Wren's Nest - 1998 Year End Wrap-up
Article ID: 2269
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 6,422
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Posted: January 27th. 1999
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1998. That adds up to a "nine" year. The number "nine", as most of you probably know, is a number that symbolizes "completion" or the end of a cycle. Since we here at TWV tend to always be peering ahead to the next project, it is difficult for us to look backwards into a year now past. But every year -like some sort of seasonal ritual-we do it. And every year, I put OFF doing it until the very last minute. (Well, since the report is due tomorrow, I guess I'll work on some "completion' myself right now...)
Some completions, a smattering of predictions (Jeanne Dixon and I share the same Jan. 5th birthday.) and a few highlights of 1998:
January of '98 turned out to be our last month in Massachusetts. (Completion #1) and the owners of The Gypsy Cafe in North Carolina were arrested for violating the state's anti-fortune telling laws. Letters of support were written from across the country and the local pagan community rallied about the cause.
We moved to Florida in February-which turned out to be about the same time that the Neo-pagan community discovered that CyberSitter software was set up to block out just about every pagan/occult/witch related reference in the universe. Scattered throughout the pagan web, you can still find sites with the "This site is blocked by CyberSitter" banner.
No completion on that one, but a prediction: Internet safety and content filtering issues will be HUGE in 1999. Congress will try to enact "child internet safety" bills faster than Monica had Bill looking at her thong underwear. Hopefully, it won't take four and one-half years to demonstrate to our elected representatives what a bad idea that is. (Bill already knows this, by the way.)
In March, we were alarmed to find the "School Prayer Amendment" (or "Istook's Folly") passing out of the House Judiciary Committee. You remember that one? The misnamed "Religious Freedom Amendment" started off with the words: "To secure the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of conscience..." and went downhill from there. We tracked it all year and applauded wildly when it was defeated. While the proponents and sponsors of H.J. Res. 78 tried their best to ease the fears of those who had questions about the ramifications of adopting such an amendment, their opponents consistently fell back on their number one line of reasoning-There is nothing wrong with the Constitution that we have right now.
That wild applause lasted for all of about one hour. The Senate via Inhofe from OK reintroduced the bill as S.J. 48.
Prediction: It's still kicking around the halls of Congress somewhere and I'm sure we'll see it resurface in 1999.
Still, we'll take a semi-completion (#2) on that one on behalf of all the pagan students who didn't have to leave the room last year during "prayer time".
Rikki Lake. What can we say? It was a sad farce despite the best intentions of the teenage witches selected to demonstrate their "magick." Re-run capability prevents a "completion" score on that one. Only good taste in programming and an effort by tabloid television to present an accurate picture will raise that mark above an "F" (As in "fake.")
Prediction: Don't hold your breath. Even if Rikki, Montel and Jerry make the effort, Washington pundits won't go along with it. There is an election year coming up...
On April 8th, the owners of The Gypsy Cafe had their day in court. The charges for fortune telling would be totally dismissed if they would go to 'alcohol school' for the serving alcohol with an expired permit charge. It was made very clear that the DA did not consider the fortune telling charge worth pursuing, so if the cafe and the reader accepted the deal on the other charge they would just dismiss it. All in all it was a very good deal for both the cafe' and the reader. The DA also had the advantage of getting this now highly visible case to just go away." (Completion #3).
Yes, the "law" is still on the books in N.C. and some other states, but with the public outcry from a now very large and still growing pagan community-and with organizations like The Freedom Forum issuing statements about fortune telling being a form of protected speech.-D.A.'s should be on notice that this-much like raising a nine iron into the air during a lightning storm - is simply not a good idea.
During the merry month of May, in a court decision called "a slap in the face to all pagans," Rosemary Koolman was denied a license to perform wedding ceremonies in Virginia. "I am not criticizing your beliefs," Chief Judge Bruce Bach said. "But your religion does not qualify as a religious denomination."
Sorry, Judge Bruce, but it does. And the ACLU of Virginia said so, too: "Even the most open-minded people forget sometimes that we are a nation of many religions," said Kent Willis, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia, "and that while some religions are less common and organized differently from others, in the eyes of the law they all have the same status.
"Religious freedom is for everyone, including Wiccans, whose numbers may be relatively small, but whose practices are unequivocally religious and predate Christianity," Willis continued.
"We believe the judge ruled without being fully aware of the law," Willis added. "In our brief, we point out not only the long history of the organized Wiccan religion, but also the fact that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Military, and the IRS all recognize Wicca as a religion."
(Completion #4) On September 25, Rosemary was granted her license.
In June, a New York Board of Education fired a Bronx junior high school teacher for talking about Jesus Christ in class and praying with her sixth-graders. ``I told them about the great love of God, that he sent Jesus, our savior, to die for us, and that he came to save all the human race,'' said Mildred Rosario.
Obviously, she didn't get that fine print version about the Istook Amendment being defeated. As in, "No preaching in the classroom.." At least not in 1998...
Prediction: The Religious Right will continue to push Congress in 1999 to amend the Constitution and pave the way for a Christian Nation.
And from Springfield, MO., we heard the first splashings of the "fish" story: "Acting on behalf of a woman who suffered harassment over her religious beliefs, the ACLU filed a lawsuit to force Republic, Missouri officials to remove the Christian "ichthus" or fish symbol from the city seal." "Jean Webb was forced to resign from her job at the Republic Monitor, a local newspaper, after writing an editorial critical of the symbol. She and her family have been the target of harassing phone calls and hate mail since the editorial appeared." "According to the ACLU's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, (Southern Division), "the dispute over the City seal has stirred up an atmosphere of religious intolerance," making Ms. Webb, a Wiccan, "even more fearful of practicing her religion in accordance with her rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."
Prediction: This case is still on-going, but Jean is hanging tough. A completion score for this one in 1999!
"Eye-Ay-Oh!" Druids returned to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice. In the 1980s, the British government abruptly shut off access toStonehenge during the summer and winter solstices each year, forcing the Druids to move their most sacred ceremony to the shoulder of a busy highway with a distant view of the monument. Angry charges flew back and forth for more than a decade, but Stonehenge remained closed.
(Completion #5) The British government announced that sun lovers could return to Stonehenge for the 1998 solstice.
During July, the following announcement appeared on the CNN site: "Dark Religions: It is happening in Trenton, Reading, Birmingham, and most recently, in Pearl, Mississippi: Kids searching for faith and finding it in witchcraft, Satanism, and vampirism. We will follow teens into the eerie mystical world of dark religions and learn that what begins as fantasy and rebellion can often become a downward spiral of disturbing, and sometimes deadly, violence.-Hosted by James Earl Jones, Airs Sunday, July 12 8pm ET/5pm PT".
It never did air. The pagan community went into high alert and inundated CNN with phone calls, letters and promises of legal repercussions. And even though CNN has not been forthcoming about the future plans for "Dark Religions", we're gonna take a completion (#6) on this one for 1998.
So, in August, Camel Cigarettes thought that since Witches were getting so darn trendy that they'd use a little image of Silver RavenWolf's book, "To Stir A Magick Cauldron", in one of their ads? Not so, said Silver, the Magickal Cauldron and many other pagan individuals and organizations. A massive letter writing campaign/petition drive generated by the pagan community made this stance abundantly clear.
(Completion # 7) RJR Reynolds issued a formal apology To Silver RavenWolf on September 4th, 1998.
September 19th, 1998 was celebrated across the United States and Canada as the first annual Pagan Pride Day.
And we got our first look at the WB new show "Charmed." They may be short on good poetry rhymes; they may some "powers" that make us wince; but the three Halliwell sister Witches dress well (O.K., who doesn't look good in a size five designer dress?) and generally try to do the right thing.
As October arrived, Governor Cellucci, who was up for re-election, ran a TV ad that criticized his opponent, Scott Harshbarger (attorney general), for coming to the aid of Witches in Salem in 1992 when some "fundies" were harassing them.
The ad showed a police line up of Santa Claus, a "Halloween" witch, a pixie, and the Easter bunny. It said that "Scott Harshbarger banned Christmas decorations from his office, he threatened to sue on behalf of the Witches of Salem, scary, huh? (the witch cackles) If Scott Harshbarger is elected governor, who's next? (you see a darkened outline of the Easter bunny)."
Witches were not amused. Not in Salem, not in Massachusetts, not anywhere. A protest rally was held by local pagans. Witches from various organizations including: WLPA, WADL, POWER, WEB, CUUPS, and others, as well as solitaries, covens, and groups gathered together under the WLPA banner and chanted with the crowd. Estimates on the number of pagans who gathered: 75-100 Wiccans, Pagans, and Witches.
Cellucci got elected anyway and steadfastly refused to apologize.
Prediction: Karma.That's all. Karma.
Southwestern High School in the Baltimore area was thrown into turmoil when a ninth- grader accused her classmate, an admitted practicing witch who is the daughter of a witch, of putting a hex on her.
Jamie Schoonover, a 15-year-old freshman, was sent home with an official city schools discipline form, which cited the reason for the referral as "casting a spell on a student."
The media went wild. This story, coupled with the upcoming Samhain season, had Witches, Wiccans and pagans all over the nation being stalked for interviews and sound bytes. Suddenly if you were a public pagan, you were news, were assumed to have some news or knew somebody featured in the news.
(Completion #8) The principal of the school apologized for the "misunderstanding", Jamie was allowed back in school and the country suddenly knew a lot more about Witches.
The media frenzy lasted well into November. The pagan community was kept busy writing letters in response to the usual "Samhain-Lord of Dead" propaganda that floods the papers at this time every year.
But more and more, the tide was beginning to turn. Many positive pagan oriented pieces were also featured on the television and in the news.
(Completion #9) I'd say we came out of this 1998 Samhain with more wins than losses.
November: Lincoln Park High School in Michigan became the focus of concern when word spread that students were being disciplined for wearing a pentacle. The school dress code ban included not only pagan related symbols, but seemingly Witches and pagans themselves.
The dress code statement included: "The Administration of Lincoln Park High School has noticed an increase in gang and/or cult activity. The Board of Education through the Student Code of Conduct, has clearly stated that it "desires too keep district schools and students free from threats or wrongful influence of any groups or gangs which advocate drug abuse, violence or disruptive behavior. Violators will be suspended indefinitely with possible expulsion. The Administration of Lincoln Park High School will enforce this rule."
"A partial listing of groups that are not appropriate to the school setting include: KKK--Street Gangs--Skin Heads--While Supremacists--Wiggins--Straight Edge--Pagans--Gothic--Satanist--Vampires--Cults/Occult--Witches."
"A partial listing of inappropriate activities includes, but is not limited to: Pentagram symbol--Gang Colors/Styles--Anarchy symbol--Cult Dress/Styles--Vampire/Death style make-up--Black Nail Polish--Satanic Jewelry--Dog Collars."
The Detroit News set up a forum for comments on this issue and were overwhelmed at the response from the pagan community. Thousands of comments were received and at the end of the survey, pagans had definitely won that public relations battle.
The Witches' Voice, WADL, OCRT and other pagan organizations sent letters to the school and other government agencies protesting this policy and requesting the ban be rescinded.
Prediction: You haven't heard the last word on this case yet.
Arizona and Ohio decided that a "Year of the Bible" was a good idea. The ACLU didn't. Turns out that 1999 will NOT be a bible year after all.
And the last we heard, King James was still looking for a new public relations manager.
Wrapping up 1998 through December, there seemed to be an increased number of students coming forward-probably in response to the publicity surrounding the Lincoln Park issue-complaining about discriminatory actions against pagans in their schools. We also heard about several child custody cases involving pagan religious beliefs. These issues surely will continue into the new year and hopefully you will be reading about the successful 'completion" to these stories in the '99 wrap-up.
Thousands watched the Winter Solstice sun break over Maes Howe via the internet. Pagan Yule celebrations enjoyed some positive press coverage and even President Clinton wished folks a "Happy Winter Solstice" in a public address.
But no article about the year that was 1998 would be complete without a special mention about you.
Yes, 1998 was all about YOU!
Take another look at those completion notes. YOU did that in 1998! YOU, the solitary pagan, the anti-defamation organization, the local Wiccan coven, the pagan author, the webmaster/mistress, the pagan activist, the Witch student. It happened because of you.
- YOU are the ones who took the time to write the letters to RJR Reynolds, to Cellucci, to Lincoln Park, to your senators and representatives and to all those newspapers and television stations.
- YOU organized the Pagan Pride Day events, held the open circles and put up all those wonderful pagan web sites that now has Pat Robertson recognizing us as a force to be considered.
- YOU sent out the notices, forwarded the newspaper articles and posted the announcements that helped all of us stay informed, stay involved and stay in contact with one another.
- YOU did the interviews, wrote the books and put on the festival events and workshops.
You were brave. You were dedicated. You cared. You shared. You were pagan and you were proud.
Predictions for 1999?
We have discovered our potential. We have found our power. 1999 will be a "one" year and so, a new cycle will begin.
YOU decide. The possibilities are endless.
The Witches' Voice Inc.
January 20th, 1999
Location: Tampa, Florida
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