EDIT: This is a guest post from Kristen McFarland! Absolutely my favorite from this week!
In the AMAZING Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush,” newbie-witch Willow attends a gathering of would-be witches, hoping to boost her skills and commiserate with some fellow magical-folk.
It doesn’t go well. These girls are more concerned with praying to The Goddess and planning their next bake-sale.
Asks Buffy later: No actual witches in your witch group?
Willow: No. Bunch of wannablessedbes. You know, nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she’s a sister to the dark ones.
Now, I don’t knock people who pray to The Goddess, host bake-sales, or want to practice their magic. But I’m with Willow—you can’t talk about “the blackest heart of eternity” and “an empowering lemon bun” in the same sentence without opening yourself up to mockery.
In my non-writing life, I work at a New Age store. (Of course, the owners don’t like to call it New Age or Pagan or anything of the sort—we’re a gift store.) I meet a lot of interesting and cool folks there, some of whom are intelligent, thoughtful people pursuing a unique and loving spiritual path.
Others, frankly, are wannablessedbes: well-meaning people who are pursuing a spiritual path of some sort without putting any real thought into what they believe or why.
Take the Incense Worshipper: This is the woman who rushes into the store in a frenzy, desperate for something to replace sage, because, after years of marriage, her husband recently decided he was “allergic” to sage. She really needs to cleanse her house urgently, and she knows that sage is the best thing for clearing a room of negativity! But what can she possibly use that won’t trigger his allergies?
Cynic that I am, I suspect that the poor woman’s husband finally had enough sage smoke around the house, and tried to tell her without hurting her feelings.
We calm her down, and she leaves the store with some sweetgrass instead.
Or look at the Follower of the Divine Feminine: These are the women (often of a certain age) who worship femininity and all that it entails. Fertility, reproduction, statues of featureless curvy women, pieces of fruit that vaguely resemble parts of a woman’s anatomy: anything female in essence, these ladies worship it.
I don’t have a problem with it as such until they start talking about the Great Goddess as a single female deity worshipped in pre-Christian monotheistic Europe… you know, the goddess and cult that never existed.
Next we have the Faerie-Fae-Frilly Follower, usually female again and usually obsessed with all things fairy/faerie/fae. She’ll snap up gauzy-glitter fake wings, small boxes with fairies painted on them, vials of “fairy dust” (aka the same glitter you buy from the craft store) on a pink string, and anything even remotely fairy-related.
I love fairies. But I realize that the fairies of most traditions are not the cute, short-skirted, winged flower fairies made popular by Victorian paintings. Folklore fairies would be just as likely to take your offering of milk and still hide your keys if you didn’t also offer cookies.
The Faerie-Fae-Frilly girl is closely related to the Goth Glamour Girl/Guy. These folks are more like Willow’s wannablessedbes, but with darker eyeshadow and black hair dye. They worship the dark side of those frilly fairies, the black-haired sexy ones who frequently carry crystal balls. These people will worship the Morrigan, Loki, or Hekate without the humility (*coughwitlessterrorcough* these deities should prompt.
But the one who frightens me is the Demons-are-Everywhere Paranoiac. This person sees demons in the meth-head who walks into the store looking to pawn a piece of jewelry.
“There’s an evil presence in that person!” the paranoiac will say, shuddering.
Well, yes. It’s called homemade, low-quality meth.
Often these people aren’t even a brand of Neopagan—they’re Christian, non-religious, or just universally spiritual. And they see demons all around, even in people who would run screaming if you told them they had a demon inside.
Lastly, there’s the Druggie. These guys walk into a New Age store hoping that “incense” means “marijuana.” They buy big boxes of opium and cannabis incense cones, and I can only hope they’re burning it, not smoking it. They also buy blacklight posters and any crystal that may look shiny under artificial light.
This person will listen to someone following a shamanic path discussing his latest spirit-journey under the influence of Ayahuasca and say, “Duuuude! Where can I get me some of that?”
Now, these are just a few common species of New Age wannablessedbe. Look for others in the wild—you can usually spot them by their long, flowing clothes and hair, their silver jewelry, their often-dreamy look, and that vague, pervasive odor of sage.
Kristin McFarland is a former newspaper reporter living in Southern Indiana, where she is gleefully butchering her second novel in the hope that soon she can present the bleeding mess to an agent who will love it.