(Pagan) News of Note

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My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

As if sensing that the recent Pew Forum study of America’s religious landscape would show that modern Paganism continues to grow, while Christianity’s majority status is eroding, a growing number of anti-Pagan articles have appeared warning the faithful of our growth. One comes from Janice Crouse, a senior fellow with Concerned Women for America, who warns of the growth of Wicca and “Earth Worship” among the Christian youth.

“Janice Crouse, a senior fellow with Concerned Women for America, says it’s disturbing that many young people in evangelical churches are experimenting with the Wiccan religion. Church leaders and Christian parents, she warns, must be ready to counter that growing interest among their youth. Crouse cites an article in Religion Journal which said youth pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention were worried about large numbers of evangelicals taking part in Wicca, a religion that involves nature worship, stresses moral autonomy, and includes remedies and spells … [Crouse] says the interest in Wicca can be traced to recent books featuring witchcraft and similar topics.”

Meanwhile, WorldNetDaily prints the cover story from their recent Whistleblower magazine issue dedicated to the growth of Witchcraft in America. Besides including a strange obsession with author Neale Donald Walsch, it is your typical anti-Wiccan piece, complete with the “feminism/lesbianism encourages Wicca” argument.

“In many ways, the interest in Wicca among women (at least two-thirds of Wiccans are female) parallels the growth in feminism and lesbianism – all fueled by disillusionment with and alienation from men. Indeed, sociologist Helen Berger, who spent 10 years researching and writing the authoritative book “A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States,” reports the astounding conclusion that at least 40 percent of Wiccans and neopagans are homosexual or bisexual. Clearly, Wicca has become the spiritual home for many feminists, including lesbians. It’s also the most graphic, in-your-face example of a much more universal phenomenon – the increasing feminization of the Christian church and of Western culture.”

Articles like these (and others) seem to point to an increasingly nervous conservative Christian population. A group of believers concerned with their looming irrelevance. A future where politicians no longer feel the need to pander to them, and where they are just another voice in diverse chorus of religious voices.

The blog Newspaper Rock links to an article put out by the United Methodist Church discussing their problems ministering to Native Americans, and the long history of (justified) distrust among Native peoples towards the Christian religion.

“No more than 6 percent of the 2.7 million Native Americans in the United States identify themselves as Christian–a statistic often blamed on mistrust of the church. Mission schools operated on Indian reservations from the late 1800s through the first half of the 20th century, many of them founded by Methodists. Children were forced to adopt Anglo-European culture, abandon their tribal languages and convert to Christianity. Today the Native American Church, an indigenous denomination that mixes elements of Christian faith with tribal sacraments, thrives in Native communities where mainline churches don’t.”

Newspaper Rock blogger Rob Schmidt says that there is another very good reason, aside from distrust, why Christianity has problems making inroads into Native Country.

“I suspect most Natives eschew Christianity not because they mistrust the church but because they already have perfectly good religions.”

A point not often conceded by the missionary-minded.

In the wake of a woman being sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for “witchcraft”, the European Union is criticizing a draft penal code in Iran that would order death for anyone convicted of “witchcraft”.

“The European Union has called on Iran to drop provisions in a draft penal code stipulating the death penalty for apostasy, heresy and witchcraft. “These articles clearly violate the Islamic Republic of Iran’s commitments under the international human rights conventions,” the Slovenian EU Presidency said in a statement.”

Are Muslim nations ushering in a new era of witch hunts? How will the international community react once innocent women are being put to death for the “crime” of witchcraft?

Diane Slawych travels to Catemaco, Veracruz (in Mexico) and surrounding areas to witness the annual Congreso Internacional de Brujos, a convention of shamans, witches, Brujos, Santeros, and other traditional healers in the region.

“Another local tells me witches can be found in more than a dozen towns in the area and are often consulted by locals seeking a spiritual cleansing or help with various life problems. But why have all the witches congregated in the same region I wonder. One guidebook offers a possible explanation. Until the 1940s the area was dense jungle and so folk traditions survived longer here than elsewhere … the witches festival isn’t heavily promoted, though many Mexicans, who make up most of the visitors, seem to know about it. The weekend event begins this year on Friday, March 7. Ask for details of shows and other activities on arrival. And if you want to meet a practitioner of folk medicine, keep in mind you don’t have to come during the festival. In the towns of Los Tuxtlas you can meet a witch at any time of year!”

Its too bad the article is written as a light piece of “spiritual tourism”, instead of actually taking an interest in the indigenous and syncretic faith practices of the area.

The Interfaith Alliance has compiled a video outlining the “Top 10 Moments in the Race for Pastor-in-Chief and the unholy use of religion in the presidential campaigns.”

Number one? Mike Huckabee tells a crowd: “What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards”. With all the Christian rhetoric flying this primary season, its hard to know which candidate will really hear the concerns of minority faiths in America.

In a final note, Slate.com reports on the growing popularity of mead, a drink made from fermented honey, popular throughout the ancient world.

“…the recent interest in fermented honey has morphed it from an esoteric item that only a few bearded Dungeons & Dragons players indulged in to a small yet legitimate commercial enterprise … Is mead, last popular around King Arthur’s table, poised for a comeback?”

Sadly this interesting article is marred by the harping on the drinks “image problem” due to its popularity with SCA members and Renaissance fairs (as if this were some insurmountable obstacle). In the end, the author admits that he just doesn’t like mead all that much, claiming mead is the perfect beverage for Winnie-the-Pooh should he ever take to the bottle. Perhaps next time an article of this nature could be written by someone who actually enjoys mead.