Witch-Burning Beer and Other Pagan News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 16, 2010 — 73 Comments

Top Story: Outrage is spreading across the Internet over The Lost Abbey brewery’s decision to feature a woman being burned at the stake for their “Witch’s Wit” wheat ale.

Detail from the “Witch’s Wit” label.

“First of all, it’s an insult to me as an ordained Pagan minister and long-time practicing witch. If you want to capitalize on the beer’s name in order to sell more brews, at least use a more tasteful image. Hex, I could accept a picture of the stereotypical wart-nosed, green-skinned ugly old hag over this. But to show a buxom woman standing helplessly as the flames engulf her… while a group of onlookers (presumably male monks) surround her gawking at the sight is simply degrading.”

In a widely-forwarded e-mail message about the beer label, Motherpeace Tarot co-creator Vicki Noble calls the image dehumanizing and outside the bounds of good taste.

“Can you imagine them showing a black person being lynched or a Jewish person going to the oven? No, of course not, such images are simply not tolerated in our society anymore (thank the Goddess) and this one should not be either. Please call them or write them a letter to protest this hateful and dangerous expression which dehumanizes women.”

So far no statement has been issued from the California brewery, and there’s no mention of the controversy on their Facebook or Twitter feeds, though a discussion thread has been started at their Facebook page. Considering the fact that women are still being killed and imprisoned for crimes of “witchcraft” it does seem rather tone-deaf of the company. I’ll keep you posted as this story develops.

UPDATE: Lost Abbey responds:

“I encourage you to look at all of Lost Abbey’s beers and consider them in context. Each of the Lost Abbey beers features a label which depicts a theme of Catholic excess — good and bad — on the front, and tells a moral story on the back. (Our founder is a recovering Catholic.) In the case of Witch’s Wit, the back label is a story of the bad consequences of religious intolerance and oppression. The woman on the front is referred to as a “healer” on the label and accuses the Church of being narrow-minded and violent, threatening the same fate to anyone who would help the woman. The label ends with a note that this beer — a light, sweet and golden ale — is brewed in honor of that woman (and all those who died for their convictions).”

I’ll be interested to see how Noble and others who were offended will respond to this.

Pagan elected Trustee of International Interfaith Organization: Covenant of the Goddess National Interfaith Representative Don Frew has been voted in for another term as an At-Large Trustee for the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative.

“The URI is the world’s largest, grassroots interfaith organization, with 496 local branches (“Cooperation Circles”) in 77 countries, involving millions of people in interfaith programs around the world (www.uri.org). The purpose of the URI is “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation; to end religiously motivated violence; and o ctraete cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”  I worked with many others – including CoG’s Deborah Ann Light – in the writing of the URI’s Charter in conferences in 1998-2000.

This is my third term on the URI’s Global Council.  In 2002, I was elected to be one of three Trustees from the North American Region on the URI’s first elected Global Council.  In 2006, I was asked to be one of two At-Large Trustees on the URI’s second elected Global Council.  This time, on the third elected Global Council, I am again one of two At-Large Trustees, the other being Swami Agnivesh of New Delhi, India.”

This election to a third term as a trustee of the URI comes not long after Covenant of the Goddess member Rachael Watcher, a longtime interfaith activist, was elected to the Executive Board of NAIN. In addition, Phyllis Curott, President Emerita of COG, is one of three Pagans currently serving on the Board of Trustees of the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. It’s clear that COG is an organization that is leading the way for Pagan involvement in the interfaith community. Congratulations to Don on his election.

Druids vs The Daily Mail: One of the ongoing side-stories to The Druid Network being granted charity status in the UK (a process that was explained in-depth here at The Wild Hunt) was reaction to a scathing editorial by Melanie Philips of the Daily Mail, who called the situation both “absurd” and “malevolent”. TDN founder Emma Restall Orr sent out a lengthy rebuttal to Philips, while a 4100 signature-strong petition calling for an apology was hand delivered by around 30-50 Druids and Druid-supporters to the Daily Mail offices.

“The Daily Mail had someone waiting for us on the steps to take the petition. I handed it over and he promised that he would get it to Robin Esser. I made damn sure I got a handshake and thankfully, someone was quick enough to take a photo of that. At the PCC, Simon Yipp, the gentleman who has been dealing with complaints RE this article, came down personally to recieve the petition. I’m going to give it a week and email both the DM and the PCC for updates, if I don’t hear from them before then.”

In attendance at the petition-delivery were noted UK Pagans like Arthur Pendragon, Vivianne Crowley, and Andrew Pardy (Chairman of the Police Pagan Association). It remains to be seen if this petition will have the desired effect. No doubt Philips thrives on controversy, and I can’t imagine her backtracking on her views.

Moving Halloween? Since Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, some communities are moving observances to Saturday. Some for practical reasons, and some because they believe Halloween to be “pagan” or “Satanic” in origin. News10 in California covered the mini-controversy and spoke with PNC-Sacramento coordinator David Shorey, from Sacramento Grove of the Oak.

“David Shorey. a practicing Druid (a form of Paganism) with Sacramento Grove of the Oak, says “Halloween or as we call it Samhain, is a time to honor the ancestors, look at the past year and honor those who have passed on.” Shorey recognizes that Halloween has evolved into a secular holiday for most Americans and says he and his fellow Druids celebrate with candy and costumes as well as in a traditional Pagan manner. “We’re actually going to be celebrating on the following weekend where we’re going to do an ancestors feast, where folks come together and bring a dish that recognizes and honors their ancestry,” Shorey said.”

Catholics in the UK are trying to “reclaim” Halloween, while animal shelters halt adoption of black cats, partially due to rumors that Witches are out sacrificing cats. All seem to be rooted in the anxiety that Halloween, at its true root, isn’t really associated with the Judeo-Christian backdrop most people are comfortable with. In any case, I think David did a good job with the interview, and stressed that this time of year is one of religious observance for most Pagans.

Invoking Artists: In a final note, artist Jeffrey Vallance, participating in the annual Frieze Art Fair, decided to hold a massive séance involving famous (deceased) artists.

“There were some spooky goings on this week at the fair around the Frieze Project devised by the artist and Fortean Times contributor Jeffrey Vallance, who asked five psychics to channel the spirits of blockbusting artists Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Leonardo da Vinci and Marcel Duchamp. Before the mediums—and the artist phantoms—arrived, the spiritualists predicted: “There might be some problems with electricity.” Before you could say Doris Stokes, the internet crashed during the séance, which meant that a live web broadcast had to be scuppered. It was all to do with “forcefields”, apparently.”

Of course the Internet crashed! Artists, particularly great artists like Kahlo and da Vinci, are/were some of the most potent magic(k) workers around. You don’t invoke them lightly. It’s unseemly, and it’ll play havoc with your electronics.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • I'm glad somebody has the courage to point out just how trivial and absurd that last comment was

    • Baurch Dreamstalker

      Whose? The reply ladder doesn't make that clear.

  • Witty women are much more likely to get burned.

  • Grimmorrigan

    wit is commonly used term for wheat beer.

  • Grimmorrigan

    Actually, you need to elaborate.

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    Beer is a subject very close to my heart, and the hearts of many. Of course we're going to take it seriously.

  • Karlsefni

    The magical ashes make the beer taste better.

  • Karlsefni

    I'm seeing a supreme lack of looking things up for oneself.

  • Karlsefni

    Yeah, the witch on the bottle isn't even all that attractive. She's so poorly drawn, in fact, that her cleavage is a curveless line.

  • "We" never burned women at the stake. what "we" are you referring to?

  • "Santa's Butt Winter Beer"?


    • Karlsefni

      If you're ever in Vegas, visit the Double Down Saloon and ask the bartender for Ass Juice. It's divine.

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    Beer is SRS business.

    Most of the time.

  • QFT

  • Ursyl

    Excuse me for not being an expert on beer. Not everyone drinks the stuff.

    • Don

      What does a witch burning have to do with rape and domestic violence and the demoralizaion of women today? Goodness, people know how to make much ado about anything.

    • Grimmorrigan

      Driniking it and being able to google it are two different things.

  • Ursyl

    How exactly is the image of a woman being burned not misogynistic?

    I'm not exactly feeling the love from such a picture. You?

    • Don

      Is Christ on the cross anti-Semitic?

      • Pagan Puff Pieces

        Is a burning witch a major inspirational image, and the main symbol of witchcraft itself?

        • Your post makes no sense.

        • Some try to make it exactly that.

          • Karlsefni

            Ooh, BURN!

          • Grimmorrigan

            She is using her Witches Wit!

        • Don

          The point is that the both depict events in history. To portray a horrendous event is not to promote or approve of the horrendous actions behind it.

  • Grant

    It's just a name for a beer. Get over it.

  • Grant

    I'll drink to that, Anna – pun very much intended!

  • Karlsefni

    It would definitely sell much more beer, though. Ooh what a sizzling direct relationship of outrage to profit.

  • caraschulz

    I'm right there with you. People are far too willing to jump on the outrage bus without getting even half the story.

    • Crystal7431

      Product of the Age of Tweet, methinks. If it's more than a two line explanation forget it.

  • Don

    Good Gods. I don't think I want to be a pagan anymore. Not if paganism is a pity party for those who want to pretend to be victims and a persecuted minority.

    • It's not a Pagan thang. You can find hypersensitive over-reacting whiners in any group.

      • Crystal7431

        I think that's a bit unnecessary and a bit hyper-reactive. We can dialog without the name calling. : )

        • Karlsefni

          Thin-skinned, much?

      • It tends to occur a lot in newage paganism, in my experience. I rarely see a hindu or buddhist or taoist or sami or sikh whine about percieved offenses.

  • Mind you, that's just me.

  • Lori F – MN

    No matter how well intentioned the brewery was in using this label, it does perpetuate the image that "suffer not a witch to live."

  • (Please note: the preceding comment was intended as humor. If allergic to this substance, do not ingest.)

    • Karlsefni

      You brand of Wiccans, ye Moderate Wiccannery, need to Speak up more.

  • Don


  • juliette ashmoon


    you said it all for me! i don't care what their resoning is, this is a vile image of a woman!!!

  • Karlsefni



  • Karlsefni

    Broken record argument. Can't think of anything substantive to say, so you just roll your eyes at all passersby.

  • Ok. I know someones going 2 yell at me or somhing but I rily don’t care. I think the should change the picture. I’m 14 and I rily do not like it at all. The burning times were horrable and it ticks me off to see that someone is useing it to sell beer!!!!!!
    – Victoria Delphi & Justine Elizabeth

  • Karlsefni

    By your example, I will know label anyone who claims to be a wicca-witch as someone who can't google to save their lives.

  • Crystal7431

    Um- did you put your reply in the correct place, kahetel?

  • Crystal7431

    I'm offended and angered that you brought up Gerald Gardner! ; )

  • Crystal7431

    After having read about Witch's Wit, I'd love to try it. Sounds delicious.

    • thelettuceman

      I think the fact that people are so absolutely crazy about this makes me want to drink it MORE.

    • Yes I totally want to get a 6-pack of witch's wit now. Controversy tastes so good.

      • wilderquill

        Ordering that shirt now…that's the best.

    • kauko

      Agreed, I want to try some. I *heart* wheat beers!

    • Karlsefni

      We should get a few cases and drink it around the fire on Walpurgisnacht.

    • Sea Serpent

      But none of these witches are being burned, or hurt.

  • Grimmorrigan

    I think some folks here caught Fox News Fever!

  • Grimmorrigan

    MISOGYNISTIC PATRIARCHAL BEER BARONS!! This would make an excellent band name. Stealing it.

  • I totally want that t-shirt now.

    • David Martin

      WTF! With all the problems that the U.S. is having why are we wasting our time on this crap. It’s just a beer marketing strategy. The more you bitch the more you bring attention to the product! Get over it!

  • I'm gonna give you a heart HAIL! for your post.

    They are the reason I don't refer to myself as pagan.

    • Angitia

      I am angry over this… I am a witch and I am not a sinner.The people who made this beer need to grow the hell up.

      • More like people who get offended over this beer need to grow the hell up.

      • Grant

        People who get angry over an image on a bottle of beer need to "grow the hell up," as you put it,

  • Rethinking? Rethinking? That is a dangerous habit… it can lead to changing your mind. Beware! 😉

  • Karlsefni

    QFT. gb2 homeroom.

  • I'm more irritated that the so-called apology got twisted into a beer ad.

  • Anna Michelle Bucci

    I thought the brewery was californian. California didn't have witch burning either though.

  • Grant

    That is such a cop-out, Apuleius! Anyone who cannot prove their point on so much as a discussion forum cannot be taken seriously.

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    With all due respect to my Hindu friends, but there plenty of occasions where they get upset over perceived offenses to their religion. Remember the recent Sacred Source controversy? How about when India's most famous fine-artist left the country due to threat of arrest and violence for a painting? Heck, Rajan Zed has made a career of getting offended on Hinduism's behalf.As for Buddhism, did you hear about how Akon was recently denied a Visa to Sri Lanka because Buddhists found one of his songs offensive? I assure you, it isn't the only time Buddhists have become offended by something. I welcome the civil back-and-forth over this issue, but Pagans/Wiccans are hardly unique or “newage” for getting offended about stuff. It's a very human, and very common, thing.