Wednesday, September 10, 2014

90's Teen Witches - We Didn't All Stay Dumb



I was one of *those* teenagers.

I was wearing black and listening to grunge, Tori Amos, Marilyn Manson and of course, Hanson and the Spice Girls. I wore my hair long and parted in the middle. I wore multiple necklaces and rings on multiple fingers. I only really enjoyed Art and English in school and usually bonded with the teachers of those classes instead of my peers. I got straight A's, had a spotless behavioral record, and had no real friends.

When The Craft came out in 96, I begged and pleaded with my relatives to take to me to see it. I saw it in the theatre twice before it very quickly disappeared. The first cd I ever bought was the soundtrack for the movie.

There was an attitude in the 90's, at least coming out of the East coast, that wearing black and pentacles openly was helping to increase public awareness about Witches. The idea was that people are more likely to be tolerant if they personally knew and liked someone who was a Witch, gay, whatever. Today I would say that it was naively idealistic, but at the time I was all about it, though I drew the line at wearing eyeliner, if you'll pardon the pun.

I am not embarrassed or ashamed of any of this. There are plenty of people who still hate that movie. There are still people complaining that The Craft/Charmed/whatever did a public disservice to Wiccans and Pagans and French girls named Manon. There are people my age and younger who have a real rage boner over the whole thing. Fuckabunchathat.

There are plenty more who like to pretend they didn't like or even see the movie. "Oh, I came to Wicca because I had a vision of the Lady, and I was always looking for a feminist eco-spirituality yadda yadda yadda veganism and crystals." 

The thing is - most of us who came to Wicca were looking for that, on some level. Though not the vegan bit, in my case. A great many of us were passionate in our study and worship. A lot of us are still here, having grown to adulthood worshiping the Old Gods and shaping our lives around what that means to us. None of that precluded us from looking dumb and wearing saucer sized pentacles in public. It doesn't mean we weren't also trying to draw attention to ourselves while also being sincere in our practices.

This is a huge mega stereotype, but the kinds of teenagers who were drawn to Wicca at that time were typically not football players or head cheerleader. We *were* the weirdos, whatever the hell that means. There are still burned out hippies who look with derision on younger people in Paganism in between their bong hits and begging people online to pay their bills - all without the slightest awareness of the irony there. Our predecessors in Paganism weren't exactly Homecoming King or Queen material, either, or the sort of people who had heard of life insurance or a retirement plan.

Did all that stereotyping and unkind generalization piss you off a little? Good! Now you know how it felt and you can do penance to the Lady and promise to never do it again.

On a personal level, I can't tell you what it meant to me to have these movies and tv shows happening at the same tame I was struggling through adolescence and figuring out what living life as a Pagan meant. It's comparable to how I felt the first time I ever saw a gay character in a movie or tv show that wasn't a joke and who didn't die a brutal death before the program was over.

I never once thought about rushing out to invoke Manon on the beach with an ad hoc coven put together from the other misfits at school. I didn't try to float pencils like Willow did on Buffy. I wasn't worried about demons coming after me and warlocks trying to steal my BoS every week. I wasn't dumb enough to confuse the real world with some harmless fantasy.

This all brings us to September of 1998 when Silver RavenWolf published Teen Witch. This is not going to turn into SRW bashing because it has been done to death for sixteen years, and people are STILL not over it. I remember the scandal. There were calls for boycotts. There were angry letters published in periodicals. Websites were devoted to trashing her and the book. When it was announced that a Teen Witch Kit was coming, you would have thought SRW had slapped all of their mamma's.

I hadn't read any SRW at this point, but all of the vitriol and HERMAGHERD WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!!!! convinced me to not only buy Teen Witch, but everything else SRW had published. Yep. The Pagan community, in trying to keep SRW's books out of the hands of teenagers, convinced me to buy her books. Jokes on you!


My friends and I lovingly call them the "Wiccan Power Rangers." The thing is, in my experience, none of us looked like that. The idea of casting a circle with teddy bears did not amuse or inspire me. Casting a spell so that my friends and I could enjoy a sunny day at the beach was not on my list of priorities - I've never even been to the damn beach. 

I'd already read the Farrar's, Valiente, Buckland, Huson and Adler at this point. I'd read The Golden Bough, The White Goddess, and Isis Unveiled. I wasn't really the books target audience, and I moved on. I wasn't damaged psychologically, I didn't burn down the kitchen, or declare myself as Oak DragonNuts before Gods and men for all eternity and lifetimes to come. I know plenty of people my age who read this book and either thought it was meh or fucking loved it. A lot of them are still around, running covens or starting traditions or publishing their books.

All of them are far smarter than the worried Pagans at the time gave them credit for.




1 comment:

  1. Fuck yes.

    I begged my mother to take me to the lone occult bookstore in our conservative city because of The Craft. And you know, for a long while I would deny that fact but now that I'm in my 30s I figure... fuck it. A lot of sincere magic comes form stupid bullshit. I bought SRW's books (although not the teen witch one - it came out when I was old enough to think of myself as 'too old' for teen targeted things. IE: I was a snob.) and my brain didn't fall out of my head.

    I see a lot of the same sort of thing happening now. American Horror Story, Salem, Witches of East End etc serving to inspire/annoy people, and occult imagery all over fashion. You could buy prayer candles in Urban Outfitters for a while. And I think to myself, "good." Because somewhere out there is a seventeen year old in a stupid pentacle t-shirt reading Buckland or Crowley or whatever on a website somewhere, and in ten years they'll have stuck with it.

    Just like us old farts did.

    ReplyDelete

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