Updates: Florida Freemasonry, Papua New Guinea, and India’s Wiccan Brigade

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 6, 2013 — 10 Comments

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

Florida Freemasons Reverse Anti-Pagan Edict: On November 28th, 2012, Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master of Florida’s Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, issued a ruling stating that Paganism, Wicca, Odinism, and Gnosticism were not compatible with Freemasonry. Further, any Freemason who “professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.” This ruling caused quite a bit of consternation among both Pagans and Freemasons, two communities that have long and interlocking histories. Now, Christopher L. Hodapp at the Freemasons For Dummies blog reports that the edict has been overturned.

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“The passed resolution reverses the Ruling in its entirety, and concludes by affirming ‘that Florida Masonry hereby declares its eternal devotion to the religious toleration that is one of the immovable and Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry, never to be changed by any man or group of men.’ The Jurisprudence Committee had recommended rejection.”

As one commenter aptly put it: “I am very proud of my brethren in Florida for defending religious tolerance and having the courage to undo a mistake that did damage to our fraternity.” This is very good news for Freemasons, Pagans, and Pagan Freemasons, and I hope it will signal a new beginning for all involved (more from PNC-Florida). For more information on how this whole mess got started in the first place, check out this editorial from PNC-Florida.

Progress, Study, and Introspection in the Matter of Papua New Guinea Witch-Killings: The world was shocked to attention earlier this year at the torture and burning of a woman in Papua New Guinea over charges of sorcery and witchcraft. While the case of Kepari Leniata was sadly not unique, that fact that it was so well documented via cell phone pictures gave it a visceral immediacy that is often absent in these cases. Now, the country’s Sorcery Act has been repealed, and capital punishment re-instated in an effort to quell these murders.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minster Peter O'Neill

Papua New Guinea Prime Minster Peter O’Neill

“The Parliament of Papua New Guinea has voted to repeal the country’s Sorcery Act and to reinstate the death penalty in certain cases to help stem an increase in violence against people accused of practicing black magic. Such violence is endemic in the South Pacific island nation, and a rise in the number of public killings in the past year has prompted international condemnation and embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. [...] Amnesty International, which has campaigned loudly against sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea, praised the repeal of the Sorcery Act but assailed the reintroduction of the death penalty. Isabelle Arradon, a spokeswoman, said that represented ‘several giant steps back.’”

Meanwhile, a conference entitled “Sorcery and Witchcraft-Related Killings in Melanesia: Culture, Law and Human Rights Perspectives” is taking place this week in Australia that focuses on possible solutions to this horror, including whether legislative solutions can have any effect on witch-killings in the Melanesia subregion. Quote: “Belief in sorcery and witchcraft is so deeply embedded in Papua New Guinea that the problem will not be solved so easily as repealing a piece of legislation.” Still, at least there are signs that forces both within and without Papua New Guinea are struggling to find solutions. Let us hope that this terror can be abated for the sake of the victims, and the humanity of the perpetrators.

Famous Bengali Film Director a Member of India’s Wiccan Brigade: The world mourned this week on hearing that internationally known and celebrated film director Rituparno Ghosh died at the age of 49 after suffering a massive heart attack. As tributes and remembrances have emerged, Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, India’s most famous Wiccan adherent, claims that Ghosh was a student of her teachings, and a part of her “Wiccan Brigade.”

Rituparno Ghosh

Rituparno Ghosh

“For master storyteller Rituparno Ghosh, who died on May 30, the craft of Wicca — a modern pagan and witchcraft religion was a “great draw” as it appealed to his intellectual side. The filmmaker also exhibited a pronounced curiosity about “life after death”, says renowned Wiccan exponent Ipsita Roy Chakraverti. Ghosh was Chakraverti’s first student from the film fraternity [...] “He was always a part of our programmes… As a speaker, as a participant. (He was) always very interested in learning the craft. In fact, he was my first student from the film fraternity,” said Chakraverti.”

As I’ve reported here previously, Chakraverti’s Wiccan Brigade has worked to combat violence against women in the form of witch killings and persecutions, and believes that the religion could empower women in the face of a “national problem” of rape. Knowing that Ghosh was a part of Chakraverti’s group adds an extra dimension to his character, part of a life dedicated towards equal treatment for all individuals in his home country. What is remembered, lives.

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

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

    “Belief in sorcery and witchcraft is so deeply embedded ….”

    Belief in sorcery is not the problem. Belief that sorcerers should be tortured and murdered is the problem.

    • Katharine Hawk

      Well, with the belief in sorcery, they also believe that sorcerers are causing poverty, illness, death, etc. The women to whom these attacks and murders are happening aren’t witches, they’re just scapegoats.

      The people there don’t believe in sorcery the way a Pagan in the United States does, so it is the belief that’s a major problem…

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

        In many, and perhaps all, cases, the acts of mob violence against accused sorcerers are directly traceable to the modern influences of Western Christian missionaries, not to the survival of indigenous ideas about magic and sorcery. For example, it is no coincidence that the most recent large scale outbreak of such violence occurred in conjunction with the Easter holiday, and it is now widely referred to as “The Easter Witch-hunt“.

        It also turns out that many of those who have been accused of the worst kinds of “sorcery”-related atrocities (including human sacrifice and cannibalism) are (and I am not making this up) Lutherans, including Lutheran pastors.

        Wherever there is genuine belief in magic there will be belief in malefic magic, and that is really no problem. People can use electricity and chemistry to cause harm, and everyone knows this, but in itself that does not lead to the demonization of electricity or chemistry. Modern Pagans should not lend our voices to propaganda campaigns that attempt to portray belief in magic as a cause of violence. These campaigns are merely thinly disguised attempts to finish the job of extirpating indigenous religious beliefs and practices (that this campaign involves an unholy alliance of reactionary Christian missionaries and “progressive” secularists comes as no surprise to anyone who understands how these things work).

  • Joseph Merlin Nichter

    As a Pagan and a Freemason I feel obligated to share my feelings on the matter. I’ve been a Mason for over ten years, during that time I have been a Prince Hall Mason, a Mason of California and the Scottish Rite. I have been a member of more than one lodge, in more than one state and jurisdiction and I have always been openly Pagan. I have worn Pagan Pride Day and Cherry Hill Seminary T-shirts to casual dress events.

    My religious beliefs have never been made the topic of conflict or controversy within Masonry, and I have never been made to feel unwelcome for my spiritual beliefs or practices. Nor have I experienced any bias or discrimination. In fact, I have and continue to hold officer positions in my lodge. These events in Florida have been the topic of conversation among my brethren, and many have brought the issue to me in order to express their support of religious diversity within our lodge and Freemasonry as a whole.

    I’ve been told in passing, that a Past Grand Master of California said “Joseph’s religious beliefs may be unusual to many of us, but you can trust and depend on him and he is a damn fine Mason.” I would offer my possession of lodge keys and security codes as proof and testament to those sentiments.

    In addition to Paganism, I see Homosexuality is equally acceptable. The traditional phrase used has always been “…for Masons and their Ladies,” but Grand Lodge of California has long since changed their verbiage to “Partner,” and there are openly gay Masons serving as Worshipful Masters and Grand Lodge officers.

    Freemasonry is no different than anything else, there are those who would seek to twist it to better suit their personal agenda. But Freemasonry continues to be one of the great passions in my life and I would no sooner leave Masonry than leave Paganism. For those readers who have ever been interested in Freemasonry, don’t let Florida scare you away.

    2B1ASK1

    • Erin Zelnio

      I received the impression from the original article reported here that the attempt to restrict membership was restricted to Florida, and that the rest of the country was very much against it.

      • Joseph Merlin Nichter

        Yes that’s correct, and that was the point I wanted to emphasize as both a Mason and a Pagan.

    • tpmp

      And here I’ve always been worried, when hanging around PHA Masons, about my religious beliefs being discovered.

  • Katharine Hawk

    I’m very happy that Papua New Guinea’s parliament is attempting to deal with the witchcraft issue, but I agree that re-instating the death penalty is a mistake. I just keep hoping that something can be done to protect the women who might be accused. I can’t believe that there are places in the world where it is still acceptable to accuse women of witchcraft and murder them (and children as in Nigeria) as scapegoats for the hardships that the population experiences. Nothing is more disturbing to me…

    • Charles Cosimano

      Reinstating the death penalty was wise as it is probably the only language that some folks will listen to. Sure, it gives Amnesty International hives, but no one cares what Amnesty International thinks.

  • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

    I’m glad to see any progress on the witchcraft issue. Even if some people think the death penalty thing is a mistake (I’m hesitant that it will do much good) it shows a seriousness and concern over the issue at the very least.

    Now we just need to figure out how to separate folk beliefs from the harmful influence of missionaries. Easier said than done.