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Local Wiccans Disavow Christine O'Donnell at Pagan Pride Day

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There was no Satanic altar. There was no blood. There was no animal sacrifice. And as far as I could tell from talking to people at the Pagan Pride Day Celebration Picnic, held this weekend at the at Unitarian Universalist Church in Fort Lauderdale, there was nobody who believed anything Christine O'Donnell, the Delaware Republican candidate for Senate, had to say about "witchcraft."

Last week, Bill Maher showed decade-old footage of O'Donnell, a Tea Party favorite, appearing on the show Politically Incorrect, claiming that she "dabbled into witchcraft" but "never joined a coven." She said she once had a date on a "Satanic altar," replete with blood and "stuff like that."

Pagan Pride Day attendees were adamant that O'Donnell had no idea what she was talking about.

Though O'Donnell's old statements have received a lot of attention, the credibility of her remarks has received almost no serious examination.

Clearly whatever O'Donnell believed herself to be was not a witch by its modern "eco-feminist" or "neopagan" definitions. Any mention of the Christian devil, or Satan, immediately dissociates O'Donnell's brand of "witchcraft" from modern Wicca -- Wiccans/witches do not believe in the Christian devil, let alone construct altars to him.

Is she lying about her history? In the clip, O'Donnell specifically says, "I'm not making this stuff up." And, in another appearance on the same show, O'Donnell made clear her feelings on lying: She said if she were housing Jews in Nazi Germany during World War II and Hitler asked her about it, she would tell the micromustached dictator the truth.

But if they are true, her experiences were nothing like those of the people at the Unitarian church Saturday afternoon.

There was a canned food drive, a bake sale, several vendors selling metal jewelry depicting Wiccan images, and ironic T-shirts. There were families picnicking and a band playing covers of the UK group Inkubus Sukkubus. There were "psychic" readings and henna tattoos and face-painting and storytelling for the kids. A few women walked barefoot in the nearby labyrinth.

Most people didn't want to spoil the good mood by discussing O'Donnell. One woman, though, was outspoken on the topic.

"I think that she's an idiot," said a woman in her mid-20s wearing a long, floral-print skirt. "This is sad for America: If [O'Donnell] practiced witchcraft as an alternate religion, who cares? Why are we so obsessed with other peoples' personal beliefs anyway?"

She went on: "It seems to me that O'Donnell perhaps 'dabbled' in Satanism, and not witchcraft at all, or else something concocted by a lonely and unstable teenager in order to feel powerful. I don't believe Christine O'Donnell is or was a witch -- perhaps just something that rhymes with it."

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Michael J. Mooney

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