Quick Notes: Grant Morrison, Klee Benally, Helen Duncan

A few quick news notes for you on this Saturday morning.

Grant Morrison Awarded MBE: It isn’t every day that an avowed ritual magician is made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Comics writer Grant Morrison, famous for works like “The Invisibles,” and the recent “Supergods,” was recognized “for services to film and literature” on the Queen’s annual birthday honors list. Morrison has long advocated the use of magic(k), sigil magick in particular.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibpudvSTU4o

“All you need to begin the practice of magic is concentration, imagination and the ability to laugh at yourself and learn from mistakes. Some people like to dress up as Egyptians or monks to get themselves in the mood; others wear animal masks or Barbarella costumes. The use of ritual paraphernalia functions as an aid to the imagination only. Anything you can imagine, anything you can symbolize, can be made to produce magical changes in your environment.”

One has to wonder if Morrison did magic to become a part of chivalric order, and if so, what he plans to use his new status for. I have no doubt that it has something to do with bringing about global enlightenment in time for December. Alan Moore could not be reached for comment.

Klee Benally Found Guilty of Trespassing and Disorderly Conduct: Klee Benally, lead singer of the Navajo punk band Blackfire, was convicted of trespassing and disorderly conduct for chaining himself to excavator in protest of construction, the expansion of a ski resort, and the pumping of treated wastewater snow onto the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona. A coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations see this “development” as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e4EETl_1jQ

“How can I be ‘trespassing’ on this site that is so sacred to me? This is my church. It is the Forest Service and Snowbowl who are violating human rights and religious freedom by desecrating this holy Mountain [...] Their actions are far beyond ‘disorderly’. [...]  The Forest Service, the City of Flagstaff, & the courts have proven that they do not understand or respect our spiritual ceremonies and practices and our spiritual relationship to the Earth [...] We have no guaranteed protection for our religious freedom as Indigenous Peoples in the United States.”

I’ve covered this story in depth, and it is a stark example of how arbitrary “religious freedom” can be in the United States, particularly if your ancestral sacred lands are getting in the way of marginally increased revenue for a ski resort. The protection of Native sacred lands is an ongoing issue in Indian country, encroachments and construction on sacred lands often done in the arbitrary name of economic development, or sometimes just for simple convenience (to non-Native folks of course). For some politicians it seems very plain there is no such thing as sacred land at all. However, we know there are consequences and a price to the eradication or desecration of sacred ground, whether it is Tara in Ireland or the peaks in Arizona.

A Pardon for Britain’s Last Witch? In 1944 Spiritualist Helen Duncan was convicted under the Witchcraft Act, and was the last individual to be imprisoned for the crime of witchcraft before its repeal in 1951. Since then, there been an ongoing campaign to clear Duncan’s name, and win her a pardon. The BBC reports on the ongoing efforts, speculating that they may seek judicial review after a 2008 petition to the Scottish Parliament was rejected.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZaMq5enBKU

Graham Hewitt, who is fighting the case on behalf of her grandchildren, said: “She was tried under an old piece of legislation that shouldn’t have been used at the time and advice had been issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions that alternatives were available.”

The conviction and imprisonment of Duncan looms large in the history of Wicca and religious Witchcraft. Gerald Gardner’s novel “High Magic’s Aid,” which contained elements of the soon-to-be-made public faith, was published in 1949, before the repeal. It was only in 1954, after the Witchcraft Act’s repeal, that his non-fiction work “Witchcraft Today” was released, sparking what would become an international religious phenomenon. Pardons for individuals like Duncan, or the Pendle Witches, or the witches of Salem, are seen as a corrective to the historical record, that the conviction and punishment for witchcraft is mistake that must be remedied so that it cannot happen again. Considering the grim reality of witch-hunts, witch-arrests, and witch-killings in many parts of the world today, such actions could help send a strong signal.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • Stef

    Jason, thanks again for giving Native Americans’ struggles for religious freedom and respect prominent coverage in “The Wild Hunt.”  It matters a lot, to all of us.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I’m reluctant to get into the judicial politics of a fairly Pagan-friendly democracy, but I agree that pardoning Duncan would send a salutary message to the parts of the world where witch-hunts are still a reality.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Cosimano/613012064 Charles Cosimano

      Only thing is that those are the folks who won’t listen to the message.

  • http://andrewbwatt.wordpress.com/ Andrew B. Watt

    I appreciate the coverage of Native American issues alongside Neopagan issues here.  It’s clear that we have common ground, and there’s value in our two paths sharing arenas of concern with one another — even if it is also clear that we must be careful of cultural appropriation issues (NA spirituality is not Neopagan, and vice versa).

    • LeohtSceadusawol

       Unfortunately, indigenous spirituality is often counted as part of the ‘Pagan’ umbrella by those who have little interest in either.

      (For example, in Britain, you’d find books on both under the ‘mind, body, spirit’ section in high street bookshops.)

  • Tara

    Pysched to see Grant Morrison get such a high honor…he fully deserves it. I think its a little ironic, though, considering how he portrays the Royal Family in the Invisibles.

  • http://www.paranormalfantasybooks.com/ Becca

    I agree Duncan’s name needs to be cleared. First, my thinking is that even if she was practicing witchcraft (which in all likelihood she wasn’t) it shouldn’t have been a crime in the first place. Second, since she likely wasn’t practicing witchcraft and it was something she didn’t believe in, she shouldn’t have that attributed to her. One of the things I hate with fictional stories that surround witch trials is when they pick someone from history who was a accused and it as though they really were a witch. I think it’s a bit insensitive. I rather a fictional character be made up to show how Paganism isn’t wrong, but without attributing it to the name of someone who was killed in the name of it when they weren’t practicing it.

  • Crystal Kendrick

    It’s truly heartbreaking to see the lack of concern for the sacredness of the Earth and its peoples.  It’s also rather telling in that had there been a church on those peaks it would have been spared, or even worse had there been a country club with a golf course or something.  I have much deeper and angrier feelings about this but I can’t quite get them into any sort of words that would make sense.  I”ll be praying for the Peaks and its peoples.  Thanks for reporting on this, Jason.


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