TWH – October is in full swing and so is the annual deluge of stories in the news about Witches and occult practices. The closer the wheel turns to Samhain, the Days of the Dead, and secular Halloween celebrations, the flow of stories and articles will likely increase.
The current popularity of magical practices continues to permeate the mainstream pop culture of movies and series on television and streaming services. The release of Hocus Pocus 2 is the most recent high-profile example of both controversy being stirred and major news outlets seeking commentary from actual practicing Witches.
Before the sequel to the original 1993 classic film had even been released, a viral social media post allegedly made by a Christian parent made claims that the movie was demonic and would open people’s homes up and expose family members to evil, which would use the program as a portal to indoctrinate children to the occult.
The social media post also made a number of false claims that included Witches worshipping the Christian devil by sacrificing children, and Hollywood executives and celebrities drinking the blood of children to maintain their youth.
While those claims are baseless, as stories about the social media post made their way into the mainstream news cycle, it was difficult to miss the echoes of the 90s and the hysteria of the “satanic panic” that made similar claims linking Witchcraft to satanic practices.
In contrast, Newsweek published an article with a headline that emphasized some practicing Witches were unhappy with the sequel: Real Witches on Whether ‘Hocus Pocus’ Offends: ‘Disappointing at Best’.
The headline really does a disservice to the article, but perhaps most importantly, Newsweek interviewed actual Witches and did not use language that many Pagans & Witches find objectionable, like “self-proclaimed,” and instead credits them correctly as the authors, practitioners, and professionals that they are.
While the article opens with a segment of an interview with Kathy Najimy from The Today Show by Katie Couric shortly after the release of the original movie, the article quickly moves on with commentary from Witches that are well-recognized within the Pagan community.
Among those Witches that were interviewed were Sarah Lyons, Mat Auryn, Heather Greene, and Penny Cabot. Since the original Hocus Pocus was filmed in Salem Massachusetts, the director of education at the Salem Witch Museum, Rachel Christ-Doane was also interviewed. The sequel while still being set in Salem, was actually filmed in Providence, Rhode Island.
Lyons, Auryn, Greene, and Christ-Doane offered largely positive feedback on how Hocus Pocus 2 had shifted its focus. They noted that the film is fictional and not meant to be taken in any way as an accurate representation of real Witches.
Greene pointed out the shift from a negative trope to another less harmful stereotype, as well as the shift from the magical power coming from a demonic source to one that is derived from nature. Cabot was the only Witch interviewed who expressed frustration and disappointment with the sequel and that its portrayal of Witches was harmful.
The shift in how Witches are portrayed in not just popular culture, but also how news media identifies them and frames their comments definitely represents how much the general attitude towards the occult and magical practitioners has changed over the past three decades.
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GRANT, Michigan – A mural that has been painted on a wall in the Child & Adolescent Health Center within Grant Middle School has drawn angry comments from some parents who took issue with some of the elements incorporated, like a young person wearing a t-shirt that has a representation of the LGBTQ flag.
They also mistakenly believed that two of the symbols depicted, a hamsa, also known as the hand of Fatima, and a horned figure from a video game, were demonic and promoted Witchcraft.
Grant High School junior, Evelyn Gonzales, who painted the mural, was clearly taken aback as she tried to respond to the accusations being voiced by some of the parents in attendance at the school board meeting. Gonzales said emotionally, “I put my art up there to make people feel welcome.” News reports stated that she left the meeting in tears.
For viewers in locations where the link is restricted, the video is available via YouTube.
A few days after the contentious school board meeting, Grant Public Schools released a statement regarding the mural and that while it would remain in place, some changes would be made:
As was mentioned in the communication yesterday, all parties involved have been working together in good faith to come to a positive resolution that brings us together. We applaud the many individuals who have offered support, advice, and their opinions regarding this matter.
After careful consideration and discussion with our students, staff, Board, and community members, it has been agreed upon that the mural will remain with some adjustments. At the student artist’s request, the mural will be returned to its original form as originally submitted and approved by the Administration.
At Grant Public Schools, we are committed to promoting civility, respect, understanding and inclusion. We do not condone, and we will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or bullying whether in word, deed or on social media.
I’d like to thank those who shared their thoughts on this matter with respect and civility, and I appreciate all parties for coming together to learn, gain understanding, find common ground, and reach a resolution that allows us to return to our mission of educating all students so they can succeed.
The images of the horned video game character head and the hamsa will be removed, but the rest of the mural will remain, including the transgender flag t-shirt since it was part of the original design submitted.
- On October 22 at 7:00 pm (EDT), Cherry Hill Seminary will host Caroline Tully, Ph.D. as part of its “Coming to the Center” lecture series. Tully will present, “Nature, Shamanism and Psychoactive Drugs in Cretan Bronze Age Religion: What kind of religious activities were practiced in the Bronze Age Aegean?” The lecture will feature an examination of ancient Minoan visual art, objects, and texts, and explain how aspects of Minoan religion can be considered shamanistic. The program is free but registration for the event is required. Previous lectures in the series can be found on the CHS YouTube channel.
- EarthSpirit Community will hold its annual Sacred Land Open House and Ancestor Ritual on Sunday, October 23rd at 1:00 pm (EDT) with the ritual being held at 3:00 pm. The Sacred Land Walk and the path to the site where the ritual will be held are considered to be rough terrain calling for sturdy walking shoes, and may not be accessible for all mobility-challenged people. While the event is free, donations of $3-5 are accepted to help offset the expenses of the event. More details and contact information is available on the EarthSpirit Community’s website.
- EarthSpirit Community has also announced “the re-emergence of the EarthSpirit Voices Blog.” EarthSpirit board member Chris LaFond will be guiding the online magazine-style journal, initially producing a once-a-week edition as the program resumes. The blog began in 2009 and has featured a variety of content from the EarthSpirit Community.
In other news:
- As more and more countries and their museums and institutions are repatriating artifacts of cultural significance back to their countries of origin, there is also an increase in the call from researchers and activists for those items to be returned. A new petition created by archaeologists is calling for the return of the Rosetta Stone to Egypt, which is currently housed in the British Museum. The Rosetta Stone played a pivot role in helping researchers decode Egyptian hieroglyphics and a greater understanding of the culture and civilization of ancient Egypt. Those involved with the petition feel that as greater awareness of the impacts of colonization have become more predominant, their chances of having artifacts like the Rosetta Stone returned are increasing.
- In other repatriation news, the University of California, Berkley announced it is currently working on returning thousands of ancestral remains and sacred artifacts to a number of Indigenous tribes as a result of its Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Wiyot tribal chairman and historic preservation officer, Ted Hernandez told CNN, “Those people who think this is not a big deal or doesn’t matter: Imagine someone goes to your cemetery, digs up your ancestors, packs them in boxes and puts them on a shelf. Our ancestors should not be in boxes or on shelves, they should be home with their families.” To date, the Wiyot tribe has received over 20 ancestral remains. A number of other universities including Vassar College and the University of Tennessee have returned thousands of ancestral remains that had been held in their collections. Hernandez explained the cultural and social impact of having the tribe’s ancestors returned, “When we bought our ancestors back, we held a ceremony for them, and that’s an important part of our healing process. As Wiyoti people, we are known as the world-people, which is bringing balance into the world. By bringing our ancestors home, that’s part of bringing back balance, not to just the Wiyot people, but to the rest of the world. Our ancestors need to be home with their families so they can continue their dances up with the creator and continue to heal the world and the sickness that surrounds us.”
TWH wants to see your Ancestor altar pictures!
The Wild Hunt is seeking pictures of ancestor altars for inclusion in an article for publication that highlights and celebrates Samhain.
- Must be an original picture(s) that has not been published online and that the submitter has taken;
- Include a location and name of the submitter, e.g. – Photo taken in Western North Carolina by S. Bustamonte
- The deadline is midnight on October 25.
- Must be formatted as a jpg, png, or pdf.
Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and must be received by midnight (EDT) on October 25.
A clip from the Today Show shortly after the release of the original Hocus Pocus movie reflects the forward thinking and social awareness of actress, Kathy Najimy, who played the middle Sanderson sister, Mary, in both Hocus Pocus movies.
Even though Hocus Pocus was released in 1993 and amid the hysteria of the satanic panic, Najimy states in the segment her concern “…when I read the script, I thought this is really perpetuating a stereotype about an evil ugly witch, and I know that there are groups of really strong women who sort of bond together and very spiritual and powerful. I didn’t want to be part of perpetuating that myth.”
Najimy makes a point of stating that while she isn’t a Witch or even personally knew any at the time, she was aware they existed. She went on to speak of the history of where some of the more dangerous stereotypes about Witches have their roots.
Deck: Trick or Treat Tarot, by Barbara Moore, illustrated by Jonathan Hunt published by Llewellyn Publications.
Card: Major arcana, V (5), The Hierophant
The incoming week is likely to hold an emphasis on “tried-and-true” methodology as it applies to problem-solving or just deciding on a path forward. Following a more conventional route, at least initially, has the potential to provide the best option.
Conversely, attempting new and previously untried approaches could easily end up creating unnecessary work and require more energy without producing the desired results.