The Occult Revival Will Not Be Reported Upon

Several recent news articles have suggested that there is an ongoing occult revival in the U.S.  Maybe there’s an actual occult revival, maybe there isn’t.  But you won’t find out from these headline salesmen because they don’t understand what they’re reporting upon.

Katie J. M. Baker, the author of Newsweek’s article Hexing and Texting, cobbled together a few factoids and some light observations about pop culture trends and used them to draw some very hasty and condescending conclusions about the current state of the occult.  Not only is Baker uneducated on the subject (she doesn’t even know the difference between black magic and a moon ritual),  she doesn’t know she’s uneducated and doesn’t care.  Although she  had access to Pamela Grossman, an expert on the occult, she only gave her one short quote.  The rest of her article was spent making fun of people and events she didn’t take the time to understand or contextualize.

Zach Schonfeld used Baker’s piece as a launching point for a gleeful stomp through all things pop-occult in his article Brooklyn’s Millennials Are Turning Into Witches.  His sarcasm and derision have no bottom.  It’s unfortunate that his reporting skills and knowledge of the subject don’t go half as deep.

My advice to Baker and Schonfeld: when you report on pop culture, call it a pop culture report, not a report on the occult.  If you decide to report on real occult studies, start by doing some introductory research.  Next visit some blogs, like The Fire LizardLetter from Hardscrabble Creek, Freeman’s Reviews, New World Witchery, The Wild Hunt, or any of the thousands of other great blogs that could inform you about actual trends in the occult.  Then interview occult scholars, attend lectures by recognized experts, or go to events like the Pagan Studies Conference or the Occult Humanities Conference (which Pamela Grossman could have told you all about if you had asked, because she organized it).  If you do, take a dictionary.  Real occultists use bigger words than those to which you are accustomed.

And for those interested what the occult really is and what occultists do, here’s my favorite definition, courtesy of André Nataf’s Dictionary of the Occult (Wordsworth Editions, (1994), page 80):

“Occultism holds that humanity is only revealed to itself by transcendence…religious feeling is a necessary part of humanity, with the important provision that this religious feeling is the ‘raw material’ on which the initiate works in order to experience glimpses of the sacred, borne within him and all mankind.  This transmutation of the religious into the sacred is the very object of the occult sciences and, especially of initiation.

And as for an actual occult revival, whether or not we are in the midst of one or not I can’t say.  It sort of feels like it, but I’m not going to pretend as though I’ve done the sociological research required to comment intelligently.  I’ll leave the uninformed speculation and slapdash reporting to Baker, Schonfeld, and others like them.

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