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. (9/20/2010): Some stories of Wiccan reaction to Christine O’Donnell, dated September 20, 2010:
- CBS News: Christine O’Donnell Angers Wiccan Community with “Witchcraft” Comments by Stephanie Condon
- ABC News: Witch Says Christine O’Donnell is Confused About Witchcraft by Sarah Netter
- HULIQ: Wiccan, Pagan Groups Yell Slander at Christine O’Donnell’s Remarksby Paula Duffy