Pagan Reactions to O’Donnell’s “Dabble-Gate”

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 20, 2010 — 10 Comments

It doesn’t take a genius to predict that, barring some substantial new information, the mainstream press would go seeking out modern Witches and Pagans for their take on Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell‘s unearthed comments about once “dabbling” in witchcraft while in high school. Though I’m a little surprised on how quickly it all happened. Sam Stein from the Huffington Post seemed to be the first out of the gate with an interview with Circle’s Sanctuary’s Selena Fox.

“Any political candidate that is going to equate witchcraft with Satanism is ill informed and is not likely to get the support of people involved in nature religion,” she said, noting that the pagan community was “multi-partisan.” “I’m concerned,” she said. “I’m concerned that 25 years of work that the Lady Liberty League and other Wiccan and pagan civil rights and religious freedom groups have been involved in… that there will be more misinformation as well as ridicule and disrespect. We are living in politically turbulent times.”

Stein also included a comment from Diotima Mantineia at The Witches’ Voice, a Delaware resident who refuted any connection between Satan, bloody altars, and Wicca.

“So I don’t know what Ms. O’Donnell is talking about. I wonder if she knows what she was talking about.”

Then we have ABC News, who spoke with Sylvia T. Webb, the first officer of the Covenant of the Goddess, who called O’Donnell’s comments “bizarre”.

Webb scoffed at O’Donnell’s claims. “It’s very hard to worship something you do not believe in and Satan is a Christian concept,” she said. “Wiccans don’t have Satanic altars.” While they don’t have Satanic altars, they do have altars, but “there would be no blood,” Webb said. “She might have had a date with some … want-to-be goth child who was into thinking he was Satanic or something,” Webb said. “There are a lot of misinformed young people trying to be wild.”

Even the AOL blog Parent Dish gets into the act while interviewing Lillitu Shahar Kunning from the Witch Mom blog.

“Oy! I don’t want to claim Christine O’Donnell. It’s kind of like when Sen. Larry Craig was caught in that airport bathroom. No gay person wanted to claim him, either. Actually, I haven’t seen the old footage from Bill Maher, but from what I understand, she was a dabbler, not an actual witch with religious principles.”

So what about actual Pagan Tea Party folks in Delaware? Individuals who may actually want to vote for O’Donnell? What do they think? Cara Schulz from the PNC blog Pagan+Politics has interviewed two Pagan Tea Party members about their reactions to the O’Donnell witch-revelations.

“If this witchcraft admission affects her or not depends on how she handles it. I would like her to come out and explain what happened, not denigrate witchcraft, and then move on. If it was some guy who wanted to get into her pants, that’s what I think happened, she should say so. Ideally she would talk about the difference between Paganism and 1980?s and 90?s style Plagans. I doubt that will happen. A mage can dream, right?

I haven’t seen anyone in the Tea Party throw a fit like they have in the media. When people make fun of her for dabbling in witchcraft they are making fun of us. I’m seeing Pagans do that, too. They are so interested in making a Republican candidate look bad that they are willing to hurt our own path. But no, I’m not seeing the Tea Party get too upset over this. They are saying that it doesn’t matter and is an attempted distraction, don’t fall for it.”

The whole interview with “C” and “D” is well worth reading, and should give some greater insight into this story. Thanks to Cara for doing the legwork and getting their perspectives.

On the whole, I wish the mainstream coverage had been a bit more nuanced. I think there are larger issues to confront than “Witches don’t worship Satan” involved here, and I’m disappointed that we may have lost our chance to raise them before the media machine moves on to the next controversy. Still, I suppose it’s a mark of how far we’ve come that representatives from several organizations and traditions were contacted by the mainstream media for our thoughts.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • chuck_cosimano

    I think we should be thankful that our culture has reached the point where mental illness is no longer a barrier to holding public office.

  • Hrothwynn

    Some of the statements & comments from pagans in this article make the pagan community seem just as ignorant & biased as those they are complaining about. First of all, O’Donnell never mentioned the words “Wicca” or “paganism”, she spoke about “witchcraft” and “Satanism”. By equating these terms we are only reinforcing misconceptions. Why people are giving statements about Wicca as if that’s what she was talking about is beyond me. She was referring to something completely different, satanic witchcraft, which has been around for a long time. We look like idiots, or worse, liars, when we deny the existence of something well-attested. Wiccans do not have a monopoly on the term “witchcraft”, no matter how much they might like it to be so. If Wiccans hadn’t adopted for themselves such a negative-association-laden term (witches) in the first place, these kinds of problems wouldn’t even arise and we wouldn’t come across as marginal flakes doing mental & linguistic gymnastics trying to redefine the term “witch” (against all the accumulated fairy-tales of the ages) & revise historical notions of what the practice of witchcraft entails. Really, all these “representatives of the pagan/Wiccan community” needed to say was, “Christine O’Donnell said she dabbled in satanic witchcraft. We are not satanic witches, we are pagans, so we have nothing to say about that.”

    • Satanism is a completely reasonable and in many ways quite positive reaction to Christianity.

  • jamesrfrench

    This is another election year distraction from the fact that the economy is collapsing and neither party can do anything about it.

  • sarenth

    *facepalm* Could we stop putting -gate on the end of everything that seems to bespeak a conspiracy or controversy?

    • Crystal7431

      Thank you.

  • Sta?a

    Thanks, Jason. I've passed this on (Facebook and my own blog).

  • Baurch Dreamstalker

    *znort!* In 1964 Barry Goldwater could quote a Pagan with no blowback. Today it might be more consequential.

  • Baurch Dreamstalker

    And is still within her rights. I'm not getting your central point here.

  • Baurch Dreamstalker

    Thirty? She looked and acted a lot younger in that clip. Didn't strike me as mature at all.