Pagan Institute Report
Fort Hood Archive
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Essay: The Pentagon and the Pentacle
Witches in Combat Boots: Pagan Rituals
on Army Base Cast Controversial Spell
Hate Crime at Ft.
Fort Hood 1999
|Essay: The Pentagon and the Pentacle
In the spring of 1999, Georgia congressman Bob Barr sent shockwaves throughout
the Pagan community when he repeatedly attacked the presence of Witchcraft on
U.S. military bases. Upset by the existence of a visible and apparently
successful Pagan organization at Fort
Hood in Texas, Barr introduced legislation to prohibit the practice of Wicca
or any other form of Witchcraft at Defense Department facilities. Barr's motion
went nowhere in Congress--and it resulted primarily in galvanizing Pagans to
become more aware of our precarious status as a minority religion.
But the Barr fiasco also served to highlight the quiet revolution that has been
occurring in Paganism, as more and more Pagans enter the armed forces (and
increasing numbers of military personnel embrace the old religions).
the rest of the essay, go to
McColman is a Pagan freelance writer and author. Visit him online at www.carlmccolman.com.
in Combat Boots:
Pagan Rituals on Army Base Cast
By Peggy Wehmeyer
ABCNEWS' Peggy Wehmeyer
reports that a constitutional protection of religion for some means condemnation
FORT HOOD, Texas, June 23 -- At the U.S. Army's largest military base, soldiers
train by day for combat in enemy territory. But late at night, some of them meet
under a moonlit sky here in central Texas to cast spells and invoke pagan
They are the Fort Hood Witches, a group that includes active and retired Army
personnel who are devotees of Wicca, a pagan religion.
Wiccans believe there is divine power in nature and that they can harness and
direct that power through chanting and magic rituals.
Pagans Draw Ire of Local Clergy
But some local pastors, who consider witchcraft part of satanic worship,
are outraged the Army is making room for witches. And conservative Christian
groups are telling young men and women not to join the Army until the witches
"The leaders of our country," shouts the Rev. Jack Harvey from his
pulpit at the Tabernacle Baptist Church, "are going to give count to God
with how they deal with witchcraft because our precious single soldiers are
going to be involved in it if they allow it on military forts."
The pagan ceremonies are allowed at Fort Hood because several years ago, the
Army brass here recognized Wicca as a legitimate religion. Since then, a handful
of other U.S. military installations have sanctioned pagan rituals. Pentagon
Defends Religious Freedom Pentagon officials say it's their duty under the First
Amendment to allow soldiers to practice their religion, whatever it may be.
"Federal courts and statutes decreed that they are an organized religion
and thus they fall under the protection of the Constitution," says Maj.
Gen. Bill Dendiger, chairman of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board.
But the Army does insist that the Wiccans not perform their rituals in the nude.
Marcy Palmer, a six-year veteran of the military police and the Wiccans' high
priestess, considers the Army supportive. "They think it's good that
everybody is allowed to express their own spirituality," she says.
The Wiccans say their critics misunderstand them. Witches don't sacrifice
animals, worship the devil or cast evil spells, they say.
"Parsley, sage, rosemary, fennel," they chanted during a recent
ceremony. "On the heat of these flames we hope that these herbs will carry
our message to the rest of the world for understanding, tolerance, peace,
harmony and love."
The Fort Hood witches say that despite their unusual rituals, they deserve the
same respect and are entitled to the same rights as the followers of any other
religion on the base. And the Army seems to agree.
| Hate Crime
at Ft. Hood
This communiqué may be freely distributed only in its entirety.
Thank you all for your interest, support, love and especially your judicious
reaction to this incident. Our Distinctive Faith Group (DFG) Leaders at Fort
Hood, Marie and Ron Smith, are following up on this with post command and
chaplain authorities. The Sacred Well Congregation, as Denominational Sponsor of
the Fort Hood Open Circle, is coordinating information and activities with
Department of Defense level agencies.
Following are the details of the incident of Saturday, October 28, 2000. As
soon as the crime was discovered, Marie and Ron were contacted. They directed
our folks not to touch anything and to stay away from the areas entirely until
proper action was taken. The duty chaplain was notified at the same time that
the MPs were called; the duty chaplain did not visit the scene but said that he
would make a report to the Garrison Chaplains office the following Monday.
Unfortunately, the criminal investigation got off to a rather poor start. It was
a procedural matter, and probably not one of intentional neglect or
incompetence. The responding patrol contacted the patrol supervisor who came to
the scene and then contacted the Military Police Investigations (MPI) unit.
The investigators did not respond because the pecuniary amount of damage was, at
first glance, not sufficient to involve them. Therefore the crime scene was not
brought under control and a proper crime scene investigation was not conducted.
Apparently, neither the patrol supervisor nor the investigators that he
contacted realized the actual dollar amount involved. The alter stone was a
4X4X1 ft slab of dressed limestone, weighing over half a ton and set on two very
large limestone blocks The altar stone alone was worth several Hundred dollars.
It was deliberately broken by a person or persons using either other stones or
some kind of instrument like a sledge hammer.
From a cursory examination of the broken pieces, it appeared that a hammer was
probably used. The broken pieces of the altar were strewn about the circle, and
some were removed. One of the broken pieces left near the altar had a blue cross
crudely marked upon it. The stones of the circle itself were scattered and some
were broken and removed as well. There was also a considerable amount of
ancillary vandalism that occurred and was reported to the MPs on the night prior
to the desecration of the Circle itself. The group had been hosting a "haunted
forest" for the public and community for almost a week. Some of the props were
stolen or destroyed, and items were moved around in one of the buildings that
our group uses for classes and social activities.
This act was not a child's prank. It required one or more persons of sufficient
strength and stature to do significant damage, and has all
the appearances of a hate crime.
It should, therefore, fall under the Attorney General reporting requirements as
mandated by US Public Law 101-275.
Unfortunately, as noted, the crime scene was not protected and it is doubtful if
any useful physical evidence can now be obtained from it. Heavy rains over the
weekend probably destroyed anything of remaining evidentiary value. At this
point, however, it is doubtful if a more intense investigation will prove useful
on this particular case.
This is the fourth reported incident of vandalism in recent months.
There have been numerous other minor ones.
This fact alone should have been enough to alert authorities to the gravity of
the incident. The area used by our group is a common-use area, and there are
other groups and factions that use it that are hostile to us.
Boy and Girl Scout leaders have repeatedly complained to the chaplains that they
do not like to take their children into areas that are used by "Satanists."
(Camp Finlayson is only one of four camps on Fort Hood, and is the most
primitive of the lot). There was a bulletin board located in the building our
group uses for classes. The group posted schedules, contact numbers, etc on the
board, and another group ripped it down because there was a pentagram on some of
the paper posted on the board.
There was a very large, round concrete slab used to cover an abandoned well
(perhaps a cistern) on a remote area of the camp. The slab had metal rings
embedded in it with chains attached to it because it was obviously positioned by
use of a crane or other heavy machinery. The chains were not removed after the
slab was positioned. It was an eyesore in an otherwise primitive natural
Our group, at their own expense, painted the concrete and decorated it with a
large pentagram and used it for selected rituals for some time before it was
"discovered" by the Scouts. The Scout leaders complained about the "Satanic"
desecration of "their" camp and alleged that our group used the chains as
implements of ritual torture. We voluntarily painted over our religious symbols;
the chains were obviously left from when the cover was positioned many years ago
by the engineers. We have tried to go out of our way to be non-offensive,
accommodating, and tolerant to all other groups that use the area.
This latest incident, however, brought things to a new level of hatred, bigotry,
and endangerment of life and property that can no longer be tolerated. Marie and
Ron are requesting that we be provided facilities where we can be safe from
harassment and vandalism, and enjoy free and lawful expression of our religion
Favorable resolution of this situation will take time and patience. As noted in
the opening remarks, action is being taken at multiple echelons. The system will
work if we allow it to. Hopefully reparation and safe, protected accommodation
will be forthcoming in an expeditious and propitious manner. While it is
doubtful that an apprehension and successful prosecution will follow, it is
certain that both the Army and the DoD are committed to religious pluralism and
the accommodation of lawful distinctive faith groups in the military services.
I will close with a moving piece written by one of our members. The following
article, while not an "official" press release from the Sacred Well
Congregation, clearly and concisely recapitulates the salient facts of the
incident. It also poignantly describes the frustration, anger, and grief now
being suffered on a very personal level by one of the members of the Fort Hood
Open Circle (SWC). I believe it also poignantly resonates the feelings of every
member of the FHOC, every member of this Congregation, thousands of others who
follow alternative spiritual paths, and multiple thousands of tolerant and open
minded people who follow the culturally dominant religions.
Imagine that you and your family are preparing to attend worship services at
your local church. In the midst of getting your children ready you receive a
phone call from a fellow parishioner informing you that your church has been
vandalized. Upon your arrival at the church you find that altar top has been
destroyed, the symbols of your religious belief have been torn from the walls
and scattered carelessly. As you look at the remains of your Church you also
notice that upon the remains of your altar the vandals have left their mark with
graffiti. In your grief and anger you feel assured that the authorities, who are
present and filling out police reports, will investigate the situation and
apprehend the thoughtless vandals who have committed this heinous act of
destruction and disrespect. In your mind you know that there is no way the
culprits should be allowed to go unpunished. This is not only a crime of
careless violence and destruction but a Hate Crime and a violation of your
constitutional right to freedom of worship.
The clergy reassure you that justice will be served to those who have desecrated
sacred ground, as they hastily prepare another area in which to hold the worship
services. The next day you call your clergy to find out what has transpired,
surely they have some good news for the congregation. However instead of good
news you are told that the authorities have closed the investigation due to lack
of evidence. No investigation has been done at all.
Obviously the perpetrators had keys with which to gain access to your Church, as
there are no signs of breaking and entering yet the authorities insist there is
no evidence. There was no formal investigation of the crime scene, no checking
for fingerprints, no team of experts looking for evidence yet you are told the
investigation is closed due to lack of evidence.
The scenes and actions described above are very similar to the scenario which my
friends and family found themselves in on Saturday, 28 October 2000. The worship
services were not in a church building but in a grove used by Fort Hood Open
Circle on Fort Hood, Texas. On the night of Friday 27 October 2000 or The
morning of Saturday, 28 October 2000, person or persons unknown gained access to
this sacred site and destroyed the limestone altar donated by its members. They
dismantled and scattered the simple religious symbols provided by Nature with
complete disregard for what these items meant to the members of Fort Hood Open
Circle both for their religious symbolism and for the personal time and energy
put into constructing them.
A mere twenty four hours after the reports were filed with the Fort Hood
Military Police we are told that the investigation has been closed, that there
was insufficient evidence to continue the investigation. Other than the Military
Police who responded to the call looking at the remains of the altar and the
area surrounding it and the filling out of their mandatory reports we have seen
nothing to indicate that an investigation was even initiated. After repeated
attempts to contact the Fort Hood Chaplains we have been told that reparations
will be made to replace the physical items that have been carelessly destroyed,
and that given time the military facilities at the site will be improved due to
the fact that other organizations will be having increased use of these
facilities. Is it too much to ask that our Country¹s service men and women be
given the opportunity, respect and facilities to worship as they see fit
provided their doing so causes no harm to others?
This is not an isolated one-time event,
on several occasions since being recognized and sponsored by the U.S. Military
and Fort Hood our sacred sites have been vandalized and personal property
destroyed. Each time we have turned to Fort Hood authorities and Chaplains for
assistance but have been given nothing but promises. I am speaking out now in
the hopes that our cries will be heard by people of all religions I ask that you
take a minute to think, put yourself in our position and then do what your heart
tells you is right.
If we speak together we are a chorus to be heard, if we whisper alone we are but
a sigh in the dead of night. In the past I have come across a saying that may
provide food for thought in this situation, unfortunately I do not know who
originally authored it or what their circumstances were but I would like to
share it with you as food for thought.
"When they came in the night for the Jew down the road I said nothing, I wasn't
a Jew. When they came for the people of different cultures around the corner I
said nothing for Their heritage was not mine. When they came in the night with
guns and battering rams to MY door no one spoke up in my defense for there was
no one left to do so".
Again, thank you all for your continued interest concern and support. We will
keep you appraised of progress as it develops.
Rev. David L. Oringderff, Ph.D. Acting Director of Military Affairs
Sacred Well Congregation
David L. Oringderff, Ph.D.
9011 Trainer Hale Road
Converse, Texas 78109
Don't Tell Rummy
Bishop to Pope: "I have good news and bad news."
Pope: "What's the good news?"
Bishop: "God is
Pope: "That's very good news, what's the bad news?"
Bishop "She is dancing with the Witches at Fort
| Ft. Hood Military Wicca
Ft Bragg now stirs
is considering allowing open Wiccan worship.
24 August 1999
Witches able to
Worship on US Military Bases-
latest in the ongoing coverage of the Ft Hood spectacle. 26 July 1999
I Saluted a Witch- The Ft.
Hood Issue hits Time Magazine. 29 June 1999
Constitutional dilemma greets military's Wiccan quandary- June 29, 1999
Bewitching Logic: All
Religions or None Should Be Tolerated on Military Bases -
21, 1999- A very good article which makes a very clear point.
Be all and anything you
want in the Army-
21, 1999-An absolutely terrible article, one of the worst I have read in recent
memory. It actually left a bad taste in my mouth after reading it. Be sure to
add a comment to the forum link at the botom of the article.
Christian groups call for
Army boycott over Wicca-
June 13, 1999- New articles regarding the Ft. Hood issue.
Witches Stir Controversy
in the Army-
June 8, 1999-A Very good new article on the Ft Hood issue from the Washington
Post. A few inaccuracies, but overall very good.
Ft. Hood Army base is
allowing Wiccans to openly worship on base!
Complete coverage of the debate for Wicca in the Military.
current news of Paganism in the military, Click here.
Created June 9, 2005