Pagan Community Notes: Week of January 25, 2021

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Kali trampling Shiva. Chromolithograph by R. Varma. [Public Domain]

TWH – In an interesting contrast to the continued spike in “witch-hunts” in India, Indian cinema is undergoing a slow shift in how female “witch” characters are presented and defined.

In the past, characters such as a “chudail” the Hindi word often colloquially used for “witch,” were typically personified as demonic women, with distorted features, unpleasant countenance, and twisted feet. They were also almost always portrayed as the antagonist, and evildoer in stories, but recently there have been several films that defy the stereotype.

In an interview with the Financial Express, Indian writer and historian Devika Rangachari said, “Powerful women who subvert feminine stereotypes by virtue of their knowledge, intelligence, curiosity, skills or other abilities have always been demonised in the Indian (and world) context all through history.”

“Witch hunts, for instance, were targeted at women who transgressed the patriarchal mould in one way or the other. The fear they evoked manifested itself in violence towards them,” Rangachari added.

In June of 2020 Netflix premiered the film, “Bulbbul,” a dark fairytale that tells the story of a young child bride who endures horrible abuse transforms into a chudail. Unlike past chudail depictions, Bubbul’s story of physical abuse which includes what amounts to torture by her own husband, and rape by a brother-in-law, is central to the story.

Her transformation to a supernatural force, offered to her by the Goddess Kali, is presented in the film as an opportunity to both punish the men of the village who cause harm and to protect other women from becoming victimized.

“Bulbbul” is only the most recent film in this vein. “Stree,” a horror-comedy film released in 2018, based on a folk tale that tells the story of a vengeful “witch” who during an annual festival abducts men from their homes, leaving behind only their clothes, and the men are never seen again. To ward off the “Stree,” villagers write in bat’s blood “O Stree, come tomorrow” over their doors to their homes.

The movie reveals that the “witch,” or “Stree” was actually a beautiful courtesan who was murdered along with her husband on their wedding night by jealous men from the village. Ultimately, the village becomes respectful to her even asking for her protection.

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WASHINGTON – As part of a flurry of executive orders, which included the cancellation of Keystone XL, President Biden signed an executive order this morning that reverses the previous administration’s controversial ban on transgender members being able to serve in the military.

The ban from 2017, was blocked by federal courts and was only allowed to move forward in late January of 2019 after a ruling by the Supreme Court. Due to ongoing court challenges, the ban was not implemented until 2020, with legal cases still pending.

Today’s executive order fully repeals the two previous executive orders barring transgender individuals from military service; prevents the discharge of denial of reenlistment of servicemembers on the basis of their gender identity; and orders the secretaries of defense and homeland security to begin the process of allowing transgender service members to serve openly.

Biden signed the order prior to a meeting scheduled with new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and Vice President Kamala Harris who were all present during the signing.

Austin told lawmakers he supported the move during his recent Senate confirmation hearing, saying, “If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve, and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve.”

A White House press release fact sheet also noted that:

America is stronger, at home and around the world, when it is inclusive.  The military is no exception. Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force.  Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest.

Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign tweeted their approval and support for the measure:

In other news:

  • published a report last week that lists the Monarch butterfly as moving closer to extinction. The report released noted that fewer than 2000 Western Monarchs were counted by the Xerces Society in its annual winter count along the California coast. This is a steep decline compared to last year when 29,000 Monarchs were counted. The Western Monarch butterflies travel south from the Pacific Northwest to California each year. While in recent years tens of thousands have been recorded, those numbers were still down drastically from the millions recorded in the 1980s. Monarchs in the east are not faring much better, as researchers estimate that the population has dropped by 80% since the 1990s. The destruction of their natural habitat due to commercial and agricultural development, the use of pesticides and herbicides, and the loss of milkweed plants are listed as the main factors to the decline in their population. Wildfires have also likely had an impact, possibly causing the western population to alter its migration route. Washington State University released a study in 2017 that suggested if populations dropped below 30,000 the species would likely become extinct within a few decades if nothing was done to help protect them. Unfortunately, while the Monarch decline has been noted by federal authorities, it could be several more years before they are listed as endangered or threatened due to a long list of other species that are awaiting approval of the same status.
  • A new movie, “The Witch Of Kings Cross” is scheduled to be released at the beginning of February and tells the story of Australian occultist and artist, Rosaleen Norton. Norton produced a variety of occult art, and identified as an occultist and Witch, and was a devotee of the God Pan. Norton was charged several times in Australia under obscenity laws over her artwork, though the charges were eventually dismissed. Norton also led her own coven and was considered a controversial figure due to her occult beliefs and the art she produced. A book featuring her artwork and the poetry of her partner Gavin Greenlees was banned in the U.S. and only allowed to be sold in Australia, and even then some of the images were considered to be too sexually explicit and were blacked out. The movie is being promoted as a “rock-doc” and features interviews, some of her artwork and artifacts previously not displayed, as well what the movie’s site describes as “expressionistic drama.” And “Scenes are played out on the stage of an ‘otherworld’ nightclub where erotic dancers play mythic Gods and Goddesses.”
  • The Satanic Temple (TST) filed a lawsuit last week against the city of Boston, Massachusetts alleging religious discrimination and that the city council had unfairly prevented them from offering the prayer prior to council meetings. Other religious groups have been invited to offer prayers, and even though (TST) has requested several times to be allowed to offer the prayer, they have not been invited to do so. The suit filed requests that TST be allowed to offer the prayer pre-meeting, and asks that the court “issue a permanent injunction that would prevent the council from excluding certain religious groups from leading prayer, and order the council to create a mechanism for religious groups to ‘obtain an equal opportunity’ to lead the prayers.” Lucien Greaves, founder of the Satanic Temple told, “This really is a much bigger issue than I think people recognize on the face of it.” Greaves continued, “We feel that this cuts right to our fundamental values as a democratic republic that respects pluralism, and part of that is ensuring that our public officials do not show preference for one viewpoint over another, but rule by principle and rule by law.”
  • A new report published in the journal, Mental Health, Religion & Culture examines the link between personality, beliefs, and auditory spiritual interactions experienced by those who function as mediums. The study was part of a larger project by Dr. Adam J. Powell, of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham in the U.K, and Dr. Peter Moseley, of the Department of Psychology at Northumbria University, titled Hearing the Voice. Dr. Moseley explained, “Spiritualists tend to report unusual auditory experiences [that] are positive, start early in life, and [that] they are often then able to control. Understanding how these develop is important because it could help us understand more about distressing or non-controllable experiences of hearing voices too.” One of the findings of the study suggests that people are more likely to become interested in the paranormal after having some type of unusual sensory experience. Dr. Powell said, “Our findings say a lot about ‘learning and yearning.’ For our participants, the tenets of Spiritualism seem to make sense of both extraordinary childhood experiences as well as the frequent auditory phenomena they experience as practicing mediums. But all of those experiences may result more from having certain tendencies or early abilities than from simply believing in the possibility of contacting the dead if one tries hard enough.”


Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Guardian of the Night Tarot by MJ Cullinane, published by Crow Tarot.

Card: Ten (10) of Cups

This week holds the potential for a welcome respite from worries and stress by providing a dose of optimism and even some peace. There is also likely to be an emphasis on finding common ground and working together. Conversely, continuing to needlessly endorse conflict and strife will only yield further division.

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.