Friday, June 30, 2006

Wiccans Are Americans Too

The current flap involving Wiccans in the military is a conflict that should never have happened. But years of foot-dragging by the Department of Veterans Affairs has turned an easy case into a major controversy complete with charges of discrimination and threats of lawsuits.

All the VA need do is announce that the pentacle - a five-pointed star that symbolizes the Wiccan faith - has been added to the list of 38 "emblems of belief" approved for placement on government headstones and memorials. No big deal, end of story.

Instead, the VA keeps saying that it is "reviewing the process" - and will make a decision at some indeterminate time in the future. Full Story

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Witchcraft Report To Be Released

A government report into allegations of witchcraft sparked by the torso in the Thames mystery could be published this month.

Cops found the headless and limbless body of a young boy - dubbed Adam - in the river near Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in September 2001.

Their investigations revealed Adam could have been sacrificed in a ritualistic murder ceremony. Full Story

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Helping 'Witches' Who Live In Exile

A year ago, Fatimata Chimsi was living happily with her son, his wife, and the couple's six children in Karaga, a tiny village in northern Ghana. That is, until the longtime widow was accused of being a witch in late 2004. Furious neighbors insisted that Ms. Chimsi had "killed" an elderly man. Afraid that she might be lynched, she fled in the middle of the night, riding on the back of her son's motorbike.

Today, Chimsi resides at the Kpatinga "witches" camp.

Mournfully rocking back and forth on a bamboo mat in her clay hut, she cries, "If my family wasn't allowed to visit me, I would die from loneliness."

More than 1,000 women live in exile among six camps in this impoverished region. Isolating widows or older women as witches is a deep-rooted custom in this part of the world. Indeed, accusations of witchcraft may be seen as a way to keep women subservient in African society. Full Story

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Longest Day To Party: Summer Fun At Stonehenge

Thousands of dancing and drumming revelers cheered the summer solstice at Stonehenge as an orange sliver of sun rose Wednesday.

Cloudy skies, dense fog and spurts of rain did not seem to dampen the energy of those who bobbed and swayed to cheerful beats with arms outstretched and shouts of "Feel the solstice!"

About 19,000 New Agers, present-day druids and partygoers gathered inside and around the ancient circle of towering stones to greet the longest day in the northern hemisphere as the sun struggled to peek out against a smoky gray sky.

"This is the nearest thing I've got to religion," said Ray Meadows, 34, of Bristol, England. The solstice "is a way of giving thanks to the earth and the universe." Full Story

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Witching Hour

Kopelson Entertainment is trying to do for witches what Pirates Of The Caribbean did for cutlass-wielding brigands. We hope this means Johnny Depp on a broom, but we doubt it.

Witch Hunters, scribbled by Joe Ballarini is set in the mystical, magical world of witchcraft and black magic. Dave Meyers, who has just started work directing the Hitcher remake, is lined up to make Hunters once he’s done making Sean Bean terrifying. Full Story

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Support For Wicca Marker On Soldier's Grave

The space where the memorial marker of Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart, a decorated American soldier who was killed last year in Afghanistan, should stand is empty because his Wiccan faith is not one of 30 approved for such designation by the federal government.

Stewart, a 34-year-old native of Fernley, Nev., was killed Sept. 25 by a rocket-propelled grenade. His body was cremated and he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

His widow, Roberta, held her own Memorial Day service this past May 31 to protest the government's policy. She has refused a temporary marker at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery until she gets a permanent recognition of her late husband's faith.

Now, several secular and religious organizations -- including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Christianity Today magazine-- say Stewart's widow should be allowed to have the Wiccan pentacle placed on his marker. Full Story

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

University Allows Pagans To Hold Rituals

Paganism is to receive official recognition at Scotland’s oldest seat of learning.

St Andrews University, whose graduates include Prince William, has decided to allocate an area for followers of the alternative religion to hold festivals and rituals.

University chiefs took the decision after realizing that failure to cater for followers of the ancient faith could see them fall foul of equal rights legislation.

In return for granting pagans access to campus buildings and providing an outdoor space for festivals, the university has imposed a strict series of rules. Incantations or spells that might be viewed as harmful to followers of other faiths have been outlawed from university premises. Full Story

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Druids And Moon Worship In Callanish

It had been unseasonably hot all day and the great standing stones at Callanish shimmered in the setting sun. These Neolithic giants stood out among the throng of people. The Isle of Lewis might be the end of the road, yet a crowd of nearly 200 had trekked to this ancient site in the Outer Hebrides to bear witness to a most unusual spectacle and sate their spiritual need.

They stood out against the bleached greens and greys of the Lewis countryside. Flame-haired druids beating drums, dowsers with brass rods reflecting the sunlight, pagans, moon worshippers, hippies, shamans and witches were all there, facing west into their sacred landscape awaiting the goddess.

It is probable that Callanish (or Calanais) – which comprises two other stone circles in addition to the main site - was built some 5,000 years ago as a lunar calendar. Full Story

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Godsmack Gets Spiritual

Sometimes, you're biggest demons can be your greatest saviours. That's something impassioned, gravel-voiced Godsmack frontman Sully Erna recently learned.

In 2005, after touring with metal-innovators-turned-therapy-nightmares Metallica, Erna walked away from the band he'd lead for a decade, feared he'd never write again and battled through a year of relationship wrecks, addiction dexto and demon exorcism.

Luckily, the Wiccan songwriter found the light and came back with IV, an album he says is the most spiritual and successful in the band's career. It debuted at No. 1 on billboard, selling more than 200,000 copies in its first week, and the group is currently trekking across Canada on a 12-date, sold-out tour. Full Story / Also click here for Godsmack's "Voodoo" video featuring a Wiccan ceremony and Laurie Cabot.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pagans set up in Christian-dominated Midstate

In the city of churches, there's a new congregation in town. Its numbers are small, but its gods are many.

The Many Rivers Grove is the latest enclave of pagans in a city where their Bible-Belt bashfulness is fading.

"There's a ton of pagans in Nashville," says Andi Houston, an organizer of the grove (or congregation). "I've found Nashville to be very open and welcoming."

The summer sun is high, and so are pagan spirits. Local celebrations are set for next week's midsummer solstice. Many Rivers Grove hosts a family-friendly celebration at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage today and Sunday.

Other local celebrations can be found at, a worldwide database of pagan gatherings and ideas (see "events"). Full Story

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Beware Of The Cat

An ordinary tabby can clear a wall five times its own height in one easy leap. Domestic cats can weigh up to 40lb, and reach 30mph. They can seemingly survive for weeks without eating, and fall from high buildings and land on their feet. They also kill birds, slaughter rats and terrorise dogs. And now, a fearless feline has made history by picking a fight with a bear.

The 10-year-old ginger tom, which weighed about 15lb, took umbrage when a 15-stone black bear wandered out of the woods into a garden in West Milford, New Jersey, and attacked with enough ferocity to send the bear scuttling up a garden tree. Veterinary scientists, wildlife experts and cat lovers were not particularly surprised: Felis sylvestris catus has been domesticated for at least 7,000 years, and routinely spends 16 hours a day sleeping in the sunshine or in the warmest corner of the house, but it remains the personification of violence. Full Story

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Parent Who Fought Harry Potter Appeals Decision

A mother of four hasn't given up her fight to keep the popular "Harry Potter" series off shelves in Gwinnett County schools.

Laura Mallory of Loganville is appealing the board of education's decision to keep the books in school libraries.

Her appeal will continue the debate that began when Mallory filed complaints against each of the six books, writing that they included -- quote -- "evil themes, witchcraft, demonic activity, murder, evil blood sacrifice, spells and teaching children all of this." Full Story

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

One Woman's Kiwi Lunch Is Another's Witchcraft

A case involving Chwayitha Ngcobo could end up in the highest court of the land, seeking counsel on a practice that many of our compatriots are only prepared to speak of in hushed tones.

Ngcobo, an accounts clerk at Island View Storage in Durban, was fired by her employer last month after a disciplinary hearing for allegedly practicing witchcraft.

A legally crafted charge sheet says Ngcobo opened her handbag, took out a parcel and then rubbed the contents in her hands and blew them three times in the direction of her supervisor, Premila Govender.

Ngcobo, who admits there was no love lost between her and Govender, said it was merely a kiwi fruit she was planning to eat for lunch that turned her into an umthakathi. Full Story

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Danville Wiccan Speaks Out

Tracy Gwynn was born and raised Southern Baptist in Pittsylvania County, where she is now in her mid-40s and is a stay-at-home mom - and a witch.

At her home in Ringgold, she gets up every morning and, as she gets ready to take her husband to work, is followed around the kitchen by her gray cat named Tinker.

She then drives her husband to work, home schools her daughter and goes online, where she checks in with the group she helps lead: The Wiccan Association of Danville.

There are currently 28 members in the group, and - yes - they are witches. Full Story

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Religious Freedom Isn’t Up For A Vote

My recent column on “graduation prayer” touched a nerve – a very raw nerve. “You ought to be ashamed,” wrote one reader, echoing a sentiment expressed by many others. “Either that or you’re as dumb as a gourd.”

“I am sick and tired of being told by minorities how I am supposed to live,” writes a Pennsylvania reader. “The majority should rule.”

It’s a fair point. After all, majority rule is at the heart of democracy. But it’s important to remember that our Framers understood the dangers of democracy, including mobocracy.

That’s why they had the wisdom and foresight to add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, putting certain inalienable rights beyond the reach of the majority. The very purpose of the First Amendment is to guard what James Madison called “the great rights of mankind” from the shifting moods of majorities and governments.

This means that even if 99% of the people demand it, no legislature or school board or any other government body can take away our individual natural rights. Our right to free speech and religious freedom – whether we belong to a major religious group, to one of the smallest minorities, or to no group at all – is not up for a vote. Full Story

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Wiccan Group: Stop Religious Items Tax Break

A sales tax exemption for religious items and publications including Bibles should be declared unconstitutional, a lawyer for a Wiccan group told the state Supreme Court on Friday.

The law being challenged exempts religious publications, Bibles, hymn and prayer books, chalices and other church service clothing and equipment.

Such items sold by the Wiccans, who follow an earth-based belief system or religion, once qualified for the exemption. The cooperative sued on Halloween 2000 after losing its exemption because it did not own a place of worship as required by Department of Revenue rules.

A trial judge agreed the Wiccans had standing to sue but upheld the law. The 1st District Court of Appeal, however, disposed of the case without ruling on the constitutional issue by finding the Wiccans lacked standing because they failed to show they were adversely affected. Full Story

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

More on Wiccan Grave Marker

The Department of Veterans Affairs must recognize religious diversity by allowing a Wiccan symbol on the memorial marker of a soldier who died in Afghanistan, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In a June 7 letter to R. James Nicholson, secretary of Veterans Affairs, and William F. Tuerk, under secretary for Memorial Affairs, AU requests that the widow of Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart be permitted to place a Wiccan pentacle on his marker and that the department extend that same right to other Wiccan families. Full Story

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Summer Solstice Celebrations At Stonehenge

English Heritage will once again be welcoming people to Stonehenge later this month to celebrate the Summer Solstice.

Sunrise will occur at 04.58am on Wednesday June 21, on what is the longest day of the year.

Peter Carson, Stonehenge Director, said: "We are very pleased to be welcoming people to Stonehenge once again to enjoy the Summer Solstice. This builds on the considerable success of the celebrations in previous years". Full Story

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Stand Up, Stand Up For Wicca

Amidst a sea of memorial plaques at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, one space remains blank.

That space is waiting to be filled by a plaque honoring the life and sacrifice of 34-year-old Sgt. Patrick Stewart, who was killed in action on September 25, 2005, when his helicopter was struck with a rocket-propelled grenade as it flew over Afghanistan. But it may be some time before Sgt. Stewart is remembered with a memorial plaque. That's because his war widow and the Department of Veterans Affairs are at odds over the Stewart family's request to have the Wiccan pentacle, a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle, placed on the plaque. As of May 31, 2006, government officials have refused to allow the Wiccan symbol to be placed on Stewart's plaque.

Whatever one's opinion might be about the Wiccan faith, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the First Amendment to our U.S. Constitution provides for religious freedom for all individuals of all faiths—whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Wiccans and others. Full Story

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Spells Just Tip Of The Broomstick

In the middle ages witches were burnt at the stake, today they are teaching Adult Education classes.

Burnie witch Delaila has been leading classes in tarot reading and practical magic for the past three years.

But Delaila says her practical magic students are disappointed when they discover they are not going to learn to cast spells or use wands.

"They do come expecting to learn about spells and love potions, but that is not what the classes are about," Delaila said. Full Story

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Pastor Accused Of Witchcraft

It may not be focused on the horrors that befall college students in some creepy woods, but Mahoning County now has its own ‘‘Blair Witch Project,’’ complete with elements of witchcraft and intrigue.

The Rev. Mark Musser of Austintown is suing Emmanuel Lutheran Church from which he was fired on claims that he was involved in witchcraft.

‘‘For an ordained minister, these are very serious accusations,’’ said attorney Matt Blair, who is representing the pastor in the witchcraft lawsuit project.

‘‘Webster’s Dictionary defines witchcraft as practicing the dark arts, and the dark arts are defined as being in league with the devil,’’ Blair said. Full Story

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Police Probe Bizarre Goat Head Display

Police are investigating a bizarre discovery involving severed goat heads, put on display at the end of a driveway.

Last week, police found two severed goat heads, a coconut and a pentagram drawn in chalk in a driveway of a home, police Lt. Francis Balzano said.

"We're not saying this is illegal," Balzano said. "We would just like to know what it means." Full Story

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

With This Broom I Thee Will Wed

A Druid and pagan priest, believed by many to be the reincarnation of King Arthur, is to conduct the pagan wedding of two pub licensees.

Arthur Pendragon will be conducting the pagan wedding of Nick O'Hara and Wendy Elder at the Morecambe Hotel on Lord Street in Morecambe on June 6.

Wendy and Nick will be jumping over a broomstick and plighting their troths in a pagan 'handfasting' ceremony in the beer garden of the pub.

Arthur, a nomadic pagan priest who 'roams' the country on his motorbike, said: "Numerous robed druids, witches and pagans will be in attendance (well-wishers and friends). Full Story

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

6/6/6 – A Devil of a Day

If you've ever thought twice about venturing out of your home on Friday the 13th, perhaps you'll just want to stay in today. That's right, today is June 6, 2006, or 6.6.6 for you short-hand folks. It's a date that only comes around once every hundred years and it has more than a few people worked up. As we reported a few days ago, many pregnant women are trying to avoid giving birth on this day; some theorists have used numerology to predict another terrorist attack on the United States on 6.6.6.; and even some people believe 6.6.6 is a romantic number and have decided to schedule their weddings for this day. Even book publishers and Hollywood have jumped on board the 6.6.6. craze scheduling religious books and horror films for release today. It's 6.6.6. mania out there, so be careful. Full Story

Other places you'll see 666 on your computer: The first Apple Computer, the Apple 1 was sold for $666.66. The sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is "waw" (or "vav"). This is the closest approximation of the English letter "w". Thus the ubiquitous acronym "www" could be the 666. And finally, and most popular among conspiracy theorists that think Bill Gates is the anti-Christ, Microsoft had the IP for a NT workstation until recently.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

War Widow Holds Service For Wiccan Husband

A war widow who wants the government to put a Wiccan religious symbol on her husband's memorial plaque held an alternative service Monday as a protest, hours before an official Memorial Day ceremony nearby.

"This is discrimination against our religion," Roberta Stewart said at the gathering of about 200 at a park east of Fernley for her late husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart. "I ask you to help us remember that all freedoms are worth fighting for."

The Department of Veterans Affairs so far has refused to grant the Stewart family's request to have the Wiccan pentacle, a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle, placed on the government-issued plaque. Full Story

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pagans Demand Extra Punishment For Witch

Australia's pagan community has moved to distance itself from a jailed male witch who turned teenage girls into sex slaves under the guise of a witchcraft initiation.

Robin Fletcher, who is due to be released from Ararat Prison on June 12 after 10 years behind bars, was convicted of prostituting a child and of sexual penetration and indecent acts against a child aged under 16.

Victorian Supreme Court judge Justice Bill Gillard said there was a high risk Fletcher would re-offend if released unsupervised because he still believed his religion justified his crimes.

But the Pagan Awareness Network Incorporated (PAN Inc) today said Fletcher did not represent the beliefs or practices of witches and other pagans and had used the pretext of a witchcraft initiation to carry out his "despicable" crimes. Full Story

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Paganism And Prejudice

Dressed in a green velvet coat and wearing a crown of ox-eye daisies over his emerald-dyed hair, Mike, a solicitor from Hertfordshire, was at pains to preserve his anonymity.

The lawyer was one of 700 people attending the Pagan Pride march in central London yesterday to demonstrate that the polytheistic faiths of ancient times are alive and well in Britain.

Paganism is now the eighth largest religious grouping in the UK with some 40,000 people selecting it as their faith, according to the 2001 census. Full Story

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Veterans Official Joins Fray Over Wiccan Headstone

Nevada officials are pressing the Department of Veteran Affairs to allow the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan to place a Wiccan symbol on his headstone.

Federal officials so far have refused to grant the requests of the family of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, 34, who was killed in Afghanistan last September when the Nevada Army National Guard helicopter he was in was shot down.

"Every veteran and military member deserves recognition for their contributions to our country," said Tim Tetz, executive director of the Nevada Office of Veterans Services.

The state's top veterans official said Thursday that he was "diligently pursuing" the matter in cooperation with Gov. Kenny Guinn, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev. Full Story

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sacred Sex In The Temple

For most people, the big news in "The Da Vinci Code" story was its message that Jesus was a brilliant and charismatic man - but not the Son of God - who was married to St. Mary Magdalene, had a child and tried to start a church built on secret truths and goddess worship.

That's the side of the book, and now the movie, that makes headlines. But there is a message in the novel that is even more controversial and, for traditional Christians and Jews, more radical, according to philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi, who was born and educated in the diverse religious culture of India.

"The Da Vinci Code" is absolutely right when it states that the Judeo-Christian tradition, through the ages, did everything that it could to suppress sexual mysticism, fertility rites and goddess worship. The early church, he stressed, emerged in a world that was packed with pagan sanctuaries filled with scores of temple prostitutes. Full Story

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