Archives For Pat Robertson

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

Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen

  • Noted naturalist and author Peter Matthiessen died on Saturday after battling leukemia. Mattheiseen, a Zen Buddhist, wrote over 30 novels, was an environmental activist, co-founded the Paris Review, and famously wrote “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,” which chronicled the story of Leonard Peltier. Quote: “Matthiessen is held in such high regard as a nonfiction writer by nonfiction writers that they sometimes say, ‘How is it possible that this guy can be such a virtuoso fiction writer, and give his equally substantial body of nonfiction work such short shrift?’ Because all the rest of us are trying to do what we can to mimic his nonfiction work.” What is remembered, lives.
  • Two people in Western Kentucky have been arrested on charges of committing sexual offenses against children. One of them, Jessica M. Smith, allegedly described herself as a Witch and threatened the children with her powers. Quote: “Prosecutors say the two threatened the children with ‘hexes and curses’ [...] Police said Smith described herself as a witch and told the kids ‘she was going to put a spell on them’ and that ‘if they told anyone, something bad would happen to them.’”
  • A federal appeals panel has ruled that New York City has the right to block religious services in public schools. Quote: “The decision does not mean that the city must force religious groups out of the schools, but merely that a city prohibition on religious worship services in schools would comply with the Constitution.” Appeals are expected.
  • It seems that “real housewife” Carlton Gebbia isn’t the only reality television star who has practiced Wicca. It seems that Millionaire Matchmaker star Patti Stanger was a “real Wiccan” for six years. Quote: “I’ve studied Kabbalah, I’ve studied Wicca, so you can’t be like that. You can’t throw stones at people, because karmically it’s going to come back to you even worse then you threw it at them.”
  • Is the Internet destroying religion? A new study makes the case that the rise of the Internet has been an important factor in individuals abandoning traditional forms of religious practice. Quote: “Today, we get a possible answer thanks to the work of Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, who has analyzed the data in detail. He says that the demise is the result of several factors but the most controversial of these is the rise of the Internet. He concludes that the increase in Internet use in the last two decades has caused a significant drop in religious affiliation.” Of course, correlation is not causation, but Downey says that “correlation does provide evidence in favor of causation, especially when we can eliminate alternative explanations or have reason to believe that they are less likely.”
Terence Spencer—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Terence Spencer—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these we 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.

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.

Swimming area at Stonehouse Park.

Swimming area at Stonehouse Park.

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.

I have a semi-official policy of ignoring Christian media mogul Pat Robertson whenever possible. You can set a clock by how often he says something stupid, insensitive, outrageous, or inadvertently amusing about any belief system that doesn’t walk lockstep with his own. He’s a calculating offender who knows that causing controversy is good for his business. I frankly have no idea how the folks at Right Wing Watch or Talk to Action manage to cling to sanity in their daily trawl through the seamy underbelly of conservative Christianity.  Surely that much Pat Robertson isn’t healthy for anyone? In any event, the folks at RWW reported on yet another stupid observation on Robertson’s 700 Club, this time from current Roberston sycophant Kristi Watts.

Robertson’s cohost Kristi Watts mockingly asked that since the Wicca religion “believes in the environment and believes that trees are there God,” then “why are these atheists not saying we should cut down every tree because it’s offensive?”

Luckily, Heathen political commentator Hrafnkell Haraldsson jumps in to tear Watts bizarre argument apart.

“The obvious answer to this is that Wiccans don’t worship trees. This is more of the ever-popular  Old Testament dumb idol meme, the hatred of the Yahwists for trees as representative of goddesses, and repeated all through early Christian history (e.g. 1 Corinthians 12:2), where Pagans become people who worship rocks and trees rather than seeing in nature the divine all around us. On a whole, this is roughly analogous to and about as accurate as saying Christians worship a cross.

Although, it wouldn’t surprise me if even militant atheists aren’t too worked up about Wicca, which like other Pagan religions, eschews proselytization and preaching to “non-believers” like Kristi Watts’ own religion. Pagans also aren’t known to be busy either trying to deprive atheists of their right to not believe. But then, comprehension of causation is not a strong suit for those who believe their god’s will decides everything, including who is born to whom and when.”

Since Hrafnkell has done such an able job of dismantling the anti-Pagan (and anti-atheist) religious hit-job on Robertson’s program, I’ll instead bring up one other point. Atheists aren’t gunning to chop down all the trees us Pagan tree-huggers hug because they predominantly believe in environmental and climate science, and know that cutting down “every tree” would destroy our ecosystem, and life on earth itself (sadly, ski resort Jesus statues don’t absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen). To some Christians climate change initiatives and environmental regulations aren’t a matter of responsible stewardship, but a form of “paganism” in of itself. However, interestingly, Robertson isn’t one of them.

“They have broken heat records in a number of cities already this year and broken all-time records and it is getting hotter and the ice caps are melting and there is a build up of carbon dioxide in the air. We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels. If we are contributing to the destruction of the planet we need to do manage about it.”

So even if Wiccans worshiped trees as their “god,” I think both Robertson and the straw-man atheists described on his program would agree that a policy of cutting “down every tree because it’s offensive” wouldn’t be in their best interests. It’s a shame that Robertson didn’t correct his sidekick on this simple point of logic.

From Media Matters, a bit of levity from our old pal Pat Robertson.

So remember kids, cemeteries don’t pose a threat of spiritual attack, unless there are COVENS!

I’ve got more coming on the blog later today, so stay tuned…

Natural disasters, like the earthquake that struck Haiti, can often make us feel powerless. We send out money to the relief agencies, say our prayers for the afflicted, and hope for the best. When the cause of such suffering is our own planet, our Gaia, our home, we often feel like there is no outlet, no blame to assign. Into that breach steps folks like Pat Robertson (or Rush Limbaugh), who are more than willing to assume the villain role for us, so long as it means more attention and time in the spotlight. Mollie at Get Religion clued in to this phenomenon while looking at coverage of the Robertson controversy.

“Sometimes I wonder whether the whole Pat Robertson experience doesn’t fill some cosmic need that everyone has after a natural disaster or act of terror. We want to be angry, but in a safe way. Robertson provides this vehicle for anger that fits perfectly into the 24-hour-news cycle.”

Robertson, while certainly venal scum, is smart and media-savvy enough to know exactly what he’s doing when he says those outrageous things. Remember, when the late Jerry Falwell blamed 9/11 on “pagans” and “feminists”, Robertson was right there, nodding and agreeing. It’s a game. They poke our collective sadness and horror, and invoke our anger, a dangerous form of magic that makes the whole world talk about them.

So what about the comments? Here’s what Robertson said:

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti … they were under the heel of the French, uh, you know, Napoleon the third and whatever … and they got together and swore a pact to the devil, they said, we will serve you, if you get us free from the Prince. True story.”

Is this even remotely true? A Christian distortion of Haiti’s African diasporic religion? Salon.com speaks with Andrew Apter, professor of history and anthropology at UCLA, who provides some clarity on the matter.

“Part of the revolution mythology is that one of the revolution leaders sacrificed a pig in Bois Caïmin in a voodoo ceremony and made a contract with Petwo [Haitian voodoo spirits]. It may or may not be true, but to call that a pact with the devil is a gross misrepresentation of what voodoo is. It’s about anything but the devil. He’s imposing an evangelical religious order on a much more sophisticated practice, and he’s turning it into a cheap invocation of Satanism. This is hate speech. It’s saying these people are damned.”

The sacrifice at Bois Caimin is a popular Haitian creation myth, one that modern-day Vodou practitioners re-tell with pride.

“Bois Caiman (French, Alligator Woods, Bwa Kayiman in Haitian Creole), was the site of a historic meeting on the night of August 13-14, 1791, which culminated in a traditional religious ceremony led by Houngan Boukman Dutty and the sacrifice of a black pig by Mambo Marinette, possessed by the lwa Erzulie Dantor. (Marinette has now become a lwa in the Petro portion of the Vodou liturgy!) This ceremony provided the final impetus for the uprising of Africans which led to the only successful slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere, and to the Western Hemisphere’s first independant black republic. In 1991 then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide held a re-enactment of the ceremony of Bois Caiman in the National Palace, provoking wide approval from the Vodouisant majority, and severe criticism from Protestant and Catholic Christian leaders, and members of the Haitian elite class.”

How much of it is actually true? Possibly very little of it, like all creation myths it is hard to prove, and the details change over the years. No doubt Robertson heard a vastly distorted version from a Christian missionary. The creation story, true or not, certainly has very little to do with Haiti’s many troubles over the years. Those who know and love Haiti, like former President Bill Clinton, know that Vodou enriches, not damns, that country’s culture.

“Why is Haiti so special to me? Haiti is completely unique in our hemisphere because of its history and culture. There are other French Caribbean islands, but none of them have Haiti’s particular Creole influence. None of them feature Haiti’s distinctive mix of West African religious and cultural influences, the most visible of which is the persistence of the voodoo faith, which is practiced alongside Christianity. Unfortunately, ever since the first slave revolt by Haitians in 1791, the country has been beset by abuses caused from within and without. It has never been able to fulfill its potential as a nation.”

If there is any silver lining to this terror, this destruction, it is that our religious communities, so long enchanted and fascinated by Haiti’s culture and indigenous faith, are galvanized into action to help it in this time of need. A moment of empathy and action that will perhaps grow into a deeper commitment and interaction. For now, if you can, donate to a reputable charity on the ground in Haiti (I’ll continue to update that post in the days to come), and pray for the wounded, the trapped, and the homeless.

The Christian Broadcasting Network has filed a report after the swearing in of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who was re-elected last month. Perhaps unsurprisingly, CBN correspondent Dale Hurd seems pre-occupied with Chavez’s religious beliefs.

“Chavez is a syncretist (fusing different religions) and a neo-pagan, according to a conversation I had in Caracas with a Danish cultural anthropologist, himself a non-christian, who was studying Chavez’ beliefs from an academic standpoint. He told me that for Hugo Chavez, the only value of Christ and Christianity are as sources of Marxist imagery. He also said that Chavez views himself as a type of Christ.”

The report then goes on to mention Chavez’s expulsion of New Tribes Ministry (whom he portrays as innocent victims) and anti-Catholic statements made by the Socialist president. The piece ends with some red-baiting.

“Meanwhile, Chavez, as a self-depicted type of Christ, continues to establish his Marxist kingdom in Venezuela.”

While I think that Chavez’s religious views are an interesting topic of reporting, I don’t think a news agency founded by Pat Robertson (who publicly called for the assassination of Chavez) should be taken seriously on any topic regarding Venezuela or Hugo Chavez. Sadly it seems that most reporting on Chavez can’t move past his outlandish statements to investigate his unique blend of socialism, Christianity, and indigenous beliefs. Chavez is neither the savior he would like to be seen as, or the demon many right-wing critics paint him as. It would be great to see more nuanced reporting on this issue.