Witchcraft in this context is a “counter spirituality to the religious conservatism that defined many [queer people’s] childhoods,” as game developer Aevee Bee puts it. The visual novel Bee co-created, We Know The Devil, explores what it means to embrace witchcraft through three queer teens who attend a Christian summer camp, where they spend a night in the woods awaiting the devil. “What [the protagonists] encounter in the woods they understand and perceive as the devil because that is what they have been taught to understand their desires, identity, and love as,” Bee says. By embracing the devil, the protagonists find liberation from their religious upbringings, just as someone might by realizing it’s acceptable to be queer.
I was born and raised in New York City, but my roots are more exotic: between my Cuban Catholic mother and my Greek Orthodox father, family religion involved the lushest, most high-drama strains of Christianity. The elaborate clerical robes, the incense and tiers of prayer candles, the stories of the martyrs cut into stained glass, the barely decipherable chants – as a child, these were embedded in my brain. To this day, despite my liberal feminist politics, I still imagine the world as overseen by a handsome, bearded young white man.
Once I was old enough to think for myself, I broke with the church on issues of sexuality, marriage, the right to choose and the concept of “sin”; I also couldn’t swallow the thin reasoning behind excluding women from the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox priesthoods. At the same time, however, I was haunted by the memory of high mass, the sense that there are mysteries in the universe. When I learned that there was a living, growing American witchcraft movement – one that is radically inclusive, that views women as equals to men, and in which God is just as likely to be female – I was instantly curious.
Dakota Hendrix, a non-binary trans witch based in New York—an identity Hendrix jokingly refers to as “goat femme,” describing their combination of body hair, a smoky eye, and talons for nails—says the practice of witchcraft is a way to take control in a world that can be both metaphysically and mortally threatening.It’s a supernatural form of self-defense that Hendrix says includes amulets that fight off mis-gendering, rituals that provide protection when walking down the street, and paying honor to queer and trans ancestors who don’t have descendants of their own paying homage. Not to mention—since, Hendrix says, contemporary witchcraft is connected to social justice work—a hex or two on the NYPD for good measure.But while the rituals are plentiful, the rules are not, and Hendrix says being a witch is all about choosing one’s own path: “Being a witch is being autonomous; that’s the whole point. That’s how we draw power. We are defying the patriarchy, we are defying the submissive norm.”
“I’m really a witch,” rapper Azealia Banks quipped last January, shortly before all hell broke loose on her Twitter account.Banks is known for her online rants. She tends to share fairly dense ideas, spontaneously spun out in punchy lines liberally interspersed with curse words. I don’t know a person on this earth who can agree with every one of them, but her opinions are smarter than she usually gets credit for.Still, even by Banks’s standards, the witch thing was weird. It came out in the middle of a run about black Americans and their relationship to Christianity:I wonder if most of the black American Christians in the US know WHY they are Christian. I wonder if they even consider for a SECOND that before their ancestors came to the Americas that they may have believed in something ELSE.
The poster contains imagery associated with Satanism, like pentagrams and an illustration of the goat-headed Baphomet.It goes on to state that a live lamb will be provided for sacrifice by “[their] friends” at the Clemson Collegiate Farm Bureau. A Bible-torching ceremony is listed as part of the proceedings, with a cash prize for the student who burns the most Bibles. Finally, attendees are invited partake in a pentagram completion event, where they will “help summon Baphomet to celebrate the new Clemson Chapel.”
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