Archives For Lebanon

[The following article is reprinted from the PNC Minnesota bureau, and reported by Cara Schulz.]

Areas where there is political turmoil or fighting are often difficult places for even those in the mainstream of a culture to live in. It’s even harder for people on the fringe of society as they face confusion, uncertainty, deteriorating living conditions, and daily fear for personal safety. Those set apart by ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, political views, or religion are the most vulnerable to loss of property or even loss of life. In Syria and Egypt, two countries currently experiencing political turmoil or civil war, one by one Pagan voices have fallen silent.

Syrians demonstrate in the coastal city of Banias against the regime of hard-line leader Bashar Assad in the spring of 2011. (Syrian Freedom via Creative Commons)

Syrians demonstrate in the coastal city of Banias against the regime of hard-line leader Bashar Assad in the spring of 2011. (Syrian Freedom via Creative Commons)

There are eight Pagans, three in Egypt and five in Syria, that I have regular contact with online. They had always been cautious about revealing their religion to people within their country and expressed dismay over their isolation, but they were happy to talk online and wanted to know what American Pagans, especially those who practice Mesopotamian or Kemetic religions, were doing.

Egypt

The Egyptian Pagans, who were elated at the fall of Muburak, expressed hope that a truly democratic government would emerge in Egypt. Then, concerns crept in at the increasing power of the Muslim Brotherhood. Karim saw the Brotherhood as a threat to both his country and to him, as a Pagan, personally. Over the past seven months, the lag in communication grew as he became more politically involved and went to rallies and protests. He expressed fear that pagans and other religious minorities were in increasing danger and that the Christians would sacrifice people like him to the Brotherhood to appease them. The other two Pagans I communicate with followed a similar pattern. Elation, followed by concern, followed by fear and determination. Then silence. I have no way of finding out if they are simply too involved with the political turmoil in Egypt to respond, if they are keeping quiet to avoid suspicion, or anything else. It’s been three months since I have heard from any of them.

Syria

The situation in Syria appears to be more grave, according to the last messages I received from the five Pagans I chat with regularly. They spoke of the fighting and how places looked like Beirut, buildings just shells of themselves, rubble blocking the streets. They detailed neighbors going missing. Islamic fundamentalist patrols that monitor behavior and took violent action against people who violated rules and customs. They debated fleeing, worried about being outed as a Pagan, and started destroying or burying altars. Three began attending local mosques to show their devotion to Islam.

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Yana dropped off first.  I last heard from her in June of 2012.  Bayan, another Syrian Pagan, also hadn’t heard from her but said fighting in her area was intense.  He said he had seen patrols targeting young women and men, beating them and he said it was rumored they were raping them.  He thought perhaps she fled to a safer area or was silent to avoid detection.

That was the last email I received from Bayan.  Like dominoes the other Syrian Pagans went silent.  No emails or texts.  No word on their safety.  I keep hoping I will hear something, but it’s been several months and still no word.

I reached out to a Pagan in Lebanon, Adon, to see what he has heard about his coreligionists in Syria and Egypt.  Although he’s not in the same country, he’s much closer than I am.  I asked Adon if he had heard from Pagans in Egypt and Syria.

I haven’t heard of my pagan friends in Syria for a while too now, i know at least three of them who moved to other countries, especially Algeria, and United Arab emirates, but i have lost their contact in the process. The others are still silent, so they’re either disconnected, moved from the country, or worse. It’s hard to tell at the moment, pagans in the Near East were already several secluded clusters of individuals who don’t have a lot of contact with each other before everything started to happen. This is the case even in Lebanon where it’s relatively easier to be open about one’s religious identity.

I didn’t had any contact previously with Egyptian pagans, but they’re probably fine, but everyone in Egypt is too distracted to think about anything but politics and survival at the moment, i’ve had trouble having a decent conversation even with non-pagan egyptian friends in the past few months.

Anyway, you’re right that the atmosphere is getting a lot less safer for non-muslims in general and even for less devoted muslims. It’s very risky to even discuss religion in Syria at the moment, whether we were in the areas controlled by the regime or by the rebels. In Egypt the situation is a bit brighter since there’s a larger civil society and minorities in general and things are still relatively peaceful. However, the general feeling here is that this is temporary, the Islamists are taking the lead now after being in the shadows for decades, and all this will catalyze the process of getting over fundamental Islamism faster.  - Adon

My hope is that peace and liberty come to this region of the world.  I hope my friends are safe and that someday soon, they can live without fear.  That their voices are once again heard and this terrible silence ends.  May Anu and Horus watch over them.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Pagan Spirit Gathering Breaks Registration Records: Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), one of America’s oldest and largest Pagan festivals, begins in less than a week. On Saturday, Selena Fox, senior minister and high priestess of Circle Sanctuary, the organization that sponsors PSG,  announced that they will set a new record for attendance at the event.

Selena Fox holding 1000+ "spirit bundles" for PSG attendees.

Selena Fox holding 1000+ "spirit bundles" for PSG attendees.

“Breaking News! Pagan Spirit Gathering 2012 is going to be the most attended PSG yet! Just learned that we now have over 1000 people (all ages) registered. [...] This is the first time we have had more than 1000 people at a PSG!”

This is a remarkable achievement for the event, which has been held since 1980, and in several different locations over the years. A testament to the sense of community built during the 10-day-long festival. This year’s featured presenters include Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon,” Crystal Blanton, author of “Bridging the Gap,” and chaplain/activist Patrick McCollum. There will also be musical performances by Damh the Bard and Arthur Hinds, among others. Representatives from the Pagan Newswire Collective will be there, and I have no doubt we’ll be hearing much, much more about the event in the weeks to come.

Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride: June is LGBT Pride month in the United States, and Pride parades and marches are happening across the country. This past Saturday was the 2012 Boston Pride Parade, and in addition to local politicians and local celebrities, several religious groups also took part.  One Pagan religious group marching in the parade was the Temple of Witchcraft, an organization that was co-founded by author Christopher Penczak.

Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride.

Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride.

“Many thanks to all those who came out to march behind the Temple of Witchcraft banner in the Boston Pride March — our largest group of Pagans ever! — and thanks to those who supported us (and continue to do so) from afar!”Steve, Gemini minister

The Temple, founded by gay men, marched to proclaim that “All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are Our Rituals.” You can find more pictures and commentary on their participation at the Temple of Witchcraft Facebook page. Later this month the Temple will be holding their own TempleFest gathering in in South Hampton, NH.

Witches & Pagans Magazine Adds Bloggers: In recent months Witches & Pagans Magazine, a publication that emerged from the merger of PanGaia and NewWitch, has been stepping up their web presence. The Pagan periodical has been reprinting older articles to their website, hiring new columnists (like Raven Grimassi), and now adding a fleet of Pagan bloggers to their site.

Screenshot of W&P's "PaganSquare" blogs.

Screenshot of W&P's "PaganSquare" blogs.

“I’m pumped up by our new bloggers at WitchesandPagans.com. My DH Alan had to drag me kicking and screaming (sometimes literally — the screaming, I mean) into doing this for our magazines, but now I’m as jazzed as he is. There’s been a lot of ego-stripping going on around here, but I believe it’s all to the good.”Anne Newkirk Niven, Executive Editor, Witches & Pagans Magazine

Active bloggers at Witches and Pagans Magazine include Cat TreadwellDiotima Mantineia, Kenaz Filan, Selina Rifkin, Tess Dawson, and WitchDoctor Joe. In addition, if you look at their contributors page, it seems like they have more bloggers coming soon. I’m happy to see W&P take this step into providing exclusive, regularly updated, content for their site. A healthy Pagan media is one where several outlets thrive, interact, and yes, compete. As such, I wish Anne and the W&P team every success, and look forward to following their output.

In Other Community News:

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

Top Story: Today is Veteran’s Day, and we here at The Wild Hunt would like to give our thanks to all military personnel and their families for their service and sacrifices. Today is also an excellent time to think of the modern Pagans and Heathens currently serving in the military and offer them our support. A great way to do that is to support Operation Circle Care.

“For the fourth year in a row, Circle Sanctuary is honoring and supporting active duty Pagan service members through Operation Circle Care. This year, we are widening our focus and sending Yuletide care packages to active duty Pagan troops serving in any overseas theater of operation, including Germany, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, or on board Navy ships. The success of this program is due to the generous support and donations from Pagan community members from many paths and places. With your continued support, it is our goal to honor and remember each and every Pagan US military service member we can with a special personalized gift for Yule, just as we have in years past.”

Operation Circle Care is looking for contacts, donated items, and funds to help in this project. You can find details at their web site. If you know of similar efforts in other countries, or other Pagan organizations that are organizing care packages or other services, please let me know in the comments.

A Warrior’s Conscientious Objection: On a somewhat related note, we turn to the issue of conscientious objection to war. Up till now its been largely treated by the US government as an all-or-nothing enterprise, you either had to be a pacifist who objected to all conflict (like Quakers or some Pagans), or you were signed up to follow orders no matter what (lest risking dishonorable discharge or even a tribunal). But now a coalition of religious leaders and veterans are calling for the right to morally object to individual conflicts.

“In a report issued Wednesday (Nov. 10), the Truth Commission on Conscience in War called on the military to revise its rules to include “selective conscientious objection,” and urged religious leaders to address issues of conscience during wartime … The report states that current rules about conscientious objection requires an objection to “war in any form,” creating a conflict for those who may have specific moral objections to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ”It denies freedom of religious practice and the exercise of moral conscience to those serving in the military who object to a particular war based on the moral criteria of just war, which the military itself teaches and upholds as important,” the report reads. The report notes that military rules dating to the time of the Vietnam draft leave no legal basis for objection for someone who believes “participation implicates them in an immoral war or in war crimes.”

Such a change would be very much in keeping with many Pagan and Heathen ideas of warrior ethics and culture. Allowing participation in honorable or just conflicts while also leaving room for non-participation in situations that they feel could violate their personal/religious/cultural code of honor. Whether the military would ever be open to such a change is an open question. For those who want more information about this initiative, check out the Truth Commission on Conscience in War’s web site.

The Fate of Ali Sibat: When we last checked in with Lebanese citizen Ali Sibat, who was nearly executed for the crime of sorcery in Saudi Arabia but given a last-minute reprieve due to protests and political maneuvering, was still in a cell awaiting some word of his ultimate fate. Now news has come that a Saudi court has formally rejected his death sentence and that he be deported after a new trial.

“Saudi Arabia’s high court has rejected the execution sentence of a Lebanese man convicted of sorcery and recommended that he be deported after a new trial, a newspaper reported Thursday. The Supreme Court in Riyadh said that the death sentence for Ali Sabat was not warranted because he had not harmed anyone and had no prior offences in the country, Okaz said. The court said his case should be sent back to a lower court in Medina to be retried and recommended that Sabat, who has spent 30 months in Saudi prison since his May 2008 arrest, be deported, Okaz said.”

How long this process will take remains to be seen, but it does look like this long nightmare is finally ending for Sibat. Sadly the same can’t be said for other men and women being held in Saudi Arabia for crimes of “sorcery”, like Sudanese citizen Abdul Hamid al-Fakki, or Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali. One can only hope that discontent with the religious police grows, and we see an end to this madness.

The Further Unintended Consequences of Oklahoma’s Anti-Sharia Amendment: I’ve already discussed some of the problems with the recent anti-Sharia amendment passed by Oklahoma voters, but now even more voices are emerging to discuss the unintended consequences of this move to theoretically protect us from “creeping Sharia” law. First, the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission released an official memo on October 20 opposing the amendment, saying it could affect the “damage the sovereignty of all Oklahoma tribes.”

SQ 755, as written, prohibits an Oklahoma state court from applying any law but Oklahoma or U. S. law to settle a dispute. Further, the proposed constitutional amendment inhibits state courts from looking to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures for a decision. The language of this proposed amendment starkly reminds us that some Oklahoma lawmakers forgot that our nation and state were built on the principles, blood, and backs of “other nations and cultures,” namely, our tribes. It also ignores that Oklahoma tribes have become valuable economic partners with the State that it cannot afford to ignore or exclude.

If SQ 755 is approved, the lack of specific tribal law language could easily be interpreted by a state judge to leave no room to refer to a tribe’s law to determine the existence of a valid waiver of a tribe’s sovereign immunity, for example. Thus, SQ 755 has the potential to provide state court judges with yet another opportunity to further erode tribal sovereignty. A state court judge could rely on the amendment’s absence of recognition of any tribal law to avoid or disavow its application. Tribes and tribal members should be aware of this glaring omission for Oklahoma courts to look to and apply our tribal laws when appropriate, and vote on this question accordingly.

In addition to possibly damaging tribal sovereignty in the name of fighting Muslim theocracy the amendment is getting knocked about by the majority of commentators at the center-right politics site Politico. A judge has granted a temporary block to the amendment while the court battles commence.

Medicine Man Confidentiality: A murder trial in Canada is testing whether minority faiths and cultures are afforded the same privileges as the dominant religious traditions. Minneconjou historian Donovin Sprague claims that confidentiality between a medicine man and their clients is a well understood concept in that culture and should be respected.

Sprague said he based his opinions on his own traditional upbringing and knowledge of tribal culture, as well as on his discussions with spiritual leaders Arvol Looking Horse, Rick Two Dogs and Wilmer Mesteth. Seventh Circuit Judge Jack Delaney tried to pin Sprague down on just how far that commitment to confidentiality would go. If a child were found murdered in a traditional camp and someone confessed to a medicine man, he asked, would the medicine man still maintain confidentiality? “Traditionally … I don’t think it would be revealed,” Sprague said, but he was quick to say that one medicine man might not operate in the same way as another medicine man would. “There wasn’t like a written set of rules governing what we’re talking about here, really. … He would use his discretion what he wanted to do.”

The trial involves John Graham, who is charged with the 1975 rape and murder of Annie Mae Aquash. The motion on whether confidentiality would stand has not been ruled on yet. Whichever way the judge decides could have lasting ramifications on indigenous and minority religions in Canada, and how far confidentiality between a spiritual/religious leader and their client can go.

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

Let’s start off your weekend with a few quick notes.

Another Fortunetelling Law Overturned: The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that fortunetelling and other psychic services are protected speech and cannot be outlawed by local ordinances. The ruling stems from a long legal battle by Montgomery County resident Nick Nefedro, who has been mentioned at this blog before, and his win may be the most devastating blow yet to laws targeting fortunetelling.

“Fortunetelling may be pure entertainment, it may give individuals some insight into the future or it may be hokum,” the Maryland Court of Appeals wrote in a 24-page opinion. “People who purchase fortunetelling services may or may not believe in its value. Fortunetellers may sometimes deceive their customers. We need not, however, pass judgment on the validity or the value of the speech that fortunetelling entails.”

Previous cases that overturned anti-fortunetelling ordinances often did so on religious grounds, but this case didn’t pursue a religious angle, and I thought it would suffer because of it; however, the appeal to freedom of speech seems to have been convincing. As a result, a much broader precedent has been reached, one that may be replicated in similar court battles. It remains to be seen if Montgomery County will now try to appeal to a Federal court. Nefedro was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland in this case, here’s an excerpt from their press release concerned the decision.

“This case has never been just about fortunetellers, but about the fundamental right to free speech,” said Ajmel Quereshi, an attorney with the ACLU of Maryland. “While individual fortunetellers can be punished if they fraudulently exploit their customers, banning all fortunetelling is overbroad and unconstitutional. It is not the role of government to decide that broad categories of speech can be banned merely because it finds them distasteful or disagreeable.”

Here’s hoping lawmakers across the country are paying attention to this decision.

When Will Ali Sibat Be Released? Lebanese citizen Ali Sibat, who was nearly executed for the crime of sorcery in Saudi Arabia but given a last-minute reprieve due to protests and political maneuvering, is still rotting in a cell, and his wife wants to know when he’ll be released.

“The wife of a Lebanese TV psychic convicted in Saudi Arabia on charges of witchcraft appealed for her husband’s release on Friday, just months after he escaped beheading in the kingdom. Samira Rahmoon, 46, said Lebanese officials promised her in April that her husband would soon come home, two years after Saudi religious police arrested him during a pilgrimage there … ”We are lost,” said Rahmoon, clutching a cracked frame holding a photograph of her husband, 49-year-old Ali Sibat, during a small protest outside the prime minister’s office in Beirut.”

So far there is no word on when, or if, Sibat will be released from custody. Recently there have been signs that Saudi citizens are getting fed up with power plays by the local religious police, who have been locked in a political struggle with the country’s (relatively) more moderate monarchy. This battle has often seen members of other faiths, even if they are citizens of other countries, drawn into their machinations.

Curses on Trafficking: Benin (not to be confused with the modern day country of the Republic of Benin, formerly known as Dahomey), monarch Omo N’Oba Erediauwa has called on Vodun and other indigenous religious practitioners in Nigeria to place curses on those who would participate in human trafficking and kidnapping.

“The fight against kidnapping and related crimes took a fresh turn in Benin City, the Edo state capital on Thursday, as voodoo priests, herbalists and traditional worshippers came out in large numbers to invoke the wrath of the gods and place curses on persons behind the acts. The Benin monarch Omo N’Oba Erediauwa at a meeting with the traditional stakeholders last week, directed them to set aside this Thursday (yesterday) for the men in the kingdom to place curses on kidnappers, while the women would take their turn to perform the similar exercise tomorrow, Saturday.”

Human trafficking in Nigeria is a rampant problem, with even important officials taking part in the practice. This move by Omo N’Oba Erediauwa is canny since many accounts of have surfaced of Nigerian women and children being threatened into silence and slavery by Vodun curses and vows. If news of this public show of opposition by indigenous religious leaders spreads, it may counter-act some of the power these modern-day slavers hold over their victims.

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

Word has come that Lebanese citizen Ali Sibat will not be executed in Saudi Arabia for the crime of sorcery.  Sibat, who was seized by Saudi Arabia’s religious police in 2008 while returning from the holy city of Mecca, was accused of sorcery and sentenced to death for making televised predictions about the future in Lebanon.

“May al-Khansa told The Associated Press that the Saudi ambassador in Beirut informed the Lebanese justice minister that the execution of Ali Sibat would not take place. “He confirmed to me that there will be no execution,” al-Khansa said about her conversation with Ibrahim Najjar, Lebanon’s justice minister. She refused to go into details but said “matters are going in the right direction. We have faith in Saudi Arabia’s judicial system,” she added, noting that Sibat’s actions are not considered a crime in Lebanon.”

This development comes after ongoing international media attention to Sibat’s case, spurred in part by campaigns from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. But what may have ultimately saved Sibat’s life were behind the scenes negotiations between the Saudi and Lebanese governments, spurred by outrage in Lebanon over the situation.

“In Lebanon they have rallied behind Sabat, calling on politicians to take a stronger stance. On Thursday, protesters gathered in front of the Saudi embassy in Beirut where they reenacted a mock hanging to protest Sabat’s sentence.”[Saudis] come to our country and literally do whatever they want, thinking that Lebanon is theirs [thanks] to our dear politicians!!” one commenter wrote on a popular online political forum. “What kind of country is Lebanon…. They can’t step in to stop this injustice?” Lebanese Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar told Agence France-Presse that he had asked Saudi authorities to reconsider the severity of the sentence, adding that the same conviction in Lebanon is a misdemeanor punishable by a few months in jail. Though Sabat’s “mother should rest assured” for now, Najjar said…”

What happens next is unknown, but for the moment, we can take some solace in the fact that Sibat has been spared the death penalty, and hope that this means he will soon be reunited with his wife and family.

For my full coverage of this story, including the revelation that there’s a Pagan community in Lebanon, click here.

The Los Angeles Times’ Middle East-focused blog “Babylon & Beyond” has an excellent look at the current situation of Ali Sibat, a Lebanese citizen who was arrested and sentenced to death for the crime of “sorcery” in Saudi Arabia. They not only touch on the political manipulations inside Saudi Arabia that might be fueling this rush to judicial murder, a theme touched on in a previous report by NPR, but also focus on the Lebanese citizens who are outraged at this miscarriage of justice.


The Arabic writing on the banners reads:”Don’t kill.” Credit: Bilal Hussein / AP

“In Lebanon they have rallied behind Sabat, calling on politicians to take a stronger stance. On Thursday, protesters gathered in front of the Saudi embassy in Beirut where they reenacted a mock hanging to protest Sabat’s sentence. “[Saudis] come to our country and literally do whatever they want, thinking that Lebanon is theirs [thanks] to our dear politicians!!” one commenter wrote on a popular online political forum.”

In Lebanon the crime of “sorcery” is a misdemeanor, and punishable by, at worst, a couple months in jail. In addition, the report tells us that television psychic call-in shows, such as the one Sibat hosted, are hugely popular in Lebanon, and are broadcast across the Middle East. It was, in fact, Sibat’s television show that led the Mutaween (religious police) in Saudi Arabia to single out and seize him as he was returning from a pilgrimage.

For the moment there is a stay of execution, but there is no clue as to if it is only temporary, or if Sibat’s life will truly be spared. This show of force by conservative factions in Saudi Arabia, and the hesitancy of Lebanese politicians to directly challenge their powerful neighbor place Sibat in a precarious situation. As I pointed out the other day, Saudi Arabia brazenly grabbing pilgrims and sentencing them to death for “sorcery” or “witchcraft” endangers the lives of any who don’t toe the line of Sunni hard-liners, including the small community of modern Pagans and occultists living in Lebanon.

I’ll keep you posted of any developments, in the meantime, I encourage you to read and follow the links at “Babylon & Beyond”. You may also want to catch up on my previous coverage of this case.

I’ll spare all of you the seemingly obligatory April Fools’ Day post, where I pretend I’ve converted to Christianity (or atheism), or run some clearly farcical story where a famous Pagan does something out-of-character. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy a well-done joke, it’s just that I like to leave such things to the professionals. Besides, April 1st is not only my lovely wife’s birthday, but our wedding anniversary as well. So I’ll be out for most of today properly celebrating both occasions. So before I head off, let’s do a very quick round-up of some (real) Pagan news.

The Assassination of a Lebanese Citizen, and the Pagans in Lebanon: I’ve written before about Saudi Arabia’s plan to murder a Lebanese citizen, and former television host, for the “crime” of sorcery. After seemingly exhausting all legal appeals to his death sentence, alarming reports went out that Ali Sabat would be executed within a matter of days. Now, the AFP reports that Lebanon’s ambassador to Riyadh says that the execution is not imminent, though Sibat is still on death-row with a pardon being the only thing that could save him.

“Lebanon’s ambassador to Riyadh said Thursday that he had not been informed by the Saudi authorities of the imminent execution of a Lebanese man found guilty of sorcery, as his lawyer has warned. “Until now, the embassy has not been informed” that former TV presenter Ali Sabat has been condemned to death, Ambassador Marwan Zein told AFP by telephone. Sabat’s case is “still being considered by the court,” Zein said.”

Here’s hoping the two nations are doing some diplomatic behind-the-scenes efforts to save Sibat’s life. Sibat’s looming death is troubling, not only for the barbarity of executing innocent men and women for “sorcery” and “witchcraft”, but also because it endangers anyone traveling through the Middle East who doesn’t meet the arbitrary and exacting specifications of the local religious police, including modern Pagans. What’s that? There are no modern Pagans in the Middle East? Well, it seems that there are indeed Pagans in Lebanon. Lebanese blogger Hanibaael explores the phenomenon (in an Arabic-only post, here’s a rough Google translation).

“Pagans didn’t fade away. They are here among us, living by their beliefs in the shadows despite 2000 years of persecution. Here in Lebanon, despite the lack of official legal recognition of anyone who’s not affiliated with the three main religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism), they are young people who have taken alternative spiritual paths different from the dominant currents rooted in the general education. They converted to the esoteric and pagan beliefs, on their own, without being preached of it by anyone” (Thanks to Lebanese Pagan Adonis for the improved translation.)

The next head on the chopping block could be a Lebanese Wiccan traveling with her family through Saudi Arabia for The Hajj, just as Ali Sibat once did. Never suspecting he would be arrested for the predictions he made on television. Stopping these witch-hunts around the world isn’t just a humanitarian issue, it also increasingly endangers our faith traditions as modern Paganism emerges as a truly global movement.

Hey You Kids! Get Off My Lawn Sacred Well! It seems that both local Christians and Pagans are concerned about groups of younger Pagans frequenting the famous St. Anthony’s Well in Gloucestershire. What horrible things are these inexperienced Pagans doing? Well, they are apparently making pentagrams from leaves, arranging sticks in patterns, leaving flowers, and making small altars with natural materials!

[High priest Tim] Oakes says it is also among the top 20 pagan water sites in the country and added: “St Anthony’s Well has become a target for what I can only describe as amateur pagans. It is a beautiful sacred place and we deplore any attempts to redecorate it. Our view is that these things should not be there, you should not have these symbols in the middle of a glade. There are a series of books aimed at encouraging teen witches but no reputable coven will accept anybody under 18 so they have nowhere to go. They read these books and go down there armed with a little bit of knowledge to try to get involved.”

How dare these “amateur pagans”! Don’t they know they should wait until they are 18, join a proper coven, and receive training before they ever dare leave flowers at a holy well?!? I’m sorry, but while I can understand the local Christian clergy getting bent out of shape because young Pagans are trouncing about the well, Mr. Oakes sounds like someone who’s peeved because the kids aren’t all bowing to his superior wisdom. If this was some sort of vandalism, the kind that can’t be removed with a broom, I’d be worried, but this is much ado over very little indeed.

Native American Names? Reality television stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt have decided to give themselves the “Native American” names of White Wolf and Running Bear, and Native American organizations aren’t amused.

TMZ spoke with a rep from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, who told us, “Continued stereotyping such as this by people ignorant of our traditional ways is very disrespectful and only hurts our efforts to curtail these stereotypes.” The rep claims they’re especially upset because “the names they have given themselves are legitimate names in our tribe.” And they’re not the only ones pissed at the MTV couple … The National Indian Education Association tells us, “they have taken an inaccurate stereotypical approach to enhance their public image which is offensive to our diverse American Indian cultures.”

If Heidi and Spencer White Wolf and Running Bear had decided to take magick Wiccan/Pagan names instead, they could have avoided most of this negative backlash over the issue of cultural appropriation, though it wouldn’t have saved them from rounds of mockery. Though I suppose that generating attention was what this move was all about, so, mission accomplished?

Call For Writers: In a final note, the The Pagan Newswire Collective is seeking writers for two new topic-focused group-blog projects. Just as the PNC’s new Pagan+Politics site aims to give a Pagan voice to our  political discourse, so too will these new projects help provide a vital Pagan perspective in their respective subject areas.

Pagans in the Military Group-Blog Project:

The PNC is looking for 7-10 Pagans interested in joining a group blog concerning Pagans in the military. We are hoping to encompass a wide range of news, opinions, and perspectives, and we want to not only include active-duty military personnel and military veterans, but  military spouses and activists involved in working to advance the equal treatment of Pagans in the armed forces. All political perspectives welcome.

Requirements: We prefer all participants be able to contribute at least one post per week. However, we are willing to make exceptions for active-duty military personnel who are stationed overseas. Writing and journalism experience is a plus, but we are also willing to take on dedicated beginners who can demonstrate they know their way around a sentence.

Pagan Pop-Culture/Arts Group-Blog Project:

The PNC is looking for 7-10 Pagans interested in joining a group blog concerning Pagan opinions on pop-culture and the arts, both mainstream and Pagan-created. Movies, books, comics, art, games, music, theater, and dance, we want to cover it all!

Requirements: Participants should be able to contribute at least one post per week (more is even better). A history of writing arts-oriented reviews is a big plus, as is demonstrating a breadth of knowledge about pop-culture and the arts.  Having a specialty is fine, and even encouraged! Remember we are looking for specifically Pagan reactions to, and analysis of, these creative fields.

To apply for either project send an e-mail with your name, contact information, location, and writing samples to projects at pagannewswirecollective dot com.

That’s all I have for now, have a great (April Fools’) day.