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.
- First off, we have an update on the ongoing John Friend Anusara scandal, this time with Friend directly addressing his views on Wicca. It comes from a NY Magazine feature published this past Sunday, and in it he says that “I take Wicca really seriously,” and “I have taken Wiccan oaths over the years where death is actually the consequence of telling the truth.” I’m not sure what he’s implying exactly, that he withheld the truth about his coven due to oaths? That he wasn’t twisting Wicca for his own pleasure? Friend also claimed that Blazing Solar Flames is“just a prayer circle, it’s for healing.” If Friend truly takes Wicca “really seriously,” perhaps he should address the Wiccan and Pagan community directly about what happened in his coven.
- Michel Paradis, defense attorney for Guantanamo prisoner Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who is accused of orchestrating a suicide bombing that killed 17 sailors, is challenging jurisdiction by citing Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye versus City of Hialeah. That landmark Supreme Court case established legal protections for Santeria animal sacrifice, and is being used here under the idea that the law created to authorize the Guantanamo prison is, like the law that specifically targeted Santeria, “invidiously discriminatory” and “specifically targeted alien Muslim men, in violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment under law.” It remains to be seen if this gambit is at all effective.
- Writer and instructor Tracie Welser has penned an open letter to the Goddess Temple of Orange County regarding a message transmitted during a recent service that, quote, “transwomen are less than women, that they’ve been violated and mutilated and deny the truth of who they are.” Welser urges the Temple “to stand on the side of love and acceptance, not bigotry. I can’t feel safe at the Temple or be part of it otherwise.” In the comments, a link to a Goddess Temple policy on transwomen dated to 2009 is shared, though it isn’t linked from the front page of the site.
- A new survey of religious belief in 30 countries says that “by most measures, belief in God is gradually declining worldwide.” Paul Waldman at The American Prospect pours over the study to see what it says about religious today. Waldman posits that it is America’s religious diversity that has made us stay so religious: “the constant competition for adherents made religious institutions more varied and dynamic. It’s the difference between going into a store that has only one old, tasteless brand of cereal, and going into a store with 1,000 different kinds.”
- Focus on the Family and the Alliance Defense Fund are pushing to have constitutional amendment passed in Colorado that they say is about religious freedom, but critics allege it is really a “licence to discriminate.” Quote: “If passed, this initiative would allow anyone with a religious conviction to deny employment, housing, or services to LGBT people.” Considering the fact that a whopping 12% of state residents are adherents of a New Age, Pagan, or esoteric faith, 40% of Colorado is non-Christian, and a majority of Coloradans are pro-choice and pro-evolution, this proposed ballot initiative isn’t a sure thing, even if allowed.
- Saudi Arabia’s religious police have yet again arrested a foreign citizen, accused the individual of sorcery, and may face the death penalty as a result. Quote: “The daily Okaz reported that a Saudi man had complained his daughter had ‘suddenly started acting in an abnormal way, and that happened after she came close to the Sri Lankan woman’ in a large shopping mall in the port city of Jeddah. ‘He reported her to the security forces, asking for her arrest and the specialized units dealt with the situation swiftly… and succeeded in arresting her,’ Okaz reported on Wednesday.” If you think this sounds like the Salem Witch Trials, well, you’d be right. Saudi Arabia has made the news several times here for its willingness to kill men and women for the crimes of “sorcery” and “witchcraft”. Recently, a Saudi princess living in London blasted her country’s religious police, saying they had a “dangerous effect” on society.
- The Scottish SPCA, commenting on a recent rash of bizarre hair-cutting attacks on local horses, stated that “incidents such as this have also been suggested to be linked with Satanic practices or witchcraft.” Which, of course, made the headline. Not emphasized were the alternate theories of “sabotage by another and criminals marking the horse for theft.” Why go for the mundane explanation when “witchcraft” and “sacrifice” will sell more papers?
- Did “the little ice age” trigger the witch hunts in Europe and America? That’s a theory forwarded by economist Emily Oster, which has gained some new traction recently thanks to the current discussion and debate over climate change. Quote: “When crops failed, ‘people would have searched for a scapegoat in the face of deadly changes in weather patterns,’ she wrote. Thus, desperate people traced their troubles to unpopular neighbors and outcasts allied to the devil.” With freak weather events on the rise, and likely to become even more common, will a new moral panic be sparked to find a scapegoat?
- Vice interviews legendary filmmaker and Thelemite Kenneth Anger, though Gallerist NY complains that they asked “all the wrong questions.” Quote: “Hoping to get some insight into his occult practice, we get instead, a desultory exploration of celebrity in Los Angeles [...] we thought the interview might take off in this new direction of occultists-in-the-Mediterranean, it’s neatly directed back into an abstract discussion of censorship, scandal and the legality of homosexuality.” It seems Mr. Anger might be a bit tired talking about Crowley, Thelema, and Scientology. Word to the wise for future interviewers!
- Finally, I’d like to give a big official welcome to Pagan, scholar, and media critic Peg Aloi, who has joined the Patheos Pagan channel as a regular blogger. Many of you will be familiar with Aloi as a longtime staff member and contributor to The Witches’ Voice, perhaps the most popular Pagan website in our history. As a commentator on the intersections of Paganism, the occult, and pop-culture, she has contributed to books like “Seven Seasons of Buffy,”“The New Generation Witches,” and “A Taste of True Blood.” Aloi joins an impressively strong lineup of writers and thinkers at Patheos, and I think she’ll fit right in. So please add her to your bookmarks and RSS subscriptions!
That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.