Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Burning Times, Yet Again

The Wild Hunt recently had a serious post concerning the number of people -- often children -- being murdered and abused as "witches", often in places that sound far away from us such as Africa or India. I linked to the blog and urged American Pagans to do magic this Yule to put a stop to this abuse. As the Wild Hunt's article made clear, this is not "just" a problem oversees.

A new article in the LATimes indicates that the spread of xianity throughout Africa, including churches linked with American churches, is a large part of the problem.

The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in two of Nigeria's 36 states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.

. . .

The Nigerian church is a branch of a Californian church by the same name. But the California church says it lost touch with its Nigerian offshoots several years ago. "I had no idea," said church elder Carrie King by phone from Tracy, Calif. "I knew people believed in witchcraft over there but we believe in the power of prayer, not physically harming people."

The Mount Zion Lighthouse — also named by three other families as the accuser of their children — is part of the powerful Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. The Fellowship's president, Ayo Oritsejafor, said the Fellowship was the fastest-growing religious group in Nigeria, with more than 30 million members.

"We have grown so much in the past few years we cannot keep an eye on everybody," he explained.

. . .

Even churches who didn't use to 'find' child witches are being forced into it by the competition," said Itauma. "They are seen as spiritually powerful because they can detect witchcraft and the parents may even pay them money for an exorcism."

That's what Margaret Eyekang did when her 8-year-old daughter Abigail was accused by a "prophet" from the Apostolic Church, because the girl liked to sleep outside on hot nights — interpreted as meaning she might be flying off to join a coven. A series of exorcisms cost Eyekang eight months' wages, or US$270. The payments bankrupted her.

Neighbors also attacked her daughter.

"They beat her with sticks and asked me why I was bringing them a witch child," she said. A relative offered Eyekang floor space but Abigail was not welcome and had to sleep in the streets.

Members of two other families said pastors from the Apostolic Church had accused their children of witchcraft, but asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.

The Nigeria Apostolic Church refused repeated requests made by phone, e-mail and in person for comment.

. . .

There's a scar above Jane's shy smile: her mother tried to saw off the top of her skull after a pastor denounced her and repeated exorcisms costing a total of $60 didn't cure her of witchcraft. Mary, 15, is just beginning to think about boys and how they will look at the scar tissue on her face caused when her mother doused her in caustic soda. Twelve-year-old Rachel dreamed of being a banker but instead was chained up by her pastor, starved and beaten with sticks repeatedly; her uncle paid him $60 for the exorcism.

Israel's cousin tried to bury him alive, Nwaekwa's father drove a nail through her head, and sweet-tempered Jerry — all knees, elbows and toothy grin — was beaten by his pastor, starved, made to eat cement and then set on fire by his father as his pastor's wife cheered it on.

Hey, xians! Nice religion you got there. Maybe the pope can give another speech on the evils of Paganism or some American tv pastor can blame Wiccans for terrorist attacks or hurricane damage.

Picture found here.

Dark Moon

Dark of the moon
Plant a seed tonight
Dark of the moon
What we envision
Dark of the moon
Will come to be
Dark of the moon
By the full moonlight

~Wiccan chant

Off to do some dark moon magic with the witches. I occasionally note that the amazing women with whom I work do political magic directly in the shadow of the Capitol and, oddly, that generally results in at least one email saying, "Nuh Unh. If you did that, someone would notice and stop you."

We are far from the only ones. You just don't see us because: (1) you don't expect to and (2) we don't want you to.

But we're all over.


Snapshot: Me, at Mt. Vernon, standing next to George Washington's tomb (not the swanky crypt he's in now. I'm talking about the earth-covered small room where he was originally buried). I am dumping a liter of ice cold water on the tomb, while almost shouting, "WAKE UP!! We NEED YOUR GUIDANCE! HEY!!! GEORGE!! WAKE UP!!!!" That was early into the first Bush administration when it became clear just how bad things were going to get.

Snapshot: With cohorts I am conducting rituals of recognition at each of the original Masonic cornerstones of the District, each stone precisely aligned to a cardinal direction. We offered wine and cornmeal, cleaned up the sites, danced around, sang songs, etc. We spent a whole year doing Connect DC. It was very fun.

Snapshot: Along with some of my cohorts I am standing in the rotunda of the Capitol. It is August 17, 2001. Three of us are standing in a triangle around the center of the rotunda, holding pieces of rose quartz. One is holding a sphere, one an egg, and one a long, pyramidal point. We are casting a "Triangle of Stillness" in the midst of the crazy central vortex of the Capitol, beneath the Apotheosis of Washington. (After that day I "saw" the triangle of stillness crystalize into a protective shield. After 9/11, my cohorts and I were convinced that our ritual had somehow protected the Capitol.) Yeah. Magicians tend to be grandiose.

Snapshot: I am standing at a fountain below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, flinging dozens of marigolds into the water, sobbing, chanting, "Drink! Drink! Drink!!" (I still don't know what that one was about!)

I could go on with the snapshots: a year and a half of rituals at Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Lafayette Park in front of the White House, at the Washington Monument, the Lincoln, on the American Civil War battlefields, etc. Oh yeah I was a very busy ritualist for a few years.

Connect DC: West of the Capitol

In ur churches, drinking ur wine.

At the Lincoln Memorial:

My New Name For A Blog

What Ruth Said.

The horribly skewed politics of right wing oppression is all the more disgraceful because it is wielded under a banner proclaiming family values. Valuing the family has been the most neglected practice of the administration we just tossed onto history’s dung heap, where it belongs.

The country needs to forge ahead to rebuild our economy, even though the wingnuts continue to bray about tax cuts for the wealthy, their continuing answer to the stagnation caused by…tax cuts to the wealthy. What has been ‘trickled down’ on the kids is a nightmare, made out of what was given to our generation in the form of the acclaimed North American dream.
The nuts and bolts of the real economy are always under the threat of ideology that thinks hardships are fine for the working class as long as the wealthiest get all the benefits. The remnant of supply-side delusion is undead and still struggling to climb back out of the grave it dug for this country and its treasures. The ranting you hear from teabagging ideologues is the death rattle that will go on until we can end it with real solutions.

Picture found here.

Saturday Poetry Blogging

In The Storm Of Roses

by Ingeborg Bachmann

Wherever we turn in the storm of roses,
the night is lit up by thorns, and the thunder
of leaves, once so quiet within the bushes,
rumbling at our heels.

Picture found here.

They're Getting Worried

This is just so squicky. I hate everything about it, starting with the "It's us against the world" chestbeating, the "some say" strawperson, and the completely ridiculous assertion that "those some who say" don't get a (completely unexplained) "distinction" between AmeriCA and AmeriCANS. The quick throw-away: Washington may help in times of trouble, is the moment when the carnie's hand distracts you over here so you don't see him remove the coin from under the cup over there. Yeah, "Washington" -- aka all of us AmeriCANS -- have to bail you "free enterprisers" out every time you steal too much and the till gets empty. And that's why we AmeriCANS are going to regulate you.

What a bunch of overwrought hooey. But at least it shows they're scared.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Not To Believe In Witchcraft Is The Greatest Of Heresies

Bishops ask for action against belief in witchcraft


VATICAN CITY - Two bishops from Nigeria asked the Synod of Bishops for Africa to make a clear commitment to educating Catholics about the fact that, while the devil exists, witchcraft does not.

"Suspected witches are abandoned, isolated, discriminated (against) and ostracized from the community," Bishop Augustine Akubeze of Uromi told the synod Oct. 12.

"Sometimes they are taken to the forest and slaughtered or disgraced publicly and murdered."

Witches do not exist and so the accusations are always false, Akubeze said. Even worse, people have been known to accuse someone of being a witch just to settle personal squabbles.

Akubeze said that while witchcraft "lacks any justification in reason, science and common sense," people continue to believe in it.

He called on the synod to make clear the Church's teaching that God is all-powerful and that he sent his Son to save all people from evil.

Bishop Joseph Ekuwem of Uyo, Nigeria, said that across the continent people believe that "witchcraft is an evil force capable of inflicting both spiritual and physical harm on a person."

The superstitions about witchcraft are so pronounced that people see witches as having more power than God, he said.

He urged development of simple versions of the Church's teaching about evil and Jesus' victory over it to be developed for the faithful.

The Church should also develop a new rite of exorcism and appoint an exorcist in each diocese, Ekuwem said.

In 1999 the Vatican published a new Rite of Exorcisms. The 1999 rules reflect the Church's recognition that many symptoms previously associated with possession can now be explained by medical science.

Picture found here.

Obama Restaurant Watch -- New Orleans Edition

Like my brilliant friend, E, I really love New Orleans. One of the things I love best about it is the food. ( It's possible that the garlic soup at Bayona is, in fact, the single very best thing I've ever eaten.) And you'd really have to wonder about anyone who would visit New Orleans without stopping to eat. So I'm relieved to learn that President Obama made time for gumbo during his trip to the city. Lunch from Dooky Chase was worked into the presidential schedule:

I know he likes gumbo, so there will be gumbo; I know he likes shrimp Creole, so there will be shrimp Creole; I know he likes fried chicken, so there will be chicken.

Chef Leah Chase is reported to believe that the athletic, young president is "too thin," something that New Orleans cuisine has a way of fixing in a hurry. Her food is classic New Orleans, a mixture of Sicilian, French, and Italian. Shrimp Clemenceau, an unlikely but successful casserole of sautéed shellfish, mushrooms, peas, and potatoes, is a no-brainer, but her fried chicken, veal, grits, grillades, and court bouillon are also out of this world. She reportedly cooked enough for him to share. Chase said the Secret Service came by Dooky Chase around 10 a.m. to pick up the food. While the order only called for enough to feed a few people, Chase said, "You know I don't do that." She essentially prepared a full buffet: 35 pieces of fried chicken, two gallons of gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp Creole.

Photo of the president during an earlier visit to Dooky Chase found here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


And, guitar players. I've always been a sucker for guys who play guitars, with those . . . interesting . . . calluses on their fingers. I have. (The music starts at about 3:00)

An Oldie But A Goodie

Mostly, I just like to watch Derrick Jensen take off his sweatshirt. And I'm a sucker for guys in poet shirts and curly long hair.

More here.

Great Goddess! You've Been Missed! Would You Like A List?

One can only hope that this news concerning the discovery of a temple to the Goddess Nemesis, who provided retribution against those who succumb to hubris, [and who embodied] vengeful fate, personified as a remorseless goddess will give pause to a few people.

Picture found here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feh! I Grow Sick Of This Nonsense

Jason's got up another very good post, and, you know, I've just got to say:

I likely missed some important point, but I never thought -- nor was it ever a key tenant of my religion -- that every person burned for being a witch -- and I neither know nor care about the exact number, but let's just stipulate that the number was, well, far above "too many" ok? -- was "really" a "witch," but I do think that being a woman could get you burned as a witch, especially if you were too smart, too difficult, too unwilling to remarry and make your property some man's property, too willing to ask difficult questions, too able to move between the veils, too lucky, too good at healing the sick in an era when male "doctors" were claiming the role of healer for their own, too sexual, not sexual enough, too big for your britches. And I believe that there was a liminal point when being a believer in the pre-xian religion and being burned as a witch were both awfully well-correlated phenomena. And I've always thought that my identification as a witch was a small way to stand against that evil, that part of what I do by "being" a witch is to take a stand beside those women burned for being too difficult. It's not a lot; it's just what I can do every day. It's just a daily reminder to me of how close I am to, well, to being fired, run out of my neighborhood, beaten, disliked, disbarred, burned. And it's just what has made organic sense to me ever since the day that I learned that those burned were more likely to have vaginas and those lighting the fire were more likely to have penises.

And, in reality, the mythic truth, itself, was far more important to me (sorry, Mr. Hutton) than any specific number of female bodies burned, than the actual truth of some once-upon-a-time-Bachofen-specific-economic-model society based upon the matriarchal clans around which primates evolved into hominids, than some historical village that met specific political measuring points, than some man's nice story about being initiated by a naked woman or what was always his obvious need to be scourged. In reality, I agreed with Monique Wittig when she wrote:

There was a time
when you were not a slave,
remember that you walked alone,
full of laughter,
you bathed bare-bellied.
You may have lost all recollection of it,

You say there are not words to describe it,
you say it does not exist.
but remember,
make an effort to remember,
or, failing that,

Call me crazy.

I read all those early works and took from them life-changing metaphorical truths and never really cared if the actual numbers were or were not off by a factor of ten. One burned woman was too many in my nutty cosmology. One old man "initiated" by a naked woman scourging him was far less important to me than the chance to honor nature, to recognize the divine feminine, to celebrate on the holidays when my foremothers celebrated, to connect with my landbase as those old women connected with theirs, to see the same cycle in the changing year as they saw, long ago.

I never thought that worship of the ancient gods and Goddesses was transmitted unchanged down from my ancient Scandinavian many-times-great-grandmother to the 1970s, nor from the ancient Picts in my linage directly to Uncle Gerald and then to me, but I do think that I worship the same forces in nature and some of the same gods and Goddesses as did those ancient women and as did many of my genetic and spiritual forebears in old Europe. I doubt that any of them were Dianic witch lawyers who blogged on the world wide web. That doesn't stop me from drawing strength every single day from honoring them whenever I call the powers of Earth.

Kali on a croissant, I don't worship or do magic today the same way that I did twenty years ago, six years ago, a year ago, a few months ago. One of the things that drew me to Paganism and witchcraft was the chance to create my own rituals, to do my own magic based upon the needs of the moment, to engage with a religion and, in fact, with Goddesses, that could grow with me as I grew. And, hey, guess what? The Catholicism that I practiced in 1969, at a Folk Mass, was unlike anything that my Confirmation Saint, Saint Germain, ever knew in 1580. And what that lovely shepherdess knew was a whole lot different from what the first apostles knew in first century Turkey. Yet, oddly, no one, including modern xians, suggests that modern xianity is somehow flawed because xianity has evolved from its first century roots. Well, they were men doing the evolving, so that's ok, no need to call them silly.

I was always willing to see Uncle Gerald, and Aunt Doreen, and everything published by Lewellyn, and all the nonsense that Hecate puts out on her blog as human, and therefore flawed; fleshy, and therefore sacred, portals for myth and truth and magic to enter the modern world and was always willing to regard what they said as I regard creation myths: a way for deeper truths to be discussed and transmitted without getting tangled up in "mundane" facts.

Am I all broke up because some of the people burned in Europe as witches were good xians? Is Paganism useless to me because no one has proven that some societies were "matriarchial enough"? Am I about to abandon witchcraft because it turns out that ceremonial magic has made inroads into my daily practice? Hell, no. I'm the many-times-great-granddaughter of an incredibly mean old broad who crossed much of the frozen ground of Scandanavia with bare feet and bad toenails, shaking a rattling gourd the whole way, calling upon whatever name the Mother Goddess had in that snowy land, and keeping her family warm with incantations and instructions to chew on dried herbs. I spit on your historical correctness. Hand me that gourd full of fermented whatever. Do it now. I'm asking you nicely. The first time.

My New Name For A Blog

What Mickey Z Said.

I live with, now, two giant White Oaks (Quercus alba). They've been here since before America was America. They watched my little bungalow get erected a mere few decades ago. They feed the squirrels, harbor the birds, shade me and my neighbor, have roots that intertwine with mine every day when I do my spiritual practice. They're getting old. I do reiki on them. My neighbor and I pay an organic tree service to feed them. I water them even when I can't really afford to do so. White Oaks are amazing trees; every moment of every day they exude peace and stability and rectitude. How sad it is to lose one.

Picture found here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Little Boys

Gus is posting about an important topic, one that's been especially on my mind today.

I am the mother of an only son, an amazingly kind and gentle man who is so strong that he takes away my breath, often, regularly, spectacularly. I am the older sister of two little brothers, and the aunt of three nephews. I am the great-aunt of the world's cutest almost-one-year-old little boy, and I am -- as you may have heard -- a grandmother to my grandson. I held him a few minutes after his birth, looked into his eyes, said and meant "Namaste," and have been madly in love, ever since.

It's a sign of the Goddess' grand sense of humor that she's sent so many little boys into the life of this militant feminist, this Dianic witch, this old woman who would still love, at some point, to nurture a girl-child of my line. Maybe the joke's on the young men.

Today, I was considering the fact that there can be something so incredibly, burningly pure about a little boy's need for certain things. (It may be so for little girls, as well, I just wouldn't know.) Even when they're not the objects that I'd prefer to provide, I've coughed up the cash for them, simply because it was obvious to me that the little boy in question truly needed the object, and by "needed" I mean, "had to have in order to actualize," had to have in order for the universe not to veer off just that much wrong.

When Son was all gangly bones and adolescent longings and full of the need to move on, we did the campus tours, and he set foot on the Earth at Princeton, and he looked at me (a background of wisteria by the gate, as I remember it), and he told me that he needed to go there. I didn't like it. They had all-male eating clubs at the time. From the time that he'd been in my womb, I'd imagined sending him to St. John's in Annapolis for the education that I'd wanted, but couldn't have. But what I liked and wanted and what that nascent young man needed were two different things. Son went to Princeton.

At one point in his childhood, Son wanted a kit that took fingerprints -- a way to catch other people's secrets -- more than he wanted anything. I don't mean that he "wanted" it, I mean that, in order to be and become who he had to be, Son needed it. I was all the way broke at the time. I don't remember what bill I paid late, but I did get him the fingerprint kit with the magnifying glass, and the dusting powder, and the secret chart that explained everything.

G/Son and I have lately been enjoying the whole Redwall series, and G/Son has taken wholeheartedly, in the way that only little boys can take wholeheartedly, to the story of Matthias, the warrior who defends Redwall Abbey against all comers. I introduced him to the series, feeling that a steady diet of Pixar and Batman were somehow not meeting his deeper need for myth and for a hero with whom to identify. For a few weeks now, G/Son has been telling me, in that way that little boys have of telling you, and telling you that this REALLY matters, that he needed a sword and a shield, just like Martin and Matthias, the warriors. I don't like war, I don't like the notion of chopping up other beings with swords, I don't like the societal story that men get their value based upon whom they can kill. I don't know if this deep need for a weapon in all the little boys that I've known is genetic, or cultural, or some interesting brew of both.

But I know true need when I see it.

And I think that it just kills your own soul to see need that raw and to ignore it. I do.

Today, Son and I took G/Son to the Maryland Renaissance Festival and we ate spiced pecans and we drank meade and we listened to fiddles and bagpipes and we bought a wooden sword with a blue handle and a wooden shield with a blue dragon and we got a blue battle axe dripping blood painted on G/Son's forearm and we had, all in all, a perfect Autumn day.

Was I right? Was I wrong? Am I fostering exactly the wrong thing in the next generation? Am I simply giving way to a cultural/biological imperative? I don't know.

I only know that need that certain and that pure should be met.

That the world is better when such needs are filled and filled by one who loves the person who burns inside the flame of that need. When I was leaving this afternoon, Son told G/Son to "say 'thank you' to Nonna for everything," even though G/Son already had. G/Son looked with the eyes of his old soul deep into my old eyes and said:

"Thank you for getting me my sword and my shield."

I said, "You're welcome. I could tell that you needed them."

Then I went to my car and broke down in tears. Sometimes, my life is too wonderful for me to even bear.

I hope that Gus and our other elders can give us advice about little boys. How do we raise them in the 21st Century? What should their Nonnas be telling them? I want a better way to sister, to aunt, to mother, to grandmother our little boys. I just don't know what it is. And I'm not sure it's the sun dance that Gus proposes, but I'm willing to listen to all sorts of advice on this. I'm the one person who needs to know: the person placed in the position of sister, aunt, etc. But I don't know.

I only love and hope and try to provide what's needed. Goddess willing, that's enough.