Archives For Wiccan

The First Pantheistic Center of the Antelope Valley features an article from Lisa Morgenstern about a new first for modern Pagans in the military: Edwards Air Force Base in California hosted a Wiccan service for the 20 Airmen fallen in 2013.

Altar from the Edwards Air Force Base Wiccan service.

Altar from the Edwards Air Force Base Wiccan service.

“The circle keened the names of the fallen in Celtic tradition, calling their names loudly. Amy, a member of Dragon’s Weyr Circle, a Covenant of the Goddess Member coven, stated, “Thursday night as I started to set up the sacred space the wind started to whirl around. The sky looked as if there was a storm brewing, The Celts would say that it was the Sidhe showing their knowledge of the events …..when the circle was done so was the whirling and swirling winds.” The altar held patches of all the squadrons of the men and women lost.

The circle members called in Badb, and the Horned God, and invited the fallen Airmen to join them and be honored. Then they raised healing energy “to send back through their threads of life/energy to help those which are a part of their tapestries of life.” Several traditional poems were read, and as Captain Victoria Ann Pinckney, the local Palmdale High School Graduate and pilot, was a WASP and a tanker pilot, the poem Vectors to the Tanker, along with a WASP memorial poem for female pilots. The Heathens in attendance spoke of the honor accorded to fallen warriors and that those slain in battle are collected by Freyja and Odin and brought to their halls, Sessrumir and Valhalla. They shared mead and lemon cookies on an altar with red roses. The lemon and red roses are military traditions when honoring those lost.”

Edwards Air Force Base has been hosting regular Wiccan services since April, when Elder Priestess Amy Watson, a Covenant of the Goddess member, and wife of an Air Force Captain, first approached the Wing Chaplain.

“When I approached the Wing Chaplain to have services scheduled, he insisted that we schedule weekly services,” said Watson, “just like all the other denominations have.”

With all the talk lately about proselytizing in the military, and the influence of conservative Christianity, I think it’s important to note when important and largely unheralded forward steps are taken. This first, along with other Pagan services on military bases, and the recent approval of the Thor’s Hammer for veteran headstones and grave markers, points to a slow but building new reality within military culture. A pluralistic and multi-religious “post-Christian” future in which a balance must be struck so that all may find within America’s armed forces. I send out my congratulations to Priestess Amy Watson, and to the Pagans and Wiccans at Edwards Air Force Base. I have no doubt the gods heard you in your honoring of the fallen Airmen.

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.

Captions from Young Avengers #2.

Captions from Young Avengers #2.

  • Last week, the comic book Young Avengers #2 had the conversation that many Pagan comic-book fans were awaiting: What’s up with Wiccan calling himself “Wiccan”? Here’s hoping it leads to a new code-name that isn’t also the name for a, well, Wiccan. The issue was written by Kieron Gillen with art by Jamie Mckelvie, the same team who did the criminally under-appreciated Phonogram miniseries (which should be required reading for anyone who loves the intersection of music and magic).
  • Some Charismatic Christians are worried that the practice of prophetic ministry might be crossing the line into “witchcraft” for some.  Quote: “When he released the words over me, it came with a spiritual force that made me feel as if I had been covered with goo. My eyes began burning. I felt like I was in a daze. It was spiritual witchcraft.” What’s interesting is that this piece gets close to admitting that a lot of charismatic practice is like magical energy work, and that it’s too easy to blur the boundaries. Now, if they’ll address spiritual warfare…
  • Are rooster heads found at a North Carolina cemetery ”Voodoo”? No one knows for certain, but let’s wildly speculate anyway. Quote: “Brandy Nunn told Fox Charlotte, ‘God only knows what they’re really doing with cutting heads off. What are they really messing with over there?’” I’m sure that no one will jump to conclusions over this.
  • Bleeding Cool covers a new witchcraft-themed comic book, “The Westwood Witches,” complete with human sacrifice and appearance by Baphomet. It’s a “horror” book, so take that as you will. Quote: “It’s not just about witchcraft but about beliefs, too. What seems real to us sounds like nonsense to others, and that’s the power of literature… and quackery. But overall, The Westwood Witches is a tale about neighborhood and neighbors. In this book, they’re beautiful, they’re kind, and they’re demon worshippers. You could say it’s like Desperate Housewives with macabre murderings”.
  • Indie art-rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs have a new album coming out in April, and their lead single “Sacrilege” is influenced by “the New Orleans vibe. Just the juju in the air.”
  • It’s the collapse of mainline Protestent political power, and I feel fine. 
  • Religion in American Historyponders the reactions to Hinduism by U.S. President John Adams. Quote: “Adams consistently compares Hindu religion to Roman Catholicism in the margins, writing ‘Oh Priestcraft!’ and labeling Hindu practices as ‘ridiculous observances.’ When Priestley writes, “But the Hindoos go far beyond the rest of mankind in voluntary restrictions and mortifications,” Adams asks ‘Far beyond the Romish Christians?’ in the margin.”

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.

Before we move too far into the future, let’s pause a moment to talk about Halloween. Not the spiritual vigil of Samhain or seasonal harvest celebrations.  Let’s discuss the wholly secular, American and Canadian holiday of Halloween, complete with candy, costumes and PVC pumpkins.

Vintage Halloween Pumpkin Men

Vintage Plastic Halloween Pumpkin Men by riptheskull

It’s fair to say that Halloween has a somewhat uneasy place in the family of North American holidays.  On the one hand, we, as Pagans, fully embrace the festivities. It is the one calendar event that openly clings to its Pagan origins. When else can you buy a pentacle in TJ Maxx?   But, on the other hand, the celebration mocks its own spiritual roots, something that we hold very dear.

We aren’t alone in our unsettled attempts to navigate through the Halloween season.  American religious and community leaders repeatedly attempt to ban the holiday.  Why?  The list is endless including concerns over the overindulgence in candy, the potential dangers of trick-or-treating, the increased popularity of over-sexualized or violently graphic costumes and, of course, its Pagan origins. But the majority of folks really just want an excuse to party. Halloween provides a unique canvas that can only be topped by the decadent bacchanalia that is Mardi Gras. (The Atlantic, 10-30-12)

Japanese McDonalds Costumes

Ronald McDonalds Girls
Photo courtesy of Japan-Talk.com

More recently, the Halloween debate has been getting larger – much larger. Over the past two decades, our secular holiday has been spreading across the globe, seizing the imaginations of youth cultures on every continent. The holiday has hitched a ride with missionaries, English language teachers and ex-pats. It’s being promoted by imported American cultural commodities like internationally-based Theme Parks, McDonald’s stores, Coca Cola products and Hollywood movies.  And, of course, the ever-increasing accessibility to the internet only fuels the proverbial fire.

In some regions, Halloween has been readily incorporated into long-established fall cultural traditions. In the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, Halloween finds itself at its ancestral birthplace. Today, the newly-imported version has mixed with surviving local customs associated with, among others, Guy Fawkes Day.  As noted by English writer, Chris Bitcher:

“Trick or treat has now actually become a bona fide tradition in the UK ….Fireworks were our autumnal treat of choice and for a good little while we fought off any competitor to it. But then we gave that up and decided to embrace both.” (Your Canterbury)

Disneyland Honk Kong on Halloween

Disneyland Honk Kong
During Halloween

Across the globe in China, Hong Kong and Japan, people have been enthusiastically adopting the holiday. Lisa Morton, award-winning writer of Trick or Treat: The History of Halloween, and noted Halloween authority, attributes this acceptance to the presence of two Disney Theme Parks  (Tokyo and Hong Kong), Hollywood horror movies and a fascination with American pop-culture. During my own discussion with her, Lisa added, “In Japan, there is a love of festivals and affection for costuming or “cosplay,” which is associated with anime and manga.”  In mainland China, Halloween is slowly replacing Yue Laan or “ Hungry Ghost Festivals,” during which people appease and entertain ancestral ghosts.  To fuel and solidify this cultural shift, China will be getting its very own “Haunted Mansion” at Shanghai Disneyland in 2015.

On the contrary, in continental Europe, Halloween has been receiving a less than welcome reception. In Oct 2012, the Polish Archbishop Andzej Dzięga, was quoted on Polskie Radio, as saying, “This kind of fun, tempting children [with] candy, poses the real possibility of great spiritual damage, even destroying spiritual life.” He warned against the “promotion of paganism” and a “culture of death.”  In 2003, CNN.com reported that France’s Catholics are trying everything to fend off a Halloween celebration they say is an “ungodly U.S. import.”

More recently, in Russia, the war over Halloween rages on. ABC Online reports that one Russian Education Ministry official called the holiday, a destructive influence “on young people’s morals and mental health.” The Moscow city schools banned Halloween celebrations claiming that they were concerned about, “rituals of Satanically-oriented religious sects and… the promotion of the cult of death.”  In the same article, an unamed Russian psychologist warned:

Halloween poses a great danger to children and their mental health, suggesting it could make young people more likely to commit suicide.”(ABC Online)

Despite this heavily Christian rhetoric, the resistance is not entirely about religion.  In our discussion, Lisa explained that, “While it is difficult to fully separate the expression of nationalism from religious tradition, many European countries, like France and Slovenia, have strong anti-American undercurrents.”  Religious fervor may, in fact, be serving nationalist interests.  Lisa said, in the end, she “believes the protests are far more about nationalism than religion.”

This is expressed in an article by Paul Wood, an Englishman living in Bucharest:

Just as the North American grey squirrel has made the red squirrel almost extinct so has the North American Hallowe’en taken over with extraordinary swiftness, extinguishing older, weaker traditions. This too is life, I suppose, but it is part of the process by which the whole world is becoming plastic. (Romania Insider)

Despite the rejection, Halloween is still growing, albeit very slowly, deep within European youth cultures.  In Italy, Halloween is called La Notte delle Streghe or “Night of the Witches.”  In Romania, home of the Carpathian Mountains, the local economy is profiting from world’s fascination with Count Dracula. What a better way to spend Halloween than in Transylvania on a “real Dracula Halloween tour” complete with a four-course dinner and prizes!

Now, let’s move into the Southern Hemisphere where Halloween faces a new obstacle. Simply put, the harvest-based holiday does not apply. In this part of the world, October 31st marks the middle of Spring, not Fall.  Over the summer, I was reminded of this fact when wishing an Australian friend, “Joyous Lughnasah.” She responded with an equally joyful, “Happy Imbolc.”

2671887 eeda9c5cIn the Southern Hemisphere, traditional festivals continue to be celebrated in accordance with appropriate seasonal shifts with no noticeable attempt to transplant Halloween to May.  However, youth cultures have been showing a small amount of interest in an October-based Halloween celebration, particularly in the English-speaking countries of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.  If for no other reason, the Northern holiday offers a chance to party and dabble in the macabre – even if it’s completely devoid of its seasonal aspects.

What about the Americas?  As noted above, the countries in the Southern Hemisphere do not recognize Halloween chiefly due to geographical complications.  However, the closer you get to the U.S., the more our secular Halloween has influenced local October traditions.  In Costa Rica, for example, locals “have taken this “foreign” holiday and used it to revive an ancient Costa Rican custom: Dia de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense or Masquerade Day,” reports the Costa Rican News.

Closer to home, in Mexico, the famous and mystical celebration of Dias de los Muertos is, now, often called Dias de las Brujas or “Day of the Witches.”  Halloween practices have been woven in to this largely religious holiday.  As expected, there has been backlash from Mexican nationalists and religious leaders.  However, Mexico is just too close to the U.S. to prevent the blending of two very similar October holidays. And that continues to happen in both directions.

Just as Halloween has infiltrated Mexican culture, elements of Dias de los Muertos are now showing up within U.S. Halloween celebrations.  In an interview, Lisa Morton explained:

Last year I saw my first piece of major Dias de los Muertos American retailing – the Russell Stover candy company released several themed candy bars… That’s probably a sign that Dias de los Muertos is starting to be accepted into the American mainstream. It’s certainly very popular in those areas of the U.S. with large Latino populations.  More people seem to be joining in large-scale Dias de los Muertos celebrations in America every year.

Dias de los Muertos Candy

Dias de los Muertos Candy
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Morton

There are some areas of the world in which Halloween has yet to find a home for reasons already listed. These areas include the Islamic Middle East, the heavily Christian areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Israel, India and parts of South East Asia.  I’ll go out on a limb and add Antarctica to that list – just to complete the geography lesson.

What does all this mean for Pagans? First of all, in every article for or against Halloween, a discourse emerges surrounding the origins the holiday.  In many of these reports, the author includes a reasonable account of Halloween’s Celtic origins and Samhain-based traditions. Modern Pagan language is, unwittingly, hitching a ride on Halloween’s broomstick.

With the growing public interest in Halloween, we may find ourselves more able to openly join in the global conversation and, at the same time, deal with our own reservations. Maybe we should embrace the evolving holiday, “seize the spotlight” and become the stewards of Halloween worldwide?  After all, the U.S. media loves interviewing witches in October.  Or, we could completely renounce the secular holiday and its derogatory effigies. We could join others in protest with slogans like “We’re a culture. Not a costume.”

Regardless of our personal feelings about the secular celebration, Halloween continues to gain popularity worldwide, year after year.  As a result, every October when the veil thins, a brand-new door opens for us providing a unique opportunity for a teachable moment.  Now, we can say that both the ancestors and the world are listening.

 

Trick or Treat: The History of Halloween

Note about Lisa Morton: Trick or Treat:  A History of Halloween. This book is an historical and cultural survay of Halloween’s evolution from early Celtic traditions and lore through the ages and across the globe. It is a good read for history junkies, like myself, or students of comparative culture. Within her detailed work, Lisa did reach out to consult Wiccans, world-wide, and gave a decent nod to the modern-day Pagan spiritual celebrations of Samhain or Halloween. 

It appears that the controversial move by Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to retract a paid position for a Wiccan prison chaplain was merely a harbinger of much bigger things. The CBC reports that Toews, who oversees Canada’s penitentiaries, has eliminated all paid part-time chaplain services, effectively making government prison chaplaincy a Christian-only affair.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

“Inmates of other faiths, such as Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, will be expected to turn to Christian prison chaplains for religious counsel and guidance, according to the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who is also responsible for Canada’s penitentiaries. [...] Toews’ office says that as a result of the review, the part-time non-Christian chaplains will be let go and the remaining full-time chaplains in prisons will now provide interfaith services and counselling to all inmates.”

Toews’ office said in a statement to the CBC that “[Christian] chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.” This lead one Sikh chaplain to ask the obvious question: “How can a Christian chaplain provide spirituality to the Sikh faith, because they don’t have that expertise.”

Wiccan chaplain Kate Hansen, speaking with the National Post, said she was disturbed by this turn of events.

“I’m disturbed that the government believes that all these minority faith people can be dealt with by Christian chaplains, I don’t know where they’ll get all the minority faith volunteers from. I don’t know how they’ll make that work. I can’t think of why they would think this is a good way to treat people.”

So from this point forth, all non-Christian chaplaincy services to federal prisons must either be provided by volunteers, or the prisoners: Wiccan prisoners, Pagan prisoners, Buddhist prisoners, First Nations prisoners, must all turn to the full-time (Christian) chaplains for spiritual guidance and resources. Luckily all Christian chaplains are heavily trained in dealing with the spiritual needs of religious minorities, right? I mean, it seems inconceivable that this would be an invitation for some to abuse their power, to push for jailhouse conversions in exchange for proper treatment.

Frankly, I’m still reeling from this announcement. I wasn’t overly surprised when Toews decided to engage in a little discriminatory Witch-kicking, our community has weathered those slings and arrows for years, but this is something far more audacious. Toews and his office are essentially doubling down, saying that a full-time Christian chaplaincy is enough to handle all faiths, no matter what their history or relationship with Christianity might be. It’s stunning. Whether he’ll be allowed to get away with it is, I suppose, up to the Harper administration and Canadian voters. I’ll update on this story as it continues to develop.

Way back in March of 2008 the town of Greece, New York had a problem. Americans United had decided to bring litigation against the Town Board for a policy of starting their meetings almost exclusively with sectarian Christian prayers. Hoping to avoid losing a lawsuit, the Town Board threw open their doors to any religion that wanted to give an opening prayer, even if they were Pagans.

“[Greece deputy town supervisor Jeff] McCann said the town has long used a list of worship services published in a local newspaper to extend invitations to local clergy for the meetings. The list offers little diversity, he said, and the town has had difficulty locating people from nontraditional faiths who may not have a physical church building they attend. “Now that the issue has gotten some publicity, we’ve had people call up and say they have an interest in delivering a prayer,” he said, adding that nonclergy, the nonreligious and anyone else who wishes to speak the pre-meeting prayer is welcome. “If a private person wants to come and say a prayer, they can come and do it.” Indeed, he said, next month’s Wiccan prayer was initiated by local resident Jennifer Zarpentine, who called town offices to ask whether she would be welcome at a meeting.”

So local resident Jennifer Zarpentine did indeed give an opening invocation in Greece, making her re-think the issue of sectarian prayers now that she was included.

“In just a few seconds’ time during the April Town Board meeting, Jennifer Zarpentine made Greece history. Zarpentine, a Wiccan, delivered the first-ever pagan prayer to open a meeting of the Greece Town Board. Her hands raised to the sky, she called upon Greek deities Athena and Apollo to ‘help the board make the right informed decisions for the benefit and greater good of the community.’ A small cadre of her friends and coven members in the audience chimed in ’so mote it be … Zarpentine said she was pleased by the opportunity to pray at the meeting. ‘I thought the invocation went well,’ she said. ‘The board was respectful;, they all bowed their heads.’ As far as the lawsuit goes, Zarpentine said the town isn’t being discriminatory. ‘They are including everybody,’ she said. ‘They asked me.’

Americans United were, naturally, unmoved by the town of Greece’s recent inclusiveness, so litigation moved forward. This past Thursday Americans United and the town of Greece (represented by the right-wing Alliance Defence Fund) gave their arguments to a judge and are now awaiting a summary judgement in about six weeks.

“In the hour-long hearing, Richard R. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United, argued that the plaintiff is concerned not with prayer before the meetings but with sectarian prayers that have dominated the practice since Auberger started it in 1999. According to court papers, of 104 prayers from 1999 through 2007, none were non-Christian. Since the lawsuit was filed, the majority of the prayers have been Christian, with one being delivered by a Wiccan priestess and two others by non-clergy. Katskee stressed that the plaintiff is not against Christian prayer, but that the prayers have been aimed at one sect … Joel Oster, a senior litigation counsel for Colorado-based Alliance Defense Fund that is representing Greece, said that it is not right to ask the town to police the clergy. “It is not the town’s place to tell the clergy what to say,” Oster said. “It would cause a nightmare for the town.” Auberger has said that the town’s practice is to have an open invitation to any Greece resident to contact the town about giving the prayer.”

So now we’ll find out if a legal fig-leaf in the form of a single sectarian Wiccan prayer (amidst a hundred Christian prayers to Jesus) can aid this New York town and their socially conservative legal team overcome the AU and some pretty strong legal precedents in their favor. Will Greece’s “include a Wiccan” gambit work? Or will they be forced to switch to non-sectarian prayers? In about six weeks we get to find out.

Dionne Walker of the Associated Press reports on how some airport chapels are removing their crosses (and other denominational-specific decor) and embracing a new multi-faith reality.

Across the country, chapels designed to offer passengers refuge and reflection in bustling airports are making changes: Removing denomination-specific decor, adding special accommodations and hosting services geared to accommodate an increasingly diverse group of travelers flying with faith. In Atlanta, it means a simple stained-glass window marking the entrance to the 1,040-square-foot chapel on the third floor. Inside there’s room for 30, and a library stocking everything from Gideon Bibles to Jewish mystical texts. A large floor mat provides a cushiony spot to kneel for prayer; officials don’t set it aside for any specific faith. “There are representations of almost every faith,” said Cook, who recently oversaw a $200,000 renovation that more than doubled the chapel to its current size. “There are Buddhists in their orange robes, there are some Hindus … I helped a Wiccan one time.”

In the article, Walker describes the multi-faith chapel space at Atlanta’s airport. There, the floor is decorated with a large compass (and little else). While the Rev. Chester Cook talks of accommodating faiths that need to face a certain direction to pray (like Jews and Muslims), I couldn’t help but think that it would be perfect for a Wiccan, or group of Wiccans (or any type of Pagan, really), to do a quick ritual on their way to someplace else. While this trend of converting specifically Christian chapels into multi-faith spaces may have more to do with saving money and conserving space, it is still a welcome shift away from the “Christian default setting” that has dominated so many public spaces over the years.

I have a few loose ends that didn’t make it into yesterday’s “(Pagan) News of Note” that I’d like to share with you. The first is a response from UK dating columnist Ed Saunt concerning my criticisms of his ditching a “sweet and funny” girl because she was Wiccan.

“The final thing I learnt this week is not to mess with witches … following my unfortunate experience with witch Julia two weeks ago, I have been condemned by the Pagan community as ‘a moron,’ ‘a dork’ and ‘a prat’ in a well-written – if slightly crazy – blog”

Saunt makes an “impassioned plea” to any Witch with a good sense of humor and a “well-oiled broomstick” to give him a second chance. As for my blog being “slightly crazy” (albeit well-written), I’ll take it as a compliment.

While I’m on the subject of Witches, Mark Morford sings their praises, and discusses the flap over Sarah Palin’s witch-protectin’ prayer by Thomas Muthee.

“Is it worth setting the record straight? Pointing out how true ‘n’ deep witchcraftery has nothing to do with evil or Satan or excessive black eyeliner or sacrificing newborn babies while listening to Ministry and smoking cloves? That those who’ve taken up this most ancient and potent of callings actually study their enchanted craft for years and know more about, say, the cycles of the moon and the body and the rhythms of the planet than Sarah Palin’s most secretest pagan fever dream could ever conjure?”

For the record, I can confirm that while I have smoked cloves (though I can no longer tolerate them) and listened to Ministry (it was all downhill after “Psalm 69″) at the same time, I have never (to my knowledge) sacrificed a newborn baby while doing so. As for Morford, something tells me he would have no problem finding a Witch to go on a date with (well-oiled broom optional), maybe he could give Ed Saunt some tips?

With all this talk of getting protection from, and dating, Witches, one wonders what the general public thinks about them? Well, if Halloween costume sales are anything to go by, they are incredibly popular among adults and children.

“The top adult costumes will be a witch (14.9 percent of respondents), pirate (4.4 percent), vampire (3.3 percent), cat (2.5 percent) and fairy (1.7 percent). About 1.5 percent say they’ll dress up as a political figure. The top children’s costumes include a princess, witch, Hannah Montana, Spider-Man, pirate and “Star Wars” characters.”

No doubt many of those “witches” will be heading to Salem as it gears up for a month-long Halloween extravaganza (complete with real Witches). A topic you’ll most likely be hearing more about as we approach Samhain.

While small (sometimes nationalist) Pagan groups have existed in Poland for some time, it looks like Wicca is starting to make some headway into the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

“Witches are among us, says the weekly Polityka. Marion calls herself the first stationary witch in Poland. She was initiated in Great Britain in the Wicca cult, a pagan, nature-based religion popularized in 1954 by a retired British civil servant. This petite 30 year old works in a marketing department of a big firm and doesn’t want to reveal her real name. One never knows how her colleagues and bosses would react. It is impossible to say how many Wiccans there are in Poland. They fear intolerance in the predominantly Roman Catholic society. Often even their families don’t know about it. On the other hand, job migration to the British Isles facilitates their contacts with British Wiccans and books on the Wicca cult have sold in 10 thousand copies here.”

You can find a link to the weekly, and downloadable table of contents (featuring a picture of Laurie Cabot), here. As the synopsis mentions, most Polish Wiccans live “in the broom closet”, and often have a hard time coping with the need to remain anonymous.

“A very interesting element is also the relation between the catholic church and polish Wiccans – on one hand in catholic doctrine Wiccans are identified as Satanists; on the other hand Wiccans became discouraged by anonymous rituals and external religiousity of Catholic believers. It seems to be a very important element of Wiccans identity.”

But perhaps as religious freedom continues to grow, and Pagan advocacy groups become more entrenched, the Polish Pagans and Witches there will finally find it safe to live a more public life. In what could be seen by some as a positive sign for redefining the role of “witches” in Poland, government officials recently put a stop to the ceremonial burning of witches in the village of Zielona Gora.

“Polish women’s rights groups and government ministers have banned the display after protests that the stake-burning drama was anti-feminist. “Making peoples’ tragic deaths into a tourist attraction is reprehensible and regrettable,” said Monika Platek, head of Poland’s Association for Legal Education. “The stakes where women were burned were the result of profound misogyny, discrimination against women and ignorance.” Poland’s women’s ministry boss Berenika Anders told the town council it had to scrap the witch sessions.”

Stories like these help to reinforce the fact that the modern Pagan movement isn’t isolated to the UK, America, or Australia, but is a truly global phenomenon spreading from India, to Brazil, to South Africa, and Russia. Paganism isn’t a decadent sign of a post-modern world (as some critics would see it), but a revitalized religious impulse finding its voice once more. So good luck to the Polish Pagans, whether they are Wiccan, follow a revived Slavic tradition, or engage some other path.