Top Story: Some crazy things get said and done during an election season, and Pagans certainly haven’t been immune from that phenomenon this year, but this may take the cake. Washington, D.C., Republican congressional delegate candidate Missy Reilly Smith, in an interview with The Daily Caller, talks about using her candidacy as a way to air her anti-abortion views and lets slip some rather interesting opinions about Wicca.
“The more that you’re involved in this organization [Planned Parenthood] the more demonic you realize it is,” Smith said. “Many of the employees of Planned Parenthood and abortion mills, the actual killing centers, the employees are actual witches. They belong to Wiccan and there’s nothing more valuable to Satan than the blood of innocent babies.”
She also proclaims on her website that the Tea Party’s “number one mission” is to “end legalized child killing” which might come as a shock to the pro-choice Tea Partiers in the movement who are more concerned with taxes. While it’s shocking to hear any (supposedly) mainstream candidate say this about Wiccans, it’s actually a fairly common belief within the hardcore anti-abortion groups. Do a search for “the sacrament of abortion” on Google and you’ll see a near-obsession with an obscure book written by Ginette Paris in 1992 that discusses abortion as a sacred act, and uses the metaphor of the procedure being seen as a sacrifice to Artemis. This, along with other isolated comments by a former abortion practitioner, was pounced on as “proof” that Satanic Witches were behind the abortion industry. Various “insider” accounts still push the Wiccan abortionist meme today, putting Smith’s seemingly random outburst into context.
“Since then the Toledo, Ohio, abortion clinic where Abigail’s mother worked has moved to a new location, although it is still owned by the same woman, a Wiccan when Abigail knew her. Abigail’s mother has also moved on, so I don’t know if the nefarious practices and conditions Abigail observed are ongoing.”
Star Foster at Patheos.com has already expressed her disgust and anger at Smith’s slandering of Paganism in the interview, and I imagine more responses are being written as news of this slur spreads. It should be noted that Smith does not have the support of the Republican Party, despite having won the primary. It is also very unlikely that she’ll win (Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in the District of Columbia). So, if anything, her candidacy should be a reminder of what the activist base of the anti-abortion movement believes about modern Paganism.
The Future of Pagan Lands: Pagan journalist Kathy Nance talks with acclaimed Pagan author and activist Starhawk during her visit to Diana’s Grove in Missouri; the key topic of discussion is the fact that Diana’s Grove is currently on the market, and how land prices and the current economy are calling into question the future of Pagan-owned retreats and sanctuaries.
First, she said, the changing of the generational guard is being affected by a change in land values. Many of the groups—Pagan and otherwise—that bought land and set up intentional communities in the 1970s and 1980s were able to live off the land with little or no outside income. Now that land prices have increased so greatly in some areas, buyers need outside income to make the mortgage payments. Or, they need to be retired people with sufficient assets to invest and use for living expenses.
“I see now on my land in Northern California that the community is aging. The people who are moving in who can afford to buy tend to be retired,” she said. “You can’t ask Cynthea and Patricia to just give it (the Diana’s Grove acreage) away. That’s their retirement money. But the people who might be interested in taking it on, may not have the resources.”
It all comes back to the need for infrastructure, and how hard that can be to manage for a movement as decentralized and diverse as modern Paganism. While our growing (and aging) community often wants some of the amenities that other faith communities have (land, buildings, retirement communities, service organizations, charities), the individual faiths within Paganism are still too small to build/buy such resources, and the movement as a whole is often too diverse to effectively pool resources for such things. I have no doubt that eventually we’ll see more infrastructure within modern Paganism, but it may not come as soon as some would wish.
Baltic Paganism Around the World: After doing an article on the rise of new religious movements in the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), the Baltic Times takes a closer look at Baltic forms of Paganism at home and in the diaspora.
“Evangelical movements along with neo-pagan movements locally and abroad are possibly the beginnings of something much larger. Next, we take a look at the rebirth of ancient religions. To call it an actual rebirth is somewhat of a misnomer since the neo-pagan movements are not a true revival of a religion once practiced in the region. Instead, as with the example of the Latvian Dievturiba (literally ‘keeping God’) movement, we see religion constructed from ancient practices.”
The article looks at Dievturiba, Romuva, Maausk, and Taaralased, many of which are seeing thriving communities growing in the Baltic diaspora. Also mentioned is the upcoming observance of Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”), which share many commonalities with the holidays like Samhain.
Hiding Bones Because of Pagans? The Daily Mail reports on the trend of museums increasingly hiding or deemphasizing ancient human remains due to protests from various groups, including Pagans. Centered on the new book by sociologist Dr Tiffany Jenkins entitled “Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The Crisis of Cultural Authority”, the article claims museums are over-reacting to protests by groups like Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD).
Since the late 1970s, human remains in museum collections have been subject to claims and controversies, such as demands for repatriation by indigenous groups who suffered under colonisation, particularly in Australia, North America and Canada. But Dr Jenkins says that such appeals are not confined to once-colonised groups. British pagans formed Honouring the Ancient Dead in 2004 to campaign for reburial and respect for pre-Christian skeletons from the British Isles. Dr Jenkins said: “The profession is over-reacting to the claims of small minority groups – such as the Pagan organisation, Honouring the Ancient Dead. Most remarkable of all is that human remains of all ages, and which are not the subject of claims-making by any community group, have become subject to concerns about their handling, display and storage, expressed by influential members of the museum profession.”
As I’ve noted before on this site, there is no consensus among British Pagans on this issue, with many, most notably Pagans for Archeology, opposed to the reburial of ancient human remains. In fact HAD occupies something of a middle ground on this issue, only calling for the reburial of remains that “have no scientific or research potential,” as opposed to other groups who take a far harder line. Whether museum curators are “over-reacting” to demands by various Pagan groups is an open question. Who sets the metric for what’s an over-reaction? The Daily Mail? They don’t have a great track record for being fair and balanced when it comes to Pagan religion in the UK.
No Deal on Witch’s Wit? While I’m hesitant to bring this topic up again, it seem the New York Times was a bit too hasty in saying there was a deal between protesting Pagans and California brewery Lost Abbey over their witch-burning beer label. Peter Rowe with the San Diego Union Tribune interviews Tomme Arthur, Lost Abbey’s brewmaster and part owner, who says that he isn’t budging on this issue.
“I’m sorry we offended the pagan community. But our labels are original pieces of artwork. I’m standing behind the art and the artist’s imagination.” … At least one of Lost Abbey’s four co-owners would bow to these concerns. “I would change the label,” Vince Marsaglia said. “That’s one of a million labels you could put on that beer.” But Marsaglia said he’ll defer to the person who runs Lost Abbey day-to-day. And what would that person change about the label? “Nothing,” Tomme Arthur insisted.”
Observant readers will also note that Rowe interviewed me for the article. I’m afraid our nuanced conversation about Pagan opinions over this controversy were somewhat cherry-picked in the rather glib final version, but I tried to emphasize to him that there is no clear consensus within our communities over this issue. Whether this controversy dies down, or continues to gain stream, remains to be seen.
That’s all I have for now, have a great day!