Archives For Vice Magazine

I think that modern Paganism has hit some sort of landmark when hip(ster) touchstone Vice Magazine features a new music column spotlighting a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan headlined by a band called ‘Wiccans.’

Wiccans in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Photo: Vice)

“Last night I walked into Encore Records, the best record store in Ann Arbor and one of the best anywhere, where Wiccans front women Aran Ruth and Kelly Jean Caldwell had cleared a space on the floor to spread out a flowery blanket on top of which they were busily setting up an altar made out of spellbooks, incense, a silkscreened tapestry of a tarot card Empress, and candles—one of them in the shape of a kitten because there’s apparently no rule against mixing magick and cute shit. When they had everything properly arranged and lit Aran picked up an acoustic guitar, Kelly picked up a flute, Fred Thomas (who plays in Saturday Looks Good to Me, which Kelly used to sing for) picked up a set of bongos and a djembe, and the thirty or so representatives of Ann Arbors sizable indie rocker, weirdo artsy crust punk, and hardcore witchcraft scenes sat in a semicircle around them.”

Not to be confused with the hardcore punk band of the same name, Wiccans sounds like “Pentangle meets Pentagram” and sings songs with titles like “Invocation of the Horned God,” “Moon Door,” and “Oh Holy Maiden.” In a perhaps unintentional nod to the past of modern Pagan music, their release is available only on cassette. This raises many questions, are Wiccans Wiccan? Will they be releasing their music in a format other than cassette?  Will they play at a Pagan festival if we asked them nicely? In any case, it’s an interesting development, one that speaks to how Wicca is mainstreaming, while still holding on to enough counter-cultural edge that bands are being named after it.

In other news, it’s Pagan Pride season and tomorrow is the Columbia-Willamette Pagan Pride in Portland, Oregon. I’ll be there to have a public discussion with Anne Newkirk Niven, editor of Witches & Pagans, about Pagan media. It should be fun! I was lucky enough to be interviewed by local paper The Oregonian in advance of the event, and you can read the results here.

“Basically, we’re just like you. That is the message all minority faiths try to tell the world: We have the hopes and fears of everyone else. We just follow a different religion. We have a message and wisdom that we can share, about being more aware of the natural world, that the divine can have a feminine face. Some real potent elements within pagan faith can be helpful to the wider world as we deal with ecological calamity and the basic rights of women. The message from the closing ceremony of the Paralympics was universal in scope. There can and should be a space where our poetry and our world are integrated with everyone else’s.”

I thought it turned out very well, do check it out if you have the chance. If you’re in the Portland area, why not drop by? It’s being held at an amusement park! For real! I’ll try to post photos and experiences from the event tomorrow.

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!