Well, friends, it’s already the 22nd of Halloween October: leaves are changing and pumpkins are everywhere, so if the urge to watch Halloween movies has not kicked in yet, you may want to see a doctor. The classic Halloween entertainment lexicon for adults is comprised largely of slasher films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The genre is comprised mostly of sexually promiscuous teenagers or young adults—especially women—being pursued and violently killed by a humanoid horror of some kind. While there are a few good eggs amongst slasher films, the shrieking blood-and-guts aspect is not really my cup of tea, and for anyone of like mind who still wants to live Halloween entertainment to the fullest, I propose digging up some spooky children’s movies from the late 80’s and early 90’s, because they have aged better than you think.
It’s that time of year again when witches, witchcraft, magic, and old-school pagan gods take certain stage on our television screens. Problem is, they don’t exactly have great PR, and every Halloween—and any other time of the year, for that matter—Wiccan and Pagan beliefs are pretty much dragged through the mud and shown to be “evil”. I have written about this poor portrayal before, but today I want to address how Christianity approaches modern Wicca and Paganism, and how that is reflected in pop culture.
Christianity has never exactly had a great relationship with magic practitioners and pagans. For centuries those who were accused of practicing witchcraft were often killed for “devil worship”, and the same is true for Pagans. Though the church did not necessarily deny the existence of pagan gods, they did claim that these gods were really demons that deceived people into worshiping them; because of this, worship of these gods was also considered devil worship and punishable by death. But this is a really old view of witchcraft and paganism, right? There is no way this belief still holds sway in today’s modern context, right? Sadly, that’s not the case.
I have already discussed magic a little bit in my post on magic and Christian objects. To give a little bit of a refresher, the Bible condemns witchcraft and any other sort of magic, from talking to the dead to seeing the future. But like many things in the Bible, this rule is contradictory to other things in the Bible and other practices in both Jewish and Christian traditions.
For example, most churches will say, even today, that seeing the future or talking to the dead could make you a prophet. If it’s a gift that you have no control over, it would make sense that your creator blessed you with it. On top of this, there are certain practices that seem to rely on magic. Ancient Jews used to put magical amulets near the beds of their babies to ward off the demon Lilith, who was said to kill children. In the Acts of the Apostles, there is a passage that introduces Simon the Magician, who wowed the people with his magical abilities. However, when the Apostles showed up, everyone converted to Christianity, even Simon. In this passage, Simon is never condemned for using magic; what he is condemned for is offering the Apostles money in order to gain the same gifts granted to the Apostles by God. Peter condemns Simon for thinking he can buy God’s gifts and urges him to repent, but he is never condemned for using magic specifically.
Despite these contradictions and varied ideas about magic, the Bible still condemns all magic and witchcraft, which causes tension between Christianity and Wicca to this day. That’s reflected in our pop culture.