Christine O’Donnell and her alleged “little midnight picnic on a satanic altar”

September 19, 2010

In response to Bill Maher’s re-playing, on Friday, of Christine O’Donnell’s claim to have “dabbled into witchcraft” and “had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar” (as reported by New York Magazine, ABC News, the Washington Post, and Think Progress, among other sources), some Pagans have defensively insisted that she must have dabbled in Satanism and not witchcraft/Wicca, and that the alleged “witch” whom she dated must have been a Satanist and not a Wiccan.

In fact, neither a serious practicing Wiccan nor a serious practicing Satanist is likely to have a picnic on one’s altar.

A more sober Pagan response is Speculations on Christine O’Donnell and Witchcraft by Gus diZerega, Saturday September 18, 2010. He even admits the possibility that she might have dated one of the “creeps infesting the Pagan community” who “used his alleged ‘magickal powers’ to try and impress simple-minded women attracted by power that he was hot stuff.” Of course, as Gus diZerega correctly points out, such “creeps” are not representative of the Pagan community.

Anyhow, to put Christine O’Donnell’s claim into perspective, we should note her tendency to confuse Satanism with not only Wicca but also rock fan culture.

Back in 1997, in the Washington Post (15 June 1997), Christine O’Donnell wrote the following about that year’s HFStival, an annual D.C.-area rock festival:

Walking through the crowd I also noticed more pentagrams than crosses around the teenage necks. “Satanism is the religion of the ’90s,” I was told. “It means I worship nature,” responded one girl when I asked her what the pentagram meant to her. I explained that the pentagram is to Satan what the cross is to Christ. She didn’t want to believe it.

Others knew exactly what it meant.

“I’d rather go to hell and do what I want than go to heaven and do what others say,” said a pale boy wearing smeared red and black eyeliner who had deep scars along the insides of both arms.

This boy mirrored “The Satanic Bible’s” basic philosophy, “Do what thou wilt.” Satanism has re-emerged among Generation X with an arrogance that mocks its members as it blatantly destroys them. Was this boy so consumed with his right to worship Satan that he couldn’t see Satan’s true purpose, which is to devour and destroy his worshipers? Past generations have broadened the boundaries so much that this generation must go to great extremes to rebel.

Source: Remembering Christine O’Donnell: Praising Helms, Missing Lenny and Squiggy, and Worries of Rampant Satanism, Right Wing Watch, September 15, 2010.

In reality, while there may be a lot of rock fans (especially metal fans) who affect Satanic trappings, very few of them are actually adherents of Satanism as a religion.

So, another possible scenario regarding her alleged dabbling: The “witch” she dated might have been just a Goth or metalhead, who might have decided to pull her leg by claiming that whatever they were using as a picnic table was in fact a “Satanic altar.” As for the “little blood there and stuff like that,” who knows? A squirrel wounded by some predator? Or maybe even just a ketchup stain?

Without more details, we don’t know what she “dabbled into,” if anything. What IS clear is that Christine O’Donnell, at some point, bought into the fundie mentality that sees “Satanism” everywhere. So, there’s no reason to take her word for it regarding an alleged “Satanic altar.”

P.S.: Additional mass media coverage: ABC News, Entertainment Weekly, CBS News, Fox News, the Atlantic, and Gothamist, among many others.

P.S. (9/20/2010): Some stories of Wiccan reaction to Christine O’Donnell, dated September 20, 2010:

P.S. (9/21/2010): More stories on the above, in the New York Daily News, the New York Post, and Patheos.

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7 Responses to “Christine O’Donnell and her alleged “little midnight picnic on a satanic altar””

  1. VorJack Says:

    Well written, thank you.

    My problem with the kind of story that O’Donnell is telling is that I only ever hear it from conservative Christians. I’ve heard any number of evangelicals witness to someone by telling them how they used to dabble in the occult/satanism/heavy metal.

    In contrast, I never hear anyone on the progressive side talking about how they used to go to satanic orgies. Why the discrepancy?

    Frankly, after Ergun Caner and Mike Warnke, I’m inclined to view all such stories as fictitious, or at least grossly exaggerated.

    • VorJack Says:

      Oh dear, I seem to have committed one of the cardinal sins of the blogosphere: I’ve commented on a post as if it was a one-off without realizing that half your blog is dedicated to the subject.

      My apologies if I sounded like I was providing new insight. Feel free to delete these from moderation.

    • Diane Vera Says:

      Your comment is fine. Not to worry.

      I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say that all such stories are fictitious, though I agree with you that there is good reason to be skeptical.

      In Christine O’Donnell’s case, she didn’t provide enough detail for us to judge whether she’s telling the truth. We can conclude only that, whatever she might or might not have “dabbled into,” she didn’t learn very much about either Wicca or Satanism.

  2. Axis Sallyboy X. Says:

    I have yet to hear really good Satanic Country and Western music. That would be awesome. :)

  3. NUXLVX Says:

    I’m glad to see that ABC News.com (I believe), picked up on your story. I’ve been a fan of yours for a while but unfortunately can’t use my name on the net. But it’s good to have someone push back against the “We’re nice Wiccans….we’re not those awful Satanists!” vibe that Wiccans sometimes fall into. I hate to say negative things about the pagan community, but they frequently go overboard on this one, and it’s not made any easier by the Church of Satan going out all the time and saying that actually believing in what they named their Church after is immature and that only losers do it.

  4. Axis Sallyboy X. Says:

    Satanic polka would be kinda hot too.


  5. abc news is of course one of the most reputable news sources these days ~~”


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