That popular catchphrase of Michelle Dubois of the Resistance in the popular television series, Allo Allo usually heralded some dastardly plan of the Gestapo to undermine the war effort. Been here before, hence the brevity of the text.
Once upon a time, a nasty politician decided to start a smear campaign against witches in the UK by publicly branding everyone in the pagan community as ‘satanic’ and ‘evil’ It was, therefore, entirely without warning in the spring of 1988 that one of our best-loved occult emporiums became the political focus for a concerted and highly inflammable (no pun intended) campaign to destroy occultism at source. The scare-mongers had prepared their infamous ‘dossier’ with the help of several quisling pagans, who had provided a valuable insight into the contemporary pagan scene, naming names, magazines, shops and organizations. In reality, this dossier was no more than a potted listing of UK businesses, publications and individuals – but it was used by anti-occult campaigners as ‘evidence’ of the upsurge in witchcraft – which they considered to be the same as Satanism.
Public fears around Satanism, in particular, came to be known as a distinct phenomenon: the ‘Satanic Panic’. The American-inspired campaign lasted five years and successfully tricked not only the British public into believing that satanic ritualised child-abuse really existed, but quite a few uninformed pagans, too! It was quickly discovered that the dividing line between gullible fundamentalists and gullible pagans was extremely vague, and for the duration of the campaign it was also revealed that several self-righteous pagans had helped the anti-occult campaigners’ cause by supplying inaccurate background information and incorrect opinions. Thereby supporting the persecution and jeopardizing other pagans, whist safeguarding themselves from attack, on the grounds that they were ‘only trying to explain …’
Some even publicly dismissed Social Services’ dawn roundups of children as none of their concern, because the majority of cases did not affect anyone with genuine pagan involvement. Several pagan publications even stated that as far as they were aware, there had been no cases of pagan children being taken into care – or worse – nor even any ‘unprovoked investigations’. This was incorrect – there had been cases of pagan children being taken into care as the ever-growing case-files showed and several parents lost custody cases because of their pagan beliefs. In fact, the authorities had successfully gagged parents by lawful process, which prevented any of them from contacting others for help and that was why no details surrounding the on-going cases were made public.
Thirty years later those schisms have never completely healed – and they never will. Because whether the pagan community like to admit it or not – there are now two distinct approaches to witchcraft. One is the cleaned up, politically correct, socially acceptable form of neo-goddess worship with little, or no mention of the god, since his image is more difficult to render impotent. Unfortunately this is increasingly becoming the generalized public face of witchcraft because traditionalists who prefer not to sanitise their deities, have retreated back into the shadows through sheer exasperation at the trivialization of their beliefs. The traditional approach to deity acknowledges the dual importance of both male and female elements which is essential to effective magical working.
There are few apologists among the ranks of the traditionalists, who appear less frequently on television and, more often than not, decline to give interviews for the national press decked out in flowing robes with garlands of flowers and pointy hats. Traditionalists often present a darker, less benign countenance – and it is towards this image of traditional Craft that vanilla-lite-pagans point the accusing finger of being practitioners of ‘dark magic’.
The publication of The Arte of Darkness was a timely endeavour since there are – one again – ominous undercurrents rumbling away that could spell an uncomfortable time for the pagan community in the not too distant future. The most frightening aspect of history repeating itself, however, was the announcement in the Irish Times in January 2018 that ‘Irish people are being ravaged by demonic possession’, and that the Catholic Church was ‘out of touch with reality’ as they were sending sufferers of possession to psychologists instead of performing rituals! The Catholic News Agency in Rome also reported demonic possessions were on the rise in Italy, despite Vatican News claiming that many Christians no longer believe in [the devil’s] existence … and when the church is in a position of weakness it requires a scapegoat!
We should all be wary of journalists and politicians trying to rejuvenate flagging careers by attempting to create another ‘Satanic Panic’ because they don’t hesitate to use in the same breath those time-honoured buzz-words – wicca, witch, pagan, occult, Aleister Crowley, et al. In the UK earlier this year, a satanic, racist, anarchist, neo-Nazi group founded in the UK in the 1970s and that now operates around the world, including in the US was (quite rightly, in my opinion) lambasted by a MP … but it has since been incorrectly and misleadingly ‘identified as exhibiting hermetic and modern pagan elements in its beliefs by academic researchers’. Alarm bells begin ringing …
I am proud of my time served as an anti-Satanic Panic activist but I have no desire to do it again and why I say: “Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once” because it’s happened twice before in living memory and it can happen again … and how many self-styled pagans will, once again, join the ranks of accusers?
For the full story: The Arte of Darkness: Magic & Mystery From the Shadows – Melusine Draco ISBN: 9781788769198 : Paperback : Pages 262 : £8.95 published by Ignotus Books