Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween's Origins Rooted In Ancient Times

This year on Oct. 31, kids will be trick-or-treating door to door or in public buildings. Adults will either be handing out candy, trick-or-treating with their kids or having a party to celebrate the evening. The one requirement for the evening is to be in costume.

Costumes and candy have not always been the highlight of Halloween. Halloween is derived from the merging of different holidays, including Celtic, Roman and Catholic festivals.

The Samhain (pronounced sow-in) festival was celebrated by the Celts more than 2,000 years ago. It was the end of the year for the Celts and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. Samhain, the Lord of the Dead, was thought to have assembled the spirits of the dead on this night. Full Story


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Monday, October 30, 2006

The Wiccan Way

Let's get it out. All of it -- Harry Potter and the Wicked Witch of the West and pointy hats and black cats. Let's get it out and move on.

When you think of Wicca you think of witches on broom sticks flying over houses putting hexes on people with the aid of black magic or Satan or both, admit it. You think of black cauldrons and "out, out damn spot." You think of magic potions and twitching your nose and sacrifices and confused Goth teenagers looking to fit in. It's a phase! It's a cult! It's evil!

Oh yes, you living in the glass house, we're talking to you. We say our Hail Marys and we wear our yarmulkes and we speak in tongues and think nothing of it, but hear about someone worshiping the seasons or using a wand and, well, that's just silly. Or worse.

But let's get past that. Let's put aside our preconceived notions and our bigotry and our stereotypes, for once. This is about people who live and love and are searching for what anyone who has ever prayed is searching for: a connection to something bigger and better than themselves. Full Story

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween, Witches, And Broomsticks

Today's article features a great Halloween themed citrus label called Witch Brand. There are many symbols of Halloween -- ghosts, bats, goblins, jack o' lanterns, black cats, and owls, to name a few.

I would like to save something to write about in future years, so I will only discuss the history of the witch and her broomstick this time.

Ancient Greek, Roman, and Celtic people believed in sorcerers, witches, and magicians. Like our scientists today, they simply knew more about certain subjects, such as nature, healing, chemistry, etc., than ordinary people did. The knowledge the witch or sorcerer possessed was a closely guarded secret, passed on to family members, or trusted individuals. Full Story

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Witches Are Brewing

There was a time when Hallowe’en was a black sheep in the festival stakes, crammed between the heady summer break and the razzle dazzle of Guy Fawkes night and Christmas . . . the fun used to be confined to the odd trick-or-treater.

Now Hallowe’en is bigger than ever and with its surge in popularity have come warnings from the Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Rev David Gillett, that among the vast array of products on offer, are goods which could trivialise occult practices and encourage anti-social behaviour.

Chris Thomas, manager of Enchanted, in Manchester Chambers, said: “I am interested in paganism and my sister is a witch. To us there’s nothing at all negative about Hallowe’en — it’s the pagan new year. Full Story

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Tying The Knot Pagan Style!

Down the years the Netpool beauty spot overlooking the River Teifi in Cardigan has been known locally as a lover's lane, and on Saturday was the venue for the town's first semi-pagan wedding.

Martin and his bride Jo chose Netpool because there are Druid stones located at the site.

They did not opt for a more conventional wedding, explaining that they and many of their friends were non-believers.

High Priestess Angie and Druid Priest Isna conducted the ceremony, which is believed to date back before Saxon times. Full Story

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Witches Ball A Wicked Good Time

In certain respects, pagans celebrate Halloween pretty much the same way everyone else does.

They plan parties, hang spider webs and spooky ghosts and goblins as decorations, serve chicken wings and finger sandwiches, pour beer and play dance music.

However, strictly speaking, on Oct. 31 pagans are actually celebrating their own holiday, which is called Samhain.

Samhain is the pagan, or Celtic, new year and is still celebrated as such in some parts of Ireland, explained David Hobgood, a guest at the fourth annual Witches Ball on Saturday night in Schererville. Full Story

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Eye Of Newt, Toe Of Frog

Kele Ivey is a witch, but she won't be dressing as one for Saturday's witches' ball.

Ivey is part of the Northwest Indiana Pagan Association. The group is holding its annual witches' ball from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday at American Legion Post 485 in Schererville, on Burr Street, north of U.S. 30.

The association has had a pretty good reception in Northwest Indiana, Ivey said.

In other parts of the country, people have lost friends, jobs and even their children in custody battles when their beliefs are revealed, she said.

"We've been fortunate," she said. "A lot of pagans in this area ... most are out of the closet. We're out of the broom closet." Full Story

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Go Goth In The Garden

My garden is spooky enough for Halloween.

The heat has taken a devilish toll on many long-flowering bloomers. And the recent dry spell has laid the red oaks' branches mostly bare, so they carve a gnarly silhouette against the moonlit sky.

But I decided the dreary landscape will make the perfect backdrop for the pagan celebration that is rooted in nature. Why not add a few dark characters and let the garden go a little goth, if only temporarily. Full Story

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Wiccans Want Their Star On Vets' Graves

Pete Pathfinder Davis has been fighting for nearly a decade to have the emblem of his faith engraved on the headstones of veterans buried in federal cemeteries.

But the application he filed in 1997 with the Department of Veterans Affairs for use of the pentacle — a five-pointed star surrounded by a circle — is still pending.

Davis and other Wiccans, who sometimes describe themselves as pagans or witches, say it is time for the VA to recognize their religion, which worships nature and employs the practice of "magick."

The battle over grave markers gained a higher profile recently with a dispute over a Wiccan serviceman's headstone in Nevada and a lawsuit filed Sept. 29 on behalf of two churches and three Wiccans. The federal suit seeks to compel the VA to provide Wiccans the same recognition it affords 38 other groups, including atheists, who can have symbols of their beliefs sandblasted onto headstones. Full Story

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pagan Graves In Vatican Basement!

Just inside the Vatican's fortified walls, directly below the street connecting its private pharmacy and its members-only supermarket, lies a 2,000-year-old graveyard littered with bizarre, often disturbing displays of pagan worship. Under one metallic walkway, the headless skeleton of a young boy rests in an open grave. At his side, a marble replica of a hen's egg, which to pagans represented the rebirth of the body through reincarnation.

Nearby, countless skeletons lie scattered among the remnants of terra cotta vases used in pagan ceremonies. The underground air is damp with the smell of wet dirt, and the clay tubes used by the pagans to feed their dead with honey and syrup still protrude, fingerlike, from the ground.

Walking among the exposed bones of any ancient graveyard would be chilling enough But when it’s a pagan necropolis directly beneath Vatican City, arguably Christianity’s holiest shrine, then the situation redlines right into completely unnerving. Full Story

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Witch Leads Her To Reflect ...

After decades wearing the title "Official Witch of Salem," Laurie Cabot has now decided to sit down and write her memoirs. She’s 74, after all.

With the help of a collaborator, this will be her fifth book, one that will be all about living life as the woman in black.

The diva of the dark can be found these days in a small pink room in the back of her Pickering Wharf shop, The Cat, The Crow and the Crown, where for $200 a half hour, (a price an employee quoted us) she tunes into her "alpha phase" to perform psychic readings.

She still wears the Sally Jesse Raphael glasses (in black, of course) with the arching coal-colored eye shadow. Cabot says she has loved makeup since she was a little girl.

She takes leave of her post behind a small desk and beneath a crystal chandelier to enter the shop, where a young overweight woman waiting in the doorway stage whispers " there she is." Full Story

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Friday, October 20, 2006

All Hallows' Eve Scares Some Religious Leaders

Halloween, it seems, becomes darker and darker each year and the backlash against it more and more serious. When most baby boomers were celebrating the holiday in tiaras and Superman capes, no one thought much of its origins, or cared because it didn't matter — candy and costumes were involved. So what happened? Was it the Harry Potter series? Was it the resurgence of Wicca, a neopagan religion?

For background, Halloween has its roots in the ancient pagan religions of the Celts in Ireland. Celts celebrated the beginning of the new year on Nov. 1, which marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter. They believed that the night before, Oct. 31, a boundary opened through which the dead returned to earth to generally cause trouble and damage crops. Full Story

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Witchery For Sale

The owners of the The Cauldron like to think of their shop as the "Cheers'' of witchcraft.

The witchcraft supply store is "certainly like a Cheers,'' owner Angela White said, comparing the store she owns with her sister, Cinzia Zonca, to the bar on the TV show.

The sisters describe themselves as traditional old craft witches, whose practice of performing spells has nothing to do with Satan, they said, but they are not New Age witches, who they said are more religiously based. Full Story

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Pagan Movement Steps In To Help India’s Witches

Followers of a global pagan withcraft movement plan to introduce their beliefs in India to curb the persecution and killing of hundreds of witches every year.

Witchcraft has been practiced by women in rural, isolated communities in India for centuries but in recent years witches have become ostracized. Many have even been murdered by neighbors or family who blame them for doing the work of evil spirits.

In the past five years, police say they have reports of more than 700 women being killed as witches or witch doctors in eastern India alone. But the real figure could be many times higher, they say.

Now, followers of the Wicca faith from the United States, Britain and India plan to introduce their religion in the eastern city of Kolkata to promote awareness of withcraft and provide support for harassed witches. Full Story

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Along Route 5, Wiccans Work Their Magic

The three hold different jobs: Amber Russell designs bouquets; Anne Rutherford is a legal secretary; Bonnie Smith works for a landscaper.

But the three Southern Marylanders have this much in common: Each considers herself a witch.

They practice a religion called Wicca, one they say is growing in the area, and one that surfaced -- tangentially, at least -- in a St. Mary's County campaign for the Maryland General Assembly. Just before last month's primary election, House of Delegates candidate Clare Calvert Whitbeck issued a statement denying she was a Wiccan, saying she did so to put a false rumor to rest.

But five Wiccans in all three Southern Maryland counties stressed in interviews that there is nothing to fear from their beliefs. And on that score they have backing from a trio of scholars who studied the broader world of what is known as neopaganism. Full Story

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Pagan Pride

Holy, um, what?

Druids and Wiccans, Shamans and heathens, Asatruar, atheists and mystics - oh my!

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Pagan community out there," said Niki Kissell, who lives in Parrish, and met her husband at a Pagan ceremony.

With Halloween near, there's no better time to shed some light on Pagans. It is the start of their new year - called Samhain, meaning the end of the warm season, pronounced SOW-in - and kicks off a celebration surrounding the final harvest of the growing season.

"'Pagan' is like 'Christian;' it's a big umbrella term," said Dagonet Dewr, executive director at Pagan Pride Project Inc., an Indianapolis-based nonprofit whose mission is to foster pride in Pagan identity through education, activism, charity and community.

Whether or not people fit under it comes down to whether people identify with it or not. Full Story

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Ghost Pets? That's The Spirit!

The Celts believed that now is the time when the veil between the spirit and physical worlds is the thinnest. It's a notion that inspired our modern celebration of Halloween, though I'm not sure what the Druids would have made of fiber-optic pumpkins.

Joshua P. Warren notes that while October is "like Christmastime for paranormal investigators" like himself, metaphysical peekaboo happens year round. And his book, "Pet Ghosts: Animal Encounters From Beyond the Grave" (New Page, $14.99), suggests that humans haven't cornered the market on apparitions.

Warren says the impetus for his book was his Dachshund Nellie, who departed this mortal coil in 2002 but left behind some high-pitched whimpers. Full Story

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Lure, And Lore, Of The Witch

Even at this time of year, witches don’t always enjoy the best PR.

They shriek and cackle in popular imagination, and they’re always casting nasty spells on those who get on their bad side. Puritans persecute them. And then there’s that movie where one meets her demise by melting ...

Linda Kerlin wants to set the record straight. Yes, witches might be misunderstood creatures of mystery. But their craft — make that witchcraft — has more meaning than mere Halloween high jinks.

In fact, Kerlin, who goes by “Good Witch Sadie,” likes to cite the translation of the word “witch” from the old Anglo-Saxon language: “wise one.” Full Story

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Editorial Responding to Christian Complaint

The woman who called me was concerned that I had given mention to a group who lets a group of Wiccans sometimes use their facility.

"Do you know they are witches?" the lady asked me.

"Yes," I said. "And Wiccans are hard to find because they're scared of the Christians."

The woman was silent for a long minute.

"And you're the Faith and Values editor?" she asked, sounding like she hoped I wasn't.

"Yes, Ma'am," I told her, "but I don't write just about Christian values."

That call - especially since I have talked a Wiccan into letting me do a story later this month - set me to thinking about beliefs and values, about perceptions and about fear of others. Full Story

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wiccans React To Book Ban Plan

A Gwinnett County mother’s push to get Harry Potter books banned from elementary school bookshelves has made it to the state board of education.

Laura Mallory is the mother of three who's fighting against those books. Tuesday morning she pleaded her case to a hearing officer who will make a recommendation to the state board.

Among her arguments is a central theme that the books promote witchcraft and evil, but people who know about real life witchcraft, or Wiccanism, say the witches in the Potter books have nothing to do with reality and a lot more to do with getting children to enjoy reading.

At Inner Space and the Hoot Owl Attic bookstore in Sandy Springs you can find anything you want to know about the mystical world.

People like Marcia Gaither. She used to practice Wiccanism, or witchcraft, now she's teaching a class on it. Full Story

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Withcraft Or Fantasy? Harry Potter Book Ban

A woman who maintains that the Harry Potter books are an attempt to indoctrinate children into witchcraft is pressing her case for the second time to have them banned from school libraries.

Laura Mallory, a mother of four from the Atlanta suburb of Loganville, told a Georgia Board of Education officer on Tuesday that the books by British author J.K. Rowling, sought to indoctrinate children as Wiccans, or practitioners of religious witchcraft and that the books are harmful to children who are unable to differentiate between reality and fantasy.

Referring to the recent rash of deadly assaults at schools, Mallory said books that promote evil — as she claims the Potter ones do — help foster the kind of culture where school shootings happen. That would not happen if students instead read the Bible, Mallory said. Full Story

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Area Pagans Take Pride In Religion

Katie Webster, a former Catholic, was drawn to spiritual paganism after a lifelong struggle with domestic violence.

Webster had almost given up hope when her daughter, Kristie Iannello, a practitioner of spiritual paganism for five years, introduced her mother to the benefits of the religion.

"She was having a hard time in life, and she wasn't finding any clarity in life," said Iannello, a Depew resident. "I just felt her religion wasn't bringing it to her. I just brought it to her, and she loved it."

Sunday, this path led Iannello and her mother to the incense-scented atmosphere of the fourth annual Buffalo Niagara Pagan Pride Day in the NOCO Pavilion in the Town of Tonawanda's Sheridan Park. Full Story

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Witches Concoct A Gentle Brew At First Market

Belly dancing and a talk on the real' Robin Hood livened up a witches market in Dorchester.

Stalls selling ceremonial gowns, tarot cards and crystals were set up at the Corn Exchange.

Part of the day's events included a talk from Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University about an outlaw who lived in Yorkshire in 1220 and made his name by helping a knight who was being taken advantage of by local clergymen. Full Story

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Pagan Pride On Display In Louisville

Victoria Lee was raised Catholic and tried "almost all" of the variations of Christianity, including Methodism and Pentecostalism. But she settled on paganism and reluctantly calls herself a "universalist."

Dressed as a "friend of the Earth," with fairy wings on the back of her white dress and a wreath adorning her forehead, Lee joined about 100 other pagans standing in a circle in Waterfront Park yesterday.

"Gods and goddesses of warriors and of peace -- of the ancient and modern worlds -- we ask that you watch over us," said Jill Combs, an organizer of Louisville's first Pagan Pride Day. Full Story

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Every 'Witch' Way

It took some time — and a lot of soul-searching — before Ray Roberge came to the conclusion that he was a witch.

"There was this girl that I really liked and we were talking about religion and I told her that in my experience, there was something in the way because I could only talk to God through a priest," says Roberge, 31, recalling the personal spiritual journey he made many years ago. "And I also felt it was lopsided because there was no feminine element."

When his friend revealed that she and her family were witches, Roberge says he "made fun of her for a good couple of hours."

Encouraged by her to learn more about the faith, Roberge did some exploring which exposed many misconceptions — and his own prejudices — regarding witchcraft.

"I learned that it's a peaceful religion ... it's not some kooky, strange thing. But it took me a couple of years before I could actually say, `I am a witch.'" Full Story

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Friday, October 06, 2006

The Witch Trials Of The Past And Today

Compared to this place, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are summer resorts. And the zealots who created it would make the Taliban seem like Unitarians.

Its prisoners were kept in total darkness, an absence of hope as well as light. The floor was made of rough stone blocks, and sometimes water from a nearby river would slosh into the underground dungeon, where it would remain - ankle deep - for weeks. There was no heat, and several prisoners froze to death during one terrible winter.

George Corwin, the high sheriff of Essex County, Mass., in 1692, never heard of the Geneva Conventions. If you were in his custody and wanted a bed, a chamber pot or food, you had to pay for them. Visitors cost extra. Those unfortunate enough to be indigent were confined to “coffin cells,” roughly six feet high and five feet across, too cramped to allow the prisoner to lie down or even sit. Full Story

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

'Evil Spirit' Threat To Occult Classes

Volunteers at Worle Community Centre have been warned the building will be 'plagued by evil spirits' if plans to start occult classes there go ahead.

Congregations at churches in the area have been praying for the committee members and numerous letters have been sent calling for the course to be cancelled.

The classes will start at the centre in Lawrence Road on October 2. Occultist Scott Jones will run discussion groups and courses looking at the study and ritual uses of Satanism, meditation, witchcraft and tarot. Full Story

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wheel In The Sky

I arrive at the offices of Red Wheel–Weiser–Conari promptly at 11:11 a.m., as requested by Brenda Knight, associate publisher and director of special markets.

Why, I ask Knight, did she schedule our meeting for 11:11?

“Because that’s angel time!” she brightly explains. “That’s when you can connect with angels — 11:11 a.m. and 11:11 p.m. We also like to have meetings at 4:20.”

Red Wheel–Weiser–Conari is one of the largest publishers of esoterica: occult tomes, metaphysical explorations, spiritual guides both serious and playful, and lots of other books that poke at the boundaries of our shared reality.

Its oldest imprint, Weiser, was launched by Samuel Weiser out of an antiquarian bookstore back in 1929, when the press began re-releasing occult classics that had fallen out of print. Full Story

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Wiccan Soldier Honored

It was one year ago tonight, on September 25th, that Sergeant Patrick Stewart of Fernley lost his life in Afghanistan.

More than two dozen family members and friends gathered for an interfaith ceremony on Monday night - Christian and Wiccan - to recognize the anniversary of the loss of Stewart and four other soldiers. Full Story

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Monday, October 02, 2006

'Pagan Day' Event Draws Just A Few Complaints

Sept. 9 wasn't your typical day at Bishop Park.

While children came to play as usual, walkers strolled along the riverside and freighter watchers assumed their posts, there was another group in the park that might have seemed a bit out of place to some of the regulars.

The Federation of Circles and Solitaries and the Magical Education Council co-sponsored the 2006 Metro-Detroit Pagan Pride Day. The event was highlighted by a pagan harvest ceremony, as well as various workshops and seminars geared toward religious tolerance.

Although city officials said they received few complaints about the event, three residents expressed their displeasure to the City Council at Monday's meeting.

Pamela Montelaro called it "a very sad day for our city." She said pagans have beliefs far removed from the Judeo-Christian beliefs of most Americans. Full Story

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Gathering Of Shared Beliefs

With peacock feathers dangling from her ears and rings on all fingers except her left thumb and pinky, Lady Silverwolf could be mistaken for a witch.

And she is, but not like most people think of one.

By her definition, she's a WITCH: Woman In Total Control of Herself.

The third-degree high priestess of the pagan faith who reads tarot cards shared the history of paganism Saturday at the third Cape Fear Pagan Pride Day.

Besides being the day when the sun crosses the celestial line known as the equinox, for pagans it was Mabon, the day of a fall ritual that honors the Earth. Full Story

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