Open letter to the South African Pagan Community

Damon Leff

Beneath the surface of the public South African Pagan community, an entity forged largely by common identity and composed of numerous independent groups and individuals, lies a general malaise of discontent. Its origin lies firmly embedded in a perceived entitlement, by a tiny and variable minority within the larger community, to prejudice.

Over the last 13 years, the object of that prejudice has shifted and changed, informed by the context of the moment.

When the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) was formed in 2004 as a voluntary association, the prejudice expressed concerned whether or not I had the right to form such an association. The accusations of the moment focused on my intentions… “why are you trying to take over the Pagan community?”

Since then, the same accusation has varied between… “who gave you the authority to speak on behalf of me?”, “who gave you the right to speak on behalf of Pagans?”, “who gave you the right to decide for us?”, to “if you are going to speak for this community, you must consult us first!”.

When I voted at the Melville Conference, hosted by the Pagan Council in 2008, for the right of Witches to retain their identity and to call themselves Witches, the accusations of the moment once again shifted to… “we demand that you stop calling yourself a Witch because we have decided to stop calling ourselves Witches”, “if you continue to identify as Witches you will bring harm on South African Pagans who are not, or who choose not to be called Witches”, and “calling yourself a Witch is disrespectful to traditional healers who make accusations of witchcraft.”

When SAPRA advocated, between 2006 and 2016, against the use of Satanic Panic by members and ex-members of the original and subsequently reformed Occult Crime Unit of the South African Police, the accusations of the moment included… “you are just trying to evade investigation by the police of your own secret nefarious actions”, to “if you are against the Occult crime unit, you must be Satanists yourself.”

The accusations changed to “you are inviting Satanists (and Vampires from 2011 to 2013) into our pure covens and harming our community by associating Wicca with Satanism (and Vampirism)”, when we argued that existing identified Pagans within our shared communities had the legal right to equality, dignity, self-determination, association and self-identity.

These and many other unproven accusations made against me, and against SAPRA, have been repeated over and over by different people, in different circles on and off social media, over the last 23 years (since the founding of Penton Magazine). Each new accusation feeds the existing general malaise of discontent within certain parts of our community. Every accusation uttered is unthinkingly repeated by those who have no way of determining whether or not any of the accusations are indeed true – based on verified demonstrable evidence, or even where these accusations originated from.

The adage, ‘tell people a lie often enough and they will believe it is true’, is a self-fulfilling prophecy – people believe the accusations told and re-told against me are true. They no longer even bother to look for any confirmed evidence.

In 2017 the accusations are “He is guilty no matter what he says, he has an agenda, he is a trouble-maker, he is meddling in our affairs”, “He is trying to take over the Heathen community”, “He simply must have done something to make people distrust and dislike him.”

In order to demonstrate this most recent slander against my person, and identify the primary sources of this defamation, I challenged the slanderers to a public debate on Facebook. As expected, the parties responsible for the latest round of false accusations were unable to provide any demonstrable evidence to substantiate their personal opinions.

The accusations proved to be nothing but subjective projections of their own unfulfilled expectations, disappointments and insecurities.

It is self-evident that those who accuse me of causing dissent and division in the South African Pagan community, are themselves solely guilty of sowing dissent and causing division; of channeling and feeding the lumbering monster of discontent within their own insular communities. Their accusations are simply projections of insecurity by those with prejudice. I am their straw-man.

As the identities of the parties concerned, and their accusatory statements, are already in the public domain and are currently being used by said parties within various groups on social media to sow further dissent in order to incite hostile opposition against me, I invite the reader to view and judge the value of those statements for themselves.

content of the actual debate Note: material accusations made against me have been addressed in the debate. All argumentum ad hominem against me should be dismissed as nothing more than irrational rhetoric and malice.
The argumentum ad hominem – “I called you a shit stirrer and meddlesome asshole who is trying to disrupt the Heathen Community the way you did to the Broader Pagan community.” (sic) Hardy Loubser – September 22 at 12:15am.
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“For the moral attitudes of a people that is supported by religion need always aim at preserving and promoting the sanity and vitality of the community and its individuals, since otherwise this community is bound to perish. A people that were to honour falsehood, defamation, fraud, and murder would be unable, indeed, to subsist for very long.” Albert Einstein

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