In the recent glut of Halloween/Samhain stories, two, though separated by thousands of miles of geography, stood out as sharing a similar theme. They both involved groups of alleged Pagan troublemakers, who may just be misunderstood instead of wicked. The first takes place in Australia, where a yearly Beltane/Halloween festival* in Victoria has gone private after having trouble with “trolls” the year before. “…in 28 years there had never been a punch-up at the Mount Franklin Beltane gathering of witches – an event that has drawn up to 700 spell-casting Victorians … last year, a small group known as “the trolls” caused an upset by hanging headless dolls from trees and otherwise carrying on in a dark-hearted fashion.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m a bit too hard on the “nice-guy” Christians who write books like “Generation Hex” or “Wicca’s Charm”. Aren’t these a step forward from the books that tell outright lies? But what all of these Christian books about modern Paganism do, kind or harsh, is present interest in Witchcraft or Paganism as a behavioral “warning sign”, and an article from a Massachusetts paper shows the consequences of such beliefs. “Sue Scheff was desperate. Her teenage daughter Ashlyn was out of control: skipping school, delving into witchcraft and running away from home.
Taking a break from filming reality-television programs, MTV (the network formerly know as “music television”) profiles the Wiccan faith and interviews “Goth Craft” author Raven Digitalis.”Raven has been a Pagan priest for four years, practicing witchcraft and hosting rituals for local Pagans at his house, which is just 10 minutes from the downtown strip. “The Craft is one of the most empowering religions or spiritual lifestyles that exists,” he explained.”As for the article itself, it is your basic Wiccans/Pagans don’t worship Satan, don’t cast malicious spells, don’t eat babies material. What makes the article interesting is its exclusive focus on teens and younger twenty-somethings (Digitalis is 24), instead of seeking the normal assortment of “elders” and “experts”. A result of this focus is that we get a peek into what shaped their religious development.”A surprising number of young witches MTV News spoke with also said that they became curious about their faith through misguiding pop-culture fare like the camp Neve Campbell vehicle “The Craft” and the “Harry Potter” series. (Guess a few conservative Christian groups were right about that one) …
Religious blogger and academic John Morehead has recently posted two interviews of interest to the larger Pagan community. The first is at his Theofantastique blog where he interviews Pagan author, academic, and movie critic Peg Aloi concerning Pagan and occult themes in film, and her forthcoming book (co-authored with Hannah Johnston) “The Celluloid Bough: Cinema in the Wake of the Occult Revival”.”…the first example of occult cinema that had widespread and culture-changing impact was Roman Polanski’s 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby. In addition to its being a very artful and entertaining film, based on an equally artful novel by Ira Levin, there were some real-life occurrences that added to its aura of evil, and fueled a widespread spirit of protest against all things occult, even as the film ushered in a palpable fascination with the occult.”Then back at his primary blog, Morehead’s Musings, he interviews Aloi’s collaborator and writing partner Hannah Johnston, Adjunct Professor in Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College, concerning teen Witches and a recently released collection of essays on the subject (co-edited with Peg Aloi) entitled “The New Generation Witches: Teenage Witchcraft in Contemporary Culture”.”…having become aware of the distinctions between teenage Witchcraft and the adult Pagan/Wiccan/Witchcraft communities at the end of the 1990s, I was struck by the emergence of teen Witchcraft as a distinctive articulation of popular culture post-feminism, and I went on to pursue my doctorate in the field, investigating teen Witchcraft as an amalgamation of new religious structures, pop media poaching from alternative beliefs and new age practices and new feminist concepts of ‘girl power’.”Both interviews (and books) are worth the effort to read. It is often the case that pop-culture and youth-oriented permutations of a religious movement are devalued by “insiders” and older demographics who see these representations and recent adherents as lacking in seriousness or real worth. But how we are displayed in popular media, and how the next generation of modern Pagans adapt and changes with the times are truly important topics that I’m glad writers like Aloi and Johnston are covering.
The Independent takes a look at the phenomena of teenage Witches in the UK, which according to recent studies is still on the rise.”Record numbers of young women are dabbling in witchcraft, fuelling a boom in sales of spell books and other pagan paraphernalia, according to new research. A study of teenagers and their consumption of books, magazines, kits, film and other media found that there are some 700,000 internet sites for teenage witches. The Pagan Federation claims to have several hundred inquiries a week from young people, and has set up a network for those under 18. “There has been a noticeable rise in the number of young people identifying themselves as witches,” said Denise Cush, professor of religious studies at Bath Spa University.”Denise Cush has two studies relating to teen Witches in the UK, “Wise young women: beliefs, values and influences in the adoption of Witchcraft by teenage girls in England” that appears in a new book edited by Hannah E. Johnston and Peg Aloi, and “Consumer witchcraft: are teenage witches a creation of commercial interests?” which appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Beliefs & Values.