Pagan Community Notes: Week of May 3, 2021

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WILLMAR, Minn. – The leader of the Asatru Faith Assembly (AFA), Jason Plourde, was denied the restraining order he sought against Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate organizer Victoria Guillemard in the latest round of conflict created by the AFA purchasing and moving into a church that had been sitting empty in the town of Murdock, Minnesota.

Last Thursday, April 29, District Judge Stephanie Beckman ruled that Guillemard’s statements and actions did not constitute harassment since they fell under the right to exercise free speech over a public concern.

This Court finds Respondent’s [Guillemard’s] views impact matters of public concern; specifically, issues of racial discrimination in her communities and recruitment efforts by AFA an organization that just moved to the area, who is actively employed in their communities in recruitment efforts through Petitioner.

Plourde’s main complaints were that Guillemard was stalking and harassing him via social media using the Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate (MAAAH) group to do so, which was potentially harming his ability to earn income from his consulting business and was deterring efforts to recruit new members to AFA’s recently acquired property that have set up as a new hof in the town.

Judge Beckman pointedly noted in her decision on the issues of white supremacy that “…this Court is deaf to the political or moral ideology of AFA; rather, the issue before this Court is whether or not Petitioner has met the burden for harassment by law such that it requires this Court to issue a restraining order.”

The court found that there was no evidence to support Plourde’s claims that Guillemard had specifically targeted or harassed Plourde personally, but rather her efforts were focused on education and outreach, and not done with “the intent to cause safety, security or privacy issues.”

36. There are no reasonable grounds to believe that Respondent has engaged in harassment of Petitioner because the law allows her to exercise her right to freedom of speech about a matter public concern.

37. Petitioner was unable to meet the burden of proof required to establish Respondent engaged in harassing conduct or that her speech rises to the level of harassment.

38. Here, this Court finds there was no harassment because Respondent is engaged in education and outreach directed at the actions and speech of Petitioner and his group and not focused on him as a person as the focal point.

Judge Beckman included a warning in her ruling that while Guillemard could not be held accountable for the actions of everyone involved with MAAAH, the ruling could be adjusted to reflect new circumstances and that there were limits on what constitutes free speech.

However, this Court seeks for the communities to be warned that if others choose to increase conduct to cross boundaries or there is an infringement into any individuals rights to be free speak and/or be free harassment for his/her beliefs, a harassment restraining order may be issued under different circumstances or in different facts. All citizens need take heed that freedom of speech is not without limits and the law must be followed even when engaged in protest and outreach.

As reported by the Duluth News Tribune, Guillemard alleges that Plourde “filed this [petition] as an intimidation tactic.” Guillemard continued, “This was an attempt to silence me and keep me from using my First Amendment rights.”

Guillemard’s attorney, Brian Wojtalewicz said, “From the start, it struck us a misuse of the harassment restraining order.”

Both Guillemard and Plourde seemed satisfied with the ruling, though Plourde is quoted as saying, “Shame, it’s really just a big case of bullying and cancel culture going on.”

Plourde pointed out the final point made by the judge in her ruling, “that if others choose to increase conduct to cross boundaries” or “infringe on individual rights to be free to speak, a harassment restraining order could be issued under different circumstances or different facts.”

Guillemard, who is in law school and studying to become an attorney summed up her perspective of the ruling, “The lesson learned here is you have every right as a community member to call out things you see as a public concern, especially when it comes to racism and discrimination.”

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TWH – Today marks the 25th anniversary of the movie “The Craft,” which premiered in 1996 at number one at the box office with $6.7 million in revenue, and ended up being the 11th highest-grossing movie released about “witches” since 1980. It also helped to create a renaissance of renewed interest in Paganism, Witchcraft, and the occult.

The film was notable because the producers used an actual Witch as a consultant, Dianic Priestess Pat Devin, and the ritual scenes were created by drawing from Wiccan ritual practices.

Despite following all the guidelines in order to obtain a PG-13 rating, from the Motion Picture Association of America’s Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), the film instead received an R rating. CARA is comprised of an independent board of 8 to 13 members who “are chosen from U.S. society and must meet the qualifications of having a ‘parenthood experience’ and possessing an ‘intelligent maturity’.”

Director Andrew Flemming stated in the “The Craft’s” DVD commentary that he believed the R rating was due to the film featuring teenage girls using witchcraft.

Ultimately, the film’s rating did not deter young people from seeing it and it has since attained a level of cult following that few films ever reach.

The Craft’s popularity preceded other films and TV series, like “Charmed,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Practical Magic” all of which helped to draw a new generation into the exploration of magical practices and Witchcraft. “The Craft” holds a distinction as an important film milestone within modern Paganism and Witchcraft.


In other news:

  • A group of protestors calling themselves “Shut Down WSOU” is attempting to force Seton Hall University to shut down its radio station. The student-run station WSOU has long been noted for playing heavy metal and other rock-n-roll music that has often created controversy with the administration of the private Catholic university going as far back as the 80s. This time the protest group claims the station is playing music that supports and promotes Satanism rather than the tenets of the Catholic faith. The university released a statement that  “WSOU’s advisory board comprised of WSOU students and alumni along with Seton Hall University clergy and administrators, meets regularly to review the station’s content and operating policies and standards. The goal is to ensure that WSOU continues to realize its mission, goals, and long-held operating procedures. Further incorporating and integrating Catholic mission and ministry into WSOU’s wide-ranging and popular programming is always a priority.”
  • In an update to a story TWH reported on late last fall, a second person, Jazmin Russo-Martinez, 30, has been arrested on charges of sex trafficking, conspiring to commit sex trafficking, and living from the earnings of a prostitute. The case is notable due to the claims of some of the women who worked as prostitutes that they were threatened with “witchcraft” and that the other person arrested in the case named Rodriguez-Rodriguez, also known as “El Padrino” sacrificed animals in the house in front of the women. When police served a search warrant on the property, they found several altars or shines that were smeared with animal blood. Both Russo-Martinez and Rodriguez-Rodriguez are due back in court on May 6.
  • Members of the Hook Eagle Morris Men presented their new look and solution to a recent controversy this past Beltane, May 1. There has been much debate over Morris dancers and the tradition of painting their faces black, a tradition that was revived by dancers in the 1970s who were emulating the practice that poor farmworkers using soot to disguise their faces dating to the 1400s so they could beg – which was illegal at the time. The Hook Eagle Morris men opted to use blue paint for their faces rather than black. They also said in a statementWhile no morris dancer wants to cause offence, we must recognise that full-face black or other skin tone makeup is a practice that has the potential to cause deep hurt.” Other groups across the country have opted for other colors like green and some even painting on stripes.
  • A Biloxi, Mississippi bank that just celebrated 125 years since it first opened its doors in 1896. The Peoples Bank is considered a landmark and has a couple of unique features that grace its building at the corner of what is now Howard Avenue and Lameuse Street in downtown Biloxi. First, the building has its own gargoyle, which was removed in 1970 for roof repairs and eventually returned to its position as a finial on the south end of the ridge of the roof. The other feature is a weather vane that features a witch on a broomstick flying across a fingernail moon. Despite a few storms blowing the witchy weather vane down a few times and her being removed for repairs and restoration, it is a well-known landmark in Biloxi, her likeness has even graced Christmas ornaments. Only one other similar witch vane exists, and the owner of that vane believes they were made by the same person.

Today is World Press Freedom Day and there has never been a greater need for accurate reporting, independent journalists, and unbiased media. Just in the past year, 32 journalists were killed, with many more being unnecessarily injured and assaulted, and a record number imprisoned just for doing their jobs of reporting what was happening.

We stand in solidarity with the many journalists around the world who risk their lives to make sure that accurate information is reported.


Positively Noteworthy

Last week was the “pink” supermoon captured here as it rose over Buenos Aires, Argentina. The pink moon is called such because it coincides with the blooming of what is commonly called creeping phlox or moss phlox, a wildflower native to eastern North America, Phlox subulata. It has also been referred to as “moss pink.” A supermoon is defined as a full moon that coincides with the point in its elliptical orbit when it is closest to the Earth, also known as the moon’s perigee. This causes the moon to appear as much as 14% larger and 30% brighter than when it is farther from the Earth. It is important to note that “supermoon” is not a technical term used by astronomers, and there is debate over exactly how close the full moon phase and perigee occur for it to be considered a supermoon.



Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Wise Dog Tarot, by MJ Cullinane, published by U.S. Games, Inc.

Card: Ace of Pentacles

The week ahead holds the potential to support making dreams into reality when ideas are backed by solid and focused actions. Conversely, flights of fancy and ideas that are not backed by a plan for achievement could result in being a “victim of fantasy.”

 

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.