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Am I Ready to Hug a Witch?

There are many people who are not comfortable with witches. I don’t mean “Halloween witches” or “witches-as-metaphor,” but real witches who believe in curses, hexes, and jinxes. They are the last of our neighbors we might bring home to dinner. Not so New Copernicans. They are embracing the occult warmly. Michelle Goldberg writes of this phenomena in her op-ed in the New York Times, “Season of the Witch.”

Traditional Christians will tend to respond that the occult is not safe. They prefer their “pagans” to be urban secular academic evolutionary biology atheists. Give me the professor, not the witch. Such attitudes reflect two errors.

First, it abandons the more important cultural front line and second, it fails to appreciate the latent wisdom of witches. New Copernicans know better....

New Copernicans embrace a post-secular ethos—for them the world is haunted and reality has multiple windows to alternative spiritual dimensions. Listen to Dakota Bracciale a 28-year-old owner of Catland, a fashionable occult boutique and metaphysical bookstore in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Bracciale uses the gender-neutral pronouns they and them. Dakota grew up in an evangelical/fundamentalist household, but found the resulting atheism wanting... as do many in their generation. “It left this huge vacuum, and that vacuum had to be filled with something,” Dakota told the New York Times reporter. This openness to an alternative spiritual universe is the essential New Copernican zeitgeist. This is where older traditional Christians need to make friends and develop an open-spirited understanding compassion.

And it will not be easy for religious types who are Dakota’s parents’ age, because our neighbors who have life experiences like Dakota carry a long history of hurt and rejection by boomer Christians. Dakota writes on their Facebook page,

People like me don’t have a long time on this planet, and I’ll be damned if I spend time acquiescing to a patriarchal culture of domination, bigotry, and death.

Fuck your cissexism, heteronormativity, transphobia, racism, sexism, classism, ableism. Fuck your willful ignorance.

And fuck the easy way out. My life can and will mean something, I’ll leave doors, minds, and hearts open for those to come.

My name is Dakota. I’m non-binary, I’m queer, I’m a witch and I exist.

Would Dakota leave the door open for me? Am I ready for neighbor love to Dakota? Can my home become a safe place for them to share a cup of tea, a non-judgmental conversation about spiritual matters? Can I start from an assumption of humility that Dakota may have more spiritual insight into the nature of reality than I do with my Enlightenment-tainted techno-rationalist biased Christian worldview?

Some will see this as evidence of cultural spiritual decline and head for the hills in a sanctimonious Benedictine retreat. What is called for is an active engagement in the spirit of Saint Patrick. If we can’t get to a cup of coffee—probably herb tea—with modern Druids like Dakota, how can we be the face of Jesus to anyone in the coming generation. Dakota, your life does mean something to me. You have forced me to ask the right question: “How can I become safe to a beautiful person like you?” The cultural change needed begins with me.

John Seel is a recovering academic, writer, and cultural analyst. His book, The New Copernicans: Millennials and the Survival of the Church, is available January 16, 2018.

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