cult of self.”

In short, it’s a hit-piece, and a sloppy one at that. If that’s the route MercatorNet wants to go down, fine, but it’s sad that a supposedly mainstream journalistic outlet like the National Post would promote it at their religion blog. Using a tragedy in this manner undermines the credibility of both outlets, ensuring that we should not put any weight into their views regarding modern Paganism, or indeed any topic dealing with non-mainstream permutations of faith or belief.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Sophie Nusslé Falco

    At the moment, a number of Christians from various traditions (Catholic, most Protestant churches, Orthodox) are busy undermining ALL other faiths, using whatever they can from those other faiths to do so. They do so in part in order to frighten those born in Christian families from looking outside the Christian churches, in part to attract converts from other religions, and in part out of sheer conviction that all other religions are false. That Wicca should be attacked is hardly surprising, but it's not exclusive to Wicca either. Hinduism, Islam, Baha'i, Buddhism – all are being accused. They don't dare openly criticise Jews – because of the long history of Christian persecution of Jews – but the belief that the Jews are wrong and lack the lovingkindness and devotion of Christians is implied in many discussion of Judaism by Christians. The strong Wicca and other neo-Pagan movements are going to be, the more attacks they will attract from a variety of sources. I think we need to be ready for that, and intellectually vigorous enough to repel these attacks (and IMO, The Wild Hunt is one of those vigorous intellectual voices in modern paganism I applaud!)

    • StormDance

      Soo … the pagan bashing parts of her article aside for a moment. Just to be the Devil's advocate, if you don't know much about their life or their spiritual practices how do you know that it is NOT wrong to "conclude" that their religious choices were "merely incidental"? How do you know they WEREN'T part of some fringe group that just uses the name Wicca, or they were just using that name for their own twisted beliefs? With that in mind, the comment about how this is a "stark reminder of the dangers" is not totally out of line … dangerous fringe groups and cults exist in y'all-ses white light society too! Or is the outrage because these things (which ARE valid points) happened to be written by Christians? I wouldn't be so quick to cry foul if you don't know for sure the facts surrounding their beliefs.

      Granted, I find it repulsive that Sue is seizing this as propaganda without knowing the facts herself and if I was that particular "victimized" mother I would hamstring her with piano wire for using my child's death that way. But you know, nothing sells better than the gristle and shock/fear. And you gotta remember they were bred on that shit.

      Unrelated. I also happen to agree with this (as it stands alone, not related to paganism): "The New Age has little time for reason, science or technology, apart from the occasional lip-service paid to quantum physics, and the widespread use of the Internet for proselytizing and profit." It seems most NA books I have read have made less sense to me than my sophomore chemistry class that was taught by an English major because the school didn't have the funding to hire an actual chemistry teacher……..

      • Bookhousegal

        More than that: one thing's more than speculative: the author claims to know better and still 'bashes' anyway.

  • http://badassbard.blogspot.com Thomas

    What is it with the need to blame, to find some mechanistic and external cause for every tragedy. Sometimes bad things happen for no good reason at all and it does us scant good to try and pass such events off on unrelated trifles.

    • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

      It makes people feel better, at least in terms of Monotheism and Atheism. If there is a human or demonic agent at work, then it isn't the doings of their All Powerful God in the case of the Monotheists, or the doings of a scary impersonal universe in the case of Atheists. If there's a human or a religion at fault, then they don't feel so small and picked on by the very thing they "worship."

      • http://twitter.com/magickalrealism @magickalrealism

        We know that this is why the Pagans need to insert themselves into mainstream media, so hatchet jobs like this can't happen. I remember reading this on the Witch's Voice post, and I was among the first to question the "romantic relationship." I also find that the mother – the "real victim" according to this "journalist" is only a "real victim" because she was Christian; if she were Wiccan, she's be a fake victim or simply deserving it? If the mother is saying "apparently they had a romantic relationship" I'm not just floored – where the hell was she when this was going on? – but why is SHE the one choosing to frame it that way?

  • http://www.confessionsofapagansoccermom.com/ MrsB

    Good points all. I'd like to add that a grown man and a 14 year old girl don't have a "romantic relationship". What that's called is statutory rape.

    • Lillitu Shahar Kunning

      Yes! Thank you for pointing that out. And his stepdaughter, no less. How creepy.

      • Wendy

        So the article is also wrong when it says the one real victim was the Christian mother. A 14 year old girl is still a child and she is dead because of an adult's decision not to control his behavior.

        • Wendy

          And then, it appears, the adult murdered the child.

    • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

      Except that "statutory rape" isn't the same as rape. We call it statutory rape because it violates what the law deems to be moral. Rape, on the other hand, violates consent and what people consider to be moral. Indeed, there are likely many relationships out there, based on true romance and feeling, that would violate the "law" but are not rape.

      I'm not advocating this kind of relationship, but we don't have to assume that just because of their age that their feelings weren't real, even if the law says it was illegal and immoral.

  • Sherry Wood

    That makes no sense to blame Wicca for him being a pedophile basically. Is the same vein shouldn't we take the priests molestation of little boys and say "a stark reminder of the risks involved in catholic worship" Seriously..people..

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Matz/782124235 Jess Matz

      I'm finding that I can't respond in a rational and reasonable way right now. There are 34,000+ suicide deaths in America each year (NIMH). 76% of Americans self-identify as Christian (ARIS report, 2008). That means 25,000-26,000 might have identified as Christian or claimed to have been Christian at one time, but that doesn't mean that Christianity leads to suicide.

      I'm pretty sure that depression and other mental illnesses leads to suicide, not religious identification.

      • chuck_cosimano

        One can make a case that religious identification in and of itself could be a manifestation of mental illness and thus lead to suicide.

      • embreis

        I had an experience once of trying to argue a similar statistic with an Evangelical Christian, in response to his proposition that the more Christians there are, the lower the crime rate will be because you can't commit crimes if you have "Jesus in your heart." I pointed out that there is plenty evidence that most of the inmates in the Georgia Prison System identify themselves as Christians. He replied that those who had committed crimes either were just pretend Christian, who hadn't truly accepted "Jesus in their hearts" or they had only become true Christians. This was clear, he argued, because if they truly had "Jesus in their hearts" they wouldn't commit crimes. See the beauty of it: Christians don't commit crimes, and if people who claim to be Christians commit crimes, it must be that they're not true Christians because Christians don't commit crimes. I imagine you would find a similar logic applied to Christian suicides.

        • Nick_Ritter

          I think this is usually termed the "No True Scotsman" Argument.

          • paosirdjhutmosu

            Indeed! No true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge, and no true Christian commits crimes. Clearly.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius
  • M. Ann

    I find it sad to see what passes for journalism these days, and as a result I've formed a very low opinion of most news sources because of it. It seems that most media are far too concerned with how sensational the piece can be presented while the accuracy of facts are sacrified, all in the name of ratings & advertising dollars. A good example of this I think is the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords where major news networks (CNN included) had pronounced her dead even before her immediate family were notified of the incident, only to later have to retract the report. It sounds like MercatorNet is another jumping on that bandwagon if its willing to publish such a poorly done piece. One can only hope that most of the readers have the common sense to not take this "report" as gospel truth.

  • Nicholas Farrell

    Just last week, a local man was discovered in a cave with his two daughters. The man was discovered drunk and in a compromising position with both of his daughters. People are now claiming that his daughters will bare him children that will be blessed by God. This leads one to wonder of their religious values, what with a God who condones rape, murder, incest, wars, torture, and then after blaming it all on humans, kills his own son to "save" them.

    • Crystal7431

      I had a "good christian" woman I work with tell me that the story of Lot and his daughters never happened in the bible. I directed her to the story. She didn't talk to me again for a long time afterward.

      • Nicholas Farrell

        Haha I've had to show people that story and the story where God told moses to go kill 3,000 of his own people.

  • Sage

    If they shot themselves and claimed to be Wiccan, they weren't. Period. Our first and ONLY hard and fast rule is "Harm None", which includes yourself.

    Cruddy article.

    2c from a HP.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

      Uh, no. Committing suicide does not exclude a person from the Wiccan religion. The most common cause of suicide is clinical depression, and that can happen to anyone regardless of their religion. I imagine that Wiccans commit suicide about as often as anyone else, and we should definitely not respond to genuine cases in which that happens by proclaiming them, in essence, excommunicated.

    • elnigma

      Stepfathers going after their 14 year old children (and I wonder how old was the girl when he started?) wouldn't normally be considered not doing harm.
      For the girl – being 14 is difficult already.
      This may be called "suicide" but the adult bears responsibility.

      • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

        how do we know the girl didn't start it? or that it was a lie built by her mother?

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Even if the girl did start it, the man has accepted the duty of acting responsibly.

          The notion that this is all a fiction by the mother, and the media are being led by the nose, it tempting but a wee bit too exculpatory of the alleged Pagan involved to be embraced wholly.

    • anonimo

      oh please…
      what? pagans cant take any blame now? pagans are perfect and the victims all of the time? pagans cant do no harm at all?
      why is it that pagans are so hard to judge christians who did bad things as being christian whereas when it is pagans, we say, "she was not a real pagan," just like christians would say, "well, he was not a real christian"

      i cant stand that double standard
      and i find it pathetic too

      i guess it is normal for communities to always be biased toward their own and to see themselves as holier than thou and make excuses for bad behavior…meh

      no wonder i adore atheists so much, they never make excuses like these
      im a pagan, btw

      • Nicholas Farrell

        What happened, more than likely, was that they took the name wicca and applied to to whatever they wanted. Just a simple google search would bring up the harm none tenet. Any person with a reasonable thought process would see that killing yourself and having your own daughter kill herself does not stick to this tenet. Though any adult who thinks it's ok to have "romantic relations" with his 14 year old step-daughter does not have a reasonable thought process.

        • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

          actually, considering an adult marrying a 14 year old was still practiced here in America just a hundred years ago (or less, actually), and that it is still practiced through out much of the rest of the world to this day, I think you're running with a false premise there, Nick

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Alchemist, I narrowly agree with Nicholas that the man's thought processes were not reasonable — not that his logical faculties were impaired but that his emotions had taken over and were driving his actions.

            It's very true that the law calling sex with a 14-year-old statutory rape is arbitrary — I've known some *very* physically mature 14yo's — and not a universal constraint, but it is the constraint our laws impose and we're sort of obligated to analyze this sad matter within those bounds.

          • Nicholas Farrell

            Just because it was socially acceptable 100 years ago, does not make it socially acceptable today. Even if it was, it's certainly not acceptable to lead someone to commit suicide.

          • elnigma

            What evidence is there that it was socially acceptable 100 years ago for a stepfather to do that with his stepchildren outside of places still currently worthy of being featured in "Deliverance"?

          • Nicholas Farrell

            I was going off of someone else's assumption that it was. Please read previous comments in a thread before posting a response.

          • elnigma

            100 years ago, it was still messed up for a father to mess around with his children.

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

            Very true, and I'm not really condoning this relationship, merely remarking that the age thing everyone is going on about wasn't always an issue. The whole step-father/step-daughter thing does avoid the blood relation, though I can't say I really like what they did. Then again, we don't know what the Mother's part in all this was and what drove these two together.

            That said, forty years ago, it was messed up for two men to be in a relationship and mess around like this. Culture changes.

      • badocelot

        "no wonder i adore atheists so much, they never make excuses like these"

        I can't agree with you at all. I left the atheist community and started looking at other spiritualities precisely because I found them to be a bunch of bullies who couldn't really admit that atheism had any significant negative qualities and wasn't for everyone. Notice how many claim Sweden and Japan in the name of atheism but excommunicate the USSR and China. The last straw was a video by an atheist who said he'd rather his suicidally-depressed friend *actually commit suicide* rather than return to Christianity, "because I love him."

        My sense is that many of the newcomers are ex-fundamentalists who, rather than get help for the damage caused by their previous, abusive religion, lash out. And the problem is that they find themselves in good company these days. So there's now a substantial, vocal section of the atheist community that thinks it's OK to use ridicule and intimidation to pressure believers (of any stripe) to become atheists. They accuse believers of irrationality but are never bothered by the fact that there's nothing rational about giving in to such peer pressure.

        • Nick_Ritter

          Very well said. I have known atheists who were every bit as narrow-minded, dismissive, and assured that theirs was the "one true way" as Evangelical Christians. This led me several years ago to the conclusion that atheism is merely the dismissive, nihilistic thrust of monotheism turned upon itself.

          • Crystal7431

            In a lot of cases, this is true.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Having, in my years as a Unitarian Universalist, know some perfectly decent, modest atheists, I would adjust that to say that some atheists have not divested themselves of the dismissive nihilism of their native monotheisms even though they have rejected the basic theology. I met several of those, too, mostly on-line.

    • grimmorrigan

      You might want to refer to previous comments in this article where folks describe Christians using a similar logic. Convenient to dismiss undesirables after the fact, isn't it?

    • deerwoman

      Hi Sage,

      Although I no longer consider myself Wiccan (neo/eclectic Wiccan, not of the initiated BTW variety) , I understand that the Wiccan Rede cannot be adequately abbreviated to "harm none." The Rede, which means "advice" not "hard and fast rule," states "An it harm none, do as you will." It is a positive statement – it tells you what you can do, not what you cannot do (e.g. "Thou shalt not kill", etc.).

      The Rede doesn't tell you what to do in a situation where harm may potentially be caused. Other tenets of the Wiccan religion should provide a framework to guide you in those situations, for example the virtues extolled in The Charge of the Goddess, beliefs regarding the interconnected nature of the universe, divine immanence, etc.

      Even if you do choose to personally ascribe to a "harm none" ethic, one needs to define what "harm" means (at least for yourself) which is not so simple a task.

      I'm in no way condoning the relationship these people had nor their decision to commit suicide, but stating that they cannot possibly be Wiccan because of a misinterpretation of the Rede is a stretch.

  • http://www.wiccanweb.ca Makarios

    The National Post is not a "mainstream journalistic outlet." It is Canada's equivalent (more or less) of the Washington Times. It was founded by media baron and (now) convicted felon Conrad Black for the ostensible purpose of countering what he perceived to be a liberal bias in the Canadian media. The blatt never made a dime (in fact, it bled red ink) and was eventually sold to the Asper family of media moguls, for whom it continues to lose money. The fact that it has never made a profit, and must be propped up by its owners, who use it as a bully pulpit for their right-wing notions, is a pretty good indicator that it is very far from "mainstream."

    The Post is essentially a Canadian print version of Fox News for people who can read, and it is so regarded by most Canadians. That its editors would pick up on this type of scandal-mongering is not at all surprising.

    • Hamish

      I have to chime in, too, and agree that no Canadian would call it mainstream. It's the organ of Canada' right.

      I've followed its coverage of issues, mainly LGBT ones. Literally from its very first issue – where it tried to paint an openly gay mayoral candidate in Winnipeg in sinister terms – it has been rampantly homophobic. It frequently invents facts, and has been known to quote its own editorial board as experts on subjects they know nothing about. It surprises me little that they're bigoted against my faith, as well as against my sexuality.

  • http://witcheryofone.libsyn.com Jay O'Skully

    Uch…just another reason to hate the National Post…

  • smiletherapy

    Perfectly normal classic example of "disinformation" Christian

  • Kevin Norwood

    My question is why doesn't anyone go after people like her or to the press & straighten these types of things out?

    • Crystal7431

      People do, but it doesn't really make a difference. They're bullies. They have no moments of self-reflection. They don't suddenly stop and say, "Now I think I've gone too far." It just doesn't happen. They're half-an-inch-from-sociopaths fueled by the righteousness bestowed on them by Gawd.

  • http://www.confessionsofapagansoccermom.com/ MrsB

    I didn't call it pedophilia. Even if the 14 year old girl was a willing participant, it's still against the law for an adult to have sex with a 14 year old girl, Pagan or not.

    • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

      against the law, yeah. But just because something is "illegal" doesn't mean it isn't real. These two poor individuals may have truly loved each other. Just because it's against the law or you find it morally objectionable doesn't mean it can't exist and be real.

      Clearly this was not a healthy relationship, but we don't have to assume that the emotions they felt were a lie. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me the instant we start insisting what people feel an believe isn't real, we open ourselves up to the same, and I'd rather not play to those people who insist we are crazy and our beliefs aren't real because people find the "objectionable."

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Alchemist, I don't think anybody's saying these two people's feelings were inauthentic. Rather, that the stepfather had assumed an obligation to a partiuclar role in his stepdaughter's life, and it didn't include this. This is irrespective of which party started it. (Most likely it grew in both their hearts before they knew it.)

        • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

          Baruch, Mrs B said, and I quote "I'd like to add that a grown man and a 14 year old girl don't have a "romantic relationship". What that's called is statutory rape."

          That sounded to me like she was saying their feelings were "inauthentic." Otherwise, I agree, he did have an obligation and it probably didn't include a romantic relationship.

  • Cathryn Bauer

    Jason, thank you for such a well-reasoned reply. You have put her to shame. This is a classic example of something that makes me very bitter: Imagine the opprobrium if a Pagan talked about Christianity in that ugly, vicious manner! I think it all stems from the hubris that there is just one valid path. To use a legal term, her vituperation is truly the fruit of the poisonous tree.

    There will, unfortunately, always be sociopaths who use religion to justify the damage they do. And it certainly appears there are a discouragingly large number of those without critical thinking skills who just can't wait to exploit these rare circumstances.

  • Crystal7431

    Shew, there are some crazies on that site. I feel like I need a smudging after commenting there.

    • Crystal7431

      Not to mention those who think the Church is the sole originator of civilization,culture, and learning. Egads, the ignorance!

  • http://www.lezlie1.wordpress.com/ Lezlie

    It is remarkable that Sue Alexander-Barnes felt it necessary to write her article without doing her research, and that her publisher's editorial team failed to do *do diligence* in publishing her commentaries. If this had been done properly, she would have known that many Wiccans do not believe in an "afterlife" per se, nor in -in fact- in admitting minors into a Circle, and – certainly – have strict rules prohibiting incest and under-age sexual relationships. Under those circumstances, the vast majority of both Pagans and Wiccans would evoke the law of the land, and call the cops. The situation in question was tragic and doubly tragic in that it was thoroughly preventable if someone had been paying attention to the warning signals (teachers, clergy, friends…). That Wicca was mentioned at all was the delusional artifact of a mentally ill individual who drug an innocent young person into despair and not the beliefs of Wiccans. That Sue Alexander-Barnes mentioned it at all is a blatant case of creating reputation on other peoples' tragedy and as such, Ms. Alexander-Barnes cannot be taken seriously as a commentator.

  • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

    A sad thing indeed. I feel sorry for both the man and the girl. Unlike some, I am not going to believe their feelings weren't real. That's not for me to judge. I am sorry that they felt they had to die though. I do not know if it was their doing, or the mothers, or what. There are too many questions, and despite the fact that many object to this relationship because of age or legality, I will not stand in moral judgment of this unfortunate couple. I am not one of the Gods of Law. I am but a simple heathen. Such a relationship would have been considered alright had they been in another time, or another place in this modern world.

    Who is to blame? I don't know. I don't really want to blame anyone. People here and elsewhere blame the man for "not controlling himself." Yet for all we know it could be a lie built by the jealous mother, or the daughter started it, or any number of things. Were they really Wiccans? I don't know. I'm not going to say one way or the other. It is not the place of one person to say that another's is real or not.

    • Nick_Ritter

      While a romantic relationship between a grown man and a fourteen-year-old girl may not be everywhere and always considered morally objectionable, I think that a romantic relationship between a *married* man and his fourteen year old *stepdaughter* would be beyond the bounds of propriety for most people. Vows were broken here, and duty was cast aside.

      • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

        Nick, I'm inclined to agree with you. Most of my comments have been about the age thing. You are right, oaths were broken and a duty was cast aside. The problem is we don't know what the Mother's part in all this was. Heck, she might have been so terrible she drove the two of them together. She's clearly Christian and hates Wiccans, perhaps that pressure pushed the Wiccan step-father and step-daughter together and things went from there. Is it healthy? No, but part of me gets the feeling none of the rest of their situation was all that healthy. Perhaps they were trying to make the best of it? No idea. I wasn't there, I can't speak to their minds. All I can do is try and stop some of the moral outrage that is seeking to turn a victim into villain, simply because he was an older man and a step father, while at the same time those people decry him and the girl being turned from victims to villains because they practice Wicca.

        Call me a devil's advocate if you will.

        • elnigma

          So let's say the wife's treatment was part of why the daughter was with her stepfather. That'd make the stepfather's grownup choice to screw with a 14 year old and encourage her suicide even more predatory.

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

            You're assuming it was his idea for both the relationship and the suicide, to which I haven't heard any one way or the other. It it was, I agree it was depraved, but let's not cast blame until all the evidence is in. Innocent until proven guilty, remember?

          • elnigma

            Okay, I think it's possible the wife could have had something to do with things, but I think unless the 32 year old guy was brain damaged, he was probably not taking orders from his 13-14 year old stepdaughter.

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com NorseAlchemist

            Clearly you haven't had much experience with teenage girls. My sister at that age could be pretty dominant or whatever, and that seems par for the course. They know what they want and they know how to get it, and if she's Daddy's little girl, he pretty much fails all his will checks. Add in an abusive wife for negative modifiers (excuse the role playing terminology) and well…his will check is shot to Hela. Hence why I'm willing to entertain the idea that it might not have been all him. It could have been, but I'd rather not paint a man evil till i know all the facts, especially when I can come up with equally plausible scenarios.

          • Jason Pitzl-Waters

            Speaking as the step-father of a former 14-year-old (who's now a grown adult), the idea that the man would fail at his "will checks" in engaging in such a sexual relationship is repugnant to me. This isn't about how skillful teenagers (male or female) are in getting their way, it's about a step-father who allowed all social boundaries to be broken, a sign of, at least, a deeply troubled mind. Even if this teenager was Circe herself, and the wife a malefic force of nature, that doesn't excuse or explain such a dereliction of parenting roles.

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

            Thank you, Jason.

            Law enforcement agrees with you. Trained psychotherapists who work with victims of sexual abuse agree with you; psychotherapists who specialize in the treatment of perpetrators of sexual abuse agree with you.

            There is a bottom line here.

  • Lori F – MN

    I find it suspicious that they were both shot in the head. sounds like the mother might have blamed the girl for the incestual relationship and killed them both.
    The wife is quick to claim to be Christian.
    And it is very annoying that the media was quick to play the Christian's vs Others.
    I find the Christian vengence to be more likely than pagan death pact

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Also, if you put the "pagan bashing parts of her article aside for a moment" it becomes an entirely different article. So, in essence we're debating an entirely imaginary essay that's more reasonable and more nuanced that the actual piece I'm critiquing.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    Shakespeare is arguably the most influential author in the history of the English language, and Romeo and Juliet is one of his most famous plays, possibly his most famous. That play literally "romanticizes" the suicide of the eponymous "star crossed lovers". And the theme of suicide is also extremely prevalent elsewhere in English language literature, including in the writings of Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway and Virigina Woolf, who all took their own lives.

  • Lillitu Shahar Kunning

    More likely to be the stepdad, statistically anyway. Men and boys tend to graphically violent suicides like guns, whereas women and girls tend to pills and gas. The article talks about it as a possible murder suicide, which seems far more likely than a mutual suicide pact where a 14 year old girl has to shoot herself in the head. Not saying it isn't possible, but it is unlikely.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    What Jason said!

  • elnigma

    I'm grossed out people want to treat a 32 year old encouraging his 14 year old stepdaughter to screw him and shoot herself as some kind of loving relationship.

  • elnigma

    In Romeo and Juliet the two lovers were of similar age, went and married and wanted to live together and only killed themselves when they thought the other had died.
    Beyond everything else that makes that different comes that neither person in that couple wanted the other dead.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    I was (obviously) responding to the specific claim that they "shot themselves because they believed they would spend the afterlife together," coupled with the clear implication that they believed this because they were supposedly Wiccans.

    It is actually true that many Wiccans not only believe in reincarnation, but specifically believe that close relationships (including especially that of lovers) persist over multiple lifetimes (Gerald Gardner was a proponent of that idea in particular, but it is very common in all belief systems that include some form of reincarnation, including Buddhism and Hinduism).

    My point (obviously) was that there is no justification for zeroing in on Wicca, because there are many far more pervasive cultural influences (or "triggers") that can be construed as either encouraging suicide or at least planting the idea in peoples' minds. Most specifically, and to repeat myself, suicide is a very common theme not only in "literature" but in widely read novels and in popular culture generally.