Unleash the Hounds! (link roundup)

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There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, more than our team can write about in depth in any given week. Therefore, The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. 

We start today’s roundup with religious freedom stories:

  • The Florida Senate approved SB 436 “Religious Expression in Public Schools.” As with many religious freedom bills, SB 436 seeks to protect people from discrimination related to their practice of religion. However, according to Americans United, this senate bill and the corresponding Florida House Bill 303 “would erode the separation of church and state in Florida’s schools in violation of the First Amendment.” Americans United goes on to say that, “both versions of the bill would put Florida’s public schools in a bind, as they would be forced to choose between violating the new state law and violating the U.S. Constitution.”
  • In a story out of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, a Ten Commandments monument was removed from a public school campus after greeting students daily for over 60 years. The Valley High School monument became the focus of a recent federal court case brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The monument will reportedly be relocated to private property. The case has cost the school district and local tax payers $163,500 in legal fees alone.
  • The Satanic Temple has recently picked a new directive and national project: temple members are now focused on protecting children from abuse. As written on the website, Protect Children Project “utilizes the First Amendment to protect public school students from being subjected to corporal punishment, solitary confinement, physical restraints, and the deprivation of bathroom access as these abusive practices violate our religious belief of bodily inviolability.” TST is raising funds to support their public awareness campaign, and it views this issue as an integral part of its more basic fight to protect religious freedom.

Toward religious literacy…

  • On Mar. 14, Wayne State College hosted its third annual interfaith panel. One of this year’s speakers was Wiccan practitioner Bronwyn Zitka. Joining Zitka were a Lutheran pastor and followers of both Baha’i and Hindu faiths. Along with explaining her beliefs and the differences between Paganism and Wicca, Zitka reportedly said, “Wicca is about finding the truest you.”
  • In case you missed it, CNN has produced a six-part series called Believer with Reza Aslan. The show airs weekly every Sunday at 10 p.m. EST. Aslan, who is Muslim, is exploring a number of world minority religions and belief systems, so far this grouping has included Vodou, Scientology, ultra-orthodox Judaism, and Santa Muerte-focused practices in Mexico. Believer has received mixed reviews with some critics saying that the show is needed now more than ever, and others saying that it is just pure sensationalism. We have reached out to CNN to learn more about the entire scope of the project and if it will continue past its scheduled six shows. We will update you with more. In the meantime, check it out for yourself. Let us know what you think.

In international news…

  • Belfast will reportedly soon see its first green burial site. While this may seem like good news, there are locals who are deeply concerned with its opening. As reported, some people are protesting the possibility due to “real fears that there is a pagan element to [the site’s creation.]” A spokesperson for Down to the Earth, the group organizing the site’s creation, said there is nothing pagan about it and that some people are just afraid “to move away from the traditional church setting.” She added, “All we are trying to do is get back to nature. Many of us in [Down to Earth] are from different backgrounds. Some have faith and some don’t.”
  • In Italy, the mainstream international news has been reporting on an alleged black magic ring responsible for the group rape of several women since 2015. According to those reports, members of the group use the excuse of “spiritual cleansing” to perform the illegal acts. “Investigators said they manipulated their victim with the aid of tarot cards, esoteric symbols, mysterious amulets and threats.” We will report more on this story as it comes in.
  • NBC News visited King Arthur Uther Pendragon at his spring equinox ritual held at Stonehenge. As we have reported in the past, Pendragon has been fighting development around the historic site with the aim of protecting it as a religious sacred ground for Pagans and others.

Let’s talk art and lifestyle…

  • Witches programming games? Yes, in fact there are, and Kotaku.com, a news and opinion site about gaming, features an article showcasing some of these programmers. Reporter Chris Priestman writes that “[Kitty] Horrorshow’s creations are colored by her personal experience as a practising witch.” Priestman goes on to discuss how Horrorshow and others integrate their spiritual belief into their storytelling and game programming work.
  • Coming to the U.S. and Cuba is a new transnational art exhibit that will “explore the mythologies and realities of black women and Afro-Cuban women, including African traditional religions and spirituality. The three-part exhibition is a collaborative project between Los Angeles-based students at CalArts Center for New Performance and Cuba-based La Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro. “The three-part exhibition series will be on display [first] in Havana. The artists will travel to Los Angeles for their second exhibit. And they will partner with students from the New World School of the Arts during Art Basel Miami Beach 2017 for their third exhibit at the Centro Cultural Español in downtown Miami.”
  • Artist Spencer Byles spent one year “alone in a forest creating surreal sculptures using all-organic material.” As reported on the site The Earth Child, Byles created these pieces within the La Colle Sur Loup forest in southeastern France. It used only found objects. Photos of his sculptures as well as his process can be seen on his own blog called aptly A Year in a French Forest. .
  • Katy Perry, who recently won her court battle against a couple nuns accusing her of witchcraft, was not the only Hollywood star to be labeled a witch this past month. The late golden era film star Bette Davis was recently accused of witchcraft by her own daughter, pastor evangelical pastor B.D. Hyman. “She practiced the occult witchcraft and when I would not do what she wanted me to do, she vowed to get even with me,” Hyman allegedly said in a video. Davis died in 1989 shortly after the filming of her final movie, a spoof called Wicked Stepmother. Ironically, Davis was cast in the role of, yes you guessed it, a witch. However, due to failing health and conflicts with the director, she was released from the contract mid production, and the script was rewritten to include both her scenes and new ones involving a witch daughter. Wicked Stepmother was eventually released after Davis’ death in October that year.