Witches are influencers who use the hashtag #witchesofinstagram to share horoscopes, spells and witchy memes, and they are anti-Trump resistance activists carrying signs that say “Hex the Patriarchy” (also the title of a new book of spells) and “We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn.”
Witches are panelists, they are podcasters, they are members of The Wing (which calls itself a “coven”), they are in-house residents at swanky Manhattan hotels and some might say that one is even a presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson. (Alyssa Milano, of “Charmed” fame, recently fund-raised for Williamson. Coincidence?)
Wait a minute, I thought that Marianne Williamson was a Jewish New-Ager. It is so confusing.
I love rolling the word Festschrift around, and if you are not used to it, this is what it means: “In academia, a Festschrift (plural Festschriften) is a book honoring a respected person, especially an academic and presented during their lifetime. It generally takes the form of an edited volume, containing contributions from the honoree’s colleagues, former pupils, and friends” (Wikipedia).
From the publisher:
This book marks twenty years since the publication of Professor Ronald Hutton’s The Triumph of the Moon, a major contribution to the historical study of Wicca. Building on and celebrating Hutton’s pioneering work, the chapters in this volume explore a range of modern magical, occult, and Pagan groups active in Western nations. Each contributor is a specialist in the study of modern Paganism and occultism, although differ in their embrace of historical, anthropological, and psychological perspectives. Chapters examine not only the history of Wicca, the largest and best-known form of modern Paganism, but also modern Pagan environmentalist and anti-nuclear activism, the Pagan interpretation of fairy folklore, and the contemporary ‘Traditional Witchcraft’ phenomenon.
Here are the contents:
1. Twenty Years On: An Introduction — Ethan Doyle White and Shai Feraro, editors
2. The Goddess and the Great Rite: Hindu Tantra and the Complex Origins of Modern Wicca — Hugh B. Urban
3. Playing the Pipes of PAN: Pagans Against Nukes and the Linking of Wiccan-Derived Paganism with Ecofeminism in Britain, 1980–1990 — Shai Feraro
4. Other Sides of the Moon: Assembling Histories of Witchcraft —Helen Cornish
5. The Nearest Kin of the Moon: Irish Pagan Witchcraft, Magic(k), and the Celtic Twilight — Jenny Butler
6. The Taming of the Fae: Literary and Folkloric Fairies in Modern Paganisms — Sabina Magliocco
7. “Wild Nature” and the Lure of the Past: The Legacy of Romanticism among Young Pagan Environmentalists — Sarah M. Pike
8. The Blind Moondial Makers: Creativity and Renewal in Wicca — Léon A. van Gulik
9. “The Eyes of Goats and of Women”: Femininity and the Post-Thelemic Witchcraft of Jack Parsons and Kenneth Grant — Manon Hedenborg White
10. Navigating the Crooked Path: Andrew D. Chumbley and the Sabbatic Craft — Ethan Doyle White
11. Witches Still Fly: Or Do They? Traditional Witches, Wiccans, and Flying — Chas S. Clifton
The first problem on any university campus finding a parking spot. I pulled in behind the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, which is part of West Texas A &M University, and all the faculty spaces were full.
There was an empty place for the president’s office. Hmmm.
Ah, there! “Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.” I reckon that by being on their campus, I am bringing types of diversity that this edu-crat never thought of.1)Put me in charge, and I would fire his/her ass and give all that bloated salary money as pay raises to adjunct professors in the English Department. I call the museum’s research center director, a soft-spoken archivist named Warren Stricker, and tell him that M. and I have arrived. He promises to be right down.
A campus cop drives up, but he is talking to someone else. I am unloading cartons out of the trunk, like I have a perfect right to do so. A timid squirrel sneaks up on a spilled cup of Sonic french fries. The campus cop looks at M. and me, but stays in his vehicle.
The defendant, Loy Stone, and his wife, Louise, were both alumni of West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas — now known as West Texas A & M. 2)The university still plays up the fact that that a young Georgia O’Keefe taught there from 1916–1918. I had approached Texas State University about taking my archive of documents about the case, but Texas is so big that the university archivists (except maybe at UT in Austin) think regionally. TSU’s response was, “We’re all about south Texas. You should talk to the Panhandle Museum.”
And so I did. Warren Stricker was immediately interested.
Dimmitt, Hereford, Plainview — these locales are all right in their front yard, so to speak.
I came away with a Temporary Custody Agreement, but Stricker assured me that his committee had already talked over the donation and wanted it all — the psychic impressions, the private investigator’s reports, the correspondence, the legal depositions, the evidence tags, all of it. Hurray! I am not in the archive business, but I could not bear to just toss all of that in the trash, not after the Stones’ two daughters had saved it all for forty-plus years.
And I like the idea of seeding America’s university libraries with witchcraft materials.
Victor Anderson, apparently wearing a lei (Wikimedia Commons).
Victor Anderson (1917–2001) and Cora Anderson (1915–2008) founded the Feri tradition of Witchcraft (which had multiple spellings). Since their passing, their papers and home library has been divided among several recipients: the Oakland, Calif., public library, the New Alexandrian Library, and some private purchasers.
A large number of their books, 171 to be exact, have been added to the growing Pagan archives at Valdosta State University in Georgia. Special-collections librarian Guy Frost has now cataloged them as the “Victor and Cora Anderson Library, 1921–1998.
Russian witches and seers performed on Tuesday one of their most powerful rituals, “the circle of power,” to pass on their mystical energy to President Vladimir Putin.
Dozens of people who claim to have supernatural powers stood side by side, reading spells in their effort to support the Russian head of state.
Self-proclaimed leader of the Russian witches Alyona Polyn said the main intention of the gathering is to enhance quality of life in Russia, the whole world in general and to support the president. (Read the rest.)
Who is Alyona Polyn? I asked a Pagan studies colleague in Eastern Europe who responded, quoting Polyn’s website:
“Alyona Polyn is a clairvoyant hereditary witch, author of magic books, oracles, and the world’s only complete Tarot deck.” I don’t see any place on her website where she calls herself any kind of yazychnik. She says in one of her videos that “wedma’”(witch) is often “confused” with “Vedism”(usually meaning the Book of Veles end of Rodnoverie) and shamanism, which I think counts as distancing herself at least a little from both of those. And there are no Slavic deities prominently mentioned on her website, and no obviously Gardner-derived materials. Nor does she seem to hang out much with the Moscow chapter of PFI from what I can see online.
We in the United States have seen news stories about Pagan Witches working against President Trump. Consider, however, that Russia and the United States are both large and diverse countries. There might be Russian magickal practitioners working against President Putin, for all I know. And I would not bet against the possibility that some American Witches, etc., are working on behalf of President Trump. But as I said, “The Gods Do Not Vote, So Why Are You Asking Them?”
As is expected from the linguistic kinship among Indo-European languages, European Pagan cultures show striking similarities with various Indic indigenous traditions. For instance, among Lithuanian Neo Pagans, the notion of Damumas as a foundation of the world order is a central idea. According to Lithuanian ethnologist and Romuva ideologue Jonas Trinkunas, the word Damumas is linked etymologically to the Sanskrit dharma and the Pali Dhamma. J P Mallory, a prominent Indo-European scholar cites another linguistic parallel in a Lithuanian proverb — ‘Dievas dave dantis; Dievas duous duonoss’. The proverb translates as ‘God gave us teeth, God will give bread’. The Sanskrit equivalent of the proverb is Devas adadat datas, Devas dat dhanas.
Not so crappy. And another indication that some Hindus are realizing that they have more in common with us than with the Middle Eastern monotheisms.
• One more “high” priestess joke, and you’re out of here. From the Colorado Springs Independent, the weekly that gets all the cannabis advertising because the chain-owned daily paper won’t touch it: “Meet Colorado’s High Priestess of Cannabis.” Yes, it’s that favorite form of American creativity: Let’s start a church!
• And on public [sic] radio, “When you hear the word ‘witch,’ what does your mind conjure?” Damn, that’s clever writing. This time it’s the 1A show: “Hex in Effect: Why Witches are Back.” (Were we gone? Did I miss that memo?) A teaser for the radio show, which you can listen to if you have unlimited earbuds time.
Maja, photographed by Frances Denny of Brooklyn. Denny is descended from a Salem witch-trial judge of 1692. That qualified her to “explore what it means to be a witch today.”(Daily Mail).
• Ah, those millennials. Now they are “ditching religion for witchcraft and astrology.” I could be snarky and say, “Hey, the Seventies called and they want their headlines back.” Or I could say that this is something that is always going on. Decades. Centuries.
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.”
When I was a kid, I read some condensed version of the Iliad for young people. I did not understand the gods.
After all, I was raised to be a Christian. In the Bible, YHWH was supposed to take care of his special people, the Jews, although sometimes he expressed his care and concern . . . oddly. The Christians continued that idea with themselves as the special people, and so on with other monotheistic religions. Obviously, God favored the “good guys.”
In the Iliad, the Greeks are the “good guys,” near as, although the Trojans are not especially villainous, just the other team. But the story is told from the Greeks’ point of view. Yet some of the gods favored on side and some the other. How could that be?1)You don’t really hear about the Trojans’ religion as a separate thing.
That is the polytheistic view of life. The world is a mess. The world is beautiful. The gods are eternal (or as good as). The gods work at cross-purposes, and sometimes humans are caught between them.
Meanwhile, I see some Pagans convinced that they know how the gods vote — or would vote, if they could produce a photo ID at the polling place.
Are these the same Pagans who sneer at that subset of evangelical Christians who apparently think that Jesus is a Republican?2)After 2,000 years of worship, he is definitely a god. And maybe he is a Republican. Or like in the TV version of American Gods, there are multiple Jesuses and one is a Republican.
If you are really a polytheist, then you must accept that the gods do not vote. Their values are not always aligned with our day-to-day political values. Really, what does Aphrodite care about Colorado’s proposal to change the redistricting process or about who wins the race for Pueblo County coroner? Should I consult Hekate about my congressional candidates?
In the context of discussing a Heathen theological question, Galina Kraskova puts the issue this way:
This “history” is apparently quasi-sentient and going somewhere other than to its own destruction. It is no coincident that the statement is attributed to a Unitarian minister.
Some Pagans I know (or know of) are working with various American archetypes 3)I use Salmon too! in the sense of asking protection and blessing, which is OK. It’s like always ending a spell with “Or something better.”4)It is always good when you can rid yourself of annoying people by blessing them. That means not ordering the gods around: “[Deity], cause [Candidate] to win the election!”
In the mundane world, stories like “Witches Hex Kavanaugh” are great clickbait.5)For readers outside the USA, the article refers to Judge Brett Kavanaugh, recently added to the US Supreme Court after a contentious confirmation process in the Senate.
Here is the old-line conservative magazine National Review, suffering from a drop in circulation, taking a clickbait-ish shot at “progressive” Witches: