Archives For Rachel Bevilacqua

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a new series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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!

American Mystic West Coast Premiere: The new documentary film “American Mystic”, which focuses on the beliefs and practices of a Lakota sundancer, a Spiritualist, and Pagan priestess Morpheus Ravenna, is set to have its West Coast premiere in San Francisco on October 23rd.

“Save the date for the long-awaited West Coast premiere of American Mystic! The film will be coming to us on the weekend before Samhain, with a one-night special screening Saturday October 23, 9:30 pm at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater.  After-party to follow. More details will be coming on that, so mark your calendars for this not-to-be-missed event, and we’ll post the details here!”

The Wild Hunt will have an interview with director Alex Mar of Empire 8 Productions, a full review of the documentary, and more details about the DVD release in the near future. What I can say at this point is that this is a powerful film, and if you’re in the San Francisco area you shouldn’t miss this opportunity to see it on the big screen.

Patrick McCollum at the UN: Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum,who just received the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism, and was honored at the 25th anniversary of the Lady Liberty League, was invited to participate in the 2010 International Day of Peace at the United Nations in New York on September 21st. Rev. McCollum began the morning by blessing the Peace Altar at the center of the UN compound, and then later participated in the opening flag ceremony during the ringing of the Peace Bell, which marked a world-wide cease fire for one day.

“It was a powerful day,” said McCollum, “a time signifying hope and equality for all people, World Peace, and a reverence for our planet.” Following the International Day of Peace, Rev. McCollum participated in 4 additional days of meetings as a member of the Executive Board of Directors of the United Nations NGO, Children of the Earth.

Rachel Bevilacqua/Rev. Magdalen Custody Case: Long-time readers may remember my previous reporting on Rachel Bevilacqua (aka Rev. Magdalen) a member of the Church of the Subgenius who has been fighting a long and bitter custody battle with her former boyfriend. Now, it seem like the fight is finally over according to a comment sent to me by Modemac at The High Weirdness Project.

“The final deadline of September 22, 2010 came and went without any last-minute attempts by Rachel Bevilacqua’s former boyfriend to appeal the custody decision. This means that the custody case is now officially CLOSED IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK. Any further attempts to disrupt Rachel’s relationship with her son would have to be filed in the state of Georgia. This means that he would most likely have to SPEND MONEY to do so. In other words: After four years of hell, IT’S OVER.”

Keep in mind that this “victory” came at the cost of thousands of dollars, personal bankruptcy, and a still-standing ban on exposing her son to any Subgenius materials. I recommend reading the exhaustive run-down of this case at Modemac’s The High Weirdness ProjectPart 1Part 2Part 3. Cases like this are indicative of the struggles faced by parents who are adherents to minority religions. As more parents use religion as a “wedge” in custody battles, Reverend Magdalen’s case threatens to become a mere statistic in a larger trend of parents having to defend their faith in court.

RDNA on Bonewits: The latest issue of Reformed Druids of North America’s (RDNA) newsletter, the Druid Inquirer, features lengthy remembrances of Isaac Bonewits, who recently passed away after a struggle with cancer.

“As leaves fall, so do Druids. This issue is focused on the life and career of Isaac Bonewits (1949-2010) who died on August 12. You can separate his life into period into four quarters. First growing up a disgruntled but curious Catholic 1949-1965. Then he was most active in the RDNA from 1968-1983 and then became the founder and first Archdruid of ADF from 1983-1996. The last quarter of his Druid career was a focus on his family, the internet growth of Druidry, dealing with health problems, publishing books and the nurturing of the various projects from his youth. As with his mentor Robert Larson’s passing in 2005 and Norman Nelson in 2009, we are devoting this issue to providing you more resources in understanding the scope of Isaac’s Druidical influence.”

You can download part one, here, and part two, here. This is vital reading for anyone wanting to understand the evolution of Druidry in America, and Isaac Bonewit’s place in that history.

Welcoming PNC-Heartland: In a final note, I’d like a welcome another new addition to the Pagan Newswire Collective’s bureau’s project, PNC-Heartland, serving Kansas, Western Missouri, and surrounding areas.

“The PNC-Heartland Bureau was launched on 23 September 2010 by two Kansas City and one Wichita Pagan who are committed to gathering Pagan news in the Kansas and western Missouri region.  They have established a blog at http://pncheartland.wordpress.com.  If you have questions, news or would like to be part of this effort, please contact us at pncheartland@gmail.com.”

Yet another forward movement in creating a news infrastructure for the Pagan community, I wish them the best of luck. Stay tuned for announcements regarding the launch of PNC-Main’s web site and our official “coming out” at Pantheacon.

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

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 15, 2008 — 1 Comment

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

I want to start with an update on an older story. Rachel “Reverend Magdalen” Bevilacqua, a Subgenius who has gone through nearly two years of custody battles, is making a final push to ensure the legal system is no longer used against her arbitrarily by her ex-husband. Bevilacqua has endured a truly bizarre chain of events that included defending her involvement in adults-only Subgenius events.

“We’ve made it so far from the days when I lived in a 10 by 12 box apartment crying myself to sleep every night, never knowing how my son was, never knowing if I would ever get him back. We’re so close to being free from the threat of being compelled to return to Orleans County, which has hung over our heads since my son was a baby. All we need is $2,500 to get started, with a full retainer of $5,000. Of course, if things go badly, it could run into another $80-$100,000, but I’m focusing my slack waves on the thought that this new Judge Griffiths is going to be reasonable and let us go. If everyone who receives this email donates just $10, it would easily cover Mr. Goewey’s fees. I realize this is the worst possible time to ask for money again, with gas prices and food prices and unemployment the way they are, but I can’t raise more than about $1,500 on my own, not by September 26 anyway. I’m forced to once again appeal to you, who’ve helped our family so much in the past, or one more push to finally get free.”

I recommend reading the exhaustive run-down of this case at Modemac’s The High Weirdness Project: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Cases like this are indicative of the struggles faced by parents who are adherents to minority religions. As more parents use religion as a “wedge” in custody battles, Reverend Magdalen’s case threatens to become a mere statistic in a larger trend of parents having to defend their faith in court.

Tim Harford at The Financial Times looks at the economics of witch-hunts and (unsurprisingly) finds that hard times often translate into dangerous times for people who live on the margins of society.

“Edward Miguel, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of Economic Gangsters, a book about the economics of crime, corruption and war, has studied the Tanzanian situation. He argues that there is a direct economic motive for the attacks. Tough times in a Tanzanian household may well result in starvation, and the elderly – especially women – are at risk of being sacrificed to free resources. As evidence, Miguel points out that victims of witch attacks in Meatu district – almost all old women – tend to be from the poorest households. The murders are much more common during years of drought or flood.”

Harford also notes the research of Emily Oster, who ties the European witch-hunts to extremely cold weather during the “Little Ice Age”. So if economic hard times translate into witch-hunts, what is the solution? A more robust social safety net.

“If the problem truly is an economic one, the solution might be, too. One possibility is to give the elderly generous pensions. Witch-killings all but stopped in South Africa’s North Province after such a pension scheme was introduced in the early 1990s.”

In other words, the more secure people feel, the less likely they are to look for a suspicious neighbor to persecute.

Jeffrey Weiss at the Dallas Morning News religion blog mocks the inflated growth estimates for Wicca touted in the book “Generation Hex”, calling it the “least plausible” claim for fastest growing religion he’s ever heard.

“2012 is, hm, four years from now. Wicca currently represents, hm, less than 0.3% of Americans. For that prediction to come true would take some serious magic.”

Weiss turned to the Pew Forum’s landmark U.S. Religious Landscape Survey for data instead of uncritically using the conclusions of Steve “Hour of the Witch” Wohlberg, as the book’s authors did. For more on “Generation Hex”, check out this post.

Did you know that most Wiccans don’t actually practice Witchcraft? So says The News Herald’s Ryan Young.

“Liars and practitioners of the “dark arts” have given Wicca a bad image. Most wiccans don’t practice witchcraft and the ones who do have a firm belief in using magic only for good or to survive.”

I suppose I should appreciate the sentiment instead of pointing out that Wicca is religious Witchcraft, or that the term “Wicca” is an antecedent of the word “Witch”.

Conservative commentator Bob Parks apparently had nothing better to talk about on Saturday, so he decided to mock Pagan supporters of Barack Obama.

“I am so glad Republicans aren’t this messed up. I wouldn’t be able to show my face in public.”

I hope no-one clues him in on the “messed up” beliefs of Sarah Palin’s co-religionists and supporters or else he would have to go into isolation. A friendly tip: never underestimate how weird “your side” can be, it will save you considerable heartache in the future.

In a final note, volunteers are gathering to re-chalk the famous Cerne Abbas giant.

“Britain’s most famous fertility symbol is having a makeover of epic proportions. Volunteers have been drafted in to re-chalk the 180ft tall (55m) Cerne Abbas giant, after accusations that he had become the invisible man … conservationists became concerned the naked figure had disappeared under a mass of grass and weeds, after an unusually wet summer and lack of grazing sheep from local farms.”

20 tons of chalk will be used to spruce the giant up. The efforts should be done in ten days, and locals have arranged for 50 sheep to temporarily graze the land. After all, we wouldn’t want one of Britain’s most famous fertility symbols to fall into disrepair.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

Earlier this month I thought I had posted the last chapter in the ongoing custody case involving a SubGenius mother and her son. Rachel “Rev. Magdalen” Bevilacqua, who had her affiliation with the satirical Church of the SubGenius used against her in court, had lost her appeal for custody and was awaiting a hearing on visitation rights so she could see her son. Then, a week ago, some truly bizarre events took place that would shake up this new status quo and has (temporarily) given custody of her son back to her.

“For legal reasons, I obviously can’t go into too many details, because there are other parties involved in this. Basically, some time last week, Jeff was in a car accident involving a brick wall, a lot of alcohol, and another passenger – NOT MAGDALEN’S SON, praise “Bob.” Because of past incidents involving him and at least one other DUI, he is now facing at least two felonies, a misdemeanor, and three traffic charges – which, combined, could land him in jail for up to eleven years. All of this means that, due to the sudden extreme circumstances, Magdalen has temporary custody of her son at this time. There will be a new custody hearing in the middle of August. Jeff’s criminal hearing will be in September, but that is an entirely different matter.”

Even stranger is the fact that the judge on the new custody hearing is none other than Judge Punch, the same judge who recused himself after coming under fire for his fixation with the Church of the SubGenius and for calling Bevilacqua a “mentally ill” pervert. But it seems like Punch is looking at things a bit differently this time around.

“He literally took the case out of Judge Adams’ docket and inserted himself in. He is now handling the case once again, however because of everything that has happened, he is apparently viewing the case in an entirely different light.”

At this point Bevilacqua is hoping to pursue both this new custody case and appeal the ruling that keeps her from having SubGenius materials in her home (except for a locked “office”). But to do that she’ll need more funds, so if you are interested in supporting her in either case you can donate to her cause, here (or here to donate directly through Paypal). Considering all this recent craziness perhaps a certain pipe-smoking divine figure has been invoked after all. Needless to say more updates will follow as I get them.

A heartbreaking custody case that has been in litigation for years has ended in tragedy. Rachel “Rev. Magdalen” Bevilacqua’s son was absconded while on a visitation to the child’s father, and subsequently she was barred from all contact with her son after photos of her at an adults-only Subgenius event were submitted by her son’s father as proof that she was an unfit parent. The original judge in the case called Bevilacqua “perverted” and “mentally ill” before stepping down under a growing scrutiny of his actions, and the father drew out proceedings for as long as possible in hopes of wearing Bevilacqua down. Now an appeals judge has ruled against Rachel Bevilacqua, giving custody to the father.


Rachel Bevilacqua with her son.

“After originally being scheduled for June 22, the decision of the appeals court in the case of Rachel Bevilacqua (Reverend Magdalen) has been announced. In a brief two-page announcement, the court has awarded custody of her son to the father. Stating that the father “deserved” custody of Magdalen’s son, the court declared that the father’s home would be his primary residence, and the matter is being referred back to family court to arrange for visitation rights for Rachel. The decision cancels a number of paragraphs of the decision of Judge Eric Adams, in January 2007. However, it does not remove Judge Adams’ order for Rachel to remove all SubGenius materials from her home. Even though her son is no longer in her custody, she still cannot keep any SubGenius materials in her own home, except for a specially designated ‘office’.”

It is unclear what will happen at this point, Bevilacqua is mired in over 70,000 dollars in legal bills (click here if your interested in helping her out with those bills), and she may not be able to afford appealing to a higher court. No official statement by Bevilacqua has been made at this time.

Whatever the final outcome, this case has been emblematic of the ongoing issues Pagans and other minority religions face in divorce and custody cases. Often what a judge doesn’t understand (or approve of) will be used against a parent in court, leading to situations like Bevilacqua’s. The only real recourse in cases like these is to slowly educate the public, form coalitions, and fight like hell to be given equal treatment under law. Until then, we are left with mockeries of justice like this custody case, where a mother in punished for her associations.

The fallout from the Rachel “Rev. Magdalen” Bevilacqua custody case continues. Modemac, who has been covering this case from day one, lets us know that the issue of money in the case has become critical.

“Rachel Bevilacqua (a.k.a. Reverend Mary Magdalen) lost custody of her son after a conservative custody judge was outraged at the fact that she is a member of the Church of the SubGenius. As a result of appearing in a adult-rated parody of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” custody of her son was taken from her and awarded to the boy’s father (the couple was never married). Rachel and her husband have fought a long, expensive battle to win custody of their son, while her ex-boyfriend’s legal costs have been entirely been handled by a pro-bono lawyer (who is a friend of his). Legal costs have exceeded $70,000 as of March 2007.”

As typical in cases of this nature, the one parent tries to draw out legal proceedings until financial situations force the other parent to drop out. Suffice it to say, justice won’t be done by such a situation. That fact that Bevilacqua’s affiliation with the Church of the Subgenius was (and still is) used against her is emblematic of the ongoing issues Pagans and other minority religions face in divorce and custody cases.

Here is what Rachel “Rev. Magdalen” Bevilacqua has to say about the current legal situation involving custody and visitation for her son.

“Basically, although I did win the case, it’s now going to appeal. Orleans County has, of course, offered to pay all the expenses for my ex’s appeals case, while I still have to pay for my appellate lawyers, which it turns out are different from regular lawyers and require a new $10,000 retainer to hire. I’ll still be represented by the same firm, Lipsitz, Green, Scime, Cambria, but a different individual will be handling the case. We go before the Fourth Circuit Appellate Division on June 2, and then they will make their decision within 30 days of that. I am cross-appealing to ask that the parts of the decision forbidding me to make or keep SubGenius art inside my home, travel with my husband for his job, and homeschool my son, be struck down. Until then, my son has to stay with my ex, though I am supposed to get ‘extended visitation.’ So far, I have not yet been able to actually access that extended visitation, as my ex says it will take a court order in writing to make him comply, and all we have is a verbal order. I hope that will be straightened out soon.”

If you have the means, why not donate to her legal fund:


For a full and detailed recounting of this situation, head over to Modemac’s page devoted to this case. Read the Rev. Ivan Stang’s call for support, or read Boing Boing’s call for donations.

Some bad news to report. It seems that Rachel “Reverend Magdalen” Bevilacqua will not be receiving custody of her son at this time. Here is a message she sent Modemac last night.

“I just got the call from my lawyer that the appeals court judge has granted a Stay of the order granting me custody. I never actually got to enjoy that custody during the 30-some hours it was in effect, because the school let Jeff take [my son] and hide him overnight. The Stay is conditional on the case being heard at the earliest opportunity, which is in May 2007. Until that time, Jeff’s order of Temporary Sole Custody issued by Judge Punch on December 23, 2005 in an ex-parte hearing of which I was not informed, remains in effect. The appeals court judge did order expanded visitation for me, so that it will be the standard every-other-weekend visitation rather than the restricted 8-hours per week I’ve been living with.”

Yet another twist in this hugely unjust case. If you have the means I suggest donating to her legal fund. Further updates as warranted.

Modemac at The High Weirdness Project reports that after a year involving court battles, isolation from her child, the original judge recusing himself, and stalling tactics by the child’s father, Rachel “Reverend Magdalen” Bevilacqua has regained custody of her son.

“Just wanted to give you a heads up that the custody decision will be in my hand Monday! [01/08/07] My lawyer has it right now, and he called to tell me that I won and I get to pick my son up Monday! I can’t believe it!! Thank you all sooooo much for all your help and everything and I’ll write more when I can!”


Rachel Bevilacqua with son Kohl

Thus ends a custody case that seemed to expose just how biased and flimsy our justice system can be at times. To briefly recap: Rachel “Rev. Magdalen” Bevilacqua was barred from all contact with her son after photos of her at an adults-only Subgenius event were submitted by her son’s father as proof that she was an unfit parent. The original judge called Bevilacqua “perverted” and “mentally ill” before stepping down under a growing scrutiny of his actions. She then spent several more months fighting in court to regain custody of her son racking up huge legal fees in the process.

The case made my top ten stories of 2006, and remains a chilling example of how belonging to the “wrong” religion (even a satirical postmodern religion) can ruin your life and tear your family apart. I’m sure Bevilacqua is still looking for donations to her legal fund, information about donating to help pay her legal bills can be found, here. Congratulations to Rev. Magdalen, I wish you and your family the best.

ADDENDUM: Modemac writes with breaking news, it seems the father has (illegally) grabbed his son from school and is hoping that a last-minute appeal goes his way.

“[My son] and Jeff were missing until this morning, when Jeff returned [my son] to school. It was the most frightening night of my life. The reason Jeff did all this is that there is a Stay hearing today… Basically, Jeff has asked an Appeals Court judge to stay the order of Judge Adams, and they are going to decide on that this afternoon. For some reason, Jeff thought that this Stay hearing gave him the right to do what he did, or so he claims. He is wrong, of course, but he still got away with it. The police looked for them all evening and didn’t find them. The Stay hearing starts at 3 PM and I’m fighting to have [my son] with me at that time, because I’m afraid that if the stay is denied, Jeff may take off with [my son] again just like last night.”

Further updates as I get them.

Previous coverage:
12.30.2006 Religious News 2006 (Part 2)
3.28.2006 Judge Recused in Subgenius Custody Case
3.16.2006 SubGenius Mother Silenced by Activist Judge
2.25.2006 Update on SubGenius Custody Case
2.21.2006 It Is Happening Again

It Is Happening Again

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 21, 2006 — 5 Comments

Child custody cases are often not pretty, they can be emotional heart-breaking affairs. But it is even worse when your religious and social choices are used against you in a custody battle. Last year a divorced Wiccan couple were ordered to not teach their child Wicca after a judge decided they might “confuse” the child in a harmful manner. The ruling was struck down, and many were hoping this was an isolated incident. But it looks like it is happening again.

Rachel Bevilacqua (an active SubGenius known as “Rev. Magdalen”) had her son, Kohl removed from her custody and was barred from even writing to her child due to her bawdy and satirically blasphemous participation in Subgenius festivals (at which the son was never present). Not only was the son never present at these adult-oriented festivals, but she has been barred since 2000 from “exposing” her son to any information or activities related to the Church of the SubGenius.

Rachel Bevilacqua with her current husband Steve.

For those not clear on who or what the Church of The SubGenius is, the group is a parody religion (or a religion of parody) formed by a loose assortment of artists, freaks, ex-hippies, and free-thinkers. The church delights in blasphemy, sex, and outsider art. The group has spawned a nationally syndicated radio show, has published several books, and has been championed by artists like Devo and R. Crumb. It is considered by many to be a syncretic offshoot of Discordianism (AKA Eris worship).

At the last custody hearing Judge James Punch (an outspoken Catholic) not only allowed the irrelevant photo evidence (of which the child was never involved) into the court hearing but then obviously lost all sense of justice and balance in the proceedings.

“His Honor also strongly disapproved of the photos of Rachel Bevilacqua in a bondage dress and papier mache goat’s head. The judge repeatedly asked, “Why a goat? What’s so significant about a goat’s head?” When Rachel replied, “I just thought the word ‘goat’ was funny,” Judge Punch lost his temper completely, and began to shout abuse at Rachel, calling her a “pervert,” “mentally ill,” “lying,” and a participant in “sex orgies.” The judge ordered that Rachel is to have absolutely no contact with her son, not even in writing, because he felt the pictures of X-Day performance art were evidence enough to suspect “severe mental illness”. Rachel has had no contact with Kohl since that day, February 3, 2006.”

Church of The SubGenius founder Rev. Ivan Stang has weighed in on the issue on his blog.

“For Magdalen (Rachel) and Jesus (Steve), a parent’s NEXT-TO-WORST NIGHTMARE is taking place in real life, and one reason this injustice is happening is due to, not the Church of the SubGenius, but dumbass misunderstandings of it (and probably pretty much everything else Slackful). Also, if you ask me, on a monstrous misunderstanding of what “freedom” in America is supposed to mean.”

Currently the ACLU is looking into the case and the church is trying to raise money for the substantial court costs this case will accrue. One can only hope that this mockery of justice will be struck down as well, and that people who don’t adhere to the dominant religious paradigm won’t be treated as second-class citizens in our country.

For more on this issue:
Bartholomew’s notes on religion
Jesus’ General
Boing Boing
Bulldada Newsblog
Metafilter
Wikinews