Two Kinds of Witchcraft? Resisting Cynicism, False Dilemmas, and Moral Panics.

Two Kinds of Witchcraft? Resisting Cynicism, False Dilemmas, and Moral Panics. April 28, 2012

For several years I’ve been asking the question of what do we do when the men and women accused of “sorcery” and “witchcraft” are no longer “over there” in Africa or the Middle East, and are instead at our doorsteps.

“If this trend isn’t seriously addressed soon, we may find this madness turning its eye towards “safe” occultists and Pagans in places like America, the UK, Australia, Brazil, and Canada.”

Now, with the UK still reeling over the murder of Kristy Bamu, who died while being tortured under the auspices of an “exorcism” at his sister’s home, and British police being trained to spot cases of sorcery among immigrant communities, some Christian writers have seized on a largely constructed controversy over religious education in Cornwall to cynically launch attacks on modern Paganism. First out of the gate was  Catholic Telegraph columnist Christina Odone, whose anti-Pagan screed I recently highlighted on this blog.

“God, Gaia, whatever: school children are already as familiar with the solstice as with the sacraments. In pockets of Cornwall, children will point out a nun in her habit: “Look, a Druid!” Their parents will merely shrug — one set of belief is as good as another. How long before the end of term is marked by a Black Mass, with only Health and Safety preventing a human sacrifice?

To Odone’s credit, she doesn’t explicitly conflate the recent sorcery and exorcism-related deaths and attacks with modern Paganism, though she does bemoan liberals “who spy covert imperialism or racism in every moral judgment.” It took Beliefnet Senior Editor Rob Kerby’s insulting and sloppy article to do that. Interweaving Odone’s opinion piece with recent stories on witch-hunting and killings in the developing world, Kerby joins the imaginary dots.

“In 2005, Sita Kisanga was found guilty of torturing an eight-year-old in London, believing the girl to have kindoki. She told the court that, “Kindoki is something you have to be scared of because in our culture kindoki can kill and destroy your life completely.” But officials in Cornwall, England, say there’s nothing to fear. […] It seems that the politically correct Cornwall Council regards Christianity as no better than any other superstition.”

Beliefnet’s sole Pagan blogger, Gus diZerega, has posted his own response to Kerby’s piece, hinting that his time at the religion portal may be coming to an end soon if nothing is done. But even if Kerby does ultimately walk back his statements, the connection has been made, and Catholic columnist Christopher Howse has decided to use it to hammer on Cornwall’s curriculum.

Christopher Howse at Glastonbury.

“So it seems there are now two kinds of witchcraft: the bad kind that black people believe in, and the kind that should be celebrated because it is believed in by Cornish people.”

Howse seems to suggest that there should be no distinction, that all witchcraft is bad. However, he undermines this somewhat by shifting to a “Paganism and Wicca aren’t truly ancient so they shouldn’t be taken seriously” argument.

“What we do know is that there is no continuity between pre-Christian religions in Britain and the various branches of modern paganism. […] It [Wicca] was no more an ancient religion than Jedi.”

You can’t have it both ways, really. Either all forms of witchcraft and sorcery are indistinguishable, or they aren’t. If you acknowledge that Wicca is something other than the  phenomenon that led to Kristy Bamu’s death, you create cracks in the cynical false dilemma you’ve created to ratchet up the fear and misinformation. This misinformation not only harms modern Pagan religions, but African Traditional Religions as well, and obscures what may be the true culprit. According to groups like AFRUCA, the spread of anti-witchcraft and sorcery violence in the UK is centered in Pentecostal Churches, not indigenous, revived, or reconstructed pre-Christian belief systems.

Blood-spattered bathroom tiles at Magalie Bamu and Eric Bikubi's flat.

“We were concerned about this before this trial of Kristy Bamu,” said Debbie Ariyo, executive director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca), who added that a boom in pentecostal churches was leading to more children being accused of witchcraft. “This is not a problem with all pastors or all churches, but the branding of children as witches is not abating. It is a growing problem. There are so many children suffering in silence.”

You see, what these concerned Catholics don’t want you to know is that this wave of violence is partially the fault of missionaries who inserted Christian triumphalism and a spiritual warfare dynamic into traditional beliefs about malefic magic. This created deadly consequences the missionaries could not (or would not) understand.

Missionaries have commonly responded [to witchcraft accusations] in two ways, said [Robert] Priest [professor of missions and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School]. The power of witches to harm others is dismissed as superstition, but this seldom persuades local Christians to abandon the concept; or the reality of witchcraft is endorsed by missionaries not wanting to be “post-Enlightenment rationalists” with a non-biblical skepticism of spiritual warfare.

The result is that traditional witch ideas are fused with Christian theology, which obscures the social consequences: Accused witches are often destitute or outcast, and thus socially defenseless. Instead of seeing old women or children as scapegoats, said Priest, Christian leaders suggest that witchcraft participates in genuine spiritual evil and that the accusations are reasonable. “The church is providing the cognitive underpinnings for the past system in the contemporary world.”

Nothing seems to be the fault of Christianity, of course. Even though there are several high-profile Christian witch-hunters who make a name for themselves by casting out demons, and receive support from Western churches. Spiritual warfare is waged, perverting indigenous beliefs in the process, but the response isn’t to crack down on Christian churches, the response is to further demonize non-Christian traditions.

Writers like Kerby and Howse aren’t stupid, they know their assertions will have reverberations beyond the page or computer screen. But will they be willing to take responsibility if their words spark a new moral panic? One that engulfs anyone who is suspected of practicing “witchcraft?” Somehow I don’t think they’ll have the courage or stomach for it, and will instead find someone (or something) to scapegoat. Anyone but themselves.

The moment when “witch-hunts” over there come home to roost on our doorsteps is now. How Pagans react will be very important in how this issue plays out. We must resist at all costs the urge to fall into Howse’s trap and create a “two kinds of witchcraft” split on ethnic lines, and instead build a response that holds fear-mongering churches and writers responsible while creating new coalitions between Pagans and practitioners of African diasporic and traditional faiths. We must not let moral panics break out against adherents of Santeria, Palo, Vodou, or smaller groups, while we try to pretend there’s no connections or overlap between these traditions and modern Pagan faiths. The response to fear and growing hysteria is not to bury our heads, or isolate ourselves, but to show that we won’t sit quietly in the corner while our spiritual cousins are demonized, hoping they won’t turn their attention to us.

Among Pagans, the rallying cry used to be “Never Again the Burning Times,” calling to a distant, sometimes romanticized, past. Perhaps instead we should say “Never Again the Panics,” and use our very real experiences with the Satanic Panics of the 1980s and 90s as an instructional on how to fight these new attempts to “other” belief systems and groups most people don’t understand. The answer to exorcism-related violence and death isn’t to find a single scapegoat, but to instead ensure that education and enforcement are allowed to spread.

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  • This is a real issue. We have been talking out on this for over 20 years. At the 2009 Parliament of the World Religions not one Pagan actually spoke out against these kinds of atrocities.  Over and over again, I have heard from American, Australian, and European Pagans that this is not the same thing, and not our problem. That African Witchcraft does not have the same rights as ours, that it is dangerous, and should not be protected.  This has always struck me as elitism and a bit racist.  We feel safe but in the end we are not.

    Now crimes are crimes, and anyone who kills or harms another should be prosecuted and prevented from causing further harm, even if they use Witchcraft to do it.  So we can condemn the violence easily without throwing all practitioners to the wolves of state and church run enforcers.

    I appreciate your analysis, and it is my prayer that we can find a way to help those being attacked, killed, and tortured in the name of Witchcraft.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Jason, your article is spot on.  One suggestion, if I may:  I wouldn’t refer to “moral panics,” which implies that those engaging in them simply want to uphold “morals” and that there is some kind of crisis of morals.  I’d substitute something along the lines of “created panics” or “propaganda panics.”  Framing is often quite important in these sorts of campaigns.

    I hope that Gus diZerega will continue to blog even if he does leave his present platform.  It’s easy enough to set up a wordpress or blogger account and we’d be poorer for the loss of Gus’ voice.

  • I use “moral panic” because that seems to be the consensus terminology within academia for this phenomenon.

    I take, and respect, your point, though I’m often hesitant to coin new terminology.

  • Mia

     I read the “moral” bit as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Christians wanting to instill their “morals” in these panics. But not everyone would read into the term so thoroughly, and I like your terms too.

  • Chris

    Pleased to find you, following your latest Tweet. I am very interested in all belief systems buit regard none of them as capable of objective proof. But you can’t prove that something does not exist ‘ out there’ either. So you can play around with beliefs and enjoy any rituals they offer but there is always a chance that you will stumble through an opening into something powerful and dangerous. The best attitude is to govern your actions by the desire to do good rather than evil. Sadly, some brands of religious belief are so strict and narrow that they won’t even discuss alternatives. I read the column by Christiana Odone and was pleased to find somebody prepared to fight their corner. But I don’t grumble too much with Cornwall CC because I think it is up to Christians (I’m one) to engage in debate. The faith has such a wealth of thought and scholarship behind it that it ought always to welcome discussion.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    IIRC it is called “moral panic” because it consists of one group of people fearful that someone else is committing or omitting acts that undermine society. Eg, the War on Drugs is an institutionalized moral panic.

    I suspect Paganism has become more familiar to people and this makes a repetition of the Satanic Panics less likely but we can’t, as you say, bury our heads in the sand when it arises anywhere in our closely interdependent world.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    “A bit” racist? OK, Ed, you get the understatement of the day award.

    It blows my mind that white Pagans can bemoan the cutting down of Paganisms that might have been their direct cultural heritage, while scorning Paganisms that retain their cultural positions and are the targets of a new Inquisition.

  • Charles Cosimano

    I  think the danger of another panic is somewhat lessened by the fact it would produce a very loud counter-attack.

  • It’s interesting how in some quarters nothing is valid unless it goes back into the ancient past. In others it’s not valid unless it’s new. On another note, in light of one of your quotes, we must remember that Jediism is indeed a legitimate hyper-real or fiction-based spirituality, along with many others, even if it is a rather recent manifestation.

  • It cannot be repeated too often that Kristy Bamu was tortured to death by CHRISTIANS. And these were not the followers of a some strange African variety of Christianity, but, rather, adherents of Pentecostalism, which was imported to Africa from the United States, and which in turn has its roots in Methodism, which first arose in England.

    One can argue about whether or not Kristy Bamu’s murderes are “good” Christians, or “typical” Christians, etc. But one cannot get away from the fact that they are Christians.

  • kenneth

    The narrative of “Satanic Panic” Christians – usually evangelicals or Catholics, has two inseparable and utterly contradictory components. The first is dismissal and derision.  We’re not “real” pagans because of the relatively recent nature of our revival movements. We’re nothing to worry about because we’re just some ren-faire rejects playing dress up. Our growth in numbers means nothing because any small movement by definition has a high growth rate. Any time one pagan meets another, the movement has doubled, they like to say. And yet…despite our allegedly harmless delusion, they feel the need to mount “spiritual warfare” against us as if we were Khan’s army at the gates.
        The idea that ancient provenance and apostolic succession define the legitimacy of a religion derives from  Christianity’s claims, but it has also warped thinking in the pagan community. Most of the “Witch War” beginning in the 1960s were arguments over who had the “real” lineage back to Gardner or Sanders or whoever. Then we had (and still have) the people who make utterly unverifiable claims about unbroken family trads going back to the 16th Century or neolithic times or whatever the ante has been upped to at the time. 

  • kenneth

    A hell of a lot of this has to do with how we integrate (or more often fail to integrate) new immigrant communities from the developing world. The expectation used to be fairly straightforward, the “melting pot.” Wherever you came from, it was expected that you’d ditch all that, the language, the “old country ways”  as soon as practicable to become “American.” It was decided that was too un-PC and that we ought to celebrate diversity. That’s fine and all, but we’ve never really come to any consensus about what that means.
        At the other extreme now, we’re seeing more and more people who basically aren’t interested in making any concessions to the law or culture of their new host country. They just sort of re-create their corner of Africa or Pakistan but with a different set of GPS coordinates. That’s why we’re seeing these problems of honor killings and female circumcision and craziness like this London incident happening in our own backyards.  In the particular case of witchcraft, evangelicals are often throwing gasoline on the fire, but a good part of the problem derives from our failure to define where tolerance of other cultural norms and practices end  and the values of our culture begin. 

  • Jocelyne Houghton

     Hear, hear.

  • Kristy Bamu’s murder was not due to a lack of “integration”. It was due to the importation to Africa of a particularly virulent form of Christianity from the United States. This form of Christianity, Pentecostalism, places an overwhelming emphasis on spiritual warfare and especially on the practice of exorcism, or “deliverance“. Kristy Bamu’s murderers believed that they were engaged in a spiritual battle with Satan and that they were “delivering” Kristy from a state of being possessed by demons.

    “Deliverance” is often a violent process. Here is a link to an article from a newspaper in Alabama about a recent exorcism that turned into a police run: Exorcism Leads to Family Fight.

    And here is a link to a book titled American Exorcism, in which one of the people interviewed recounts how he went through “at least a hundred” deliverances which were sometimes “very violent, with four or five men holding me down.”

  • anondo

    “Over and over again, I have heard from American, Australian, and
    European Pagans that this is not the same thing, and not our problem.
    That African Witchcraft does not have the same rights as ours, that it
    is dangerous, and should not be protected.  This has always struck me as
    elitism and a bit racist.”

    thank you very much for talking about this.
    i follow an afrodiasporic religion myself. there are folks from all ethnicities involved in african traditional religions and afro-diasporic religions, from europeans to asians.
    some of us, as i said in another post, after much dialogue with some members of the modern pagan community in real life and online, feel that we have two enemies: the abrahamics and the modern pagans…

    hence the reason some folks from the atr community are hesitant to outreach the modern pagan community in spite of the similarities that binds us.

    only because you switched from christianity/judaism/islam to paganism doesnt mean that you dont hold colonialist, prejudicial attitudes.
    also, it doesnt mean that you no longer see african-derived traditions as some typical christians do, that is,  as being more dangerous and fearful and more ‘demonic’.

    it has been my experience that some of the pagans i talked to react to african-derived magic as being more malevolent and sinister….the same reaction i get from christians,

    and, it has been in my experience that some pagans would throw us under the bus if it meant getting bonus points from mainstream society. 
    “wait what? no, we don’t do that, we are the good folks, they are the bad folks.”

    we shall see what happens. i think that us, members of atrs also need to be proactive and start forming associations and organizations as a way to protect our rights and as a means of support.
    but, many of us still follow a very secretive way of doing things and this may have to change.

    more immigrants from latin america and africa are migrating to north america and europe. thus, it is possible that there will be a stronger push against atrs as they become more common.

  • This is really serious and some measures should be done so bloodshed could be lessen.

  • anondo

    “That’s why we’re seeing these problems of honor killings”

    so, let me get this straight.
    when a middle eastern man murders a woman, whether a wife or a daughter…
    it is honor killing and this action is presented as being directly tied to the middle east.
    and this is treated as a big problem.
    oh the horror!

    but, when a white man murders his wife and his three children, it is called domestic violence and the media throws out some excuse as to how the poor man was depressed because of bankruptcy or because of a pending divorce….

    evil middle eastern man who has not conformed to western society
    but poor civilized and good white man who just had some issues, right?

    excuses, excuses….cry me a river.

    i mean, why does the media seem to hype so much on honor killings but shut up when domestic acts of violence are perpetrated by john doe?
    arent both equally bad? dont both deserve equal attention and equal criticism?

    i call it scapegoating.

    come on, im not saying there is an issue in regards to integration
    but, lets look at ourselves in the mirror more often, please.

    im tired of hearing about honor killings but when john doe murders his entire family, people see it as a normal incident.

    as to female circumcision, that is such a complex matter than would require too much space i cant devote at this time.

  • You’re finding and prosecuting witches?  It is hard to believe that there are people
    in Africa ‘finding’ witches.  I thought this stopped in Salem. 

  • anondo

    true apuleius
    but you see, it is easier to blame the third world folks….
    the stereotype of the third world being more irrational, savages and superstitious fits the scapegoating perfectly.

    look for how those pentecostals are doing in brazil,
    vandalizing terreirors, hitting and harassing priestesses and priests.
    around the late 90s, some evangelicals harassed a priestess of candomble, hitting her with bibles and pushing her.
    she died of a heart attack right then and there.

  • Obsidia

    Targeting vulnerable people is a known tactic of bullies.  I am glad that the bullies are being called out.  The pen is indeed mightier than the sword if used to expose the bullies’ agenda.  I had a friend who used to say, “What is going to happen when the Devil gets saved?”  Didn’t Jesus teach them to “Love your enemies…do good to those who hurt you?”  If they are so afraid of the Pagans and the Witches, maybe it’s their own Shadow that they are projecting on to us.  Let’s step into the Light.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    “[…M]aybe it’s their own Shadow that they are projecting on to us.”

    IMHO no maybe’s about it. We become the receptacle of what they cannot admit about themselves, and “they” includes a lot of secular people.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The difference is in the social framing. The white family-murderer is seen as acting against the rules of his society and his role in the family. The “Third World” family-murderer is seen as acting in accord with the rules of society or his role in the family. Guess which sells more newspapers?

  • “Religious paranoia” also appears in Wikipedia, and it is a term that I believe might better reflect what is actually going on here. Also, I agree with Hecate, that using the term “moral panic” to some extent indicates acceptance of the framing of the issue by the dominant religious groups.

  • Many Pagans seem to miss the fact that the victims of so-called exorcisms and “witch hunts” are usually not involved in any kind of witchcraft. In countries like South Africa and India, they are usually innocent scapegoats, the most vulnerable in our society. They are usually the elderly and young children who are soft targets for superstitious communities to blame for misfortune, or the witchcraft premise is simply an excuse to get them out of the way for financial or other reasons. South African Pagans *do* see it as their problem, please look up TouchStone Advocacy to get some idea about their work. Personally, I write articles to educate people about terminology related to witchcraft (see article link via my name). 

  • Darklyviolet

     “and, it has been in my experience that some pagans would throw us under
    the bus if it meant getting bonus points from mainstream society. 
    “wait what? no, we don’t do that, we are the good folks, they are the bad folks.””

    Yes, this.  Every single time someone tries to explain Wicca or Paganism and trots out the line ‘we’re not evil we don’t do things like sacrificing animals like those Satanists do’ they’re driving a huge wedge in between various Pagan religions, in addition to perpetuating misinformation.

    It’s my hope that these issues push people to correct this kind of thing and realize that all of our rights are tied up together.

  • The most offensive statement in this entire article is that made by Christopher Hosse when he said that only black people perform bad witchcraft. This horrible statement should be offensive to any “Western Witches” who have a complete understanding that witchcraft itself is a diverse endeavor, not only in practice but also in participation by minorities. Black skin is not inherently bad and doesn’t inherently cause the practice of bad witchcraft.

  • Obsidia

     Actually, Christopher Howse was saying that in a satirical manner; what he really meant to say is that ALL Witchcraft is bad.  And that is something that many backward-thinking so-called “Christians” seem to be pushing right now.  We must remember that the word “Witch” is not an African word, and the difficulties come in the translation.  I think it is really important to study and understand all indigenous spiritualities (including African).  When one begins to appreciate the beauty and primal energies of these Earth-based paths, one sees that, beneath the names and the inadequate translations, we are all connected and we all come from the same Ancestors.  ALL our Ancestors were Pagan and it is important to respect them and learn from them….and to realize that their spiritual connection with the world around them helped them to survive….and without it, we would not be here.

  • phatkhat

    Many, if not most, Western Pagans are attracted to Earth Religions because of a love of nature. We also tend, in the west, to be very solicitous of our animals, and most of us probably are repulsed by the idea of killing animals. I know I am, and that makes me find any religion that involves animal sacrifice pretty horrible.

    On some intellectual level, I can respect Santeria, and I know it comes from a different culture. I know it isn’t “evil”, but for me, it is still repugnant because of that one feature. I think it is easy to set ourselves apart because of our feelings.

    That said, I do see the need for some sort of “Council of Churches” among the various Pagans. Just as Methodists may not agree with Baptists, and UCCs are way different from Holiness churches, but they band together under the umbrella of Christianity, and view each other as better than the alternative – which would be… us.

    There is a huge “machine” reaching from the US to Africa, of rightwing Dominionists, that is behind “kill the gays” bill in Uganda, and it also promotes the whole “witchcraft” panic among Africans. There are African politicians that are totally devoted to making their countries a model of Dominionist Christianity, and they are ruthless enough to force their religion on the populace.

    Just recently, Nigerian “Apostle” Helen Ukpabio was allowed to come to the US on a “deliverance tour” and promote her spiritual warfare against witches – and especially emphasizing demon possession of children. There was a push among more liberal Christians to have her visa rescinded, but she was allowed to come spread her stuff.

    Ukpabio alleges that Satan constantly manifests himself in the bodies of
    children through demonic possession, turning them into witches and

    Technically, I suppose I am not a Pagan. I am a Panentheistic Deist, but it IS an earth-centered spiritual path. I read extensively on the religious right, especially the Dominionists and the NAR. They have been allowed to fly under the radar for decades, and now they have accumulated enough power and political clout to be noticed, yet a lot of people don’t really know who they are, or how dangerous.

    They are obsessed with “spiritual warfare”, and anyone who isn’t one of them is, frankly, of the devil. They are literalists, and if they hold sway, how long until they actually start persecuting Wiccans and Pagans in the west?

  • Char

    It is sad to see that in the modern world, a world that is supposed to be enlightened that fear mongering and separatism is still running rampant. There is no reason to believe that skin color, ritual or location makes any majick “bad”. Our most scared law in Witchcraft is “to do no harm”. 

    As a shaman witch it has been my experience that all who believe and practice in any Pagan belief should have common ground. My own practice is bringing both my heritage as Cherokee and Celtic together. Seeing as the article points out that there are starting to be “witch-hunts” we as enlightened and wise people must not divide ourselves based on ritual or other surface evidence. 

    We as Pagans must remember that all the Gods and Goddesses rely on balance. There should be no fear or separatism from any of us. There should be a global calling to all who celebrate Paganism and the release from Christianity of protection from any harm to our own. This includes ALL who practice. If a ‘bad witch” is hunted and removed from this side, how long before any practitioner is seen as a threat and removed by those that hold on to the fear of the unknown. 

    True majick, all majick and all who share it, is a twisting and turning world full of possiblities, practices and individual thoughts. From my view point if we are to survive and avoid being “hunted” or hated balance must be a given. 

  • phatkhat

     And not just any “pentecostalism”, but in particular the “neo-pente” strain that comprises the New Apostolic Reformation. It has found fertile ground in Africa and other developing nations, and the Ugandan president, Yoweri Musiveni and his wife, Janet, are heavily invested.

  • Your thoughts are well expressed. The truth is that people commit atrocities, not beliefs. Individuals can choose to be swayed into paths of destruction, or not. The truth is we Western pagans are so eager to hold on to the hope that we can be recognized as “legit” in Western eyes that we throw others under the bus. Of course, there are differing paths and expressions of paganism, but as the previous commentator says. A crime is a crime, committed by individuals, not by beliefs, and we should speak out no matter who is accused.

  • phatkhat

     I would say the third world people may be more open to the neo-pentes due, not to “savagery”, but to lack of education. Uneducated people tend to be more superstitious and fearful in any country – look at the USA! This demographic is particularly susceptible to the kind of proselytizing done by these “missionaries”.

  • phatkhat

     Besides, it feeds the Islamophobic paranoia that has been carefully cultivated by both the political and religious right in the West. Unless we can demonize them as “other”, it is hard to justify killing them.

  • Chris

    There is a serious problem of definition because the ‘Christian’  label is applied and claimed widely. I claim it, but there are many in Christian sects who would deny my claim because I am not a fundamentalist. The Kirsty Bamu murderers would not be Christian in my book, whatever they claimed, because of the actions they took. I don’t claim to be a pagan, but I find the subject fascinating because humans ahve always tried to relate to whatever or whoever they believe to be ‘out there’. These were honest attempts in their day and should not be decried because human knowledge has increased over the centuries. And they were sensible in that they drew lessons from the observable world around them – like the returning seasons and the pattern of life and death. If you spend tomorrow night in the woods ‘Conjuring summer in’ , you are testifying to the truth of re-birth.

  • Chris

    I agree with you about what’s happenning and why. But in the present climate of globalisation, internationalism and political correctness nothing is going to be done about it till things get a lot worse. The Kirsty Bamu case may well be just the tip of the iceberg and similar things are already happening but not getting noticed. But ignoring the culture into which you emigrate is something Europeans  have done themselves.  I was part of the British administration in an African country. I did not build myself a pole-and-dagga hut, nor eat mealie-meal porridge. I still demanded bacon and eggs.

  • Aine Xenon

    I have three requests:

    1. Can we stop assuming that most everyone in the western pagan world is white and of Euro heritage when talking about the “parodox” or whatever, between “us” and “them over there in the 3rd world”?  Thanks.

    2. Can we just quit conflating Africa, the giant continent it is, with the idea that it’s a single country?  In the comments I see stuff like “this doesn’t translate in the African language”.  South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, when mentioned must sound like gibberish to some folks as they think about other sovereign countries like France, England, Pakistan, China, but that gargantuan landmass over there, they never bothered to learn it, so let’s just go with “Africa”, that makes more sense.  If one cannot know where the subject is centered around, then one should either educate themselves before talking, or shut it.  Otherwise, this is exactly how dangerous ideas get spread and absorbed about culture/religion/immigration, and pagans most definitely are not immune from this.  I’ve experienced the repercussions of this and have witnessed the same for other marginalized individuals.

    3. Can we dismantle the assumption that everybody coming from any developing country holds the same beliefs and are participants in the witchhunts/exorcisms?  There are so many folks in the pagan world who are of immediate descent from some of these countries, who could provide the very best overview and perspective (to counteract an outsider’s speculation) of what’s going on, but most often we won’t hear them speaking up at these things because they’ve grown tired of being shut down, kept out, and dismissed.  They’d much rather have a more productive conversation among themselves, and I don’t blame them after looking over some of these comments.

    Aine, over and out.

  • Even though the individual victims are often picked at random, or are just picked because they are viewed as vulnerable and therefore “safe” targets, it is nevertheless the case that in Africa in particular, these attacks against accused “Witches” are aimed directly at those who continue to believe in and practice traditional African forms of spirituality. The end result, even when the victims are “innocent”, is to create an atmosphere of fear and terror, resulting in the “demonization”, in the most literal sense, of all non-Christian religious beliefs and practices.

  • I think that the afrocentric religions face the same problems that european paganism suffered from (and to some extent still does) that they are all related in a lot of peoples minds with the voodoo we saw in films & literature over the years – human sacrifice, possession, zombies etc – these have mostly been the product of fiction, like a lot of how some other religions view paganism – honestly in their imaginations they are having lot more fun than we really are. And, as some have said I think their is a racist inclination to it as well. European paganism is largely a religion of white people and I think we see ourselves, wrongly, as morally superior to these african beliefs. I think the african religions are harsher, but they have developed in a much harsher environment that european paganism and as a consequence their beliefs may not be as gentle as ours are, but that does not make them any less valid. Our beliefs in many things are coloured by what we are told by and for too many years we have been told how things are by the christian church!

  • Guest

     Like your comments, lots. 
    Being understanding of diversity means dropping the “us” and “them” and “two sides”, instead of assuming there’s oneself and “other individuals” with whom you may be having an argument, and all these other people and viewpoints you don’t know about who are not involved. You don’t know those unless you really know them.
    Africa is not one nation, as you say. Europe isn’t one, neither is North America, “Arab nations, etc. People know these things intellectually but often still treat them all like separate worlds with one religion/religious sect, one culture, etc.? And there’s not one view or culture represented among those getting sorted by skin tones
    What is the “western world” now?  That phrase is outdated and making assumptions that grow more false daily. Increasingly, you can point in the US (for example) and find poverty, functional illiteracy (30%!), poor personal knowledge of other nations, unjust governance, people put in abusive jails and prisons, and lousy or unattainably expensive health care.  Much of Europe still seems to hold advantage on those 

  • While academia plays an absolutely huge role in understanding and stopping moral panics, the informed layman’s use of differentiation and focus on things behavioral, as opposed to religious identity wars/profiling, can certainly play a much stronger role in dampening momentum of prejudice and moral panic.

    The greatest difficulty is not just side stepping but going upstream of loaded arguments rooted in the binary thinking that’s so prevalent these days…people being well trained to fight each other based on various racial, sexual, political, cultural, religious or other identity. We’ve been well conditioned to fight each other rather than effectively tackle the issues of the day.

    So far, the SRA and other moral panics (fear of upsetting the social order) accomplished or showed us the following.  

    * Tools of the moral panic (symptom/profiling lists, rumors and techniques to combat whatever) may disseminate quickly but academic interest/challenge builds slowly, meaning first it spread and then it was slowly understood and problems corrected.
    * Moral panics may have their religious roots but can bring dissimilar groups and professionals together to combat a threat real and/or imagined.
    * That’s because, unless contained within a theocracy, moral panics eventually attempt to sweep their religious underpinnings and vocabulary under the rug as ‘secular’ involvement gains momentum and academic interest stirs.
    * Academic examination leads to (a) the accurate identification (the power of names!) of the phenomenon as a moral panic and (b) improvements gradually introduced into police, court, and therapy techniques/protocol. As a result, many of the questioning, therapeutic and other techniques or protocols used in SRA cases are now considered illegal and bogus.
    * Academic examination gradually shifts focus from from profiling race, ethnicity, religion, occupation, style of dress…) to more honest and useful behavioral profiling.  This is important because abuse crosses all cultural, economic, political, professional, and religious boundaries and we need to be able to recognize potential abusers and to prevent the habits/mentalities of abuse in our children.
    * Moral panics sometimes fabricate threats or aspects of threats that don’t exist.  (Conspiracy is not a necessary ingredient to some really rotten phenomena.  Moral panics generally are not fed by conspiracies or conspiracy theories.)There’s room on that list for a slow movement of cultural and intellectual revolution or Renaissance (rebirth).About Going Upstream…

    Instead of accepting and trying to solve or serve someone’s erroneous problems/divisions, one may free themselves and their resources by simultaneously going “upstream” and altering the social-political landscape and dynamics so that the problem is not a focus/presence but joy, solutions/goals, healthy relationships/dynamics, and excellence are. This gives t he cornerstones of equality (reciprocal ethics, quality education, a focus on excellence) a chance. Choosing a more positive focus sans abusers can amount to creative genius.  (See Edward de Bono of “Serious Creativity” for where I got inspiration from for this paragraph.)

    That can be met with but has more intellectual and ethical stamina than pigeon-holing, denial, minimization, rationalization, justification, head games and faulty assumptions employed to the detriment of multiple parties (all). It can defeat the identity war mindset and give people more ways of having status, something crucial to civility and equality.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The point, Chris, is that this violence was not committed by witches, but the reporting conflates it with other stuff to leave that strong impression.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    “There are so many folks in the pagan world who are of immediate descent from some of these [developing] countries, who could provide the very best overview and perspective (to counteract an outsider’s speculation) of what’s going on, but most often we won’t hear them speaking up at these things because they’ve grown tired of being shut down, kept out, and dismissed.”

    Let me once again offer The Wild Hunt as a place in which every Pagan path is given respect and certainly not shut down because of place of origin. It may not be perfect but it’s open to correction and improvement.

    ” They’d much rather have a more productive conversation among themselves, and I don’t blame them after looking over some of these comments.”

    Looking over comments is the first step to overlooking some. We can’t have a free and open discussion without drawing clowns, curmudgeons and trolls. There’s nonetheless usually a worthwhile, respectful converation going on here.

  • “the response isn’t to crack down on Christian churches, the response is to further demonize non-Christian traditions”

    That’s all identity based and encourages horrible behaviors while lauding “normalization” to a divisive extreme.

  • Nick Ritter

    “I think the african religions are harsher…”

    I don’t know about that. I think that if one looks honestly at indigenous European religions, or the indigenous religions of just about anywhere, one finds some harshness. My own religious tradition is an (ongoing) reconstruction of Germanic religion, and there was harshness enough in that, as in Celtic religion, as in Baltic religion, as in Slavic, Roman, Greek, etc. religion. Harshness is a part of existence along with gentleness, the wild and strange and fearsome along with the genteel and familiar and comforting. Any religion that looks openly at existence and finds meaning in it (as I think indigenous religions do, by their nature), will have some harshness in it, along with the rest.

    What I think, on the other hand, is that modern Western culture has become so soft and averse to any sort of harshness, that those elements tend to be muted among those folks coming to Paganism from a Western worldview. The worldviews and religions that Paganism hearkens back to, though, were different things indeed, and it is best to understand them on their own terms.

  • kenneth

    It’s not a matter of finding a justification to kill anyone. It’s a matter of us asserting and enforcing some baseline values of our culture upon people who wish to live as citizens or permanent residents. I don’t think it’s racist or imperialist at all to say to people that there are some things which simply won’t fly here that might have been ok or even cultural norms where they came from. I think the reverse is true also. I wouldn’t try to assert the right to open a bar or a nudist resort in Riyadh. When someone adopts a new country, they also ask it to adopt them. The nation accepting them has to have a sense of what it stands for and the person entering has to make an informed decision about whether they’re willing and able to live within that.

  • I think that what we are seeing is very much like what happens in the biosphere with some invasive species. In its indigenous environment, which is America, Pentecostalism is kept relatively in check. But when transplanted to a different spiritual eco-sphere, like Africa, Pentecostalism becomes like religious kudzu.

  • it is nevertheless the case that in Africa in particular, these attacks against accused “Witches” are aimed directly at those who continue to believe in and practice traditional African forms of spirituality.

    So all those children being run out of their homes, starved, beaten, whipped, etc. are believing in and practicing traditional African forms of spirituality?  Interesting. How exactly did they learn those practices while growing up in a Pentecostal home? 

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Kenaz, sometimes The God speaks to me. He lives in my marrow or DNA or something and, when I see or hear or feel or encounter something He wants me to pay attention to He gives me a heads-up. (Whether I literally believe this or it’s allegory for unusual inspiration is another discussion.)

    The first such came was when I was very young, and I ignored it. The first time it happened after I became Pagan I paid attention, interpreted it and acted upon it, and have ever since. At that time I was 45 and able to respond appropriately. Had I tried when I was five I might have been in trouble.

    This little murdered girl might have had a similar experience and given it outward form. Her Christian parents reacted as if it were an expression of African tradtional religion, and badly.

  • Kenaz, you have completely misunderstood what I was saying. Here is a hint: focus on the word “nevertheless” and work back from that.

  • phatkhat

     That’s certainly a picturesque way of putting it! I like that comparison; it’s quite apt.

  • phatkhat

     As to killing Muslims, I meant that in relation to the US military. And in order for that to continue unimpeded by public disapproval, we must ensure that the public is on the same sheet of music.

    And when we have the “other” in our midst, it is so easy to blame things on them and their culture. Scapegoating the “other” is not a new phenomenon, of course.

    Anondo is right – if a Muslim does it, it is an honor killing. If a Christian does it, it’s maybe a crime of passion. Is there a real difference? Someone is just as dead. It is a criminal act, just as the exorcism killing of the child was. Call it murder, and forget the cultural baggage. If it is acceptable to murder in some other culture, and they move here, then they are subject to our secular laws. They can obey them or pay the consequences, just like everyone else. I can’t think of a better way to encourage assimilation – certainly criticizing their religious beliefs won’t do it.

  • anondo

    then I hope that most of those Western Pagans who find ritual animal sacrifice are vegan. yes, vegan.

    but most are not, and find our ritual animal sacrifice horrendous but they will have no problem in eating meat from the slaughterhouses,  which is less humane.
    or eating from mcdonalds, burger king, and so on…which again, is less humane.

    westerners are indeed out of touch with reality and think that meat comes from smiling trees.
    the hypocrisy is ridiculous.

  • anondo

    “is that modern Western culture has become so soft and averse to any sort
    of harshness, that those elements tend to be muted among those folks
    coming to Paganism from a Western worldview. The worldviews and
    religions that Paganism hearkens back to, though, were different things
    indeed, and it is best to understand them on their own terms.”


    no wonder  that out of all types of pagans, i always get along best with heathens or those who follow recon religions…you guys def. understand and get it.

  • deerwoman

     Excellent point. I feel similarly about most people who profess to be “pro-life.” If they truly want to be pro-life, they should be vegan, however in my experience most of those who profess that viewpoint are only concerned with a very specific sort of life.

  • phatkhat

     No, I don’t think we are out of touch with reality, I think we are sometimes not wholly logical. Your point is a good one, and yes, we do tend to insulate ourselves from the reality of the slaughterhouses.

    I think being vegetarian would suffice on the idea of not killing animals, though. Milk, cheese and eggs don’t have feelings.

    I guess I don’t understand why killing an animal is necessary in a religious setting, but then, I’m not all that familiar with those religions, and I know that sacrifice of animals – and even humans – goes back into the mists of time. I’m not condemning you or your religious practices. Just trying to point out how cultural differences affect how we perceive any particular religious activities – and our gut reaction to them.

  • Northern_Light_27

     @phatkhat:disqus Animal sacrifice is practiced by a hell of a lot more religions than ATRs, and your characterization of the majority of Pagans getting in it for nature worship is just not what I see in the Pagans I interact with around me. The Pagan friends I’ve made are heavily reconstructionist, and nature worship isn’t why many of us became Pagan. (And I could particularly see my Hellenic, Kemetic, and Roman reconstructionist friends banging their head into a wall at the invocation of that old “Paganism is an earth religion” trope again. Don’t know if you were around in the end of the ’90s, but that’s why a lot of Recons have walked out of pan-Pagan organizations.)

    Some Asatruars practice animal sacrifice. That’s what the word “blot” *means*, blood. Also, look at the Abrahamics– what do you think kosher and halal butchery is? Do you equally find Asatru, Judaism, and Islam distasteful?

    If you ask me, the frequent invocation of animal sacrifice as a reason to shudder at ATRs is nothing more than a convenient excuse for the same old white privilege and systemic racism.

  • Northern_Light_27

     That’s nothing more than ye olde No True Scotsman Fallacy in action. They did something heinous, so they couldn’t be “real” Christians.

  • Northern_Light_27

    You actually think ditching all the “old country ways” to “melt” was *good*? You don’t think that has anything to do with why so many descendants of those immigrants, myself included, feel a powerful sense of rootlessness and anomie? That might just be a big part of why we were attracted to religions that reconstruct those “old ways” in the first place? I wish my grandparents and great-grandparents hadn’t assimilated so strongly. I wish I was taught their languages, their traditions, their ways. What you consider integration, I consider wholesale loss of some cultures, cultures of people who came to the States penniless, in favor of another being imposed upon them as the price of survival in this new place. I think it’s to the good that we stop trying to homogenize immigrants and let them keep their distinctiveness.

    And to blame this murder in any way on “political correctness” and lack of integration to “our” culture (where “our” = “white people”, whether you meant that or not, that’s the reality) is really not okay. He was murdered due to a virulent strain of Christian fanaticism exported *from* the US, y’know, “our culture”.

  • I think part of the problem is that these incidents, and there have been several over the past few years that I remember, are being reported as “Witchcraft Murders”; of course that sells more copy.  What they are however are “Christian Murders”, these are christians who have gone far over the deep end who are probably under the influence of some wackjob preacher that use the Bible to justify murder and torture of innocents.  We as pagans as just getting hit by the splatter effect, which of course is none the less dangerous.  

  • anondo

     “You actually think ditching all the “old country ways” to “melt” was
    *good*? You don’t think that has anything to do with why so many
    descendants of those immigrants, myself included, feel a powerful sense
    of rootlessness and anomie? That might just be a big part of why we were
    attracted to religions that reconstruct those “old ways” in the first

    hear hear….

  • anondo

    site didnt give me an option to reply to northern light’s comment so here it is.

    northern light wrote:

    “If you ask me, the frequent invocation of animal sacrifice as a reason
    to shudder at ATRs is nothing more than a convenient excuse for the same
    old white privilege and systemic racism.”

    exactly, there is animal sacrifice in india and in nepal too, and i NEVER EVER hear pagans complaining about this. instead most pagans i know place indian and nepal on a pedestal.

    so why is it that the atrs are always placed on this negative spotlight by these same pagans?
    what’s the difference?

    that subconscious racism and prejudice that some white pagans still possess against AFRICAN-related practices….maybe? just maybe?

  • Eran_Rathan

    Gus did say that he would be focusing his energy on his Patheos blog, if he did decide to drop Beliefnet.

  • Point taken, and my apologies. 

    Nevertheless, I’d point out that in most of the African cultures where we’re seeing Pentecostal “Witch Hunting” there is a traditional belief in Witches and that many African traditional healers will (for a fee) perform exorcisms on “Witches.”  In fact, so far as I can tell the general attitude of African traditional practitioners is rather akin to the stance taken by many Pagans during the Satanic Panic –  “We don’t cast evil spells, cause infertility and sacrifice babies – that’s the EVIL Witches.  We’re just traditional healers…” 

  • Examples of violent exorcisms by non-African Christians:

    Arizona man tased by police while performing violent exorcism on 3 year old child:,2933,293203,00.html

    22 year old Japanese American (raised by Quakers in Indiana) arrested for physically abusing a 14 year old autistic boy during exorcism:

    Russian parents accused of killing their daughter during exorcism:

    Young boy “slapped, scratched and hit” during exorcism in Seattle church:

    Swedish pastor accused of conducting “violent exorcisms” in his “cowboy-themed church”:

    Two London preachers kick woman to death during exorcism in 1980:,857771

    Violent exorcism of gay 16 year old boy in Connecticut (the church was so proud they posted a video of the exorcism on youtub):

    Police called to violent exorcism in Alabama:

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Phatkhat, cheese is generally cultured in the stomach juices of slaughtered animals.

    Milk and eggs from the usual sources raise serious quality of life questions about the animals from which they are harvested.

    I’m no Vegan but I don’t avoid the facts.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Anondo, this is a reply to your reply-to-self effort to respond to Northern Lights. (Ain’t Disqus FUN?)

    I don’t think white Pagans sit around planning to denigrate African religion for animal sacrifice. If we do, this white guy didn’t get the memo.

    What happens is that some animal sacrifice event (real or presumed) in the US is interrupted by the police and hits the papers. This understandably flusters all Pagans, and the white ones may then be subject to a temptation to dissassociate themselves, saying something to the effect that “That’s African or Africa-descended; we good American Pagans don’t do that.” That’s what is racist, the reflex willingness to throw African Paganism under the bus.

    Somewhere in this thread India and Nepal were mentioned. Believe me, if Indian or Nepalese sacrifice in the US became headline fodder, this reflex would direct against them in a heartbeat.

    I guess my point here is that this is not strictly a feature of Paganism. No Europe-derived Paganism has this reflex in its redes. It’s an American problem, the residual racism that still lingers five decades after the Civil Rights Movement.

    Which is not to say we shouldn’t confront it when it arises within Paganism. That is something Jason does very reliably here on The Wild Hunt.

  • phatkhat

    In reply to Northern Light:

    I suppose the old “birds of a feather” thing is at play here. Paganism is an umbrella term, and there are a lot of different kinds of groups under it. We do seem to find our way to similar people, and my own experience is with the earth-centered type of Paganism.

    But I do find it interesting that I posted a great deal about the Christian sects that are doing spiritual warfare against indigenous beliefs around the world – I singled out a couple of countries in Africa because that is where the discussion was.
    Yet, out of all of that, I am called out and said to be racist because of my honest gut reaction to what I perceive as a cruel practice. Race or ethnic origin has nothing to do with it – I find it equally disturbing regardless of who does it.

    I will not apologize for being a soft-heart. I have lots of company, among Pagans, atheists, Christians, and others. We will have to agree to disagree.

  • Obsidia

    I’ve been thinking about this subject for a lot of years now, and my conclusion is that, in indigenous societies (Tribal), there is a real respect for Spiritual Practitioners….people who work with the Spirit and “Spirits.”  If one of them starts to become a problem, the rest of them will take care of it.

    Once the fundamentalist Christians come in to do their missionary work, and to aid colonizing armies, the indigenous and tribal system is broken down.  ALL Spiritual Practitioners become suspect and there are no more controls in place.  The Christians believe that “exorcism” should cover ALL spiritual conditions, and that people are wrong to even consider having their own personal relationship with the Spirit World.

    We Pagans and Spiritual Practitioners can bring our own knowledge and experience to this situation.  We can calmly and strongly assert that we have the absolute right to relate to the Spiritual World in a personal way, and that nobody has the right to tell anyone else how to link to the Divine energy.  We can help those who are being persecuted, whether by the Christians or by the broken vestiges of tribal authorities.

    I think that the main thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter what one believes, it’s what one DOES that counts.  Oppressing and hurting anyone is wrong.  If there is a problem, bring it to the community of law and bring in all of those who can help with the situation.

  • Nick Ritter

    Likewise, I have a great deal of fellow-feeling for other reconstructionist traditions, as well as for the living indigenous traditions like Hinduism, Siberian shamanism, African Traditional religions, and Native American religions. This isn’t to say I don’t have some fellow-feeling with non-reconstructionist pagans, but with the aforementioned it seems like we’re often much more on the same page.

  • Mia

    Tends to be an urban thing, rather than Westerners as a whole, since many people in the cities are not going to come into close contact with the animals or their deaths very often.

  • Mia

    “I think the african religions are harsher, but they have developed in a much harsher environment that european paganism”

    Yea, ok. A quick look at ancient history blows that out of the water. Life is harsh, period, for most people around the world, include “whites”. The only pagan religions I can think of that aren’t harsh are those you’d find in some Llewellyn books, or the watered-down and easier to swallow version of Wicca. Besides, those are recent religions/practices, not ancient ones.

  • Mia


  • Mia

    Well obviously some integration has to occur in order for communication to exist, at the very least. If a family that doesn’t speak English at all moves into an English-only neighborhood, how are they going to communicate to the police or the neighbors when something happens? How are they going to understand the laws that are in place in the area? There’s evidence that the ancients did this too, particularly the more nomadic ones. Adopting the spirits and ways of the new land you entered was not unusual.

    It’s not all bad either. Yes, I wish a lot of the traditions stayed in my family, and I was lucky enough to have some as a child. But I’m still glad I don’t have to be married to someone within my ethnicity and be with children by now, and that I am encouraged to get my degree instead. I have that freedom because my family is not tied to the “old country’s” ways so strongly. I guess if you’re a man it’s not a problem, but as a woman I feel better with contemporary ideas of women’s rights compared to old ones.

  •  The “no true Christian” defense is sadly overrused every time these things come up.  That’s part of the problem.  If Christians would actually acknowledge that these groups claim to follow the teachings of Christ, and are usually  happy to show anyone how they do so, I am sure that some work could be done to try to correct that.  The moment you start saying “they’re not Christians in MY book”….means you’re part of the problem.

  • Mia

    “These were honest attempts in their day and should not be decried
    because human knowledge has increased over the centuries. And they were
    sensible in that they drew lessons from the observable world around them
    – like the returning seasons and the pattern of life and death. If you
    spend tomorrow night in the woods ‘Conjuring summer in’ , you are
    testifying to the truth of re-birth.”

    Thank you for demeaning our beliefs. “Honest attempts”, “were sensible”, are you kidding me? It’s not enough that the hubris known as Christianity has to permeate throughout our cultures, but one of you have to come onto here and spread more of it.

    Yea, we’re testifying to the “truth of re-birth” alright, the idea of rebirth that has existed long before Jesus was born to waste his time demonstrating what others already knew through the “observable world around them”.

    Don’t bother sticking around if all you’re going to do is subtly suggest the superiority of your religion over ours. You’re clearly not THAT fascinated by our religions to respect them.

  • Bookhousegal

     Well, if you’re interested in our belief systems,  you shouldn’t assume you somehow know more about ‘stumbling into openings’  that you rather deny can be anything -but-  dangerous.   That’s actually very much the Christian attitude toward ‘powerful’    or  ‘proof,’   and really,  a belief that the world and spirit ‘must be’  devil-infested or something.    (Not to mention the usual misconception that Pagan religion is first and foremost about some kind of ceremonial magic,  which where present is actually first and foremost about being very mindful of intent and consequence,  much more so than Christian forms of prayer-with-intention, often,  and the corresponding imaginations of ‘dark powers’ and ‘faustian bargains,’  etc.)    The dualistic ‘Everything is good or evil’ also isn’t a feature of most beliefs such as ours.   (And no,  that doesn’t mean the ‘utter amorality’  some Christians claim it ‘must.’   We just don’t think the world is entirely divided into these moralistic opposites, or ‘fallen’  or any of that:  to translate into more moralistic terms,  our beliefs about the spiritual world tend to be more like real life:   every person or other being you meet isn’t either a ‘saint’  or a serial killer or something:  it’s a living world, which of itself is good.   Things can be dangerous without being ‘evil,’  either.  Like predators.  Or traffic.  🙂  We tend to love wolves, for instance,  but respect their wildness and danger.   See some of the difference in paradigm?    Much of the danger of some practices,  in fact, lies very much in what you bring with you,  and what you bring to it:  ‘exorcists’  treating people and even spirits as ‘demons’  tend to raise a lot of storms that might appear to be just *that.*  That’s how your ‘witch hunts’  and other ‘moral panics’  end up taking on a life of their own,  often with innocents being treated as your battlegrounds.   Careful of projecting that.   Actually, kids are far more likely to get in trouble imitating Christian and pop-cultural misconceptions/defamations than any Pagan/indigenous/’magical’/animistic religion.   Trust me on that.  )

    You’re also assuming that all religion is really about ‘belief without proof’  or that believing a book is ‘proof’  is somehow inherent to all religion.   Or that ‘debating proof’  can do anything but potentially disprove claims *from* authority.

    If you want to learn,  great,  but you can’t really ‘debate’ if you don’t learn what you’re debating about.    Or if you think it’s about ‘proving your faith’  or ‘converting everyone.’   Cause however much volume of ‘scholarship’ is directed to that end,  even the Pope demonstrates shocking ignorance thinking he knows how to ‘prove’  something about images in his head that he tries to place on real people who live it.  😉  

    You guys kind of do have some doctrines that treat everything that’s not-Christianity as a threat,  be that a people, the land,  or spirits,  …and that’s why you’ve got such a history of not being very good with any of them.    And being good neighbors to any of these means interacting as equals,  not some ‘authority’  to convince or be convinced.  🙂


  • Kilmrnock

    I’d like to know when someone is going to lay the blame for most of this violence where it belongs . Christian missionaries and Evangelical churches are responcible for this mess . When are they going to get called out for this . Mixing Evangelical Christianity with damaged Native African beliefs is what has created the conditions for this to fester. I even saw an ad not long ago for one of these so called Africa Evangelical Witch Hunters coming to America to raise money for Her ” Good ” work .The Evangelicals are after all the ones who maligned and damaged the Native beliefs to start with . Then played into and created demons and devils to cast out , exorcise. In thier eyes anything native or pagan is evil and MUST be destroyed , weather any innocents get hurt in the process is of no consiquence.Someone , us if neccesary,  has to make this information known .This  has to stop .We European pagans, our Ancestors were victims of such tactics . We cannot stand by and watch them do this to someone else . This is an open letter to all large pagan organisations ,ADF , COG , Lady Liberty League , etc PLEASE get involved …………get the word out .      Kilm

  • Bookhousegal

     Actually,  anondo,  you’re kind of applying a pretty nasty stereotype *there,* too,  you know,  not to mention obscuring the distinctions between  not-approving-of-factory-farming, Vegans,  and modern Western Pagan beliefs that ritual sacrifice of animals as though they’re ours to ‘sacrifice’  per se  (As opposed to things like blot or offering back or otherwise respecting what we slaughter, etc,)  …as opposed to the idea of people sacrificing animals or people to take power from there as in sensationalized media stories,/defamations etc, that tend to be getting us *all*  wrong. 

    It’s a pretty nuanced topic for us, in practice,  but it’s about,  for modern Pagans,  our own ideas of ‘respect.’   

    I think *especially* for ‘White Pagans’ who get most of our food all prepackaged,  it’s that very disconnection which means ritual ‘sacrifice’  of certain sorts simply isn’t a way to *show* respect or connection.   (Actually farming or hunting, on the other hand: that’s more like it.  )   It’d be, perhaps,  treating one more chicken or other animal like some commodity that is somehow supposed to be a fit offering or with something for us to take,  y’know? 

    Slaughtering our dinner with ritual and respect and such is in fact something that rural Pagan folks  get quite comfortable with,  though.   A lot of thought goes into it.   It’s actually about our own beliefs and cultures and circumstances,  negotiated through our real lives and situations.   Including disconnected ones where all you hear of it is being accused of having something to do with disturbed kids wanting to kill your cat cause someone taught them they’d get ‘evil powers’  from it,   y’know? 

  • anondo

    i think your post pertains only to the community of african traditional healers and not to african traditional religions as a whole. big difference
    since there are plenty of practitioners of african traditional religions who do work with both hands, if it is justified.

    because that’s a big generalization, have you heard of the aje?
    the iyami osoroonga and the respect toward the mothers (witches?)

  • anondo

    nick ritter said: “I have a great deal of fellow-feeling for other reconstructionist
    traditions, as well as for the living indigenous traditions like
    Hinduism, Siberian shamanism, African Traditional religions, and Native
    American religions.”


  • anondo

    “Actually,  anondo,  you’re kind of applying a pretty nasty stereotype
    *there,* too,  you know,  not to mention obscuring the distinctions
    between  not-approving-of-factory-farming, Vegans,  and modern Western
    Pagan beliefs that ritual sacrifice of animals as though they’re ours to
    ‘sacrifice’  per se  (As opposed to things like blot or offering back
    or otherwise respecting what we slaughter, etc,)  …as opposed to the
    idea of people sacrificing animals or people to take power from there as
    in sensationalized media stories,/defamations etc, that tend to be
    getting us *all*  wrong. ”

    i dont know how im obscuring anything if i never made any comparison. period.
    i think you missed the point that others understood clearly.

  • One very specific issue is the amount of US taxpayers $$ that goes to Christian missionaries. Not only does a significant portion of the foreign aid budget go directly to groups like World Vision and Catholic Charities, but the agency most directly involved in foreign aid, USAID, has very close ties with Christian missionary groups.

  • Northern_Light_27

     Mia, there’s a big difference between being able to communicate (being bilingual) and the damage wrought by the idea of the “melting pot”, just like there’s a big difference between not discriminating on the basis of color and being “colorblind”. Both “colorblindness” and the “melting pot” elide privilege, where “melting” means not sticking out in a noticeable way to the WASP power structure, and “colorblindness” means “I’ll ignore that someone is Black if they act white enough” in actual practice.

    It’s better in all ways, IMO, for an immigrant group to find ways of becoming part of their new culture without losing their identity and uniqueness in the process, particularly when you’re talking about immigrant groups that are already going to be beset with racism to begin with, and particularly because we’re (white Westerners) not nearly as enlightened as we think we are, and every problem that we see “savage” peoples having are also problems that “we” have. Honor killings? It’s not that much different IMO if you toss your child on the street for being molested and daring to speak of it, or being gay and daring to speak of it– the motive is the same, it impugns the family’s sense of face.

  • Northern_Light_27

     @phatkhat:disqus I didn’t call you a racist, I said that a lot of the instinctive reaction against ATRs is based on unexamined white privilege (which, btw, I also have, being white myself), because it always seems to single ATRs out for a practice that’s done by many religions, including Pagan ones.

    You might want to check your privilege. If you’re white and American, you’re swimming in a sea of systemic racism, and yes, it actually does affect you. And me. And everyone else swimming in it. Yes, I do find it interesting that I never see other animal-sacrificing religions called out the same way ATRs are, and I do think it comes from that conditioned tendency to see anything African as exotic and savage.

  • Mia

    I can understand and agree with that. My response was focused primarily on the idea of changing old traditions and culture as one moved to a new country.

  • I love that there are now over 85 comments on this. 10 years ago there would barely be a productive and encompassing discussion at all. Progress, as slowly as it happens, is still progress.  Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion.

  • Kilmrnock

    I need to make on correction to my comment below……. . We European decented Pagans , Our ancesters were victims of such tactics.     Kilm

  • Henry

    two kinds of witchcraft have already been created academically, which tells us that “Modern Witchcraft” was created in England.
    We’re also told not to pretend that there is any connection or overlap between ‘Modern Paganism” and old world traditions, except what was ‘borrowed’ to flesh out the new religions.
    That’s where the ‘false dilemma’ begins.

  • Dealg MacTire

    Roman Catholic commentators defend Pentacostal misionary’s bad actions and terrible judgements in Africa and Europe, but Western pagans don’t stand up to defend African native religionists?

  • Sadly, there is quite a bit of “self-hatred” among modern Western Pagans. A very revealing symptom of this pathology is a willingness to believe the most outrageous lies about African Traditional Religion, while refusing to believe the plain truth about what Christians (including both African Christians and foreign, often American, missionaries) are up to in Africa.