Tag Archives: Wicca

Wiccan Priest appalled by occult-teen “advice”

The Vancouver Sun published a letter to the editor in response to the “Parent Trap” column I wrote about yesterday. The letter came from Sam Wagar, a priest with the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of British Columbia. Here’s what he had to say:

I am appalled by the quality of the “advice” offered to the woman whose son has developed an interest in Satanism and the occult.

I became Wiccan 30 years ago when I was 26, and it’s still my religion – I don’t think I’m having a prolonged adolescence.

There are large differences between the different occult paths.

Even the great majority of Satanic groups, like the Church of Satan and the Temple of Set, find this play with blood and gothic role-playing childish.

I suggest this mother ask her son what he’s into, get some names of people he’s influenced by and do a little reading and thinking about it herself. She might consider referring him to some of the responsible Wiccan and occult groups in Vancouver: the Ordo Templi Orientis branches, the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of B.C. and others, rather than going on minimal information and your poorly informed columnist.

Sam Wagar Priest, Congregationalist Wiccan Association of B.C.

Right on, Sam. Right on.

Parents: where there’s smoke, there’s Satan?

What should you do if your teen is dabbling in the occult? The Vancouver Sun’s Parent Trap has some ideas. Photo by Flickr user penelopejonze.

Seeing your kids develop an interest in something you find scary is never fun. Especially if it’s something the movie world, television, and the press have told you is associated with violence and death.

One mom found herself in just such a position, and wrote to Vancouver Sun columnist Michele Kambolis’ column “The Parent Trap” for some advice. It starts off with heavy metal music, which she “shrugged off,” which is perhaps not the correct thing to do, but it’s better than assuming the worst. Things progressed to “inverted pyramids” — which could signify some interest in journalism (okay, probably not) or rejection of the arcane. Or that the kid doesn’t really have a handle on his occult symbols.

And then, this happened:

About four months ago, he started dating a girl who seems to be even deeper into this world than he is. The situation hit a breaking point when my husband smelled smoke (our kids aren’t allowed anything flammable whatsoever in their bedrooms) and burst in on the two of them setting up some sort of shrine complete with black candles and demonic pictures. There were also sharp objects on the table, and in doing some research on satanic cults, we have learned of the disgusting practice of satanists drinking each other’s blood — and I’m convinced this is the direction they were headed in.

This is where fear and bad information can get the better of you. It’s good that the dad went in when he smelled smoke, particularly since candles/flames are against house rules. But “black candles,” “demonic pictures,” and “sharp objects” do not equal Satanism or blood-drinking.

This could very easily have been a peaceful Wiccan ceremony. Wiccans use black candles for healing, banishing negativity, and other wholesome goals. Images of Cernunnos or Pan could be mistaken for demons. Most Wiccan altars are not complete without an athame, or ritual knife, which is used symbolically, and to stir or demarcate things during ceremonies, and not to hurt people. Even if it was Satanic, there’s no reason to think that it would automatically lead to the kinds of activities she’s worried about.

I wonder where this mom decided to “do her research.” The Internet? If, for example, you do a Google search for “do Satanists drink blood?”, you get several affirmative links, but none of them are authoritative or trustworthy.

Fortunately, the advice Kambolis — and her readers — offer is mostly sensible: talk to your son, listen when he explains his spiritual interests, and set reasonable ground rules. Unfortunately, one mom says, “I went through this with my daughter. I raided her room and removed everything that scared me, grounded her and banned her from seeing a friend who led her down the disturbing path in the first place.” It’s surprising this mom still has a relationship with her daughter.

Inexplicably, Kambolis says, “Websites bring teenagers directly to satanic chat lines where they can feel a sense of connection when they otherwise might struggle socially.” I’m not sure what she means by “Satanic chat lines.” There are certainly Web sites that explain Satanism, but “chat lines” sounds made up. Even if such things really exist, it honestly sounds like Kambolis was speculating.

Parents, how did you work with a child who was exploring an occult or pagan path? Current or former occultists and pagans, how did your parents respond to your burgeoning interest? Please share your stories in the comments.

Are Cornwall schools teaching kids paganism?

Schools in Cornwall, home to some of the most beloved stone circles in Britain, may soon start teaching students about paganism. Or will they? Photo by Flickr user iknow-uk.

The ever-sensationalistic Daily Mail ran a story this week claiming that teachers in Cornwall will now be required to teach paganism in religious education classes.

They write:

Paganism has been included in an official school religious education syllabus for the first time.

Cornwall Council has told its schools that pagan beliefs, which include witchcraft, druidism and the worship of ancient gods such as Thor, should be taught alongside Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

The requirements are spelled out in an agreed syllabus drawn up by Cornwall’s religious-education advisory group.

They add that the council’s advice has made Cornish Christians unhappy that the school system would give attention to what they call “a fringe eccentricity.”

Jason Pitzl-Waters already vetted this story over on his blog, The Wild Hunt, and brought some of the Mail’s claims into alignment with reality:

1. This isn’t a mandate; the recommendations of the religious-education advisory council are non-binding.

2. The syllabus maintains that 60% of religious education should be devoted to Christianity. The other 40% would be devoted to all other religions — Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, paganism, etc. Pitzl-Waters wrote, “I would be surprised if this lead to even a full day in any British school on modern Paganism.”

The only other item the new syllabus recommends is some coverage of Cornwall’s pre-Christian sites, such as stone circles and their importance for modern-day pagans. I certainly hope that’s being taught, since Cornwall is home to dozens of stone circles, such as the Merry Maidens and the Hurlers, which are certainly important to Cornwall’s tourism industry even if their importance to the pagan community is sometimes left in the dust.

Cornwall is also home to the Museum of Witchcraft, which documents the long history of pagan and folk practices in the region.

One has to wonder whether the ubiquitousness of these ancient circles has made the Cornish people blind to the pagans living in their midst, not to mention their peaceful practices. After all, when a beloved horse was slaughtered, some locals were quick to blame local pagans and/or Satanists. Better religious education could nip such horrible rumors in the bud before they make it to the BBC. Today, there are similar rumors in Edinburgh, Scotland after horses’ manes and tails were cut off.

It would be wishful thinking to believe that Cornwall will begin to teach local schoolchildren about paganism in a way that is fair, respectful, and accurate. It’s certainly nice to see such teaching recommended, but will it happen? Time will tell.

Must be the singing of the witch

Is Glee going to the witches? Or will the show’s writers raise hackles among Wiccans as they did in the disabled community?

What’s that funny pentagram that has been popping up on posters recently on Glee? Some sharp-eyed viewers say it’s an ad for a “Wicca Club” at the fictional McKinley High School, where those golden-throated kiddos give their diaphragms a workout.

We’ve seen plenty of representations of “Wicca” in television and film before, from the witchy wedding in The Doors to the girl-power-gone-wrong in The Craft. Both Charmed and Buffy The Vampire Slayer put witches front and center. These were definitely stylized Wiccans though, many of them with fantasy-style magic powers that make for good fiction, but don’t exactly represent the Wiccans you might bump into at the corner market.

So, how will Glee represent this minority faith, if the show’s writers decide to run with the idea of a “Wicca club” on campus? Will they tackle it in the same way they’ve handled a number of controversial topics? Will Wiccans come out feeling misrepresented, as some in the disability community have done? And, if they’re the stars of an episode, what will they sing? “Witchy Woman?” “Santeria?”

Glee has millions of viewers, giving the show a chance to change minds by showing Wicca in a fair, positive, and even fun light. Whether the writers will manage it remains to be seen. After all, starting out with an upside-down pentagram — typically associated with the Left-Hand Path, not Wicca — doesn’t bode well.

How will Knox shed the “She-devil” image?

American Amanda Knox was acquitted today of murder charges after spending four years in an Italian prison.

How do you return to your life after being accused — even convicted — of killing your friend in a “Satanic rite” involving rough sex? How do you live down being called everything from a “She-devil” to “Foxy Knoxy?”

That’s what Amanda Knox must figure out. Today, she was acquitted in an Italian courtroom of murdering her friend, Meredith Kercher, in 2007. Originally, Knox was convicted of the murder, but a higher court released her this evening.

From the moment she was arrested, Knox was dragged through the mud, by tabloids and prosecutors who saw in the fresh-faced 20-year-old Seattleite some kind of kinky, bloodthirsty occultist, and they spared no effort in letting the world know what they thought of her. Now, as she returns to her former life, echoing the release of the West Memphis Three, it seems that the only sex games or Satanic practices were in the minds of the prosecutors.

In a New York Post piece, Nina Burleigh breaks down how the Knox trial turned into a “witch hunt”:

[Prosecutor Giuliano] Mignini always included witch fear in his murder theory, and only reluctantly relinquished it. As late as October 2008, a year after the murder, he told a court that the murder “was premeditated and was in addition a ‘rite’ celebrated on the occasion of the night of Halloween. A sexual and sacrificial rite [that] in the intention of the organizers … should have occurred 24 hours earlier” — on Halloween itself — “but on account of a dinner at the house of horrors, organized by Meredith and Amanda’s Italian flatmates, it was postponed for one day.”

Likewise, Candace Dempsey writes for the Seattle PI about the parallels between the Knox case and the West Memphis Three, down to the prosecutor’s obsession with sex and the occult:

In the Amanda Knox and West Memphis cases, even high-profile reporters at major networks cling to exciting crime theories, no matter how loony or baseless. … In Amanda’s case, tabloid journalists are of course the worst offenders–still enraptured by the satanic four-way drug-fueled orgy that made them so much money, even though it was just a sexual fantasy on the part of prosecutor Giuliano Mignini. Independent experts have rejected the DNA that put the two college students at the crime scene.

There is also the matter that plenty of people celebrate rites on or near Halloween — Satanic or not — without killing anyone, because murder and human sacrifice are not part of their practices. In other words, even if Knox was a devout Satanist, she wouldn’t have been any more likely to murder than if she belonged to any other religion.

If you were Knox today, what would you do? Would you make an effort to clear your name? Or would you ignore the bad press, hoping it would eventually be forgotten?

A sequel to the “Satanic Panic?”

Kids and adults play together at the annual Summerstar pagan festival in Washington State. Photo by Dannelle Meyers Photography.

The people of New Forest, England, recently faced an unlikely scourge: an anonymous “whistleblower” going by the name of “Alice,” who claimed in several online forums that Rosicrucian and Wiccan practitioners in the area were sexually abusing children.

In one such posting, shared on ShameOnYou.mobi, she wrote:

There is the secret Wiccan group in New Forest, England. Praying to “witches” and the devil and worse torturing children for the sake of their sick “religion”. They film and make fotos, which they distribute on the net.

Their leader, a demented Nick ####, called “Your Highness” by the other cult members. He lives in Minstead, preaches in the local church and pretends to be the “good guy” next door. Privately he boasts to be “an important Mason”, “your Highness” and doing incredibly sick stuff to children in his garage. He also abducts children occasionally, in the New Forest area. He abuses the children of his friends, drugging them and scaring them to death, so the children do not confide to anybody.

Other members of that particular paedophile ring are: His entire family. These family members have been abused and introduced into the Wiccan doctrine by Nick #### himself. They now abuse their own children.

“Alice” also turned up in the comments on a GodDiscussion.com post in which theistic Satanist Diane Vera addressed the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and early 1990s, pointing out that allegations of child abuse by Satanic groups had been entirely debunked. In those comments, and in many other postings, “Alice” identifies specific residents of New Forest and the surrounding areas. Many of her posts have since been removed, likely because her actions could qualify as libel.

This is almost precisely how the first “Satanic Panic” began, in the late 1980s, as locals were accused of sexually abusing children during Satanic and/or Wiccan rituals in UK towns. In all, 52 children were taken from their parents and made wards of the court, while three men faced charges — but police found no evidence of the alleged “Satanic abuse.”

In America, the fires were stoked by books such as Michelle Remembers, written by psychologist Lawrence Pazder about a patient he said suffered from multiple-personality disorder as a result of her abuse experiences. (She later married him.) Those stories were eventually debunked, but not until well after the story had been picked up by the mainstream press, including Oprah, frightening millions. There don’t seem to be any good statistics on how many children were separated from their families — or from preschools they loved — during this period.

It’s true that, as a nation, we know more than we used to about Wiccans and even Satanists than we did in the 1980s. They’ve emerged as a much more everyday and benign presence in society. But fear is not behind us, and the conservative religious movement — embodied in the Evangelical Christian and to some extent the Tea Party movement, is gaining both ground and power in America.

Ultimately, the demonization and criminalization of people who practice alternative faiths, from Wicca to Satanism and everywhere in between, is not over. As long as reporters continue to draw connections between criminal activity and paganism, this can’t end. Facts must supersede fear, and paranoid individuals like “Alice” must be taken for what they are.

Readers, how were your lives affected by the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s and 1990s? Did the stories frighten you? Were you suspected of wrongdoing because of your beliefs or interests? How could we keep it from happening again? Share your stories in the comments.