Pagan film critic/professor Peg Aloi looks at 2022’s offerings and concludes,”This year was a veritable sparkly cornucopia of weird, witchy, wonderful films and TV steeped in occult and pagan imagery and storylines.”
This was number one:
You Won’t Be Alone (2022, dir. Goran Stolevski) This gorgeous film (a Sundance 2022 premiere) set in Eastern Europe in the 19th century is a stunning debut by Australian/Macedonian filmmaker Goran Stolevski. It follows a young woman raised by a witch (drawn from a folklore legend) and the ways she learns about nature and humanity by inhabiting the bodies of different people. It’s a gorgeous exploration of empathy and the possibilities and limits of human existence. With a fine international cast (including Lamb’s Noomi Rapace and Beautiful Creatures’ Alice Englert), lyrical cinematography and a beguiling soundtrack, this was my favorite film of the year. (Full review in The Arts Fuse) (streaming/rental on Prime, AppleTV, Vudu, etc.)
During the 1980s and into the 1990s, countless psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers, and other therapists — aided by law enforcement, prosecutors, and the news media —pushed a narrative of “repressed abuse.”
Quite a few Pagans were dragged into this, since “Michelle” and others claimed to have been abused by “witches” wearing robes and holding nocturnal rituals. But their voices and those of some scholars of new religious movements never got the media push that the “survivors” enjoyed.
Lists of the symptoms that supposedly indicated repressed abuse often went on for pages in these texts. E. Sue Blume’s book Secret Survivors listed over 70 symptoms indicative of repressed abuse. The psychologist Renee Fredrickson’s book Repressed Memories describes over 60. Do you have trouble trusting your intuition? Do you neglect your teeth? Have joint pain? Do certain foods nauseate you? Do you sometimes space out or daydream? If you have some of these warning signals, “you probably do have repressed memories,” wrote Dr. Fredrickson. In their books and papers, therapists described themselves as clever detectives searching patients’ lives for unexplained emotional responses or feelings, which might be the first sign of hidden pasts.
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Pop culture also seemed to drive two of the more incredible outgrowths of the movement: the precipitous rise of multiple personality disorder and the widespread belief that satanic cults were abusing children on an industrial scale. Two best-selling books, Sybil, published in 1973, and Michelle Remembers, published in 1980, were critical in stoking public interest. Both books tell supposedly true stories of therapists helping their patients recover memories during therapy. Both were later thoroughlydebunked — but not until long after they had their impact.
Live were ruined, people went to actual jail for crimes based on what they called in Salem “spectral evidence,” and for the most part, none of the therapists suffered or even admitted that they had been wrong. After all, they were “helping” people who were “in pain.” Hospitals were not so involved, back then.
Much of the same content exists today, if you care to look for it, on Tumbler.com and elsewhere. But I don’t know who makes money off it.
Author David Flint notes,
Today, there are several witchcraft magazines in print, but all seem to take themselves and their craft very seriously, and I very much doubt that most of the Witches of Instagram would be very amused by the cheerfully exploitative nature of these ancient publications. But I might be wrong – perhaps there is a gap in the market waiting to be filled. If so, then we are happy to step up and revive this gloriously tacky, cheesy and outrageous world of sex, sin and Satanism.
I have added another link to the list of Pagan podcasts in the right-hand sidebar: Ravens at the Crossroads, by Mistress Prime and Tyler Matthews, who “realized the stories of our community, especially of our elders, were being lost and forgotten. In an effort to preserve many of those stories the podcast was created.”
If you are not seeing the sidebar, click the banner at the top of the page (the photo and title) to go there. Or click here.
The Yule log celebration is Pagan-ish for sure. So is this Imbolg column. You could have told me that I was reading one of John Beckett’s Druidic homilies, and I would have believed you.
Homily: a short commentary on a sacred topic — something less formal than a sermon.
Especially when the writer moves from observing nature “out there” to personal transformation.
Again, the trees are giving us an ample lesson and functional metaphor for our own new growth and blossoming. Perhaps you are working to lose weight, or to strengthen underused muscles, or to heal some aspect of your body or psyche. These things take time.
Happy Ostara to those of you who experience something called “spring.” I will be taking advantage of the last of three warm days — which have melted most of the snow that was on the ground — to split some firewood in advance of the snow expected Sunday night, Monday, and Tuesday.
That is life in the eastern Rockies, where we have a little poem about the weather:
Winter in the spring,
Summer in the fall,
Fall in the winter,
And no spring at all.
I was interviewed by a writer for Religion News Service for an article about Pagans at Ostara, which is a little funny since I am usually thinking about snow and not new life and renewal. That comes in April (along with a chance of snow).
Julian interviewed me in June, and I wanted to be outside so that I could have a supporting cast of broad-tailed hummingbirds. They don’t show up too well though, and there was glare in a face. . . oh well.
In my own experience, I would say that by about 1980, Wiccan elders were quietly beginning to abandon the Murray-ite thesis of unbroken ancient Pagan religion lasting to the 17th century or later.
Leave it to First Things, a Catholic-leaning magazine on religious issues, to weigh in on the upcoming centenary, which deserves to be noted.
While Margaret Murray was by no means a founder or adherent of Wicca, the religion to which her writings gave birth, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe inspired the now global phenomenon of neopaganism. There can be no doubt that Murray had a brilliant scholarly imagination—too brilliant, perhaps, for the serious flaws in her reasoning to be seen by many. While few Wiccans and neopagans now believe literally that their religion has existed since prehistory, Murray’s legacy persists in the strange idea that witchcraft was a religion, an idea long since debunked by historians of witchcraft. It is ironic that this idea, devised by a feminist historian, often eclipses the reality that the accusation of witchcraft was a misogynistic construct weaponized against innocent women. Murray’s unsubstantiated claim that these women practiced a secret pagan religion was, ultimately, a calumny against the victims of a dark era of misogynistic violence.
Now my favorite podcasters, J. F. Martel and Phil Ford of Weird Studies, have produced the episode on Hellier and related things — with them, there will always be related things. Usually they send me to the library website with a bunch of interlibrary-loan requests.
On the night before this episode of Weird Studies was released, a bunch of folks on the Internet performed a collective magickal working. Prompted by the paranormal investigator Greg Newkirk, they watched the final episode of the documentary series Hellier at the same time — 10:48 PM EST — in order to see what would happen. Listeners who are familiar with this series, of which Newkirk is both a protagonist and a producer, will recall that the last episode features an elaborate attempt at gate opening involving no less than Pan, the Ancient Greek god of nature. If we weren’t so cautious (and humble) in our imaginings, we at Weird Studies might consider the possibility that this episode is a retrocausal effect of that operation. In it, we discuss the show that took the weirdosphere by storm last year, touching on topics such as subterranean humanoids, the existence of “Ascended Masters,” Aleister Crowley’s secret cipher, the Great God Pan, and the potential dangers of opening gates to other worlds … or of leaving them closed.
No, I haven’t listened to it yet. Weird Studies episodes are saved for long drives, and M. and I are going to the city tomorrow.