A young woman in Pennsylvania has admitted knifing one man and now claims that this is only the latest in a string of 22 murders which she committed because she was in a “satanic cult.”

Pagans, please think before you respond to questions about this. Please, for the love of all you value, think before you reflexively start any comment with, “Well, we’re not Satanists.” That’s true, but it’s usually missing the point. When people ask you about your practices and beliefs, lead with what you actually believe:

“I recognize the divine spirit in everything and value life and nature.”

Then, if you absolutely must, continue with: “So obviously a string of vicious murders – if it actually happened – is completely antithetical to anything I’m involved in.”

Now, you may actually be involved in conversations about this that don’t have anything to do with your religion. If it’s office scuttlebutt, and no one confronts you, then the above advice is irrelevant. But – and this is a big but – you should still think about framing. If no one asks you about your religion in the context of this issue, don’t reinforce the connection in people’s minds between the spurious Satanic Panics of the 90s and any form of alternative religion.

With that said, here are more details. Basically, I’m withholding judgment on whether or not the additional killings – or how many of them, if any – took place. The woman involved is only in her teens, and she is undergoing court-ordered psychiatric evaluation. Her confession included several statements about how she doesn’t ever want to get out of jail and that she doesn’t care if anyone believes her (so she knows her story is difficult to believe).

Those statements combined with a story with all the hallmarks of the recycled Satanic Panic narrative, increase my level of doubt. The hallmarks include claiming to be a leader of her “cult” (apparently the imaginary Satanic movement is composed entirely of 19-year-old high-ranking officials), a possible connection with child abuse and molestation, and medically unsubstantiated claims of a secret abortion. She also admits that her memory is distorted. From the local paper that got the interview:

“I feel it is time to get all of this out,” she said. “I don’t care if people believe me. I just want to get it out.”

Suspect: I joined satanic cult

Miranda said when she was 4, she was sexually molested by a relative.

Elizabeth Dean, Miranda’s mother, confirmed Saturday that her sister’s husband was later arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a minor and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

“It was bad,” Dean said. “I never let (her) stay anywhere except for my sister’s house, and I was devastated when I found out.”

Nine years later, Miranda joined a satanic cult in Alaska. Soon after, Miranda said, she had her first experience in murder.

Barbour said she went with the leader of the satanic cult to meet a man who owed the cult leader money.

“It was in an alley and he (the cult leader) shot him,” she said, declining to identify the cult leader.

“Then he said to me that it was my turn to shoot him. I hate guns. I don’t use guns. I couldn’t do it, so he came behind me and he took his hands and put them on top of mine and we pulled the trigger. And then from there I just continued to kill.”

While in the satanic cult, Miranda became pregnant. The cult did not want her to have the baby, so, she said, members tied her to a bed, gave her drugs and she had an “in-house abortion.”

However, her mother on Saturday said that when Miranda told her about the abortion, she took her daughter to a doctor who said there were no signs of an ended pregnancy.

Miranda said she spent the next three years in Alaska, continuing in the satanic cult and participating in several murders.

“I wasn’t always there (mentally),” she said, adding that she had begun to use drugs. “I knew something was bad inside me and the satanic beliefs brought it out. I embraced it.”

During those three years, Miranda said she became pregnant again.

“And I moved to North Carolina,” she said. “I wanted to start over and forget everything I did.”

She left Alaska as a high-ranking official in the satanic world, leaving the father of her second pregnancy, a man named Forest, the No. 2 leader in their cult, who was murdered.

Please, people, let’s keep our history in mind and stay calm about this until more evidence emerges. If there is a secret underground network of vicious child abusers and murderers, the authorities will find them. I’m more concerned about what will happen if – once again – people are convinced of the existence of vicious child abusers and murderers and end up playing a sort of bizarre live-action role-playing game against the figments of their imagination while real, live, innocent people get hurt.

At the very least, it doesn’t look like this particular young woman will be hurting anyone else anytime soon; if she is fundamentally ill as well, let’s hope she gets the help she needs. I pray that everyone affected can find healing.

2 thoughts on “Pagan framing: Responding to news stories of alleged satanic murders

    1. Thank you! If you want more reflections on framing, see Hecate on the topic. This tragic situation demands a more complex response than simple questions such as “So what is Pagan Pride Day all about?” but many of the same principles apply.

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