Alex Mar’s Witches of America is Not What it Seems

Rhyd Wildermuth wrote a scathing review of Alex Mar’s new book, Witches of America, apparently an exploitative bit of shallow tourist-journalism that could not have happened if Mar had not deceived her sources about her intent.

This is a pity. I liked American Mystic, Mar’s documentary film on the same general topic. I liked the thought that our weird little subculture might be on the verge of being better understood and tolerated by the mainstream, appreciated to some small extent for what we appreciate about ourselves.

This is really disheartening.

When I first started hearing about this, it was incredibly frustrating, because I was hearing about something vague but awful that had happened to people I know but who were never identified. Now I know, I understand why folks didn’t want to talk about it. This is betrayal and defamation, and it has and will continue to cause trouble within our community and between the community and the larger world.

Long story short: Documentarian enters several Pagan communities, possibly with sincerity at first, then writes a tell-all book filtering the lives of her subjects uncritically through her own, dismissive biases.

I’m not claiming we’re perfect–Gods know we have our share of malcontents and unsavory types in the modern Pagan community. That most readers of this book will have as their only idea of who we are from this writer, though, is unhappy-making.

I can’t blame the people who talked to Mar. While this is an example of why we have to be careful about who we talk to and who we let into our lives, it is also an example of the fact that nobody’s bullshit detector is perfect, or possibly that someone may enter in good faith and later turn on us.

To indulge in my Doctor Who fandom for a moment…

“But he had such an honest face!” -Romana
“The best liars often do.” -The Doctor

About Ashley Sarver

Ashley Sarver is a queer, nonbinary trans femme, polytheist, gamer, and disability caregiver living in the San Francisco Bay Area. View all posts by Ashley Sarver

5 responses to “Alex Mar’s Witches of America is Not What it Seems

  • EmberVoices

    Oh how heartbreaking 😦


  • moriquendi

    It’s heartbreaking, yes. It was also utterly predictable and entirely preventable. Sadly, the anguished cries of ‘well, what did you expect?’ from those who saw this coming are being dismissed as mean-spirited wound-salting. Even more sadly, the consequences and long-term effects will affect us all, regardless of whose actions brought them down on us.


    • Lon Sarver

      I’m less concerned with asking the people who participated what they were thinking or what they expected–I’ve done the media thing, been the public face of my local group. I know what they thought. The few of them I know personally are neither stupid nor foolish; they just got taken in, as happens sometimes. If they’ve any lessons to learn, they’ll learn them without my help.

      No, I’m more concerned that, being unable to effectively reach Ms. Mar or her publisher, the folks most angry about this (other than the participants themselves) will turn their anger on the people mentioned in the book. As a community, we really don’t need to be eating our own, no matter how good at it we may be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • moriquendi

        I also know a few of the participants, and I don’t suspect them of malice, nor do I think they’re stupid. I think they were short-sighted and taken in by a glamour, and that they damned well ought to have known better. That’s neither here nor there, though. What aggrieves me, at the moment, is that there’ve been voices for some time now saying that the public eye is the hands-down LAST place that witchcraft belongs, for this exact reason, and that perspective has been derided and shouted down. There’s no pleasure in being proven right in this, not even the dubious pleasure of schadenfreude.

        Perhaps I’m not looking in the right parts of the Internet, but I haven’t seen anyone advocating eating any of the participants. I’ve seen a lot of anger at them, but to be fair, I think they earned that anger. The extent to which they’re willing to be accountable for their errors in judgment will, I think, go a long way towards determining how they’re received by their sibs and kin in the days to come.


      • Lon Sarver

        Well, we’re going to have somewhat different perspectives on this, as we disagree about how secret witchcraft should be. But that’s another discussion.

        We probably are looking at different places on the internet, as I’ve seen little anger towards the folks Mar talked to.

        When I referred to “eating our own,” I was talking about the possibility of this touching off another round of witch wars. We just had one of those, with the Feri schism.

        I find such conflicts produce more problems than they solve, and fracture an already tiny community. I’d rather avoid it.

        Liked by 1 person

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