Pagan Community Notes: South African radio show ridicules SAPRA founder, gathering in Niota, Tenn., and more!

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Flag of South Africa [Public Domain]


WILDERNESS EAST, WESTERN CAPE, South Africa – Last week, Damon Leff, founding director of South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), editor-in-chief of Penton Independent Alternative Media, and a contributor to TWH was interviewed in a segment on Jacaranda FM, ”The Scenic Drive with Rian”. Leff was ridiculed and treated with disrespect.

Leff issued the following statement to TWH regarding his experience:

 On Wednesday, 29 May, I appeared as an invited guest on ‘The Scenic Drive with Rian’. I was interviewed by Rian van Heerden and his team from 6 to 6.30pm.

During the interview I was repeatedly ridiculed and mocked by [Rian] van Heerden and members of his team. The interview left me feeling humiliated and shamed.

I am of the opinion that van Heerden and company disregarded my right to dignity and equality, by mocking my person and my religious identity as a Pagan Witch.

The interview evoked the ire of many Pagans in South Africa, who took to social media, and JacarandaFM’s Facebook page, to complain about the way in which I had been treated.

I have lodged a formal complaint against van Heerden with JacarandaFM and Kagiso Media, and have submitted a complaint against same to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa(BCCSA). Van Heerden disregarded my right to dignity and my right to religious freedom and equality.

All three rights are enshrined in our country’s Constitution.

It is my opinion that ridicule is simply a confirmation of existing prejudicial bias against Witchcraft, prejudicial bias which all too often results in hostile discrimination against actual Witches, and violent witch-hunts against people falsely accused of being Witches.

A number of South Africans commented on the show’s Facebook page expressing disappointment and anger over how Leff was treated. And it wasn’t just Pagans, a number of commenters identified as either Christian or made a point to say they were not Pagan, and voiced their intent to report the station’s show to the BCCSA. Only a little less than 5 minutes of the 30 minute broadcast was available online.

Leff told TWH that he had received a written letter of apology from the show’s producer. The producer also extended another invitation to appear on the show again which Leff respectfully declined.

Under the law in South Africa, an infringement of the right to dignity is civilly actionable. The Equality Court was established to hear cases involving discrimination. Broadcasters who are found in violation of the law can be fined or sanctioned, and some interviewers have lost their positions in the past for serious violations. Leff said that he did not plan on taking legal action and would trust in the ability of the BCCSA to render a fair decision.

TWH will continue to follow this story and report on any new developments.

Editorial Note: TWH is extremely disappointed and dismayed by the treatment of our colleague Damon Leff by JacarandaFM. We hope that JacarandaFM conducts itself responsibly in the future.


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John Beckett and Angela Wilson [courtesy]

NIOTA, Tenn. – Archdruid Angela Wilson of the Wayist Druid order hosted an event on Saturday, titled Building Bridges. Wilson held a Samhain public ritual last fall in Athens, Tennessee that generated controversy and threats of mass protests.

Wilson said, “I wanted to bring people together from many traditions and religions to fellowship in a intimate way.”

She said the gathering in Niota, Tennessee was a success for many reasons, “This gathering had all of your bells and whistles of a larger gathering artfully scheduled in a 13 hour day. Workshops, vendors, musical acts and ritual plus a heaping helping of laughter and great fellowship.”

John Beckett, was a surprise guest and spoke about his personal encounter with the good folks in Ireland.

Beckett told TWH, “It was like a small Pagan Pride Day, only in rural East Tennessee in a town of 700. The focus was on being Pagan and on relationship building. I didn’t expect to be there, but my plans changed at the last minute. Sometimes magic works like that.”

The musical acts included Robert Worth, Alex Sharp, Cody Hensley, and Louis Garou.

Wilson led an interactive water ritual, during which Louis Garou was initiated into the Wayist tradition and given the title of a named bard. The bardic name given to Garou was, The Mountain Bard.

Wilson said, “The running theme was gratitude for having a full 3 day gathering experience condensed into a day because many can’t actually attend the longer events.”

She also said that feedback from attendees was very positive. Many of the comments posted on the event page seemed to reflect this.  Wilson intends to continue to grow a Pagan presence in Tennessee.


In other news:

  • TIME published an interesting article that focused on Witches and Witchcraft written by Pam Grossman that centers around the reason she decided to write her book: Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and PowerShe writes about what it means to be Witch/witch in its various forms, and talks about why the Witch trend is so popular.
  • Among the offerings for the summer session at Cherry Hill Seminary is the four-week course, Paganism and the Male Mysteries, presented by Casey Giovinco, Chief Elder of Gala Witchcraft, and author of Garbed In Green: Gay Witchcraft & The Male Mysteries, shares what are the “male mysteries” and the value of his course for anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality. The course runs June 17-July 14, 2019.
  • In a follow-up to a story we covered in April over protests at the Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, England by Muslim activists against teachers allegedly using using dolls to promote and demonstrate LGBT “sexual mechanics”  to children, an interim ban on demonstrations has been issued. While the ban could be overturned as early as next when a judge will reconsider the injunction at a hearing on June 10. The injunction currently prevents demonstrators from gathering outside of Anderton Park Primary School, from distributing literature that supports their cause, and from making disparaging remarks or comments on social medial about educators.
  • The non-profit, Historic Salem Inc. celebrated its 75th anniversary on June 2, at the Hawthorne Hotel where it honored the many various organizations that are doing work to preserve and restore historic buildings. Historic Salem, Inc. was borne out of the effort in 1940 to save the Salem Witch House from the demolition that was part of the project to widen North Street. Volunteers raised more than $40,000 to move the house back about 35 feet from Essex Street. The building went on to become a museum and brings in annually over a quarter of a million dollars in revenue. The organization intends to continue its mission of preservation. Historic Salem’s preservation manager, Emily Udy said,“Every house has a story.”
  • In 2016, the drought and the wildfires in Eastern Tennessee had a pronounced effect on a number of things, fireflies being one of them. Their numbers were cut in half or more. Annually, many people travel from all over the world to visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park to view the incredible display put on by the synchronous firefly species, Photinus carolinus. The fireflies flashing their inner light at the same time for all to see was made popular by Lynn Frieron Faust who is an expert of insects and wrote the book, Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs. This year, the numbers of fireflies have finally recovered to more normal amount, most due to the amount of rainfall and warmer temperatures. In a recent interview with WCBY Faust said you can help lightning bug populations by reducing the amount of artificial light from April through July, especially flood lights and landscaping accent lights that illuminate trees.


Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck:  Renaissance Tarot Deck by Brian Williams, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Queen of Swords


This week pay attention to how the energies of insight, thoroughness, and persuasion can be woven together to create what is needed. Be mindful that overreaching ambition or misusing power can pave the way to obsession, and often downfall.


Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone