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The Magic Fast

alec vanderboom

Netflix mailed us “The Chronicles of Narnia” this weekend. Something about watching it with my wide-eyed pre-school set has got me thinking about imposing a stricter fast from all things magic.

As I kid, I grew up surrounded by images of witches. There was the good witch Glenda in the Wizard of Oz. The funny housewife in “Bewitched.” The evil stepmother in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Growing up witches seemed like a harmless Halloween costume or a relic from medieval folk tales.

Then something happened over the past 15 years. Witches became Wiccans.--A true false religion that started gobbling up my peers.

In college, I remember sitting down with my Protestant Chaplin for a discussion about how to reach out to students of different faith. There were discussion about inter-faith dialogue with Jews, Muslims and Hindis. Then he said “What about the pagans? I heard there was a new ritual about dancing around the oak tree on the winter solstices. They had a big crowd. Those poor kids have no faculty advisor on campus, perhaps we can help them.”

“NOT THE PAGANS,” I responded. I didn’t really have a full explanation at that point. My baby-boomer Chaplin thought I was being unnecessarily narrow-minded. I couldn’t articulate my feelings well on that day. It just seem so clear to me on a gut level that believing magic was real was not a faith.

Then came graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin. There I was shocked to rub shoulders with actual Wiccans. I thought witches and warlocks had disappeared soon after the Salem Witch Trials. But here were twenty-something peers, fed up with the oppression of the patriarchy of Christianity. The girls bought cauldrons and practiced spells for more money and better roommates. The boys, who hoped the date the pretty girls, bought hexagon pendants and magic wands.

Meanwhile, countless friends have told me about the “amazing” experiences with accurate palm-readers in New Orleans and “insightful” daily horoscopes. There’s the “magic” of the secrete tooted on Oprah. And my was I shocked to see cartoon after cartoon of happy kid witches on the Saturday morning cartoons after my oldest kid hit age three. Even worse, Catholic kids in our local newspaper were quoted as saying that seeing the Pope "felt like magic!"

The one thing I have gleaned from my reading of the Old Testament is that God is not down with sorcery. Believing that you can reduce control of the universe to your own personal "whim", is the opposite of embracing the humility to true all powerful God, Creator of Heaven and Earth. Even the murder of your brother does not profane the mystery of faith as much as one small "money quick" spell.

Once I started flipping over the happy “animal year” chart at our local Chinese Restaurant, which by the way happens to have the BEST garlic dishes and is a favorite of the Bush family, I started finding “magic” everywhere.

When my kid showed up for Valentines Days at her C.C.D. class, there was a giant cupid over her door. “Why is there a naked Guardian angel on my door?” she innocently asked. That prompted a huge discussion that St. Valentine was real, and was martyred by the Romans who believe such “fake” gods as cupid were real instead of Christ. Jon and I started scratching our heads. Why had we never noticed how awful it was to promote fake Roman deities on the feast day of the Holy Saint martyred for his beliefs in the sanctity of marriage before?

Then came St. Patrick’s Day. Now giant leprechaun’s and pots of gold appeared outside the Catholic School Classroom. “We can like those men in funny hats, right Mom?” Hannah said. That prompted a chat that St. Patrick was real and that he came to help those Irish believe in the Trinity (yeah shamrocks) over the foolish fairies.

My husband and I are in a difficult role as converts. Half the in-laws don’t believe in “the Jesus bread” as Hannah delicately puts it. The other half think that going to Sunday Mass is a bunch of hooey since you can just as happily talk to God among the Trees. We get a lot of questions about “what is your Halloween costume this year?” among the grandparents and nil about “How are you coming on learning your rosary?” I admit this unique situation has created a type of bunker mentality between my husband and I in terms of Holiday traditions.

Still, I’ve gone on an all out war against “magic” in my house. Gone are the “lucky charms.” Saying “I’m blessed” has replaced saying “I’m lucky.”

Now, I’m considering extended the blanket “no wiccan cartoons” ban to no “witch movies’ in general. Even with such Christian classics as “the Chronicles of Narnia.”

Here’s my reasoning. I think that close to Christianity, yet still a myth is even more dangerous that “total myth” such as Harry Potter. The Christian parallels in this story are striking, but still “wrong.” Aslan is supposed to be a Christ figure, yet here is talking about his “resurrection” in terms of “the deep magic”. For all his fame among Catholic circles, C.S. Lewis is not a Roman Catholic. He was an Anglican. One in our faith in baptism, but not one in the sense of the Eucharist, and I'd argue not a full understanding of Jesus in his divinity or as his founding of one church on the rock of Saint Peter. Why do I want to confuse my five year old's hand on this issue and let her think that "witches" are nothing more than harmless fairy tales?

Has anyone else come up with clear rules on this difficult, modern issue?