Art begins with craft, and there is no art until craft has been mastered. You can’t create until you’re willing to subordinate the creative impulses to the constriction of a form.Anthony Burgess

The ID Wars, Teen Witches, and Portrayals

The teenager seems to have replaced the Communist as the appropriate target for public controversy and foreboding. Edgar Friedenberg, The Vanishing Adolescent
I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book. Groucho Marx to Leslie Halliwell, Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s Companion

The Identity Warriors

The term, Identity Politics, was perhaps first coined by the black Lesbian Feminist group, The Combahee River Collective.1 While the concept has been traced to the SNCC,2 particularly since the involvement of white students declined, and their policies became increasingly not just of black empowerment, but of black self-empowerment, the idea that members of an oppressed group must themselves provide at least some of the leadership in resistance to that oppression, that, “the most profound and potentially radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression,”3 is probably as old as political struggle.

Identity Politics placed this concept centrally, and hence makes the act of identifying as a member of a group politicised. Where the Combahee River Collective addressed their position on an intersection of racial, gender and sexual-orientation identities—and in particular aimed to tackle issues, where those with an interest in the liberation of one such group, were still involved in the oppression of another—the approach has been applied to lingual and religious minorities, people with disabilities, and indeed any denominable group, since once it is denominable, whether from within or without, it becomes a locus of identity.

As stated above, the plea for tolerance made by public witches since Gardner is a form of politics that even otherwise apolitical witches will engage in. With the emergence of Identity Politics, witches became yet another religious minority, with an identity from which such politics could emerge. The fact that some witches would have been involved in Identity Politics of another form, would of course influence this. That Stregaria and Gay and Civil Rights activist, Leo Martello, could see a correlation between the position of witches, and those of other minorities, is clear when he wrote, “America’s new niggers are minority religious groups, especially the disorganized WICCA.”4 The identities that exist at the intersection of, Feminist and witch, Lesbian and witch, and Feminist, Lesbian and witch, would be other examples. Accusations, in some cases true, of homophobia within the Craft, and a desire for a witchcraft that would more directly engage with gay identity, would make the intersection of those two identities a source of political thinking that would inform both. By the 1990s, comparison with the experience of the Gay community was implicit in the expression, “coming out of the broom-closet.”

With its situationist approach, focusing on the experiences of those with a given identity, Identity Politics at first moved away from any element of essentialism. However, essentialism was to become important in the Identity Politics of the Gay Rights Movement, particularly at a grass-roots level; the question of whether, and to what degree, homosexuality is innate becoming not merely a matter of scientific curiosity, but of political struggle. While this question had political impact before,5 a Gay Identity Politics can use such an essentialism. not merely as a justification, but as a basis for building just such a sense of a “Gay identity,” that goes beyond mere choice of sexual partners, and builds a definition of the Gay community from that identity.

Such essentialism need not be argued as scientific. Wicca already had an essentialism of sorts, since Gardner talked of the witches he met as having remembered him from past lives.6 Other metaphysical explanations of what brought people to the Craft, whether in terms of past incarnations, a calling, or simply as having always felt that they were a witch, all offer the same identification with one’s being a witch as essential; that witches are born rather than made. This counters any sense that other religious minorities have a stronger link to the subcultures that develops around those religions, and a smaller element of volition in their suffering whatever oppression may exist against them, in having been born into that religion, (as the majority of members of the majority of religions have), rather than having converted to it, (as the majority of witches have, especially considering that with Traditional Wicca, and most forms of Innovative Witchcraft, even children raised Pagan are not brought into the Craft, unless they choose that themselves as adults). The various views that one has, “always been a witch,” all serve to strengthen witches’ association with the identity of the witch, which then has a stronger potential influence on their politics.

Finally, since identity is defined by denomination—to name a group is to create the possibility of identifying either oneself, or another, as part of it—and since media representations will affect how people perceive each other across the boundaries of such denominations, issues concerning representation, in the press, entertainment media, and education particularly, became increasingly importation within Identity Politics. (The related, and sometimes overlapping, matter of representation, in the sense of having a voice on different forums will be examined more closely, in a later chapter). Naomi Klein argues this happened to the exclusion of other concerns, writing about her own experience as a self-described, “ID Warrior,” during her student days she concludes:

Over time, campus identity politics became so consumed by personal politics that they all but eclipsed the rest of the world. The slogan “the personal is political” came to replace the economic as political and, in the end, the political as political as well. The more importance we placed on representation issues, the more central a role they seemed to elbow for themselves in our lives….7

Such concerns were always high on the list of concerns within Wicca. Controversies about first Gardner, and later Sanders, the Frosts, and other public witches, within witchcraft were most often about the representations created by their dealings with the media. Controversies about contemporary figures still seems to focus more on concerns about how the Craft or Paganism more generally is being represented, than on the actual words and deeds that the contention arises from. Like, “Coming out of the Closet,” the phrase, “Coming out of the Broom Closet,” ceased to refer just to the needs and concern of each individual choosing to be more public about an aspect of his or her life, but about the potential for the entire populace of people who share that aspect.

In terms of journalism and statements claiming to be non-fictitious, the Pagan Federation’s media officer, the Witches Anti-Defamation League, and others worked an increasingly successful campaign to fight first the most blatant cases of bigotry, and later increasingly subtle statements that portrayed the Craft in a negative light. Fictitious representations were also to become an increasing concern, as they were for other groups engaging in Identity Politics. Since a particular concern of such fictitious representations, is the effect they have on young people, both within and without the groups in question, it may be worth first looking at young people engaging in witchcraft.

Teen Witches

As a priesthood, as a fertility cult that exists in a society where such religions do not inform the general culture, and as a mystery tradition, Traditional Wicca has always been a path for adults with very few exceptions. The position of younger people in Innovative Witchcraft will of course depend on how much any given practice retains those three elements, along with other concerns.

The wider Pagan community though, does not necessarily have any of these elements, and there has always been a place for younger people, especially the children of witches and other Pagans, within it. The main concern about young people in regards to Wicca, begun by focusing on these people. Questions about discrimination in school, and from their peers, of isolation from other Pagan youths, given the small size of the community generally combined with the relative lack of mobility of young people compared to adults, and of how, and to what extent, if at all, children should be involved in rites specifically designed to be, “family orientated,” were the main concerns about young people within the Pagan community, until quite recently.

As the degree of public awareness of witchcraft continued to grow, as it had been doing steadily since Witchcraft Today, and as the Internet and the easy availability of books, along with an affluent period in which children typically had enough disposable income to purchase at least some of them, combined to bring about an increasingly large number of teenagers with a direct interest in the Craft, or other elements of Paganism, themselves, most often not the children of Pagan parents.

The question of how, if at all, to deal with such children, became a difficult question for the Pagan community. Many adult witches can relate directly; either they at least felt drawn to the Craft from a young age, and in retrospect feel that they were already destined to become witches, or they themselves were actively working, or at least researching, some sort of witchcraft or other esoteric subjects. One or two may have managed to make it to covens prior to the age of majority with their parents permission, (or by lying about their age8). Many would have read about, and perhaps practised, some form of magic. Experiences of a psychic, religious, mystical, or fey nature, that brought people to their practice would often have started, and been at their most intense, during childhood. Often such experiences could have led to stress, or a sense of isolation.

Such a history could lead one to sympathy with the position of young people interested in the Craft, but not necessarily to the same conclusions as to what should be done about it. Some may feel that the path that led them to the Craft was necessary, and could not have been short-circuited. Traditional Wicca, and many forms of Innovative Witchcraft, simply are adult-only practices, with some hesitant to train even young adults,9 and even if practitioners do attempt to help children with such spiritual inclinations, then that would by necessity have to stand outside of their core practices. Others may feel that such children are best helped by themselves or by peers.

The best-known attempt by an adult to directly speak to a teenage audience, is probably Silver Ravenwolf, with Teen Witch,10 followed by more books and products in its wake. Where it stands in difference to other introductions to witchcraft, including previous works by the same author, as far as witchcraft itself is concerned, is hard to say. There is an attempt to create a young persons version of an existing text, but the text in question, the statement by the American Council of Witches,11 is neither difficult in the original, directly educational, (being a terse document intended to explain witchcraft to cowans, rather than holding any liturgical, ritual or Craft purpose), nor of relevance to any witches, other than those who may happen to decide they agree with it. One rewording in particular, stands as an extremely dubious interpretation:

  1. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the origins of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and our future.

    Teen speak: There is no one right way to practice the Craft. The religion is what you make of it.

Apart from this, there are attempts to address concerns that teenagers may have in their lives, but they seem primarily to be an attempt to address the concerns that teenagers are somehow supposed to have; bullying, an extremely asymmetric form of heterosexual teenage romance, grades, and difficulties with teachers. More difficult problems are wrapped up with the, “just say no,” message that roundly failed to make any impact in the drug-use of minors in the late 1980s, and a general suggestion that one should talk to responsible adults about serious problems, that completely fails to address the difficulty teenagers, or indeed, adults, may find in attempting to do so. In all, it’s difficult to see this as any attempt to assist any teenagers with an interest in the Craft, but rather as an exercise in market diversification, of the sort that Klein argues absorbed Identity Politics into commercial concerns.

The view on the basic concept amongst adult witches, is unfortunately made difficult to judge by criticism about the contents of the book, particularly in terms of the ethics of using what she describes as, “a double sneak attack,” to lie to one’s parents, the puritan and sexist sexual morality, and a repeat of the criticisms often levelled at her earlier books. The author seems to have deliberately attempted to present such criticism, as a lack of support for the concerns of teenagers, “you may not care about teens but I do,” leading to an even greater polarisation of opinion. The success of this polarising tactic makes it hard to find critiques, that do not either support the book full-heartedly, or which do not handle the more general question of how the question of teen witches should be handled, if at all, in criticism of other aspects of the book. The fact that many criticising the book are themselves teenagers, offers that this is merely a book aimed at them that doesn’t succeed in its objectives, but leaves the wider question still open; could there be a Teen Witch that meets with greater enthusiasm from other witches? What would such a book, if indeed a book would be the best medium, be like? This would seem to be still unanswered.

Similarly, Oberon Zell’s “Grey School of Wizardry,”12 an online course in magic which accepts both minors and adults, will inevitably provoke the same criticism that is made about other online courses, such as that run by “Witch School,”13 along with courting disfavour from many, in its borrowing various items of terminology from the Harry Potter series.14 There is too much controversy as to how it attempts to teach children, to judge the balance of opinions on doing so in the first place.

The least controversial, though by no means entirely controversy-free, attempts to engage with younger people interested in the Craft, have been those which have given them a voice themselves. The Pagan Federation’s “Minor Arcana,” and the youth section of Witchvox, are both successful, if only as measured by the level of interest they have received from members of their target demographic. With the influence of adults being less direct, and less autocratic, with hence less risk of, “power over,” that makes many Pagans suspicious wherever it arises, it would seem that this is the model that support networks for younger Pagans and witches will be built on in the future. That same degree of independence means that support for its membership from older Pagans may be less available, particularly as the organising capabilities of the Internet may lead to the next generation of support networks existing without any adult involvement at all. If this is the case, then perhaps the potential problems are no more answered, than they were before.

Bubblegum for the Eyes

The interest in witchcraft amongst teenagers has been frequently associated by commentators, whether within witchcraft, the Christian Right, or the mainstream media, with popular culture portrayals of witchcraft. As seen previously, there is also an interest in such popular culture representations, stemming from the importance placed on such by Identity Politics. This in turn often turns back to issues concerning youth, due to the fact that most popular culture representations of witchcraft, are either in shows and books aimed specifically at youths, or with a large youth audience, and that often the fictional witches of these portrayals are themselves youths.

Earlier representations of youths involved in witchcraft have deliberately contrasted the common representations of witches as inherently evil (à la the “Wicked Witch of the West”), or inherently wise (à la the “Good Witch of the North”), with the acceptable view of teenagers and children as basically good, but inherently given to folly, such as Harvey Comic’s, Wendy the Good Little Witch (1954), and Archie Comic’s, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1962). This trope would probably reach its largest audience with the television series, Bewitched,15 which this time contrasted the conventional stereotype of a “good” housewife, with the mischief apparently inherent to its concept of the witch, while likewise contrasting the power of such witches with a paternalistic view of women. While commonly said to be based on I Married a Witch,16 or Bell, Book and Candle,17 the ongoing episodic format doesn’t allow the contrasting views of natural and supernatural women to be resolved, as they are in those movies, and so its portrayal of witchcraft, and how it interacts with the mundane world, is closer to Sabrina and Wendy, than to any other contemporary popular culture representations.

One particularly noteworthy features of all these representations, is that witches are ontologically different to humans, (referred to as “mortals” in both Bewitched and Sabrina). They are a different species, and are immigrants in our world from planes inaccessible to humanity. As such they are even further removed from reality, than vampires, werewolves and ghosts; the more prevalent stock characters of both horror and horror-comedy. Hence, they offer very little in way of inspiration, or analogy to any real form of witchcraft, beyond tongue-in-cheek references. Even Jack Chick, normally prepared to accuse just about anything of being part of a massive Catholic-Masonic-Satanic-Pagan-Jewish conspiracy, seems to blame Bewitched only for culturally opening the doors for later media representations.18

Popular culture references to witchcraft and Paganism largely remained entirely distinct from reality, with The Wicker Man19 standing as an exception in its degree of mundane plausibility; requiring an extraordinary conspiracy, but not any impossible fantastic elements.

This exception aside, any concept of witchcraft as existing in the real world was at most one-off, tongue-in-cheek, episodes of shows like Knight Rider20, often Hallowe’en specials, which would hint at a witchcraft as existing in the “real” world, or at the efficacy of magic, or both, but do no more than hint.

Towards the end of the 1990s, there were four different changes in the portrayl of witchcraft in popular culture fiction.

The first, is that shows such as The X-Files,21 in using traditional tropes concerning witchcraft, magic, or Satanism, would explicitly distance the storyline from Wicca. Concerns about perceptions of “Political Correctness,” and perhaps awareness of the relatively large number of Pagans amongst science-fiction’s audience, could only allow such storylines if they are clearly differentiated from Wicca, either through characters pointedly making statements about the Rede, or describing Wicca as “peaceful,” or through the plot eventually showing any characters identified as witches to be innocent of any wrong-doing, or indeed responsible for some heroism. Even Scooby-Doo has differentiated Wiccan, “eco-goths,” from fairy tale witches,22 along with associating the accused witches of New England with the former.

The second, was an increased number of plotlines identifying Wicca as a religion whose members’ rights deserve protection by the, (particularly US), state, often in legal dramas such as Judging Amy.23

The third and fourth interact with each other deeply. Simultaneously, there was increasing influence of artefacts and terminology of Wiccan practice present in the successors to Sabrina, (including the televised version of the same), and Bewitched, along with an expressed view from just about all quarters, that these were encouraging teenagers to develop an interest in witchcraft, a view that few would argue was held about Bewitched.

These two cannot be easily separated, as they feed into each other. Sony Pictures’ The Craft24, was controversial since before shooting was finished, for taking inspiration from actual practice, and at this point even the technical advisor from Covenant of the Goddess seemed to feel it would influence some young people into copycat acts, given her feeling that using a fictional god-name would prevent, “hordes of teenagers running down to the beach or out to the woods invoking anybody real.”25 Indeed she seems to feel that ultimately this is a positive thing:

As you know, Ethical Witches do not proselytize. The Craft was seen by approximately one million people in its first weekend. If one in ten of those people are intrigued enough to look into the subject further, maybe read a book (and now there are shelves full of books!) that’s 100,000 people who will at least be more educated about our reality. If one in ten of those people chose to pursue the subject further, that’s 10,000 people out of the first weekend.

Just where the line between proselytising and convincing 1% of an audience, who had expressed no prior interest in practising any form of witchcraft, to do so is, is not stated.

In the end, The Craft had only a modest box-office impact,26 and seems to be better-known as a theoretical reason for attracting “fluffy” people to witchcraft, than it is outside of this. Perhaps what is really needed, is not anything to debunk the idea that witches regularly change their eye-colour magically, but rather to debunk the idea that many people believe they do.

While outside of the Pagan community, The Craft passed by largely unnoticed, much more attention was paid to TV series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Charmed,27 and increasingly the books, (from 199728), and later the films, (from 200129), of the Harry Potter series.

Like the comic book series on which Sabrina was based, the witches in Sabrina are not entirely human. Similarly, in Charmed, witchcraft is entirely essential, and inherited, and while the differentiation between “mortal” humans and witches is not as extreme as in Sabrina and Bewitched, it is closer to that than to anything else. Similarly, Harry Potter posits witchcraft as essential, (even explicitly mirroring racial discrimination in how some characters behave), to a much greater degree than it is learned, and the degree to which it reflects any real views of magic drops sharply, from the first book mentioning such historical figures as Nicolas Flamel, and various items of occult trivia,30 to quickly become much more self-contained.

Charmed does however make use of some terminology that is associated with Wicca, but not generally part of earlier fictional concepts of witchcraft. In particular the word Wicca itself is used; infrequently but prominently, such as the title of the pilot episode, “Something Wicca This Way Comes,”31 along with the expressions, “Book of Shadows,” and “Blessed Be.”

As such, there would definitely appear to be an element of dialogue between Charmed and the wider Wiccan and Pagan community, albeit a largely unbalanced one; Charmed grabs some low-hanging linguistic fruit from the community, while many in the community express irritation with the wider Western society, in how it portrays them, and largely wish to distance themselves from it, even, (especially?) if they end up caught up in the storyline.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a significantly more complicated case though. At first glance, it seems to also be looking to Wicca solely for the same sort of verbal source material, as does Charmed. A richer relationship between the witchcraft of Buffy’s diegesis, and Wicca, quickly emerges however, and this increased as the series progressed, and the main Wiccan character, Willow Rosenberg, learns more about witchcraft, and the writers solidify how witchcraft is constructed within the show.

A first item of significance, is that unlike the majority of such television programs, Willow Rosenberg is not ontologically different to anybody else; she is not a superhero, unlike the series' eponymous character, or a different manner of being to any other human, but rather her witchcraft is something she learned. While her talent eventually makes her comparable with the most powerful supernatural characters on the show, she is a Mozart or a Shakespeare, not a Kal-El or Peter Parker. The potential as an inspiration to a viewer is perhaps accordingly different to that of Sabrina or Charmed.

The biggest difference is how magic is portrayed in the show. For the most part, a variety of different clichés of fictional magic are used, from the extreme ease of merely needing to know the correct “magic words,” (self-satirised when a character causes a fire by reading, “librum incendere,” aloud and is chided, “don’t speak Latin in front of the books”32) or the infeasibly rare object, (self-satirised in the series' spin-off, when a character fails to obtain a box, “handcrafted by blind Tibetan monks,” and substitutes one, “pieced together by mute Chinese nuns”33). The series’ own satire of these clichés demonstrate a knowingness about the absurdity they will often reach. Much of Willow’s magic though, becomes increasingly visceral and “natural” as the storyline develops. Apart from offering better assistance to the audiences suspension of disbelief, the nature of Willow’s relationship with magic grows in some important ways.

First, her identity increasingly becomes that of a witch. The character is introduced as a bookish form of the classic, “rebel without a cause.” She is privileged in education, wealth, (while not rich, she is from a comfortable middle-class background, and generally the one to purchase any needed equipment), and ethnicity, (while nominally Jewish, this is something we are occasionally told and never shown, she is firmly assimilated), yet fails to fit in, or to access or acknowledge the benefits of her privilege, (she is constantly at odds with the authorities of her privilege, and her academic success is more often despite, rather than because of her educators). Her relatively privileged position manifests primarily as guilt about such concerns as indigenous rights.34 As such, she is at war with her own identity, and the identity of a witch allows her to develop her own sense of herself, especially as it comes in conjunction with her identifying as Lesbian, (or perhaps more accurately, as bisexual). While I’ve argued above that she differs from such fictional witches as Sabrina, in not being inherently different from the fictional cowans of the story, her expressed self-image is essentialist, akin to that currently popular in terms of queer identity, and her identity as a witch, as well as that as a Lesbian, are both akin to that of many gay, Lesbian and bisexual people at the turn of the Century.

The connection between her use of magic and her sexuality becomes increasingly pronounced. Both she and her girlfriend will refer to plans to, “experiment,” with magic with a clear subtext, both between the characters, and between them and the audience, that they are also planning sexual experimentation, and their responses performing magic are visually ecstatic, nearly orgasmic.35 Increasingly, the identity of the two as witches and Lesbians becomes conflated to the point of being one and the same. Yet, this is prevented from allowing one to become a mere cipher for the other, by existing in a storyline where there are other magic workers, along with enough self-satire of this conflation to build up audience resistance to it. Lesbian sexuality is not being conflated with witchcraft by the show itself, but rather that conflation is a personal response made by the character, and her peers, in her search for identity; again, like the degree of essentialism that she seems to feel exists in her identity as a witch, it is the characters themselves which combine those two identities, not the series’ writers.

It is also worth noting, that while the portrayal of a homosexual relationship garnered much commentary, both positive and negative, at the time, it is arguably the most normal relationship in the entire series; both parties are fully human, the relationship is moderately and quietly kinky but without overt signs of such kinks causing distress,36 there is little tension around gender rôles, and while it ends in an act of violence, both the means and the circumstance—her girlfriend is killed by a stray bullet—makes it the sort of random meaningless horror that can enter into any of our lives, rather than the fantastic impossibilities that are the mainstay of the programme. All of which make it unique in the series. Finally, her subsequent relationship is the only one to make it to the end of the series intact, with a chance for as close for “happily ever after,” as one may hope for.

So, witchcraft here is conflated with sex, but rather than doing so entirely in the sensationalist manner, already common in fiction and reportage, it is conflated with expressly healthy sex compared with most other relationships portrayed in the series; with what young people would not only hope for, but arguably should hope for.

Simultaneously to this, Pagan religious elements increasingly move into both the magic performed, (with gods from the Egyptian and Hellenic pantheons being petitioned, but also Aradia37), and her everyday thought, (as reflected by using “goddess” in exclamations). Religious views aren’t explored beyond such artefacts, but this holds for the series’ portrayal of religion generally, where crucifixes abound, but worship does not.

Operative witchcraft, Paganism and Lesbian sexuality, finally come together in a dream sequence38 where she is painting Sappho’s first fragment, a petition to Aphrodite,39 on her lover’s back. At this point, we have a fictional Wicca that is religious as well as magical, differentiating it from almost all supernatural portrayals of witchcraft in previous mainstream popular culture, being conflated with as close to a romantic and sexual ideal as the series can allow.

There is however a negative side, as is required by a drama, which in this case manifests itself in first an, “addiction,” to magic, and finally a complete loss of her moral compass in the face of grief.

The former could be read as an analogy to drug addiction, or a reflection of the concern parents will have for adolescents and young adults engaging in any sexual activity, no matter how healthy. Increasingly though, the reading most directly offered is that, rather than find authenticity, she has lost herself in her new identity, which is suggested by the finale, where she regains her sense of moral proportion by being reminded not just of this identity, but of how she was as a child in kindergarten.40

Where Identity Politics has led to demands for positive media representation, Buffy has responded, not merely with characters that are non-heteronormative witches, but by placing such politicised identities into the questioning of identity that befits its theme of adolescence, and going on to problematise the investment of too much psychic energy into such identities. It doesn’t merely respond to the demands of Identity Politics, but addresses them head-on.

While these particular fictions have made the most impact in terms of how much they are perceived to be influencing young people to develop an interest in witchcraft, a large part of this is simply that they are relatively successful and well-known examples of what young people are watching, or are expected to watch. This notoriety owes as much to the fact that they are popular enough amongst an older audience to be known to them, and they are relatively mainstream, than anything else.

Less popular books and comics with magical themes often hold a small but deeply loyal following. Laurel K Hamilton’s Anita Blake, series beginning with Guilty Pleasures,41 describes magic as deriving from a sort of energy that comes from the protagonist’s body. While she quickly moves away from this into more fantastic descriptions, these most basic descriptions of magic are not far removed from what is found in Gardner. The lack of restrictions on her medium, also allows her to mix her descriptions of magic with a much more explicit combination of violence, sexual identity and kink, than Whedon could in Buffy, so we should expect it to garner more controversy. Neil Gaiman’s comic-book epic The Sandman, while one of the best known comic-book series in the English language, is still somewhat outside of the mainstream, even as he himself has broken into it with other media. He has quite explicitly played on the assumption that he would have a large Wiccan and Pagan audience, basing a plot-point on the expectation that he could shock readers who were familiar with Wiccan concepts of Drawing Down the Moon, but not the earlier belief that Thessalian witches could physically take the moon from its orbit.42 Conversely, while his later novel, American Gods,43 garnered more mainstream acclaim while dealing explicitly with a variety of pantheons which are honoured within modern Paganism, it is a large volume with a clear adult audience, and the fact that a large number of teenagers have undoubtedly read it, is pretty much ignored.

Beyond general suspicion of comic books and horror pulp fiction in many quarters, and a general suspicion of almost all media amongst some elements of the Christian Right, these are rarely mentioned as possible influencers of teenage witches. Yet if any of the regular suspects actually do have such an effect, then these should be at least as likely to have as strong, if not a stronger, effect upon their readers. While audience-size is in itself a reason to focus one’s attention in particular directions, the irrationally reäctive nature of the scare-mongering suggests a moral panic, rather than any realistic assessment. Similarly, the lack of concern about more respectable novels, if we can take critical acclaim in broadsheets as a measure of such, reflects a degree of snobbery about popular culture. This would probably not apply to those who see witchcraft as inherently evil, but could affect how seriously teenagers are taken by older witches.

[Combahee 1977]
[Kauffman 1990]
op cit.
[Martello 1972a]
Positions on this question can be required to support some views opposed to Gay liberation: a theology that allows for Free Will can only condemn homosexuality in and of itself, as opposed to condemning only homosex, if homosexuality is a choice. Contra to this, if homosexuality is innate, then it is irrational for those who already condemn racism and sexism, to not also condemn homophobia; an argument important to pre-Stonewall “homophile” organisations, and to the debate that preceded the British decriminalisation of homosexuality, in 1963.
[Gardner 1959]
[Klein 2001]
[Adler 1997]
[Guerra 2008]
[Ravenwolf 1998]
[CAW 1974]
In fairness, if anyone could build something of real spiritual or magical significance from Harry Potter, it would be Zell with his success in having done so with Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land.
[Saks 1964]
[Clair 1942]
[Quine 1958]
[Chick 2000]
[Hardy 1973]
[Kolbe 1984]
[Manners 1995]
[Strenstrum 1999] & [Jeralds 2003]
[Karon 1999]
[Fleming 1996]
[COG 1995]
[Box Office Mojo]
[Scovell 1996], [Whedon 1997] & [Burge 1998]
[Rowling 1997]
[Columbus 2001]
op cit.
[Kretchmer 1998]
[Espenson 2000]
[Renshaw 2000]
[Espenson 1999]
[Whedon 2000a]
In a fiction that holds normalcy and claims to normalcy as suspect, in both text and subtext, yet also uses more explicit elements of kink to reflect dysfunction in relationships, this could be read as a balanced ideal.
[Fury 1999]
[Whedon 2000b]
Ποικιλόθρον’, ἀθάνατ’ Ἀφρόδιτα, παῖ Δίος…”; “Immortal Aphrodite of the broidered throne, daughter of Zeus…” (Wharton’s translation, see <http://classicpersuasion.org/pw/sappho/sape01u.htm>).
[Fury 2002]
[Hamilton 2002]
[Bender 2000]
[Gaiman 2001]