Satanic Panic! Pt 1: Historical Context.

•December 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Folks, I’d like to talk to you about the eighties.

It was a time when nobody sniggered at a character called Fisto appearing in a children’s cartoon. It was a time when sex had just become frightening again due to the discovery of AIDS. It was a time when a school teacher could chide you with “You need to learn how to work it out because you won’t have a calculator with you everywhere you go” and still be telling the truth.

It was also the time when what’s now called the “Satanic Panic” had well and truly taken hold. A few different factors had come together. Among them, children that were raised during the second Red Scare were now adults and had children, raising them in a climate where “Moral Majority” had become a strong political force. Along with that, groups such as the Church of Satan had started to become more public and there was less stigma attached to having “New Age” or occult interests. Along with “occult renaissance” came the rise of the “Countercult” movement, also referred to as the “Anti-Cult movement,” who opposed all New Religious Groups. Ironically, social work and child protection as government agencies were also becoming more prominent, which also provided more fuel for this eventual fire.

Books such as “Michelle Remembers,” an apparent memoir of a woman who had spent time in a Satanic Cult and had suffered all kinds of horrors, made the first connection between the “Satanic Cult” and child abuse. It had made the bestseller lists, providing a match that was eventually lit by one of the authors, Lawrence Pazder, who made a name for himself as an expert on the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” that was apparently supposed to be happening. Michelle Remembers became the training manual for finding and recognising these Satanists. This book had been discredited, yet ended up being used as a teaching tool into the nineties. It should also be noted that the Michelle named in the story, Michelle Smith ended up marrying Pazder. Until his death, he maintained that “whether the events occurred was less important than whether or not Michelle believes it to be true.” Michelle’s father and two siblings disagree wholeheartedly as they were able to point out the inconsistencies and outright falsehoods in the book.  Michelle and Lawrence went on to become “experts in ritual abuse” based on nothing more than Michelle’s “recollections.” They were kept in business by such “reputable” groups as BADD (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons, a group that buys into the idea that tabletop roleplaying games are an initiatory tool for Satanism) and the Cult Crime Impact Network (A anti-occult Christian group masquerading as a law enforcement resource). As well as that, they appeared in the 20/20 episode “The Devil Worshippers”. Their work, along with Satan entering pop culture, began to spark all kinds of allegations, such as the McMartin Daycare case, which ended up being one of the most expensive cases in US history.

In 1983, the mother of a child who attended McMartin Daycare alleged that her son had been sodomized by his father, one of the teachers at the Daycare. Her reasoning? Her son was having painful bowel movements. As well as this accusation, there were accusations of sex with animals, the murder of a horse, sexual acts performed on, and by the children, satanic rituals and the apparent levitation of  teachers. It was also alleged that these things and more took place in tunnels underneath the Daycare. Many children were questioned, initially denying any kind of mistreatment, but due to being led by questioning, pressured into giving accounts of abuse that they had allegedly suffered, as well as intimating that the other children had already told them “yucky secrets”(for those playing at home, this is similar to the “everyone else is doing it” defense). All of these claims were investigated by the police.

There were no animal bones found where the animals were allegedly buried. There was no forensic evidence of any of the crimes committed, nor for that matter, of the locations where these crimes were meant to have occurred. The underground tunnels weren’t there. Long story short, a lot of allegations and accusations were made and not a single shred of evidence was found. The mother that made the initial accusation was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and died from complications stemming from alcoholism. In later years, many of the children that gave some sort of story in regard to the goings-on at the McMartin Daycare recanted their stories and admitted that they only said what they said to make their parents and the people questioning them happy. Meanwhile, the chap accused spent five years in jail due to the inability to raise bail and the Daycare was taken the elderly folks who owned it.

So we have a bestselling “manual” that is absolutely false (yet still made the authors “experts” who had by 1990 been speakers in over 1000 cases since the publication of Michelle Remembers) and a allegations of abuse brought to trial because of a woman found to have schizophrenia. The McMartin case is one of the longest in Manhattan history due to the scale of it, despite there being no evidence of a conspiracy and ample evidence of a mob trying to get the details on something that never existed. Despite the fact that these allegations were false, they stayed in the public consciousness as many more cases came forward with similar details. While common sense dictates that with so many people coming forward with similar stories must mean that there is some truth to it, it’s about here that I’d like to point out the difference between “common sense” and “good sense” in regard to these stories. Firstly, with all of the stories thoroughly investigated, there are a few common threads that occurred.

Almost all of the stories of Satanic Ritual Abuse have come from folks who have been treated for some sort of mental illness. It is during this treatment where the claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse first come to light.

Most of them were well aware of both Michelle Remembers and of the McMartin trial.

Films filled with Satanic conspiracies or occult imagery were becoming more common, such as The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby.

Most of the memories were recovered through long-discredited methodologies, or by extremely dubious methods such as leading questions that could only go in one particular direction.

Many, if not most, who initially gave their testimonies in have either since recanted their stories (due in no small part to guilty consciences)or gone the Jack Chick route, marketing their stories to a Christian-specific audience.

Despite all of these details, more than 10,000 stories have appeared in the US alone, along with the panic spreading to other English-speaking countries. Part of the reason for this is that many Christian groups used the Satanic Panic as a way to gain members for whichever churches they might represent. While there were never any actual cases of Satanic Ritual Abuse, there was an abundance of information provided which people simply accepted as true because the information was being passed on by churches (and they’d never lie, right?).


Earlier, I mentioned the rise of social workers and child protection services. Since the 1960’s and the sexual revolution that began there, people began talking more openly about sexuality. What this meant is that family secrets that some would have preferred buried also came out. People were able to talk about child abuse for the first time in an environment where they might be listened to without the judgement faced in previous decades. Enter the perfect scapegoats for this: Social Workers. They had access to children and were able to remove children from homes (with sufficient evidence, but why let that get in the way of a good story?) in a time when there was a moral panic about people taking children from their homes and place these children God only knows where. So we had a situation where people were afraid that their children might be abused (if they weren’t being abused already), people with the ability to remove children from homes, murmurs of a Satanic conspiracy and there you have it: the perfect situation for the Satanic Panic to root itself into the public consciousness.

While this moral panic largely died down in the nineties, it never fully went away and it still created distrust of people that were either openly non-Christian or even folks that were seen as outsiders of one sort or another. The perfect example of this is the West Memphis Three. In 1994, three young men (Damien Echols Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin) were accused of the murder of three children (Stevie Branch, Michael J. Moore and Christopher Byers). In miscarriage of justice after miscarriage of justice, the three were “tried” (I use the word very loosely) and convicted. This is despite coerced “witness reports” of the young men with the children, a false confession brought to the court as the result of unlawful interrogation and the complete lack of evidence. The fact that Damien Echols was interested in the occult was used as”evidence” that the children were killed as part of a Satanic ritual. As with the Satanic Ritual Abuse claims of the 80’s, there was not a single shred of evidence that the murders were committed in a ritualistic way. It took nineteen years for the West Memphis Three to be released.

This case serves as the perfect example of the potential harm that can be done when we allow the batshit insanity to invade our better judgement. Unfortunately, the Satanic Ritual Abuse charges have recently appeared again in a story that spans decades and apparently involves everyone from Nicole Kidman’s dad to Richard Nixon. I’ve looked at the information given and I’m not only unconvinced, but also slightly angry at the media for even touching this.

I will explain further in my next post.

Southern Howler, Signing out for a nap.



An example of privilege that you might not have thought about.

•September 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hey folks.

As someone that openly identifies as polyamorous, I’ve been pondering the nature of privilege in regards to relationships. I’ve been wondering about how the privilege of a pre-existent couple plays out in relationships where others are accepted into it later. I’ve also been wondering about to what extent this privilege is played out in societies that push monogamy as the norm. With the “happy couple” as the ideal, there seems to be this idea within the mainstream that anyone that comes along later is “less legitimate” than the original couple. Part of this is (usually) due to the initial couple’s shared history. That said, another part of this is that the couple is idealised, with whoever else showing up being a threat to the ideal. There is often the accusation that a third person entering a relationship is purposefully trying to break the couple up and that the couple are just too naive to see it. The idea of the monogamous couple is pushed as an ideal, which in turn allows it privileges that non-monogamous couples are not privy to.

Within any social construct, there are examples of privilege. Often, these build on each other. Within current society, the idea of the nuclear family is pushed. One mother, one father and whatever kids they might have. As this model serves the larger community by producing more workers, it is given a privileged position. I think that this highly influences the fact that monogamy, even serial monogamy, is also a privileged ideal. Now, if you’re not convinced that monogamy is a privileged construct, go and explain polyamory to some people that’ve never heard of it. Explain that polyamory is being in, or open to, multiple relationships. Trust me, there are an ample number of people out there.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Waiting’s boring. I’m getting a book.

You’re back? Cool.

Now, the fact that you know people that have never heard of polyamory is a big sign of privilege right there. When people aren’t even aware of its existence because monogamy is the assumed default, then it becomes increasingly difficult to argue that monogamy isn’t a privileged form of relationship style.

When you introduce the idea of polyamory to people, the responses can be mixed. Some minds will be blown because “Holy Shit! That’s an option?!!” Others will be less enthusiastic. There will be one thing that comes up more than a few times. There’ll be a few people that say “Well that’s just justified cheating.” There’s a huge problem with that logic though. When two people enter into a monogamous relationship, they are both individually agreeing to see nobody else. They are both making that choice, whether they recognise it or not. That decision is a contract between those two people. When a relationship is entered into, but the individuals agree that the relationship is not monogamous, then they are not entering into the same contract as a monogamous couple, so the terms of the contract are going to be entirely different.

Long story short: defining other people’s relationships by the rules of your own doesn’t work.

Here’s another question for folks, but this one is more directed at those that identify as polyamorous:

If you describe to people what polyamory was,  how often do you use descriptions where words and phrases, such as “with everyone fully understanding,” “ethical,” or “consensual” are involved?

Now, another question for folks if they are not fully convinced by the above argument. If monogamy is not a privileged social structure, then why is it necessary to point out that polyamorous relationships are “ethical” and “consensual” when describing them? While it’s certainly true that monogamous relationships are more prevalent, this does not mean that non-monogamous relationships are somehow lacking those morals. Folks, these morals are less about relationships specifically, and more about basic individual integrity.

When people assume non-monogamy, they often assume the worst because it is not the norm. This isn’t usually based on any actual experience of a polyamorous relationship, but the understanding that monogamy is the ideal.

This has a habit of playing out by amplifying any perceived ill within the polyamorous relationship and automatically blaming it upon the relationship structure itself, rather than the people involved. It’s the assumption that the relationship structure is somehow inferior to a monogamous structure, even though the majority of issues that might play out are the exact same issues that monogamous couples deal with.

Folks, if you’re in a monogamous relationship, you have a position of power and it would be nice if you acknowledged it.

I think that I’ve ranted enough about this for now.

Southern Howler, Signing out,

Never Mind THAT Rule Of Three….

•April 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The Rule of Three, or Threefold Law, as people tend to accept it, is bunk.

There. I’ve said it.

While it’s an idea that’s been around for a long time, the idea that what you do comes back to bite you three times as badly is in my opinion, utter bullshit and should be called out as such.

There IS a Rule of Three in Wicca, but it has nothing to do with the universe deciding that you’re a special snowflake that needs to be reprimanded three times as badly as anyone else. Now, I’ve made the statement and it’s only right that I make the effort to convince you to shed an idea that has done nobody any favours

Like a fair chunk of Gerald Gardner’s Wicca, the Threefold Law can be traced to High Magic’s Aid, which is a work of fiction that Gardner wrote before “outing” the witches in Witchcraft Today. Now, in High Magic’s Aid, the Law is given as (and I’m paraphrasing here,) “whatever is done to you, you must return threefold.” That being said, while Gardner may have used this book as a first introduction to witchcraft for people with no previous experience, it’s still a work of fiction. So now, we turn to the Gardnerian Book of Shadows for answers. Specifically, the Second Degree Initiation Rite. Here, we find the Magus/High Priest saying this:

“Learn, in witchcraft, thou must ever return triple. As I scourged thee, thou must scourge me, but triple. So where you were scourged three, return nine; where you received seven, return twenty one; where you received nine, return twenty seven; where you received twenty one, return sixty three”

After a good  one hundred and twenty whacks, the Magus or High Priestess says this:

“Thou hast obeyed the Law.But markwell, when thou receivest good, thou equally art bound to return good threefold.”

Now you’ll note that “return threefold what you received, bad or good” is worlds different from “whatever you do, the universe will give back to you three times as bad.” The first reference of the threefold law being treated as karma that I can track down seems to come from Raymond Buckland in “Witchcraft Ancient And Modern.” I don’t know whether he decided that the threefold return was meant to be representative of a higher truth or what was going on there, but this is an idea that can be traced back to him. While it’s true that Gardner had a belief in karma,  there is nothing to suggest that the Threefold Law as given above was ever meant to represent anything except a code of conduct for witches that were practicing Gardnerian witchcraft.

Now, here’s where I get to something that may piss folks off.  The problem is that for many of the people that I’ve seen promoting the Threefold Law as “karma times three,” there’ve been some things that contributed to their examples that they refuse to acknowledge. These can be:

1, A lack of foresight.  Unintended side effects or outcomes of magical workings aren’t exactly uncommon, but they’re also not divine retribution.

2, Leaving a trail. If you’re levelling some “less than kosher” sorcery on someone’s ass and they find out, there’s a better than fair chance that they’re going to stomp you into the magical curb. Or the literal one, for that matter.

3, Pissing off other magical practitioners. This is something that is less likely to happen but is still a possibility. You annoy someone enough that they decide to bind or curse you so that whatever you throw out slaps you in the face.

4, Your life is just in a shitty place right now and there is a lot of negative stuff happening. Sometimes it’s not karma. Sometimes it’s just a shitty situation. Other times, where you’re at is the direct result of past mistakes. It happens.

5, Some people just blow their own shit out of proportion. I’ve seen it happen often enough to know this to be true in non-magical matters, so why would magical matters be any different?

6, You put it into your head that magical workings return threefold and charge your magic(k)s with that idea. I’ve found that for all the magical workers I know, the ones hit hardest with the “karma times three” tend to be the ones that are loudest about this being an actual thing.The ones that just go about getting shit done, do just that with no fuss and no issues about shit coming back to bite them.

All of these are more probable than a “law” that seems to be pretty damned selective with how it manifests, if at all. I’ve heard some people state that this is something that carries into the next life. I’m sorry but I’m calling bullshit on that one. It seems pretty convenient that this gets trotted out when people can’t actually prove that the “threefold law” doesn’t work as advertised. Folks, whether karma exists or not, I’m not making a call one way or another. What I WILL say is that people missed the point of what karma was in the first place and are now tacking even more unnecessary claptrap onto it. This idea that there’s some sort of cosmic enforcer that has prescribed results for magical actions needs to stop. It serves nobody.

Southern Howler, signing out.


Welfare Cards Propaganda…

•March 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s a sad week when politics in Australia gives me two things to get pissed off about.

Congrats I guess…

This time around, it’s the idea of a cashless welfare card that’s got me fuming.

What’s happening is that the Government is looking at implementing these cashless cards in an effort to stop, among other things, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and gambling. Right here we have a perfect example of a government that feeds a bias-based lie to the public and tries to pander to them by coming up with a “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist. What I’m talking about is the idea that people receiving government pensions or other payments are blowing it on booze, drugs and gambling. While I couldn’t find the specific statistics regarding gambling or drugs, I COULD find them about alcohol. According to this government study, Australians on welfare payments may be spending as much as  $17 dollars a week, or $34 a fortnight on booze. Now, if we look at the same study listing what those receiving a wage or salary  spends on  alcohol, you’ll note that it is up to $41 per week. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t $41 per week more than what the welfare recipients are spending a fortnight? Yet, it’s apparently the folks on welfare that need to be protected from themselves.

The stereotype of a welfare recipient as a probable addict is sadly a stereotype that isn’t going anywhere soon. What shits me is that it’s being used to bring in something that has only worked in South Africa (but more on that a little later).

Among a lot of other good points, the Australian Council of Social Service had this to say:

“Beyond some limited success with people who have entered into income management arrangements voluntarily, the evidence points to the scheme being unsuccessful in achieving the stated aims of preventing people from spending the money alcohol, gambling and drugs, or getting people to buy healthy and fresh food.”

I bring this point up in particular because by being put on a cashless card, many people will have less opportunity for fresh food, not more. Many markets, such as Adelaide’s Central Markets for example, use cash only.  What this means is that the Central Markets lose customers and revenue due to customers not having the cash on hand. It also harms the welfare recipient as they are forced to pay more for the inflated prices of fruit and vegetables at supermarket chains. Some might argue that because the card can’t be used for alcohol or other items that have been “prohibited,” that there will be more money for fresh food. That’s one possibility. Another possibility is that a black market of sorts will appear for goods on the prohibited list. This is because what is being proposed is not  treating the behaviours, nor the causes of the behaviours.

People do not suddenly become alcoholics or addicts simply because they’re on a welfare payment. Alcoholism is a condition that can be treated, as is addiction. Instead, we have an “income management” which has been shown to be costly and largely ineffective in the instances where it has been implemented involuntarily. The key word there is involuntarily  as it has been shown that people that sign up for this kind of income management tend to do better than those that are forced into it. So the Government, in all its brilliance, decides to implement these cards in “disadvantaged communities,” pretty much all of whom have said “we don’t want this.”

Now, as if I haven’t said it enough, this has been shown to be almost universally ineffective, except for that one case in South Africa. Now from what I’ve picked up, there was one core difference:

You could actually access cash in the South African example.

The welfare card was just used as a transaction method. There wasn’t people being banned from buying items deemed contraband. Effectively, the government is telling people that their method is successful by presenting an example where the key change they are trying to push isn’t applicable. I really wish that I could say that I’m surprised with this, but I’m not. This is a CLASSIC example of how the current government work. They try to justify proposals with examples where key differences aren’t addressed. Instead, they try to obfuscate issues by throwing examples that don’t actually address what people are wanting to know. Right now, that “civil disobedience” thing is looking rather good right now as I’m tired of criminally insane megalomaniacs making decisions in Australia’s name.

Southern Howler, signing out in disgust.

Total Metabullshit

•March 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

As of right now, I’m once again saddened/annoyed/enraged (all at the same time) by the absolutely criminal decision that has gone through parliament today. Two magical words that both Britain and the US have figured out don’t work: data retention. The bill that went through today effectively calls for metadata to be stored for two years. The bill is an amendment to the Telecommunications Intercept and Access Act 1979. According to The Age, what it does is stretches the definition of telecommunications to include metadata and demands that ISPs retain this metadata and hand it over when requested to do so. The Sydney Morning Herald website had this to say as to why this was being put into place and one probable effect that it would have on Internet Users:

The Attorney-General’s Department says that anecdotal reporting from law-enforcement agencies suggests that, increasingly, their requests for metadata from internet and phone providers are not being met as carriers are no longer retaining the data requested.

Traditionally, some telcos have kept the data for analytics and billing purposes. But they say they are beginning to delete it as it takes up a lot of storage space, which can be costly if it’s not needed. One of Australia’s largest internet providers, iiNet Group, has said that if it was required to bear the costs of a data retention regime then customer internet bills could go up by $10 a month.

At the moment, the police are using metadata to do everything from catching suspects by pinpointing their location via their internet usage, to sending fines to illegal dumpers, to accessing the metadata of police cadets to bust them having sick days or relationships between cadets. Now, with that information above, can anyone else see a problem with metadata being retained? I sure as hell can and I don’t think it’s just me being paranoid this time around.

One of the reasons that this bothers me is that, for all the talking, there has not been a legal definition of metadata given for this to apply to. There have been widely recognised general definitions, but with Australian law as it stands at the moment, the best that we can do is “data about data.” While there have been statements along the lines of this not covering which websites a person visits (for example), you’ll excuse me if I don’t 100% believe a government that has the United Fucking Nations breathing down our back about the treatment of refugees.  There IS a reason given for there not being a legal definition of metadata. According to the Sydney Morning Herald article above:

One of the main reasons metadata hasn’t been defined in legislation is that law enforcement agencies do not want to restrict what they have access to as technology rapidly changes.

Let that sink in for a moment. Those last four words, “as technology rapidly changes” make this sound fair enough on the surface. What it doesn’t take into account is that with no legal definition of metadata in place, there is HUGE potential for all kinds of abuse of this piece of legislature. With the examples cited earlier, can you honestly see this not going pear shaped?

Another thing that bothers me is that there have been allowances made. For journalists. On the surface, this would seem like a win, but there is a Sydney Harbour Bridge sized hole in this. This protects journalists, not their sources. What this means is that a journalist can blow the cover off of all kinds of stuff, but the whistle-blowers that draw a journalist’s attention to what was uncovered? You can guess their place in the Fucker-Fuckee relationship.

Now, Tony Abbott felt the need to comment with this little gem:

“Well in the days when I was a journalist there were no metadata protections for journalists,”

Now this could either be
A, Abbott trying to mislead people via false equivalence, or
B, genuine stupidity on his part.

If you’re familiar with Australian politics so far, you’ll not be able to rule out option B.

For those not familiar with Internet culture (Hi Mum!), I’d like to point out that the scope of  metadata is VASTLY different to what this statement might lead some folks to believe. In the late eighties, when Mr Abbott was a journalist, metadata was “Yup, he made a phone call.” Nowadays, it tells you where a person was when they make a phone call, the phone numbers, the email addresses of both sender and receiver of an email, the location of a person when they use any kind of telecommunication, the length of time a person was online, when they were using a particular application. With all of that as just an example, can you see the difference between metadata then and now?

Mind you, this is the Prime Minister that compared the opposition leader, Bill Shorten to Joseph Goebbels, everyone’s favourite Nazi propaganda minister. If it seems to the world that you’re taking your leadership advice from Lex Luthor, then I’m sorry but you don’t get to call other people Nazis.

The Data retention is apparently being done in the name of tackling child sex abuse and terrorism. Were I sure for one moment that either of these things would be affected by the legislation being brought into play, then I would be all for it. The problem is that there are more and more countries coming forward saying that it doesn’t work. What is being put into place is a system that works under the premise that everybody is a potential criminal and needs to be watched. The rhetoric of “If you don’t have anything to hide then you won’t have a problem” simply doesn’t cut it here, especially when it’s being pushed by a man whose eligibility to even be Prime Minister in the first place has been called into question.

So at the moment, we have a lot of Australians looking at the possibility of using VPNs and other methods to get around the new legislation. We have people that have committed no crimes sweating because new legislation is infringing on parts of a person’s life in the name of, among other things, “counter-terrorism.” Counter-terrorism is one of the phrases that politicians love to use to justify laws that are nudging slowly toward fascism. Sure, your right to privacy is being taken away from you, but those people that might be out there are possibly up to something, somewhere, maybe, so we have to listen to everyone to find out what! There’s also the claim that this can be used in “child sex abuse” cases. This particular tactic is known as the “Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children” play. It’s only offered when politicians have so little faith in people buying into something that they need a kneejerk reaction.

Folks, this is what’s counting as “protecting Australian citizens” these days and that’s less comforting than it is disturbing. On that note, probably time for me to crash. Hmm… 3:30. Definitely time for me to crash.

Southern Howler, Signing Out.

Eight Little Words

•February 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hey folks.

A lot of the people reading this are going to be at least a little familiar with Wicca. It’s apparently one of the quickest growing religions in the world, at least according to the tabloids that have decided to give the headlines a rest from Islam. It’s also one that I at one time belonged to. I stepped away from it a few years ago for a few reasons, which I’m not going to go into here.

When Wicca was revealed to the mainstream, it seemed to become the go-to religion for people that were interested in Paganism in general. As a result of this, when people thought of pagans in general, they thought of Wicca, or at least some derivative. One of the results of this is that some particular Wiccan beliefs tend to get thrown about as if they apply to all of Paganism. One of these, the Threefold Law  is something I’ll deconstruct another time. Another, however is one that lil chestnut known as the Wiccan Rede, which despite being called specifically the WICCAN Rede, some folks try to use it as an absolute for everybody. The people that do this are often new to this aspect of their spirituality, so they can be forgiven. What shits me though is that there are people that misinterpret it and as a result retard other people’s spiritual growth. Bear with me and I’ll explain.

“An’ it harm none, do what thou will”

This is what is given as the Wiccan Rede. Making its first appearance in the Earth Religion News newsletter, before a second appearance in the magazine Green Egg, the Wiccan Rede was part of a larger poem. This poem has its own history, which I won’t go into here, but it left a nice little nugget for Wiccans to live by. When you are surrounded by people whose religions are bound by “thou shalt not”, something that  states “if it’s not hurting anybody, yes you can” can be a powerful thing. Problems start when people start to “tweak ” it, or worse, shorten it.

First up, a moment of near incoherent rage: IS EIGHT FUCKING WORDS REALLY SO HARD TO REMEMBER?!!!

Now that I’ve got that out of my system,  onward to the crux of my issue.  When it gets shortened, it gets shortened to “Harm none.”

Compare “an it harm none, do what you will” to simply “harm none”. The first is a removal from previous religious dogmas. The second is a demand. Not only is it a demand, but an impossible one to boot. I’ve seen people attack the Wiccan Rede saying that it’s impossible to exist and not do harm. I’ve watched people set up this strawman and tear it to pieces, trying to sound smarter than “the average Wiccan” while at the same time ignoring the fact that this isn’t what the Rede says. It says “An it harm none, do what thou will”. It tells you that you’re free to do whatever you like as long as nobody gets harmed.

What to do when someone may be harmed by your actions though, is something that it is rather silent on.

Some groups add “an it do harm, do as you must” to their own Rede in order to add clarification, but I feel that it nudges us closer to the “demand” territory than I’m comfortable with. Words like “should” and “must” are inherently judgment words, as they imply absolutes. It’s also odd to find words that imply absolutes in a Rede, which means “advice,” not “commandment.” With something like that, I’m not adverse to the advice itself, but how it’s worded.

Inherent within “an’ it harm none, do as thou will” is the inference that before you act, you think. You think about whether your actions will harm anyone else. Once you’re in that mode of thinking, it’s not a stretch to think about the idea of harm minimisation, which is pretty much never a bad idea. It also implies, via omission of advice, that actions that may need to occur that harm people can be followed, as long as there is a greater good in mind. As long as the greater good is more than ego and will be shown to be objectively greater than the harm caused by inaction, then that’s good enough for me.

Southern Howler signing out.


Addendum 28/02/15: It has been pointed out to me that there are earlier examples. Primarily is the first actual recording of the Eight Words couplet. This was first into the public arena by Doreen Valiente in a speech that she gave in 1964. Prior to that,Gardner had this to say in his book, Witchcraft Today:

[Witches] are inclined to the morality of the legendary Good King Pausol, “Do what you like so long as you harm no one”. But they believe a certain law to be important, “You must not use magic for anything which will cause harm to anyone, and if, to prevent a greater wrong being done, you must discommode someone, you must do it only in a way which will abate the harm.

While there is a very distinct similarity to the law given in the novel “The Adventures of King Pausole (the bawdy and good natured sovereign),” there are still many that cite Aleister Crowley’s “Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole of the Law” as the origin. With what little information I have, I can’t honestly say that one source necessarily discounts the other.


Outracing the Speed of Pain

•February 27, 2015 • 1 Comment

This is going to be a very different post to what I’ve put here previously as this has nothing to do with my experience of occultism.

Ladies and gents, this is my post about Depression and Anxiety. I’ve wanted to post about my own experience of mental illness for a long time, but I wanted to wait until the conversation around Robin Williams’ death died down somewhat before I did so. It didn’t seem right to throw my own story out there at that time. Now, months later, it feels like the right time and although this is something I feel that I need to do, it scares me shitless.

You see, that’s how the cycle begins for me.

I start worrying about whether or not what I have to say is worthwhile, then comes the belief that it isn’t, followed by the idea that I’m some self-serving asshole for writing about something like this in the first place. After that comes guilt for my own existence. Then come the feelings of worthlessness and the terror that someone will realise just how right I am with my perception of worthlessness. That’s how my particular  Depression/Anxiety combination works. It creates a cage of fear and weakens me with noise to the point where I’m too exhausted to break out of it. It varies for different people, but for me, this tactic is consistent enough to be predictable.

The constants for me are the emotional and mental exhaustion, the having to push myself to be social (despite enjoying things when I am, even if the Depression makes me feel guilty about enjoying them later), the self- confidence of the average corpse and the consistent negative thought loops that play back until I’m close to breaking point. It’s an insidious beast because it can kill from within, if left unchecked.

That’s why I’m writing about it.

There’s a line from a Rage Against The Machine song that I think describes my own experience with Depression. The line goes like this:

“Yeah, I dwell in Hell, but it’s a Hell that I can grip.”

Make no mistake. For a lot of people out there, the Depression itself is a very special kind of Hell made just for them, which ripples out and touches everything a person’s life. I survive the Depression because I know it. I know this particular Hell’s dimensions and I know that while I might not be able to escape it, I can map it out and navigate it to the point where I can find respite.

The most important part of dealing with this that I’ve found is to not let it define me. I’ve noticed myself making a point of referring to myself as “a person with Depression,” rather than “A Depressed person” when this comes up. The first defines me as a person with an illness, while the second feels like I’m defining myself by my illness. I refuse to do that. There are much more interesting things about me.

Southern Howler, signing out for now, although I don’t think I’ve said everything that I need to say about Depression. Not yet.