Witches in the News: Grave-robbing is Not Okay

Witches in the News: Grave-robbing is Not Okay March 31, 2016
Ender Darling (Facebook photo)
Ender Darling (Facebook photo)

Have you seen this news story? About the “witch” named Ender Darling who let it be known they were taking bones that had “washed up” after heavy rains in a New Orleans cemetery and offered them FOR SALE for “curse work” and “general spells that require bone”” Darling posted about this on tumbler and got called out for it (the resulting flamewar has been referred to as “Tumblr’s Benghazi” which I find in poor taste; then again Darling’s Tumblr name was “littlefuckinmonster”). It spawned some crazy headlines, too, and plenty of stock photos of human skulls. Darling’s home was raided by police in January after the posts and protests went viral.

Holt Cemetery, New Orleans (photo from Associated Press)
Holt Cemetery, New Orleans (photo from Associated Press)

Recently the New Orleans Advocate published a news story about the police activity, including surveillance (which went on for six days) and search of Darling’s residence, where they seized a number of bones in plain sight on an altar. The story also notes: “Investigators also subpoenaed all correspondence from Darling’s Facebook profiles, a request that yielded more than 12,000 pages of information (italics mine). The messages indicated the witch had been obtaining bones from a graveyard beginning on Nov. 16, ‘primarily acting alone, but also with a roommate,’ court records state.”

Jezebel called this person a “self-styled witch” and chastised their flaunting the law: Self-Styled New Orleans Witch’s Home Raided After They Bragged About Taking Bones from Graveyard.

The graveyard in question is said to be Holt Cemetery, a potter’s field (also known as “poor man’s cemetery” where poor people were buried in humble or makeshift graves) that has been neglected for some years. Darling has since moved to Florida, citing threats to their family. No criminal charges other than a summons for marijuana possession (for other occupants of the home) have been filed. Daring refuses to admit any actual wrongdoing, and instead chastised New Orleans officials for keeping the graveyard in such a state of disrepair.

I found myself thinking of the not-uncommon practice of some people who dabble in various kinds of magic or spell work who use animal parts. I think of friends who collect bird feathers they find on the ground, or deer antlers, or raccoon skulls. Of course there is also trafficking in illegal animal parts, including fur, that can land people in legal trouble. But I’m not really talking about that. Is using bones (animal or human) for magic itself a practice that witches should give some thought to? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

But I also found myself thinking of the police activity and seizure of social media correspondence as evidence. Maybe bragging about illegal or shady activity in this age of constant online surveillance is, well, not a good idea. This person was not investigated for being a witch; they were investigated for announcing all over social media that they were committing a crime. But I found myself wondering what else it might take to have one’s social media accounts pored over by police searching for…what, exactly? New Orleans is hardly a city run by evangelical Christians. But social media is everywhere, and federal agencies can become involved in cyber-crime (and offering human bones for sale sounds like it might qualify).


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