Archives For British Columbia

KAMLOOPS, B.C. – Early morning on March 31, Heather Arlene Carr, known as Kiteria in her magical community, set out to perform a healing ritual for her ailing Uncle. Within a rock art installment at Riverside Park, Carr began her rite in night’s darkness at 2:30 a.m. Carr was a “night owl” and comfortable with being alone. The park was a place she frequented. Nothing about the evening was unusual for the longtime witch. However, on this particular night, something went tragically wrong.

Heather Arlene Carr [Courtesy Photo S. Carr)

Heather Arlene Carr [Courtesy Photo S. Carr)

Heather Carr was born on September 6, 1974 in Kamloops, British Columbia to a Mormon family. She and her family moved to Tumbler Ridge, where she graduated from high school in 1992. Over the next few years, she gave birth to her two sons, and continued to attend the local Mormon church. However, in 1998, her life changed. She and her sons returned to Kamloops, where she attended college, built her home, and, eventually, discovered a new spiritual path.

While Carr was working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work, she met her former partner Leesa Warner, and together they were introduced to Wicca. Warner said, “During her first year of university we were playing some online games. Someone we chatted with regularly from Ontario mentioned Wicca. We bought books, looked online, and researched our asses off.” Both Carr and Warner have practiced together for years. Warner added, “Later in life, Heather identified herself as family tradition Wicca. She practiced a combination of Wicca, shamanism, and Druidic works. Near the end she identified as ‘Dragon Fae’ though none of us really knew what that meant.”

After graduating, Carr’s life was full and not without difficulties. One of her sons was diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome and the other one with Autism and a brain tumor. She was devoted to attending to each of their special needs.

Despite the pressure this put on her own life, Carr dedicated her life to helping others,either privately or within her practice as a social worker. When three of the children in one of her case files were murdered by their father Allan Schoenborn, she had to take long-term disability. Close friend and Druid, Charlene Ross, said, “She was devoted to her children, family, and was very much an advocate for them and others she worked with over the years as a social worker.”

Ross is one of seven members of the local Pagan circle that Carr began about five years ago. The group is open to people of many paths and serves as a place of support and discussion. Warner, also a member, added, “Everyone in the group …. is on different paths. I for example practice Thelemic Magic, [Ross] is a Druid etc. It [is] a good place to go to talk magic and practice magic. To be able to discuss the “signs” all around or get help with an issue or just to learn about anything and everything.” She went on to say that Carr originally was the only teacher, but eventually the group evolved to allow everyone the opportunity to teach.

[Photo Courtesy S. Carr]

[Photo Courtesy S. Carr]

Over the years, Carr expanded her outreach within the larger Pagan community. She became a regular at PanFest, Alberta’s biggest Pagan festival held in August, where she often taught workshops on magic. Warner said that she and Carr began attending over eight year ago, and that Carr had even convinced many locals to make the long trip to Edmonton each year.

Additionally, Carr created and administered the “Being Pagan Out of the Broom Closet” Facebook group. She, herself, embraced being open about her practice and was frequently seen walking in Riverside Park wearing her cloak. Ross said, that Carr “definitely was becoming more vocal about social justice, earth changes, and other issues close to her heart. She lived her beliefs, rather than “practised” them … She was at home out in the natural, meditating, listening, perceiving, and was fierce in defending those she loved.” Carr made no apologies for who she was.

More recently, Carr had signed up to participate in The Way of the Seabhean -Ancient Irish Shamanism Training for Women on April 10-12. Unfortunately, that day would not come.

Late Monday night, according to several reports, Carr told friends that she was headed to Riverside Park to gather materials to make wind chimes, something she had done before. Alone, she climbed into the center of the park’s rock sculpture – a place that held spiritual significance to Carr. She was handfasted at this site and, only a few days earlier, she and Ross were there “clearing and annoiting the stones with healing water, herbs, and cleaning up the site physically.”

Around 2:30 a.m., Carr’s husband Stephen, who works a night shift, decided to stop by the park on his way home. He knew that she had gone there. As reported by Warner, when he arrived, all he saw was emergency vehicles, and he knew immediately it was his wife.

Although the specific details of what happened are not clear, authorities assume that some part of Carr’s clothing caught fire during the ritual, and because of her position within the rock formation, she panicked and became trapped.



After getting a call from Carr’s mother, Warner joined Stephen at the hospital around 7:30 a.m. She said, “The hospital thought about transferring her to Vancouver general burn ward. They did a video conference with the doctor there and the decision was made that there was no point. [Carr] had type 1 diabetes and her system was in too much shock.” At 11:02am, she died. Warner said, “Steve and I did a passing ritual of sorts, a quick ‘goddess accept our wife.’ ”

In life, Carr was an strong and eccentric woman, who was devoted to family, to her Pagan practice and to her community. Blogger Sable Aradia, a longtime friend of Carr’s, published a tribute days after her death. She wrote, “It’s a testimony to Heather’s character, I think, that even those with whom she has come into conflict in the past are pouring out their compassion to her family and close friends.”

Leesa Warner said of Carr:

Whether you loved her or hated her, if you knew her; she affected your life

Charlene Ross added:

Being pagan, and learning about leadership, and having taught at festivals over the last twenty plus years, this is the time where our teachings can help us come to accept death as a part of life. The loss or parting does hurt.  I take comfort knowing her spirit is free, she is no longer in pain physically or emotionally anymore, that the struggles for now, are done, till she returns again. 

Heather Arlene Carr’s death was certainly a tragedy, one that has shaken the many people and communities that she touched. Ross said that her death, while painful and shocking, can also bring lessons, saying, “So, if we learn something from this,….it can happen to anyone.” Sable Aradia added:

I think that while the circumstances are horrible, and of course no one wants something like this to happen to them, Heather was a dedicated Priestess, and I think that she died heroically in the way she wanted to live; serving her gods and her family, practicing her Craft.  And who among us can say that?

Because most of Carr’s family is not Pagan, they have requested a “celebration of life” funeral, which will be held April 11 at 3 pm at Kamloops Funeral Home. Carr’s Circle group and a few others will be performing a “Passing On Ritual” April 19 at noon. Due to the high level of media interest in the story, the location has not been made public. Anyone interested in attending must contact Warner or Stephen Carr privately. In addition, the Edmonton Pagan community will be honoring Carr in a ritual in to be held May 10.

What is remembered, lives.

A few quick news notes to start your Monday.

Will a Ghanaian Witch-Burning Turn the Tide? Last week a 72-year-old woman in Ghana was accused of being a witch, tortured, doused with kerosene, and lit on fire. This is nothing new; the United Nations and various NGOs have been talking about the global epidemic of witch-killings and witch-hunts for some time now. But will this latest gruesome case spark a change in Ghana? It could just be an illusion created by international press attention, but there seems to be widespread revulsion and outcry over this case, and those forced to live in “witch camps” are agitating for justice.

“Inmates of the alleged witches camp at Kukuo numbering about 700 in the Nanumba South District of the Northern Region have threatened to go on a naked demonstration if government fails to punish the murderers of 72 year old Grandma Ama Hemmar, who was allegedly murdered at Tema Community 15 under the pretence of alleged witchcraft.”

Could we finally be seeing the collective cry of “enough” from the people of Ghana? Has this madness finally begun to run its course? There are some promising signs, like a massive decrease in hungry people, and a growing influx of oil money, that could diminish the social pressures that help fuel these moral panics. As members of communities that have been caught in the crossfire of moral panics against “Satanism” and “the occult”  we should take special interest in seeing these injustices ended, and ensuring their madness isn’t allowed to spread. For those looking for a way to directly aid women and children in Ghana, please check out WISE (Women Initiative for Self Empowerment).

Problems with The Power: Mark Vernon at Religion Dispatches reviews Rhonda “The Secret” Byrne’s latest New Thought opus “The Secret: The Power”. While Vernon points out that the “Law of Attraction” is nothing new, Byrne’s version relies on a “relentless optimism” that doesn’t encompass tragedy as anything but a failure of vision, ignoring the uncontrollable “absurdities” of life.

“…there are critical differences between Stoicism and The Power, for the ancients were wise to life’s tragedies too. Some things do, apparently, go badly. (They could hardly think otherwise, living during that long period of history in which death was associated with the young, not the old.) So, their instruction was to ‘go with the flow’ even when that is hard to stomach. Theirs is not a relentless optimism, expecting everything, like Byrne’s. Rather, the Stoics advocated expecting nothing, but working at everything. Be lightened by life’s absurdities too, they recommended. That way you won’t be disappointed when you don’t, apparently, make progress. You’ll be able to maintain your trust in the logos.”

In the end, the problem with “The Secret” is that it’s only half a philosophy, encouraging gain through positive attitudes while empowering dangerous “teachers” who rake in millions. A “smile or die” world that leaves no place for the millions placed in inhuman conditions by environmental, social, and political causes beyond their control.

As Pagans, one of our greatest gifts to the world can be to reject The Secret’s “moral callousness” and replace it with encompassing philosophies of life that don’t blame your brain for every tragedy.

Polyamorists Ask to Not Be Criminalized: As the Canadian polygamy trial moves forward, which I’ve covered here for several months, the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) asks the BC Supreme Court to stop breaking up loving families.

By criminalizing consensual polyamorists along with patriarchal polygamists, the BC and federal governments will break up loving families, a Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) lawyer said on Nov 25. “The attorneys general have lost their moral compass,” John Ince told a BC Supreme Court reference on the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code. A British Columbia court began hearings Nov 22 to determine whether Canada’s law prohibiting polygamy violates basic human rights. The polyamorists maintain Section 293 infringes on their constitutional rights of association, religion, equality and the life, liberty and security of the person as outlined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A subsection of the law prohibits any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship.”

Polyamorists are justifiably worried that they will be lumped in with patriarchal, and sometimes abusive, forms of polygamy. Nor has the government been forthcoming on whether it would prosecute polyamorist families should this effort to decriminalize polygamy fail. This creates a tense situation for the many Pagan poly families living in Canada, forcing their life choices underground for fear of persecution. Hearings are just beginning on this case, and I’ll keep you posted on its progress.

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

The Vancouver Sun provides closure on a story I’ve been following since 2006. It involves Peter Hayes, who was denied a chauffeur’s permit by the Vancouver police due to alleged accusations that he would use his position to “recruit” people into an imaginary S&M Pagan “sex cult”. In 2008 a B.C. Court of Appeal cleared the way for the case to be heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, a preliminary ruling by the Human Rights Tribunal in 2006 stated the case had merit and should go forward. In a decision handed down on November 23rd, the tribunal rejected his appeal.

“Based on all the evidence before us and in light of our credibility findings set out above, we conclude that Mr. Hayes has not met the burden of proving, on a balance of probabilities, that his Paganism or BDSM lifestyle were factors in Constable Barker’s denial of the chauffeur’s permit. As a result of our conclusion that Mr. Hayes’ religion and/or sexual orientation were not factors in Constable Barker’s decision-making, it is not necessary for us to address the issues of whether BDSM is a sexual orientation that is protected by the Code or, if it is, whether Mr. Hayes is a member of that protected group.”

It turns out that Mr. Hayes has a record of sexual abuse and misconduct, and that he was turned down because the officer, after a routine background check, thought he could be a potential threat to women and children riding in his limousine.

“He based this on a review of police files concerning Hayes which showed in 1994 he had been charged and acquitted of sexual assault and an invitation to sexual touching of a person under 14 years old … in January, 2003, police had called at his residence after neighbours complained that he was dancing and posing naked in his bedroom windows while in the view of children … in Oct. 2003 a female partner involved in a master/slave relationship with him told police he had abused her but did not want to press charges.”

Now, it should be noted that Mr. Hayes was never formally convicted of assault or abuse, but it also seems clear that he was not denied a permit due to his religion, or his sexual orientation/preferences. Indeed, a tribunal panel member made a point of noting the constable did not give special focus to Mr. Hayes’ religious beliefs.

Tribunal panel member Heather MacNaughton wrote that “nothing about Constable Barker’s alleged demeanour supports an inference that he had any particular focus on Mr. Hayes’ religion or sexual orientation. Rather, it is consistent with someone who considered Mr. Hayes to be a risk to the vulnerable customers of a limousine service.”

It seems increasingly likely that Hayes exaggerated his encounter with the constable, who had allegedly said he was a “sex cult leader” looking to recruit. It also illustrates the danger of taking journalistic accounts at face value, though the Vancouver Police Department didn’t help matters by fighting the tribunal hearing process every step of the way, making it seem like they had something to hide. One can only think that more transparency on their part might have avoided a five-year legal process.

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Just  a few quick news notes for you on this Saturday morning.

Canadian Polygamy/Polyamory Case: For the past few months I’ve been covering an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). That trial will hear opening arguments on Monday, and the Vancouver Sun gives a run-down of case’s history, the players on each side, and what the arguments will be.

George Macintosh — the amicus appointed to argue in favour of polygamy — will come out with guns blazing: The anti-polygamy law, which was enacted in 1890 and revised in 1954, was “aimed at defending a Christian view of proper family life and was employed in the state’s cultural colonization of aboriginal peoples.” His opening statement, filed in advance, says Section 293 “is based on an assumption that polygamy is a practice uniformly associated with harm; essentially, that it is ‘barbarous’. The law is based entirely on presumed, stereotypical characteristics, is not responsive to the actual characteristics of the particular polygamous relationships, and has the effect of demeaning the dignity of practitioners of polygamy.”

While the case will give a large part if its focus to polygamy, Canadian polyamorists also have a stake in this ruling, and many polyamorous families have filed affidavits in support of changing the Criminal Code.

She says the polygamy law “places us in a moral dilemma as parents who have raised children to be law-abiding citizens.” It has meant their children have had difficult conversations with their friends and friends’ parents about their family triad. Their children “love and respect us as parents and know that our relationship is supportive and loving, but we have trouble explaining why our breaking that law is fine but such things as underage drinking and recreational drug use have never been tolerated in or around our home.” Duff is a pagan and her Wiccan priest has declined to perform “polyamorous handfastings.” (A handfasting is a ceremony in which participants are symbolically joined by having their hands bound together with a ribbon.)

Attempts to have the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy have been rejected by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, meaning that if the attempt to decriminalize polygamy fails, we’ll have no way of knowing if polyamorists would be targeted by law enforcement along with members of FLDS. Pagan clergy in Canada who have the right to legally marry couples, while generally supportive of polyamory, will not perform polyamorous handfastings lest they risk breaking the law. We’ll keep you posted as this case progresses.

Christians Leaving the Fold: Christianity Today features an article by editor Drew Dyck, author of “Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith. . .and How to Bring Them Back”. In it, Dyck explores the growing number of “nones”, those who claim no religious affiliation, and whether these “leavers” are gone for good. He also mentions that many are leaving Christianity for “alternative spiritualities.”

A sizable minority of leavers have adopted alternative spiritualities. A popular choice is Wicca. Morninghawk Apollo (who renamed himself as is common in Wiccan practice) discussed his rejection of Christianity with candor. “Ultimately why I left is that the Christian God demands that you submit to his will. In Wicca, it’s just the other way around. Your will is paramount. We believe in gods and goddesses, but the deities we choose to serve are based on our wills.” That Morninghawk had a Christian past was hardly unique among his friends. “It is rare to meet a new Wiccan who wasn’t raised in the church,” he told me.

In the CT article, as he did in a previous article I mentioned on this blog, Dyck, like many of his contemporaries, feels the problem lies with being “exposed to a superficial form of Christianity that effectively inoculated them against authentic faith.” While I don’t agree with the superficial/authentic line of reasoning for the problem/solution of Christian leavers, I do give Dyck credit for his willingness to engage with my criticisms in the comments of this blog. If Christianity in the West solves the “leavers” problem, the answer will no doubt lay more with the ideas of clear-headed thinkers like Dyck instead of the political anti-Pagan string-pullers like David Barton (or at least, one would hope that’s the case).

Pagan Hunters: In a final note, I’d like point out an editorial at PNC-Minnesota by Nels Linde that explores hunting from a Pagan perspective, and interviews three Pagan hunters in the process.

“For most Pagan hunters,  hunting is a deeply personal,  individual,  and often solitary experience.  Common to all the Pagan hunters I talked to was the idea of sharing this bounty of the woods with others.  Whether with family, friends,or community, the tribal nature of sharing the fruits of the hunt is deeply embedded in the human psyche.  All felt their experiences while hunting were not coincidences, or solely the result of their skill as hunters.  Some spiritual presence was felt.  They felt the animals in some way ‘gave’ themselves to them, in offering, and for their family’s sustenance. None practiced the often used technique of large hunter groups ‘driving’ deer from the woods at full run to standing shooters. Pagan hunters feel the chances of wounding a magnificent animal using this method was too risky and disrespectful.  They feel they are rewarded for honoring the sacred nature of the deer hunt with full freezers.”

It’s a fascinating look at how modern Paganism resacralizes activities in our lives, and how their experiences go far beyond simply hunting for sport or meat. The whole thing is well worth reading.

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

I have some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

Witch-Burning Beer Controversy Comes to A Close? As I reported exactly one week ago, Motherpeace Tarot co-creator Vicki Noble had started a campaign against The Lost Abbey brewery for their decision to feature a woman being burned at the stake for their “Witch’s Wit” wheat ale. While the brewery eventually released a statement defending their artistic choices, saying their intent was misunderstood, an intense debate over the matter raged within the Pagan community. Now it looks like the brewery will be changing the label thanks to the unlikely combined efforts of Noble and religion professor Cynthia Eller, author of “The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory”.

In his e-mail to Ms. Eller, Mr. Marsaglia also wrote, contritely, that he and his colleagues “would really like to have some kind of contest for a great label.” Mr. Arthur said the board would meet after Halloween to determine exactly how to decide on that new label. But whatever the means, the incident has made allies of Ms. Eller, often derided as an enemy of modern paganism, and Ms. Noble, its defender. Ms. Noble looks forward to a time when she can, with clear conscience, sample a Witch’s Wit. “I think that would be fun,” she says. “Maybe we can make a ceremony out of it.”

Reaction to news of the impending label-change has been mixed. While Noble, Eller, and their supporters, are no doubt pleased, others like media critic Peg Aloi thought the whole matter was a  “ludicrous campaign of whiny nonsense”, while Chas Clifton notes that “when it comes to the word “witch,” we want it both ways—safe and edgy.” As for why the New York Times would cover this little tempest between Pagans, Goddess-worshipers, and a small brewery in California, you only need to look at the byline. Author/journalist Mark Oppenheimer rarely misses an opportunity to point out the historical exaggerations or revisions of the Pagan community, so I doubt he could resist reporting on the confluence of Noble, Eller, and a controversy involving a beer label.

More Attention For Pagans at the Air Force Academy: Pagans at the Air Force Academy got a lot of attention at the beginning of 2010, with the news of a Pagan worship area being installed, and the subsequent vandalism of said site. Now it looks like the AFA is ready for round two in its attempts to paint a picture of improved interfaith relations and tolerance at the Academy. The AFA released a feature news story on Tuesday about a meeting between Pagans and freethinkers at the Academy, which then got picked up by Wired’s Danger Room blog (as “Air Force Academy Now Welcomes Spell-Casters”).

“Just a few years ago, the Air Force Academy was considered such an evangelical hothouse that the place got sued for its alleged discrimination against non-Christians. Today, the Academy is boasting of its thriving pagan community — and its friendliness towards spell-casters.”

This got the notice of Xeni Jardin at Boing Boing, who praised Wired’s choice of headline, zeroed in on the silliest quote they could find in the article, and set the stage for lulz in the comments, with various Goat-staring and “magic-user” comments. While I’m sure that smirking coverage from Wired and Boing Boing isn’t exactly what they wanted with this latest press release, I’m sure the AFA prefers it over reminders of their controversial recent past, and accusations that the climate at the AFA isn’t as improved as they would like to portray. Still, the fact that the AFA is willing to accommodate the religious lives of modern Pagans is a vast improvement within a military culture that still privileges Christian forms of religious expression.

Canadian Polyamory Case: For the past few months I’ve been covering an upcoming case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). While the case is being led by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) (and supported by several Canadian Pagansincluding one who filed an affidavit in support), coverage (and the government’s case) has hinged on the practice of polygamy by Mormons and Muslims. Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a controversial polygamist group that has around 500 members living in British Columbia, has been filing anonymous affidavits that paint a rosy picture of polygamy, which hasn’t pleased anti-polygamist voices who want to see the laws against it stay intact.

“But what is clear is that fundamentalist Mormons members believe that a win in court would clear the way for them to set up a distinct society – a theocracy within our secular, liberal democracy.”

The fact that one of the hottest new reality television shows is also about a polygamist family hasn’t done much to spark reasoned or civil discourse on the issue of if the practice should be illegal. Meanwhile, polyamorists, who share little in common culturally with most polygamists, are stuck somewhere in the middle. Attempts to have the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy have been rejected by Chief Justice Robert Bauman, meaning that if the attempt to decriminalize polygamy fails, we’ll have no way of knowing if polyamorists would be targeted by law enforcement along with members of FLDS. The trial starts on November 22nd, and no doubt all (Canadian) eyes will be on the result. For more on this case see the CPAA’s web site. You can be sure I’ll be covering this as things progress.

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

Top Story: As I’ve covered here before, the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Canada is about to hear a case that will decide if the practice of polygamy should be considered a criminal act (as it currently is). There’s been an affidavit filed in support of decriminalizing multiple-marriage from a local Wiccan priest, and the family behind the case is a polyamorous triad. The defense is taking a “Muslims and Mormons” angle, arguing that the evils of polygamy outweigh the free expression of the families involved. Now, The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) is requesting that the government reveal if they think polyamory falls under their definition polygamy.

“The CPAA brought forward the motion Chief Justice Robert Bauman will consider on Sept 8. It was heard as part of a court reference to examine the constitutional validity of Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Section 293 bans polygamy. The CPAA wants to know if polyamorists will be caught under Section 293 should it be determined that the section is constitutional. CPAA lawyer John Ince told Bauman the attorneys general for Canada and BC have not delineated what their thinking is on the polyamorists. That, he said, makes it hard for him to prepare a case.”

Ince points out that polyamory isn’t the same as polygamy, as it isn’t patriarchal, isn’t intergenerationally normalized, and isn’t restricted by gender pairing or sexual orientation. The looming case has provoked some to wonder if polyamory is the “new gay”, making legal rights for poly families the next big social campaign after gay marriage. The biggest hurdle will be convincing the public that there’s a difference between the abusive compelled polygamous marriages often found in Fundamentalist Mormon off-shoots and polyamory. As I’ve been saying since 2006, our communities, which openly welcomes and celebrates so many polyamorous relationships (30% of poly families identify as Pagan according to one survey), needs to be ready for when this issue becomes the next culture-war battle.

“…this is an issue that will continue to gain steam as time goes by. Eventually polyamory will reach a “tipping point” and garner widespread national attention. Are our leaders and organizations ready for questions regarding polyamory? Eventually hostile questions will come, and they will cite this article, and we shouldn’t be found wanting for a clear, empathetic, and inclusive answer.”

I’d say this court case is the “tipping point” I was talking about in 2007. Even if the courts rule that polygamy should remain criminal this won’t be the end of the issue. We see here the beginnings of a movement that will argue that polyamory shouldn’t fall under the same legal restrictions of polygamy, and we might even see a ruling where the criminal code is upheld but that clarifications of the definitions essentially decriminalize the practice of polyamory. Once decriminalization is achieved, legal recognition is the logical next step. You can also be sure that a victory in Canada will embolden activists in the United States and other countries. By 2012 expect “poly rights” to be in the popular vernacular if not in the court rooms.

One Way to Handle Regulation: In Romania, where mystical attacks are taken very seriously by some politicians, a proposed law that would hold psychics liable for bad predictions has been dropped due to fears of a curse.

“The politicians who had drafted the new law claim it is because they feared they would be cursed if they passed the plans. Alin Popoviciu and Cristi Dugulescu of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party drafted a law where witches and fortune tellers would have to produce receipts, and would also be held liable for wrong predictions. Maria Campina, a well-known Romanian witch, said that it was difficult to tax thousands of fortune tellers and witches partly because of the erratic sums of money they received.”

Despite the success of Romanian witches in the political process, I don’t think threats of magical retaliation would go over as well here in America. We’ll just have to stick to using lawyers, who are far more scary a threat in our culture.

The Wicker Tree is Done: Film company British Lion has announced that post-production for The Wicker Man‘s “spiritual sequel” The Wicker Tree is now complete.

“British Lion has completed post-production on Robin Hardy’s TheWicker Man follow-up, The Wicker Tree. Hardy has reunited with British Lion CEO Peter Snell, who produced the 1973 cult horror story, for the contemporary tale about two Texan Christians who travel to the Scottish fiefdom of Tressock to spread the gospel … “The Wicker Tree is a chilling contemporary take on the genre,” Snell said. “We have a very strong cast, wonderful locations and like The Wicker Man, music plays a pivotal role in the story-telling.”

No word yet on a release date, but at least we know it’s completed. So keep your eyes open for further announcements.

PNC-Minnesota Gets Noticed: One of the goals of the Pagan Newswire Collective is to better inform mainstream media outlets concerning news happening within the modern Pagan community, so I was very happy to see the MinnPost’s The Daily Glean referencing a PNC-Minnesota story.

“A Celtic temple has opened in Northeast Minneapolis, as reported by the Pagan Newswire Collective — the small structure is the first of its kind in North America, dedicated to the Old Belief Society, which derives its beliefs from old Celtic practices. We point this out, firstly because we find it interesting, and secondly to point out just how wide we at the Glean cast our newsgathering net. Come on, who else is reading the Pagan Newswire Collective? Eric Eskola? Hardly.”

Congratulations to the Minnesota bureau! This is only the beginning, our network of bureaus continues to grow, and soon our main site will launch which will highlight and expand on the great local stories our bureaus are working on.

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

A few quick notes for you on this Sunday.

Death Threats Against Sacred Source: Back on the 10th, I reported that Rajan Zed‘s Universal Society of Hinduism, and the Forum for Hindu Awakening were protesting several Hindu statues made by Sacred Source, claiming that they were “denigrating” to their gods and their faith. Since then it seems that Sacred Source has been receiving death threats via e-mail.

“Since then, the company has received about two dozen unhappy e-mails, said Liana Kowalzik, who owns the company, Sacred Source, with her husband. About half of those were threats, she said. “How hard you pray and how hard you try, you shall not escape, the days are coming, when each part of your body starts decomposing while you are alive,” one angry person wrote. Wrote another, “I want to kill you at least cut your tongue for doing this. Regards.” Kowalzik said she won’t be swayed by the violent messages. “Who are they going to threaten with death next if I cave?” she asked.”

There has been no response or statement from Zed or the Forum for Hindu Awakening condemning these death threats that their media exploits have seemingly spurred.  According to a post on Sacred Source’s Facebook page made by Liana Kowalzik, the threats are being forwarded from the Forum for Hindu Awakening site. The FBI and local authorities have been notified.

So far, there’s been no sign that this cause is being taken up by other national Hindu organizations. Neither the American Hindu Association, or the Hindu American Foundation, have mentioned the controversy or issues in an official statement. As for Rajan Zed, it should be noted that he doesn’t speak for all Hindus in America, and some Hindu groups have never heard of him outside his press clippings. In fact, some Hindus are alternately amused and annoyed by Zed’s ongoing media antics. Meanwhile, Zed’s getting the Global Civil Rights Hindu Jewel Award at the 1st annual California Hinduism Summit, organized by, you guessed it, the Forum for Hindu Awakening.

Religion and Custody Battles: An ongoing fear for all religious minorities is having their religion and beliefs used against them in divorce child custody hearings. There, misinformation and bias can become life-wrecking, forcing some Pagans deep into the closet, cut off from their religious community for fear of losing custody.

“Katie fought for her marriage with an attempt at joint counseling, then she fought for her faith in court, now she is reduced to just fighting daily to keep her child. Could she have taken a chance that the judge would be open-minded enough to view her religion as “real” and benign? Sure, but the risk was too great. She gave in.  Katie left the coven and she no no longer goes to festivals or meets with other Pagans. She prays alone, in secret. Her husband was, and continues to, pushing hard for full custody to save his little girl from the evil inside her mother.”

The only solution for people like Katie, forced into the closet because she doesn’t have the resources to fight,  is to build the resources within our communities for all the individuals who don’t win the ACLU intervention lottery so they can fight. For those working in the judicial system to come out and fight the prejudices that make judges think a Pagan religion is less moral and healthy than Christianity. To build on the precedents set in cases like Harrison v. Tauheed, where a Kansas appellate court ruled that a mother’s religious practices are inadmissible in a custody dispute. Until the day comes when vengeful ex-spouses stop using our faiths as a weapon in custody hearings.

Polygamy’s Social Evils: I’ve reported before on the upcoming Supreme Court case in B.C., Canada that is looking to decriminalize the practice of multiple marriage. The family behind the case is a polyamorous triad, and a local Wiccan (among others) has filed an affidavit in support of decriminalization. Now the defense is filing their own affidavits, with one scholarly paper essentially saying that legalized polygamy would cause far more social harm than the harms of limiting religious freedom and freedom of expression.

“Increased crime, prostitution and anti-social behaviour. Greater inequality between men and women. Less parental investment in children. And, a general driving down of the age of marriage for all women. These are some of the harms of polygamy (or more correctly, polygyny, since it is almost always men marrying more than once) that are outlined in a 45-page research paper by noted Canadian scholar Joseph Henrich, filed Friday in B.C. Supreme Court.”

The government plans to go the “Muslims and Mormons” route in order to show that a decriminalized, let alone legalized, multiple marriage would cause massive social ills. Consider this a preview of what will come should a similar movement try to challenge the laws of the United States. Can we have healthy, legal, multiple marriages without also empowering the abusive patriarchal excesses of fundamentalist Mormons and other polygamous-friendly sects? If this becomes a high-profile issue, how will various Pagan groups, many of whom have endorsed, or at least tolerate, poly marriages, react?

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

I have a few quick story updates to share with you today.

Polyamory Court Case in Canada: As I mentioned last week, a major case involving the rights of polyamorous families in Canada is headed for the B.C. Supreme Court. In the comments of my entry, John Bashinski of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association offered some clarification as to what exactly is being fought for in this instance.

“You’re right that this will raise polyamory’s profile in general, and that it may bring out the Pagan connection. However, this case isn’t going to result in a “semblance of legal recognition” for poly families… unless not being thrown in jail counts as recognition. What’s being challenged is an 1890 stature providing for five years in prison for being in “any kind of conjugal union” with more than one person (and, significantly for Pagans, for even attending a ceremony celebrating such a union). If we win, the result of this case will be more like what GLB(*) people got in 1969 than like what they got in 2005.”

So to be clear, this is about decriminalization, not legalization, I apologize for misconstruing the nature of case in my original post. However, many of my initial points about a potential culture-war blow-up and modern Paganism’s role within modern polyamory remain pertinent.  This is, and will be, a Pagan issue. Among the affidavits filed in this case was one by Surrey-based Wiccan priest Sam Wagar, who argued for the religious right to practice legal polygamy. In addition, The Congregationalist Wiccan Association of British Columbia (CWABC) has issued a statement in support of performing multiple-marriage ceremonies, while trying to stay within the bounds of Canadian law.

“…any form of love or sexuality that is non-abusive, and non-coercive, between consenting adults, is acceptable and even desirable. This includes, but is not limited to, relationships that are heterosexual or homosexual, relationships that are monogamous or polyamorous, and relationships that are alternative or conventional … the law currently forbids legally recognized clergy from presiding over any ceremony that bears any sort of resemblance to a wedding between more than two partners. For this reason, and only this reason, our religious representatives, as recognized by the Province of British Columbia, cannot perform polyamorous handfastings, or even handfastings between two people when one of the parties involved is still legally married to someone else. If we are approached to perform such a ceremony, we will refer the interested parties to clergy within our Church, or to qualified individuals within the Pagan community, who do not have legal marrying credentials from the Province of British Columbia.”

I’ll be watching this case as it develops. Whether the debate, or the issue, will spill over into US politics remains to be seen. Some are wondering if the next big push by activists after winning gay marriage won’t be polygamy, but prostitution. In any event, this issue is leaving the fringes, and we’ll need to be ready to address it.

The Eric Christensen Murder Trial and Conviction: Ten days ago Everett, Washington resident Eric Christensen was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of his former girlfriend Sherry Harlan. Both Christensen and Harlan were involved in the local Pagan community, and the prosecution made a religious “blood oath” between the two a central element of their argument for premeditation. Christensen’s sentencing will be this Friday, and since his conviction, there’s been quite a bit of commentary on the Internet. Notably, someone claiming to be a juror in the trial made a comment on this blog concerning the argument for premeditation.

“I was a juror on the Christensen case and I can tell you that there was not a shred of evidence or testimony supporting the argument of premeditation. None. Only Mr. Matheson’s and Mr. Bridges’ conjecture.”

The defense was arguing for second-degree murder, saying there was no proof Christensen planned to kill Harlan before the act. It seems likely that some sort of appeal will be filed, though there is no doubt that Christensen is indeed guilty of murder and should be punished for it. Understandably, Harlan’s mother is calling for the death penalty, though that’s not on the table because it wasn’t tried as an aggravated murder. Since the conviction, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson emphasized that this murder was not a“Wiccan killing”. What the long-term reverberations of this case will be for Pagans in Washington remains to be seen.

The War on Some Herbs: Way back in April I reported on Louisiana House Bill 173, which would ban the sale, use, and possession of herbal “synthetic marijuana” blends that are legally sold in head-shops in several states. I noted that the bill would go much further than simply banning chemically treated “spice” herb blends, as it prohibits a whole host of herbs from being blended and smoked.

“HB173 would prohibit a number of plants from being blended and smoked or inhaled. The plants in question include mugwort, honeyweed, sacred lotus and dwarf skullcap.  Many of these plants are listed as ingredients in herbal incense products.”

Now word has come that the bill has passed both the Louisiana House and Senate and is headed to governor Bobby Jindal’s desk where it will no doubt be signed (alternate link).

“House Bill 173 was approve unanimously. State senators voted 32-0 to approve the bill, which bans the production, use, manufacture or possession of the synthetic substance, and provides penalties similar to those for marijuana. Louisiana is one of just a number of states that have passed bans as of late. Earlier this year, Georgia, Texas and Missouri have passed bans. While a number of states will likely consider legalizing marijuana, support for K2, thus far, has been little to none. Most states have passed bans with little or no opposition as it has proved to be a relatively safe political bet in an election year.”

This is bad news, and could have legal effects on those who grow and sell various herbs. One wonders where the natural health community is on this issue, or if they are laying low because it’s targeting head shops instead of Whole Foods. If we allow local governments to slowly ban more and more herb and herb-blends because it might get some kids high, we may find our gardens outlawed and our tinctures confiscated.

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