Samantha Bee’s Wiccan Mom

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 3, 2010 — 1 Comment

Yesterday the NPR interview program Fresh Air interviewed actress/comedienne Samantha Bee of The Daily Show fame on the release of her new memoir “I Know I Am, But What Are You?”, which includes tales of growing up with a Wiccan mom while harboring a crush on Jesus Christ.

“Ms. BEE: And she found it really repellant. My father is just a complete atheist and my mother is into Wicca. So she decided that it was – she felt compelled to introduce me to some other stuff, so she made me go to like a Wiccan mass, which was just horrible for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BEE: Just terrifying.

GROSS: We should explain that Wiccan means more of a kind of contemporary, kind of feminist-spiritual approach to witchcraft.

Ms. BEE: Mm-hmm. Yes. Yes. It was very important to her. It has always been very important to her. But to me it was just satanic, because I just thought it was. It was just the people sort of looked vaguely – it was just too counterculture for me. But she, you know, she made me go and attend some rituals and it was terrifying. I found it just terrifying.

GROSS: You know, I’ve known people who have been into Wicca but I’ve never really known the child of somebody who’s been into it and I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be the child of somebody who has beliefs that are considered like far out of the mainstream like that.

Ms. BEE: Well, when I – I kind of felt sorry for my mother when I was growing up because I was so into Jesus. I thought oh, this poor lamb of God. She doesn’t understand. She just doesn’t get it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BEE: But now, I mean, you know, I’m proud of my mom. She stuck with it. You know, lots of people don’t stick with it, but she’s always had her little, her, you know, oh that was so, oh her little amulets. That’s terrible. But she’s always had her rituals and the things that she does. It’s really an important part of her life. And so I respect the fact that she stuck with something.

Now, it’s not for me. It’s not for my husband, but she loves it and so, I wouldn’t say that it’s – it’s not horrible or terrifying. It’s not very intrusive when you’re growing up. It’s the most unobtrusive religious practice imaginable. It’s very not in your face. It’s kind of a private thing and people gather on the wrong side of the tracks to practice, whatever it is that they’re doing. Being a child of Wicca has not affected me negatively. And you get to know a lot about plants.”

There’s more at the official transcript, including discussion of the term “warlock” and whether “witchcraft” is the appropriate term to use. You can listen to the program, here. What’s interesting about the interview, besides the fact that Fresh Air host Terry Gross “knows people who have been into Wicca” yet considers modern Paganism “far out of the mainstream”, is the fact that it drives home that modern Paganism is a multi-generational faith. Bee’s mother probably came to Wicca in the 1980s, when books like “The Spiral Dance” and “Drawing Down the Moon” were making waves, and Bee was a teenager, now Bee is 40 (only four years older than myself) with children of her own. Unlike Bee, it’s very likely that many adult children of the 1970s-80s Pagan converts have retained and cherished some sort of Pagan identity, a notion that flies in the face of critics who like to portray Paganism as either a refuge of 60s-era feminists or goth teenagers.

Thanks to Chas Clifton for the heads-up on this story. Oh, and if Samantha Bee’s mom is reading The Wild Hunt, I’d love to interview you about the difficulties in raising a teen with a crush on Jesus! Just drop me a line!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Cole G.

    I’m a fairly regular NPR listener, and a current subscriber to 89.3 KPCC, Southern California’s largest NPR-affiliated station. (I much prefer the human interest and locally-related stories to their nationally distributed news programs, which more-often-than-not feature unquestioning regurgitations of the government’s–and the MSM’s–respective party lines.)

    The conversation featured in Jason’s post today is NPR at one of its weaker moments.

    For Terry Gross to allow an unsympathetic interview subject (comedienne or otherwise) to defame the spirituality of many of his listeners and one of his colleagues (Margot Adler) with adjectives like “terrible”, “Satanic”, “horrible”, and “terrifying” without offering listeners any real discussion of the Wiccan religion is incredibly poor form. Gross may be ashamed of his kooky feminist Wiccan acquaintances for their “far out of the mainstream” beliefs, but if he had bothered to make even a cursory investigation into the spiritual system he and his guest so blithely dismiss, he would have learned that Wicca is neither necessarily a “feminist-spiritual approach” by definition, nor particularly countercultural anymore as it continues to grow and gain public acceptance and legal protection.

    To Gross’ credit, he didn’t go down the infuriating ‘Wicca is an ancient, pre-Christian religion’ or ‘Wicca is a New Age spiritual practice’ roads.

    Still, why can’t journalists get the subject of modern pagan religion right?

    People who are “into” any of the non-Wiccan contemporary pagan or heathen religions, take note: while it may be entertaining to hear those airy-fairy Wiccans insulted on National Public Radio, misinformation about our traditions is not limited to Wicca, and bad press for one religion can have a detrimental effect on public opinions of all pagan or heathen faith groups.