Strangeness. Back before there was an Internet, dear readers, I clipped and photocopied newspapers and magazine articles on Wicca, other Paganisms, etc., and sorted them into folders labeled “Witchcrap 1970s,” “Witchcrap 1980s,” and so on. Eventually, printed-out Web pages joined the rest. Why the name? Because so much of it was crap, but at least it kept the idea out there.
Dear readers, I have to say that this past “season of the witch” has been extraordinary! I have so many bookmarked links that this will be a two-part blog post (or three-part). So . . . in no particular order, it’s “Best of Witchcrap 2018”!
• Those of us in the know know that the heartland of America is the heartland of Paganism, so a title like “Occult Rituals in the Backwoods of Wisconsin” should not raise any eyebrows. After all, who else is in the backwoods of Wisconsin? Circle Sanctuary, that’s who. This one is not really about Paganism, however, so much as it is about murder and “Goatman.” You know, teenagers summoning Satan and all that. Not Selena Fox.
• In Britain, the ever-so-earnest Guardian newspaper asks, “Why Are Witches So Popular?” Since it’s the Guardian, the answer must be that “this new wave is linked to the bubbling cauldron of contemporary politics.” Move along, nothing religious to see hear. No invisible friends — Karl Marx said they don’t exist.
• Meanwhile, in Pagan-friendly but officially Lutheran Iceland, “Icelanders abandon National State Church, as old pagan Ásatrú continues to grow.” The Pagan Association of Iceland claims 1.2 percent of the population, all of whom could fit into Colorado Springs with room left over. But still, I do feel that 1 percent is a kind of tipping point, the point where “they” have to take you seriously. Also, 6.9 percent of Icelanders are registered as “nones.”
Zuist leader Águst Arnar Ágústsson told the paper that the group had always planned to have a place of worship for its followers, but given the movement’s rapid expansion in Iceland, this had grown all the more urgent.
Iceland Monitor says that a surge of attraction in Zuism may be because members do not have to pay parish fees. Registered Zuists – also known as Zuistar – are being asked, instead of paying old-school parish fees, to contribute to a Ziggurat Fund to help build and maintain the planned temple.
3. Last weekend M.’s and my old home of Manitou Springsheld its annual coffin races. They started right after we moved away, but we met in Manitou, bought our first slightly-more-than-tiny house there, and have lots of memories.
The [Manitou Springs Heritage Center] will be the starting point of “ghost tours” featuring “spirit guides” who will show people around town for 45 minutes, stopping at sites where actors will play out tales of the colorful past.
“Manitou was full of witchcraft,” [Jenna[ Gallas says. “Not that it is anymore, but I think people still like to believe ooky-spooky happens here, and if we’re gonna celebrate Halloween, we’re gonna do it in Manitou, where the freaks come out every day.”
What is this “was,” Ms. Gallas? Yes, we did our part in the 1980s. Rituals upstairs in the Spa Building? You bet. Rituals outdoors downtown around the mineral springs? Those too. I have to think that someone else has carried on!
Images of witches being veiled in darkness, casting spells over cauldrons endure, but a new generation of Wiccans and witches have established growing communities in D.C. and across the country.
Yada, yada. But this good:
“[Hallowe’en is] a celebration of the witch. You can have sexy witches, you can have scary witches, but it’s still a celebration of the witch. Even if the witch isn’t shown in a positive light,” said Stephens, a 37-year-old Wiccan who also practices witchcraft.
Floating in a hot spring, snow falling from the night sky, John Laurenson meets Teresa Drofn. A 25-year-old Heathen, Teresa describes her return to the religion of her Viking forebears as a renewal of a unique spiritual relationship with nature.
A millennium after it was banned in exchange for Christianity, John explores why Icelanders are returning to the faith. At a ‘blot’, or sacred ceremony John hears a priestess read aloud from the Eddas, an ancient Icelandic text serving as scripture for the new heathens of Europe. In the old days at a ‘blot’, there’d be animal, even human sacrifices. Today they share in traditional Viking food, horse and whale, sheep’s head, puffin pâté and rotten shark.
Visiting the site of a newly planned Heathen temple John meets high priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson. Hilmar has presided over hundreds of weddings and seen his own congregation increase six-fold within a single decade. This new Heathen house of worship, the first in a thousand years, will be aligned with the sun’s path and burrowed deep into a hill near the city’s airport.
Not mentioned: a conversation with a Lutheran bishop who claims not to be concerned with the rise of traditional Norse Paganism because (a) the movement is “very small” and (b) they are sort of proto-Christian anyway, as shown, for example, by their abandonment of animal sacrifice.
I love snarky local blogs. Unfortunately, the one for my little mountain county seems mostly devoted these days to attacking one county commissioner candidate, so I will spare you that.
But thanks to a Facebook friend, I was introduced toNormal for Glastonbury, which contains such nuggets as these about the most esoteric town in England, contributed by its readers:
Lisa: ‘Get off my fucking leyline!’ a hedge monkey once shouted at the custodian of the White Spring.
Sophie: “Yesterday, whilst on the top floor of the bus returning to Glastonbury from Bristol I overheard two young men, talking excitedly about visiting Glastonbury for the first time. One French guy explained that he had a calling to go to Glastonbury because people there believe in dragons, as he did himself and in fact he always travels with his dragon. When the other man asked where his dragon was the French man explained that his dragon was riding on the roof of the bus.”
Vijay ” I have a boyfriend in the seventh dimension”
Sam: “I was stood outside St Dunstan’s house on the pavement. Woman walks up and, looking concerned asks “Can you tell me where something normal is?”. I paused and asked whatever did she mean ‘normal’? She said “Something like .. well – an Italian restaurant”. I pointed across the street to point out we had (at that time) two – there and there. She looked relieved, thanked me and walk away. It left me wondering .. why is an Italian restaurant in Glastonbury ‘normal’ and what had led to her concern?”
That comment about getting off the ley line1)Is ley line one word or two? reminded me of another blog, one devoted to conversations overheard in the too-hip university city of Boulder, Colorado, once famous for its population of Buddhist converts.2)Sedona, Arizona might be a better parallel for Glastonbury, however. (They’re still there, but Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is long gone.) Mirroring a more hipster/New Agey-vibe, it’s calledStay Out of My Namaste Space.
“I do yoga at the Y. They do a poor people’s scholarship which is great ‘cause I look poor on paper.”
“I was thinking about it today and I haven’t been in Europe in 2 whole years.”
“The Universe has blessed me with the opportunity to be unconnected from my smartphone.”
“I swear to God, I was the only person on this earth who thought Iceland was cool before everyone else did. I’ve literally been obsessing over Iceland for twenty years.”
“We ended up naming him Jeffrey. I wanted to name him Stannis but my psychic didn’t think that was a good idea.”
Plans to begin construction of a pagan temple in Öskjuhlíð hill, Reykjavík, have been set in motion. This will be the first pagan temple to be built in the Nordic countries in nearly a thousand years, said the alsherjargoði Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, head priest of the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélag, in an interview with RÚV [text and video in Icelandic].
The Ásatrúarfélag applied for a plot of land to construct a temple in 2006 and was allotted a piece of land in Öskuhlíð in 2008. The 350 square metres (3767 sq ft) temple will have a vaulted ceiling and seat around 250 people. Its construction will be completed next year.
Interestingly — or oddly — it will sit on top of several tanks built to hold geothermal water, so heating won’t be a problem.
I have mentioned the elves of Iceland before, including a documentary film, but I wish also to draw attention to this article in The Atlantic, which views the interest in elves as largely a post-1970s revival.
Icelandic music phenom Bjork once cautioned the New Yorker: “You have to watch out for the Nordic cliche,” she said. “A friend of mine says that when record-company executives come to Iceland, they ask the bands if they believe in elves, and whoever says yes gets signed up.”
It is something that I accept in theory. And I have had some interesting dreams about the hidden folk/fairies/”UFO people” (all the same thing, probably) who live inside the house walls or in invisible houses.
So maybe I need a hidden-folk consultant, like the woman at the start of the documentary, who can walk around each boulder and give a nei or já as appropriate.
One of my favorite parts starts eight minutes in, when a primary school teacher is explaining to the kids how the elves live in a boulder.
Only one of the numerous people interviewed is obviously New Age-y, with her talk about earth chakras, etc. And there is one guy in sort-of medieval Norse garb, his cap decorated with runes, who is described in the subtitle as a “sorcerer.” (Some people are speaking English, some Icelandic with subtitles.) The rest are pretty much down-to-earth Icelanders, a couple of whom describe their own outlooks as Pagan and/or Heathen.
You have heard stories about roads being routed around “inhabited” spots? Here is a civil engineer who did it.
Also the land itself: mountains, geysers, rocky coasts, cliffs — wonderful as well.