Archives For Santeria

[Unleash the Hounds is a monthly feature that appears near the end of each month to round up stories of interest to our readers. We can’t cover it all so, as we say, “we unleash the hounds to round them up.” If you like this feature and would like to continue to see it every month, consider donating to The Wild Hunt. Each and every day, you will receive original content, news and commentary, with a focus on Pagans, Heathens and polytheists worldwide. Your support makes it happen. Donate today and share our link!]

The Satanic Temple logoSALEM, 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.

On Campus

  • 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.
Atlantis Bookshop Photo Credit: The Good Author / Spitalfields Life

Atlantis Bookshop [Photo Credit: The Good Author / Spitalfields Life]

  • 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:

The Priests of Ifá (Babalawos) in Cuba have released their annual prognosis and recommendations about the energies of the year called La Letra del Año, or The Letter of the Year. The Letter is not just a statement, but rather an event that culminates in its release. Priests of Ifá gathered last week in preparation. As the new year enters, the priests, through castings and discernment, gauge the change in energies, and offer their guidance to maintain spiritual balance and strength.


[Photo Credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno]

I thought it might be helpful to offer a brief glossary before looking at the Letter and describing its meaning. Lukumí is synonymous with Santeria; it is also called Regla de Ocha and Regla de Ifá (Rule/Reign of Orisha, Rule/Reign of Ifá, respectively). Those break down into two intimately connected but sometimes theologically and politically divided traditions. Lukumí or Lucumí also refer to the liturgical dialect of the Yoruba language that is used in those traditions. Some houses work with Ifá, while others only work with lines of Ocha. In Ocha lines, the senior priests, called Obá Oriatés, or the highly adept Olorishas (priests of an Orisha) will often discern the Letter recognized within their house.

Regardless whether the line is Ocha-centered or Ifá-centered, there is tremendous respect for the priests of both lineages and equally tremendous respect for the skill of the Babalawos who divine the Letter of the Year. For this column I’ll use the term Lukumí, but I feel I need to honor the fact that there is an important difference present, which perhaps I can return to in the future.

The Letter itself is a specific and direct revelation offered by Orisha Òrúnmìlà (also called Orunla), the master of divination and the most skilled of oracles. He speaks through Odu, the divination system he offered humankind, and as a result is considered one of the great benefactors and protectors of humanity. Òrúnmìlà was one of the Orisha that witnessed the creation of Ayé, the physical realm which includes Earth. From this witness, he understands the most intimate connections between the spiritual and physical. Orunmila is not a fortune-teller; he is the power that emerges when experience, wisdom and intelligence are combined.

Like other Orisha, Òrúnmìlà took physical form and developed a special relationship with Orisha Changó, who strengthened Òrúnmìlà with the gift of divination. Òrúnmìlà saw humankind’s strengths, weaknesses and follies. He could see not only the consequences of actions but also their magnitude, origins and reverberations into the world of Spirit. As he traveled the Earth, he observed how people would succumb to their own failings, their own limited understanding of the world around them and even to the ruses and traps sent forth by Orisha Elegua, the Great Trickster and Communicator. And with his knowledge, witness and prophecy, Òrúnmìlà gifted humankind the Table of Ifá that we refer to as Odu, the divinatory system through which he speaks.

The Odu are the 256 combinations of 16-by-16 square pairings that connect to stanzas and passages identifying the message sent by Orisha. To understand Odu requires years of formal study of Ifá, as well as experience in interpreting the very subtle differences across potential meanings. Babalawos train for years to become elder priests who are skilled at discerning the messages. The human ears have to be trained to listen and the eyes to see, but Òrúnmìlà speaks with clarity.

The Letter of the Year is a tradition within the Lukumí and Ifá community. While it is unclear if the tradition originated in Africa, it is well known within this community that the first of these letters was probably cast by Ño Remigio Herrera Adeshina Obara Meyi, a Nigerian-born freed slave and priest of Ifá (babalawo) in Havana, some time around the 1830s.

Since that time, the Letter has been cast in a variety of locations. Different cities were known to cast letters and different houses (congregations) also cast their own letters. However, since mid-1980s several hundred babalawos in Cuba formed an organization to conduct a common ritual and discernment. (There are actually two Letters, because of two houses; it boils down to politics.) And this Letter is released as close to New Year’s Day as possible as the ritual closes with consensus of Odu. Additionally, there is a Letter released by the Ocha/Ifá community in diaspora that occurs in Miami.

Both Letters are eagerly anticipated, and their release is one of the major events within the Ocha/Ifá community. But in June 2015, organizations in both Miami and Cuba announced that, due to the warming relations between Cuba and United States, they would discern a single and joint Letter. That first Unified Letter was released on January 2, 2016.

The 2016 Letter is below. The comments in parentheses are my translation and the explanation is added for the reader’s comprehension. But, and I want to underscore, these are not to be understood as a substitute for appropriate guidance from a godparent in the Tradition.

The Letter of the Year

From the Priests of Ifá: The Unified Letter of the Year 2016

This section refers to the specific elements of Odu; they are symbols (runes might be a better word) and proverbs that help us understand the world of 2016.  

Signo Regente (The Reigning Sign): Ogbeyono
1er testigo (The First Witness) : Ogbeate
2do testigo (The Second Witness): Odditauro

 *   *   *

This section also refers to activities and offerings to be done to limit the influence of Elegua’s trickery or bad energy.

Oracion Profetica (Prophetic Proverb): ire oma oyale lese elegba (un bien de inteligencia firme al pie de Elegua)
Onishe Elegba: Eyegbale, otan
Onishe Ara: Sarayeye jio jio meta y ebbo misi con atiponla y opolopo efun, otan

 *   *   *

This section refers to reigning Orisha of the year and the appropriate offerings to those energies

Orisha Regente (The Reigning Orisha): Ogún
Orisha Acompañante The accompanying Orisha:  Oshún
Bandera (Flag):  Green with Yellow trim
Ebbo (Offerings):  1 white chicken, 1 sprig of watercress with more ingredients.

 *   *   *

This section contains cautions related to health

  1. Digestive Disorder, particularly of the pancreas.
  2. Neurological disorders
  3. Outbreaks of epidemics and mass poisonings.

 *   *   *

This section contains statements of social concern

  1. Bursts of migration
  2. Increases in foreign invesments
  3. Developments of agreements between countries.
  4. Social unrest because of desperation.

 *   *   *

This section contains the proverbs from Odu

“El gandido agranda el vientre y achica su cabeza.” (The thief grows his belly and shrinks his head)
“La Paciencia te hace Rey.” (Patience will make you a king)
“El dinero en el mundo lo encontramos, y en el mundo lo dejamos.” (We find money in the world, and we leave it in the world)
“Cuando tenemos guerra con nuestra propia cabeza, siempre salimos vencidos.” (When we fight our nature, we always lose)
“La orgullosa laguna se aparta del arroyuelo, como si el agua no fuera lo común entre ambas.” (The proud lagoon thinks itself different from the stream forgetting the two have water in common)

 *   *   *

The Letter also contains a series of recommendations

  1. Avoid pollution
  2. Ensure the collection of garbage and community sanitation
  3. Be hygienic to avoid the spread of disease
  4. Create favorable immigration policies
  5. Honor and preserve the moral and religious traditions of their practitioners
  6. Be cautious of manufactured products particularly in the handling and distribution of food.
  7. Dialogue is an important tool in solving conflicts.
  8. Work toward a balance between wages and the cost of necessities.
  9. One sign suggests a danger of war.
  10. One sign suggests turmoil in economic negotiations.
  11. There is a dangerous rise in terrorism.
  12. Encourage procreation and the health of infants.
  13. Always seek the guidance of godparents to clarify these signs and recommendations.

 *   *   *

In Lukumí, “luck” doesn’t quite exist, or perhaps a better way to understand it is that you make choices that change what comes to you. Lukumí handles luck as an issue of Balance. Elegua also plays a role, testing us to empower us. He is the powerful Orisha of the crossroads, the opener and closer of ways the great communicator. Without him, there is no way to communicate with Orisha. He is always propitiated, for he conveys messages. He enjoys trickery and confronting us with obstacles so that we can surmount and progress as individuals and as a society. We honor him because he is present when we decide, when we speak, when we act and when we overcome.

Tide Change - Miami

Changing Tide [Photo Credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno]

If you are balanced spiritually by reflecting on your growth, living through your strengths and recognizing your limits and understanding your choices, then you are living fully, prepared for opportunities and able to focus on relationships that will strengthen you and your community. In other words, carrying a rabbit’s foot won’t help, but if carrying that rabbit’s foot reminds you how you must conduct yourself before an Orisha, that will help.

That does not mean that there are no spiritual energies at play around you, but your Balance, through meditation, divination and offerings, allows you to navigate those energies successfully. You live fully by becoming better at who you are with each passing day.

When I describe those energies I always end up focusing water. In South Florida, when the tide turns on Biscayne Bay it is more a change of water than it is a change in height. The shallow waters surrounding us do not produce the dramatic heights of tidal changes that are seen in areas like the Bay of Fundy. (Though, if you ever find yourself in the beautiful Atlantic Provinces, add Hopewell Rocks, New Brunswick to your must-see list.)

Here in Miami, the waters change from rich green to crystal blue. It is the ebb and flow of estuary and ocean water. When estuarine water pervades, the tide is darker, full of nutrients and moving to low. Sandbars appear and fill up with boaters and birds. Bottlenose dolphins begin their hunting and island-dwelling raccoons look for shellfish. When the ocean water prevails, the tide is clear and high. The dearth of nutrients common in tropical waters produce clear conditions giving bay waters the clarity of a swimming pool.

If you remain in Balance, you are able to see the benefits of the murky water: the nutrition. You are also able to navigate its dangers. You can’t see well and low tide can leave you beached. The same is true for the ocean water. It may clear, but it is also deeper.

The Letter is composed of three main parts followed by recommendations describing health, community, economics, politics and general welfare. The first part are the Odu. They are the proverbs, statements of offerings and symbolic identifiers that are marking the coming year. This section is really for priests and how they can offer support both to their community and their godchildren. While the Odu applies to all people, the use of Odu for spiritual purposes is done with the assistance of a priest. However, the recommendations found later in the Letter will describe proverbs related to the Odu in more detail.

The second part of the Letter marks the governing Orisha and the accompanying Orisha. The governing Orisha of 2016 is Ogún. He is the first Orisha to choose to enter Ayé, the Earth, and ultimately became the patron of civilization. He is the great crafter of tools and the Orisha of technology. It is through him and his tools that humans cleared the wild and built their cities.

He is also a skilled warrior yet cautions on weaponry. He offers, for example, a blade that can be used by assassins to kill or surgeons to heal. He is both brooding and industrious disposed to anger and creativity. He lives in the wild but enjoys visiting train tracks and is proud of the technological and artistic achievements of humans. He is the husband of Oyá and understands both his children and hers. To summon his energy in abundance, offerings including fried green plantains, smoked fish, grapes and cigars. He is partial to rum-soaked watermelon. But most of all, he likes big — big— meals.

The second part of the Letter will also identify the accompanying Orisha, and it is here that the Letter does get unusually complicated and requires guidance from priests. Not only does this part represent a presence of a second energy to support the first, but the two in combination are important. And the Odu will identify fables (patakis) about the relationship between the Orisha that describe how the governing energy must be managed.

This year, the accompanying Orisha is Oshún. She is the Orisha of beauty, love and sweetness. She is flirtatious and sensual yet serious and generous. She brings attention to the power of women and strengths to serve and lead. Her energies will be present and possibly tempering the dominant Orisha. Oshún is the essence and mystery of femininity. She loves gold, both the color and the metal. She is partial to honey but enjoys anything that is sweet. She also loves baked yams in brown sugar and butter. Offerings to her will call her energy.

Ogun Cauldron [Photo Credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno]

Ogun Cauldron [Photo Credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno]

The remainder of the Letter describe precautions and proverbs noting aspects of life and health that would benefit from careful attention or observation over the year.

I think it also important that the Letter not be understood as a prophecy, so to speak. it’s not meant to forecast the future, and certainly not in the way we might see in psychic predictions. Divination is not about the future. It is about us. It is about our place in the now; how we move through time; how we can build that better future free of scourges and vices that weaken our human community.

The Letter in this regard might best be understood as calibrating us to the unseen environment around us. While the governing Orisha may set processes in motion that can impact future events, those events are not typically identified. It’s a spiritual weather report. Something like how conditions in the Western Pacific suggest the formation of a powerful El Niño. We know — all too well right now — what weather an El Niño event disposes us to, but we can’t say exactly where there will be a thunderstorm, flood, landslide or tornado. We can plan, prepare, observe and act.

Ultimately, the underlying point of Odu is that we can manage our luck. We do so through offerings and understanding. This year, the Letter speaks to how intelligence and reflections will be critical to how we work the year. It also speaks to how we approach our acceptance and understanding of our own behavior; whether through science, reflection, offerings or rituals, they bring forth opportunities to make profound changes, take charge and even start fresh. Recognizing the energies around us, helps us use them to strengthen ourselves and our community.

In that sense, the Letter is a vehicle for empowerment. In many ways, our collective Pagan space evolved from a demand for self-determination. It is a resource to fortify us as we engage the world around to eliminate sources of personal and social oppression. Like the returning sun that we celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere a few days ago, we can build a bright, inclusive and safe future for our community. That is how Lukumi demands we act: as repairers of world restoring Peace and Balance. And knowing the weather helps, to sow and harvest, even in winter.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Eku odun tuntun! And many blessings in the New Year.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens 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.

Byron Ballard

Byron Ballard

This month, author and Witch Byron Ballard found herself the center piece of a mainstream news story titled, “Meet the Appalachian spell-catcher.” Local journalist Dale Neal published his article in Asheville’s Citizen-Times, the main paper for the region.

Neal wrote, “In her travels, Ballard found many people put off at first by the idea of a pagan priestess … But when she started talking about folk remedies, or bringing out Mason jars of rabbit tobacco or mica pieces, they recognized a common spirit. ‘Oh my grandmother used to do that,’ was a common theme.”

The article focuses on Ballard’s practice, her research and her new book Asfidity and Mad-Stones: A Further Ramble through Hillfolks’ Hoodoo. It captures her love of folk magic, the region and, what Neal called, “an overlooked piece of homegrown culture.”

In Other News…

  • Also making it into the media was our own writer Terence P. Ward, who was quoted by NPR in its own discussion about the use of Daesh and other names within media. He told NPR, “as a reporter covering the ‘Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities, I am privy to reports of people being questioned by law enforcement due to being known worshipers of the goddess Isis.’ “
  • In another mainstream story involving Pagans, The Guardian picked up on the brewing controversy over Alex Mar’s book Witches in America.The article titled, “Serious researcher or ‘Spiritual Tourist: How Alex Mar riled American pagans’ quotes a number of Pagan bloggers and points to various posts about the book. The writer also interviewed Alex Mar about the controversy and includes some of her reactions. We will have more on this story in the coming days.
  • And in another mainstream article examining the greater Pagan community, writer Jaya Saxena discusses the problem of sexism within Witchcraft practice. In the article titled “There’s a Sexism Problem in the Modern Witchcraft Community,” Saxena wrote, “low-level misogyny can still be a problem in these circles, in largely the same unconscious ways it exists in the rest of society.” Quoting from a number of practicing Witches both male and female, Saxena notes a number of places where problems can arise and how that is handled. She also mentions the issues that can arise for transgender Witches, saying that some groups are now “challenging the gender binary” constructions in terms of religious practice.
  • Speaking of the transgender community, in a story out of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, a local elementary school banned the reading and discussion of a children’s book called I am Jazz.The book tells the story of a transgender child and is written by transgender teen Jazz Jennings. The facility, Mt. Horeb Primary Center, cancelled the reading after The Liberty Council, a Christian legal advocacy group, threatened a lawsuit. Author Alex Bledsoe‘s son attends the school, and he has been indirectly involved in the situation. Bledsoe said, “As a writer, I’m bothered when any book is censored. The list of historically censored books is also a list of some of our greatest literature. As a parent, I have no issue with allowing other parents to opt out their children, but don’t try to force your beliefs on the rest of us. A concerned parent has the right to say, ‘My child won’t,’ but not to say, ‘Your child won’t.’ That’s simply bullying, and any school system that gives into it loses the moral right to tell its students that bullying is wrong.” There will be a scheduled reading and discussion of the book at the local library today.


  • In Tennessee, a Wiccan mother is claiming that her children are not being allowed to practice Wicca while in foster care. Anna Wood said her two children, each in a different home, are being forced to practice Christianity and denied the right to learn Wicca.  She claimed that her daughter was even baptized without her knowledge and her son’s books have been destroyed. According to the article, the Department of Child Services has denied any evidence of discrimination. Wood said that she is “seriously considering a lawsuit.”
  • Moving over to Australia, Victoria’s local news source The Age reported that Robin Fletcher, who “claimed his [Wiccan] religion endorses sex between children and adults,” was denied his request for more relaxed supervision. The judge said that Fletcher still poses a “unacceptable risk of committing a relevant offence.” This was based on letters found to men in Ghana describing what he was planning to do upon being released next summer and his desire to initiate young children into his religious practice. The Department of Justice is currently deciding whether it will extend its request for Fletcher’s supervision past the current end date June 2016.
  • Back in the Unites States, New York’s Rockland County Sheriff’s Department has said that a “suspicious,” “ritualistic,” package was left at the County Courthouse on the day before Thanksgiving. According to local media reports, “The bomb squad did rule that the package was a likely Santeria artifact and it was knowingly left at the building to create panic and fear.” But, in the end, there was no disruption to the court schedule. No further reports or corrections were available.

And one final note… 


[Unleash the Hounds is a monthly feature that highlights media stories of interest originating predominantly outside of our collective communities. If you like seeing this roundup every month, consider donating to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive today. These types of articles take time, research and money to produce. It is you that makes it all possible! Your donations go directly back to getting the important news out there. Donate today and help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.]

News Update …

bloomfield nmIn March 2014, we reported on a story in which two New Mexico Pagans challenged their local city’s placement of a Ten Commandments monument on public grounds. They won that case, but the city vowed to appeal in federal court.

That case is being heard today in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. The city of Bloomfield will argue for keeping the monument, stating that “the display is legal because it was privately funded.” Prior to the monument’s installation, members of the Bloomfield community, as well as some elected officials, had raised private funds specifically for this purpose.

The ACLU, on behalf of Felix and Coone, maintain that the monument violates the Constitution. As noted in our original article, the ACLU argued that city officials “accorded preferential treatment to the monument’s sponsors, disregarding many city ordinances and policy requirements that would regulate the monument’s installation.” We will update the story as it continues to progress.

Other Links …. 

  • On Sept 25, a special memorial service was held for Mustang 22, a 5-person unit of soldiers killed in combat exactly ten years ago. A member of that unit was Sergeant Patrick Stewart, whose name later became connected to the Veteran Pentacle Quest. Sergeant Stewart’s wife, Roberta Stewart, was at the memorial service, and spoke to the media in attendance. Here is that news report:

  • In June, we noted the passing of Eron the Wizard, a prominent figure in the UK’s magical community and a practitioner of Alexandrian Wicca. He lost his battle with cancer on May 10 and was given a large memorial service that was well-publicized. Just this past week, Eron’s daughter, Rebecca Spencer, reported that her father’s beloved car has now been stolen. It’s a yellow Subaru Legacy uniquely decorated with black stars and witches. She told reporters that it disappeared on Friday from her home near Gloucester. She said, “I have lost my dad and now this has been stolen.” She added that it was one of the few things from him that she had left.
  • Now we move east to Russia. The Moscow Times has reported that city officials are planning to “release a booklet warning Muscovites against unorthodox religious ‘cults’ operating in Russia.” The booklet will reportedly include ways to handle encounters with such cults and how to countact the authorities. The Times also quoted Moscow officials as saying, “cults do not necessarily take a traditional form, many of them are posing as lectures, personal development courses, or even yoga classes.” What does this mean, if anything, for Pagans in the area? The booklet has not yet been published, and there is no indication of whether or not any Pagan groups will be listed. When more is available, we will update the story.
  • Further southwest, in the ex-Soviet province of Tajikistan, the national government is also taking measures against, what it considers to be, dangerous practices. The Tajik Parliament is expected to introduced new changes to its criminal code, which make the practice of witchcraft, “sorcery” and fortune telling punishable with up to 7 years of prison time. The legislation was first introduced in 2007 as a simple ban. Now officials are looking to add more teeth to the measure in order to allegedly protect against charlatans and “witch doctors.”
  • Over the past two weeks, it seems that everyone is talking about the Pope. The Guardian recently featured an article on his visit to Cuba. However, the piece didn’t focus on the Pope specifically. It examined the relationship between his message and the practice of Santeria, also known as Lukumi. The article reads, “The syncretic religion of Santería has unsurprisingly not been mentioned in the pope’s schedule or sermons, but its powerful influence on the island means that many of those listening to his homilies will be interpreting references to the Catholic saints in a very different way from Vatican orthodoxy.” The Guardian goes on to discuss the relationship between the Church and the deeply-rooted syncretic religion that thrives on the island.
  • Back in the United States, changes have been made to one Montana hospital, which allows for a very specific type of healing. In Helena, Montana, a new “Smudging Room” has opened in Saint Peter’s Hospital. The room is intended to be used by Native Americans for a special sacred healing practice that removes negative energy. Montanta Public Radio reports that “Little Shell Tribal member Daniel Pocha said getting hospitals to allow smudging has always been hit and miss.” The article goes on to celebrate the new addition, saying the hospital is “acknowledging the needs of patients who follow native spiritual traditions.”
  • If you haven’t looked at the calendar lately, it’s almost October. And what does that mean? Pumpkins, corn mazes and interviews with Witches. Starting off before the bell even rings opening the month, Oregon Live has posted an article featuring Anne Newkirk Niven. A local Oregon resident, Niven is the publisher of Witches and Pagans magazine and director of In the article, Niven discusses her practices and beliefs. It ends with her saying, “I love words, I love religion, and I’m pagan … What the heck? I’m in my dream job.”
  • In that same vein, BuzzFeed has joined Octoberfest early, offering a list of “spellbooks for the witch in your life.” The thirteen books listed are a mix bag from the newly published to the classic. BuzzFeed’s criteria may be a bit of a mystery. How does this compare to your top 13?
  • Finally, the Vice Channel Broadly has published photographs from this year’s New York Pagan Pride Day event. In July, offered a vivid picture tour of New York City’s Witchfest. Now, its Broadly channel is serving up photos from the annual fall festival. Its cover shot is of Priestess Courtney Weber proudly wearing a shirt that reads, “Where my Witches at?” The article goes on to quote PPD president Beth Mastromarino, saying that their goal is to “Create a space where Pagans can gather and the public can see that we’re just everyday people who happen to have a different sense of spirituality, but share the same values—family, community, caring for the environment and our fellow humans.” The majority of Broadly’s article is simply a dazzling photo album documenting the many people at this year’s event.

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Another damaging summer storm has a hit major Pagan festival. This time it is Summerland Spirit Festival held in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. The intense winds and rain arrived Sunday night around 10 p.m. on the festival’s first full day. According to reports, tents were damaged or completely lost, and parts of merchant row have been destroyed. During a race to get into the permanent shelters, several people sustained minor injuries such as scrapes and twisted ankles.

Fortunately, the intense storm was over in thirty minutes, and did not cause the local creek to rise. Those who did lose tents were able to find sleeping space within the lodge or in neighbors’ tents. While there has been property loss, the festival will continue on. As today’s sun dries out the campground, attendees and the organizing committee will spend the day cleaning up, looking for lost items and assessing damages. Beyond that, the organizers plan to continue on with Summerland programming as scheduled. While the weather reports do call for another possible summer thunderstorm today, the rest of the week looks promising.

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Equinox Publishing will be launching a new peer reviewed journal in 2016. It is titled Body and Religion and will “provide a forum for the study of all manner of ancient and contemporary practices, concerns, ideals, and connections or disconnections between body and religion.” The editors are Shawn Arthur of Wake Forest University and Nikki Bado of Iowa State University. The book reviewer will be Kevin Schilbrack of Appalachian State University.

Body and Religion will be published twice annually and is currently seeking submissions. The editors write, “We welcome English-language submissions from scholars who use diverse methodologies and approaches, ranging from traditional to innovative, to explore issues of’“body’ as a fundamental analytical category in the study of religion.” They will “consider submissions from both established scholars and research students.” Equinox is also the publisher of Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

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Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

In the past, we have reported on the New Year divinatory tradition held by Cuba’s Santeria Priests. For more than 30 years, these Priests have offered recommendations and predictions for the coming year. Traditionally, these readings have been performed independently from each other. Last week, however, The Havana Times reported that this will change in 2016. The article reads, “The two main currents of Cuban Santeria that announce different “Letter of the Year” prophecies at the beginning of each January have finally decided to come together and make public a single version of the predictions by the popular oracle Ifa.”

The partnership between the two leading “currents,” led by Lazaro Cuesta and Jose Manuel Perez, is reportedly being seen as a “means of consolidating the community of Afro-Cuban religion practitioners” Rather than offering competing recommendations, the groups will offer a joint “Letter of the Year” for the first time in history.

The Havana Times article goes on to discuss the relationship between the Cuban practice and that of Miami’s Santeria Priests, who also offer their own Letter of the Year. As is written, “Perhaps the new winds of change blowing between Washington and Havana will end up bringing Ifa priests on both shores together in their dictates and recommendations for the year.”

In Other News:

  • Author Marla Hardee Milling, a native of Asheville, has published a new book called Only in Asheville: An Eclectic History. The book examines why Asheville, North Carolina is often labeled “America’s quirkiest town.” In it she explores aspects of the bohemian character of her home town, interviewing a number of local residents. One of the interviews is with local Priestess Byron Ballard, who has the distinguished title of local Village Witch.
  • Llewellyn has published a guest blog post written by Aaron Leitch, which examines whether the Bible outlaws magick. He writes, “The question of magick among these traditions arises every so often. Usually, it is asked by newcomers who feel a calling to practice the arts of magick, but have been raised with the belief that it is directly proscribed by their religion.Their fear is very real—they worry if delving into the arts will result in the loss of their immortal soul.” Leitch then goes on to examine various references to magick, Witchcraft and sorcery.
  • Circle Magazine is currently seeking submissions for its upcoming fall issue, which will be titled “Life’s End & Beyond.”  Editor Florence Edwards-Miller said that she is “hoping to cover a wide range of topics … including end-of-life planning and care, Pagan funerals, coping with loss of a human or animal companion, honoring ancestors, deities associated with the dead or dying, myths or beliefs about what comes after death, reincarnation, or other related subjects.” The issue will also cover the rituals, crafts and food associated with Samhain. Due to the PSG flooding, the submission deadline is now Aug. 7.
  • Over the past week, Patheos Pagan Channel writers have been debating the somewhat controversial subject of deity popularity. Channel manager Jason Mankey kicked off the conversation at Raise the Horns, which was then followed by several other reaction pieces.The latest post was written by John Beckett at Under the Ancient Oaks.
  • Another Pagan programming announcement has been made for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Andras Corban-Arthen put together a proposal for a panel entitled “We Are the Earth: Pagans Respond to Pope Francis on the Environment.” It was accepted by the Council. The new panel, moderated by Sylvia Linton, will include Corban-Arthen, John Halstead and myself. Other Wild Hunt writers will also be in attendance at the Parliament, and we will be reporting directly from the October event.

That is it for now. Have a nice day!

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.


  • A prison beard ban case currently before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) could have far-reaching implications for religious freedom in our prisons. An anaylsis at SCOTUSblog of Holt v. Hobbs notes that SCOTUS have already ruled that corporations have the ability to avoid complying with some government mandates that they believe infringe on their religious beliefs, but what about prisoners? Quote: “Having ruled that a corporation can rely on the devoutly Christian beliefs of its owners to avoid complying with the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate, will at least five Justices be equally receptive to an inmate’s desire to comply with his Muslim religion by growing a half-inch beard? Throw in yesterday’s announcement that the Justices will review the case of a Muslim teenager who alleges that she was not hired for a job at a popular clothing chain because she wears a headscarf, and it looks like it could be another significant Term for religious freedom at the Court.” The Becket Fund frames the case as whether prison officials can arbitrarily ban a religious practice (in this case beard-growing).
  • Is religion on the wane in the West (say that ten times fast)? There’s some recent evidence that it might be. Ben Clements at British Religion in Numbers analyzes the latest British Election Study (BES), which shows a huge growth in “nones” (those who don’t identify with having any particular faith identity). Quote: “The most common response is that of not belonging to any religion, at 44.7%.” It should also be noted that “other” faiths are also on the rise among younger respondents. Meanwhile, in the United States, a growing majority thinks that religion is losing its influence over American life. This is according to a Pew Research poll. Quote: “Nearly three-quarters of the public (72%) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life, up 5 percentage points from 2010 to the highest level in Pew Research polling over the past decade.” 
  • Religion News Service covers the latest iteration of people over-reacting to Halloween, in this case a school district in New Jersey that banned, then un-banned Halloween parties. Quote: “For years, Christian evangelicals have objected to what they see as Halloween’s pagan origins. Some churches have adopted alternative harvest celebrations, while others have constructed elaborate “Hell Houses” designed to depict the torments of hell and the promise of salvation through belief in Jesus. But a day after canceling the in-school Halloween celebration, parents received a note home from Acting Superintendent James Memoli saying the cancelation has been reversed, and the event would take place as it has in the past.” Of course, Halloween is NOT a Pagan holiday, it’s a Christian holiday that was thoroughly secularized over the last 100 years. Now, Samhain (and other pre-Christian harvest/Winter festivals), that’s a different matter. Anyway, what’s truly ironic is re-labeling Halloween as a “Harvest Festival” just makes is sound MORE Pagan, not less. Stick with the jack-o-lanterns and candy.
  • Catholicism is slowly losing its grip on Brazil, but that hasn’t dimmed the popularity of an annual processional in honor of the Virgin Mary. Quote: “An arduous public display of devotion, Cirio (pronounced see-rio) has persisted and thrived as a centerpiece of Amazonian regional culture — maintaining consistent levels of participation year to year — even as Catholicism loses ground to evangelical faiths in a dramatic transformation of Brazilian society.” Why the enduring popularity? Because the festival goes deep into the cultural history of their society, quote, “in Brazil, where African and indigenous traditions melded with Christianity for centuries and where Catholicism has deep cultural roots, religious identities are not so clear-cut.” Indeed, indeed. Meanwhile, practitioners of Afro-Brazilian faiths feel under attack.
  • Affirming belief in a higher power, or going back to jail? Thanks to a lawsuit in California, that may be a choice that’s on its way to extinction. Quote: “The real victory here is that California will no longer be able to force anyone into a faith-based treatment program. It’s fine to have different rehab programs available to drug offenders – even if they’re faith-based – but religious ones must remain optional.”
  • The Miami Herald reports on how two prominent Santeria organizations (Kola Ifa and Church of the Lukumí Babalú Ayé) have joined forces to, quote, “establish a central and very visible hierarchy for a faith often associated by outsiders with mysterious rites, colorful deities and animal sacrifices.” Here’s a video report on this new agreement. I’m thinking this move could have significant ripples into the wider Santeria/Lukumi world.

That’s all I have for right now, as always, some of these stories may be expanded on in future Wild Hunt posts. Thanks for reading, have a great day!

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.

The Temple of Flux, 2010 (Rebecca Anders, Jessica Hobbs, Peter Kimelman and Crew)

The Temple of Flux, 2010 (Rebecca Anders, Jessica Hobbs, Peter Kimelman and Crew)

  • HuffPo Religion looks at 10 years of Burning Man temples, and quote scholar and friend-of-The Wild Hunt Lee Gilmore, author of “Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man.” Quote: “Burning Man is that wild, uproarious desert party that hits the Nevada desert every August. But to call it a party alone is to miss the critical spiritual dimension that grounds much of the festivities. This spiritual dimension is perhaps best characterized by the temple artists and architects build every year on the playa. The tradition began in 2000 with artists David Best and Jack Haye’s Temple of Mind. The temple took on greater significance after one of Best’s friends passed away weeks before the festival, setting the tone for what would become an annual space of memorial and contemplation on the playa, or what author and religion professor Lee Gilmore calls the ‘sacred heart of Black Rock City.’ (Black Rock City or BRC refers to the temporary town that Burning Man becomes every year.)”
  • Religion News Service analyzes the trend of the millennial generation abandoning formal religious affiliation in large numbers. Quote: “Any replacement for religious membership will have to match the moral power of religious narratives. It is always hard to keep going with civic and political work; persistence is a lot easier if you see yourself connected to a permanent community with a prophetic vision of the future. Religions also appeal to deep moral commitments. While you do not have to be religious to be moral, being a good citizen requires commitments to other people — and perhaps to nature — as intrinsically valuable. Those commitments do not come from science or reason. In fact, science suggests that people are dramatically unequal and that nature is fully exploitable. So responsible people develop ‘faith-based’ commitments. Secular equivalents must be at least as powerful.”
  • The U.S. Army has approved “Humanist” as a religious preference for members within their ranks. Quote: “Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday (April 22) that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army. In practical terms, the change means that humanists could face fewer hurdles in trying to organize within the ranks; military brass would have better information to aid in planning a deceased soldier’s funeral; and it could lay the groundwork for eventually adding humanist chaplains. The change comes against a backdrop of persistent claims from atheists and other nonbelievers that the military is dominated by a Christian culture that is often hostile to unbelief.” At the ACLU, Major Ray Bradley says that Army Humanists are “no longer invisible.” Pagan faiths are still engaged in this process, working to expand beyond the handful of options currently available (which includes “Wicca” and “The Troth”).
  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker writes about why myth matters for the Intercollegiate Review. Quote: “Against all odds, through popular culture, myth is more potent and omnipresent in modern society than anyone could have imagined. Why? Because in an increasingly global society, myth is a universal language. Luke Skywalker, Frodo Baggins, Spiderman and Batman transcend cultural divides. Mythic heroes in movies communicate universal values in their fight against evil. In a culture where the abstract theories of academics are out of touch and meaningless, stories communicate more effectively and more universally. Furthermore, in an increasingly irreligious age, mythical movies and literature carry the truths that religion had traditionally conveyed.” Despite Fr. Longenecker’s theologically conservative brand of Catholicism, I think there are some interesting points raised here that some of my readers might appreciate.
  • Center-left American think tank the Brookings Institution has published a new report on economic justice and the future of “religious progressives.” Quote: “Religious voices will remain indispensable to movements on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, and middle-class Americans. The authors point to specific opportunities the progressive religious movement can act on.” Michelle Boorstein at The Washington Post notes that demographic shifts might bring about a bright future for left-leaning religious organizations. Quote: “The report sees perhaps a bright future for the religious left. One reason is demographics. A far bigger share of younger Americans call themselves religious progressives (34 percent of those ages 18 to 33) than religious conservatives (16 percent of the same group). Another is the model offered by the civil rights movement, which the report says ‘interwove religious and civic themes’. . . and was so successful because it was so ecumenical. We may be at such a moment, the report argues.”
Photo: VICE / Phil Clarke Hill

Photo: VICE / Phil Clarke Hill

  • VICE says that Santeria is growing in visibility and popularity in Cuba now policies regarding religion in that country have been relaxed. Quote: “The religion owes its continued existence over the centuries to the prevalence of the oral tradition, with believers passing on, preserving, and nurturing its secrets through countless generations. Today, Santeria has emerged from the shadows of a Cuban society now at liberty to practice religion, and is witnessing not only an increase of acceptance but also of popularity.”
  • The Economist explains how European politics are different than American politics, that there isn’t a “religious right” per se, but there are a number of “identity politics” camps that must be appeased if you want to win elections. Quote: “It is hard for European politicians to build a career by claiming the traditionalist ground; they would generally lose more votes than they would gain. What does exist in Europe is the politics of identity, including religious identity. In this area Europe’s parties and politicians always think carefully about the signals they send and getting it right or wrong has consequences. That’s a helpful way to see David Cameron’s re-embrace of the Anglican church.”
  • Barbara Falconer Newhall at The Huffington Post reviews Patricia Monaghan’s posthumous work, the new edition of her “Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines.” Quote: “I wish I had known Patricia Monaghan. She died a year and a half ago after a rich life as a poet, author, goddess scholar, and pioneer and mentor in the contemporary women’s spirituality movement. She was an academic, yes, but also a hands-on kind of woman. According to her husband, she was as concerned about the temperature of her root cellar as she was with the depth of her research. That research is stunningly thorough. I have in my hands the posthumously released revised edition of her Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines. The first, very popular, edition was published in 1979. This beautiful, fat — in a good way — expanded version tells the stories of more than 1,000 ancient goddesses and heroines from such far-flung corners of the earth as Mongolia, Benin, Tierra del Fuego and Wisconsin.”
  • Jackson Free Press has an article focusing on Pagan author and teacher Chris Penczak. Quote: “While the Mississippi Legislature was polishing its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which opponents say opens doors to legal discrimination for religious reasons), Christopher Penczak and other believers of a mostly misunderstood and reviled faith—Wicca—planned a workshop. Penczak, 40, is one of the founders of the Temple of Witchcraft in New Hampshire. From its humble roots as a magickal training and personal growth system, the temple has become a formal tradition of Witchcraft.”
  • The New York Times Magazine spotlights The Dark Mountain Project. Quote: “A man wearing a stag mask bounded into the clearing and shouted: ‘Come! Let’s play!’ The crowd broke up. Some headed for bed. A majority headed for the woods, to a makeshift stage that had been blocked off with hay bales and covered by an enormous nylon parachute. There they danced, sang, laughed, barked, growled, hooted, mooed, bleated and meowed, forming a kind of atavistic, improvisatory choir. Deep into the night, you could hear them from your tent, shifting every few minutes from sound to sound, animal to animal and mood to mood. […]  The Dark Mountain Project was founded in 2009. From the start, it has been difficult to pin down — even for its members. If you ask a representative of the Sierra Club to describe his organization, he will say that it promotes responsible use of the earth’s resources. When you ask Kingsnorth about Dark Mountain, he speaks of mourning, grief and despair. We are living, he says, through the ‘age of ecocide,’ and like a long-dazed widower, we are finally becoming sensible to the magnitude of our loss, which it is our duty to face.”

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. I know it’s April 1st, and thus, April Fools day in the land of journalism, but I promise we’ll keep the fooling to an absolute minimum.

Rev. Kevin Kisler prays prior to the start of a Greece, N.Y., Town Board meeting in 2008. Photo: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Rev. Kevin Kisler prays prior to the start of a Greece, N.Y., Town Board meeting in 2008. Photo: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

  • Let’s start with the religious origins of April Fool’s Day traditions, which the Religion News Service explores. Quote: “Some argue that April Fools’ Day is a remnant of early ‘renewal festivals,’ which typically marked the end of winter and the start of spring. These festivals, according to the Museum of Hoaxes, typically involved ‘ritualized forms of mayhem and misrule.’ Participants donned disguises, played tricks on friends as well as strangers, and inverted the social order.” 
  • The Associated Press checks in with the town of Greece in New York, as the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s decision regarding prayer at government meetings. Quote: “After the complaints, the town, in 2008, had a Wiccan priestess, the chairman of the local Baha’i congregation and a lay Jewish man deliver four of the prayers. But from January 2009 through June 2010, the prayer-givers were again invited Christian clergy, according to court documents.” I’ve written extensively on this case, and the outcome could have far-reaching affects on religion in our public square. When the decision comes down, you can be sure we’ll cover it.
  • An LAPD police officer who identifies as Buddhist and Wiccan has filed suit claiming sexual and religious harassment in her workplace. Quote: “DeBellis told Tenney that she no longer practices Catholicism and was now a Buddhist-Wiccan and a priestess, the suit states. ‘Tenney was visibly upset and appeared disgusted by plaintiff’s comment and told (her), ‘Women cannot be priests,”  according to the complaint. Tenney later told DeBellis she ‘cannot switch religions’ and that she ‘will burn in hell,’ the suit states.”
  • The New York Times Magazine interviews Barbara Ehrenreich about her new book “Living With A Wild God” which documents her exploration of an intense mystical experience she had when young. Quote: “I didn’t see any creatures or hear any voices, but the whole world came to life, and the difference between myself and everything else dissolved — but not in a sweet, loving, New Agey way. That was a world flamed into life, is how I would put it.”
  • Metro has a story on Pagans and Witches serving in the British military. Quote: “Prof Ronald Hutton said pagan worship is ‘pretty well’ suited to being in the military. ‘There is no pacifism necessarily embedded in modern pagan or Wiccan religious attitudes, and ancient pagans could make formidable soldiers,’ he said.”

  • The Miami Herald has an interesting piece on Santeria, and the challenges it faces as it grows and changes in an increasingly interconnected world. Quote: “The growth of the back-to-roots movement has kindled infighting, widening rifts between the Yoruba faiths’ spreading branches. It’s a friction particularly felt in Miami, where Lukumi has become more mainstream since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the religion in a landmark 1993 case. Highly visible Miami priest Ernesto Pichardo considers many so-called traditionalists nothing more than ‘religious tourists,’ being fleeced by Nigerians, who return with strident views that their faith is somehow more authentic.”
  • The Wiccan Family Temple in New York won’t be able to hold a Summer Solstice festival at Astor Place because the group couldn’t prove they were “indigenous” to the neighborhood. Quote: “But the chairman of Community Board 2′s Sidewalks and Street Activity Committee Maury Schott told DNAinfo that the organization had to prove that the proposed street fair was ‘indigenous’ to the street between Broadway and Lafayette, although he could not explain what that meant.” There’s still a chance they could get approved though, so I guess we’ll see how “indigenous” to that part of Manhattan they really are.
  • Sorry Reiki healers, but Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales is not on your side. Quote: “Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals—that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately. What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse.’ It isn’t.”
  • At HuffPo, Tom Carpenter endorses a military chaplaincy for “all the troops.” Quote: “Emergent faith communities in the military are properly seeking recognition. Many of these communities not only include but celebrate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender service members. Humanists and Wiccans seek to join Buddhists, Hindus and other minority groups seeking recognition and representation in our military […] The Forum on the Military Chaplaincy strongly supports the recruitment and retention of highly qualified, clinically trained chaplains who are representative of and committed to a chaplaincy reflecting a broad and inclusive range of interfaith, multicultural and diverse life experiences.”
  • There’s worry over proposed military housing that could potentially block the solstice sunrise at world-famous Stonehenge. Quote: “A plan to build thousands of new homes for soldiers returning from Germany could have to be changed – because they will be built on the horizon where the sun rises on summer solstice at Stonehenge. The Ministry of Defence said they were ‘aware of the issues’ and were organising a meeting with experts on the stones.” In other news, the nearly-as-famous Nine Ladies Stone Circle was recently vandalized. This is why we can’t have nice things, folks.

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.

A young Nepalese girl dressed as a Kumari/living goddess. Photo: Narendra Shrestha.

A young Nepalese girl dressed as a Kumari/living goddess. Photo: Narendra Shrestha.

  • Does the presence of goddesses within a faith mean better treatment for women within a culture? A Guardian article complicates the notion. Quote: “Goddesses are worshipped merely as a ritual but in reality, women are generally never seen as their earthly representations,” [Usha Vishwakarma] says. “It is not inspiration or motivation that we look for. Sheer frustration from being ill-treated by men and unsympathetic responses from family drive us to rebel and make conditions better for ourselves.”
  • Scholar Wendy Doniger says India banning her book “The Hindus: An Alternative History” had her “in high spirits.” Quote: “But I must apologize for what may amount to false advertising on my behalf by Mr. Batra, who pronounced my book ‘filthy and dirty.’ Readers who bought a copy in hope of finding such passages will be, I fear, disappointed. ‘The Hindus’ isn’t about sex at all. It’s about religion, which is much hotter than sex.”
  • At HuffPo, Parth Parihar discusses “Hinduism and the eco-activist vacuum.” Quote: “What could be more adharmic than incentivizing the creation of fossil fuel infrastructure that only makes oil a more economically viable means of energy production, thereby impeding progress on combating global climate change?”
  • The head of the British Veterinary Association is advocating that animals slaughtered in Kosher and Halal butchering be stunned first, spurring charges of misinformation and limiting religious rights. Quote: “But Mr Arkush, who is the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the Jewish slaughtering practice was a ‘humane act designed to bring about the animals’ end very quickly’. He said that Mr Blackwell’s remarks were ‘completely misleading’ and criticised him for ‘speaking in a way that inflamed prejudice’.”
  • The Straight Dope covers the topic of penis-stealing sorcerers. Quote: “The result of this delusional drama can be pretty ugly. About 20 witches accused of penis theft were lynched in Nigeria in 2001, and 12 in Ghana in 2002. One survey counted 56 separate cases between 1997 and 2003, with at least 36 suspected thieves murdered. In a 2008 outbreak in Congo, urgent messages went out by radio to avoid strangers wearing gold rings in taxis, leading police to put 13 suspected sorcerers into protective custody to prevent lynchings.”
  • Tablet Magazine explores the forbidden books of Jewish magic. Quote: “If most historical Judaisms have taken a transcendental approach to the magic taboo, the transgression-consummation dyad accounts for the simultaneous attraction and repulsion to magic one finds in so many Jewish sources. The highly charged polarity is responsible for producing myriad expressions of anxiety, the tracing of which may shed light on familiar facets of Jewish culture. The binary status of magic gave rise to contested formulations of its cultural position among rabbinic authorities. Was magic the most profound degradation of the spirit, or the highest actualization of human potential?”
  • Police in Siberia managed to stop an attempted witch-burning before it was too late. Quote: “In an unexpected incident worthy of the Spanish inquisition, a couple in eastern Siberia decided their acquaintance was a witch and attempted to burn her alive, though police stopped the impromptu auto-da-fe. The rescue came not a moment too soon, as the couple were at that moment forcing the alleged witch headfirst into a burning stove in an abandoned building, Zabaikalsky Region police said Thursday.”
  • From the “what could possibly go wrong” files, Oklahoma House passes “Merry Christmas” bill that would protect using religious expressions in public schools. Quote: “There is a war on Christians and Christmas, and anyone who would deny that is not paying close enough attention,” Cleveland said in a December 2013 press release. “This bill will create a layer of protection for our public school teachers and staff to freely discuss and celebrate Christmas without worrying about offending someone.” Don’t worry though, the proposed law calls for Christianity to share the stage with at least ONE other faith and/or secular expression. Diversity!
  • A new book from a 20-year devotee alleges widespread corruption, nepotism, and abuse in the empire of “Hugging Saint” Mata “Amma” Amrithanandamayi. Quote: “An Australian woman, who served Mata Amrithanandamayi for two decades, has exposed in her memoir the “hugging saint’s” ashram as a murky world of physical, sexual and mental torture, promiscuity power-madness and intolerance.” The organization’s response? She’s crazy and depressed (no, really, that’s their response).
  • mentions Santeria and Vodou elements in the hit HBO show “True Detective.” Quote: “Voodoo and Santeria have long inspired the authors who dabbled in cosmic horror. Louisiana Voodoo (otherwise known as “Hoodoo”), which draws upon African and European folk traditions alike, derives much of its occult resonance from such practices as vengeance by proxy (voodoo dolls), suspended animation (zombification), and gris-gris (talismans, not unlike the knocked-together fetish sculptures that Hart and Cohle discover at the scene of Dora Lange’s murder). The particular appeal of Louisiana Voodoo to cosmic-horror writers like Lovecraft and those who have followed in his footsteps comes not only from its supernaturalism, but from its cultural otherness as well.”

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.

The Voynich manuscript.

The Voynich manuscript.

  • A professor from the University of Bedfordshire claims to have made significant progress in translating the mysterious Voynich manuscript. Quote: “An award-winning professor from the University has followed in the footsteps of Indiana Jones by cracking the code of a 600 year old manuscript, deemed as ‘the most mysterious’ document in the world. Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics, has just become the first professional linguist to crack the code of the Voynich manuscript using an analytical approach. The world-renowned manuscript is full of illustrations of exotic plants, stars, and mysterious human figures, as well as many pages written in an unknown text. 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.” So what’s it about? Bax says it “is probably a treatise on nature.” More on the manuscript here.
  • The Houston Chronicle profiles its local Santeria community. Quote: “Disciples fill Faizah Perry’s sunny suburban Houston home for a day of worship as chanting emanates from a sheet-curtained side room in which she divines the future and enacts other secret rituals. Perry, a priestess, feels a deep spiritual connection to a saint-like “patron” called Ogun and predicts events channeling other spirits using sacred seashells. Her faith is called Santeria, a religion grounded in African beliefs that were transported to the New World aboard slave ships and melded with Christian beliefs in Cuba. By at least one survey now a decade old, there were about 22,000 Santeria practitioners active in the United States.”
  • Catholic magazine America wrings its hands over secularization in the United States and what that means for religious liberty. Quote: “To be blunt: Religious people who hold traditional values are in the way of what many powerful people want. We are in the way of widespread acceptance of abortion, unrestricted embryonic stem cell research and experimentation with fetal tissue. We are in the way of doctor-assisted suicide, euthanasia and the mercy-killing of genetically defective infants. We are in the way of new reproductive technologies, which will become more important as our society makes sex more sterile. We are in the way of gay rights and the redefinition of marriage. We are in the way of the nones and the engaged progressives and their larger goal of deconstructing traditional moral limits so that they can be reconstructed in accord with their vision of the future.” Will someone get me my smelling salts? I think I might swoon with worry.
  • A woman has filed suit against the hotel chain W Hotels, claiming she was dismissed after employee rumors emerged that she practiced Vodou and witchcraft. Quote: “The plaintiff claims shortly before her termination, employees spread rumors about Hall being much older than she looks and that she is a practitioner of evil witchcraft. Hall is of Haitian descent and believes these rumors linked her to discriminatory narratives of Voodoo. Hall accuses the W of denying her equal opportunity based on age and national origin.”
  • The Christian “singer” Carman, who famously penned a song slandering Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits, says that his terminal cancer is cured. Quote: “Less than a year after announcing his diagnosis with myeloma, an incurable form of cancer, Carman Licciardello now says he’s cancer-free. ‘They took tests (and there will be more) P.E.T., MRI, Bone biopsies ect [sic] and could find NO trace of Cancer,’ the former CCM star wrote on his Facebook page.” No doubt Carman will use this extension of life to make amends towards those he has wronged.

  • Philebrity showcases a short clip from a longer forthcoming documentary on Harry’s Occult Shop. Quote: “The clip above, which according to the Vimeo page is part of a longer (though still short) documentary on the legendary South Street shop, might be the first and likely last look inside the shop for many of you. And on this day-off for some and unproductive day for others, it’s just what you’ll need to kick-start your daydreaming at your desk.” The shop itself, sadly, seems to have gone online only (I think this is how it exists now).
  • Here’s another profile of New Age star Marrianne Williamson’s run for Congress, this time in the Weekly Standard. Quote: “In fact, at the moment, there is only one candidate running anything approaching a real campaign. Well, maybe “campaign” is the wrong word. It’s more a vision quest. If you live in Waxman’s district, Marianne Williamson doesn’t just want to represent you. She wants to save your soul.”
  • Meanwhile, Diane Winston at Religion Dispatches defends her congressional run, saying there’s nothing “woo” about her. Quote: “Williamson’s appeal is not based on what she wants to do but on why she is doing it. Since the 1970s, she said, the American left has abandoned the spiritual impulse that fueled movements for abolition, labor reform, women’s rights, civil rights and pacifism. For Williamson the spiritual impulse, the “self-actualization of the individual,” leads to a life of love and a beloved community embodied by a society that seeks the best for its citizens and their planet.”
  • The occult history of the television set. Quote: “The origin of the television set was heavily shrouded in both spiritualism and the occult, writes author Stefan Andriopoulos in his new book Ghostly Apparitions. In fact, as its very name implies, the television was first conceived as a technical device for seeing at a distance: like thetelephone (speaking at a distance) and telescope (viewing at a distance), the television was intended as an almost magical box through which we could watch distant events unfold, a kind of technological crystal ball.”
  • The Phoenix Business Journal looks at the rise and fall of New Age guru James Arthur Ray, who was recently released from prison for negligent homicide in a deadly sweat lodge ceremony gone wrong. Quote: “I lost everything tangible, and ended up millions of dollars in debt,” he wrote. “I never thought I would be in this position. In the blink of an eye I lost my life savings, my business that took 20 years to build, my home, and my reputation. All gone in one fatal swoop. Four banks dropped me like a bad habit; they wouldn’t even allow me to have a checking account with them post the accident. My book publishers wouldn’t return my call.” You can read all of my coverage of Ray, here.

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.