Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RETAIL: Lost Abbey beer label riles some witches

However, brewer supported by local Wiccan leader

SAN MARCOS ---- The Lost Abbey has landed in a pre-Halloween brouhaha over one of its beers.
Some practitioners of Wicca, also called witches, have criticized the microbrewery's Witch's Wit seasonal beer because its label depicts a woman being burned at the stake. The medieval-themed imagery is offensive, some Wiccans say, because it makes light of their historical persecution.

However, Lost Abbey said the story behind the beer bottle label denounces the intolerance shown to witches. And a local Wiccan leader said he supports Lost Abbey.

Wicca is a nature-based religion. Believers say it has nothing to do with Satanism, a charge often used over the past several hundred years to justify persecution.

"When we did the label, it wasn't like we were condoning it," said Vince Marsaglia, who owns the company with his sister, Gina.

"There's a back part of the label, and I don't know if they (protesters) were reading it or not," Vince Marsaglia said Friday. "I stopped answering the phone. Some of them are really very angry people."
A couple of the protesters even hinted they might retaliate with spells, Marsaglia said. However, he said, one person made a more reasonable complaint that he responded to. And some people have objected to the "political correctness" of the protesters.

Marsaglia said he's open to changing the label illustration, possibly in cooperation with Wiccans. He said nothing has been decided yet, partly because he's not the only decision-maker.
San Marcos resident William Eade, high priest and national director of the First Celtic Wiccan Church Inc., said Lost Abbey is being unfairly attacked.

"I don't see that Lost Abbey bringing out the facts on this is a bad thing," Eade said. "I know the people over there at Lost Abbey, and they're good people."

Religious beers

In keeping with its name, Lost Abbey produces a series of beers with religious themes, such as Devotion, Inferno and Judgment Day.

The back label for Witch's Wit describes burning at the stake as an evil act, and the sin is committed by the crowd that condones the practice:

"I became more fixated on the guilt of the crowd," the text states. "There would surely have been people (the faceless souls) who could have/would have wanted to help. There also would have been some righteous people smug with satisfaction knowing another 'witch' leaving their world. The Point of View for this back story label is about that smugness and righteousness in light of a horrific atrocity against mankind."
Marsaglia said he's a bit mystified by the timing of the criticism. The beer has been sold without protest for three years, he said.

Earlier in October, prominent pagan Vicki Noble sent e-mails denouncing the brew, prompting blog posts and articles across the country, including an article in the New York Times that quoted Noble.

Opponents even set up a Facebook page urging a boycott of Lost Abbey and sister company Port Brewing.
Marsaglia and other Lost Abbey staffers have been busy ever since dealing with the fallout, including phone calls and e-mails.

Brewmaster Tomme Arthur wrote about the uproar on his Lost Abbey blog:

"We have a stack of e-mails asking whether we would show Jews being gassed or African-Americans being lynched. Of course not was our reply," Arthur wrote. "Others seemed to think we were responsible for recent incidents in Darfur as well. It was amazing chain of events to say the least."

Lost Abbey can be reached at or by calling 800-918-6816.

Call staff writer Bradley J. Fikes at 760-739-6641. Read his blogs at

Original Article

Monday, November 8, 2010

History Reveals The Real Story Of Christmas

**** I am publishing this even though I personally am quite disappointed in the History Chanel for the way Pagans are being portrayed in this. - Jasmeine Moonsong***

What better way to gain a better appreciation for the true spirit of Christmas than by learning a little bit more about the holiday’s roots? Later this month, History has a special set to run called The Real Story of Christmas.

The hour-long special will entertain and educate us on some of the customs we’ve come to hold so dear… like a bit of rowdy, rock-throwing caroling! Check out History’s description for the special below. It actually sounds pretty interesting.

“As THE REAL STORY OF CHRISTMAS shows, many of our seemingly innocent customs evolved from strange, surprising or even disturbing beginnings. With its roots in the Pagan celebration of the winter solstice, early Christmas was both a day of prayer and festival of drunken revelry. Rowdy medieval carolers begged for food and drink, threatening to throw rocks through the windows of those who refuse. Christmas was actually banned for years in America during the 16th and 17th centuries. And the Santa of old world legend was accompanied not by elves but by a devil named Krampus who beat and kidnapped naughty children.”

Original Article

Business 'brooming' at new witchcraft shop

TERRITORY witches have finally got somewhere to shop. 

Self-proclaimed "wiccan" Julie Bliss has opened a witchcraft store in Darwin's northern suburbs.
Ms Bliss said business was brooming because Darwin had a thriving wiccan community.

But Muggles wanting a Christmas gift - say, a chalice or bag of herbs - are still welcome at the Casuarina store.

Ms Bliss also stocks gothic stuff just in case the witch trade turns out to be seasonal.

The Hogwarts of Darwin sells everything from wands to potions, with the odd crystal ball and moon diary thrown in.

Ms Bliss, who has been a wiccan for 20 years, said the Shakespearian idea of witches throwing the "eye of newt and toe of frog" into a steaming, black pot was wrong. In fact, witches never do evil because they believe in the "three-fold" principle - whatever you say, think or do comes back to you three-fold.
"If you do bad you're going to cop it."

Original Article

'The Book of English Magic' Reveals the Real Middle Earth Book of English MagicBy John L. Murphy

Magician means “wise man”. The search for knowledge by which we can control the natural realm and learn scientific mysteries has lured people over millennia. All this time, England stirs such pursuits. Philip Carr-Gomm, a leader in The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, joins Sir Richard Heygate, a documentarian and author who studies “alternative worlds”, to offer this accessible history, guidebook, and how-to compendium. In a friendly, yet cautious, manner, the writers encourage readers to learn more about the traditions of England, as well as forms invented and revamped by hundreds of thousands of pagans, believers, and “Armchair Magicians” today.

Twelve fast-paced, illustrated and annotated chapters reveal this vast, handsomely produced storehouse of lore. Ancient roots, starting with prehistoric cave-dwellers, dig down into pre-Celtic and Celtic foundations. Saxon sorcerers displace and follow Druids.Their descendants become medieval Catholics with their own complicated relationship to their magical peers. The search for the Grail which they inspired may remind audiences of Indiana Jones, but John Matthews’ enthusiasm for what the Nazis might have handed over to their American interrogators reminds us of how much remains unknown to the average citizen about what a few adventurers report back from the borders.

Banished to the fringes as Protestants extirpated any trace of superstition, witches were persecuted, but far fewer were condemned than some contemporary feminists have claimed. Between 800-2,500 in Scotland were burned at the stake; 400-500 in England were hanged. Half of the latter death toll can be blamed on Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General, a “Puritan fanatic” who held trials in Essex.

Two generations earlier, alchemy intrigued John Dee, Mary Sidney, Robert Fludd and “puffers” close to Elizabethan courtiers. Astrologers, cunning-men (akin to fortune-tellers or psychics today), wizards, Rosicrucians, scryers, Freemasons, Theosophists, Spiritualists, and mediums populate the chronicles of the past 500 years.

Emma Wilby elucidates why our ancestors might have been far more susceptible to charms, spells, potions, and rituals. Undernourishment due to famine, overwork, and fasting weakened the will. Suffering proved the norm when half of children died in infancy. Grief and bereavement altered the consciousness by their intensity. Darkness ruled outdoors and inside people dwelled within timid imaginations. Strong beer instead of tainted water shifted the body into a state where visions, trances, and stupors might haunt the desperate patient or maddened petitioner.

Even if most who feared or welcomed magic lived in isolation, one city grew in its allure. Enduring in its attraction for England’s spiritual and scientific explorers, London, the authors remind us, is better than Cairo or Calcutta, Paris or Prague, for anybody curious about the Craft. Treadwell’s, Atlantis, and Watkins booksellers have long enticed students and practitioners. Occult sites, mapped here in the City and throughout the kingdom, demonstrate how compelling the evidence can be for those who possess the skills and secrets that alert what historian Ronald Hutton estimates may be the one out of every four or five of us who may possess a readiness for magical powers.

Essays by adepts enrich this volume. Adrian, a modern Druid in the Order Carr-Gomm helps to lead, admits how he sometimes asks himself “why I am standing in a field in the middle of the night, covered in sheep shit, but, for me, the spiritual experience of connecting to a sacred place is truly extraordinary.” Contributors often confess their early yearning for more meaning than organized religion or psychotherapies could provide; throughout this book, a calm sense of being at home within this realm pervades their testimonies. Far from the sensationalism of such as Aleister Crowley (who garners half of a chapter), those sharing their motives in these chapters profess an ethical rather than exploitative motive for their alliances with occult, hidden energies.

Brian Bates, a psychologist and shamanistic researcher, laments the superficiality of how magic is treated. “People nowadays will happily read Harry Potter, but are wary of the real stuff.” Vivianne Crowley (“no relation to the infamous Aleister”) tells how the modern pagan religion was invented by Gerald Gardner in the middle of the last century as Wicca. As with Professor Bates, she has a doctorate in psychology. A priestess, she reminds readers how as children, an openness to magic is often shut off when they enter school.

Wiccans try to retrieve an innate connection with the spiritual plane where change can be enacted. She conveys the pleasures of Wicca, but not those that media misunderstand. “Nakedness, which is often dismissed as a license for sexual abandon, is in fact nothing of the kind. Instead it is a symbolic removal of barriers to friendship and intimacy.” The reclamation of what popular culture distorts, while protecting the secrecy of lore and rituals entrusted to true initiates, characterizes many who guard their mystery traditions.

Some still remain anonymous here. One, a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn that once attracted W.B. Yeats as well as a man whom he detested, Aleister Crowley, explains his search “for the mystery of being.” He reasons that magic is both objective and subjective. It is created by the imagination and then takes on its own life; it is real and separate from human beings at the same time.

Few contributors claim, as earlier witches did a few decades ago, to inherit magical skills. Instead, they seek out the few who control them, who create them, and who teach them. One alchemist in Wales tells what he knows, but he remains nameless. Most identify themselves, but caution remains. Carr-Gomm and Heygate warn of the easy lure of spell-casting; the love charm they include should be used to bring love into one’s life, but not a particular lover. For he or she once enticed may turn out to be the bane of one’s existence. Charlatans from Chaucer to now delude unwary newcomers. Plenty of others delude themselves, and certain practices, as the authors explain, are not to be taken up by the perfectionist, the obsessive, or those unable to take on the responsibilities that accompany entry into the Other Side.

Websites, reading lists of novels and manuals, experts, locations, and schools append each chapter. While some oversight may be inevitable (I missed James Blish’s erudite novel on medieval alchemist Roger Bacon, Doctor Mirabilis, and the fiction of J.C. Powys and Iain Sinclair), the authors succeed in navigating between the skeptical and the credulous among those whom they address and whom they include. For those wishing to find out about such lore, such guidance remains necessary. Nigel Pennick, a prolific scholar-practitioner, laments how people “no longer do things because their ancestors did them; it is no longer part of our culture to pass things on to the next generation.”

New generations concoct new practices. Gerald Gardner’s Wicca, Crowley’s “left-handed” manipulations of black magical powers and Dion Fortune’s “right-handed” control of white magic mingle in Tantric traditions. These 20th century characters, even if what some of what they claimed to know may have been invented rather than discovered, helped quicken the contemporary revival of paganism. The repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, Swinging Sixties appeal, and the ecological threats that increased awareness of earth-based religious practices in the ‘80s contribute to the shift in perception among many English people that welcomed pagan or alternative forms of ritual and belief.

Music, touched briefly upon by Carr-Gomm and Heygate, plays a role. “Freemasons prefer classical music and opera, pagans folk rock, Wiccans Gothic music, with Chaos magicians and Thelemites preferring heavy metal and Punk.” Genesis P. Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV), with his own movement The Temple ov Psychic Youth and his involvement in Chaos Magic, epitomizes the gender-bending, utterly non-conformist models that confound even fellow magicians. Chaos combines Sufi, Buddhist, medieval, or scientific influences and then discards them, transcending any one belief system’s limits. It regards demons as mental projections, even as it may spark a raw force that may zap those not able to resist such a current. As with other challenging styles addressed in this book, all the same, Carr-Gomm and Heygate offer the neophyte gently phrased words to progress with care, patience, and commonsense into realms where the unwary may be at deep risk.

This sense of adventure, for perhaps more wary seekers, accounts for the rise in public perceptions of esoteric, and formerly shunned or banned, practices. The impact of film and television portrayals of magic, oddly, is absent from this survey. Compared to Margot Adler’s magisterial account of American New Age and neo-pagan movements, Drawing Down the Moon, this English counterpart appears more grounded in the living history which connects the English varieties directly to their dolmens and fields, their hideaways and chambers. This, after all, is the strength inherent in the English magical legacy.

The festivals that fill the English calendar of the ritual year—its two equinoxes, its two solstices, and the four quarter-days adopted from the Celtic reckoning—testify to the enduring power of revived respect for chronological commemorations. While most of the Western world clutches only at Halloween in a degraded form, every six weeks or so, English inheritors of charms and covens look locally for the world that they may not, after all, have lost. If long burned up or buried, it is revived, renewed, and reborn.

This book closes movingly, acknowledging the eclectic, syncretic nature of the corpus of a resuscitated English magical tradition. Deep down, the authors advise, one knows if one or more of the paths sketched in this book may direct one to fulfillment. This magical quest draws on a depth of awareness that contemplation and study may reveal.

Original Article