Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Witches are the New Vampires: Watching WGN's "Salem"

John Alden Junior: What do they want, these terrible witches?

Cotton Mather: The same thing we all want: a country of their own. 

Wow, speaking of Witchsploitation: a new TV series, set (you guessed it) in Salem, Mass, 1692.

Magic is real. Witches are real. There's a real coven that meets out in the woods wearing animal masks. (Sounds like our kind of people.) There's even a real Horned Man out in the woods that you and you and you can have sex with. And guess what: the witches themselves are the ones fomenting the big witch-hunt.

Say what?

Ah, but you see, these witches are very clever: they're using the Puritans' fears against them. (Goethe suggests this same technique in Die Erste Walpurgisnacht: sound strategy for persecuted minorities, actually.) Set those cowans at each others' throats and eventually they'll all kill each other off and then (rubs hands together, cackles gleefully) the country will be...ours!

Witch City, Paganistan. Now why didn't we think of that?

Say there actually were witches of our sort, paganish folk, back in the Old Country in the Old Days. Say they came to America for freedom to worship in the Old Way in the New Land across the sea. (All the old stories tell of the Land-to-the-West.) And then when we get there, lo and behold, out in the forest—and such a forest!—the Horned Man is already right there waiting for us, just as he always has been. “Red Champion” we call him, because he fights for the people. The Indians know him too: they call him “Red Horn”, and for the same reason.

Revisionist Witch-American history. In this particular instance it's not, I'll admit, compelling television: the language and ideas make no pretense of being anything but 21st century. The literal use of the supernatural leaves no room for dramatic tension. (Once admitted, no holds are barred: anything can happen. There is no science of miracles.) There aren't nearly enough good-looking guys (Cotton Mather's the only one, ugh), and of course there's the usual tiresome male/female nudity imbalance, sigh.

Salem is Old Style witchery for sure: toad familiars sucking supernumerary witches' tits, vengeful whammies, the works. (No osculum infame yet, but one lives in hope.) Interestingly, there does seem to be something of a Wiccan aesthetic throughout: lots of (female) skyclad with necklaces. Hey, it's good for publicity. It sure worked for Uncle Gerald.

Compelling viewing, no. But as part of the larger, ongoing magical act of collectively re-envisioning ourselves back into history: well, our authors have been doing this for several centuries, since back before there was a New Paganism, really. Richard Carpenter's Robin of Sherwood series changed the Robin Hood mythos forever by repaganizing it, Herne protect us.

Revisionist Witch-American history.

Witches are the new vampires, I hear and, as Frebur Moore has observed, anything they say about us becomes our possession, to be used as we see fit.

Hang onto those broomsticks, folks: it's gonna be a wild ride.












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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Thursday, 24 April 2014

    Three of my foremothers (Lacy and Foster) admitted being witches in the 1692 Salem trials. Their family farm became a tourist attraction called "The Witch's Cellar" for almost 2 centuries. Today the land is a Christan academy.

    Despite being sentenced to hang in 1692 and later receiving restitution payments from the MA Assembly, admitted 17th century witches are left off of modern Salem lists of "victims" because modern Salem authorities only admit hanging people was wrong if they weren't really witches.

    The current fiction about Witches of Salem is offensive and insulting to our ancestors.

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