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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pagans, Witches And Media

The mass media has rarely treated Witches and Pagans fairly. We are still seen as either scary, evil and demonic, unreal, or slightly deluded figures of fun, overall. It’s extremely difficult for us to receive the same respect and dignity of other religions.

That is slowly changing, due to the work of many dedicated people and organizations who have worked hard for years to communicate the truth about our religion. The fact that I’m on this panel for Newsweek and the Washington Post is one example of progress. Full Story

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Wiccan Soldiers Celebrate In Afghanistan

Members of the Wiccan religion celebrated the arrival of spring outside the Christian fellowship centre at the NATO military base here.

Canadian Maj. Malcolm Berry smiles as he recalls being approached a few weeks ago by a group of soldiers of the Wiccan faith – a neo-pagan religion strongly tied to nature.

"They wanted to welcome the spring in a ceremony where they are very thankful to Mother Earth and the new moon with pagan prayers," said Berry, the senior chaplain for Task Force Afghanistan. Full Story

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Witch Hunting Continues In Rajasthan

Women continue to be labelled as witches in Rajasthan even as the government is yet to act on a draft bill to check the practice. In the second such incident of witch hunting in a month, a 45-year-old woman was beaten till she fell unconscious.

Some people in Kasarwadi village in Banswara district, over 600 km from here, held Vensa, the wife of villager Deva Dangi, responsible for the illness of a child and beat her Friday.

'We were informed about the incident by the family members of the women. We are looking into it,' a senior police official from Dungra police station told IANS on telephone. The woman has been admitted in a local hospital. Full Story

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Waltzing With The Wicked Witch

A waltz with me? I’m sure men would kill for that. But why the stampede? Would it be because I’m gorgeous and witty or could it be because I’m a life-line to personal power and magic? Difficult question. But nothing’s too difficult for India’s beloved witch. How do most people react to me — I mean apart from overawed men? They’re amazed at my guts, curious about my amazing youthfulness, (you know that line, about ‘her loveliness goes on and on’), and yes, I’ll be frank, most wives are a tad envious. In fact, sometimes terribly resentful. Specially since my autobiography Beloved Witch zoomed in and up and refused to come down from the top.

But fascinating though the subject is, let’s stop talking about me for a while. What is ‘Wicca’? It comes from the old English ‘Wicce’ meaning the craft of the wise. An ancient branch of wisdom, going back, some historians believe, nearly 25,000 years. Full Story

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Witches On Page 1?

In regard to the March 22 edition of The Standard-Times, I would like to voice my objection to a piece that appeared as a feature article on the front page of that edition.

This was an obituary tribute to a man named Shawn Poirier titled, "Witches mourn their king."

In my opinion, this type of news is something that would have been more appropriately issued forth in a trade magazine or newsletter for witches and proponents of the occult, and does not merit front-page exposure of this magnitude in a mainstream newspaper such as The Standard-Times. Full Story

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Stories About Hidden Power Of ‘The Black Book’

Even in modern-day Norway, skepticism and superstition still linger around “the black book.”

When Kathleen Stokker traveled to Norway to research folk medicine practices, she was surprised to learn the extent to which it persists in the national psyche.

The black book is “much more a part of Norwegian culture than most would admit,” she said.

What was the black book?

Part legend, part superstition and part melding of pre-Christian and Catholic beliefs and customs, the black book was a compilation of folk remedies, rituals, prayers and incantations. Full Story

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Chaplains Help Soldiers Of Different Faiths

From jokingly advising Wiccan soldiers to keep their clothes on when celebrating the spring equinox to coaxing troops to talk about the trauma of surviving a roadside bomb, Canadian Forces chaplains are in Afghanistan for everyone.

Maj. Malcolm Berry smiles as he recalls being approached on the NATO base in Kandahar a few weeks ago by a group of soldiers of the Wiccan faith - a neo-pagan religion strongly tied to nature.

"They wanted to welcome the spring in a ceremony where they are very thankful to Mother Earth and the new moon with pagan prayers," said Berry, the senior chaplain for Task Force Afghanistan.

"We had no difficulty with that. We just didn't want them to do it 'sky-clad' (naked) in this environment because it would be too dangerous." Full Story

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pagans Suffer Ritual Abuse

Pagans in Dorset claim their growing popularity is making them a target for threats and abuse.

The Dolmen Grove, a Weymouth-based druid group, says a dead bird with a noose around its neck was left on the windscreen of its van.

Then nails were left under the wheels of the van the night after a music gig.

And the group says its 'peaceful religion' is being attacked by people who turn up at stone circle rituals and shout abuse. Chris Walsh, antique dealer and Arch Druid, said the problems started after pagan band The Dolmen played a gig in Weymouth. Full Story

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Ancient Traditions & Canadians Meet Spiritual Needs

Nearly 3,000 years ago Celtic tribes from Central Europe were spreading throughout the rest of the continent and by the second century BC they had settled Britain and Ireland.

As an oral culture, pre-Christian Celts left few, if any, written records of their spiritual beliefs and practices.

What has emerged is a fuzzy picture of a religious tradition that had a female- friendly ethos and reverence for the natural world.

Today, centuries later, some Canadians are looking to the Celts of Britain and Ireland for their own spiritual inspiration.

Here are some of their stories:

WITCHES FIND COMFORT IN RITUALS

Entering a darkened room, Karis Burkowski moves toward a woman dressed in a white gown and illuminated by candlelight. She is Brigid, the Celtic goddess of poetry, healing and the smithcrafts. Full Story

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mayan Priests Purify Ruin After Bush Visit

Mayan priests spiritually "cleansed" a Guatemalan religious site with incense and candles on Thursday after a visit earlier this week by President Bush.

Two priests lit colored candles on the four corners of the ruins to represent natural elements, burning incense and beating a ceremonial drum on top of a pyramid visited by Bush and Guatemalan President Oscar Berger on Monday.

The priests said they wanted to purify the site before a visit by Bolivia's indigenous President Evo Morales later this month.

At Thursday's ceremony, two spiritual guides said prayers in Spanish and the Kaqchikel Mayan language, handing corn that had been used as decoration during Bush's visit to kneeling women. Corn is sacred in Mayan culture and is the origin of man in the Mayan holy book the Popul Vuh. Full Story

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Role Of The Real Magician

Magic isn’t just what P C Sorcar or David Copperfield do. That’s the kind of stuff that Aleister Crowley defined as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will.”

This suggests a very materialistic view. The real view would be that the human will should be aligned in such a way that change occurs within the individual as much as in the external world. This distinction demonstrates the two forms of magic or transformation: the way of dedication and service of the world and the way of personal power and self-aggrandisement; the right-hand path and the left-hand path. High magic versus low magic. Full Story

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Making Men Look More Feminine, EU Style

You would think that the European Union which has seen itself caricatured in comedy with the question, "How many EU officials does it take to measure a banana?" would know better than to throw a lifeline to Witchcraft.

But even though still caught up in a conundrum of finding water for 41 million Europeans lacking access to safe drinking water, that's precisely what the EU's up to.

Like most things bureaucratic, it was one of those ideas that started off in the right direction, with the EU opening up funding for new projects in Romania.

Perhaps frustrated by the mountains of paperwork that had to be filled out, locals hoping to get in on the funding are turning to witches to cast spells that promise to speed up and even guarantee the results of the process. Full Story

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Pagan Council Speaks To End Stereotypes

With the lights turned down low, Fox Valley Pagan Unity Council member Penny Goody led a group of people seated in a large circle through a guided meditation filled with imagery of nature. Some of the participants were sitting up and some of them were lying on their backs, but they all had their eyes closed as they listened intently to Goody’s words. When the meditation concluded, hand drummers provided music for the participants to dance to as the ceremony closed.

The ceremony celebrated the coming of Ostara, a pagan holiday recognizing the spring equinox, when the energies of the world shift to spring.

“I think (paganism) is about being a witch and worshipping nature; it’s not evil, it’s just I don’t believe in paganism,” said Jenny Langfitt, a university employee and non-denominational Christian.

Not surprisingly, subjects like paganism are often misconstrued and in turn fall victim to stereotypes. Full Story

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Teacher Fired In 'Witch' Hunt Loses Case

A teacher who alleged that she was fired from her job because administrators thought she was a witch lost her $2 million lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

The jury deliberated for an hour before deciding that Lauren Berrios, 37, wasn't entitled to any money from the Hampton Bays school district, her ex-employer. The trial began March 7.

"I think the jury saw this for what it was -- a publicity stunt," said attorney Steven C. Stern, who represented the district. "We're glad the district can put this chapter behind them." Full Story

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick vs. The Pagans

Pastor Walter Mitty went out on his front porch in his pajamas and slippers last Saturday to bring in his Tribune. The air wasn't exactly warm, but below average temperatures lately made 40 degrees feel like a heat wave.

"Morning neighbor," hollered Michael Rosenthal as he walked toward his car.

"Where you going?"

"Over to the Retro," Michael replied. "I feel like decorating the house for St. Patrick's Day. Full Story

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Sadness At Loss Of Ancient Tree

A 200-year-old tree at the centre of worship by druids and witches has been chopped down to size after it became diseased.

The 80ft beech at Winterbourne Abbas has been reduced to a 10-metre stump by English Heritage because of fears it would die and fall over.

The tree has become a dominant feature at the site, famous for the ancient stone circle standing beneath its branches.

Now the Dolmen Grove, a Weymouth-based druid group, will perform a 're- balancing' ritual in mourning for the loss of the tree and to mark a new beginning for their holy site.

The Arch Druid of the Dolmen Grove, antique-dealer Chris Walsh, will lead the peaceful service and hopes many of the sect's 250 witches, druids, shamans and pagans will attend. Full Story

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Can I Design The Lesson Plan On Wiccan?

Should religion be taught in School? Which religion? And who decides? Do we institute a state religion in the U.S.? Somehow I thought this country was founded by dissidents looking for religious freedom. Whatever happened to that idea?

If we don’t have a state religion, then we’d have to teach all religions. And I just want to say to everyone pushing this idea that I am completely ready to step up and help design the Mandatory Wiccan Religion Session for primary, intermediate and secondary grades. Full Story

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ritual May Be Linked To Skull Found In Cauldron

A cauldron found last week with a human skull and some bones inside may be part of a Palo ritual, an African religion rarely practiced in the United States, state police said.

Police said they were contacted by Jennifer Rose Emick, an expert in alternative religions, who told them the items were similar to those used in initiation ceremony by practitioners of the Palo Mayombe, a religion originally from the Congo region of Africa and brought to the Americas by enslaved men and women. Full Story

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Massive Pele Sculpture Unveiled

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park yesterday unveiled a massive sculpture that pays tribute to the volcano goddess Pele, whose own monumental handiwork is evident in the Big Island's stunning landscapes and the ongoing Kilauea eruption.

"Ulumau Pohaku Pele" (Forever Growing, the Rock of Pele) by Kona artist John "Kalewa" Matsushita is meant to remind visitors that the park is a place of natural and scientific wonders, but also a place that is sacred to Native Hawaiians, according to Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.

"Through this sculpture we hope to raise the visitors' awareness of the sacredness of our volcanoes and their living deity Pele," Orlando said. "This is a lasting legacy to the power, meaning and values of Hawaiian culture." Full Story

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Teacher Rumored To Be Witch Has Day In Court

A federal jury in Central Islip heard opening statements Wednesday from attorneys in the case of a reading specialist who contends the principal at the Hampton Bays school where she worked denied her tenure because he falsely believed she was a witch.

Lauren Berrios' attorney promised the jury it would hear evidence that the accusations began once former Hampton Bays Elementary School principal Andrew Albano became a born again Christian.

"Once Mr. Albano had a change in his religion, he began to suspect Lauren Berrios was a practitioner of witchcraft," said attorney John Ray of Miller Place.

Ray also said Albano sought to block Berrios from getting tenure because he wanted to force Christianity on the school. Full Story

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Soldier's Freedom Of Religion

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been denying surviving family members the right to have a Wiccan pentacle, and possibly other religious symbols, placed on the grave markers of deceased soldiers who were their husbands or wives, sons or daughters.

This has been causing quite an uproar, to say the least, because the soldiers died serving their country. Yet their country, where freedom of religion is one of its basic rights, is denying a deceased soldier's right of religious freedom when the VA denies Wiccan and other religious symbols on his or her military marker. I believe this is due, in part, to well-meaning people who simply do not understand that the Wiccan pentagram is not a symbol of the devil. Instead, it is well known, to anyone who has a computer, that the Wiccan symbol, a five-pointed star in a circle, represents the integration of the body and spirit, and the spiritual mastery of the four elements. This is not satanic worship. The pentagram has a history predating Christianity. Full Story

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

N.Y. Teacher Fights Modern-Day 'Witch Trial'

A Long Island elementary school teacher is suing the Hampton Bays school district after she was fired because her administrators allegedly believed she was a witch teaching witchcraft to her students. Her lawyer is calling the case a "21st century re-enactment of the Salem Witchcraft Trials."

Lauren Berrios told CBS 2 that she was terminated after she was told that she "entice[d] children into witchcraft and magic through literature."

A school spokesperson says Berrios' claim lacks merit, but in 2003 the school's principal at the time testified he believed that Berrios practiced witchcraft. Full Story

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Suspect Tells Of Pagan Ritual

John J. Anderson, charged with murder in the strangulation of Natasha Miller, 19, whose nude body was found floating in the Huron River in April, wants his hours-long taped confession thrown out.

And what a strange confession it was.

At first, the Wixom resident insisted he had nothing to do with her death. Eventually, he admitted the killing, saying it was an accident, police said.

Then for hours he talked about religion, origins of the universe, the Torah, the Quran, the Bible, and his life as a druid -- part of an ancient pagan Celtic religion. He placed Miller's body in the river, he said, for religious reasons, to reunite her with the spirit of water. Full Story

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Trial Could Be A Spellbinder

Brewing accusations of witchcraft are expected to bubble over during a federal trial scheduled to open this week in Central Islip, where a former Hampton Bays Elementary School teacher is suing the district for $2 million.

In 2001, Lauren Berrios filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court saying that she was fired because co-workers wrongly believed she was a witch. Berrios is Jewish and said the witchcraft rumors surfaced because she turned down invitations to attend Christian services.

The school district maintained she was let go because her teaching wasn't up to par.

Thomas Schweitzer, a professor at Touro Law Center and an expert in education and First Amendment law, said it's possible the term "witch" will be scrutinized and that the defense could argue it was meant as a jibe to describe a mean woman. Full Story

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Column Didn't Leave Witches In Stitches

I was only back to work for 45 minutes after a short vacation before I "stepped in it," as they say.

You'd think that after more than 2,000 columns, I'd have a feeling for who might be offended by something I write.

But I satirically suggested spanking should be against the law and said I was disappointed that Assemblywoman Sally Lieber had withdrawn her bill. I said she had "bowed to the pressure of child-beaters, witches, the Leather Belt Lobby and wooden spoon manufacturers."

Now, out of that group of suspects, who do you think would be offended? Not the child beaters. Not the wooden spoon makers. Not even the nonexistent Leather Belt Lobby. The witches were outraged. Who'd have thought that witches could be so sensitive?

Frankly, I don't even know why I threw witches in that list. The witches I am familiar with through movies and books don't beat children, they eat them. Full Story

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Do Pennsylvania Schools Prefer Pagans to Christians?

No Halloween Candy for Jesus!

Few bureaucrats can subvert a well-intentioned principal like the separation of church and state with the hypocritical bombast of school administrators. But when they actually succeed in making religious fanatics seem rationale, well now that's an achievement worthy of an OFF/beat Idiot of the Year nomination. Full Story

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Pagan Student Clears Misconceptions

When many think of Paganism, it’s easy to jump straight to magic spells, tarot cards and other sorts of hocus pocus.

For Simon L. Delott, a junior double major in secondary education and philosophy and religion, being a Pagan is more of a religious experience.

Delott became a Pagan in high school shortly after he researched the religion for a class project.

At first, Delott agreed with many of the Pagan ideas, but he did not think that was enough to convert. It wasn’t until he became aware of a “divine presence” that he decided to begin practicing. Full Story

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Greening The Easter Bunny

Easter is the most important religious feast of the Christian year. But as with many other Christian events, the celebration of Easter extends beyond the church. Ancient civilizations celebrated Spring by feasting with family and friends, and pagan fertility traditions and symbols have, over the centuries, become part of Easter celebrations.

However, for many people today, it is just another commercial opportunity, benefiting greeting card and candy manufacturers. Unfortunately, most families’ Easter celebrations are also orgies of excess packaging and unhealthy eating, tempting some to try to ignore it altogether. But the season is fun for many children and invites those of us in the northern hemisphere to be optimistic about life and renewal, a sentiment that is much needed these days. In that spirit, here are some thoughts about creating a greener, healthier and more meaningful Easter, whether or not you celebrate the religious aspect of the occasion.

Eggs have been symbols of Spring probably since the beginning of human civilization. Full Story

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Local Church Asks: What Would Buffy Do?

It's a world filled with vampires, demons and other made-up monsters, with plot twists that rely on the supernatural and a love affair between a teenage girl with "un-human" powers and an immortal man who "unlives" a tortured (sometimes literally) existence.

The appeal and success of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which ran for seven seasons on the WB and UPN and developed a cult-like following, was in its obvious absurdities - that the characters dealt with fictional monsters that flocked to their town, which was built, naturally, on a hell mouth.

Doesn't sound much like a basis for religious discussion, but at Murray Unitarian Universalist Church, pop culture often finds its way into God's house.

"It's about taking something that's very popular and mining it for religious and philosophical ideas," said Nan Loggains, director of religious education. Full Story

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Friday, March 02, 2007

EU Helps Witches Branch Out

Romanian witches are carving out a lucrative new business - concocting spells to help locals get EU grants.

Until now the country's witches have confined themselves to love potions and spells to get cows to produce more milk.

But the EU expansion has seen funding for new projects flood into the country and now locals hoping to gain a slice of the action are turning to witches to boost their chances. Full Story

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Druids Request Re-Burial Of Bones

Druids have called for a proper burial for Neolithic human remains, excavated from a site in Wiltshire in the 1920s.

The bones of a young child were dug up from a ditch in Windmill Hill, Avebury, by archaeologist Alexander Keiller.

The remains went on display at the village's museum, named after Keiller, who was heir to a Dundee-based marmalade business.

But the Council of British Druid Orders (COBDO) has made a formal request to English Heritage to re-inter the bones. Full Story

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