As we speak’s column involves us from Storm Faerywolf, whose column covers the intersection of Paganism and queer identities. Storm is knowledgeable writer, skilled instructor, visionary poet, and working towards warlock, and is writer of “Betwixt & Between” and “Forbidden Mysteries of Faery Witchcraft.” He lives together with his two loving companions in the San Francisco Bay space and travels internationally educating the magical arts. For extra, go to faerywolf.com.
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Pagans can’t activate their televisions today with out seeing some sort of witch or warlock staring again at them. Between American Horror Story: Apocalypse and the reboots of Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch – now referred to as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – the common public is being handled to an explosion of witchcraft tales drawing from the literary custom. However though these are works of fiction, the themes they explores may be related to our personal practices and perhaps even assist begin some work round our collective shadow, if we select to allow them to.
(Warning: minor spoilers lie forward.)
Every program presents its personal model of the Craft. In Charmed, it’s a pressure used to result in justice, by no means used for private achieve. The phrase “witch” refers to a practitioner of any gender of excellent magic, whereas evil practitioners are referred to as “warlocks.” In AHS and Sabrina, nevertheless, any morality expressed for his or her model of the Craft lies in the course of particular person freedom, and each use warlock in the similar approach as in English dictionaries: a male practitioner of Witchcraft.
Whereas some practitioners of the Craft have expressed concern and even outrage at how these works have did not characterize an genuine follow of recent Witchcraft, others have argued in favor of them. These in favor cite legitimate expressions of the Craft differing from these present in most Neo-Pagan circles, derived from folkloric, literary, Satanic, and even the ostensibly named “Trad Craft” sources, to call a number of.
Whereas I’m personally extra consistent with the latter mindset, preferring to see this as a chance to offer correct info to these newly impressed to search for an genuine Craft, I can definitely perceive the considerations of the former – particularly with regards to AHS and Sabrina. Each of those tales contain fictional parts harking back to the all-too-real “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, which ruined lots of of peoples’ lives with no shred of bodily proof.
In each tales, an underground community of individuals interact in ritual human sacrifice with a purpose to result in the favors of the Satan. This splendidly performs upon the fears of the Christian-right, however it makes some real-life occultists uncomfortable in the course of.
In the present political local weather, during which religiously-fueled bias-crimes and white nationalism are on the rise, regardless of proof of such being touted as “fake news,” individuals of all minorities are sitting on pins and needles, ready to see in the event that they or their communities are subsequent on the chopping block. In nerve-racking occasions, one can hardly blame the knee-jerk reactions that these types of issues encourage. Whereas we should always have the ability to anticipate that the viewer shall be knowledgeable and clever sufficient to know the distinction between reality and fiction, the actuality is that many individuals will merely consider no matter they see on TV and will act out of their very own fears and ignorance.
In Sabrina, the sort of Witchcraft introduced is drawn from a Christian conception of Satanism, full with cloven-hoofed Satanic determine, the “Dark Lord,” who stands in opposition to the “false god.” Whereas it was definitely enjoyable to see a type of Satanism getting used to discover themes of spiritual piety and conservatism, I discovered myself uncomfortable with the abusive patriarchal nature expressed by their Darkish Lord. This was illustrated completely by a scene with Mrs. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez) groveling earlier than him in agonizing worry, evoking the sense of a battered spouse cowering in terrifying submission. It was a masterfully acted scene, filled with uncooked emotion, but in addition uncovered a theme that may be additional explored in the collection: violence towards ladies.
One other facet of the current pageant of pop-culture occultism of curiosity to me, and maybe additionally to different queer viewers, are the warlocks introduced in AHS: Apocalypse. After having been launched to the sisterhood of witches in a earlier season, American Horror Story: Coven, viewers at the moment are handled to a brotherhood, as nicely. It will at the least seem, with their dandy garments and sassy retorts, that they’re fabulously queer, if not explicitly in sexuality, then implicitly in how they current. They’re all so additional. (And Cheyenne Jackson is simply so yummy, isn’t he?)
The story isn’t with out its issues. Sadly, the warlocks are largely antagonistic towards the witches, feeling oppressed by them as they don’t seem to be as robust with magic as the sisterhood, and are always reminded of that reality. “Men are simply not equal when it comes to magical ability,” explains Cordelia Good, the witches’ chief in the collection. “Testosterone is a known inhibitor — it impedes access to the ethereal realm.” The warlocks’ resentment results in a deep misogyny, nevertheless, as they quickly hatch a plan to exterminate the ladies and take their place as the rulers in a magical gender conflict.
This invitations us to have a dialog about the real-life misogyny in our communities. Whereas on the floor AHS is utilizing the time-honored trope of inversion to raised illustrate a societal ailing – on this case, exploring misogyny by depicting a type of misandry – it nonetheless cuts near the bone. I’ve personally seen loads of misogyny in the homosexual male group, whether or not it’s informal insults a few lady’s anatomy or the ridiculous “star system” recreation that permits homosexual males to say standing based mostly on how far eliminated they’ve been from private expertise with a vagina. (A “gold star gay,” for these to know, has by no means engaged in intercourse with a lady, whereas the “platinum star” was reserved for these few who have been moreover born by cesarean. Yikes!) I first heard about this in my 20’s and at the time I assumed it was hilarious. In any case, we have been utilizing humor to insurgent towards a society that in very actual phrases needed us lifeless for whom we have been attracted. However as I obtained older, I started to see the misogynistic present operating deep inside my very own group, with video games of this nature solely hinting at the actual issues beneath the floor.
On this – although deliciously exaggerated – the warlocks of AHS: Apocalypse will not be completely dissimilar from ourselves. We each take pleasure in a combined standing: privileged as males in a patriarchal society (with much more of stated privilege if we occur to be white) whereas additionally being the victims of a gender-based oppression. As a white, cisgendered male, I’m conscious, a minimum of to a level, of the privileges I’ve when in comparison with an individual of colour, however as a result of I’m homosexual, I’m additionally at occasions painfully reminded simply how far that privilege doesn’t prolong.
Contemplate the easy act of holding your beloved’s hand in a public place, a small factor that many straight individuals take without any consideration, however for the queer individual brings about very actual considerations of private security. Who may see? Who may be offended? May somebody bodily assault us? In that case, how may we escape?
Even rising up in the liberal bubble of the San Francisco Bay Space, I’ve personally encountered threats, insults, and even violence for being perceived as gay, making these considerations fairly actual. Dwelling with constant emotions of worry, hatred, and animosity takes its toll on the thoughts and spirit, and when one is successfully bullied – not simply by people however by society as an entire – the impulse towards lashing out may be robust.
One other element during which I discovered an identical resonance between the fiction of AHS and the real-life expertise of dwelling as a homosexual man in the trendy Witchcraft group lies in a wierd and virtually hidden type of misandric homophobia. Taken maybe from the political concept that the proverbial pendulum should “swing the other way” so as to counterbalance a earlier mistaken, in some types of conventional trendy Craft, a particular emphasis is positioned on the feminine, typically to the exclusion of the male altogether. Although usually thought-about to be on the “fringe”, some teams espouse straight-up misandry in the guise of radical feminism, in search of gender “purity”, militantly defending the boundaries of their perception. These teams take justification, partially, from an obscure piece of Wiccan lore regarding gender roles in the circle, popularized by the Gardnerian custom: when no male is current, a Excessive Priestess might put on a sword and fulfill the position of the Excessive Priest in the magic circle, but when no lady is accessible there isn’t a particular exception for the Excessive Priest to do comparable. On this case there can merely be no circle.
Removed from being an obscure level with out significance, this concept of unequal gender roles has led to an imbalance in some types of the trendy Craft during which males are handled as considerably “less than” their sisters, and nobody blinks an eye fixed. Many don’t even discover. I do know of male clergymen who, by the legal guidelines of their covens, are barred from performing sure actions on their very own (similar to initiations) as a result of they don’t seem to be feminine.
I’m not saying that one way or the other a sluggish present of misandry in the Craft is simply as dangerous as the apparent tsunami of misogyny that exists outdoors of it; removed from it. However I do assume it’s essential to take a look at these points wherever they come up and discover how we’d change to raised go well with the wants of an more and more numerous future. I’m definitely not making an attempt to sentence a practice as a result of I disagree with their construction on gender roles, however I personally couldn’t work with a system that might dishonor me, even when simply partially, and so it spurs my queer spirit to assist create extra colourful options.
Going towards the grain is a top quality that’s inherent in Witchcraft, in addition to in what may be referred to as a queer id. Maybe it’s by way of the resonance of each of those identities that has additional led me to hitch the rising ranks of males who follow witchcraft and who’ve determined to say the phrase ‘Warlock’ as a time period of private energy. It is going to be no shock to those that have adopted my writings over the years that I proudly use the time period to explain myself in defiance of the assertion (solely present in Neo-Paganism) that the phrases’ etymological origins imply it’s perpetually irredeemable. Moreover, I make it some extent to repeat my stance each time the phrase comes up – so, on this case, you possibly can blame it on tv.
Whereas the root phrase, the Previous English waerloga, undoubtedly meant “oath breaker” (with connotations of satan worship – so spooky!), it was additionally a firmly Christian-era phrase, which means that no matter oaths have been being damaged have been probably these administered to the Church-empowered authorities. I make it some extent of private satisfaction to face towards the values as enacted by such a Church and so my identification with the phrase stays.
If I’m breaking any oaths, allow them to be the ones that insist that males must be unfeeling dominators, all the time in competitors with ladies or one another. Let me shatter the chains of social expectation that may insist I act a sure means or put on sure colours, to “fit in” and “be a man.” Let damaged be the depraved vow that states some varieties of individuals are higher than others, which shapes a world filled with lack, and greed, and violence, and oppression. I might be each robust and delicate in my masculinity. In the patriarchal world I used to be denied masculinity due to my gayness. In the magical world I declare my masculinity again from the false god with out apology. Simply as my sisters have adopted the phrase ‘Witch’ and redeemed it from its previous damaging connotations, I exploit the time period Warlock in an analogous means, and as some extent of magical focus as a way to assist function a way to detoxify masculinity in the Craft.
It’s not about setting one up above one other. We aren’t in competitors with one another. This needn’t be about “us vs. them” – there isn’t a “them.” Although we’re all totally different, there’s solely, finally, “us.” We’d like all of our variations, and we’d like them collectively. We will’t afford to maintain following the previous methods of the previous which have introduced us to the quagmire that’s our present environmental/social/political state of affairs.
Maybe even right here we will take inspiration from one other theme explored in our beloved pop-culture tales, characterised merely as discovering one other approach. Sabrina rebels towards an authority that might demand she hand over her freedom and as an alternative blazes a path that honors each her human and her witch identities. Is it actually that straightforward? The Witches of AHS work to undo the very apocalypse that serves as the season’s premise, and in so doing confront their very own assumptions about magic.
In each tales, as in life, there’s all the time a price; for a quest to be fulfilled a worth have to be paid. We’re reminded that these are the methods of magic: so as to create nice change, we should make an applicable sacrifice. My hope is that it’s our personal fears, provided upon the altars of our freedom.
The views and opinions expressed by our numerous panel of columnists and visitor writers symbolize the many diverging views held inside the international Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, however don’t essentially mirror the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its administration.