The first real fear I remember experiencing was a fear of witches. Given the fact that I was not born during the late 1600’s or even on the West Coast of the US, this probably seems odd. While I may not have been born during the Salem witch trials, I was a young person in an Evangelical world when the Harry Potter phenomena erupted into popular culture like a firestream from hell. While many Christian kids got to read the books and enjoy the subsequent movies unquestioned, there was a small but aggressive Evangelical sect of Christianity that viewed Harry Potter with deep suspicion. It was probably the only thing they had in common with the Catholics. I don’t know its origins or even why my parents – normally so reasonable in all things – fell prey to it. Someone my parents knew must have brought up Harry Potter as a source of nefariousness, because before I even really knew what it was, my brother and I were not allowed to read the books or see the films. When we made friends who wondered why, my brother and I were given a video entitled “Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged” that would answer all our questions. The goal of the film was to show how Harry Potter was responsible for a renewed interest in paganism, the occult, and Satanism. It was “repackaging” a dangerous, soul-damning practice into a nice story about a messy-haired wizard boy with glasses. The video consisted of:
- Ominous music playing over black-and-white photos of J.K. Rowling, including one in which she appeared like a floating head with no body
- Multiple scenes from the 1996 movie, “The Craft,” one which featured a young girl getting struck by lightning and possessed
- Shaky footage from “Wiccan spring fertility” ceremonies, with more ominous music added
- A “real-life” witch pretending to fly around a cauldron on a broomstick during Halloween
- Screenshots from Harry Potter chat rooms where tweens asked how they could study witchcraft and cast spells to make their crushes like them
After watching this video, I was on constant alert. I would hear stories about other Evangelicals who met real-life witches and the weird things that would happen, like children having constant nightmares after walking past a witch’s house, and my fear persisted. I was simultaneously drawn to and horrified by the “Alternative Beliefs” section in Barnes and Noble, where they stocked tomes such as “Wicca and Witchcraft for Dummies” and “Traditional Witchcraft for Urban Living.” If I lingered too long, I would worryt hat I had “picked something up,” which is a real term for when a demonic spirit latches onto an unsuspecting host and messes with their lives. The solution was to use the Bible or other prayers to send it away, almost in a spell-like fashion.
Women were especially vulnerable to the effects and allure of witchcraft, probably because Eve was the one who Satan went after and successfully tempted into eating the forbidden fruit. In terms of “sin origins,” which means the real root of any sin a person can commit (i.e. if you only think about yourself and are inconsiderate of others, you are guilty of pride), witchcraft is considered the sin of control. If you like to control everything in your life, you are vulnerable to witchcraft. This was very troubling to a 12-year old perfectionist who hated spontaneity. Would I accidentally become a witch? I was tempted to google “spells,” just to see, but if I did that, I could be kidnapped by a coven who had my IP address and then there would be no going back. I often lay awake at night in a cold sweat, terrified I would die and go to hell. I mistook panic attacks for demonic possession. Witchcraft was everywhere, and I couldn’t escape it.
Once the correct diagnosis of anxiety cleared up most of my concerns about my own soul and I spent less time lying awake contemplating damnation, my fear of witchcraft faded. Besides seeing occasional bumper stickers that read “Get a taste of religion, lick a witch,” I have never actually met anyone who professed to be a witch. I also started to learn more about “alternative beliefs” from sources other than Evangelical video companies and realized that Wicca and Satanism are not – in fact – one and the same. Even if I did meet a witch, they would not immediately attach a demon to my back. A Satanist wouldn’t even do that. That’s just a dick move. If I ever do something that would warrant that kind of action, I probably deserve it. Some things haven’t changed though. I still refuse to see “The Craft.”