There are 12 days until October 31 and for #12 on my Halloween-themed blog countdown, let’s talk about witches. Clearly, I’m a fan of them since they’re the main characters in my book, The Travelers. But, today, I don’t want to talk about fiction. I want to talk about real witches or those thought to be real.
Witches and History
We’re all familiar with the sordid history surrounding people (mostly women) accused of witchcraft. I recently read The Witches: Salem, 1682, which thoroughly chronicles the Salem witch trials. This true story feels fictional in its absurdity sometimes. However, the mob-hungry/logic-bereft mentality described had chilling hints of modern times. It’s not just a great book on history, it’s also a revealing look into the human psyche. You may not feel better about humanity after reading this book, but you will understand it better.
Interesting side note: An article from the Huffington Post outlines some reasons you might have been thought to be a witch in 1692. How do you fare? (I meet criteria 1,2, 5, and 6! I’d definitely be put on trial and drowned!)
Witches and Modern Day
Today, there are many metaphorical witch hunts. But, generally, practicing Wicca or identifying with paganism won’t land you burning on a stake, thank Goddess. (Although if you live in the US like me, all bets are off depending on who wins the election in November.)
In fact, many people openly admit to be practitioners of the witchy arts. While, I couldn’t really find a definitive answer regarding the number of witches in the US or the world, the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey by the City University of New York found that Wicca was the country’s fastest-growing religion, with 134,000 adherents, compared with 8,000 in 1990.
In light of that, I went on a “hunt” (the benign kind) for some modern women who may be witches/practicing Wiccans or pagans… It wasn’t easy, but I managed to conjure up a few.
Stevie Nicks – The iconic singer with her raspy voice, long blond hair and affinity for flowing dresses has long been rumored to be a real witch. In fact, she’s often called The White Witch. Her song Rhiannon happens to be about a witch and likely also played a role in the perception. While she’s denied an affinity towards Wicca, she did guest star on the witch edition of American Horror Story. A nod to the rumors or a subtle admission? We may never know and I’m not sure I want to know. The mystery of Stevie Nicks is part of her eternal appeal.
Fairuza Balk – Fairuza Balk’s terrifying performance as a witch in the cult classic The Craft still haunts my dreams. I definitely would not want to get on her bad side. That film is credited with piquing her interest in Wicca. She has stated she is openly Pagan and once even owned an occult store called PanPipes in Los Angeles. However, she sold it in 2001.
Gabrielle Anwar – Ms. Anwar has had a long career in show business. She’s starred in the famous movie Scent of a Woman, and popular TV shows such as The Tudors and Burn Notice. This accomplished actress also self-identified as pagan during an interview in 2007. http://www.popmatters.com/article/gabrielle-anwar-is-back-hoping-to-burn-up-the-screen/
That said, practicing Wicca is certainly not mainstream. I, for one, would welcome more acceptance of it so that those who would like to come out of “the broom closet” would feel more comfortable doing so!