Discussing “Season of the Witch”

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 19, 2010 — 52 Comments

John Morehead’s always wonderful TheoFantastique features a discussion with Pagan academic and film critic Peg Aloi over the upcoming Nicolas Cage film “Season of the Witch”. In it, Cage stars as a 14th century Crusader charged with escorting a suspected witch to a remote abbey to conduct a ritual they hope will cure the Black Plague. While both Morehead and Aloi are fans of occult-laced genre films, Aloi has some general concerns about the messages sent by films like “Season of the Witch”.

My main concern in terms of any negative repercussions for modern witchcraft is that one of the trailers I saw does include images of the pentagram, and seems to be equating it with evil. This is typical Hollywood occultism, and of course the symbol probably was associated with the occult in the Middle Ages. But since modern witches use this symbol, I suppose this film may provide yet another example of negative associations. But this kind of thing then opens up the possibility that the type of witchcraft portrayed in the film should somehow be equated with Wicca or modern witchcraft, which is problematic, because of course it shouldn’t.

As for the story itself and any relevance it has to contemporary discussions of religion, or of modern witchcraft, I do think that it may provide an opportunity to consider how we view images of the witch in history. Why is the witch a dangerous female? Why is she not always what she seems? Why is she thought to be so powerful that she causes disease and destruction? Why has witchcraft historically been such a lynchpin in so many eras of cultural turmoil? In any case, this looks like it will be a fairly entertaining film, if not a remarkable piece of cinema, although it has a great cast and a very fine production designer. I’m hoping it will be pretty good. Of course, some audience members aren’t inclined to forgive Nic Cage’s last foray into occult stories after the diabolical remake of The Wicker Man. So there will no doubt be some who think he’s “got it in for us.”

The whole discussion is worth a read, you may also want to see more clips from the film to decide whether it is something you’d want to take a chance on when it comes to a theater near you.

Personally, whether this film turns out to be sympathetic towards the suspected witch, or simply turns her into an evil demonic force, I’m not much for caring. Despite starring in one or two decent films, Nicolas Cage is (or has devolved into) a b-grade hack of an actor. The fact that he starred in ruinous remakes of both “The Wicker Man” (turning it into a comedic freak-show) and “Wings of Desire” (renamed “City of Angels”), two of my all-time favorite films, makes him box-office poison to my movie-going dollars. I keep expecting him to star as Howard Beale in a remake of “Network” so he can befoul that classic as well.

As for the content of the film, if I was going to see a Black Death centered film with Crusaders and a suspected witch in it, I’d much rather take my chances on the Sean Bean-starring (you know, Boromir in “Lord of the Rings”“Black Death”. Which treads much of the same ground, but seems far more intelligent.

“Black Death” has earned a 79% fresh rating on the  Tomatometer, an achievement I don’t think “Season of the Witch” will achieve. In any case, do check out the discussion between Peg and John.

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  • Mojavi

    Interesting how there really were villages that voluntary quarantine themselves from the "Black Plague"; not for religious reasons but because a pattern emerged.

  • fratermercurious

    Interesting how there are two movies that have nearly the same themes. I would rather go watch Black Death because it doesn't seem to be so fixated on EVIL WITCHES! *pentagram* (DEVIL!). It looks like there still might be some sort of witchcraft-related theme in Black Death, but it isn't so outright that this supposed witch is flying around the room in the preview. I find Nicholas Cage's acting to be distasteful and bland. The Wickerman with Christopher Lee is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I was disappointed to see what the remake had become. He also recently starred in Disney's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", which deviated from the original story (not the Fantasia one, although that was closer to the original), and had Nicholas Cage as an ancient wizard in a modern day city. Maybe he should take the time to study the occult and Pagan traditions to see how unintelligent and possibly offensive he is being with is acting choices?

    • Praxidike

      You are so right about Cage's ignorance of the occult. He's always been very interested in it, so he really should quit spending his time making ridiculous, often offensive occult-themed movies and learn something. He has become a total hack and his presence in any movie, especially one with an occult theme, pretty much guarantees it will suck.

      And I agree with the props to Sean Bean. He's been making movies for at least 20 years (remember him as the terrorist in "Patriot Games"?), and while he's never broken out as a leading man, he always does good work.

    • Robin Artisson

      I'll definitely see "Season of the Witch" so that I can root for the witch. It's just Christians calling her evil. They wouldn't know the difference between good and evil if that difference sat on their faces and wriggled. Normally, when they say "evil", what they are calling evil is just power- real power, power from the unseen world.

      • Crystal7431

        That's sort of what I thought about the previews. I suppose to a certain audience she would come across as frightening but in my view she comes across as very powerful and liminal, neither good nor bad; a Natural being. I'm interested in seeing it. I wish Cage wasn't in it, although I do have a soft spot for him. Mostly because he and my husband could pass for siblings. I know, with his poor acting skills and role choices it's not rational, but there it is…
        I do get upset over Hollywood's use of symbols. Hollywood is so completely ignorant when it comes to symbology and people inevitably believe anything found in a box office thriller is absolute truth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649965363 Lamyka L.

    Another point that movies like these bring up is that some of us, Witches and Pagans, are not at all interested in pandering to others' view of the world and see no problem throwing destruction into the mix. Have we not all heard the stories of Gods/Goddesses, Spirits, & Witches who wreak havoc upon others? Stories where divine apathy, malcontent, or vigilantism have become the common reason as to Punishments, Tricks, and/or Curses?

    Not all of us are nice people. And some of us are nice, but don't allow evil actions done upon us to go unrequited.

    • Robin Artisson

      You are correct, milady. The ancient mythologies are not "nice". Murders, revenge, wars, curses, disasters- you name it, you'll find it. The Gods aren't "nice", but operating according to an almost alien-seeming compulsion that suits something far beyond human brains.

      And this is a neat and wise reflection of the fact that the world isn't "nice". The Fateful powers that underscore our world are not "nice". The whole false notion of "nice" witches (you know, the kindly midwife-herbalist nature-worshiping woman that believes in the big mommy goddess and who was heartlessly butchered by the steel-faced patriarchs) is an invention of the modern world.

      Sadly, that invention has become what the pagan "mainstream" is trying to foist on the rest of the world as the historical image of "the witch". But the Haegtessa-Cultus wasn't nice, kindly, matriarchal healer women. Anyone who wants to see a taste of the sublime darkness and danger (and cruelty) that stood behind authentic witchcraft can look to no better source than "The Visions of Isobel Gowdie" by Emma Wilby.

      That book, more than any other, sets the record straight, and brings a badly needed balance back to things. And it does it in an indisputable scholarly way.

      This world isn't about "good and evil"- it's about power. The only moral difference (if any) between humans- or any other sentient beings- is the degree to which they have attained power and wisdom, or the extent to which they lack it. Power is not good or evil. It's just the ability to transform oneself and one's situation in strategic ways that make survival and desired outcomes more probable. This world is a great consuming conflict of beings and natural forces, and this vision far exceeds the stupid dualistic "good versus evil" cheapness that passes for profound these days.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1442700105 Paul White

        "The Gods aren't "nice", but operating according to an almost alien-seeming compulsion that suits something far beyond human brains."

        This brings to mind the proclivity too many people have toward assigning blame/responsibility for any given situation in their personal lives to a particular deity. (i.e. "I got this job because God wanted me to have it" or "Good things are happening to me because God loves me" <—-that makes me vomit in my mouth a little bit) However, when negative things occur in their personal lives, blame is rarely assigned to a deity. I have never heard, "God is not giving me enough money to pay the bills this month," etc… Like any specific deity has a deep seated personal interest in the life of an individual human being. Whatever.

        "This world isn't about "good and evil"- it's about power. The only moral difference (if any) between humans- or any other sentient beings- is the degree to which they have attained power and wisdom, or the extent to which they lack it. Power is not good or evil."

        Well said, Robin. This is precisely what I have advocated for many years. This *truth*, has fallen on staunchly deaf ears. In fact, when any attempt is made to point out this fact, people resolutely defend their bi-polar attitude of, "there is only good and evil, nothing more"; so much so, they become blubbering imbeciles convulsing on the floor in an epileptic rage.

        • Robin Artisson

          Paul, what you're discussing- on both counts- is the leftover remains of the Christian worldview operating in the lives of those Pagans- if, indeed, you can say they are Pagans.

          Yes, it's praise the Gods and pass the ammo when things go right, but no response when things go wrong- even though the myths of the ancient world openly and constantly show that people assigned negative events in life to the doings of the Gods, quite often in fact. And they accepted it, because part of the older understanding of "Gods" deals with their inexplicable nature, and, to an extent, to believe in Godly Powers is to believe that your life is entwined with greater, stranger forces, (forces that don't necessarily care what you were doing earlier this morning on your drive to work) and which leads to situations where things aren't always going to work out as you'd like. Accepting this is part of accepting Fate in a broader sense.

          However- you are 100% correct to say that it's mouth-pukable when people talk about how the Great Goddess of the whole cosmos stopped by and had tea with them or got them a job. Part of what I've learned, after all these years, thanks to personal experience, some scholarship, and thanks to my friends in the most serious recon fields, is that local spirits, ancestral spirits, and the like are the ones that really have the inclination and closeness to be intimately involved in the details of our lives, not the "great gods" who are captured in the myths as shaping the world, causing the weather, etc.

          I never rule out the idea that any power of any magnitude can interfere with a person's life if it chooses to, but I've never come across anyone claiming that who seemed to be other than a spiritually malnourished former Christian who badly missed the feeling of having the cosmos-god loving them specifically and particularly. What egos!

          (Some of) the Gods are friends to man, I wouldn't ever deny that, but not our drinking buddies, except in very special circumstances. To imagine that they put whether or not I keep my job on the same level as maintaining the workings of the cosmos with which they are deeply involved, is absurdity that could only be born in the "personalization of God" pioneered by Christianity, and following on the tracks of certain Mystery Cults that gave people some taste of divinity directly.

          As far as the dualistic "good and evil" moralizing- there's no question that this comes from the family tree that includes Zoroastrianism- Judaism- Christianity- Islam. A lot of "pagans" today leap to the faint reconstructions they find and bring their moralizing with them.

          The modern christianized mind has a very hard time "cutting loose" and falling into the world as it is- naked and unbridled- a world of few clear-cut situations, unpredictability, and a world which, while it is intimately connected with us and to us, still leaves *us*, at day's end, to find a way forward with whatever power we can personally find, ally ourselves with, get by barter with Gods or spirits, obtain, steal, or otherwise seize. It leaves us to find the wisdom we need, and if we don't find that, there's no help for us.

          I try to tell people often that the greatest single bit of advice I was ever given by my familiar is this: the Unseen actually isn't stingy with information. Inside of each person, messages have been delivered. You know- deep down- what you have to do to find your purpose and destiny. People either can't or won't listen, but embedded at the bottoms of our bellies is the nugget of guidance and truth that you need to get where you should be going.

          The legends of history are the people who were able to really listen to that quiet message inside them, and then live by what they heard. Humans in their natural state are very powerful creatures, and nothing stands in the way of that really, beyond our own doubts- sown in us by you-know-who.

          Few people can hear this and sleep well at night, thanks to the fairy tale we've been living for the last 1700 years.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649965363 Lamyka L.

            I wish I could give more thumbs up than just 1. Thank you for articulating the two points of baggage and reality of Power. In Hawaii you grow up learning from your Kupuna (Elders) to keep your eyes open and mind sharp because you never know when a God, Goddess, or a Spirit will take an interest in you–and you better be damn well prepared for *what kind* of interest that may be.

            Sometimes the attitudes and mindsets I come in contact with in the Neo-Pagan community borders on if not surpasses a flagrant disregard for the Reality that comes along with stepping into the world of the Witch or Pagan.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1008131810 Chelsea Rose

      Thank you.

      I get really annoyed at individuals who profess that witchcraft and paganism are all lovey-dove white light and happiness, while anything "dark" or "evil" was misappropriated to us by ignorant Christians. It's about just as ignorant.

  • Robin Artisson

    Peg Aloi asks:

    1. "Why is the witch a dangerous female?
    2. Why is she not always what she seems?
    3. Why is she thought to be so powerful that she causes disease and destruction?
    4. Why has witchcraft historically been such a lynchpin in so many eras of cultural turmoil?

    Robin Artisson answers:

    1. Hollywood Answer: Because she's absurdly gorgeous, and that gets people to see the movie. Real answer: Because women are more naturally and inherently inclined to the sort of extraordinary states of being that give way to Hedge-crossing, the key practice and characteristic of real witchcraft, historically and originally speaking.

    2. Because almost no human being is always what they seem. But when you toss actual witches into the mix- they are never what they seem because they are shape-shifters, in the sorcerous sense. Shape-shifting is both a common endowment gained by any attained hedge-crosser, and a simple statement of reality: nothing is as it seems. Everything is changing and fluid; life is water, not stone. The core deception of life, which causes unwisdom to arise and persist, is that "we" are solid, substantial beings that have a certain form and that "we" are walled off absolutely from a solid, predictable world. This is a great illusion. The person who acquaints themselves with "shimmering", or the practice of crossing the hedge, learns to see through it. With power, we can "be" anything we desire. This great sorcerous flexibility is experienced by non-sorcerers as "instability" and they fear it. They can't pin it down, so they hate it. it bothers people who thrive on a predictable society and world.

    3. Because witches, historically, absolutely had the power to cause disease and destruction. This isn't elitist propaganda created by churches. Having a conscious existence on both sides of the hedge makes what appears to be a "regular" human being live two lives- one of everyday tasks, and the other being sister or partner to the powers of Fate, the unseen underlying forces that structure how we experience this world. Such a person is capable of influencing, in a subtle but powerful way, just about any event.

    Added to this, such a powerful position is vulnerable to the unfathomable intricacies of the web of causality, the nigh-unpredictable matrix from which all things emerge. Real "witching" or hexing is innately risky, and human communities are partly right to be bothered by its presence at too high of a degree. Yes, accidents, misfortunes, and strange things WILL occur around a person who is "two headed" or having a conscious life on both sides of the hedge and who has attracted subtle forces to them. It's unavoidable, almost.

    4. For the first part of this answer, see answer 3. For the second part, Witchcraft is at the heart of cultural turmoil and turnover because a witch in the authentic sense (not the wicca duotheistic "visualization magic" nature-worship sense) is a direct conduit to an unseen world, and to the profound reality outside of this world, but underlying it and acting as its matrix. This unseen world is a chaotic place, a place of radical potentials and dark powers that are vast and ancient. The mere intrusion of a tiny part of this reality into our perceptual world is disconcerting and transformative, to an extreme degree sometimes. Era-changing turmoil has its birth in the Unseen, just as personality-changing transformation from the depths does.

    These answers will, I think, establish why authentic sorcery and witchcraft- and the people who consort with those powers and activities- are always marginalized by society. They never fit in, really. They are hated, despised, feared, and just bothersome. This is also why I have to laugh at the whole "mainstreaming" of witchcraft. If it can be mainstreamed, then it is not witchcraft. Many things calling themselves witchcraft these days are not.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      All very dramatic, Robin, but it will not deter Witches who seek full First Amendment from continuing to do so.

      • Robin Artisson

        Inventing a fully modern, idiosyncratic meaning for a word, like "witch", and then identifying with it, such that you put yourself into a new and fully contrived "minority" and then seek "full first amendment" (as you say) is just silly. It's infuriating, actually. And it totally misrepresents historical witchcraft.

        I mean, if you want to invent a persecuted minority to belong to, I guess you do have to pick a word from history that referred once to dangerous, uncanny people, and which still has a lot of negative connotations the Christian world. That will make your tearful civil rights battle even more uphill. It's like people just need to feel downtrodden and persecuted, so that they can have their own civil rights fight, and have something in their lives to triumph over.

        …Or maybe people who can't stand the mainstream (and who could blame them?) will quickly find a banner to gather around, regardless of whether or not that banner represents the reality it claims fairly or accurately at all. Call it dramatic all you want. Real witches aren't seeking social acceptance or "full first amendment". They wouldn't trouble themselves with such nonsense, when they have a greater society to which they already belong- the society of the unseen world. Compared to that world, the stupid games that happen here are ephemeral and pointless.

        • Donna Montgomery

          I was reading a very long thread on whether witches are a made up minority which people want to be a part of in order to whine about their !st Amendment rights and whether its about good vs evil or merely the use of power to change things around you. Bull! I was born a witch, will die a witch, it's a lonely unforgiving life because the great majority has already formed their opinions. It is all about power in only 1 sense: if you use the power for evil you will reap evil in return. I have done that and learned from it. I will not use that path again. True witches hold a wealth of knowledge and power at their disposal, if they use it correctly, they don't have to spend endless blogs making light of the power of good and evil. I would like to have the freedom however to openly be a witch without worrying that a neighbor or teacher will shun my family because of my calling.

          • jaundicedi

            Am I the only one who immediately thought, "Oh Hell. They.ve turned Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" into a sword and sorcery film!" His character sounds a lot like Max von Sydow's

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Robin, the attitude that you're the only real witch in these parts often shines through your words. I'm pleased (if that's the word) to see you make it so explicity.

          • Robin Artisson

            I'm not the only hedge-crosser I know, nor even the most powerful I know. That's partly sad to say, and partly good to say, as the "profession", as it were, is, well… tough on the life and mind, and I have other responsibilities to see to. But I plan on going as far as Fate wishes. And that remains to be seen.

            The fact that you could assume- even though I've said nothing of the kind- that I'm insisting that I'm the "only real witch" in any parts says more about your insecurities than anything about me.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You can't deny you just spoke, supra, of "real witches" in a context clearly including yourself and excluding most of the folks here. I see from the traffic that you have some supporters, and suppose you include them, too.

          • Robin Artisson

            I didn't "exclude" most of the folks here, because I have no idea how many of the folks here consider themselves "witches" in any sense. I don't even think I know one, personally. Of course, you may- but you've never identified yourself as that in front of me here. That chick that just responded to me further up (whom I've never seen before here) claims to be a witch. She may be the first to do so for me here. When I was talking about "real witches", I meant to refer to the Haegtessa, to the historical and modern Hedge-riders, as opposed to the "great rite performing, cakes-n-ale imbibin', five-fold-kiss givin' wiccans" who for some reason get called "witches". And it never fails to mystify me why they'd want the title, except for the delicious, sexy scandal that follows the word around.

            Yes, I have "supporters", though I don't call them that. I call them "co-villains". I attract the rankest crowd of neer-do-wells and hoods from the woods that you can imagine. And I really wouldn't have it any other way.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            "And it never fails to mystify me why they'd want the title ['witches'], except for the delicious, sexy scandal that follows the word around."

            I usually call myself a Pagan but have a Wiccan initiation and can claim the title. I also use it in solidarity with the victims of the Burning Times. Either word has a shock value (I wouldn't call it scandal) with non-Pagans that serves to alert them to the fact that I'm telling something about myself that they may not have experienced before. I had to do this with fellow UUs a lot back when I was new to Paganism around the same time Paganism was new to UUs.

          • Robin Artisson

            What sorta Wiccan initiation? Are you Gardnerian?

            You believe in the "burning times?"

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            What I call boilerplate Wicca, no idea what lineage. I took it in a coven I'd joined to learn the ropes of group work a few years after I'd had an epiphanal experience of the Goddess, not to track a tradition.

            I believe the Inquisition and its offspring burned a lot of people they thought were witches. I don't buy the nine million number. I regard Benedict XVI as an institutional descendant of the bad guys, given his former job, and myself as a foster descendant of the victims.

          • Robin Artisson

            Hmm. I've known a lot of Wiccans. The "hard Gards" I knew were impressive people- very much in the spirit of the "wise", in one crucial sense- they knew secrecy and its importance. And they weren't silly at all. Out of all the others, I knew a member of the Majestic tradition, from the Ozarks, and to this day, that girl stands out in my memory because she could do something that no one else has ever demonstrated to me again- she could do something she called the "cosmic hug" (urg! I know it sounds new agey) but somehow, she could make you feel things.

            She was doing this ritual one night that I was invited to, and she was doing it as some attempt to heal this guy (her boyfriend at the time) and at one point, she called me over and touched me on the forehead, and it felt like a massive cascade of sand was pouring down my whole face and body- very tangible and strong. It was wild! And without touching people, standing in front of them, she could make them feel this rushing force hitting them (one guy described it as a sorta-orgasm.)

            Since her, I've never met anyone who could do that. I was very young in those days (aged between 19 and 20) and she was impressive for that ability to project power so tangibly.

            The inquisition had local civil authorities burn people; they didn't do the burning themselves. Heresy was, in those days, a civil offense, too, not just a canonical one. And witchcraft was (after a point) classified among heresies.

            Ratzinger is absolutely an institutional descendant, as direct as you can find. As for "foster descendant", I don't know. I show my solidarity for any man or woman murdered for the crime of thinking for themselves by raging like the little monster you see me here, and working in my own private ways to undermine Mother Church's power, which you don't see here.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I never set out to become a Wiccan. After my epiphanal experience I ditched a lifetime of fealty to logic and started going where my intuition drew me. It eventually drew me to a Wiccan coven, and I realized I was supposed to accept initiation. "I realized I was supposed to…" marked just about every step on my path between those two events.

            I met one guy who could project healing influence from his palms and fingers without contact. He cleared up a migraine of mine that the meds of the day couldn't dent. Alas, he was undisciplined in its use, applied it trivially, and in general was in obvious need of some kind of direction, which I could not give him.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=649965363 Lamyka L.

      I feel that even the "questiones to be raised" seem more like projections of people's views on the past than any actual knowledge of the past or anthropology. Instead of "Why is the witch a dangerous female?" how about "Why are we even asking such a redundant obvious question rooted in modern feminist attitudes about blatantly FICTIONAL characters??" Which the the answer thereof is, someone is trying to SELL A MOVIE–guys will spend money to see hot chicks or chicks who may be hot. Most of these questions are so lazy and sound more like a veiled attempt to complain about how women are 'objectified' in film and throughout history *weeep! gasp!*

      "Added to this, such a powerful position is vulnerable to the unfathomable intricacies of the web of causality, the nigh-unpredictable matrix from which all things emerge. Real "witching" or hexing is innately risky, and human communities are partly right to be bothered by its presence at too high of a degree. Yes, accidents, misfortunes, and strange things WILL occur around a person who is "two headed" or having a conscious life on both sides of the hedge and who has attracted subtle forces to them. It's unavoidable, almost."

      The only thing I would add to this is that I think people are forgetting that in order to be accused of being able to do something, first requires having the knowledge to do something. If the only way you're going to survive life is to learn how to use the plants, animals, etc around you then well… options are simple, learn or probably die–learn more and have the ability to kill, if you need to or *want to*.

      Robin, to add to your no.4 answer would be the somewhat easier answer of what is different is more likely to be a threat–and there's no defense like a good offense, a.k.a. kill the weirdo. I remember when the LGBT community was blamed for AIDS/HIV, why? Mostly they were different, weak in coherent numbers, and lacked proper representation. You could use that formula for almost any minority group in their societal infancy and realize it correlates with their being a "lynchpin at turbulent times".

      Sorry about the run-on sentences, this is something that just gets me every time. I swear if I hear one more "I'm so offended…" I'm going to gag.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

      They were rhetorical questions, really: pointing out the tendency for cinematic depictions to perpetuate stereotyped ideas about witches.

      I don't think witches caused the plague; I think they were convenient scapegoats. One theory that intrigues me is that apothecaries and those who worked with plants were "immune" (or more immune than others because the volatile essential oils in plants provided some anti-microbial protection. This was an unintended consequence of the use of perfumery to help fight the plague: pomanders, or "apples" full of ambergris, were containers filled with perfumery ingredients carried by the wealthy to scent the air and help ward off "pestilence." It was believed the plague was spread by filth and bad odors; this is true, in part; it was exacerbated by poor hygiene, because it was spread by the fleas that lived on rats. But no one knew this at the time.

      • Robin Artisson

        I don't think they caused the plague either; plagues certainly don't need witches. I suppose (part) of my answer was simply in support of the parts of the "stereotype" of the witch that are based on reality. The entire vision we have of the witch- including some of the sinister lining- isn't, I don't think, just invented by clerical elites. But some is.

        I like the notion of herbalists faring better due to the health benefits they were more likely to internalize than others.

        As a sublime point in fact, the plague was spread by the fleas from rats- and had Christian Europe not burned cats alive every morning- which good, god-fearing towns and cities did, as a sign of allegiance to the church (cats were believed to be evil omens and devils in disguise in many places, and this myth was perpetuated by clerics) then that deadly rat population might have been kept down more, and less people may have died. As a point in fact, the plague hit the church very, very hard because priests and monks were more likely to be in contact with infected people. Even one pope died from the plague- all because of their demonic hysteria, and the large-scale murder of cats.

        Another beautiful and fateful illustration of how all things are connected- what people do to the web of life, they do to themselves. And it's just (not so poetic) justice. "Cat Annis" got the last laugh on this one.

    • blah

      "These answers will, I think, establish why authentic sorcery and witchcraft- and the people who consort with those powers and activities- are always marginalized by society. They never fit in, really. They are hated, despised, feared, and just bothersome. This is also why I have to laugh at the whole "mainstreaming" of witchcraft. If it can be mainstreamed, then it is not witchcraft. Many things calling themselves witchcraft these days are not. "
      spot on. i support pagans in their mainstreaming and acceptance in society. it is, after all, collection of religions, and to me much more appealing than anything else offered.
      however, practitioners of magick, however they call themselves, don't seek acceptance. anyone who dives into magick is forever apart from regular folks, who simply can not understand what magickian experienced, and what drives them and their viewpoints. and this is understood by practitioners, who are only open about their stuff in occult or occult-friendly communities.

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    Laughing cuz in Medieval times, the Pentagram was a symbol of the Virgin Mary. Sir Gawain, a hero who was later Christianized, had a Pentagram painted on his shield. In Germanic culture it was a protective sigil, like a hex sign on barns. And let's not forget Leonardo's symbol of man with arms and legs extended. In the Medieval period, the Pentagram wasn't exclusively a symbol of witchcraft. Ah, well, write it off to Hollywood.

    • Robin Artisson

      Blame the Golden Dawn, Crowley, and the Wicca they helped invent for pushing that symbol into the mainstream with extreme occult connotations attached to it, which predictably turned dark when social moronity and sensationalism caught up with it.

      • Northernsea

        Oh Robin, you are so hot!!!! You know everything. Wow!

        • Robin Artisson

          I know! I know! Who wants to touch me?? WHO WANTS TO TOUCH ME??

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

      Laughing cuz the pentagram is an ancient Pythagorean symbol, among a great many other things. It is also a traditional symbol of magic, in a completely neutral way, in Japanese culture. It is also a symbol of a very important form of the Hindu God Shiva as Lord over Death (Maha Mrityunjaya).

      Yuk yuk yuk.

    • Pagan Puff Pieces

      It's also a star, as in, Twinkle Twinkle Little.

    • Tea

      Its also a symbol of the Chinese five elements: wood, metal, water, fire and earth.

    • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

      Also it was used to symbolize the 'Five Wounds' of Yesu (at least in the later medieval period). There are several very well-made rose windows in cathedrals in Germany that use pentagrams as the central device.

      • http://sari0009.xanga.com/603410074/imagination-and-virtues-of-equality/ KarenAScofield

        Don't take this literally, but it almost seems like one giant social experiment…that of offering two movies about the Black Plague at the same time, one chock full of old tropes (sexy black flying witch, Satanic pentagram, "deliver us from evil") and centuries old dark triumphalistic fairy tale stuff, the other is "more intelligent" … and let's see which one wins at the box office.

  • Robin Artisson

    It's a wonderful trailer for the movie. I like her summoning the wolves to protect her- a very folklorically correct familiar beast for any witch, embodying as they do the great dark power of disorder and ravening hunger beyond the hedge. However, I would have tried to summon wolves with frickin' laser beams on their heads.

    • Crystal7431

      Lol!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

    For those interested in other films dealing with the theme of the plague and witchcraft, I highly recommend 'The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey."

  • http://blog.chasclifton.com Chas Clifton

    Peg, don't know. "The Navigator" is beyond bizarre. . .

    (spoiler alert) . . . until the part where they pop out in New Zealand .That makes perfect sense. Oh yeah ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

    I think it's very innovative and a great story.

    • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

      But yeah, kinda bizarre.

  • http://siren.crowned-meadow.net Steph

    The first seems an awful lot like a hyper hollywood-ised version, at least more so than the second. I wouldn’t mind seeing both of them, I mean I sat through the Craft and it’s kind of a piece of crap. Hollywood seldom gets any religions or “strange” practices right, nevermind ones based in the past. People expect too much from the,.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dydan Dydan Waters

    Nick Cage is not the star he once was. Bad business decisions have left him in pretty dire financial straits, so he's been taking a lot of hack parts to pay the bills. The housing market crash really hit him hard – last I heard he was trying to sell off property at alarmingly low prices.

    Aside from that, I dont think Hollywood will EVER paint an accurate picture of what modern Paganism is about. The reality of what we are and what we do is far less interesting than the myths.

  • Moggie_cat

    Eh, it's just a dumb horror/fantasy movie…a popcorn chomper. And just the type of movie I would love to go see! I love horror movies! The dumber, the better! I really don't care that Hollywood "insults" pagans with these things…I just don't take it personally. Besides, Hollywood insults everybody if you think about it. Why should we pagans and witches be any different. And believe me, as a long-time fan of horror movies, there are some doozies out there.

    The only reason I would not go see this particular movie is..Nick Cage. I can't stand him as an actor…he sucks.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    Here are some cross-cultural examples of pentagrams:

    In Japanese magic (as portrayed in modern pop-culture): http://www.beyondhollywood.com/onmyoji-aka-yin-ya

    Hindu Yantra for Maha Mrityunjaya: http://www.indianetzone.com/25/maha_mrityunjaya_y

    The Pythagorean Pentagram: http://web.eecs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/PP/index.htm

    Chinese "Five Element Theory": http://www.drstandley.com/readingRoom_4.shtml

  • Crystal7431

    The Sean Bean movie looks awesome. Can't wait to see that. By the by, did anyone see The Tempest? It did not come to a theatre near me, so I was just wondering how it was.

  • Heather

    Nic Cage & Mel Gibson should get together & swap spouse abuse stories. I've lost all respect for those two & don't wish to give them any of my money.

  • Lioness

    There is an app available on the android market that ties into this movie called "Wtich Hunt". The app lets you take pictures of people around you with your phone and then if it identifies them as a witch will show an animation of them being burnt.

    The description for the app is as follows:

    Witches walk all around us. They are responsible for great devastation, performing harrowing evils from the guises of the shadows. Witches can be anyone – a cute stranger at the bar, a quiet coworker, your childhood friend, even your closest family member. When your very life is at stake, how do you distinguish a witch from a mere mortal Welcome to the Season of the Witch "Witch Hunt" application. The app unveils the witches that are all around you.

    It does look as though this is an official publication from the movie producers as it lists the developers web page and contact info as the offical website.

    I am not impressed.