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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

24,000 Witches, Pagans And Druids Descend On Stonehenge

Midnight on Midsummer's Eve and I'm standing in a soggy field in Wiltshire. To my right is Taloch the Stag Lord, who's wearing a black cloak, thigh-high boots and an enormous pair of antlers which bob about on his head as he talks.

To my left is a nice man called Melkin, the Arch Druid of the Dolmen Grove Coven. He's huddled against the cold in a long green robe and clutches a 6ft long beech staff topped with another pair of antlers.

"As you can see, we're not the archetypal devil-worshipping sect you see in films," he says cheerily. "We're just normal people.

Er, OK. Though to be fair, the pair of them are blending in rather better than I, in anorak, bobble hat and wellies. Because, as far as the eye can see there are thousands upon thousands of druids, witches, hippies, students, drunken louts, tourists and hundreds of weary looking police, all lurching about in billowing clouds of cannabis smoke. Full Story

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Monday, June 25, 2007

The Druids: A History, By Ronald Hutton (Book Review)

With his relaxed style and his refreshing insights into the historical origins of modern pagan beliefs, Ronald Hutton is one of the most recognised historians on British television. He has also become something of an iconoclast, tearing up what we thought we knew, and emphasising that all history is interpretation: who is telling the story, when, and why, obviously affects the content: what we call "history".

So what do we know as fact about the Druids? Almost nothing, because the few Roman sources are very questionable. Recent scholarship on Tacitus reveals that his work "represents beliefs, rather than recording reality". The evidence for the Druids as early British heroes, or even for their existence in Britain at the time of the Roman conquest, "consists of a molehill of completely unreliable material. On this a mountain of literature was to be built." Full Story

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Channels Under Fire For Promoting Black Magic

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Arabsat, a leading satellite service provider in the Arab world, has threatened to suspend a number of satellite channels that it broadcasts stating that these channels promote magic and charlatanism and claim to have knowledge of the unknown.

Khaled bin Ahmed Belkhyour, the CEO of Arabsat who is also an engineer, told Asharq Al Awsat that the satellite operator will take practical steps during the next two weeks to stop such channels being transmitted if they continue to broadcast programs related to charlatanism. He highlighted that the organization had addressed officials responsible for managing these satellite channels four months ago to end what Belkhyour described as “myths, falsehood and charlatanism”. He stressed that Arabsat has taken legal action to suspend these channels as a result of public opinion, pointing out that the objectives of Arabsat are to uphold the pillars of religion, heritage and traditions.

The global forum warned against these channels due to the damage caused to religious beliefs as they drive viewers towards polytheism and to rely on people rather than God to solve their problems. Full Story

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer Solstice Celebrated At Stonehenge

Druids, drummers, pagans and partygoers welcomed the sun Thursday as it rose above the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge on the longest day of the year — the summer solstice.

Clad in antlers, black cloaks and oak leaves, a group of druids cheered and danced at the Heel stone — a twisted, pockmarked pillar at the edge of Stonehenge.

“Happy solstice!” said Laura Tungate, a 26-year-old financial adviser from Newcastle, who wore a giant rainbow sweater and offered hugs to smiling passers-by.

Taking a swig from a mug of vodka and Red Bull, she said she had been coming to the solstice ceremony for the past eight years.

“I love the whole vibe, and the energy, and the fact that these stones, that they are alive, they do breathe, and they do grow ... and they’re massive!” she said. Full Story

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Different Religions Express Various Degrees Of Openness To Images

As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what is obscene or pornographic differs among religious traditions.

And not all people within traditions agree.

Another complication: "Ancient sacred texts are virtually silent on what modern people consider pornographic," said Brent Plate, religion and visual arts professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

People from some other faiths, however, may go to the temple and see these images and think they are erotic, said Plate, whose latest book is "Blasphemy: Art That Offends." Full Story

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Here Comes The Sun

Erin Piatt, a practising neo-pagan, plans to mark the summer solstice Thursday with a personal ritual. In previous years, she was often part of a larger gathering, a circle of like-minded souls who would watch the sun set in Beachy Cove June 20, holding a vigil in front of a fire, sharing food and making music throughout the shortest night of the year before hurrying to Cape Spear to watch the sun rise in the east.

Most people know that June 21, the summer solstice, is the longest day of the year. Few people realize why marking that day was important to people in the past and why it continues to be important to those whose beliefs are tied to the Earth's cycles.

"The pagan calendar originated in a culture that was dependent on the earth. If they didn't get enough sunshine, things would be bad, they wouldn't have enough to feed their children," Piatt explains. "Solstice is the height of summer, the height of energy and fertility that will be available to create something to harvest to get you through the height of winter."

By celebrating the summer solstice (and other seasonal markers), pagans acknowledge that all people are part of the ecosystem, dependent on the Earth and the seasons. Full Story

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Fair Witch Project

Placenta and petroleum, mares' urine and powdered hoof; nitrates and formaldehyde, dolphin fat and... the bizarre ingredients we choose to smear on our faces in our endless quest for beauty would satisfy the most morbid of magicians.

Many of us zap ourselves with electric pulses, burn ourselves with lasers and put our faith in the goddesses Elemis and Clarins. But, in one part of Scotland at least, some women are looking to an altogether more ancient method of boosting their attractiveness - witchcraft. Full Story

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Witches: Trouble In Cards If Psychic Fairs Unchecked

Several psychics are urging city councilors to change some of Salem's long-debated proposed fortunetelling regulations or risk driving the witches out of the Witch City.

Councilors, however, say they've heard enough and are ready to vote on a psychic-licensing ordinance Thursday night.

The group of psychics including Salem's official witch, Laurie Cabot wants tougher restrictions on psychic fairs and the interloping clairvoyants who lure business away from group members' shops during the crucial Halloween tourist season.

The group, known as the Witches' Public Awareness League, has sent letters to city councilors, and members say they may sue the city and take their business elsewhere if the changes aren't made. Full Story

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Monday, June 18, 2007

The ‘Real’ Hillary Clinton, Wiccan Priestess And Lawn Bowler

Lately, two more high-profile books about Hillary Clinton have been published. There have been a lot of them so far, and there will a lot more of them, and I stand with many Americans when I ask: Where am I supposed to put them all? I suppose I could brick them up in the room where I keep the amontillado, but then what would I serve my guests?

..both books purport to show us the "real Hillary," and both books fail. Indeed, almost every book about Clinton attempts to uncover the "real Hillary," and not one has come close. Perhaps there is no there there; perhaps there is too much there there.

The "real Hillary" is the great quest, the ever-receding goal, the solitary unicorn of modern journalism. Many seek her; none find her. It's all very medieval.

I want to end the madness. I want to talk about the real Hillary I know, not the senator or the politician or the wife or the campaigner or the policy wonk -- we have all seen those public faces of a very private woman. No, I want to talk about Hillary Clinton, Wiccan priestess and lawn bowler.

I first met Hillary at an Ostara festival (although it could have been Mabon -- I get them confused, don't you?) Full Story

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Christian Billy Graham On Paganism

[Editor's note: Interesting to see what Christian spokespeople have to say now and then.]

DEAR DR. GRAHAM: The other day, our newspaper ran an article about a group in our city that claims to follow an ancient form of paganism. They even say they practice witchcraft, although not the kind that harms people. Do you think they're serious about this, or are they just trying to attract attention? -- Mrs. N.W.

DEAR MRS. N.W.: Only they can answer this, of course -- but if they are like other groups I've heard about, they probably take their beliefs very seriously.

I have often asked myself why people such as this turn their backs on Christianity and embrace something that is almost the exact opposite. Full Story

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pagans Resist Keeping The Faith To Themselves

They each have a story about how they found their path.

One is a former Catholic who gave the faith up at 21.

Another was raised by strict Southern Baptists.

One had parents who encouraged him to explore many faiths.

For another, a self-described hereditary witch, it’s been a family tradition.

They are airmen, sailors and spouses — and they are Pagans. They are also perhaps part of one of the least understood religious minority groups in the U.S. military. Full Story

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Friday, June 15, 2007

The Magical Properties Of Mercury

Few substances on Earth are stranger. It shines like a mirror, conducts electricity and is as much of a metal as copper or iron.

Yet this material is a liquid, one of only five naturally occurring elements that are liquid at room temperature.

It is the stuff of legend, the key to alchemy and witchcraft, a deadly poison and yet also a potent medicine. We use it to weigh the air, generate reflections and also to measure our temperature.

And now Brussels is banning it. Of course, not even the European Commission has the power to ban a chemical element, but what they have done is forbidden its use in traditionally made scientific instruments on health and safety and environmental grounds. Full Story

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

'Hex' Murder Home Will Share Tale With Visitors

One of the most well-known homes in York County will open this summer, giving locals and visitors alike a chance to see where a man believed to be a witch was beaten to death and burned almost 80 years ago.

Visitors to the former home of Nelson Rehmeyer will be able see where the man -- believed to be a witch or "pow-wower" -- was killed more than 200 years after the infamous Salem, Mass., witch trials.

Media from across the world came to cover the trial of John Blymire and his two teen accomplices. The trio killed Rehmeyer because Blymire believed the man had cast a spell on him, ruining 15 years of his life. Full Story

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Officials Want Hoadley Religion Lawsuit Dismissed

A federal judge should dismiss a lawsuit filed by an inmate seeking a toy sword and other privileges for the practice of an ancient European religion, the lawyer for state officials argued in court documents.

Darrell Hoadley of Lead, who was convicted of murder for his part in the 2000 slaying of Chester Allan Poage near Spearfish, filed the handwritten complaint in February in U.S. District Court.

He listed himself as counsel elder of the Asatru religious group.

Hoadley said he's suing prison staff because they have denied some of his requests while members of other religions have received similar privileges. Full Story

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Youth Program Yanked Because Of Witchcraft

A library program in Pickens County described by some parents as promoting witchcraft has been canceled.

You Never Know at Your Library is a summer mystery and suspense series for students in grades 5 and higher.

The 7-week sessions included a variety of activities, including palmistry, tarot card reading, T-shirt tie-dying and scrapbooking. Full Story

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Dead Raccoon At Psychic's Doors Sparks Health Alert

The dismembered body of a raccoon, left on the doorsteps of two psychic shops in an apparent feud among fortunetellers, has had unforeseen consequences.

Health officials are contacting police officers and firefighters who handled the raccoon remains, which were found early on May 27, near the entrances to two psychic shops - Angelica of the Angels at 7 Central St. and The Goddess' Treasure Chest at 172 Essex St. on the pedestrian mall.

Police opened an investigation last week after being contacted by City Councilor Joan Lovely.

Lovely said she grew concerned because the incident took place only a few days after a City Council meeting on licensing fortunetellers. Lovely also had been told of a car window that was smashed after another meeting. Full Story

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Astral Border Protection (Satire)

America's borders are under assault -- not just from the usual coterie of coyotes, illegal aliens, and would-be terrorists. But from "disaffected voudon priestesses, state-sponsored Venezuelan witch-doctors" and other practitioners of "bad juju," as well.

To defend ourselves against these otherworldly threats, a "Department of Homeland Security" presentation notes, we must enlist a new corps of protectors: "the neopagan community." Full Story

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Young British Women Turn To Witchcraft

A study conducted at Bath Spa University suggests that young people are increasingly drawn to witchcraft, it was revealed this week.

Conducted by Denise Cush, professor of religious studies at the university, the report showed there had been a notable rise in the number of young people identifying themselves as witches.

Cush argues that witchcraft remained particularly attractive to women because of its strong feminist values. Full Story

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Vail Psychic Finds Snag In Her Future

Vail’s new soothsayer apparently did not portend her own violation of the town’s zoning rules.

But that is no reflection of the clairvoyance of the psychic, Michelle Marks, said her husband, Tom Merino.

“It’s like a doctor,” Merino said. “You can’t do anything for yourself or your family.”

Vail Psychic — tucked among fur shops and art galleries on Gore Creek Drive in Vail Village — closed about two months ago after town officials discovered that services like palm readings don’t jibe with what’s allowed there, said George Ruther, head of the town’s community development department. Full Story

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Summer Solstice Fests Have Deep Roots

Summer solstice, the longest day of the year, inspired Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" and is associated with the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Solstice festivals abound in the United States, from Norwegian bonfires to pagan candlelight labyrinths and American Indian drumming rituals.

On the summer solstice, as the sun reaches its highest point directly over the tropic of Cancer at an angle of 23 degrees 27 minutes north, countless festivities will start to heat up.

Known variously throughout Europe as the Feast of Epona, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Vestalia and Midsummer, the summer solstice was viewed across cultures as a period of peak fertility and a time for weddings. The term "honeymoon" sprang from Celtic tradition and referred to the June moon and the fermented honey mead drunk at wedding celebrations. Full Story

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Godsmack's Erna leaves Dark Past, Emerges A Survivor

Sully Erna, the lead singer of the hard rock band Godsmack, which will be in Toledo tonight at the SeaGate Convention Centre, is a different guy. Much different. He's in his late 30s, drug and alcohol free, passing on his hard-earned wisdom to troubled youth, doing his best to be a good father to his 5-year-old daughter, and staying away from situations in which his only option is to punch someone out.

His is a cautionary tale, but he's not looking for sympathy and he doesn't look back with sadness. As recounted in The Paths We Choose, a refreshingly honest memoir in which Erna holds nothing back, even details that make him look bad, his story ultimately is that of a survivor.

"I don't regret a thing, and looking back - all the crazy girlfriends, all the fights - I wouldn't do anything different," he said in a phone interview. "I still have my moments but I don't feel like punching anyone in the face anymore."

Erna, who practices the Wiccan religion, said the current tour ends in early fall, just in time for him to be off and take his daughter, Skylar, to her first year of kindergarten. He also will continue working with his public service organization Community Alliance for Teen Safety, which spreads the word that there are alternatives to drug abuse, violence, and other dangerous behavior. Full Story

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Controversy Over UK Pagan Gathering

Some would call it the Devil's work. Two ancient religions have locked horns in a bizarre "freedom of speech" row that is echoing around the corridors of one of Scotland's oldest academic institutions.

The University of Edinburgh has granted permission to the Pagan Society to hold its annual conference - involving talks on witchcraft, pagan weddings and tribal dancing - on campus next month. Druids, heathens, shamans and witches are expected to attend what is a major event in the pagan calendar.

But the move has enraged the Christian Union, which accuses the university of double standards after banning one of its events on the "dangers" of homosexuality. Full Story

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Apologies For The Absence

We apologize for the brief absence. Technical issues. The magick is once again in the air.

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