Sep 21, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 9/18/2020

The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants, Legal, QAnon, Wicca, Tvind  
"The Zide Door Church of Entheogenic Plants in Oakland, California, was the most prominent  "magic mushroom club" in the United States, if not the country's only brick-and-mortar venue for purchasing psilocybin.

But that all ended last week when Oakland police raided the "church." Officers made no arrests but seized $200,000 in cash, cannabis, and several strains of psychedelic mushrooms, according to Dave Hodges, one of its founders.

Initially a "cannabis church," Zide Door added mushrooms to its offerings last summer after the Oakland City Council approved a resolution declaring that arresting adults "involved" with certain psychedelic plants was among the "lowest priority" for local law enforcement. The council didn't remove any state drug laws from the books; it can't. But it told law enforcement to turn the other cheek to possession and use. Cultivation and sales are another story. The council promised to get to that next.

In the meantime, police paid several visits to the church. They made undercover buys in plainclothes and later returned in uniform with vows to shut the operation down. The last time was on April 21, when Officer John Romero gave Hodges clear instruction to close or risk consequences.

The church had shut down its cannabis smoking lounge following the statewide shelter-in-place order during COVID-19 but continued the exchange of mushrooms for cash throughout the spring and summer. So on August 13, Romero and about a dozen other officers returned to the church, located on the ground floor of a nondescript two-story building on a block in East Oakland."

"It's hard—but possible—to save people from the conspiracy theory's grip.

In just a month, some 15,000 users have joined a Reddit community to share their stories of how the QAnon conspiracy is destroying their personal relationships.

"No longer speaking with my mother," one user wrote. "Thanks a lot, Q."

"My wife was arrested as a result of Q," another posted.

"I lost my friends because of Wayfair," wrote another user in July, referring to an iteration of QAnon that holds that the eponymous furniture store is actually a cover for child trafficking. "It's just a Facebook group of friends but being a military wife they're all I have."

The circumstances of the stories posted to r/QAnonCasualties differ, but they share some core similarities: that the sprawling, complex, and entirely invented QAnon conspiracy theory has effectively brainwashed people close to them. These users just want them back.

The toxic influence of the conspiracy theory is no small matter. A QAnon supporter, Marjorie Taylor Greene, has just won her Georgia Republican primary and is almost certain to be elected to the U.S. Congress this November. NBC reported this week that QAnon's Facebook followers can be counted in the millions, to say nothing of its adherents on 4chan, Gab, YouTube, and other platforms.

Its reach is global. Posters to the subreddit hail from the United Kingdom, Poland, and farther afield. As Foreign Policy has reported previously, the conspiracy theory has become married to Donald Trump's political movement, it has infiltrated an Iranian dissident group, and it may have even inspired a would-be assassin in Canada.

But on r/QAnonCasualties, the threat is not general or abstract but real and personal. Posters speak of families split apart, relationships ended, friendships canceled. The subreddit offers a painfully instructive window into how conspiracy theories manifest in everyday lives and how social media has become an incredibly powerful diffuser of even the most outlandish and foolish conspiracies."
"Just under a century ago, in 1921, one of the strangest books ever to be published by Oxford University Press appeared in print: The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Alice Murray. By today's academic standards—in fact, even by the standards of the 1920s—Murray's book was filled with transparent flaws in methodology and research. Furthermore, the book's author (a leading Egyptologist) was not qualified to write it. The few scholars then working on the history of European witchcraft dismissed Murray's contribution. Yet in spite of this, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe became an instant hit and captured the imaginations of readers. Within three decades, the book had not only profoundly influenced cultural understandings of witchcraft, but also directly led to the rise of neopaganism and the foundation of a new religion, Wicca, that today has millions of adherents throughout the world.

Margaret Alice Murray (1863–1963) was born and brought up in British India—an upbringing that, as with so many Anglo-Indians of the nineteenth century, may have opened her mind to interests beyond Victorian culture. Determined to pursue a career of her own at a time when opportunities for women were limited, Murray tried out both nursing and social work before entering the progressive University College London in 1894, where she studied Egyptology under W. Flinders Petrie. Murray rapidly rose through the academic ranks, and by 1914, she was effectively running the Egyptology department. Her impressive achievements in advancing knowledge of ancient Egypt and higher education for women have, however, been largely overshadowed by her decision to take a detour into writing about European witchcraft."

"Last month, the Danish newspaper, BT, published new video footage of fugitive and alleged cult leader, Mogens Amdi Petersen, and two high-ranking aides shopping at a Costco supermarket in Ensenada, on Mexico's Baja coast.

The elusive Petersen is founder of the Tvind Teachers Group, widely regarded as a political cult.  Since 2006 he and four associates have been wanted by the judicial authority of their native Denmark for serious financial crimes.  In August 2013, the five were added to the Interpol website's 'Red Notices' database for wanted persons.

In the video, the two women shown with Petersen are fellow Danes, Ruth Sejerø-Olsen and Marlene Gunst, who — since 1992 and as far as we know, still — form the cult's 2nd-level management, directly below Petersen and his 'number one girlfriend' and co-leader, Kirsten Larsen.

Petersen, Gunst, and Larsen are three of the five who are Interpol-listed fugitives.

The video was shot in October 2019 by the photographer Thomas Vann Altheimer, a Dane who has spent some time in northern Baja."

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