Pagan, in Africa: African Pagans and Pagan Faiths

African Pagans, modern Pagan religions, and minority faith issues in South Africa.

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Intuition and Inspiration

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

My spiritual journey, as a South African born Pagan, began at the age of six. Both my parents worked full time and I was raised by a Zulu nanny in their absence. Virginia would walk me home from school in the afternoons. One afternoon as I was about to walk into the kitchen, Virginia shouted to me to stand still. She had never before raised her voice at anyone. I froze. Seconds later a lightning bolt struck the top of the metal door frame, slid down and up the doorway, and disappeared. I remember the smell of pure electricity. She took me by the hand and sat me down at the kitchen table. While she poured a cup of tea and placed the sugar bowl in front of me, I wondered how she had known about the lightning strike before it happened.

This memory has remained vivid for me to this day. It served as the first small awakening for what has become a life-long quest to know more about and understand the occult - the hidden. Over the last 40 or more years I have explored and studied Shamanism, Traditional African religions, Druidry, western and eastern magical traditions, occultism, divinations, medicinal and magical herbalism, folk-lore, mythology, European 'pagan' religions and Witchcraft. I consciously identified as a Witch by the age of 20. As I near my fiftieth birthday, it's become easier to quantify my personal belief system as a combination of animism and pantheism.

Over the last 21 years, between reading Tarot professionally, studying ceramics and building a working farm from scratch, I've spent most of my time serving a growing Pagan community in South Africa as an activist, writer and community builder. One could say I was fated to be a small part of the birth of the public Pagan movement in South Africa in the 1990's with the publication of South Africa's first Pagan magazine, Penton Pagan Magazine (now Penton Independent Alternative Media) in December 1995.

Together with Shanyn Tamra Pearson, Candace Jane McCardle, and Druid Morgainne Emrhys, we formed The Grove in 1996. The Grove remains an active teaching coven and is the oldest South African Pagan Mystery School dedicated to the exploration of Pagan gnosis and the practice of neo-Paganisms. I formed my own eclectic coven, the Clan of Ysgithyrwyn, in 1998 in the southern Cape.

In 2003, through the cooperative efforts of the Pagan Federation of South Africa, CORD, The Grove, Lunaguardia, The House of Ouroborus and other non-aligned Pagans, I founded the Pagan Freedom Day Movement to facilitate the annual national and regional public celebration of religious freedom. The Pagan Freedom Day Movement is now administered by the South African Pagan Council (formed in 2006 by Mja Principe).

I formed the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) in 2004 as a Pagan human rights activist alliance. As an activist I served the Alliance as Director from 1995 to 2014, and continue to advocate against witch-hunts in my country for the Alliance. The Alliance is currently under the directorship of Dr. Retha van Niekerk.

Thank you for your unintended inspiration, Virgina. But, enough about me. The emergence of the public Pagan movement in South Africa must be seen through the stories of hundreds of people. I will endeavor to explore some of these stories; the Pagans, groups and events that have contributed to the growing community of modern Pagans (including Wiccans, Witches, eclectic Pagans, Heathens / Asatru, Druids and many others) in our country. I will also share our national community's struggle for equality, justice, political relevance, and our collective social and religious evolution as a minority faith group.

Damon Leff
Editor in Chief: PENTON Independent Alternative Media


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Damon Leff, a Witch - animist and pantheist, is a South African human rights activist / advocate, writer, editor and ceramic artist. He is the owner of and editor-in-chief at Penton Independent Alternative Media (since 1995), a founding member and director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance, the current managing researcher of Touchstone Advocacy against witch-hunts, a founding executive member of the South African Pagan Council, and owner of MNRVA Pottery. His wish list includes a Bachelor of Laws(LLB). He lives and works on a small-holding in the southern Cape with his life partner Louwrins, two greyhounds, two cats, several chickens and a multitude of healthy and productive Cape honey bees.  


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