Saturday, 25 September 2010

Broomsticks on the lawn?

As well as turf wars with a rival Batshit protection racket and worries that government departments looking for cuts could check if several ‘rehabilitation schemes’ (all running at the same time in the same room) might, perhaps, also be serving the same few (often fictitious) ‘clients’, Douglas’s biggest faith-based drain on public funds may have a new threat on the doorstep – literally!
Something I spotted outside the Broadway Baptist Church has me both amused and intrigued. Smack bang outside the front door this week was a car with a bumper sticker reading “My other car is a broomstick”.
Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the kind of fundie headbangers who solemnly teach the dimmest parents and social workers that teenagers in black T-shirts are trainee Satanists were under some sort of psychic attack from real local witches? Though the local witch and warlock community are almost as batty as the Baptists, and equally wrapped up in ‘timeless’ folk myths of recent – often urban – origin.
Take their grandaddy Gerald Gardner, who ran the old witchcraft museum at Castletown.
Gardner arguably kickstarted the whole modern witchcraft phenomena with a 1950’s potboiler, Witchcraft Today, opportunistically published just after the repeal of the old witchcraft laws (repealed on the grounds that nobody in the mid-20th century believed such old wives tales). Gardnerians are like the High Anglican version of witches, and funnily enough Gardner had also been both a church warden and a high ranking freemason – so not exactly an anti-establishment figure.
The other hilarious clunker for those who’d like to see him as re-introducing ‘timeless’ Manx tradition is that his book was based on his personal experiences in a New Forest coven and (now discredited) theories of Margaret Murray about ‘the Old Religion’, sexed up with some supplementary material from Alistair Crowley. It’s even alleged Gardner bought his impressive sounding rank within OTO (Crowley’s cult) at a time when that other shady shaman was little more than a penniless dipso about to pop his clogs in another run-down seaside resort, Brighton.
There is a well documented tradition of Manx faith-healers (known as "fairy doctors"), for example in various local Edwardian publications, though they were always at pains to stress they weren’t ‘proper’ witches, just folk with enough plant knowledge to concoct something for your lame horse or hens who weren’t laying.
Funnily enough, the nearest to a ‘witch craze’ we’ve had over here was when the local fundies started offering ‘help’ in case kids were dabbling with ouija boards or might get tempted to sell their souls to Satan while going door-to-door singing Hop Tu naa (Manx version of Halloween dressing up, well before Trick or Treat was invented).
This was a bit of a bad joke when the only known cases of the problem were sessions which had happened on the premises of evangelical churches in the 1980’s, and involved some of the same ‘youth workers’ who a few years later were offering ‘help’. Few other teenagers could have been bothered to waste their time on such twaddle, which might explain why most went on to decent jobs while the superstitious minority still beg public funds or flog woo-woo to the impressionable rich and thick.

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