20.8.13

The Simpsons and Wicca

The title of this post may bewilder some of you, but it will be much clearer when you watch two episodes of the famous TV series - The Simpsons. I believe that you are familiar with it and that you have seen many of its episodes throughout your life. I recently felt like watching it again and did so thanks the Internet. The following two episodes are connected to Wicca and witchcraft so I thought it would be interesting to write a post on the show's attitude towards the aforementioned topics.

Treehouse of Horror XIX

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The first episode in which I found a reference to Wicca is called Treehouse of Horror XIX. It's practical to say a few words about it first because the reference in it really is very short while the second episode I found is almost entirely based on Wicca. If you watch minutes 14-15 of the video, you will see Lisa in a witch costume. It is obvious that she dressed that way because it is Halloween. The boy next to her - her and Bart's friend Milhouse, tells her that he likes her witch costume but she corrects him saying that she's not a witch, but a Wiccan. What made me smile was what she says next: "Why is it that people call any confident and powerful woman a witch?". This is important for the next episode as well. To elaborate, the connection between the feminist movements and the popularity of witchcraft has always been connected. 


The second wave of feminism (from the 1960s to the 1980s) coincided with the popularity and rise of Wicca as well as the abolition of the Witchcraft Acts. Wicca is often taken to be a very "feminist" religion because it recognizes a Goddess as well as a God. Wicca also gives women important roles; every womanly aspect has to be celebrated, from virginity and motherhood to old age. This is expressed through the triple-Goddess principle. And not to mention what an important role the High Priestess plays in Wicca! You will notice that the High Priestess often has more obligations during a ritual than the High Priest, and this is quite strange for any western religion.

But what you will probably notice first is the way in which Lisa is dressed - stereotypically for a witch; all in black with a pointy hat, striped socks, black shoes with big clasps...and she's even wearing a cape! This is a reflection on the most famous image of a witch ever to exist - the wicked witch from the movie Wizard of Oz. She is the one to "blame" for the modern stereotype of a witch as an old crone that is dressed in black from head to toe, wears a cape, rides on a broomstick and wreaks havoc. A reminiscence of her green skin are Lisa's green-black stripy socks, although the stripes themselves are a direct reference to the wicked witch herself. 

Does this seem familiar to you? :)

The second episode in which Wicca plays a much larger role is called

Rednecks and Broomsticks

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Firstly, I would like to note that the title of this episode itself is a reference to another famous witch-related movie called Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I could write a review of it in another post, but for now I think it's best if I stick to the topic.

Just as with any Simpson's episode, you follow several stories simultaneously. In the parts we follow Lisa, we find you that she got lost in a forest. Here, she comes across three girls dressed in brown robes chanting something over a cauldron fire. We hear them saying: "Dark is she, but brilliant! Black are her wings, black on black! She is Lilith, who leadeth forth the hordes of the Abyss."

This invocation definitely seems eerie (even to me, and I can imagine what it must seem like to those that are less informed on the subject). I think that this was Groening's first wrong move (he is the creator of the series). It seems to me that he is trying to break the prejudice society has of witches through this episode in a way, but he risked the viewers getting the wrong impression or simply just turning their TV off with this creepy intro scene. Anyway, the invocation that the girls are saying is an invocation for Lilith and it falls under the category of ceremonial magick. Even on its own it can be intimidating, let alone with the robes, fire etc. To be honest, I don't know a single Wiccan that has ever performed this ritual. In addition to this, the girls claim that Lisa has interrupted them in their Esbat celebration. Now an Esbat is the celebration of the full Moon, but the only reference of the Moon in the whole ritual is that of a "black Moon", i.e. a new Moon. My conclusion is that this part of the episode is just completely invalid.

Continuing with the Esbat scene, I just can't figure out what three such young girls (or at least they seem very young) are doing celebrating Lilith! In Jewish texts, you will come across a description of Lilith as Adam's first wife (before Eve). She refused to lie under him during intercourse and when he tried to force her, she simply ran off. In Babylonian mythology, Lilith was a demon and according to the Talmud, she was a succubus (another type of demon who takes on a female form and forces herself on men in the middle of the night...the children that come from this intercourse are said to also be demons). But then again, she isn't so bad in all cultures/religions. Some think of her as the goddess of the Moon and fertility. Looking at this interpretation, it is logical that they would celebrate her during an Esbat, but the whole ritual itself simply doesn't go with the much more optimistic air that surrounds Wiccan rituals. In any case, Lilith is an extremely sexual figure so I don't quite understand how three such young people can celebrate sexuality in such a manner.

But let us get back to the episode. Lisa soon finds out that the three girls cast spells. At first, she doesn't believe that magick actually works, but she is soon proved wrong. I turns out that Lisa was standing in the Circle when she wished she could get out of doing her homework for tomorrow. The three girls then tell her to be careful what she wishes for because things said in the Circle have the tendency to come true....and what a surprise! Her wish came true! Lisa took this as a sign that magick really does work and returned to the girls to learn more. She explains to them that her teacher got sick and asked them if they were to blame. I believe that this is a very delicate moment in the episode which you can interpret any way you want. The logical conclusion of any viewer would be that the three girls indirectly made the teacher sick, therefore, Wicca is bad. In reality, Wiccans don't curse anyone and they don't ask for bad things to happen because they are aware of the consequences (be they karmic, spiritual, worldly etc.). In the end, the girls explain that the Goddess chose to intervene in her own way and that she simply chose to solve Lisa's dilemma that way but that they would never ask her to harm anyone (notice the slight sarcasm with which this is said). I'm not sure what to comment here because this can be interpreted in many ways. I would just like to warn you, dear reader, that any Wiccan that causes harm to another living being (directly or indirectly) cannot call themself that because the one and only rule of Wicca is "harm none". The rule is simple and direct.

I believe that the only specific and true thing that was said in the whole episode was the description of what Wiccans do: "We worship Nature". Yes, that is correct. Nothing more to add there. :)

A bit alter in the episode, Lisa is shown searching through "Wiccapedia" (an obvious reference to Wikipedia). Just to warn you straight away, this website does not exist.

But what disappointed me a bit mainly because it is partly true was Bart's description of a witch. He says that a person has go through "college anorexia, a string of bad marriages, career disappointments etc." before they can be a quality witch. Sadly, the Wiccan stereotype has become either a young Goth girl who loves Wicca because of magick and the pentagrams, or the lonely older woman who truly has been through a lot in her life (which often includes a divorce). I'm guessing that the creators of this episode just wanted to make fun of Wicca with it...and I have to admit that I can understand where they're coming from. I find it quite funny myself how true these stereotypes are (but I'm not saying that ALL Wiccans are like this). My intention is not to offend any lover of the Goth subculture but merely to state that this really is a stereotype. If this topic interests you more, there is an excellent post on it on this blog. But that fact remains that one of the three girls in this episode matches this stereotype...

The creators of the episode also managed to find time to address the opinion of your usual Catholic on Wicca. Ned Flanders, a true believer in God, a member of the Evangelistic Church and also the Simpson's neighbor, happened to notice Lisa researching Wicca and said that this was a way of communicating with the Devil. This, of course, isn't true. As I have said many times, Wiccans don't believe in the Devil, therefore, they cannot worship him. But that's just another stereotype. Witchcraft has been associated with Devil-worship since the Middle Ages even though that wasn't true even back then.

A scene I personally really like was the one in which Lisa is about to get initiated. Here, the creators of the episode really did stay true to Wicca because the way in which Lisa entered the Circle really is typical of a Wiccan ritual. While going inside the Circle, she states that she enters it "in perfect love and perfect trust". This is a very common sentence in initiation rituals because, by saying this, the initiate obliges him/herself to love the other coven members (or rather enter with good intention) and to trust them. Even the moment when they pour grape juice into the chalice is valid. Wine is the usual drink inside the Circle, but it can be replaced by a non-alcoholic beverage (grape fruit is just appropriate because it is made of the same product as wine). Let me be the first here to admit that I don't drink wine because I simply don't like the taste, so I substitute it with another drink which most often non-alcoholic.

In any case, after the initiation ritual is interrupted by the girls being arrested for practicing witchcraft, they ask the Goddess for help in front of the courtroom by calling upon her to show the people of the town that "they are blind". Of course, they say this metaphorically; they don't intend to curse the whole town, but people can misinterpret this scene easily. They are pronounced innocent in court and, in my opinion, the main reason for this was Lisa's statement that "they aren't evil" and that "they believe in friendship, respect the earth" and that they have helped her feel like she belonged for once in her life. This made me quite emotional because covens really are like this; everyone is equal (or at least should be) and a general feeling of friendly, or perhaps even family-like love is present. Anyway, the townspeople refused to believe the girls were innocent and decided to take things into their own hands. The girls were to be dunked under water, which as, by the way, a typical torture method for witches in the 16th and 17th century. It was believed that water is so pure that it will throw out any sort of impurity, so if a person floated up to the surface, they were guilty and were then killed. In case the person didn't float up, they were declared innocent, but by then they would have drowned. Whichever way you take it, the prisoner would die.


The last scene of the episode is also connected to witchcraft. In it, you can see Lisa ice-skating to a song called "Season of the Witch" by Donovan. This is thought to be one of the first psychedelic songs ever created and, as you may have guessed, it was released in the 60s. This coincided with the second wave of feminism as well as the development of Wicca. Female awareness was growing so more and more women wanted to join this religion that enabled them to work more independently and gain a greater potential for improving in a religious sense. At the same time, the Catholic Church started attracting fewer followers so the term "witch", in this song, is taken to be a symbol of infidelity by some. All in all, this period made room for many changes; people weren't afraid of hell or the burning at the stake, the hippy movement opened people's eyes towards new things...suddenly, all the things that were previously forbidden and strange were now allowed and even encouraged. When you look at it, hippies and witches actually have a lot in common - vegetarianism, the preference for natural remedies, sexual reforms, fighting for the rights of women, children and animals etc. (although none of this is obligatory). Hippies were often nudists, and the founder of Wicca himself (Gerald Gardner) just so happened to be a nudist too. Enough said? :) Oh, and of course the very name of the song has a lot to do with witches. :)

So perhaps the title of the post doesn't seem so strange to you now. You may have even learnt a few new things. 
Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

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