You knew it was coming, the religion news-writers were priming the pump, and with Halloween/Samhain only days away a veritable flood of articles, opinion-pieces, and interviews featuring or discussing modern Pagans have been unleashed into the world. There’s no way to justly discuss and analyze them all, so instead I’ll simply give you a quick run-down, a sampling, of the annual Pagan publicity rush. Lets start with the dissenters shall we? They are often the most fun to talk about. We’ll begin with a piece that isn’t really a Halloween piece, but very well could be, as it sets the mood so nicely.
“Several Christian denominations see New England as a “mission field” – a term often associated with unchurched, foreign lands. As they evangelize and work to plant new churches, they speak of possibility, but also frustration. The area’s highly educated population is skeptical and often indifferent to their faith.”
New England? Wait, isn’t the “witch city” of Salem in New England? One wonders if they’ll be seeing more conflicts between preaching Christians and partying Pagans this year? It’s a possibility the story, sadly, doesn’t explore. Meanwhile, Charisma Magazine lets Christians know that merely setting out a pumpkin makes you an unwilling tool of Satan!
“Mother earth is highly celebrated during the fall demonic harvest. Witches praise mother earth by bringing her fruits, nuts and herbs. Demons are loosed during these acts of worship. When nice church folk lay out their pumpkins on the church lawn, fill their baskets with nuts and herbs, and fire up their bonfires, the demons get busy. They have no respect for the church grounds. They respect only the sacrifice and do not care if it comes from believers or non-believers.”
This sort of demonic mush is repeated in Trumpet Magazine as well. Thankfully some Christians, in this instance a Catholic, seem to really understand the spirit of the holiday, and doesn’t cower at the imagined demons haunting the evangelicals.
“As a friend of mine observed recently, there is something medieval about Halloween. The masks, the running around in the dark, the flicker of candles in pumpkins, the smell of leaves and cold air—all of it feels ancient, even primal, somehow. Despite the now-inevitable preponderance of media-inspired costumes, Halloween seems, in execution, far closer to a Last Judgment scene above a medieval church door, or to a mystery play, than it does to Wal-Mart. To step outside on Halloween dressed as someone—or something—other than yourself is to step into a narrative that acknowledges that the membrane between our workaday, material world and the unseen realm of spirits is far thinner and more permeable than many of us like to think.”
Frankly, their All Saints’ Day dress-as-your-favorite-saint party sounds like a ton of fun. Once I get into better shape, I’d probably dress as St. Sebastian, complete with arrows and mock-tree. Now, lets leave the Christians alone, and turn to intrepid reporters talking to Pagans! The Canadian weekly SEE features an article by Marliss Weber, who attends a full-moon gathering and finds herself, despite having to sing the “vagina moon song”, moved by the experience.
“…modern witchcraft is welcoming and inclusive, and so are the witches I’m with tonight. They all help me as I stumble through the four elements and the four directions, and as I try to express how I feel in the moment, again I find myself near tears.”
While Weber attends a full-moon gathering, most papers are talking to Pagans who are gearing up for Samhain, like the Pennsylvania Black Hat Society Network, the practitioners at the Temple of St. Brigid’s Doom, the proprietor of the Fly-by-Night store in Ohio, and a British traditional Wiccan coven in Oregon.
“On such a night, Wiccans like Anton and Snavely gather in a sacred, circular space. Placing a drop or two of fine-smelling oil, they “dress” the candles they will use to focus their intent in four directions. Living things have an energy field that people perceive in various ways, but witches operate outside of our official defined five senses. They gather in a circle to contain energy, then raise the energy by dancing, singing and using their bodies. “We are between worlds, the energy world and the tangible,” Snavely said, adding that this is why it is bad to bring watches into the circle. The priestess directs the ritual to a crescendo, and everyone focuses on transferring the energy into a physical object such as a necklace or a worry stone meant for a son going to Iraq.”
But while (some) Christians close the blinds and turn off the porch light, and while many Pagans prepare for their Samhain rites and Witches’ Balls, others prefer to be wet blankets about the whole thing.
“I don’t like Halloween’s gimme-gimme nature. A holiday celebrated by sending children out to ask for candy leaves me cold, to say nothing of the absurdity of encouraging gorging on sweets in a nation with a serious obesity problem. I don’t like the phrase “trick or treat,” even though the implied threat is rhetorical. But I also don’t like when kids don’t bother to say “trick or treat,” but just reach out to grab candy. Or when they don’t bother to put on a costume. Or when they are either very large children with facial hair and men’s voices, or they are adults. And the wastefulness is mind-boggling — from those individually wrapped packets to all the candy that gets thrown out because even children have their limits.”
Man. What a Debbie downer. It must be TONS of fun at her house. She must be suffering from my new favorite malady, “Samhainophobia”. Anyway, that is just tip of the journalistic iceberg, expect even more in the next few days. If you find a particularly good (or bad) Samhain-themed article, feel free to share it in the comments.