Archives For Witch Killings

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.

Ronald Hutton (center) with symposium presenters and CHS staff.

Ronald Hutton (center) with Pagan scholars and Cherry Hill Seminary staff.

  • The Economist reviews Ronald Hutton’s new book “Pagan Britain,” and finds that it presents “more questions than answers.” Quote: “Mr Hutton leads readers to question not only the ways in which Britain’s ancient past is analysed, but also how all history is presented. He is also a lovely writer with a keen sense of the spiritual potency of Britain’s ancient landscapes. Though he offers many interpretations of each archaeological finding, such variety serves to expand the reader’s imagination rather than constrain it. Towards the end of this engrossing book, Mr Hutton laments the way the open-ended questions of ancient history and archaeology appear unsuited to television, a medium that prefers definitive answers.” The book is out now in the UK, and will be released in the United States in February (though it seems you can purchase the Kindle edition now).
  • Courts in the UK have, for the first time, awarded a Wiccan monetary damages over claims that she was fired for her religious beliefs. Quote: “Karen Holland, 45, was awarded more than  £15,000 by the courts in what is believed to be the first payout of its kind in  Britain. Her Sikh bosses insisted they fired her after  they caught her stealing. But she accused them of turning on her when  they found out she was a Wicca-practising pagan and took them to an employment  tribunal, which ruled in her favour.” As the article states, her employers were Sikh, not Christians, as some might suspect. Her employers say they will appeal the decision. More on this story here.
  • The killing of women accused of witchcraft and sorcery in Papua New Guinea continues to be a hard problem to solve, with tough news laws facing the issue of proper enforcement. Quote: “Nancy Robinson from the United Nations Human Rights Commission says toughening up the laws is no solution if they’re not implemented. ‘Implementation is the big obstacle,’ she said. ‘You may have a law but then if you don’t have the police capacity to enforce it, or if the police themselves view the situation of sorcery related killings with indifference then we still have a big issue of how to address impunity. Those who perpetrate this violence know full well they’ll get off scot free – this has to change.’” You can see all of my coverage of this issue, here.
  • The Quietus revisits Enya’s “Watermark” on its 25th anniversary. Quote: “Essentially, Watermark is a deeply weird album in the context of its bright and garish era, and as well as that a strongly and confidently female album. It also stands out as a record inspired by spiritual music in a mainstream pop world that has in recent years chosen to end the centuries-old musical dialogue between the secular and religious, the sacred and profane.” As the author points out, Enya’s influence has never been stronger, with critically acclaimed artists like Julianna Barwick employing elements of her sound.
  • There’s going to be an epic fantasy movie starring Egyptian gods? Apparently so. Quote: “Up-and-coming Australian actress Courtney Eaton has nabbed the female lead in Summit’s epic fantasy Gods of Egypt. Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites and Geoffrey Rush are the male leads in the story, which is set in motion when a ruling god named Set (Butler) kills another, Osiris. When Osiris’ son Horus (Coster-Waldau) fails in his attempt at revenge and has his eyed plucked out, it’s up to a young human thief (Thwaites) to defeat the mad god Set. Eaton will play a slave girl whom the thief falls for.” Currently scheduled for a 2015 release.
Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

  • This week a new visitor center will open at the world-famous Stonehenge in England. Its goal? To give visitors who may never walk among the (restricted access) stones, and sense of that experience, in addition to giving an overview of the many scholarly theories about Stonehenge’s purpose. Quote: “With tourists and day-trippers barred since the late Seventies from entering the circle in order to protect the stones from damage, there has been a fierce and long-running debate on how the site should best be displayed. But on Wednesday a new £27 million centre will open at Stonehenge with a 360 degree cinema at its heart where visitors can ‘experience’ standing in the ancient circle.” Currently, Pagans are allowed access at the solstices and equinoxes, but many want greater access. Concept art for the center can be found here.
  • The Christian cross that stands on Mt. Soledad in California, which some had the audacity to claim was “secular,” has been ordered removed by a federal court. Quote: “A federal court has ordered the removal of the controversial Mt. Soledad cross near San Diego. The towering symbol of Christianity, built in 1954 on the peak of Mt. Soledad, is a 43 foot high Latin cross – and it sits on government-owned land. By ruling that the cross violated the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns has tried to put an end to a 24-year-old legal battle over the constitutionality of the display. Critics have long argued that the cross, built in 1954 and dedicated on Easter Sunday as a “gleaming white symbol of Christianity,” clearly violates the First Amendment.” It isn’t known if an appeal will be made.
  • Protestant Christian notions of “religion” are being destabilized. Quote: “Religion is nothing if not practiced, nothing if not communally created by and for people who find meaning, yes, but also find ways to put our bodies into relation with other bodies. Religions are sensually established and engaged through sights and smells and sounds, as human bodies sway and sing, pray and play. Rituals are carried out, ancient stories are told anew, the candles are burned, and the flowers garlanded. Religion is embodied practice, done with others, extending far beyond ‘belief in god.’”
  • Religion Clause points out that the Defense Authorization Bill, recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, contains religious freedom language for military personnel. Here’s the language: “Unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Armed Forces shall accommodate individual expressions of belief of a member of the armed forces reflecting the sincerely held conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member and, in so far as practicable, may not use such expressions of belief as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.” So talk about polytheism all you want, Pagans!
  • Either you have to include everyone, including Satanists, or you have to remove sectarian expressions of religion from federal property. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
  • Here’s an article discussing the traditional African beliefs and practices employed in the funeral and burial rites for South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. Quote: “‘We as Africans have rites of passage, whether it is a birth, marriage or funeral. Mandela will be sent off into the spiritual world so that he is welcomed in the world of ancestors. And also so that he doesn’t get angry,’ said Nokuzola Mndende, a scholar of African religion.”
  • Remember that story about Hopi relics being sold in France against their objections? Well, it looks like the Annenberg Foundation purchased the items, and will be donating the items back to the two tribes who were leading the protest. Quote: “Hopi cultural leader Sam Tenakhongva said in the same statement that the tribe hopes the Annenberg decision to intervene “sets an example for others that items of significant cultural and religious value can only be properly cared for by those vested with the proper knowledge and responsibility.” “They simply cannot be put up for sale,” he said.”

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.

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.

The looted Malawi Museum. Photo: Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper / AP

The looted Malawi Museum. Photo: Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper / AP

  • Alongside the horrific human cost, a sad casualty in the ongoing violence and turmoil in Egypt has been the looting of the Malawi Museum in the southern Nile River city of Minya. Quote: “Among the stolen antiquities was a statue of the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled during the 18th dynasty. Archaeologist Monica Hanna described it as a ‘masterpiece.’ Other looted items included gold and bronze Greco-Roman coins, pottery and bronze-detailed sculptures of animals sacred to Thoth.” Over 1000 pieces were stolen, and when Hanna tried to confront the looters, telling them that, quote, “this is property of the Egyptian people and you are destroying it,” the looters responded that they were upset by her lack of veil and that the thievery was in retaliation for military killings. This is yet another blow to Egypt’s legacy and tourism industry, one which is/was a huge part of the country’s income. The longer that industry is disrupted, the longer it will take for the country to financially recover from the current crisis.
  • In 1951 the Witchcraft Act of 1735 in Britain was repealed and replaced with a law against fraudulent mediums. It was this action, fought for by Spiritualists and other interested parties, that allowed religious Witchcraft, Wicca, to enter into the public eye. However, British law was passed on to many of its former colonies, including in Australia, where the Northern Territory is finally getting around to repealing the Witchcraft Act. Quote: “Attorney-General John Elferink said he ‘laughed out loud’ when he stumbled across the Witchcraft Act of 1735, which punishes people with up to one year in prison. If convicted, prisoners can then expect to be hauled out every three months and taken to the town market place to be publicly humiliated in the pillory – a wooden block with holes to trap the offender’s head and hands. Mr Elferink said the Witchcraft Act was one of many outdated laws the Government planned to repeal.” Luckily, not many people even knew the law was still on the books, and so was never abused by modern-day Puritans looking for a legal foothold.
  • I linked to this Atlantic Magazine story earlier this week, but in case you missed it, their look at the runaway religious police of Saudi Arabia and their pursuit of “witches” and “sorcerers” is worth reading. Quote: “The Saudi government’s obsession with the criminalization of the dark arts reached a new level in 2009, when it created and formalized a special “Anti-Witchcraft Unit” to educate the public about the evils of sorcery, investigate alleged witches, neutralize their cursed paraphernalia, and disarm their spells. Saudi citizens are also urged to use a hotline on the CPVPV website to report any magical misdeeds to local officials, according to the Jerusalem Post.” I have reported several times on Saudi Arabia’s infamous witch-hunters, and the innocent men and women caught up in their dragnet. No one is safe, not even well-known Muslim television personalities from neighboring countries. As a revolutionary sentiments run through the Middle East, the need for social control may only heighten the number of people imprisoned, tortured, or killed for the crime of witchcraft.
  • Speaking of witch-hunts, historian Tracy Borman has a new book looking at a case of three women killed for witchcraft during the Jacobean period in England, and how powerful men pulled strings to make the tragedy happen. Reviewer Robert Douglas-Fairhurst notes that “one of the most terrifying things about the whole process was its randomness.” Quote: “Anyone could be accused by a neighbour with a grudge, and in small village communities, where memories were long and tongues as sharp as scythes, the witch-finder could easily be employed as a form of human pest control. Equally terrifying was the regular use of physical examinations as a cover for sadistic sexual exploitation, or simply to suck up to King James, whose dark obsession with witchcraft meant he rapidly became ‘one of the leading authorities on the subject’.” The book is out at the end of August in the UK.
  • Miami New Times spotlights Selene Perfumeria, a company the manufactures perfumes and baths stocked in many botanicas across Florida. Quote: “If you’ve ever wondered where these occult objects found in the Magic City’s bodegas and botanicas start their lives, Selene is one major source. Fragrances are widely used in Santeria, a syncretic religion that came to Miami by way of West Africa and then Cuba [...] one mark of how widespread Santeria has become in Miami is how many of Selene’s products have found their way into local grocery stores. Although Selene makes some pretty malevolent mixtures, only the posi-potions make it to Publix. Grocery shoppers won’t find their ‘Law Stay Away’ mix near the sub counter, but you can still purchase ’7 African Powers’ (the bottle does not specify which powers are included for $5.49).” Personally, I can think of a few instances where “Law Stay Away” potion would be quite positive.
Nathan Salas

Nathan Salas

  • Two people meet on a Wiccan bulletin board, one of them is unhappy, allegedly in a verbally abusive and neglectful home, so the other buys two plane tickets and flies her to California so she can start over. There’s just one problem: the alleged rescuer is 27, and the rescued girl is only 14. Quote: “The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office arrested 27-year-old Nathan Salas for child concealment. They say an online relationship with the teen led Salas to pick up the girl on the East Coast and fly with her to Sacramento, where deputies were waiting. Authorities in Connecticut reached out the Merced County Sheriff’s Department with information about a flight the two may have boarded to California. Deputies in Merced then reached out to the Sacramento airport, leading Sacramento County deputies to arrest Salas at the airport. The suspect was taken into custody just after getting off his inbound flight. ‘At that exact moment, it hit home that no matter how good of intentions I had, this was the biggest mistake I had ever made in my entire life,’ Salas said from jail.” I suppose this is a good time to remind folks that if you encounter a minor in trouble, the best recourse is to contact the local child protection agency or other locally based crisis resources.
  • H.P. Lovecraft fan? Today is NecronomiCon in Rhode Island. In honor of the event The Revealer looks at religion in the works of Lovecraft. Quote: “Lovecraft’s concept of religion – the use of “religious experience,” and “subjective ecstasies,” gives away the game. Whether he was a direct reader of William James or not, Lovecraft inherited a number of assumptions from the phenomenology of religion – most notably, the elevation of private experience as religion’s principle building block. Lovecraft’s experience is, however, more guardedly sensual, hence his dismissal of Christian “feelings” in favor of his own pagan “sight.” Ultimately, Lovecraft rejects his visions of Pan as the work of imagination – a kind of waking dream.” More on the convention can be found at the Washington Post.
  • Oral arguments in the appeal by self-help guru James Arthur Ray to have his negligent homicide convictions for the deaths of three people in a 2009 sweat lodge overturned have been set for September 11th. Quote: “Ray’s attorneys have called into question some jury instructions and the conduct of prosecutors in Yavapai County. In a cross-appeal, the attorney general’s office says jurors should have been told that Ray had a duty to aid participants in distress and to avoid putting them at an unreasonable risk of harm.” Ray is currently free on parole after serving two years in prison.
  • The New York Review of Books laments the decline of used book stores, and writer Charles Simic recalls a fond experience at a used metaphysical book store. Quote: “Years ago, in a store in New York that specialized in Alchemy, Eastern Religions, Theosophy, Mysticism, Magic, and Witchcraft, I remember coming across a book called How to Become Invisible that I realized would make a perfect birthday present for a friend who was on the run from a collection agency trying to repossess his car. It cost fifteen cents, which struck me as a pretty steep price considering the quality of the contents.” If you’d like some more grim book-selling news, here’s the latest on Barnes & Noble.
  • TLC, the cable network formerly known as The Learning Channel, has a show called “Breaking Amish” about Amish and Mennonite young adults adjusting to the outside world. One of the young women on that show apparently practices “witchcraft” and claims to have had sex with Satanic beings (or perhaps Old Scratch himself). Quote: “‘I’ve been involved in witchcraft for quite a few years — probably most of my life. My connection to the spirit world is actually really, really scary to some people,’ she [Betsy] says in the sneak peek before explaining that “the demons” have been coming back around her since she’s been in LA. But then, she takes it a step further. ‘I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of, like, having sex with something. Like, literally in your sleep, and you wake up like ‘Whoa, what just happened?’ You have sex with, um … Satan.’” Yes, a lot of this is probably faked up for television, but I’m still concerned that TLC seems to have no trouble selling sensationalism (and Satan) to get ratings.

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.

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!

Witchesmustdie001jpg-2568309_p9Last week, several Pagans became aware of a Facebook page entitled “Witches Must Die By Fire,” and a group called “Those Witches And Wizards Must Die By Fire By Force.”  While hate speech complaints seemed to initially work, the page is back up, and Facebook is sending back an automated message saying it doesn’t violate hate speech guidelines. A number of Pagan responses have emerged from the controversy as growing numbers of our interconnected community discover the page and group. These responses include a petition, a group on Facebook dedicated to removing hate pages and groups, a call to involve Interpol, and an overview of the issue from South African Pagan Damon Leff, who notes that rhetoric about burning witches shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Quote: Throughout Africa women, men and children frequently become targets for witch-hunters. Incitement to burn Witches anywhere in Africa must be taken deadly seriously and response to such credible threats of violence against Witches on Facebook aught to be immediate and decisive.” As an Atlantic Magazine article published yesterday about Saudi Arabia’s ongoing and deadly hunt for witches and sorcerers illustrates, the global problem of witch-hunts and witch-killings are not merely idle talk, and rhetoric underlying these actions should not be simply dismissed. The Wild Hunt is currently in contact with several Pagan organizations about further responses and constructive paths forward.

The Warrior's CallA call has gone out to Pagans in the United Kingdom to participate in a public ritual at Glastonbury Tor designed to “protect Albion from Fracking.” Quote: “Albion is in peril. Her sacred sites threatened like never before. Chalice Well and the Goddess Sulis (Bath’s geothermal springs) are in danger of becoming toxic. The Great Mother’s flesh is to be cracked open and drained dry, uncaring for consequence to bird and beast, land and life. All those of good intent are summoned hither – regardless of age or gender, color or Creed – to gather at noon on Saturday the 28th of September atop Glastonbury Tor. There, we are to engage in group magickal working for the betterment and protection of this sacred landscape.” One of the co-sponsors of the ritual is Wiccan Marina Pepper, a politician and environmental activist, who has made the issue of fracking a key concern. Pepper’s concern seems well founded, as Heritage Daily has also sounded the alarm over potential damage to the famous wells of Aquae Sulis by hydraulic fracturing. As I mentioned last week, prominent UK Pagans like Damh the Bard and Philip Carr-Gomm have already been protesting fracking operations, and it seems like concern over this issue is only intensifying as Britain’s natural landscape is threatened by this process.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

This past week Pagan activist Peter Dybing, a logistics specialist who works in disaster management, has been in Idaho helping to fight the wildfires raging through Sun Valley, the biggest fire in 25 years. Wildfires are currently spreading throughout the Northwest region of the United States, which has been plagued by drought and dry weather. In a missive posted to his blog, Dybing noted how his Pagan faith, and his work fighting these fires intertwine. Quote: “Today I am back from a fire, in Boise, resting, planning and preparing to respond again. As I reflect on my actions it is clear that the most profound influence my beliefs have had on me are my instinctive actions in crisis. When direct decisions are necessary NOW, they are laced with compassion, internal tears for the destruction Gaia faces in this firestorm and the need to be of service. The most profound expression of my Pagan beliefs and practice shine through most brightly when I have little time for piety.” Our prayers go out to Dybing, and all the brave first responders fighting these fires. May the rains return soon.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Modern Witch Magazine is now accepting submission for its fifth volume, entitled “Veils and Visions.” Quote: “The theme is centered on working with the other side, ancestors, energy work, and psychic development.” Deadline is September 25th, you can find guidelines and more information, here.
  • Water, the quarterly newsletter of the Pagan Educational Network, has just released its Lughnasadh edition. The publication is for members only, but you can get a membership subscription on a sliding scale.
  • September 27th through the 29th in Salem, Massachusetts will see the debut of “OCCULT,”“weekend long Esoteric Salon honoring, exploring and celebrating the intertwining vines which feed both Magick and Creative Art.” Co-produced by Aepril Schaile and Sarah “Jezebel” Wood the event promises to “recognize that, especially together, both Magick and Art are greater than the sum of their parts, and each in dwells the other; they are rooted together…To raise consciousness, challenging false perceptions of separation between these so-imagined opposed sorceries. With OCCULT, we seek to challenge old beliefs through the juxtaposition of beauty and magick, of art and ritual, blending the ingredients to make an event of highest harmony, a conjunctio of non-opposites.” You can see a lineup of OCCULT workshops and events, here. Artist line-up, here. Presenter bios, here. There will also be a masque.
  • This Saturday, August 24th, Friends of the Gualala River are starting a public action campaign to convince a winery to spare 154 acres of Gualala River’s redwood forest in California. Pagan author and activist Starhawk will be on hand to do a ritual that will (hopefully) turn “wine back into water.” Quote: “I’ve been working with Friends of the Gualala River and representatives from the Kashaya Pomo to help build a campaign to save an important Kashaya heritage site from being clearcut for vineyards.  Artesa, a Spanish company and the third largest wine corporation in the world, is planning this conversion.  It’s the last redwood-to-vineyard conversion planned in California, after the defeat of the huge Preservation Ranch proposal, which thankfully was defeated.”
  • Medusa Coils reports that the Lammas issue of Seasonal Salon, the online publication of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess International, has been released.
  • On September 22nd, the Stella Natura festival, held in Sierra Nevada’s Tahoe National Forest Desolation Wilderness will begin, and will include the Norwegian experimental runic band Wardruna in an exclusive American performance. Meanwhile, Circle Ansuz, a Heathen Anarchist collective, has begun a series of posts digging into the beliefs and past of influential Heathen Stephen McNallen, whose Asatru Folk Assembly is acting as co-sponsor for Stella Natura. I will be following this story in the coming weeks, and will update you on any responses or new information.
  • As I noted previously, the Gerald Gardner documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man,” renamed “A Very British Witchcraft,” was finally aired in the UK after being shown in a truncated version in Australia. You can see the 46-minute version of the documentary on Youtube, here (for as long as it lasts). Enjoy!

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

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.

Richard Ramirez

Richard Ramirez

The Great Serpent Mound

The Great Serpent Mound

  • Indian Country Today reports on how New Age woo demeans and threatens The Great Serpent Mound in Ohio. Quote: “Kenny Frost a Southern Ute citizen, has worked to protect sacred places for more than 20 years. He is a well-respected authority on Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act issues and law and frequently consults with state, federal and tribal governments. ‘The protection put down by Native people at sacred sites is still there. Non-Native people dig around and see what they can find; they may end up opening a Pandora’s box without knowing how to put spirits back,’ he notes.” 
  • “Sorry Pagans,” that’s what Baylor history professor Philip Jenkins says as he engages in the hoary exercise of telling Pagans about how stuff they thought was pagan was actually, totally, not. Quote: “In reality, it is very hard indeed to excavate through those medieval Christian layers to find Europe’s pagan roots. Never underestimate just how thoroughly and totally the Christian church penetrated the European mind.” So why even bother, am I right? I know this is a popular topic for columnists looking for material, but we aren’t ignorant of the scholarship, and cherry-picking two (popular) examples isn’t going to embarrass us back to church. You’d be surprised at how well-versed some of us are in history. 
  • Religion Clause reports that a judge has allowed a gangster’s  Santa Muerte necklace to remain as evidence during the penalty phase of the trial (for which the defendant was found guilty of murder). Quote: “The court held that appellant had failed to object on any 1st Amendment religious ground to introduction of the evidence.” Further, the judge says they may have allowed it even if the defendant has objected earlier in the case noting the faith’s ties to narco-trafficking. Could this ruling lead to a problematic precedent? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
  • Christians opposed to same-sex marriage know that the battle is lost. Quote: “Just 22% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, but about three times that percentage (70%) thinks legal recognition for gay marriage is inevitable. Among other religious groups, there are smaller differences in underlying opinions about gay marriage and views of whether it is inevitable.” I think that means marriage equality has won, don’t you? Now to undo 50 years of legislative hysteria.
  • Speaking of marriage equality, it’s very, very “pagan.” Quote: “As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the “Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media. Bill Bennett’s insight, “… the two essential questions Plato posed as: Who teaches the children, and what do we teach them?” requires deep thought, soul-searching and a response from Christian America to the secular, politically correct and multicultural false gods imposing their religion on America’s children.” That’s David Lane, one of Rand Paul’s point men in improving his relations with evangelical Christians. I’ll spare you the Dragnet P.A.G.A.N. reference.
  • “Occult,” a new television series in development for A&E, follows the exploits of an “occult crime task force.” Quote: “‘Occult’ revolves around Dolan, an FBI agent who has returned from administrative leave after going off the deep end while investigating his wife’s disappearance. Eager to be back on the job, he is paired with an agent with her own complicated back story who specializes in the occult. Together, they will solve cases for the newly formed occult crimes task force.” Whether the show actually gets on the air is still an open question. If it does, we can start a betting pool for when Wiccans, Druids, and Asatru are mentioned in the series.
  • Frank Lautenberg, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey who passed away recently, took an active role in combatting the revisionist Christian history of David Barton. Quote: “I want those who hear me across America to pay attention: ‘Christian heritage is at risk.’ That means that all the outsiders, all of those who approach God differently but are people who believe in a supreme being; people who behave and live peacefully with their neighbors and their friends. No, this is being put forward as an attempt — a not too subtle attempt — to make sure people understand that America is a Christian country. Therefore, we ought to take the time the majority leader offers us, as Members of the Senate, for a chance to learn more about how invalid the principle of separation between church and state is. I hope the American public sees this plan as the spurious attempt it is.” For why David Barton is infamous among Pagans, check out my previous reporting on his antics. 
  • Finally, here’s some pictures from the Pagan Picnic in St. Louis!

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.

Here are some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

Florida Freemasons Reverse Anti-Pagan Edict: On November 28th, 2012, Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master of Florida’s Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, issued a ruling stating that Paganism, Wicca, Odinism, and Gnosticism were not compatible with Freemasonry. Further, any Freemason who “professes to be a member of one of the groups mentioned above shall tender his resignation or suffer himself to a Trial Commission whose final outcome will be expulsion since there is no provision to allow anything contrary to the Ancient Landmarks.” This ruling caused quite a bit of consternation among both Pagans and Freemasons, two communities that have long and interlocking histories. Now, Christopher L. Hodapp at the Freemasons For Dummies blog reports that the edict has been overturned.

logo

“The passed resolution reverses the Ruling in its entirety, and concludes by affirming ‘that Florida Masonry hereby declares its eternal devotion to the religious toleration that is one of the immovable and Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry, never to be changed by any man or group of men.’ The Jurisprudence Committee had recommended rejection.”

As one commenter aptly put it: “I am very proud of my brethren in Florida for defending religious tolerance and having the courage to undo a mistake that did damage to our fraternity.” This is very good news for Freemasons, Pagans, and Pagan Freemasons, and I hope it will signal a new beginning for all involved (more from PNC-Florida). For more information on how this whole mess got started in the first place, check out this editorial from PNC-Florida.

Progress, Study, and Introspection in the Matter of Papua New Guinea Witch-Killings: The world was shocked to attention earlier this year at the torture and burning of a woman in Papua New Guinea over charges of sorcery and witchcraft. While the case of Kepari Leniata was sadly not unique, that fact that it was so well documented via cell phone pictures gave it a visceral immediacy that is often absent in these cases. Now, the country’s Sorcery Act has been repealed, and capital punishment re-instated in an effort to quell these murders.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minster Peter O'Neill

Papua New Guinea Prime Minster Peter O’Neill

“The Parliament of Papua New Guinea has voted to repeal the country’s Sorcery Act and to reinstate the death penalty in certain cases to help stem an increase in violence against people accused of practicing black magic. Such violence is endemic in the South Pacific island nation, and a rise in the number of public killings in the past year has prompted international condemnation and embarrassed the government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. [...] Amnesty International, which has campaigned loudly against sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea, praised the repeal of the Sorcery Act but assailed the reintroduction of the death penalty. Isabelle Arradon, a spokeswoman, said that represented ‘several giant steps back.’”

Meanwhile, a conference entitled “Sorcery and Witchcraft-Related Killings in Melanesia: Culture, Law and Human Rights Perspectives” is taking place this week in Australia that focuses on possible solutions to this horror, including whether legislative solutions can have any effect on witch-killings in the Melanesia subregion. Quote: “Belief in sorcery and witchcraft is so deeply embedded in Papua New Guinea that the problem will not be solved so easily as repealing a piece of legislation.” Still, at least there are signs that forces both within and without Papua New Guinea are struggling to find solutions. Let us hope that this terror can be abated for the sake of the victims, and the humanity of the perpetrators.

Famous Bengali Film Director a Member of India’s Wiccan Brigade: The world mourned this week on hearing that internationally known and celebrated film director Rituparno Ghosh died at the age of 49 after suffering a massive heart attack. As tributes and remembrances have emerged, Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, India’s most famous Wiccan adherent, claims that Ghosh was a student of her teachings, and a part of her “Wiccan Brigade.”

Rituparno Ghosh

Rituparno Ghosh

“For master storyteller Rituparno Ghosh, who died on May 30, the craft of Wicca — a modern pagan and witchcraft religion was a “great draw” as it appealed to his intellectual side. The filmmaker also exhibited a pronounced curiosity about “life after death”, says renowned Wiccan exponent Ipsita Roy Chakraverti. Ghosh was Chakraverti’s first student from the film fraternity [...] “He was always a part of our programmes… As a speaker, as a participant. (He was) always very interested in learning the craft. In fact, he was my first student from the film fraternity,” said Chakraverti.”

As I’ve reported here previously, Chakraverti’s Wiccan Brigade has worked to combat violence against women in the form of witch killings and persecutions, and believes that the religion could empower women in the face of a “national problem” of rape. Knowing that Ghosh was a part of Chakraverti’s group adds an extra dimension to his character, part of a life dedicated towards equal treatment for all individuals in his home country. What is remembered, lives.

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

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.

Selena Fox's healing altar for the victims of the Boston attack.

Selena Fox’s healing altar for the victims of the Boston attack.

I’d like to begin by sending out my thoughts to all those who were affected by yesterday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon. There have been many Pagan responses to this still-unresolved tragedy, but I think Ár nDraíocht Féin Archdruid Rev. Kirk Thomas’ statement may be the best:

“We in ADF participate in a public religion. The gatherings of the folk are important for our communal worship of the Kindreds. Terrorists, such as those who bombed the Boston Marathon today, are counting on the fear of the people to disrupt our sense of community, that we may be isolated from each other, and thus lose our way. I believe that it is our duty as civilized people to resist this impulse, to find our courage, and so defy these enemies of Good, that our relationships with the Kindreds and with each other will continue to thrive.”

May the perpetrators be caught, may justice be done, may the wounded find care, and may the grieved find comfort.

Babugeri, Bansko, Bulgaria, 2010–2011 Charles Fréger, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Babugeri, Bansko, Bulgaria, 2010–2011
Charles Fréger, courtesy of Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

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.

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.

Journalist Barbara Dreaver

Journalist Barbara Dreaver

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 North America and the UK the “Satanic” moral panics of the 1980s and 1990s are seen as an unfortunate rement of the recent past. A time when fear of secret “occult” and “Satanic” forces led innocent men and women to be accused of, and sometimes imprisoned for, imagined ghastly crimes against children. Sadly, these panics are not a remnant of the past, they continue to flare up across the world, and now that modern Pagan religions are truly global in scope, we are increasingly involved in, or endangered by, these panics.

Wiccan Ipsita Roy Chakraverti with her daughter Deepta, holding a crystal star in their hand

Wiccan Ipsita Roy Chakraverti with her daughter Deepta, holding a crystal star in their hand.

I think it is imperative that we start thinking of ourselves as a global movement. We aren’t just in Europe and the West, modern Pagans are endangered in Syria and Egypt, and the surviving Pagan religions of Russia (and their modern cousins) are increasingly threatened by draconian laws against “extremism.” We are in Africa and India, we are global in scope, we are no longer a handful of visionaries in England, New York, and California. This does not mean we should improperly claim innocent victims of witch-hunts as “ours,” but we should recognize that we can’t ignore the ramifications of ongoing attacks on “witchcraft,” “sorcery,” and the “occult” in nations across this planet. The boundaries are now getting too blurry to pretend it won’t become a major issue for us in the decades to come.

A procession of Pagans at the last Parliament of the World's Religions.

A procession of Pagans at the last Parliament of the World’s Religions.

It is for this reason, among others, that I think Pagan involvement with the global-scale interfaith movement is vital. As these issues intensify, it is imperative that Pagan voices are in a place where we can be heard. Where we can connect with influential men and women in positions to help us. Individuals like Don Frew, Patrick McCollumAndras Corban ArthenPhyllis CurottGus diZerega, or Angie Buchanan are going to be increasingly vital to how we are perceived outside our most populous strongholds. We have to move beyond the romantic ideas about who we are, and were, and work harder on pragmatic advances that will help all Pagans (and our allies). In addition, here in North America, the UK, Australia, and other places where being an out Pagan is (relatively) safer, we need to continue our outreach and dialog with African Traditional Religions, African Diasporic faiths, and other traditions who are experiencing the brunt of ill-informed and discriminatory beliefs about their practices.

Modern Paganism has been more successful than I think many people could have anticipated, and with that success comes new and greater challenges as we move forward. I think we are able to overcome these obstacles, but only if we are ready to take a clear-eyed view of what is happening in the world.

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.

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  • In response to the burning of Kepari Leniata in Papua New Guinea, covered here at The Wild Hunt yesterday, Amnesty International and the United Nation’s human rights office have both urged the government to take “concrete” actions to stop witch-killings in the Commonwealth nation. Quote: “We urge the Government to put an end to these crimes and to bring perpetrators of attacks and killings to justice through thorough, prompt and impartial investigations in accordance with international law [...] We note with great concern that this case adds to the growing pattern of vigilante attacks and killings of persons accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea [...] We urge the Government to take urgent action to prevent further cases through education, to provide protection to persons accused of sorcery and witnesses of sorcery-related killings, and to provide medical and psychosocial treatment for victims.” Let us hope that the death of Kepari Leniata was not in vain, and this will trigger safeguards against this horror happening again in Papua New Guinea. 
  • The Pagan Newswire Collective bureau in Minnesota reports on the 6th anniversary of the Upper Midwest Pagan Alliance, and debates whether there will be a 7th as membership has dwindled in recent years. Quote: “The organization notes that while over 300 people have been involved with UMPA over the past six years, membership has dwindled and that is prompting leadership to ask members and the community, ‘… does this mean UMPA is no longer needed? We don’t know. This is an opportunity gather for a great meal, entertainment, and to join in and discuss the future of UMPA; either find some new leadership and participation, or dissolve the organization and pass on any funds raised to another non-profit.’”
  • Author and magician Donald Michael Kraig has been named “Acquisitions Editor: Magic(k) and Occult Topics” over at Llewellyn Worldwide and he wants you to write! Quote: “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the U.S. and Europe giving workshops. Everywhere I go I hear the same sort of thing, “I could write a better book!” Whenever I hear people say that I encourage them! “Please do! We need new books and better books all the time.” Some of the people I’ve encouraged have gone on to write numerous popular books. They had the determination to do the work and see it through to the end. I congratulate them!” Congratulations to Kraig on his new role! 
  • Science Fiction blog io9 takes the new film version of The Sorcerer and the White Snake to task for making a religious/supernatural persecutor the hero, when he should have been the villain. Quote: “If [Jet] Li had simply been a villain — or if the movie had allowed him to be –- White Snake could have surpassed a lot of the limitations it sets upon itself; one genuinely interesting performance can make up for a lot of mediocre special effects. In one version of the original Chinese fairy tale, Fahai actually is the villain — although he’s a vengeful terrapin demon who takes the form of a monk, rather than an actual monk. But I can’t help but think that would have been a better choice for everyone.”
  • While I’m on the subject of io9, they review a recent episode of the show Supernatural that apparently had an abundance of OTO/Crowley references. Quote: “Last night’s episode of Supernatural had a lot to offer: a hot lady in a great 1950s dress, several Aleister Crowley references, and at least one trip to the coolest comic book store in the world.” [Hat-tip Invocatio]
  • It seems that Satan totally loves the full moon.
  • What do you do when you rely on the conservative Christian vote, but know that the country is getting more and more religiously diverse? Can you please one without alienating the other? Quote: “The challenge confronting the GOP as it attempts to broaden its base is not limited to Jewish voters. A survey conducted by Pew last year found that more than six in ten (61%) non-Christian affiliated Americans (a group that includes Hindus, Jews and Muslims) agreed that ‘religious conservatives have too much control over the Republican Party.’ Nearly two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated Americans also affirmed this statement. These groups are among the fastest-growing religious communities in the U.S. And if the GOP is serious about appealing to these voters, its candidates must navigate the difficult path of keeping conservative Christians engaged and committed while not appearing beholden to them.”
A fiasidi pauses to say a silent prayer while sweeping the pathway between the shrines for the male Togbui Adzima deity and his wife, Mama Wena in the sacred forest. Photo: Dana Romanoff/The Revealer

A fiasidi pauses to say a silent prayer while sweeping the pathway between the shrines for the male Togbui Adzima deity and his wife, Mama Wena in the sacred forest. Photo: Dana Romanoff/The Revealer

  • The Revealer looks at life in and around the Adzima shrines in Ghana. Quote: “While visitors shape much of the activity in the shrines, they are also homes for the priests, their wives and their children. Since a priest is rarely allowed to leave the proximity of the shrine, his wives take turns staying with him and cooking his meals. The priests’ wives have their own homes nearby, built for them either by the priest or on their own, where they reside intermittently, along with their children or relatives. The priest’schildren visit daily, asking for lunch money and school fees. The shrines are not simply or only religious spaces—they’re households, with children running around, studying for school, preparing meals, washing clothes, and entertaining guests.” This is an amazing piece, please go read the whole thing.
  • Rev. Irene Monroe writes about how Haitian Vodou is accepting of LGBTQ people, even if some of the individual practitioners are not. Quote: “Gay males in Haitian Vodou embrace the divine protection of Erzulie Freda, the feminine spirit of love and sexuality. Gay males are allowed to imitate and worship her. Lesbians are under the patronage of Erzulie Dantor, a fierce protector of women and children experiencing domestic violence. Erzulie Dantor is bisexual and prefers the company women. Labalèn is a gynandrous or intersexual spirit. And LaSirèn who is the Vodou analogue of Yemayá, a maternal spirit, is a revered transgender.”
  • Oh, and Vodou didn’t cause the Superbowl blackout, in case you were wondering
  • At HuffPo ReligionPagan and interfaith minister Wes Isley has an honest question about grief. Quote: “Maybe that sense of spiritual isolation after grief is universal no matter what faith we practice. And maybe I’ll feel more like my old self in six months or so. But what if I don’t? What if I abandon this Pagan path? I’ve already lost my partner; must I lose my faith, too? This brings me to my central dilemma: Whatever spiritual path we choose should be able to sustain us through the toughest of times; if it fails to do so, is it worth keeping? Once before, I changed my faith when it no longer made sense and failed to sustain. Is that about to happen again?” Maybe some of my wiser readers can help him out? 

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.

I fear that some of us living in the developed “first” world have developed a tendency to romanticize the European witch persecutions of the early modern period, a time where between 35 to 65 thousand men and women were killed for crimes of sorcery and witchcraft. It was so long ago that we have taken to fictionalizing the witch-hunts in films like “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters,” “Black Death,” and “Season of the Witch.” Blurring the line beyond mere romanticization into utter fantasy, a fantasy fed by the very lies used to initially convict those men and women. This fantasy is problematic not only for the way it warps history in the minds of the uncurious, but because witch-hunting has never stopped. The witch-hunts in Europe may have ended generations ago, but in other parts of the world they are still burning innocents.

Kepari Leniata being burnt to death in Papua New Guinea for the crime of "sorcery."

Kepari Leniata being burnt to death in Papua New Guinea for the crime of “sorcery.”

“A young mother accused of sorcery was stripped naked, doused with petrol and burned alive in front of a crowd including schoolchildren in Papua New Guinea, reports said on Thursday. The woman, named by The National newspaper as Kepari Leniata, 20, was reportedly tortured with a branding iron and tied up, splashed with fuel and set alight on a pile of rubbish topped with car tires. According to the rival Post-Courier newspaper she was torched by villagers who claimed she killed a six-year-old boy through sorcery, with police outnumbered by onlookers and unable to intervene.”

The source of that blaze is a woman. A crowd gathered to watch her die, swept up in the hysteria and panic of the accusation. That is what “killing witches” looks like. In Nigeria, another woman, 70-year-old Rebecca Adewumi, was recently killed for being witch.

“Mrs Adewumi was accused of being responsible for the sickness of a local evangelist. She was dragged to the palace of the monarch, where she was forced to drink local concoctions. The concoctions were given to her to make her confess or die within seven days. But after seven days she did not confess or die. Subsequently local thugs stormed her house. They dragged her under the rain and flogged her. According to a family member, her attackers scrapped her hair with broken bottles and used a big scissors to cut her fingers, then placed her on a tyre and set her ablaze.”

The witch-hunts aren’t some relic of the past, they are happening now. Nor is it isolated to the “third” world.

“A teenage boy underwent “unimaginable physical torture” before being drowned by his sister and her partner because they believed he was a sorcerer who was practising witchcraft, a court heard on Thursday. [...] Over four days Kristy, who was visiting his sister from France, was tortured with metal bars, wooden sticks, a hammer and a pair of pliers in a “prolonged attack of unspeakable savagery and brutality”, the court was told.”

We live in a strange time. In America we concoct fantasies about killing “witches,” we build thrillers that suppose our own witch-killings were justified, while thousands are killed by mobs in towns and villages across the world.  Surely we should be feeling some cognitive dissonance, but we seem to accept “The Witch” as just like any other fantasy creature: zombies, werewolves, vampires, winged fairies. We make no real connection to how much our fantasy is built on the horror of killing innocents (and the propaganda that fueled it). Nor do we realize that Hollywood is a global business, and that our fantasies about witch-killing might be seen very differently in lands where witch-hunts have not become a relic of history. For modern Pagans and Witches living in countries where these witch persecutions happen, they are in a constant struggle to change a culture of misinformation and dangerous propaganda (South African Pagans are currently circulating a petition to their Human Rights Commission).

Yesterday I wrote about a large number of film projects featuring witches and witchcraft that are being released this year, and that those of us who identify as Witches should start discerning our response to them, because what pop-culture does impacts our collective thinking and beliefs. This is not because these films are about “us,” but because the lines are far blurrier than we realize. That it’s problematic that we are entertained by fake witches being killed while Christian groups in America fund witch-hunters overseas. Meanwhile, the unscrupulous have no problem issuing polemics that deliberately try to blur the lines further between modern religious Witchcraft and the witch-persecutions. We seem to forget that we are not immune to moral panics here too.

I’m not saying we can’t have fantasy witches riding broomsticks and cackling, I’m simply saying that we can’t enjoy them in a vacuum. When we blur the lines between the fantasy witch and the innocent women and men that were killed in early modern Europe, when we make them the villains while witch-hunts rage and people die in places like Papua New Guinea, we have to start examining what we are saying to ourselves through our art. The reality of burning witches is not fun, entertaining, or exciting, it is horrifying and tragic, it should gain the world’s attention and mobilize us into action. The figure of the witch, in fantasy and reality, has always been a dangerous and complex idea and we cannot ignore what we invoke in its name.