This Will Save You Some Money

Three women in Florida are charged with taking advantage of troubled souls.

Three women are accused in Florida with scamming people out of thousands of dollars by promising to cleanse them of evil spirits.

Federal prosecutors in Fort Lauderdale say 36-year-old Polly Evans, 32-year-old Bridgette Evans, and 22-year-old Olivia Evans are facing federal fraud charges.

Having experienced exorcism myself, as a Catholic Charismatic, and a Pentecostal, I’m not unsympathetic to their victims.

Our mental health system is not adequate to meet the needs of even the middle class and well-insured. The writer, David Foster Wallace took his own life, despite having a loving family, success and access to the best psychiatric care money can buy. How much more difficult life is for the poor and unprotected. That’s something I see often in dealing with suffering clients and harassed case managers.

It’s not only pills, docs and clinics either. There’s much in modern life that works against mental health for everyone. There’s no golden age in the past, perhaps in the future we will be more merciful.

I wish the scammers could be made to repay every penny they extorted from vulnerable people. It would be more satisfying than having the taxpayers house and feed them– I hope for such a Judgment Day.

Spiritual healing doesn’t have to cost anything and is easy enough to be a do-it-yourself project. There’s some effective home remedies that can be mixed up in your kitchen.

For removing curses– First of all, why is someone cursing you? If you have wronged them, consider how to make amends. Without making things worse. Twelve Step Programs have some experiential wisdom to offer on that.

If you don’t know where the curse if coming from, don’t worry– the answer is the same. ‘Bless them that curse you.’ It works great. It’s from the New Testament, words of Jesus.

If lots of people are cursing you all the time, follow the above link to Step 8, and maybe have a heart to heart with whichever friend or family member is still speaking to you.

For banishing ghosts– Make some noise– bells, banging on pans, Bob Marley- whatever you like, and sprinkle all the corners of all the rooms with salt water. Make sure to leave the windows open so the ghosts can fly out. Soon you’ll be dealing with irate neighbors which will put the ghost problem in perspective. Fortunately you only have to do this once, it works.

For things that haunt you in the night– One woman (cited in Z.Budapest, I think– don’t have time to look that up) got good results from squirting them with ant spray. I imagine that the humiliation caused the spirits to retreat back into the underworld. Since insecticide is hazardous in the material world, I’d recommend salt water in a spray bottle, mixed with a little citrus or vanilla.

There’s also the fact that the material world is full of dangers– many of us live in close proximity to countless hazards– violent neighbors, biting dogs, rabid raccoons, deer ticks. I’d rather face a ghost than find a deer tick on my neck, wouldn’t you? It’s all relative.

Meditate on how brave you are to make it through the day alive, and sleep well.

A final word. Experts agree that the true practice of magic forbids charging money. You can weed out the scammers pretty fast with this test. And banishing bad spirits is such a D.I.Y. there’s no need to consult an expert most of the time. If you do need to see someone, make non-greediness your standard. This applies to psychiatry as well as religion.

Thanks to Starhawk, whose books are an invaluable resource in these matters, and whose events are always offered on a sliding-fee scale.

HAUNTED: Regent University, founded by Pat Robertson and alma mater of Monica Goodling (hatchet woman of the Bush Justice Department) has possessed my computer. I dabbled in visits to the Regent site, just to get some source material for a post, and now Regent ads are popping up every five minutes. Is it possible to banish pop-up ads? Anyone know the formula for that?

Cotton Mather Action Figure

As your opinionated citizen-journalist noted in Afraid of Our Own Shadow, there’s not much in the culture that doesn’t connect with politics.

Proving once again that great minds think alike, Alex Mar of Salon sees more than entertainment in the rise of exorcism in fiction, movies and practice…

The exorcism movie is the most all-American of “spiritual” films, reducing complex religious beliefs to something more palatable: a take-charge action adventure with clear, targeted results. Much like the Roman Catholic Church, this brand of Hollywood horror frames evil as a diagnosable disease to be cured through extreme treatment, and its spiritual discussion rarely goes beyond the black-and-white “Is there a devil, or isn’t there?” It’s a clear, explicit test of faith in which there’s finally no room for doubt — unlike in everyday experience of spirituality. The genre has a familiar cast of characters, conflicts and a specific message about the nature of evil. Is also a genre with a remarkably conservative slant — a tradition that dates back across the last 70 years.

Read the rest here. I’m coming down with a cold, or maybe just dry eyes from too much screen staring, so I’ll write when I can.

This February,Trinity Rep is playing, ‘The Crucible’. Uganda is purifying itself of homosexuals, aided and spurred on by American evangelicals. The Vatican is training exorcist priests. Maybe it’s not a cultural trend, but I’m watching.

The Exorcist

Kmareka readers know that I’ve disclosed being part of a Catholic Charismatic group that performed exorcisms in the 1970’s. Clearly, in my case, it didn’t take. But while I came through that craziness with invaluable life experience in the power of groupthink, others might suffer great emotional harm, or even be driven into psychosis.

There was one man who joined our group who was hearing voices telling him to do bad things. He really needed a psychiatrist and medication, but he got a Greyhound ticket to an out-of-state Teen Challenge instead. He soon returned to Providence, probably hitchhiked back. If he eventually found redemption, it was surely through the ER at RIH, or the mercies of the ACI. Our secular safety net, then, and still now, is full of holes but reality-based.

‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ Jesus said. The context of that verse is the unreliability of flashy religious performers, including exorcists. I have so much admiration for the many people who are motivated by faith to extraordinary acts of goodness that I can’t and won’t mock anyone’s religion. Also, I’m not God and don’t presume to tell anyone what to do with their soul, except to be true to their own inner light.

Still, I fear the power of the non-rational, when it is used to fire up a group that aims to impose that power on the rest of us. This post from Alternet on Cindy Jacobs, a gay demon exorcist who has friends and influences people in the Republican Party is not ‘news of the weird’. It’s quite frightening to me. As a teenager I witnessed gay men kneeling in the center of a group of moaning, tongues-speaking zealots working up an emotional high and crash. I suspect that in those cases the exorcisms didn’t take either.

A wise witch, Margot Adler, once said that the challenge of our time is to balance the mystical and the rational. A life without the mystical would not only be empty for most of us, but impossible for most of us. Carl Sagan, scientist and atheist, followed a dream that we would one day find evidence of intelligent life on other planets. That is arguably a faith. I think we are hard-wired for that, to use a cliche.

I’m not even opposed to exorcism in all situations. My motto as a nurse is ‘whatever works’. If such a practice brings comfort and improves someone’s mental health then I’m happy for them.

I’m just saying– don’t discount the power of the non-rational, especially when ritual is used to motivate a group. Once you have seen it, you recognize it. You feel the cone of power going up, whether at a church service, a political rally, even a small gathering of friends in an inspired moment.

Pagans and some Christians will recognize that I am using terms from Wicca, which is one ingredient in the mix of agnostic paganism that I practice in the shelter of the Unitarian Church. I think another ingredient I did not recognize, because a fish doesn’t see the water she swims in, is my Americanism.

We have a proud tradition in Rhode Island, the tradition of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. The principle of freedom of religion. My certainty of being right does not give me the right to impose my beliefs on others, or to disparage their statements of conscience.

American missionaries are using very aggressive tactics in Central America, where spiritual need is not met by a distant and autocratic Catholic Church, especially after the quenching of Liberation Theology.

What sort of items were on the “burn list” ?

“…the kinds of material things that might be bringing honor to the spirits of darkness: pictures, statues, Catholic saints, Books of Mormon, pictures of former lovers, pornographic material, fetishes, drugs, Ouija boards, zodiac charms, good luck symbols, crystals for healing, amulets, talismans, tarot cards, witch dolls, voodoo items, love potions, books of magic, totem poles, certain pieces of jewelry, objects of Freemasonry, horoscopes, gargoyles, native art, foreign souvenirs, and what have you.”

Resistencia’s believers, Wagner goes on to describe, brought from their homes enough of the allegedly evil items to fill a 55 gallon drum, which Jacobs and her fellow evangelists poured gasoline onto and then set on fire.

Those of us who have danced around a flaming cauldron will admit the power of such a ritual to affect emotions.

For all you readers who have spent their lives with sensible people who don’t do these kind of things– I beg of you– don’t accept any religious or charismatic group unexamined. Don’t give them a free pass, they will abuse it. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ Watch what they do, hold them accountable for their actions no matter what they say. Most religious groups do more good than harm, and some do a great deal of good.

But religious who want to be politicians, and politicians who use religion, are a threat to our most precious freedom.