Yay for new stuff! This week I have added over 300 lovely new items to StormJewel’s Gifts, mainly from the fabulous Alchemy Gothic and the ever popular Nemesis Now.
In case you haven’t seen their stuff before, they work with artists from the UK to create gorgeously gothic figurines and jewellery, and allow you to indulge your fantasy side with all different kind of fairy figurines and gifts (butterfly and bat winged fairies, cute ones, gothic ones) which you can decorate your home, garden or altar with.
For the dragon fans among you (and you may know that I am obsessed with these majestic creatures) there’s gorgeous dragon figurines, and lots of unusual gifts from dragon boxes to wine holders, wall plaques and artwork by Anne Stokes.
As well as fantasy artwork (in the form of scrolls to hang on your walls), the talented Anne Stokes brings us her gothic collection of figurines, including wonderfully vampy ladies, gorgeous trinket boxes and more, do take a look!
Recently I wrote about my experience with what could be called religious discrimination. This post was first published on WitchVox.com and I’ve had lots of people emailing me with their experiences. One fellow Pagan told me a rather shocking tale of his experiences in NYC and asked me to publish it to make other Wiccans and Pagans aware and so this is his story.
“Hi Louisa! Wonderful to get a response from a Witchvox user. I hope all is well with you.
Since I have found out about the situation at the Waterford Connecticut mall [ED: Pete is referring to the fact that a Christian minister took over the shopping mall and removed all Wiccan pendants that were on sale These pendants are now being sold there again Pete has since told me] I have appointed myself unofficial “Investigator of Religious Intolerance” (sort of) I regularly go to Barnes & Nobles in Manhattan at Union Square. I like to talk to New Age people and see what new ideas are emerging as well as help an occasional young wiccan to choose the right book for them. I have worked at a Wiccan book store in the past, so I pretty much know all the books.
I have spoken to several wiccans about discrimination against members of the craft and unfortunately it seems to be increasing. I have had wiccans tell me that they are fearful to wear their pentagram in public, afraid that some crazy person will target them. Several people have told me that individuals have approached them and made hateful comments and in one case a young woman was spat upon. I didn’t want believe this was happening at first, so I decided I would look into this.
I began to “lecture” about wicca in Barnes and Nobles to any who would listen to me. I would talk about the principles and values of wicca. If anyone asked me about what books were good I would give them a “talk” about how wicca is an awesome religion. Well, let me tell you, I have had many bizarre and frightening incidents occur to me since I began this. One day, I was speaking to an older gentleman in his 60’s who seemed to be appreciating my Goddess-centered spin on history when he suddenly stopped talking and stared at me strangely. He said “If we find out you know anything specific we will kill you.” I was stunned, I wanted to say: “Who’s we?” Instead I said “You have a good night Sir.” I thought that he was just an isolated case of a lunatic, so I waited a month and went back. I was not there fifteen minutes when a group of people approached me and crowded around me too closely.
They were asking me: What books do you recommend?’ and “What practises do you do?” Their manner was threatening. I realized what they were doing and I began to turn it around on them. I asked one of them, a woman in her twenties, “What do YOU do?” and “Why not share with me some of YOUR practises?” They looked at me with silent contempt and left. This type of incident happened a number of times. It did not stop me however. I needed to know who is harassing wiccans. Since those incidents, I have been followed by these same people around the city. These are just a small sample of what I have encountered. Some of the events are too frightening and it would be inappropriate to relate.
In one instance, I met a young woman whom I had spoken to a few times before that was interested in wicca. She has a pure heart and is a good person. I began to talk to her about wiccan spellcrafting. There were some old guys in the New Age section browsing and one younger guy that I know to be well, evil. I had spoken to this guy before and I know that he is completely amoral. He hates witches. He thinks that witches are in his words “stupid.” He interrupted our conversation and asked her why she would ever want to be wiccan. She asked him what he meant. He said to her that she should study something with more “strength”. She asked “Like what?” He deliberately tried to be vague and wouldn’t answer. She tried to talk to me but he kept on interrupting. I got the impression that he was deliberately trying to interfere. The young woman got agitated and left. He looked at me with a pleased expression.
I spoke to a magician friend of mine about all this and he said that you have to be careful because there are christian and other types of occult groups here in NYC that are “going after” wiccans and other magical folk. I asked him what he meant and he told me that several of his longtime friends have had to move out of NYC because of the harassment. I know that he is telling me the truth. I can only hope that this is a temporary development and that these are just foolish people doing stupid things.
I also dearly hope that this isn’t the beginning of a fascist culture!!! I’ll keep trying to protect those of the craft. Please remember, Witches heal, protect and serve. Please feel free to post this in your blog and on witchvox. The people of the craft should know. Blessed Be Pete.”
Thanks for sharing that with us Pete. This is a very shocking story but at least by spreading awareness we may be able to improve the situation.
If anyone has any stories (good or bad!) that they would like to share please do so!
In the west, commonly when someone mentions Voodoo, it evokes ideas of black magic, devil worship, scary sorcery, and films tend to depict Voodoo as originating in Haiti.
But in fact this scary reputation mainly comes from Europeans and Christians from the past who sought to quash and dehumanise the people of Africa and their religions.
Where does Voodoo come from?
Some people believe that Voodoo is the world’s oldest religion.
The religion of Voodoo, (or Vodoun as it is also known, particularly by those who practice it), is thought by many to originate from Benin, a country in West Africa, but is also practiced on the West coast, including people from Togo, Angola, Nigeria and so on. The slave trade in 16th-18th century meant that many Africans were shipped to places such as Cuba, Haiti, Brazil and the USA, spreading the religion.
However the religious aspects were often changed and lost in these places and much of Voodoo became Hoodoo, which is generally thought not to be a religion, instead mainly focused on the magic and medicinal aspects of Voodoo. I’ll be explaining more about Hoodoo in my next article. The word Voodoo actually comes from Vodou, which is the name of the spirits that the people worship.
For many years Voodoo had to be practiced in secret, until 1996, January 10th which is now Nation Voodoo Day in Benin, and people celebrate with song, dance and sacrifices. This suppression was due to the European colonial influence and also the zealous Christians, who generally tried to quash local religions, perhaps believing this was a good way to control people, and in colonial times fines, torture and death could be imposed upon people found to be practicing Voodoo. Today there are an estimated 50 million worshippers around the world.
So what is Voodoo all about?
Voodoo is an animistic religion, which means that the followers believe that god is in everything from the leaves of trees, to the wind that blows. It’s a Polytheistic religion, like Paganism, meaning that there are many gods, and again similar to Paganism is the idea of revering nature. Ancestor worship is also another very important aspect.
Ceremonies and Rituals of Vodoun
There are complex ceremonies and rituals in which the aim is usually to make contact with a spirit (the Vodou), perhaps an ancestor, or one of their lesser deities (called the Loa). People try to gain their favour by offering animal sacrifices and gifts, in order to get help such as better health, luck or abundance. The humans and the Loa are co-dependant in this way, with the Loa giving protection and good fortune and the people giving gifts.
Rituals are also held to celebrate lucky or important events, such to give thanks for rain, for marriages, births and deaths, and for healing.
Ceremonies often last all night and are an exciting affair, with singing, drumming and chanting.
The Sakpata Guardian Ritual
Let’s follow one girl – Ianthe (meaning violet flower) into her initiation and receiving of her guardian
First the oracles are consulted to see which divinity she will align with, who will become her supernatural guardian? The god Sakpata is revealed – god of disease and protection. He is at once feared and respected for his power. To become his initiate is a long process.
For nine whole months Ianthe stays in a special temple where she learns the esoteric knowledge of Sakpata, including secret dances, words and language, and the secret name of Sakpata. Her cheeks are scarified (ritual scarring) to indicate the change and knowledge she has received.
The initiation day
Today Ianthe is wearing a white bonnet, with a cowrie shell necklace, a bright print dress that looks like small pox! Why? Because Sakpata is also the God of pox.
There is excitement in the air and everybody is anticipating the great feast to come, as well as a whole day and night of celebration and ceremony. Everyone is dressed in fine clothes and jewellery. There are people with strange costumes.
We can hear the atmospheric shaking of rattles and rhythmic beating of drums. The village is filled with the chanting and dancing of the priests, priestesses and students.
The dancing and chanting builds in intensity, with women cartwheeling and shimmying low to the ground, until one dancer becomes possessed by Sakpata. She flails and convulses until the god takes full control. This dancer now embodies the god and is treated with the respect that a god commands.
At this point an animal is sacrificed to the Sakpata, and he initiates Ianthe and then leaves. Soon after the feast begins and people enthusiastically begin to eat and celebrate.
Ianthe is now a fully fledged initiate and will have to follow certain rules and laws in her life (specific to her new guardian Sakpata), for instance she may not eat gineau fowl or have sex on market day.
The ritual and process has been very costly to her family, but to not have such a ritual would be unthinkable, as everybody must have a spiritual guardian that they can call on for help.
Take a look at part of a Vodoun ceremony here. This is a ritual to honour one of the gods.
The Magick of Voodoo
So I’ve written a lot about the rituals and ceremonies, but does Voodoo use magic? Yes, and this is most obvious to visitors of Benin at the Fetish Markets, where items of power and potions can be bought, such as parts from dead animals, love and money potions. Part of the scary reputation of Voodoo may come from these markets where things like cured apes heads can be bought (said to aid memory) or dead owls and vultures which are used to counter a curse.
Some people argue that all religions have a dark and a light side, and others say that the bad stuff you can buy at these fetish markets is not actually Voodoo but Bokors (sorcerer) items.
Is Voodoo Cruel to Animals?
I don’t know whether these animals are dead already before they are changed to fetish items, but I have mentioned a lot about animal sacrifice. It’s important to remember that the sacrificed animals are always eaten, and that the conditions animals are kept in are far preferable to those found in the mass farming of the west.
The morals of Voodoo focus on love and support of your family and community, and it is highly valued to be able to protect yourself and those around you when needed. Dishonour and greed are highly frowned upon.
Find out more about Voodoo and Hoodoo around the world, in part 2 of this article, coming soon!
Someone posted this lovely script on the Self Development Forum (interesting place!) and its cute and healing so I thought I’d share!
Installing Love on the Human Computer:
Tech Support: Yes, how can I help you?
Customer: Well, after much consideration, I’ve decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?
Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?
Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready. What do I do first?
Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?
Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?
Tech Support: What programs are running ?
Customer: Let’s see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.
Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However,you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off ?
Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?
Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.
Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?
Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.
Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, “Error – Program not run on external components.” What should I do?
Tech Support: Don’t worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.
Customer: So, what should I do?
Tech Support: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.
Customer: Okay, done.
Tech Support: Now, copy them to the “My Heart” directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming.
Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.
Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files.Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?
Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running.
. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.