Witch’s brew

The Religious Hatred Bill is up for the vote in parliament tonight, and if it is passed the Black Sheep Brewery could be the first to get its collar felt as a result.

According the the National Secular Society’s weekly Newsline a self-styled witch by the name of Karla Korkodolis sent the brewery a letter reading:

I found out today about your beer called ‘Holy Grail’, and I need to point something out. I understand that perhaps you were attempting some Monty Python humour with your line, ‘Tempered over Burning Witches’, but that is as crass sounding as saying your beer was tempered over Burning Jews. Can you imagine the uproar if you had printed that? Well, Wiccans and witches are alive and well, and we are unhappy that our Holocaust, with thousands if not millions of innocent women and men burned at the stake, should be the butt of jokes. Your label is in very poor taste, and offensive to me as well as my fellow witches. Please note that Wicca is a recognized religion, and religious intolerance is something that civilized humans are attempting to wipe out. Please remove the offensive line from your beer labels, and issue an apology.

The fact that the pointy-hatted broom jockey copied the letter to the NSS does cause a blip on the spoof-dar, but the possibility of the law being used this way is real. Home Office minister Paul Goggins has made it clear that Wiccans are included under the proposed legislation.

(Tipped from The New Humanist)


22 Responses to “Witch’s brew”

  1. Joe says:

    Just your typical pagan self-righteous arse, really. Killing “millions” of men and women at the time of the witch mania would have involved wiping out something in the region of 5% of THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF THE CONTINENT, and this in a pre-industrial society with no mass transit…

  2. Andy A says:

    For the record, your average Wiccan may believe in some rather weird things, but I’d rather have a pint or two with a Wiccan than a right-wing, fundie Christian or an insh’alah Muslim any day. At least they have a respect for life and nature and the environment, and I think I’m right in saying not all of them believe in actual magic.

  3. G. Tingey says:

    Erm a v. large number of people were (and still are being) murdered by christians and muslims for “witchcraft”.

    The Wiccans’ letter points out the insanity of the bill.
    It is to be hoped, in a way, that we do get some silly prosecutions, so that the whole thing implodes – or is that a really bad idea?

  4. tom p says:

    Andy A – I don’t think that many devout muslims would want to have a pint or two with you (or with anyone for that matter).

    I’ve been thinking quite a lot about this bill, and it could be mischeviously used to do quite a bit of good.
    For a start, wicca could prosecute (and hopefully drive out of business) the African churches springing up all over London, such as the UCKG, the one where Victoria Climbié’s aunt was a regular. They mix christianity with fear of curses and witches. The crap they spout could easily see them prosecuted under such a law.

  5. Christopher Shell says:

    And a very good thing too, if your description is accurate.
    Ive rarely known a word more loosely used than ‘witchcraft’. I have heard it used in each of the following senses:
    (1) cartoon flying-broom ladies and what they get up to with their cauldrons;
    (2) various pagan/nature-religion practices;
    (3) any kind of cursing;
    (4) any kind of mind-games, mental manipulation or mental control.

    Given (a) these sort of associations and (b) this sort of ambiguity, it’s beyond me why anyone would feel they wanted to own the title ‘witch’ (one of my mates used to be one, and he now feels the same way). Apart from anything else they would spend half their life trying to explain what sort of witch they weren’t. Especially: why choose a title with plenty of dodgy associations when there are plenty of titles available without any such associations? (But then Ive never understood why anyone in their right mind would want to be called ‘queer’ either.)

  6. tom p says:

    or christian, with all the associations of sexual uptightness, religious intolerance (and indeed attempted genocides) and choirboy molestation that christianity has

  7. Christopher Shell says:

    Yes: it is rare to find any Christians not involved in the above three. I’ve certainly never met any. So it’s no surprise that the dictionary definition of ‘Christian’ is based around these three central characteristics, just as the dictionary definitions of ‘queer’ and ‘witch’ are chock-full of positive features.

  8. tom p says:

    would this be a recognised dictionary, or are you using Shell’s Special Dictionary of Invented Definitions again?

  9. Christopher Shell says:

    No, Im just using sarcasm the lowest form of wit. How could I?!

  10. Scaryduck says:

    Any road up, if she was a proper witch, she could just turn the brewery people into newts or something, instead of having to resort to ridiculous laws.

    Actually, this entire comment – insinuating that witches enjoy turning people into amphibians – might actually break Clarke’s proposed legislation. Help!

  11. Pete Swindells says:

    The Bible itself calls for the killing of witches. It’s about time it was banned.

  12. Stuart says:

    I’d have to say the idea of a witch bringing a prosecution sounds like the descendant of the kind of folk myth and hysteria that used to get lonely old ladies with no relatives but useful bits of land burnt in Cromwell’s era!
    Firstly, the growth of interest in witchcraft only dates from the repeal of witchcraft laws in 1953 or so. Secondly, an academic friend once pointed out to me that for years there’s been easy money from a well known trust for research into the history of witchcraft – basically aimed at trying to construct one and place witchcraft on a respectable par with other religions. In spite of this, the research available is patchy, and the best explanation of most of the ‘witch trials’ still seems to be a mix of mass hysteria and opportunism. In practical terms, how do you prove that someone several centuries ago flew on a broomstick or killed cattle?

  13. Christopher Shell says:

    (1)A lot of men got killed in the wars. And/or died younger than women – as they usually do. And/or married younger women – as they usually do – with the result that they predeceased their wives.
    (2) This produced a lot of widows.
    (3) Widows were proverbially poor, for obvious reasons. They therefore lived in rickety houses and suffered the appropriate economic tensions and stresses (together with regrets about what might have been – if they were spinsters) – would it be any surprise if they became ratty.
    (4) Many women can’t bear not to talk; in addition to which, they can feel such loneliness very deeply. Result: they get a cat.
    (5) They are prime candidates to be the but of teasing, pilfering, practical jokes, being unable to fight back, and often being (as have-nots) figures of fun.
    (6) Is it any surprise, then, if the words ‘curse you!’ might occasionally drop from their lips, directed at unfeeling yobs who have no conception of what they have been through?
    (7) In a certain mentality/society, the connection between ‘curse you!’ and ‘she’s a witch’ is easily made. With tragic consequences.

  14. tom p says:

    Shell he say: “Many women can’t bear not to talk”
    So you’re not only a homophobic bigot, but also a sexist pig too. Got any mother-in-law jokes you’d like to share with us?

  15. Christopher Shell says:

    Gulp! You’re saying that only a few women like to talk? As the (rather demeaning – sorry) cliche goes: What planet have you been living on?
    Probably Planet Earth, where one is supposed to say what is politically correct, and pay no attention to what is actually true or trifles like that.

  16. tom p says:

    Humans like to talk Christopher, we’re social animals.
    To imply that women are particularly blabber-mouthed is to apply a derogatory characteristic to a group based on their gender. Not only this, but a characteristic that is just as prevalent in the opposite gender (many men also cannot bear not to talk, or, in your case, to type). Your statement was clearly sexist.

  17. Christopher Shell says:

    ??? Why can’t the same be true of men? Have I ever denied it? (Innocent look.)
    That said, the chances of the two genders being precisely equally garrulous are so small as to be nonexistent.

    Let’s look at sexism for a minute:
    (1) To say ‘men are on average more garrulous than women [or vice-versa]‘ with statistical evidence would not be sexist, merely accurate;
    (2) To say ‘women are on average more garrulous than men [or vice-versa] in my personal experience’ would not be sexist, merely a testimony of experience.
    (3) On the other hand, to say ‘Both genders are equally garrulous’ would be extremely likely to be inaccurate.
    It follows that any invocation of sexism on this topic can only come from a stance that values political correctness or what we WANT to be true above actual truth or accuracy. Ideal world, not real world.

  18. tom p says:

    How would you go about measuring garrulousness? with a garrulometer?
    Serously, though, the implications of your statement were simply incorrect. A recent survey by Cingular (a US mobile phone company) found that men use an average of 571 airtime minutes a month compared to 424 for women (a 35% gap). I don’t have time to find the actual survey, but their press release is quoted (without credit) substantially over the internet, simply google for “women talk more than men” without the quotes and the first page is full of this survey.
    Your statement didn’t cite any evidence and the very first thing i looked up with a relevant phrase turned up evidence that directly contradicts the spirit of your statement.
    I was only being mischevious when I accused you of sexism anyway, but I have shown the assumption behind what you said to be demonstrably false.

  19. Christopher Shell says:

    Wow, Tom, that is nonsense from beginning to end!
    FIrst of all, I have never once said that women speak more than men. I only said they speak a lot. Which they do. (So do men.)
    Second, in order to emphasise this point, I deliberately inverted the words ‘women’ and ‘men’ in #17, to show that I was not focussing on either gender in particular.

  20. tom p says:

    All I was doing, christopher, was challenging the underlying assumptions behind your statement, given the cultural context they were made in.
    I thought you were all in favour of that sort of thing…

  21. Christopher Shell says:

    Good! But you have no idea what underlying assumptions did lie behind it. Both of us know what words I said. But only I know the assumptions behind my words, just as only you know the assumptions behind yours.

  22. tom p says:

    I did say given the cultural context, namely that of the stereotype in british culture of the blabbermouthed bint.
    I just thought I’d take the opportunity to have fun derailing your argument and taking it off on a tangent, much as you’ve done on a number of occasions.