Pagan Community Notes: Witchcraft and Witches continue upward trend, Native burial sites & cactuses destroyed for border wall, and more!

[By Nyo – Wikimedia]

TWH – The popularity of Witches and the practice of Witchcraft seems yet to have hit a peak if the number of articles published just in the last week about the subject is any indication.

Over a dozen stories appearing in mainstream publications including The Atlantic which recently published Why Is Witchcraft on the Rise? and examines both the social trends that seem to be helping drive interest in Witchcraft practices and interviews New Jersey Witch, Juliet Diaz.

The article examines the monetization of Witchcraft-related practices and tools and gets Diaz’s take on some of the trends, the ethics involved, and cultural appropriation. Unlike some articles published in the past by mainstream publications, the writer of this article was sensitive to Witchcraft history and practice, cites Ronald Hutton’s work, as well as other scholars and Witches.

The potential for Witch-related items to have an impact financially has not gone unnoticed, either. published the article, Witchcraft goes mainstream, and becomes big business that focuses on the business aspect, and notes the rising prevalence of esoteric and occult practices. also ran an article that noted the use of cyber-currency by Witches, heavily sourced the article about the same which was published the week before and covered by TWH.

From the serious to the sublime, Witches and their various practices seem to be getting some level of news coverage no matter where a person looks. Last week, Willamette Week published the article, Portland Is the Best Place in the Country to Be a Witch, that touts the Witch-friendly community of Portland.

In the U.K., The Times ran an interview with Harmony Nice who describes herself as a “cottage witch” and has over 600 thousand subscribers to her YouTube channel, alone.

Apparently, even avid birdwatchers and enthusiasts are interested in the Witch perspective, as evidenced by Jim Williams’s review in The Star Tribune of The Hidden Meanings of Birds, a spiritual field guide, by Arin Murphy-Hiscock, Wiccan High Priestess in the Black Forest Clan.

Witches seem to be literally everywhere.

Editor’s Note: The above was corrected Feb. 19, 2020 to correct the number of followers for Harmony Nice.

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[Sonoran desert, Mexico – Image credit: © Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]

ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Ariz. – Last week, blasting began through a section of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument park as part of the new US border wall construction.

Native American Indian tribe, the Tohono Oʼodham Nation considers the section, called Monument Hill, as sacred and has documented mentions of its use by Native peoples going back hundreds of years.

In addition to being a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and considered “a pristine example of an intact Sonoran Desert ecosystem” by UNESCO, Apache warriors have also been buried on Monument Hill.

The construction of the border wall threatens the underground aquifer, the 49 varieties of native mammals which includes the endangered Sonoran pronghorn, as well as several species of cacti which include the saguaro cactus, paloverde, and organ pipe cactus for which the monument is named.

While Customs and Border Patrol have reportedly relocated some 144 of the various cacti, that included some organ pipe cacti, there have been other reports that hundreds of cacti – some centuries-old – have been merely mown down.

Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, tweeted that he had found “an uprooted & mangled Organ Pipe Cactus hidden under a pile of brush in the shadow of the #BorderWall.” Jordahl has been following the construction and documenting the destruction left in its wake.

Despite efforts by tribal leaders, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D – Arizona’s 3rd congressional district), environmentalists, and archaeologists, the border wall construction has moved ahead leaving a barren stretch right through the middle of the monument site that is also part of the 60-foot-wide Roosevelt Reservation that is a declared boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.

Eventually, 30-foot-high, steel panels that will make up the border wall will be installed. It’s uncertain how stable these panels might be considering that a number of panels along the Baja/Mexicali border were actually blown over by high winds last month.

A number of ecologically and culturally sensitive sites lie along the path of the proposed border wall. Among them, Quitobaquito Springs, which is the only naturally occurring source of freshwater for miles. The site of the desert oasis is also important spiritually to the O’odham tribe and used as part of the tribe’s sacred Salt Pilgrimage. Quitobaquito Springs was once inhabited by a smaller O’odham tribe, the Hia C-eḍ Oʼodham.

“A historically significant area is going to be changed irreparably,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva said. “You’re never going to be able to put it back together.”

The damage in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument will likely continue unless something extraordinary happens to prevent it–like an Act of Congress.

In other news:

  • The U.S. Air Force finalized new guidelines last week that will allow Sikhs and Muslims to seek a religious accommodation to wear turbans, beards, unshorn hair and hijabs. The new guidelines greatly shorten the timeline for religious accommodations to be approved–30 days in the U.S., and 60 days anywhere else. Prior to this, all requests for religious accommodation were done on a case-by-case, individual basis, and could take months or even years to be approved. While Muslim and Sikh advocacy groups applaud the decision, they also feel that minority religions should fall under a blanket policy that covers such matters and those who identify as Sikh or Muslim would not have to apply for accommodation at all.
  • A new exhibit, Outcasts: Women, Crime and Society explores how women have often received a disproportionate amount of blame by society in general for certain types of crimes. The exhibit utilized the records from the Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives and includes information from the witchcraft trials in Aberdeen and surrounding areas during the 1590s. Katy Kavanagh, a senior archivist, said: “Both the exhibition and the talk explore the wealth of material in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Archives collections relating to crime. This year we are focusing on women’s experiences of crime and punishment, and what this can tell us about women’s status in society at the time.” The exhibit highlights the paranoia and panic of the “witch-hunts” and trials of the 1590s, and how women were persecuted largely due to the conventions of society and popular thought, as well as the religious views of James VI.
  • A statue of Ceres that sits atop the Archibald Simpson granite building in Aberdeen is in desperate need of a little attention and care. The building now is home to the restaurant and pub owned by the chain, Wetherspoons. After numerous comments online, it seems that Wetherspoons plans to have the statue repainted and restored.
  • Disney has come under fire from the conservative Christian group, One Million Moms, over its animated series, The Owl House. One Million Moms has an online petition demanding “Disney cancel this demonic show.” According to the petition, “In The Owl House, Disney introduces kids to a world of demons, witches, and sorcery while inundating their young minds with secular worldviews that reflect the current culture.” The Owl House premiered on January 10. The One Million Moms petition against Disney and the show has garnered little traction with just under 16,000 signatures.
  • The Guardian published an article last week that examined the practice known as Jediism that has grown out of the famed Star Wars movies created by George Lucas. The Force Academy website identifies itself as being “… a collaborative community initiative that studies the philosophy and real-world application of the Force. This is a philosophical and educational effort, aimed at learning from the Force and Jediism, and not in merely roleplaying the fiction.” While Jediism seems to straddle philosophy and religion, according to the 2011 census 177,000 people in the U.K. identified their religious affiliation as Jediism. There is no data on for a worldwide number of adherents.


Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: The Margarete Petersen Tarot, translated by Manfred Miethe, published by AGM-URANIA.

Card: Eight (8) of Coins

This week there may be a focus on mindfulness and cooperation. Cultivating the ability to comprehend the interconnectedness in the world is particularly useful this week. Fragments from a larger item or system reflect the entirety and bear markers of the overall makeup, like DNA.


Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.

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