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
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. 😀
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.
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.
Certain folks feel the need to delete you and re-add you from social media every other week because you aren’t quite as social as you’d like. I have crafted a new word for such people. Feel free to share it. :-D’
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.
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.