(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.

I want to start with an update on an older story. Rachel “Reverend Magdalen” Bevilacqua, a Subgenius who has gone through nearly two years of custody battles, is making a final push to ensure the legal system is no longer used against her arbitrarily by her ex-husband. Bevilacqua has endured a truly bizarre chain of events that included defending her involvement in adults-only Subgenius events.

“We’ve made it so far from the days when I lived in a 10 by 12 box apartment crying myself to sleep every night, never knowing how my son was, never knowing if I would ever get him back. We’re so close to being free from the threat of being compelled to return to Orleans County, which has hung over our heads since my son was a baby. All we need is $2,500 to get started, with a full retainer of $5,000. Of course, if things go badly, it could run into another $80-$100,000, but I’m focusing my slack waves on the thought that this new Judge Griffiths is going to be reasonable and let us go. If everyone who receives this email donates just $10, it would easily cover Mr. Goewey’s fees. I realize this is the worst possible time to ask for money again, with gas prices and food prices and unemployment the way they are, but I can’t raise more than about $1,500 on my own, not by September 26 anyway. I’m forced to once again appeal to you, who’ve helped our family so much in the past, or one more push to finally get free.”

I recommend reading the exhaustive run-down of this case at Modemac’s The High Weirdness Project: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Cases like this are indicative of the struggles faced by parents who are adherents to minority religions. As more parents use religion as a “wedge” in custody battles, Reverend Magdalen’s case threatens to become a mere statistic in a larger trend of parents having to defend their faith in court.

Tim Harford at The Financial Times looks at the economics of witch-hunts and (unsurprisingly) finds that hard times often translate into dangerous times for people who live on the margins of society.

“Edward Miguel, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of Economic Gangsters, a book about the economics of crime, corruption and war, has studied the Tanzanian situation. He argues that there is a direct economic motive for the attacks. Tough times in a Tanzanian household may well result in starvation, and the elderly – especially women – are at risk of being sacrificed to free resources. As evidence, Miguel points out that victims of witch attacks in Meatu district – almost all old women – tend to be from the poorest households. The murders are much more common during years of drought or flood.”

Harford also notes the research of Emily Oster, who ties the European witch-hunts to extremely cold weather during the “Little Ice Age”. So if economic hard times translate into witch-hunts, what is the solution? A more robust social safety net.

“If the problem truly is an economic one, the solution might be, too. One possibility is to give the elderly generous pensions. Witch-killings all but stopped in South Africa’s North Province after such a pension scheme was introduced in the early 1990s.”

In other words, the more secure people feel, the less likely they are to look for a suspicious neighbor to persecute.

Jeffrey Weiss at the Dallas Morning News religion blog mocks the inflated growth estimates for Wicca touted in the book “Generation Hex”, calling it the “least plausible” claim for fastest growing religion he’s ever heard.

“2012 is, hm, four years from now. Wicca currently represents, hm, less than 0.3% of Americans. For that prediction to come true would take some serious magic.”

Weiss turned to the Pew Forum’s landmark U.S. Religious Landscape Survey for data instead of uncritically using the conclusions of Steve “Hour of the Witch” Wohlberg, as the book’s authors did. For more on “Generation Hex”, check out this post.

Did you know that most Wiccans don’t actually practice Witchcraft? So says The News Herald’s Ryan Young.

“Liars and practitioners of the “dark arts” have given Wicca a bad image. Most wiccans don’t practice witchcraft and the ones who do have a firm belief in using magic only for good or to survive.”

I suppose I should appreciate the sentiment instead of pointing out that Wicca is religious Witchcraft, or that the term “Wicca” is an antecedent of the word “Witch”.

Conservative commentator Bob Parks apparently had nothing better to talk about on Saturday, so he decided to mock Pagan supporters of Barack Obama.

“I am so glad Republicans aren’t this messed up. I wouldn’t be able to show my face in public.”

I hope no-one clues him in on the “messed up” beliefs of Sarah Palin’s co-religionists and supporters or else he would have to go into isolation. A friendly tip: never underestimate how weird “your side” can be, it will save you considerable heartache in the future.

In a final note, volunteers are gathering to re-chalk the famous Cerne Abbas giant.

“Britain’s most famous fertility symbol is having a makeover of epic proportions. Volunteers have been drafted in to re-chalk the 180ft tall (55m) Cerne Abbas giant, after accusations that he had become the invisible man … conservationists became concerned the naked figure had disappeared under a mass of grass and weeds, after an unusually wet summer and lack of grazing sheep from local farms.”

20 tons of chalk will be used to spruce the giant up. The efforts should be done in ten days, and locals have arranged for 50 sheep to temporarily graze the land. After all, we wouldn’t want one of Britain’s most famous fertility symbols to fall into disrepair.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!