Archives For Supernatural

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.

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  • In response to the burning of Kepari Leniata in Papua New Guinea, covered here at The Wild Hunt yesterday, Amnesty International and the United Nation’s human rights office have both urged the government to take “concrete” actions to stop witch-killings in the Commonwealth nation. Quote: “We urge the Government to put an end to these crimes and to bring perpetrators of attacks and killings to justice through thorough, prompt and impartial investigations in accordance with international law […] We note with great concern that this case adds to the growing pattern of vigilante attacks and killings of persons accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea […] We urge the Government to take urgent action to prevent further cases through education, to provide protection to persons accused of sorcery and witnesses of sorcery-related killings, and to provide medical and psychosocial treatment for victims.” Let us hope that the death of Kepari Leniata was not in vain, and this will trigger safeguards against this horror happening again in Papua New Guinea. 
  • The Pagan Newswire Collective bureau in Minnesota reports on the 6th anniversary of the Upper Midwest Pagan Alliance, and debates whether there will be a 7th as membership has dwindled in recent years. Quote: “The organization notes that while over 300 people have been involved with UMPA over the past six years, membership has dwindled and that is prompting leadership to ask members and the community, ‘… does this mean UMPA is no longer needed? We don’t know. This is an opportunity gather for a great meal, entertainment, and to join in and discuss the future of UMPA; either find some new leadership and participation, or dissolve the organization and pass on any funds raised to another non-profit.'”
  • Author and magician Donald Michael Kraig has been named “Acquisitions Editor: Magic(k) and Occult Topics” over at Llewellyn Worldwide and he wants you to write! Quote: “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the U.S. and Europe giving workshops. Everywhere I go I hear the same sort of thing, “I could write a better book!” Whenever I hear people say that I encourage them! “Please do! We need new books and better books all the time.” Some of the people I’ve encouraged have gone on to write numerous popular books. They had the determination to do the work and see it through to the end. I congratulate them!” Congratulations to Kraig on his new role! 
  • Science Fiction blog io9 takes the new film version of The Sorcerer and the White Snake to task for making a religious/supernatural persecutor the hero, when he should have been the villain. Quote: “If [Jet] Li had simply been a villain — or if the movie had allowed him to be –- White Snake could have surpassed a lot of the limitations it sets upon itself; one genuinely interesting performance can make up for a lot of mediocre special effects. In one version of the original Chinese fairy tale, Fahai actually is the villain — although he’s a vengeful terrapin demon who takes the form of a monk, rather than an actual monk. But I can’t help but think that would have been a better choice for everyone.”
  • While I’m on the subject of io9, they review a recent episode of the show Supernatural that apparently had an abundance of OTO/Crowley references. Quote: “Last night’s episode of Supernatural had a lot to offer: a hot lady in a great 1950s dress, several Aleister Crowley references, and at least one trip to the coolest comic book store in the world.” [Hat-tip Invocatio]
  • It seems that Satan totally loves the full moon.
  • What do you do when you rely on the conservative Christian vote, but know that the country is getting more and more religiously diverse? Can you please one without alienating the other? Quote: “The challenge confronting the GOP as it attempts to broaden its base is not limited to Jewish voters. A survey conducted by Pew last year found that more than six in ten (61%) non-Christian affiliated Americans (a group that includes Hindus, Jews and Muslims) agreed that ‘religious conservatives have too much control over the Republican Party.’ Nearly two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated Americans also affirmed this statement. These groups are among the fastest-growing religious communities in the U.S. And if the GOP is serious about appealing to these voters, its candidates must navigate the difficult path of keeping conservative Christians engaged and committed while not appearing beholden to them.”
A fiasidi pauses to say a silent prayer while sweeping the pathway between the shrines for the male Togbui Adzima deity and his wife, Mama Wena in the sacred forest. Photo: Dana Romanoff/The Revealer

A fiasidi pauses to say a silent prayer while sweeping the pathway between the shrines for the male Togbui Adzima deity and his wife, Mama Wena in the sacred forest. Photo: Dana Romanoff/The Revealer

  • The Revealer looks at life in and around the Adzima shrines in Ghana. Quote: “While visitors shape much of the activity in the shrines, they are also homes for the priests, their wives and their children. Since a priest is rarely allowed to leave the proximity of the shrine, his wives take turns staying with him and cooking his meals. The priests’ wives have their own homes nearby, built for them either by the priest or on their own, where they reside intermittently, along with their children or relatives. The priest’schildren visit daily, asking for lunch money and school fees. The shrines are not simply or only religious spaces—they’re households, with children running around, studying for school, preparing meals, washing clothes, and entertaining guests.” This is an amazing piece, please go read the whole thing.
  • Rev. Irene Monroe writes about how Haitian Vodou is accepting of LGBTQ people, even if some of the individual practitioners are not. Quote: “Gay males in Haitian Vodou embrace the divine protection of Erzulie Freda, the feminine spirit of love and sexuality. Gay males are allowed to imitate and worship her. Lesbians are under the patronage of Erzulie Dantor, a fierce protector of women and children experiencing domestic violence. Erzulie Dantor is bisexual and prefers the company women. Labalèn is a gynandrous or intersexual spirit. And LaSirèn who is the Vodou analogue of Yemayá, a maternal spirit, is a revered transgender.”
  • Oh, and Vodou didn’t cause the Superbowl blackout, in case you were wondering
  • At HuffPo ReligionPagan and interfaith minister Wes Isley has an honest question about grief. Quote: “Maybe that sense of spiritual isolation after grief is universal no matter what faith we practice. And maybe I’ll feel more like my old self in six months or so. But what if I don’t? What if I abandon this Pagan path? I’ve already lost my partner; must I lose my faith, too? This brings me to my central dilemma: Whatever spiritual path we choose should be able to sustain us through the toughest of times; if it fails to do so, is it worth keeping? Once before, I changed my faith when it no longer made sense and failed to sustain. Is that about to happen again?” Maybe some of my wiser readers can help him out? 

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.

The Cook County Crackdown: If you thought unconstitutional and redundant laws against fortune telling only happened down south, think again. The Cook County Illinois board of commissioners (that would be the county Chicago is located in) are proposing a new ordinance that would ban “fraud” under the guise of spiritual services for pay.

“The proposal, from Commissioners Edwin Reyes, Bridget Gainer and Gregg Goslin, includes a swath of spirituality. It would affect mediumship, palmistry, card reading, astrology, seership, “crafty science,” and fortune telling that might take place as gatherings, circles and seances. “This was something that was highlighted to say there is a variety of different things out there that could be covered by certain deceptive practices,” Gainer says. She says the measure was suggested by the sheriff’s department, and that more people dealing with a tough economy might be hoodwinked by frauds posing as spiritual leaders.”

First off, there are already laws against fraud and deceptive business practices in Illinois, and I can’t see how this new ordinance would have protected a recent high-profile Chicago-area victim of the old-as-the-hills “cursed money” scam. Further, how will this ordinance, if passed, be enforced, and who gets to decide what’s fraud? If you pay for a reading at a party, can you call the cops the next day? If you drop $20 when the local Pagan group passes the hat and you later have buyers remorse, can you press charges? The language is so broad (“circles”, “gatherings”), that it easily includes any Pagan ritual where any sort of money changes hands. Since this proposed ordinance doesn’t seem to ban charging for “spiritual services” per-se, how will it actually prevent the most outrageous instances of blatant grifting?

Another Interview with Alex Mar: “American Mystic” director Alex Mar is interviewed by MTV Tr3s about her documentary, which features Pagan priestess Morpheus Ravenna, and discusses gaining the trust of her subjects, her own background, and resources for folks interested in modern Paganism.

“That’s an interesting question. First off, let me say that I’m not advocating any one spiritual path over another. But that said, I know WitchVox to be a useful site for pagans or people who are pagan-curious to connect locally. I was told over and over again how much easier it’s become for people who are curious about different forms of witchcraft to find mentors now that the Internet exists. The Wild Hunt is a widely read pagan blog about the latest politics and culture that’s relevant to the pagan community. And there are major conventions a few times a year where young witches, warlocks, Druids, you name it, get together and mix and network and learn new techniques and dance to gothic metal bands.”

I’d like to thank Alex for the plug, and note that the “gothic metal band” she’s most likely referring to is Pandemonaeon, who played at this year’s Pantheacon. “American Mystic” is currently playing at the The Tribeca Film Festival, and is one of twelve entries in the festival’s World Documentary Feature Competition for 2010.

Guess Who Else Didn’t Like That Episode of  Supernatural: It wasn’t just Pagans who were a bit annoyed by the Supernatural episode “Hammer of the Gods”, where various non-Christian deities were portrayed as shallow flesh-eaters getting worked over by Satan, Hindu activist Rajan Zed (you may remember him as the Hindu priest who got heckled by Christians on the Senate floor) blasts the show for its portrayal of Ganesha and Kali.

“Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Lord Ganesh and Goddess Kali were highly revered in Hinduism and such absurd depiction of them with no scriptural backing was hurtful to the devotees. Ganesh and Kali were meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be thrown around loosely in reimagined versions for dramatic effects in TV series.”

Even Annalee Newitz at io9, a fan of the show, slammed the episode, saying it should never have been made.

“My point is just that this episode, in attempting to answer that “what about other gods?” question, made things infinitely worse than if we’d just been left wondering. Now we’re left thinking that somehow Christian deities are more powerful than any other deities in the world. Dean goes so far as to call them “just monsters.” Which A) doesn’t really fit the show’s premise, which is that Christianity is one mythological system among many; and B) makes it seem that Supernatural buys into the idea that Christianity is somehow the “best” or “most powerful” mythological system out there. Thumbs down on that one.”

Many have defended Supernatural as an “equal opportunity offender”, but I’m not sure that’s true. While Christian themes are treated lightly and irreverently at times, it still acknowledges and reinforces the inherent supreme power of the Christian mythos. It has also been careful to steer clear of the third rail of secular pop-culture fantasy portrayals of Christianity by not making Jesus (or even God for that matter) a character. Supernatural, in other words, doesn’t mind being flip about Hinduism, Taoism, Vodou, or Paganism, but won’t court real controversy by having Jesus (or the Virgin Mary) show up and throw down.

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

Tracking Pagan themes in movies and television is a bit like waiting for the bus, nothing comes for a long time, then suddenly it seems like every show on TV has a Witch or Pagan in it. This past week was kind of like that, with three network television shows featuring (or about to feature) Witches or Pagan gods. Let’s take them order, shall we?

First, the medical drama House, in this week’s episode “Knight Fall,” featured a renfaire knight with a mysterious ailment (naturally) and a predilection for Witchcraft. The Llewellyn Worldwide blog talks about how they provided some of the props.

“A few months back, members of Llewellyn’s Publicity staff were contacted by the producers of the Fox television program House with a request to use Llewellyn titles as props in an upcoming episode. The episode of House, “Knight Fall,” featuring two titles by Llewellyn’s very own Raven Digitalis aired this week! If you look closely in the images below you’ll notice the distinct covers of Goth Craft and Shadow Magick Compendium in these screen shots from the episode.”

Was the Witchcraft/occult stuff treated respectfully? Not really. It is House after all, and all non-scientific belief is up for mockery and debunking on that show. Plus, the “knight” who’s into Witchcraft (and has a copy of the “Necronomicon”, natch) is revealed to be a bit of a naive hypocritical twit, so I’m not sure why Llewellyn thinks this was good exposure for Raven, but no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Then we come to the show Supernatural, and the episode “Hammer of the Gods”. This one didn’t feature modern Pagans, but did feature a whole lot of Pagan gods, and you may not like how they were portrayed.

“It’s not surprising, then, that when “Hammer of the Gods” brings in a pantheon of pagan wonders, from Odin to Baldur to Baron Samedi to Kali herself, the gods don’t do much in the way of being ineffable, and they have a thing for eating human meat … There are gods among us, specifically those who aren’t involved with the Apocalypse to be, and they’re getting scared. Their solution: kidnap the Winchesters, and try and bargain their way out of Doomsday. It’s sort of like Neil Gaiman by way of Tobe Hooper.”

Not only are the Pagan gods largely portrayed as amoral one-dimensional human flesh-eaters, but are totally ineffective against Lucifer when he shows up to take them down.

“For all the build up, the gods are surprisingly easy for Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) to dispatch when he arrives. It is a typical Supernatural bloody mess of a fight but it is a little disappointing that for all their talk they are not able to put up much of a struggle. The exception is Kali (Battlestar Galactica‘s Rekha Sharma; also currently seen on V) who attempts to use supernatural power to fight him off. Balder’s death makes the least sense since he seems to just walk up to Lucifer, only to have the fallen angel’s fist go right through his chest. And even with Kali showing off her power during the fight, she is still relegated to escaping with the Winchesters in their car. She needs a car to get away, really?”

Now I suppose the case could be made for the whole belief=power trope I’ve seen many writers use. More folks believe in Satan than Odin after all, so he could, using this justification, just waltz through some gods, but there are around a billion people who believe in Kali and Ganesha, and they’re largely ineffective too? The underlying message here is that pagan gods thrived on human sacrifice, and that’s where their power in the world comes from, while the Christian mythos is free of such limitations and constraints. This view of divinity in Supernatural has been explored before, only this time it’s being applied across the board to non-Christian forms of divinity. So Supernatural is, underneath the b-movie horror trappings,  triumphalist in orientation.

Finally, we come to the forensics/cop dramedy Bones, and an episode, “The Witch in the Wardrobe”, that will air on May 6th. A special installment written by author Kathy Reichs, who created the characters the series is based on, it will be based in Salem and feature Witches both old and new.

“A cabin burns down in the woods revealing two bodies, one of a modern-day witch and one from the days of the Salem Witch Trials, leading Booth and Brennan into the world of Wicca to find a killer. Meanwhile, when Hodgins’ reckless driving gets him and Angela arrested and thrown in jail, Sweets and intern Clark Edison (guest star Eugene Byrn) step into unfamiliar territory to help out the team.”

Now, I’m somewhat hopeful in this case, since Reichs has sympathetically tackled Wicca before in her novels. But I also know that Salem + Witches + television doesn’t always equal something that will reflect well on the larger Pagan community. So we’ll have to wait and see.

Also, in a quick non-pop-culture note, I’d like to thank Terry Mattingly (of Get Religion fame) for mentioning The Wild Hunt in his most recent column about the state of religious journalism today. Check it out, as it says some interesting things about the future of religious news.

I have a few, well, odder, odds-and-ends for you this Sunday. Starting with a seemingly improbable mystic super-hero, Wiccan author Raven Grimassi. Grimassi, along with his wife Stephanie, appear in the latest issue of the “empowering” (and not safe for work) soft-core comic “Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose”.

Raven & Stephanie in action.

“…it’s a battle between Raven Hex, Raven Grimassi, and his wife. That name may or may not mean anything to you, but Grimassi is a reknowned author of numerous books on Wicca and Witchcraft. Within the world of Tarot, he’s also the keeper of the Library of Magick and, alongside his wife, more than a match for Raven Hex.”

Raven Grimassi also conveys important life-lessons about ancient wisdom and seeking for knowledge, though I don’t know how effective “Tarot” is as a vehicle for such wisdom-teachings. Let’s just say that it is incredibly disconcerting to see Raven Grimassi talk about the “Library of Magick” when his head is placed right next to a gigantic, well, cameltoe (the above panel is, in fact, one of the few that is “work safe”). Will people, after reading this work, be unable to think of him without recalling that his cartoon stand-in was kicked in the face by a semi-nude woman with improbable (even by comic standards) breasts? One wonders which “Craft superstars” they will recruit to appear in the comic next. If you’d like to purchase this comic (soon, no doubt, to be a collectors item), it’s available at the Broadsword Comics web site.

Switching our pop-culture gears slightly, we turn from occult cheesecake comics to cheesy occult television. It seems that the most recent episode of the CW Network show “Supernatural” featured a shape-shifting “forest god” that needed killing.

“Turns out the monster is a washed-up forest god whose old stomping grounds were razed to make room for a Yugo factory. Her worshipers used to hand themselves over to her rapturously, allowing her to eat them for sustenance. But now that the whole “old school religion” sacrifice thing isn’t common anymore, the god has to take on the forms of celebrities to eat people. As long as it munches on people who adore it, the god is satisfied. Plus it gives Sam and Dean a little lecture on how celebrities are the new gods…”

It’s a plot-point that should warm the cockles of multi-media magicians everywhere. Naturally the final form the fallen god takes is that of Paris Hilton, who bemoans the fact that people have lost touch with “old-time religion” before having her head chopped off. You can watch the entirety of “Fallen Idol” at the CW Supernatural web site. I’m not sure exactly where this sits on my personal offended/amused scale of things, but you have to give them points for originality. It isn’t often a forest god takes the form of Gandhi and tries to eat someone.

In a final note that is sadly not fiction, a publicity-starved occultist, “Magus” Lynius Shadee, claims he has conjured a demon inside a Catholic church in Cambridge that could drive parishioners to suicide.

“Magus Lynius Shadee says the demon could possess parishioners and drive them to suicide. He claims to have instructed the evil spirit to “dwell” in the famous church to “cleanse it”. The occultist, who calls himself the King of All Witches, says he let loose the entity to prey on worshippers at the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Hills Road.”

This brazenly idiotic publicity stunt came in the wake of vocal concerns by local Christian church leaders over Shadee opening up an occult center near Cambridge University. Shadee is yet another sad, self-proclaimed, “king of all witches”, who needs to stir the pot in order to feed his no-doubt incessant need for attention. I hate to say it, but I’m rather rooting for the Catholic exorcists in this instance.

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