Pagan Community Notes: Laughingbrook fire, hate groups in ND, and more!

forest fire 2268729 640HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Last week a fire broke out above Laughingbrook Spellcrafting & Ancestral Arts (LBSCAA). The fire was the result of bad wiring and lack of oversight and maintenance of the landlord for the building. Gabriela Laughingbrook, founder of LBSCAA was notified of the fire by Zach Kuklinski, manager of Video Game World, a neighboring business. Kuklinski was also the person who reported the fire to the Fire Department.

Within hours of being notified, members of the Laughingbrook Village had a GoFundMe page up and began organizing volunteers to begin salvaging once the site was cleared for them to access it. The title they chose for the fundraiser is telling: Laughingbrook: Luceo Non Uro which means, “I shine, not burn.”

There was a strong response to the initial calls for help—local artists offering up items to replace those damaged or destroyed, as well as realtors and lawyers offering their services, since LBSCAA will have to relocate and may need representation. The Laughingbrook Village is a vital part of the Huntersville community at-large, featuring local art and adding diversity to the community.

Unfortunately, not everyone is supporting them. A family, who identifies as Catholic, opened  a neighboring pizza restaurant in 2018, have disparaged the existence LBSCAA, which has been in operation since the fall of 2014.

Shortly after news of the fire reached the greater community, Laughingbrook received a public message of intolerance saying that while they were “…glad no one was hurt…” they encouraged Laughingbrook to move the store out of Huntersville and away from their children, and to find a Catholic priest and repent. Laughingbrook  who holds BA’s in Hispanic Linguistics and Cultural Anthropology and a Master of Education degree in Social Justice Education, addressed the message in a strongly worded public post on the LBSCAA Facebook page.

This is a developing story and TWH will have full coverage this week.

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a report last week identifying three hate groups that have established bases in North Dakota. The SPLC report included the Heathen group, Asatru Folk Assembly, which had been added to its overall list of hate groups last year. The other two groups, Soldiers of Odin, and the American Freedom Party. North Dakota has at least 12 identified hate groups, including the Proud Boys, actively operating in the state according to the SPLC.

While the Asatru Folk Assembly protested being adding to the SPLC’s list of hate groups, SPLC said the language of exclusion used on their website and some of the social media platforms reflected white supremacy ideology, thus refusing to remove their name from the list. Concern over the symbols of Heathenry being used by white supremacists has been examined a great deal over the last few years.

The Atlantic published an article in November of 2017 and interviewed TWH columnist, Karl Seigfried on how inclusive members of Asatru might respond and address the problem of Heathenry’s symbols and some of its ideology being co-opted in this way. The Troth has also issued statements of inclusion and their mission is to bring together the many types of Heathens to unite against exclusion and push back against white supremacy.

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“Witch Hunt” News:

  • Reuters reports that in Keonjhar district of India, which is dominated by Odisha tribe, unveiled a memorial to victims of “witch hunts” as part of a broader campaign to end the persecution of women who are suspected of being “witches” and who are often beaten, sexually assaulted, and murdered. The memorial is the first of its kind featuring the statue of a woman and is surround by plaques bearing the names of 55 victims of “witch hunts”.
  • Assam police in the Kokrajhar district (an administrative district in Bodoland Territorial Area of Assam in northeastern India), are working in conjunction with a variety of other groups  to raise awareness against superstitions that have contributed to “witch hunts” and the murders of innocent people. They have identified that illiteracy and lack of scientific practices and knowledge as important factors to eliminate these witch hunts; as well as villagers seeking out tribal practitioners also known ojha or bez, who blame illnesses or other misfortunes on other villagers identifed` as “witches”.
  • In Liberia, the Association of Female Lawyers (AFELL) issued a statement last Thursday, by the president of AFELL, attorney Vivian D. Neal, “It appears that some of our people are not aware that traditional and customary practices, which infringe upon the fundamental rights of individuals, for example presumption of innocence, right to security and integrity of the person, etc., are subordinate and inconsistent with the Constitution of Liberia.” The statement was in response to the treatment of two women who had been brutalized and marched naked after being accused of being “witches.”The Supreme Court in Liberia ruled it was unconstitutional for trials by ordeal, and that “witchcraft” is not “prosecutable” under Liberian laws.
  • In the Kenyan village of Migori, an 80 year old grandmother, Maritha Amollo, her daughter-in-law and three children were burned alive after being accused of practicing “witchcraft”. The accusations stemmed from another villager falling ill and Amollo allegedly refusing to remove the alleged curse that caused the illness or heal him.
  • In CHIPINGE, Zimbabwe Andrew Machirawuta Danda was accused of murdering a relative by stoning and then setting the body on fire in the victim’s bedroom because Danda believed the relative was guilty of practicing “witchcraft”. Danda is being held with bail and will be examined by two doctors as required by law under the Zimbabwean Mental Health Act.
  • Two women, Pramila Devi, 65, and Kapurva Devi ,70, of the Gopali Chak village in Bihar, India were beaten to death by villagers after being suspected of practicing “witchcraft”. Nine people are implicated in their deaths, five of those are currently in custody.

In other news:

  • Today marks the 35th anniversary of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and their first coven, Keepers of the Holly Chalice, founded in 1984. The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel is a legally recognized Wiccan non-profit, 501(c)3 religious organization. They currently have 13 covens, and built the New Alexandrian Library.
  • In a Guardian article by Laura Bates, author of the new YA book, The Burning, Bates draws a stark parallel between the kind of baseless accusations that drove the Witch hunts in Scotland between the 16th and 18th centuries and how teens today can be affected by rumors and bullying spread online and through social media. She points out the misogyny that drives such behavior. “This isn’t a new story. It’s not a modern invention or a problem created by the internet. It won’t go away on its own, unless we do something to change it. These stories span four centuries. These stories are the same.”
  • NPR reported that a crypt at St Michan’s Church in Dublin, Ireland was broken into and vandalized. The head of an 800-year-old mummy, nicknamed “The Crusader” was stolen, as well as several other sets of remains being disturbed and damaged. The thieves managed to breach the steel door, doing considerable to the vault. Officials are concerned that exposure to the open air may cause the remaining mummies to deteriorate further. Other reports included a statement from an anthropologist theorized that the head had been taken by practitioners of Voodoo or Witchcraft.
  • The first installment of the Smithsonian Channel’s new series, America’s Hidden Stories, premieres  with “Salem’s Secrets,” tonight, Monday, March 4. Wicked Local Salem reports, “The episode revisits a tragic and much-examined chapter in Salem’s history with newly discovered archival evidence and uses high-technology to take a deeper dive into the mystery of where the victims were executed and buried and the cover-up that followed.”

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: White Sage Tarot by Theresa Hutch, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Temperance, Major arcana (14) fourteen

This week there is an emphasis on balance. Sometimes the way to bring things (and ourselves) into balance is by first identifying the areas that are out of balance. It is also helpful to remember that finding and maintaining balance is a process, and it can ebb and flow.

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.