Thursday, August 31, 2006

Witches Told To Fill Out Their Hex Returns

Romania's taxman is stirring up a cauldron of trouble for witches whose tax-free spells are costing the Treasury millions of dollars a year.

Vampirism, spells, hexes and curses are still big business, providing a blackmarket income - and relatively luxurious lifestyle - for about 4000 women who peddle their services in Romania and abroad.

Companies have been known to consult them, and witches even had a stand at a recent export trade fair.

Yet despite their commercial success, only one is officially registered to pay tax - Gabriela Ciucur, 31, who sees up to seven clients a day and charges about $A15 a session. Full Story

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

She Sees Truth In The Cards

You won't find Connie Ouellette running around Bristol in a cape and witch's hat, but she is a witch — "that's 'witch' with a 'W' and not a 'B,'" she always jokes to people. Let go of all the stereotypes, because Ms. Ouellette, owner of The Magic Mirror, is a professional psychic and witch and has been for eight years.

Ms. Ouellette didn't always know she wanted to be a psychic. She majored in computer science and graduated with honors, but always had a keen interest in the paranormal world. Her older brother is a wizard, she said, and got her interested in giving psychic readings. She says it was her calling and she couldn't be happier with her chosen field. Full Story

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Charmed, I'm Sure

Maureen Stopforth, who has worked at Witches Galore in Newchurch-in-Pendle for 26 years, laughs when asked if the broomstick by the door (£8.50, flight-tested, full MOT*) is hers. She takes it, she says, for a spin every morning before opening the shop.

It's a joke today (I think) but in the superstitious world of 400 years ago it's one that could well have trapped her in the witch-hunt that swept Britain and had 19 Pendle Hill locals hauled off to the Lancaster Castle dungeons to face charges of witchcraft. Eventually, eight women and two men were found guilty and, on August 20, 1612, went to wretched deaths on the gallows. Among them were three generations of one family.

The story of the witches of Pendle Hill - England's version of the Salem witch trials in the US - has, according to Jack Keighley, the Clitheroe-born author of the excellent booklet Walks in Lancashire Witch Country, "left an indelible mark on the countryside around Pendle".

The main mark has been an enduring fascination with the witches and a tourist industry that achieves its apotheosis in Stopforth's shop in the shadow of the hill. It's packed with books about the hill and the witches and is the place to go for souvenirs such as witch dolls, figurines, maps, T-shirts and bumper stickers saying "Pendle witches do it on a broomstick". Full Story

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Monday, August 28, 2006

The Politics Of A Witch

Whether you sink or swim in Virginia Beach has sometimes been a matter of life or death. You could commune with the late Grace Sherwood to find out why even Gov. Tim Kaine thought it prudent to make it a matter of state.

To "commune" may be a bit archaic way to communicate in the age of instant Internet communication, but you have to get an e-mail address before Internet communicating, and if Grace has an e-mail address no one knows what it could be. Her neighbors accused her of using sorcerer's powers 300 years ago to poison crops, kill livestock and conjure storms. (Talk about female power.)

Witchcraft may appeal to a child's imagination around a campfire, but this is not "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" nor "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." It's a cruel part of American history. Belief in witchcraft grew out of the superstitious side of religion, reinforced by the courts. Full Story

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Street Psychic Communes With Departed Loved Ones

I miss Mike.

Not every day - it's been a long time since I thought about Mike every day - but I miss him often enough that it still seems like he's alive somewhere.

But of course he's not. Mike died more than 10 years ago on the Loop Parkway on Long Island when, one Indian summer evening, his car became airborne and he was thrown through the windshield. He flew through the air for a second or two and then maybe slid along the pavement for a few yards. He died when the car landed on top of him.

And, like I said, I still miss him.

So when Tavane Taylor, proprietress of Eclectic by Nature and the Witch of State Street, told me that a psychic was doing some channeling once a month or so in the classroom at the State Street Center for Renewal, I booked it. Full Story

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

TV Leads Witching Hour

After centuries of intimidation and bad press, witchcraft is experiencing a renaissance led by TV's Buffy, Sabrina and the Charmed girls.

Between 40,000 and 70,000 people are expected to identify themselves as witches in the 2006 census, up from 20,000 in 2001.

Pagans, worshipping as wiccas, druids, heathens and shamans, have gained solidarity through the internet and positive media portrayals. Full Story

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Help Comes From Unlikely Source

Last week, I wrote about Ana Ramirez and her daughter Jennifer, who hoped to attend classes together at ASU Polytechnic when school started Monday.

Mother and daughter had attended Mesa Community College, had roughly the same number of credits and outstanding grade point averages. But there was a problem: They were short of the money they needed by about $1,000.

Yet, sure enough, the day after my column on the Ramirezes appeared in the paper, SuSu Levy called. She said she had just received a dividend check in the mail in the amount of $975, money she had not expected and didn’t particularly need. She felt that reading the column at about the same time she got the money was a spiritual sign.

Levy identified herself as a member of the Southwest Witches Against Animal Abuse. She assured me that she was a “good witch,’’ which greatly reduces my stress in writing this column. I don’t want to be turned into a newt, after all. Full Story

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ad Industry Turns To Necromancy For Inspiration

Self-styled advertising revolutionaries Ihaveanidea asked "actual witch" Heidi Reiss to concoct a "creativity potion" to help advertising professionals come up with exciting new ways to move these refrigerators, color TVs.

Reiss claims to be a "white magic" witch -- don't they all, and isn't that racist anyway? -- but a disclaimer warns that the potion is for "external use only." Then on her own site, Reiss adds that "All potions are for entertainment use only." Well, which is it? Full Story

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sacred Pottery Stolen From SAU

The Caddo Indian pottery stolen from a storeroom at Southern Arkansas University is considered sacred by members of the tribe, part of an important burial tradition.

"They put these vessels in the ground with a person so they have something to eat and drink on the way (to the afterlife)," said Bobby Gonzalez, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act coordinator for Caddo Nation in Binger, Okla. "It's a long way to get there. They've been doing it since the beginning of time for the Caddo."

The intact bowls and bottles - crafted centuries ago by the Caddo - were discovered stolen earlier this month. They were awaiting return to members of the tribe. Full Story

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pagans To Hold Second Pride Day

Shreveport's pagan community has expanded its plans for annual Pagan Pride Day after last year's event was a success.

The second annual celebration will be held Friday and Saturday and will include a film festival, a ritual and a drum circle. The keynote address will be given by Archpriest Pete "Pathfinder" Davis of Index, Wash., founder of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church.

"We hope to celebrate with the general public, not just pagans" said Trixie Davis, priestess of Spiral Earth Circle, the local affiliate of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. Full Story

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Denied Justice, Trees Will Someday Have Bite To Equal Bark

The news among our leafier, more bark-laden friends is bad today. A New York judge has declared them to be second-class flora, and one can only imagine the outrage among the botany community.

New York State judge Herman Cahn ruled Tuesday that the Yankees could break ground on Yankee Stadium Part Deux, which of course they did. In doing so, Cahn ruled that a lawsuit filed by local environmentalists and neighborhood groups carried insufficient weight because ... "Trees themselves have no legal protections."

Which is technically true. Trees clearly are not covered in any lawbooks or civil liberties texts as having standing to do much of anything except photosynthesize. Thus, let the excavators roll.

The trees, of course, are in high dudgeon about this ruling, because they always believed in the legal concepts of "We were here first," "We've never done anyone any harm," and of course, "Wait a minute. This is for STEINBRENNER?" Full Story

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Blondie Bewitched

Gary Lachman, the New York band's ex-guitarist, has long been fascinated by the bizarre, sexually charged confessions of the 17th-century witch Isobel Gowdie of Nairn

Between April and May 1662, Isobel Gowdie, a Scottish housewife from Auldearn in Morayshire, shocked her small community by revealing she was a witch.

She made four confessions in all, recounting in fascinating and explicit detail most of the elements that make up our popular idea of what it means to be a witch. Gowdie spoke at length about the sabbath, the coven, her magical powers and, perhaps most interesting for contemporary readers, her licentious relations with the devil.

James MacMillan’s powerful work, The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, which is played by the London Symphony Orchestra tomorrow as part of the Proms season, has been called a kind of requiem for Gowdie, a memorial to the persecution that many women — and some men — caught up in the “witch craze” of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries were subjected to. It is estimated that across Europe 40,000 died in these “burning times”. And when it came to torture and execution Scotland had few rivals. Full Story

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Woman, Man Die At Wiccan Festival

Two people died during a "neo-pagan" festival near Wellington Lake in rural Jefferson County during the weekend, apparently of natural causes, authorities said Monday.

The deaths occurred during Dragonfest, a regional festival that drew several hundred participants for an 11th annual weekend of Wiccan rituals, camping and a "clothing optional" area.

One woman in her 50s died of a heart attack on Saturday, according to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office. A man was discovered dead on Monday morning, also of apparent natural causes, authorities said. Full Story

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Symbols In Society And School

I was at the Jasper County Courthouse this week, talking with Jasper County Sheriff Archie Dunn when I noticed his badge.

It is a five-pointed star within a circle. An ancient symbol of protection also known as a pentagram.

The symbol is well suited to the law-enforcement community since it has long been used as a symbol of protection, but the symbol has also been associated with the ancient Greeks, those of pagan faiths, Freemasons and even early Christians who used the pentagram to represent the five wounds of Jesus.

So I thought it was somewhat ironic when I remembered that the five pointed star within a circle is among the symbols now specifically banned from Carthage Junior High School. Full Story

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Beef Tongue That In Park Smacked Of Hoodoo Spell

There may be more than meats the eye to the needle-studded beef tongue that sent a Manhattan dog to the vet.

The tongue, found in Central Park, may have been left over from a "hoodoo" spell designed to keep a witness from testifying in court, experts in the African-American form of folk magic told the Daily News yesterday.

"It's a very old and popular spell used to silence people," said Catherine Yronwode, 60, proprietor of the Lucky Mojo hoodoo-supply shop in Forestville, Calif. "It can be used in any case where there's a witness that's going to speak against you." Full Story

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Golden Middle-Class Goddesses

The High Priestess of Avalon is robed in gold, her cheeks are spangled and there is a yellow heart hanging from her neck. "These are the colors of the grain and the harvest," she tells me, "although they are quite hard to wear, as we discovered when we went shopping after deciding they should be the colors of the conference. You can't find gold stuff anywhere!"

She gives a cackle that is more Pauline Fowler than Queen Guinevere.

We are in Glastonbury, the Somerset mecca for psychics, faith healers, mystics, druids and the spiritually challenged. I am here to attend the annual Goddess Conference.

Usually a specialized affair, this year it has been inundated with visitors, who have converged on the small town after reading about Goddess worship in Dan Brown's blockbuster The Da Vinci Code. Some have even flown halfway round the world specially for this five-day extravaganza. Full Story

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tracing The Past On The Air

Radio sleuths from the north-east of England are tracking down Mallorca’s pagan history and broadcasting live back to more than 1.25 million listeners in the UK.

Top presenter Alan Robson, of Newcastle’s Metro Radio, is lifting the lid on the island’s murky past with his nightly shows from around the island.

He’s investigating the myths and legends that lurk underneath the island’s official history.

“Much of the island’s past has been written about from a Christian point of view, but there is another side that is absolutely fascinating,” said Alan. Full Story

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Eclectic Inventory Offered At Main Street Shop

The owner of Gaias Gate, Patricia Miller, is just as eclectic as her South Main Street shop, which she says is largely misunderstood.

At her previous location in Millstone, a car stopped in the parking lot and the driver shot a hard stare, bowed his head and began to move his lips. After a few moments, his head snapped back up and he drove away, leaving Ms. Miller confused.

"I'm not 100 percent sure, but I think I was prayed for," Ms. Miller said while sipping her drink at a foldout table near the back of the store as Mayan instrumental music played in the background.

According to Ms. Miller, the shop — which derives its name from the goddess that gave birth to the world in Greek mythology — offers resources and merchandise for those interested in paganism. Full Story

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Religious Pluralism Leads To Forms Of Spirituality

For the past 20 years, I have been developing what has come to be known as the market theory of religion and society. The initial premise is that “pluralism,” the presence of a variety of differing and competing religious organizations, is the normal state of all societies. Within any society, people always differ substantially in their religious preferences and tastes. Some want quite intense religion, others want very permissive religion or even none, and most want a moderately intense religion.

No single religious organization can meet this diversity, and different organizations will arise to appeal to different tastes. However, even though pluralism is the normal state of a religious economy, it has not been the usual state. Rather, throughout history, most societies have tended toward religious monopolies in which an authorized religious organization, usually subsidized by the state, is the only real option, and potential competitors are suppressed or at least severely handicapped. Full Story

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Courthouse Powder Fits Voodoo Ritual

Gypsum found in piles and strewn about the perimeters of a courtroom in the Salinas courthouse recently may have been part of a ceremonial practice meant to purify -- or perhaps curse -- the premises, an authority on the subject said.

Ruben Mendoza, director of the Institute of Archaeology at CSU-Monterey Bay, said the mystical practice goes back to ancient times among indigenous groups in Mexico and Central America and is still used today.

Mendoza said Aztecs, Mayans and other Mesoamerican communities purified each corner of a structure by tossing corn pollen or ground corn or limestone into the wind to the north, south, east and west.

In modern times, Mendoza said, the practice has been assimilated for negative purposes by some using black magic and an off-shoot of the Santeria religion. Full Story

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Wand Maker Shows Off His Mystical Mastery

Forrest LaBelle II shows real wizardry as a crafter of wands, but the Sun Prairie man still considers himself a squib.

"I don't think a witch or wizard can make wands," the 50-year-old said.

The Owlery Wand Shoppe, specializing in $5 and $10 hand carved wands for witches and wizards, piques curiosities each Saturday at the Great Falls Farmers' Market and at other festivals, craft shows and specialty stores throughout the year.

"They're probably the weirdest or strangest, really the only thing of that type (at the market)," Farmers' Market assistant manager Dave Bissonnette said. Full Story

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Meet The Modern Psychic

When Sarah Moore first visited San Luis Obispo psychic Susette Smith, she admits she expected someone exotic — a turban-wearing palm-reader or a Stevie Nicks look-alike with long hair, flowing robes and hands heavy with silver rings.

"I was expecting crystal balls and tarot cards and all that stuff," said Moore, 25, who heard about Smith via a co-worker. "It blew my mind that she was so normal."

Smith, who offers what she calls "intuitive guidance" to some 200 clients, doesn’t fit the traditional image of a psychic-medium. She’s an apple-cheeked brunette who laughs easily and greets visitors in a contemporary living room devoid of mystic touches except for candles and a few Buddha statuettes.

"That’s the new breed of this profession," Smith said. "It’s really good to see normal people doing this work without all the theater." Full Story

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Witches Seek End of Fidel Castro's Regime

From botanicas to churches to rap music airwaves, many South Floridians expressed their hopes that Fidel Castro's regime was headed for its last days.

In their haste to see el jefe pass on to the great beyond, some Cubans were banking on otherwordly assistance.

''Fidel, para el c-----!'' shouted 61-year-old Zoila Morales, raising her voice above the din of clucking poultry at the Riviera Botanica at 1750 Northwest 17th Ave.

Loosely translated: Fidel, go to hell.

Promising to do her brujería -- or witchcraft -- Morales plunked down a $100 bill in exchange for a half-dozen roosters and chickens tucked neatly in individual, ventilated paper bags. Full Story

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Witch Hunts Still Alive in Kenya

The verdict was swift and the sentence brutal. The Kangaroo court decided that the elderly woman was guilty of bewitching her neighbors. She was to die!

In another incident, a man suspected to have been a witch was stoned to death and police have been accused of reluctance to pursue the killers.

A senior police officer said: "Understand this region, when you see these villagers finishing a suspected witch's life, they know what they are doing. They may be right because the person they have killed is not a stranger from planet Mars but one of them."

Bishop Charles Kababu of the Gospel Confirmation Centre says witchcraft has been part of the human race and can be traced to the biblical days.

"Jesus fought witchcraft in form of evil spirits in the New Testament, Moses was confronted with witchcraft in the Old Testament, they (witches) are there and it is the duty of Christians to fight them at all cost," said the preacher.

He says the practice is widespread and is competing with religion. Full Story

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Monday, August 07, 2006

The Secret Lives Of Maltese Pagans

A Massey researcher studying modern day witches and pagans in the Mediterranean island republic of Malta says she has had to conceal the identities of those she interviewed to protect them.

Social anthropologist Dr Kathryn Rountree believes the people she interviewed for a book could risk losing their jobs if they became known as practicing pagans in the strongly Catholic country.

Dr Rountree, a senior lecturer in the School of Social and Cultural Studies in Auckland, says Catholic disapproval of alternative religions meant extreme caution and attention to ethical research practices were vital in her approach to interviewing pagans and witches, as well as Catholic priests, about the existence of paganism in Malta. Full Story

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pagans Celebrate The End Of The Season

In his old age, the Irish sun God Lugh is still potent and capable. Even now as the days begin to shorten again in Southern Illinois, his fiery fingers are diligently tending the crops in our long growing season.

It seems a shame, then, to call attention to his autumn demise as area pagans will do Sunday in Giant City State Park.

"It's almost anti-intuitive," Tara Nelsen, founder of the Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance, said of acknowledging fall so early. "I'm really a summer girl, and I'm not ready to admit it. In September, ok, but not yet."

The reality, said Nelsen, is that it is time to turn toward the coming harvest. Full Story

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

'Priestesses' Open Temple Doors

Mysterious "priestesses" from Glastonbury say they have been forced to reveal more of their beliefs after being mentioned in the Da Vinci Code.

The Priestesses of Avalon are preparing to throw open the doors to their temple in the Somerset town.

Since their cover was blown in the best-selling novel and movie, they want to be more open. Full Story

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Planning A Career As A Witch?

Universities are offering courses in computer games and witchcraft in a growing competition for student enrolments.

The University of Sydney will introduce a combined medicine and music degree, said Merrilyn Walton, of the university's office of Teaching and Learning in Medicine.

Universities struggling financially are particularly feeling the pressure to compete for students. The University of Newcastle, which finished 2005 with an operating deficit of $7.3 million, offers courses in magic and witchcraft as part of its liberal arts degree. Full Story

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Reaction To The Bible In Paganism

One of the most neglected areas of the reception history of the Bible is the pagan philosophers’ attack on the Bible in the Christian era. There were a number of philosophers who responded negatively to the Bible (Greek OT and the NT) — similar to the response the Stoics and Epicureans gave Luke’s Paul in Acts 17:16-34 (whatever the historical value of Luke). Others with philosophical training such as Justin and Augustine became Christians. Some (like an unusual figure named Amelius Gentilianus) admired part of the scriptures such as the prologue of John but did not join the new religion. It is impossible to say, given the surviving evidence, how many philosophers like Amelius may have existed in late antiquity before the Byzantine Empire closed Plato’s academy in Athens, and pagan philosophers faded away.

The investigation helps reveal how certain highly educated individuals in antiquity responded to the Bible with cultured disdain. Their reaction was not purely theoretical since it came in the context of persecutions of Christian believers — and one of the pagans I will discuss below (Hierocles) actually participated as a magistrate in the persecutions of Diocletian. Porphyry may have written his book against the Christians in service of one of the persecutions. Full Story

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Crystal Ball: Lebanese Psychic Flooded With Calls

Michel Hayek, Lebanon's most famous psychic, predicted an Israeli incursion into the south and since the fighting began, he's been fielding calls from frantic Lebanese and Arabs asking how long the conflict will last, if the economy will crash and if they should leave the country.

Hayek tells his callers they have to make their own decisions. But he also said he is not fleeing Lebanon.

"That reassures them, and many have decided to stay because I'm staying," the tall, dark-haired, 39-year-old psychic told The Associated Press Monday.

Skeptics may shrug off Hayek's predictions as nothing more than pure chance. But it's not the first time he's been right. Hayek said he gets his visions by tuning in to "the billions and billions of vibrations in the sphere." Full Story

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Little Shop Of Auras

A cockatiel named Don Juan flirts shamelessly with customers. Ethereal strains of New Age music fill sandalwood-scented air. And an elderly man peruses a batch of bat head root and wolf eye.

You've just entered Sacred Heart Botanica and Spiritual Gift Shoppe. But don't expect your typical shopping experience. This is a store that caters to the arcane, traffics with the otherworldly and adds a bit of mystery to the landscape.

"I use sandlewood and cologne to prepare myself," said Eve Garcia, owner of the botanica, and medium-in-residence. "In between readings I do cleansings to get rid of negativity. I bless the table with holy water and prepare for the next person." Full Story

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