Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth
In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.
Someday I'll have a garage sale and sell off all my witch kitsch.
I've got boxes of it. Some I bought myself. The rest came from friends, down the years. Boxes and boxes.
Don't get me wrong. I love the Season of the Witch. With maybe just a little help from the Brothers Grimm, Halloween has pretty much single-handedly kept the figure of the witch present in the cultural memory. Outsiders we may be eleven months out of twelve, but come That Time of Year and suddenly everyone's an honorary.
A few years back I brought down the Samhain boxes and opened them up. Then I rocked back on my heels and had a think.
“The holiest time of year,” I thought, “and I welcome it by filling my house with tacky crap made by slave labor in China? Forget it. Unworthy.”
I put the boxes away and got out the good china. The beautiful things. The art. This is how I want to see the New Year in: with the fine. The real. The worthy.
A high school friend of mine used to collect Aunt Jemima kitsch. He thought it was hilarious. His mother, who was active in the Civil Rights movement, was horrified. “This garbage is the very symbol of our oppression, and you're collecting it? I don't even want this stuff in my house!” She never made him get rid of it, though. (She always was a woman of large heart.) But it did have to stay in his room.
I can see Mrs. Robinson's point, but I also see Jeff's. Laughter is a power, let there be no mistake: ridicule as antivenom.
Our situation is different, though. Witch kitsch doesn't make me feel oppressed. In some ways, it makes me feel proud. “Everything they say about us automatically becomes ours,” says my friend Frebur Moore.
Witches are my people, my thede, my tribe—what historian Stephen Yeates calls “the Kingdom of the Witches”—and it delights me that we're still so culturally present.
But in my house, now, the holy tides are for what Alan Garner calls “the beauty things.”
Someday I'll have that garage sale.
83 more shopping days till Samhain.
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