Claudine Gay Resigns and it Had to Happen

This had to happen. Regardless of what anyone feels about the tragedy in the Middle East, for which there really are no truly good actors or “side,” the response of the presidents of Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and MIT, when speaking before Congress, was appalling. There is no “context” for calls to genocide, and the reply of all three university presidents, two of whom have now resigned, was steeped in callous legalese rather than compassion for Jewish students who were being blamed and persecuted for events thousands of miles away. Whether or not anyone sees “From the River to the Sea” as a call to genocide—and I do believe that it is genocide adjacent—now former president Gay never had to address that. She and the other presidents could easily have stated that calls to genocide are against Harvard policy without ever addressing whether “River to the Sea” was such a call. Certainly, their sophist lawyers could have accomplished that.

Something I will never wrap my head around in our strict dichotomy of “Left” versus “Right” in politics is how the far right sees fundamentalist Islam (and often, all Islam) as evil while seeing fundamentalist Christianity as noble and virtuous. Conversely, the Left certainly recognizes the dangers of fundamentalist Christianity, while any critique of actual terrorism and fundamentalist Islamist barbarism becomes tarred with the “Islamophobia” brush. Here’s a loud ring from the clue phone for so-called “Lefties” and “Righties.” You’re both wrong. Both Islam and Christianity have many virtues, and yet the fundamentalism of both suck. If your politics have become so obsessive that you must ignore evil based on your political persuasion, then perhaps the arrogance that you’re “awake” (or “red-pilled”) on the right … or “woke” upon the Left is misplaced and you’re actually both asleep at the wheel.

Given the unfair struggles that people of color, particularly women of color in this nation, have faced, it is always a sad event when such an individual has such a fall. Still, the truth must outweigh such socio-political realities. When Phylicia Rashad defended Bill Cosby based on the harm to the legacy of black excellence damaged by the fall of such a powerful icon of color, she was right. Still, she was also wrong because Cosby’s actions far outweighed the political ramifications that his actions would have upon the accomplishments of black men.

This is why those of us in marginalized communities must maintain a higher level of conduct, a lesson I continue to force myself to learn with my own controversial nature and sometimes badly-worded opinions. It isn’t fair that those of us in traditionally persecuted groups have to be better than the herd of normality. Still, if we don’t hold ourselves to that higher standard, our personal failings damage everyone in our particular group.

It is quite clear that all three presidents saw October 7th as a form of righteous resistance rather than the senseless barbarism that it was. I will quote Doctor Phil, saying, “If the events of October 7th don’t cross a line, then you don’t have one.” And if there is to be no line between “resistance” and barbarism, we might as well all be living in the film The Purge. Without any moral or ethical compass at all, we lose all justification to care about any child buried in the rubble, be they Gazan, Israeli, or anywhere else.

$10,000 Reward for Warlock as Coven Traitor Pre-1950

Because Facebook has all but destroyed its former Facebook “notes,” I have done my best to compile everything about this issue into this post. Some of it is repetitive since it has been compiled from multiple posts, but I will endeavor to make it more succinct as time allows.

In the Spring of 2011, I put this contest up for  irresponsible members of the Pagan and Witch communities continue to insist that the word Warlock refers to those who betray their coven and continue to berate me for calling myself by that title. So far, this note has been up for over two years and nobody has provided me source material proving that this use of the term existed prior to 1950, so I am confused as to why the Pagan community continues to use this erroneous terminology.

This contest still stands and I have long since upped the till to $10,000. Be the first person to provide me source material prior to the 1951 Witchcraft revival in which the word Warlock was used as a title to describe a Witch who betrayed his, her (or their) coven, rather than simply a label of their gender or an oath-breaker in general and I will give you $10,000. 

If you read the Oxford English Dictionary [OED] etymology of Warlock, there is simply nothing to suggest the word being a title for someone who betrayed their coven of Witches. Any general association with the breaking of oaths would have to be taken into historical context of a Christianized Scotland. Going only so far back as 1023 CE, and also being associated with being a devil or being in league with the devil, the oaths broken would have been broken to the church. In this regard, I am an oathbreaker, breaking the oaths of the first commandment. Reading the Malleus Malificarum—The witch hunter’s guide, you see a mindset by which women are referred to as prone to Witchcraft, more susceptible. That was indicative of the terrible sexism of the time. So, for a man to practice Witchcraft would have been considered a far more grievous sin.

[insert OED reference when found]

That said, while OED will not yet accept Vardlokkur as a possible source, it is older than 1023, with the story of the “Warlock Song” contained within the Saga of Erik the Red (Circa 950 – 1003 CE). With so much of the credible historical research on magic emerging after 1963, in fact, in the last two decades really, we have a lot of knowledge that we didn’t have then. Icelandic/English dictionaries dating as early as the 1800’s define Warlock as the English equivalent of the Nordic Vardlokkur (or spirit summoning song). Historian Stephen A. Mitchell in his 2011 book, “Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages,” continues this trend. Oxford English Dictionary is an aggregate of scholarship, but is not necessarily the last word. If it were, it would never change. Either way, whatever the etymology, the OED defines Warlock now as “a man who practices witchcraft; a sorcerer.”

As Isaac Bonewits long pointed out, the word Witch was an insult thrown by the Church in the same way that the word “pagan” essentially began as the Roman version of the term “White trash.” We have reclaimed these words in spite of their negative associations. Starhawk noted in The Spiral Dance that even with all its negative connotations, women should see the word Witch as a way of reclaiming women’s power and that men should see it as a way of finding the divine feminine within. Nobody seems to question that, so I have to wonder what kind of agenda is driving this resentment. Perhaps the same one that kept transgendered females out of a circle at Pantheacon. Frankly, in 1963, Gardnerian Wicca was quite homophobic. 

I don’t mind people disagreeing with my use of the words. What I resent is those accusing me of not doing my homework when, essentially, they haven’t done their homework. The bibliography of my book reads like an anthology of the ancient world. There are painfully few books on the modern Witchcraft revival among the bunch. Anyone who says that the word represents a traitor to the coven is taking it from modern Wicca books and, frankly, this isn’t homework. Not any that any serious academic would accept as a source, anyway. The very Gardnerian Book of Shadows that most who know it are oathbound not to reveal, I have read, without oath taken, and it says nothing negative about the word Warlock at all. In fact, some versions of the text actually use the word as a form of binding of the initiate to gain the sight. So there is no evidence anywhere that this word represents a traitor to the Craft only traitor to the Church, which I am gladly, and I agree with the Nordic scholars (and most Witchcraft is likely descended from both the Nordic and Celtic people anyway) that Vardlokkur is the original root anyway. 

With this in mind, I prefer to put my money where my mouth is. I am offering $10,000 to the first person who can find me source material prior to 1950 that designates the word Warlock as someone who betrays a coven to the Witch hunters, or betrays a coven at all. I’m that interested in the source material for this prior to the Wiccan revival that I’m willing to pay for it. 

So everyone has gleefully tittered over their own words excited at what they believe to be their overwhelming knowledge on the subject, but does anyone actually want the cash? Trust me, we can talk business now. I’ve got the cash if you’ve got the stash.

The Rules

  1. Source must be prior to 1950.
  2. Source must use the word Warlock to refer to a person as such because he or she betrayed their coven. In other words, that must clearly be why the person was called a Warlock. A poor Christian who is accused of being a Warlock and then, under torture, “betrays” other Witches (essentially calling out other poor Christians) wouldn’t count because that person was called a Warlock for his gender before he caved under torture. That, and when women named the names of other “witches,” they weren’t suddenly called warlocks. The evidence must be someone who is deemed a warlock as a result of he or she calling out the names of other Witches. I understand that the word has connotations of Oathbreaker in the Oxford English Dictionary, but this refers to period of Christianized Scotland and seems to have nothing to do with betraying Covens. Dig deeper than that! 🙂
  3. You must provide the Source, page number and, if it is not available on Google books, you must provide an actual typed actual citation so I can see if I need to obtain the book somewhere.
  4. Current “oral tradition” and “my grandmother told me,” if either are without written sources prior to 1950, are disallowed, obviously.
  5. “Covenant” does not equal a “coven.” (Yes, people have actually tried that and I weep for the world)
  6. This contest shall be dissolved after the first person brings me evidence that meets the criteria above. The first person to bring it to me wins the $10,000 and only the first person.


Some Pagans out there were so determined to discredit this note that they said I set up impossible rules. Impossible? Hardly. Be the first person to provide me source material prior to 1950 in which the word Warlock was used as a title to describe those who betrayed their covens, rather than simply a label of their gender or oath-breaker in general and I will give you $10,000. It is that simple. Since nobody has been able to do this for the years I’ve had this contest up, I am inclined to believe it does not exist. Since it probable doesn’t exist, I wish the Pagan community would stop reprinting it as fact and do its own 

I also found it amusing that some tried to rationalize their disagreement with my note by saying that there are no modern Witchcraft books claiming that a Warlock is someone who betrays a coven, even though they almost certainly know that what they are saying is false and designed to throw people off the scent of truth that I’ve explored here. I will provide a list of sources that do say this below.

Still others insist that this note is discredited because either a) the word Warlock existed prior to 1950 (where did I say it didn’t? LOL) or b) I must know that the oathbreaker designation once existed for the word (where did I say it didn’t? LOL). Clearly, they are only cursorily reading this. 

The source must really be the word “Warlock,” as a title given because the man or woman betrayed other Witches. There are stories of both warlocks and Witches calling out names under torture, but the Warlocks were called warlocks before such betrayal and the Witches continued to be referred to as Witches after their betrayal, proving that the labels were designation purely of gender. There are many books that use this term and they should back it up!

And I the Read it and Weep Department …

A number of folks I’ve seen on Pagan message threads have said I was making a straw man argument and that nobody in the Craft has ever said that a Warlock is a traitor to a Coven or other Witches specifically. Here they are folks, MANY sources. Each of the following books refers to a Warlock as a traitor to a coven. Now that I am an actual initiate, I am shocked that some of these sources are from initiates.

“A warlock is an “oath-breaker” or a traitor to witches.”

13 Lessons for Pleasing the Divine: A Witch’s Primer
Lady Raya

“Warlock – a term coined in the Burning Times. It was used to denote a traitor to the Craft, or one who had betrayed the followers of the Old Religion”

The Coven Leader’s Handbook: 13 Lessons in Gardnerian And Alexandrian Wicca
Sean Belachta

“The term warlock is used by most Witches only to mean a traitor or oathbreaker—especially one who has betrayed the coven to those who intend harm”

How to Become a Witch
By Amber K.

“[Warlock…] was a term applied during the burning times to one who turned in his fellow Witches to the authorities.”

Wicca for Life: The Way of the Craft — From Birth to Summerland
By Raymond Buckland

“[…] denoting a traitor to the Craft, meaning oath breaker, or betrayer of the faith”

Gardner Tradition: Spells, Rituals and Sabbats
Robin B. May

“… some Witches teach that this word refers to a Witch who was expelled from a coven, presumably for misconduct of some sort.”

When Someone you Love is Wiccan
By Carl McColmanz

“However, the word “warlock” comes from waerloga, an Old English word that means “oath breaker.” Consequently, in modern Wicca, a warlock is someone who has broken an oath or betrayed the Craft in some manner.”

The Encyclopedia of Superstitions
By Richard Webster

Various References

Since I’ve had to take everything from a jumble of Facebook notes and compile it here rather quickly, it’s a bit of a mess but it’s all here except for the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology listing for the word.

Reference: Warlocks, Valkyries, and Varlets by Stephen A. Mitchell, Professor of Scandinavian and Folklore, Harvard University

My own book and links on the subject that represent my research might be helpful before proceeding:

In the saga of Erik the Red, we find one of the most dramatic examples of the Seidr—the Norse form of Witchcraft. The Witch Thorbjorg was a seeress who was often invited to winter feasts so that she might share her visions of the future with guests. Thorkell, a chief farmer in a region of Greenland where famine had struck, calls Thorbjorg to one of his feasts to hear her foresight of just when that famine might end. She arrives in a strapped blue cloak bedecked with stones, calfskin shoes and gloves, and carries a staff bound with brass and adorned with stones. Around her waist hangs a pouch in which her many magics were stored. Thorbjorg stays the night and, the next day, as she prepares to perform her Witchcrafts to answer the questions put to her by the chief farmer and his guests, she asks for a woman to perform a song of spirit-summoning called the varðlokur, also known as the Warlock song or warding song. A Christian woman who knew the song from the magical teachings of her foster mother comes forth and sings the varðlokur so beautifully that the spirits of the dead emerged. Thorbjorg divines the future from these spirits, among them several that the Witch says normally stay away but were enthralled by the sheer beauty of the singer’s performance. She imparts to the guests that the famine would end by the springtime and that all would be well with the crops. This story not only shows a significant tie between Witches and the dead but has provided a strong but much-debated possible source for the word “Warlock” and has influenced why I use that word to describe myself.

(The Witches’ Book of the Dead, Warlock Press, 2021, p 8-9)

Thoughts on the word Warlock as Oathbreaker or Liar

IF the word Warlock follows the Scottish etymology at all, the idea of liar, breaker of faith, oath-breaker, would have referred to the most grievous sin that a man could commit back then, turning his back on the Church. Do we need anymore proof of this than the fact that a number of male practitioners in Scotland still use the word Warlock to describe themselves today. I’ve had a few of them email me over the years. Clearly, they don’t mind turning their back on the Church but I find most American Witches have not quite broken those bonds yet and the vast majority I’ve met still very much carry a lot of Christian baggage. 

I am addressing this to all those tossing around the use of the word Warlock as “liar” or “oath-breaker.” I exclude from the previous those who say Warlock is specifically a “traitor to the coven” since I’ve already addressed those individuals with an offer of $1,000 for proof of that fallacy that they are clearly unable to obtain.

Also, if you follow the Oxford English Dictionary—and I have, the word, if Scottish, evolved over a number of years and meant many things.

[insert OED reference when found]

A friend once said to me, “etymologists agree that the word “tradition” meant “to hand over, deliver, surrender” and was a doublet for treason or betrayal. Treason, furthermore, comes through the Anglo-French deriving from the Latin “traditionem”. If we can’t use Warlock because many etymologists trace it through a complex path back to Oath Breaker, then we certainly shouldn’t be using “tradition” which definitively meant betrayal and treason! It seems like hypocrisy to me.” So, every Wiccan using the word tradition to describe their path yet rails on about the word Warlock being traitor is a complete hypocrite. Ignorance of scholarship is not an excuse. If you’re practicing Witchcraft, you should know the power of your words.

And, as for those who say that Witch has no gender, Oxford posits the origins of Witch to be “Old English wicca (masculine), wicce (feminine), wiccian (verb);” (and, for the record, that’s pronounced Witcha and Witche). Thus, the word had both male and female gender from its very origins:

You may have noticed that I avoid the word “Wicca” in this book. The word Witch comes from the Old English roots “wicca” and “wicce,” and were pronounced with the palatal consonant /tʃ/ (like the “ch” sound in “chip”) and would have sounded like Witch-ah [wɪttʃɑ] and Witch-eh [wɪttʃe], respectively, not the more commonly mispronounced “wick-ah.” Also important is the fact that the roots “wicca” and “wicce” are not actually two words. Unlike Modern English, Old English was a gendered language and so “wicca” and “wicce” were gendered variations of the same word. If you remove those variations, you simply get the word “Witch!” Hence, continuing to use the word “Wicca” with a k sound doesn’t make any sense. While it has been said that Wicca with a k is an old word for Witch, the truth is that Witch is the old word for Witch! Our ways are called Witchcraft and Witchcraft is the very source of the pastiche of practices that are now called Wicca with a k—a word that has gone on to be applied to many derivative Pagan religions, pseudo-spiritual therapy encounter groups, and donut social gatherings. However, Witchcraft is the authentic core of our priesthood, and our traditions continue to thrive in spite of the many bastardizations that come from the misuse of the word Wicca. Therefore, I am punishing that word by not using it. 

To truly begin your own journey towards initiation into Witchcraft, we must first define what Witchcraft is and where it comes from. We will explore the lives and legacies of the major players of the modern Witchcraft revival. And, I’ll help you to understand the deep roots of the ancient magical priesthood you are endeavoring to explore.

(Initiation Into Witchcraft by Brian Cain, Warlock Press, 2019, page 2)

As a side note, the first definition of Oxford for Witch is “a woman thought to have evil magic powers. Witches are popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat, and flying on a broomstick.” The sub-definition of “a follower or practitioner of modern witchcraft” clearly designates that this is a modern phenomenon. While I personally believe that Witch originates from positive words, there is not much proof for this and certainly wouldn’t try to win a thousand dollars from someone trying to prove it. 😉

And, with all that being said, Nordic scholars are questioning whether the word even comes from that at at all and rather believe it comes from the word Vardlokkur, a word meaning “song of spirit summoning.” Oxford English Dictionary does not accept this for its rarity but I think, given the word Witch having its own origins in the Germanic linguistic group and the consistent (though ignored by many modern “Wickerns” … and yes, I’m comparing the average status of their intellect to that of furniture) association of Witches and the dead make a word referring to spirit summoner make more sense.

And, finally, here’s something to bake your noodle. How do we know for sure that the word Vardlokkur wasn’t actually the origin of the Scottish “waerloga.” Perhaps these men were called traitors to the Christian faith precisely because they were summoning the dead.

And yes, this note had a somewhat dismissive tone. If you’re going to define your life by spewing rhetoric and opinions without facts or research, then I will address you accordingly as the amateur you are. Nobody ever said I had to suffer fools in order to be a public figure and I certainly don’t intend to. 🙂

The Word Warlock

Here is a rework of an item I posted to the Salem News message boards about the word Warlock.

To speak to the idea that a “warlock is one who has betrayed a coven,” there is simply no primary source material for this in either Witchcraft or Wicca. For much of its history, the word was associated with male Witches and was considered as pejorative as “Witch” was. Oddly, though, noted Wiccan Starhawk says that even with all its negative connotations, women should see the word Witch as a way of reclaiming women’s power and that men should see it as a way of finding the divine feminine within. I do have to wonder why this interesting rule of hers does not also apply to the divine masculine, but that is probably a debate for another day.

The people writing in the days when the word Warlock meant “oathbreaker” were largely associated with the church. The oaths they were considered to be breaking were to the church. If you consider the fact that the Malleus Malificarum, or “Witches Hammer,” the guidebook used by Witch hunters to try and execute those innocents, considered women to be lesser than men, this all makes sense in context. According to the Malleus, women were expected to be more prone to the supposed sin of Witchcraft, so, while they were punished, people were less surprised. For a man to do this, considered by Biblical wisdom to be the head of the household, it was thought to be a far more grievous sin. Hence, they would be far more vilified. In this regard, I willingly consider myself in contrast to the Church’s will in this matter because I have most definitely renounced their falsehoods.

Paul Huson, in his infamous book, Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks and Covens–which is probably the best book on the subject ever put out there, uses the word Warlock throughout and has people say the Our Father backwards. If that’s not breaking the oaths of the Church, I don’t now what is. Oh, and I have this book at HEX. ;-D

The word Wicca (originally pronounced “Witcha”) was an anglo-saxon word, not Celtic (Scottish being Celtic), a Germanic rather than a Gaelic language group, perhaps suggesting more Germanic roots for European Witchcraft than Celtic (Sorry, Enya! LOL). Another Germanic group, the Norse, had a term for the “spirit song” used to summon spirits known as the “Vardlokkur”. While Oxford won’t accept it due to few references, it certainly jives more with what we have in early literary history about Witches being necromancers, such as Circe, the Woman of Endor, Medea, Erictho, Canidia, and countless others. Recently translated Hungarian Witch trial records show that the relationship between Witches and the spirits of the dead continued even into far later periods.

To me, the Warlock is neither a Satanist nor an oathbreaker, but rather a brand of sorcerer who protects his people from harm. While the word is certainly shrouded in mystery, it is no moreso than the word Witch. It’s a shame that Starhawk’s argument, referenced above, applies only to women. Seems like a bit of reverse-discrimination to me. But for adherents of so obviously a recent path as “Wicca” (with the ‘k’ sound, versus ‘tch’) to be so concerned with what is ancient amuses me greatly, especially when the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, the book that essentially kicked off the entire modern revival, uses the term “Warlock” to refer to a binding ritual. Now, I’ve made no Gardnerian oaths so I’m not “Warlocking” that (*snickersnort*). This material has been published for decades by Lady Sheba, Aiden Kelly, Janet and Steward Farrar, and more. So if the founding pillars of modern Wicca do not use this word in the pejorative, why do the post-1970’s generations have such a problem with it? They don’t know the modern history of their faith anymore than they do the ancient.

There’s one reason I like this word more than any other though. It’s downright sexy. 😀

Best Witches!

Christian Day


So, some have followed my use of the word “Warlock” lately. I believe, in spite of Oxford English Dictionary’s refusal to accept it for not enough references, that the Norse Vardlokkur is the origin of the word. Stephen A. Mitchell, in his brand new book,

Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages

, refers to the Vardlokkur as “The Warlock Song” and an English/Icelandic dictionary refers to warlock and vardlokkur as related.

Still, many still source the Scottish “Waerloga,” or oathbreaker. But let’s not forget: how long did the dictionaries bash Witches as a negative until we forced many of them to revisit THAT word? Many dictionaries still posit Witch as a negative word, worse even than Warlock, so the hypocrisy of some in this debate is simply breathtaking, and not in a good way.

Still, let’s say for the sake of argument that they’re right? In what context is oathbreaker used? Is it betrayer of the coven like this or that Wicca 101 book says? Um. No. There’s no source material for this and Reverend Don Lewis’s videos do not count as source material (and yes, someone actually posted his youtube video as “source material.” LOL). Is it a betrayer of “one’s own kind?” Nope. No source material for that either.

A visit to an etymological dictionary online offers this:

Old English wærloga “traitor, liar, enemy, devil,” from wær “faith, fidelity; a compact, agreement, covenant,” from Proto-Germanic *wera- (source also of Old High German wara“truth,” Old Norse varar “solemn promise, vow”), from PIE root *were-o- “true, trustworthy.” Second element is an agent noun related to leogan “to lie” (see lie (v.1); and compare Old English wordloga “deceiver, liar”).

Original primary sense seems to have been “oath-breaker;” given special application to the devil (c. 1000), but also used of giants and cannibals. Meaning “one in league with the devil” is recorded from c. 1300. Ending in -ck (1680s) and meaning “male equivalent of a witch” (1560s) are from Scottish.

It’s not Oxford but it’s the best out there that’s publicly available.

So let’s read between the lines here. “give n special application to the devil,” and “one in league with the devil.” What does this say? If any oaths were broken, they were made in honor of the devil, thus they were broken not to the “coven” or “one’s own kind,” but to the CHURCH, to the First Commandment. We Witches violate the first commandment every day, and I do so proudly!

So, whether Warlock is Waerloga or Vardlokkur, it matters little to me. I still like the word. I broke my oaths to the Christian God gladly, and I summon the spirits every day. Take your pick. I’m still a Warlock, baby, and I was born this way. 😉

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

For all the years I’ve lived and/or worked in Salem, someone always comes along with a new offering, such as a shop or event, along with the proclamation that, “there aren’t any public rituals in Salem,” “there’s nothing outside of Halloween in Salem,” “it’s only commercial,” and, most recently, “the magic is not academic or left-wing activist enough” as the explanation for why they suddenly have something new to bring to the table. I remember one particularly austere shop coming in a few years back with the message that they came to a city with no public rituals at a time when I believe there were at least seven or more different groups doing public rituals for all eight of the Witches’ holidays, including Leanne and Nickolas and Tim and the Traditionalist Covens of New England- TCONE at OMEN. I know when Shawn and I first did Festival of the Dead in 2003, we had our own concerns that Halloween itself was slipping but that wasn’t due, in our opinion, to other Witches, but to city officials not wanting to promote it at the time. That has changed and the city is far more embracing of the peculiar tapestry of history, literature, architecture, magic, arts, culture, and even culinary experimentation that is the Witch City. Now, I get it. Most of these battle cries for something new are probably just the result of either antiquated marketing techniques (you’ve tried the rest, now try the best! We beat the competition hands down!) or simply the inability or social anxiety that presents these would-be saviors of Salem from seeing what was already being offered. That has never been an egotism that I’ve suffered from. From the very beginning of my career, I recognized that Laurie Cabot and her family (shout out to Penny Cabot too) made the magic of Salem what it is, and Laurie has not stopped doing so since she first stepped into Salem in the late 1960’s. I have always said from the beginning of my public Witchcraft life that, “without Laurie Cabot, I would have no career.” Shawn and I never presumed to “fill a void” but rather believed that we were adding to and enhancing the tapestry that was already there. Groups like Laurie Cabot & The Cabot Kent Hermetic Temple Witches Costume Ball 2019, Temple of Nine Wells – ATC, TCONE, CUUPS, Witches Education League, and numerous others have interfaced with Salem visitors for as long as I can remember. I may not always see eye to eye with some of the leaders of these groups, but that does not change the fact that they have fulfilled all the roles that some of the younger set are claiming as voids today. Perhaps some are too young to remember when Patricia A. Gozemba and Laurie Cabot getting arrested while protesting the nuclear power plant not so far away from Salem. I remember many gatherings outside of October. I remember many a coffeehouse discussion that may even have been, sakes alive, academic.
I welcome and encourage everyone seeking to help the world realize what a compellingly magical place Salem is, but I think one can distinguish oneself without petty comparisons and attempts to diminish those who have gone before you. All of us stand on the shoulders of someone.

“And we see you over there on the internet
Comparing all the girls who are killing it
But we figured you outWe all know now we all got crowns
You need to calm down”
Taylor Swift, You Need to Calm Now

Witchcraft versus Witchcraft

A lot of authors in the genre of what is now referred to as “traditional Witchcraft” seem to argue that somehow only those among those groups spend more time researching folklore to find elements of tradition than do those among what they call “Wicca.” As someone who has dabbled in both a folkloric style of Witchcraft and am also an initiate, I find folklore and old customs to be something most Witches of every stripe explore, including the founders of what some now call Wicca with a K. Certainly Gardner, Valiente, Crowther, Sanders, and company did their fair share of research. Moreover, to use the word “tradition” because, somehow, one group is pulling more “folklore” and “tradition” from trial records than another is a bit dubious when one considers that it’s hard to accurately discern either folklore or tradition from the cries of a woman about to have her tit lobbed off and a hot poker stuck in her eye. The word Witch comes from gender variants Witch-ah and Witch-eh in Anglo-Saxon, where the cc in that context was pronounced “ch” as in “chipotle.” Take the gender off for modern English and you are left with the word Witch.

At the end of the day, none of us really knows, not with the various striped socks of Witchcraft and not with religion in general. We pick a spiritual spot, we take a stand, we think we’re right, we cry it out, but, at the end of the full moon cycle, what the hell do we really know? Ultimately, what defines a Witch for me is talent. It’s a fuck all lot more discernible than history. 😀

Please. No. Fucking. Third. Parties. In. 2020.

We need to unite behind someone who can actually BEAT Trump! It was this Bernie or Bust Jill Stein Crap that got us here to begin with. Do we really need anymore proof of how much worse Trump is than Hillary or are people just that stupid? I get it. Multi-party systems have their pros, but this president is too extreme and we just get him out. It’s next to impossible for a third party candidate to win the Electoral College and it would take a miracle to get rid of the EC so please learn how the presidential election works before you hurl your support by someone who’s just going to be a spoiler. And fucking Starbuck’s? Really? I AM an independent but this is bullshit. Anyone who picks this guy over the Dem is an idiot and I’ll say it to your face.

A Former New-Ager Turned Fundie Christian Wackjob to Avoid, and Why

When the notoriously saccharine and paradoxically-named doyenne of the oracle divination deck known as Doreen Virtue left the ranks of the New Age after an alleged vision of Jesus, I left it alone. I figured, I’ve never been that connected to or invested in the leaders of the New Age subculture and I’m not really phased by which God or Goddess gives people their goosebumps so what’s the point in commenting? If visions of Christ and his disciples—looking oddly like the Manson family—can be visited upon Divine in John Waters classic film, “Multiple Maniacs” (Youtube it!),  then why can’t Doreen Virtue have a go at the risen lord? I also have to wonder how a vision of Jesus also compels someone to believe in a host of social, pseudo-historical, pseudo-scientific, political, and spiritual beliefs that were almost certainly not included in said vision, but I guess she took the rest of her talking points from her Bible study group. In spite of the temptation to weigh in, I just said to myself at the time, “Fuck it. Not my circus, not my tent revival” and moved on with my day. I think I made a “who cares?” comment or two at the time but that was it.

But, fast forward and now, Ms. Lacking in Virtue has released a pontificating polemic  entitled “An A-Z List of New Age Practices to Avoid, and Why.” Despite my belief that Witchcraft is Witchcraft and not a subgroup of the New Age as some would argue, there are many practices shared between the two groups and Ms. Virtue has come full force in attacking them so I’m going to comment. 

While Ms. Virtue claims she’s not “hating on anyone, or judging anyone,” that’s exactly what she’s doing when she outright attacks the ways and beliefs that people hold dear. 

When Virtue states that “The new age teaches that demons and the devil don’t exist, so that demons can operate undercover without being noticed,” she’s essentially accusing New Agers, Witches, and occultists of knowingly and consciously peddling both so why she bothers with the passive aggressive veneer of not judging is mindboggling. As I always say, if you’re going to play the Devil’s game, do it in the Devil’s name. In other words, she should just come right out and accuse us of deceiving people because that’s absolutely what she’s implying with the comment above.

Virtual also claims that, if her “list offends or upsets you, it’s likely because the demons which have been oppressing you are offended and upset.” No, it’s that few among us want to be told that the beliefs and practices we hold sacred are an abomination. And, to completely demolish her logic that offense or upset is relegated to those who are allegedly oppressed by demons, does anyone reading this honestly think I couldn’t “offend or upset” non-demonically-oppressed Christians from one end of the day to the other? Just ask the New Orleans Catholic Archdiocese how they feel about me after their members protested HexFest and I told the New Orleans Advocate newspaper that I’d counter-protest their churches with scantily-clad strippers in pointy Witch hats. 

While Virtue’s list would better be used as a simple guide to some really spectacular, some mediocre, and a few outright kooky practices one could embrace on the road to self-development, instead she outlines these practices as doorways to the demonic. I won’t address every entry listed in her blog, but here are the items that stood out to me:

Crystals — Virtue claims that, “while the Bible is filled with references to crystals, nowhere are we told to worship them.” How many people actually worship crystals? Sure, they have energy in them, and that’s scientifically proven, but is anyone actually getting down on their knees and praying to a geode? I guess someone out there might be but there is quite the thriving Witch and New Age communities in both Salem and New Orleans and I’ve never seen this in practice in the thirty years I’ve been lighting candles and chanting to the dev … I mean old gods. 

Divination— Apparently Virtue would have us “bring our concerns to God instead of a fortune-teller.” Let me get this straight. Isn’t this the person who spent decades creating divination decks that people could use themselves instead of going to a fortune-teller? Using a divination tool yourself is, in fact, a powerful method to communicate both with your deeper self and with your Gods and spirits. See Mary Greer’s book Tarot for Yourself for an excellent introduction to such work.

Drumming Circles —According to the Virtuous one, “We should direct all of our prayers to God, and avoid going into trances which could make us susceptible to demonic intrusion.” She clearly doesn’t understand the science of magic and psychic work. I can almost guarantee you that if I hooked anyone in an average Pentecostal Church into an EEG machine to monitor their brain waves, they’d be in alpha or even theta brain wave levels—which are both among the forms of trance that drumming induces. So if trance itself is bad, I think many of these Christians are in serious danger.

Earth Angels— I can’t comment on this since the only thing I know about the subject is the 1954 doo-wop song by the Penguins. 

Fairies —Virtue informs us that, “in reality, [Fairies are] usually demons-in-disguise or an overactive imagination” and that “We must be cautious about sparkly enticements that the devil places before us.”Well, I do think an overactive imagination comes with the territory of nearly every religious affiliation so I can’t dispute her there, but I can disagree with her on the fact that … scratch that … she’s right. Faeries aren’t all sparkly and some can actually be as dangerous as anything we associate with the Demonic. Ok, score one for Doreen except that the Fae folk can be powerful allies for those who take the time to work with them correctly.

Feng Shui— Heaven knows (pun intended) that Jesus will smite me with leprosy if he doesn’t like where I put my couch. 

Goddesses —I notice that Virtue gives the great Goddesses of the world a special entry for her scorn, relegating the spectrum of deity to an entry on “Deities and Divinities.” Of course she does because she also notes that people turn to Goddesses in reaction their view that Christianity is “patriarchal or misogynist.” Well, if the sandal fits, Doreen. While I generally don’t feel the need to criticize Christianity unless they’re using their power in the political sphere to oppress others, I’m going to go “Out on a Limb” (Shirley MacLaine, 1983) here and take a crack. All anyone needs to do to understand the truth depths of misogyny and patriarch  of Christianity is read the Malleus Malificarum (Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, 1487). Don’t come through the Temples of the Goddess with a white glove unless your own church is dust free, because I can get all tea and all shade where the Church is concerned.

Harry Potter — No, no, I just can’t. Ok, ok, I will. So many Christians love Narnia and Lord of the Rings and fail to realize that the Christian allegory of the former and the occasional Christian metaphors of the latter (Tolkien “cordially dislike[d] allegory in all its manifestations”), precious few Children are going to consciously take either stories to the depths required to understand that those books are anymore Biblical than Harry Potter.

Hypnosis — See Drumming Circles above.

Journeying —See Drumming Circles above.

Law of Attraction, Manifesting —Virtue scoffs at the beliefs “that your thoughts can manipulate and control your circumstances” and that “that we can create and attract whatever we want, if we are just positive enough.” While I think that the so-called “Law of Attraction” is an often simplified package of what manifestation really involves, I’ll quote Jesus when he said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” If simply asking in prayer is powerful enough on its own, why would Christ bother to tell his disciples  to “believe that you have received it?” See more Biblical quotes on the idea of “speaking things into existence.”

Mediumship— Doreen claims that “Demons pretend to be your departed loved one, and they give some accurate message that only you could know.” Well, I certainly disagree that they’re demons but I’d also like to point out that, when King Saul went to visit the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28) and said Witch called up the spirit of Samuel, even though his doing so was criticized, nowhere does the Bible state that this apparition of Samuel was a demon. Moreover, Samuel’s production that King Saul and his sons would die in battle the following day turned out to be true. Witch of Endor and Samuel: 1; King Saul and Bible: 0. 

Mercury Retrograde —Virtue points out that, “Since God created the planet Mercury, it is God who is sovereign and in control of our destiny.”Using Doreen’s line of reasoning, God also created air and, far as I can tell, we all still need to breathe it.  

Paganism —Doreen insists that, while “most pagan worshippers claim they don’t believe in Satan,” that “there’s no question that Satan is their chief source of influence and control,” that Pagans “deify him in their worldly and sensual practices,” and, “as such, paganism should be avoided.” Well, I don’t agree with her assessment of Pagans at all, but then I also don’t identify as a Pagan so I think those who do are better suited to fight that fight.

Peace Signs – Here we go! Yep, the Virtuous one trucks out the old chestnut that “A peace sign is an upside-down and broken cross, symbolizing the rebellion against Christianity.” No, Doreen. “The modern peace sign was designed by Gerald Holtom for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1958. The vertical line in the center represents the flag semaphore signal for the letter D, and the downward lines on either side represent the semaphore signal for the letter N. “N” and “D”, for nuclear disarmament, enclosed in a circle.” See: Encyclopedia Britannica

Psychic Readings— According to Virtue, “psychic information comes from demonic sources” and that’s “how demons hook us in.” But prophecy is ok of course because you just know that they have a machine hidden in the basement of Churches that can scientifically determine the difference between prophecy and psychic ability.

Sage— Doreen tells us that, “instead of turning to plants, we should go directly to Jesus of Nazareth as the only authority for casting away demons and unclean spirits.” Well, the Bible certainly does reference herbs for healing (see: Open Bible’s references to herbs for healing) and, in at least one case, in Psalm 51:7, it is said advised to “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” I don’t think the writer is equating hyssop with just physical cleansing, especially when the association between the herb and religious purification goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. Moreover, while I know that many Evangelicals detest Catholicism, I’ve been to many a Catholic church where resins like frankincense and myrrh are burned to purify. And hey, didn’t the three kings bring both of those to Christ as a gift at his birth?

Statues— This claim by Virtue, that “Worshipping, venerating, lighting candles to, or praying to a statue is sinful,” an attack also often leveled by Protestant Evangelicals against Catholics, they’re really missing the point here. I don’t know anyone that actually prays toa statue. They’re no less symbolic than a cross and, while I know Evangelicals take Christ off the crucifix for the same reason, it also shows how little they understand of symbology. A cross is just as representative of Christ’s sacrifice as a crucifix and neither are more or less symbolic than a statue. Now, yes, I do think that a statue, cross, or any other object can be imbued with sacred power and thus are more than simply symbolic, but it could also be argued that all things in creation contain sacred power already. While a statue can be more than simply symbolic, it is more correctly identified as a portal of consciousness to the divine than the actual deity itself. 

Unicorns—This seems to be what most people have been focusing in on regarding Doreen’s attacks on New Age practices. I can’t even address it with a straight face so I’ll just let the Irish Rovers tell the story …

Wicca—Doreen separates Wicca and Witchcraft. I don’t identify what I do as “Wicca” with a ‘k,’ but I am descended in lineage from Gerald Gardner and, while he certainly added much to Witchcraft, I do not believe that he invented it.

Witchcraft – It is fascinating to me that Doreen takes the time to justify the miracles of Moses as distinct from alleged demonic power of the Pharaoh’s magicians, as though the very same actions can be divided into categories of good and evil depending on how you view the “source” of the power. I look at it a different way and I talk about this in my book. I argued that the reason Moses’ power was greater was not because he was calling on a different god than they were, but that his experience was direct, shamanic, and ecstatic and that the burning bush represented a direct connection to the supernatural worlds versus the power of the magicians that was limited by their obedience to the will of the pharaoh. And that is where the true fear lies—that both Moses and the rest of us can go direct to spirit for our inspiration and that our magical souls no longer be enslaved to the will of political strongmen.

I think I’ll end on that empowering note and go back to forgetting the existence of Doreen Virtue and her addlepated attacks on the sacred practices of others. I hope she abandons this judgmental claptrap and goes back to making her oracle decks because our customers really love them. It’s sad that she’s relegated herself to the self-righteous parroting of these antiquated ideas and I hope that her Christian walk allows her to broaden her mind rather than stifle it. I will close by saying that I know many good Christians, Evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal, Protestant, and others and, for them, Christianity is a beacon of goodness and peace and not a platform from which to disparage and belittle.  

Musings on the Altar of the Dead

The reason I called my book The Witches’ Book of the Dead, and the reason I refer to my altar for that work as an altar of the dead, as opposed to an ancestral altar is I believe that my work goes far beyond those with whom I share blood relations. Yes, those who swim in the DNA of your blood do matter and they matter a lot, as do those “ancestors” who had a hand in your upbringing (for those adoptees out there!). I have so much in the way of ancestry (including even Pygmy, as some of you know!) that there is much to call on there, but I am so inspired by so many in the realms of spirit. Just as those who are spirit mediums build bridges to the beloved dead of other people, so to do Witches make connections in their work to spirits across the spectrum of the other worlds. To not call upon someone because they are not a direct relation in some way feels wrong to me, especially as there are spirits who some forget to call on that may be happy for that connection to be made. I know that there is much debate now over ancestors in the racial sense, but I do not see every white person that ever lived as an ancestor of mine. Heck, there are a quite a few that I’d never want to call on! If I had a choice between lighting a candle in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or of Joseph Stalin, I’m going to go with Dr. King. I think you should honor those dead not only who are part of your blood but also those who inspire you. I know that my niece Angel Griffin is not my niece by blood, but I know she doesn’t mind when I call on her grandmother and her mom in spirit as both women formed such a part of my life and who I am today. The key in all of it is respect. If you are practicing ancestral traditions, you must show respect to the cultural realities that formed those traditions or you are committing an egregious error. You must respect the dead and their traditions should you wish them to respect you and yours. If you honor and remember the dead, they will honor and remember you. Your ancestors do represent a powerful hub of the wheel of your spiritual work, but remember that we are creatures of spirit and that our spirit connects to all spirit. Your dead is your ancestors, including spiritual ancestors in the traditions of your lineage. Your dead is your child who died of cancer. Your dead is your best friend who helped you in your darkest times. Your dead is your adoptive parents. Your dead are all those from whom you draw wisdom and inspiration.

And so it begins…

I’ve been meaning to redo this site, the hub of my internet existence, for some time to update some of the projects that my husband Brian Cain and I have been working on. There are a lot of really great magical blogs out there and WordPress seems to be the way to do it these days so I decided to convert this into a blog of thoughts, ideas, projects, opinions, and whatever. I welcome comments so long as they’re respectful and engaging as I’m not interested in anyone’s keyboard acid.

Blessings from New Orleans,

Christian Day