"We desperately need your help! We're a Southern family being ruthlessly persecuted by governmental forces due to my wife's faith (she's an open Witch). A neighbor filed 60 dismissed complaints against us with local cops. Tired of being constantly called out by this bigot, the cops turned matters over to Department of Social Services. Angered that we maintained our innocence, DSS got the cops to file serious legal charges against us, and threatened to keep our R.O.T.C., 17-year-old until he reached the age of his majority. These no-win, Witch-hunt tactics finally succeeded in forcing us to sign over custody to a family member. We've been forced to flee to try to clear our names. Our family's ruined. What can we do?!"
To many in the alternative spiritual community, the crisis call above may read like bad movie fiction or paranoid delusion. Most would be shocked to learn that persecution against Pagans and Wiccans is rampant, and that punitive laws and prejudiced organizations enable this national travesty on a daily basis.
I've received thousands of such poignant pleas for over 15 years, largely because of my own personal experiences with such horror made me become an expert in using creative means to win against mind-boggling bigotry. I was put to rout in 2001 because my 17-and-a-half-year-old daughter didn't respond to any migraine treatments except cannabis. As a Witch R.N. who values herbs' efficacy in such conditions, I monitored her usage. DSS took umbrage with this and, because I refused to tell them where I'd safely stashed her, shackled me hand-and-foot in jail all Valentine's day without bread or water, then dogged us both across the country for months while we ran under assumed names. (Turns out the worker who led our hot pursuit had been an underling of mine years before that I'd chastised for failure to take adequate care of elderly patients. When my name came across her desk, she saw her chance to get even).
Modern methods of Witch persecution are little changed from those used during centuries of The Burning Times. At any time a landlord, neighbor, employer, or other authority can and may wreak havoc in Witches' lives: Landlords raise rent; neighbors file complaints; employers fire workers; cops confiscate tools ("This athamé is a concealed weapon!"); prison officials deny inmates' spiritual freedoms ("Wicca ain't no recognized religion!"). On it goes in a million shameful ways a day ... But don't Witches have legal recourse? The truth is that then, as today, no one wants to believe they can be so easily railroaded — no one can mean them such ill, right? Few people, much less generally non-litigious Witches, actually know their basic rights, much less afford a lawyer to ensure them. So, like good trusting citizens, they feel sure that if they just plead their case, it will soon be dropped and life will return to normal. Sadly, such conditioned naiveté is their undoing.
Witches' protestations of innocence or insistence on their legal rights are pejoratively labeled and used against them as proof of guilt ("This person is uncooperative, is obstructing justice, is in denial", etc.).
The most horrific form of religious persecution is the Department of Social Services' national program to wrest Pagan kids from their parents.
How does DSS go unchecked and enabled by silent consent to ruin Witch families? Let me count the ways ... DSS comes out to investigate an anonymous complaint, initially sending a 20-something year-old woman with no kids of her own who feigns sympathy with the parents' plight. The parents speak freely, thinking they have nothing to fear from the government they support with their taxes. The social worker furiously jots down words into her file.
Secret DSS meetings are held wherein the family is slotted into sinister categories from which they can't escape. Their parenting style is denounced. One Pagan S.C. family had 3 kids taken away for allowing them to stay up all night to watch a meteor shower; when the kids claimed fatigue the next day, the mother let them stay home from school; DSS ruled that the parents encouraged truancy by allowing their kids to participate in a religious event the school board didn't officially recognize. After working with me, they got their kids back!
Older, outright bigoted DSS workers in groups of two shortly follow. They invariably insist the couple undergo parenting classes. The parents acquiesce under protest in hopes this concession will make the problem disappear. Led by DSS workers, the sessions are frequent, costly, and humiliating. While the parents assume their words are protected like doctor-patient confidentiality, in actuality everything they say is recorded and used against them later in court. DSS drags out the sessions for months, even years — pushing the parents to give up or explode in exasperation. When they do, checkmate: DSS files for custody and reigns supreme in a kangaroo system called "family court". Family court is a star-chamber procedure with its own rules. Records are sealed, all manner of hearsay admitted, and every effort made to "protect" the child from publicity (so persecuted parents are prevented from going public to the press). The judge and guardian ad litems have worked together for years and chummily chit chat to make the parents feel doomed. The case concludes in agonizing choices: Sign over custody to a family member and, because you didn't terminate your parental rights, you must pay monthly child support even though you don't get visitation rights; if you refuse, the judge allows DSS to adopt-out your kid. Determined by DSS to be an unfit parent, scarred by the brutally unfair legal process, and in debt up to your ears to your lawyer, you end up virtually catatonic with grief.
"We've gotten no help from the Pagan Community, except you."
For years I've been bewildered by Pagans' penchant to distance themselves when their kind is in trouble. Are they suffering from some collective unconscious repulsion response due to scarring from The Burning Times? Are they lazy, blame-the-victim mean folks, or just feel overwhelmed with the pain of knowing and difficulty in defending such incessant cases? Contrary to the claims of several Pagan anti-defamation organizations, I seem to be the only one actually defending persecuted Pagans nationwide. I demand proof of claims but when the case is egregious, I work painstakingly for months and even years to see justice done. Ultimately, I've become convinced that Pagans' reluctance to help their kind in need is due to their failure to grasp the polarity inherent in the basic tenets of Witchcraft. They don't want to recognize the harm being caused upon fellow Pagans on a massive scale. Equally, they seem bent on misinterpreting the original intent of the Law of Three-fold Return (not a constraint against Witches, but rather a warning). Hurt Witches and we'll defend ourselves thrice over.
And where does such appalling Pagan apathy leave couples such as the one I'm currently helping?
"Like most 17-year-olds, now that our son is out of DSS's clutches, he doesn't seem to care much what we're still going through ... We're being pursued by a psycho cop like the one Ray Liotta played in 'Unlawful Entry', who's taken it personally that he brought charges against us that we're avoiding. Recently he got so close to catching us that my wife and I had to split up in hopes of one of us staying free ... I had to literally crawl through a swamp until I could reunite with her ... Truly horrifying!"
More on this couple's travails next month.Next part
Lady Passion is co-author of The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems and High Priestess of Coven Oldenwilde in Asheville, NC. She may be reached via: www.oldenwilde.org