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What the Devil?

Photo credit: Genessa Gutzait

While watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, I’m reminded of the blatant misappropriation of pagan culture. I wasn’t surprised when one of the character’s pronounced Samhain “sam-hayn” rather than “sow-in.” All it would take is to read the first sentence of the holiday’s Wikipedia page to know that the pronunciation was incorrect.

Samhain, for those that don’t know, is the Gaelic holiday from which we derive the modern day Halloween. The holiday was Christianized by pairing this new year harvest festival with the Christian holiday All Saints’ Day or All Hallows’ Day. All Hallows’ Eve was traditionally celebrated as the end of the harvest season past which we enter into the darker half of the year.

More distressing, however, is the continual conflation of witchcraft and paganism with devil worship. Although a small minority of witches do, in fact, worship Satan, this is a belief perpetuated since the Christianization of the Roman Empire in which the indigenous religions and deities of pre-Christian Europe were literally demonized.

Take, for instance, the popular image of the devil. This cloven hoofed image of a satyr draws primarily from Greek and German belief where the satyr was held up as a guardian of the natural world.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina continues this demonetization by having their witches worship Satan. They further this by depicting Satan as a satyr. For a show that’s interested in sympathizing with witches, it shows little concern for the beliefs of those who actually practice witchcraft and paganism.

I can remember sitting on the light rail this spring next to a Wiccan woman when a Christian lady behind her began screaming, “Devil worshiper,” at the top of her lungs. No doubt these poor depictions of pagans contributed to her fear and anger.

Despite the fact that Sabrina rejects Satan’s influence, the insinuation is enough to continue the perpetuation of these assumptions.

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