Archives For Wikipedia

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.

(Credit: Wikimedia/DarkGeometryStudios via Shutterstock/Salon)

(Credit: Wikimedia/DarkGeometryStudios via Shutterstock/Salon)

  • Let’s start off with Salon.com’s follow-up to the outing of rogue Wikipedia editor “Qworty,” which focuses on his strange vendetta against Pagan, esoteric, and occult pages. In the piece Andrew Leonard links to my run-down of the story, and manages to dig up some new information as well. Quote: “Every page deleted or altered by Young on grounds of self-promotion or conflict-of-interest clearly deserves a second look. And that great effort is already well under way. The Neo-Pagans are clamoring for the return of some of their deleted pages and scouring those that survived the purge to see which of Young’s cuts will be reverted. But Young didn’t confine himself to questions of notability or conflict-of-interest when tangling with the Pagans; he also challenged the basic tenets of Pagan spirituality. Wikipedia, he argued, should be debunking such things as Wiccan rituals or the exploration of drug-induced conciousness-raising, rather than reporting them.” This experience has left some Pagan Wikipedia editors disillusioned, to put it lightly. It will be interesting to see how things progress from this point. 
  • The branding of children as “witches” by pastors in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues. The BBC has a new documentary where a British citizen who was born in the DRC finds out her cousin has been accused of witchcraft and races to find her. Quote: “Journeying from her home in London to her birthplace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kevani tries to discover how ancient traditions have been hijacked in the name of Jesus, why families are singling out vulnerable children and hurting them and why toddlers are having to endure excruciating rituals in order to ‘rid them of demons’.” It should be noted that branding children as witches is illegal in the Congo now, but the pastors seem unconcerned.
  • The book “Ritual” by David Pinner, which inspired the 1973 film “The Wicker Man” is going to be getting a sequel. Pinner told Rue Morgue Magazine that he’s written a book set 30 years later entitled “The Wicca Woman.” Quote: “I’ve just completed the sequel to Ritual, after all these years, called The Wicca Womanthe children who are in Ritual are grown up in this. It’s set 30 years later just before the millennium. Wicker Man obsessives will no doubt want to keep an eye out for this one. Meanwhile, StudioCanal continues its hunt for lost footage from the 1973 film’s original cut in hopes of releasing a complete anniversary edition. 
  • Christianity in Britain could be declining faster than originally thought according to a new analysis of the 2011 UK census data. Quote: “A new analysis of the 2011 census shows that a decade of mass immigration helped mask the scale of decline in Christian affiliation among the British-born population – while driving a dramatic increase in Islam, particularly among the young. It suggests that only a minority of people will describe themselves as Christians within the next decade, for first time.” We may see a truly post-Christian Britain in our lifetimes. That new analysis is from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, by the way. 
  • John Macintyre, former president of the Scottish Pagan Federation, is interviewed by Patheos.com about the importance of Pagan involvement in interfaith. Quote: “Interfaith is not a threat, it doesn’t aim to change what Paganism is, still less to merge it into some kind of ‘one size fits all’ universal religion. It allows us to educate other faith groups and the wider society about the reality of modern Paganism, to challenge prejudice and negative stereotyping close to its sources, and to make a positive contribution as one of the many faith communities that make up our society.”
Santa Muerte

Santa Muerte

  • Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, author of “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint,” writes about the Vatican’s ongoing battle with the cult of Santa Muerte. Quote: “In addition to theological objections, the current religious economy of Mexico and Latin America provides a compelling explanation not only for the condemnation of narco-saints but also for other dynamic religious competitors. For the past three decades both national bishops’ conferences and the Vatican have inveighed against the “invasion of the sects” in Latin America. Of course, Pentecostals, the most vibrant of the Church’s competitors, have been the primary object of condemnation, but Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Age groups and Spiritists have also been singled out.” 
  • PNC-Minnesota has an update on Pagan-initiated tornado relief efforts in Oklahoma. Quote: “As of Saturday, Solar Cross has collected $545 in donations and was able to send 400 N95 rated respirators, 58 pairs of work gloves, 50 safety goggles, 20 tarps, and 10 shovels. Tillison said, ‘Thank you thank you thank you! Your donations will be distributed within 24 hours of the time they arrive and sent out to Little Axe, Newcastle and the outlying areas that are not receiving the outpouring the greater area of Moore is.'” You can read my initial report on this, here.
  • When talking about legal protections, “who’s a journalist” is the wrong question. Quote: “When considering whether to grant legal protection for the gathering and dissemination of information, the question should not be the person performing those acts, i.e., “who is a journalist?,” but “is this an act of journalism?” Before the user-generated content revolution, focusing on journalists (i.e., people defined by their institutional affiliations) served as a functional if rough approximation of the true interests at stake (i.e., debate on issues of public concern). That is no longer the case.” This issue is an important one for all us Pagan media types who are not affiliated with a recognized institution. 
  • Paul Louis Metzger argues that sometimes Christians create the “idols” for modern Pagans out of ignorance of our actual beliefs and practices. Quote: “We Christians need to be on guard in our understanding of such movements as contemporary Paganism. We tend to lump all of modern Paganism into one general and distorted category. We often fail to account for the vast complexity within the movement and articulate Paganism accurately. For all our concern about pagan idolatry, we may be guilty at times of making their idols for them. We need to develop the practice of respect for understanding their practices, rituals, and beliefs.”
  • Wiccan love spells: sometimes they (kinda) work (at least for awhile). Quote: “Yes, I shed a few tears, but not because I was in love with him. I cried because the spell hadn’t worked, at least not all the way, and I was now forced to revert to being a Party of One after having had a brief, haunting reminder of the cozier aspects of being in a relationship.”

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.

In November of 2012 an alert went out within the Pagan community that someone had been systematically flagging articles for deletion relating to Pagan authors, events, and notable figures on the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia. That someone, a Wikipedia editor who went by “Qworty,” seemed to have a personal grudge against Jeff Rosenbaum, co-founder of the Starwood festival, who had created many of these Pagan-themed pages under the moniker of “Rosencomet.”

Jeff Rosenbaum

Jeff Rosenbaum

“Excruciatingly non-notable band that abysmally fails WP:BAND. Article was created by a notorious wikispammer whose arbcom revealed these atrocities [1]. The guy has his own company, the Association for Consciousness Exploration, which hosts the Starwood Festival, and for the past six years he’s been creating and defending promotional articles about everyone who’s ever been associated with the festival. Incredibly, this article about Trance Mission has been tagged for lack of references for nearly five years now. That’s the way the guy operates–writes a bunch of completely unsourced articles about all of his friends, the articles somehow survive here for years, and then if anybody touches an article of “his,” he goes berserk per WP:OWN. It’s time to stand up for the integrity of Wikipedia and finally remove this WP:ADVERT. He likes to WP:CANVASS like mad, so the closing admin should watch out for meat puppets. Qworty (talk) 11:24, 12 November 2012 (UTC)”

If this disagreement over Rosenbaum’s years-old conduct as a Wikipedia editor had remained in its proper place, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today. However, Qworty’s ire was not reserved for Rosenbaum personally, and he seemed incapable of civil discussion when it came to modern Paganism.

She’s a witch, LOL. Fails WP:AUTHORWP:BK, and WP:GNG. Article was created by an arbcommed wikispammer who has written dozens of articles about people who’ve attended a “witch festival” that he hosts.Qworty (talk) 22:31, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

His commentary on the Stregheria article (from 2007) was particularly unhinged.

“As it stands, the article sounds like it’s talking about the Kiwanis Club. This is not an article about the Kiwanis Club. This is an article about mentally ill, delusional people who are worshiping Satan and their dead Roman or Neapolitan ancestors. We’ve got real cutting-edge science and sociology going on here–not. These people are greatly disturbed–they are not pursuing any kind of rational path. There should be an NPOV way of getting across the idea that these folks are a whacked-out, highly marginalized minority with extremely dubious beliefs. There should be a polite way of saying this. If Wikipedia can offer a Holocaust Denial article that lets everybody know a certain group is seriously looped, then certainly it can do so about a pack of aging, overweight, chanting devil worshippers belly-dancing around the redwood trees.

Ultimately, enough Wikipedia-savvy Pagans (and non-hostile editors) were able to keep most of the flagged articles from deletion by improving them within the existing Wikipedia structure, and participating in the “talk” pages. It seemed that this issue would simply fade away, just a momentary issue involving a biased and isolated troll abusing Wikipedia’s collaborative nature. However, it now seems that we were just one target in an epic and ongoing “revenge-edit” campaign by Qworty, who was outed this week by Salon.com and Wikipediocracy as writer Robert Clark Young.

Robert Clark Young

Robert Clark Young

“In my experience, mysteries rarely wrap themselves up so neatly. But solving the question of Qworty’s true identity doesn’t end this story. In his confession, Qworty claimed that “All of my edits have been in accordance with Wikipedia policy.” This is hard to square with many of his edits to the pages of other writers and, in particular, his strenuous efforts to hide his own identity when editing his own page. Qworty has also been at the center of scores of disputes over the years. He has even come to the angry attention of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales on at least three separate occasions. As far back as 2010, Wales told Qworty that “You have been warned many times in the past about civility violations and so I know you know better.”

Qworty has destructively edited the pages of other writers. He has made numerous edits to his own page while obsessively hiding his true identity. And yet there have never been any significant consequences for his actions. For those of us who love Wikipedia, the ramifications of the Qworty saga are not comforting: If Qworty has been allowed to run free for so long — sabotaging the “truth” however he sees fit, writing his own postmodern novel — how many others are also creating spiteful havoc under the hood, where no one is watching?”

According to Wikipediocracy Young/Qworty had over 13,000 edits to the collaborative encyclopedia, many of them done to pursue revenge against someone, or to protect his own page. In addition, he amassed a small army of sock-puppets to aid him in his work. For those suspicious of Wikipedia’s process, and worried about how fair and balanced entries at the site are, the story of Qworty can only be troubling.

“The reason I am doing this,” said Andreas Kolbe, one of the Wikipedocracy members who shared his research with me, “is that I want the public to know just what goes on under the surface of Wikipedia and how the site plays dice with people’s reputations by allowing anonymous editing of biographies of living persons. As someone who joined the project with a fair amount of enthusiasm for its mission more than seven years ago, I have found the realities of how Wikipedia is written irresponsible and deeply disturbing, and given the site’s status as a top-10 website, I believe the public needs to understand just what is going on in Wikipedia day after day.”

Qworty has been permanently banned from Wikipedia, but it took an un-ignorable pattern of extreme behavior for it to happen, and nothing came from his transparently obvious anti-Pagan opinions expressed repeatedly on Pagan pages he was flagging for deletion. Wikipediocracy says this “demonstrates the cost of allowing anybody to edit Wikipedia biographies anonymously,” will any changes to Wikipedia policy be made to make editors more transparently accountable? Wikipedia is now cleaning up its mess, and its founder says that the failure to ban Qworty earlier shows “serious deficiencies in our systems.” So, can we hope that one of the most-visited sites on the Internet, one that millions of people (including me) default turn to for basic information, will take these issues to heart and fix them? Here’s hoping.

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.

Pagan Federation banner.

Pagan Federation banner.

correspondences

Correspondences journal.

  • A new academic journal of Western Esotericism, Correspondences, has been announced.  Quote: “By providing a wider forum of debate regarding issues and currents in Western esotericism than has previously been possible, Correspondences is committed to publishing work of a high academic standard as determined by a peer-review process, but does not require academic credentials as prerequisite for publication. Students and non-affiliated academics are encouraged to join established scholars in submitting insightful, well-researched articles that offer new ideas, positions, or information to the field.” First issues is due in June, call for papers, here.
  • Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll is a thuggish Christian power-tripper who thinks he’s edgy because he writes about having sex with his wife. He’d be a huge joke were it not for his rampant (almost cultish) popularity in the Pacific Northwest. Now, the Seattle mega-pastor is attacking Twilight (because he’s oh-so-relevant) for sinking teen girls into Paganism and the occult. Quote: “…girls the same age of my 15-year-old daughter are talking about “awakening,” which is their word for converting to paganism (like the Christian word “born again”). In a perverted twist on Communion, their sacraments include the giving of your own blood by becoming a “donor.” This is entirely pagan.” No, this is entirely inane. Despite his Seattle-denizen ambient hipster facade, Driscoll is your typical evangelical social conservative who pearl-clutches over the thought of Paganism.
  • The creepy UK Pagan who was caught with a semi-undressed underage girl in the woods has narrowly avoided being put on sex offenders registry after the judge decided that the “sexual element” wasn’t sexual enough to justify his inclusion. Quote: “Sheriff Noel McPartlin said it was ‘hard to escape the view that him being naked in the room with the girl might suggest a sexual element […] I am a bit hesitant but I do not think the sexual element is significant enough to justify placing him on the register.'” 
  • As a counter-point to the hysteria of Mark Driscoll, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision (the largest evangelical Christian relief organization in the world), suggests a culture-war cease fire between Christians and non-Christians. Quote: “We need to find a way to live in a pluralistic society without engaging in an arms race with those who are not Christians.”
  • Indian Country Today Media Network reports that a coalition of Native American spiritual leaders have signed a declaration opposing Canada’s oil sands and the new Tar Sands pipeline being proposed. Quote: “The statement, signed by more than 20 spiritual chiefs at a Sundance this summer in South Dakota, includes members of the Lakota, Navajo, Apache, Mohawk, Dine, Aztec and Ojibwe nations, spanning much of Turtle Island.”
  • Riordons Witchcraft Emporium in Australia wants you to know that they have a screening process: “Are they a borderline schizophrenic … or somehow mad? There are many vulnerable people in the world and you don’t want to make their situation worse.” Also profiled in the article is the shop Spellbox. Both establishments take pains to stress that they aren’t like Harry Potter, and they aren’t “New Age.”
  • Counter-cultural magazine Arthur has announced its return, featuring many of the magickal luminaries that made it such a hit in the first place. Quote: “Arthur’s gang of idiots, know-it-alls and village explainers are back, from Bull Tonguers Byron Coley & Thurston Moore to radical ecologist Nance Klehm to trickster activists Center for Tactical Magic to Defend Brooklyn’s socio-political commentator Dave Reeves to a host of new, fresh-faced troublemakers, edited by ol’ fool Jay Babcock and art directed by Yasmin Khan.” I suspect that this news will excite a certain portion of my readership.

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

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.

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. Oh, and do check out the Witchtalk Conjure podcast/radio show tonight, I’ll be making a special appearance.

Top Stories:

San Francisco Peaks Update: I have written at some length concerning the battle over a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona creating snow from treated wastewater, what a coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations see as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” It seemed to me like Arizona politicians didn’t believe there could be sacred land in their state. Now Indian Country follows up on this story with the latest insult to the beliefs of Native Americans living in Arizona.

“The Forest Service has scheduled a meeting to hear Hopi Tribe objections to wastewater-enabled snowmaking for a ski resort on Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks at the same time it has approved the start of construction on the snowmaking’s infrastructure. A former Hopi Tribal chairman and the grassroots group of which he is a part of hope an upcoming meeting on the San Francisco Peaks (Nuvatuqui) will provide a voice for tribal members who oppose the use of wastewater for the snowmaking at a resort on mountains sacred to a number of area tribes. But at about the same time the Forest Service planned the May 31 “listening session” with Hopi tribal members it also authorized construction to begin on a pipeline to convey the wastewater used to make the artificial snow.”

An emergency injunction appeal to construction was denied, despite there being an active appeal on environmental grounds underway. The “listening session” with the Hopi Tribe will be the only forum at this point that includes Native voices, it looks like Coconino National Forest supervisor M. Earl Stewart won’t be much different from former supervisor Nora B. Rasure, who doesn’t see any issue with desecrating a sacred mountain for the purpose of a prolonged skiing season. As indigenous leaders tell the United Nations that respecting their beliefs will help preserve the environment, the Forest Service in Coconino has seemingly decided that money and politics trump everything else.

Pagans on Wikipedia: Over at PNC-Minnesota (and reprinted at Patheos.com) Cara Schulz writes an editorial concerning a snowballing trend of Wikipedia deleting Pagan-oriented articles. She cites the a policy of goal-post shifting regarding what sources are deemed acceptable. For instance, the Pagan Newswire Collective doesn’t meet guidelines, nor do the published writings of Pagan academics.

“PNC has staff with formal journalism degrees, experience working as a reporters, producers, and editors in mainstream media, and PNC-Minnesota follows an editorial process similar to most any other newsroom in the country.   Yet PNC-Minnesota is dismissed as  “a self-published group blog which isn’t going to meet guidelines for reliable sources.” Discounting sources is a common theme in the Paganistan deletion discussion.  A paper by Dr. Murphy Pizza, an anthropologist who spent five years studying the Paganistan community, is also considered not a reliable source because she is a Pagan. I’m assuming this same standard would then apply to The Pomegranate:  The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Chas Clifton’s book “Her Hidden Children:  The Rise of Wicca And Paganism in America,” and is probably the reason Ronald Hutton will not publicly say he is a Pagan.”

Schulz wonders if there’s a double-standard going on where papers and articles published by Christian academics are accepted as reliable sources on Christian articles or if the work of environmentalist-minded scholars pass muster on climate-related articles. I personally think that much of this problem can be solved by having a more engaged team of Pagan-friendly editors at Wikipedia who are willing to go to bat for these articles, and work to constantly improve them, not just when items are flagged for deletion. The rest of the problem will only be solved once we take our media seriously, and move collectively forward in building institutions and reputations that pass muster.

In Other News:

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