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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Love-Names of Earth and Sun

Years ago, I learned from my teacher the love-names of Earth and Sun.

By these names I know Them to this day.

What Their love-names to Themselves may be, we do not know. The names by which we know Them are born of our own relation.

I will not write the names here. They are no secret, but to know them is a changeful knowing.

Would you too know the love-names of Earth and Sun, of Horns and Moon?

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Weaving and Spinning Women: Witches and Pagans by Max Dashu: Reviewed by Carol P. Christ

Max Dashu’s  Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion 700-1000 challenges the assumption that Europe was fully Christianized within a few short centuries as traditional historians tell us. Most of us were taught not only that Europe became Christian very rapidly, but also that Europeans were more than willing to adopt a new religion that was “superior” to “paganism” in every way. Careful readers of Dashu’s important new work will be challenged to revise their views. When the full 15 volumes of the projected series are in print, historians may be forced to hang their heads in shame. This of course assumes that scholars will read Dashu’s work. More likely they will ignore or dismiss it, but sooner or later--I dare to hope--the truth will out.

History has been written by the victors—in the case of Europe by elite Christian men. These men may have wanted to believe that their views were widely held, but Dashu suggests that they were not.

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Hi Anthony, You can order Witches and Pagans thru the link in the blog. Yes, I have read The Dancing Goddesses as well as EWB's ea
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you for the review. I'll try to keep alert for this book. Have you read "The dancing goddesses : folklore, archaeology, and

b2ap3_thumbnail_dapl_dc_hearing_eb_cherokees_50k_donation_benjamin_west.jpgOn September 9, a federal judge ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline, a pipeline to carry crude oil from Canada into the U.S. that will run under the Missouri River and across sacred Indigenous sites and a Native cemetery, would not be halted, despite Indigenous protests. Though the judge was clear that the court understands the importance of the sacred sites to the Standing Rock Sioux nation, and he even recognized the centuries-long injustices meted out upon Indigenous nations, the pipeline would continue to be built. But then the federal government stepped in and temporarily over-rided the judge's determination. Above is a photograph of Cherokee women protestors from Indian Country Today Media network. The Cherokee nation gave $50,000.00 to the Standing Rock Sioux nation for their legal defense expenses.

Background information: A company called Energy Transfer Partners plans to run a pipeline, called the Dakota Access Pipeline, through the Standing Rock Sioux nation's territory. Originally, the pipeline was going to be run under the Missouri River in Bismarck, North Dakota, which is the state's capitol and is a largely EuroAmerican neighborhood. It was determined, however, that the pipeline might potentially contaminate the water there, so the pipeline plan changed to be run through Indigenous lands. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council has been fighting the Energy Transfer Partners company in court since 2014! By treaty and federal law, the Army Corps of Engineers MUST confer with all Native American nations if they plan to do anything on Native lands. The Army Corps did not confer with the Standing Rock Sioux and are thus in violation of federal law. Further, the Standing Rock Sioux charge that the pipeline is in violation of the Clean Water Act, among other federal laws; but, most importantly, the pipeline violates the human law that mandates our responsibility to protect Mother Earth.b2ap3_thumbnail_img_9537.jpg

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    If there is a danger in white neighborhoods, there is danger on Indian lands. How long will the genocide on which this nation was

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Myth of Pagan Enlightenment

When I first began practicing magic, I had this naive belief that every pagan and occultist I would meet would somehow be more enlightened. Part of me wanted to believe that the people I would meet would have their acts together, be living a better life than everyone else. And perhaps I also hoped that some of it would rub off on me...that since I was now practicing magic I too would become a more enlightened person.

I eventually discovered that the enlightened Pagan/occultist was a myth. My fellow Pagans and occultists weren't any more enlightened than anyone else was, and neither was I. We are just like any other person, with our own faults, reactions, and everything else that comes with it. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Flight to the Sabbat

My Kemetic Reconstructionist friend was newly back from his long-awaited trip to Egypt.

He was furious.

“Damn those security guards!” he growled. “Any time I tried to do anything, they'd stop me! Rrr!”

While not uniquely a pagan problem, it is a distinctly pagan problem nonetheless. With our holy places in the hands of the jealous, what to do?

We discussed the situation. My suggestion was that next time, he make the offering in his head. On the astral, so to speak.

The security guard sees an American tourist standing there impassively.

Meanwhile, the old gods receive their due service.

Ideally, the inner offering should always accompany the outer. But better one than neither.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

One of many questions arising from my last article 'Witches and the Law' concerns the much argued issue of definition; who defines witchcraft? The answer lies in another self-answering question, Who self-identifies as a witch?!

My country is multi-cultural and multi-religious and so in order to begin to answer the question, I have to acknowledge that there are several, sometimes contrary definitions in current use by various cultural and religious groups, for the terms 'witch' and 'witchcraft'. I intend to explore in a general sense only, those definitions that have become the subject of contestation between Pagan Witches and others (including traditional healers, academics and the State).

The conflict between often diametrically opposed beliefs and opinions on witchcraft is actually a struggle between two different human rights; on the one hand, the right to cultural and religious belief, and on the other the right to dignity through identity. All three of these rights are enshrined in South Africa's Constitution (Act 108 of 1996).

The Bill of Rights (Chapter Two of the Constitution), guarantees freedom of religion, belief and opinion (S15), the right to language and culture (S30), and the right to establish and maintain cultural, religious and linguistic communities (S31). The right to identity, though not specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights, is implied in sections 9 entitled Equality, and 10 entitled Human Dignity.

The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on the grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic and social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. (S9(3)).

Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected (S10).

The Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on (a) human dignity, equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms."Founding Provision of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, chapter 1(1)(a).

I will argue that whilst the rights to cultural and religious beliefs may be subject to limitation under section 36 of the Bill of Rights, where the expression of these rights engender or incite human rights abuses, the right to identity may not be subject to similar limitation where such a limitation infringes on the right of citizens to determine their own identities within a free society.

Who defines witchcraft?

I have chosen to highlight three common definitions of witchcraft in South Africa, definitions which fall within the ambit of the rights to culture and religion. I have also of necessity concluded with a fourth definition, one used by Pagan Witches, and one that is diametrically opposed to the others.

Traditional healers

Traditional healers generally regard witchcraft as synonymous with harmful magic; magic that has as its sole goal the causing of harm through the use of malevolent supernatural agency with or without the aid of ritual and magical objects. In South Africa, the illegal use of and trade in human body parts is also ascribed to witches and witchcraft. The attribution of human mutilation with witchcraft remains one of the primary motivations for accusations of witchcraft by both traditional healers and ordinary citizens generally. Traditional healers do not self-identify as witches, and do not call what they do witchcraft. They have repeatedly distanced themselves from witchcraft in numerous media reports. I have chosen to include only four examples of these reports between 2010 and 2016. All are relevant.

The national coordinator of the Traditional Healers’ Organisation, Phepsile Maseko, blamed muti murders on “heartless witches”. ... Revealing that of a total of 901 cases of corpse mutilation in South Africa last year, Limpopo accounted for 350 and Mpumalanga for 210, Maseko had asked “How could a healer use body parts or remove somebody’s body parts while the person is still alive? That means you are a witch, not a healer. ... Maseko was unrepentant this week, saying “Let’s be honest here — a witch is a witch and everybody in the country knows that. “Publicly calling yourself a witch in South Africa smacks of white privilege. In a village or township, you’d be dead even before completing your proclamation. Sapra must accept that we speak different languages and live in different areas,” she said. [1]

Maseko was responding to a media statement by the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) condemning muti murders and the illegal trade in human body parts for medicine and magic. The statement was supported by the South African Pagan Council, Clan of Kheper Temple, Clan of Mafdet, Lunaguardia, Clan Ysgithyrwyn, The Grove, Pagan Freedom Day Movement, Penton Pagan Magazine, Pagan Federation International South Africa, Pretoria Pagan Social Group, Dream Weaver Pagan Community, Celestine Circle, Temple of the Midnight Sun, Temple of the Celestial Paths and other non-aligned Pagans (Wiccans, Witches and others).

Traditional healer Bongani Shangase, speaking at the launch of the report Trafficking Body Parts in Mozambique and South Africa, is quoted as saying “We want this research to differentiate between witches and traditional healers because we do not use body parts to carry out our calling. Witches do that.” ... he and other traditional healers did not dispute the findings, but they did not agree with statements that traditional healers used body parts. “We want this research to differentiate between witches and traditional healers because we do not use body parts to carry out our calling. Witches do that,” he said. ... Other traditional healers criticised the study, saying it painted them in a bad light and asking for more conclusive research to be done so people could understand how traditional healers worked. [2]

Traditional healers say they are often accused of being witch doctors. Originally, witch doctors were consulted to drive out evil spirits believed to have been cast over someone by witches, but since colonial times the word has assumed a derogatory meaning and is used to refer to the people who cast spells for evil purposes and create deadly potions. The problem is the misinterpretation of what a sangoma is. A sangoma is not a witch - a sangoma is pure and does good. People due to their lack of knowledge think witch doctors, witches and sangomas are all the same thing and they are not," says Ms Moloi. The other distinction is that traditional healers use herbs, plants and some animal skin in the muthi (medicines), whereas witch doctors are said to also use human body parts, meaning they are sometimes implicated in murders." Makhosazana Moloi [3]

Using human body parts to boost muthi amounts to witchcraft, the Traditional Healers Organisation (THO) said on Friday. “The use of human body parts to make muthi is unknown in the traditional healing trade. No human body parts can be used to make muthi,” THO national co-ordinator Temangcamane Maseko said. The THO made the remarks following the court appearance of two sangomas implicated in the disappearance of 3-year-old Leticia Nkentjane in Boschfontein, Mpumalanga, on October 30 2015. Her body had still not been found. The Nelspruit Regional Court recently heard that the two sangomas, Jabulani Ndlovu, 27, and Themba Mnyambo, 43, both from Boschfontein, used the girl’s body for muthi."These people, if it really happened, are not our members," said Maseko. They were arrested with four other people on November 23 last year after being suspected of kidnapping the girl. During their bail application, the two sangomas distanced themselves from the allegations. The application was continuing on Friday. [4]


Academia generally has absorbed and, to some extent, adopted a definition of contemporary witchcraft in South Africa that affirms popular consensus held by traditional healers and the communities in which they live and operate.

In ‘AIDS, Witchcraft, and the Problem of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa’ Professor Adam Ashforth writes “Witchcraft in the South African context typically means the manipulation by malicious individuals or powers inherent in persons, spiritual entities, and substances to cause harm to others… the motive of witchcraft is typically said to be jealousy.” [5]

In criticism of the response by Pagan Witches (specifically the South African Pagan Rights Alliance), to the definition of witchcraft promoted by the Traditional Healers Organization, South African academic Dr. Dale Wallace writes...

In avoiding their own notions of hexing (to curse or cast a spell for bad luck or misfortune) in dialogues with Africans over witchcraft as a malevolent practice, the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) defined witchcraft as ‘a religio- magical technique that employs the use of divination, herbalism, sympathetic magic and ritual’. Without full community support, SAPRA has pursued ‘reclaiming’ the term at public and official levels and, in articles and discussions on social media sites, came to label the African belief in witchcraft as a superstition, albeit that this neocolonial perspective mirrors the tone of denial in the WSA that has been shown to exacerbate witchcraft violence, thereby effectively closing doors to constructive inter- religious consultation and dialogue. Pagans are almost exclusively white and, as a community, mostly eschew racial, gender and religious discrimination. However, SAPRA debates teeter on a slippery boundary in distinguishing the ‘white’/benevolent magic of the Pagans from the  ‘black’/malevolent  magic  practiced  by  Africans,  who  in  turn  have  their own difficulty in separating healing, curative magic practise from magic practices perceived as bringing fear, misfortune and even death into communities. [6]

Wallace takes issue with SAPRA’s alternative Pagan-centric definition of Witchcraft as religion. In doing so she mistakenly conflates the right of a religious minority to define itself and to defend its right to equality, with a neo-colonialist worldview in which white Europeans imposed their own economic, political and cultural world-view on non-Europeans. Though Pagans in South Africa are almost exclusively “white”, most of us were born in South Africa, as were our grandparents and great grandparents…  We are neither European, nor do we seek to colonize the African mind. We are Africans!

Since that article, Wallace has repeatedly reiterated her opinion that the attempt by Pagan Witches to assert their rights to religious freedom and equality by challenging the definition of witchcraft held by traditional healers is "dismissive", "imperialist", "non-inclusive" and essentially a "colonial denial of witchcraft".

The State

In the 1995 Report of the ‘Ralushai Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Violence and Ritual Murder in the Northern Province’, Professor N. V. Ralushai summarized the generally held African cultural and religious dialogue about witchcraft as “All kinds of misfortune, including matters as varied as financial problems, illness, drought or lightning strikes, are blamed on witchcraft.”

The Ralushai Commission’s report defined the term ‘witch’ to mean a person who “…through sheer malice, either consciously or subconsciously, employs magical means to inflict all manner of evil on their fellow human beings. They destroy property, bring disease or misfortune and cause death, often entirely without provocation to satisfy their inherent craving for evil doing.”

Testifying before a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Amnesty Hearing in 1999, Ralushai confirmed his Commission’s definition of a witch when he was asked by attorney Patrick Ndou to define what a witch was. Ralushai stated “A witch is supposed to be a person who is endowed with powers of causing illness or ill luck or death to the person that he wants to destroy.”

I have already dealt with the Witchcraft Suppression Act in my previous article and so will not repeat this here. It is important to note however that although the Act does not define witchcraft, it presumes that witches may be engaged in harmful criminal activities, including the use of and trade in human body parts. In that article I also discussed the South African Law Reform Commission’s proposed 'Harmful Witchcraft Practices Bill' that seeks to criminalize allegedly harmful witchcraft practices. The Commission’s Issue Paper cites the trade in and use of human body parts, and the social response to believed malevolent magical practices, as motivation for the Bill.

Pagan Witches

Pagan Witches have challenged both cultural and religious beliefs about and definitions of witchcraft; those presented above by traditional healers, academics and the state, by appealing to the rights to equality and dignity. In doing so they have attempted to assert their own right to religious freedom.

Since 2007, I and other Pagan Witches have argued that traditional cultural and religious beliefs about, and definitions of witches and witchcraft, are stereotypical and prejudicial to actual Witches who identify Witchcraft as their religion or personal religio-magical practice. They are also harmful to the innocent victims of witchcraft accusations in so far as such beliefs may form an intrinsic part of the underlying motivation for such accusations.

Between 2007 and 2008, I engaged in frequent discussions about the subject of witchcraft with Phepsile Maseko (the national coordinator of the Traditional Healers’ Organisation) on several radio programmes. Our first conversation in June 2007 was initiated by our mutual response to the release of a draft 'Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill'.

In my conversations with Maseko, she affirmed the right of Pagan Witches to freedom of religion. On public radio SAfm in 2007 she undertook to never again use the terms witch and witchcraft in either a stereotypical or prejudicial context. Her motive for saying this, she said, was her newly gained understanding that Pagan Witches used these terms to describe their identity and their religion. This affirmation was again repeated at the South African Pagan Council’s Conference on the Mpumalanga Bill in Melville, Johannesburg. Her conciliatory response to our discussions did not last, as is evidenced from her media comments about witches and Pagan Witches (SAPRA). Collaboration between Pagans and Traditional Healers did however force the Mpumalanga Legislature to withdraw the Bill.

Limitation of rights

Section 36 of the Bill of Rights allows the rights in the Bill of Rights to be limited, provided such limitation is "reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom."

The South African Law Reform Commission has argued for the rights of Witches to be limited in so far as Witches should be regulated by legislation. They motivate this argument by referencing numerous public calls to approach the question of witchcraft from an exclusively traditional cultural and religious perspective. This affirms the position taken and motivated by Maseko and Wallace. The proposed Harmful Witchcraft Practices Bill is the result of this approach.

The recent attempts by Maseko and Wallace to unfairly re-contextualise the struggle of Pagan Witches for equality and dignity as racially biased "white privilege", and the Commission's adopted traditional perspective on the subject of witchcraft which reaffirms prejudicial beliefs about witchcraft, omits a rational analysis of the mischief at hand.

Stereotypical prejudicial beliefs about witchcraft do motivate accusations of witchcraft. Many of these accusations lead to violent witch-hunts against predominantly older women. There is no evidence to prove that the accusations are true, and no evidence to support the theory that the victims of accusation really were or are witches. The harm committed here flows from the beliefs and actions of the accusers, not the victims. It is the victims of accusation who experience the loss of basic human rights, not their accusers.

Numerous media and trial reports concerning people arrested and charged for trafficking in human body parts do not demonstrate that said persons either were or identified as witches. The assumption that both acts of trafficking and the perpetrators of such acts constitutes evidence of witchcraft is based solely on often repeated traditional cultural and religious beliefs. Media reports and interviewees merely reflect those beliefs by dressing the facts of the case in the socially expected garment; witchcraft. The harm here flows from the stereotypical application of well-worn but untested beliefs about a causal connection between trafficking (harm) and witches (those who allegedly do harm).

Whilst the rights to cultural and religious beliefs may be subject to limitation where the expression of these rights incite human rights abuses (section 16(2) right to freedom of expression does not extend to (b) incitement of imminent violence or (c) advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to cause harm), the right to dignity may not so easily be subjected to limitation where such a limitation infringes on the right of citizens to determine their own identities within a free society.

It would be unreasonable for Pagan Witches to accept that the state should be allowed to regulate their faith, when no other religious faith is so regulated (S36(1)). It would be unjustifiable for Pagan Witches to be forced to relinquish their right to equality and equal treatment under law (SS 9(1) and (2)). Pagan Witches in South Africa have not been proven to be a danger to the communities in which they live, they have not been charged with committing any crime, and they are entitled to be presumed innocent of any imagined potential harm until proven otherwise by a court of law (S35(3)(h)). Legislative regulation would amount to unfair discrimination against a religious minority (S9(3)).

The struggle of Pagan Witches in South Africa is a struggle for the right to dignity. We seek only to affirm our existing right to continue to identify ourselves as Witches without being identified by the State, through legislation, as potentially harmful or potentially complicit in criminal activity. The right to human dignity, a founding principle of our Constitution cannot be limited, not even by belief. Dignity is neither earned, nor bestowed as reward; it is inherently vested from birth.


[1] Tshwarelo Eseng Mogakane, Thabisile Khoza
Cauldron boils in witchy word war
26 February 2010 - Mail & Guardian

[2] Nompumelelo Magwaza
Male genitalia tops witchcraft list
6 May 2011 - IOL originally published in The Mercury

[3] Pumza Fihlani
Witnessing a South African healer at work'
7 may 2013 - BBC News, Johannesburg

[4] Eric Mashaba
Using body parts in muthi is witchcraft - traditional healers
19 February 2016 - News24 Correspondent

[5] Professor Adam Ashforth (Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan)
AIDS, Witchcraft, and the Problem of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa

[6] Dale Wallace (Post-doctoral Fellow, Religious Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal)
'Rethinking Religion, Magic and Witchcraft in South Africa'

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Our Lady of Paganistan

If genuine, she could well be the oldest human artifact in Paganistan.

From coiffed head to pointed toe, you can see the resemblance to the Lady of Willendorf immediately.

Articulate, enigmatic, she simultaneously merges with, and emerges from, the stone that is her matrix. At 5¼ x 2¼ inches, you could hold her in the palm of your hand.

And believe me, when you see her, you want to.

She now resides in the heart of the American Midwest at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. If the stories are true, her previous home was a cave in southern France, and she's 22,000 years old.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    You're very welcome, Drum. She's definitely worth a visit.
  • Jean Pagano
    Jean Pagano says #
    Steven, This is beautiful; thank you for posting this info. Blessings, Drum

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