Archives For United Arab Emirates

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.

  • NPR does a Samhain-inspired spotlight on New York City’s Lady Rhea, owner of Magickal Realms in the Bronx, and a spiritual mother to many influential Pagans, including Phyllis Curott. Quote: “I am a Wiccan high priestess and Witch queen. My age, I’ve been in the craft since ’73. I have a lot of coven people and people who are attached to me over the last years, so one of them coined me Pagan Mother. Call them up and I’ll say hello, are you listening? This is Pagan Mother, call me.” For more in this series, check out Faith in the Five Boroughs.
  • God is all-powerful and all-knowing, but did you know that by simply hoarding rose quartz or buying a lucky cat statue you can instantly block him? It’s true according to Fr. Jose Francisco Syquia: “When paganism and the occult contaminate the faith, the relationship with God is blocked and we can end up saying to ourselves that God is not interested in us, personally and as a nation [not knowing that] His blessings and protection… would not be able to fully enter into our lives.” So remember, God’s blessing, kinda easy to block (darn free will).
  • The Nigerian state of Akwa Ibom has made it illegal to accuse a child of witchcraft,though activists point out that Christian churches will also have to be reigned in if real changes are to be made in this problem. Quote:  “But some say churches in the impoverished state where unemployment is rampant, must also be reigned in. Some activists cite the churches as the source of the belief that children are sorcerers or witches.” For more on this problem, visit  Stepping Stones Nigeria, an organization that is fighting against the branding of children as witches.
  • Meanwhile, four women were arrested for practicing witchcraft in the United Arab Emirates. According to a news report they were caught in the midst of practicing sorcery, and that “a large number of substances and herbs including detergents and bodily fluids” were confiscated. Quote: “Colonel Salem Sultan Al Darmaki, Director of the Criminal Investigation Department at Ras Al Khaimah police, said that the case details date back to when they received information from an Arab lady reporting that four women were practicing sorcery from their flat.” Lucky for them the UAE doesn’t kill women for sorcery like Saudi Arabia does, but it still presents a chilling portrait of what fundamentalism run amuck looks like.

INDIA TREES PAINTING

  • Artists in the Indian state of Bihar are painting trees and bushes with images of Hindu deities in hopes it will stop locals from cutting them down. Forest cover for the state is under 7%, which worsens effects of floods and extreme weather.  Quote: “The unusual campaign, using coats of paint and brushes, has been launched in Madhubani, a northern Bihar district known for its religious and cultural awareness, resulting in hundreds of otherwise untended roadside trees covered in elaborate artwork. Artists are depicting the moods of deities, scenes from Hindu classics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, or an imaginary scene showing an elderly woman restraining a man coming with an axe to cut trees.” 
  • Amy Wilentz, author of the forthcoming “Farewell, Fred Voodoo,” gives some perspective on zombies in the New York Times. Quote: “There are many reasons the zombie, sprung from the colonial slave economy, is returning now to haunt us. Of course, the zombie is scary in a primordial way, but in a modern way, too. He’s the living dead, but he’s also the inanimate animated, the robot of industrial dystopias. He’s great for fascism: one recent zombie movie (and there have been many) was called “The Fourth Reich.” The zombie is devoid of consciousness and therefore unable to critique the system that has entrapped him. He’s labor without grievance. He works free and never goes on strike. You don’t have to feed him much. He’s a Foxconn worker in China; a maquiladora seamstress in Guatemala; a citizen of North Korea; he’s the man, surely in the throes of psychosis and under the thrall of extreme poverty, who, years ago, during an interview, told me he believed he had once been a zombie himself.” This is a seriously great read – don’t miss it.
  • Salem Witch Richard Ravish, who passed away earlier this year, is remembered by his friends, loved ones, and co-religionists, during the annual walk to Gallows Hill in Salem. Quote: “I am doing a widow’s walk,” Ravish’s wife of 31 years said before the ceremony. “I’ve never done it before. This is the first year that the high priest … my partner, is not here to walk the circle with me. So I want to walk the circle round in a special walk.”
  • Science thinks we all might be a little bit psychic, albeit not in the bending spoons, having visions, sense. Quote: “What the studies measured was physiological activity—e.g., heart rate or skin conductance—in participants who, for instance, might have been shown a series of images, some harmless and others frightening. Using computer programs and statistical techniques, experimenters have found that, even before being shown a troubling image, participants sometimes display physiological changes —a faster heart rate, for example—of the kind that would be expected only after seeing the image, and not just because the subjects know a scary snake picture is coming sooner or later.” 
  • Reasons why I’m glad to be a Pagan: Christian alternatives to Halloween. Plus, here’s some bonus Halloween season “exwitch” stuff, if you’re into that.
  • Samhain at the joint Lackland military base: “Cammen is among a curious multiplication of Wiccans at Lackland. Hundreds of basic military trainees have chosen to study witchcraft at the base. ”When we come over here on a Sunday, often times, there are 300 to 400 (trainees),” Tony Gatlin said.”
  •  Texas schools love Jesus, and litigation. Imagine how the handful of non-Christian students feel when Christian prayers are blasted throughout the school on their speaker system. Do you think they feel empowered to share their own faith, or are they instead pushed deeper into the “broom closet”? This is why a strong separation of church and state is necessary.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Witchcraft and sorcery are illegal in the United Arab Emirates, but unlike their neighbors in Saudi Arabia they treat the matter as a fraud and nuisance, rather than a grave crime that can earn you the death penalty.

“Witchcraft and sorcery is strictly illegal in the UAE and most Gulf countries. In Saudi Arabia, it is a crime punishable by death. However in Dubai, authorities have treated it largely as the purview of scam artists and confidence tricksters. In the United Arab Emirates, and Dubai in particular, authorities take a more liberal stance. However, because of the large number of scam artists posing as sorcerers and exorcists in Dubai, police have set up a special task force to crack down on so-called ‘magic-related crimes.’”

Despite this no-doubt impressive task force, it was UAE’s airport security who caught two Asian men trying to smuggle over a thousand items related to sorcery and magic into the country.

Seized occult haul. Image Credit: Dubai Police

Seized occult haul. Image Credit: Dubai Police

“Ali Al Maghawi, Dubai Customs’ Director of Airport Operations Department, said the two men were apprehended after their bags were scanned. “Two Asian passengers were suspected when their bags passed through the internal inspection machines,” he said. “Their bags were scanned and searched manually. Inspectors found out a great number of wicca literature, talismans and items which are usually used in witchcraft and sorcery work.” Al Maghawi pointed out that the 1,200 seized items fell into 28 categories used for black magic, sorcery and incantation.”

Did you catch that? “A great number of Wicca literature.” Later in the article, while listing what was seized, an official simply says “magic teaching books,” by why say “Wicca literature” in the first place unless there are actually books that say “Wicca” on them? Sadly, though I searched, there isn’t a clear picture of the seized books (Imagine the marketing coup for the company that published the titles!). So my question is, are there Wiccans in the UAE?

Certainly most of these items, including the literature, are being used in syncretic or indigenous magical systems, but even the most utilitarian Western Witchcraft spell-books usually have some information about Wicca and its beliefs in them. If the “great number” of Wiccan books seized here are simply the tip of the iceberg, as is the case with most black market busts, then it stands to reason there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people reading about modern Pagan faiths in the UAE. Does that mean there might be modern Pagans and Witches in the country as well? It’s not so far-fetched an idea. Wherever Western literature and Internet access has become easily accessible, small pockets of Pagans have also emerged. There are Pagans in Lebanon, and in Israel, and the country of Jordan has welcomed Patrick McCollum as a guest, so these materials can’t all be mere fodder for scam-artists.

Modern Paganism is now a global movement, and has been so for some time. While our critics would like to believe that Wicca, Druidry, and other faiths under our umbrella are merely the passing fancy of bored teenagers, radical feminists, and aging hippies, the truth is that the underlying appeal of reviving pre-Christian religion has sparked something far larger than even we could have anticipated. The harder the dominant monotheisms grasp, the more people start looking for alternatives. What’s truly exciting is to see how the ideas and concepts of modern Paganism change and grow in places like India, South America, Africa, and the Middle East. Books on Wicca may be inadvertently helping to revive polytheism without a single missionary uttering a single word.