Updates: Temple of Witchcraft, Verdict in Abusive Coven Case, Charles Jaynes, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 20, 2012 — 13 Comments

Here are some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

The Temple of Witchcraft Wins Zoning Permission: The Temple of Witchcraft, a religious organization co-founded by author Christopher Penczak, after encountering some resistance from neighbors to expand and make improvements to their new building in Salem, New Hampshire, has received unanimous approval from the local Planning Board.

tow new home

The Temple of Witchcraft’s new Salem home.

“The Temple of Witchcraft has received final approval to expand its operations on North Policy Street, despite opposition from neighbors. The Planning Board voted unanimously last week to grant the nonprofit organization the permission it needs to relocate from 2 Main St. to a two-story building at 49 N. Policy St.”

Opponents insisted this was only about traffic and noise, and not about Witchcraft, though one neighbor did question if the Temple of Witchcraft was “truly a religious organization deserving of a zoning exemption.” Still, this is a win, and I congratulate the temple on their new home.

UK Witches in Sexually Abusive Coven Found Guilty: Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp have been convicted of being involved in a pedophile ring that used the trappings of Wicca to lure in young girls in order to sexually abuse them. Their abuse, which involved “a number of young victims, the youngest aged somewhere between three and five,” was also linked to murdered occultist and parish councillor Peter Solheim.

peter petrauske

Peter Petrauske

“Petrauske was said to be the “high priest” of a witches’ coven in St Ives, Cornwall, and ordered the girls to carry out his sick fantasies. The court heard Kemp videoed the abuse, but also took part in the assaults, along with friends Solheim and Stan Pirie – a notorious paedophile who died in jail following his conviction for sex abuse in the mid-2000s. The duo’s victims gave harrowing evidence from behind a screen during the three-week trial. They said they were then abused by their tormentors, before being given money and sweets to buy their silence.”

As I said when I first reported on this, “those who blur the boundaries of power and responsibility to engage in sexual gratification with minors are repugnant, and we have a special responsibility to speak out against those who sully the names of our sacred traditions, who twist the psyches of those they hold spiritual authority over. I hope this latest incident act spurs us into reiterating what our sexual ethics are in a manner that leaves no excuse to those who would twist or abuse the decentralized non-hierarchical nature of our faiths and community for their own purposes.” I can only hope the victims find some measure of closure with their conviction.

More on the Pagan Federation Charity Fight: Third Sector Magazine reports on the Pagan Federation’s fight for charity status in England and Wales after being recently denied for not meeting “all the essential characteristics of a religion for the purposes of charity law.”

Pagan Federation

“The commission’s decision is interesting, says Emma Moody, head of charities at the commercial law firm Dickinson Dees, because it has said in the past that it is not the regulator of religion. But it is now saying, she says, that the Pagan Federation is not a religion because it does not meet its requirements.”

The Wild Hunt recently interviewed  The Pagan Federation’s president, Chris Crowley, about the matter, and he said that the organization will “not give up and keep hammering away” until it is recognized as a charitable Pagan organization. We’ll keep you updated as this story progresses.

Charles Jaynes Denied Religious Name Change: Charles Jaynes, convicted in 1997 of participating in the abduction, molestation, and murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, went before a judge this past November wanting to change his name to “Manasseh Invictus Auric Thutmose V” in what he claimed was a necessary step in his growth within the Wiccan religion. Now, the judge has denied that request, stating “that allowing the Petitioner’s petition for change of name is inconsistent with public interests.”

Charles Jaynes

Charles Jaynes

The decision also states tht due to Jaynes’ history of using aliases, concealing his identity and eluding criminal prosecution, “an allowance of the Petitioner’s change of name petition jeopardizes public safety.”

As I said previously, this case points to how badly we need effective, and supported, Pagan chaplaincy in our prison system (and better information about Paganism available in general). Perhaps this name-change request might still have gone forward, but it may not have had the label “Wicca” put on it in the process. Be sure to read the very insightful comments on this issue at my original post.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Good news on the Temple of Witchcraft but, alas, the Maetreum of Cybele — according to its website — is still denied standing as a religion by local authroities.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Re the Pagan Federation article. I honestly do not understand why they are insisting on going down the religious route, when they are not a religion.

  • MissLynx

    Having read the article you linked to on the Pagan Federation site, I have to say, unfortunately, that I agree with the reasons given for denying them. It sounded like the authorities involved didn’t have a problem with specific pagan religions, but with the notion of “paganism” being treated as one specific religion while actually being a catch-all category for a variety of religions with widely different beliefs. And I think that’s a very valid point.

    Because let’s face it, paganism ISN’T a religion. It’s an umbrella category encompassing a lot of different religions. Asatru, for example, is not the same religion as Wicca, which is not the same religion as Celtic reconstructionism, which is not the same religion as Thelema, which is not the same religion as… etc. Attempting to treat paganism as if it were a single religion generally result in either erasing the differences between the various pagan religions, which makes some of them feel excluded or misrepresented, or else being so vague about what “pagans” believe that it’s hard for outsiders to take seriously, since it sounds like a religion with no actual specific beliefs. PF used to lean more toward the form approach and now seems to be going more for the latter, but they’re both problematic.

    I do think it’s legitimate to have umbrella organizations representing the whole range of pagan religions, but we probably have to accept that such organizations aren’t going to get recognized in the same way that a single-faith organization like a specific church would be, and may need to modify how they’re approaching the effort to get legal recognition.

    • There are many generic “Christian” charities. In fact, “ecumenical” Christian charities are rather common. I thought everyone knew that?

      Next time, maybe you should stop and think – or, better yet, actually check to see whether or not what you are saying has any basis in reality whatsoever.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        But those charities are not considered religions in their own rights, are they?

        The Pagan Federation is a pan-Pagan organisation in the UK, it is not a religion in its own right.

        This recent activity on their behalf has actually given me serious reservations about joining the organisation (I have been considering it for a while.)

        • Have you bothered to look at generic Christian religious charities in the UK?

          Answer: no, you haven’t.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Yes. Have you done with baseless assumptions?

            The charities are not deemed to be religions in their own right, whereas that is what the Pagan Federation is trying to be recognised as.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I read another article on the matter recently (here: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1163381/paganism-fights-principle/ ) that demonstrated that if the PF gave up trying to get religion status, they’d likely find it a lot easier to get charitable status.

      • According to the Pagan Federation website: “Paganism is the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity.”

        And it is quite obvious, to anyone who looks at this objectively, that the Pagan Federation is nothing other than a “religious organization”, and, therefore, could not honestly (or legally) represent itself as anything else.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Depends on which definition is being used, does it not? The use here is as the anthropological definition – anything not Abrahamic (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), rather than the common usage of ‘nature-based spirituality’.

  • Many “non-denominational” Christian charities operate in the UK and are officially recognized as “religious” groups, despite the fact that they are generically Christian as opposed to being affiliated with only one particular flavor of Christianity.

    One of these, naturally, is good old “World Vision”, which prides itself on being non-denominational. Another one is “Mercy Ships”, and yet another is the “Church Mission Society”. These are all among the most prominent religious charities in the UK. More examples can be found if one goes through this list:

    In fact, the non-denominational route is pretty much de rigueur for large-scale Christian charity operations, outside the Catholic Church. As soon as you limit yourself to one particular denomination you greatly limit the pool of potential donors and volunteers.

  • Tearlach

    It’s worth noting that the Charities Commission in the UK are getting stricter and stricter on how they handle religious charities in general. The Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian group/denomination that has been around for over a hundred years, recently lost their charitable status on the grounds that it did not meet the public benefit criteria. Being a religious group of any form is not sufficient on its own to get charitable status in the UK (although some MP’s are trying to amend the law in that direction).

    • Yes, but the Charities Commission did not deny that Christianity is a religion, did they? You are confusing the issue.

      The Brethren case is certainly relevant, though. For one thing, the fundamentalist Christians in Britain have been having a field day with the case, screaming about how the Commission is now “anti-Christian” because they approved the Druids but not the Brethren. So the Commission is under pressure to prove their even-handedness, and the Pagan Federation is paying the price.

      Also, I believe that it was not the Brethren as a whole, but only one of their smaller meeting places that was denied religious Charity status.