This post actually has two main components: the first of these is a short review of Robert Eggers’ film The Witch, originally released in January 2015, and the second of these is an analysis of Jex Blackmore’s claim that the film is “a transformative Satanic experience”. Because let’s face it, I think we know we’re in for a good time when The Satanic Temple starts declaring something to be culturally relevant for Satanism.
It should go without saying that there will be some spoilers contained within this entire post, but I will try to keep said spoilers to a minimum.
The subtitle of the film is “A New-England Folktale”, and this is exactly what the film is – a historical folk tale of 17th century witchcraft and the beliefs surrounding, centering around a devout Puritan Christian family living in the wilderness in fear of the forces of darkness. It certainly does seem like this film was informed by a very historical perspective. It’s also one of those films that builds up slowly, which in a sense reminds me of older horror films I saw before over the years, and the film gets more and more sinister as it goes on. The witches are a mostly malevolent force in the films, which would definitely fit into the folklore and belief at the time. And its because of this that the family in the film are so fearfully devout. It’s to the point where I can’t help feeling even a little bad for the father. He gets gradually unhinged over the supernatural happenings that befall his family and take to some rather fanatical measures, but it’s clear to me what he wants is to make sure his children are safe. And yet you do get the sense that there is a real dominance of fear in the environment. Part of it comes from the fear of God, or losing the grace of God, but I think part of it also comes from the family being totally cut-off from the rest of the world and just trying to survive on their own. I can’t imagine it was very easy – in fact, I imagine it was quite difficult. In fact, some of the tension between the mother and father is very much related to that. There is a certain authenticity to the film that isn’t particularly difficult to spot, and I am certain that this sets it apart from many of the other horror movies out there. And I think you can see this in the highly convincing portrayal of the characters. Eggers ought to be commended for the way he achieved this authenticity. As chilling as the film tends to be, the climax takes a very enchanting tenor – enchanting in a way that is in keeping with the dark mood of the film, and befitting what is surely the climax of great tension and fear, as well as some death.
If I were to give this film a rating, I would say about 4½ stars.
Now that I feel I’ve addressed the film itself, let’s address the claims of Jex Blackmore that this film is some kind of “transformative Satanic experience” and the spark for some kind of “Satanic revolution”.
I think the case for Blackmore’s claim is best laid in the her “letter”. Let’s go through it point by point.
With the discipline of a historian and the voice of a rebel, award-winning filmmaker Robert Eggers celebrates the sociocultural roots of the witch as a consequence of parasitic, puritanical worldviews. The Witch examines theocratic patriarchy in microcosm, documenting the pathology of a religious hysteria that is still influential in politics today.“
OK, right off the bat I’m worried that Blackmore is referring to the potential recipient of this letter as “comrade“, unless that’s intended as some kind of satire.
But I digress, the only hysteria I see influential in politics today is the Marxist social justice hysteria that the media is tacitly promoting and progressive politicians are aligning themselves to. The conservative Christian hysteria I assume you’re referring to is actually dying. You still have fundamentalist Christians trying to stir the pot, I grant that, but they are almost a non-issue because of how toothless a political force they actually are. In fact, whenever you do get fundamentalists in the media, they are often reviled because of the ludicrous things they spout or advocate, and I doubt most Christians are actually on the side of the old hyper-conservative religious right anymore. And that’s just the US. In my country and the rest of Europe, the religious right may as well be dead already. God is simply not a part of my country’s politics. The only reason God is a part of your country’s politics is because of things like “In God We Trust”, which was introduced in 1956 as a response to the fact that communist Russia was officially atheist and anti-religious (more on that later on).
Also, the idea of the witch and of witchcraft goes back much further than the Puritans and their worldview and has existed in many cultures throughout the world. It isn’t just the Christian Puritans who believe in witches. Only our modern conception of witches comes from the Christians.
“I speak to you as a Satanist, an individual who embraces her pariah status and actively challenges arbitrary authority in defense of personal sovereignty. To The Satanic Temple, Satan is a symbol of defiance, independence, wisdom and self-empowerment, and serves as an affirmation of natural existence.“
A fine explanation of your values, and personally I’m sure I share your values in a way, but they don’t mean much in relation to the film, which is what you’re discussing.
Also, I don’t know that you are a pariah. Maybe you are in a more conservative community, but the mainstream media doesn’t reserve much condemnation for you or your organization as far as I have seen from them.
“As Satanists, we are ever mindful of the plight of women and outsiders throughout history who suffered under the hammer of theocracy and yet fought to empower themselves. This film provides context to a period of American history that is too often fetishized by those seeking to wield this hammer once again.“
Who now? Most of the time I see the historical witch craze being fetishized not by those evil Christian conservatives wishing to wield “the hammer of theocracy” again, but rather by filmmakers for the purpose of entertainment. Believe me, I’ve seen my fair share of witchcraft-themed horror movies from the good old days, and I’m probably going to see more in my lifetime.
Also, I would believe the point of theocracy were it not for the fact that in the film, the only structure we deal with is a sole family unit in the middle of nowhere. The real theocracy? They were banished from it, apparently for reasons which suggest religious disagreement or non-conformity – at least that’s what I infer from the father’s talk of not being judged by “false Christians”.
The point of empowerment I think is mostly subjective. You could argue that the girl named Thomasin may have sought empowerment as a witch – she sort of reveals this herself after the death of her brother Caleb. But what about the other witches? They don’t seem to be struggling against anything. They are mostly just murdering people, and livestock. And what about the infant twins, Jonas and Mercy, who claim to communicate with Black Phillip and are later revealed to have made a covenant with him. What do those mere infants wish to gain?
“While the patriarchy makes witches of only the most socially vulnerable members of society, Eggers’ film refuses to construct a victim narrative. Instead it features a declaration of feminine independence that both provokes puritanical America and inspires a tradition of spiritual transgression. We are empowered by the narrative of The Witch: a story of pathological pride, old-world religious paradigms, and an outsider who grabs persecution by the horns. Efforts to oppress and demonize the heretic prove to be a path to destruction. The witch does not burn but rises up in the night.“
The patriarchy? I can only assume we’re talking about the historical patriarchal family unit depicted in the film, because that is the only patriarchy depicted in the film itself. At least I hope anyway. You’re either referring to some kind of historical patriarchy, or the modern feminist myth of the patriarchy. If it’s the latter, just stop. Please. Because then you’d also be viewing this from a feminist lens – which is dumb. But you are right about the fact that there isn’t really a victim narrative going on here, or at least not one that I managed to see anyway.
“Puritanical America” – there we go again – has not been provoked. Search Google for the Christian reaction to the film, and you find no news stories about Christian outrage surrounding the film. At all. I get Christians on Christian websites discussing the film, and a “theological” review of the film, but no evidence for “puritanical Christian America” being provoked. Also, what outsider? If you mean the fat old witch who sometimes appears, then she isn’t being persecuted. She’s eviscerating a goat, and one of the pilgrim father William’s children is almost blamed for it. If you mean the other witch, she curses the boy Caleb, causing his eventual death. If you mean Thomasin, then she’s not an outsider. She’s oldest daughter in that Puritan family. And what about the toddlers, Jonas and Mercy, who made the covenant with Satan (Black Phillip)? Again, it’s not clear what they, mere infants, were trying to gain. It is worth noting that Thomasin does eventually embrace the role of the witch in full and make her own covenant with Satan – after Thomasin kills her own mother, who blames her for Black Phillip goring her father, and after witches kill two of her brothers. Most of the time the witches, as I said before, kill people and livestock – either directly or through some kind of curse – and it’s not known why. I have to wonder what kind of role models you see in this film, since you are so intent on finding role models for your values.
Also, the witches are never burned. Come to think of it, nothing bad ever really happens to any of the witches except Thomasin being boarded in the shed with her infant siblings and her almost getting killed by her mother, and that was after her father died and her mother…I really shouldn’t need to repeat myself here.
“The Witch is not only a powerful cinematic experience, but also an impressive presentation of Satanic insight that will inform contemporary discussion of religious experience. Yet, The Witch is more than a film; it is a transformative Satanic experience that, in its call to arms, becomes an act of spiritual sabotage and liberation from the oppressive traditions of ourforefathers.”
What do you call it when one of the witches kills a baby, an innocent baby boy, and grinds him up to make magical ointment for her body? Or when the boy Caleb is cursed by a witch, which leads to his death? Is that necessarily reflect of your Satanic values at all, given Anton LaVey – the father of modern Satanism – made it explicitly clear that killing children was unethical and given that you yourself are surely against the idea of killing children for what I would think you might deem as superstitious reasons? Isn’t Satanism generally against killing children? And if it is, I would have a long hard think of how witches killing children is conducive to a Satanic revolution. Personally I think it looks like you’re the one’s who are imprinting Satanism – or at least your particular brand of it – onto the film by viewing it with your own ideological lens.
Honestly, there’s a profound lack of self-awareness in just the last part of that paragraph alone. I am of the impression that if a colonial-era Puritan were to travel forward in time to see the America of today, he/she would be aghast at how permissive and liberal it has become compared to the colonial society of his/her day. Yet you, Mrs Blackmore, act as though this is not the case. You write this statement as though adultery is still punished with having an A compulsorily printed on the back of your garments. You write it as though the accusation of witchcraft will still get you burned at the stake. And needless to say, you aren’t thrown in jail for your religious beliefs, or worse as would be the case in most of the Middle East. Hell I’m not even sure there was a free market, at least in the modern sense, in the Puritan era. In fact, your freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution of the United States. Pretty much all the oppressive traditions of your forefathers are gone, the old-world religious paradigms are either dying out or being forced to adapt. The only places on Earth I can think of where this isn’t the case is most of the Middle East and much of Africa, as well as certain insular Islamic communities in Europe and the UK. You have to admit, our modern way of life, even the modern Christian way of life, is alien to the Puritan Christian worldview, and was made possible long after their time by men who harbored the ideals of classical liberalism, secular government and the freedom they provide in their hearts, not the religious paradigm of the Puritans. So what are you fighting against exactly? Well from what I’ve seen of The Satanic Temple’s activism, you are opposing what you see as the cultural influence of Christianity (in some cases legitimately problematic but in other cases they really aren’t that big a deal – such as nativity scenes) as well as fighting off the last stubborn remnants of the Christian right, but that’s it. That’s why you won’t question Islam despite it being the far more threatening religious force, not to mention way worse than the Christian fundamentalists considering what the Middle East is like under Islamic theocratic rule. It’s also why you talk of the persecution of thought and reason in the next paragraph yet you don’t bat an eye when such a thing is actually happening in universities across America and it’s in the name of Marxism instead of religion, and that also stands to do far more harm to society than Christianity in the long run.
“It is time to awaken. As we stand at the crossroads of history, let us confront the blind and self-righteous who persecute thought and reason. Let us rise up in celebration of our Satanic nature and embrace the embodiment of the witch. This is a new American era. Join us.“
Yes, let us confront the blind and self-righteous who persecute thought and reason by attaching a movie to our cause. But, as we’ve established, only when it’s the Christians. Because fuck Christians.
Well there you have it. The “Satanic revolution” is on, apparently. Can’t wait for the next campaign they have planned. I’m sure it’s going to be pushing for Christians to pay reparations for the descendants of witches who were burned in Salem.
I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t address claims made in the video released by Jex Blackmore to promote The Witch and her “Satanic revolution”, which was actually the first thing I saw before I got to see The Witch.
“We live in a Judeo-Christian society, so concepts and embodiments of evil and embodiments of good are part of the imagination of Americans.“
No you don’t. Or at least, your society isn’t actually structured around Christian teachings and Biblical law. One might argue that America has a somewhat Christian culture, and it is true that a lot of Americans are Christians – about 70% in fact unless I’m mistaken. But your culture isn’t particularly religious, and is only somewhat influenced by Christianity, and in terms of the way your country is ordered and structured, you don’t live in a Judeo-Christian country at all. You live in what is by and large a secular country. If, say, the Ten Commandments were actually the basis of American law, your freedom of religion would simply not exist, because remember that the first two of these commandments stress that you are allowed only to worship Jehovah and are forbidden to worship any other gods. And that’s not getting into all sorts of other laws and rules found in the Bible that might be counter to the foundations of a liberal democracy. Not to mention, much of the Founding Fathers were actually Deists, some were atheists, and they generally felt that religion and faith in general were a negative influence. So in other words, when they wrote about the rights endowed in Man by “their creator”, they’re not talking about Jehovah. They were probably talking about Nature’s God – the God that Deists believe is determined by reason and observation of the natural world instead of religious faith and revelation. The only reason people get off claiming this is a Christian country is because of communist Russia being atheistic, and that was used as justification to adopt “In God We Trust” as the motto and the addition of “One Nation Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. None of that was part of American culture until the 1950’s. Christianity was used to assert just how different American society was from the “godless” Russians, possibly because Christianity was popular among Americans and organized religion was big at the time, or because some idiot thought the Founding Fathers were actually talking about the Christian God.
Also, those embodiments of good and evil that influence the imaginations of Americans are actually older than Christianity. In fact, some would argue that those embodiments are somewhat borrowed, even plagiarized to a certain degree, from other religions. So needless to say, they have been in all sorts of cultures, not just America’s, for an extremely long time.
“The witch was kind of the handmaiden of Satan, it took a life of its own because it’s it’s really the manifestation of evil in the female form.“
From the Christian folkloric point of view, this is actually true. I mean, for instance, the infamous Malleus Maleficuram’s ideas seemed to fuel a lot of the witch craze in Europe, and one of its central claims is that “all witchcraft comes from a carnal lust, which is in women insatiable”. What you’ve said is also still true today in the Middle East and in Africa, where people are still accused of being witches and sometimes killed over it. Saudi Arabia actually has an anti-witchcraft unit in its religious police. Go figure.
“The fear of witches and of influence of the Devil came from Europe and hundreds of years of perpetuating this mythology about satanic influence.“
Well actually, if you think about it, it comes from the Bible. It goes as far back as the Old Testament, which is based on the Tanakh (otherwise known as the Hebrew Bible), which itself is a collection of texts from Jewish faith. So this tradition goes as far back as Judaism, which started in what is now Israel. Not to mention, the mere idea of influence from a devil is originally Zoroastrian (hello, Angra Mainyu anyone?), and Zoroastrianism came out of what is now Iran. So yeah, in a way, this actually dates back to the Middle East and has been around for several thousand years, not hundreds of years. But the particular European belief regarding witchcraft, I suppose, may have taken a life of its own and it does influence a lot of our cultural perceptions regarding witchcraft.
“The influence of Satan and satanic influence on women and on colonies is what compelled the religious structure together and people suffered greatly as a result of it.“
Don’t you mean “kept the religious structure together”?
But yes, there was a lot of suffering under the rigid religious structures. At least in Puritan America. This was true in Europe as well, but the general idea of the medieval era being referred to as the “Dark Ages” is also one that is questioned.
“The witch idea deserves more consideration because of the history and evolution in American thought of the witch being dangerous. It is my hope that we can encourage people to see this film and they undergo a transformation and inspire a Satanic experience.“
OK, from there it is clear that Jex Blackmore hopes that people will have a “Satanic experience” and, as was already established, this is intended to be the basis for a “Satanic revolution”. She and The Satanic Temple are very clearly co-opting the film to suit their goals. Not much more needs to be said.
So after all that, I’d like to conclude this post by saying this: I do actually encourage you to go see The Witch, not because of The Satanic Temple but because it is, on its own, a good film. But I would also like to say that I am actually disappointed with The Satanic Temple at this point. They say this film is a “Satanic experience”, but I get the feeling this is based on subjective judgement of the people in The Satanic Temple. And based on that, they want to co-opt the film for their own ideological goals. Since The Satanic Temple are obviously very progressive politically (as is evidenced by a combination their overall ideals, the sentiments of its spokesperson Lucien Greaves, the identity politics virtue-signalling regarding Muslims, their indifference towards any religion besides Chrisitanity on the basis of religious “privilege” – a word which by itself should raise flags in any mind that isn’t completely destroyed by social justice – and the means by which they have sought the achievement of their goals), it strikes me as yet another instance of progressives trying to co-opt art, entertainment and popular culture for their own ideological agenda.
It’s not hard to imagine how deeply against such an idea I am, because I have seen this before. With the new Ghostbusters, we basically had a remake that came across as a progressive hijacking of an established franchise, and everyone who criticized this was deemed as a “misogynist”. We see all kinds of comic book related entertainment such as Captain America, Iron Man, Spider Man and others having established characters altered for the sake of media representation of certain races, genders or sexualities rather than either creating new characters or even simply utilizing female, LGBT and non-white comic book characters that already exist. You have all sorts of articles from various magazines and news sites about how everything under the sun can be feminist (the most recent I can think of is how Barack Obama being a dad somehow makes him a feminist), which just obviously screams of an ideology that exists to co-opt everything else. Not to mention, the entire GamerGate movement was partially a reaction to the continuing encroachment of ideologically motivated individuals taking a role in games design and video game criticism (mainly through calling everything sexist and racist and so forth for no good reason), as well as ideologically motivated individuals perverting the cause of journalism, even to the point where objectivity is seen as a worthless thing to strive for, and then the gaming press decided it didn’t have to cater to an audience that rejected their agenda. Believe me, I know progressive co-opting of art, entertainment and culture when I see it, and I don’t like it – not a goddamn bit!
So no, I as a Satanist, do not wish to part of any revolution The Satanic Temple wants to start, because I view them as progressive Satanists that co-opt what they can for an ideological agenda. They may do good things, and they may well be Satanists rather than simply non-Satanists using Satanism to troll Christians, or they may simply be non-Satanic progressives who are using Satanism as part of their own activism. At any rate, if I do want a Satanic revolution, it will not be the progressive Satanic revolution that The Satanic Temple are pushing for. I would also like to take this opportunity to extend a warning to any of my fellow Satanists who aren’t TST members (I could extend this to Luciferians): don’t get ideological with your beliefs. Don’t go and use your beliefs as a vehicle for ideological activism. People like The Satanic Temple are the result.
Once again, go and see The Witch, and be sure to remove any ideological lens you have before doing so!
Link to Jex Blackmore’s letter (where you will also find the video): http://satanic-revolution.com/