Pagan Community Notes: TST’s Devil’s Advocate Scholarship, increases in “witch-hunts,” damage to Irish tombs, and more!

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SALEM, Mass. – The Satanic Temple (TST) announced last week that it will award “The Devil’s Advocate Scholarship” to two 2020 high school graduates that reside within the U.S.

Co-founder of TST, Malcolm Jarry said the idea was inspired by an email he received from a high school student requesting a letter of recommendation for a religious scholarship being offered by her school.

Jarry said in an interview with CNN, “I was disappointed that she did not receive the scholarship and saw that moment as an opportunity to offer our own scholarship that reflects our values.”

He went on to explain, “In addition to promoting our values by honoring those who engage in pro-social rugged individualism, the scholarship allows students a rare opportunity to be critical of an institution that only rewards sycophantic adulation.”

Jarry also released the following statement on TST’s foundational values:

The pursuit of knowledge and the protection of bodily autonomy constitute an essential component of TST’s mission. The compulsory school system, in opposition to our beliefs, violates students’ fundamental civil rights and ingrains obedience to unearned authority. Defenders of schools often celebrate the rare teacher who is supportive. This is dishonest because inspirational teachers are anomalies. Much more common are the teachers who abusively wield their power and are outright cruel. Often, these teachers leave lifelong psychological scars. Everyone has horror stories about teachers, but this is considered unremarkable and taken for granted. TST wants to draw attention to this and other problems with schooling. TST’s opposition to tyrannical constructs is core and foundational.

Applicants for the scholarship must include an answer to one of the questions:

  • What initiatives have you undertaken that are consistent with TST’s tenets and mission?
  • Please discuss and describe in detail any one of the teachers who crushed your spirit, undermined your self-confidence, and made you hate every minute you were forced to be in school.

Guidelines for submission are limited to one application per person and can be in the form of a video or audio recording not more than 4 minutes in duration, an essay not to exceed 650 words or a high-quality photograph of an original piece of artwork. All submissions must be the original work of the applicant.

The amount of the scholarship is $500, and the application process is open to any high school student who graduated in 2020 in the U.S. Submissions must be submitted by August 31, 2020.


In “witch-hunt” news:

  • Last Thursday in the village of Kafaba near Salaga in northern Ghana, 90-year-old, Akua Denteh was beaten to death after local fetish priest, Tanko accused her of being a “witch.” The woman’s violent murder was recorded and posted online. The murder was swiftly condemned by a number of groups and public officials which included, The Global Action for Women Empowerment, Women’s Wing of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the USA, Hajia Zuwera Ibrahimah, the NDC Parliamentary Candidate for Salaga South Constituency, Collins Owusu Amankwah, a Member of Parliament for Manhyia North, and other Civil Society Organizations. No arrests in the case have been reported yet.
  • On July 20, a couple identified as Shaila Balamuch, 64 and Basanti Balamuch, 60, in the Jajpur district of Odisha in India were burnt to death in their home while they slept. Members of the village of Nimaplli believed the couple were practicing “witchcraft” and responsible for the illness and fevers of several children. Shaila Balamuch’s brother-in-law, Tipu Buliuli, said in a comment to the media, “I suspect that the villagers have killed the couple as they were not in good terms with the two. The villagers thought that the couple were practising witchcraft, which is baseless.” Buliuli has filed a complaint with the local police.
  • In the Malkangiri district of Odisha in India, the family of a tribal farmer, Santosh Orao brought in a “sorcerer” when Orao’s wife, Lipika fell ill. Family members believed she was being possessed by evil spirits. The “sorcerer” forced Lipika Orao to consume pig excreta and branded her face with a hot iron to “exorcise the evil spirits.” When Lipika Orao’s remained ill the “sorcerer” left and another family sought medical help. She was admitted to the hospital in critical condition.
  • Near the village of Wadner in the Wadha district of Maharashtra in India, shepherd, Rambhau Neware, 65, was forcibly taken from his field where he was tending to his herd of animals by Chhotu Hinge and three other people. Hinge, who has suffered from ill health, believed Neware is responsible for practicing “black magic” and causing his health problems. Neware’s body was found with his head and face smashed in on July 21, a day after he was reported being forced into a vehicle by Hinge. Hinge and the three people who assisted him have been arrested by Wadner police.
  • Five people were arrested in the Jamadarapada village of Nabarangpur district in Odisha, India after they allegedly beat and then forced Hirasingh Dalei to consume pig excreta in front of tribal elders. Amaru Hati, Ratha Hati, Dambaru Hati, Baladeba Hati and Gobardhana Hati committed the acts of violence after consulting a “sorcerer” who told them Dalei was practicing “black magic” and had caused the death of 26-year-old, Debisingh Hati, who had died several weeks prior from a snake bite.
  • Mpopo Roy Ncube of Nemane village in Tsholotsho District, Zimbabwe has filed a lawsuit against ten people: Makheyi Ncube, Cosmas Ncube, Bhati Ncube, Dumisani Ncube, Jeffrey Ncube, Ali Ncube, Tshiva Sibanda, Jemina Ncube, Chandapiwa Dube, and Zodwa Ndlovu. Mpopo Roy Ncube alleges that defendants, accompanied by other members of the Wafawafa Zion Church, accused him of practicing “witchcraft,” ransacked his home, and forcibly removed him from his home on Dec 31, 2019. According to court records and his testimony, they took him to the home of Makheyi Ncube where he was forced to get into a shallow pit and was buried up to his waist. Then he was assaulted, spit upon, showered with ashes, urinated on, and had some of his hair shaved while the defendants were insulting him and accusing him of practicing “witchcraft.” He also alleges that a video was taken of the violence and posted to social media. Makheyi Ncube believes that Mpopo Roy Ncube is responsible for the death of his daughter by “bewitching” her. Mpopo Roy Ncube is suing the defendants for defamation of character, unlawful detention, humiliation, and lost value of his traditional clay pot and two spears. He is asking for a monetary amount of $905,000 in damages.

In other news:

  • The Irish Times reports that according to archaeology experts, a variety of neolithic tombs in County Sligo are regularly suffering damage and acts of vandalism and are in danger of being destroyed if better action to protect them is not taken. County Sligo is home to 75 of the 240  passage tombs found within Ireland.  Some of the damage being done is a result of visitors walking on top of the cairns, as well as removing stones. Some sites, like  Carrowkeel, has been damaged by graffiti due to people scratching their names into the stone. There has also been evidence of people chipping away pieces of quartz and selling it online. Yet another problem resulting in damage is from those who believe there are hidden chambers that might contain ancient treasures. It is illegal to use or possess metal detectors or to dig for archaeological artifacts at any of the monuments and carries up to a €65,000 fine or three months in prison. While two sites, Brú na Bóinne and Skellig Michael are on the register of Unesco, and seven more are pending inclusion, the Sligo Neolithic Landscapes Group has been trying to get UNESCO to include all of the neolithic sites in County Sligo as World Heritage Sites. Director of services with Sligo County Council, Dorothy Clarke said the council fully supports the effort to get sites recognized but also acknowledged that some of the sites are on privately held land. Clarke also said it was a “balancing act” when it came to tourism and protection of the sites, and that local authority wants tourism to be sustainable. “We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.”
  • According to an article by the CBC News, Bonita Uzoruo, a Black-Indigenous woman in Ontario, Canada leveled a cultural appropriate claim at two non-Indigenous healers that are said to have trained under Indigenous elders and who offer ceremonies and other services. Uzoruo is Caribbean, Anishinaabe, Cree and Métis, and originally from southeastern Manitoba, and was initially excited when she discovered a photo of Reverend Sheila Black leading a drum circle in Halton Hills. Uzoruo later learned that Rev. Black was not Indigenous but appeared to be profiting from performing Indigenous ceremonies. Uzoruo reached out to Rev. Black but was unable to maintain any productive communication concerning Rev. Black’s practices. She then reached out to Anthony Barr, a person Rev. Blacklisted on her website as facilitating some of her training. While Barr never responded, CBC contacted Barr who responded to their request and told them he had trained under Métis Elder Joe Paquette for four years until Paquette told him he was qualified to run his own ceremonies. He also listed on his website that he “spent four years studying with medicine men from Garden River, Sault St. Marie in Northern Ontario and Mississauga in Southern Ontario, Canada.” CBC News contacted Andy Rickard, chief of Garden River First Nation about Barr. Rickard responded to their inquiry in an email response that included, “I’ve never heard of this man. We’ve had different healers and medicine people come into the community from other places to offer traditional healing, but none that I’m aware of who are learning from any of the ones in the community.” Both Rev. Black and Barr say they are not appropriating Indigenous cultures. Rev. Black did say she would no longer offer public ceremonies in Canada.
  • New research suggests that the ancient Greeks incorporated ramps into their buildings and temples for those who had physical issues that would have made it difficult for them to access the sacred sites by climbing stairs. Archaeologist, Deborah Sneed, from California State University in Long Beach believes the evidence of ramps have always been present, but simply disregarded by most archaeologists. “There’s this assumption that there is no room in Greek society for people who weren’t able-bodied,” Sneed said. She points out that there is evidence that arthritis and other joint disease were common, and a variety of artifacts show depictions of people using crutches and canes. Sneed’s research focused on the sanctuaries of Asclepius, the Greek God of healing, which were plentiful during the 4th century B.C.E. Near Athens at Epidaurus, the main sanctuary for Asclepius has two ramps leading in, and another broad ramp at the entrance to the temple. Sneed found a total of eleven ramps in the buildings that comprise Epidaurus, some only wide enough for one person. She also dismissed that the ramps could’ve possibly been used for animals since sacrifices would’ve been performed outside. While wheelchairs would not be used for another 1,000 years, those brought for healing would’ve been carried or brought on litters and ramps would have made their passage easier. Sneed also cites that ramps were not found in great numbers at other sites, suggesting the employment of ramps were most prominent in temples and places frequented by people with some type of mobility issue.


Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: The Druid Craft Tarot Deck by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, illustrated by Will Worthington, published by Eddison Books Ltd.

Card: Major arcana, (XV), Cernunnos

This week may offer ample opportunities for expression and creativity and even liberation. A metered approach that incorporates and balances responsibility against indulgence is called for. Overindulgence and excess can lead to obsession and create a trap of our own making.


Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.