Archives For Botanica

The Times Picayune interviews Sallie Ann Glassman, an initiated Vodou priestess who runs the Island of Salvation Botanica in New Orleans, and is author of “Vodou Visions: An Encounter With Divine Mystery.” Glassman has been gaining increased media attention lately because of her relationship with comedian Joan Rivers, who is performing at a benefit for the  New Orleans Healing Center. In the videos below, Glassman talks about Vodou, cleansing Joan River’s house, and the upcoming benefit.

Part one:

Part two:

For more on Sallie Ann Glassman, check out the Times Picayune’s story from 2010 about how she rescued her mentor, Vodou priest Edgard Jean Louis, after the disastrous Haitian earthquake. It’s nice to see such uniformly positive coverage of Vodou practitioners in the United States.

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.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

  • Is the Chico Goddess Temple doomed? According to the Chico News and Review, noise complaints for an illegal festival held four years ago has led to a much larger struggle to survive and gain the permits needed to stay open. Owner Robert Seals thinks that hostility to Goddess religion might underlay the resistance he’s encountered in obtaining the permits he needs. Quote: “This is nothing new, worship of the Goddess, but it goes up against a lot of fundamental religions.” You can learn more about this struggle, and the upcoming appeal hearing, here.

That’s it for now! Happy Friday the 13th! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

I’m back from FaerieCon! First off, I’d like to thank all the wonderful folks who stepped up to do guest-posts while I was away: Sharon Knight, Star Foster, T. Thorn Coyle, Teo BishopLaura LaVoie, and Eric Scott. They all did an excellent job of providing interesting, informative, provocative, and inspiring pieces for you, and I hope you’ll follow them at their own blogs and projects in the future. As for me, I’ve returned to an avalanche of stories of interest to our communities, so I’m going to unleash the hounds in an attempt to get caught up.

That’s all I have time for today, expect a write-up of my FaerieCon adventures in the near-ish future. In the meantime, do check out my interview with Qntal’s Michael Popp at A Darker Shade of Pagan. As always, some of these stories may be expanded upon in future posts.

Top Story: It looks like openly Pagan New York City councilman Dan Halloran has been vindicated in his recent clash with a parking enforcement agent. The NY Daily News reports that a judge threw out the $165 ticket written to him during his confrontation with traffic agent Daniel Chu, and that Chu has been disciplined and sent back to training.

“The lawmaker had tailed Chu after he saw the agent speed through a stop sign with his police lights flashing, he said. When Halloran stopped to snap photos of Chu parked illegally in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts in Whitestone, Queens, Chu hollered at him and wrote him a ticket for blocking a crosswalk. Chu was put on foot patrol and is required to undergo retraining at the Police Academy, which includes sensitivity training. He also faces several days’ docked pay, police sources said. After the Daily News ran a story on the confrontation last month, Halloran was bombarded with calls and e-mails from motorists claiming to have been wrongly ticketed by Chu. Complaints included the agent doling out tickets to a funeral procession, he said, adding that he is still calling for a review of every ticket the agent wrote.”

Considering how many New Yorkers feel about traffic agents, I’m sure Halloran has won himself a few new supporters from this little tempest in a tea-cup. But this doesn’t look like the end of troubles for the freshman council member, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is calling for a federal investigation into the election that made Halloran a councilman, citing accusations of racial intimidation at the polls.

AALDEF told us their observers saw Asian-American voters and volunteers for Kim’s campaign harrassed and even assaulted by whites. The Halloran campaign countered that vanloads of Asian voters from outside the district were brought in to vote, and that voters were encouraged not to support him because of his pre-Christian pagan religious beliefs. Today, AALDEF is also claiming Korean-American voters also faced roadblocks to casting their ballots, thanks to the “racially discriminatory application of election procedures by New York City Board of Elections officials.”

I’m very certain there were racial tensions heightened during the campaign, and I don’t doubt that some thugs engaged in direct harassment of Asian voters, but there’s been no real proof that the Halloran campaign participated, encouraged, or benefited from such actions. Halloran, for his part, says he welcomes “any investigation to address election issues, especially voter fraud and electioneering inside the prohibited zones, as well as whether monitors followed the rules for avoiding voters entering polling sites before they voted.”

Another Pagan Music Festival: We have the music-focused Faerieworlds in Oregon, and the upcoming festival of Pagan Music That Doesn’t Suck in Missouri, and now Bangor Daily News reports that the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association will sponsor the state’s first pagan music festival.

“What makes a pagan song pagan is the lyrics rather than the kind of music or the instruments, according to Keri Alley, who helped organize the event. “Portland has held a pagan pride event, but this is the first event in the state devoted to pagan music,” she said recently. The performers will include Women with Wings, 1476, SadisTech, Lorelei Greenwood, Wolf Bone and Brite Phoenix. Members of Dark Follies, including Selcouth, are scheduled to perform. Brotha Luv, the host of WERU’s “Head Rush” show, will act as emcee.”

A sign that Pagan music’s time is soon arriving? Harbinger of a generational shift in Pagan-themed events? The most exciting thing about this show is that I haven’t heard of many of these bands, which points to a far larger underground of Pagan music-making than maybe any of us have anticipated. Artists at the festival include Lorelei GreenwoodDark FolliesWomen with Wings1476SadisTech, and Wolf Bone.

Botanicas and Those Who Supply Them: Fascinating in-depth journalistic treatments of minority faiths, and the businesses that grow up around them, are truly rare. So I was very happy to see the Dallas Observer’s profile of Chango Botánica in Oak Cliff, and its resident folk healer (curandero) Francisco “Pancho” Diaz.

“You can’t take out the religious element from the botánicas,” says Northern Arizona University anthropology professor Robert Trotter, who has researched curanderismo, Mexican-American folk medicine. “But, if you were to do so, there would be a huge overlap between what they carry and many of the supplements and products sold at, say, a GNC or someplace like Whole Foods.”

Despite Chango Botanica’s popularity and success, its future is threatened by a cancer diagnosis for Pancho, and a planned rezoning and gentrification of the neighborhood that will drive up property values, and drive away the shop’s usual clientèle.

“Imagine one day you’re driving and you don’t see that lighthouse of beautiful saints from multiple faiths and beliefs, and you ask yourself, ‘What happened?'” Jorge says. “We are a fixture in this community and so is every other business on West Davis. It’s sad to see even one tire shop disappear. And if a tire shop can make me feel that way, think about Chango Botánica.”

The whole article is worth the read, and I encourage you to do so. Better yet, as evidence of the amount of research Daniel Rodrigue did for this piece, he presents a story thread that didn’t make it into the main article; a spotlight of the candle manufacturer that supplies many of the local botanicas. It, along with a slideshow of Chango Botanica’s back rooms give an engaging portrait of a thriving economy that many of us barely notice.

A New Training Program for Pagan Clergy: Pagan organization Earth Traditions, co-founded by Angie Buchanan and Drake Spaeth, has officially launched their new training program for Pagan clergy.

“Thank you for your interest in the Earth Traditions Ministry Training Program. This is not a Seminary, a program of magical instruction, or necessarily an ordination track. This is a practical certificated training program designed to provide Pagans who wish to be Ministers, (servants of the community) an array of tools and resources to inform and protect both the individual and the communities they serve.”

You can find an outline of their curriculum, here, and a list of instructors, here. I couldn’t find word on when their Fall semester begins or ends, but I’m sure interested parties can find out by contacting Earth Traditions.  In other Pagan clergy/leader training news, the next National Pagan Leadership Skills Conference is coming up next week in Virginia, and Cherry Hill Seminary’s Fall registration is now open. It should be interesting to see how all these organizations, and others, rise to the challenge of providing leadership training to an ever-expanding modern Pagan community in the years to come.

A Ritual Death Results in Homicide Charge: A Santero in Puerto Rico, Jose Cadiz Tapia, has been charged with negligent homicide in the death of a woman who suffered extensive second-degree burns after he allegedly dropped a candle into an alcohol bath she was undergoing under his direction.

“Police consider 28-year-old Stephanie Rodriguez Pizarro’s death in July 2009 in a San Juan housing project to be an accident, and say she sought the treatment to help with marital and financial troubles. She died of second-degree burns over half her body. The healer, 46-year-old Jose Cadiz Tapia, was charged Tuesday following an investigation that took about a year to complete, police said. He faces six months to three years in prison if convicted.”

What is it with bizarre ritual deaths lately? Needless to say, if you are bathing in flammable liquid, do so well away from flames. If you do think alcohol baths and candles mix, be sure you really, really, trust the person holding the candles, and that you take precautions against an agonizing fiery death.

A Quick Final Note on Catholic Empathy: A Zambia chief is imprisoning “witches” in an illegal dungeon in his palace basement, and the Malole Catholic Church Parish Council has threatened to withhold holy communion from the chief (who apparently is nominally Catholic) if the practice continues. Good for the local Catholic Church, right? Well, apparently it’s snarky comedy gold for National Catholic Register blogger/commentator Pat Archbold.

“It seems the deal-breaker in this case is that the Chief’s sorcerer slammer does not provide adequate toilet facilities.  Nothing will bring down the full wrath of the God and Amnesty International like not having adequate porta-potties in your own personal Azkaban. While sharia law may allow for attempted murders (or actual murders) on the cast of Harry Potter actresses, the Church still frowns upon such activity.  Porta-potties or no porta-potties. Closer home, certain Catholic politicians who oppose the Church do not seem to be in any danger of being banned from Communion any time soon.  Not that they are too worried about that anyway. Apparently in U.S, just as in Zambia, the witches are still free to receive communion.

Yes, because voting the wrong way in a democracy is equatable to illegally imprisoning accused witches in your basement! Also note that he makes no mention of the hundreds of thousands killed, tortured, and abused because of witch-hysteria around the world, but instead makes a correlation to the “witches” (ie Catholic politicians who are pro-choice) receiving communion in America. Truly, his empathy and sense of proportion is staggering.

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

Top Story: Word is now emerging that pioneering feminist theologian Mary Daly passed away yesterday, after suffering from poor health for the last two years. With books like 1973’s “Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation”, Daly became hugely influential on the then-emerging field of feminist theology, and in turn, hugely influential on certain strains of modern Paganism in America.

“The Goddess Movement would not be the same without her. Contemporary Paganism would not be the same without the Goddess Movement. The radical essentialism of thinkers like Daly was a challenge to the pole that said “only men can communicate with the divine”. That pillar that she went up against? Mostly it has changed, leaving behind laughable relics, some of whom unfortunately still hold a measure of power. Yes, inequality still exists and yes, I am still a feminist, but things have gotten better. Much, much better. I don’t know if Mary Daly was able to see the battles she actually won.”T. Thorn Coyle

To be sure, Daly will be well-remembered not only as an ardent foe of patriarchy, but also as someone who passionately wanted to remove the idea of God from an exclusively male definition. She gladly “went overboard” in service of her cause, but did so with her wit and humor intact. May she rest in the arms of a Goddess.

In Other News: The New York Times makes a new-year visit to the Original Products Company in the Bronx, the East Coast’s largest botanica and ritual supply emporium (they reportedly take in around three million dollars per year). The report does a nice job of giving a sense of the place’s scale, and also conveys the religious diversity of their clientèle.

“This is the busiest time of the year for Original Products and the many other botanicas around the city and country — purveyors of herbs, amulets and other items used in Afro-Caribbean religions and occult practices including Santería, voodoo and Wicca … The company has turned over the second floor, rent free, to the Pagan Center of New York, which holds witchcraft rituals overseen by a Wiccan high priestess named Lady Rhea … A short plump man missing half his teeth approached the counter to speak with Mr. Allai, the Santería priest…”

What I also found interesting was that the owners, descendants of Sephardic Jews who emigrated from Turkey, don’t share in any of the belief systems of their customers.

Jason Mizrahi, a co-owner of the company, which was started in 1959 by his father, the son of Sephardic Jews who emigrated from Turkey. The business, which fills a former A.&P. supermarket on Webster Avenue near Fordham University, claims to be the largest botanica on the East Coast … Mr. Mizrahi does not follow any of the faiths his store provides for, but said he subscribed to the “concept of spirituality and keeping a positive attitude by using these products.” “These things are daily needs, staples,” he continued. “Milk, eggs, bread, incense, candles, in that order. Sometimes incense and candles are ahead of milk and eggs, on a day like today.”

Perhaps the owner not being directly involved cuts down on drama? There’s no hint that the customers mind this arrangement. Whatever they are doing, it sure seems to be working. I’d just like to take a stroll through a botanica that large some day, it must be quite the experience.

Can you get anthrax from attending a drumming circle? The answer is apparently yes.

“A New Hampshire woman who is critically ill with gastrointestinal anthrax most likely swallowed spores while participating in a community drumming circle, state health officials said Tuesday.”

So how exactly do you get anthrax from drums? I got the following answer via e-mail from Michael Lloyd, who has some knowledge and experience of this phenomenon.

“When I am not writing about Paganism or running a Pagan men’s gathering, my real-world job is as an engineering consultant in the fields of risk management and security/anti-terrorism. One tidbit of information that I ran across several years ago was that shipments of improperly tanned hides from certain countries (notably Haiti) are routinely screened for anthrax contamination. Now while the exact cause of the anthrax infection in NH was not released, I suspect that one or more of the drum heads was made of anthrax contaminated hide. This appears to be bolstered by the article, which notes that several of the drums were contaminated. With the drum circle being held indoors during the winter, this would have increased the chances of exposure in the confined space by concentrating the spores. One good reason to use a synthetic drum head, at least when indoors. But this also points to a potential problem during other times of the year when the drummer has cuts, blisters, or abrasions on their hands that could allow anthrax from a contaminated head to gain entry to the body. Something to think about.”

Now scientists say the chances for infection from drums is very low, but it’s always good to know where your natural-hide drum-skins are coming from, and take proper precautions.

Apple growers in Somerset are getting ready to Wassail their orchards for a good harvest come the Spring.

“Wassailing is an ancient pagan tradition held on Old Twelfth Night which falls on 17 January. Although many are held on this date, others observe the Gregorian calendar where Twelfth Night falls on 6 January. The Wassail is held to scare off worms and maggots that are regarded as ‘evil’ spirits and to attract the ‘good’ spirit embodied by the robin. The ceremony takes place around the oldest orchard tree where it is toasted and traditional Wassail songs are sung.”

Of course you can’t have a good Wassail without some Morris dancing too! Any Pagans out there planning to do some Winter-time Morris-dancing or Wassailing? Let us know in the comments.

In a final note, the Washington Post wonders if the movies are getting more religious.

“In movies as varied as the dead serious “The Road,” the uplifting family picture “The Blind Side,” the biting comedy “The Invention of Lying” and even James Cameron’s sci-fi opus “Avatar,” issues of faith and morality and mankind’s place in the universe are all the rage.”

It’s a shame that the article seems to equate the “religious audience” with the “Christian audience”, even though they mention the pantheistic “Avatar” as part of the trend. With films like films “Agora”, “The Wicker Tree”“Clash of the Titans” and “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” coming up in 2010, it seems rather obvious there is a market for non-Christian “religious/spiritual” films.

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

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel profiles some local botanicas for yet another “psychics do well in bad times” sort of piece.  While there are the usual claims of increased business and success, there is also some rather frank and honest advice from the owners and practitioners concerning expectations.

“Nelson Hernandez, who owns El Viejo Lazaro botanica in Miami, agrees. No one should expect orishas, or Santeria deities, to overturn something as vast as the economic crisis, he said. Hernandez, who is also a master of Santeria ceremonies, reads cowrie shells to see how the orishas can help his customers … “The orisha can help when a path exists, but not if there isn’t one,” he said.”

They also talk to a Santero who’s been giving away free readings due to the poverty of his clients. Words and deeds like this point to important distinctions concerning those who offer ritual and divinatory services for money. Sometimes the answer to a prayer, spell, offering, or ritual is “no”. Anyone who tells you differently, or who guarantees miraculous results, is most likely a lying scam-artist more concerned about their own income during this recession than yours. Even the most blessed, heroic, and well-connected people are sometimes bereft of divine or magical help.

If you’re in a difficult position, and seeking some sort of spiritual assistance through an intermediary, make sure the person you’re going to is involved with and accountable to their local community. A Santero, botanica owner, or local Pagan merchant who takes advantage of their community too often will find themselves saddled with a bad repuation and a shrinking client base, but the independent (and often stereotypical) psychics and card-readers you see with the lit windows and colorful signs are usually operating without such social pressures. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and always trust your intution. If something feels “wrong” it probably is.

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 14, 2009 — 3 Comments

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

It looks like crazy and criminal Pagans in the courtroom come in threes. First there was the horrific occult-tinged child murders perpetrated by Lawrence Harris, then the crazy attempted murder ring-leader  Terisa “Red Phoenix” Davidson, and now a jury is beginning deliberations in the case of Kathleen Hilton. Hilton, a Wiccan grandmother, allegedly set fire to her son’s estranged girlfriend’s apartment building, killing five occupants.

Hilton has been behind bars since her arrest shortly after the tragic fire. During the trial, she testified to hearing voices. To refute such claims, the state introduced testimony from forensic psychologist Tali Walters, who was appointed by the court to determine if Hilton was competent to stand trial. Less than a month after the fire, Walters interviewed Hilton on three occasions at Taunton State Hospital. At trial, Walters recalled Hilton talking extensively about witchcraft and her spiritual beliefs in Wicca. Hilton also mentioned during those interviews that she had communicated with a tribal council of dead Native Americans, Walters said. Despite these assertions, Walters concluded that Hilton was not suffering psychosis or a mental illness.

What is interesting about this tragic case from a legal standpoint is that it asserts that adherence to Wicca or belief in spirit communications doesn’t equate to a psychosis or a mental illness. If Pagans, Wiccan, and occult believers aren’t crazy for the purposes of prosecutions, that could mean that they can’t be considered crazy in custody cases or as witnesses.

Psychics aren’t the only ones experiencing a slight uptick in business. The Palm Beach Post has an article about a local Botanica that is seeing increased business in this economic downturn.

For those believers, Vegueria so far is doing a better job of quelling fears than the complicated solutions debated by the U.S. Congress. “People have always come here with their economic troubles,” says Vegueria’s wife and business partner, Raquel, 54. “But now it’s even more so. A lot of people are out of work. He does what he can to listen to them, calm them, give them hope.” She says her husband is doing more pro-bono consulting these days. “Some can hardly afford to pay anything,” says Raquel. “They pay when they can.” The Veguerias are not alone. Other Santeria practitioners say the percentage of believers wanting to discuss economic travails has increased.

But can this slightly larger influx of money into psychic and occult services counteract a larger economic collapse? Esoteric answers are often a last resort for a scared general populace, and when that money also runs out I can’t imagine the psychics, practitioners of Santeria, or Pagans will be any better off. In fact, if this recession goes on for too long it may become very dangerous to be a Witch.

The Nigerian newspaper Punch looks at the growing number of mentally ill people in Osogbo and wonders if it is connected to creativity or native spiritual beliefs, a view that is strongly refuted by a local Ifa scholar.

Does the high level of creativity in Osogbo account for the unusually high number of mentally ill people? World acclaimed Ifa scholar, Ifayemi Elebuibon, does not believe so. Elebuibon said three factors were responsible for madness. Elebuibon, the Awise of Osogbo, who delivers papers in American and European universities on Ifa divinity, said mental illness could be contracted through heredity, evil attack and drug abuse. Tracing the traditional genealogy of madness, Elebuibon said, the Alara and Ajero royal families were the first to be beset with madness in Yoruba cultural worldview. According to him, “Mental illness is becoming rampant because people have departed from the ways of our forebears. We used to have intermediaries before marriages were consummated but now a man sees a woman on the road and off they go into marriage. Nobody cares to investigate the families of the spouse or the intending husband in order to know what kind of family their son or daughter is getting married to. Some families have hereditary mental illness.”

The piece goes on to look at more common factors in causing a increasingly visible mentally ill population: poverty,  hard drug-use, and a lack of social support systems. I’m glad to see this paper refuting the more romantic ideas of mentall illness. There is nothing more tragic than a society that treats depression, “heroic melancholy” and madness as “creative” or “holy” conditions.

For those of you who enjoyed my mention of the “Goddess on Earth” show yesterday, you might also want to check out another woman-centric New York gallery showing in March entitled “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists”.

Dabora Gallery and Phantasmaphile’s Pam Grossman are proud to usher in the spring season with the group show “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists,” on view from March 14th through April 12th, 2009. It features fourteen of the most vital and visionary women artists working in the US today. In literal terms, a fata morgana is a mirage or illusion, a waking reverie, a shimmering of the mind. Named for the enchantress Morgan le Fay, these tricks of perception conjure up a sense of glimpsing into another world, whether it be the expanses of an ethereal terrain, or the twilit depths of the psyche. The artists of “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists” deftly utilize the semiotics of mysticism, fantasy, and the subconscious in their work, thereby guiding the viewer through heretofore uncharted realms – alternately shadowy or luminous, but always inventive.

You can check out a couple images from the show, here. You might also be interested in some of the artist’s web sites: Carrie Ann Baade, Lori Field, Katy Horan, Tina Imel, and Susan Jamison. It almost makes me want to be in New York. Almost.

In a final note, today is the feast of St. Valentine aka St. Valentine’s Day. Normally I would list the many and sundry media articles that detail the pre-Christian origins of this seemingly Sainted day, but I’ll concentrate on Lupercalia tomorrow (the actual day of its observance). In reality, St. Valentine’s Day most likely isn’t the holiday created to replace Lupercalia. When Lupercalia observances were suppressed by Pope Gelasius I in 494, the pre-existing Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (which in the Julian calendar fell on the same day as Lupercalia) was promoted in Rome as the purification of the Virgin Mary (later called Candlemas). Since the month of February and Lupercalia were seen as times of purification by the Romans, the new emphasis on Mary’s purification makes perfect sense. The Feast of St. Valentine, established two years later by Gelasius doesn’t seem to have much to do with the replacement of Lupercalia. If you want to blame someone for equating love with St. Valentine’s Day, you’ll most likely have to blame Geoffrey Chaucer (who hath a blog). In any case may you all have a happy (and by this point thoroughly secularized) Valentine’s Day celebration with the romantic partner(s) of your choice.

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