In The News…….American Council of Witches Returns

By Patti Wigington, Guide

One issue that is often a bone of contention in the Pagan community is that we don’t have a universal set of guidelines – some of us may not even identify as Pagans, but as witches or something else. There have been repeated attempts to unify the various branches of the Pagan community, but in general, these are unsuccessful because we’re so diverse and varied in our beliefs and practices. Back in 1973, a group of witches decided to give this a shot, spearheaded by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, the president of Llewellyn Worldwide. They formed the American Council of Witches, and attempted to define what the standards of modern witches and Neopagans could be. The group then disbanded after only a year or so of existence.

Now, it appears that the group is re-forming as the US American Council of Witches, in order to take a stand against the ever-increasing notion in American politics that non-Christian beliefs are somehow less valid than Christian ones. The group intends to “engage in an interfaith dialogue to identify and address the legal and social needs of members of our religions,” and will be composed of members of a wide variety of Pagan paths.
A press release states:

Newly Formed Group Defends Witchcraft Rights And Beliefs

The United States is a nation whose very foundation, the Bill of Rights, guarantees its citizens freedom of religious beliefs. Yet those citizens with beliefs that fall well outside of Christianity are often misunderstood and persecuted. There seems to be a rising voice in American politics that non-Christian beliefs are somehow less valid than Christian beliefs. One arena where we have seen this is the attack on our President by those claiming he is Muslim, which they appear to believe invalidates his ability to lead our nation. Another arena is such outspoken organizations as David Barton’s Wallbuilders, who advocate a Federal acceptance that the Unites States is a Christian nation.

In light of these attacks upon our basic religious freedoms, members of the community of Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, and other polytheists have united to re-form the American Council of Witches. First formed in 1973, the Council was a group of over seventy Witches and Pagans who drafted a set of principles outlining the common practices of Neopagan religions in North America. This statement was adopted by the Unites States Army for inclusion in their Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains in 1978.

Though the Council was disbanded in 1974, individuals who each follow a Pagan, Neopagan or Witchcraft Tradition feel it is time to reform the organization in order to achieve certain goals that were not addressed by the original council in the early Seventies. Among these goals are: to revise the original council’s Thirteen Principles of Belief Common Among NeoPagans; to re-submit revisions to the United States Army Handbook for Chaplains; to provide government and law enforcement on Federal, State and County levels with information on NeoPagan beliefs and practices to be used in creating and upholding laws, allowing NeoPagans their Constitutional rights, and ministering to the beliefs of Pagan inmates.

The revised American Council Of Witches will be composed of Pagans,Wiccans, Witches and other NeoPagan practitioners from each of the fifty United States. We will engage in an interfaith dialogue to identify and address the legal and social needs of members of our religions, and we will create policy and documents as deemed necessary. And we hope to dialogue with members of other faiths to foster a basic understanding of our beliefs.

For information, interviews and membership, please contact:


In The News……Haunted Happenings in Salem

Massachusetts town famous for its 1692 witch trials is the busiest Halloween tourist destination in North America

By DAVID JOHNSTON, The GazetteOctober 15, 2011

The busiest Halloween tourist destination in North America has no shortage of costumed ghosts and goblins wandering through town in the weeks before the arrival of the witching hours of Halloween night Oct. 31.

But there was nothing theatrical about the shock and the horror that gripped the seaside Massachusetts town of Salem in 1692, when 20 local residents were accused of witchcraft and put to death after the infamous Salem witch trials.

Ever since then, witch hunts in various shapes and forms have been a recurring metaphor in U.S. society. When Arthur Miller based his 1952 play The Crucible on the events of 1692, it was seen as an allegory for the anti-Communist fear and hysteria that was sweeping the United States at the time.

The historical and cultural backdrop to the Salem witch trials is a subject that is exhaustively interpreted by the many different niche museums in Salem devoted to this grim chapter in early U.S. history.

But the witch trials have also given rise, more than three centuries later, to a busy local tourist industry revolving around witchcraft in general, one that peaks in October with an annual Halloween festival, Haunted Happenings that attracts more than 200,000 people. (

The month-long celebration features parades, costume balls, various children’s events and witch-themed activities ranging from light fun to serious exploration of the world of witchcraft past and present. These activities include Ask a Witch – Make a Wand, a weekend event hosted by the local Witches Education League, where the public gets to ask questions of women and men who are self-described witches.

The Witches Education League is an outreach organization that reflects the demographic reality of Salem, a city north of Boston with a population of 38,000 where 2,000 people describe themselves as witches. Some are formally affiliated with the worldwide religious movement of Wicca, while others are known locally for their commercial profile. The commercialism is evident along the downtown Essex St. pedestrian mall where stores like Omen or Bewitched in Salem sell witch-themed products, but also conduct crystal-ball readings and seances, and give workshops in witchcraft magic.

The best way to see Salem is to start out by taking the Salem Trolley tour of the downtown area. It begins in the city’s fascinating old port district, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, and then loops back from there into the downtown area, pointing out places of special interest relating to the Salem witch trials, and to architectural history as well.

The spiritual centre of Salem’s tourist industry is the Salem Witch Memorial, inaugurated in 1992 by Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel. It’s a little garden bounded on three sides by a low stone wall. Embedded into the interior sides of the wall are 20 stone benches, each one bearing the name, date and method of execution of one of the 20 people put to death in 1692.

Not to be missed is the Salem Witch Museum, which tells the story of the witch trials using special sets, and life-size figures in a darkened auditorium, and then projects forward in time in connecting rooms to show how outbreaks of mass fear and intolerance have been a recurring theme in U.S. history.

The narrator of the auditorium show explains how the early Puritan settlers of Salem lived with a variety of overlapping fears that induced a form of paranoia. There was fear of their colonial charter being revoked, of Indian raids, of smallpox, of crop failure. Most of all, there was fear of the Devil, as common belief among the Puritans held that the Devil had come to New England to undo God’s new Kingdom – even creaky floors suggested the Devil’s presence.

And so when a group of local girls in Salem in 1692 started going into hysterical fits and accusing fellow citizens of having bewitched them, the underlying conditions were already in place to produce a witch hunt. Family feuds over property rights were also a contributing factor, and those forced Salem’s 550 residents to take sides during the witch trials.

Today, of course, Salem is a much different place. It is a busy northern Boston suburb, part of the metropolitan transit network. And so while Salem can be visited by commuter train as a day trip from Boston, Salem can also be used as a place to stay while visiting Boston more generally. Hotels are generally cheaper in Salem than in Boston.

The two main hotels in downtown Salem are the Hawthorne Hotel and the Salem Waterfront Hotel; there are also plenty of bed and breakfasts. The Salem Waterfront has an indoor pool and might be the better option for families with young children. The Hawthorne, built in 1925 when 1,000 local residents chipped in to buy shares to create a new “modern” hotel for the town, has a well-regarded local restaurant, Nathaniel’s (named after Nathaniel Hawthorne, a noted 19th-century Salem author), which serves up a famous apple-pumpkin bisque soup. Another renowned Salem edible delight is Gibraltar rock candy, which is sold at Ye Olde Pepper Compagnie, near Salem harbour. The store was founded in Salem in 1806 and is the oldest candy store in the U.S.

Short hops returns in mid-December with ideas for winter excursions.


To get to Salem from Montreal by car, drive as if you are going to Boston. That is to say, take Interstate 93 South. There are two ways to get to the 93 – either from Interstate 89 at the Philipsburg/ Highgate Springs, Vt., border crossing, or Interstate 91 from the Stanstead/Derby Line, Vt., crossing. As you approach Boston on the 93, take Exit 37A in order to get on Interstate 95 North. After a brief stint on the 95, take Route 128 North and Route 114 East into Salem. There are also air and bus options to Boston, but no direct rail link.

In The News Today……Soul Cakes: A Haunted Halloween Tradition and the History of Trick or Treating


  • By Christina Durner, Baltimore Baking Examiner

Trick or treating has long been a tradition that brightens up the dark holiday of Halloween for children worldwide. However, this fun and festive tradition was not always as lighthearted as it is today. Modern tradition dictates that children dressed in costumes who are brave enough to knock on doors of houses that are decorated in frightening décor are rewarded with sweet treats of tootsie rolls, caramels, and if you are lucky enough full sized candy bars. But this is not the way that this tradition began. It began with the distribution of an eighth century treat known as Soul Cakes.

At the beginning of the Christian era in Britain, when the ways of Pagans were still widely accepted, Christians wanted to incorporate some of the Pagan traditions of Samhain into their own religion in an effort to convert the practicing Pagans. Samhain was the beginning of the dark half of the year and was celebrated on what later became known as All Soul’s Day. The name of this holiday has undergone reconstruction throughout the centuries, changing to All Hollow’s Evening, All Hollow’s Even, All Hollow’s Eve, and finally Halloween.

This Pagan celebration was a way of saying farewell to days of sunlight and to prepare for the days of darkness and cold weather. Large bonfires were held and it was believed that the spirits of the dead could return to the earth on this day because it is the darkest and the veil between this world and the hereafter is the thinnest.

It is during these times that it is thought that the Soul Cakes supposedly came into being. There are many variations to the origin of Soul Cakes. Some say that Soul Cakes were baked upon a bonfire as a means of lottery. But this was no ordinary lottery. If you chose the burnt cake you became the human sacrifice that ensured your people had a prosperous crop during the following year. Others claim that the cakes were thrown about the land in an effort to appease evil spirits curse to wander the land in animal form.

No one quite knows the absolute origin of the cakes, but by the eighth century this tradition became a household practice in a very different way. Many Christians at the time (and in modern times) believed in Purgatory, the stage of waiting between Heaven and Hell. Purgatory is thought to be less torturous as Hell but not exactly pleasant. It is believed that the offering of prayers for a soul that is trapped in Purgatory will bring about a saving grace. If enough prayers were offered up, that soul would pass into Heaven.

Enter the tradition of Soul Cakes. The poor and destitute would travel from door to door asking for food in exchange for prayers. Each cake would represent a prayer for a departed soul stuck in Purgatory (hence, the name “Soul Cake”.) This tradition spread rapidly and eventually morphed into what is now modern day trick or treating.

Baltimore Baking Examiner decided to make this ancient recipe just in time for Halloween. There are many varying recipes for Soul Cakes. Some contain raisins and currants while others contain cinnamon and nutmeg. The recipe used by this blog was found at and contains oats, ginger, and molasses.

This easy to make recipe is even easier to gobble up! With the taste of spices that are seasonal in October and the moist texture provided by the oats, Soul Cakes are one treat that we guarantee you will add to your Halloween table each year.

Baltimore City residents can purchase the ingredients for this recipe at the following locations:

Fresh & Green

1020 West 41st Street

Baltimore, MD. 21211

Giant Foods

711 West 40th Street

Baltimore, MD. 21211

Eddies of Roland Park

5113 Roland Avenue

Baltimore, MD. 21210


Christina Durner

Baltimore Baking Examiner

Earth Science Pic of the Day for October 16th

Light Pollution and Moonlight Glint off of Langer See in Berlin, Germany

October 16, 2011

Moonglint_off_Spree (2)

Photographers: Christopher Kyba and Thomas Ruhtz; Christopher’s Web site
Summary Author: Christopher Kyba


The above photo was taken while making light pollution measurements over Berlin, Germany as part of the Verlust der Nacht project. It nicely illustrates the differences between natural (moonlight) and artificial night lighting. It’s obvious that artificial street lights have different color spectra from that of moonlight; some street lamps emit discrete spectral lines rather than a continuous spectrum as produced by the Sun or Moon. Note the glint of moonlight off of Langer See, a part of Berlin’s Spree River system. The high reflectivity of water at large incident angles makes it very easy to distinguish the lake from the shoreline. Photo taken on July 14, 2011 — the Moon was one day shy of being fully illuminated.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for October 16th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2011 October 16
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

A Picturesque Venus Transit
Image Credit & Copyright: David Cortner 

Explanation: The rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in 2004 was one of the better-photographed events in sky history. Both scientific and artistic images flooded in from the areas that could see the transit: Europe and much of Asia, Africa, and North America. Scientifically, solar photographers confirmed that the black drop effect is really better related to the viewing clarity of the camera or telescope than the atmosphere of Venus. Artistically, images might be divided into several categories. One type captures the transit in front of a highly detailed Sun. Another category captures a double coincidence such as both Venus and an airplane simultaneously silhouetted, or Venus and the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. A third image type involves a fortuitous arrangement of interesting looking clouds, as shown by example in the above image taken from North Carolina, USA. The next transit of Venus across the Sun will be in 2012 June.

Your Daily Number for October 16th: 2

You may find yourself more sensitive to the world around you today. Your intuition is heightened, and you may find yourself longing for knowledge. You’re feeling somewhat emotionally exposed to the world, so be careful to guard against insecurity and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.

Fast Facts

About the Number 2

Theme: Adaptable, Tactful, Gentle, Cautious
Astro Association: Moon
Tarot Association: High Priestess

Today’s I Ching Hexagram for October 16th is 33: Retreat

33: Retreat

Hexagram 33

General Meaning: All worthy goals meet resistance of some kind. When negative forces predominate, a well-timed retreat is a good way to stay on the path to ultimate success. Tibetans know this.

Strategic retreat is not to be confused with escape or surrender. Successful retreat demands quick and nimble movement — taking up a new position before you are damaged by the current situation. You are not admitting defeat by temporarily retreating, but simply increasing your options, and preserving your resources. Sometimes it is necessary to slow down, let go or move back in order to develop countermoves for the future. Timing is critical, as is how well you position yourself after realignment. Considerations of personal security are critical.

Periods of withdrawal or retreat call for cool-headedness. It is necessary to keep your wits about you. Attend to small details while allowing yourself time to contemplate the whole picture. Be creative; not all progress follows a straight line. Self-confidence is also essential; small setbacks can easily become defeats if we allow ourselves to become mired in self-doubt or self-pity.

Waves of progress are, by their nature, short-lived. Learn to attune yourself to the up-and-down cycles of life. When the wave is behind you, ride it in; when it’s not, lie low. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can ‘fix’ any situation whenever you feel like it. Some things are bigger than you are. Hold your pride in check and you will be better prepared to find creative openings.

Today’s Tarot Card for October 16th is Strength


This Tarot Deck: Goddess

General Meaning: What has traditionally been known as the Strength card represents Nature which, however wild in its primal form, is tamed by our subtler, finer (feminine, interior) self. The will and passion of our instinctive nature does not need to be broken, but refined and brought to consciousness — so that all levels of Creation, inner and outer, may come into harmony.

The feminine soul-force contains a persuasive power that can nurture and induce cooperation from others, stilling disruptive energies by harmonizing differences in the spirit of collective good will.