Archives For spells

Internet auction house eBay recently released their Fall 2012 Seller Update, which, starting in September, prohibits the sale of divination services (including tarot readings), spells, tutoring services, and potions. The reason for this move, according to eBay, is to “build confidence in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers.”

“Transactions in these categories often result in issues between the buyer and seller that are difficult to resolve. To help build confidence in the marketplace for both buyers and sellers, eBay is discontinuing these categories and including the items on the list of prohibited items.”

In short, if you’re dissatisfied with the spell to give you a big butt, it’s hard to quantify if the “product” had been delivered, and what the proper expectations on booty enhancement magic is. Because of the (usually inadvertently) comical nature of many of the spells  being sold on eBay, long a source of easy snark on the Internet, sites like Mashable, The Mary SueJezebel, and even mainstream news outlets, have been having a bit of fun with the news.

“In its 2012 Fall Seller Update, the online marketplace said it was banning all sales of supernatural goods and services, exiling its witchy and wizardly clientele to the wilds of Craigslist and other Web-based Diagon Alleys.”

It should be noted before we go any further that magical items, physical objects that have an attributable value, are not banned under this change. Spokeswoman Johnna Hoff told Tiffany Hsu at the Los Angeles Times that such items would be allowed in most cases.

“It’s important to note that items that have a tangible value for the item itself and may also be used in metaphysical rites and practices (ie  jewelry, crystals, incense, candles, and books) are allowed in most cases.”

Which means most of the products in the Wicca and Paganism section of eBay are safe, at least for now. A comfort, no doubt, to the many Pagan vendors and shop-owners who supplement their income by placing items on the site. However, the banning of spellwork, and especially tarot readings, should be explored with greater depth. Pagans in the community seems somewhat split over this move by eBay, some, like Patti Wigington, About.com’s Paganism & Wicca Guide, see this as a smart move by the company.

“…this isn’t a case of religious discrimination at all – it’s a case of a business realizing that customers are being made victims of fraud by unscrupulous sellers – and putting practices in place to prevent the problem from continuing. It does not say “No Wiccans, No Pagans, No Druids.” It says no magic, spells or potions, or prayers — that’s an entirely separate thing. Personally, I’m a little sad Ebay has done this, because it means fewer things for me to make fun of, but it’s definitely a smart business decision.”

Others, meanwhile, see this a chilling move that could start a domino effect, marginalizing tarot readers and magicians from mainstream commerce sites. Some have pointed out that PayPal is owned by eBay, and a similar shift in their policies to be more in line with up-and-coming companies like Square, could have a disastrous impact on small Pagan business that rely on divination services as an important part of their income (it should be noted that Google Checkout used to ban “occult goods,” but don’t anymore). Patheos blogger Kris Bradley, while acknowledging the rationale for this new prohibition, is worried that companies like Etsy might soon follow eBay’s lead.

“I admit I’m a bit torn on the subject.  While I see the possible beginning of the end for sellers on sites like this, I won’t be sad to see the sham “spell casters” go, and the end of taking advantage of desperate people with promises of something that can’t possibly be delivered.  As I sell products of a magical variety, I definitely don’t want to lose my Etsy shop.”

As a private business, eBay, and other online retailers are free to limit what product and services they’ll allow. That said, it is troubling that managing complaints and fraud resulted in a total ban of selling divination and magical work. Recent courtroom decisions have leaned towards defining divination, tarot readings, and other psychic services as protected speech, which could have actually helped push eBay away from trying to simply regulate it on their site. After all, who wants to be the ultimate arbiter of what sorts of speech are acceptable, and which kinds are not? Being in the business of selling speech and expression will always be volatile, and it looks like eBay wanted out, the question now is what the ramifications of this move will be for Internet commerce.

For those faith traditions that incorporate magic and spellwork into their practices, Wicca, Santeria, Vodou, and any number of modern Pagan faiths, the urge to invoke supernatural help to solve a problem is sometimes overwhelming. This is especially true when an individual feels limited in what they can do in their day-to-day lives to remove an obstacle or improve their situation. That said, if you’re careless, casting spells on your boss could get you fired.

“Officer Elizabeth Torres, a 24-year department veteran, was terminated by City Manager Lyndon Bonner for conduct unbecoming of a police officer, according to a city news release. […] Torres and office manager Yvonne Rodriguez had been accused of targeting Bonner with birdseed, which they believed to be part of a Santeria practice. The two had allegedly planned to scatter the seeds in and around Bonner’s city hall office in August. The alleged plan was concocted after Bonner had planned to cut the police budget, but was discovered after Torres and Rodriguez asked a janitor to help sprinkle the seeds, and the janitor turned them in.”

Both parties involved in the spell plot claim nothing malicious was intended, but it wasn’t enough to save their jobs. So, I guess there’s something of an object lesson here. At the very least, it reinforces the need to not incriminate yourself through accomplices or risky physical manifestations of your work. If it can’t be accomplished at home, or at a private temple, it might not be worth it.

However, underneath this cautionary tale is the larger issue of how businesses, law enforcement, and government should approach spells and spellwork. What’s protected expression, and what’s harassment, or improper conduct? As religions and traditions that engage in magic increasingly enter the mainstream, a larger ethos as to what’s acceptable and what crosses the line will increasingly be needed. What if there wasn’t birdseed, what if they were merely caught after hours chanting, praying, or reading from a book? What if, as Tim Elfrink at the Miami New Times posits, they were Christians caught praying? Would that still be improper conduct? I think we’ll continue to see cases like this in the news, and working their way through the court systems. Until then, I would keep the curses at home.

Top Story: Are you a Pagan family in North Carolina that would like to take a day or two off for holiday observances? A new North Carolina law would let you keep your kids home from school with an excused absence.

“It requires all school systems, community colleges and public universities to allow students at least two excused absences each academic year for religious observances. The law standardizes an informal practice. But some administrators hope it won’t create exam-week havoc.”

Sounds like a net positive, right? Practitioners of minority faiths that don’t have observances that overlap with existing Christian holidays can include the kids without hassle, and college students can attend a scheduled event without worry of hurting their GPA. But a comment from Rep. Rick Glazier, who co-sponsored the bill, have some worried about how it will be applied.

“It has to be a bona fide holiday; you don’t get to just take the day off because you want to pray at home.”

So who decides what’s a “bona fide” holiday? Will the school take the parent’s word for it? The law is vague on this point, only saying that schools can request a letter of explanation if they want. Faith & Reason’s Cathy Lynn Grossman notes the law could make minority faiths have to “prove their religiosity”, but it’s more the “praying at home” bit that I’m concerned about. If your “church” is the living room, or an open field, or a forest, does it still count as bona fide? It should be interesting to see how this law is enacted by different schools, and see how it handles Pagan requests for days off.

Guilty Sentence For Cop-Dragging Pagan Priestess: A Magistrate has found Eilish De Avalon, who gained international noteriety last month for dragging a cop by the arm during a routine traffic stop, guilty of recklessly causing injury. De Avalon, who is currently out on bail pending an appeal, made tabloid headlines by announcing she was a “pagan priestess”, and that man-made laws didn’t apply to her, much to the chagrin of other local Pagans who said that incident has set back local interfaith efforts. In a press release, the Australian Pagan Awareness Network (PAN) blasted those who were using this incident to put her beliefs, and by extension the beliefs of all Australian Pagans, on trial.

“The media has done its best to put Ms De Avalon on trial in the court of public opinion for her beliefs as well as her actions. I doubt they would bother if she were a Catholic or a Hindu or practically any other religion. What is the big deal about practicing an indigenous European belief like witchcraft? When it comes to the law, people’s actions are what matter.”

It remains to be seen what will happen next. I can’t imagine she’ll win on appeal with the involuntary “autonomous state” defense she used in the first trial. As for the reputation of Pagans in Australia, perhaps the soon-to-be-airing episode of Rituals: Around the World in 80 Faiths (which I covered here previously) that features Australian Pagans will help things a bit.

A Cuban Santera on Faith, Possession, and Divination: Journalism student Kelly Knaub interviews Cuban Santera Iyalocha Lourdes about her faith for the Havana Times, and undergoes a purification ritual as well. During the interview Iyalocha Lourdes goes into some detail on the matter of possession by spirits, which I found quite interesting.

“In the beginning you lose consciousness. It’s a process of spiritual development. Right now you’re an embryon – a person that doesn’t have the potential or capability to be a medium. Right now, that’s you – you don’t have any knowledge. You come to my temple to develop yourself spiritually, which means to process and open yourself and become a spiritualist. So, in the beginning, I pull the spirits so that they possess you. You lose consciousness, you don’t remember anything.

As the years go by, and you continue perfecting and working more with your spirituality, a moment will come when you’re seated, like I am, and a spirit comes to you and you speak, sometimes also in a conscious state and you can remember it. But this comes with practice.”

They also talk about gender within Santeria, “false spiritualists” who only do it for the money, and animal sacrifice. It’s definitely worth a read, especially since most mainstream journalism about Santeria doesn’t tend to allow this much detail or insight into their practices.

The Welsh Witch Problem: It seems that rural Wales is a hotbed of occult and strange happenings being reported to the police. A recent Freedom of Information Act request reveals that residents in places like Powys, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire are having all sorts of supernatural problems, including “witches” behaving badly.

The force, which covers Mid and West Wales, has received 86 reports of witches in the last five years. The force’s police incident log reveals details of the calls. One caller reported “that one individual is a witch and had attended at the house to put salt around the bed”. A caller in January last year claimed he had been fed a “fur ball” during a witchcraft ritual. Following a call from Llanelli, police recorded: “Caller, who was drunk, who rang regarding a gang of witches who want to sacrifice him.” Another call was a report of a “malicious communication: rumours that an individual’s mother is a witch”.

OK, which tradition’s been feeding people fur balls? There were also reports of ghosts, vampires, demons, and wizards, but witches topped the list. The Dyfed Powys Police downplayed these reports, saying they are far more ordinary taken in context, though local paranormal experts insist this is just further proof that “Wales is a frighteningly haunted country”. That still doesn’t explain the fur ball. Was it from a cat? Is it a euphemism? What?

I Can Only Imagine the Internet Spam I’ll Get Now: Plenty of places on the net are getting a decent chuckle over an Ebay auction that is selling a spell by a “powerful Wiccan Witch” to increase the size of your, ahem, “booty”.

“Are you desperate to achieve the perfect butt and perhaps a fan of the occult? For just $8.95, you can achieve your dreams by buying one “Booty Enhancement Spell” from a “Powerful Wiccan Witch” on eBay. Hurry, supplies are limited!”

There’s also a spell for breast enhancement. The powerful “Amelia” (it that’s her real name) claims that she’s “used this [spell] many times with stunning results!” But just in case, buying multiple castings ensures greater chances for success (naturally). There’s always been spell-peddlers in our community, but this level of brazenness and scammy-spammy-vibes may take this to a new high/low. One wonders what old Gerald would have to say about booty-boosting spells.

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

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

We’ll start off with the shameless plug department of The Wild Hunt, head over to John Morehead’s blog to read an interview with me concerning issues in Pagan-Christian dialog.

“I’m a big believer that Pagans shouldn’t isolate themselves. While we are growing quickly, we are still a tiny, and often misunderstood, minority. What Christians do and think can have serious ramifications on us, and we would be foolish to ignore that. Not to mention the fact that the million-plus Pagans in America alone have millions of Christian relatives, friends, and co-workers. A rational and peaceful dialog is the only way forward from the tensions that produce “Satanic Panics”, bitter custody fights, lost jobs, broken friendships, and isolated families. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to find away to get along.”

This discussion is just one of many to be spurred by the new book “Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue”. Expect interviews with the two main participants of “Beyond the Burning Times”, Philip Johnson and Gus diZerega, on this blog in the near future.

Christian prayer or Pagan spells, which will prevail!? We may soon find out. Focus on the Family’s Stuart Shepard is imploring Christians to pray for “umbrellas-aint-gonna-help-you” amounts of rain to fall on Barack Obama’s outdoor acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Meanwhile, Isaac Bonewits unveils the latest edition of “Spells for Democracy” where he asks for coordinated (ethical) spell-work to, among other things, unearth scandals or personality flaws of your “least favorite candidate”.

“Cast a revelation spell around your least-favorite candidate, to expose any aspects of their history or personality that would make them unfit for office.”

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Obama gets rained on, while McCain get embroiled in a major ethical scandal? Would we be left with a celestial stalemate? The theological implications are boggling.

Racist idiots are garnering more bad press for Asatru. A skinhead in Arizona was arrested after threatening a group of Hispanic people (who were quietly mourning the death of a loved one) with a shovel and a knife.

“Peters then yelled that he wanted his step-daughter and raised a shovel saying he was a skinhead and would kill someone, court records say. Peters realized he was outnumbered and backed down from the confrontation. He was arrested nearby, court records say. Court records said Peters told police he was looking for his step-daughter and said he was a skinhead and wanted to intimidate the group of Hispanic people. He also told Mesa police he pulled out a knife, court records say.”

Once in custody, Kelley Peters thought it was a good idea to tell the court that he had Hitler tattoos and that he was an adherent of Asatru (which the article claims is “a common practice in the Skinhead culture”). Another moron without honor sullying a religion he probably has no deep understanding of.

The Ashland Daily Tidings reports on the formation of a new Pagan preschool by Rowan Tree Pagan Ministries.

“Rowan Tree Director of Children’s Programs Selyna Faola’n plans to offer Rowan Academy, a preschool and kindergarten program for children ages 3 to 5, starting Sept. 22. The program can proceed if it meets an enrollment minimum of 10 students, but Faola’n said she could go ahead with as few as seven. Rowan Tree Pagan Ministries is an organization that offers programs and resources for the Southern Oregon pagan community. The group received its nonprofit certificate this week. The Rowan Tree Pagan Art and Ritual Supply Shop, which serves as a community hub, is located in the Underground Marketplace downtown.”

The article, unfortunately, has attracted some anonymous trolls who begin to find any weak points (real or imagined) in which to mock the subjects of the piece. A sadly common event now proving John Gabriel’s Greater Internet F*****d Theory, and calling into question the utility of appending the ability to comment to everything on the web. Luckily, I’m blessed with a thoughtful and intelligent bunch of commenters here, and have never had to entertain abandoning the ongoing dialog with my readers.

In the wake of tragedy, Unitarian-Universalists keep the faith.

“Across the country, as well as in the Washington area, hundreds of Unitarian Universalist congregations held services and candlelight vigils this week after a deadly rampage at a Knoxville, Tenn., church to show support for their denomination’s long-standing progressive tradition … At the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax in Oakton, about 60 people from five UU congregations in Northern Virginia came together for a service Monday evening. Bill Welch, the congregation’s minister for programs, talked about how isolating it can be to be a liberal in today’s world of right-wing talk radio and conservative Christians “that talk about liberals as if we are bad people.” “In our prayers, we should remember that we’re not alone, that there are people who share our beliefs, that we are part of a larger body,” Welch said.”

The article notes the Unitarian-Universalism’s post-Christian identity, and that modern Pagans are included and welcomed within the denomination.

In a final note, Canada’s National Press pays tribute to the “riches of ancient Greece”, and raises some interesting questions about the goddess Nike.

“Nike, goddess of victory, has emerged in our time as the greatest celebrity among all the Greek divinities. On the streets of every city, sweaty worshippers proclaim their love on T-shirts and shoes. Nike was always impressive: Look at her as the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a don’t-miss-this stop for every tourist in Paris who gets to the Louvre. Still, she was hardly in the top rank. She was an attendant of Zeus, the chief god, and now she’s eclipsed him in every gym in the world. Zeus doesn’t even have a line of underwear named after him. She’s made him an also ran.”

Is Zeus still the king? Perhaps we should consult Tom
Stone
, who recently published a biography of the great thunderer.

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