Witch at Large: Ruminations from a Grey Perspective

Seeing Paganism in terms of being a movement, explorations of our history, societal context, comparisons to other religious movements, and general Pagan culture.

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Hit Piece in Sheep’s Clothing

One Saturday when I was chatting with the Native American chaplain who sponsors our Wiccan circle at San Quentin, he handed me a book.  He’d received it from the Jewish chaplain who’d been our previous sponsor.  Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality, by Catherine Edwards Sanders.  I said I was unfamiliar with the author and had not heard anything about it, although I generally keep half an eye open for newer Pagan publications.

He casually mentioned that according to this book, and according to the chaplain who gave it to him, ostensibly for the small library we keep in the Wiccan storage locker along with our ritual supplies, Wicca was for women and had little relevance here in an all-male prison.  Not that he thought that, but that the book made that case.  He gave it to me to take home.  Book sl-t that I am, I took it, thinking that with all the reading material stacked around my house awaiting my attention, it would be very low priority.

As I was straightening up around the house today, I decided to make these stacks a little shorter and try to find some shelf space for the books that were lower priority on my reading list. I picked up this book and began to page through it.  First I noticed some underlining on this text:

Ironically, neo-Paganism appeals to people because it doesn’t seem to be very commercialized.  One Pagan woman told me, “People are turning to Paganism for many reasons.  The main ones are they are tried of the judgmental hypocrisy of commercialized religions and want the freedom Paganism gives.”  But as we can see at the local bookstore, on the Internet, or on our TV sets, Wiccan is far from uncommercialized…

Then the author goes on to mention Z Budapest’s kids camps that cost $325 

…for four days of horseback riding, archery, swimming, and canoeing, as well as lessons in alchemy, the creating of their own magic tools, and identification of magic rocks and crystals.

Well, I ask you: where else can one find food, lodging, planned programs, and other amenities for $325 for four days?  Regardless of who’s teaching what, at the very least it costs producers money to rent facilities and feed people.

So I thought, “Gee, she’s talking about us.  Or at least about people I’m likely to know.”  So I scanned a few more pages, only to arrive at one that said: 

Much like Christian preachers, neo-Pagans have joined the speaker’s [sic] circuit.  M. Macha Nightmare [sic] offers two lectures, based on her book The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, titles “Meeting Death and Grieving Loss” and “Healing Ourselves and Healing Our Community.”  The cost for both talks is $75 to $125 per person.  [Emphasis mine.]…

Are you kidding me?  First of all, those two titles the author references are to workshops, not lectures.  I don’t lecture much.  My strength, as anyone who’s ever attended one of these presentations can attest, is in getting people to think about topics that aren’t much discussed in daily conversation and get them talking.

More importantly, however, is that I’ve never gotten even close to charging that kind of money.  I’ve occasionally arrived for workshops when not one solitary soul showed up.  Hardly commercially viable, plus empty houses keep me humble.

Based on just these few quotes, I know that the rest of the book cannot be accurate and truthful.  The book is a hit piece, pure and simple. 

I note in the author’s minibio on the cover that she writes for The Washington Times, so that should tell us how biased she is.  The Times is owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the Unification Church.  Rev. Sun Yung Moon says that the paper ”is responsible to let the American people know about God” and “will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world.”  Need I say more?

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Aline O’Brien (M. Macha NightMare), Witch at Large, has circled with people of diverse Pagan paths throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Brazil.  Author of Witchcraft and the Web (2001) and Pagan Pride (2004), and co-author, with Starhawk, of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (1997), Macha has also contributed to anthologies, periodicals, textbooks, and encyclopedias.  A member of the American Academy of Religion, the Marin Interfaith Council, and the Nature Religion Scholars Network, Macha also serves as a national interfaith representative for the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and on the Advisory Board of the Sacred Dying Foundation.  Having spent the last eleven years developing and teaching at Cherry Hill Seminary, the first and only seminary serving the Neopagan community, Macha now serves on its Board of Directors. An all-round Pagan webweaver, she speaks on behalf of Paganism to news media and academic researchers, and lectures at colleges, universities and seminaries. www.machanightmare.com


  • Greybeard
    Greybeard Monday, 27 October 2014

    Thanks for the warning. We used to say that the difference between Wicca and New Age was about one decimal place (in the price of workshops, etc.) I know you have been on the low side of that difference all your life.

    As for Wicca being a women's religion, that's cow poop. We always have lots of men turning up for our groups when it becomes known that we don't discriminate against men in Z Budapest's manner. Balance and harmony between men and women is our way. We are a religion for the whole family.

    Thanks for letting us know about that hit piece book.

  • Brenda Caudill
    Brenda Caudill Wednesday, 29 October 2014

    That book is so wrong that I felt sorry for the author.

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