Sunday, January 21, 2018

Paranormal Investigators Hate Witches

Or at least, this one does. I'm talking, of course, about Zak Bagans, host of the paranormal train wreck that is Ghost Adventures. Bagans is not like the paranormal investigators on shows like Ghost Hunters, who always start by looking for normal explanations and often find them. Bagans runs into ghosts and spirits all the time, mostly because he appears to lack critical thinking skills of any kind. Bagans is the only paranormal investigator about whom I have ever agreed with James Randi - and let me tell you, I can't stand Randi's smug dismissal of everything from ghosts to psychic abilities to meditation (!).

To recap that story, back in 2014 I posted about an allegedly haunted house in Indiana. Bagans hyped the case a whole bunch, purchased the house, and was planning on making a documentary about it. Meanwhile, the Randi Foundation and many other commenters on the Internet noted that the only photos of the alleged ghost had been faked with a popular iPhone spirit photography app. It's possible Bagans is not so stupid that he fell hook, line, and sinker for a hoax that could have been unraveled with a simple Google image search, but then again, his opinions about Wiccans and Pagans also demonstrate a complete lack of comprehension.

After experiencing an encounter at night in the abandoned Golden church, the archbishop and Bagans discuss “what might be feeding the malevolence that permeates the entire area.” Bagans asks Cloud, “Have you ever heard about this sanctuary out here in the woods somewhere that is very close to this? They do these rituals; I know it’s Witchcraft. It said Pagan rituals. Have you heard about this group?”

Cloud answers he has and that the Witches are all over, and that the ritual practices are “steeped in Witchcraft,” and that he is sure that “they are conjuring demons.” Another interviewee later confirms that by saying that she “knows” it is caused by the local Witches. During the discussion between Cloud and Bagans, there are flashes of various images of people at night in the woods obscured by branches and trees. The entire sequence, which includes hanging stick figures and dramatic sound, is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project (1999).

“Could the unusual number of violent acts in this area be caused by the dark entities conjured by this group of Witches?” asks the narrator. Interestingly enough, there actually is a Witch camp not far from Golden. Bagans is right; the area does have modern Witches performing modern Pagan rituals. It is Free Cascadia Witchcamp, one of Reclaiming’s annual retreats. Last year, the week-long event happened in late June, quite possibly at the same time the show was being filmed. However, that has not yet been confirmed.

During the show, Bagans claims that he attempted to interview and meet the 100-plus people at this Witch camp, adding that his request was denied. They are a “very secretive group,” he explain, “Which raises the question what are they doing? What are they conjuring?” It also has not yet been confirmed whether he actually did reach out to anyone from Reclaiming, or any modern Pagans in the region.

Like many paranormal stories, the entire Ghost Adventures episode feeds off of the theme that the Witch activity is feeding whatever was once conjured back when the church first shut down. The absence of the protection of the church, so to speak, leaves a void for evil, as the story goes.

Yes, these Reclaiming folks may be guilty of refusing to talk with a complete douchebag. Clearly they must be up to something evil! I have to say, I would never sit down for an interview with Bagans about my OTO work or my personal magical practice or even Freemasonry, not because I'm up to anything, but because I think he's a complete judgemental jerk and have no doubts he would edit anything I said to sound hyperbolic and sinister. Here's what Wikipedia says about the Reclaiming tradition. You tell me how "evil" it sounds.

Reclaining's spiritual approach is based in the feminist Goddess movement and matriarchal religion. On some levels Reclaiming has much in common with Wicca, and the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess is commonly utilised; part of it is quoted in Reclaiming's core agenda, known as "The Principles of Unity". However, given its focus on dismantling and resisting structures of power and domination, Reclaiming uses consensus process and non-hierarchical structure in its covens – there is no High Priest or High Priestess as there would be in an Alexandrian or Gardnerian witchcraft coven. Reclaiming members are encouraged to take an active part in co-creating group rituals.

Theologically, Reclaiming is very diverse and inclusive. The common thread is an active honoring and defending of the Earth, and a support of the Gaia hypothesis. Teaching and rituals, which are often focused on shamanic techniques such as guided meditation, trance work, shapeshifting and ecstatic dance (as in the Spiral dance, an iconic group dance often performed at rituals and at protest rallies), is empowering the individual and the community to take action. Reclaiming often uses chant as part of its rituals and has released numerous recordings of chants used in the movement. The embodiment of myth and fairytale in dramatic rituals (often done with spontaneity, a quality highly valued in the movement) which enact the cycle of the Seasons or the lessons of particular gods and goddesses are important in Reclaiming.

So given that, tell me what these Reclaiming folks are supposed to be "conjuring." There's nothing in there about calling up ghosts or spirits. Bagans, true to form, seems to just think that they're responsible for awful stuff because they're Pagan - that is, they're not Christian like he is. That's flat-out bigotry right there, and Bagans needs to be called on it. Christianity's model of the spirit world is wrong in a number of respects, as anyone who works with spirits can tell you. Specifically, the universe is not divided up into "Christian spirituality" and "Evil," which is what way too many Christian churches still teach.

Bagans needs to learn something about non-Christian religions, sooner rather than later, and quit peddling hatred towards their adherents. His cluelessness would be funny, except that he seems to be making a lot of money at our expense and spreading a message that not being Christian is dangerous because it attracts ghosts or something and makes places haunted. Neither of those contentions is true, especially when the tradition in question doesn't even conjure ghosts or spirits or whatever. But the Poor Oppressed Christians eat that stuff up, because they would rather we not exist at all.

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