Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Witch School Set For Reality TV Debut

In a matter of months, Witch School in Hoopeston hopes to graduate from the world of magic to the ranks of reality TV.

The SCI FI Channel this month revealed its plans to create a reality series about the school at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

The news comes just six months after the Hoopeston establishment announced it would offer on-site courses at its home at 112 W. Main St.

The lid remains tight on program details.

Witch School chancellor, the Rev. Don Lewis, confirmed the program “is happening,” but couldn’t comment further at the re-quest of NBC executives. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Women And The Goddess

Women have not faired well under most religions for the last five thousand years or so. But let’s take the long view: that’s just a blip on the timeline of human history. Before, and concurrently in many indigenous cultures, the divine was and is pictured in female as well as male form, as the Great Mother who was the creative, regenerative power in nature and life.

At the very beginnings of Western civilization, there were early cultures, egalitarian and peaceful, that honored the Goddess and whose arts and religious artifacts reflect their interest in the sacredness of nature and an orientation to life. These societies were long lasting—in places like Catal Huyuk they existed for thousands of years, and they originated agriculture, pottery, weaving, architecture—the arts and skills that were to be the basis of civilizations to come. Full Story

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Witchcraft Act Wasn't About Women On Brooms

Severin Carrell's article discussed the prosecution and imprisonment of Helen Duncan in 1944 under the archaic Witchcraft Act of 1735 (Campaign to pardon the last witch, jailed as a threat to Britain at war, January 13).

I have researched this case for my PhD on popular belief and British society, and, while I believe it highly unlikely that Churchill and George VI were among Duncan's clients, as has been rumoured, her trial was certainly sensationalised by the popular press, with headlines such as "Story of ghost that did not like lipstick" (Daily Express) and cartoons of hags riding broomsticks through the night sky.

The general public and the media tend to associate prosecutions under the act with actual witchcraft, but historian Owen Davies has pointed out that, in fact, the Witchcraft Act strove to eradicate the belief in witchcraft once and for all among educated people, the judiciary and the Anglican church. Its passage meant that it was no longer possible to be prosecuted as a witch in an English or Scottish court. It was, however, possible to be prosecuted for pretending to "exercise or use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration, or undertake to tell fortunes". Full Story

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Modern Pagans Honor Zeus In Athens

A clutch of modern pagans honored Zeus at a 1,800-year-old temple in the heart of Athens on Sunday _ the first known ceremony of its kind held there since the ancient Greek religion was outlawed by the Roman empire in the late 4th century.

Watched by curious onlookers, some 20 worshippers gathered next to the ruins of the temple for a celebration organized by Ellinais, a year-old Athens-based group that is campaigning to revive old religious practices from the era when Greece was a fount of education and philosophy.

The group ignored a ban by the Culture Ministry, which declared the site off limits to any kind of organized activity to protect the monument. But participants did not try to enter the temple itself, which is closed to everyone, and no officials sought to stop the ceremony. Full Story

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Green Man Lives!

It is the time of year to sit back and get lost in the non-technical side of gardening – the lore.

The King in garden lore is without question, “The Green Man.” There is a good chance you have a plaque, statue or ornament in or around your own garden, which is representative of this fellow of the foliage. Our first acquaintance with him is a European one of over 5,000 years ago. Neolithic art portrays this male face being thrust forth amongst a wreath of mixed vegetation. On closer inspection, we see his hair, beard, mustache and eyebrows are simply extensions of the wreath.

The same powerful face repeats itself throughout history. It is not a menacing face, but there is always a wildness to the eyes and a secret mockery behind the expression. (Reminding us that man is helpless against nature’s power?)

Who is the Green Man, this man who is inextricably linked with the power of nature? Full Story

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Zeus Worshippers Demand Access To Temple

After all these centuries, Zeus may have a few thunderbolts left. A tiny group of worshippers plans a rare ceremony Sunday to honor the ancient Greek gods, at Athens' 1,800-year-old Temple of Olympian Zeus. Greece's Culture Ministry has declared the central Athens site off-limits, but worshippers say they will defy the decision.

"These are our temples and they should be used by followers of our religion," said Doreta Peppa, head of the Athens-based Ellinais, a group campaigning to revive the ancient religion.

"Of course we will go ahead with the event ... we will enter the site legally," said Peppa, who calls herself a high priestess of the revived faith. "We will issue a call for peace, who can be opposed to that?" Full Story

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wiccan Ex-Barista Sues Starbucks Over Religion

A former Starbucks barista in Hillsboro has sued the coffee giant, saying it discriminated against her based on her Wiccan religion.

In a complaint filed Jan. 8 in U.S. District Court in Portland, Alicia Hedum said a manager at Starbucks' Hillsboro Landing cafe asked her to remove her Wiccan cross several times, even though other employees, including the manager, wore Christian crosses. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Respect For Women Yes, Worship of Goddesses No

Women have fared very badly indeed in religions throughout history, is the short answer. Most large-scale religions, like most aspects of human culture, have been run by men, who have often used them to control and suppress women, in order to make sure that the sons who inherited their stuff were really their sons.

Religions have therefore regulated both women’s procreation and women’s right to own property. The two come together in the paranoid male obsession with female chastity, to ensure that male property would be inherited by male descendants.

On the other hand, religion on a local scale is also a place where women have often expressed their resistance, sometimes in their private rituals, which men called witchcraft, or by channeling the voices of angry goddesses. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pagans Count Selves Among The Faithful

A profusion of steeples, spires and crosses reach for the sky in McMinnville, but these symbols of our nation's dominant Christian faith do not reflect the full range of spirituality among the county's population.

That range includes Earth-centered faiths that first began to reach the public eye in the 1960s under labels like New Age, Pagan and Neo-Pagan.

What adherents have in common are a rejection of traditional worship practices and a desire to get closer to the environment and the Earth. Some refer to themselves as witches, pagans or shamans, while others reject such loaded terms.

"Pagan" comes from the Latin term for "country dweller" or "villager." It has traditionally been used to describe people, often indigenous tribal people, not embracing Christianity, Islam, Judaism or one of the world's other major religions.

It has sometimes been applied even more narrowly, as has "heathen," to anyone outside the Christian faith. Because it carries connotations of being primitive and uneducated, it has long been considered derogatory.

However, it has been embraced by many practitioners nonetheless. Full Story

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Patty Parsons The Witch And Other Village Characters

Superstition, belief in the evil eye, witchcraft and witch-hunting no doubt have their part in Weston's story as in the history of other places.

Around the year 1810 there was a witch getting around this district. She was Patty Parsons, who lived at Kewstoke in a cottage on the side of the hill near where the toll gate lodge stands.

Local historian Ernest Baker wrote about her. He would not vouch for the truth of all the stories told of Patty, but set them down as they were told to him. "When I was a child it was my great delight to sit at my mother's knee and listen to stories of old Westonians, and especially of Patty the witch," he wrote.

All the people round about were afraid of Patty we are told. They would quickly get out of the way if they saw her coming, and apparently she traded on their fears. Boldly she would call at house or cottage, and everything of the best - eggs, butter, and cheese - were handed her. No one would risk giving her offence. Full Story

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

For Hexed Or Vexed, A Store Casts Its Spell

It's a curious sight all right: As customers mill about the crowded shop, its floors creaking, a serene woman in plush purple sweats walks among them, tracing circles in the air with a smoldering bundle of dried sage.

Stranger still is that no one save the UPS man, who is delivering packages and needs her signature, seems fazed by what manager Marcia Finnegan is doing. Or by the flutelike wail wafting down the stairs. Or by the query of a young man who, studying an array of potions and powders, asks: "How much is your Prosperity Bath?"

What becomes clear, through the herbal fog, is that the unusual is commonplace at Harry's Occult Shop, a onetime pharmacy in the 1200 block of South Street that specializes in remedies of a more mystical nature. Full Story

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Magic On Moors Or Fertile Imagination?

One correspondent likened them to Masai tribesmen.

Other sources say they could be witches performing ancient rituals, druids or merely frustrated mums hoping to harness the powers of a mystical fertility stone.

Since the Observer postbag started receiving reports of a group of white-robed people walking on Blackstone Edge moor the theories have come in thick and fast.

But as yet no concrete answers have been found. Full Story

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Telefilm On Witch Hunting

Ranchi, Jan 12 (IANS) A telefilm to raise awareness on witch hunting that has claimed hundreds of lives in Jharkhand was telecast by Ranchi Doordarshan Thursday.

The film, 'Phul Kunwar', directed by Bhupendra Narayan Singh, is the story of a beautiful girl who was tortured after she refused to pander to some men of her village.

The protagonist is a beautiful girl who attracts the attention of every man in the village. She is branded a witch and tortured when she refuses to give in to the sexual demands of the villagers as well as some government officials. Full Story

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Voodoo Tourism

Voodoo has a bad name - and the west African state of Benin, which has the faith as its official religion, is determined to do something about it.

It hopes to use its ten-day Voodoo festival, which ended yesterday, to draw in tourists.

In a final ceremony of ancestor and spirit worship, women wearing shells and beads writhed before a carved fetish and a knife-wielding dancer with a chalk-whitened face performed intricate steps to honor the python spirit, all accompanied by powerful drums.

Festival organizers hope tourists will visit and find links between the contemporary cultures of west Africa and the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe, now peopled with many of African descent.

While indigenous religions are followed in many parts of west Africa, often interspersed with Christian and Muslim practices, Benin and parts of neighboring Nigeria have particularly strong Voodoo communities. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Astrology in Israeli Politics

Should the Prime Minister's Office include a bureau of astrology? Would Israel have done better in last summer's war in Lebanon if the defense minister had conferred with Kabbalists?

Nancy Reagan conjured up a storm of controversy during the 1980s when it was revealed that astrologers had visited her in the White House and imparted advice that she might have then used to counsel her husband. But Mrs. Reagan's sessions were no match for the magical tools that have been used, or should be, by Israel's politicians, according to some of the participants in a conference held Thursday at the Hebrew University on "Magic, Mystery and Witchcraft."

Topics addressed by leading university academics included "Jesus the Magician" and "The New Age: The Secret of Harry Potter's Success." But the conference's final session featured participants discussing "Magic and Politics"; the theme was the role magic plays on Israel's political scene. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Magic vs. Mayhem

If you crossed a private detective along the lines of Sam Spade or Jim Rockford with Harry Potter, you’d end up with the basic idea behind The Dresden Files, a new series airing on the Sci-Fi Channel starting Sunday at 9 p.m.

Based on the novels by Jim Butcher, it stars Paul Blackthorne as Harry Dresden, a Chicago private eye who is also a wizard. (He advertises as both in the Chicago phone book). Dresden has one foot in each world, the everyday existence we all live in, and the realm of the supernatural.

A word of warning for younger fans of wizardry, or their parents: this show is not aimed at children. The first episode, for example, includes some corpses who have been skinned and a boy stolen from his bed by the Raven Clan, creepy thugs-for-hire in the magical world. (My 10-year-old won’t be watching.) Full Story

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Monday, January 15, 2007

A Wiccan Success Story

From a business perspective, Dragon's Paradox, a Contoocook gift shop specializing in metaphysical items, is not a rousing success after its first 10 months. On a good day, the store gets three customers, said owner KaLea Thoits. But for Thoits, 31, finances are secondary - to her, the store represents the fulfillment of part of her spiritual journey as a witch.

"I don't consider it a success or a failure based on how many customers I have," she said. "It's a success because I made it, because it's here. Anything above that is a bonus." Full Story

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Witchcraft Fears In Township Board

No incantations were chanted, potions brewed, or spells cast Monday night when the Flint Township Board unanimously honored two teenagers for their service to the community.

Tashween Ali, a senior at Carman-Ainsworth High School, and Jacob Bodtker, a home-schooled Boy Scout, received a Spirit of Community Award about two weeks after the board canceled a similar honor because one board member feared it could be seen as endorsing witchcraft. Full Story

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Star-Crossed Tale Of Internet Astrology

In the esoteric world of online astrology, you might say Mercury has been in retrograde for years.

Even people who turn up their nose at horoscopes might well know that when the little planet "reverses," technology and communication can get all mucked up--delayed flights, broken PCs, all sorts of bad stuff.

No one knows that better than Kelli and David Fox, who pioneered the online horoscope business when they founded in 1995--and who became winners in the dot-com lottery four years later when they sold the site to iVillage for a reported $28 million. Since 2005, however, the native Australians have been locked in a prolonged legal battle with iVillage--or NBC Universal since the media conglomerate bought iVillage in 2006 for roughly $600 million--over contractual rights and the appropriate use of Kelli Fox's likeness on the site. Full Story

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Spells We Cast

Icelanders are known to be superstitious and to believe in the existence of elves and the guidance of spirits. Many seek the advice of fortune tellers. At the end of every year glossy magazine Vikan publishes an interview with a fortune teller, who predicts what will happen in the New Year. In the latest issue of Vikan, sorceress Sigrídur Klingenberg predicted, among other things, changes at news broadcaster NFS and heated debates in society regarding immigrants. Read IR’s Krista Mahr’s account of her rendezvous with the famous sorceress.

The Future of Reykjavík, in Wine

“Whoah. Ah hah. Oh my goodness gracious.” Sigrídur Klingenberg abruptly stopped the reading, squinting at the red streaks on the white cup in her hands. She looked up. “Did somebody move this cup?” Holding the cup out into the air with heavily ringed fingers, she asked again: “Did somebody move this cup? Jesus Christ couldn’t read this cup.”

Klingenberg, as she is known here, is one of about 100 professional sorceresses, fortune tellers and psychics working in Iceland today. Full Story

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Atheists Association Seeks Law Against Witchcraft

Former Indian Medical Association (IMA) vice-president and noted medical science writer Samaram on Saturday stressed there should be a collective effort from all quarters to address the issue of 'Banamathi' (sorcery).

Speaking at the three-day world atheist conference, he said 'banamathi' was claiming lives of scores of people across the country.

Andhra Shradha Nirmulam Samithi Pune president Dr Rajendra Kankariya said legal action was needed to protect the common people against customs thriving on ignorance, such as black magic, witchcraft and sorcery. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Informational Meeting Set On Shamanism

Perhaps one of your New Year’s resolutions was to try something new in 2007. If so, then “The Water Lives Deep in the Woods — an in depth look at Shamanism” may be the perfect opportunity to satisfy that resolution.

Shaman Daniel Iasius is conducting an informational meeting on Shamanism at 7 p.m. Monday at Peter White Public Library in Marquette.

“The main qualification of a Shaman is to see the past, present and future ... to see in the dream time, to see and walk with helping spirits, to help and work with totem animals,” he said. “The focus of this talk will be on helping to discover (people’s) own Shamanic ability to see.”

Iasius said Shamanism is not a religion and has nothing to do with witchcraft. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Magical Landscape Is All Around Us

With the current popularity of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, everyone is looking for a bit of magic - and the extraordinary thing about Lewes and its landscape is that it is brimming with mystery.

No-one knows this better than Philip Carr-Gomm, a Lewes author and psychologist who has the odd distinction of teaching magic by post.

The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, which he has led for 18 years, has attracted more than 10,000 members.

Years ago, he started walking the hills around Lewes and began researching its history and folklore.

The result? He found that he didn't need to travel to Glastonbury or the Himalayas for spiritual inspiration – it was right here in his home town.

He wrote a book, The Druid Way, about a walk he took from the Mount by Lewes Priory to the Long Man of Wilmington and back. Full Story

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Tattoos: The Ancient And Mysterious History

Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment. Joann Fletcher, research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain, describes the history of tattoos and their cultural significance to people around the world, from the famous " Iceman," a 5,200-year-old frozen mummy, to today’s Maori.

What is the earliest evidence of tattoos?

In terms of tattoos on actual bodies, the earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old.

Can you describe the tattoos on the Iceman and their significance?

Following discussions with my colleague Professor Don Brothwell of the University of York, one of the specialists who examined him, the distribution of the tattooed dots and small crosses on his lower spine and right knee and ankle joints correspond to areas of strain-induced degeneration, with the suggestion that they may have been applied to alleviate joint pain and were therefore essentially therapeutic. This would also explain their somewhat 'random' distribution in areas of the body which would not have been that easy to display had they been applied as a form of status marker. Full Story

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

When Your Mother Is A Witch

DEAR MARGO: We are Catholic, but about eight years ago, my mother decided she was a Wiccan. I have tried very hard to accept it, but I cannot.

I find it humiliating for people to know because it's embarrassing. She does, however, respect my need for it to be kept quiet.

The major issue is that I am pregnant and engaged to be married. My fiance is from Costa Rica, and his family is VERY religious, and in our religion, Wicca is the same as devil worship. I have not told my fiance because I am afraid of what his reaction would be. Full Story

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ancient Book On Herbal Medicine Shows Cures

A few years ago, Eric Buenz came across a 17th century book on herbal medicine.

And he wondered if its ancient folk wisdom could withstand a little scientific scrutiny.

So Buenz, then a graduate student at the Mayo Clinic, and a colleague decided to test a tree extract that the book claimed could cure diarrhea.

What they found was that the potion, made from the nuts of the atun tree, works a lot like an antibiotic, killing various types of bacteria.

And in a report in the British Medical Journal this month, they explain how a 300-year-old text by a Dutch naturalist named Rumphius could help scientists in their search for new and better drugs.

"It was lost traditional knowledge," Buenz said.

Mayo and the scientists have obtained a patent on the medicinal properties of the atun tree nut, in hopes someone might develop it into a drug. Full Story

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Hogwarts Hurrah Georgia School Board!

Nice to see a statewide school board back a local school board’s decision to keep the beloved Harry Potter tales on library shelves.

Rather than bowing to pressure of one irate mom, the Gwinnett County (Ga.) school board denied Laura Mallory’s request to remove the best-selling books.

Mallory, who has three children in elementary school, has been trying to get the books banned in Gwinnett schools for more than a year now, claiming the Potter series is an attempt to indoctrinate children in witchcraft. Full Story

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Alleged African Witches Still Outcast To Camps

Mariama Alidu was cast out as a witch from her village by her own family, yet she swears she has never cast a spell.

The mere suspicion of witchcraft was enough to see her and 80 other suspected witches expelled to a scruffy camp of mud huts on the fringes of the town of Gambaga in northern Ghana.

"It is the work of the devil. I can't say I have ever practised it myself," says Mariama, who has lived in the camp for about 10 years.

Hundreds more women accused of witchcraft live in similar camps in the cocoa- and gold-producing West African country.

Belief in witchcraft remains widespread in Africa, the world's poorest continent, where Christianity and Islam rub shoulders with animist religions, and where witch doctors wield great power in tribal societies. Full Story

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Texas Man Sues For Permit For Animal Sacrifice

A Euless man has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and three city officials because they refused him a permit to sacrifice animals as part of a religious ritual, according to court documents.

Jose Merced, who describes himself as a priest in the Santeria religion and as president of Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha Texas, says he was denied a permit to slaughter chickens and sometimes goats.

The lawsuit says that the animals are killed quickly and humanely and that the meat is eaten. The blood sacrifice is necessary for initiating new members, consecrating sacred shells and healing rituals, the lawsuit states.

"Santeria cannot continue to function, much less exist, without animal sacrifice," Merced wrote in an affidavit to the U.S. Northern District Court of Texas. Full Story

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Resolutions For A Better World In The New Year

As we face the start of a new year, it's traditional to make resolutions. But instead of making resolutions about our own individual behaviors, here are some resolutions I'd like to see come true in the world around us.

I'd like to see a resolution to the internecine fighting in Iraq. It's not a civil war, it's not an insurgency, it's a struggle for power between two bands of thugs who are using hatred between the Shiites and the Sunnis to fuel their battle. The prize is Iraq and its oil billions.

Here's one resolution that I wish everyone in America would make: Stop trying to ban books.

Do you realize that people have tried to prevent school children from reading "Harry Potter" about 115 times since the year 2000? And there are plenty of other calls to ban other books, as well. If someone doesn't like a book, they demand that the school system get rid of it.

Now, I make my living from writing books, so I may be prejudiced. But it seems to me that the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. Moreover, the Constitution also forbids the government to support any religious group.

The complaints against "Harry Potter" are on religious grounds. In Georgia's Gwinnett County just two weeks ago, a mother demanded that the school board prohibit "Harry Potter" in the classroom. Why? Because the book "promotes witchcraft" as an alternative to Christianity. Full Story

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Battling To Clear The Name Of 'Hellish Nell'

In 1944, medium Helen Duncan became the last woman in Britain to be convicted of witchcraft after being arrested at a seance in Portsmouth. Now campaigners are fighting to clear her name.

Among them is Portsmouth medium Pam Ashenden.

She said: 'She seemed like a woman with a natural gift who was persecuted under some antiquated law to keep her quiet.'

Mrs Ashenden has known of her own psychic powers since she was 15. Now the 60-year-old is a prominent astrologer and medium with the Joseph Carey Psychic Foundation, based at Buckland Community Centre, Buckland, Portsmouth.

'If Helen Duncan's name could be cleared it would be a great thing for mediums everywhere.' Full Story

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