Updates on Past Stories

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Thelemites Fight Pedophillia Charges: An Australian couple who posted unsubstantiated accusations of pedophilia and ritual abuse within the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) chapter in Melbourne, Australia have been sentenced to nine months in prison. The prison stay was ordered after Vivienne Legg and Dyson Devine defied a court order to take down the material, and declined to appear at hearings.

“Vivienne Legg and Dyson Devine posted on their website claims that an occult group, the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), was really a pedophile ring in Victoria, and that its activities included hosting parties at which naked children served as waiters and members had sex with and murdered children … [Judge Marilyn Harbison] said the material was gross, insulting and bizarre in asserting that the OTO tortured and killed children and animals and consumed their organs in blood rituals. It also said OTO members were criminally corrupt, spoke of a culture of corruption at the highest levels of government, and identified politicians as taking part. Judge Harbison said she had to signal to the broader community that tribunal orders were not to be ignored and that breaching the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act was a serious issue.”

The offending site in question was finally taken down in January by the hosting provider. Legg and Devine now have to decide if they will apologize to the judge and hope that their sentence is commuted, or if they will appeal their case to the Supreme Court.

The First Wiccan Multi-Millionaire: A local ABC News affiliate checks in with Ellwood “Bunky” Bartlett, a Wiccan who won an estimated 33 million dollars in the Mega Millions drawing back in September of 2007. According to the report, Bartlett is keeping the promises he made back when he first realized he won the lottery.

“After Dundalk’s Bunky Bartlett hit the Mega Millions jackpot in 2007, he said he planned to help a new age gift shop expand. He also said he would continue teaching people about his Wiccan beliefs. Bartlett has been true to his word. The Mystical Voyage store in Nottingham used to occupy 2500 square feet of space. When the expanded store opens next month, it will occupy 6500 square feet — enough space for several new holistic healing rooms, and a large yoga studio.”

Bartlett continues to teach classes on Wicca at the store, as he did before the lottery win. No further word yet about the proposed Willow Springs Sanctuary and Community Center that was announced back in November.

Wicca in India: In the past I have reported on Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, a famous adherent of Wicca in India. Chakraverti, a social activist, started a “Wiccan Brigade” to stem witchcraft killings and female infanticide through a campaign of education and re-framing the practice of “witchcraft” in India. While we have heard no reports on how successful these initiatives have been, it does look like Wicca and other western Pagan imports are gaining popularity in certain Indian cities.

“New age therapies and healing through a host of skills, including hypnosis, tarot reading, astrology and witchcraft are being accepted by a majority of people in Chandigarh, the twin capital of Punjab and Haryana … Claiming to be India’s first Shaman Witch, Renu Mathur helps remove all negative energy surrounding a person through prayer and meditation. She claims that she receives the energy from Gods and Goddesses as also from the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. ‘Although this may not seem like a straight fight against superstition because what I am doing is very logical like the use of colours, use of fire, use of crystals all of which has been validated by everybody in all fields. This is just a concentrated form of using them and invocations of a Wiccan or a person like me used has a very scientific oath -‘Do what will not harm anyone’. We cannot harm anyone. If we even think of doing so we lose our energies,’ said Renu.”

It should be interesting to see what the continued co-mingling of Hinduism and Indian culture with modern Paganism will produce. These cross-cultural interactions seem to hint at the promise of a post-Christian future, where theological “sisters” like Hinduism and modern Paganism can enrich one another over the longer term.

Speaking of India, today is the beginning of the Pongala Mahotsavam, a ten-day festival in honor of Bhagavathi (the mother goddess of the Malayali Hindus). Held in Thiruvananthapuram, it is the largest religious gathering for women in the world.

“Women in thousands have started pouring in to participate in Friday’s ‘Pongala’ festival at Attukal temple, famed as ‘Women’s Sabarimala’ for attracting one of the world’s biggest female congregations. The Attukal Bhagavati temple here had entered the Guinness Book two years back as a unique religious event that draws over a million women on a single day. The whole city would turn into a sea of women as sun rises on Friday with the road, pavements and by-lanes about an area of six km around being occupied by devotees with the earthen pots placed on brick hearths in front of them to prepare the ‘prasadam’ (sweetened pudding). The ritual consists of preparation of the prasadam of rice, jaggery, coconut and spices, to be offered to the Goddess to invoke her blessings for peace and prosperity.”

An estimated 2.5 million women are expected to participate this year, breaking all previous attendance records for the festival (1.7 million in 2007, and 1.5 million in 2006).