“Salem is, on it’s own merit and historically so, a mark in American history. The year of 1692 was a time of suffering and injustice – 20 innocent people died at the hands of their accusers. Witchcraft was used as a definition and excuse for these trials. But what about now? How do witches today in Salem Massachusetts pay homage to these victims? The Temple of Nine Wells has been walking to Gallows Hill on Samhain night for more than 20 years to honor the dead and the victims of the witch hysteria of 1692. This documentary will walk you through this event, from preparation to ritual, as well as through the differences between Samhain and Halloween, the sacred and the profane. An inside perspective of Samhain night in Salem, and of the men and women who through dedication and personal commitment continue to make a difference. With love, from Salem.”
What motivated you to tell the story of Richard and Gypsy Ravish and the Temple of Nine Wells? What does their story tell us about them, about the Temple, and about Salem?
I have been a personal friend of Gypsy and Richard for quite some time. Since I met them I became fascinated by what they were doing, their commitment and passion for the Craft and those who practice it. I remember going to the first Temple of Nine Wells Ritual. It was in the Old Town Hall in Salem, and I thought that if public ritual was something to be done, then that was the way to do it. The documentary is precisely about that passion and commitment not only in an internal perspective of the Temple of Nine Wells but also in a more broad community sense. The idea of making the documentary came from the first time I attended to a Samhain ritual at Gallows Hill with the Temple of Nine Wells. The adherence of the people, the walk chanting up to Gallows Hill and the ritual itself, told me that this could not remain untold. I had to keep it and record it. I didn’t want to do just a recording of the ritual, so I thought that it would be a good idea to expand the recording to a documentary that would include their history/story but also the history/story of Salem and of the victims of the Witch-Hunters hysteria of 1692.
I think those of us outside of Salem often have a distorted picture of Witchcraft there. There’s so much media, especially around Samhain, that I think the lives and practices of the Salem Witches can get buried. As clergy who officiated a Samhain ritual for 20 years, what do you think the Ravishes teach us about the reality of Witchcraft in Salem?
Love is the word. I think that this is why I did this and they let me do it. Twenty years of Samhain rituals (and not only Samhain but all the Wheel of the Year was celebrated by the Temple, although the documentary focuses more on the Samhain ritual) have to be done with love. There wouldn’t be any other way. Again, the commitment , passion and love for the Craft was and still is what moved Gypsy and Richard all these years. I would also add generosity to list of words, since it was out of generosity that Gypsy and Richard gave all of this to Salem. Every year, on Samhain night, they took us up to the Hill to remember all of those who passed the Veil, including those who died in 1692. As Richard say in the documentary, we claimed the unclaimed, we took and remember those who in 1692 no one took, those who are buried without markers. Gypsy and Richard teach us about love. That is truly what they teach us about.
Finally, could you share a little bit about the making of this film? What’s gone into it? How long has it taken you? What were the challenges of doing this documentary?
The documentary was completely filmed with a Sony Bloggie, hand-held, without a camera stand. It is a very real documentary. I follow the making and all the preparations for the ritual in Gallows Hill, including meetings and decision making. I covered the walk up to Gallows Hill and the silent candle light walk back to the Salem witch memorial, escorted by the wonderful policemen who every year are there to make sure we are safe. We can see the ritual in Gallows Hill, the beautiful music and dance up in the Hill, and intimate conversations with Gypsy and Richard about how did it all begin. It is a journey through the history/story of Salem, the Temple of Nine Wells and Gypsy and Richard’s life and contributions for more than 20 years for the Salem community.
I started to collect footage for the documentary in 2011, so it took me almost two years to complete this project. I do have a good excuse since I am the director, cinematographer, producer with Jimahl di Fiosa and RedBird Productions. It is a very modest project but one that took great pleasure to make. The challenges were of course many, but when you are doing a documentary where the love, commitment and dedication is contagious, you will thrive on that to overcome any of the challenges.
Oh, and now that we have the trailer, when can we expect to see the whole film, and how will it be released?
The documentary will be released soon in Salem to the public and we are looking at some of the venues here to do that. We do not have a date yet but will be between June and July. We will have of course a private viewing of the documentary at Nu Aeon here in Salem for the members of the Temple of Nine Wells. Right after the release in Salem to the public, we will host a world premiere through a Hangout on Google+ with the presence of Gypsy and a selected number of guests and representatives of the various communities all over the world.
For updates on “With Love From Salem,” see the film’s official Facebook page. I’d like to thank Karagan Griffith for taking the time to answer some of my questions, and I look forward to the film’s premiere. The Wild Hunt will keep you posted once further details are announced.
There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.
Photo: Earl Wilson/The New York Times
It’s always worth a mention when the New York Times takes an interest in modern Paganism. Their New York-focused City Room blog highlights theWiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies in Manhattan, interviewing two of the program’s students. Quote: “People go to school to study the things that interest them most; some people go to law school, others to medical school,” [Shantel Collins] said. “I want to be a religious leader in my community, so the path I chose is to become a high priestess. I am learning how to counsel people in my community. No one is born a pastor or a reverend or a rabbi — you have to work at it, and that’s what I’m doing. So for me, these classes are worth every minute and every penny.” I suspect this piece came about because the New York City Wiccan Family Temple is not afraid to promote themselves to the media. I know I’ve received a fair share of press releases from them, and it’s a tactic that does succeed in breaking through to the mainstream media from time to time.
At Sojourners Magazine, Rabbi Seth Goren discusses Christian privilege and “how the dominance of Christianity affects interfaith relations.” Quote: “Even in interreligious settings intended to be neutral, Christianity retains primacy. Exchanges emphasize concepts in Christianity, such as belief and faith, and downplay the Jewish stress on action, behavior, and ritual [...] In clergy gatherings, I feel the expectation that I should know Augustine and Aquinas without a corresponding expectation that Christian counterparts have heard of Rabbis Akiva or Eliezer [...] Even on a relatively level playing field, I start from a defensive posture and find myself envious of what Christians take for granted that I can’t and don’t.” Go read this, and share it. I’m hoping the relatively high-profile nature of the venue will prompt some reflection.
Advocacy organization Amnesty International has condemned the rise of blasphemy cases in Egypt, saying it uses defamation of religion as a way to silence critics. Here’s more on the issue from Daily News Egypt: “Slapping criminal charges with steep fines and, in most cases, prison sentences against people for simply speaking their mind or holding different religious beliefs is simply outrageous,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director, in the report. Luther added that defamation of religion charges should not be used to “trample over people’s right to freedom of expression and conscience”
The “Other Religions” section of the Urbana Free Library (post-culling).
The picture you see above is the “Other Religions” section at the Urbana Free Library in Illinois after a hugely controversial culling that has gained national attention from library observers. In essence, any book acquired more than ten years ago was culled from several non-fiction sections before local outcry halted the process. This has left books on Pagan religions decimated, with only 3 or 4 left visible on the shelf. Libraries are in important first step for many people exploring our faiths, and for those looking to understand us, and decimating collections like this does more harm than I think people realize. Not everyone has consistent and reliable access to the Internet, and even if they do, it doesn’t replace reading seminal books like “Drawing Down the Moon” or “The Spiral Dance.” I’m hoping to have more on this story soon, as Urbana is my old home-town, and I know several library workers there. Stay tuned.
The United Nations World Conference of Indigenous Peoples is taking place in New York, September 2014. A recent gathering in Alta, Norway, home of the Sami People, resulted in an adopted outcome document for the conference. Quote: “Our purpose was to exchange views and proposals and develop collective recommendations on the UN High Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (hereinafter referred to as HLPM/WCIP), which will convene in New York, 22 – 23 September 2014. This document sets forth our recommendations along with the historical and current context of Indigenous Peoples.” I think the document is important and thought-provoking reading for anyone interested in indigenous and Native American issues.
Sufi mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee writes about the holiness of the Earth for the Washington Post’s On Faith section. Quote: “I deeply feel that we need to reclaim our spiritual relationship with this beautiful and suffering planet, feel it within our hearts and souls. We need to develop an awareness that the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the energy we use, are not just commodities to be consumed, but part of the living fabric of a sacred Earth. Then we are making a real relationship with our environment, respecting the land on which we live, the air we breathe. We still carry the seed of this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth.”
Move over Beltane, because Summer Solstice is all about sex! Quote: “In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice has a history of stirring libidos, and it’s no wonder. The longest day of the year tends to kick off the start of the summer season and with it, the harvest. So it should come as no surprise that the solstice is linked to fertility — both of the vegetal and human variety. ‘A lot of children are born nine months after Midsummer in Sweden,’ says Jan-Öjvind Swahn, a Swedish ethnologist and the author of several books on the subject.”
There are some places in Scotland where being transgendered will get you accused of being a witch. Quote: “Walking down the street I’d get a lot of abuse sometimes. They’d shout at me a lot, call me gay and even accuse me of witchcraft. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my friends because I had to leave Johnstone. My past was almost completely wiped away.” The ugly strain within humanity that persecutes “the witch,” the “other,” is still very much a part of us I’m sad to say.
The commemorative blue plaque for Doreen Valiente at her home in Brighton has gained the notice of the BBC. Quote: “Doreen Valiente, who was known as the “mother of modern witchcraft”, lived in Tyson Place until her death in 1999 and is to be honoured with a blue plaque on the side of the block of flats where she lived. Ralph Harvey who read the eulogy at her funeral, described her as ‘a very gentle lady’. ‘Witchcraft was always shrouded in mystery and medieval superstition,’ he said. ‘Doreen and Gerald Gardner brought it into the 20th century, they blew away the cobwebs and this was the renaissance of witchcraft as it truly is.’” You can read all of my previous coverage of the plaque, here.
That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.
Pagan voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.
Here’s hoping the full version is released on DVD, or on a streaming service. You can read more about this documentary, here. Now on to the rest of this week’s Pagan Voices…
Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone
“Something interesting is going on, as Pagans we have been waking the gods since the 1950′s. Voudon and the Caribbean traditions has a few hundred years on us! When you go to a Voudon Bembe, with its ecstatic drumming and dancing, they come through really strong, riding (possessing) the participants. We are now reaching the point where this beginning to happen now in modern neo-paganism, even though it has only been fifty years. This is because we have been waking the gods up. We have noticed something interesting as we have done the work. We are forming a Neo-Pagan pantheon. We only have a finite amount of energy to give the gods as spirits as they wake up. You see the same gods and goddess coming up all the time in our community. Hecate, Brid, Isis, Morrigan, Freja, Odin, Diana etc. Because there is only this finite amount of energy for them, they are congregating and forming a new pantheon. All awakened gods from different cultures forming a pantheon, and redefining roles.” – Gavin Bone, exploring the “waking” of ancient gods within a modern Pagan context, from a joint interview with Janet Farrar at PNC-Minnesota.
“The thing is, this is my life. This is me, right here, trying to be human. And I think my biggest challenge in being a part of ADF was that I didn’t feel like there was anyone really speaking to the challenges of being human. In a devotional religion, the emphasis is placed over there, not in here. The things that cut deeply for me, that are real and sometimes really difficult for me — things like compassion, despair, forgiveness, hope, kindness, patience, honesty — I don’t feel like we spend any time talking about these things. I think we experience these things, but they always feel secondary to “right relationship.” Frankly, I don’t care about right relationship. Or right action, for that matter. I think those concepts are distraction from the messy, mucky, complicated, beautiful acts of being human that have nothing to do with how virtuous or pious we are. I didn’t think I could earn my way into Heaven when I was a Christian, and I don’t think I can, through my own actions, earn my way into good standing with the Gods.” – Teo Bishop, explaining why he is leaving Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) and the Solitary Druid Fellowship he started, at his Bishop in the Grove site.
Beth Owl’s Daughter
“Our many ways of worshiping the Old Ones, or the Earth, or the Goddess, have truly begun to gel into traditions and teachings that are being handed down to new generations. Although we are still facing massive, well-organized bigotry and misunderstanding, a slow dawning of credibility has begun. That’s why it is vital that we begin taking ourselves, and each other, as seriously as we would ask the wider culture to. Frankly, I am mighty tired of hearing my fellow Pagans squabble over their fears of becoming too “churchy,” or our leaders actually being trained and disciplined (the horror!), or whether this or that school has received state accreditation (because, while this would be ideal andwill happen someday, what is the CV of Lady TwinkleWolf, who iscurrently managing your local coven?). Meantime, the needs of our people are real, complex, and urgent. Our ill, our dying, our soldiers, our incarcerated members, our folks in legal turmoil, our groups in the media crosshairs — can usually only receive second-rate assistance, if any at all, from (usually, but not always!) well-meaning, make-it-up-as-you-go-along priestesses and priests.” – Beth Owl’s Daughter, on the journey from “faking it to making it” for modern Pagan clergy, at her Owl’s Wings blog.
Beth Lynch spinning.
“I think physical offerings are important, since we live in a material realm and we are incarnated at least partially to learn from both the freedoms and restrictions of the material world. Offering something tangible to the gods—whether a drink, some of one’s own blood, or a painting—gifts Them with something that we, as humans, are in a unique position to offer Them, since most of Them cannot directly access physical things without the aid of a horse (a human who willingly serves as a vehicle for Them to interact with and manipulate the material world). Some gifts—such as a poem or a dance—bridge the gap between physical and energetic offerings. The Havamal (the section of the Poetic Edda attributed to Odin) is often quoted as stating that it is better to not give at all than to give too much; I myself take issue with this. In my own practice, I share everything I do and everything I have with Odin, but for beginners to heathen practice, or new Odin devotees, I would say give what you are able to give; and by this I mean, what you are honestly able to give, not what you think you can get away with giving. I have faith in the ability of the gods to let us know when/if this is too much, or more than They want to receive from us, but in general I think it is not possible to give Them too much, when weighed against all the gifts They lavish upon us.” – Beth Lynch, explaining some basics for those just starting out on the Heathen path, at the Witches & Pagans’ PaganSquare.
“Over these past few weeks I have been moving. On Earth Day I built an outdoor altar in my new place and made my first offerings to the spirits of the place. I know from experience it will take some time to revive the energy of a place towards its human inhabitants. But with attention and good will, the revival will happen. The place will speak to me. Earth Day 2013 is symbolically a good day to start, but any day is better than none at all. I suggest those who are interested do likewise. For this to work well at enlivening your connection with the earth, make offerings at least weekly. You are building a relationship. And be patient. Ideally build your altar next to a part of the yard you do not do much with to bring under your control. At the very least do not spray poisons there. It is a place for other powers to prevail with as little interference as possible. This area does not have to be large. [...] As you make your offerings, ask for better connections between yourself and the spirits of your place. Thank them for the good things about where you live. Show sincere gratitude. Ask for their blessings. And again, be patient. Our culture has spent over 2000 years separating itself from awareness with the spirits of place and we can begin taking some important steps to reconnect.” – Gus diZerega, explaining how to reconnect yourself with the spirits of a place, in the June issue of The Interfaith Observer.
“The real St. Francis of Assisi was anything but serene. He was more like “Occupy Rome” AD 1204 — an upper middle class young man angry at the establishment, demanding radical change in the Roman Catholic Church. But history has turned him into a bird bath — and perhaps that metamorphosis was inevitable. Growing up as a Forest Service brat, with an agnostic father and a devoutly Christian mother, I noticed that Christianity seemed to end at the edge of town. Relations with the other-than-human world were not discussed in church. The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer contained a prayer for rain, as I recall, and that was about all. For the rest, I was offered the secular gospel of conservation: scientific forestry, soil and water conservation, state-regulated hunting. At least that was better than what had gone before: cut-and-run timber cutting, market-hunting that wiped out species, the Dust Bowl… [...] We could see Bird Bath Francis as an attempt to bridge these traditions, to consecrate a safe, protected, and cultivated nature — if not the self-organizing wolf-ridden wilderness. Followers of what Bron Taylor calls “dark green religion,” which may not be at all theistic, might not be so easily persuaded by the monk of Assisi, were they to meet him on the path.” – Pagan scholar Chas Clifton, on St. Francis as an eco-saint, his current popular role as a birdbath ornament, and the development of eco-conscious religion in the modern era.
Lady Yeshe Rabbit
“Many of us have had the experience of walking into a tea house, cafe, or festival, locking eyes with a reader, and knowing it was time for a spontaneous divination. These in-the-moment adventures in mantic arts can be some of the best one-reading stands of one’s life. I’ll never forget the time I was 13 years old, on vacation with my family in Rockport, ME, when I had my first reading in a neon-palm store. The reader was spectacularly eccentric, dressed the part, and drew in a lively crowd of tourists. But she was also very accurate, mentioning pieces of information about my immediate social life and future experiences that have all come true: that I would not marry young, but would travel instead (I’d say moving cross-country and now engaged at 39 qualifies), that I would be a “healer but not a doctor or nurse” (in fact, I am both an herbalist and have served as a Public Health Educator), and – most importantly- that “You could do what I am doing if you wanted to” (and here I am!) In no way am I discounting these awesome, perfect, synergistic moments when life throws you a diviner’s bone and says, “Now!” But for most of us, we find ourselves needing guidance at other times, when we might be raw or sensitive, or when Fate does not seem to be serving us up the perfect spontaneous moment out of the blue. Then we have to take matters into our own hands. The little guide I have written below is based on my experiences observing my clients, and will help you get the most out of a reading you might schedule with a professional.” – Yeshe Rabbit, founding High Priestess of CAYA Coven, from an essay on making the most of getting a reading.
“I have always been fascinated by Thoreau’s approach to living simply. His little hut in the woods at Walden Pond was an exercise in bringing life back to the basics as a way of understanding what is truly important. This act feels very Druidic in spirit. [...] There is something deeply liberating about shedding the trappings of consumerist living. Not everyone could function in this tiny hut but the beauty and simplicity of the design and the quest to become more aware of the excess and unnecessary accumulation that our society encourages, is something that could be embraced by any of us, regardless of where we live. The pertinent question to ask is what do we need to have a happy, comfortable life? The answer might be different for each of us but I suspect that we might agree that many of the things we gather about us serve only to weigh us down. The burden of so much stuff can be like wearing a heavy coat on a hot day; ah, the relief when we slip it off and feel the cooling air on our skin, the freedom to move without hinderance.” - Philip Carr-Gomm, founder of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, writing about living simply, prompted by a video about tiny homes.
Murtagh A. anDoile
“Every year, we are seeing the deaths of more Pagan Elders and Tradition Founders, community activists and spokespeople. As the Pagan community ages, we are getting further way from our origins. We find a greater need for a mythic history to fills in the blanks. [...] We are calling for a historical narrative for the 50 plus years of American Paganism before it’s to late. [C]alled “The Pagan History Project”, we would create detailed histories of every area of the United States using historical verifiable data taken from a multitude of sources, as interviews and print media. It would include information from all historical perspectives, the actual and the mythic, even though controversial and contradictory, to create a cohesive narrative. The giving of credence to “Craft” myths is a valid means to show how such histories give validity to groups in a given area, and helps to define the community identity in said area. Myth gives communities a template for life and living, it introduces both spiritual and poetic truth. “The Pagan History Project” would be an interdisciplinary study to answer the need for more education and information for the growing pagan populace, scholars, the press, law enforcement, prison and military chaplains and anyone truly interested in the history of religion. [...] Only by looking at our roots and antecedents in all forms will we be able to continue to craft community and identity as we go into the future.” - Murtagh A. anDoile, from a paper presented at the 8th Conference on Current Pagan Studies, which lead to the recently launched Pagan History Project (more on that here).
“Stepping back, this appears to be a very bleak series. I think is very important to point out is that the potential for redemption is in every one of this pieces. The key to the redemption in these pieces is choice. The characters in this series have the choice to act differently. Even in areas where no choice is for individual characters is present, the choice for societal intervention is always present. I don’t want this series to appear as a portrayal of a dire reality or an inescapable cycle of victimization, but more of a mirror for examination, why these things needs to change, and where the potential for change lies. Before the onslaught of hate mail arrives, I would like to point out that I acknowledge that am neither a sociologist nor a political scientist. I certainly do not claim to have any answers to these monumental problems. These pieces reflect my experiences as a working class US citizen, a female, and one who falls into many categories of being “other.” I claim no real authority or expertise in the massive social issues that I bring up in this series. My goal for this artwork is to contribute a different perspective to the dialogue already in place around these subjects.” – Valerie Herron, discussing her senior thesis project The Allegories of Subjugation.Valerie also happens to be the artist who did the current masthead for The Wild Hunt.
T. Thorn Coyle
“Seek out that which kindles desire in you. Is it this song? That painting? People on the street? This nightclub? That forest? Is it the way you dance in the evening, when no one is around? Is it the photos of people rising up around the world? What is it? Cultivate desire. Follow beauty. Find that which touches you. Let it move you, let yourself act. We have a world to re-align toward love. We can’t do this if we do not desire. What is it? What does your heart want? What does your soul need? What makes you burst with compassion? What makes you feel angry, or fills you with sorrow? What helps you fall in love? What do you desire?” – T. Thorn Coyle, praising desire at her Know Thyself blog.
With all apologies to Charles de Lint for borrowing his column’s title, here are some recently released and upcoming books that I think readers of The Wild Hunt will be interested in checking out.
“Out For Blood” by Margot Adler: In a Kindle Single released on June 10th, Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America,” takes a look at the vampire, and how the monster has changed over the years to suit our needs. Quote: “Starting as a meditation on mortality after the illness and death of her husband, Margot Adler read more than 260 vampire novels, from teen to adult, from gothic to modern, from detective to comic. She began wonder why vampires have such appeal in our society now? Why is Hollywood spending billions on vampire films and television series every year? It led her to explore issues of power, politics, morality, identity, and even the fate of the planet.“Every society creates the vampire it needs,” wrote the scholar Nina Auerbach. Dracula was written in 19th century England when there was fear of outsiders and of disease coming in through England’s large ports. Dracula – An Eastern European monster bringing direct from a foreign land – was the perfect vehicle for those fears. But who are the vampires we need now?” At only $1.99 this essay is certainly more than worth the price, and catches you up with what one of our most celebrated journalists has been working on.
“The Lives of the Apostates” by Eric Scott: Hey, look! It’s The Wild Hunt’s very own columnist Eric Scott with his debut novella (out June 28th), a story about friendship, religion, tragedy and coming-of-age. Quote: “In a Midwest college town, a Wiccan student named Lou finds himself forced into taking a History of Christian Thought class from a religion professor who spends his weekends preaching at the local Baptist church. Between shifts as a caretaker for mentally handicapped men Lou calls “the boys,” he confronts his professor’s story of Christian triumph with increasing anger. As tensions escalate, he turns to his roommate, a fellow Pagan with the unfortunate nickname of Grimey, and his coven-mate and crush, Lucy, for support. But Grimey is dealing with his own problems hiding his faith from his mother. In the course of a single night, the world collapses for Grimey and one of Lou’s boys, and Lou finds himself standing up for himself and his beliefs.” When asked to provide an endorsement, I said it was “a tone poem of rage and grief at growing up in a world where your very beliefs place you in opposition to the way most of the world is run, to the blunt instruments of religious power and privilege [...] a barbaric yawp from the Pagan soul.” However, I may be biased. So instead, listen to celebrated novelist and essayist Peter Manseau:“Finally, something new under the sun: a midwestern pagan coming of age story that is at once a poignant evocation of young love and a searing meditation on the ancient conflict between faiths. As sharp as a ritual blade, as full as a chalice, The Lives of the Apostates is a great surprise, and Eric Scott a writer to watch.” Eric has only started his career as a writer, and I’m proud that we’ve had a hand in nurturing it.
“America Bewitched: Witchcraft After Salem” by Owen Davies: I knew about this book, released in March of 2013, but I haven’t had a chance to pay much attention to it (sometimes you lose track of things in my line of work). In any case, Owen Davies, author of such fine books as “Grimoires: A History of Magic Books” and “Paganism: A Very Short Introduction” (see my interview with Owen Davies regarding that book) digs through the archives of America to debunk the popular notion that we stopped killing and persecuting “witches” after 1692, and shows that belief in witchcraft persisted throughout this country into the 20th century (and beyond). Quote: “Witchcraft after Salem was not just a story of fire-side tales, legends, and superstitions: it continued to be a matter of life and death, souring the American dream for many. We know of more people killed as witches between 1692 and the 1950s than were executed before it. Witches were part of the story of the decimation of the Native Americans, the experience of slavery and emancipation, and the immigrant experience; they were embedded in the religious and social history of the country. Yet the history of American witchcraft between the eighteenth and the twentieth century also tells a less traumatic story, one that shows how different cultures interacted and shaped each other’s languages and beliefs. This is therefore much more than the tale of one persecuted community: it opens a fascinating window on the fears, prejudices, hopes, and dreams of the American people as their country rose from colony to superpower.” I think this book will be powerful and necessary reading for anyone interested in how our attitudes about witchcraft have been shaped. Here’s a video of Owen Davies discussing the book.
“Pagan Family Values: Childhood and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary American Paganism” by S. Zohreh Kermani: How are Pagan families passing their beliefs on to their children? This is a central question explored by S. Zohreh Kermani, a Harvard PhD who teaches religious studies part time at Youngstown State University. Quote: “The first ethnographic study of the everyday lives of contemporary Pagan families, this volume brings their experiences into conversation with contemporary issues in American religion. Through formal interviews with Pagan families, participant observation at various pagan events, and data collected via online surveys, Kermani traces the ways in which Pagan parents transmit their religious values to their children. Rather than seeking to pass along specific religious beliefs, Pagan parents tend to seek to instill values, such as religious tolerance and spiritual independence, that will remain with their children throughout their lives, regardless of these children’s ultimate religious identifications.” Sarah Pike, author of author of “Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community,” says the book is “one of the best and most nuanced ethnographic studies of contemporary Paganism to come along. Kermani takes us into the deeply conflicted religious lives of Pagan families, yet as she so deftly reveals, Pagans are not unique in their ambivalent desires for their children.” This sounds like a must-read for anyone interested in how we raise our children, and understanding how children experience growing up Pagan. Out July 29th, 2013.
“There are those who engage in witchcraft, fortune telling, Tarot Card, tea leaf and palm reading and other “spiritual” practices. These practices are wrong and dangerous. They are spoken of as an “abomination”—a particularly detestable sin—in the sight of God. They bring a terrible curse on the person who engages in such things, and you do so at your own peril. [...] Non-Christian religions have their own values which are often highly questionable. Yet there is a remarkable deference paid to any religious system that does not include Christ as the Son of God. Affinity for anything but what is truly of God is the nature of spiritual death?”
“He was soft-spoken and earnest as I questioned him about how his religious beliefs interact with his political views. Christian values make us free, Jackson told me, and people should live as they see fit as long as they don’t hurt others. While he opposes same-sex marriage, he said he wouldn’t support any sort of ban on gay sex. He also said there shouldn’t be any legal sanction of a religion, and that he would oppose a constitutional amendment naming Christianity as America’s official religion. But that doesn’t mean that our culture isn’t historically Judeo-Christian, he added, and influenced by the Bible. Acknowledging that isn’t an imposition of religion.”
“This is an emergency, a critical point in American history. Continuing down the path we are on will result in escalating persecution of Christianity, but even worse, risk losing the favor of God on our country, which would be an unimaginable horror. I am asking Christians to unite on the biblical principles which founded our country and help me take those principles to the United States Senate. Those who understand the history of our country know the vital role the church played not only in the establishment of hospitals, colleges, and a host of other charitable organizations, but in the revolution which established this great nation. If Christians do not rise up, the future of our country is bleak. I ask you to go to the polls on June 12 and cast a vote for the glory of God. I’m not a perfect man, but I love the Lord, and I love this country, and I will always be grateful that He has saved me and gave me citizenship to the most free and prosperous nation in history. I will fight to see to it that it stays that way. As a brother in Christ, I ask for your prayers, your support, and for your vote…”
Simply put, we all have to own our words and deeds, no matter what sphere in which they occur (just ask any candidate for president ever). As the National Review points out, the elected Lt. Governor in Virginia will hold increased power as a tie-breaker in the currently equally-balanced state senate, so stakes are quite high. Candidate Jackson, if elected, may very well get to vote on a number of initiatives that minister Jackson might have some strong opinions on. Any candidate, no matter what their party, or their personal faith, has to be able to serve all of their constituents. A Lt. Governor Jackson would be lieutenant governor for Buddhists, Witches, tarot-card readers, practitioners of Yoga, and Christians alike. Whether he governs and votes from a conservative or liberal philosophy is his prerogative, but he’s running in a secular nation, one that’s becoming increasingly post-Christian. Voters have a right to question whether he’ll be able to fully serve Virginians who follow a religion he thinks is “wrong and dangerous.”
Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!
Chas Clifton reports that Dr. Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge, and author of “Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America” is launching a new research project on individual’s spiritual relationship with animals. Quote: “The purpose of this study is to understand how we imagine our relationship to animals, how we incorporate animals into our spiritual or religious beliefs, and how this may motivate our actions in the everyday world.” You can take the survey, here. At the survey page Magliocco elaborates on benefits of the study: “This research could shed light on how people come to imagine themselves as part of an interconnected community that includes domestic and wild animals, and develop feelings that lead them to want to protect, defend and care for both domestic and wild animals. It may also reveal areas in which individuals diverge from the theological teachings of their religion as a result of their personal experiences with animals. Findings could be useful in developing educational programs for children and young people that foster sustainability.” Again, the survey link.
The Pagan History Project (PHP) initiated with a soft launch this week on Facebook, with a full website to follow soon. An oral history project created to “collect, store, share and preserve the history of the American Pagan Movement,” co-founder Murtagh AnDoile said the scope of the project would be broad. Quote: “We are using “Pagan” in its broadest sense, encompassing: Witchcraft , Traditional and other, Wicca, Heathenry, Druidry, various Reconstructionisms, Magical Lodges, etc. All the groups and traditions and paths that make up the American Occult/Magical/Pagan movement from the early days ( the 1930s, 40′s 50′s…) to present. We are focusing on everything and everyone pre-1995 at this time, due to our aging population.” Initial interviews have already been conducted, and an informational packet instructing those interested on how to participate in their local communities and festivals will be released soon. Wild Hunt staffer Rynn Fox has been following the development of this project, and will be filing a report soon.
PNC-Minnesota has posted the first part of a lengthy interview with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, authors of “Progressive Witchcraft,” and longtime elders within the Pagan community. Quote: “We used the term Progressive Witchcraft at one point to describe the evolutionary process at work. But we found people started saying, “Oh, Progressive Witchcraft, that’s a tradition. ” No, it’s not. No, it’s not. It’s a description of your philosophy and how you work in Witchcraft. So now what we teach with everybody who comes to us is, we teach them… We feel training is very important. The training is important because the training helps to teach our students how to make the connection.”
Raven Radio, a Heathen talk-radio program, has an interesting show up that looks inside the world of Asatru within prison, and the hurdles involved in following that faith while incarcerated. Quote: “This week we have a lengthy conversation with “Jimmy Dean”, a man who found heathenry while doing time. He enlightens us a great deal about what it means to be incarcerated, how one can practice heathenry, avoiding certain undesirable groups like the neo-nazis, etc.”
Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride.
I love seeing pictures of Pagan organizations marching in LGBTQ Pride parades, so be sure to check out the Temple of Witchcraft’s Facebook page, where they’ve posted several photos of their involvement with the Boston Pride Parade. Quote from ToW co-founder Steve Kenson: “Thank you to all who came out to march and represent for the pagans in Saturday’s Boston GLBT Pride parade and to those who cheered us on! The gods rewarded us with a clear and warm day after a grey and wet morning. Many thanks and blessings!”
Also at Patheos, the Pagan Families blog interviews Tara “Masery” Miller about the process of “adopting while Pagan.” Quote: “The Missouri Family and Children’s Services, a government agency, intention to adopt form illegally asked what our religion was. Just as I suspected. I was aware it was illegal because my atheist friend had sent me plenty of references on religion and adoption. Well, instead of blatantly saying I’m Pagan and my husband’s a mage, I said we are spiritual and I belong to the Unitarian Universalist Church! And sometimes we attend a Methodist Church. Which is true. My mother is a lay minister!” That quote is from part two of the interview, here.
The Summer Solstice is coming up, and Llewellyn is holding a Twitter party to celebrate! Quote: “The beginning of June marks shorts days, grill days, and summer hours for our luckly Llewellyn employees–but it’s not very fair that you don’t get to participate, is it? So we want you to join us in a summer celebration! We are hosting our second annual Solstice Twitter party! [...] Use the hashtag #moonchat in your party tweets. We’ll tweet the questions, you’ll tweet the answers, and we’ll chat!” There are going to be prize giveaways for participants, so if you’re stuck in an office that day, why not?
In a final note for all our Trad-Wiccan friends out there (and you know who you are), June 13th is Geraldmas! The celebration of Gerald Gardner, the father of modern religious Witchcraft (born June 13th, 1884). I think it’s a great idea to have a day where BTW groups do a day of outreach and socializing. Are you having a Geraldmas celebration in your area this year?
There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.
The FBI has announced that it will start tracking hate crimes involving religion, including Pagans. Quote: “The hate crime tracking will include ‘all self-identified religions in the United States as listed in the Pew Research Center’s Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (2008) and the Statistical Abstract (2012) approved by the U.S. Census Bureau,’ Fischer wrote in an email. ‘The recommended list includes Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Orthodox, Other Christian, Jewish, Islamic (Muslim), Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Other Religions, Multiple Religions-Group, and Atheism/Agnosticism.’ Upon approval by FBI Director Robert Mueller of the new groups, ‘the FBI will make the necessary Uniform Crime Reporting Program technical enhancements, procedural changes, and manual revision to begin collecting this data,’ Fischer said.” Pagans, Native American Religions, New Age religions, and Unitarians are all covered under the Pew Forum’s “Other Religions” category.
Will Brighton become a pilgrimage site now that there’s a memorial plaque honoring Doreen Valiente, the mother of modern religious Witchcraft? That’s the assertion of the Doreen Valiente Foundation. Quote: “Doreen is celebrated across the world and is regarded as the mother of modern witchcraft. It is one of the fastest-growing religions in the US with millions of members worldwide. It could be hugely beneficial for the city. I know that a few witches are travelling across the pond for the blue plaque ceremony.” You can read more about the Doreen Valiente Foundation, here. The commemoration ceremony will take place on June 21st. You can read all of my coverage on this story, here.
Cindy Jacobs, a leader within the New Apostolic Reformation, whose rabid anti-Pagan, anti-indigenous antics I’ve reported on before, surprised almost nobody when she recently called for Native American and indigenous people to repent their heritage. Quote: “If you have in your bloodline any animus [animism?], any Native American blood, for instance — not all Native Americans worshiped the serpent or crocodile, many did — but you might want to renounce that and repent for the generational iniquity [...] If you are — perhaps you’re Mexican and you might have indigenous blood in you or Mayan blood — those who have Aztec blood in any way, you need to repent for the sin of animism before you begin to deal with this spirit.” Charming, as always. Her extremism does more to drive people away from Christianity than the most vocal Pagan critic.
The Great Serpent Mound
Indian Country Today reports on how New Age woo demeans and threatens The Great Serpent Mound in Ohio. Quote: “Kenny Frost a Southern Ute citizen, has worked to protect sacred places for more than 20 years. He is a well-respected authority on Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act issues and law and frequently consults with state, federal and tribal governments. ‘The protection put down by Native people at sacred sites is still there. Non-Native people dig around and see what they can find; they may end up opening a Pandora’s box without knowing how to put spirits back,’ he notes.”
Religion Clause reports that a judge has allowed a gangster’s Santa Muerte necklace to remain as evidence during the penalty phase of the trial (for which the defendant was found guilty of murder). Quote: “The court held that appellant had failed to object on any 1st Amendment religious ground to introduction of the evidence.” Further, the judge says they may have allowed it even if the defendant has objected earlier in the case noting the faith’s ties to narco-trafficking. Could this ruling lead to a problematic precedent? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
Christians opposed to same-sex marriage know that the battle is lost. Quote: “Just 22% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, but about three times that percentage (70%) thinks legal recognition for gay marriage is inevitable. Among other religious groups, there are smaller differences in underlying opinions about gay marriage and views of whether it is inevitable.” I think that means marriage equality has won, don’t you? Now to undo 50 years of legislative hysteria.
Speaking of marriage equality, it’s very, very “pagan.” Quote: “As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the “Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media. Bill Bennett’s insight, “… the two essential questions Plato posed as: Who teaches the children, and what do we teach them?” requires deep thought, soul-searching and a response from Christian America to the secular, politically correct and multicultural false gods imposing their religion on America’s children.” That’s David Lane, one of Rand Paul’s point men in improving his relations with evangelical Christians. I’ll spare you the Dragnet P.A.G.A.N. reference.
“Occult,” a new television series in development for A&E, follows the exploits of an “occult crime task force.” Quote: “‘Occult’ revolves around Dolan, an FBI agent who has returned from administrative leave after going off the deep end while investigating his wife’s disappearance. Eager to be back on the job, he is paired with an agent with her own complicated back story who specializes in the occult. Together, they will solve cases for the newly formed occult crimes task force.” Whether the show actually gets on the air is still an open question. If it does, we can start a betting pool for when Wiccans, Druids, and Asatru are mentioned in the series.
Frank Lautenberg, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey who passed away recently, took an active role in combatting the revisionist Christian history of David Barton. Quote: “I want those who hear me across America to pay attention: ‘Christian heritage is at risk.’ That means that all the outsiders, all of those who approach God differently but are people who believe in a supreme being; people who behave and live peacefully with their neighbors and their friends. No, this is being put forward as an attempt — a not too subtle attempt — to make sure people understand that America is a Christian country. Therefore, we ought to take the time the majority leader offers us, as Members of the Senate, for a chance to learn more about how invalid the principle of separation between church and state is. I hope the American public sees this plan as the spurious attempt it is.” For why David Barton is infamous among Pagans, check out my previous reporting on his antics.
Pagan voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.
“To me, whether or not to have professional ministry is the wrong question. We have one even if we don’t call it that. The real question is do we want an educated ministry? Do we want Pagans who will serve in these ministerial situations who have been trained in things like ethics and boundaries, family dynamics, substance abuse, social justice issues, interfaith dealings, counseling techniques – all from a Pagan perspective? As Paganism continues to grow and more Pagans feel safe to practice their religion openly, I don’t think we can afford not to have a professional priesthood, and by that, I mean men and women who have been systematically educated to minister to Pagans in need. I believe we owe that to ourselves and to our gods.” – Wendy Griffin, Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary, on the subject of a professional priesthood within modern Paganism.
T. Thorn Coyle
“When I say I am not a believer, it doesn’t mean I believe nothing. It is that belief is not central to my religious and spiritual life. As a matter of fact, belief holds little importance to me at all. Belief doesn’t structure my experience; my experience structures what few beliefs I might have. My spiritual life consists of praxis first, theoria second. Any theories I hold are simply there to explain — or give context to — experience. Sometimes gnosis enters on a flash of synaptic lighting, but the pathway is usually opened by practice first. The times when this process is reversed, it is still practice that shows me whether or not the flash of insight was an aberration. Like the scientific jolt that happens in the bathtub or while stepping on a city bus: after the big event, we return to the processes that test and compare.” – T. Thorn Coyle, at the Huffington Post, explaining why she isn’t a believer.
“At the Pagan Federation Conference in London yesterday, we got to see *The Spirit of Albion* and loved it. The dialogue may present a bit to be desired for, and Richard considered the film to be an English pagan *Umbrellas of Cherbourg*, but the viewer is drawn in all the same. The film is an astounding collaboration of volunteers and a low-budget enterprise, but it presents ‘what is always there’ beneath and behind the ‘illusion of modernity’. A wonderful work for explaining paganism to the wider community. Patrick and Barbara, it has already been used most helpfully in prison work and with prison authorities. All the music has been composed by Damh the Bard, and the movement between the worlds is fascinating. I strongly recommend Gary Andrews production.” – Michael York, author of “Pagan Theology: Paganism As A World Religion,” on the Pagan film “The Spirit of Albion.”
“It is only when I fully accept what I am powerless over that I can take my rightful place of power in the center of the pentacle and access the powers of spirit, earth, air, fire and water. At that moment, I finally understand myself in right perspective to the things that are around me. A witch cannot shape reality until she understands it. Admitting that there are things in the world, in nature, that she is powerless over is acknowledging that she is part of the tremendous web of life in which all things are connected. Humans, no matter how impressive our cognition, cannot set ourselves above or apart from the forces of nature. We are all bound by the laws of physics. We are all touched by death. To admit we are powerless over things is to claim our birthright as people of this Earth. It is to lay our heart out open and say “Yes, I am vulnerable. See how strong my heart beats” And yet, In their efforts to rewrite the Twelve steps for a more Pagan-friendly model, many authors have written the concept of powerless out of the first step.” – Hope M. of the 12 Step Witch blog writing about the importance of understanding powerlessness at PaganSquare.
“The liberal religions (which include virtually all forms of Paganism) are not proselytizing religions – we have no desire to convert the whole world to our ways. But there are plenty of folks who need what we have. They feel the call of the old gods and goddesses. They feel the call of Nature and the spirits of Nature. They feel the call of magic, of the alchemy that refines not base metals but human souls. Do we welcome them? Do we have a place for them? Do we help them find their way to Druidry or Heathenry or Humanistic Paganism or whatever flavor they’re best suited for? Or do we close ourselves off in our box pews and let them fend for themselves?” - John Beckett, discussing box pews, both physical and metaphorical, at the Patheos Pagan Portal.
“Our original (pieces are) heavily Pagan oriented. Because a lot of them – at least, mine – have come from either when I’m invoked, or through trances, or at drum circles . . . they just pop in. To help bridge that gap, we throw in some traditional Irish songs, as well as traditional English ones. And that sort of helps at our concerts . . . it makes sort of welcome listening for everyone. That’s the way I see it should be. Whether it’s Pagan music or mainstream music, it should be able to appeal to the masses. Because that’s what music is: a voice, and an entity that wants to be heard, that needs to be heard, and especially with today’s society, the music needs to be heard by as many people as possible.” -Thom Swanson, of the Celtic folk-rock band Raven’s Call, in an interview with Diane Morrison at PaganSquare.
“I believe modern Pagan thinking, Wiccan-influenced Paganism especially, could take a tip from the evolution of the Muses in Classical Greek mythology. There are nine classical muses that represent all sorts of areas of interest, ranging from science to literature to music and theatre. We could, and should, recognize that people walk all sorts of different paths, and that our instinct is to relate to gods that resemble those paths. As was said before, we like gods that look like us, but the flip-side is that we find it hard to relate to – at least when it comes to worship and having a personal relationship with – gods and goddesses that look nothing like us, whose domain of influence is alien to our personal worldview. Anthropotheism says that we made the gods look and act like us, but the confusion here is that we think that’s where it stopped. That we created archetypes and deities and gave them names and faces and associations and carved it in stone somewhere and said THIS IS HOW THINGS ARE AND HAVE TO BE. Good news! You can continue to evolve your concept of the divine just as much as the divine continues to help you grow and change. We work together, us and the divine, because we are part of it, of them. As above, so below, right? If you need the Goddess to wear different mantels, then so be it.” – Fire Lyte, of Inciting A Riot fame, discusses the triple goddess at The Witches’ Voice.
Holli Emore Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary
“Wild Garden will explore and report on Pagans in the growing – yes, like a garden – interfaith landscape. I’ll be posting, as well as hosting a number of other Pagan bloggers who are out there somewhere in the blackberry patch. Wild Garden will place a particular emphasis on the local and regional grassroots movements happening around the country. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire readers to put on a sunhat, grab some gloves and come on out into the sunshine. Some of you have read my past accounts on Palimpsest, about months of my religion being listed as “Other,” about the minister who made an apology to me and all Pagans the subject of his Sunday sermon, about my role on the board of directors of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina. I’ll continue to share those stories here at Wild Garden, along with my observations and the personal lessons I learn. Maybe you have a story to tell? We at Wild Garden will be all ears to your comments here at the blog. We want to hear what you are doing, what has worked for you, scared you off, intrigued you and inspired you.” – Holli Emore, introducing the new group Pagan interfaith blog “Wild Garden,” at the Patheos Pagan Portal.
“I think that the current interest in occult and magical activities among musicians and artists is kind of to be welcomed, and in some ways perhaps predictable and inevitable. I think that our culture has gone about as far as it can in having no content or meaning to its art, and I think that an attempt to invest meaning in our culture and in our art by imbuing it with a sensibility of magic is probably necessary, and, like I said, probably inevitable, and certainly long overdue. I salute it considerably.” – Alan Moore, writer and magician, in an interview with The Believer magazine.
The late 1980s through the mid-1990s was a commercial high-point for the genre of music known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). Bands like DC Talk, Jars of Clay, and Amy Grant were garnering breakthrough success outside of traditional genre boundaries, often selling millions of albums. It was during this era that the singer known as Carman was a Christian superstar. Between 1985 and 1997 six of his albums were certified Gold, and one, 1993′s “The Standard,” went Platinum. He was nominated for two Grammys, and won several Dove Awards (essentially the Christian Grammys). I think it’s important to give you this information, because when we talk about things that happened twenty, thirty, or forty years ago, it’s easy to lose context. So knowing that Carman was reaching hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of listeners during this period, is how you should view the single “A Witch’s Invitation” from the 1989 album “Revival In The Land.”
“It’s the Christian Fundamentalists, however, in whom we inspire the greatest anger, hatred, and fear. They routinely denounce Buddhism, Taoism, the New Age, and all other competing belief systems, just as they have always done, but seem to save their greatest vituperation for occultists in general and Neopagans (especially Witches) in particular. As most Neopagans know, Christian Fundamentalists are constantly publishing and broadcasting blasphemies against our deities, slanders against our members, and half-truths and outright lies about our beliefs and practices. Over and over, they strive to convince the general public, the media, and the civil governments that we are devil worshiping murderers, rapists, child abusers, and even cannibals. Their kids beat up our kids in school, their adults vandalize our stores and temples, shoot bullets through our windows, and manipulate the courts to remove our children from us. Why? What is it about Neopaganism that makes some Christian Fundamentalists so desperate that they will repeatedly violate most of their own Ten Commandments to try and stop us?”
“Carman said he knows that after a dozen years away from the big stage, his new material “has to be current; it has to sound like it belongs in 2013.” At the same time, he said, his fans expect to hear timeless biblical stories and a gospel message in his music. From 1982 to 1992, Carman’s albums regularly sold more than a million copies each, and he topped the Christian singles charts with songs such as “Satan, Bite the Dust,” “Revival in the Land,” “The Champion,” and “Witches Invitation.” He was one of the first contemporary Christian artists to incorporate the kind of elaborate — and expensive—lighting, staging and entertainment that fans expected from top-level secular artists. Legions of screaming teenage fans would call him the “Italian Stallion” as Carman developed a niche for high-drama emotional ballads that featured demons, witches, spiritual warfare and always, a victorious Christ.”
Notice that his brand is still identified with “A Witch’s Invitation” and spiritual warfare against Witches. A brand that the “Carman” generation, Christian music fans now in their 40s and 50s, are willing to pay to see return. Which brings me to the second reason I’m writing about a Christian pop-star’s comeback album: the next generation of Christians and how they will see modern Pagans. In October of last year I was invited to speak at Multnomah University, a Bible college and Biblical seminary in Portland, Oregon, to talk about modern Paganism with several Christian seminary students. While everyone was very gracious and nice, there were moments where I could tell that some student’s information about Pagan religions had come through a distorted Christian media lens.
“We Christians need to be on guard in our understanding of such movements as contemporary Paganism. We tend to lump all of modern Paganism into one general and distorted category. We often fail to account for the vast complexity within the movement and articulate Paganism accurately. For all our concern about pagan idolatry, we may be guilty at times of making their idols for them. We need to develop the practice of respect for understanding their practices, rituals, and beliefs.”
Christian churches and denominations centered on evangelizing, on missions of conversion, will never stop their efforts. But I think our goals shouldn’t be to make them stop trying, it is to make them acknowledge our humanity, and to accurately understand who they are speaking to. If they start to understand us, if they see us as practicing valid religious traditions (as opposed to demonic underground cults) alongside all the other world’s religions, then the chances of a new moral panic decreases, and the ability to have real discourse grows. That discourse will be vitally important as our faiths continue to grow, and as tensions created by an increasingly post-Christian West become more pronounced.
We need to put the old slurs to rest if we are to evolve our understandings of one another, and this requires Christians to properly contextualize the books and records that have profited by slander against us. I have no wish to heap abuse on Carman as he mounts his comeback, but “A Witch’s Invitation” should be seen as the embarrassment to Christianity that it is, and our community is long overdue for an apology for the slander it perpetuated. Moving forward, all of us engaged in interfaith work need to constantly ask: where are my perceptions of this person, this religion, this tradition, coming from? Do they come from a place of knowledge and discernment, from first-hand experience, or from propaganda and distortion? I am hoping, by my presence at Multnomah, to replace fear and distortion with knowledge and experience. To ensure that we are speaking to each other instead of about each other.
“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.”
“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.’”
“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.”