(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.

It looks like crazy and criminal Pagans in the courtroom come in threes. First there was the horrific occult-tinged child murders perpetrated by Lawrence Harris, then the crazy attempted murder ring-leader  Terisa “Red Phoenix” Davidson, and now a jury is beginning deliberations in the case of Kathleen Hilton. Hilton, a Wiccan grandmother, allegedly set fire to her son’s estranged girlfriend’s apartment building, killing five occupants.

Hilton has been behind bars since her arrest shortly after the tragic fire. During the trial, she testified to hearing voices. To refute such claims, the state introduced testimony from forensic psychologist Tali Walters, who was appointed by the court to determine if Hilton was competent to stand trial. Less than a month after the fire, Walters interviewed Hilton on three occasions at Taunton State Hospital. At trial, Walters recalled Hilton talking extensively about witchcraft and her spiritual beliefs in Wicca. Hilton also mentioned during those interviews that she had communicated with a tribal council of dead Native Americans, Walters said. Despite these assertions, Walters concluded that Hilton was not suffering psychosis or a mental illness.

What is interesting about this tragic case from a legal standpoint is that it asserts that adherence to Wicca or belief in spirit communications doesn’t equate to a psychosis or a mental illness. If Pagans, Wiccan, and occult believers aren’t crazy for the purposes of prosecutions, that could mean that they can’t be considered crazy in custody cases or as witnesses.

Psychics aren’t the only ones experiencing a slight uptick in business. The Palm Beach Post has an article about a local Botanica that is seeing increased business in this economic downturn.

For those believers, Vegueria so far is doing a better job of quelling fears than the complicated solutions debated by the U.S. Congress. “People have always come here with their economic troubles,” says Vegueria’s wife and business partner, Raquel, 54. “But now it’s even more so. A lot of people are out of work. He does what he can to listen to them, calm them, give them hope.” She says her husband is doing more pro-bono consulting these days. “Some can hardly afford to pay anything,” says Raquel. “They pay when they can.” The Veguerias are not alone. Other Santeria practitioners say the percentage of believers wanting to discuss economic travails has increased.

But can this slightly larger influx of money into psychic and occult services counteract a larger economic collapse? Esoteric answers are often a last resort for a scared general populace, and when that money also runs out I can’t imagine the psychics, practitioners of Santeria, or Pagans will be any better off. In fact, if this recession goes on for too long it may become very dangerous to be a Witch.

The Nigerian newspaper Punch looks at the growing number of mentally ill people in Osogbo and wonders if it is connected to creativity or native spiritual beliefs, a view that is strongly refuted by a local Ifa scholar.

Does the high level of creativity in Osogbo account for the unusually high number of mentally ill people? World acclaimed Ifa scholar, Ifayemi Elebuibon, does not believe so. Elebuibon said three factors were responsible for madness. Elebuibon, the Awise of Osogbo, who delivers papers in American and European universities on Ifa divinity, said mental illness could be contracted through heredity, evil attack and drug abuse. Tracing the traditional genealogy of madness, Elebuibon said, the Alara and Ajero royal families were the first to be beset with madness in Yoruba cultural worldview. According to him, “Mental illness is becoming rampant because people have departed from the ways of our forebears. We used to have intermediaries before marriages were consummated but now a man sees a woman on the road and off they go into marriage. Nobody cares to investigate the families of the spouse or the intending husband in order to know what kind of family their son or daughter is getting married to. Some families have hereditary mental illness.”

The piece goes on to look at more common factors in causing a increasingly visible mentally ill population: poverty,  hard drug-use, and a lack of social support systems. I’m glad to see this paper refuting the more romantic ideas of mentall illness. There is nothing more tragic than a society that treats depression, “heroic melancholy” and madness as “creative” or “holy” conditions.

For those of you who enjoyed my mention of the “Goddess on Earth” show yesterday, you might also want to check out another woman-centric New York gallery showing in March entitled “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists”.

Dabora Gallery and Phantasmaphile’s Pam Grossman are proud to usher in the spring season with the group show “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists,” on view from March 14th through April 12th, 2009. It features fourteen of the most vital and visionary women artists working in the US today. In literal terms, a fata morgana is a mirage or illusion, a waking reverie, a shimmering of the mind. Named for the enchantress Morgan le Fay, these tricks of perception conjure up a sense of glimpsing into another world, whether it be the expanses of an ethereal terrain, or the twilit depths of the psyche. The artists of “Fata Morgana: The New Female Fantasists” deftly utilize the semiotics of mysticism, fantasy, and the subconscious in their work, thereby guiding the viewer through heretofore uncharted realms – alternately shadowy or luminous, but always inventive.

You can check out a couple images from the show, here. You might also be interested in some of the artist’s web sites: Carrie Ann Baade, Lori Field, Katy Horan, Tina Imel, and Susan Jamison. It almost makes me want to be in New York. Almost.

In a final note, today is the feast of St. Valentine aka St. Valentine’s Day. Normally I would list the many and sundry media articles that detail the pre-Christian origins of this seemingly Sainted day, but I’ll concentrate on Lupercalia tomorrow (the actual day of its observance). In reality, St. Valentine’s Day most likely isn’t the holiday created to replace Lupercalia. When Lupercalia observances were suppressed by Pope Gelasius I in 494, the pre-existing Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (which in the Julian calendar fell on the same day as Lupercalia) was promoted in Rome as the purification of the Virgin Mary (later called Candlemas). Since the month of February and Lupercalia were seen as times of purification by the Romans, the new emphasis on Mary’s purification makes perfect sense. The Feast of St. Valentine, established two years later by Gelasius doesn’t seem to have much to do with the replacement of Lupercalia. If you want to blame someone for equating love with St. Valentine’s Day, you’ll most likely have to blame Geoffrey Chaucer (who hath a blog). In any case may you all have a happy (and by this point thoroughly secularized) Valentine’s Day celebration with the romantic partner(s) of your choice.

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