Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Prayer Request Puts Hartville In Holy Battle

Scot Bohaychyk didn't think saying a little prayer would be such a big deal.

Instead of embracing the proposal, Mayor Beverly Green shot it down, based on her belief that it's messing with the separation of church and state, and would open the village to litigation.

Councilman Thomas Hough, a pastor at Sixteen St. John's Church, an independent evangelical Bible church in Massillon, quoted Benjamin Franklin, saying that "God governs the affairs of man.''

They want to invite pastors or rabbis from Hartville churches or churches where village residents worship to say the prayer. Hough said he would like it limited to Judeo-Christian religions.

But Green is firm in her belief that such a move would lead to problems. In addition to potential legal issues, the village, in northern Stark County, had difficulty in the past rounding up religious leaders to say the opening prayer. Hartville also couldn't prevent Wiccans or others from seeking equal time, she added. Full Story

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Bayonet? No, It's A Wizard's Wand!

A teenager caught with a bayonet in a busy railway station has escaped jail - after convincing a court it was a "wizard's wand".

Gregory Whittam was found with the 12-inch bayonet as he was about to board a train on his way home to Timperley, near Sale.

But prosecution lawyers later accepted 19-year-old Whittam's story that he was a practicing witch of the Wicca religion and used the bayonet as a "religious tool" during magic rituals.

Prosecutors discovered that similar weapons - known as Athames - are consecrated knives and looked on as "wizard's wands" which can be used by members of different covens. Full Story

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Black Magic, White Magic And Turin's History

The Gate to Hell is in the center of the city's sewer system. The Holy Grail is buried around here somewhere. And Nostradamus once lived in the neighborhood.

Turin, according to the convoluted logic of occult experts, is on the 45th parallel and thereby constitutes one of three cities forming a "triangle" of black magic -- London and San Francisco being the others -- all united by lines of negative energy.

The Piazza Statuto is the "black heart" of the city's Satanic influences, home of Turin's gallows and a stone monument to those who died building the Frejus tunnel connecting Italy and France. The monument, dedicated in 1879, depicts men in loincloths buried in rocks, their faces in varying degrees of agony.

And remember -- it's also the Gate to Hell, according to lore. Full Story

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Could The Magical Forces Of Turin Be The Reason?

There has to be something in the air here.

It's almost as if someone had cast a spell on the U.S. team, as if there were something more going on here than random events.

You can be practical and say that injuries are just part of the risk, or analytical and conclude some of the hyped stars simply caved in to the pressure of expectations.

Or you can blame it all on witchcraft, black magic and malevolent unseen forces. It turns out Turin is the perfect place for that. There is magic in the air here, even if you can't see it for all the smog.

The way the story goes, Turin is a city divided between White Magic and Black Magic, between the forces of Good and of Evil. Full Story

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Township Dispute After Pagan Gatherings

Pagans say it's a fight over religious freedom, but community leaders say they're simply trying to protect their citizens.

Trustees in Arlington Township in Van Buren County are considering an ordinance that would govern larger events in their community.

The proposed rules follow a handful of pagan gatherings on Ethan Pulka's six acre Arlington Township property. The events featured live music, various rituals and campouts. Full Story

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pagan Church Leader Protests Proposed Law

The leader of a local pagan church was among approximately 80 audience members Wednesday at Arlington Township Hall at a meeting to discuss a proposed ordinance regulating large public gatherings.

Planning consultant Kenneth Dettloff, who wrote the proposal for the Arlington Township Board, said that the idea for an assembly ordinance came after a farmer complained about noise from a summer pagan church festival advertised on the Internet named "Paganstock." The pagan festival, according to members of the Bangor-based Caer na Donia y Llew pagan church, drew about 150. Full Story

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Do You Believe In White Magic?

How about possessing a magic spell which will let you check your beloved's loyalty quotient? Nonsense! You might say. But wait a moment before you simply dismiss this suggestion as fantastic mumbo-jumbo, because this spell was cast for all to see and believe in, recently.

The owner of the spell: Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, India's first practitioner of Wicca or white magic and the author of the popular book, Beloved Witch. The occasion for the demonstration was Valentine's Day and her magical love lessons held the audience spellbound, quite literally!

But is witchcraft truly a science? Can it really heal and help? Is it not associated with all that is dark and negative? These are the very issues Roy Chakraverti has sought to dispel via her craft. Full Story

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Update: Panel Hears Religious Bias Complaint

A Dover pastor testified Monday night that he told managers of a Boscov's store last August that he and his parishioners would "show our displeasure" if Wiccans were allowed to teach classes at the department store.

But the Rev. William Jeffcoat, pastor of Capitol Baptist Church, said the classes were canceled before his complaint was registered.

"I told them I would get on the telephone and call pastors to let churches know what was going on here in Dover," Jeffcoat told a three-member panel of the state Human Relations Commission -- saying he was particularly appalled by scheduled sessions on talismans, tarot and the pentagram.

The commission, ending a hearing on a religious discrimination complaint, was scheduled to begin its deliberations when testimony was completed. Full Story

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Monday, February 20, 2006

School Board Restrictions On Pagan Symbols

The Carson City School Board of Trustees may be asked Tuesday to look into allegations that students wearing pagan symbols to Carson High School are having them taken away.

Carson High School Principal Fred Perdomo, who said he checked with administrators about the claims, is not aware pagan symbols have been taken from students.

Perdomo said he would only consider removing pagan symbols - like the pentacle - from students when wearing them creates an atmosphere of danger or disturbance.

Offensiveness is not a reason for removal. Full Story

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Quest For Peace Of Mind, Body And Spirit

She's drinking pink rum punch. The sailboat lights are twinkling and the steel-drum band is clinking. Alison Leeds, 38, a full-time mother on an anniversary getaway, came to listen to the waves and to unwind.

"Your phone," says Robert, 43, her hedge-fund husband, in a voice that's tight. Their kids, 5 and 8, were calling from New York. It was bedtime. Could their parents please come home?

Relaxation is elusive for Robert and Alison, which is why they've hired a shaman.

Shamans believe in healing people by balancing their spirits with their bodies and minds. They practice an ancient art that is enjoying a new vogue. Once limited to places such as the rainforests of Australia and the tundras of Siberia, shamans now cater to aging boomers and the urban spa class. Full Story

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Update: Retailer Accused Of Discrimination

Candle making is OK, but not candle magick. You can study "Communication from Beyond," but not tarot cards. Reflexology is in, but numerology is out - at least in Dover.

The Delaware Human Rights Commission has been asked to settle a dispute between Boscov's and a group of people who claim the Pennsylvania-based department store chain discriminated against them by canceling classes they planned to teach at the company's Dover store.

The commission will meet Monday night in Dover to resume a hearing on the complainants' argument that Boscov's discriminated against them for religious reasons, in violation of the state's equal accommodations law.

The teachers argue Boscov's canceled the "spiritual awareness" classes, which included instruction in tarot cards, numerology, psychic readings and herbs, after a local Baptist preacher complained. Full Story

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Woman Carries Human Skull In Luggage

A woman faces federal charges after baggage screeners in Florida found a human skull in her luggage. The woman told customs officials she obtained the head in Haiti to "use as part of her voodoo beliefs." And she said it's meant to "ward off evil spirits."

Myrlene Severe is charged with smuggling the head into the US without proper documentation, as well as failing to declare the head and transporting hazardous materials.

Her neighbors describe Severe as a voodoo witch. She faces 15 years in prison if convicted on all charges. Full Story

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thousands Of Child 'Witches' Banished to Streets

Naomi is 15 but looks 10. A horrible burn scar shrivels the skin across her chest and shoulder. She had a broken leg, now reset. But her face is calm; she speaks clearly. The physical scars are nothing compared with the trauma she has been through. She is one of the so-called child witches of Kinshasa, rejected by her family and community at six years old and left to survive on the streets.

Naomi gives a smile as she recounts how she found another church which took her in and sent her to Kinshasa. She has ended up in a hostel run by War Child. She is lucky. Tens of thousands of children live in the cemeteries, markets and streets of Kinshasa feeding on rubbish, begging and stealing. Most are there because of witchcraft accusations - mostly from their own families. The phenomenon is spreading, with recent cases of child abuse motivated by the belief that the child is possessed by evil spirits, showing up in London, Paris and Amsterdam.

The roots lie in a distorted development of African culture. Witchcraft does not mean in Africa what it means in Europe. Traditionally in Congo, every community had mediums who communicated with spirits in the other world. These were usually older people, revered and respected. The spirits they communed with or were possessed by were usually neither good nor bad, simply powerful. Full Story

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wiccans Challenge Bible Tax Exemption

Florida's Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit by a Wiccan organization against a state law that exempts Bibles, religious publications and ceremonial items from sales tax.

The Wiccan Religious Cooperative of Florida says it paid sales tax on the purchase of the "Satanic Bible" and the "Witch's Bible Compleat," but instead of seeking a refund, it filed suit claming Florida Statute 212.06(9) violates the Establishment Clause.

Orlando-based Liberty Counsel filed a brief in defense of the state law, arguing the Wiccan group has no standing to sue, because, even if the law were struck down, it would not receive the refund it claims is due. Full Story

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Once-Mighty Cupid Has Fallen Far

How far Cupid has fallen in majesty and dignity, perhaps a sentence ordained by the gods for all the little archer's mischievous plots of unrequited love.

Once a stately, fully matured, celestial Greek god -- the incarnation of all that was masculine beauty and passionate love -- Cupid today is a toddleresque, bare-bottomed matchmaker.

When did the esteemed, paradoxical god of love and war become a spokesman for a commercialized holiday? And when did he cast his lot with the lower tier of holiday mascots, the likes of Baby New Year. Full Story

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Basil's Usages Both Practical And Spiritual

Since ancient times, as far back as the Vedic Age, nature and religion have freely intermingled in many ways. For example, a number of plants and trees have come to be regarded as sacred or auspicious, sometimes bringing good luck, health and prosperity to people. The basil plant (Ocmium Sanctum), known as Tulasi in Nepali, is one that has come to be highly regarded by the people of Nepal and India.

Hindus respect and worship basil, and people in other parts of the world believe in it, as well. For example, in Greece and Italy, it is thought to have mystical properties. The people of Thailand believe in basil's medicinal properties. In addition, it is believed that basil grew on top of the grave of Jesus Christ. No less a poet than John Keats has dedicated a poem to this popular plant named "Isabella: The Pot of Basil."

Among Hindus, basil is believed to be an embodiment of the goddess Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth), consort of Vishnu (God of Preservation). Basil is grown in courtyards and temples -- even, sometimes, in a special structure called a Tulasi Ghar, or basil house. Full Story

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Out Of The Spice Box, Into The Lab

The goddess of turmeric brings color in life
It is the ornament of married woman
And any woman who puts turmeric in her purse,
Her purse will never be empty

An old Indian folk song praises turmeric, the golden spice from the East, for its power to bring beauty, good health and good luck to those who use and carry it.

But in Indian medical lore, the pungent, woody-tasting powder is more precious still.

Modern medicine is starting to sit up and pay attention. Scientists are taking a closer look at this Asian wonder spice, teasing out active ingredients and testing its age-old cultural and medicinal uses in 21st century laboratories. The National Institutes of Health has funded at least eight studies investigating turmeric. The spice and a chemical it contains — curcumin — are being probed for their potential to prevent and treat a broad range of diseases: cancer, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's and arthritis.

The uses of turmeric, some described in ancient Indian medical texts, are indeed numerous. Full Story

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Palermo Show Looks At Magic

A new show here aims to explore the possible links between Christianity and pagan rituals and superstitions, through a series of charms and spells from Sicilian tradition .

Most of the objects date back to the 1800s and early 20th century. At the time, many - particularly the documents - were banned by the Catholic Church, which considered them the 'devil's work' .

The exhibit covers a wide variety of items, from 'scientific' objects, through charms and spells used for white and black magic, onto traditions connected to the church itself .

Alembics, an old device for distilling liquids, amulets and special jewels and rocks are among the items used for "practical" purposes, together with masks that were thought to ward off evil .

The documents include a range of detailed recipes for potions and charms, as well as the ingredients and actions for several spells. Full Story

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Creatures Of The Night

I once had an idea for a shop. It would be called Black. It would sell only black things. It would open at dusk and close at dawn. Some of the things it would sell: licorice, burnt toast, beetles, Doc Martens (black only), little black dresses, stuffed ravens, vinyl LPs (mainly Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Leontyne Price), black tulip bulbs, letters sent by soldiers and prisoners (heavily censored with black markers). Someone asked me how anyone would ever buy anything, since in the dark store the black items would be hard to see. "All the customers would be blind," I said. Not exactly a fabulous business plan. I regretfully put it aside. But I am delighted to discover that Tate Britain in London has gone ahead and opened my little shop of blackness for me: Gothic Nightmares, which features the work of Henry Fuseli, William Blake and their contemporaries.

The essence of the Gothic is darkness and impracticality, warped logic coupled with desire. Few people are able to sustain a true Gothic sensibility into their grown-up years (rock singer Marilyn Manson being the exception who proves the rule), and a love of darkness is often associated with people hovering between childhood, when night's terrors are too real, and adulthood, when we banish such things along with our other unreasonable pleasures. Lately, though, modern adults have been embracing the dark and irrational side of things with enthusiasm... Full Story

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Feminism Pioneer Betty Friedan Dies at 85

Betty Friedan, whose manifesto "The Feminine Mystique" helped shatter the cozy suburban ideal of the post-World War II era and laid the groundwork for the modern feminist movement, died Saturday, her birthday. She was 85.

Friedan died at her Washington, D.C., home of congestive heart failure, according to a cousin, Emily Bazelon.

Few books have so profoundly changed so many lives as did Friedan's 1963 best seller. Her assertion that a woman needed more than a husband and children was a radical break from the Eisenhower era, when the very idea of a wife doing any work outside of house work was fodder for gag writers, like an episode out of "I Love Lucy."

Independence for women was no joke, Friedan wrote. The feminine mystique was a phony deal sold to women that left them unfulfilled, suffering from "the problem that has no name" and seeking a solution in tranquilizers and psychoanalysis. Full Story

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bulgarians Enjoy A Pagan Masquerade

Pernik, Feb 03: The 16th annual international festival of masquerade games took place in Pernik over the last weekend of January (January 28-29).

About five thousand people gathered in the town thirty kilometers from Bulgaria's capital Sofia to enjoy a traditional masquerade known in Bulgaria as "Kukeri" or "Survakari".

Bulgarian festivals and customs date back to ancient times when men tried to appease the natural elements and trembled before their power. With its colored masks and costumes, the Kurkeri carnival marks the beginning of spring.

Participants wear costumes made of fur, hemp and feathers, as well as grotesque huge and tall masks. Scary faces, witches carrying a headless doll in a basket, and a lot of noise contribute to frighten children. Full Story

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Don't Walk Under That Ladder

Footloose women who are looking for love should keep their eyes peeled when they step out of the door on St Valentine's Day.

According to custom, the first bird you see foretells the sort of man you will marry.

If it's a blackbird, then your husband will be spiritual, those who see a robin will meet a seafaring man, and if you spot a sparrow then you could end up getting wed to a farmer.

But if you want to stay single, look out for a woodpecker – because it means you will not marry anyone over the next year.

This is just one of the fascinating superstitions which social historian Brian Jones has come across in the course of his research into "the history of real people".

Brian, who is a Peterborough tour guide, has unearthed a host of strange customs, many of which have their roots in our pagan past. Full Story

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Monday, February 06, 2006

The Moral Status Of Animals

In 55 BC, the Roman leader Pompey staged a combat between humans and elephants. Surrounded in the arena, the animals perceived that they had no hope of escape. According to Pliny, they then "entreated the crowd, trying to win its compassion with indescribable gestures, bewailing their plight with a sort of lamentation." The audience, moved to pity and anger by their plight, rose to curse Pompey — feeling, wrote Cicero, that the elephants had a relation of commonality (societas) with the human race.

In 2000 AD, the High Court of Kerala, in India, addressed the plight of circus animals "housed in cramped cages, subjected to fear, hunger, pain, not to mention the undignified way of life they have to live." It found those animals "beings entitled to dignified existence" within the meaning of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which protects the right to life with dignity. "If humans are entitled to fundamental rights, why not animals?" the court asked.

We humans share a world and its scarce resources with other intelligent creatures. As the court said, those creatures are capable of dignified existence. It is difficult to know precisely what that means, but it is rather clear what it does not mean: the conditions of the circus animals beaten and housed in filthy cramped cages, the even more horrific conditions endured by chickens, calves, and pigs raised for food in factory farming, and many other comparable conditions of deprivation, suffering, and indignity. The fact that humans act in ways that deny other animals a dignified existence appears to be an issue of justice, and an urgent one. Full Story

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Inquisition Was A Mistake But Legally Justified

The Vatican is preparing for fresh controversy over the Inquisition after allowing an official to appear in a television documentary to offer a defence of the "Holy Terror".

The Rev Joseph Di Noia, the Under-secretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, admits in a television series starting tonight that the use of torture and public burnings were "mistakes".

But the American-born cleric argues that these methods of suppressing heresy were explicable in the context of the times, when people believed passionately in heaven and hell. Full Story

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Yarrow: Modern Uses For Mythical Herb

In Greek mythology, the warrior Achilles applied summerblooming yarrow to his soldiers' battle wounds — a legend that led to the herb's botanical name, Achillea millefolium. The hardy wildflower thrives in poor soil, producing caps of yellow, white and light pink flowers.

In many countries (including this one), it's considered a weed. But the plant has a medicinal history that dates back thousands of years, and has been dubbed bloodwort, staunchweed and nosebleed for its ancient use in treating bleeding injuries.

Uses: In the U.S., yarrow supplements are most commonly marketed for fevers, colds, toothaches, snoring and digestive problems. The herb has also been used, particularly in Europe and Russia, to ease menstrual cramps, boost liver health and stimulate the appetite. Full Story

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Wiccan Ways; Brooms, Spells But No Satanism

Robert Setlak says many people would be surprised to know how many witches are in, and around, Lawrence County.

That's not to say, he added, anybody should be afraid some evil spell will be cast their way.

The witches to which Setlak refers are practitioners of Wicca and other pagan religions who praise a god and goddess and not Jesus Christ or Buddha or Allah or ...

“We're here, and we would like to work together with Christians to find a common balance and get rid of some of the discrimination toward pagan religions,” said the 33-year-old father of two. Full Story

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Otherkin & Falun Dafa

Some time ago, I explored a rising subculture of people online who call themselves “otherkin.” They believe themselves to be beings other than humans: vampires, elves, werewolves, dragons, etc. The vast majority of them seem to be disaffected teenagers with a heavy interest in fantasy literature, and thus it’s tempting to simply write them off as flakes. However, I just came across a piece of literature which casts an interesting light on this group of people.

Falun Dafa (also, Falun Gong) is the spiritual practice of energy cultivation which has been so ruthlessly and famously persecuted by the Chinese government. It combines elements of Taoism, Buddhism, qigong, New Age and more. I’m not certain that they would call it a sacred text, but there is a book called Zhaun Falun which collects nine or so lectures by the founder of Falun Dafa, Li Hongzhi. Full Story

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Department Store Discriminates Against Wiccans

It may not have the impact of a tussle over displaying the Ten Commandments in a courthouse, or teaching evolution in public schools.

But the five people behind a table in a small Kent County conference room last week say they also are the victims of religious discrimination and want the state Human Rights Commission to set things right.

Two are Christians, two are self-described Wiccans and the fifth is a pagan. They contend that the Boscov's department store bowed to pressure from church leaders and illegally dropped classes they planned to teach at the store's Campus of Courses event last fall.

They claim they were told by Sybil Harvey, the local store's public relations manager, that the classes were canceled because the Rev. William Jeffcoat, pastor of Capitol Baptist Church in Dover, objected and threatened a boycott if they were not dropped. Full Story

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