La Stevie has downplayed rumors of her interest in the occult in recent years, but in the 1980s my friends in the antiquarian book business (great sources for insider info; what people collect reveals so much about them) told me that Nicks bought lots of old, old books on witchcraft, magic and alchemy, and had amassed quite a collection.
The witch world and blogosphere are bubbling like a cauldron at Yule with news of Nick’s appearance. I met Nicks once, in the early 1990s when I was working at Atlantic Records; she came in for a meeting with my boss, wearing a very sedate black and white fitted silk dress, she was tiny, nice, and very pretty–my boss, knowing my occult interests insisted that I come in and meet her (as well as taking the coffee and Perrier orders, lol!). She had a certain vibe about her, one of woman who is capable of achieving her goals.
Misty Dawn, the AHS:C witch who worships Nicks, has the magical power of resurrection, so it’s appropriate that the next phase of Stevie Nick’s career emanates from her hands, and how wonderful that Stevie has embraced her legend, inspiring a whole new generation of witch-lettes like she did in the 1970s and ’80s when a friend of mine named her daughter, born in the mid-’80s, Rhiannon (and Riri lives up to it, too; she’s quite good at the mantic arts!).
Shades of Lady Gaga nearly two and half decades before Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta donned platform shoes and a meat dress. Watch Paul Lynde thanking his
at the close of his surreal 1976 Halloween special; it shows a throughline of queer consciousness.
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special is a mash-up of 1976′s culture clashes. Lynde makes jokes about the upcoming election while KISS, Betty White, Donnie and Marie (in an uncredited appearance), Margaret Hamilton, and other surprise guests perform sketches with the Crown Prince of Camp, Paul Lynde.
For many years, Paul Lynde and Liberace [Lee] were the two most visible gay men on television, and Lynde was always cooler than Lee, appealing to a younger generation. He played sarcastic, practical joking Uncle Arthur on Bewitched and was also the center square on the game show Hollywood Squares, where his snarky double entendres (and center spot on the game board) made him a favorite. Many jokes on the Hollywood Squares centered around thinly veiled references to Lynde’s sexuality, and I still wonder if my grandmother and her generation got them…
Q: You’re the world’s most popular fruit. What are you?
Q: What unusual thing do you do, if you have something called ‘the gift of tongues’?
Lynde: I wouldn’t tell the grand jury; why should I tell you?
This 1976 television special is over-the-top crazed, with Lynde being granting three wishes by the witches (Hamilton and Billy Hayes from HR Pufnstuf). One wish is to be the Rhinestone Trucker with a big rig (trucking was huge deal in the mid-70s, popularized in songs and movies and on TV). In another wish skit Lynde becomes a sheikh in the desert, a great lover who tries to seduce Florence Henderson (high points are the jokes about a cockatoo and milking a cobra). The third wish transports Lynde and the witches to a haunted disco where Florence Henderson sings “That Old Black Magic” and KISS performs their hit “Beth.”
KISS, Florence Henderson and Paul Lynde together makes for one of the freakiest TV experiences ever, stranger even than David Bowie and Iggy Pop with Rosemary Clooney on Dinah Shore’s afternoon talk show. And the Halloween special gets even more surreal when Lynde starts to sing “Disco Lady” with Roz “Pinky Tuscadero” Kelly. There’s more strangeness throughout the show, but I don’t want to spoil it for you–it has to be seen to be believed. All I can think is that there must have been booze involved, along with a desire to appear relevant to all ages in the concept and execution of what is now a bizarre slice of Americana.
Huge bear hug to Suzanne at PoliCybear.com who posted about Paul Lynde’s Halloween Special–ahead of me by 24 hours. Great minds think alike!
It’s the season of the witch. At least on TV. Witches are hot, and producers are staking their cred on a current crop of witch shows, with new ones in the works. Right now there’s The Witches of East End [WoEE] and American Horror Story: Coven [AHS:C], with a reboot of Charmed being conjured. Coincidentally, Charmed just got dissed on AHS:C, when Queenie, played by Gabourey Sidibe, says:
I grew up on white girl shit, like Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Cracker.
Honey, we all did. And Bewitched. And we’ve all had to deal with Stevie Nicks stigma. (Nicks’s music is the constant companion of swamp witch Misty Dawn, another of AHS:C‘s fashionable friends of the Devil).
For the past six years, reality producers have been trying to get a “real witches” show cast. I know, I get casting calls regularly and even shot a teaser reel for one. When I worked in an occult shop, I was featured on a few shows (Blind Date, where I showed a famous comedienne and her hapless, annoyed staged-date dude how to cast a passion spell; and some episode of a history show about a cursed dress for which I did a snazzy flaring cauldron routine and discussed curses).
Thing is, unlike TV witches, what “real” witches, sorcerers, sorceresses, and (non-stage) magicians do is not all that flashy. Sure there are rituals, solo and in groups (I don’t belong to a coven and I’m a witch, not a Wiccan–more on that later), but unless you are participating and know what’s going on, on it’s pretty boring, though the set dressing can be awesome. Do we go “skyclad,” that is, naked? Uh, if I do do that, I wouldn’t on TV.
American Horror Story: Coven is way better than the tepid Witches of East End, which involves a mom and her twenty-something daughters–the sexy bartender daughter is engaged to a rich boy, but sexually attracted to his bad-boy brother; her uptight librarian, super-rational sister doesn’t believe in witches, even though she is one. Mom is trying to be normal, but she’s accused of murder (the soapy trope of the evil twin!) and the free spirited witch auntie makes peyote stew and walks around naked. WoEE’s cosmology is off, its spellwork is wrong, its characterization of witches is weak, of women is facile, and the acting and writing suck. It’s embarrassing. Like, the librarian witch decides to try casting a spell to help her friend get pregnant (even though she doesn’t believe in magic, but hey, here’s an old book, let’s do it because nothing else is working), and next day her friend gets the results on an over-the-counter pee stick that she is with child! Biologically impossible, even with magic. While it’s possible to test positive as early as seven days past ovulation, most likely a woman isn’t producing hCG at a high enough level to be detected by a home pregnancy test. The earliest you can test is 7 days after ovulation, and it’s recommended to wait until after you have missed your period. You can also be pregnant, not know, and have spotting that you mistake for menstruation. So either the friend tested too soon, was pregnant before they did the spell and the pregnancy test gave a false negative which the next test read as positive, or she mistook spotting for her period, and retested after the spellcasting–surprise!
And the barely a tertiary character token gay guy, is just that, a token.
Joanna’s daughters on The Witches of East End have been reincarnated since at least Salem–mom appears to have nine lives, or be immortal or something– and each time the girls are named Freya and Ingrid. No way in Puritan Salem would these names–especially Freya, the name of a Norse goddess–have been given! Those names struck such a strident note that, for me, the whole plot fell to bits.
American Horror Story: Coven, created by Ryan Murphy (Glee) with James Wong (X Files) delivers a rich, engrossing storyline with beautiful cinematography and a stellar cast. Plus, unlike WoEE there’s an effort towards historical and ritual accuracy. Wong says they do a lot of research (and it shows in the background of the evil Mme. Delphine Lalaurie, played with intensity by Kathy Bates, and in Angela Bassett’s sublime and powerful Marie Laveau who now in present day works the same gig she held in the 19th century, a hairdresser). The rituals so far have been pretty well-grounded in magic. My friends and I did spot some glitches in episode three’s voodoo ceremony–red clothes would never be worn, nor would be underwear! While there’s general acceptance in the occult community that rituals shown in fictional films and on television will not be 100% accurate in terms of words, signs and so on—kids don’t try this at home and if you do it won’t work anyway–the red dress was still way off base! We screamed at the wrongness. Plus it was sorta fugly.
Another inaccuracy: Characters constantly reference Tituba, the real slave who was tried for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials–she wasn’t hanged as many of the accused were, but rather imprisoned; she was eventually freed from jail and then from slavery. Tituba was not of African decent, but rather an Arawak, one of the indigenous tribes of the Caribbean. Her Arawak heritage is mentioned on AHS:C, but unless you know your tribes, the implication remains that she practiced West African magic. The magic, though, that Tituba has inspired on AHS:C is voodoo, a West African diasporic religion, and there is also an error in implying that Western witchcraft gained its gifts solely from the voodoo root, which is not the case.
Witchcraft is a crazy quilt of beliefs and practices. Not all witches practice Wicca, a 20th century sect, which is the most well-known of the many branches in the forest of non-Christian Western esoteric belief systems. (There are some people who call themselves Christian Wiccans, which is a major oxymoron, but hey…it’s their souls, not mine!) And not everyone who is Wiccan, or a Druid, or an occultist does magic. The syncretic African diasporic religions, like voodoo and santeria, while very interactive with the gods, have believers who don’t cast spells (Hoodoo, the American melting cauldron, is a more action-oriented system, with a lot of “work” being done, sometimes with Jesus, Bible verses, and/or the saints as the whammy). Some people have a belief system, observe the seasons or moon, light candles, say prayers, and that’s that. Spellwork involving herbs and oils, “barbarous names of evocation,” sigils drawn on parchment, and such are not really everyone’s bag of tricks. Also, not all practitioners of non-Christian Western esoteric belief systems re purely Goddess worshipers, though one or more female aspects are acknowledged along with male aspect/s. That’s the religion part.
The “work” part, the spell casting, is not the nose twitching, the miraculous appearance of fur coats out of nowhere, or the sudden lighting of cigarettes from across the room seen on television. And it’s also not the positive affirmations of The Secret. It’s called “work” for a reason, though sometimes there’s a certain amount of fun involved. Television witches have a lot of powers–they can toss people across rooms with a subtle gesture, pop in and out of photographs, turn into and talk to animals, bring the dead back to life, grant the incorruptibility of flesh, and do all sorts of Jedi mind tricks. In real life (aside from spellwork and ritual which take time, effort and talent to cause change to occur in accordance with will) the latter is the only thing that works, and that’s because some people, witches or not, can just out-think other people, anticipating and adjusting as necessary, seeking to create outcomes in which all parties benefit. And I’ve noticed that the people who apply themselves, reading and studying (and by those verbs I mean more than just books on “how to do spells and set up your altar”), focusing on mental and physical exercises, engaging in lively discussions, who travel, avoid petty social drama and chaos, and again seek outcomes that are mutually beneficial, are the people who succeed in being happy. Which is really what it’s all about.
Yes, it’s possible to do spells for money, for youth (or the money to look youthful!), for love (though the best spell for that is loving yourself), and for health (which is to a certain extent our own responsibility–eating right, getting exercise to start with!). Magic can (and often does) work. Does magic meet a scientific, rather than anecdotal, proof? I did A and B was the result. I did A again and B was the result. So A works. For me. Life is not a reproduceable experiment; we are individuals; circumstances change. My A may not produce B for you, and under new and different circumstances may not produce B a third time for me.
Television witches are fun to watch, but they have done a disservice to real witches and women, providing role models who have denied our self-determination. We are stuck with watching Bell Book and Candle on late night movie channels (Kim Novak falls in love with Jimmy Stewart and loses her power, her glamorous wardrobe, and her groovy African art gallery, becoming a shirt-dress-wearing drab who sells faux floral displays made from sea shells). On Bewitched, mortal moron Derwood stifles Samantha’s natural talents, and stews in a state of mutual resentment with her witchy family. The girls of Charmed, the Halliwell sisters, have a guardian angel, Leo Wyatt a “whitelighter,” (In the series, a whitelighter is a former human mortal given a second chance at life in order to serve under an angelic group as guardian angels for good witches and other future whitelighters, who helped them out scrapes; in real-life magic a whitelighter, aka a fluffy bunny, is an uptight, self-righteous goody two shoes). Leo is also the Charmed Ones’ handyman, further reinforcing that women (and witches) are helpless little creatures who need a man. The sisters Halliwell also get a lot of (at times meddlesome) help from their buddy on the San Francisco Police force, who was a childhood friend and becomes one of the sister’s love interests. The series’ story arc involve fighting evil, working at cool jobs, trying to meet the right guys, and having a baby…
Sabrina the Teenage Witch originally appeared in the Archie comics in 1962. Like Bewitched‘s heroine, Sabrina is blond, but unlike Sam, she is only a half-witch. Her powers manifested on her 16th birthday (witch genes are strong; Samantha and Derwood’s daughter Tabitha also could do magic). Sabrina lives with her two full-witch aunts and Salem, a talking black cat (shades of The Master and Margarita!), a male witch who had been turned into animal form by the Witches’ Council for bad behavior. Salem gives Sabrina advice, often suggesting that she use magic to solve problems, usually with comically diastrous results.
Until this 2013 TV season, producers and their networks seemed to feel that TV witches needed a masculine authority figure. But so far, both the Witches of East End and the witches on American Horror Story: Coven have shaken off that superstition. On WWoE , witches don’t even seem to need to have a man to have a baby. Joanne, WoEE‘s witch mom, played by Julia Ormond, has reincarnated her daughters into her womb over the centuries and it’s unclear so far, who, if anyone, was responsible for fathering the girls–the book the series is based on may pony up that plot point, but it remains to be seen how firmly the series will adhere to the source material.
As the seasons progress for these two new witch shows, we’ll see how far both the supernaturally-blessed and everyday women have progressed in the last decade. Because what witch TV programs show, in hyper-focus, is how the public is perceived as wanting to view women. This perception is formed by the views expressed, by actions and reactions, in daily life. And at the same time, television programs provide modeling for how women should or should not behave. And that goes for witches as well.
Now Franco’s back in the magick mode, directing two videos of the remixed song “Love in the Old Days” (which is blandly catchy) from his band Daddy that are loaded with occult imagery and are NSFW. Again, these videos are NSFW because of naked breasts. These NSFW videos feature ritual elements, Baphomet, esoteric images, and one of occultism’s few living legends, filmmaker Kenneth Anger, author of Hollywood Babylon and the guy who taught Anita Pallenberg how to nail a frog to cross, per author Tony Sanchez’s Up and Down with the Rolling Stones. And naked breasts.
Franco’s use of masked figures call to mind The Wicker Man (and David Icke’s fear of shape-shifting, flesh-eating reptiles who are allegedly the Royal family). But it remains to be seen if they’ll upset One Million Moms and Focus on the Family with their devilistic intent and naked breasts.
I am a practicing witch, and I can laugh at my belief system; I do easily and often. It is just as goofy sounding as other people’s (Transubstantiation? Space lice from exploding volcanoes? Flying donkey?). But I do cringe at things like these Rick Perry voodoo dolls because they perpetuate dangerous, off-base stereotypes and do nothing to help either pro-choice factions or non-Christians.
When it comes to the Texas Legislature and Governor Rick Perry’s plans to shut down Texas abortion clinics [corset maker Michelle Sinched of Mr. Sinched] is the exact opposite of amused. Now she’s taking the fight to the man she calls “Governor Goodhair” in her own way; with voodoo dolls of the Governor complete with tampon pins to act out your anger and or hexes upon his person…
Each Perry voodoo doll is handmade by Sinched from materials left over from her many other projects. You can purchase a casual Perry doll in a anti-abortion coat hanger T-shirt for $25, or a suited version for $30. They are also available as a pair for $50, and each comes with a blank sign so you may write the pro-life slogan or Perry gaffe of your choice. The clothes are removable.
Sinched plans to give all profits to Planned Parenthood.
the prolife side sang Amazing Grace. The pro-abortion side tried to drown them out by shouting “Hail Satan!”
Now granted those leading the chant might have been agitators. Or they might have been anti-Christian pro-choicers. Still, yuck.
Fundamentalists view the battle against abortion as a holy war, a Crusade. Those who are pro-choice have a variety of reasons for wanting abortion rights and access to birth control. Despite what the creepier areas of the interwebs would like to make you believe, very few, if any, of those reasons have to do with sacrificing babies to some dark force which would then uh make things worse than they already are. Here’s where the theology gets complicated and stops making sense. But basically, for fundies abortion– followed closely by The Gays–is the reason everything is wrong in America.
Fundamentalists want to make abortion about religion, about theocratic control of the individual. By countering with voodoo dolls and chants of
There are about 2% of Americans who are homosexual or gay and lesbian people. We should not let 2% of the population change the definition of marriage.
This is not even just a Christian issue. It’s a humanitarian and human issue.
WTF?! You wanna talk humanitarian issues, Pastor Rick? Let’s talk about your BFF and partner in the fight on AIDS in Africa, Martin Ssempa who has appeared on stage at Saddleback Church twice and who moved your wife to tears as she declared
You are my brother, Martin, and I love you.
Ssempa has burned condoms in the name of Jesus, called on newspapers to publish the names of known homosexuals and urged the imprisonment of gays. And Ssempa is hugely crazy, one of the many evangelized African pastors dangerously obsessed with witchcraft.
As Max Blumenthal writes, Ssempa, who has a room set aside for exorcisms–when interviewed by Dr. Helen Epstein, author of The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing The Fight Against AIDS In Africa–told the public health expert
that Satan worshipers hold meetings under Lake Victoria, where they are promised riches in exchange for human blood, which they collect by staging car accidents and kidnappings.
Blumenthal reports that Ssempe is a close friend with Uganda’s First Lady Janet Museveni, who on New Year’s Eve 1999 rededicated the country to the "lordship" of Jesus Christ during a stadium revival meeting. She was joined on stage by a pastor who announced:
We renounce idolatry, witchcraft, and Satanism in our land!
These people identified who is to be killed by accusing their victims of bewitching their sons and daughters.
Both a part of the continent’s history, traditionally "witchcraft" in Africa differed from sorcery. Witchcraft was an accidental inability to control magical powers, an involuntarily wandering evil eye, while sorcery was directed magic. There were–and still are–also "witch doctors," sorcerers who cure people of both bewitchments and provide cures for illnesses using local herbs–and yes sometimes these are the same thing. And of course there are charlatans who claim magical powers and like many pastors, will take a fee for removing curses and witchery.
If you don’t deliver a witch, the family can never be at peace. Let us deliver the people who are witches. We should not allow sentiments to come in here, because witchcraft is real…Witchcraft in not only practised in Nigeria. When I went to North Carolina in the United States, there were very many witches. They came to me asking, "Please can you deliver me? Can you deliver me? Please deliver me."
Ukpabio made a popular video showing children allegedly eating corpse and being inducted into a coven. She told AllAfrica that the film
warns parents to beware of the greed in their children as greedy children who receive everything they see from other children at school or the playground can easily be contaminated.
"Contaminated" by witchcraft. And how does witchcraft tie into HIV/AIDS education and prevention? Pastor Joe Ita, the preacher at Ukpabio’s Liberty Gospel Church explains:
But we cannot attribute all things to witches, they work on inclinations too, so they don’t create HIV, but if you are promiscuous then the witch will give you HIV.
HIV/AIDS activist Reggie Jerrison of Nata Botswana claims he was resurrected from death by Bishop Dr. Barnabas Lekganyane. Jerrison–who takes antiretrovirals after being diagnosed with HIV and works as a peer counsellor advocating condoms and testing–refuses to admit that he got HIV through sexual intercourse, blood transfusion and needle sharing. He says he got HIV through witchcraft.
"I have not been infected by this virus because I had an affair. It is all witchcraft. It is not because I slept with an HIV positive person."
Even after intense questioning on why he blames his infection on witchcraft, he is adamant that someone has bewitched him.
Western church groups need to continue educating people about the real causes of HIV/AIDS–and those causes aren’t witchcraft. European and and American churches working on African HIV/AIDS education–hello, Pastor Rick!–need to turn African evangelicals away from the insanity of riculous accustations which lead to the repulsive abuse of children and the elderly, often at a profit by pastors. To use Rick Warren’s words:
This is not even just a Christian issue. It’s a humanitarian and human issue.
For decades, fundamentalist evangelical churches have sprung up throughout Africa. Some are affiliated with American congregations, while others are a bit more free form; all claim belief in Jesus. Many of them of share a common hysterical belief in "witchcraft."
In Akwa Ibom State, the center of the Nigerian child witch hysteria, the State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, lamented:
The church will torture children and some of the churches will pretend to use oil to try and remove witchcraft from a child. So far we have we have 165 children some of them are not up to 9 months old who have been thrown away by their parents because the church said those children will bring them misfortune.
The churches are busy deceiving people in many aspects including avoiding deaths. We have to do something to re-strengthen the Child Right Law. We must fight against the abuse of children and ensure proper education for them.
Analysts trace the phenomenon to poverty which drags parents to Churches and other spiritual centres to seek prosperity…Further investigations show that such parents are usually ready to pay anything to the spiritualists to "deliver" their children from the "grip of the devil."…In some cases, all that is needed for parents to begin to suspect their children of witchcraft, is a manifestation of certain "strange" behaviour. Others are "identified" any the presence of an "inexplicable" illness afflicting them.
Smoking Drinking Drugs Homosexual behavior Staying in room alone Dressing in black (fingernails, lipstick) Body piercings Demonic symbols on jewelry & clothes Music (Marilyn Manson, Godsmack, Korn) Books (Majick, Harry Potter) Unusual scars and burns on right hand