(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.

An advice column for the Washington Times highlights the struggles of a Wiccan military family after the children are outed at their local school.

…my children are being discriminated against by their teachers and administrators because we are Wiccans. It all started when other children at their school found out we are Wiccan. The students now call my children witches and warlocks. I know my children are being harassed, and this is not fair to them. Their grades are now falling tremendously. I have complained about this to the teachers, counselors, assistant principal and the principal. They have done nothing about it. I wanted to use this experience as a learning tool, to teach others about our lifestyle without imposing our views on others. It was my desire to stay calm and educate only to stop the fear and harassment. I asked to do a professional development session for the staff and a presentation to my children’s classrooms. I know this would help others understand, so they would stop judging and name-calling. The teachers would not hear of this. They all said it would infringe upon the rights of other students who do not want to hear about Wiccans.

The columnist “Ms. Vicki” Johnson advises the mother to climb higher on the administrative ladder with her concerns, and to seek counselling in order to deal with the emotional stress, but I fear that this is a far deeper problem than a few uncaring teachers. The military culture has become downright hostile to non-Christian faith expressions, often exploiting loopholes to keep Pagans (and other faiths) from gaining legitmacy and equal treatment. It wasn’t simply because of Bush that the veteran Pentacle quest took so long to achieve victory. I don’t know if there’s an easy solution to this problem, but one can hope that things will open up a bit under the Obama administration.

Darin Najor, who assulted a teacher and threatened to set her on fire for being a “witch” after she assigned the class to read “The Crucible”, is undergroing a competency hearing to see if he can stand trial.

Police said the assignment to read and discuss “The Crucible” apparently set Najor off. The teacher had been discussing the play in class for a while before she was assaulted. Najor questioned the teacher the day before the assault, police said, and she told him she didn’t believe in witchcraft and that the play was an allegory about persecution. The following day, Najor came up behind the teacher chanting what sounded like religious verses and poured water over her that he carried in a Gatorade bottle, Denmark said. Najor was also carrying a large barbecue lighter and told the teacher she was a witch who needed to be purified, police said. Najor ran from the room and the teacher and a security guard followed him outside where he was smoking a cigarette, Denmark said. The suspect ran at the teacher and said he was going to “burn the witch” when he was restrained by the guard, police said.

While Najor certainly seems delusional, one wonders where he got the idea that a witch needed to be purified by fire? It’s too bad this account doesn’t dig a bit into his background. What’s his home life like? What religious instruction did he receive? I would like to know these things, just in case the water-bottle was simply a trial run.

Speaking of innocent teachers and witches, a Texas man has finally been cleared of all charges after being accused of confining two girls to a classroom because he thought they were witches.

It has not been an easy three years for Jose Ramos. The 45-year-old Spanish teacher has been unemployed and under a felony indictment for most of that time, chafing against what he saw as an ongoing injustice he could not seem to clear. Some days, it was hard to tell what was worse: That he was being accused of confining two scared teenage girls to a classroom, or that the Rio Grande Valley thought he’d done it because he thought the girls were witches. On Thursday, prosecutors dropped the last of his criminal charges and, with an apologetic shrug from a county court-at-law judge whose children had been his students, Ramos was once again free, innocent and employable.

In the span of three years the truth slowly came out, the girl’s stories changed, and they no longer wanted to testify. In fact, it seems that it was Ramos who was trying to protect the girls from fellow classmates who accused the girls of casting malicious spells. The tragedy is that this man’s life and livelyhood were ruined while under the shadow of these charges. Resentful, he’s now looking for a job far away from the town in which he once worked.

The Independent gives a decidedly lukewarm review to Gary Lachman’s new book “Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen”, calling it “stodgy” and “uncontroversial”.

Gary Lachman has certainly done his research. This history of how the occult has influenced national politics – and not just wacky, fascist politics but mainstream and progressive political movements too … It could be fascinating, but the prose is stodgy, and the actual aims of these secret societies, where revealed, are often uncontroversial and bland – to create a better world, that sort of thing. It’s never entirely clear whether Lachman believes that occult study is a real means of acquiring knowledge, providing an alternative to “the hard-nosed empirical approach [of] science”. This book offers no evidence that it is; but then doubts are raised about Lachman’s commitment to rationality when he claims that “in 1960, aliens took an interest in US politics and backed a candidate for the presidency”.

For more on Lachman’s work (which tends toward the sensationalistic), you should check out this (slightly edited) excerpt from “Politics and the Occult”.

How did ancient Greeks choose their temple locations? According to Gregory J. Retallack of the University of Oregon in Eugene, it’s all about the soil.

No clear pattern emerged until he turned to the gods and goddesses. It was then that he discovered a robust link between the soil on which a temple stood and the deity worshiped there. For example, Demeter, the goddess of grain and fertility, and Dionysos, the god of wine, both were venerated on fertile, well-structured soils called Xerolls, which are ideal for grain cultivation. Artemis, the virgin huntress, and her brother Apollo, the god of light and the Sun, were worshiped in rocky Orthent and Xerept soils suitable only for nomadic herding. And maritime deities, such as Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Poseidon, the sea god, were revered on Calcid soils on coastal terraces too dry for agriculture. The pattern suggests that the deities’ cults were based on livelihood as much as on religion. And, says Retallack, temple builders may have chosen sites to make the deities feel at home.

So if you’re looking to build a new Pagan temple, better check out the local dirt first.

In a final note, mega-rockstars U2 may be dedicated Christians, but that hasn’t stopped them from wondering if the patriarchy is all its cracked up to be.

“[The song “Get On Your Boots” is] based around the idea that men have f****d things up so badly, politically, economically and socially that it’s really time we handed things over to women.”

You can see the video for the song, here. Careful guys, you keep this sort of sentiment up, and you might lose some of your ardent patriarchy-loving Christian followers (but who knows, you might also gain some goddess-lovers to replace them).

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