In a recent article at The Establishment, writer Peg Aloi wonders: With a resurgence of witchcraft in the media, is another “Satanic Panic” on the rise?
Those who came of age in the 1980s may recall an evangelical obsession with witchcraft and its purported influence on children and teenagers. With Harry Potter, a remake of Sabrina, and other TV shows in which witches and witchcraft drive the plot, Aloi wonders if it’s really witchcraft that conservatives fear or the sense of feminist empowerment those shows offers young women.
With conservative control of all three branches of government, contrasted with the success that women saw after last week’s midterm elections, the fear and repulsion of witchcraft may be a political concern as well as a spiritual one:
Given the present situation in our country, I feel some trepidation about the current trends towards glamorizing and valorizing any and all things witchy and demonic. It’s not because I don’t absolutely love Suspiria or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, because I do; it’s because I fear the atmosphere of ignorance, anger, and bigotry that has been emboldened by our president, and the growing number of Americans who see conspiracy theories as facts and journalism as “fake news.”
No doubt many of us are feeling a little on edge lately. For many months now, in the wake of Trump’s election victory, women across the country have addressed their collective ennui, stress, and rage through increasingly radical forms of self-care, including witchcraft. Okay, in many cases that “witchcraft” was a sort of code for occult-tinged activities like smudging with sage wands, meditating with crystals, reading tarot cards, and setting up personal altars. The recent witchery trend usually stops short of encouraging women to join an actual coven, but popular media has been abuzz with spells and divination. There are determined witches and compatriots of all genders all over the country hexing the president and his sycophants on a monthly basis, drawing on the power of the new moon. Witchcraft as a declaration of identity and power has been a growing cultural wave for several years now.
That should be amended to say that women aren’t necessarily turning to witchcraft so much as enjoying entertainment that centers around the idea of magic and spells. It’s all in good fun. That said, we’re in a cultural moment when, as in years past, it’s common to label as “witchcraft” anything that is strange, hard to understand, or falls outside of cultural norms. This attitude of ignorance may not lead to the brutal execution of innocent women as it did in times past (not in America, at least), but the implications can be just as devastating.
At least if you treat women who make their voices heard the same way we used to treat women accused of witchcraft.
The wholesale gaslighting of female survivors, the sight and sound of the POTUS mocking Christine Blasey Ford and calling her accusations a “hoax” perpetrated by Democrats, the characterization of protesters as “an angry mob,” all of this signifies a full-out war on women, perpetrated by people devoid of empathy, logic or even the most basic sense of decorum…It seems increasingly likely that women who profess any sort of connection to witchcraft or the occult these days (in other words, any woman seeking empowerment) may well find herself the target of right-wing bullies. It seems ridiculous to think that way, but who among us has not felt like we’re losing our grip on sanity lately?
It has long been established that the greatest threat to male power is female education. This terrifies the hell out of fundamentalists, who want to do everything in their power to keep women helpless and uneducated, a belief that plays out in the policies they support.
It’s also worth noting that practitioners of Wicca abide by a rule that is similar to the oath taken by medical professionals: “First do no harm.” In other words, casting spells or hexes on the president falls outside the bounds of acceptable and ethical practice.
Not that extremists will believe that.
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