Playing fast and loose with the supernatural
A few days ago I saw a discussion among readers of so-called cozy, witchy romances in which most of the fans preferred fantasy versions of witchcraft over novels that made even a lightweight attempt at reality. What we’re talking about here is contemporary fantasy, stories that take place within our own world as opposed to those set on another planet.
Wisely, I think, I said nothing. I’ve read a few of those cozy witchcraft novels and, even though the storylines were interesting, my primary thought was that the authors were playing fast and loose with the supernatural. That is, the stories had little or nothing to do with either real Wicca or real traditional witchcraft. The witches in the stories were given powers and rituals that real witches don’t have OR they continued to follow the long-time portrayals (by Hollywood and the Christian Church) of witches as satan worshippers.
While that’s a convenient approach, it’s about as irresponsible as telling a story about–say, the Presbyterian Church or General Motors or Walmart that doesn’t stick to established facts about these organizations. Yes, I know, if makes novels more exciting if a Presbyterian a minister has a wand and can use spells out of the Harry Potter books. But it’s false.
The practices of real witches are very tame when compared to the cozy romances and horror novels written about them. Maybe that’s why authors and a lot of readers like the phony fantasy versions. During the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when the triple feature horror-rama presentations at drive-in theaters were doing big business, the silver screen was awash in symbols from multiple religions and belief systems that–for the sake of a scary story–were turned into a cesspool of evil to earn a buck.
In addition to witches, mystics, shamen, psychics, healers, herbalists, visionaries, and others have been slandered by the mainstream as people associated with evil and/or scams of one kind or another. This has given authors and filmmakers an “anything goes” license to make up whatever nastiness they want about the supernatural and those who believe in it. You may think the Salem witchcraft trials are far away, but the attitude behind them is still with us.
Humans seem predisposed to distrust anyone they can label as “other.” Most often, this ignorant habit focuses on other races, foreigners in general, and people from another part of the country. But it also includes witches, shamen, and healers. Why does this happen? Brainwashing from mainstream religions that routinely accuse people who don’t even believe in the devil as being worshippers of the devil. And, the fact that mixing long-time fears about the supernatural into a riveting movie or novel will bring in a lot of dollars.
The majority of our population seems to fall into two camps of people: (1) Those who believe the supernatural is bunk, and (2) Those who believe the supernatural is evil. If one ever pointed out that many church-going people believed in Christian (and other) mystics of the past, we were told that such people don’t exist now. Sure they do. They’ve been frightened into keeping quiet.
All of us have mental capabilities we can develop: hunches and premonitions, intuition about our ailments, feelings about our connections to the Earth as a living organism, and the ability to strongly influence the course of our lives. It’s sad that we overlook all of this because we’re told it’s evil or mindless superstition. So no, I don’t like those cozy witchy novels and Hollywood movies that play fast and loose with the supernatural because those things are holding us back.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three novels in the Florida Folk Magic series that portray hoodoo as it really is.