Updates: Phoenix Goddess Temple, Santa Muerte, New Apostolic Reformation

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 10, 2011 — 82 Comments

I have some updates on recent stories covered here at The Wild Hunt.

Phoenix Goddess Temple Arrests: Since my report on Thursday, this story has hit the national and international newswires. It is now revealed that charges include prostitution, pandering, and conspiracy. Most reports I’ve read seem pretty confident that this was nothing but a brothel with a veneer of spirituality painted on as a legal smokescreen. I’ve never seen so many scare quotes being used in a mainstream newswire report before.

Phoenix Goddess Temple members. Photo by Jamie Peachey.

“During a Wednesday search of the Phoenix temple and two church-related sites in nearby Sedona, police seized evidence showing that “male and female ‘practitioners’ working at the Temple were performing sexual acts in exchange for monetary ‘donations,’ all on the pretense of providing ‘neo tantric’ healing therapies,” Phoenix police said.”

We’ve also learned more about the raids on the affiliated Sedona Temple, and the undercover operations that were underway for six months. In addition, some of those arrested have spoken with journalists, insisting that they are not engaged in prostitution.

During an interview with CBS 5 News, three of the women talked while in handcuffs. ”I call myself a shaman. I believe in earth-based healing,” said Holly Alsop. After a six month investigation, Phoenix Police have 18 people behind bars accused of running a prostitution ring at the Phoenix Goddess Temple. When interviewed Friday, the women would not specifically say what the healing practices were, but when they were asked if any of them had sexual intercourse at the church, they had one very clear answer. ”No, no. Absolutely not,” said Amanda Twitty. ”Absolutely not. Everything we do is healing,” said Holly Alsop, and “No,” said Jamie Baker. ”We’re not a brothel, we’re a church,” said Baker.

Whatever our suspicions in this matter, it’s now up to a judge or jury to decide if the evidence gathered by undercover officers is indeed enough to convict them of operating a prostitution ring. Whatever the truth of the matter, this should be an interesting test of how far religious protections can extend. We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

More on Santa Muerte: It seems I wasn’t the only one to have a problem with Tim Stanley’s vicious editorial in the Telegraph, George Conger at Get Religion dissects the assertions made about the Santa Muerte folk religion and finds them wanting.

Photo: Time Magazine / EFE / ZUMAPRESS

“The Telegraph’s argument is: Some illegal aliens from Mexico are devotees of the Santa Muerte cult. Americans do not like illegal immigration from Mexico. Therefore, fears of Santa Muerte lie behind opposition to illegal Mexican immigration. Sorry.  This won’t do. The bottom line: Correlation does not imply causation. [...] to support the claim that American perceptions of Mexican migration to the U.S. are influenced by fears of this cult needs evidence.”

Another UK paper, the Guardian, came out with a much more sympathetic and thoughtful piece on Santa Muerte just yesterday, in what can only be seen as a counter-point to Stanley’s hysteria.

“To one side of the shrine was a candle shop. We decided to buy a candle to put on the shrine as most of the people in the queue were holding candles. I had read earlier that each colour of candle carried with it a meaning: red for love, white for luck and black for protection. We bought a white candle each and went back to the end of the line. The man before us in the queue wore a black singlet, exposing his enlarged biceps which were covered in tattoos; his wrists and neck were draped in gold chains. We observed him carefully when he arrived at the shrine. First he lit a black candle and placed it down in front of him beneath the altar. Then he got down on his knees and crossed himself. With his eyes closed, he began to utter a prayer under his breath. Finally, he stood up and lit a cigarette. He took one puff and left the rest on the ashtray as an offering.”

Also giving a far more balanced look into Santa Muerte is Texas newspaper The Monitor, who notes the rise of altars and spiritual aspects to the drug trade, but gain perspective from anthropologist Antonio Zavaleta. Zavaleta observes that this trend is less about an increase in believers and more about “a relocation of them.”

NAR’s Respect For Other Religions: New Apostolic Reformation guiding light C. Peter Wagner has been on something of a public relations blitz lately, ever since his movement has come under public scrutiny due to its ties with Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry. Most recently, Wagner was interviewed by Voice of America, where he insists that NAR has respect for other religions, and operates “within religious pluralism.”

C. Peter Wagner. Image courtesy of skywaymedia.

“We don’t believe in taking over a nation. But we believe in exerting as much influence in every one of the mountains to see the values of the Kingdom of God within a democratic society, within religious pluralism,”

Rachel Tabachnick at Talk To Action does a thorough debunking of Wagner’s claims that NAR isn’t seeking dominion, and values pluralism, and Right Wing Watch joins in as well. RWW points out that Wagner admits to his movement’s growing political influence in the VoA interview.

“I think they’re right that the influence is growing and the influence was very strong in The Response meeting. But what I see in the media is that critics of conservative candidates like Rick Perry are accusing him of doing something bad by his friendship with people in the NAR. I don’t know if Rick Perry would consider himself as a part of the NAR but he had some people on the platform and in the audience who were part of the NAR. But I don’t think there is anything worse about being part of the NAR then being part of the Southern Baptists or being part of the Catholic Church or being part of any other segment of Christianity.”

As I’ve pointed out again and again, my bottom line is how their growing influence will affect religious minorities in the United States. NAR leaders have, time and time again, expressed their hostility to Pagan and occult belief systems, and any politician who willingly associates with them should be questioned regarding how much of their agenda they support.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Jrbrowan

    Regarding Phoenix Goddess Temple, remember this is in Joe Arpaio territory, the sheriff who loves publicity. That stated, the Temple had been warned about its questionable practices and had earlier moved from a site in Scottsdale due to similar complaints from neighbors. As a Wiccan priestess in Phoenix, I respect the Temple’s right to practice their beliefs, but I also resent their prominent use of “Goddess” to promote them. It damages Pagan credibility in a conservative community already intent on dismissing us.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I would love to hear more about your perspectives, and other local Pagan perspectives, on this issue. Do any of the temple people interact with the local Pagan community? Has anyone had any dealings with them?

      • Anonda

        i can say,
        i am a pagan in arizona and there had been rumors about this temple being more akin to a brothel from way back, you would read this accusation under the reviews section…or comments section in relation to this temple
        also, they had similar issues in seattle, so nothing new.

        personally, i never ever heard of these members interacting with the local pagan community, at least neither in phoenix nor scottsdale and i live close to scottsdale, by the way. (back when the temple used to be there)

        talking to other fellow pagans e.g Phoenix pagan pride and in other meetings, it didnt seem to any of them that this was a spiritual/pagan based church but more that they were just using the title….as Jrbrowan and other reports have implied

        so, i would caution pagans here to jump and scream that this is religious discrimination against pagans or that this was a pagan-based church… just saying…

        • peaceful man

          for someone who espouse a non-conventional religious ethic, my experience of you is that your thinking is very much inward focused (me,me,me) and ordered in a very judgemental conventional way, much like the people who you say oppress you. Perhaps you would like to consider where your heart is, and where you are coming from…

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Peaceful man, you are being quite unfair to Anonda. The owner of this board asked for personal experiences from the Phoenix area about whether and how the Temple interacted with the local Pagan community. Her reply was perforce centered on her own experiences. To disparage it as “me, me, me” is uncalled for (and, imho, a bit supercilious).

          • peaceful man

            Baruch, my fellow traveller… My apologies for what you percieve to be unfair. the me,me,me is an illustration of inward focus, and is meant only to illucidate, not to insult. It is only meant as a call to greater self-exploration, for understanding what drives us, and where there is judgement, especially where it involves spreading rumor and opinion in the guise of truth. I would urge you to re-read both the comment and my reply with new eyes, and to read my other posting, then think as you will…

          • Anonda

            thank you baruch

            one of jason’s question referred to the interaction
            between the temple and the broader pagan community in Arizona…

            “Do any of the temple people interact with the local Pagan community? Has anyone had any dealings with them?”

            and i as a pagan, have given my perspective, based on my personal experiences and based on the perspectives of other pagans i interacted with.

            Peaceful man is not a pagan nor a member of the local pagan community

            unfortunately, some people get too emotionally attached, feel easily attacked and cant see the forest for the trees…

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Peaceful man, I find her information more interesting. The Temple did not contact the local Pagan community. Was that evidence of not being real Pagans?

            Or was it experience, on the part of the Temple leaders, of the Pagan response to them? We’ve had a number of comments on this thread saying, paraphrased,”I’m offended at the term Goddess applied to what amounts to commercial sex.” Perhaps they knew this sentiment lurks withn the Pagan community, and decided not to borrow trouble.

          • Leea

            absolutely agree, Baruch!!

          • peaceful man

            Baruch, I appreciate your willingness to meet on common ground. I am not a member of your circle, nor a member of the temple, but a man who is FOR people and freedom, regardless of their adherence to my personal beliefs. We are all of one world, all of one flesh. I suppose i did act out of anger at some of the veiwpoints I saw here, the division, the seperateness. My point is only that these are real people, with real lives, coming from a loving and authentic place, not things to be judged and objectified and speculated on about whether they are worth supporting or not. Where anyone is persecuted for their beliefs, we are all diminished, whether we agree with their modalities or not. By drawing up the castle gates in defense of only ourselves and our way of life, we become prisoners. This is an opportunity for those in the pagan community to be part of the discussion, to take leadership, to say, “it’s not okay to thrust government veiws of what is or is not a legitimate religion,” just as they dismiss you and yours. I wish you well.

          • Anonda

            peaceful man

            you posted your experience and opinion about this group and nobody was condescending or attacked you?
            why cant you do the same to others then?

            additionally, i am speaking from a pagan perspective, as a pagan and my experiences in the Arizonan pagan community and what other pagans that i talked to thought and concluded.
            you are not a member of this circle. so, how dare you judge?
            didnt jason ask for that perspective?
            you are talking out of ignorance…alas

            obviously, by the way you are reacting.
            you are doing tunnel vision, too offended to be objective and respect other people’s opinions without taking things personally…you are the one who should consider where your heart is and where you are coming from

          • peaceful man

            apologies and peace to you. and yes, I take it personally when one posits as truth that which they have little or no knowledge of. I am not a member of your community, but of the larger community of “us”, not “them and us”. Like it or not, I am your brother, and want to support you in getting what you want, and that may only be achieved when we are all one, not separated and attacking each other. Here is an opportunity for you and your community to lend your hearts and strength and support to your sisters and brothers, not react in fear and defensiveness, but in courage and strength.

          • Anonda

            peaceful man stated:

            “and yes, I take it personally when one posits as truth that which they have little or no knowledge of.”

            this is where your thinking is flawed.
            most members here have posed their perspectives, opinions and thoughts…

            not about truth

            it would have been a different story if one of us stated: “the truth is, the fact is…”
            and nobody has done that…

            you felt offended because opinions differed from yours and you took it as an attack instead of…”gee, this is their perspective.”

            i hope you find more peace instead of attacking and being condescending to those who may hold a different view than yours….

          • peaceful man

            despite my apologies and pleas for unity, you continue feel attacked and defensive. I am merely pointing out that you have in front of you an opportunity to advance your own goals, if you do not get caught up in infighting. I sincerely hope that you find that which you seek.

          • Kerry W.

            How nice that you’re so concerned about Anonda’s soul that you issued this judgment and advice for free, and cared enough to insist on it!

            Myself, I doubt your motives.

            Myself, I’m glad to hear some local pagan reactions.

          • peaceful man

            while you may be a cynic, it is true that I care about anonda, and you, and all people. I am sorry that you and anonda cling and cleave to your seperateness, perhaps you have battled for so long to be heard that it is all you know. As to your doubts, you are free to think as you wish.

          • Anonymous

            peaceful man, I doubt the motives of anyone who presumes to tell another person what to think and how to express those thoughts. I also doubt the motives of anyone who gives unsolicited advice about how another person should evolve along his or her spiritual path. I prefer to call “unsolicited advice” by its real name: manipulation.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Or was it experience, on the part of the Temple leaders, of the Pagan response to them? We’ve had a number of comments on this thread saying, paraphrased,”I’m offended at the term Goddess applied to what amounts to commercial sex.” Perhaps they knew this sentiment lurks withn the Pagan community, and decided not to borrow trouble.
            Well-said. I’m personally kind of offended and dismayed at a lot of the comments on the PGT-related threads here, some of which are outright slut-shaming. I’m appalled that self-identified Pagans would hold such neo-Puritan beliefs.

        • Kitsune

          Since I cannot reply to the comments below, I will reply here.

          Anonda, as one of those “circle members”, I am quite offended that you would cut someone from “another community” so harshly. As Peaceful Man stated in the other link, he did actually go to the Temple and therefore has more of a right to talk about this subject than you do. I am, as a pagan, perturbed at the readiness of how quickly you were willing to cast someone out of this community. While your opinion is quite valid and greatly appreciated, others have their right as well. Mind you, I do think it was impolite for Peaceful Man to comment as he did, however he has since apologized **four times**. Quit beating him down and move on.

          Listen to the words of the Great Mother;
          “Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth;
          for behold,
          all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.
          And therefore let there be beauty and strength,
          power and compassion, honour and humility,
          mirth and reverence within you.”

          • Leea

            IDK guys…as a Pagan, I respect other practitioners, even those vastly different from mine. That said, I have come to realize that just because you call yourself Pagan or Witch doesn’t mean that you are. In this case it Appears that this group doesn’t have much to do with the greater Pagan community, and that there have been questions for some time about them from both within and without the community. Also-prostitution charges are among the more clearly defined in law enforcement. All this makes me cautious in supporting this group.

          • http://faoladh.blogspot.com Faoladh

            If self-identification is not enough for you, what exactly are your criteria for membership in the “greater Pagan community”? Which specific people calling themselves “Pagan or Witch” do you think should be cast out?

          • Anonda

            kitsune….

            sigh…..

            “As Peaceful Man stated in the other link, he did actually go to the Temple and therefore has more of a right to talk about this subject than you do. ”

            no he doesnt.
            not when jason asked for perspectives about pagans in arizona in regards to the temple….
            and this is to what i responded…

            peaceful man has his perspective as a non-pagan and his activities with the temple…
            i completely respect that

            but when it came to what jason asked…

            jrbrowan and i (both pagans in arizona) gave our perspectives about some pagans in relation to the temple

            you are comparing apples with oranges…

            again, “would love to hear more about your perspectives, and other local Pagan perspectives, on this issue. Do any of the temple people interact with the local Pagan community??

          • Anonda

            emphasis on local pagan community and other local pagan perspectives. that is all i claimed to speak about…

          • Anonda

            Listen to the words of the Great Mother;
            “Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth;
            for behold,
            all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.
            And therefore let there be beauty and strength,
            power and compassion, honour and humility,
            mirth and reverence within you.”

            also, not all of us are Wiccan or wiccanesque and/or subscribe to the charge or care very much about it.
            you would not want some to leave/send bible scriptures to your attention, why would you act in the same way toward others?

            respect.

          • peaceful man

            Thank you for your kindness and support. I mean no harm or insult to anyone. Sometimes I allow my love for people and passion overtake me, and I can be exceedingly blunt. Namaste.

        • Anonymous

          Even if people were having sex in the temple, would that really be morally wrong? I find it odd that the spiritual descendants of temple prostitutes and the like should side with Christian “blue laws” on this.

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            In spite of Herodotus’ claims, Herodotus being the primary source for “sacred prostitutes” for many generations, there’s very little supporting evidence from not only testimonies contemporary to Herodotus, but also a lack within Mesopotamian religion, and a lack in archaeology.

    • Rose

      I think saying these people can’t use “Goddess” is rather… impossible. “Good” Neopagans don’t have the copyright on the word. Whoever wants to use it can use it. We can’t pick and choose, just as we can’t declare someone “unPagan” just because they do something we don’t agree with.
      If their use of “Goddess” is really problematic, then we should do something to promote the concept in a positive light.

    • Rose

      I think saying these people can’t use “Goddess” is rather… impossible. “Good” Neopagans don’t have the copyright on the word. Whoever wants to use it can use it. We can’t pick and choose, just as we can’t declare someone “unPagan” just because they do something we don’t agree with.
      If their use of “Goddess” is really problematic, then we should do something to promote the concept in a positive light.

      • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

        Your words here remind me of something Hecate posted about not long ago; don’t fight the negative, promote the positive.

        • http://castwidethecircle.wordpress.com/ Grimmorrigan

          In debate the best defense is a fast offense.

          When placed on the defense by the opponent rather then go defensive and attempt to disprove them…..dismiss them.

          • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            also holds true with football

          • Anonymous

            As a football (“soccer”) supporter in America, I respect your right to play and enjoy “football,” but I also resent your prominent use of the term “football” to refer to “American Rugby With Time-Outs and Safety Pads.”
            :D

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            As a football (“soccer”) supporter in America, I respect your right to play and enjoy “football,” but I also resent your prominent use of the term “football” to refer to “American Rugby With Time-Outs and Safety Pads.”

            “Gridiron” works for me.

      • Anonda

        true true, just as we dont own the copyright for the word ‘witch’ either…

        k

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      “As a Wiccan priestess in Phoenix, I respect the Temple’s right to practice their beliefs, but I also resent their prominent use of “Goddess” to promote them.”

      Not to be rude, but….when did the Wiccans get sole owner ship of the term “Goddess?” ‘Cause that’s how you’re striking me, Jrbrowan.

  • Galenthor

    regarding the Temple raids, they have just given the rest of the non christian churches a legal basic to shut the christian churches down for the donations they receive by their attendees… bloody hypocrites…

    • Laurel

      Unfortunately I am going to have to disagree with you, that is unless those churches are providing sexual services in exchange for donations.

      I mean no offense when I say this, but it does look like this is a case of prostitution. Sacred prostitution yes, but still prostitution. I said in a previous post that I support the full decriminalization of consenting adult sex work, and this is yet another reason why.

      This is not only an attack on religious freedom, but on personal bodily autonomy. With that said, if all parties involved are adults who are capable of sober consent, then I stand behind the practitioners 100 percent, whether they identify as Pagans or not, or identify as prostitutes or not.

      • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

        see Catholic Church sex scandal?

        • Laurel

          Indeed I have. I don’t quite think it is the same thing as consenting adult sex work though.

          Although I suppose one could shimmy in the argument that the congregations are paying to have their children molested/raped.

        • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

          Close, but no cigar. The Roman Catholic paedophile scandal was basically parents paying the church to molest their children — unless you’re talking in a broader sense, like the thousands of priests in history who’ve created local (and, more rarely, international) scandals by fathering children.

      • ladyquality

        Hear hear! Consensual sex should never be illegal, whether you charge money for it or not. Here in Holland prostitution is legal, whereas human trafficking of course is not. The system is not problem free of course, but basically prostitutes are viewed as free entrepreneurs which makes it possible (for example) for them to get help and regular health checks easily. I am saddened to see prostitutes labeled as purely victims and/or criminals, even in the comments on this site. I have learned to respect these women no matter what.

        I myself operate in a grey (or maybe soft pastel-coloured!) zone, for I am a sensual masseuse-healer training to become a sexual counsellor/surrogate. I have no doubt I am a sex worker for the law, even if my clients recognize me as quite something else. So I would like to give these priestesses and priests the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were trying to do some really good work and had no idea how to go about it. I myself have struggled with my advertising, because potential clients who need this work the most are the ‘regular johns’ that look for regular sex workers in their frustration or whatever drives them, not the New Age crowd. So that may explain their rather garish website (I gather it wasn’t very religiously oriented).

        I now believe I have found the middle ground and am attracting the right kind of people. The ‘wrong’ kind still come, and then they get way more than they expected. I can see nothing wrong with that.

        Peace!

        • Laurel

          Thanks for sharing a bit about your own experience. :)

          I was a sex worker for a few years in Canada, but not of a spiritual variety. And many of my friends are or were as well. Perhaps not all of our dream jobs, however it does/did pay the bills. I want folks who choose to do this line of work to be able to do it safely, regardless if it is of a religious nature or not.

          Reading more of the comments, it bothers me that there are people on here who thinks that Pagans should be distancing ourselves from sex workers, as if they are rapists or sacrifce babies. Or better still, the fact that they get to decide who is or is not Pagan, as if we are some homogenized group to begin with. Not all of us are neo-Wiccan, pantheist or gynocentric. ;)

        • Robert Mathiesen

          Echoing Laurel’s reply, I want to add that in my forty years of teaching at an Ivy League University, about a dozen of those women students with whom I regularly talked, told me about sex work that they did to put themselves through school. With to exceptions, they seemed to me to have remained unharmed by it. They worked when they wanted to, stopped working when they wanted to, and felt very much in control of their lives and their bodies.

          The two exceptions had pretty low self-esteem when I first met them. In one case, it was due to an emotionally abusive father, but she’s fine now (and her father is dead, which helped enormously). In the other case, just getting a little older, and getting out of school and into the real world, was all that it took to set things right. Most of her low self-esteem was directly due to the university as an institution and its unspoken attitudes.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Oops: … with two exceptions …

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    “[...A]ny politician who willingly associates with [NAR leaders] should be questioned regarding how much of their agenda they support.”

    Agreed, but where to start? The politicians who for this purpose have our attention are Republicans running for President. The questions that get to them are carefully filtered. How do we get our question through the filters?

    Oh, and the form of the question should be prepared well in advance. But there’s loads of writing talent on this board. :-)

  • Jrbrowan

    RE Phx Goddess Temple. I don’t know personally any of those involved in the Temple and have never been interested in attending their workshops. (They had a listing or two on WitchVox for a while, but not recently.) I first heard about the Temple when the media got wind of them when they were in Scottsdale and wasn’t happy about the Goddess association for previously stated reasons. I encourage other Phx Pagans to comment.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    ‘”We certainly respect First Amendment rights. However, religious freedom does not allow for criminal acts,” [police spokesman Sgt Steve] Martos said.

    Talk about self contradiction. First Amendment rights are the law of the land, superior to local laws. He needs a more subtle legal theory.

    Jason, those scare quotes were not an artifact of the newswire but in a statement by the police.

    • Kulasundari Devi

      Well actually, federal courts have repeatedly held up the right of religious practitioners to practice so-called “illegal acts” if it is demonstrably an irrevocable and indispensable part of their worship, citing the first amendment as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. This is often seen with drug use (such as Rastafarians and marijuana), or with minors consuming alcohol (such as in traditional Lutheran churches, when you’re 12 you start taking communion, which involves consuming small quantities of alcohol). However, the courts tend to define these things very narrowly.

      Whether any of us agree or disagree with the practices, the difference between a church and a brothel may be narrow. Do these practitioners have a clearly defined set of beliefs and doctrines that explicitly includes sex and sexual healing as required and indispensable practice in their belief system? How do they philosophically define their sexual practices? The US Government defines a church as a charity – how are they doing this as charity, when they charge $200-800 per hour in “donations?”

      I do have a problem with the appropriation of Tantra (and am glad that Jason has called them “neo-tantra” which is at least a little more accurate), and I also have issues with people appropriating religion and Goddess as a cover for illegal activity. And it remains to be seen if it’s all a sham and cover for prostitution, whether it is totally sincere as a practice, or whether there are elements of both going on and some sincere “practitioners” and the public are being exploited by leaders more interested in money-making than “healing.”

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Between the Wild Hunt discussion, that of Get Religion, and other journalistic reactions, is there actually anyone besides Tim Stanley who is willing to be afraid in print of Santa Muerte veneration?

    • Mia

      What’s so scary about Santa Muerte veneration?

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      I might be, actually. It would depend on if that gets tied into groups like La Raza, which are advocating a return to the old Aztec religion, including the practice of human sacrifice. Some of the literature they’ve produced is….troubling.

      We must also realize that this Santa Muerte is not a Pagan god, but a Christian saint. I find any aspect of Christianity to be troublesome, just as I do with Islam and some aspects of Judaism. So..yeah.

      That said, I don’t inherently have issues with a death goddess. We Norse have Hel, and most of us I think are fairly okay with her. I am, at least.

      • Anonda

        “We must also realize that this Santa Muerte is not a Pagan god, but a Christian saint.”

        wrong. she is not a Christian saint. santa muerte may have link to a pagan goddess Mictecacihuatl…..the christian church does not consider her as one of theirs at all….

      • Mia

        Not a saint, otherwise the Catholic Church wouldn’t demonize her worship as being Satanism. There’s a few priests in Chicago that I’ve heard of using the cult to their advantage, but that’s unusual, and I dunno if other American cities have similar situations.

        She’s a contemporary folk religious figure amalgamated from Catholic and Mexican cultures that caters to the marginalized members of society. If you look at her cult you should be able to see how pagan/heathen it is. For example, a gift for a gift; nothing she gives is free.

        • Anonda

          very true mia.

          for those who may be interested. Mictecacihuatl was the queen of the underworld

          google her and you will find strong parallels with Santa Muerte…

          • Anonda

            here she is…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1006464595 Cathryn Bauer

    The exchange of sex for money, whatever is wrapped around it, is defined in law as prostitution. I have read, seen, or heard exactly nothing that makes me believe that the Phoenix Goddess Temple denizens are innocent of prostitution, New Age language or not. And prostitution is illegal. Law enforcement personnel are charged with detaining people suspected of illegal actions for investigation by the court system in whether a crime has been committed. Those who operate in defiance of the law should do so knowing that they are risking legal consequences.

    It’s my personal belief that anti-prostitution laws that apply to consenting adults are a blight and a drain for law enforcement and the courts, as well as being ultimately useless. Certainly we should have learned by now that the market for sexual services is not going to die. That said, these laws do remain on the books, and it appears there is probable cause to believe they may have been violated. Like at least one other poster, I resent the use of “Goddess” and “temple” in this context. I think it inevitably reflects badly on the rest of us, particularly in a community where there a strong anti-Pagan agenda reputedly exists.

    I suggest that a bona fide spiritual group with controversial practices would logically have gone about their business in a far more open and intelligent fashion than this one apparently has done. I would not like to see Pagan and Heathen organizations jumping on the bandwagon for this particular group.

    • Kelley

      There are things which are illegal in most circumstances, which, when practiced within religion, are not considered so. Some examples include the prohibition on certain drugs, possession of the feathers of protected birds, and failure to pay taxes.

      The idea is that freedom of religion trumps the ability of the state to make non-violent things illegal. There is an argument to be made that even if they did engage in trading money for sex, and that is not at all clear, that it may _still_ be a First Amendment case. Certainly, there is precedence for “Goddess religions” to have sacred prostitutes.

      I agree with you that, independent of this case, prostitution should not be illegal. In fact, I would go farther and state that nothing should be illegal where there is no initiation of force or overt threat of initiation of force. I am a strong believer in the Zero Aggression Principle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002162704205 Lori Dake

    Just coming out and and asking a (possibly) weird question:

    Perhaps Goddess Temple can relocate to Nevada someplace where they can practice their sex positive religion and not ruffle as many feathers? If it’s being deemed a brothel, whether or not it’s true, at least there they can be left alone. (?) Just thinking out loud. I personally have nothing against legalized prostitution, as long as the workers are of legal age, it’s conducted in a safe and positive environment for the workers, they are compensated well and they do so of their own volition.

    Going back to my corner now. 0:)

    • AnonGuest

      I don’t think that’s an odd question.
      Besides, then they could rename themselves the Chicken Goddess Ranch.

  • Charles Cosimano

    What makes me nervous is how much Santa Muerta looks like my sister-in-law.

  • http://faoladh.blogspot.com Faoladh

    One thing’s for sure, the Phoenix Goddess Temple incident is really bringing the Pagan Elitists out of the woodwork. It’s fun to watch all of the people who are beginning to claim the right to decide who is and who isn’t pagan (or Pagan, for those for whom capitalization is an Important Matter). Ah, the elitism of identity. What better way to become better than Those People than by making definitions that define us as better. That way we don’t have to actually do anything.

    • Anonymous

      I really think it’s less about elitism, and more about people trying to distance themselves from people who make them look bad. It’s only natural, especially in the pagan community, in which it is a constant struggle to be seen as legitimate by outside observers. It is undeniable that the Pheonix Goddess Temple has brought some pretty bad publicity to paganism and understandably, some people naturally try to stay away from that.

      • http://faoladh.blogspot.com Faoladh

        You know, I’d be with you if the people in this discussion weren’t trying to deny the right of self-identification of other people. It’s one thing to say, “Hey, those are reprehensible people”, it’s quite another to say, “Well, they aren’t what they say they are, because I am one of those and they don’t get to define themselves, only I can do that for them.”

        Me, I don’t think that they are reprehensible, but then I actually know people who have worked at that Temple and the one in Seattle. I know that they, or at least some of them, are sincere in their beliefs.

        So, no, it is about elitism. It is about defining some people out of the discussion. It is not about saying that there are people who are doing something that is not appropriate (however rightly or wrongly), or there wouldn’t be so many people saying, right here in this thread, “They aren’t pagans, because I don’t think (even though I’ve never actually met any of them) that they really believe what they say they believe.”

        • Harmonyfb

          It’s one thing to say, “Hey, those are reprehensible people”

          I don’t know that they’re reprehensible people (they’re probably not), and I don’t really care what they get up to (seeing as how I believe that humans should have the right to do what they like with their own bodies). I do care that now I’m going to have to put up with more ignorant yahoos asking me about ‘orgies’.

          • http://faoladh.blogspot.com Faoladh

            I don’t think that they are reprehensible, either (I’ve noted somewhere in this discussion that I actually know, and am friends with, people who have been involved with the Temple). I was noting that it’s one thing to say that about someone, that it is a legitimate opinion. It’s an assertion of interpretation of their actions, and as such is only barely arguable.

            It is entirely another thing to attempt to deny them the right to define themselves as they choose. There are inherent problems with trying to set oneself up as the arbiter of who is and who is not “Pagan”.

      • http://faoladh.blogspot.com Faoladh

        Also, I would direct your attention to this article, which, while occasioned by a different incident, speaks to the idea that we should be worrying about what “publicity” we get. If we throw people under the bus because they are unpopular, how are we any different than those who would oppress us? Wouldn’t a better response be to learn about those people who are unpopular and learn how to respond to those who would attack them?

        I know, I know, it’s just easier to define them as “not like us”.

        • Anonymous

          You know, after reading that article, I’m going to have to agree with you. Thank you for sending me that link.

    • AnonGuest

      I don’t agree with you, but I wonder – when did it become wrong to be elite?

      • http://faoladh.blogspot.com Faoladh

        There’s nothing wrong with “being” elite (though I don’t think that one has an inherent quality of eliteness, rather one makes actions and decisions that possess virtue). What’s wrong is elitism, the sense that one’s status of being defined as as one of the “elite” provides a rationale for ignoring the value of those who are not so defined. In fact, I’d argue that it is the duty of the elite to protect those who are not. That, in fact, is the only value to the quality of eliteness. I’d further argue that failing in that duty disqualifies one for that status.

  • Nightjar

    there have been concerns with other Goddess temples and tantra here in the uk. the offending male priest and tutor (really just a womaniser and self confessed sex addict) was sacked before it all became too public. and they are not behind the door in asking for donations to fund the temple, although not for sex. Well there’s Glastonbury for you!!!

    • Kulasundari Devi

      This isn’t Tantra that these folks are practicing or even claiming to practice. At best it’s neo-tantra, which is an appropriation, manipulation, and sexualization of exoticized versions of authentic practice (which in its most authentic vamacara form has got nothing or at most *very* little to do with sexual intercourse, and certainly nothing to do with increasing stamina, sexual healing, and so forth – which are based in appropriation and misunderstanding of text rather than authentic lineage transmission).

  • Dydan Waters

    Last night, my coven sisters and I had a long discussion about the Phoenix Goddess Temple. After seeing the ads their practitioners placed online, I don’t see how it can be anything other than prostitution. Oh sure, in our vision of a perfect world, what 2 consenting adults do is nobody’s business. But we don’t live in that world. We live in this one, flawed as that may be. And we have to operate within the confines of the law of the land we live in.

    Pagan Churches struggle every day to be viewed as legitimate and not treated like sex-crazed deviants, a group like PGT just makes it more difficult for those of us trying to be taken seriously. I’d like to be able to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe they were performing some sex therapy or sex surrogacy, but none of their members held any kind of professional credentialing that would qualify them to do the work they were doing. Last time I checked, Reiki doesnt involve happy endings and there’s not a single massage therapist I know who would be willing to put their license on the line by performing a sex act on their clients. The whole thing just makes me wonder what the hell these people were thinking.

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      So why not create that world?

      And I dare you to find a way to disprove the legitimacy of the PGA with an argument that cannot then be tailored to destroy your own legitimacy.

      As for the sex-crazed deviants thing, I was under the impression that we Pagans and Heathens were more open minded about sex. Not to mention the many Gods and Goddesses out there who are all about “sex-crazed deviantism”. Dyonisis being a big one, but there are others in the Greek, Roman, Norse, and Khemetic pantheons.

      • Dydan Waters

        I’m sure on some level they feel they are legit. And maybe they are. I just think if you are going to publicly advertise temple services that are THAT adult-oriented, it would behoove you to make sure you cover your bases and operate within the confines of the law. I may pride myself on being a good listener and helping my friends with good advice, but I am not a licensed therapist and do not advertise myself as one or attempt to make a living as one. Doing so would be irresponsible of me and could put me at risk for a host of legal problems. PGT knowingly operated their business without any kind of credentialing and licensing to satisfy the laws in the city they lived. It was irresponsible of them and no amount of crowing about their religious rights is going to change the fact they were irresponsible. If they were indeed doing therapeutic work, why were none of their staff licensed as therapists or sex surrogates? Being good at sex doesn’t make you any more qualified to be a sex therapist than watching a lot of ER episodes makes you qualified to practice medicine.

      • Daniel Kestral

        Not to mention the Morrighan :)

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    As mentioned in my previous posts, the patron saint of “Narcos” (Mexican drug smugglers) is NOT St. Muerta but St. Malverde. Conservative fear-mongers got that wrong. However, some of the left-wingers seem to wish to believe there are no such thing as Mexican drug gangs, and that ALL illegal immigrants, excuse me, unwilling expatriates or whatever is today’s politically correct term, would be law-abiding citizens given the chance.

    • Anonda

      in spite of st. malverde…

      there are narcos who do work with the “black” santa muerte. this black santa muerte is the one that has been linked to narcos, drug criminals, as a way to avoid prosecution, being caught and so on

      red santa muerte usually goes for love and relationships, wayward husbands…white santa muerte for spiritual protection

      in spite of the link between narcos and the black santa muerte, it doesnt mean that santa muerte is the patron saint of narcos though….so, you are right

      however, because of the link between the narcos and black santa muerte…although the black version is also used to curse or even for retribution (then…people assume a lot, that is, black santa muerte = narcos)

      ive seen this cult flourishing here in arizona…and have talked to practitioners. you can see her in any yerberia now..

  • Slyypper

    I’m not sure whether anyone here has pyet osted this video of Tracy Elise of the Phoenix Goddess Temple telling some history of the matter and how the temple has chosen to situate itself legally…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiWrOQ8RJZk

    • Slyypper

      …has yet posted…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5W3AYBY2I3OZKJ4XJK7J6DOHEQ Lee Zuniga

    Yes pre-Rome, ” Goddesses or Temple attendants ” were in fact spiritual prostitutes and did have sex for money/gifts. So if this CHURCH, did have sex with ” followers” or not, that is their own brand of church and what works for them works for them.

    ?…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5W3AYBY2I3OZKJ4XJK7J6DOHEQ Lee Zuniga