Archive for the 'alternative religions' Category

Deities and element correspondences?

April 2, 2011

In Lilith: Queen of the Desert, Anya Kless says that Lilith is one of the few deities she associates with all four elements.

Personally, I’m inclined to believe that most deities have associations with all four elements — at least if we dig deeply enough into their lore — and that relatively few of them are truly specialized by element.

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Is there any suitable common ritual format for a diverse gathering of Lilith devotees?

March 22, 2011

Lilith’s Tribe in New York City aims to be inclusive of the many different kinds of people who are drawn to Lilith. That’s tricky to accomplish, on many levels.

If such a group were to perform a public or semi-public ritual, what kind of ritual format would be appropriate?

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Some of my history of challenging prejudice (mainly anti-Satanism by Pagans)

March 19, 2011

Lately, challenging people’s prejudices has gotten much harder than it used to be. Once it was easy and fun. Over the years it became much more difficult. Lately, it often seems to have become almost impossible. For whatever reasons, it seems that most people today are a lot less willing to consider new ideas than most people were, say, back in the 1970’s.

Nevertheless, even today it is still possible to make progress in counteracting specific prejudices, if one is willing to be persistent about it.

Here’s a brief history of some of my major successes and failures at challenging people’s prejudices over the past few decades:

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On being “God-owned”: “spiritual orientation” vs. divine “rape”?

March 15, 2011

Another post by Anya Kless has called my attention to the following: (1) Fun Facts For the Deity-Owned by Laura Patsouris, Patheos, January 26, 2011, and (2) God-Owned: Humans as Pets by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, January 26, 2011.

I can relate to the experience of being “God-owned,” although I’ve tended to use different terminology to describe it.

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Lilith and Samael, according to Anya Kless

March 13, 2011

Anya Kless, author of Lilith: Queen of the Desert, has written a very interesting blog post titled Samael: God of the Left Hand. Among other things, she confesses:

I don’t know if I’m ready to say that anyone who works with Satan is actually working with Samael (or one of His faces), but it seems quite possible. Considering the eye-rolling I used to do about Satanism, it’s actually rather ironic that, if the Satanists are right, I’m working with Him. Gods are funny that way.

I am, of course, relieved to see that past-tense “used to.” She also references a website called “Severity of God” (about Samael) by a LaVeyan Satanist who is also an Aztec reconstructionist.

Anyhow, Anya Kless’s post is an interesting compilation of lore about Samael, plus a brief account of some of her own personal spiritual experiences involving Samael.

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Favorable references to a “Lucifer” by occultists

June 30, 2010

Recently I was contacted by someone interested in learning about Luciferianism as distinct from Satanism. In my view, Luciferianism and Satanism are overlapping categories, and most people today who call themselves “Luciferians” really are Satanists too, as far as I can tell. However, there have also existed plenty of occultists who didn’t even call themselves “Luciferians,” but who nevertheless were “Luciferian” in the sense of making favorable references to a being that they called “Lucifer.” In most though not all cases, this “Lucifer” is indeed quite distinct from “Satan.”

Here is a far-from-exhaustive list.

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Hank Hanegraaff — an example of fundamentalist/evangelical Christian beliefs about Satan

May 1, 2009

Today I surfed onto a blog belonging to a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian named Hank Hanegraaff, who runs something called the Christian Research Institute (CRI).

He seems to be, in some ways, one of the more honest and reasonable evangelical Christian public figures. Back in the early 1990’s, CRI published some articles debunking the “Satanic ritual abuse” scare , for which I would like to thank him. Back then, standing up against the SRA scare required quite a bit of courage.

In most other ways, though, I still have to regard him as being very much in the enemy camp, for reasons aptly summed up here on RationalWiki (although, as I’ll detail later, the RationalWiki page contains some inaccuracies).

Anyhow, I would like to call attention to some things he says that are of interest both to Satanists and to Pagan Witches.

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Reply to jugganaut35 on Pagan symbolism in Christianity

April 28, 2009

In the General feedback thread,

Hi Ms. Vera, I’m trying to write a novel utilizing themes of pagan symbolism in Christianity as part of the plot device … , but thus far I have not located a great source documenting the history of that symbolism.

I’m writing to you to ask if you could recommend any such sources that I can use to research.

I’m sorry — this is not a topic I’ve researched in depth. If anyone else here is knowledgeable about this, I too would be interested in recommendations of good scholarly sources on this topic.

You also wrote: “(if you’ve seen the Zeitgeist documentary on YouTube, that gives you some idea)”

Ugh. Zeitgeist. Definitely not a good source on anything. Amd full of grand conspiracy ideology and other related nonsense, e.g. regarding the Federal Reserve System. For some debunking, see Resources for debunking grand conspiracy claims, and for documenting their political significance.

History of European witchhunts: Jenny Gibbons, and a response to Beastrabban

May 16, 2008

I highly recommend the excellent article Recent Developments in the Study of The Great European Witch Hunt by Jenny Gibbons.

Too many modern Pagan writers still cling to outdated ideas about the European witchhunts. Jenny Gibbons shows where many of those wrong ideas came from and how they were eventually corrected.

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More bad history by a Pagan Witch

June 8, 2007

Yet another Pagan Witch public relations piece containing the same old historical nonsense: So…Your Friend Is a Witch?. Here’s a brief excerpt:

Consider that you’re spending time with a good friend over a nice meal, some good wine, and friendly conversation. Your friend tells you that she is Pagan. As a matter of fact, she says, she’s a practicing Witch. What does this mean to you?
[…]
It is also likely that some part of you was at least a little frightened by the word.
[…]
In the simplest of terms, your newly found (no matter how fleeting) doubt about your friend is the result of a centuries long media assault on the Pagan way of life.

No, it’s the result of 20th-century neo-Pagans deliberately choosing to refer to themselves by a scary label like “witch.” Once again, the theory that the post-Renaissance European witchhunts were primarily about persecuting an underground pagan cult of the “Horned God” has long since been discredited among reputable historians. (For more up-to-date scholarly ideas about the witchhunts, see Recent Developments in the Study of The Great European Witch Hunt by Jenny Gibbons, another copy here.) Furthermore, Christians certainly have no monopoly on witchhunts. There are all-too-many witchhunts going on today in Africa and India, rooted not in Christianity but in local tradition.

The ongoing worldwide spread of the more fanatical forms of Christianity, and their propaganda campaign against all other religions, is indeed a significant worldwide threat to religious freedom. But, in facing that threat, let’s try not to distort history, okay?
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The lack of historical knowledge about the ancient Celts

June 8, 2007

I came across an interesting post here on WordPress about Halloween, with a lot of annoted info about the ancient Celts, the Druids, Samhain, and the evolution of Halloween festivities. Written from a Christian anti-occultist “ex-witch” perspective, but much more scholarly than most. Among other things, this article points out how little is known, historically, about the religion and customs of the ancient Celts. For example, there’s not enough evidence to know for sure whether the ancient Celts practiced human sacrifice, and it’s not even known for sure whether they had a feast day called Samhain.

However, like a lot of other relatively well-informed writings, this article seems to assume that all Satanists are LaVeyans.

“Taking elements of” older religions and “warping them into something else”

May 26, 2007

On both the blogs To slam a revolving door and A Blog of 2 Witches, there is an entry titled “10 Things Everyone Should Know About Witches, containing the following:

4) We are NOT Satanists (a Satanist actually takes elements from Christianity and pagan traditions and warps them into something else. Satan is a Christian myth, so it is NOT something associated with witches)

Well, this is a little better than the commonly-heard claim that all forms of Satanism are “just upside down Christianity.” At least there’s an acknowledgment here that most Satanists draw ideas from other sources besides just Christianity.

However, the intended point here seems to be that modern Pagan Witchcraft, supposedly unlike Satanism in this regard, is supposedly a pure and pristene ancient pagan tradition – which it most definitely is not.
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More about “fringe cults” — What is “normal”?

April 21, 2007

Eariler today I posted a blog entry titled “Fringe cults”, about the debate following “The Devil Is In The Details” on the blog “Sailing to Byzantium.”

In response to my initial reply to “unitedcats,” I got replies not only from “unitedcats” himself but also from another person:

katyjane wrote::
April 18th, 2007 at 5:28 pm

dianavera… are you not guilty, in that last line, or doing the same thing you decried of unitedcats? Why would non-mainstream folks be “even more varied” than mainstream folks?

You get some pretty different ideas, regardless of where you’re looking.

I replied:

Diane Vera wrote::
April 20th, 2007 at 10:56 am

katyjane wrote:

“dianavera… are you not guilty, in that last line, or doing the same thing you decried of unitedcats? Why would non-mainstream folks be ‘even more varied’ than mainstream folks?”

Obviously there are more ways to differ from the norm than there are ways to be normal. That’s simple math.

Of course it’s true that even amongst “normal” folks there is quite a bit of variety.

I would add now that what I was doing was not at all the same thing that I (perhaps incorrectly) perceived that “unitedcats” was doing. I was not making a generalization about all people outside of some norm of my own.

As it turns out, I may have misperceived what “unitedcats” meant by “fringe cults.” (See my previous post,“Fringe cults”.)

Admittedly my reply to “katyjane” was rather abrupt, since I was arguing what seemed to me to be an extremely obvious point. But apparently it wasn’t.
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“Fringe cults”

April 21, 2007

Shortly after writing my first two posts here on this new blog of mine a few days ago, I looked at WordPress’s listing for the Satanism tag, to see if my post on Satanic panic in Russia? had appeared there yet. It hadn’t, but my eye was caught by a blog entry titled “The Devil Is In The Details” on a blog called “Sailing to Byzantium.” The post was about Anton LaVey. I agreed with most of the what the author had to say. I was glad to see his open-mindedness about LaVeyan Satanism, but I also agree with most of his stated reservations about it, as well as with most of what he said he liked about it.

Then I looked down at the comments and came across the following:

unitedcats wrote::
March 4th, 2007 at 12:59 am

I would have to agree, all fringe cults are pretty much the same. Satanism, UFO cultists, whatever…just lost souls who want to be special somehow and don’t have much identity of their own. Mostly harmless, I mean things like the Solar Temple, Jim Jones, Aun Shimrikyo make the news…but there must be million’s of people in fringe cults around the world so the dangerous ones are the exception, not the rule. And mostly dangerous to their own members even when they do go nuts. Often confused too, like the dyslexic Satanist who sold his soul to Santa. ;) JMO —Doug

Startled by this person’s claim that “all fringe cults” (apparently including all the many different kinds of Satanism???) are “all … pretty much the same,” and that their adnerents are all “just lost souls who want to be special somehow and don’t have much identity of their own,” I quickly dashed off the following reply:

dianevera wrote::
April 18th, 2007 at 12:39 pm

unitedcats, you sure do generalize about people in “all fringe cults,” claiming that they are all “just lost souls who want to be special somehow and don’t have much identity of their own.” People in nonmainstream religions have a variety of different motives, just as people in mainstream religions do. You have fallen into the common human tendency to oversimplify and to be socially dualistic, to see everyone outside one’s own little box as being fundamentally all alike. But that’s an error — they aren’t all alike. Nonmainstream folks are even more varied than mainstream folks.

As we will see later, I may have misunderstood what “unitedcats” meant by “fringe cults.” I got the impression that, by “all fringe cults,” he was referring to all nonmainstream religions. He may have meant to refer just to the more authoritarian, “brainwashing,” and controlling ones, rather than to nonmainstream religions in general. Or does he perhaps believe that all nonmainstream religions are “cults” in the authoritarian/”brainwashing”/controlling sense? If so, that belief is wrong. Or does he perhaps believe that all forms of Satanism are “cults” in the authoritarian/”brainwashing”/controlling sense? If so, that belief is wrong too. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to ask these questions in my reply.
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Gwan Garrison, the next Mike Warnke?

April 19, 2007

I recently ran into the following two stories, both on the website of Baptist Press in Tennessee:

Gwan Garrison claims to be an ex-Satanist. Googling “Satanism Gwan Garrison,” I found the following earlier versions of the above two articles, on Christian Index, a Georgia Baptist site:

His bio seemed awfully fishy to me.

I also found some witty and thought-provoking commentary on About.com, on Witchvox, and on J-Walk Blog.

On About.com, in an article titled “Satanic Panic, or ‘I was a Satanic Witch (No, Really, I Could Fly and Everything!)’,” Jennifer Emick sums up Gwan Garrison’s story as follows:

Baptist Pastor Gwan Garrison talks about how much he enjoyed “persecuting Christians,” and he’s sure to mention (with the amount of accuracy typical in these stories) his “Satanic altar” and his “crystals.” It’s light fare compared to some of these stories- no bloody sacrifices, no marriages to Satan- but there is a glowering cat and a high-voltage Satanic bible- and there is, of course, that ever-present character, the tirelessly persistent evangelical whose refusal to stop pestering the ungodly results in his miraculous transformation.

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Satanic panic in Russia?

April 17, 2007

A Russian Orthodox public movement called the “People’s Council” has made some ill-informed, panic-stricken claims about Satanism:

  • “People’s Council urges authorities to equate Satanists to terrorists,” Interfax-Religion, Russia – Apr 2, 2007

It released a statement claiming that “ritual murders” and various other nasty activities are all “characteristic of Satanic organizations.”

The statement is said to mention several ritual murders including the allegedly notorious “murder of three Optino monks killed by a Satanist on Orthodox Easter.” (I found no further information about this crime via Google.)

The statement also says, “There is an enormous number of Satanic organizations and groups acting in Russia today. Many of them are united in a single branchy network.”

Yeah, right.

The statement then goes on the mention the “Church of the Satan” [sic], failing to note that the Church of Satan has been an above-ground organization for over 40 years and does NOT endorse any kind of criminal activity.

I found the following blog entry:

  • “‘Satanists as dangerous as terrorists! World at risk from Satan cults’ claim Russian Orthodox,” Signs of Witness

It closes with the comment, “It could be that Religious Right Hysteria is the real ‘danger to Society…'”