Paganism not a cult, say Donna Vos
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By Bronwynne Jooste
The pagan priestess who took the South African Air Force to the Equity Court for unfair dismissal is now set to meet defence authorities with the hope of changing their "discriminatory" approach to minority religions.
On Friday Donna Vos, also known as Donna Darkwolf, reached a settlement with the air force after two years of legal proceedings. The matter was heard in the Bellville Equity Court last week.
Vos, who until recently lived in Durbanville, sought legal action in 2006. She claimed the air force had hired her as a chaplain and then fired her shortly after finding out about her religious beliefs.
She told Weekend Argus the settlement had not yet been discussed but she would meet authorities in Pretoria soon.
"I didn't go into this for money or to get my job back. I just want the defence force to recognise minority religions as well. We will be talking soon, I don't know where it will go, but at least we will be negotiating."
One of the most prominent pagans in South Africa, she holds a biblical diploma from the Bible Institute in Kalk Bay and a masters in theology from Unisa. Her qualifications and her focus on HIV and Aids, the problem of Satanism among the youth and drugs and sex among young people got her the job.
But Vos said soon she was being "persecuted" for her beliefs. "I was pariah of the state, they were calling me a Satanist."
She said a colonel, even after reading her book Dancing under the African Sun, labelled paganism a "cult" and told Vos they couldn't "unleash you on 8 000 men".
"It was so shocking that even after reading my book which explains that paganism is nature-based and describes our beliefs, he still had this attitude."
It's an attitude shared by most members of society, said Vos, and she is eager to help bring about a social change.
She has always been outspoken about equal rights for pagans and organised a workshop for witches from across the world in 2005.
Vos said it's estimated there are between 10 000 and 50 000 pagans in the country.
Her own experiences have cast the spotlight on the outright discrimination pagans are confronted with, she says.
Vos believes this approach is fuelled by ignorance of minority beliefs.
"There are so many pagans living in silence. I know of three in the Air Force, but they are scared to speak out. I just want them to be able to wear their pentacles, like Christians wear their crosses and Jews wear their Star of David."
Last year, when the Witchcraft Suppression Bill was being drafted by the Mpumalanga legislature, Vos spoke out about the prejudices witches face.
She has no desire to work in the air force again, and moved to Gauteng six weeks ago to further her pagan-orientated Academy of Magick. Once the academy is established, she will set up satellite offices in Cape Town.
"I am happy with the resolution reached, I think it's the best one. Now we can get talking."
The Department of Defence has said that Vos was never formally appointed but Colonel Danie van der Westhuizen, corporate communications officer for the defence force, could not be reached for further comment on Saturday.