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SALEM, Mass. — The Satanic Temple has opened up its international headquarters in Salem, or what is often referred to as “Witch City.” TST, known for its religious freedom actions across the country, recently opened a branch in the U.K., which adds to its many other branches located around the U.S. TST spokesperson Lucien Greaves said, “Salem emerged as an obvious choice to be established as the base for our operations. In addition to Salem’s history and proximity to the intellectual hub of Boston, the people we have spoken to have been incredible friendly and supportive.”
Salem is already home to many modern Witches, as well as being the home of historical sites and other venues that share the area’s long relationship Witchcraft. Greaves said,”The irony that a town which once executed people because of alleged ties to Satan will now be hosting the headquarters of the world’s largest satanic organization is not lost on us. The fact that we have a home in Salem is a testament to the progressive mentality of the people there, and the local government’s support for plurality.”
TST’s new headquarters is housed in a Victorian home built in 1882 and was once used as a funeral home. Along with offices, the building will also house the Salem Art Gallery, which will feature various artists and a standing exhibit on the Satanic Panic and other witch hunts. TST hopes to host lectures and other events, and it will also be temporarily showcasing its famous (or infamous) one-and-a-half ton statue of Baphomet, created by Marc Porter. The new Satanic Temple headquarters is located on Bishop Street and opened to the public Friday.
- As we move into October, an increasing number of news agencies will be looking to interview Witches or explore the practice. That includes student-run outlets. In a recent article for The Journal, the student newspaper for Queen University in Kingston, Ontario, two journalists wanted to learn more about Wicca. After meeting with local Pagans, the two realized that the practice wasn’t what they expected: “Wicca, as we came to realize, was not a mysterious fad, but a complicated and serious religion with an equally complicated and serious history.By about halfway through the night, we began to feel somewhat guilty about our misinformed ideas about what Wicca would be like.”
- But it’s not only Wiccans and Witches that are garnering media attention from student journalists. In an article for Otter Realm, writer Alex Jensen spoke with Johnny Bays, a 5th year Communications student and practicing Heathen. Otter Realm is the student-run newspaper for The University of California, Monterey Bay. Jensen writes, “Bays believes in the gods as divine, but not infallible, entities who are concerned with the nature of humanity and the broader world rather than the individual struggles of everyday life.”
- At the University of Arkansas, it was recently reported that Lux: Pagans United hosted their first meeting Aug. 29 at the Ferguson Chapel. The group not only became the first Pagan organization to convene at the chapel, but also the first non-Christian group to meet in that space. As quoted in the student paper, Lux vice president Alex Cannon said, “It represents the breaking of a barrier. There are a lot of barriers that are up towards Pagans in the Bible Belt, that’s just part of the culture. So it really represents the breaking of some social barriers that allow for discrimination against Pagans based on their religion.” The group is only two years old, which is relatively new compared to other student religious organizations, but they are hoping that in being more public, they can help dispel fears and misconceptions on campus.
- On another university campus, a Wiccan student is not finding that same level of religious plurality and support for her beliefs. In an opinion column for the Univerisity of Oklahoma’s newspaper The Oklahoma Daily, Destiny Guerrero shares her encounters with harassment and religious bigotry. She wrote, “[Those experiences] have turned me away from talking about belief systems in general. They instilled the uncomfortable feeling that I, whose beliefs do not align with Christianity, do not even belong on this campus. Perhaps what we need is an open discussion about religion on campus. I don’t really know the answer, and there could be multiple. I do know that spiritual harassment is just as serious as any other form of harassment, and should be treated as such.”
In Other News:
- In an article titled, “Meeting the UK’s Top Pagan Police Officer,” online media outlet Vice published an interview with U.K. Police Sergeant Andy Pardy. As noted in the report “When he’s not patrolling the streets of Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, Andy runs the Police Pagan Association, a body set up amid much predictable media piss-taking in 2009 to support the needs of Britain’s pagan coppers.” The report goes on to share Pardy’s own beliefs and the work of the PPA. Parody also spoke about Paganism and Heathenry in general.
- In Florida, local news sources are reporting that dead animals and fruit were recently found near a highway in Tampa. Local officials are speculating whether this was part of a Santeria ritual or a prank. Local station KRON 4 spoke with a practitioner of Santeria for his view on the story. “Every ceremony that we actually do, we actually clean right after and we make that everything is, ya know, as neat as possible,” Gilbert Gonzalez said. He believes that if it was a Santeria ritual, it was performed by “people who don’t know what they are doing.” There has been no official word released yet on the case.
- The Nashville Scene recently published an article about a group of people who are claiming religious discrimination in Tennessee. Referred to by the outlet as the “end of times cat cult,” the group is comprised of Rev. Sheryl Ruthven and her followers. Originally from Washington state, the group reportedly moved to Tennessee to “wait out the apocalypse” in peace and to save cats. However, their practices have come under fire recently with some ex-members calling the group “a cult of personality.” Others, including the leader’s daughter, have fought back, saying they “do nothing but good.” Currently, they run a cat shelter in the area called Eva’s Eden, and will continue to do so as long as they are permitted.
- In another part of the world, a small community is thriving despite the socio-cultural discrepancies between itself and its homeland of Ethiopia. According to a report at Atlas Obsura, Awra Amba was founded 44 years ago as an egalitarian commune. In this setting, women and men are equally valued, and children and elders are protected and respected. As noted in the article, one of the commune’s sayings is: “Doing a ‘women’s job’ does not change my maleness—it changes my ignorance.” While Awra Amba’s history is not without conflict, strife or persecution, the group has been allowed to peacefully exists since its return to Ethiopia in 1993.
- The Londonist published an article titled, “London’s Most Fabulous Literary Bookshops.” The first store listed is Atlantis Bookshop that was founded in 1922 by occultist Michael Houghton. This historical location saw visits from Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardner and many other famous Pagans, Witches, and occultists over its nearly 100 years of existence. Other bookstores on the list include: John Sandoe Books, Persephone Books, Jarndyce, Housemans, Heywood Hill, Hatchards, Foyles, and The Big Green Bookshop.
Art & Culture
- For Bowie fans, according to reports, his final recorded songs will be released Oct 21. The songs will be included on a 2 Disc CD along with the cast recording of the Bowie musical Lazarus. The album is reportedly already up for awards.
- Speaking of Bowie, Labyrinth (1986) is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Jim Henson called the epic fantasy film “his most personal project.” And in an interview at DragonCon, Brian Henson reiterated the power and influence that this one film had on him. Brian was the voice of Hoggle and assisted with puppeteering. When asked about the mythological and spiritual elements in the film, Brian Henson said that stories with deep mythology naturally have a spiritual resonance, like Labyrinth. He said it makes these film feel worthwhile and important. A special 30th anniversary version has been released, and the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta is featuring a special anniversary Labyrinth exhibit.
- Last but not least, a little music for your Sunday from Scotland’s own Clanadonia: