Two Kinds of Witchcraft? Resisting Cynicism, False Dilemmas, and Moral Panics.

For several years I’ve been asking the question of what do we do when the men and women accused of “sorcery” and “witchcraft” are no longer “over there” in Africa or the Middle East, and are instead at our doorsteps. “If this trend isn’t seriously addressed soon, we may find this madness turning its eye towards “safe” occultists and Pagans in places like America, the UK, Australia, Brazil, and Canada.” Now, with the UK still reeling over the murder of Kristy Bamu, who died while being tortured under the auspices of an “exorcism” at his sister’s home, and British police being trained to spot cases of sorcery among immigrant communities, some Christian writers have seized on a largely constructed controversy over religious education in Cornwall to cynically launch attacks on modern Paganism. First out of the gate was  Catholic Telegraph columnist Christina Odone, whose anti-Pagan screed I recently highlighted on this blog. “God, Gaia, whatever: school children are already as familiar with the solstice as with the sacraments.

The First (Official) Hate Crime Against Santeria?

The Miami New Times reports this week that Santero Carlos Valdes is pushing to have a violent stalking case prosecuted as a hate crime, which, if successful, would make it the first official hate crime charge involving anti-Santeria sentiments.
Santero Carlos Valdes performing a ceremony at his home. Prosecutors contend [Kellyd] Rodriguez has terrorized Valdes’s family for four years. It began with anti-Santería rants on the phone, Valdes says, and escalated into death threats, rock-throwing, drive-by shootings, and even heart-stopping phone calls to his young daughters’ schools. […] The oriate is also pushing prosecutors to charge Rodriguez with the first hate crime connected to Santería.

Santeria and “Constitutional Issues”

Back in April I mentioned the case of Roberto Casillas-Corrales, a Santero living in Utah. A local narcotics strike force raided his home looking for illegal drugs. They didn’t find any, so instead they arrested him for possessing two human skulls. “Roberto Casillas-Corrales, 53, is facing two counts of third-degree felony desecration of a human body for the two human skulls found on his property, according to a court official. Clearfield police and Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force officers served a search warrant at the man’s home as part of a drug investigation Sunday. No drugs were found. The man told police he used the skulls and animal parts for religious purposes.

Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. One positive thing that has come out of the recent Ninth Circuit Court decision in Patrick McCollum’s case against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is that mainstream religion-news outlets like Religion Dispatches are taking notice of Christian pseudo-historian David Barton’s part in the proceedings. A reality-based web series on a group of young Witches in Salem is set to debut this Fall. It will, naturally, take part during the Halloween season and will the see the Witches “interact with Pagan and Witch Elders.”

(Pretty Close to) Santeria Panic?

I’ve reported on this again and again; a dead animal (or animal part) turns up and local officials cry “Santeria”. This is despite the fact that academics, experts, and even officials within the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals say that this usually isn’t the case. “According to experts, like local anthropologist and folklorist Dr. Eoghan Ballard, and Dr. Randall Lockwood, senior vice president of anti-cruelty services for the American SPCA, sacrificial remains found in parks, especially those adorned with talismans like candles or pennies, are most often the work of religious novices, teens or satanic dabblers.”
So I wasn’t particularly surprised  to see this article from The Journal News in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley about animal heads turning up in a local park. While no direct link between the two macabre discoveries has been made, investigators said the incidents were the latest in the Lower Hudson Valley linked to ritualistic practices, such as Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean religion that often uses animals for ceremonial sacrifices. “Something like this, from what we’ve seen, is pretty close to Santeria,” said Kenneth Ross, the law enforcement chief for the Westchester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which is investigating the New Rochelle incidents. “What we’re finding is the ritual here looks like it has to do with the blood or sacrifice to a god,” he said. The statements by the local SPCA head aren’t that unusual, we’ve seen them before from various law enforcement and animal welfare officers.