Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup) March 4, 2012

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed. Oh, and if you’re in the Oakland California area, be sure to drop by Hexenfest on March 9th!

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24 responses to “Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)”

  1. As someone who was an atheist before turning Pagan, I am bemused by the whole neo-atheist project. The high-IQ neo-atheist leaders don’t seem to have gotten to where my freshman philosophy prof was fifty-three years ago: No physical evidence can prove that God, as currently conceived, exists; or that God doesn’t exist. It is therefore a technically meaningless question. No meaningless question is worth gettng nasty about.

    Of course it is an ongoing, vital project of the Enlightenment to minimize the interference of religion in either scientific knowledge or the freedom of the individual. Admittedly, it may be an advantage on occasion to be nasty in this pursuit — I’ve been guilty of it — but the outcome has no bearing on whether God exists. It’s push-and-shove between competing institutions.

    I still sound like an atheist if you ask me where the seasons come from or how the brain works. If you ask me how to *celebrate* the seasons, that’s when I start to talk about Demeter and the Elementals. Paganism is my spiritual orientation to the universe, the sum of what I hold sacred. It is not my explanation of the universe.

    It is entirely possible, if neo-atheism succeeds in destroying Christianity in Europe, that Islam will fill the gap over there, due strictly to the demographics of immigration. I very much doubt that the predicate is going to happen on this side of the Pond; Christianity is too important a mode of both interacting with and running away from the realities of the modern world. What’s up for grabs is an increasingly non-churchgoing urban plurality and it’s my cold-blooded guess that Buddhism is the best bet for quietly absorbing that; it’s present in full force in America — Los Angeles holds at least one temple of every form of Buddhism in the world, a claim no Asian city can make — and offers a moralism and a theology-lite quite consistent with Enlightenment values many of us grow up with. But I think both UUism and Paganism could make a better play than it has for a slice of that pie.

  2. Jason: “What happens when two very different conceptions of Witchcraft exist side-by-side?”

    The irony here is that the “very different conception of Witchcraft” that African immigrants bring with them to the UK can be traced back to England. The radical wing of English Protestantism (Puritans, Methodists and their ilk) took the Christian theory of diabolic witchcraft further than anyone else. This virulent form of Witch-hatred (according to which Witches who heal are more deserving of death than Witches who curse) was brought to Africa first by English missionaries, during the colonial period, and then was reinforced during the 20th and 21st centuries by Pentecostalist missionaries (the theological descendants of the Puritans and Methodists), primarily based in the US.

    The conception of Witchcraft behind the murder of children such as Kristy Bamu, has nothing in it that is African or “traditional”. This malevolent world-view is European, Christian, and modern.

  3. I was wondering about that as these stories have been in the news. I guess that there were … is the term Bokor? …. practitioners before colonization, but I haven’t been able to easily find anything on if that was ANYTHING like what the current witchcraft accusations are like. I’d love some sources comparing pre-colonian ‘outsider’ magic to current accusations, if you have any.

  4. Umm, no. There’s a long African tradition of myths about malevolent sorcerers. Evangelical Christianity definitely added its own spin on it – although keep in mind that many of the African forms of “Pentecostal Christianity” have as much in common with the Assemblies of God etc. as Vodou or Santeria have with Roman Catholicism. (IOW, they are a thin Christian veneer laid atop pre-Christian African stories adn practices).

    Nigeria’s Yoruba peoples had the Ibeji (witches) and there are similar stories among the Bantu and Kongo peoples which gave us the “lougawou” in Haiti and quite possibly the “hags” of the Anglophone Caribbean world. The idea of evil spirits and evil people who traffic with them is by no means exclusive to Christianity or even to monotheism.

  5. I don’t think anyone is saying that this idea is “exclusive to Christianity”.

    But it’s impossible to overestimate the role that Christianity and Imperialism have played in creating the current pattern of diabolism and witch persecutions.

    I know that in South America, for example, many of the early “witches” put to death by the Inquisition were indeed indigenous priestesses and healers. Ofcourse, Africa is different, but not all THAT different. This is still a worldwide phenomenon.

  6. I can’t speak to South American traditions, but I do have some knowledge of African and African Diaspora practices. (I’m an initiate in Haitian Vodou and have written several books on Haitian and New Orleans Vodou). And I know that the African persecution of “malevolent sorcerers” predates Christianity.

    I also know that their persecution of “malevolent sorcerers” was like the European “witch hunts” in that the victims were largely poor, disenfranchised or otherwise “othered” within the society. (Albinos, deformed children and twins were alternately considered specially blessed or specially cursed depending on the culture or the era. Orphans and strangers were also often targeted as “sorcerers” whenever bad things happened, much as in Europe. And of course the mentally ill came in for their share of suspicion and often outright murdered).

    Sadly, there are Evangelical groups who have fed this “sorcery” myth for their own ends, mainly to win converts. I don’t think that they want to see children murdered — they really think they are doing a good thing by saving the poor benighted natives from Satan’s clutches, and have no problem assuming that native practitioners are worshipping demons. But as often happens when well-meaning outsiders intervene in a culture they don’t understand, they’ve often provided kindling for nastiness they never expected.

  7. The role of Pentecostalism in the “child witch” phenomenon has been studied closely by a number of social scientists. In 2006 both Save the Children and Human Rights Watch issued major studies on the subject. In 2009 another major report was sponsored by UNHCR, and yet another report was published by UNICEF in 2010. Obviously none of these groups are anti-Christian, and as a matter of fact they are all under pressure to appear “fair and balanced” while at the same time documenting a massive wave of horrific violence against children that can be directly tied to the spread of a particular kind of Christianity, and one that has much closer ties to London and Los Angeles than to any African society.

    Here are links to the above mentioned reports along with three other articles that I think shed light on all of this:

    ♦ Richard Hoskins’ 2006 essay: “Torment of Africa’s Child Witches
    ♦ Save the Children’s 2006 report “The Invention of Child Witches in the Democratic Republic of Congo
    ♦ Human Rights Watch’s 2006 report: “What Future? Street Children in the Democratic Republic of Congo
    Africa: Child Abuse and Persecution of Children by Olusegun Fakoya
    ♦ the 2009 report “Witchcraft Allegations, refugee protection and human rights: a review of the evidence,” by Jill Schnoebelen of the UN High Commission for Refugees.
    ♦ Adam Hochschild’s March 2010 article on the Congo: Blood and Treasure in Mother Jones
    ♦ UNICEF’s April 2010 report: >Children Accused of Witchcraft: An anthropological study of contemporary practices in Africa

  8. Kenaz, all human societies have beliefs about malefic magic, including modern, industrialized western societies. But there is nothing like the modern phenomenon of widespread violence against “child witches” in traditional African societies.

    What is peculiar to Christianity (along with Islam and Judaism) is the idea that all traditional magic (that is, all magical beliefs and practices preceding the introduction of the religion of the One True God to a given society) is intrinsically evil.

  9. Paganism is my spiritual orientation to the universe, the sum of what I hold sacred. It is not my explanation of the universe.

    I like to say that science is how, religion is why.

  10. Kenaz: “But as often happens when well-meaning outsiders intervene in a culture they don’t understand, they’ve often provided kindling for nastiness they never expected.”

    There is nothing “well meaning” about Christian missionaries in Africa. Their explicitly stated goal is to wipe out all of the indigenous religious traditions of Africa and impose their own ideology in its place. These missionaries have always worked hand in glove with slavers, colonizers and multinational corporations, and have aided and abetted the savage exploitation of Africa’s resources to enrich Europeans and impoverish Africans.

  11. The persecution of sorcerers has also predated Christianity in European society as well.

    Does that leave the authors of the “Malleus Maleficarum” off the hook when we look for the causes of the the witch craze in Europe?

  12. Also, Patti Wigington of “About.com” the “Pagan / Wiccan” page just posted an article today. She’d live-tweeted the meeting.

    Essentially, the vote was postponed, but a few people on both sides of the issue made commentary.

  13. I understand how important it is for you to maintain your status as king of the butthurt Pagans whining about the Eeeevil Christians, but you’re missing the point: while these “Revivalist” churches may use some of the trappings and images of Christianity, the underpinnings of their worldview and practices come from traditional African ideas. As the reports you helpfully posted point out, the “witch” craze owes as much to poverty and social upheaval as to your beloved Evil Fascist Christian Infiltrators.

    The case in point for this would be the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda. While they claim to be in favor of a government based on the “Ten Commandments,” their practices (including spirit possession, preparation of protective fetishes, a magical holy man who functions as leader, diviner and prophet) and beliefs are straight-up African. I’ll grant you that they’ve been twisted into something ugly and evil by the forces of colonialism, but it is not at all the simple conspiracy you seem to think it is in your endless fapfests about the inherent evil of the Jeebus lovers.

  14. 1. Kenaz Filan: “You’re missing the point: while these “Revivalist” churches may use some of the trappings and images of Christianity, the underpinnings of their worldview and practices come from traditional African ideas.”

    In fact, Helen Ukpabio and her ilk are fine representatives of the same wing of Christianity that has also given the world Pat Robertson, Jerry Fallwell, and Rick Santorum.

    And besides, Kenaz, those who are familiar with history know that torturing people in dungeons built in church basements (as is done to children accused of being witches) is one of “the trappings of Christianity”!

    2. Kenaz: As the reports you helpfully posted point out, the “witch” craze owes as much to poverty and social upheaval as to evil Christians seeking to murder children and abet Shell Oil and the de Beers company.

    Poverty and social dislocation, by themselves, do not cause adults to torture and murder children. Obviously. But extreme states of violent social disintegration combined with a paranoid world-view of spiritual warfare can, and, sadly, has done just that. And that is what these reports actually show if one bothers to read them.

    3. As far as the Lord’s Resistance Army goes, all of the things you list are actually well known features of Pentecostalism (which originated in California during the 20th century):
    a. spirit possession: in Pentecostalism this is called “baptism in the holy spirit”.
    b. preparation of protective fetishes: Pentecostalists believe that their “Apostles” and “Prophets” can “bless” objects turning them into magical talismans for protection from evil spirits.
    c. magical holy men who function as leaders, diviners, and prophets: watch this. (that is a link to a Benny Hinn video at youtube).

  15. I’m not sure this argument you guys are having can be resolved by any of the evidence.

    Kenaz, you’ve admitted the pericious interference of Christianity in Africa. Apuleius, I daresay you’ll grant that indigenous Africa holds all the magical tropes, sunny and shadowed, that are found everywhere else on Earth, including Christian Europe. So perhaps what divides you is different emotional response to certain bits and pieces of the overall picture.

    That difference is good; it should be celebrated. Part of the richness of Paganism is that different hearts pull their attached souls in different directions to embrace the sacredness of different parts of our spiritual environment. It would, to my fading septuagenarian mind, seem that you each should cherish the other’s approach, not try to argue him out of it (which ain’t gonna happen anyhoo).

  16. Hi Baruch, I honestly don’t think this can be written off as a mere difference of opinion based on two equally valid ways of looking at things. African Traditional Religion is facing an existential threat from Christian missionaries. The issue is one of principle, and the principle is solidarity. Do we stand with the tens of millions of Africans who stubbornly cling to their ancient traditions in the face of overwhelming pressure, or do we, as Kenaz Filan is doing here, side with Helen Ukpabio and mindlessly repeat baseless slanders against African Traditional Religion?

    I have been studying this issue very closely and writing about it at length for quite some time now. The list of reports I posted earlier in this thread was originally put together by me back in June of 2010, along with a detailed timeline going back to the first reports about “child witches” in the Congo in 1999 (link). Kenaz, on the other hand, has demonstrated that he has at best a superficial understanding of the issues involved.

  17. “Equally valid” is not a formulation I use. It presupposes an overarching frame of reference capable of judging any other frame. I approach this from the position that each of us has only part of the truth.

    Kenaz, are you actually siding with Helen Ukpabio, as Apuleius claims? Or do you merely share some structural theories without buying into her evangelical conclusions?

  18. Baruch asked: “Kenaz, are you actually siding with Helen Ukpabio, as Apuleius claims? Or do you merely share some structural theories without buying into her evangelical conclusions?”

    Well, Filan has already stated his position pretty clearly. According to him, those who are imprisoning, torturing and murdering children by the thousands (and probably tens of thousands or more) in Africa in the name of eradicating “child witches” are directly influenced by traditional African beliefs and practices, and Christianity has nothing to do with it. Never mind the fact that the people who are doing this are Christians who have made a conscious decision to renounce traditional African religious beliefs and practices, or the fact that their leaders are hailed as “Apostles” and “Prophets” of the Christian religion, or the fact that the imprisonment, torture and murder often takes place inside Christian churches.

  19. Thanks, AP, but I was asking KF. Your statement puts him on the spot and I want his testimony, if he’s willing.