Reuters Discover the Witches (on True Blood)

Last year at this time the popular HBO cable television series “True Blood,” a show loosely based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris, announced that 2011 would be the “year of the witch.” The cast of (generally sexy) vampires, werewolves, and the humans they interact with would be joined by an array of spellcasters of various inclinations. The previous season had already introduced a Wiccan character, Holly Cleary (played by Lauren Bowles), and this season they’ve introduced a small coven lead by Marnie Stonebrook (played by Fiona Shaw), a local palm-reader and shop owner, the spirit of a dead Witch that inhabits her, and a family of Catemaco Brujos. This being “True Blood” there’s plenty of violence, sex, and mayhem mixed in. With all this witchy-ness about it was only a matter of time before news outlets started tracking down some real Witches and Wiccans to get their opinion.

Quick Notes: A Rude Aphrodite, Polytheism in A Song of Ice and Fire, and Black Heimdall

Just a few quick news notes for on this Thursday. Aphrodite’s Middle Finger: Der Spiegel reports that nine employees of the German magazine Focus are being ordered to appear in an Athens court for “accusations of defamation, libel and the denigration of Greek national symbols.” Six Greek citizens are bringing the complaint, partially for the article, which discusses tax fraud and failed construction projects, and partially for the satirical cover image. “The Focus cover featured a photograph of the famously armless statue Venus de Milo, which depicts the Greek goddess Aphrodite, that had been doctored so that the deity was showing her middle finger to the viewer. The story, titled “Swindlers in the Euro Family,” included a detailed description of what the authors claimed was “2000 years of decline” in Greece, including reports of tax fraud and failed construction projects.

Quick Notes: Spartacus, American Gods, and James Arthur Ray

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Friday. Swords, Sandals, and Sex: I know I’ve been talking about Starz new series “Camelot” quite a bit lately, so today I’d like to highlight an excellent essay concerning its stylistic predecessor at the cable network: “Spartacus.” Academic and Patheos.com columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has recently watched both seasons of “Spartacus,” and files this examination of how the show treats sex, history, and religion at his personal blog. “However, my main critique of the newer Spartacus isn’t its history, nor its sexuality (although more will be said on the latter in a moment), it is precisely the matter that Rome got right (even though some bits weren’t quite right in terms of timing, e.g. the taurobolium in the first episode)–the religious aspects of Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its successors is very off. In the 1960 Spartacus, the character of Crassus (a member of the First Triumvirate) says to the very young Julius Caesar at one point that he’d like to obtain a pigeon for a sacrifice, to which Caesar replies that he thought Crassus did not believe in the gods; Crassus replies, “Privately, I believe in none of them; publicly, I believe in them all!” And this is precisely the matter that the newer incarnation of Spartacus goes wrong on–it makes the matter of the gods too much about “belief,” when that is not what pre-creedal religion’s spirituality was based upon.”

True Blood’s “Year of the Witch”

The sexy vampire phenomenon (as opposed to the sparkly vampire phenomenon) True Blood (based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels by Charlaine Harris) has grown a respectable cult audience as it ends its third season on HBO, and while the show has flirted with Pagan themes before, that’s going to become much more explicit when season 4 starts. Creator/producer Alan Ball says that next year will be the “year of the witch”, and they have introduced Holly Clearly, a “Wiccan” character who will play a bigger role in season 4. Played by Lauren Bowles, she talks to Movieweb about her role, and the religion of Wicca, and it’s pretty clear she doesn’t know much more than what the script tells her. “I haven’t gone to Wiccan ceremonies, I must admit. I have done my own perusing.