Christine O'Donnell's mercurial candidacy for the United States Senate has elevated the issue of witchcraft to uncommon political heights. But not everyone associated with the religion is pleased.
Last Friday, remarks emerged from an appearance the Delaware Republican made during a 1999 taping of "Politically Incorrect," in which she acknowledged that she had "dabbled into witchcraft" but "never joined a coven." O'Donnell immediately distanced herself from the quote, asking whether it was fair to hold candidates responsible for the "questionable folks" they hung out with in high school. The clarification may have been the only sane political move for O'Donnell to make. But it had the side effect of angering an already politically sensitive pagan community.
"Yes, this was 11 years ago she said that," said Reverend Selena Fox, the High Priestess & Senior Minister of the Circle Sanctuary a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting paganism and nature spirituality. "But the kinds of things she is saying now, saying 'well in high school you are with despicable characters' or some such thing, she is actually defaming Wiccans. Whether she intends to do that or not as a way to try and get herself out of this political problem she has created for herself, the fact is America really needs to be a place where you can celebrate diversity and practice your religion without getting ridiculed or defamed."
Fox, who has been active in fighting anti-Wiccan measures in Congress and the military for the past 25 years, showcased a bit of political deftness when she diplomatically called O'Donnell's candidacy a "teaching moment" for the country. Debates over religious tolerance, she offered, have been shrouded recently in heated political rhetoric. And there was now growing concern among both she and members of her organization that "there will be more ridicule as well as more misinformation" about Wiccans and witchcraft because of O'Donnell's remarks.
"Any political candidate that is going to equate witchcraft with Satanism is ill informed and is not likely to get the support of people involved in nature religion," she said, noting that the pagan community was "multi-partisan."
"I'm concerned," she said. "I'm concerned that 25 years of work that the Lady Liberty League and other Wiccan and pagan civil rights and religious freedom groups have been involved in... that there will be more misinformation as well as ridicule and disrespect. We are living in politically turbulent times."
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the neopagan network "The Witches' Voice" who goes by the name "Diotima Mantineia" reached out to the Huffington Post to offer further condemnation of O'Donnell's initial witchcraft remarks. Making the point that there is a "very large pagan community in Delaware," Mantineia called the Delaware Republican's conflation of witchcraft and Satanism "disappointing."
I really have to question what she is talking about because witchcraft and Satanism are two different things... witches or Wiccans do not believe in Satan. We don't even believe that Satan exists. Satan is a Christian deity of some kind. He is part of the Christian religion not ours. We worship nature; we work very closely with nature. We do not have blood on our altar and we have little to do with Satan. So I don't know what Ms. O'Donnell is talking about. I wonder if she knows what she was talking about.