Thursday 29 September 2016


Now the winter months are advancing and we enter the pre-Halloween countdown this is the time when our collective subconscious turns to the darker forces of our imagination. October naturally evolves into a festival of the macabre, as witches' brooms, pumpkins, fangs, bats, candles and skeletons fill the streets and the stores. Although this is good, clean escapist fun it also however has a more sincere, celebratory meaning.

All Hallow's Eve has of course ancient pagan roots relating to the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the 'darker' half of the year; this has since developed into a quasi-Christian belief that the souls of the dead venture out into the skies on Halloween. In one sense we are communing with the spirits of the dead and, more importantly, celebrating the ghoulish and the supernatural. In Luciferian or Satanic narratives this almost becomes a kind of worship, celebrating the dark side of the self as externalised through the Halloween as a kind of Sabbath.

But is there something even more radical – even political – about such events? Witchcraft, that essence most inexplicably linked with the Halloween season, has essentially always been defined in opposition to the main political/religious narrative of the day – from pagan community leaders, medics and faith healers facing Roman militarisation to the thousands 'othered' by the witch hunts and the Inquisition, witchcraft has always been that which is defined in opposition. As Peter Grey writes in 'Apocalyptic Witchcraft': 'for the whole of recorded history witchcraft has been malefica, venefica, incest and murder. The next village, the next town, the next country, the old woman, the Jew, the leper, the Cathar, the Templar, the Ophite, the will find the witch at the end of a pointed finger'. Witchcraft has in this way always been associated with the outcasts, the minorities, the Other – and specifically with those movements linked to the environment, women, and alternatives to authoritarian religious and state power.

Additionally with the underdog comes a struggle with those forces of oppression, and this where witchcraft becomes a weapon. After all, alchemy and mysticism are the secret weapons of all underdogs, outcasts and oppressed - it's the transformative process by which powers are increased and situations overturned. It's making assets from forces that your opponents do not possess. To take power from an objectively doomed position always requires a 'secret ingredient', or an 'X factor', or other means of switching the odds.

And then of course there's the mythical line back from modern dark alternative culture through the blues, the mythic Faustian pact in the Delta, and the attendant birth of resistance culture in rock & roll and its link to the Gothic - namely of the Devil and his alleged deal with the blues that placed the devil in rock music. And of course the particular 'occult' belief systems in the black South were themselves based on the resistance-beliefs of the slaves, and the 'othering' of black spiritualism as witchcraft. This is essentially an example of a spiritualism of the oppressed and it's cultural representations.

So when we celebrate Halloween or any other manifestation of 'dark' culture we are actually engaging in centuries' old patterns of resistance; resistance to mainstream culture, materialism, greed, environmental damage, and all forms of oppression. With this is mind, isn't there more we can do with that legacy? What are we doing to harness this culture, to weaponise it in the here & now?

Maybe it is time to articulate a new witchcraft of the oppressed.

OK, maybe later – but first, we have pumpkins to carve...

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