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Religious Tolerance logo


Misinformation about Wicca, a Neopagan religion

Part 2 of 2: 2015-AUG: A Florida sheriff refers
to a triple murder near the time of a
"blue moon" as a "Wiccan ritual killing."

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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full moon More readers' responses to the article in People.com: 1

  • Sonya Andrews posted:

    "This article is just stupid, that's not Wiccan. That's just crazy, just another way to sensationalize the news and make people fear something else they do not understand. Pretty soon you will have a 21st century witch hunt. What's the matter; the race war not working out for you...?"

  • "Marina" posted:

    "Um...no, this isn't a Wiccan ritual. It actually doesn't sound like a ritual, just a coincidence. Still, if the person was Catholic, you wouldn't say that it was a Catholic ritual killing, would you? Just as it's obvious that it's not part of the Catholic religion to have ritual killings, the same goes for Wicca. I know this, because my husband is Wiccan and this is not part of his religion at all, and I've also done my own research."

  • Jeremy Scott Ayers posted:

    "Wiccans are nicknamed fluffy bunnies for a reason. They don't believe in using witchcraft for evil acts. And to throw Satanism out there, pisses me off. IF people would do something called investigating, they would learn that Satanists do not believe in harming the innocent, nor do they sacrifice animals. Pick up a book before spewing falsehoods about certain sects and beliefs."

  • Deb Wilson posted:

    "I guess some people haven't learned from the "Satanic Panic" of the late 80s and continue to spread hysteria over "ritualistic" crime. I am willing to bet the motive of this crime had nothing to do with religion at all. Murder is absolutely not a part of Wicca. In fact, the highest law of Wicca is to harm none. If the suspect happens to be Wiccan, he violated this law. We don't call it "Christian crime" when a Christian breaks the law.

    For what it's worth, murder isn't part of Satanism, Vodoun (Voodoo), or Santeria either."

  • "Kalista Kat" posted:

    "How about we all stop arguing and politely ask Tara Fowler and the article publishing company to retract and apologize (for) the hateful statements made about Wiccan in general and we get on with our days. If we are truly believing practicing Wiccan's we can look past this nastiness just because it is our way of belief to do so. Love and Light. Blessed Be )O(" 1

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What is a "blue moon?":

The interval of time between successive full moons is about 29.5 days. Thus, since months contain 28 to 31 days, they almost always have a single full moon, except -- very rarely -- during some Februarys. However, a second full moon can sometime occur within the same calendar month. In modern times, the second moon is referred to as "blue moon." They only happens about once every 2.2 years. Such a blue moon occurred on 2015-JUL-31, three days after the murders were committed. 2

A "blue moon" does not actually look blue. If you see the moon when it seems blue, the color is caused by a rare type of dust in the atmosphere. That occasionally happens with the moon in any phase.

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When do Wiccans hold rituals?:

In the Northern Hemisphere, most Wiccans celebrate four major Sabbats and four minor Sabbats. 3

  • The Major Sabbats are based on the two seasons in the Celtic culture. They are:
    • Imbolc on FEB-02, in the middle of Winter. It is also known as: Blessing of the Plow, Candlemas, Disting, Feast of the Virgin,  Festival of Milk, and Groundhog's Day.
    • Beltane about APR-30: This was the end of the Celtic Winter season and the beginning of their Summer season. It is also known as: Beltaine, May Day, Roodmass, and Walpurgis.
    • Lughnasadh about AUG-01. This is the middle of Summer. It is also known as Ceresalia, Feast of Bread, First Harvest, Lady Day, and Lammas, Lunasa, and Mid-Summer.
    • Samhain on OCT-31: This is the end of the Celtic Summer season and the beginning of Winter. It is also known as All Hallows Eve, Blood feast, Celtic New Year, Day of the Dead, Halloween, Last Harvest, and Winters Eve.

  • The Minor Sabbats are based on the earth's path around the sun, coupled with the axis of the earth being tilted about 19 degrees . They occurr on the two solstices and equinoxes, and typically fall on the 21st day of a month:
    • Yule about DEC-21: the shortest daytime of the year. It is also known as: Christmas, Day of Children, Midwinter, Mother's Night, Saturnaliaor, or Winter Solstice.
    • Ostara about MAR-21: a day with nightime and daytime equal. It is also known as: Alban Eilir, Easter, Lady Day, Spring Equinox, or Waxing Equinox.
    • Midsummer Eve about JUN-21: the longest daytme of the year. It is also known as: Litha, Summer Solstice, Vestalia, and Whitsuntide.
    • Mabon about SEP-21: a day with nightime and daytime equal. It is also known as: Alban Elfer, Autumn Equinox, Fall Equinox, Harcest, Mabon, Second Harvest, and Wine Harvest.

Many Wiccans also celebrate Esbats which are Neopagan gatherings at times other than the Sabbats. These are generally held on the day of a full moon, and are based on the moon's path around the Earth. However, they can also be held at other special occasions. According to Wikipedia:

"The term esbat is derived from Old French s'esbattre (Modern French ébat), meaning to frolic and amuse oneself, diversion." 4

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What is the significance of a blue moon in Wicca?:

Some Wiccan traditions hold special ceremonies at this time.

Covens are groups of Wiccans. Some covens only hold initiations of new members at the time of a blue moon. 4

Otherwise, a blue moon has no specific meaning that differentiates it from an ordinary full moon.

It is worth noting that esbats are held on the day of a full moon. The mass killing in Florida happened three days before a blue moon.

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Reactions by some Wiccans and religious experts to the sherriff's misinformation:

Nicky Woolf, writing for The Guardian, quoted Dr Gwendolyn Reece, a specialist in contemporary paganism at American University who said:

“If they had done even a modicum of research it would be clear this had nothing to do with paganism. It’s very irresponsible and highly prejudiced on the part of the sheriff." 5

Woolf also quoted Selena Fox who is a very well known Wiccan priestess, the senior minister at Circle Sanctuary -- a large Wiccan group, -- and is executive director of Lady Liberty League, an anti-defamation advocacy group that promotes freedom, equal rights, and tolerance towards Wicca and other Neopagan faiths. She said:

"Ritual murder is not part of the Wiccan religion, it never has been, and it’s not now. It goes against the ethical principles of the religion.

[Wicca and other nature-based religions are] about celebrating life and celebrating the cycles of the season and nature, and living in harmony with other humans. If more people understood that, there would be less prejudice.

There are so many crime shows on TV and the internet [that involve witchcraft], and I think that some storylines can complicate reporting on actual crimes." 5

A reader of the article in The Guardian, "Raven Ruth," posted an interesting request to the Sheriff's Office:

"[I] would very much like to find the Wiccan book of rituals (by one or more Wiccans, not by one or more anti-Wiccan paranoid/libelous fundamentalists) that says anything anywhere about killing as part of a Wiccan ritual. Since the Escambia County [Florida] Sheriff's Office spokesman so surely referred to "Wiccan ritual killing" as a thing that exists, doubtless he has such a piece of documentary evidence. I wish to have a certified copy for myself. Or, if there is no such evidence, I wish to see a public, complete, and contrite retraction of that claim. Either would do. At the earliest available opportunity, please. 5

Another reader, Lisa V. Fleming posted an analysis of the mass murder, apparently using information available in the media. She wrote:

"You seriously can't expect us to believe that they were killed due to witchcraft. I think you've watched too many shows or movies that lead you to the false belief Wicca or paganism or "witchcraft" is all about the taking of life. While the killing can be ritualistic you're looking in the wrong area. You need to be looking at the beginnings of a serial killer. Stop making assumptions and profile whomever did this for real. One of the men that were killed worked for Homeland Security. So it's someone that's had training to be able to handle him. This person is strong since they could move three grown male bodies and lay them out in a specific manner. They used a claw hammer to bludgeon them to death ... This person came prepared and believes no one else matters. There's the possibility this person isn't able to connect to their emotions. The men had their throats slit... Could possibly mean this person didn't want them to scream out either actually or metaphorically. Was there blood at the site where the bodies were found ... Were they moved and the blood site found else where...how far away? Have you even considered all of this or all you assuming a wrong answer cause the government is involved and you want to get answer for them even if it's a wrong one??? Nature religions are about NEVER harming another soul. You're saying they are blue moon murders and yet they happened on a Tuesday not a Friday. You're barking up the wrong tree because of the pressure you think you are feeling and you're making assumptions that are wrong on limited information and no respect for the facts of things you know nothing about.
I've been a pagan for so long I don't remember a time I wasn't. I study daily and I honor peaceful intent my religion demands. There's no way any true Wiccan or peaceful minded pagan would kill another human being in this kind of planned out act. Even at the cost of our lives we would still have a problem. We'd do it but we'd believe our soul to be uncleansed and we would never reach the soul enlightenment we aspire to." 5

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Tara Fowler, "Mother and 2 Sons Found with Throats Slit in Florida Were Killed in Wiccan Blue Moon Ritual, Cops Say," People, 2015-AUG-05 at: http://www.people.com/
  2. "What is a Blue Moon?" Moon Giant, at: http://www.moongiant.com/
  3. "The Wiccan Sabbats, or Holy Days," CARM, undated, at: https://carm.org/
  4. "Esbat," Wikipedia, as on 2014-MAR-10, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
  5. Nicky Woolf, "Wicca experts denounce Florida sheriff for linking triple murder to 'witchcraft'," The Guardian, 2015-AUG--5, at: http://www.theguardian.com/

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2015-AUG-10-
Latest update : 2015-AUG-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

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