Archives For ExWitch

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

The old "missing harvest photo" trick, get 'em every time.

The old “missing harvest photo” trick, gets ‘em every time.

  • Director Robin Hardy plans to move forward with the third installment in a thematic trilogy that includes 1973′s “The Wicker Man” and 2012′s “The Wicker Tree.” Quote: “Wicker Man director Robin Hardy has revealed that he is moving ahead with new feature Wrath Of The Gods, which will complete a trilogy of ‘Wicker’ films. [...] ‘I am just at the opening stages of financing it (Wrath Of The Gods) and hope to make it next year,’ said Hardy, who will also produce. The writer-director added: “The first two films are all (about) offers to the Gods. The third film is about the Gods.” Considering how long it took The Wicker Tree to get made, Hardy better hurry, he isn’t getting any younger. Meanwhile, the “final cut” of The Wicker Man is indeed coming to American theaters, though no official word on the blu ray release.
  • A “Satanic” horse sacrifice in the UK turned out to be not that Satanic after all. Quote: “Devon and Cornwall police concluded this week that the pony had died of natural causes. The much-discussed “mutilation” was not, in fact, mutilation at all, but instead the normal result of wild animals eating the pony’s organs and scattering its entrails. ‘Initial media reports linked the death of the pony to satanic cults and ritualistic killing,’ the police said in a statement. ‘The police have sought the advice of experts and have come to the view that the death of this pony was through natural causes. All the injuries can be attributed to those caused by other wild animals. This incident received significant media reporting, some of which was clearly sensationalist.’” Clearly. I’m sure this debunking will get just as much traffic as the headlines that scream “Satan,” right?
  • The trial of Rose Marks began this week, a psychic practitioner accused of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, to the tune of millions of dollars. Already amazing claims of money and gold being destroying during 9/11 are being put forward. That said, judges have been critical of the prosecution’s work in this case, calling it “slipshod” and even “shameful.” Quote: “Prosecutors responded by filing additional charges against Marks, accusing her of filing false tax returns and not reporting the income, essentially going after her criminally under two theories — that she defrauded the money or earned it legitimately, but didn’t pay taxes on it either way. The latest version of the 15-count federal indictment charges Marks with mail and wire fraud conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and the income tax charges. If convicted of all charges, sentencing guidelines could send her to prison for about 18 years, her lawyer said.” I’ve reported on this case before, and we should keep a close on eye on it, to see how the verdict may impact divination services.
  • The Oklahoma Gazette profiles Sekhet Bast Ra Oasis, a local chapter of the OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis). Quote: “While one might think an occult organization in the Bible Belt would have difficulty thriving, local OTO members believe that ‘Oasis’ is more than just a title. ‘In this area of the state, the big majority of people are conservative Christian, and people who aren’t into that, they might see this area as a desert,’ David said. ‘But we’re one little oasis right here, so we’re available for those people who would like to commune with others of their kind, or close to their kind. We’re just one of many ways for people to find their true will, but the ultimate goal is to come in contact with the divine and become better human beings.’” You can see the official website for the Sekhet Bast Ra Oasis, here.
  • More news reports are emerging on the case of Pagan prison chaplain Jamyi J. Witch, who recently had criminal charges against her dropped after it was alleged she staged her own rape and hostage-taking by an inmate. The Oshkosh Northwestern, FOX 11, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel point out that the case fell apart as the inmate changed his story. Quote:  “On July 23, the inmate, John Washington, filed a motion for sentence modification in Milwaukee County based primarily on his cooperation with authorities in the Winnebago County case. In the motion, Washington’s account of the incident were a ‘radical departure’ from previous statements, according to the motion to dismiss that Ceman filed last week.” Witch has stated that she intends to sue the Department of Corrections.
  • NPR spotlights Baba Ifagbemi Faseye, an initiate and practitioner of Ifa and Orisa traditions, and the growing number of African Americans drawn to “ancient African religion.” Quote: “There’s a long table covered with pure white cloth and spread with sliced watermelon, bananas and gin — gifts to the divine. Along with a life of worship, Ifagbemi says part of his job as a full-time priest is to help people adapt this ancient religion to a modern, American reality. ‘We’re not African anymore,’ he says. ‘I need to sort of emphasize to a lot of African-Americans that yes, this is an African tradition, yes, we want to connect with our roots and whatever else. But our roots are here, too.’” I note that the NPR article calls the faith “Yoruba” even though Baba Ifagbemi Faseye quite clearly refers to his spiritual practice as Ifa.
Hell Money, the kind burned at The Ghost Festival. Photo: randomwire (Creative Commons).

Hell Money, the kind burned at The Ghost Festival. Photo: randomwire (Creative Commons).

  • The Ghost Festival, a Chinese ancestor holiday in which the deceased come to visit the living, was held this month. The Associated Press files a report. Quote: “To appease the hungry spirits, ethnic Chinese step up prayers, aided by giant colorful joss sticks shaped like dragons. They also burn mock currency and miniature paper television sets, mobile phones and furniture as offering to the ancestors for their use in the other world. For 15 days, neighborhoods hold nightly shows of shrill Chinese operas and pop concerts to entertain the dead. The shows are accompanied by lavish feasts of grilled pork, broiled chicken, rice and fruit. People appease the ghosts in the hopes that the spirits will help them with jobs, school exams or even the lottery. On the 15th day of the month – the most auspicious – families offer cooked food to the ghosts.”
  • A coalition of Navajo Medicine People have come out in opposition to horse slaughter by the Navajo Nation. Quote: “We see this mass execution of our relatives, the horses, as the bad seed that was planted in the minds of our children in the earlier days [...] Our children must be taught to value life, otherwise they will treat their own lives recklessly and be drawn toward substance abuse, domestic violence, suicide and other behaviors that are not in accordance with Our Way of Life.”  It should be noted that the issue of horse slaughter on tribal lands is a divisive one inside and outside of tribal nations. More on that, here.
  • South Coast Today columnist Jack Spillane shares his experiences with modern Pagans. Quote: “There’s something about the pagans and the direct connection of their ancient structures meant to concentrate the mind on the natural world — the change of the seasons, the rhythms of day and night, the connections of sky to land to sea — that’s awfully appealing. I was reminded again of this a few months ago when I happened to be at the First Unitarian Church when Karen Andersen, a contemporary Pagan (capital ‘P’ for the religion), gave a terrific talk about the struggles for religious acceptance of Pagans, at least for the ones who define themselves as religious.”
  • Right Wing Watch notes that Pat Robertson’s 700 Club has run another ex-gay segment, this one also happens to be an ex-Witch as well. Quote: “As I got deeper into spiritualism, a gift of discerning spirits was activated in me. At the time I was dating Diana, a practicing witch whom I had met at a New Age conference. Diana introduced me to demon worship and a new level of darkness. One evening as she began to seduce me, my spiritual eyes were opened, and I saw the demon in her sneering back at me. It horrified me! I jumped up, quickly got dressed, and ran out of there.” Wiccans, bringing you new levels of darkness, because apparently darkness has levels.
  • The Daily Beast profiles “Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison” by Joshua Dubler. Quote: “In one passage, we join Dubler and a Native American prisoner named Claw in a traditional smudging ritual, complete with an eagle wing, turtle shell, and sage and sweetgrass to smoke. In the corner of the prison yard next to the E Block section, the author stands next to Claw, Bobby Hawk, Lucas Sparrowhawk, and a few others as they pray for their families, the weather, and their friend Chipmunk, who’s in the hole.” I can’t tell if Dubler tackles modern Paganism behind bars, but it still might make fascinating reading.

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

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.

Witchy fashion? Spring 2013 Saint Laurent collection. (Photo: NYT)

Witchy fashion? Spring 2013 Saint Laurent collection. (Photo: NYT)

  • Witches: Always fashionable. Quote: “Witchcraft and its moody expressions — long weedy hair, peaked hats and pointy boots — have attained a strange cachet of late. No longer the hideous wart-covered crone of folklore and fairy tale, the witch of current films, like “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” and “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” and recent youth-oriented novels like “Released Souls” and “A Discovery of Witches,” has swept aside the vampire as a symbol of power, glamour and style.”
  • Glub, glub! We’re submerged in the occult says “ex-Satanists” Jeff Harshbarger! Quote: “Our society is submerged in the occult; Harry Potter has filled the minds of our children for a decade and vampirism meets our teens with the illusions of grandeur. Witchcraft went mainstream decades ago, and Wicca is its offspring.” Sinister!  Maybe all these “former occultists” should spend more time being better Christians instead of trying to sell books. 
  • Zimbabwe seems intent on starting up a moral panic around Satanism with, quote,  “some people going as far as blaming the Witchcraft Suppression Act for “protecting” suspects and witchcraft practitioners.” It has all the hallmarks of America’s Satanic Panic, but with the added danger of people (suspected Satanists) being killed by angry/fearful mobs. This can’t be going anywhere good. 
  • In an addendum to the Salem (Missouri) Public Library occult filtering case I reported on earlier this week, the Riverfront Times publishes the official, quite defensive, statement from the library on the case’s resolution. Quote: “Under the judgment, the library will continue to use the same internet screening provider it has used for many years. This is the same internet screening service provider as ninety percent of public libraries in Missouri. Months prior to the time the lawsuit was filed, the provider used by the library made changes in its minimal screening categories which the Salem Public Library and many other libraries in the state adopted. By agreeing to the consent judgment, the Salem Public Library does nothing more than agree to continue to use the new updated categories recommended by its service provider and adopted by the library before the suit was filed.” Shorter version: we will never admit we did anything wrong. 
T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

  • T. Thorn Coyle writes for The Huffington Post about John Brennan, Sekhmet and the Fires of War. Quote: “We are damaging ourselves, our souls, and the earth. We are dealing out death at a distance, and slowly dying inside. Freedom is hard to bear. But so is war. So is our enslavement and inner blindness. How shall we waken to the light that dawns over the desert so beautifully? If life and death are sacred, what is our role in these wars being fought via real-time video? We try to distance ourselves from the cycles of the earth, but in the long run, this simply is not possible.”
  • The Havasupai Tribe and environmental groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service for failing to adequately protect land sacred to the tribe and moving forward on a controversial uranium mine. Quote: “The complaint (full text) in Grand Canyon Trust v. Williams, (D AZ, filed 3/7/2013) claims that the Forest Service failed to comply with environmental, mining, public land, and historic preservation laws. It alleges, among other things, that while the Forest Service has designated the area as Traditional Cultural Property and has recognized that it is a sacred site to the Havasupai Tribe and has begun consultations with the Tribe, it refuses to carry out a complete “Section 106 process” under the National Historic Preservation Act, which would include developing a memorandum of agreement with the tribe and state historic preservation office before restarting mining operations.”
  • Got caught being a scam artist? Convert to Christianity! It’s a fabulous PR move. Quote: “Chan converted to Christianity and renounced his former practice ofgeomancy just weeks before appearing in court for forging the will of one of Hong Kong’s richest women, billionaire Nina Wang, whom Chan also claimed to be his girlfriend.”
  • The site Pagan Dharma has returned from Internet limbo, Some of the rationale for why it’s back can be found, here
  • Heiner Bielefeld, in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, says that blasphemy laws should be ended, and that they endanger religious minorities. Quote: “Speaking on the fringes of the rights council on Wednesday, Bielefeld said criminalizing concepts like blasphemy was dangerous for free speech because there could be no common definition of what it was.”
  • Slate.com says the goddess Columbia is cool. Quote: “As a personification of the United States, Columbia is far less sinister and far more charismatic than her coattailed counterpart: She’s the goddess-like figure who inspired all the women in breastplates from the women’s suffrage marches of 1913.”
  • A reality television Witch. Move along, nothing to see here.

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

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.

  • The Quietus interviews Hexvessel’s Matthew McNerney, who talks about his band’s unique mix of metal, jazz and psychedelic folk, and also opens about Paganism, the natural world, and practicing magick. Quote: “I was brought up a Catholic, so I know about organised religion. I’ve always been interested in the occult and magick. I don’t know how much you can say about practising magick, because I think it’s something that’s very personal and very subjective and I think this album is about that. It’s about “When does magick become objective? When does religion become an objective thing? What does it mean to be holy?” It’s all connected with nature and how we see ourselves in relation to the world around us. It’s definitely the theme of the album, and I believe that we’re creating and practising magick all the time.”
  • Gina Athena Ulysse, Professor of Anthropology & African American Studies at Wesleyan University, writes about defending Vodou in Haiti at The Huffington Post. Quote: “In recent years, defensive tactics have included the formation of umbrella organizations (such as Zantrayand Bode Nasyonal) that brought practitioners together to address common concerns. It must be noted that these groupings are not necessarily representative of all Vodouists and are not without controversy. Nonetheless, with the persistent presence of protestant missions and increasingly aggressive spiritual cleansings and other attacks especially since the 2010 earthquake, Vodouists have become increasingly vulnerable and have to be on the offensive.” Ulysse also notes the recent controversy over the amended Haitian constitution, and the fear that it may have removed protections for Vodou practitioners.
  • Boing Boing’s Gweek podcast interviews Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” about, well, the history of Halloween. Quote: “Have you ever wondered about the origins of Halloween? Where does the word Halloween come from? What is the origin of the term trick or treat? Why do we carve jack-o’-lanterns? And how did costumes come into play?”
  • Tourist-trade witch, living in cave, seeks potential suitors. Seeks someone less “goody-goody” than Merlin, but not as evil as Voldemort.

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

There must be something uniquely unsettling to certain factions of Christianity about the existence of modern Pagan religions, something that makes them over-react. It can’t be our sheer numbers, despite consistent growth Pagans account for only 0.4% of the population (around a million people) in the United States. No matter what the odd conspiracy theory might say, Pagans don’t pull the strings of any powerful politicians, and there is no Pagan lobbying organization in Washington DC. Despite these reassurances of Christian dominance, a good number of Christians are preoccupied with us to the point of distraction. How has this strange state of affairs come about?

My personal theory is two-fold: First the Satanic Panics of the 1980s ramped up fears of an (imaginary) murderous occult underground network, one that the media was all too happy to feed, giving the impression that “we” were everywhere and were possibly dangerous. Secondly, I think the re-emergence of Paganism feeds into an atavistic primal fear in the Christian mind. Pagans were the original and long-vanquished enemies of Christian dominance in the West, our defeat enmeshed in the very core of their understanding of the world. Christ came and defeated the old gods, “the great god Pan is dead,” that’s how it was supposed to work. It was a version of this view that enabled the Doctrine of Discovery and the horrors that followed it, and continues to influence how many Christians encounter other faiths. So to see the vanquished rise again must be uniquely disquieting, a symbolic blow that undermines two thousand years of propaganda.

The conservative (largely evangelical) Christian obsession with the “occult,” modern Pagan religions, and especially Witchcraft, is best exemplified by the “ex-witch.” The saved Witch, the former sinner who turns from the old gods (who are all controlled by Satan, obviously) and embraces the light of Jesus Christ. Almost every modern book written by Christians that deals with Wicca or modern Paganism drags one out (or is written by one). “Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers,” “Generation Hex”“Wicca’s Charm”, “Dewitched”, and the granddad of them all: Bill Schnoebelen’s “Wicca: Satan’s Little White Lie” (Schnobelen’s work was expertly demolished by former student and coven-mate Frater Barrabbas). Each pledge to give you the “true” story of Wicca/Witchcraft/the occult, often with horrifying revelations once you get “deep” enough. The books have gotten more nuanced in the post-panic era (no more human sacrifices), but they all still try to evoke enough drama and lurid occult phenomena to rake in concerned Christian dollars at Christian book stores.

The latest entry into the “ex-witch” genre is by S.A. (Seleah Ally) Tower, author of “Taken From the Night,” which  documents her journey from Christian, to “initiated” Wiccan of ten years, to born-again Christian.

Her 10-year experience in witchcraft that began in 1989 came to an end through divine intervention, she said. “It came to a point where it felt like God had intervened and literally came down and took me back.” In addition to the book, her testimony and insightful revelations in the spiritual realm have been told on several Christian radio programs. Tower said she shied away from writing a typical book on the subject of witchcraft that might paint a stereotypical picture of gory sacrifices and “what the Bible says about it.” “To someone who is wavering or looking into Christianity a little bit, not yet 100 percent sure, those types of books can be very frustrating,” she said. She explained that when she was moving away from witchcraft she was looking for stories about someone who had just left the cult. “I just wanted to hear the facts of what happened,” she said.

Here are her not-at-all sensationalized and overly dramatic promo videos for the book.

and

Nothing about what I see here, or at her web site, say that these are books written to reach Wiccans. “Taken From the Night” is just another book written by a Christian for other Christians, marketed on Christian radio programs so everyone can feel good about themselves. Tower may gently criticize those other ex-witches who “stir the church with false witness and fear,” but she’s just the kinder, gentler, version of Bill Schnoebelen.

“During my Wiccan years, I remember them… I call them the E’s (exaggerators and embellishers). Mind you, those that put on the face of a witch may actually have dabbled in some form of witchcraft and have an honest heart for those involved. However, their exaggerated tales need self-examination. While it’s nice to rally the crowd, we have a greater calling. Jesus gave us a commission to reach the world with His love, not stir the church with false witness and fear. God has placed on my heart a desire for His love and light to be revealed to those that don’t know him, not widen the gap. Believe me, the real witches can see the face behind the mask… so take it off and show the true nature of God. Be content with His story in your life, whatever that may entail.”

Let me reiterate again, these books do absolutely nothing to engender understanding and communication between Pagans and Christians, no matter how they like to dress it up. They are books that must end with a victory for Christ, and must, no matter how diplomatically, portray Wicca as at least somewhat demonic. We may have evolved from murdering Satanists to deluded troubled souls looking for self-empowerment, but the underlying script remains unchanged. They are a far, far, cry from recently published books that actually work to end misconceptions like “Connecting Christ”“Jesus Through Pagan Eyes”, and “Beyond the Burning Times”. Whatever the criticisms and flaws of those books, they at least treat Wicca and modern Pagan faiths as religions that must be engaged with like any other religion.

If Christian-Pagan dialog is to move forward, if there is to be real understanding and communication, then the “ex-witch” meme must be done away with. They aren’t “ex-witches”, they are Christians, hoping to make a buck and score some notoriety from their past dalliances with our faiths and traditions. Ms. Tower may have been “one of us” for a decade, but she obviously learned nothing about how actions have repercussions. She has chosen to make herself a part of a publishing legacy that has done nothing but lie and defame us, no matter how reformed the genre claims to be now. They dare pity us, and call us damaged or lost. They are nothing but non-fiction dramas for bored Christians looking for a bit of frission, and to dress it up as anything else is an insult to the real interfaith and dialog work being done by Christians and Pagans.

Charisma magazine reports on it’s feature on ExWitch Ministries an internet-based group founded by former Witch Kathi Sharpe. Sharpe, like most former “occult” practitioners have the usual song-and-dance about their fling with “satan”, and how they encountered the power of Christ.

“I got only 100 yards into the place before I felt I would be crushed to the floor if I did not leave,” she said. “Me, the occultist, found myself forced right back out of that building by the presence of God. … It was one of the unnerving experiences of my life.”

Yes, thats right folks, God himself booted her out of the Church (something that I assume has been fixed by her conversion). But, as the article tells you, these violent episodes are a positive sign that they aren’t beyond saving!

Sharpe said some of the witches and pagans that attend services try to go unnoticed, showing no problem talking about Christ and reading a Bible. Those individuals, according to another former occultist known simply as Lottie, are strong-willed and are not seeking Christ.

See, if you are a pagan and can attend church and hold a Bible without getting the spiritual whammie then you must be too “strong-willed” in your adherance to devilish arts to see the truth. What amazing logic!