Archives For Thelema

[The following is a guest post from Erick DuPree. Erick DuPree is author of the popular blog Alone In Her Presence, and the book Alone In Her Presence: Meditations on the Goddess, as well as co-founder of Dharma Pagan, an online resource for dharma practitioners. He lives in Philadelphia, PA.]

They came by the blazing fire, circling and singing, invoking the Goddesses and Gods of old. There was dancing, merriment, deep reflection; even a few tears, all from the men of Coph Nia.

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Coph Nia is a mystical gathering of gay and bisexual men organized and sponsored by the Ordo Aeternus Vovin, a Thelemic, ceremonial magickal order for gay and bisexual men that was held August 6-10.

Founder of the event, Julian Hill explains,

“The organizers of Coph Nia started the festival with a simple vision based upon a verse from Crowley’s Book of the Law — “Every Man and Every Woman is a Star”.  Many of us had come out into a queer community that was far more united, compassionate, loving and respectful than what is typically experienced in today’s queer community.  We knew that if there was to be any hope of reclaiming a queer community that nurtured and supported one another, the process must start with those that feel a connection to spirit.  This year’s event definitely gives us hope that not only are there other spiritually minded men who feel as we do, but that they will be the vanguards for a new type of queer community that focuses on building each other up rather than tearing us down.” 

Open to long-time practitioners and new seekers, the event started with lighting an eternal fire at the drum circle, which burned the entire event. Here stories were told with master storyteller, Quill, dynamic drumming with Ben, as men raised voices in chant and song. With registration the festival includes a commemorative t-shirt, glow bracelet, and artfully designed program guide with poems and inspirational writing.

I had the pleasure of being invited as a featured presenter along with my colleagues Mel Mystery and Steve Kenson. Of the event, Steve offered this reflection:

“The element that rises most prominently for me at this moment is the connection we mentioned so often over the course of the gathering: the common threads that run between us, the experiences both shared and created, the back-and-forth and swirling dances of conversation, movement, thought, and interaction, the simple expressions of love and affection, and those unexpected moments of deep connection, where your soul says “Oh, there you are – I’ve been looking for you.”

The theme for Coph Nia: 2014 was Periculum, and focused on the risks or dangers of initiation. Each of the featured presenters, as well as the OAV presented workshops and rituals that explored initiation and/or enlightenment, empowering participants to bring their own risks and rewards and the process of conquering one’s fears.

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Mel Mystery and the men of Coph Nia explored the power creating Rites of Passage in three information packed workshops. Steve Kenson brought workshops on the intersection of magic and gaming, creating sustainable communities in the Aquarian Age, as well as his very popular Fires of the Queer Spirit. It was here that we saw some of the deepest and most heart opening sharing between men. For my part, I offered workshops in Tantric intuition and breathwork, as well as an exploration of Men in Goddess Community. From that workshop, the men of Coph Nia have developed a reflection for inclusion in the forthcoming anthology, Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral; Men in Ritual, Service and Community to the Goddess, being published by Immanion Press.

Travis offered this reflection on his experience.

“There was such a deep sense of inner connectedness which allowed my spirit to see beyond the veil of the mundane, that this is where I belong.”

10517544_10203235580664495_3779651843741708883_nRituals were offered nightly. Glen Velez opened the first night with a beautiful midnight Hekate ritual aspecting the Queen of Magick and serving as oracle. Supporting the theme of Periculum, OAV dedicants offered Tempting the Da’ath as a gateway into ecstatic practices in ritual with participants scrying, aspecting, and delving deep into mysteries, and Stealing the Me, a journey as Innana through her myths. The opening ritual invited the God Gugalanna who stayed present throughout the event. Gugalanna was also the focus of the main ritual, which breathtakingly invited participants to witness High Ceremonial Magick in true splendor. With drums and chanting, men came together united under Julian’s stellar priesting.

Of the ritual experience Monte shares, “The main ritual held on Saturday night is extremely powerful for those who have witnessed it at prior Coph Nia’s as well as equally powerful for those viewing it for the first time.  Even though we all experience the same happenings, each individual’s experience is unique and that is what makes it difficult to put into words.  What I experience will be completely different from what anyone else experiences.  However, three generalizations seems to come out of everyone’s mouths…a unique and positive brotherhood, a deep sense of connection, and an overwhelming sense of community.”

Radical Fairy, Eldritch lead a Heart Circle, Monte guided Tantric massage, and Queer Archivist, Rich Wandel reminded us of where we as gay men have been with an eye to the future.  But it was not all workshops and ritual, for we feasted sensuously and danced the night away, sang Queer-oke, and raised money for future Coph Nia festivals with a silent auction. The highlight of the silent auction was a limited edition RuPaul doll, needless to say, the bidding was fierce! (She went home with Glen Velez, naturally!)

From a logistic standpoint, Coph Nia is held at the beautiful 4 Quarters interfaith community in Artemas, PA. Camping with hot showers and flush toilets, 4 Quarters fed us like kings with food, both omnivore and vegetarian that was unbelievably delicious. The land was spacious, magical, and truly other worldly at times. Many rounded out the event activities with swimming at Hemlock Hole and nature walks.

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Each night brought us closer in community. One beat and one breath, culminating in a concert with enchanting harpist, Gaffer That Harp Guy, his songs and harp a serenade to Goddess herself.  “I feel like I found my tribe. I felt such resonance with the group.” said Mel Mystery.

“The experience of Coph Nia is more than can just be put into words.  It’s a feeling that comes form the connections you make with the people you meet, the people you reunite with, and/or the people you came with.  The energy created by throwing away the normal cliques and masks we hide behind creates an experience that provides a true sense of brotherhood.” said Monte. In the safety and love of brotherhood, the men of Coph Nia discovered that love is always stronger than fear. Love after all is still the law, unwavering.  Coph Nia was everything it advertised to be and more. “The common threads, stories and shared experiences of Coph Nia 2014 reminded each of us just how much we are alike.” said Julian Hill.

Coph Nia‘s dates are set for next year, August 5-9th 2015. For more information visit: www.cophnia.org.

Unleash the Hounds is one of my longest running, and popular, features at The Wild Hunt. It is, in essence, a link roundup. A place where I find stories in the mainstream media concerning Paganism, occult practices, indigenous religions, and other topics of interest to our interconnected communities. The birth of this series came out of necessity, as more stuff is being written now than I could possible write about in-depth week-to-week. If you enjoy this feature, please take some time to make a donation to our Fall Funding Drive, so we can continue to bring you this, and other features, for another year. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise over $4000 dollars in the first few days of our drive, let’s keep the momentum going, and be sure to spread the word! Now, on to the links!

  •  A House Oversight Committee hearing this Wednesday got so intense, that Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) decided to inject a little levity by asking Affordable Care Act Office Director Sarah Hall Ingram if she was a witch. Quote: “A Democratic Congressman mocked the GOP’s effort to demonize an IRS official during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday by asking her if she was a witch consorting with the devil. The official, Affordable Care Act Office Director Sarah Hall Ingram, said in response to questioning from Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) that she has never worked with the devil, could not fly, and was not responsible for perverting the youth ‘in Salem or anywhere else.’” One can only imagine what would have happened had the answer been: “yes, I am a Witch, one of the many New England traditional covens.” Whatever the case, satire is a tricky thing these days.
  • Speaking of witches and witchcraft, they are so very, very, hot right now (in pop-culture). Just ask CNN“So, maybe they’re a kind of gendered response to the suave, seductive male vampire figure. Or maybe it’s just cyclical, and all of the childhood fans of ‘Hocus Pocus,’ ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ and ‘Charmed’ are writing for TV now! [...] The featured supernatural characters on those shows are usually men, too (not exclusively, but overwhelmingly). These new witch characters are giving women more power and agency to control their destinies, instead of just being objects of desire in need of saving, which is a nice change.” The article notes that “Hollywood now can’t seem to get enough of witches.”
  • Did Roman aristocrats fabricate the story of Jesus? Probably not. But here’s a documentary claiming exactly that! Quote: “On October 19 Atwill will present some provocative new findings in London. Atwill’s thesis is that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats who fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ. Per Atwill: ‘The Caesars committed a crime against consciousness. They reached into the minds of their subjects and planted false concepts to make them easier to control.’ Atwill claims to have iron-clad proof of his claims.” Hey, remember all those religions that disappeared after various individuals debunked them? Yeah, me neither.
  • Fox News reports on the witchcraft tourist trade in Nicaragua. Quote: “Americans get dressed up for Halloween, take kids trick or treating, and tell tales about ghosts and witches. But in Nicaragua, some locals and curious tourists seek out real, live witches—or brujos, who claim to be able to cast spells on people and cure all sorts of ailments, including impotency, male pattern baldness and more.” The reporter spends a lot of time trying to see if the local witches will reveal secrets or do malefic magic for him. They seem, understandably, hesitant to indulge him.
  • Hammer Films has purchased the film rights to Jeanette Winterson’s novella “The Daylight Gate”, about one of England’s most infamous witch-trials. Quote: “I was interested to take the Hammer novella commission to write a good story around the notorious Pendle witch trials of 1612. Now I am intrigued and excited to see what new form these ghosts can inhabit. Stories from the past are always present; it is our imaginations that make it so.” The pop-culture witch trend continues…
A promotional still from American Horror Story: Coven.

A promotional still from American Horror Story: Coven.

  • A Flavorwire, Michele Dean can’t wait for pop-culture to embrace witchcraft once more. Quote: “In the 1990s, when I was a teenager, witches were everywhere. Today people often reference the Fairuza Balk/Neve Campbell movie The Craft as though it were the driver of that trend in the culture. But it actually came awfully late in my experience of fellow young-nerd-women who retreated into Wicca and Paganism as a way of coping with social ostracization. They weren’t the ordinary-looking witches of Charmed or even Buffy, but people who enjoyed wearing velvet chokers and thanking the Goddess and drawing Celtic runes. It was very often very silly, I agree, and there were certainly paths that even my extremely socially disenfranchised self declined to follow them down. But while their actual powers were a matter of dispute, just the practice and ritual seemed to be enough to give them a measure of much-needed self-respect.” A message to my fellow Witches out there, prepare for a new deluge. Seriously.
  • The Huffington Post interviews Incan Shaman Elena Radford. Quote: “That’s what a shaman does — tune into the energy of the environment: mountains, animals, plants, people in the past, and energies from other worlds. These skills that come through the heart allow a shaman to communicate with these different realities.” 
  • Oh, and did I mention that the New York Times has also chimed in about the pop-culture resurgence of the witch? Quote: “There’s something very beautiful about witch stories — the full moon, the mystery, the chants — but it’s also a way to explore female power [...] To me, witch stories are really female versions of superhero stories. They’re fantasies. And there’s something very potent about those fantasies. On one level, this is a fun yarn about women learning to use these supernatural gifts, but it’s also a metaphor for things that we all need to do in our lives, in our adulthood, to own who we really are and feel comfortable with it. To not be afraid to use our gifts.” Also, Glamour is totally on board with the return of witches.
  • Dangerous Minds (almost) attends a Gnostic Mass. They do not eat the Cakes of Light. Quote: “This is a special, invitational Gnostic Mass, and a couple, like me, are invitees (though presumably bona fide neophytes rather than tremulous hacks). At least one seems a little nervous, while the OTO initiates—mostly middle aged men with either long hair or none, each with unusually pale blue eyes—inspect us with that slightly salacious curiosity with which people on one side of an experience examine those at its verge. In the pub Adrian had referred to magick as ‘psychological transgression.’ I can see what he means! The atmosphere is a distinct mixture of the religious and the illicit—as if we were all here for an afternoon of metaphysical dogging.”
  • There’s a new edition of Robert Graves’ “The White Goddess” out, you can read an excerpt at Tor.com. Quote: “This labyrinthine and extraordinary book, first published more than sixty years ago, was the outcome of Robert Graves’ vast reading and curious research into strange territories of folklore, mythology, religion, and magic. Erudite and impassioned, it is a scholar-poet’s quest for the meaning of European myths, a polemic about the relations between man and woman, and also an intensely personal document in which Graves explored the sources of his own inspiration and, as he believed, all true poetry. This new edition has been prepared by Grevel Lindop, who has written an illuminating introduction. The text of the book incorporates all of Graves’s final revisions, his replies to two of the original reviewers, and a long essay in which he describes the months of inspiration in which The White Goddess was written.”

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. Don’t forget, make a donation to our Fall Funding Drive so The Wild Hunt can run for another year!

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.

Selena Fox's healing altar for the victims of the Boston attack.

Selena Fox’s healing altar for the victims of the Boston attack.

I’d like to begin by sending out my thoughts to all those who were affected by yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. There have been many Pagan responses to this still-unresolved tragedy, but I think Ár nDraíocht Féin Archdruid Rev. Kirk Thomas’ statement may be the best:

“We in ADF participate in a public religion. The gatherings of the folk are important for our communal worship of the Kindreds. Terrorists, such as those who bombed the Boston Marathon today, are counting on the fear of the people to disrupt our sense of community, that we may be isolated from each other, and thus lose our way. I believe that it is our duty as civilized people to resist this impulse, to find our courage, and so defy these enemies of Good, that our relationships with the Kindreds and with each other will continue to thrive.”

May the perpetrators be caught, may justice be done, may the wounded find care, and may the grieved find comfort.

Babugeri, Bansko, Bulgaria, 2010–2011 Charles Fréger, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Babugeri, Bansko, Bulgaria, 2010–2011
Charles Fréger, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

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.

I have updates on several previously reported stories for you today.

No One Likes a Jedi at Census Time: Last week I reported on the “PaganDash” campaign, which is looking to encourage Pagans in the UK to stand up and be counted in the census, and use a uniform write-in for the census form. However, Pagans aren’t the only group looking to improve their numbers in the 2011 British census. British humanists and atheists have launched a campaign to increase the number of respondents that check “no religion”, taking aim at the Jedi census phenomenon from 2001′s census.

If your religion is of low enough importance to you to that you are willing to put in a religion from 3 good sci-fi films from years ago, and 3 more recent rubbish ones,please consider ticking “No Religion” instead. The data gathered is used to inform government policy, and was used by the last government to justify funding of religious community bodies over secular ones. For example, 2001 census data has been used repeatedly to justify an increase in the number of state maintained faith schools and the increasing level of government money spent on faith organisations. By ticking ‘No Religion’, you will ensure that the Government receives an unambiguous message about the number of non-religious people in the UK. Any other response may be manipulated into a response in favour of religion and publically funded religious organisations.”

The argument seems to have convinced  author and Boing Boing co-founder Cory Doctorow, who says “I’m convinced; we’re atheists and we will list ourselves as such.” There’s other campaigns going on as well, but I wanted to specifically mention the Jedi phenomenon, because I don’t think it just skewed atheist/agnostic numbers. I’ve long thought that those 400,000 “Jedi” also comprised a fair number of modern Pagans as well. In any case, this may be our last chance to get this right, because the UK is seriously considering removing the religion question entirely, with a spokesperson lumping Pagans in with the Jedi as “prank” responses.

Romanian Witches Win Tax Battle: It looks like all those spells and hexes worked. A controversial bill that would require psychics, fortune tellers, and practitioners of witchcraft in Romania be licensed, and tax their largely under-the-table income, has failed.

“I am very disappointed, the bill was meant to prevent people from being deceived by so-called witches,” Liberal-Democrat MP Alin Popoviciu, who initiated the bill, told AFP. Under the text, fortune-tellers and clairvoyants were to be licensed, pay taxes and set up professional associations. “The bill angered many witches who threatened to cast a spell in order to make it fail. It seems they have succeeded,” Mr Popoviciu added.

It seems many feared that instead of protected people from witches, it would instead legitimize the industry, a view shared by some Romanian witches. Popoviciu has vowed to try again, but for now that status quo remains in place.

James Arthur Ray Trial Continues: The trial of New Age self-help guru James Arthur Ray, who’s charged with manslaughter after three people died during a sweat lodge ceremony led by Ray in late 2009 continues. These initial days are seeing the prosecution’s witnesses, including a participant who says Ray “dismissed her alert about the failing condition of a fellow participant,” and an ill-trained sweat lodge volunteer, who says she was not prepared to deal with individuals who were “burned, delirious and unresponsive.” Prosecutors also played an audio recording of Kirby Brown, one of three people who died.

“When we started the (Samurai) game, I was like you,” Brown said on the recording, which was made just before she and the other attendees entered the sweat lodge. It is a segment from recordings made during four days of Ray’s October 2009 Spiritual Warrior Retreat. “I was gonna be the hero, and I died right there before it even began.” Brown, 38, went on to recount the efforts she made to try to save her teammates in the game from sharing her fate, saying that she swallowed her own vomit in an attempt to lie perfectly still. Had she moved, Ray, playing the role of God, would have sentenced another of her team to death. “As I laid there dying and everyone was working, I kept sending my energy to them,” she said.

Defense strenuously objected to the tape being played, that is was “overwhelmingly prejudicial.” You can see why they don’t want that tape played, because it paints a portrait of a man who has utter control over his subjects. Meanwhile, if the comments section of my previous James Ray post are any indication, Ray’s defenders are spinning conspiracy theories and making excuses for their guru across the Internet. After all, once you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on his “teachings,” I can’ imagine you’d want to believe he’s a negligent egomaniac. It will be interesting to see who the defense calls in this trial, and if they have more than signed waivers and conspiracies to keep their client from prison.

Sex Cult Leader Convicted: Colin Batley, 48, of Kidwelly, west Wales, was convicted of “11 separate rapes, three indecent assaults, causing prostitution for personal gain, causing a child to have sex and inciting a child to have sex.” Batley and his alleged followers were said to wear red robes and read from the Thelemic sacred text The Book of the Law (he had laminated pages from the book at his home), penned by influential occultist Aleister Crowley at ceremonies. Other sources said that all the women in the group sported matching tattoos. As I mentioned in my previous post, Batley claims to have “given up” reading Crowley and was now a Mormon.

“A man has been found guilty of leading a “satanic” sex cult from his home in a small Welsh town. Colin Batley, 48, of Kidwelly, west Wales, presided over a group that preyed on young children and held occult rites. He was found guilty at Swansea crown court of rape and carrying out perverted sexual acts on children and adults. Batley was the self-styled high priest of the group, which operated from a series of homes in a cul-de-sac in the seaside town.”

Four other members of the alleged group were also found guilty. There seems to have been enough testimony from both victims and “customers” to prove some sort of underage sex-ring was happening, what hasn’t been established is how sincere the “occult” elements were, or if they were just trappings of control used on their “recruits”. Nor, at this point, will we ever likely know the full story.

The Further Adventures of Father Gary Thomas: CNN has decided to do profile of Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist, and inspiration for the Hollywood film “The Rite”. As I pointed out in January, Pagan media critic Peg Aloi got Father Thomas on the record about some of his many retrograde views regarding Pagan religions and “Satanic” underground cults. Despite, or perhaps because of, these views being out in the open Thomas continues to tar other religious systems as pathways to demonic possession.

“A lot of folks dabble in the occult, or they will be involved in practices that … classical Christianity at least would consider to be idolatrous.  People can get themselves involved in Wicca, or people will go see some sort of fortune-teller, or people will go to a séance, or they can go and they can learn how to channel spirits. …”

Father Thomas also mentions an ongoing exorcism case where the client is “suffering from a very unique psychological disorder,” but also, it seems, “been exposed to satanic cults.” He truly seems to think that both are true, and the question is which method to use in treating the client. What I find disappointing is that this is a man labeling an entire religion, Wicca, as a pathway to Satanic possession. Had he done so with Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or Mormonism the reporter would have no doubt called him on his statement. Yet, reporter Tom Foreman’s response is “a vision of politician Christine O’Donnell fills my head.” Proof once again that the press just doesn’t “get religion,” it can’t even properly grapple with the topic of modern Pagan religions in a mature and level-headed manner.

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

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.

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.

Top Story: There has been a noticeable increase in anti-Native rhetoric from conservative media outlets lately, some of it a result from a blessing given by Dr. Carlos Gonzales at a memorial service for those killed and injured in the horrific shooting in Tuscon, Arizona, and some of it a by-product of anti-Obama administration attacks. Now things are seeming to get far more personal in nature, starting with a disturbingly ugly editorial from talk radio host, and Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, Bryan Fischer.

“In all the discussions about the European settlement of the New World, one feature has been conspicuously absent: the role that the superstition, savagery and sexual immorality of native Americans played in making them morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil [...] Many of the tribal reservations today remain mired in poverty and alcoholism because many native Americans continue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition instead of coming into the light of Christianity and assimilating into Christian culture.”

This isn’t first time Fischer has displayed his profoundly anti-Native feelings to the world, but this may be the most starkly ugly display of Christian triumphalism and revisionism I’ve seen in a long while. Do I even need to add that Fischer is also part of the “Green Dragon” hysteria, or would that be redundant? As ugly as this editorial is, some will argue that it’s one isolated extremist, shouting to his avid followers. I would even be moved by that argument if I hadn’t also seen the plan by Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul to cut the federal budget by, in essence, breaking all remaining treaties with Native American tribal nations.

“Check out the proposal introduced in Congress Jan. 25 by the newly elected senator. It calls for the elimination of funding to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Department of the Interior agency that oversees a variety of Indian programs. That’s not all. The senator, who is a medical doctor (an eye surgeon, although seemingly myopic), also proposes trimming almost half of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service (IHS) budget this year. Republicans and Democrats don’t tend to agree on much, but one thing they have agreed on over the years is that IHS has been dramatically underfunded. Like them or not, the BIA and IHS are the main agencies of the federal government that have worked with and for Indians, carrying out federal trust responsibility and treaty obligations called for in the U.S. Constitution.”

Right now American Indians are debating whether Paul simply doesn’t understand the complex issue of (Constitutionally recognized) treaty obligations in a fervor to cut the budget, or if he’s actively trying to limit the power and influence of Native Americans within the federal government. So far Paul has not responded to reporters looking for clarification. Whatever his true motives, this move, coming during a particularly venomous stream of anti-Native sentiment (or simple indifference to Native issues), risks alienating American Indians from conservative political movements for the foreseeable future. This didn’t have to be the case, as many Republicans have been, and are, friendly to Native issues. Some feel that Native Americans are being caught in the crossfire of rising anti-immigration hostility, but whatever the reason, the alienating effects of recent events could have long-term ramifications.

Romanian Fortune-Telling Laws Getting Tougher? I’ve given quite a bit of attention to the recent issue of Romania’s “witch tax,” and the mixed reaction it’s been getting from Romanian witches and fortune-tellers. Now the government has introduced a new bill that would fine, and even imprison, fortune tellers that give bad predictions.

“Witches argue they shouldn’t be blamed for the failure of their tools. “They can’t condemn witches, they should condemn the cards,” Queen Witch Bratara Buzea told The Associated Press by telephone. Critics say the proposal is a ruse to deflect public attention from the country’s many problems. In 2009, Romania needed a euro20 billion ($27.31 billion) International Monetary Fund-led bailout loan to pay salaries and pensions when its economy contracted more than 7 percent. Last year, the economy shrank again. However, this year a slight recovery of 1.5 percent growth is forecast.”

The bill would also bar fortune tellers from practicing near schools and churches. One wonders if this new law would also apply to financial analysts, weather forecasters, and other professionals who make predictions in exchange for money. If this bill passes, how long before a witch is fined or imprisoned? What would it mean for the European Union? This goes far beyond protection from outright fraud, and into restricting speech and commerce.

Alleged Pedophile Cult Cited Crowley: The British press is swarming over the trial of alleged cult leader Colin Batley, who is accused of intimidating an underage teenage girl (and four other complainants) into becoming the sexual plaything of his inner circle. According to the prosecution, Batley and the group would wear robes and read from the Thelemic sacred text The Book of the Law, penned by influential occultist Aleister Crowley.

He claimed Batley would preach from a text, The Book of the Law, written in Cairo by English occultist and magician Aleister Crowley and warned about the consequences of failing to do what they were told. He described Batley as “evil and manipulative” and claimed he used the cult to justify his sexual behaviour. The prosecutor said of Batley: “He is the principal. He and the others became entwined. It became much more than that, a cult. The usual restraints went out of the window. Some took part in wife swapping.” The jury heard how the five defendants moved from London to the seaside village of Kidwelly, near Carmarthen in the 1990s.

Batley claims he “gave up” trying to read Crowley, and that he’s a devout Mormon who’s innocent of the charges against him. The trial so far has included selective readings from the Liber AL, including: “Sex with anyone is not just permissible but to be encouraged. Prostitution is to be admired.” With the main defendant claiming to know nothing of Crowley’s work, it seems unlikely an expert on the text will be brought forward to provide context. Prosecution also claims that all the women in the alleged cult had matching tattoos. As you can imagine, the tabloids are having a field day with this story, I can only hope that justice is done to those harmed. I will keep you updated as more details emerge.

Yoga Is For All: The Times of India reports that the Indian government, in order to stop unscrupulous Yoga gurus from copyrighting various asanas (body positions) and practices, have documented 1,300 asanas and are uploading them to a public database for all to use and study.

“Nine well known yoga institutions in India have helped with the documentation. “The data will be up online in the next two months. In the first phase, we have videographed 250 ‘asanas’ — the most popular ones. Chances of misappropriation with them are higher. So if somebody wants to teach yoga, he does not have to fight copyright issues. He can just refer to the TKDL [Traditional Knowledge Digital Library].”

One of the main culprits in copyrighting and profiting from traditional Yoga positions is Bikram Choudhury, whose Bikram Yoga system has become very popular in the West. Choudhury has been famously litigious, and has become famously wealthy as a result. According the the Times of India, the US patent office alone has issued over 200 yoga-related copyrights. Now, many of these copyrights risk being undermined by Yoga’s birthplace, as practitioners and teachers can reference the TKDL as their source. This move may also have the added benefit of asserting the essential Hindu and Indian character of Yoga, something American Hindu activists have been concerned about.

The Wicker Tree Trailer: Dread Central has gotten their hands on the full official trailer of Robin Hardy’s upcoming “spiritual sequel” to The Wicker Man, The Wicker Tree. Warning, it’s slightly NSFW (that’s “not safe for work” for those playing at home) due to some brief flashes of nudity.

There’s still no release date, but hopefully that information will be released soon. You can read all of my “Wicker Tree” coverage, here.

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

Yesterday Michael Staley at Starfire Publishing announced to the public that British occultist and writer Kenneth Grant passed away on January 15th.

“Kenneth Grant died on 15th January 2011 after a period of illness. Our condolences go first and foremost to his family, whose privacy is something which we all wish to respect at this difficult time.

Kenneth Grant had an extraordinary life, and his work has a remarkable depth and breadth of magical and mystical insight. In particular, his monumental series of Typhonian Trilogies is creative, innovatory and inspiring, extending across thirty years from the publication of the opening volume The Magical Revival in 1972, to the appearance of the final volume The Ninth Arch in 2002. This is a substantial body of work, constituting a solid foundation for further development, widening and deepening in the years to come; his work will continue.”


Portrait of Kenneth Grant by Austin Osman Spare.

Grant had a long and passionate interest in the practice of magic. He studied and corresponded directly with Aleister Crowley, and subsequently devoted a large potion of his life and writings to Thelema and the the Ordo Templi Orientis. Grant and his wife Steffi also had a personal and working relationship with artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare. By the 1950s, Grant had fallen out with Karl Germer, Outer Head of the Order (OHO) of Ordo Templi Orientis, which sparked a schism and the foundation of The Typhonian Order (aka the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis). Over the subsequent decades these two groups would battle over legitimacy and the use the name “O.T.O” until very recently, when Grant’s order lost the right to use the name.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this tension over succession, Grant was a hugely influential writer, thinker, and magician. At the news of his death yesterday, tributes from all corners of the magickal/occult world started to pour out.

“Rest well, occultist Kenneth Grant. May the next leg of the journey be as interesting as your time on earth.”T. Thorn Coyle

“Kenneth Grant was a most significant author to many of us young magicians in the 1970′s. He revived Austin Spare through his books and articles in Man Myth and Magic and deserves to be remembered for that and his kindness to the artist during his life. His remarkable magical partnership with Steffi Grant is without parallel. His life spanned contact with the Old Guard occultists and he spoke the language of the modernist magician. He was a generous correspondent and kind to me and others in our interactions with him. I shall miss him.” - Geraldine Beskin, The Atlantis Bookshop.

“Kenneth Grant’s occultism was not the fervent, dry adherence of the ideologue. Rather, he fashioned a deeply personal, fantastical, dynamic, and intricate system of magic woven together from syncretic elements of Tantra, Voudon, Gnosticism, Surrealism, fiction and a variety of other exotic threads. Building on the foundations of Crowley’s work, Grant expanded the current understanding of the meaning and implications of the “Law of Thelema”. Much like the mystic William Blake, Grant forged his own path beyond esoteric speculation, writing first-hand accounts of what he perceived to exist outside of the range of mundane experience.”Scott Spencer, Coilhouse

“Grant left a powerful and irreparable stamp on the practice of ceremonial magick and occultism, and those who practice chaos magick, emulate the practices of Austin Spare, seek to integrate ATR beliefs and practices into their western occultism and magick, develop a system of magick based on the Necronomicon and the Chthulhu mythos, practice lefthand tantra, or who seek a deeper understanding and appreciation of the writings of Crowley, owe him a great debt of gratitude. Grant seemed to leave no stone unturned, and he managed to forge together the dispirit threads of post modern occultism, science fiction and fantasy, horror fiction, exotic ethnic traditions and obscure antiquities, producing a blend of dark occultism and Lefthand Path practices. If you have even the faintest attraction to the dark side of occultism and magick, then Grant is likely your spiritual godfather, whether or not you have read his books.”Frater Barrabbas

For more on the life and influence of Kenneth Grant, I would recommend checking out artist and researcher Scott Spencer’s obituary for Coilhouse, and the Fulgur publishing house biography. Many of Grant’s works can be purchased through Starfire Publishing.

My best wishes and condolences to Grant’s friends and family. I wish Kenneth Grant well as he begins the next leg of his journey.

Top Story: In northern New York state Krista Marie Goley is charged with manslaughter in the stabbing death of her boyfriend Timothy C. Rolland. While there is no evidence that Goley’s religion had anything to do with the stabbing, it’s brought up in a negative light by Watertown Daily Times reporter David Shampine and the victim’s family.

“We had warned Tim to get out of that relationship,” Mrs. Rolland said. “He told us she is bipolar, and she was a Wiccan. He was staring at the devil in the face.” On Ms. Goley’s MySpace page, she lists her religion as “Wiccan,” and for an occupation, she lists, “US ARMY 88M/ Wiccan.” The background of the MySpace page is covered with images of pentacles, a five-pointed star often used as a symbol of Wicca, which is a neopagan religion that utilizes witchcraft.

The question is why did the reporter think Goley’s religion is pertinent in this case? There’s been no sign that the murder was religiously motivated, or that it had ritualistic overtones. You could have just as easily listed the fact that she likes to play Pokemon or that she likes the “Resident Evil” movie. No Wiccan text of any sort I’ve ever read has advocated for murder, so the inclusion of Wicca (which “utilizes witchcraft”) in this article just muddies the water for the purposes of some cheap sensationalism. One wonders if the Watertown Daily Times would have made of point of mentioning her faith if she was Catholic or  a Lutheran. Reporting on a perpetrators religion should involve some pertinent reason for doing so, or else you’re simply stirring the pot because you have nothing else to say.

Glenn Beck, Inclusivity, and Minority Religions: In the wake of Glenn Beck’s religious rally many are trying to figure out what it all means (here are three Pagan reactions over at Pagan+Politics). Over at the Washtington Post’s On Faith site, Hindu American Foundation co-founder Aseem Shukla blasts the “false inclusivity of supposedly ecumenical events” like Beck’s rally.

“…a persistent insistence on Christian-only exceptionalism and a national Christian primacy is raising alarm bells for others. I have argued before that a religious litmus test most certainly exists in this country-and the litmus paper only reads two colors: Christian or the other. Indian Americans recently elected to national office, such as Bobby Jindal or Nikki Haley were forced to prove that they as converts, they were even more Christian than most Christians, and President Obama’s Muslim heritage has been bandied about as a scarlet letter that somehow renders him suspect or unfit to govern. We have experienced before the false inclusivity of supposedly ecumenical events of the far right. There may have been a rabbi or imam at the Beck event, but the overall theme was very much “we are a Christian nation” drumbeat, and Hindus have experienced rejection before when they asked to participate in events such as the National Day of Prayer. This is the paradox of religion in the public square: it means very different things to different people.”

Leaving aside the political implications of Beck’s rally, the event was, in the words of conservative commentator Ross Douthat, “a long festival of affirmation for middle-class, white Christians.” In addition, the prominent inclusion of figures like John “America has become a pagan society” Hagee and David Barton of Wallbuilders (who argues that Pagans don’t deserve the same Constitutional protections as Christians) make it very clear who’s actually welcome in Beck’s quest to restore honor. So long as those who actively work to deny us our rights are under his big tent, I can’t take seriously any argument that religious minorities are truly welcome.

Anti-Pagan Pastor in Porn Scandal: Australian Christian social crusader the Reverend Fred Nile, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, has been caught in an Internet porn-viewing scandal.

“The controversy began with the issuance of a report by the Department of Parliamentary Services, which had conducted an internet history audit of government computers that said Nile’s office had accessed adult websites approximately 200,000 times. Coming on the heels of a similar revelation that resulted in the resignation of New South Wales Ports and Waterways Minister Paul McLeay, the news has sent shockwaves through the government. Thursday, in response to the growing scandal, Nile held a press conference during which he denied ever viewing pornography, but admitted that he had instructed his staff to research the issue for legislation that he said he was considering introducing.”

Nile is taking a sort of “didn’t inhale” defense, saying the sites were never actually viewed, just accessed (200,000 times) for research into legislation. Sex Party president Fiona Patten says that Nile just needs to “get over his guilt and shame” concerning viewing porn on the Internet. For those who don’t live in Australia, Nile is sort of the equivalent to Pat Robertson there. He’s taken many socially conservative stances, including opposing legal Pagan weddings.

Christian Democrat Party leader and anti-pagan campaigner Reverend Fred Nile said: “(Handfasting) can’t be in any way acknowledged by the state and should not be listed as a genuine wedding. Our party will do what it can to stop pagan weddings and witchcraft or Wicca activities.”

If this scandal means the political and social downfall of Nile, I’m sure there aren’t too many Pagans down under who will be complaining about it.

The OTO Showing Pagan Pride in Utah: The Salt Lake Tribune does your typical “meet the Pagans” story with a couple twists. First, the piece profiles a local OTO/Thelemic group Ordo Gnostic Templar (I couldn’t find a listing for them, but they could be a newer group) along with several colorful pictures, and secondly, it seems the paper used Patheos.com as an information resource.

“More than a million Americans now practice some form of Wicca, or traditional witchcraft, Ceremonial Magick, Hermeticism, Shamanism, Asatru (German/Nordic religion), African religion such as Voodoo and Shamanism, according to patheos.com, a multifaith website.”

It’s nice when a paper steps a bit outside of the Wiccan box to show how diverse modern Paganism truly is, and prints generally solid information. Now if only more such articles would follow suit. We’ll soon be entering the Halloween/Samhain season, and that usually means a small flood of “meet the Pagans” articles, here’s hoping this piece is a good harbinger of coverage to come.

The Order of Light for the Establishment of Global Fraternity: OpEdNews features the latest investigative installment from Georgianne Nienaber and Mac McKinney on post-earthquake Haiti, this one featuring a look at Vodou religion and the history of Vodou in the country.

At this point the discussion segued into the reality of Haitian Vodou until, rather suddenly and casually, Raymond revealed that he himself was a Vodou houngan, or priest, and that he belonged to a Haitian religious society called The Order of Light for the Establishment of Global Fraternity, actually an almost Masonic, even Theosophical title invoking one of the key words from the motto of the French Revolution of 1789: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, hardly what most people, prone to all the stereotyped caricatures of Voodoo in pop culture, would expect.

Raymond, acutely aware of the gross and fraudulent Hollywood image of Voodoo as nothing but zombies, black magic, curses and human sacrifices, went to considerable length expounding that this is indeed a absurd misrepresentation of real Vodou religion. He did point out, though, that there are two streams of Vodou as it is practiced in Haiti, what he calls the Vodou of the Peristyle, and the Vodou of the Temple.

I wasn’t aware that Vodouisants split themselves into “peristyle” and “temple” varieties, could any of my Haitian Vodou-connected readers confirm this for me? Is such a distinction common? In any case, the essay makes for fascinating reading.

That’s all I have for now. Stay tuned tomorrow for a Pagan community news round-up, and have a great day!

A few quick notes (with videos) for you this Saturday.

Eat, Love, and Pray to a Hindu God: News has been popping up all over the place concerning actress Julia Robert’s interview in Elle Magazine, where she says that she and her family are practicing Hindus.

“Roberts, 42, tells the fashion magazine that she and husband Danny Moder and their three children, 5-year-old twins Phinnaeus and Hazel and 3-year-old Henry, all go to temple to “chant and pray and celebrate.” “I’m definitely a practicing Hindu,” says Roberts, who grew up with a Catholic mother and Baptist father. That seems to make her the most famous convert since the late George Harrison, a member of the Beatles who embraced Indian mysticism in the 1960s.”

As the Politics Daily article points out, Roberts is hardly the first famous person to convert to Hinduism. But those converts weren’t about to release what is expected to be a major blockbuster picture, that grew from an already popular Oprah-approved memoir, that features praying at an Indian Ashram (and later studying with an Indonesian medicine man) as a central focus of the book. Bali has already seen a tourism boom, and I can imagine India has as well. The real question at this point is will this film, and the high-profile conversion of its star, create a new Western Hindu “boom” in America? It isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, and the reverberations of such a resurgence could have interesting effects on trends within modern Paganism. Will we see a more robust Indo-Paganism rise from all the eating, praying, and loving?

He Wants to Be President: So it’s official. Hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean is going to run for the presidency of Haiti. Time Magazine says that Jean could be the factor that engages the Haitian diaspora and creates a new relationship between Haiti and the United States.

His presidential run, win or lose, could build a long-awaited bridge between Haiti and its diaspora: a legion of expatriates and their progeny, successful in myriad fields, who number more than a million in the U.S. alone. International aid managers agree that Haiti can’t recover unless it taps into the education, capital, entrepreneurial drive and love for the mother country that Jean epitomizes — even if his French (one of Haiti’s official languages) is poor and his Creole (the other) is rusty. “A lot of Haitians are excited about this,” says Marvel Dandin, a popular Port-au-Prince radio broadcaster. “Given the awful situation in Haiti right now,” he says, “most people don’t care if the President speaks fluent Creole.”

This decision has come with criticism, including from his longtime friend and band-mate Pras, who is backing Jean’s opponent, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly (also a musician), in the November elections. What isn’t clear is where various candidates stand on the question of religion in that country, and how their win would affect Haiti’s Vodou community. Jean’s grandfather was a Vodou priest, but that isn’t necessarily an indication that he’ll concern himself with maintaining the fragile balance between Catholic, Protestant, and Vodou factions within the country. We’ll keep you updated as this election season approaches, and I’ll be looking into finding informed sources on religion and politics in Haiti.

Abbey For Sale: Have around 2 million dollars lying around? Want to buy Aleister Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema?

“The dilapidated, whitewashed Italian villa, set amid the hills of Sicily, was owned in the 1920s by Aleister Crowley, whose outrageous drug-taking, keen sexual appetite and interest in mysticism later made him a cult figure for the Beatles, David Bowie, Ozzie Osbourne and Iron Maiden. The cottage, near the town of Cefalu in Sicily, contains explicit, erotic frescoes of men and women entwined together, painted by Cambridge-educated Crowley when he lived there in the early 1920s.”

The property is in disrepair, and the locals are afraid of it, but estate agents are hoping it could be turned into a museum dedicated to Crowley (and thus attract tourists). Could a high-profile Crowley fan buy it and restore the murals? If not, there’s a very good chance this piece of occult/magickal history could be lost forever.

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

Asatru Fight Misconceptions: Just a few quick notes for you today, starting with a look at depictions of Asatru in the media. The Southern Poverty Law Center, in a spotlight on the racist criminal organization European Kindred, mentions the religious split between Asatru and Christian Identity within its ranks.

One of the law enforcement officers in the audience asked [EK founder David] Kennedy about a rumored split between EK members along religious lines. Kennedy replied that as far as he knew, the rumors were false. “Most of the guys in EK are into Asatrú [a neo-pagan faith that is not fundamentally racist, but is practiced by some racists], but then we also have guys who are into Christian Identity [an anti-Semitic theology based on a bizarre reading of the Bible], so it varies,” Kennedy said. “Overall it’s about brotherhood. It’s about blood, not religion.” The ex-gang leader paused for a moment before correcting himself. “Well, actually, the dope comes first. The meth. Then the brotherhood. That’s the reality.”

See that nice little qualifier there about Asatru not being “fundamentally racist”? It wasn’t always like that. The descriptor initially said “a racist neo-pagan faith”, but was changed after several Asatruar, including David Carron of Ravencast, and a few African American adherents, wrote in to protest the SPLC’s definition. Too bad it most likely wasn’t changed in the print version of The Intelligence Report, a publication that is “offered free to law enforcement, journalists, scholars and community activists”. One wonders what the SPLC will do to enlighten the police officers, journalists, and activists that only read the print version that Asatru isn’t “fundamentally racist”. What should the South Dakota man trying to educate people about his new-found faith in Asatru say when someone tells him the SPLC think he’s a racist?

Funeral for an Irish Thelemite, Metal Musician, and Drug Dealer: The Belfast Telegraph keeps it classy in their report on the funeral for Jason Barriskill, an influential metal musician in Ireland who was also an active Thelemite, and apparently, a drug dealer as well.

“A pagan rocker died at his drug-den farmhouse after a witchcraft ritual went nightmarishly wrong. Junkie Jason Barriskill — who worked in the Tayto Castle food lab — was found slumped at his isolated home in Tandragee, Co Armagh, a fortnight ago.”

After a ritual went “nightmarishly wrong”? Really? All the other press says it was a heart attack. Is the Belfast Telegraph a tabloid? Even if he was a drug-dealer, is it normal to dub a dead man “Junkie Jason”? What is certain is that he was indeed a Thelemite, and an “occult funeral”, as the Belfast Telegraph would put it, was indeed held.

“It was also great that one of the Priestesses from the Ard Macha Grove of EGC (which Jason founded many years ago) helped to officiate at the formal service. The Grove celebrated his ‘Greater Feast’ that night, with many friends and colleagues. It was a beautiful ceremony and was nice to give him a full send off in the traditions of Thelema-of which he was a dedicated magician for many years. One of the most moving aspects of the ceremony was a time for everyone to share their stories of the man. Much like what has happened on here.”

I really wish I had access to the rest of the article so I could see if the paper has any basis for its claim that he was killed by a ritual that went “nightmarishly wrong”. If any of my Irish readers have seen the full article, please clue me in. As it stands, even if he was a criminal, or simply harboring criminals, this is sensationalism at its worst.

The Vodou Blame-Game: It seems the religious blame-game in earthquake-ravaged Haiti is still going strong, with various Christian sects accusing Vodou as incurring God’s wrath.

“Their cult, a form of west African polytheism that came to Haiti with the slave trade, is being blamed by some followers of the rapidly growing Christian denominations – evangelicals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists – as the cause of God’s anger in smiting their country. “They say we’re the ones who caused the earthquake. But we know ourselves that we didn’t cause the quake, because it was a natural catastrophe,” said Willer Jassaint, one of the priests, or houngans, leading the Voodoo ceremony.”

The piece goes one to reference the Cite Soleil incident, though no other major religious skirmishes have broken out since then, and local Houngans and Mambos are planning more public rituals for the dead, despite these new tensions.

“Back in the Voodoo shed, as the chanting and dancing and rum-fuelled flames faded, the houngans somberly laid out their plans for bigger, more public ceremonies in the days to come. They owe the spirits of the dead that release, they say – and they owe themselves that show of defiance. “We have to maintain our religion now… Because our religion is our soul, it’s part of us,” Jassaint said.”

I suppose we’ll soon find out if Cite Soleil was a truly isolated incident, or if we’ll see more Christian-spurred violence in the near future. Hopefully, as the rebuilding continues, and the government stabilizes, the tensions we see now will subside to pre-earthquake levels.

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