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The New York Times recently published a piece on Wiccans in New York City, “Witchcraft in the #MeToo Era.” Despite the name, the article has nothing to do with #MeToo – there are no tales or even allusions to Wiccan women under the spell of nefarious Wiccan men – but instead highlights the practice of paganism and Wicca in Goth-am from a vaguely female perspective:

In Manhattan, family-oriented witches attend the Wiccan Family Temple with their children. The Temple of the Spiral Path, also based in Manhattan, offers workshops and an introductory witch’s academy that meets weekly. New York’s pagan couples can be married by legally ordained Wiccan ministers offering their services on The Witches’ Voice; there’s even a Wicca e-group based in the Bronx. Catland Books, an occult bookshop in Bushwick, Brooklyn, offers weekly workshops, drawing a younger, trendier crowd.

According to a City-Data forum, the best metros in the U.S. to be Wiccan and/or pagan is New Orleans, New York City, Salem (shocker!), the Bay Area and Minneapolis/St.Paul. I’m surprised the Pacific Northwest doesn’t appear in the list, given its post-religious susceptibility to non-traditional (or in this case hyper traditional, it can be argued) and new-agey spirituality. Conversely, the inclusion of New Orleans may seem odd given the south’s Pentecostal and Evangelical-driven hostility toward the occult; but then “Nola” has a fairly unique history, and is far more Catholic today than a city like Atlanta.

This passage doesn’t make Wiccans look especially serious:

On a recent Friday night, the witches of the Temple of the Spiral Path gathered to watch the spunky teenage witches in “The Craft.” The Temple occasionally hosts pagan movie nights. This one drew eight people — a few coven members and friends, to a Midtown dance studio where the group often meets. JoAnna Farrer, 34, and her husband, had never seen the 1996 cult classic, a supernatural horror film following a teenager who falls in with a clique of witches. Everyone else in the room, including Ms. Farrer’s close friend Ms. Cruci, expressed dismay. “How can you be a witch and have never seen ‘The Craft’?” one witch demanded, munching Doritos.

Was it really necessary to mention the Doritos?

The article fails to examine what impact, if any, Wiccans have had on the development of the musical genre known as “witch house.”*

*(Yes I’m being cheeky.)

 

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Jul/12

15

Bewitched

Via Guernica, another reminder of the permanence of superstition, the reinvention of the past (the Goddess?) and the magpie “spirituality” of the West:

Photographer Katarzyna Majak shoots her subjects in vivid color, posing each one as a healer, a goddess, or a queen. These Polish women combine the rituals of the Cherokee, Sufis, Daoists, Wiccans, Druids, and others in search of greater spiritual meaning. With these photos, Majak looks at the prejudice against witchery, the acceptance of aging, and a growing appreciation for feminine divinity.

Guernica: What do you mean by “the women’s time”? From a quote with your interview with Maria Ela, one of your portrait subjects, she says she “thinks it’s a time of transformation,” that she has “to let go of the feeling of being victimized by men,” in order to gain awareness of the “cycle of the Goddess that helped me let go of thinking ‘against.’”

Katarzyna Majak: So, it is the time when more and more people, especially women, resonate with the energy of the Earth’s upheaval. They do not want to think “against” and are not interested in fighting. They would rather use their own empowerment to balance the feminine and the masculine. Another explanation may also be connected with the fact that the Goddess, and one may treat that as an equivalent of women’s power, in Judeo-Christianity, has been living “in hiding,” which is now coming to its end. There is a noticeable women’s spiritual awakening, which is aimed to balance the feminine and masculine, to raise the feminine so that they are both on the same level and neither gets excluded or diminished…

Okey dokey.

H/t: Andrew Sullivan

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Jul/11

4

Something Wicca…

Here’s a story from the Daily Mail of (alleged) intolerance in a small English town:

It sounds like a horror story straight from medieval times. Two witches descend on an ancient market town – only to be targeted by terrified Christians calling for them to be burned at the stake. But for father-of-one Albion and his partner Raven, 39, this is no historical event – it is a modern nightmare. The Pagan couple opened their shop The Whispering Witch in the quaint town of Alcester, Warwickshire, around 15 months ago and claim to have been subjected to a hate campaign ever since.

‘People shout ‘burn the witches’ as they go past and we’ve had others urinating up the window,’ said Albion, 51.

‘I found a pile of wood stacked in front of the door one morning.

‘We’ve also had letters quoting extracts from the Bible telling us not to ‘promote the work of darkness’ in ‘their town’. ‘I can only assume this is the work of Christians. The handwriting looks as though it’s from an adult. It’s like living in the 16th century.’

Well, not quite. But even so, those responsible should be ashamed of themselves.

That said, this took me aback:

What we are suffering is racism from people with a 16th century mentality.

It goes without saying that Albion and his partner Raven should be allowed to go about their business without interference, but I was intrigued by the fact that Albion has decided to pin the blame on “racism”.

Racism?

If you wonder why that term runs the danger of being drained of all meaning, this story is not a bad place to begin.

Mind you, a local Baptist clergyman isn’t above a bit of (a different type of) PC cliché himself:

Reverend Alistair Aird, from Alcester Baptist Church, condemned those behind the attacks but added: ‘My impression is that people in the town don’t feel that this is the kind of thing they want in Alcester. The murmurings are what I have picked up whilst walking around town from mothers, who have talked to me in the street.’

Ah, of course. “From mothers”.

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Oct/10

31

Bell, Diversity Handbook and Candle

Cross-posted over at the Corner:

It’s been well over 350 years since the death of the unlikable Matthew Hopkins but should Britain ever get back into the business of hiring a Witchfinder-General (check out the 1968 movie of the same name, incidentally, for some beautifully filmed, if thoroughly nasty, Hallowe’en viewing), he will, if this Sunday Telegraph story is anything to go by, be considerably more sensitive than this psychotic predecessor:

It is Hallowe’en and the witching hour is drawing nearer, but don’t be alarmed – [British] police officers are on the case, having been issued with official guidance on how to deal with witches. The advice is contained in a 300-page “diversity handbook” which gives officers a range of “dos and don’ts” when approaching followers of a range of religions and other beliefs, from atheism to Zoroastrianism. Instructions include avoid touching a witch’s “Book of Shadows”, which contains their spells, or handling their ceremonial dagger. The online handbook also advises officers not to jump to conclusions if they encounter a situation where a blindfolded, naked person is tied by their hands – they could merely have stumbled upon a pagan ritual, where such activities are normal practice.

And yes, there’s more. Please read the whole thing – and do have a very happy Hallowe’en, or, for that matter, Samhain.

Lower East Side, NYC, Oct 30 2010 (photo: AS)

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Sep/10

21

Pagan Pique

Cross-posted from the Corner:

It’s not every day that I give thanks to the folks over at the Huffington Post, but today is one of those days. Take it away, Sam Stein:

…A spokesperson for the neopagan network “The Witches’ Voice” who goes by the name “Diotima Mantineia” reached out to the Huffington Post to offer further condemnation of O’Donnell’s initial witchcraft remarks. Making the point that there is a “very large pagan community in Delaware,” Mantineia called the Delaware Republican’s conflation of witchcraft and Satanism “disappointing.”

Perfect at so many levels

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Sep/10

18

DeMint’s Witch?

No, of course not, but Republicans hoping for a GOP win in Delaware do now have to deal with this:

O’DONNELL: I dabbled into witchcraft — I never joined a coven. But I did, I did. … I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I’m not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do. […] One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn’t know it. I mean, there’s little blood there and stuff like that. … We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.

I suppose this could be the moment to post something terribly, terribly brows-furrowed about the rather interesting role that witchcraft and Satanism play in the modern American evangelical drama (small ‘e’ in O’Donnell’s case: she was certainly raised a Roman Catholic, and then I believe became an evangelical before eventually returning to Catholicism), but that is to make more out of this particular ‘confession’ than it (or her Democratic opponent) deserves.

I suspect that Ann Althouse’s response is (more or less) the correct one to take:

…Did O’Donnell ever practice witchcraft? I doubt it. Even in the out-of-context clip, I’m seeing a young woman trying to get the hipper kids to believe she isn’t really a complete square. In the story she tells, she went out with someone who, she thought, was into Satanism, and they had a picnic. A picnic! Even when she’s straining to sound cool, she’s square.

4. But she “dabbled into” witchcraft — doesn’t that mean she did some witchcraft things? Frankly, I don’t think she knows what “dabbled” means. The use of the wrong preposition is a hint. I think she means something more like she stumbled into witchcraft. She knew some people who did such things, and I’ll bet the point she was making was that she was able to be friends with them, that she hasn’t spent her whole life cocooned in squeaky clean conservative religion and she’s able to relate to a wide variety of people.

5. Even if she had participated in some witchcraft, she’d only be like thousands of other young people who dabble in such nonsense. Do you want to string them all up? It’s typical pop culture junk these days.

I wouldn’t be quite as quick as Professor Althouse to dismiss witchcraft as “typical pop culture junk”. It can be that, and it’s certainly nonsense, but the revival of interest in Wicca (and the like) is too interesting a phenomenon to be dismissed as just a mere fad. But so far as O’Donnell’s apparent “dabbling” in witchcraft is concerned, the good professor is right, move on, there’s nothing to see here.

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Nov/09

1

The Pagans are Coming!

How’s that whole Enlightenment thing going? Not so well, it seems: click here for Saturday’s New York Times story on the rise of paganism. Predictable, uncritical pap for the most part, although I noted this section with, well, I don’t know what:

…of course, the popular culture of the Harry Potter books, the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the current zombie vogue have defanged Pagan religion for a mass teenage audience.

Frankly. I’m not at all convinced that the ‘mass teenage audience’ had hitherto given much thought to paganism one way or the other, but it’s strange to see a writer for the New York Times signing up for the idea-more usually associated with some of the nuttier notches on the Bible Belt-that Harry Potter has been acting as some kind of propagandist for paganism. And while we’re on this topic, I’m not at all sure that the ‘current zombie vogue’ (which has lurched and stumbled far, very far, from its roots in voodoo mythology) has anything to do with the supernatural whatsoever, unless you count the rather good fight in a church, which (if I recall correctly) took place in one of the Resident Evil movies.

To be fair, however, I should concede that Buffy did feature at least two explicitly Wiccan characters, and there is indeed some evidence that the show may indeed have encouraged some people in a covenwards direction. That said, I suspect that Buffy’s Wiccans reflected a trend as much as they made it, but that wider trend is a discussion for another time.

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