Occult Heritage Month, moral entrepreneurs and folk devils

The South African Pagan Rights Alliance celebrates Occult Heritage Month in September by re-exploring our collective historical occult heritage, including diverse topics such as Neoplatonism and Hermeticism, Mysticism, Alchemy, the Western Magic Traditions, Theurgy and Goetia, Divination, Spiritism, and the birth of Neo-Paganism.

For some evangelical Christians however, the mention of Occultism conjures only fearful primal fantasies of the loss of assumed religious authority, spirit possession, the adjuration of demonic forces and the hidden machinations of fabricated folk devils. A century ago, they might have organised a good witch-hunt. Today they tend to ply their false witness against identified religious minorities through the media.

For the last 17 years this Alliance has often publicly challenged exaggerated media reports originating from former members of the South African Police Services Occult Crime unit (including Kobus Jonker and FH Havinga). Our advocacy against willful religious stereotyping and discrimination has partly ensured that the media, a former unwitting ally of the sallacious fabrications of alleged experts and former occultists, now treads, we hope, with more caution than a bull in a china shop when covering topics affecting identified religious minorities.

Moral panics against Occultists, Satanists and Witches have however repeatedly reared their misinformed or deliberately fraudulent artifices through the devious tongues of moral entrepreneurs seeking to best ‘the unknown devil’ in the name of Jesus and Christianity.

As the South African Law Reform Commission prepares to consider submissions in comment on its latest Discussion Paper on the review of the Witchcraft Suppression Act, a project initiated by this Alliance, moral entrepreneurs may seize the opportunity to yet again sway public opinion against the very real threat of manifest religious pluralism, in the name of the public good. At any cost, evangelical traffickers of distortion will be hard pressed not to respond to the rising tide of Occult revival in their midst.

This Alliance urges South African Pagans and Occultists to give them no room within which to construct their gallows. Occultists, Witches, and Satanists, must not bow their necks for the rope of false allegations and fabricated narrative. We must speak up and speak out against purveyors of tabloid hysteria. We must and will continue to confront the lies of those who wish to cast us as their folk devils, with irrefutable fact and legal certainty; those who prostitute in falsehood will be judged.