Archives For Witchcraft

[The Wild Hunt welcomes journalist Claire Dixon to our weekly news team. She is our U.K. correspondent and will be covering news and events specifically in that region, as well around the world. To learn more about Dixon’s background and her experience, check out her bio page.]

BRIGHTON, England — The doors opened on an exhibition of artifacts from the Doreen Valiente collection this month, but it was the new biography of the U.K.’s most famous Witch that caused the biggest stir. Why? The book revealed that Valiente had worked at the legendary MI6 spy base Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

doreen valiente

[Courtesy Doreen Valiente Foundation]

As reported in The Wild Hunt in January, Philip Heselton’s book, Doreen Valiente Witch, was published by the Doreen Valiente Foundation (DVF) to coincide with the landmark exhibition in Brighton, West Sussex. It is the book’s third chapter, titled Glimpses Through the Shadows (Or What Doreen Did During the War), which has been attracting the most interest.

MI6 used Bletchley in Buckinghamshire as its code-cracking centre and would intercept all manner of German ciphers. The most famous was the Enigma code, because it had more than 100 million variations. Heselton states that Valiente had signed the Official Secrets Act and was part of Bletchley’s ISOS division, whose job it was to translate intercepted messages.

DVF trustee Ashley Mortimer said that Heselton, in his research for the book, had finally confirmed a long-standing suspicion that she was involved with this code-cracking. The discovery was an exciting development for DVF and the Pagan community, in general.

Mortimer said, “John and Julie (Belham-Payne, founders of the foundation) had always believed Doreen was involved in secret work during the war, they’d both speculated that Doreen may even have been at Bletchley Park. So to have this confirmed by Philip was truly thrilling.” He added, “This aspect of Doreen’s life, now revealed, throws a new perspective on other aspects – certainly her ability to be secretive and to take her promises seriously, as she plainly did with the Official Secrets Act.”

Unfortunately, this new chapter of Valiente’s story, which Heselton has now opened, may never be fully told. The work carried out at Bletchley Park was first disclosed in the 1970s. But because Valiente signed the Official Secrets Act, she was prohibited from speaking about the nature of her business with the government. For intelligence work, this limitation would usually apply to the remainder of the signatory’s lifetime and , furthermore, any information covered by the Act can sometimes be officially classified for up to 100 years.

So what do we actually know? According to Heselton, the ISOS division, which was based in Hut 18 at Bletchley, was part of the effort to counter the Abwehr, or German military intelligence. Abwehr had spread itself through Europe by sending out spies posing as refugees fleeing the Nazi regime. These spies would then report back on enemy military sites, training regimes and so on. ISOS worked to intercept those messages, crack ciphers, and track down the spies.

Once detected, German spies were given a stark choice. They could become double agents or face execution. Many chose the former, which led to the creation of the highly successful double-cross system. False information was fed back to German, and one very notable success was to convince the Nazis that the Allies would be landing at Calais rather than Normandy on D-Day. These double-agents went unnoticed by the Germans, and it is estimated that the work of Valiente and her colleagues at Bletchley saved millions of lives, cutting the length of the war by up to four years.

Heselton also claims that Valiente spent a lot of the Second World War travelling between Bletchley and South Wales. She was reportedly gathering information from foreign merchant navy men regarding the Battle of the Atlantic, at the core of which was the Allied blockade of Germany. It was during this time that Valiente met her first husband Joanis Vlachopolous, who drowned only six months after they were married in 1941. However, Valiente’s role in South Wales is less clear than her role at Bletchley.

Heselton’s research has undoubtedly added an important new dimension to Valiente’s story, and the Pagan community is abuzz with questions. However, as noted earlier, given her signing of the Official Secrets Act, we may never know the true extent or nature of her work during the war – or at least not for some time. Mortimer said, “The research continues, and we are all convinced that there will be further information and other revelations to discover. Doreen Valiente remains an enigma and it seems the more we find out about her the more we realise how little we know.”

Bletchley Park was contacted for a comment but did not reply.

[Courtesy Doreen Valiente Foundation]

[Courtesy Doreen Valiente Foundation]

Meanwhile, another interesting disclosure in Heselton’s biography is Valiente’s acquaintance with the British royal family – particularly the Queen Mother (who passed away in 2002). Heselton told the Brighton Argus: “I have had it from a number of people that she indeed knew the Queen Mother. As with a lot of her life, much of this is a mystery and will remain so but we have certain clues to their relationship.”

According to Heselton, the Queen Mother flew Valiente to Balmoral, which is the royal family’s official summer residence in the Scottish Highlands, by private jet in the 1980s to warn her that the government of the time was thinking about outlawing Witchcraft again. Witchcraft had been banned in Britain in the 16th century under the reign of Henry VIII and was punishable by death. Notable purges include the North Berwick witch trials in East Lothian, Scotland (1590) and the Pendle witches trial in Lancashire, northern England (1612).

However, in 1735 a new Witchcraft Act was passed to reflect the Enlightenment values of the times. Being a practitioner was no longer punishable but belief in witchcraft was. The maximum penalty was one year’s imprisonment or a fine, and the Act remained statute law until 1951.

When Gerald Gardner introduced Wicca to popular culture in 1954, Witchcraft began to enjoy a resurgence. Therefore, the possibility of a fresh ban must have been alarming. Heselton was unclear on the exact timing of Valiente’s flight to Balmoral, but he said, “My impression is that her meeting with the Queen Mother was some time in the 1980s.”

Another related rumour cited by Heselton is that the hand-held mirror used by Valiente in her rituals, which can be seen in the current DVF exhibition, once belonged to the Queen Mother. Valiente reportedly picked it up at a jumble sale at a village neighbouring Balmoral after the Queen Mother had a clear-out. She is said to have got chatting to the Queen Mother at the sale, who confirmed that the mirror was hers. However, there is at present no way of verifying this story.

As with this rumour and the Bletchley tale, it would appear that there are many more stories to be told about Valiente. We will keep reporting as they continue to surface.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. 

georgia sealATLANTA, Ga. – On Monday, March 28, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed HB 757, a notorious state RFRA legislative bill. Deal said that it “contained language [that] could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination.” He added, “I did have problems with that and made my concerns known as did many other individuals and organizations, including some within the faith-based community.”

“Religious freedom” legislation in some form has been circulating within the Georgia legislature for several years. The subject attracted national attention in Spring 2015 after Aquarian Tabernacle priest Dusty Dionne spoke publicly about SB129, one of several RFRA incarnations. Dionne thanked the Georgia state legislature for its “forward thinking” on “religious freedom issues,” adding, “This new bill will create sweeping changes that will open the doors for the Wiccans within Georgian communities to worship, work, and LIVE their religion to its fullest.” While SB 129 stalled in the house, new legislation was eventually born. After HB 757 was adopted by both the house and senate, it was sent to the Governor, where it was promptly vetoed.

In his statement, Gov. Deal said, “If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the ‘hands-off’ admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take.”

We asked Dionne for a reaction to the recent veto. He said, “Georgia’s veto of this dangerous bill shows that those that the people of GA elected to protect themselves and make them prosperous, have the hearts needed to serve the entirety of their constituents, not just a radical minority. They deserve all of the praise given to those that protect the free world.”

Other Religious Freedom News

    • Could the Christian Bible become the official state book of Tennessee? On Apr 6, the Tennessee state legislature approved the “Holy Bible” as its official state book. Within its various amendments, legislators further defined which texts were included in the term “Holy Bible.” The bill will now head to Governor Bill Haslam, where it is expected to meet some resistance. Gov. Haslam reportedly feels the legislation is “disrespectful” to what the Bible means and is. Additionally, the state attorney general has expressed concern over the unconstitutionality of the measure. Meanwhile, the ACLU of Tennessee has been watching closely and is reportedly “on ready” should the bill pass. The ACLU wrote, in part, “While the Bible is an important book to many state residents, Tennesseans come from a rich diversity of faiths. Privileging one religion over another not only tramples on the Constitution, it marginalizes the tens of thousands of Tennesseans who choose to practice other religions or not to practice religion at all.” If Gov. Haslam does not veto the bill within ten days of its approval, it will automatically become law.
    • In February, we reported on the Satanic Temple’s fight to offer an invocation before a city council meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Shortly after adopting a moment of silence in an effort to prevent the TST invocation, the city council brought back religious invocations. However, the new policy only allows police and fire chaplains to give those prayers. TST is reportedly planning to sue the city. In the meantime, the organization has been preparing to deliver an invocation at the July 6 meeting of the Scottsdale, Arizona city council. In an interview with AZCentral, TST spokesperson Stu de Haan discussed exactly what TST plans to say in its prayer. According to the article, TST will “ask the audience to reason our solutions with agnosticism in all things while standing firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens personal sovereignty.” However, TST may never be granted this opportunity. Scottsdale is reportedly looking for a legal way out, just as Phoenix did. This story is not yet over.
    • Further north, in the state of Colorado, The Satanic Temple is taking on an entirely different religious freedom issue. Together with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the two organizations are challenging the distribution of the Gideons Bibles to middle and high school students in Delta County. According to reports, the school district ignored complaints from local atheist organizations, who finally turned to these national groups. After being informed about a similar situation in Orange County Florida, the Delta County school board relented and allowed all informational material. On Apr 1, children in the Delta County district were offered TST’s The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities, along with a number of atheist pamphlets from various organizations. While all of the pamphlets were permitted on campus, one particular one, entitled “The X-Rated Bible: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible,” was first censored with a sticker before it was allowed out for distribution. FRFF did say that it doesn’t believe schools should be a religious battle ground, but it will continue to challenge unconstitutional policies where they exist. The Delta County School District is reportedly rethinking their non-curricular information distribution policy.

[Courtesy Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers / Facebook]

[Courtesy Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers / Facebook]

In Other News

      • In a lengthy interview and full report, The Washington Post shares details about the infamous #Boneghazi story. The article is titled, “21st century ‘witch’ hunt: Tumblr sleuths lead authorities to person who took human bones from a La. cemetery.” In December, social media lit up with tales of human bones being stolen from a “poor man’s cemetery” in New Orleans. A dialog ensued, inciting rage and inviting controversy. In January, officials began a full investigation, while the discourse evolved into an serious and in-depth concern over local gentrification, race, class and religion.
      • In a recent feature, Broadly profiled “The White Witch of Los Angeles” As the article begins, Maja D’Aoust “uses her science background to examine the world through her lecture series, tarot readings, and insightful performances as the Oracle.”
      • In another article, Broadly featured a report on “The Real Witches of Salem Massachusetts.” While such a subject is not at all surprising for our readers, it may be surprising for a portion of the general mainstream population. Broadly interviewed a few local Witches from the famous “Witch City,” as well as discussing the economic aspects of the city’s unique tourist industry.
      • On the lighter side, Salem’s police ran into an all-too-common modern day problem; a digital fumble, if you will. That fumble, caused by autocorrect, was particular amusing considering Salem’s witchy reputation. The error made social media rounds and provided many people with a good laugh. In March, the city’s police tweeted the following:


Beyond the U.S.

    • According to The National, religious belief and affiliation is on the decline in Scotland. The article reads, “The Scottish Social Attitudes survey show 52 percent of people say they are not religious, compared with 40 percent of those who were asked in 1999 when the survey began.” Despite the overall decline, the article also notes that local Pagan organizations have reported an increase in those identifying as Pagan.
    • A similar article was recently published in The Reykjavik GrapevineAccording to this article, “Church membership has declined by about 10% since 2009” in Iceland. However, just as reported in Scotland, “registered Pagans [in Iceland] are on the rise.” The article reads, “Registered members of the Zuists have increased by over 3,000 over the past year. The faith professes worship of the ancient Sumerian gods, but also promises to refund government religious subsidies to its members. At the same time, members of the Ásatrú Society – which follows the rites and ethics of the Old Norse gods – have also increased, by over 500 members.”
    • According to the New York Times, the indigenous women of North Africa’s Amazigh, also called the “Berber” women, “have banded together to fight political Islamism, polygamy, child marriage, and impunity for perpetrators of domestic violence.” Their matriarchal traditions and language are currently being threatened. The article profiles their unique culture, as well as their fight against terrorism and other forms of oppression.
    • The Washington Post published an article titled, “Rare photos show the lives of Russia’s forgotten Mari Pagans.” The article reads, “The attempted suppression of the nature-worshiping Mari has a long and dark history.” The article details that history, as well as their struggle against oppression. In photos and words, the article also highlights the unique and vibrant, living culture of the Mari Pagans.
    • Lastly, Witches aren’t only for Halloween. According to The Daily Mail, “little Witches” come out to cast spells every Easter in Finland. “small colorful witches appear on Finnish doorsteps in a blend of eastern and western religious traditions related to spring. They hand over catkin branches, reciting healthy wishes in exchange for payment that is traditionally chocolate or other candies.”

TAOS, NM — After four hours of deliberation a Taos jury found 51-year-old West Virginia native Ivan Dennings Cales Jr. guilty of the murder of Roxanne Houston and of tampering with evidence. During the investigation as was brought forward during the trial, the state found data and gathered testimonies, suggesting that the accused may have been on a modern day Witch hunt.

[Photo Credit: Billy Hathorn /Wikipedia]

[Photo Credit: Billy Hathorn /Wikipedia]

Houston, a Wiccan practitioner from Colorado, disappeared in July 2014 after moving to New Mexico. Her body was found by a hiker near the “Two Peaks area” in December of that same year. According to a local news agency, “Elizabeth Hagerty said she was walking with her husband, Robert, and their two dogs when one canine began rolling on what appeared to be a burnt part of a brassiere.” Police later identified the body as Houston’s and launched an investigation.

Prior to her 2014 disappearance in New Mexico, Houston’s life was reportedly complicated and unstable. According to her estranged ex-husband George Houston, Roxy, as she was called, was bi-polar and had been off medication for quite some time. She has four children, who all live with adoptive parents, and was frequently moving between relationships.

In June 2015, Mr. Houston, a non-Pagan, laments his own involvement and failures to help his wife. In a public Facebook post, he demonstrates his continued affection for her, despite their past problems. He pledged to fight for justice in the courts.

As the story goes, Roxy reportedly left Colorado in 2013 with a boyfriend, and arrived in Carson, NM. The couple camped for some time and, eventually, moved into a home with several other male housemates. She lived at that location until her death.

Houston was last seen hiking in June 2014, but her body wasn’t discovered for six months. Then, after a long investigation, Cales was found living at a local shelter and arrested Feb 23, 2015. The Taos Sheriff’s office noted that this case was particularly difficult because many of the involved parties were “transients,” including Cales, who had only arrived in New Mexico in April 2014.

In a post on the Rainbow Gathering Family site, Cales described himself as a survivalist, and includes “loves the outdoors. open minded. non drug user. native American beliefs.” In 1999, he renounced his American citizenship in an AIM forum titled, “The American Indian Movement” on the basis that the government was illegal. He reportedly met Houston when he moved into the residence where she was living.

During the March trial, Cales’ cellmate Raymond Martinez reportedly testified that Cales actually claimed “Native American” heritage and connected that fact to his motivation to kill Witches. He reportedly said that he was on a “witch-hunt” and that Houston was a Witch. As the local paper reports:

He testified Cales drew pictures of a witch hunt […] He said Cales told him he was Native American, and that Native Americans believed if a witch cast a spell on them, they needed to kill the witch to break the spell. Artwork that looked like pencil sketches of a witch hunt — done in jail and presumably signed by Cales as “Kwenishguery Manito Lenepe Witch Hunter 2000”— were exhibited in the courtroom as evidence.

Another witness Thomas Thebo reportedly testified that Cales said, “If a Wiccan ever cast a spell on him, he would have to kill the witch to get rid of the spell.” We reached out to the Lenape Nation for a reaction to the testimony, but did not get a response back by publication time.

In a number of media interviews, Cales’ defense attorney Thomas Clark calls the Witchcraft testimony “nonsense.” Before the trial began, he filed a motion to have these documents and the Martinez testimony removed from the case. The motion was denied. All evidence pointing to the Witch hunt was included.

District attorney Donald Gallegos also suggested that Cales was in love with Houston, making the alleged Witchcraft accusations simply a mask. In his public post asking for prayers, Houston’s ex-husband also suggested that there may have been a love triangle. But Gallegos also reminded reporters, “the unrequited love and the witch theories are just that — theories. However, he and his staff are sure that Cales is Houston’s killer.”

Houston was given what was called a “New Age, mystic, pagan service” funeral. Her boyfriend and other roommates did not attend. We reached out to several local Pagans in the region, but did not get a response by publication time.

While Roxy’s mental illness was well-known and led to instability, she was remembered fondly by the few that knew her. As reported in the news, “several local residents […] remembered her for the compassion she is said to have demonstrated towards neighbors. Houston reportedly worked as a caretaker for one neighbor and is also said to have lent a hand distributing food to Carson area residents.”

Upon learning the guilty verdict, Houston’s friend Cheryl Bailey Payne wrote a note to the Taos Sheriff’s office, saying “Thank you from the bottom of not only my, but my daughter’s, and Roxanne’s sister’s hearts – RIP Roxanne – we love you!!”

*   *   *

Although Houston’s case was not labeled a hate crime, the concerns over such aggression and violence directed at Witches and other minorities do loom in the background for many. Ardanane Learning Center, located in New Mexico, will be running an online two-part seminar dealing specifically with the subject of “Hate Crimes.”

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Over those two days, instructor and former investigator Kerr Cuhulain will “share the lessons he learned dealing with hate crimes during the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s and his experiences with educating law enforcement and other public agencies about Pagan religions.” The classes will take place on March 26 and April 2.

Review: The Witch (2016)

Heather Greene —  February 21, 2016 — 31 Comments

[Editor’s Note: This review does contain some spoilers.]

The Witch is an unsettling and cinematically-beautiful film that challenges its viewers through its themes and multilayered construction. But it is not at all what you might expect.

MV5BMTY4MTU2NjMyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzUwMDk4NzE@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_Written and directed by Robert Eggers, The Witch is the latest film to capitalize on the public’s continued obsession with witch stories and, even more specifically, the Salem mythos. Subtitled “A New England Folk Tale,” the title alone sets a definitive tone for an American audience before a single ticket is purchased and the lights go down in the theater. The legendary connection between witches and New England is woven into the very fabric of the American story, captivating the imagination and intriguing the mind. We know the drill, so to speak.

However, The Witch is set in 1630, decades before the infamous Salem witch trials, but it retains the same ethos. Because we, as American viewers, have legacy with the story, we enter this one with a certain knowing. Religious faith, defined by Christianity, will be challenged. Someone, most likely a young woman, is going to be accused of witchcraft and, as with the most recent Salem retellings, magic is actually “afoot.”

This is how Eggers’ film works. He uses well-known, culturally and religiously-based tropes as well as very familiar folkloric iconography to build his world. A family leaves its community due to religious differences and finds itself living alone in a field at the edge of a dark forest, a place typically associated with mystery, evil and magic. Throughout the film, Eggers punctuates the narrative with images of this woodland area, and he lingers within these shots as if to contemplate what is actually going on within its darkness. He conjures folkloric iconography to enrich his tale, including visual or spoken references to Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood and Baba Yaga, wolves, apples and woodland huts. Additionally, to play into the growing fear, Eggers throws in icons long associated in the western world with satanic witchcraft as defined by Catholicism, such as goats, hares, and crows.

But Eggers doesn’t simply dive into a fantasy-based horror film pitting “man against the wood.” This is not Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013). The Witch is an historically-based, fiction tale complete with “thine” and “thou” and other such speak. While he employs the fairytale trope of the forbidden forest and all that it implies, Eggers weaves a 17th-century morality tale, in which extreme religious piety slowly strangles a family, figuratively speaking. In that way, the entire film thematically becomes an exercise in exploring the limits of human control; of self, of others and of the world. The film pits the extremes of the uncontrolled, or the wild, against the extremes of the controlled, or religious fanaticism.

The Witch opens with a close-up of Thomasin, a teenage girl and the oldest child in the family (Anya Taylor-Joy), and it remains on her face as the voice of her father William (Ralph Ineson) explains how they can no longer live in the Puritan community due to religious differences. From the start, the film sets up a patriarchal family structure, led by a self-confident father with a deep, booming voice. The film then proceeds onward as the family makes its way into unexplored territory to set up a homestead and attempt to survive alone.

After baby Samuel disappears into the woods, the family structure begins to break down. As control slowly erodes, parents William and Katherine (Kate Dickie) cling desperately to their Christian faith. Their answer is always to pray harder and to pray more; to confess and to be pious. But that fails them personally, just as it fails the family as a whole. William’s own frustration is expressed by his obsessive need to chop wood, a small symbol of what is consuming his family. As his daughter remarks, he can’t farm and he can’t hunt – two other ways of taming the wild. So he chops wood and prays; this is eventually where he meets his end.

Unlike many modern horror films, Eggers doesn’t rush through telling of his story, nor does he complicate the narrative. The Witch maintains an effective stillness that values the simplicity of visual tension over loud, graphically-explicit content as typically found in modern films. Eggers moves along very slowly and precisely, lingering within shots and cutting to black at poignant moments. The mood is only disrupted by a few “jump” moments and a limited amount of gore, violence and nudity. The music, or lack thereof, and the gray cinematography contribute to the film’s eerie environment, paralleling both the extremes of religious piety and the fear of what is lurking in the wood.

The folklore references, which are known to the viewer, are also known to the family members, and that is partly what entraps and encircles them either by their fear or by their reality. This is where the film gets complicated and perhaps loses its strength to some degree. Is the presented fantasy folklore a product of the family’s religious beliefs or is it real? In other words, is there really a witch in the woods?

Plot-wise, the answer is yes. There is a witch in the woods. Near the beginning, the Baba Yaga figure is shown without any juxtaposition, visually or otherwise, to a family member’s experience. This suggests that she is real. However, this is only time that happens. All other visuals of magic or witches are directly linked to a family member’s process in some way, which leaves the viewer questioning whether the presented magic is simply a product of fear and desire as characters lose their self control.

For example, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), the adolescent son, is seduced by a witch disguised as a beautiful maiden. The mother is lured into chaos by images of her dead sons. The disrespectful and creepy Hansel and Gretel-like twins, Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson), are said to be under the control of the family billy goat named Black Phillip. Are these characters suffering from delusions after being overtaken by the pain of loss, the boredom of social isolation and the fear of desire? In the end, the answer doesn’t matter. Whether or not the witch and the magic are real or simply products of the fanatic mind is irrelevant, because ultimately the wild wins.

[still from the film]

Thomasin [From the film: “The Witch” (2016)]

This brings us back to Thomasin, the teenage girl, who is the film’s protagonist. In most Salem narratives and in most fantasy witch tales, there is a prominent adolescent girl who has reached the point of maturity. That character is typically at the center of the majority of American witch movies; not every one but most. Eggers’ film is no different. As noted by her mother, Thomasin has reached this point of womanhood. However, Eggers does something radically different with Thomasin’s story. There is no cinematic male gaze, as suggested by the promotional imagery and posters. The film’s focus does not fall on Thomasin’s sexuality but rather on her place within an unstable social setting.

In more traditional Salem-based or satanic witch films, a young woman’s sexuality, expression of or protection of, becomes paramount. She must be saved from a symbolic defiling or, if she willingly becomes wild, she must be brought back and reincorporated into proper society or otherwise killed. In addition, traditionally speaking, the teenage girl in the western fairy tale must struggle against an angry mother as part of her journey toward womanhood. In the end, the wild is vanquished and society upheld by a man’s heroics. In one way or another, we are returned to a status quo, purging the bad and upholding the good.

However, in Eggers’ film, Thomasin is the only character who “holds it together” as the family society erodes. She does what she is told, washing clothes, caring for and comforting her siblings, working with the goats, remembering her prayers and loving her parents. She even tries desperately to soothe her angry mother. Thomasin is not at all seduced by the wild, like the others. Even when she accused of witchcraft by the twins and even jokes about it, the label does not stick. She consistently fails to uphold her expected role as the classic adolescent female horror victim.

In the end, it is Thomasin who survives by finally giving into the wild and becoming a witch. The opening scene of her face jailed by camera’s close-up as her father’s voice booms over her is juxtaposed beautifully by the final image her naked body floating in the forest, near the tree tops, with sounds of laughter and chanting. She is free. The young woman survives by rewilding herself, and the film cuts to black.

While some viewers may view this dark ending as simply promoting Satanism or Witchcraft, that is far too simple of a reading. The film works on an allegorical level in various ways, exploring humanity’s extreme and failed attempts to control nature – that of self and that of the world. More specifically, it speaks to a society facing environmental collapse at its own hands and to women attempting to toss off the shackles of the constructed patriarchy in order to embrace true female agency. There is also cautionary tale embedded in the film, one that is not at all new. Nature will win.

However, with all that said, there is one caveat here. To be free and embrace the wild, Thomasin must sign Satan’s book. Modern Witches may find discomfort with the film’s very stereotypical depiction of witchcraft as defined within Christian terms. This point also begs the question of whether Thomasin is actually free at all. Did she leave one patriarchy just to join another?

Regardless, taking the film as a pure allegory and looking at it in terms of the canon of Hollywood witch films, Eggers does make a radical turn. He allows his heroine Thomasin to embrace a radical lifestyle that is contrary to everything she was taught, religiously and socially, and allows her to remain in that space without question. This detail alone is what makes the film unsettling even after the lights go up in the theater. What the characters know and believe as right, becomes wrong and is destroyed. And, what is believed to be wrong is eventually embraced.

The Witch is an interesting exercise in thematic storytelling encapsulated in a beautiful imagery. However, it will disappoint those viewers looking for a more typical modern horror film. While Eggers does use some common horror elements, the film is not scary or frightening in the expected sense. The horror of this film is in the disturbing extremes; not in sensationalized violence or gore. It is in the parents’ desperate attempts to maintain control through faith (e.g., blood letting) as well as in the chaos of the wild world as it takes over (e.g., death of animals). The film moves slowly by modern standards and spends much of its time in contemplation and observance, which ultimately is the position of the protagonist Thomasin.

Filmed in northern Ontario, The Witch earned critical acclaim at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and  Eggers won the festival’s directing award in the U.S. Dramatic category. The film also won the Sutherland Prize for Best Debut Feature in London. Currently, Eggers is working on a fim called “The Knight: a medieval epic.” And, will be working on a “reimagining of F.W. Murnau’s classic film, Nosferatu.”

The Witch is Eggers’ debut film. It runs for 92 minutes and is now playing widely in cinemas across the country.

CAMEROON — In early January, Chiefs from the Eastern regions of Cameroon requested permission to use Witchcraft against the terrorist group Boko Haram. The news came through a tweet by respected investigative journalist and Chief Bisong Etahoben on Feb. 1. Shortly after, President Paul Biya responded back welcoming the assistance and use of Witchcraft in the fight to protect the nation and its people. In response to this news, Witches outside of the country are looking to help and add their magic to the protection of the region and the eradication of terrorism.

Lake Nyos, Cameroon [Courtesy Encyclopedia of the Earth]

Lake Nyos, Cameroon [Courtesy Encyclopedia of the Earth]

Cameroon is located in the central west portion of Africa, just south of Nigeria, where Boko Haram was originally founded. The terrorist organization is believed to have formed around 2003 in the northeastern region of Nigeria. Its earliest members were the followers of a “young, charismatic preacher named Mohammed Yusuf.” The name Boko Haram is typically translated as “Western education is forbidden” or “Western Fraud.” In 2009, the group first clashed openly with authorities; Yusuf and hundreds of others, including innocent people, were killed. After that uprising, Boko Haram slowly regrouped and began again in 2010. But its actions didn’t attract intentional attention until, in 2014, members kidnapped 276 girls from the town of Chibok.

But the ongoing crisis is not limited to the borders of Nigeria. Cameroon has also been under attack. As noted in a BBC article, Amnesty International reports that Boko Haram has killed over 17,000 people since 2009. Cameroon has been increasingly engaged in the military actions against the group, entering into a anti-terrorist coalition with Chad, Niger, Benin and Nigeria. In recent months, the Cameroon military was able to release a reported 900 hostages who were being held by Boko Haram in its northeastern region, and there has been some hope.

However, the continued violence is unsettling for the locals in those northeastern villages. And, therefore, regional Chiefs have stepped up to offer their own communities’ services for the cause. Journalist Bisong Etahoben reported:

According to reports, the Chiefs along with regional Governor Miyazawa recently contacted Cameroon President Paul Biya for permission to use Witchcraft, which he allegedly granted. Etahoben reports,”The head of state has demanded that an aspect of witchcraft be integrated into the fight against Boko Haram, Far North Governor Midjiyawa.” In response, a local Christian from Nigeria tweeted back, “Nigerians are with you on this, wipe out those blood thirsty sect and send your armies of witches to Nigeria.”

The call for the use of Witchcraft is an interesting turn of events considering the complicated position that Witches and Witchcraft have in sub-Saharan Africa. This is an area of the world in which people can be ostracized, beaten, killed and jailed for the alleged practice of Witchcraft. In other cases, people have been dismembered and killed by those who reportedly practice Witchcraft. It is a extremely complicated culturally, politically and religiously embedded situation that many of the governments, as we have recently reported, are trying desperately to negotiate.

[Photo Credit: AK Rockefeller / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: AK Rockefeller / Flickr]

In the wake of the most recent Boko Haram attacks on a group of Nigerian children, several U.S. Witches have now joined the efforts to use Witchcraft to help stop this terrorist group. Calling themselves the Social Justice Witches Working, these women are asking Witches and other magical workers from around the world to come together on Feb. 13 to stop the violence perpetrated by the Nigerian-based terrorist organization.

One of the organizers, Boneweaver, more commonly known as Pamela V Jones, told The Wild Hunt, “There was little to no coverage of the children being burnt. The people in Nigeria have been forgotten. The Dead are being forgotten. We are heavy on working with the Beloved Dead, and heavy hearted about the continued slaughtering of innocents while the world turns away, while this country focused on the Super Bowl in the media.”

Boneweaver is a “a Reclaiming and Feri initiated Witch of the Victor Anderson path through the Starhawk line. [She is] a member of Spiralheart, the mid-Atlantic Reclaiming cell.” She lives in the Pittsburgh area where she and a friend teach and have recently started Reclaiming Pittsburgh. Boneweaver said, “I didn’t realize there was a Boko Haram Witchcraft call [from Cameroon], though I am not surprised there is one. A friend here on FB, after we’d participated in a similar working last week against Roosh, the Return of the Kings guy who was pro-rape, asked were we […] ready to do one against Boko Haram.”

Organized by herself and another, the ritual action date was set for Feb. 13 and the group Social Justice Witches Working was born. As Jones noted, the organizers had no idea that the Chiefs, the Cameroon Governor or allegedly the President had even called for Witchcraft help. On the surface, it would appear to be a complete coincidence.

When asked if she or the other organizers had any connection to Cameroon or Nigeria, she said, “I don’t have personal ties with the region. I’m coming at it from the perspective that collective magic is a force for change. We shake the Web, push the energies, and create potential for things to shift. Everything and everyone is connected energetically.”

The date was chosen specifically for its astrological readings, which are explained in detail on Boneweaver’s blog post. She wrote, in part:

The moon is waxing, we can’t help that, but she’s void of course and her last aspect before that is a bad one, so she won’t give any succor to the enemy. Saturday is Saturn’s and working in Saturn’s hour will give it extra oomph: as the founder’s Saturn (great malefic) is in his eighth house (the house of death), we like the reminder of that bit of harrowing doom in the chart. Mars is in Scorpio; invite him to invite more snakes and stingy bugs to the party.

Boneweaver admits that she is not the astrologer in the organizing efforts; her role was to do the setup of the Facebook event page and any research or further organization. She also wrote a poem to be used by anyone who needs some inspiration. It begins, “We see you, Boko Haram.”

Social Justice Witches Working (SJWW) has planned this action for Feb. 13 and invites people from around the world to join. Boneweaver added that this will not be the last planned event for the new activist group. The name itself is meant to be very general so that it can be applied to any future actions and calls for global magic. When ask if there is anything else planned now, she said not specifically. However, Boneweaver did say that she “wouldn’t rule out a public [ritual against Daesh] in the future.” But this one was chosen specifically “because it has slipped from the media’s attention.”

If the reports from journalist Etahoben are accurate, Boneweaver and the magical practitioners who do join the SJWW Feb 13 action may find themselves sharing magical space with the Cameroon and maybe even Nigerian Witches and Wizards, as they are locally known, in a true global effort to end Boko Haram’s reign of terror in the eastern regions of those two African nations.

CHICAGO, Ill. — On Feb. 6, a performance collective named WITCH will be hosting a ritual protest in Logan Square in support of local housing rights.The organizers describe the event as a “hexing and protective spell action,” which will include recognizable elements of Witchcraft practice. Due to this design, the protest has been attracting both mainstream media attention and social media backlash. We spoke with the group’s founders to find out more.

W.I.T.C.H. action, Nov 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

WITCH protest action, Nov 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

“Gentrification has been affecting Logan Square for the last 15+ years. Our action is concentrating on the increasing lack of affordable housing, which is certainly affected by gentrification, but far from the only issue surrounding it. We have all been impacted by housing speculation and insecurity, though our personal experiences vary,” explained Jessica Caponigro, Amaranta Isyemille Lara, and Chiara Galimberti, the three women who make up WITCH.

Jessica Caponigro is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, and activist. Originally from Pennsylvania, she is currently working as an adjunct instructor at the City Colleges of Chicago. Amaranta Isyemille Lara is a student, poet, and single mother. She is working toward a master’s in linguistics and has lived in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood since 2004. And, Chiara Galimberti is an artist, activist, parent, and educator. She is currently working toward becoming a herbalist and acupuncturist.

Galimberti said, “My relationship to Chicago has been very difficult as housing insecurity has deeply affected me and my daughters. I have been working multiple jobs since moving to Chicago and I have never been able to afford rent without public assistance. I know that my situation is by no means unique and that the vast majority of people in the city is negatively impacted by housing speculation, especially as that reality combines with endemic racism and sexism.”

This is the type of personal experience that inspired the three women to come together and form the performance collective. Their first organizational meeting was in October 2015 and, at that time, they chose to name the group WITCH. The acronym stands for Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell and was used by a number of affiliated but separate women’s groups within the broader feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The original WITCH organization was formed in New York City on Halloween 1968. Its members created a manifesto that began:

WITCH is an all-woman Everything. It’s theater, revolution, magic, terror, joy, garlic flowers, spells. It’s an awareness that witches and gypsies were the original guerrillas and resistance fighters against oppression – particularly the oppression of women – down through the ages. Witches have always been women who dared to be: groovy, courageous, aggressive, intelligent, nonconformist, explorative, curious, independent, sexually liberated, revolutionary … [From the WITCH Manifesto, 1969]

This group of feminists chose to adopt the image and concept of the Witch to represent female empowerment in a way that was antithetical to socially-constructed, traditional gender roles and that flew, pun intended, in face of the patriarchal expectations. Several Pagan writers and historians, such as Chas Clifton, Margo Adler and Ethan Doyle White, have mentioned the 1960s WITCH organization in their writings, highlighting the similarities between that movement and the early modern Pagan movement in the U.S. In his book Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America,Clifton wrote, “WITCH was not religious, yet as Eller, and before her, Margot Adler note, it was a small step from the intense, intimate feminist consciousness-raising discussion group of the early 1970s to the Witches’ coven.”(Clifton, p 120)

witch manifesto

Forty-seven years later, Galimberti, Caponigro, and Isyemille Lara decided to resurrect the name, capturing that energy, history and legacy for their own work. While their Chicago protests are not embedded in any specific organized feminist movement, the three modern women have found empowerment and purpose within the original group’s message. They explained, “We think of Witches as historically being women (and some men) who were at the forefront of resistance against oppressive systems, and we strongly believe that there is not one way to be a Witch. We are interested in looking at the connection between social justice, feminism, and the figure of the Witch.”

In November, the women staged their first protest action. It was held in front of Chicago’s Thompson Center on Randolph Street. Similar to the upcoming event, the November action was staged to “protest disparities caused by inequality, chanting to hex those who cause it and protect those who suffer as a result.”

Then, on Jan 3, WITCH announced its second action and created a corresponding Facebook event page. Unlike the November action, the new Feb 6 protest would be held in conjunction with a local art festival called 2nd Floor Rear 2016, a “DIY” event that features art in “experimental contexts.” The protest is listed on the festival site as one of the featured happenings.

Since that Jan. 3 announcement, the group has received media attention from various mainstream outlets, as well as backlash from the online Pagan community. Jezebel and the Chicagoist each published an article titled, “Chicago Witches Will Exorcise ‘Gentrification’ Demons.” The online site Dazed titled its article,”Chicago Witches Hoping to Cast Out Gentrification.” As is often the case for mainstream Witch articles, all three included flashy stills from the The Craft (1996)

Galimberti, Caponigro, and Isyemille Lara expressed disappointment in the treatment of their story within these news articles, calling them “unfortunate and misleading.” And, it may have been this misrepresentation that is at least partially responsible for the subsequent social media backlash predominantly found on Facebook. One user wrote, “So you fight colonialism by using cultural appropriation … For many this is a way of life, and you mock it as merely a public art spectacle.” Comments like this one continued on with accusations that the women were disingenuously appropriating Witchcraft or Pagan traditions to serve their own artistic or political objectives. Another user posted, “YOU are not WITCH! You have no concept. I and many like me are witches. The real deal. How about you mock some other group inappropriately.”

But are they? The issue of their own religious or spiritual identity, or practice, was not publicly addressed. So we asked them, “Do you identify as Witches in a religious or spiritual sense? Are you Pagan?”

Caponigro said, “I most certainly identify as a Witch. I come from a long line of independent Sicilian women who strongly believed in holistic medicine and the powers of the earth and intuition, and passed down their spirit and knowledge to me and my sibling. Though I’m not currently practicing, there are parts of my life when I have identified as Wiccan.”

To this question, Isyemille Lara said, “I identify as a Witch. To me, being a Witch has to do most with using an honest and balanced voice to impart support, empathy, protection and power whenever necessary. Witchcraft is personal and adaptive. My family is from the northern deserts of Mexico. I carry this stoic intuition in my veins.”

And, Galimberti said, “I grew up in Italy, where the tradition of Witchcraft is different than in the United States. The memory of Witch hunts and persecution is still present, mixed with a classism that sees Witchcraft and Paganism as part of working class practices, and thus not taken seriously. I was raised largely by my grandmother who practices Malocchio, which mostly included a healthy skepticism for authority (whether of the state or the church), and a rich knowledge of herbs for healing and daily practices that allowed a connection with the spiritual world. I am studying Herbology and Acupuncture and I think of myself as a healer-in-training, with spirituality being a component of that identity.”

The three members of WITCH added that they are not in anyway mocking anyone’s system of belief. “We are empathetic to those who are angry because they mistakenly think we are appropriating their beliefs,” they said. “Those accusing us of being disingenuous or culturally appropriating Witchcraft are working under the assumption that because we do not practice in their particular way, our sincere connection to Witchcraft is somehow less valid.”

They added that Witchcraft has long and varied history, saying, “Witches were and are healers, spiritual workers, subversive independent thinkers, in addition to the definition of “witch” in the Pagan religious sense. The figure of the Witch is present in most cultures around the world, and can come to signify many different practices and beliefs.”

1969 WITCH protest in front of Chicago Federal Building [Courtesy WITCH]

1969 WITCH protest in front of Chicago Federal Building [Courtesy WITCH]

As for the group’s mission, the women explained that the Feb. 6 action will hopefully attract the attention of “politicians and companies that are profiting from housing development at the expense of most Chicagoans and especially working class people.” They were quick to add that they are no experts and can’t speak for everyone who has been “impacted by predatory housing” practices. However, they do hope to give voice to those who have such stories.

“During the action people will be invited to speak out about their experience with housing insecurity, the impact of high rents, and speculative development on their lives,” they explained. “We will then perform a protective charm that acknowledges the people and organizations that have been working on these issues for decades, including the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Grassroots Illinois Action.”

Galimberti, Caponigro, and Isyemille Lara described the upcoming protest action as a “combination of both magical ritual and performative gesture” that will be based on their collective “experiences and knowledge.” They welcome anyone to come and join them, Pagan or not. It is not a private or restricted event. They said, “We take our relationship with spirituality, Witchcraft, and social justice very seriously,” adding “Nothing scares the patriarchy more than a non-conformist, sexually liberated, independent thinker. Nothing scares the patriarchy more than a WITCH.”

SOUTH AFRICA — After years of lobbying by Pagan groups in the country, the South African Law Reform Commission has determined that portions of that nation’s Witchcraft Suppression Act are unconstitutional. Witches should be able to identify themselves as such, the commission found, as well as practice divination. However, the proposed replacement law still has its problems, according to members of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance, because it singles out “harmful witchcraft practices” for regulation on the basis that they can cause “intimidation with the intent to cause psychological distress or terror.” SAPRA members are drafting a response to the bill and hope to see changes in it before it becomes law.sapralogoThe Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957 is, like most similar laws in African nations, based on 1735 Witchcraft Act of the United Kingdom, which was itself repealed in 1951. SAPRA requested a review of this law in 2007, an effort which was joined by the South African Pagan Council and the Traditional Healers Association. That slow process has finally resulted in the release of a lengthy issue paper by the SALRC, an independent body created in 1973 to investigate South African laws and make recommendations to the national and provincial governments for reform.

In that issue paper, members of the SALRC agreed that by making it illegal to identify as a Witch, the act violates the right to religious expression guaranteed in the South African constitution. Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that there is no definition of Witchcraft in the legislation. In other words, Wiccans and other Pagans fell into the same category as those who are more traditionally considered Witches in sub-Saharan Africa, a place where the word “witch” is often associated with people who use supernatural powers to cause harm.

Where the SALRC paper deviates from the hoped-for outcome is in how it tries to make distinctions between the different uses of the word “witch.” According to Damon Leff, who has been working on this cause for years, “The draft bill is focused on preventing accusations of witchcraft and witch-hunts, human mutilations and ritual murder, and what the Commission calls ‘harmful witchcraft practices.’ ” In Leff’s view, that lumps together actions which should be unacceptable for any person to commit with beliefs that are protected.

We believe that existing laws may be used to deal with human mutilations and ritual murder – we already have a Human Tissues Act which prohibits the harvest and sale of human body parts, and murder is already illegal. We also believe that what the Commission calls ‘harmful witchcraft practices,’ in the absence of actual demonstrable criminal activity, cannot be proven in any court of law to exist without reference to belief, and since the Bill of Rights protects the right to belief, ‘witchcraft beliefs’ aught to play no role in the determination of actual criminal guilt.

The bill has apparently been structured to address concerns that the widespread belief in malevolent magic makes it possible for one person to cause very real harm to another by convincing them that they intend to cast such a spell. Leff provided a copy of the response that SAPRA is drafting, which lays it out thus:

Whilst certain crimes may indeed be motivated by belief, those crimes identified in the Commission’s definition of alleged ‘harmful witchcraft’ practices, specifically, intimidation with the intent to cause psychological distress or terror, may be committed by a member of any (or no) religious faith. Indeed, there is sufficient evidence to show that some Christians and Traditional Healers have in the past attempted to justify their criminal acts by appealing to their beliefs as motivation for such acts.

Traditional healers may also underlie muti murders, committed to obtain a specific human body part for the purposes of healing another. Children, the elderly and disabled are most susceptible to these kinds of attacks. The draft response reads:

SAPRA must argue that since the perpetrators of such practices, specifically those who trade in human body parts, do not self-identify as Witches or as practitioners of Witchcraft, but have in the past been identified as traditional healers or as practitioners of traditional African religion (who do not self-identify as Witches), the application of the term ‘witchcraft’ to such practices constitutes an equally inaccurate misnomer. Muthi murders have nothing to do with Witchcraft, because actual Witches are not the perpetrators of such crimes.

Instead, they argue, such crimes should be enforced under the existing Human Tissues Act, which was passed specifically to prevent such crimes.

From the SALRC issue paper, it appears that the Traditional Healers Organization has pushed for a clear definition of Witchcraft in a new law, and regulation of the harmful practices associated with it. Traditional healers, according to Leff, would never identify as “Witches” because of the strong cultural bias against the term, which has only been challenged recently with the spread of Wicca and related religions.

Proudly_Pagan_PFD_KZN_2009

Pagan Freedom Day in South Africa [Photo Credit: Ginney May / Wikimedia]

Another problem with the replacement bill, insofar as Pagans are concerned, is that while accusations of Witchcraft are banned, it doesn’t go far enough to protect those accused. The existing law has even been flouted by public officials. SAPRA’s draft response asserts, “Such a Bill must however not merely prohibit accusations of Witchcraft and punish those who do make accusations of Witchcraft which lead to harm against the accused, it must also provide the victims of accusation, living refugees of accusation, with access and means to victim support and restorative justice,” Since the lifting of apartheid, restorative justice has become a powerful concept in South Africa.

In short, SAPRA’s position is that laws should be based on verifiable evidence of wrongdoing, and no crime should be associated with a belief system such as Witchcraft, since heinous acts can be committed by anyone regardless of their religion or lack thereof. The comment period on the draft bill and related issue paper ends in April, and it could be another year before it is presented as a white paper, and submitted to parliament for consideration.

“If the SALRC goes ahead with the proposal, the Bill will be sent to Parliament for review before it is published, and only after that, could it become an Act of Parliament,” explained Leff. “We plan to stop that from happening.”

MOUNT FOREST, Ont. – In November 2015, when Jean Swanson’s well ran dry, it did not seem too unusual. The hand-dug well on her older, rural property near Mount Forest, in Wellington County Ontario, was shallow, and it was not the first time in 17 years that she and her husband Barry had experienced decreased water levels. However, their concern came when, despite a very wet and rainy autumn, the well failed to replenish itself.

Mount Forest, Ontario. Courtesy Photo

Mount Forest, Ontario [Courtesy Photo]

Swanson and her family immigrated to Canada from North Yorkshire, England in the 1950s. From a very early age she was fascinated with all things related to Witchcraft. Information on the subject was hard to find, so she searched her local libraries, hunting for anything she could find to read about the Craft.

Then, on one fateful day in October at her new home in Toronto, Swanson, then 21 years old, saw a Witch on television. It was nearly Samhain, and Pierre Berton, an iconic Canadian broadcaster, was interviewing a real life Witch. Try as he might to provoke and insult his subject, the woman remained calm, polite and dignified. Swanson had finally found a lead. There were real Witches in Toronto, and she was determined to contact them.

Swanson wrote to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, begging to be put in touch with the Witch she had seen on TV. Eventually, someone in the mail room felt sorry for her, and disclosed the address of the Witch. Swanson traveled across town, to the Beaches neighbourhood and knocked on the door. Standing in the doorway was the woman who would be her first High Priestess and mentor for many years.

Now in her 70s, Swanson and her husband Barry both suffer from serious medical conditions. When their well failed, a drilling company was called, and the initial quote to re-drill the well was $6000. But when the drilling went down to an unprecedented 196 feet, the cost of the well skyrocketed to $12,000.

In addition, they were informed that the well would also require a filtration system to deal with the silt, iron and other contaminants in the water. A salesman came to their door a few days later, offering to have such a system installed for them within a day. But the price tag for this was another $7000. Barry Swanson has since discovered that he can get a comparable system at a local hardware store for a greatly reduced price.

When Durham Well Drilling came to re-drill the Swanson’s well, representatives reportedly informed them, that in the last 30 years, they have not had to re-drill so many old wells as they have had to since Nestlé, the water bottling giant, has moved in and started extracting mass quantities of water from the local aquifer.

Photo by Dreamstime

[Photo Credit: Dreamstime]

At present, Nestlé has government permission to extract water from two wells in Wellington County. One is located at Hillsburgh where they have a permit to take up to 1.1 million litres of water per day. The second well is located at their bottling plant in the community of Aberfoyle, 50 kilometers away from Hillsburgh. Here they have a permit to take up to 3.7 million litres of water per day.

Nestlé also has an offer to purchase a third well in Middlebrook, near the town of Elora. If this permit is granted, and the sale proceeds, it will be allowed to extract up to another 1.6 million litres of water per day. The price that Nestlé has negotiated with the province is $3.71 per one million litres. The total cost for 6.4 million litres of water would be $23.74. By comparison, the residents Elora pay $2,140 per million litres. On top of this, all of the water is moved to Aberfoyle by tanker truck, where it is bottled. If the water, for example, gets packaged into single serve containers, this would equal 12.8 million plastic bottles per day.

All of these locations are within a 45 minutes drive from the home of Jean and Barry Swanson, who are now responsible for the $12,000 bill to re-dig their own well, plus the cost of a new filtration system they did not previously need.

Swanson’s coven and friends have joined forces, and have started a GoFundMe page. They have also created a raffle to raise money for the cost of re-drilling the well.

Liz Souster, a coven member and proprietor of local shop The Raven’s Rune, said:

Both Jean and Barry have spent their lives helping others, mentoring and teaching, volunteering at the Humane Society, and despite her illness Jean still volunteers to drive for the local community services. Helping them was an easy decision, our only worry was how do we reach enough people…many of our elders have spent their entire adult lives not just teaching us the Craft but mentoring our lives in general. I know I’m a better person for having known Barry and Jean. There are lots of others in the same situation and until this problem becomes news, people in rural Canada will continue to face financial ruin while the big water companies get huge tax breaks and incentives.

In a recent phone conversation with The Wild Hunt, Jean Swanson agreed that rural people are the most affected. She said:

Its amazing, I’m gobsmacked sometimes, there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding. Rural people are more aware of this problem than town people, we aren’t on the civic water supply, we depend on these wells

Pagans in the area have responded to this alleged threat to their water supply in the past. In November 2015, high profile author and teacher, Brendan Myers, pledged to donate the profits from his November book sales to Save Our Water, a community activist group from his hometown of Elora.  His campaign was successful and resulted in some of his best social media coverage to date.

The efforts being made by the Swanson’s friends and coven is an effort to not only help Elders in need, but to raise awareness about the sacredness of our water supply. Natalie Davis Jones, one of the GoFundMe campaign organizers, said:

By starting a GoFundMe campaign, we’re able to leverage the greater Pagan community through social media, and bring attention to the plight of this couple, and highlight how important clean water is for everyone. It’s also a great parallel to the fact that clean water isn’t a legally protected human right in Canada, and companies such as Nestlé would like to see it made a commodity – which would have disastrous results globally.

There are so many causes we can all support, and this one is special to me not only because I know the couple in question, but because it centers on something many of us take for granted in clean water, and supports two of our pagan elders.These are the wise ones that we hope to become. There is a wealth of knowledge that they possess, and we are blessed if we have the opportunity to learn from them, and carry on the traditions that would otherwise be lost.

The controversy surrounding the water supply in Wellington County is ongoing. Nestlé Waters is heavily invested in the region, with two wells operating and a third in the works. They are the largest commercial taxpayer in the county, contributing $1.2 million dollars in taxes last year. They are also a major employer and help to support many local charities. Despite this, community members are still rallying to halt Nestlé, and block them from furthering their water extraction operations, in the name of saving a natural resource for future generations.

Now that the season has turned and we are nearing the end of the 2015, we look back, one last time, to review the year. What happened? What didn’t happen? What events shaped our thoughts or guided our actions? In our collective worlds, both big and small, what were the major discussions? How did Pagans and Heathens specifically face world issues and local crisis? What were the high points and low?

[Public Domain Image / Pixabay]

[Public Domain Image / Pixabay]

As the light began to return, the world faced, almost immediately, the reality of global terrorism. On Jan. 7, the home offices of France’s satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were attacked. This event seemed to set a tone for the remainder of the year, as the world faced additional attacks, the growing influence of Daesh, the Yezidi genocide, institutional sex slavery, the current refugee crisis and the painful reality of Islamaphobia. Who are these are these people and what do we call them? How do we stop them? And, what is their relationship to Islam?

The year also began with another unresolved struggle. The U.S. was grappling with the deep social justice issues brought to light after the shocking events in Ferguson, Missouri in November 2014. Related conversations concerning race and diversity increasingly punctuated Pagan and Heathen communities. Some Pagan activists joined community protests and action throughout the year. Many organizations developed diversity statements and policies. Unfortunately for the Covenant of the Goddess, its own effort fell flat, causing internal strife and eventually serious public scrutiny. However, by the summer, the 40-year-old Wiccan and Witchcraft organization did apologize and make significant changes.

Social justice themes permeated the February PantheaCon conference, culminating in a special session after a satirical pamphlet, called PantyCon, offended a large number of attendees. The conversations concerning race and ethnic diversity continued to run concurrent with other narratives throughout the coming year, sometimes with celebration and sometimes not.

As if those two realities weren’t enough to begin 2015, another issue was already brewing internal to the collective U.S. Pagan community. A group of witches were attempting to rebirth the American Council of Witches. Bathed in secrecy, the group of founders would not reveal any details, causing community confusion, frustration, anger, backlash and eventually the demise of the project.

While the year may have begun with a bang or better yet a very difficult sigh, there was also much to celebrate in those early months. Many Pagans and Heathens applauded the presidential veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the exoneration of #Flood11 protestors. Iceland would soon see its first official Asatru temple. The UK marked its first legal same-sex Pagan marriage. Northern Ireland saw the acceptance of the first Pagan priest. And Manannan mac Lir, who had been stolen in January, was found only a month later.

In March, Paganicon attendees even learned how to calm their inner dragons.

[ © Copyright Mat Tuck / CC lic.]

[ © Copyright Mat Tuck / CC lic.]

Then, spring rounded the corner and religious freedom took center stage. The Aquarian Tabernacle Church spoke out publicly against RFRAs, attracting significant mainstream media attention. In Iowa, Wiccan Priestess Deborah Maynard offered the opening invocation before the state legislature, drawing protests and walk-outs. The Open Halls project had to renew its efforts to have Asatru and Heathenism placed on the Army’s list of accepted faith group codes. And, in his first column for The Wild Hunt, Dr. Manny Tejeda-Moreno discussed Religious Discrimination in the Workplace.

Then, as the Beltane fires were lit and festival season was underway, the U.S. faced a brand new round of social struggle and violence. In late April, residents of Baltimore experienced both peaceful protests and a devastating violent riot after the weekend funeral of Freddie Gray. Two months later, Charleston’s historic Mother Emmanuel Church was shocked by a hate-driven terror attack, leaving nine dead.

But time marched on and, as the summer approached, nature seemed to be making itself felt in the most extreme forms. Nepal was hit with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April, and the California drought only continued to worsen.

Pagan communities began to directly feel the sting of these natural disasters. In June, Pagan Spirit Gathering was flooded, causing it to close for the first time in 35 years. The Alaska Pagan Community Center was completely destroyed by the Sockeye Wildfire. Later in the year, the Bay Area community witnessed the destruction of its beloved Harbin Hot Springs by the Valley Fire.

As many were coming to terms with the reality of such extreme weather conditions, climate change became an international “buzzword.” In May, a large group of Pagans published the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment that has since garnered 6,860 signatures. Then in June, the world finally was presented with the long awaited Pope’s Encyclical on the environment.

In that very same week, the U.S. also witnessed another landmark moment. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, making same sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

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Celebrations outside courthouse June 26 2015 [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

For many, the summer months continued on with festival season in full swing. Early August saw the premier of Many Gods West, and Heathen Chinese shared his thoughts on this new event in his first column for The Wild Hunt. The summer conference raised the volume on an ongoing conversation about Polytheism as a definitive practice, which had been previously addressed by guest writer Anomolous Thracian in his Polytheist Primer.

The summer also brought with it some obstacles in the digital world. Etsy changed its policies on the selling of charms and spells. Instagram banned the hashtag #goddess, and a popular Witchcraft Facebook page was hacked.

Then, violence hit the U.S. again. In July, Chattanooga, Tennessee became the next town victimized by a terror attack. In October, a man opened fired at a college in Roseburg, Oregon. Then, in December, terrorism hit San Bernardino, California. In these latter two cases, a member of the local Pagan community was killed in the attacks. Both Kim Dietz and Daniel Kaufman, were reportedly shot, while trying to save the lives of others.

As the temperature cooled and the leaves began to fall, the mainstream news predictably began to ring the doorsteps of Witches, for better or worse. Additionally, stories with even the tiniest link to Witchcraft made headline news. In early August, a Florida sheriff prematurely ascribed a triple homicide to Witchcraft, igniting protest. Then, just days before Halloween, the sheriff announced an arrest. October also saw a public controversy over Pagan Libertarian candidate Augustus Sol Invictus. And, on the day before Halloween, local Massachusetts news decided to cover a minor legal battle between two well-known Salem Witches. And, at the same time, Heathens were also grappling with their own media issues.

The month also saw the publication of Alex Mar’s Witchcraft in America, which generated a string of publicity and reactions.

October 2015 also hosted something entirely different: The Parliament of the World’s Religions. In record numbers, Pagans and Heathens arrived in Salt Lake City to experience a unique event and to share their own perspectives with others, as both presenters and performers.

Autumn brings with it an end to the festival season, culminating in the well-known celebration of Samhain or Halloween. But there are other Pagan and Heathen holidays observed at the time. For example, this year the small Pennsylvania-based Urglaawe community shared its celebration of Allelieweziel.

Throughout the entire year, The Wild Hunt spotlights unique Pagan and Heathen practices and communities, like the Urglaawe. This year alone we shared stories from Thailand, Finland, India, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Norway. We covered Pagan news from Iceland and Italy. And with the help of our three international contributing writers, we were able talk Canadian politics, discuss religious freedom issues in Australia and celebrating the winter solstice on a hill in the UK.

Shamans hold their drums over the Holy Fire in order to warm them and obtain a clearer sound whiel drumming.

Shamans hold their drums over the Holy Fire in order to warm them and obtain a clearer sound whiel drumming. [Photo Credit: Linnea Nordström]

Outside of the festivities and cultural hullabaloo that occurs around Halloween, these days also have a sobering effect as we mark the passing of our loved ones. The Wild Hunt Samhain post honored the following people: Deborah Ann Light, James Bianchi, Kim Saltmarsh Deitz, Barbara Doyle, Thor von Reichmuth, Michael Howard, Lola Moffat, Brandie Gramling, Max G. Beauvoir, Keith James Campbell, Lord Shawnus, Brother Flint, Heather Carr, Terry Pratchett, Andy Paik, Mary Kay Lundmark, Brian Golec, Maureen Wheeler and Pete Pathfinder. Since we published that list, we have also lost Marc Pourner, Richard Reidy, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, Morgan McFarland, Scott Walters and L. Daniel Kaufman.

In addition, this year marked the end of two beloved Pagan media outlets: Circle Magazine and ACTION.

As cold winds creep in and November changes to December, the U.S. honored Transgender Awareness month, which was particularly poignant this year after Caitlyn Jenner had previously generated mainstream visibility. Within the Pagan world, conversations on the subject became heated in November, leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Then, the holiday season arrived in all its warmth, glitter and commercialism. As Americans were preparing for Thanksgiving, terror struck the world again. Both Paris and Beirut were hit by multiple attacks. Due to anger and fear, Islamaphobia has now reached all time highs, and anything with the name Isis could become a target, as discovered by a metaphysical bookstore in Denver.

And so, while much has happened in the story of 2015, the year seems to have come full circle from Paris to Paris.

Despite all the struggles that we have seen this year, hope still remains alive for many in Pagan and Heathen communities, especially with those involved in progressive interfaith work. This Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, CBS will air a United Religions Initiative “groundbreaking interfaith” special called, “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” Several Pagans are prominent and longtime members of this grassroots organization, and will be appearing in the show.

Above are only some of the many stories, reports and events that touched our lives over the past year. There are so many others – ones that we reported on and even more that we didn’t. Here is the best of the best from each of our regular, current contributing writers:

Promoting Healing and Justice for Change by Crystal Blanton
Imbolc’s Invitation by Erick DuPree
Women, Witchcraft and the Struggle Against Abuse by Heather Greene
UK Pagan Community Confronts Child Abuse by Christina Oakley Harrington
The Fire is Here by Heathen Chinese
Canadian Truth and Reconciliation by Dodie Graham McKay
Australia’s Pagan Festivals by Cosette Paneque
Improving Access to Death by Lisa Roling
Building Pagan Temples and Infrastructes part one by Cara Schulz
Iceland’s Temple on the Hill by Eric O. Scott
Terpsichorean Powers by Manny Tejeda-Moreno
Fear of a Blue Sky by Alley Valkyrie
Treating Depression in a Pagan Context by Terence P. Ward
Tomb and the Atheist by Rhyd Wildermuth

Bring on 2016!

[Today, guest writer Zora Burden continues her conversation with author Patricia Keneally-Morrison. Burden is a poet, author, and a journalist for the San Francisco Herald. Her work focuses on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism and the esoteric.The first part of this interview (side A) was published last Sunday. ]

“Patricia Kennealy-Morrison was one of the first female rock critics and journalists, having begun her career in the 1960s […] Along with her own work, Patricia was also the wife of the rock legend Jim Morrison. Her bestselling memoir Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison commemorates their life together and love for one another, and is one of the most candid and definitive books on Jim Morrison. […] Her prolific writing continues with the murder series The Rock & Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries, the latest of which is set for release at the end of 2015. She is also the author of a series of Celtic-based science fiction novels, The Keltiad.

“In 1990, Patricia was knighted as a Dame Templar at Rosslyn Chapel, an initiate of the Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani. She is a historian and archivist of Celtic traditions, as well as a High Priestess. She was one of the first women in the U.S. to boldly and publicly acknowledge that she practiced Witchcraft, during a time when feminism was barely in its second wave.” – Zora Burden, a condensed version of the introduction from side A.

  *   *   *

Zora Burden:  What inspired you to write your books? 

81I0a7TepgLPatricia Keneally-Morrison: They just came to me. I don’t have a lot of ideas, but I have very deep and complex ones. The Keltiad Celtic legends set in far future outer space, King Arthur meets Star Wars came first, when I was at college; in fact, Jim was the first person I told about it, and he was very encouraging.  I wasn’t ready to write it yet, though, and I tinkered with it for years. But when I had been let go from CBS Records, in one of the great purges of the early 80s, I found myself with both time and money enough to do it, so I stayed home and wrote. I got an agent right away, he sold it very quickly, and the first Keltiad book, The Copper Crown, came out in hardcover in 1984. There have been eight more, including one short-story collection.

My series The Rock & Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries, about a rock newspaper reporter and her superstud English guitarist boyfriend, first appeared in 2007, with Ungrateful Dead: Murder at the Fillmore, and the seventh one is just about to be published. There’s also ROCK CHICK: A Girl and Her Music: The Jazz & Pop Writings, a collection of my rock critical pieces for my magazine, and of course Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.

Only the last three books of the Rennie series (Go Ask Malice: Murder at Woodstock, Scareway to Heaven: Murder at the Fillmore East and Daydream Bereaver: Murder on the Good Ship Rock & Roll), ROCK CHICK and the Keltiad short stories, Tales of Spiral Castle, are available on Kindle at the moment, But I’m working to get all the books up on it, including Strange Days, and the first four Rennie books are available on Lulu.com.

I’m planning on three or four more Rennie books to wrap up her story, two more Kelts books to wrap up that series in a blaze of glory, and my long-in-progress Viking book, Son of the Northern Star, which has 140,000 words on it and not nearly finished. After that, I think I’m done. Unless of course I have another idea. Or two. Which I might.

ZB: Do you feel with your book series, that you’re channeling spirits or manifesting energies with your characters?  

PKM: Well, no, because that would imply that I am reliant on outside help to write my books for me. And nothing could be further from the truth. But I do feel that the characters speak to me and tell me what they plan on doing. I never argue with them.

ZB: How did you become the editor for the paper you first started working with?  What are some of your fondest memories and experiences working with the paper? 

PKM: In 1967, I saw a copy of Jazz & Pop on the newsstand in the midtown office building where I worked for Macmillan Publishing, writing a kids’ dictionary. It was full of stories about the new progressive rock I’d been crazy about for several years, and I fell in love with the magazine immediately. So I wrote to the editor and publisher, Pauline Rivelli, and asked if there might be a job there for me. She called me about two months later, and I began as editorial assistant, becoming editor at the end of 1968, best job in the world.

Publisher Pauline Rivelli announcing Patricia's appointment as editor in chief of Jazz Pop Magazine.

Jazz & Pop publisher Pauline Rivelli (right) announcing Patricia’s (left) appointment as editor in chief of the magazine. [Courtesy Photo]

I got to meet pretty much everyone but the Rolling Stones (who cares?), including all my really truly favorites like Jefferson Airplane and the Doors and Janis Joplin. It was a four-color, slick magazine published entirely by women (four of us) for a readership about 80% male; I’d say we did a pretty good job. Sometimes the old Marxist jazzbos on staff, male, gave me a hard time for editing them not to their liking, but hey, I was the editor, not them. 

It was a difficult time for women, but I had very little difficulty. Maybe because I gave off a vibe of “Mess with me and I will end you,” but the only real unpleasantness was the time backstage at the Fillmore East before Led Zeppelin’s debut, when Robert Plant called across the dressing room, “Hey, you in the lace nightie, get over here and sit on my face!”

I was wearing my lace-tablecloth Joplin-style lace pantsuit, and I declined his offer in no uncertain terms. I mean, we’d had dinner together, all five  of us plus manager and publicist, the night before, and he’d been fine as we discussed all sorts of  things, from Aleister Crowley to JRR Tolkien. Besides, I had a MUCH better rock star’s face to sit on…

After Jazz & Pop and Jim’s death, I went to work for RCA Records as an advertising copywriter. My first big assignment: David Bowie’s first American ad campaigns. I got to work personally with him on these, as he had studied advertising at school in London and understood how it worked. We did some beautiful stuff for the first four albums: Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups. David was a delight to work with, the second smartest person I’d ever met in rock. As I met him for the first time in the studio, and we shook hands, and I looked up into those extraordinary eyes, I was hit by just one thought: “This man has come to Earth to kill the Sixties.” Right again, as usual…

Three years later, I moved over to CBS Records, to write ads there. I was twice nominated for Clios for my work for Billy Joel, and also wrote ads for Wings, Barbra Streisand, Mott the Hoople, James Taylor, Boston, Aerosmith, just about all the acts on the label. In my capacity as director of the radio spots I wrote for all these people, I even got to direct John Belushi, Bill Murray and Jane Curtin: we used  the cast of Saturday Night Live as voiceover talent.

In the early 80s, I was let go, as were hundreds of others throughout the industry, and that’s when the books began…

 ZB: You have written about being disillusioned by the romantic poets of the music world but when you met Jim he embodied that. What about him was different from the rest and how much of yourself do you feel brought that (poet) out of him? 

PKM: Oh, he was so smart, of course. Probably the smartest and best-read person I had ever met (with David Bowie not far behind), and I’m no slouch in either department. And when he realized that, in all modesty, I was just as smart as he was (Mensa level IQs, both of us), I think he found that really attractive: a woman he could talk to on his own level, and a woman he could tear up the sheets with. Sometimes at the same time. Also he was rather nice to look at.

ZB: Do you feel that you and Jim were fated to be together and that he sought you out to mentor him and fill a spiritual void he had within himself? 

PKM: Definitely. There were actual blue sparks that showered the first time we touched, to shake hands in his hotel room at the Plaza the day after the Madison Square Garden concert. I could hardly look up at him, but he was smiling. “Portent”, he said. He was right.

About the mentoring part, sort of. Jim sought people to learn from and who could supply with information. The greatest thing about him was his curiosity, and he never stopped asking questions when he was interested in something.

And yes, he did have a great god-shaped void to fill. He was a seeking soul, and I think that when he found me, and realized that I could tell him all this marvelous stuff that spoke to his own Celtic heritage, that was a centering and very intriguing thing for him. Unfortunately, he was taken away before he could work this out to his complete satisfaction. He wasn’t a stupid man by any means, and in the end he didn’t want a stupid woman.

[Photo Credit L. D. Bright]

Patricia Keneally-Morrison [Photo Credit L. D. Bright]

ZB: What wisdom that you imparted to him really affected him and what had he taught you spiritually in turn? 

PKM: I can’t really quantify it like that. I told him things, he told me things, we found things together. Just like any other couple in love.

ZB: Did Jim express wanting to travel to certain parts of Europe in relation to your own beliefs?  

PKM: We had discussed going to our respective homelands of Ireland and Scotland for a honeymoon, and perhaps eventually to Rome and Athens. We would have visited sacred sites, of course, because that would have been part of it. Stonehenge was high on the list.

ZB: What were Jim’s favorite mythologies? What were his beliefs or magical focus? 

PKM: Jim was a natural seeker, and what he sought, as I said earlier, was to fill a God-sized hole in his life. He got very little out of his born Presbyterianism, and had rejected it as completely as I had rejected my Catholicism. He grabbed influences wherever he could. I don’t know what his real, true inner beliefs were: sometimes he seemed to reject the existence of a Supreme Being at all, other times he wrote things like An American Prayer (“O Great Creator of Being, Grant us one more hour to perform our art, and perfect our lives.”) I don’t think he was being ironic when he wrote things like that.

ZB: What fascinated Jim most about Paganism? What did he like to practice himself?  

PKM: I have no idea if Jim ever practiced when he was not with me. You can see from his writings that he was very much into it, though. I think the fact that it was part of his own Scottish heritage intrigued him, and he did mention that in a poem or two. I gave him an amulet to wear, but I don’t know if he ever did.

ZB:  What Pagan holidays did you and Jim celebrate together, if any? What do you currently focus on most in your practice in terms of ritual or ceremony?

PKM: Jim and I became engaged right at Beltane, ring, knee, and everything,  and I performed a little ceremony to bring that Beltane energy into line with ours.  And of course our handfasting, which literally almost knocked Jim out.

I generally celebrate Beltane and Samhain most elaborately; flowers, candles, food and drink, a formally cast and very protected circle. Imbolc, which I prefer to call Brighnasa, and Lughnasa, less so. Very occasionally, I attend a ritual at the house of friends, or, once, in a lovely Unitarian church rented out for a Yule ritual, but I haven’t for years.

Oh, and people who call the fall equinox “Mabon” drive me up the wall. “Mabon” was invented by Scott Cunningham in the 70s, with not a shred of evidence for it Plenty of well-known and very learned Witches have written screeds debunking “Mabon,” and I’m with them. If we’re going to make things up, I prefer to call it “Fionnasa,” the feast of Fionn, in line with Lughnasa (feast of Lugh) and Brighnasa (feast of Bríd).

ZB: Do you feel that the stigma attached to Pagan religions is the reason that people are dismissive of your handfasting marriage?  

PKM: I can’t speak for other people and how they think, or don’t think. I expect the reason people are dismissive of our marriage is that they are jealous of me with Jim, personally. Or they prefer to buy into the fiction that people like the late Ray Manzarek or the late Danny Sugerman propagated. Whatever. I can’t get worked up about their stupidity. Jim said he loved me. Jim said we were married. Jim gave me two rings. Jim called me his wife. That’s all I need to know. It should be all they need as well. If they disrespect it, they disrespect Jim and his choice.

 ZB: Will you mention any of Jim’s poems that were based on his spiritual experiences you had together or on his own?  What are some memories you have of his writing as a poet that people may not know about?”

PKM:  Artists don’t really care to separate inspiration from achievement in that fashion. In fact, I don’t think we even can: it’s all one fabric, one piece of creation. I’m absolutely sure that some of Jim’s work, whether songs or poetry, was indeed the outcome of his spirituality, but I wouldn’t presume to put words in his mouth and arrogantly say what this poem or that song was based on.

The Jazz & Pop cover of Jim was the September 1970 issue and, per his request, I brought 40 copies of it down to Miami with me when I joined Jim there for a week of his obscenity trial. We thought to enter it into evidence as proof of his status offstage, as a poet, because his poem “Anatomy of Rock” was published in it for the first time. Didn’t work, as we were denied. The photo is by his friend Frank Lisciandro,  taken at Maximilian’s Palace, Mexico City, in front of a mural by Juan O’Gorman, and photographed in April of 1970

jazz-and-popI have a fair amount of Jim’s writings to and for me, that he left in my care. Gorgeous and erotic love poems,  songs, letters, even beautiful drawings and nude sketches of me (he was a talented artist, along with everything else).  Unfortunately, I cannot publish any of them.  According to law, the gift of such things does not include copyright, unless specifically stated, and in our romantic fervor, we didn’t think of such a thing back then. Well, what lovers would? So the Morrison estate lawfully owns the content of these very private things, even though they have nothing to do with them and the family has never seen them. I own the physical objects: I could sell them, or eat them, or even display them in public, say as an art show in a gallery. But the one thing I cannot do is publish them.

A while back, I had thought to be able to do this once Jim had been dead for fifty years, which was the state of copyright law at the time. However, thanks to Sonny Bono and Walt Disney and the desire to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain, the law has been changed, and now there is no hope of publishing these wondrous things in my lifetime. Still, you never know: should I ever be diagnosed with a fatal illness, I may just decide to self-publish Jim’s words to me and the estate be damned. That would be a fitting way to go out, don’t you think? Very rock and roll. I think Jim would like it…

ZB: Do you write poetry yourself? 

PKM: Sometimes. Songs also. They have nothing to do with my practice. I use the songs in my rock & roll murder series, The Rennie Stride Mysteries, and  the poems in The Keltiad.

ZB: As his wife, great love and mentor in the arts of magical traditions, how do you feel you affected Jim’s work in music? 

PKM: Again, I can’t speak for him and the sources of his inspiration. On the other hand, he informs my own work, as the daemon, the God, the male spirit, to a serious degree. Most of my male characters are based on aspects of him to some extent, either physical or spiritual: Gwydion and Morric in The Keltiad especially. Funnily enough, the only male character not based on Jim is the only rock star character, the superstar lead guitarist co-protagonist of the Rennie Stride books, Turk Wayland. He is most definitely not Jim in the slightest degree.

ZB: With poetry as a form of spell work, did Jim see his lyrics and songs as spells in essence? 

PKM: They can be, and it might have been. He liked to think of it that way, at least, and he was probably right to do so. Writing and poetry are the means by which ritual and spells are performed. I mean, how could they not be the means? You need words, obviously.

ZB: To many of his fans, Jim Morrison was considered a shaman. Do you feel this is something a person is born with innate abilities or the skills have to be learned?  

PKM: It’s usually idiots who have no glimmer of an idea of what a shaman is or does who are the first ones to bray about Jim being one. He wasn’t, not really, though he might have become one in time. He had no training, no teacher, no real idea. He certainly had no way of protecting others, or even himself, on his shaman journeys. Acid wasn’t really going to do it for him. If he got into shamanistic ways, it was purely instinctual. Which may be the best way to do it. I won’t say he didn’t see a ways ahead of the rest of us, because he did, and sometimes staggeringly so, but I would hesitate to say that that of itself made him a shaman. There’s too many other factors such a calling demands.

ZB: Will you talk about the lore of Jim being possessed by the Native American shaman after witnessing the accident in his youth. Do you feel he contained this other spirit or that the event triggered a prior knowledge within himself that he was born with shamanistic talents?

PKM: Complete bogus. Yeah, yeah, the accident happened, and clearly affected him, since he was only a little boy, but he did not believe he was actually possessed by some dead Indian who was almost certainly not a shaman. Oliver Stone has a lot to answer for, having made much more of the incident than Jim ever did. He just needed a hook to hang his execrable movie on, and that was what he picked.

ZB: How accurately do you feel you were portrayed in The Doors movie as a Priestess? What should they have included in the script that would have better defined you and your relationship to Jim?

PKM: That movie was an evil, monstrous spiritual rape of Jim, me, the Doors and the Sixties, and I will never forgive Oliver Stone for it. I was billed as a “consultant” to the film, and wrote my own lines for the ritual scene, but my advice was largely ignored otherwise and Oliver made me look like a naïve dupe, to be laughed at in a later scene. Jim was completely serious about our wedding and never at any point mocked it or me.

On the other hand, the movie was also the most public exposure with Jim that I ever got, horrible though it is, and Kathleen Quinlan, who is a dear friend to this day, portrayed me beautifully. (Though she took me aside before we shot the scene and bade me be very mindful not to accidentally marry her to Val…) So…two blades of the axe, right? I could have really used an axe… Still, it’s interesting how after that movie Oliver became a national laughingstock and punch line. I haven’t really kept up with his career, but I don’t think he’s done much, if anything, to equal his pre-Doors output. Hmm, almost as if someone put a curse on him…but no. He called down his karma upon himself. I just hung the karma mirror.  And, of course, it got me to write Strange Days, which I would never have done otherwise.

1020234ZB: Is there anything you wish you would have included in Strange Days that you didn’t? 

PKM: Well, I wish I’d known as much about the horrific circumstances of his death as I do now, and whom to blame for it. Because certainly that would have gone in, and a little of it did, in the paperback version. And I didn’t include anything in Days that I wish I hadn’t.

ZB: With regards to mainstream society’s attitudes towards paganism and witchcraft, do you see these changing?

PKM: I do think attitudes are changing, yes, and I’m thrilled to see it. What we do is analogous to what Native Americans do, a nature-based shamanic religion, and we should get the same respect. Of course, it’s taken hundred of years for them to get respect as well. But that too is changing, at least culturally; politically may take longer.

ZB: How do you think we can change this prejudice?  

PKM: I’m not sure we can. But maybe coming forward, getting out of the broom closet, is the way to show people that our religion is worthy and real, that we’re regular folks just like them. Only, our church is a teensy bit different from theirs. The more of us stand up and declare ourselves, the more “normal” our faith will look to the scaredy-cats

ZB: What else do you feel is important people should know about yourself?  

PKM: If I want people to know anything about me, I’ll tell them in my own way and in my own good time. It’s all in my books, really. Otherwise, it’s none of their business and they don’t need to know. That’s all. And thank you, Zora, very much. Brightest Blessings to you and all in The Wild Hunt.