It was all a mistake: They really ARE the voice of the (post)modern witch hunt

August 31, 2018

Late last week, heads exploded when the online Pagan news journal, The Wild Hunt, posted an article where lesbian feminist Witches were quoted extensively on how they viewed their women-only witchy group, The Pussy Church of Modern Witchcraft. The way it’s usually done at The Wild Hunt is to summarize and round up links to blogs denouncing the priestesses for determining their own boundaries, without interviewing any of the priestesses for their side of the issue, and certainly without fact checking any accusations linked. It’s called “being inclusive.”

Turns out, it was all a mistake. Those who feel entitled to dictate the religious boundaries women may set and how they may describe those boundaries have asserted themselves and The Wild Hunt has apologized. The author, Terence P. Ward, has resigned as staff writer for The Wild Hunt, thus far without a public statement.

Many people on social media condemned The Wild Hunt’s retraction of the article as “cowardice.” I think this is unfair. I used to follow this news site regularly, and I believe the misogynistic attitudes of those at The Wild Hunt are sincerely held. It seems to be editorial policy, in deference to “feelings,” to proscribe the use of any word or phrase (even in a quote) that describes the class of people greeted with the words “It’s a girl!” when they are born. Referring to womyn-born-womyn, biological women, genetic women, etc. is verboten, thus depriving the conversation of any language that could be used to fairly discuss divergent women’s views. This is where Ward apparently came aground.

The international publicity (most of it negative) that the Pussy Church has received over the past few weeks is a matter that deserves reflection. Usually a church that applies for tax-exempt status is not a newsworthy item even in the Pagan communities, except perhaps locally or within a tradition. When the article in Forbes brought attention to the Pussy Church based on the author’s admiration for the thoroughness of the paperwork, the issue immediately became a hot-button one of transgender inclusion. Virtually anyone who goes public with anything conflicting with the dominant transgender ideology can expect some heavy backlash. (See, for example, Terence P. Ward.) It should be noted, however, that there are some women who cannot avoid conflict with transactivists because their words and actions are continually placed under a microscope and evaluated critically against transactivist postitions. These women who are subjected to ongoing political purity tests are radical feminists, women in born-women-only traditions such as Dianic Witchcraft, and lesbians. The Pussy Church of Modern Witchcraft hit the trifecta, thus setting off a wild round of condemnation. In the context of this, an article on a well-read Pagan site allowing leaders of the Pussy Church to express their views in their own words should have been welcome, but apparently this was too “controversial.”

Targeting groups for close scrutiny against purity tests, along with accompanying persecution, is, by the way, the very definition of a witch hunt. In the Middle Ages it was old women who were targeted; in the McCarthy era it was people in the arts. Today, if you have not received reprisals for doing or saying anything conflicting with transactivist beliefs, you are probably not a radical feminist, a Dianic Witch, or a lesbian.

One thing that surprised me in doing research for this article is the number of Pagan blogs still in operation that have scrubbed their sites of posts condemning Dianic Witches. It really does look like the tide is, slowly, beginning to turn. Who knows, maybe in the near future even The Wild Hunt will decide it’s time to change history, scrub their site of their sins, and pretend none of this ever happened.