SOUTH AFRICA — After years of lobbying by Pagan groups in the country, the South African Law Reform Commission has determined that portions of that nation’s Witchcraft Suppression Act are unconstitutional. Witches should be able to identify themselves as such, the commission found, as well as practice divination. However, the proposed replacement law still has its problems, according to members of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance, because it singles out “harmful witchcraft practices” for regulation on the basis that they can cause “intimidation with the intent to cause psychological distress or terror.” SAPRA members are drafting a response to the bill and hope to see changes in it before it becomes law.The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957 is, like most similar laws in African nations, based on 1735 Witchcraft Act of the United Kingdom, which was itself repealed in 1951. SAPRA requested a review of this law in 2007, an effort which was joined by the South African Pagan Council and the Traditional Healers Association.
Encompassing over 470,000 square miles and boasting close to 1,750 miles of coastline on two oceans, South Africa is the 25th largest nation by area, and 24th largest by population. The term “Pagan” was all but unknown there prior to 1994, at which time the same constitution that lifted the apartheid system of racial segregation also provided for freedom of religion. Since that point minority religions, such as those within Heathenry, Wicca and others associated with Paganism, have been adopted by a growing number of people, modelling — and sometimes adapting — practices more common in the northern hemisphere. One group that is active in promoting Paganism in South Africa is the Pagan Assistance Network, which has been putting on a growing number of annual events. A quick look at PAN’s calendar shows how adapting wheel-of-the-year holidays for the southern hemisphere doesn’t always result in a complete reversal.
TWH – In the U.S., March is national Women’s History Month, and Sunday was International Women’s Day. Around the world, individuals and organizations celebrated the role and influence of women in society. Pagans and Heathens were among them. There is much to celebrate. In many places, women have come a “long way baby” from the Victorian days of limited opportunity and arranged marriages.
SOUTH AFRICA – On April 6 South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) held a 35th anniversary event to commemorate the death of freedom fighter Solomon Malanghu. Several national politicians spoke including President Jacob Zuma. The event turned “surreal,” as described by The Cape Times, when the National Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula labeled opposition party members “witches.”
The ANC is currently the controlling party of South Africa’s national government. However the country’s provinces are independently run. While the ANC maintains control over most of these provinces, its opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), is the controlling force in the West Cape.
This past week we witnessed a crescendo of frustration and fury fly from the global Pagan community in the direction of a Facebook Fan Page called “Witches Must Die by Fire” and a Facebook Group called “Those Witches nd Wizzards [sic] should die by Fire by Force.” The rally cries came by way of social media, blogs and email. At this point, I would include the links but the “pages” were removed by Facebook around 4pm EST on Thursday, August 23 2013. These offending Facebook “pages” advocated for the extrication and burning of alleged witches and wizards throughout the world. Using a Christian fundamentalist context, the moderators repeatedly preached their gospel on the evils of witchcraft while celebrating all attempts to defeat it. As proof of witchcraft’s existence, the Fan Page displayed a photo of a South African-Zimbabwe sensationalist rag called H Metro Zim with a headline that read something like “Woman gives birth to frogs…daily.”
Let’s first examine the pages themselves and who owned them? The answer is important because it contextualizes the accusations and religious zealotry.