July 23, 2008

Goddess Stabs Wiccan, or Hopping on the Witchcraft Bandwagon

Since Catholics have recently been admonishing PZ Myers that he doesn't spend enough time lampooning the silliness of beliefs other than their own, I felt like I should be "fair and balanced" today myself. Why spend all of my time jabbing a finger in the eye of crazy Christian fundamentalists when there's fun to be had with those who wave athames in darkened cemeteries, too?

From Lebanon, Indiana comes the tale of Wiccan spell-caster Katherine Gunther who, in her attempt to invoke the Goddess to thank her for recent good luck — in a cemetery, since the dead are the luckiest people of all, apparently — managed to ram a three foot sword through her foot. And you thought all those tripedal rabbits whose missing appendages dangle from keychains had it bad!

Woman accidentally stabs herself in cemetery ritual
By Robert Annis

A Boone County woman accidentally stabbed herself in the foot with a 36-inch sword used in a Wiccan ceremony in a Lebanon cemetery, police said.

According to a Lebanon Police Department news release, Katherine Gunther, 36, was performing a Wiccan "ceremony of thanks" in Oak Hill Cemetery around 12:15 a.m. Saturday when she ran the blade through her left foot. She said in an interview Monday that she'd had a run of good luck recently and wanted to give thanks with the rite.

Gunther said she was aiming to put a sword in the ground when it accidentally hit her foot.

"It wasn't the first time I performed the ritual, but it was the first time I put a sword through my foot," she said...
There are a lot of things about this that strike me as intensely silly. The first, and not the least, is the notion that some supernatural entity is on one's side and so takes time away from her busy schedule in order to bend probability in one's favor. What is "luck" in the first place but a confirmation bias that comes into being after the fact of some outcome?

The second is the idea of a ritual involving big knives and graveyards in conjunction with those outcomes. What does a field beneath which the dead have been deposited have to do with things working out in one's favor? By what mechanism are these things connected, other than that of sheer imagination? By and large, dead people aren't lucky. I'm sure at least of a few of those in the cemetery into which the Wiccan priestess and her friends trespassed died due to accidents or illnesses at a young age. It seems to me that the concept "luck" is better represented by people who are still alive than by those who have shuffled off this mortal coil.

And the sword? How does sticking a sword into a grave have anything to do with luck or gratitude? Were someone to wave a large knife at me, the last thing that I would think was that they were attempting to thank me for something. "Thank you so much for your help when I was moving houses! Here, let me sever your left ear as a token of my gratitude." Nah, doesn't parse.

What really puzzles me, though, is that True Believers who hear about this won't change their own views or behavior because of it. The Goddess might have been responsible for Gunther's good luck, at least according to Gunther, but she wasn't responsible for sticking a large blade through Gunther's foot. That was just luck, not Goddess-bent outcome.

It's all crackers and swords these days. I miss the Enlightenment...

(Quick note here: What I find funny isn't that someone got hurt, but the circumstances under which this incident occurred. No matter what someone's beliefs might be, I don't sit about hoping that they'll be injured.)

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