Why I am concerned about living during days of Satanic Panic

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On the 29th of August 1255, the body of a boy named Hugh was recovered from the bottom of a well in the English town of Lincoln, this boy would later come to be known as “Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln”, and a shrine to his martyrdom was established within Lincoln cathedral.

Who martyred the poor child? Well, whether the real murderer was ever apprehended will probably never be known. Hugh’s friends claimed it was the work of a local Jewish man and of course the children knew well that “the Jews killed Jesus” and were therefore diabolical. Anti-Semitism was rife in Europe even before these events and yet the story of Hugh of Lincoln is the most well known story, which contributed to “blood libel”.

Blood libel is when your enemies make up stories that you are involved in human sacrifice, you use or drink human blood and you commit all sorts of heinous crimes. In Christian Europe these stories inspired waves of anti-Jewish sentiments and Jews were either killed or driven away. In 1290 all Jews were expelled from England.

Under torture the Jewish man accused of the crime, confessed to the murder, he confessed to the stories that he crucified the boy and needed his blood for the passover ritual. Soon another confession was extracted implicating the other Jews in the town and perhaps the entire Jewish community.

Does blood-libel sound familiar? This is because the same blood libel was used against accused witches and the blood libel is still being utilized today. Not only against Jews (in some Islamic countries the old stories of blood libel do indeed still come up from time to time) but also against Satanists and by “Satanists”, I include Pagans, Occultists, New Agers, Spiritualists, Goths and other alternative religious paths or sub-cultures – I can just as well call them all “Satanists” because the anti-occult material spread by Christian ministries and even the SAPS (Servamus’s Drugs and Occult Relat ed Crime) frequently confuse and lump up different belief systems including holidays, symbols, terms and practices.

The Christian Myth of Satanism is another version of blood libel as supposedly Satanists participate in human sacrifices and terrible blood rituals and orgies. If we take the “Satanic/Occult calendar” at face value, apparently Satanists have little time for anything but human sacrifice and orgies to appease their dark master.

When hysteria strikes and rumours abound that children are being kidnapped and used in blood rituals, reason is abandoned in an attempt to root out threats as quickly as possible. This as much describes the late medieval witch-hunt craze as it does the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, even if in modern times we may be less prone to burn the accused as the first action.

Think of the case of the “West Memphis Three”, a motive was constructed that a “Satanic Ritual” was involved in the murder of three boys. One of the accused’s interests in Occultism and Paganism led to a fiasco of “ritual murder”. Some folks still maintain that the three young men accused of the crime were always innocent and they were only released from prison in 2010. During the Satanic Panic heyday, many parents accused of ritual abuse by their children ended up in jail or with their lives destroyed, in a few cases “recovered memories” were involved.

Another case which took place in the 1980’s United States, involved a family with a young girl, one day after playing outside, the girl was found badly mauled and dying. The parents claimed it the work of a dog and apparently the girl told them as much as she lay dying. The girl was taken to hospital, where she died. Yet, the nightmare for the parents was just beginning. The coroner conducting the autopsy ruled the cause of death homicide and identified knife wounds. Due to the parents’ ownership of books on Occultism, a motive of “Satanic Ritual” was constructed by the Persecutors. The parents ended up in jail. It was only later and with much effort and insistance that new investigations were launched. The wounds on the child indeed corresponded to dog bite marks and apparently the physician trying to save the child’s life cleaned around the wounds. Apparently, overlooked photographs emerged which also revealed the true nature of the attack. I do not know the details on how this case was handled so badly and with so much negligence. Innocent people ended up in jail and their interest in the Occult at least played a part in their conviction as Persecutors tried to construct a motive. This case was featured on the show “Medical Detectives” but I was unable to find the specific details.

In South Africa we now have all these cases of “Satanic Crimes/Occult Crimes”, committed not by those who actually study Occultism or Satanism but merely by those who make up their own rituals or draw from the horror stories of the “Christian Myth of Satanism”. Yet the media makes no distinction between what Satanism really is and the hysterical version as depicted in the media and Christian fantasy. As mentioned this “Satanism Myth” also consists out of arbitrary signs to identify Satanists, which can actually apply to nearly any teenager. Some of the police’s “signs” are the old hobby-horses from the Satanic Panic days – Heavy Metal, Dungeons and Dragons, Goth Culture and horror movies – not to mention the confusion between Paganism, Witchcraft, Occultism and Satanism in terms of symbols, terms and special days.

The former and current occult unit and media have constructed this notion of “harmful religious practice” and I dread the day when a real Occultist, Satanist, Pagan or Witch is even implicated in a crime as I fear their Occult interests may count against them and help construct a case against them. It is likely the media will also blame and demonize all of us as a group. If said hypothetical practitioner is convicted they will not bother to make it clear that the suspect is only responsible for his own actions and does not represent the rest of us. They will likely blame his ownership of a Ouija board, Tarot cards, Satanic Bible, Complete Book of Witchcraft, The Golden Dawn or Goetia as somehow leading him to the crime, whether religion really played a role in the crime or not. A custody case where an unnamed international rock star used accusations of “harmful religious practices” against his former girlfriend is another example of any sort of Occult interest being used against you.

Since accused witches can still be killed in some areas of South Africa, especially in rural black communities, there is also a concern over killing accused “Satanists” in such communities if a person is merely suspected of being such.

In a tragic event today a man in an informal settlement was killed for a mere rumour spread on social network sites that he kidnapped and killed children. Yet, no cases of kidnapping were reported to police. No mention is made if the man was accused of anything else, whether of Witchcraft or Satanism, and yet “Satanists” are also accused using the “blood libel” of kidnap and murder.

I do not intend this as fear mongering or to imply that physical threats against the Pagan or Occult communities are likely but we should be aware that we are in a period of Satanic Panic and mistrust and fear of alternative religious paths is growing. We should educate where we can on the real facts and not just on Paganism but we should also dispel Satanic Panic. The situation may fizzle out on its own or it may escalate further and have other consequences but it is not something that can be ignored.

Let us hope that we can learn something from history. When Christian pilgrims used to visit the shrine of Little Saint Hugh, they swept themselves up in anti-semitic fervour and yet today a plaque above the shrine acknowledges the terrible mistakes we have made in the past and issues an apology to those who wrongfully lost their lives.

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