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Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Songs-560px-385x480Fulgur Esoterica has announced the publication of “Songs for the Witch Woman,” which features the work of rocket scientist Jack Parsons and his artist lover, Marjorie Cameron. Quote: “Songs for the Witch Woman is a project born from this turbulent love story. A series of poems written by Parsons reveal his feelings toward his often absent lover. And beside these words are images from the hand of Cameron, illustrating and echoing the intimate themes. After Parsons’ tragic death in June 1952 we find the notebook in which this work was recorded continues, as a bereaved Cameron keeps a diary of her magical working in Lamb Canyon, California. In the dark desert her words become a raw lament as she attempts to gain contact with her Holy Guardian Angel. And throughout the working, the memory of Jack is never far from her mind. Now published more than sixty years after it was written, Songs for the Witch Woman stands as a testament to lasting power of love and loss.” Find out more, here.

Altar of the Holy Place of the Elves Gálgahraun lava field IcelandThe Norse Mythology Blog has an excellent in-depth examination of a recent “news of the weird” story about elves in Iceland delaying a road project. As you might expect, there’s more to the story, and the blog reprints a correspondence with a leading expert on elves in Iceland. Quote: “There you have it, gentle readers. Make up your own minds about the original story, the critiques, the letters and the photographs. I simply thought that the professional journalists on both sides of the issue could use a bit of reminding about original research, speaking to sources and following up on a story as it develops after the initial AP report. My faith in modern journalism keeps getting lower as, for example, I repeatedly catch reporters in the mainstream media who are writing articles by literally cutting and pasting from Wikipedia articles.” Do check out the entire article.

Isobel ArthenThe EarthSpirit Community shared a photo by Jenna Pope of EarthSpirit member Isobel Arthen at a student-led peaceful action in Washington DC this weekend against the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Hundreds were arrested at that action, including Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Quote: “Isobel Arthen, a member of EarthSpirit since she was born, takes a stand, putting her spirituality into action to protect our sacred Earth at the student-led XLDissent action in Washington DC on Sunday.” Photographer Jenna Pope added, quote, “people zip-tied themselves to the White House fence during a Keystone XL protest today. Thousands of students from around the country marched through DC, and hundreds of them sat down in front of the White House or zip tied themselves to the fence in an act of civil disobedience.” Jenna Pope’s official website can be found here. More photos from the action, here.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • A formal fundraiser has been launched for author Donald Michael Kraig, to help with medical expenses while he battles cancer. Quote: “Many, many of you around the world have sent healing energies, magick and prayers. They are all appreciated and felt. In order to help offset the bills, we’re asking your help to raise funds for his medical bills.” More on this, here.
  • Next year, two East Coast Pagan/esoteric conferences, Between The Worlds, and Sacred Space, will become a joint shared event. Quote: “The attendees will get to have the benefit of having full access to two conferences for the cost of one. Both conferences are designed to meet the continuous growth and needs of intermediate to advanced practitioners. And for 2015 both conferences chose to cooperate with each other, taking advantage of that synergy of purpose instead of engaging in destructive competition. The two organizations will move forward with the future of both conferences intact, and will also leave a legacy of an example of cooperation amongst pagan/magickal organizations.” 
  • Musical duo Frenchy and the Punk, who have played at many Pagan events, are holding a Kickstarter to fund their next album. Quote: “We are itching to get back into the recording studio and we are scheduled to start in April so time is of the essence! We need your support so we can get in there and record a brand new CD! We will be touring in May – November all across the U.S. and in Europe and we want you to have the new CD. Pre-order the CD, combine it with other cool rewards and YOU become part of the process.”


  • An IndieGoGo campaign for a new oracle card set, The Burning Serpent Oracle, has already surpassed its goal, but if you like the look of the deck, now’s the time to jump on board and secure a copy for yourself. Quote: “The Burning Serpent Oracle deck, including the set of 40 cards by Robert M. Place (creator of The Alchemical Tarot) and 260 page book by Rachel Pollack (author of Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom), is ready for the printer. To make this happen we need to raise $9000, and so we are launching this campaign.”
  • The full-length version of Margot Adler’s new book, “Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side,” is now out! Quote: “Vampires let us play with death and the issue of mortality. They let us ponder what it would mean to be truly long lived. Would the long view allow us to see the world differently, imagine social structures differently? Would it increase or decrease our reverence for the planet? Vampires allow us to ask questions we usually bury.”

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

Last year at this time the popular HBO cable television series “True Blood,” a show loosely based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris, announced that 2011 would be the “year of the witch.” The cast of (generally sexy) vampires, werewolves, and the humans they interact with would be joined by an array of spellcasters of various inclinations. The previous season had already introduced a Wiccan character, Holly Cleary (played by Lauren Bowles), and this season they’ve introduced a small coven lead by Marnie Stonebrook (played by Fiona Shaw), a local palm-reader and shop owner, the spirit of a dead Witch that inhabits her, and a family of Catemaco Brujos. This being “True Blood” there’s plenty of violence, sex, and mayhem mixed in. With all this witchy-ness about it was only a matter of time before news outlets started tracking down some real Witches and Wiccans to get their opinion. It looks like the news agency Reuters is first out of the gate.

A Witches' Coven in "True Blood"

“I’m absolutely disappointed with the portrayal of Marnie,” said one witch — and professor of biology at a college in New England — who goes by the magickal name Taarna RavenHawk. […] Elaanie Stormbender, a witch and mother of five who lives in Jackson, Mississippi, said all the members of the small community of witches to which she belongs are displeased with Marnie’s behavior.”

In addition to the opinions of Taarna and Elaanie, Reuters also asks two prominent Pagan authors/teachers, Christopher Penczak and Ellen Dugan, for their take on the “year of the witch.”

“Marnie does communicate with the dead but she comes into witchcraft lacking groundedness,” said Penczak […]  “A witch who gets good training usually learns to balance that with discipline, strength and focus. I would have liked to see a witch who was more competent and had a clearer sense of will and purpose.” […]  “My witch friends are rabid fans of ‘True Blood,’ and watch it every week,” said Ellen Dugan, a witch and priestess of a six-member coven she co-founded in St. Louis, Missouri. Dugan […] conceded that Marnie’s portrayal contains a sensational element, but noted that her witch friends laughed during a recent levitation scene. “Most witches have a good enough sense of humor,” she said.

Since I don’t have cable, and probably won’t be able to watch this latest season until it comes out on DVD, I don’t feel qualified to comment on the opinions given in this piece. So I turned to my Pagan Newswire Collective colleague Laura LaVoie, who writes for our culture blog “The Juggler,” and has been covering this season of “True Blood,” for her take.

“I think as soon as you add vampires and werewolves to a story, all bets are off. Sure, Wicca is real but it now exists in this fictional world created by Charlaine Harris and the writers and producers of the television series. I want to see Pagans portrayed in a positive light in the media as well, but I’m not sure we have the full story on the Bon Temps witches yet. I have also read the series of books, and while the portrayal there is by no means perfect either, there is a sense that Harris tried to research the real Wiccan community to write about her witches. If the producers stay close to the story line, there might be more to the witches than meets the eye. However, I do not want to spoil anything.”

LaVoie also points out that attitudes concerning the portrayal of Witches and Wiccans in “True Blood” may come down to how you’re watching the show, summing up one recent episode as “we just want to be left alone to practice our religion.” In the end LaVoie believes “there are bigger things to worry about,” and “if we spend all of our time raging against a fantasy television series that has yet to even prove whether it is pro- or anti- Wicca, we lose a lot of our power when we try to defend our religious choices against real threats.” As for the Reuters article, I think this is only the first of its kind. We can surely expect more opinions from “real” Witches as this season progresses. Possibly some examining what was only briefly mentioned in the Reuters article, that “True Blood” is creating more interest in Witchcraft among younger viewers. A narrative that was in full bloom for many years during the height of the Harry Potter craze.

When a newspaper, newswire, or tabloid calls us up looking for a “real Witch” to give an opinion on “True Blood” we need to decide which narrative we are going to feed. Whether we feel positively, negatively, or don’t really care, we should always emphasize that we realize this is simply fiction, and that we are engaging with it on that level. That we are dealing with a show that places a priority on melodrama, blood, and sex. We should reference the Harry Potter years and point out that it never turned out to be a significant recruiting tool for Witchcraft traditions, and that we don’t expect “True Blood” to be either. If “True Blood,” when the season closes, ends up being a largely positive portrayal of Wicca or Witchcraft then all better, but even if it isn’t we have bigger things to worry about than a television show that mainly exists to show off attractive people in various states of undress.

A few quick news notes and updates for you on this Sunday.

Sacred Sex Workers Speak Out: Vice Magazine/VBS Television recently launched a series called “Prostitutes of God” about sex workers dedicated to the goddess Yellamma in India, the devadasis. While the documentary presented a picture of exploitation, slavery, and disease, the women interviewed claim their stories were mangled, that Vice outed a HIV+ woman and implied that she was spreading the disease, and that they were not allowed to view the product before it aired. Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (‘Prostitutes’ Freedom from Injustice’) or “VAMP” (part of SANGRAM) has released an open letter listing their charges against Vice and film-maker Sarah Harris, and produced a Youtube video where the women speak out.

“In the age of the Internet, women in countries far away who used to be the objects of white people’s gaze with no right of reply now have access to the representations that are made of them, and the technological means to answer back. A naive westerner may seize the headlines, but there’s now scope for there to be a debate and to bring those who in the past would have remained voiceless victims into that debate to represent themselves. It is a great opportunity to put the record straight. While VAMP continues to explore possible legal and other actions to redress the violations detailed above, we ask that you upload the VAMP film in the comments section on your website. This would go some way toward not only allowing voice to the women of Sangli, but also providing much-needed debate on sensitive issues like sex work, livelihoods, choice and religion.”

This issue has been taken up across the feminist blogosphere, including Bitch Magazine, Feministing, RH Reality Check, and Waking Vixen. In addition, Mumbai-based filmmaker Paromita Vohra criticizes Harris for not doing the “hard work of questioning your assumptions” in making this film series. So far neither Vice nor Harris has responded to the allegations made against them, though they have (without comment) removed the clip outing sex worker Belavva’s HIV status without her consent. As many have pointed out in the links above, the days when 1st-world Western documentary makers can swoop in and make judgments about a culture without feedback or rebuttal are coming to an end. Perhaps this galvanizing moment will change the way the subject is handled and reported on in the future.

More on Patrick McCollum’s Court Appearance: The Lady Liberty League has posted an update on Patrick McCollum’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appearance.

“[David] Kiernan [Patrick’s lawyer] pointed out that special accommodation of the Abrahamic faiths has dominated the State’s religious accommodation policies for over 50 years, and that the only reason the Native Americans have been included is because they sued. I think it is time for the State of California to recognize the diversity of religion in the United States and its duty to accommodate religion in an unbiased manner. The State has a duty to the people of California and the United States to uphold the Constitution, not to serve as the advocates for preferred faiths or as the promoters of preferred theologies.”

You can find links to listen or download the October 7th oral arguments, here. You can find a summary of what this case is about, here. You can read all of my coverage of Patrick McCollum and his activities, here. For those who want to give aid and support to Patrick during this case, check out the Lady Liberty League’s support page. You can be sure that I’ll keep you informed as this moves forward.

Those Darn Pagan Vampires: An Arizona couple have allegedly stabbed a transient man after he refused to let them suck his blood on a second occasion. That man, Robert Maley, claims Aaron Homer and Amanda Williamson were into “vampire stuff and paganism”.

“Police said they were called to a home at 625 N. Alma School Road, where they found Homer and Williamson with a lot of blood in the apartment, as well as a trail of blood leaving the apartment. Initial statements by Homer indicated Williamson had been attacked by the unidentified person, police said, and that she stabbed him in self-defense. After being confronted by police, Homer admitted to stabbing the other man because he was making fun of Homer and Williamson’s religion, according to police.

Of course we have no clue if the couple were actually “Pagan” or what kind of “rituals” they were performing, or even how serious their attributed vampiric identity is. Already some news outlets are saying that “the vampire trend has taken a dangerous turn”, as though this couple were somehow on an even keel until they read Twilight, and then decided to stab a homeless man. This is one of those stories were more information was needed before speculation should have started.

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

The sexy vampire phenomenon (as opposed to the sparkly vampire phenomenon) True Blood (based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris) has grown a respectable cult audience as it ends its third season on HBO, and while the show has flirted with Pagan themes before, that’s going to become much more explicit when season 4 starts. Creator/producer Alan Ball says that next year will be the “year of the witch”, and they have introduced Holly Clearly, a “Wiccan” character who will play a bigger role in season 4. Played by Lauren Bowles, she talks to Movieweb about her role, and the religion of Wicca, and it’s pretty clear she doesn’t know much more than what the script tells her.

“I haven’t gone to Wiccan ceremonies, I must admit. I have done my own perusing. Way back, I had a friend that was way into the Wiccan world. I was also a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As you know, Willow was a big witch. I didn’t want to be Wiccan. I haven’t gotten to know any. Are there support groups for such a thing? Are there churches? I don’t really know … I wonder what their ceremonies are like. When people started comparing it to a religion, I never thought of it as that. I always thought of it as spells. I thought it was much more active than just praying to a God or a Goddess. I thought that you were always trying to do something, with all the spells. Weren’t you?”

This interview isn’t exactly reassuring that they’ll portray Wicca in an accurate or balanced fashion. But then, Bowles doesn’t have to be accurate, just a good actress. It’s Alan Ball and the scriptwriters who have to do the research. The question is how much Wiccan religion will be included? How will it be portrayed? It’s one thing to have witches, they have been stock folkloric characters for generations. But once you invoke the word “Wicca” you’re opening yourself up to greater scrutiny (at least from our communities). And season 4 looks like it will have a lot of witchy action if it follows the novels at all (possible spoilers at the link).

“Hallow Stonebrook is the lead witch of a coven that causes a lot of problems for Sookie and crew. The wiki page for “Dead To the World,”  The True Blood book that most prominently features Hallow and her crew, describes a fairly epic confrontation between the denizens of Bon Temps and the wicked witches of the bayou.”

Good witches, bad witches, and Wiccans. This may be the first series to have a regular Wiccan-identified character (“Wicca”  and witchcraft in Buffy bore little resemblance to the actual faith), as opposed to the often disappointing one-time appearances in shows like The Mentalist and Bones. There’s going to be a lot of attention on this upcoming season, especially since it’s becoming so popular. Whether the portrayal of the Wiccan character(s) will be good or bad, this could be an important teaching moment for our communities. Either by correcting bad information, or by holding up a fair portrayal for praise. What should be made clear, both for fans and for pop-culture oriented journalists, is that there is a clear distinction between fantasy “witchcraft”, and what the faith and practice of Wicca is. The lines are no doubt going to get blurry, which is fine, this is a fictional universe after all, but it might be wise for a coalition of Wiccan groups to issue a “True Blood fact sheet” that will be there for those made curious by the show, and for Hollywood scribes looking to interview “real” Witches.

To my readers, are you a fan of True Blood? What do you think of the impending “year of the witch”?

Top Story: Neighbors of Betty Marquez in Tracy, California, are upset that the practitioner of Santeria is holding religious gatherings and performing animal sacrifice at her home. Marquez, who is quick to point out that the animals are slaughtered humanely, and eaten afterwards, says she feels as if she is being harassed, while at least one neighbor is eager to prove he isn’t prejudiced by saying something that sounds pretty prejudiced.

“We used to spend a lot of time in our yard, and now there’s bongos and loud singing, and we just don’t feel good about it anymore,” he said. “We’re not prejudiced. We’re very fair. Take that stuff outside of town.”

Meanwhile, another neighbor has contacted PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who called the cops on their behalf, and is “staying in contact with authorities” concerning the matter.

“Of course we’re against religious sacrifice,” Martin Merserau said. “We’re against animal abuse in many forms, whether you’re dragging a knife across the throat of an animal for quote-unquote religious purposes or not.”

PETA, perhaps feeling that their racist, sexist, sizeist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and transphobic campaigns haven’t been going far enough, they now feel the need to attack minority religions as well by getting involved in a local spat. Never mind the sheer hypocrisy of calling animal sacrifice “abuse”, while they “humanely” euthanize thousands of healthy unwanted animals, and have even had employees charged with illegal disposal of animal corpses. I guess context is king. All I know is that I’ve been a vegan for years, and I’ve never supported this group. As for Marquez, considering the recent win for Jose Merced in court, it’s going to be increasingly hard to enforce animal slaughter laws against Santeria practitioners.

More Fodder for Sharkey’s Ever-Hungry Ego: Joseph Laycock, author of  “Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism”, decides to give more attention to Jonathon ‘The Impaler’ Sharkey for an essay at Religion Dispatches. Why? To make the point that Sharkey’s buffoonish extremism now seems almost normal in today’s ultra-polarized political landscape.

“The Impaler” arose during the Bush Administration, seeking popular appeal by promising to kill an unpopular president. And while he has continued this strategy during the Obama era, sadly he no longer seems nearly as crazed and peripheral next to the extreme fringes of the Tea Party movement. Simply put, violent rhetoric has become more acceptable. Progressives have criticized Sarah Palin for a political “hit list” on her Facebook page that features gun crosshairs over the home states of targeted Democrats. Sharkey and Palin are in effect both catering to the same sentiment. While Palin has never called for the impalement of Harry Reid, her supporters might not take offense if she did.

I suppose I see the point he’s trying to make, but I object to giving this criminal, who has shown a pattern of having inappropriate, and sometimes threatening, interactions with young girls, any more media-driven oxygen. I almost didn’t comment on this story because I want nothing more than to see Sharkey fade off into obscurity until he’s finally imprisoned for stepping too far over the line. Of course he’s calling for Witch-hunts! He is desperate for our attention, because without it, he’ll be forced to face the life he’s created for himself. So barring some truly newsworthy event involving Sharkey, the topic will no longer come up at this blog, and I urge everyone in the Pagan and Vampire communities to follow suit. As for Laycock, check out the interview with him about modern Vampirism at the always-excellent TheoFantastique blog.

Starhawk and Social Justice: In the wake of the Glenn Beck/Jim Wallis spat, author, activist, and On Faith panelist Starhawk weighs in on “social justice” in the context of modern Paganism.

“While Pagans do not have a set creed or unified code of beliefs, our traditions hold in common the understanding that we are all deeply interconnected, all part of the sacred weave of the world. The Goddess is immanent in this world and in all human beings, and part of our service to the sacred is to honor one another and take care of one another, to fairly share nature’s bounty and to succor one another in facing the hardships of life. We must create justice in this world, not wait for redress of grievances in the next. No one person or group has the right to commandeer nature’s resources, which are the underpinnings of all wealth. Generosity, justice and fairness are old Pagan virtues…”

I’m personally all for social justice, but then I’ve never been all that offended when people called me a socialist because of it. Which I suppose makes me one the 36% of Americans who have a favorable opinion towards the ideology. Not that social justice has to be equated with socialism, but I’m not the one blurring those lines in order to score political points.

South African Pagans and Inclusion: The Richmark Sentinel focuses on South African Pagan Council’s (SAPC) quest for representation at the country’s national multi-faith organizations.

The South African Pagan Council says its being ignored by the Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM), National Religious Leaders Forum (NRLF) and National Interfaith Leaders Council (NILC) … Asatruar Charles van Bergen, the representative of the South African Pagan Council (SAPC) tasked with negotiating the inclusion of Pagan religious leaders to both the NILC and its forerunner the National Religious Leaders Forum (NRLF), thinks South Africa is not achieving its stated intention to facilitate cooperative inter-religious participation. “Organizations such as Home Affairs and SARS have been forced to abide by the laws pertaining to such things, but other than that an active policy of passive-aggressive exclusion of Pagans is the status quo countrywide.”

Why does the SAPC want a voice in predominately socially conservative and anti-pagan multi-faith organizations? To remind the leaders of the dominant faiths in South Africa that other opinions exist and should be respected.

“I believe the SAPC’s presence on both the NILC and the NRLF will ensure that religious policies and dialogue maintain respect for the rights of minorities who do not necessarily agree with the conservative views and positions expressed by members of these organizations. We’d like the right to participate and contribute constructively to our Nation’s spiritual and moral values.”

The SAPC is currently involved in supporting the 30 days of advocacy against witch-hunts campaign, and is one of three legally recognized Pagan organization in South Africa (along with The South African Pagan Rights Alliance and the Correllian Nativist Tradition S.A.). I wish them luck in trying to change opinions concerning modern Paganism in South Africa.

Ongoing Tensions in Haiti: Reporters from the Miami Herald look at the ongoing tensions and deteriorating relations between faiths in post-earthquake Haiti, and mention that a human rights lawyer went before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last month, calling for an investigation into anti-Vodou attacks.

Last month, Mario Joseph, a Haitian human rights lawyer, went before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights seeking an investigation of attacks against Vodouists after several were stoned by Evangelical pastors in the Cité Soleil slum. “In other zones of the country,” he told the commission, “particularly in the commune of Verrettes in the Artibonite, literal witch hunts have been launched against priests and practitioners of this religion.”

This news of “literal witch hunts” is deeply troubling, and there seems to be no real investigation of this by the press, many of whom have moved on now that the initial disaster is over with. In the chaos, with international eyes turned elsewhere, and the government still powerless, is there a quiet campaign of violence and intimidation against Vodou practitioners under way?

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

Vampires have been popular for a long time now, with each generation changing them slightly (or not-so-slightly) to suit their own needs/desires. While I rarely touch on the vampire phenomenon, or the thriving vampire subculture, there is some overlap between it and modern Paganism /occultism. The most obvious intersections being with popular metaphysical authors like Michelle Belanger and Konstantinos.

Recently, NPR journalist Margot Adler, long celebrated within the Pagan community for her seminal 1979 book “Drawing Down the Moon”, spent several months devouring 75 vampire-themed novels and noticed that what was collectively striking about them wasn’t their celebration of immortality, but their explorations of morality.

“But what I started noticing as I read all these novels and looked at all the recent television shows featuring vampires is that their near-immortality isn’t the most interesting thing about them. Almost all of these current vampires are struggling to be moral. It’s conventional to talk about vampires as sexual, with their hypnotic powers and their intimate penetrations and their blood-drinking and so forth. But most of these modern vampires are not talking as much about sex as they are about power.”

The fascination with vampires and vampirism, and what that popularity says about our culture, isn’t just isolated to minority faiths. An increasing number of Christian authors and scholars are now exploring the vampire, as detailed by a recent Christianity Today article by Elrena Evans.

“University of Richmond English professor Elisabeth Rose Gruner notes that both Christianity and vampirism equate blood with life. Humans instinctually understand that blood is life-giving. But the blood-drinking aspect of vampirism is a “ghastly parody of Christianity,” Gruner told CT. While the Christian believer attains eternal life by accepting the blood freely shed on his or her behalf, the vampire achieves immortality by sucking the life out of another.”

But while the CT article is interesting, and points to some fascinating Christian perspectives on the vampire, it is sadly marred by the unquestioning inclusion of an “ex-vampire” to warn off those curious teens so in love with sparkly blood-drinkers.

“The fantasy-reality line doesn’t always hold, however, says William Schnoebelen, founder of the Iowa-based apologetics ministry With One Accord. Before coming to Christ, the former Freemason and Wiccan says that he was also a member of a vampire sect: a “full-blown ‘church’ with sacraments and a kind of Mass, a dark reflection of the Catholic liturgy.” Drinking blood was a perverse facsimile of the Lord’s Supper.”

Who is William Schnoebelen? He’s yet another of those Christians who make a living being an “ex”, as in an ex-Wiccan (which automatically makes him an ex-Satanist, and yes he’s yet another admitted but un-convicted baby-sacrificer), an ex-Mason, an ex-Mormon, an ex-Catholic priest, and now, an ex-vampire. He was also, of course, a member of the Illuminati. Duh. Never mind that his claims are misleading at best and clearly fraudulent at worst, never mind that he’s published by the nutty anti-Catholic hate-group Chick Publications, he’s apparently a good source of information for the folks at Christianity Today. I realize that CT, like The Wild Hunt, is a niche publication with an editorial bias towards its own, but I would never try to pass off such a liar and con-man within the Pagan community as a reputable source of information.

Which brings us back to vampires and the morality of power-over. In the vampire subculture there are rules, ethics, and an established equilibrium concerning “feeding” (whether psychic or sanguinary). Relationships are negotiated, and power-over, when given, is only after consent and understanding has been established between parties. There are, naturally, bad actors, but in many ways it is far more moral than the “vampires” who prey on various minority faiths and subcultures, tapping into their vitality in order to generate money and fame (or win souls). The rise of the “moral” vampire, reflects our own negotiations with privilege and power, of being “on top of the food chain”. We continue to be fascinated because we are struggling with curbing our own rapacious desire to dominate and destroy all that has been set before us. To ultimately redeem ourselves (on a societal level) through love, through a connection to something outside our ego-needs.

As famous vampire novelist Anne Rice says in the closing of the Christianity Today article: “They are hunger, injustice, genocide, war. Vampire stories are a relatively safe way to explore human nature.” If we can overcome, or at least negotiate, with our vampiric natures, perhaps we can also find a way towards finding a balance in the world around us.

Top Story: It seems like every time I think I’m done mentioning the antics of  Jonathon “The Impaler” Sharkey, that subject of documentary filmmakers, and founder of the “Vampyres, Witches, and Pagans Party”, somehow manages to do something even more extreme and ill-advised to gain press attention. After recently landing in jail for threatening the judge who was overseeing a case than involved Sharkey harassing an under-aged girl, he’s now at the center of a drama involving another under-age girl, whom he helped run away from home and is/was proposing to marry as soon as she reached the age of consent (she’s 16 currently).

“In an e-mail to the Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle newspaper, Brewer insisted the decision to join Sharkey was her choice. “I pretty much told Jonathon either he come meet up with me or I would walk to New Jersey on my own,” she wrote, referencing Sharkey’s native state. But Collins said police do have some concerns about the man who in 2009 was convicted of harassment in Olmsted County after a Rochester, Minn., teen broke off an online relationship with Sharkey. “Anytime you have a 44-year-old man hooking up with a 16-year-old, there’s a concern,” Collins said.”

Yes, men in their 40s trolling the Internet looking for under-age brides is “concerning”. Sharkey posted a video on Youtube that accused Paige Brewer’s mother of hitting her, and detailing their plans to marry and have kids as soon as Paige is of age.

However, despite the threatening montage of Sharkey hitting a punching bag, and detailing his plans of judicial revenge once he’s “king” of Minnesota, Brewer was taken into custody yesterday after an arranged meeting with social services. No charges are currently being filed against Sharkey, but he is being questioned by police.

I think we’ve reached a point where those covering Sharkey’s exploits need to acknowledge that he’s not some jokey vampire-witch punchline any longer, but a criminal who has shown a pattern of having inappropriate, and sometimes threatening, interactions with young girls.  A rational man, when confronted with a teenager who claims to have been abused, would go to social services first, not try and marry them. A sane man would understand that this behavior is the behavior of a predator, not a loving individual. I can only hope that something is done before yet another troubled teenager falls into his all-encompassing delusion.

In Other News:

Post-PantheaCon Ponderings: It’s been a few days since PantheaCon in San Jose, and we’re starting get some reflections and round-ups from participants. First, Thorn Coyle discusses the blurry distinctions between “serious seekers” and “party Pagans” at the event, finding that perhaps such divisions aren’t productive.

We all have our own journey to the sacred within. Who am I to say that one person’s journey is less serious than my own? Trust me, I’ve done my own fair share of carping about people whom I want to respect but who’s methods, outlook, or “fruits”, I don’t quite understand or may even disagree with. But I simultaneously have to admit to myself that I simply cannot know the core state of their hearts and souls. Unless they come to me for advice, I simply must say, “their path belongs to them” and then decide whether or not I want to lend time and energy to that relationship or not. What I cannot do is decide definitively whether or not their search is “serious.”

Meanwhile, Gwion Raven explored what the “back to basics” theme really meant this year, Cosette gives a first-timers perspective and says some nice things about me, Lupa discusses her Bear Performance Ritual, the COG NPIO blog says some nice things about my talk, Frater Barrabbas discusses some of the more ritual magic-focused events, Frater POS discusses his class at Pantheacon, Stella of Revealing had some interesting insights concerning my talk, Donald Michael Kraig has a few interesting Pantheacon-related posts you should read, and Erynn Laurie has several posts concerning her PantheaCon adventure. If you have some PantheaCon related thoughts or wrap-ups you want to share, please leave a link in the comments.

The Invisibility of Vodou: Samuel Freedman at the New York Times looks at the bad and uneven press Haitian Vodou has gotten since an earthquake devastated the country on January 12th. The core of Freedman’s essay is how reporters and editorial-writers have overlooked the centrality of that faith in Haiti.

“Crude and harsh as Mr. Robertson’s words were, he deserved a perverse kind of credit for one thing. He actually did recognize the centrality of voodoo to Haiti. In the voluminous media coverage of the quake and its aftermath, relatively few journalists and commentators have done so, and even fewer have gotten voodoo right.”

It’s actually interesting how much of his column echoes a good portion of my coverage here at The Wild Hunt. I say this not to brag, but as a vindication of the fact that this issue of Vodou in Haiti is an important one that deserved more attention and understanding than it generally received from the mainstream media. I’m glad that more reporters are picking up on these threads.

Bob Barr Isn’t Making Friends: On Wednesday I mentioned how former Libertarian candidate and Republican Senator Bob Barr has reverted back to his Pagan-hating ways, with a two-faced article mocking Pagan soldiers. Now journalist Ed Brayton, the man who got him to originally recant his anti-Pagan views on-the-record, is hopping mad.

“F**k you, Bob Barr. You obviously lied to me and you are just as bigoted and stupid as you were when you were in Congress.”

Ouch! Something tells me folks, especially Libertarian folks (and military folks), won’t get fooled again.

How Often Do You Write Letters to Your God/dess? In a final note, Thaindian News reports on a little post office near the banks of the Ganga river (aka the Ganges river) in Kachhla town of Uttar Pradesh that receives dozens of letters every day addressed to “Ganga Maiya” (the goddess personification of the Ganga river).

“Today those dashing off letters don’t just pray for a cure to their ailments; they write on auspicious occasions as well. Once the letters reach the Kachhla post office, the postmen take them to the river bank and drop them into the water. “Be it any festival – Holi, Diwali, or birthdays, marriages, mundan (tonsure ceremonies) or house warming, people seek blessings from Ganga Maiya by writing letters,” Satya Pal Singh, a sugarcane farmer, told IANS. “Residents here believe the letter serves as an invitation to Ganga Maiya, who will then visit their home and bless them, in turn bringing good luck and prosperity,” he added.”

Which makes me wonder, do any of you send formal invitations to your deities? If so, where do you send them?

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

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 20, 2009 — 4 Comments
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My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

It seems like a given nowadays that if some dead animals turn up, practitioners of Santeria or Vodou will get blamed by a police officer, animal shelter spokesman, or speculative/lazy/bored journalist, even though most of these cases bear little resemblance to the actual religious practices of African diasporic faiths (and it usually ends up being teenagers). Journalistic coverage of these animal killings, and the assumed religious angle, has gotten so bad that press watch-dog blog Get Religion has started asking for some needed clarification.

“Say what? Let’s read that quote again, the one in which it is claimed that the number of ritual animal sacrifices spike at this time of year because of “a lot of high holidays that different groups celebrate.”what in the world are these words supposed to mean? Are we to believe that there is a wave of beheaded animal corpses because of (a) the arrival of Advent/Nativity Lent, (b) approaching observances of Hanukkah, (c) Kwanzaa festivities, (d) some alleged connection to Solstice? Is the goal to link this to voodoo or something? But before you go there, please note that the story says absolutely nothing that would point toward Santeria and, even if it did, there is no discussion of whether these sacrifices in any way fit patterns of worship in that tradition. You see, it’s wrong for journalists to say, “Behold, beheaded animals. Those Santeria people are at it again.” That’s too simplistic. So let me ask the obvious question and ask readers to weigh in: Precisely what “high holidays” are we supposed to assume are being discussed here? I honestly do not have a clue. What does this strange sentence mean? Just asking.”

The quote referenced above, from an AP story, and left unexamined, is from another representative of an animal cruelty center, making me wonder what kind of workshops on ritual killings (or horror movies) these people are attending. I’m very glad to see the issue of the horrible reporting concerning mysterious animal deaths and their alleged connection to Santeria or Vodou is being picked up on by more religion-news watchers. Maybe now we can finally inch away from pure sensationalism whenever a dead animal turns up.

Over at the Times, Cambridge classics professor Mary Beard visits a famous Clootie well near he village of Munlochy and wonders if the practice of tying rags to branches for healing really is an ancient pagan custom.

“The notice nearby, put up by the Scottish Forestry Commission (for like most shrines it’s a tourist attraction too), claims that this tradition goes back to pre-Christian times, and is a reflection of the power of water in pagan Celtic religion. It is, in other words, an amazing survival across the millennia. I found myself thnking that this was really rather hard to believe. If most other customs are invented in the nineteenth century, then why nt this pagan one too. How far back does it really go, in this form. Does anyone have any real hard evidence?”

I’ll leave it to my Celtic reconstructionist readers to look into the matter and let me (and Mary) know. While we’re on the subject of Ms. Beard’s skeptical nature, she also takes aim at the theory that ancient Greek temples were deliberately built to face the rising Sun. I’ll leave it to my Hellenic Pagan readers to weigh in on that one (I’m quite the delegator today).

Author and techgnostic Erik Davis has posted an essay adapted from the introduction to the new photography collection “Tribal Revival” that deals with the West coast neotribal festival culture.

“Every summer, tens of thousands of participants descend upon dozens of festivals and gatherings, great and small, that occur on the West Coast of North America: Shambhala, Oracle, Moontribe, Lightning in a Bottle. The names of these clans and crews are legion: hippies, ravers, pagans, crusties, free spirits, burners, seekers, travelers, eco-warriors. They gather together to dance, to escape, to hold ritual, and to craft a visionary culture based on community, creative self-expression, and a celebratory earth wisdom. Labels are always dangerous, but an honest name for the scene is neotribal. These are the new tribes, recreating and reinventing patterns of organic culture that are inspired by the premodern past but designed for a high-tech planet hurtling through a period of unprecedented global change.”

Something of a neotribal himself, Davis waxes Utopian about the the “festival [as] foundation of world renewal”, and the “earthy communion” these interweaving groups partake in. Whether this subcultural phenomenon will truly equip us for an uncertain future remains to be seen, but I’m certainly open to there being more festival, “feral joy”, and liminality in our lives.

Turning briefly to pop-culture, the io9 blog has a clip from the upcoming Percy Jackson movie “The Lightning Thief” featuring Uma Thurman as Medusa. I’ve written about the pagan-ness of Percy Jackson previously, which follows the adventures of young Greek demigods. “The Lightning Thief” is due out in February. Meanwhile, the highly literate/geeky indie rock band The Decemberists is putting out a full-length animated film of their recent myth-drenched pagan-y concept album “The Hazards of Love”.

“…next month, Colin Meloy and co. will push The Hazards of Love to full-on The Wall status, releasing the album as a full-length video. Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized premiered at a show in Los Angeles on October 19, and on December 1, it’ll be available exclusively via iTunes. Filmmakers Guilherme Marcondes, Julia Pott, Peter Sluszka and Santa Maria created animations to accompany individual sections of music from the album.”

That trailer looks pretty cool/trippy. If you want to acquaint yourself with the music before considering the movie, you can download it at (they also have it in vinyl for those that want to kick-it old-school).

In a final note, no matter how much I deplore the idea of sparkly vampires, if Vatican spokesmen and evangelical anti-occult book-peddlers don’t knock it off soon, I’ll have to see the darn things just to spite them.

“Monsignor Franco Perazzolo, of the Pontifical Council of Culture, said: ‘Men and women are transformed with horrible masks and it is once again that age-old trick or ideal formula of using extremes to make an impact at the box office. This film is nothing more than a moral vacuum with a deviant message and as such should be of concern.’ ”

Man, if sparkly celibate-till-marriage Mormon vampires are a “moral vacuum” I’d hate to hear what he thinks of “True Blood”.

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

It just isn’t Halloween without some anti-Pagan Christian propaganda! Luckily, Jeremiah Films is ready to sate my need for schlocky scare-mongering with “Popculture Paganism: Neovampirism, Wicca, and the Occult”.

“Recorded in Britain, India, and the United States, this film brings together over 30 years of research and interviews with Occultic experts, high-ranking witches, druids, and a former vampire. It gives viewers an understanding of the roots and dangers of this newly branded strain of paganism with exclusive footage of real-life ceremonies from the heart of England, featuring druidic rituals from Stonehenge and many witch covens.”

Of course by “over 30 years of research” they mean a pastiche cobbled together from previous anti-occult films with a bit of  “Twilight” and “True Blood” thrown in to make it seem more timely. If all this “research” makes you hungry for more, you can always check out the 13-DVD “Pagan Invasion Series”, where everything from Mormonism to psychotherapy is thrown into the mix. Naturally, if you don’t want to give Jermiah Films any money, you can always wait until some crank reads a Chick Tract and decides to write an editorial for the local newspaper.

“Halloween, which is the witches’ New Year, originated among the ancient Druid priests from Britain and France. This pagan holiday is held to celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of the Celtic year. The festival is named after Samhain (sah-ween), the God of the dead. The druids believed that on this night the spirits of the dead would come back and walk amongst the living to terrorize and harass them, some even possessing the bodies of animals. Also, during this time human and animal sacrifices are common, the blood spilled believed to open the gates to the dead, releasing them. To ward off these evil spirits the druids dress up as witches, demons or in other evil costumes, some participating in satanic rituals.”

Samhain God of the Dead! It’s been too long old pal! See, now it really feels like Halloween. Forget Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb filming in Salem, this is the real mood-setter.

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

Let’s start off with some updates on past stories, first off Sarah Pike, author of “Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community”, reports on the Dan Halloran story for Religion Dispatches. Pike ultimately sees his candidacy as a positive sign of modern Paganism’s entry into the mainstream.

“It would have been impossible to find a Neopagan like Halloran running for political office twenty years ago, when most Neopagans kept their identities carefully guarded for fear of losing jobs or child custody battles. In neighborhoods all over the country, Neopagan communities have been treated suspiciously and outright persecuted by some Christian neighbors, law enforcement, and government agencies. Since for many Americans, the Republican Party is inseparable from conservative Christianity, Neopagans were surprised that the party stood by Halloran, and took it as a sign that not only is the makeup of the religious left and the religious right shifting, but that the country as a whole is becoming more receptive toward their religion.”

As for Halloran’s campaign, he’s trailing badly in the fundraising department, but has benefited greatly from the city’s matching funds program (which his Democratic challenger opted out of). The two candidates are scheduled to debate on October 24th, I’m sure many of us will be watching to see if religion is brought up.

Now we turn to another ongoing story, the death of two participants (and hospitalization of others) in a sweat-lodge ceremony lead by New Age “Secret” peddler James A. Ray. Commentary on the issue, as you can imagine, has been fast and (mostly) furious. New Agers and Natives in Arizona are undertandably split on the issue of Ray’s sweat-lodge use, historian Al Carroll, one of the founders of New Age Frauds Plastic Shamans (NAFPS), is asking Oprah to apologize for promoting him, and Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle has made an official statement.

“Our First Nations People have to earn the right to pour the mini wic’oni (water of life) upon the inyan oyate (the stone people) in creating Inikag’a – by going on the vision quest for four years and four years Sundance. Then you are put through a ceremony to be painted – to recognize that you have now earned that right to take care of someone’s life through purification. They should also be able to understand our sacred language, to be able to understand the messages from the Grandfathers, because they are ancient, they are our spirit ancestors. They walk and teach the values of our culture; in being humble, wise, caring and compassionate. What has happened in the news with the make shift sauna called the sweat lodge is not our ceremonial way of life! When you do ceremony – you can not have money on your mind.”

Meanwhile, James Ray reportedly broke down in tears at a scheduled speaking engagement in Los Angeles, saying that he grieved for the families and is “being tested” by these events. Let’s hope his contrition is genuine, because another sweat-lodge victim is in a coma with multiple damaged organs, and two more remain hospitalized. Authorities have also noted that the sweat lodge didn’t have a permit to be constructed, and that there was a past mishap in its use in 2005, also lead by Ray. For even more, check out the Newspaper Rock blog.

Turning to other events, Mollie at Get Religion has totally got my back this week. She looked at coverage of the James Ray sweat-lodge deaths, and debunked one-sided press speculation that roaming goats were Santeria sacrifices.

“But while we get tons of perspective from animal rescue groups, there is literally not one practitioner of Santeria whose views are included. We don’t even hear from a professor or other expert who could speak about Santeria. And finally, I’m unclear how these live, wandering goats are related to animals killed as part of a religious sacrifice. Maybe we could just get some explanation on that front.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m really happy to see Get Religion start to dip its toe in the waters of minority faiths, especially Santeria and its practice of animal sacrifice, becasuse press coverage of those topics is especially bad.

If you’re a Pagan who needs his bladed weapons to meditate, maybe you shouldn’t wave them in the face of a policeman.

“He told police he had travelled the world and needed the weapons to meditate with in a peaceful place. Thornton, 46, of no fixed address, was committed to Bradford Crown Court for sentence by the city’s magistrates for carrying an ornamental dagger and a lock knife in Buttershaw on June 13. On bail, he drew a sword in the city centre five days later and waved the weapon at a Police Community Support Officer.”

The world-traveling homeless magician was sentenced to two years imprisonment (for two seperate offenses). Proving, I suppose, that “religious purposes” isn’t some sort of get-out-of-jail-free card you can wave anytime you do something stupid.

Inside Jersey takes a look at the “real” vampire subculture in New Jersey, with all the usual stopping points about blood-drinking, safety, ethics, interviewing Michelle Belanger, sparkly pop-culture vampires, and such. But what really caught my eye was this little tidbit.

“Their August event featured a pagan rite performed by a guest from outside the court. It was an animal sacrifice; a lizard was dispatched for a good harvest. That was followed by a vampire town hall. There was a debate, an election for magistrate and Q&A session addressing tensions between clans.”

A lizard? For a good harvest? Did lizards suddenly become a livestock animal? Or was that the only animal they thought they could stomach killing? I’m sorry, I try not to judge regarding people’s rituals, but this seems, well, wrong. Not wrong because they sacrificed an animal, but wrong because it sounds like a failed attempt to be “dark” and “shocking”. I’d really like to know what tradition the lizard-killer is from, and what the ritual format for this “harvest sacrifice” was.

In a quick final note, be sure to check out the AP article about Maria Lionza followers in Venezuela, you may remember that I did several stories about the socio-political importance of the goddess Maria Lionza years back on this blog.

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