Updates: Britain’s Wicca Man, The Conjuring, and the Art of Witchcraft

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 11, 2013 — 8 Comments

Here are some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

Publicity still from "Britain's Wicca Man".

Publicity still from “Britain’s Wicca Man”.

The hour-long documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man” has had a long, strange, trip to getting aired. A look at the life of Gerald Gardner, hosted by scholar Ronald Hutton, the program was commissioned by Channel 4 in Britain and initially scheduled to be aired sometime in 2012. That didn’t happen, and eventually a truncated 27-minute version popped up on Australian television earlier this Summer. Now, it seems the long journey is over, and the full documentary was finally aired this weekend in the UK under the new title of “A Very British Witchcraft.” Quote: “The extraordinary story of Britain’s fastest-growing religious group – the modern pagan witchcraft of Wicca – and of its creator, an eccentric Englishman called Gerald Gardner. Historian and leading expert in Pagan studies Professor Ronald Hutton explores Gardner’s story and experiences first-hand Wicca’s growing influence throughout Britain today.” Considering how rare it is for these short-form documentaries to get a DVD release in the United States, we will most likely have to wait until someone has taken the law into their own hands and posted it to Youtube, or made it available for download via BitTorrent in order to see it (not that I’m advocating piracy, simply communicating the realities of modern distribution). In any case, I look forward to seeing the whole work.

The-ConjuringBack in July I looked at the problematic thematic underpinnings of horror film “The Conjuring,” and why this “true story” could spark trouble. Since then, the film has gone on to gross more than a 100 million dollars, and the film’s insistence that they were conveying dramatized facts has already sparked some troubling results. Quote: “The author of the books that inspired the new movie “The Conjuring” is asking for help after a local gravestone was damaged in the village of Harrisville [...] Local residents are upset by the vandalism. ‘I mean it’s upsetting that anyone would vandalize a grave, because I think it’s very disrespectful,’ Sara Indish, Burrilliville.” Salem Witch Christian Day, who spoke out previously about the historical revisionism of the film, noted that the “film is having an impact and it isn’t a good one.” Talks of a sequel and possibly even a movie franchise are already underway, also based on the demon-hunting exploits of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and thus, even more opportunities to muddy the waters between fact and fantasy. I can only imagine that the emergence of “real” (Christian) exorcists as reality show stars will only fuel this trend. In any case, I hope this pop-exorcism fever breaks, and breaks soon.

The Weird Sisters from Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' After Henry Fuseli (1741-1825); mezzotint by John Raphael Smith (1751-1812)

The Weird Sisters by John Raphael Smith (1751-1812)

Earlier this month I posted an item about Witches & Wicked Bodies, an exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which had just opened (highlights of the show can be found, here). Now, the reviews are pouring in, all considering the portrayal of the witch, and the practice of witchcraft. Laura Cumming at The Guardian wonders if “these male artists ever met a woman who looked anything like such visions in reality? Not one of these figures is the classic old hag of medieval literature, the reclusive village spinster forced to endure the ducking stool or the stake because she was thought too weird in her ways, too sharp in her observations, too active with the herbs, or simply because she muttered to herself.” Meanwhile, Arifa Akbar at The Independent notices the strong sexual element running through the show. Quote: “These images of lewd sexual disinhibition and obscene corporeality (the women are invariably naked, open-legged, farting and with masculine features such as beards or penises) all arise from ancient fears that have surrounded women’s sexual desire, as well as the even graver fear of its ability to emasculate men.” Finally, Rebecca McQuillan at the Herald Scotland notes the recurring fear and animus towards older women in the figure of the witch. Quote: “The bile directed at ageing women in the 21st century contains unpleasant echoes of the sinister misogyny of the witch trial era. And that is deeply disconcerting.” 

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    This quote: “the modern pagan witchcraft of Wicca – and of its creator, an eccentric Englishman called Gerald Gardner. Historian and leading expert in Pagan studies”

    shows just how confused many publications are about when to capitalize “Pagan.” We capitalize the names of religious groups such as Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, etc. So we should capitalize “Pagan.”

    Not to mention, I’m not even sure what function “pagan” performs in the phrase “modern pagan witchcraft of Wicca.” As opposed to what? The modern Buddhist witchcraft of Wicca?

    he
    modern pagan witchcraft of Wicca – and of its creator, an eccentric
    Englishman called Gerald Gardner. Historian and leading expert in Pagan –
    See more at:
    http://wildhunt.org/2013/08/updates-britains-wicca-man-the-conjuring-and-the-art-of-witchcraft.html#sthash.E2JQ2rQL.dpuf
    he
    modern pagan witchcraft of Wicca – and of its creator, an eccentric
    Englishman called Gerald Gardner. Historian and leading expert in Pagan –
    See more at:
    http://wildhunt.org/2013/08/updates-britains-wicca-man-the-conjuring-and-the-art-of-witchcraft.html#sthash.E2JQ2rQL.dpuf
    he
    modern pagan witchcraft of Wicca – and of its creator, an eccentric
    Englishman called Gerald Gardner. Historian and leading expert in Pagan –
    See more at:
    http://wildhunt.org/2013/08/updates-britains-wicca-man-the-conjuring-and-the-art-of-witchcraft.html#sthash.E2JQ2rQL.dpuf

  • Robert Mathiesen

    One piece of Bathsheba Sherman’s gravestone is still missing. I don’t have words harsh enough for the vandals.

    http://www.turnto10.com/story/23101385/grave-of-bathsheba-sherman-back-together-after-vandalism

  • Gaddy

    > “the full documentary was finally aired this weekend in the UK under the new title of “A Very British Witchcraft.”

    It would have been nice if someone could have mentioned this to us colonists BEFORE it was aired…

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Sorry, I only found out last night.

      • Gaddy

        The Australian version is currently available on youtube, so that’s nice. The BBC is a little more vigilant over copyright, but I’ll bet it will be available in full, at least for a short while, soon enough.

        • Tauri1

          Thanks!

  • Jessica

    Living in New Zealand (which is under the Australian digital TV network) I managed to see the Gerald Gardener Doco – Whilst I was excited that a doco like this had been done, I didn’t hold out too much hope for it. Yes, it lived up to my pessimism, but it did have good moments. I still say watch it.

  • Antonella Ercolani

    On the website of channel 4 it says that it will air on the 17th of August on 4 more so there is a chance to record it if someone has access to British TV