Proposal for a new National Bird, (the Dept. of the Interior doesn't believe that
eagles need to be protected from lead, and that the EPA itself is no longer needed)
Last month, a Facebook group called “Mass Spell to Bind Donald Trump” invited witches to cast a binding spell on Trump every waning crescent moon at midnight. This news was amusing to many of the journalists that reported it. At least one group, the Christian Nationalist Alliance, vowed to counter the spell with prayer. I personally found the idea somewhat stimulating. I have frequently felt that politicians can be so indifferent to the voices and needs of their constituents, that there is really nothing better to do than curse them. I have compiled my own list of bone withering blasts, with which I occasionally cheer myself up on an otherwise dreary morning: that their teeth shall crack, and tongues acquire a furry texture, that their sugar bowls become infested with tiny, vicious ants, that their ankles curl up when they descend the stairs, and that their Thanksgiving turkeys explode in boiling fat. I have no expectations that these things actually happen. It simply makes me feel better.
I sense that the attraction of these forbidden impulses arise from causes that are deep within the human psyche. Witchcraft, according to the author Peter Gray, “is the recourse of the dispossessed, the powerless,the hungry and the abused. It gives heart and tongue to stones and trees. It wears the skin of beasts. It turns on a civilization that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. . . . Witchcraft is folk magic, the magic of the people and for the people.” By this token, witchcraft itself is an ultimate protest. It acknowledges the weight of society and its institutions on the human spirit. Perhaps it should be to the credit of the practitioners of magic, that they are more sensitive to this injustice, and refuse to bow to the beliefs which are taken for granted by the vast majority of society.
Most of us have some historical awareness of the persecution of individuals for witchcraft. Witches have been identified as martyrs for the insane, for being natural healers, and so on. But what is not very evident is the involvement of political power in that suppression. I am beginning to believe that the use of religion for political purposes is now just as prevalent as it was in the Middle Ages. Saint Augustine once traveled to Britain to warn a group of Celtic bishops about an impending invasion of Roman troops, to enforce religious submission to Rome. He advised them that they must change the way they cut their tonsured hair, and that they would have to adopt the same religious calendar that had been adopted by the Roman Church. The Celtic bishops were offended, and left, saying that they deserved more respect than that. In the ensuing invasion, over 9,000 Celtic monks were slain. This military action had nothing to do with the Christian religion itself. It was simply an ultimatum that all churches take their orders from Rome. This was particularly ironic, because Celtic monks from Britain had been instrumental in helping Rome to convert other Celtic populations in France and Germany.
Much of the spread of Christianity had very little to do with the actual activities of the Evangelists, and the Greek and Roman churches which they created. Pagan groups, especially the Celts, were influenced by Christianity because their values were already very similar to those of the Early Christians. The religion spread on its own, in many cases. The Celts respected the sanctity of marriage, they hated human trafficking and slavery, and they were disgusted at the practice of human and animal sacrifice. They despised the avarice of high priests. They rejected cruelty and inequality. The Roman church, by trying to assert its dominance, was no different than the conquering Roman legions before them. They killed, enslaved, and demanded submission to the gods of Rome, which now was the Christian God. It was no wonder that they had so many difficulties converting pagan Europe. The ways of the Celts for converting the people of the countryside were gentle and understanding, and respecting of the rights of Man.
What does witchcraft have to do with all this? For the purposes of this argument I would like to call these wiccans modern-day Celts. I don’t read the books that they read, or conform to their sacred practices, but I feel that one should respect their ways. The comparison might not be very strong here. However, the comparison one might make with the activities of Rome, in the early Middle Ages, with the present day Religious Right-- that is indeed a compelling and most invidious comparison. For example, for more than a decade the Religious Right has rallied over the issue of abortion. The reasons for this has been solely to create political power. This power was instrumental to the election of Donald Trump. The abortion issue places a terrible burden on the communities of Faith that take it on. So much of the energy of the human spirit has been squandered, that all the problems of the world that would compel us to take action have been set aside. The world sorely needs this energy, to maintain the well being of the human race. The problems which have been left unsolved, or ignored, have to do, for the most part, with the preservation and the sanctity of our natural environment. This is not something that scientific knowledge itself can deal with. It involves spiritual concepts, such as the rights of animals. Does a salmon have a soul? It most certainly is a sentient being, and should be respected as such, especially since in the past it was a vast food resource to human beings. If we had respected the preservation of natural things, rather than monetary gain, for our primary values, the tragic loss of the world’s natural resources, and the resulting lack of the quality of life would not be upon us. Maybe it makes sense to live in a world inhabited by natural spirits.
The pressure that the Religious Right is making in Washington is becoming abundantly clear. There seems to be an impetus to enforce conformity in matters affecting every citizen. The teaching of history and the sciences, the appreciation of literature and the arts, have all been targeted to adhere to the religious attitudes of politically powerful groups. It is doubtful that these groups could achieve any universal acceptance. But they seem to be comfortable with simply crippling or destroying the government, which they feels prevents them from religious expression. Even though the government has been instrumental in their rise in power by neglecting to tax them, they seem intent on destroying government of any kind, good or bad. In the mean time, the yawning burning hell of the Fukushima reactor fires are burning, Congress maintains that global warming is a myth, and the monster corporation Monsanto consolidates its monopoly over all the world’s agriculture. You can’t blame a witch for that. It’s too easy.