Monday 28 March 2011

Pagan Complacency

Of course, it doesn’t help when Paganism is associated with this behaviour as it is in today’s Daily Mirror but theology has to be considered and created without PR in mind. 

Over the last couple of days I’ve heard Pagans saying things along the lines of, “I don’t see what Satanic abuse has to do with Paganism, do we really want to be associated with that?” and I find my heart just sinking. 

It’s as Nottingham, Orkney, Cleveland and Rochdale never happened. 

Ian and Penny Campbell, both Wiccans, after being found totally innocent, were as welcome in their community as a fire in an orphanage. Their children were put into care. Here’s a transcript of part of the first four-hour formal police interview:

Police Officer: "Do know anyone else who, or have you heard of anyone else who, practices the occult?"
Ian Campbell: "No. I don’t know of anyone who practices that kind of religion."
PO: "Have you any knowledge of the use of statues in practicing the occult? What about the ritualistic killing of animals? Ritualistic dress, as in gowns, that type of thing? Do you have any books about witchcraft?"
IC: "Umm, Wicca witches and things like that? Yes in the kitchen?"
PO: "Wicca witches? What’s that?"
IC: "Well paganism, you don’t know about paganism?"
PO: "I don’t."
IC" "It is not against the law. Paganism is basically about people who believe in mother Earth. It’s not witchcraft as in, you know, flaming voodoo sort of things."
PO: "I have information that you were involved in devil-worshipping ceremonies. Have you ever been into devil worship?"
IC: "Not at all."
PO: "The information we have is that it has taken place and that you did use it to dress up in a long white gown and wore masks, as did your wife, and that you carried out some sort of ceremony during which there was dancing, and that your children were dressed up in a similar manner to yourselves and there was music being played, described as Indian music. And also that during this, some form of chanting and praying took place. Further to that, there was information given to us that whilst this was being conducted, it was being videoed on a camcorder. Have you been in a position of seeing any videos which would depict serious sexual abuse? People being killed, and I’m not talking acting here? Have you ever drank the blood of a chicken? Have you ever witnessed anybody else doing that? Ever drink the blood of any other animal?"

And here's one from a (discredited) Channel 4 documentary

JOURNALIST: Do you remember the interview with Bea Campbell? The one that was filmed for the Channel 4 programme? 
JEAN: Yes. 
JOURNALIST: So, are you a witch? 
JEAN: No. I’ve never been into ought like that. 
JOURNALIST: Then why did you tell Bea Campbell that you were? 
JEAN: She came to see me at work. She had Chris Johnstone the social worker in tow. I was really angry about it. I’d only just got the job and the last thing I needed were social workers turning up and asking to speak to me. I told them I didn’t want to be in their program.
JOURNALIST: What happened then?
JEAN: Chris Johnstone said that if I didn’t do the interview and say that I’d been a witch, I’d never see me kids again. I was trying to get them out of care at the time. So I agreed to do it. I just thought I’d get me kids back.
JOURNALIST: So then you did the interview?
JEAN: First Bea Campbell took me to a bank and cashed a cheque and gave me £150. JOURNALIST: If you lied for Bea Campbell, why should we believe what you are saying now?
JEAN: Because now I know the truth. Chris [Johnstone] lied to me about getting me kids back. I was never going to get me kids back. And I were never a witch. 

Geoffrey Dickens, MP, tried to pass a bill on April 15, 1988 that would prevent children attending Pagan ritual. As he made his statement in the House of Commons he mentioned Chris Bray, the owner of a Pagan bookshop called the Sorcerers Apprentice, by name and Bray was hounded by the local and mainstream media and had to have police protection. On August 13 1989, Fundamentalist Christians broke into the shop and burned it to the ground. 

Pagans who don’t think the myth of satanic abuse is a problem for Paganism need to wake up. If you hadn’t noticed, the UK has become very Right Wing and one in 6 of us is functionally illiterate. Membership of conservative and extreme Christian groups has exploded. As a society we are unsettled, scared about losing our public services, our jobs, universal benefits, pensions, having to work longer for less. We’re being taught to find scapegoats – immigrants, people on benefits, asylum seekers, any minority group will do. In other words we’re primed for (oh the irony!) a witchhunt.

Actually, you just have to read a paper or listen to the radio or read some pages on the internet on SatanicRitual Abuse and Paganism.

Bear in mind that this is just the state of affairs in the UK. US and African Evangelicals have a direct influence on what British mainstream Churches believe and do, and they can be both hysterical and politically influential.There, jurors, lawyers, the whole shebang are childishly prejudiced.

Those of us who were Pagans in the 80’s and 90’s and had small children were pretty concerned. We noticed that the majority of the people who were accused of Satanic abuse weren’t Pagan which was selfishly reassuring, but what was desperately concerning was that the people doing the accusing were mainstream doctors, police officers, social workers, therapists, people in good standing with their professions and peers. 25 years on what I’m increasingly concerned about is that Satanic Ritual Abuse is totally accepted by many intelligent professionals with no apparent religious roots at all. 

Interestingly, being intelligent people, they are also feminists and there’s a strange link between SRA and 1980’s feminism – which is when I learned both feminism and Witchcraft. 

Patriarchy is known to hurt men as well as women, children, the Earth and all creatures on it. We forget that in the 70’s and 80’s married men were officially Patriarchs, they were the head of the family, and it was evident that this paradigm of men-in-power was bringing us all to the point of Silent Spring and mutually assured destruction. Feminists fiercely resisted this, developing our own family and community structures, creating relationships beyond dominion or submission for ourselves and for the natural world. This is the fertile grounds from which non-Wiccan witchcraft sprung. 

Other feminists took a different route, one of genuine man hating, which saw all men as rapists. Beatrix Cambell was one of those feminists. She was implacable in her belief that the family was the source of female oppression (which it often was) therefore fathers were routinely anally raping their daughters and the government was part of a huge conspiracy to cover it all up. She caused 112 children to be removed from their homes, invasively examined often more than once, and put into care. 14 months ago, she’s still going on about it in a mainstream broadsheet, with an OBE. 

My colleagues aren’t mad or stupid but they probably read the Guardian alongside other papers and, being about 10 years older than me, they’d have experienced the full, exciting, creative force of second wave feminism. In all it’s aspects.  Of course, that Satanic Ritual Abuse and Recovered Memory Syndrome are being taught in universities is another really worrying reason. We expect teachers to teach truthfully, but how much do any of us vet 'experts' who've written books and done other lectures, and who look and sound not at all like a frothing loon?

So Pagans who think satanic ritual abuse has nothing to do with them had better wake up. 

We don’t need to make a fuss, though not so long ago the Pagan Federation would have automatically written to the Mirror to object to the word ‘Pagan’ being used in relation to the Batley's and have put out a press release making clear what Paganism does and doesn’t do. We’ve become complacent. We assume that, well, everyone knows SRA is a load of discredited old rubbish. 

They don’t. 

ADDITION: Nearly two years on Jason over at Wild Hunt has written about the subject "Those Dark Satanic Mills: The moral panic that won't die" and, presumably because it's been written by a big name American, people in the Pagan Federation have woken to the possibility that it might be an issue. 

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