Archives For eBay

Internet auction house eBay recently released their Fall 2012 Seller Update, which, starting in September, prohibits the sale of divination services (including tarot readings), spells, tutoring services, and potions. The reason for this move, according to eBay, is to “build confidence in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers.”

“Transactions in these categories often result in issues between the buyer and seller that are difficult to resolve. To help build confidence in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers, eBay is discontinuing these categories and including the items on the list of prohibited items.”

In short, if you’re dissatisfied with the spell to give you a big butt, it’s hard to quantify if the “product” had been delivered, and what the proper expectations on booty enhancement magic is. Because of the (usually inadvertently) comical nature of many of the spells  being sold on eBay, long a source of easy snark on the Internet, sites like Mashable, The Mary SueJezebel, and even mainstream news outlets, have been having a bit of fun with the news.

“In its 2012 Fall Seller Update, the online marketplace said it was banning all sales of supernatural goods and services, exiling its witchy and wizardly clientele to the wilds of Craigslist and other Web-based Diagon Alleys.”

It should be noted before we go any further that magical items, physical objects that have an attributable value, are not banned under this change. Spokeswoman Johnna Hoff told Tiffany Hsu at the Los Angeles Times that such items would be allowed in most cases.

“It’s important to note that items that have a tangible value for the item itself and may also be used in metaphysical rites and practices (ie  jewelry, crystals, incense, candles, and books) are allowed in most cases.”

Which means most of the products in the Wicca and Paganism section of eBay are safe, at least for now. A comfort, no doubt, to the many Pagan vendors and shop-owners who supplement their income by placing items on the site. However, the banning of spellwork, and especially tarot readings, should be explored with greater depth. Pagans in the community seems somewhat split over this move by eBay, some, like Patti Wigington, About.com’s Paganism & Wicca Guide, see this as a smart move by the company.

“…this isn’t a case of religious discrimination at all – it’s a case of a business realizing that customers are being made victims of fraud by unscrupulous sellers – and putting practices in place to prevent the problem from continuing. It does not say “No Wiccans, No Pagans, No Druids.” It says no magic, spells or potions, or prayers — that’s an entirely separate thing. Personally, I’m a little sad Ebay has done this, because it means fewer things for me to make fun of, but it’s definitely a smart business decision.”

Others, meanwhile, see this a chilling move that could start a domino effect, marginalizing tarot readers and magicians from mainstream commerce sites. Some have pointed out that PayPal is owned by eBay, and a similar shift in their policies to be more in line with up-and-coming companies like Square, could have a disastrous impact on small Pagan business that rely on divination services as an important part of their income (it should be noted that Google Checkout used to ban “occult goods,” but don’t anymore). Patheos blogger Kris Bradley, while acknowledging the rationale for this new prohibition, is worried that companies like Etsy might soon follow eBay’s lead.

“I admit I’m a bit torn on the subject.  While I see the possible beginning of the end for sellers on sites like this, I won’t be sad to see the sham “spell casters” go, and the end of taking advantage of desperate people with promises of something that can’t possibly be delivered.  As I sell products of a magical variety, I definitely don’t want to lose my Etsy shop.”

As a private business, eBay, and other online retailers are free to limit what product and services they’ll allow. That said, it is troubling that managing complaints and fraud resulted in a total ban of selling divination and magical work. Recent courtroom decisions have leaned towards defining divination, tarot readings, and other psychic services as protected speech, which could have actually helped push eBay away from trying to simply regulate it on their site. After all, who wants to be the ultimate arbiter of what sorts of speech are acceptable, and which kinds are not? Being in the business of selling speech and expression will always be volatile, and it looks like eBay wanted out, the question now is what the ramifications of this move will be for Internet commerce.

Top Story: Are you a Pagan family in North Carolina that would like to take a day or two off for holiday observances? A new North Carolina law would let you keep your kids home from school with an excused absence.

“It requires all school systems, community colleges and public universities to allow students at least two excused absences each academic year for religious observances. The law standardizes an informal practice. But some administrators hope it won’t create exam-week havoc.”

Sounds like a net positive, right? Practitioners of minority faiths that don’t have observances that overlap with existing Christian holidays can include the kids without hassle, and college students can attend a scheduled event without worry of hurting their GPA. But a comment from Rep. Rick Glazier, who co-sponsored the bill, have some worried about how it will be applied.

“It has to be a bona fide holiday; you don’t get to just take the day off because you want to pray at home.”

So who decides what’s a “bona fide” holiday? Will the school take the parent’s word for it? The law is vague on this point, only saying that schools can request a letter of explanation if they want. Faith & Reason’s Cathy Lynn Grossman notes the law could make minority faiths have to “prove their religiosity”, but it’s more the “praying at home” bit that I’m concerned about. If your “church” is the living room, or an open field, or a forest, does it still count as bona fide? It should be interesting to see how this law is enacted by different schools, and see how it handles Pagan requests for days off.

Guilty Sentence For Cop-Dragging Pagan Priestess: A Magistrate has found Eilish De Avalon, who gained international noteriety last month for dragging a cop by the arm during a routine traffic stop, guilty of recklessly causing injury. De Avalon, who is currently out on bail pending an appeal, made tabloid headlines by announcing she was a “pagan priestess”, and that man-made laws didn’t apply to her, much to the chagrin of other local Pagans who said that incident has set back local interfaith efforts. In a press release, the Australian Pagan Awareness Network (PAN) blasted those who were using this incident to put her beliefs, and by extension the beliefs of all Australian Pagans, on trial.

“The media has done its best to put Ms De Avalon on trial in the court of public opinion for her beliefs as well as her actions. I doubt they would bother if she were a Catholic or a Hindu or practically any other religion. What is the big deal about practicing an indigenous European belief like witchcraft? When it comes to the law, people’s actions are what matter.”

It remains to be seen what will happen next. I can’t imagine she’ll win on appeal with the involuntary “autonomous state” defense she used in the first trial. As for the reputation of Pagans in Australia, perhaps the soon-to-be-airing episode of Rituals: Around the World in 80 Faiths (which I covered here previously) that features Australian Pagans will help things a bit.

A Cuban Santera on Faith, Possession, and Divination: Journalism student Kelly Knaub interviews Cuban Santera Iyalocha Lourdes about her faith for the Havana Times, and undergoes a purification ritual as well. During the interview Iyalocha Lourdes goes into some detail on the matter of possession by spirits, which I found quite interesting.

“In the beginning you lose consciousness. It’s a process of spiritual development. Right now you’re an embryon – a person that doesn’t have the potential or capability to be a medium. Right now, that’s you – you don’t have any knowledge. You come to my temple to develop yourself spiritually, which means to process and open yourself and become a spiritualist. So, in the beginning, I pull the spirits so that they possess you. You lose consciousness, you don’t remember anything.

As the years go by, and you continue perfecting and working more with your spirituality, a moment will come when you’re seated, like I am, and a spirit comes to you and you speak, sometimes also in a conscious state and you can remember it. But this comes with practice.”

They also talk about gender within Santeria, “false spiritualists” who only do it for the money, and animal sacrifice. It’s definitely worth a read, especially since most mainstream journalism about Santeria doesn’t tend to allow this much detail or insight into their practices.

The Welsh Witch Problem: It seems that rural Wales is a hotbed of occult and strange happenings being reported to the police. A recent Freedom of Information Act request reveals that residents in places like Powys, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire are having all sorts of supernatural problems, including “witches” behaving badly.

The force, which covers Mid and West Wales, has received 86 reports of witches in the last five years. The force’s police incident log reveals details of the calls. One caller reported “that one individual is a witch and had attended at the house to put salt around the bed”. A caller in January last year claimed he had been fed a “fur ball” during a witchcraft ritual. Following a call from Llanelli, police recorded: “Caller, who was drunk, who rang regarding a gang of witches who want to sacrifice him.” Another call was a report of a “malicious communication: rumours that an individual’s mother is a witch”.

OK, which tradition’s been feeding people fur balls? There were also reports of ghosts, vampires, demons, and wizards, but witches topped the list. The Dyfed Powys Police downplayed these reports, saying they are far more ordinary taken in context, though local paranormal experts insist this is just further proof that “Wales is a frighteningly haunted country”. That still doesn’t explain the fur ball. Was it from a cat? Is it a euphemism? What?

I Can Only Imagine the Internet Spam I’ll Get Now: Plenty of places on the net are getting a decent chuckle over an Ebay auction that is selling a spell by a “powerful Wiccan Witch” to increase the size of your, ahem, “booty”.

“Are you desperate to achieve the perfect butt and perhaps a fan of the occult? For just $8.95, you can achieve your dreams by buying one “Booty Enhancement Spell” from a “Powerful Wiccan Witch” on eBay. Hurry, supplies are limited!”

There’s also a spell for breast enhancement. The powerful “Amelia” (it that’s her real name) claims that she’s “used this [spell] many times with stunning results!” But just in case, buying multiple castings ensures greater chances for success (naturally). There’s always been spell-peddlers in our community, but this level of brazenness and scammy-spammy-vibes may take this to a new high/low. One wonders what old Gerald would have to say about booty-boosting spells.

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

It seems that this story is finally coming to a close. Witch School, the infamous online school founded by Ed Hubbard, has been sold to a coalition of buyers from the Correllian Nativist Tradition with Don Lewis at the head. This follows much speculation following the initial announcement that Witch School would be auctioned off on eBay.

“No one takes Witches and Pagans as a serious market force. By using eBay as a platform for selling, at least we can get fair exposure. It is not like we can list this in an ordinary newspaper and be taken seriously. Of course, everyone will probably take this as a joke. But Witch School is a serious business and opportunity for the right buyer”

Since then students tried to form a coalition to buy their own school, outside Pagans tried to purchase the school, and the auction was pulled from eBay due to claims that someone was hacking Witch School’s account. In the midst of all this, Ed Hubbard started making the news for criticizing Hoopeston, Illinois’ for its lack of acceptance.

“Hubbard sold his interest in the Witch School recently to add to his financial base for Illiana Web. He announced this fact at the Hoopeston City Council meeting on Monday, when he also told the council the Witch School would be gone May 1. Hubbard asked a simple question at the meeting of the mayor and each individual alderperson: “Do you want me to stay? Illiana Web is fully ready and Hoopeston can become a regional hub. Do you want a Regional WIFI hub here?” No one answered the question. Hubbard turned and left the meeting. Mayor Bill DeWitt said it was Hubbard’s prerogative to stay, but added after Hubbard left the meeting that, ‘If I was engaged in any business and had to take a public-opinion poll, by hell, I would move.’”

Now that the sale finished, one wonders if it being sold to a Correllian-affiliated group was the planned outcome all along? One of the few serious non-Correllian coalitions to attempt purchasing the school seemed to not get very far in their attempts to discuss a bid.

“We wished to meet with Witch School partners to discuss the matter, but that didn’t happen. We made an offer to the majority partner, but not on E-bay. We also had a lot of questions about finances, philosophy of the school, assets, etc.”

Ed Hubbard is planning to make a formal announcement regarding the sale soon (feel free to post a link to it in the comments once it surfaces). No doubt he will discuss how the final sale came about, and reveal the new status of the school under the leadership of Don Lewis. One can only hope the buyers, sellers, and Witch School students will be happy with this new/old arrangement. Some of the ethical questions raised by this entire process will most likely go unanswered, but it seems the matter of the sale is finished.

On Monday Ed Hubbard publicly announced that he is selling off Witch School (here is the official eBay auction for the site), the infamous online school for aspiring Witches.

“Imagine, if you could buy Harry Potter’s Hogwarts? Well, the world’s first and largest public school of Wiccan and Witches has become available for sale. Starting Tuesday, April 10th, WitchSchool.com will be auctioned off to the highest bidder during an eBay Auction. If you ever wanted to have your very own cyber school of magick and witchcraft, this is the auction for you. So you can own and run your very own Academy for Magick and Witchcraft. If you would love to become the next Dumbledore, this is your chance to do so.”

This announcement has come after a strange series of shake-ups and developments. First a schism between two factions of the Witchcraft tradition that the school was associated with, then the installation of a new president (from one of the factions), and then the news that a reality program was being developed around the school. But now it seems everything must go, including their “Minispells” business, the proprietary software that runs the school, and even their MySpace page.

“The Comprehensive Site for online Wiccan and Pagan Education. With over 85 courses, plus tons of features that have been developed over the last five years. With over 145,000 currently actively registered students, and hundreds of thousands have passed through. It offers a lot of interaction including testing, transcripts, etc.”

In a letter to me* (full text here, with permission for his comments to be made on the record), Witch School founder and owner Ed Hubbard explained that the school is a completely separate legal entity from the Correllian Witchcraft Tradition and that Hubbard resigned from any formal position within both of the feuding Correllian factions (though the Correllian web site still claims he is affiliated).

“I offered to give the school to the tradition and the church and Davron refused. At that time, I informed Don and Davron that I would give WS one more year, and that I would turn it into NFP … I resigned from Correllian Nativist Church International, Inc. and The Correllian Mother Temple which were two separate organizations.”

There is no word on how this will affect their bricks-and-mortar campus in Hoopeston, Illinois. Will the property go to the Correllian Mother Temple and Don Lewis (who is acting president of Witch School), or will it be sold off? It seems strange that the Witch School site is conducting a fund raiser in which it urges all its online students to donate money to fix up their building in Hoopeston.

“We are asking our students, friends, and supporters to ‘Adopt’ a brick, and have your name (or craft name) put on it. We are creating a wall that includes everyone who helps us in this fundraiser … His exact words ‘If each basic student were to give a dollar the building would be able to be fixed up pretty quickly.’ And he came up with this fundraiser. We hope that Michael is correct and the blessing of the three fold law is given full rein in this project.”

As for the online school, Hubbard seems to hope it will be scooped up by a major Pagan-oriented business like Llewellyn Worldwide or New Page publishing, but seems just as open to the idea of it being bought out by a non-Pagan corporation like Google or Disney. In an addendum to the auction, Hubbard explains that the new owner of the school will have to honor the development deal with the SciFi Channel, and that the new owner will have the power to grant religious initiations within Correllian Wicca, and will control the Copyright to Don Lewis’ (head of the Correllian Mother Temple) writing.

“The Main Thing it holds is the License to Don Lewis Correllian Wicca, and the right to use it in many different ways. It has a perpetual right to provide FIRST, SECOND and THIRD DEGREES. It has many other rights to sell product. Witch School also negotiates and handles Don Lewis Copyright licenses exclusively since the Year 2000. Currently, a major publisher has the option to publish Don Lewis books, and will be likely exercise this right.”

Of course given the rules of eBay, it is entirely possible that a stealth organization hostile to Witch School (like an evangelical church) could buy it out, or that the winner of the auction will be a non-Pagan who will start selling off initiations. Which makes the eBay selling method somewhat surprising (top bid as of this writing is $1,625.01). But aside from the pitfalls of a public auction, there are all sorts of troubling ethical implications, like what will happen to personal data once its sold, the selling of the power to “initiate” someone as a Witch, and the strange legal intermixing of the school with the Witchcraft tradition it has been affiliated with. It remains to be seen what the final fall-out of this sale will be.

A big thanks to Lupa for tipping me off to this story!

* The letter in question mostly concerns Ed Hubbard’s take on the split between the two Correllian factions, so it might be useful for those wanting more information on the split (from one point of view).