When I was a kid, my grandmother told me ghost stories from the American South. Being a Dixie girl, she knew all about such monsters as “the Head-Chopper,” “the Boggart,” and “Raw Head and Bloody Bones.” I loved these gruesome stories, which in my opinion were the predecessors of the 1950s E.C. Comics (i.e., the ones that published Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear). Most of these stories are morality tales, in which chaos is visited upon the wicked. Raw Head and Bloody Bones, for instance, was originally an enchanted hog who could talk and who lived with a kindly old witch in the woods. He never bothered anyone at all until this total jerkola came along and slaughtered him. Then ol’ Raw Head came back from the grave and avenged himself against his killer, and now he prowls the countryside at night, eating naughty children who misbehave and disobey their elders.
The Detroit Free Press published a remarkably pro-Pagan article today, in which the author dispells some of the popular myths about Paganism and witchcraft. Apparently our community is seeing quite a bit of growth here in Michigan, for which I am glad. There is also some discussion with one Michigan witch in particular that illustrates some things that probably most of us have experienced at one time or another. I recommend this article for anyone who might be new to Paganism; I think it’s a serviceable introduction to the subject.
Have you ever noticed how many occult-themed records were released back in the 1960s and 1970s? And I don’t mean occult-themed music. I’m referring to actual ceremonies and ritual procedures that were not only released on vinyl, but which were released by some big-name record labels. The following article provides some nice descriptions of these obscure eccentricities. I haven’t been able to track down or listen to all of the recordings on this list yet, but I am proud to own Vincent Price’s Witchcraft Magic: An Adventure in Demonology (1969) and Anton LaVey’s The Satanic Mass. (LaVey actually invokes Set at the 2:30 minute point! Hi, Big Red!) Luckily, both albums are available for streaming on Amazon, and I’ve included a track from the Vincent Price record below for anyone who might like to try a listen.
(One of these days, I’m going to track down one or more recordings by “Babetta the Sexy Witch.” I can’t believe someone actually had the gall to call herself that back in the day, but then again, I am quite partial to sexy witches, so…)
I fully support the humanitarian effort to tackle public health crises in foreign countries. If you’re in Uganda just to feed, clothe, and educate the people there, I have no problem with you. But this is seldom the primary concern for missionaries. While they might indeed provide food and/or healthcare to the people they serve, their primary goal is—and has always been—to win more converts. And there is no easier way to win converts than by going to some country where the people are hungry, uneducated, and desperate. While the missionaries say they aren’t “forcing” Christianity on anyone, they are introducing it to people who are physically and emotionally vulnerable, and who have no way of “fact-checking” anything they are told.
This can have disastrous results, as when Pentecostal churches began exploiting local superstitions about witchcraft in Africa during the 1980s. Extreme poverty and disease are almost always blamed on supernatural forces in such communities, which is already bad enough to start with. But then the charismatic pastors come in with all their hellfire and brimstone, claiming to fight against the “witches” in the name of “God” with their faith healings and their exorcisms—neither of which provides the people who are suffering with any practical solution to their woes. In fact, such practices only escalate the situation because it reinforces the people’s superstitious fears, motivating them to harm and even murder their own children for being accused “witches.” (There is an entire report from Unicef about this particular matter, if you would like to read more.)
I’m not saying Pentecostals are entirely to blame for this, or that there is nothing of value to their faith healings or their exorcisms. There’s a reason people keep coming back to these ritual procedures; as someone who delights in performing execration ceremonies, I can attest that such rites are incredibly potent and can provide some much-needed catharsis in times of extreme anxiety or panic. The problem is when such procedures are claimed to be the one and only treatment people need to recover from their misfortunes. Yes, dancing and chanting to execrate an evil spirit can contribute to your health and emotional well-being, but it’s not going to heal you of AIDS or find you a fresh source of drinking water. It’s not going to eliminate any mental health issues you might be living with. These people deserve to be given a proper scientific education, so they can understand how things like diseases actually work. Telling them that “God will take care of everything” if they just believe and pray is one of the most irresponsible things anyone can say to someone who desperately needs help.
And then you have those missionaries who think they know what they’re doing, but don’t. Exhibit A: Renee Bach, an American missionary who posed as a medical doctor in Uganda without a license. Bach is not a medical professional, yet she has administered blood transfusions, hooked children up to breathing machines, and otherwise participated in people’s medical decisions. Now some of the children she has treated are dead, and an investigation into her activities has been launched. Just from reading the report, I can tell that Bach is someone who cares for children very passionately, and who truly intends to do good work. I do not believe this person intended to harm anyone. But unfortunately, that just isn’t good enough when it comes to practicing medicine. You can love kids and want to heal them all you want, but if you aren’t a licensed physician, the help you provide might actually be deadly. So please think twice before you run off to practice medicine without a license (not just in Uganda, but anywhere).
The Truth About the “Whore of Babylon”
“Perhaps the greatest ‘death’ Ishtar causes is not that of the body but that of the ego, which can be a terrifying experience for megalomaniacs like Gilgamesh.”
The Great Female, or When God is a Hippopotamus
“But most importantly to me, Taweret is a ‘monstrous’ divinity who was born of chaos and who exhibits chaotic traits, but who uses Her chaotic powers to defend the cosmic order, not to un-create it.”
Walpurgisnacht or Walpurgis Night is a spring fertility festival that’s observed each year on April 30. It’s the Teutonic equivalent to May Day or the Celtic Beltaine, but was later renamed after the medieval Christian Saint Walpurga. It represents the cross-quarter point of our solar year between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, and it’s a time for warding off the last vestiges of winter. It’s most often observed in continental Europe by wearing scary costumes, lighting huge bonfires, and making all kinds of godawful racket to scare away the evil spirits. In fact, you might say Walpurgisnacht is Germany’s version of Halloween; one might even call it “Samhain in the Spring.”