Child Witches in the UK and other Pagan News of Note

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Top Story: Richard Batholomew points us to an investigative news program on Channel 4 in the UK that exposes an underground of naming and exorcising child “witches” in African evangelical churches. Reporter Juliana Oladipo, who went undercover as a “troubled teen” for the story, shares her frightening experiences amongst Britain’s witch-hunters.

“Throughout the undercover filming process, I was confused and physically harassed by large male pastors. I was screamed at and accused of being possessed by an evil demon. As far as these pastors were concerned, I was 15 years old and had been locking my bedroom door at night … The people that these unholy African priests are targeting are on the whole ostracised by society. As well as having immigration problems, they are often unemployed, uneducated and lost in the system. Is it a surprise then that children like ‘Buki’ (my character in the film) are so angry and disconnected from society? She and others like her are being blamed by pastors for being the cause of family grief because they are ‘witches’.”

The Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) has already issued a statement to The Guardian concerning witch-children and exorcisms in the UK.

“…viewers of the programme need to understand that, shocking as these instances undoubtedly are, huge progress have been made over the past few years in developing and implementing effective child protection policies in African churches in the UK. One example is The Safeguarding Children’s Rights initiative. Established in 2007 by Trust for London, this brings together key organisations and agencies tackling faith-based abuse in African communities in London. In addition to CCPAS, it includes AFRUCA, Africa Policy Research Network, the UK Congolese Safeguarding Action Group and the Victoria Climbié Foundation. All these organisations and agencies unreservedly condemn all instances of child abuse, in particular any church that brands children as witches or as in any way demon-possessed.”

The Evangelical Alliance in the UK officially condemned accusations of witchcraft in 2007, after a government report was issued in 2006 that found 38 specific cases since 2000. However, police and activists insist that the reported cases are only the “tip of the iceberg”, and that there are “at least” dozens of cases per year according to Debbie Ariyo, founder of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca). Some in the UK fear a repeat of the Victoria Climbie tragedy, where a child is abused to death right under the noses of social services. What is clear is that the problem of “child witches” and the unscrupulous pastors who “exorcise” them for money and power isn’t some localized phenomenon “over there”, but one that is increasingly “over here” as well. How long before a similar situation is uncovered in the United States, where witch-hunters are feted and funded by an array of churches.

The ‘Pagan Priestess’ Who Seriously Injured a Police Officer: The Australian press is eating up the story of a woman who dragged a police officer over 600 feet after being pulled over. The officer’s arm was stuck in the window after she rolled it up while trying to prevent him from taking the keys. It’s making headlines because the woman pulled over claimed that “your laws and penalties don’t apply”, and that she’s a Pagan priestess and healer.

Eilish De Avalon, 40, has pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates Court to charges including recklessly causing injury and driving while suspended over the February 23 incident. De Avalon said she is tired of being labelled a witch because of its negative connotations, and would rather be known as a healer and an activist. “I don’t wear the label of witch comfortably,” she told ninemsn. “A lot of witches prefer the title of pagan, or in my case pagan priestess. We are healers. We are psychics.”

I’m somewhat at a loss as to describe how clueless this woman appears. She’s a “healer” who seriously injured a cop after being pulled over on a suspended license for talking on a cell phone while driving? She’s tired of “negative connotations” while turning her faith into a massive joke by her actions and statements? Ms. De Avalon is being sentenced on August 6th, and I can only hope she refrains from issuing further statements and accepts her punishment with some dignity. I truly sympathize with my Australian brothers and sisters who now have to account for the media storm she’s created.

A Report from the PLSC: David Salisbury at Capital Witch has filed his first report from the 4-day Pagan Leadership Skills Conference in Richmond Virginia, featuring Selena Fox, Drema Baker, and Christine Woodman.

“Sunday night I got in from the 4-day NPLSC in Richmond, VA. I can’t even begin to write about it in a way that will do justice to the experience. I can honestly say I’ve never learned so many useful skills for leadership and life within a short amount of time. The speakers were incredible, the rituals were transforming, and the bonds formed will remain strong.

We opened with a dedication ritual honoring the apple and orchard Goddess Pomona, the matron diety of the conference. With Pomona, we reached within ourselves to plant the seeds of leadership and community. Mead created from apples blessed from the previous years conference sealed our libation and set the way for an enriching four days.”

There’s more to come in part 2 of his report, so keep an eye on the Capital Witch blog. My thanks to David for sharing his experiences with us, and I look forward to more DC-centric Pagan reporting.

Tears and Anger For Hypatia: T. Thorn Coyle and Star Foster from have recently seen Alejandro Amenábar’s “Agora”, based on the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, and both seem to have found the film deeply affecting.

“It was an interesting slide into emotion during the watching of Agora. One part of me was stating, “This is one way that humans are. This is about the loss of our humanity to mob rule.” Part of me was responding to this and nodding yes, another part was crushed at the fragile human response to easy violence, and yet another part was mourning our Pagan past. Connecting to all of these, I saw that I could choose to not experience the full force of an emotional response, I could follow the energy of my God Soul and watch humanity playing out this well worn story. I chose, instead, to say to my macrocosmic soul, “Yes, the patterns of humanity upon each other and the earth are varied, and yes, the rise of ignorance is a story as old as our DNA, but right now, I want to simply feel this!” Awash in emotion, I wept. I wept for the burning of the scrolls. I wept for the taking of the scientist and philosopher. I wept for her death. I wept for never having seen the great city of Alexandria at its height, before the Pagans fell into excess and the Christians took false power. I wept for all of those who failed to turn the tide of ignorance, political greed, and mob rule. I wept because tyranny had once again triumphed over freedom.”

Star’s review calls “Agora” one of the most important films the Pagan community has ever received. Another Pagan reviewer, Zan Fraser at The Juggler, agrees, saying that it’s “something that any Neo-Pagan should see”. I predict this will become one of those “must see” films that will be watched and shared within our community. Now if only I could see the dang thing! I can’t believe the art theater in my town hasn’t gotten it.

The Manchester Mona Lisa: In a final note, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester has picked its own local “Mona Lisa” to be featured in a new Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition. The winner is goth Witch Carol Hodge.

“Carol Hodge beat a 20-strong shortlist of men, women, dogs and photoshop curiosities to triumph in the online poll, posing against a smouldering backdrop with her faced caked in thick white make-up and black eyeliner, topped with a spiralling black hat.”

You can view the winning portrait, here. You can see some of the other entries, here. The show runs until September 12th. Congratulations to Ms. Hodge on being picked.

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