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New documentary film promises fresh revelations about 1921 skeleton

Posted by Sorcha on December 31, 2011 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (1)
A FILM-MAKER’s latest project will cast doubt on the long-held belief a woman’s skeleton uncovered in St Osyth is that of notorious 16th-century witch Ursula Kemp.

Retired Essex policeman John Worland, now a Colchester-based documentary-maker, says he has the evidence to disprove local theories about the bones.

Mr Worland is promising to reveal the body’s true identity at the premier of his film, Ursula Kemp – The Witch Who Wouldn’t Stay Buried, at the Headgate Theatre, Colchester, next month.

Villagers have long believed the skeleton resident Charles Brooker found in 1921, during excavations in his Mill Street back garden, was that of Ursula Kemp.

The 57-year-old village midwife was hanged as a witch in 1582 after being blamed for the death of Edna Stratton, and two children, Joan Thurlow and Elizabeth Lethl.

The skeleton found in Mr Brooker’s garden appeared to have had iron spikes driven into the body, possibly as a superstitious precaution against its owner returning from the dead.

It was put on display in the village as a tourist attraction before ending up in a witchcraft museum in Cornwall and finally in the private collection of eccentric artist and bibliophile Robert Lenkiewicz, who died in 2002.

Mr Worland came across Mrs Kemp’s story while making a documentary about witchcraft for his company Fade to Black TV.

He said: “Until recently, no one had done a proper examination of the remains.

“While they were in the possession of the Lenkiewicz Foundation, I was allowed access to them.

“I asked Dr Jackie McKinley, from Channel 4’s Time Team, to examine the remains and carry out carbon dating.

“The carbon dating puts the age of the remains squarely where they should be, from the late 16th century.

“But the examination also revealed some interesting things about the probable age of the individual at the time of their death and from that I am fairly convinced this is not Ursula Kemp.

“However, as a result of the investigation we are able to say who we think the person is.”

The skeleton became the subject of a legal battle after Mr Lenkiewicz’s death.

After Mr Worland learned about the remains and the story of the St Osyth Witch, he pressed for them to be returned to Essex.

Eventually Mr Worland was given the bones, which he kept at his home for many months before finally arranging for them them to be reburied in unconsecrated ground at St Osyth in April.

Mr Worland, added: “I stumbled upon the story while making a documentary about the Witchfinder-General Matthew Hopkins.

“The St Osyth film has been fascinating to make and is more about 20th and 21st century history than that of the 16th century.

“During the course of making it, I turned up some inaccuracies and even found the original trial documents at the National Archives in Kew.”

The 50-minute documentary film took four years to complete and includes interviews with people from the Witchcraft Museum and the Lenkiewicz Foundation.

It will be screened for the first time at the Headgate Theatre, in Chapel Street North, Colchester, on January 9 and January 10.

Saudi woman beheaded for 'witchcraft and sorcery' By Mohammed Jamjoom and Saad Abedine, CNN updated 1:17 PM EST, Tue December 13, 2011

Posted by Sorcha on December 13, 2011 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (1)
(CNN) -- A woman was beheaded in Saudi Arabia for practicing witchcraft and sorcery, the kingdom's Interior Ministry said, prompting Amnesty International to call for a halt in executions there.

Amina bint Abdel Halim Nassar was executed Monday for having "committed the practice of witchcraft and sorcery," according to an Interior Ministry statement. Nassar was investigated before her arrest and was "convicted of what she was accused of based on the law," the statement said. Her beheading took place in the Qariyat province of the region of Al-Jawf, the ministry said.

In a statement issued late Monday, the human rights group called the execution "deeply shocking" and said it "highlights the urgent need for a halt in executions in Saudi Arabia."

"While we don't know the details of the acts which the authorities accused Amina of committing, the charge of sorcery has often been used in Saudi Arabia to punish people, generally after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's interim director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, practices a puritanical version of Islam and is governed by Shariah, or Islamic law. In the deeply conservative kingdom, sorcery, witchcraft and blasphemy are all offenses that can be punishable by death.

The London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat quoted a source in the country's religious police who said authorities searched Nassar's home and found books on sorcery, a number of talismans and glass bottles filled with liquids supposedly used for the purposes of magic. The source told the paper Nassar was selling spells and bottles of the liquid potions for about $400 dollars each.

CNN could not reach Saudi Arabia's religious police or Justice Ministry for comment.
Amnesty says Nassar's execution is "the second of its kind in recent months. In September, a Sudanese national was beheaded in the Saudi Arabian city of Medina after being convicted on 'sorcery' charges."

The human rights group said the number of executions in Saudi Arabia has almost tripled in 2011.
"So far at least 79 people -- including five women -- have been executed there, compared to at least 27 in 2010," the Amnesty statement said.

This is not the first sorcery case in Saudi Arabia to spark outrage from human rights groups. In 2008, Lebanese TV host Ali Hussain Sibat was arrested on charges of sorcery while in Saudi Arabia on a religious pilgrimage. In 2009, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. While Sibat has not been executed, he remains in prison.

Saudi Arabia's judicial system also made headlines this month for the sentence imposed on Australian national Mansor Almaribe, who was convicted of blasphemy while performing the Hajj in the kingdom, and sentenced to 500 lashes and a year in prison. The Australian government is pleading Almaribe's case.

Fight for Ancient Tree Ends in Failure for Poway Resident Poway City Council votes to remove ???heritage tree??? from resident???s property By Lauren Steussy

Posted by Sorcha on December 10, 2011 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (1)
A Poway neighbor failed to save one of the world’s largest California sycamore trees from removal Tuesday, after the City Council deemed it too dangerous to remain.

Deemed a “Heritage Tree” just 10 years ago, the aged sycamore was beginning to rot, and presented a safety hazard for children nearby, according to our media partner, the North County Times.

The estimated 50-foot-tall tree borders on the property of Poway resident Fred Zuill and the City of Poway. When Poway’s city council brought the tree’s safety into question at a recent meeting, Zuill chimed in.

"Talk to me about it, neighbor," he said, at Tuesday’s meeting. He urged councilmembers to at least save as much as the tree as possible.

The tree is 150 to 300 years-old, an arborist estimated, and can be seen in some of San Diego’s oldest known pictures.

However Arborist Jim Thompson determined that the tree was beginning to rot in October and recommended its removal. Other neighbors expressed their concerns to the council as well.

On Tuesday, despite Zuill’s attempts, the council voted to remove it. They will consider ways to preserve its memory, such as using its wood for city projects


Source: Fight for Ancient Tree Ends in Failure for Poway Resident | NBC San Diego 

Pagan Student Association promotes religious discussion, not conversion By SARAH GIARRATANA on December 10, 2011

Posted by Sorcha on December 10, 2011 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (1)
As Robert Warren sat at a table in Tate Plaza reading tarot cards and handing out baked goods last semester, an older woman approached the table. He offered her a cookie, but as she reached for one, she saw the Pagan Student Association banner below the table. She walked away without saying anything.

Warren, a second-year philosophy graduate student and member of the University’s Pagan Student Association, said this is not the reaction of most people to Paganism — but it highlights how little some University community members might know about the student organization that has been a religious group on campus for over 20 years.
He also said the group is open to anyone curious about Paganism or the interchange of religious ideas.

“[Paganism] is not only an umbrella term for various polytheistic faiths and more than the idea of there being many gods,” Warren said. “There’s the central premise that Pagans generally would agree with: that there are many ways to the divine, there are many ways to the deity, there are many ways of understanding what we hold to be sacred about our world.”

Easy to confuse with Neo-Paganism — a traditional Wiccan religion — the University’s PSA is a much broader organization and includes members with different beliefs. Above all, members promote discussion and the interchange of ideas during meetings.

“For the purpose of UGA PSA, we are basically a group of people who are interested in exploring various spiritual ideas,” said Martin Hogan, a cognitive science and psychology double major from Smyrna.
For other members like Clarke Central High School student Skyler Rowan, the group serves as more than a place for discussion, but also as a haven where she can express religious beliefs.

She tried to start a Pagan student organization at her high school, but said they were unable to find an adviser, since no teacher wanted to sponsor the club. After following them on Facebook, Rowan found the University’s PSA.
“My family, my grandfather’s Pagan, my mom’s Pagan and one of my aunt’s Pagan. I actually believe that there is more than one god out there. It’s just not for me that Jesus is all that there is out there,” Rowan said. “He wasn’t the one that shaped everything. More than one person helped create everything and that’s what I actually believe in. And separate people need separate things and that’s how everything came in to believing.”

Though not all members are polytheistic like Rowan — not all members are Pagan — the club welcomes anyone of any belief system.

“We’re an open group, we’re an accepting group, people don’t have to be Pagan to join. We have several members who aren’t Pagans,” Warren said. “We have several members who represent different places on the Pagan spectrum. It’s a group that’s open to all possibilities and all different viewpoints.”

Though most meetings consists of discussions and presentations on everything from philosophy to Yoga, they also celebrate several holidays. Warren said their Wheel of the Year includes eight holidays.  They celebrate holidays such as Beltane or Mayday with Bardic circles at the Intramural Fields — where they sit around a fire pit, sing and facilitate discussions.

As the winter solstice approaches, they are looking forward to Yule, which Warren said is the origin of many Christmas traditions.

“There’s places where Christianity has borrowed from Pagan ideas, we have Yule coming up, which is the winter solstice and recognizably the same sort of traditions as Christmas,” he said. “Those are originally Germanic Pagan traditions that Christianity basically co-opted.”

Hogan said he compares Paganism to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

“Remember that old Greek dad who was like, ‘Tell me any word in English and I will explain to you how it comes from Greek?’” he said. “I feel like Pagans could do the same thing. Give me any holiday, it comes from Paganism.”
Hogan and Warren agree on more than holiday origins, they both want to encourage anyone interested to come out and talk to the group.

PSA meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month. More information is available on the UGA Pagan Student Association’s Facebook page.

Pagan stone circle may have been destroyed in religous hate attack

Posted by Sorcha on December 7, 2011 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)
The site in Lampeter, south west Wales, which also includes an altar and fire pit has been damaged beyond repair.

The University of Lampeter is well-known for its theological courses and there is speculation that the attack could be religiously motivated.

The steps giving access to the site, in the grounds of the town's Trinity Saint David University campus, were also torn apart.

Police believe that weapons, such as crow bars and pick axes, may have been used to deliberately cause as much damage to the area as possible.

Lampeter Pc Richard Marshall told town councillors at a meeting last week that the site had been "maliciously taken apart" and is now unsafe to use.

"It is disturbing," he added. "This is a place of worship. If this was a church I'm sure we'd be hearing more about it."
The pagan circle, which has been vandalised often in recent years, is also the subject of regular litter and debris clean-ups following impromptu parties by groups at the site.

This time, however, the damage was so extensive the temple and surrounding areas have had to be closed off amid health and safety fears.

The site is used as a meeting place for the 75 members of the university's Pagan Society, whose members have said the damage is "heart-breaking".

Former and current members of the student group have called for the vandals to be caught and punished.
The Lampeter Pagan Society Facebook page has been bombarded with messages of support describing the vandalism as "disgusting" and "saddening".

The group now hopes to secure funding for a complete rebuild at the current site to improve access and security, or to move to a new location.

Talks between the society, the university and the Students'Union are ongoing.

Cen Powell, the University's Executive Head of Estates and Facilities said that it is working with the Students' Union to "assess options" to find a new site for the Pagan Society to use.

A Dyfed-Powys Police spokesman confirmed it is investigating the incident although no suspects have as yet been identified