Alas, scenes like these seem to exist mainly in movies and between the pages of books. I've never seen anything like them in 18 years of occult experience, and friends with longer track records than mine seem to have missed them as well.
I once had the illuminating experience of giving a ride to a man who was about to attend his first ritual with our group. When I came to his door and introduced myself as the person his friend had persuaded to offer him transport, his eyes widened. I don't know what he was expecting, but what he got was an ordinary lady in street clothes with a family type Dodge rattling in the driveway. He gathered up a bundle of clothes which looked as though they had been through a number of revels at meetings of the Society for Creative Anachronism and new-looking copies of BOTH _The Satanic Bible_ and _The Spiral Dance_ by Starhawk, and followed me to my car, chattering nervously. On the way to the house where the ritual was to be held, he told me how important he was in the Society for Creative Anachronism; how his powers had been revealed to him in a childhood vision and how successfully he had been warding off a series of psychic attacks by his enemies.
I suppose that I should not have been surprised when he didn't know how to behave during the ritual and constantly had that "what do I do with my hands" look which comes over people who are in totally new situations. However, I was completely shocked when the ritual, which I considered to be beautiful and highly moving (I had written it myself) bored him to tears. He cornered me in the kitchen later while I was loading my plate with the usual sumptuous after-ritual feast (six casseroles, two salads, five desserts and six kinds of chips, washed down with Pepsi and various strange-looking wines). "Are your rituals always like this?" he asked plaintively.
I shrugged. "Sometimes shorter, sometimes, longer, sometimes totally unrestrained."
He brightened. "Totally unrestrained?"
"Yeah. You were lucky today. The High Priest kept his face straight all the way through and Leon the punster didn't make any rude remarks. Sometimes we end up laughing so hard we can't go on for five minutes."
"Oh. Is there ever any sexual involvement?"
"We save that for afterwards," I leered and carried my teetering plate over to the sofa where my two favorite fellow-worshippers had been beckoning lewdly to me. Poor Fred! The most excitement he got that night was watching the more lecherous members of the group figure out ways to hug and nibble the ears of all the women in the group while simultaneously demolishing the food and managing not to miss any of "Star Trek".
Needless to say, Fred never came back.
Recalling Fred's first and only visit to a Real-live Magical Ritual makes me realize that the so-called "occult experts" who appear on network and local TV and speak to parent's groups across the nation are concealing two important and horrible truths from the American Public.
First of all, the experts have bought the legends hook, line and sinker. They believe that we worship in those smoky crypts and god-haunted groves instead of suburban living rooms and basements. They believe that we feast on murdered infants instead of tuna noodle hot dish and walnut brownies, and that we don't fill our chalices with Mead, but with human blood. I have it on the excellent authority of Frank Medina, a Wisconsin-based probation officer who is one of the few REAL occult experts in the country, that it is not even POSSIBLE to drink a cup of blood. The acrid, caustic properties of blood make it much more likely that the drinker would dash off to the bathroom to be sick or even to an emergency room to have his stomach pumped than that he would rise up filled with fervor and praising Satan. However, the "experts" would far rather believe in legend than in fact, and they desperately want to conceal their lack of real evidence from their audiences.
The second horrible truth that these stars of the Oprah Winfrey Show are hiding from the American people is that most of the people who inhabit the occult world are ordinary, normal, and yes, BORING. The High Priests and Priestesses of Satanic and Wiccan covens across the nation are not pale, glamorously dressed tempters and temptresses who sleep by day in the luxurious homes maintained by their private fortunes, then rise as night to perform unspeakable acts of horror and perversion. We are nurses, secretaries, waiters, engineers, graphic designers, college teachers, soldiers, computer programmers, security guards, and lawyers.
Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Average American, we have infiltrated all walks of American life. We might even (perish the thought) be living right next door to you! How can you tell who we are so that you can protect your precious pets, children and selves from us? Well, here are a few dead giveaways.
1. Most of us are well-educated. I have seldom met a Witch or a Satanist who does not at least have a bachelor's degree. Those who have not attended or finished college have made up for it by voracious and eclectic reading and seldom can be distinguished from their more-educated co-religionists.
2. We have LOTS of books. Not all of those books, or even the majority of them, will be on occult topics. Our bookshelves overflow with gardening books, cookbooks, science fiction, mysteries, anthropology texts and even romance novels.
3. We have LOTS of pets. Many of us have at least one, and usually more than one cat or dog or other cute little creature. Mysteriously, these pets do not usually end their lives as blood sacrifices, but are cherished, coddled and taken to the vet as often as pets raised in Christian households.
4. Not too many of us were raised without the benefits of "true religion". A startling number of both Satanists and Witches were raised Catholic, and most groups include former Lutherans, Baptists and even Jews. A conventional religious background can even add to the fervor of our new religious feelings, and it certainly adds to the rituals. Unless he has a theatrical background, it is a sad sight to see a lifelong atheist or agnostic conducting a ritual as High Priest--he usually won't have the experience to perform without self-consciousness or with truth conviction as a lapsed Christian can.
5. Those occult people have funny names like Bob and Michael and Sue and Delores. Certainly, you will find people named Morgain and Rhiannon and Shadowdancer and Wolf, but you will also find that they generally revert to their birth names outside of magical groups.
6. They listen to a lot of music. Oddly enough, this is seldom heavy metal or punk music with those vicious Satanic lyrics we've all been warned against. Their record libraries generally contain a lot of folk music, Beatles albums, New Age compact disks, and even jazz. They tend to subscribe to public radio and TV stations.
7. As mentioned before, they eat a lot. As many recipes are swapped after occult rituals as after church services, and not just for guaranteed love potions and remedies for charming off warts.
8. People who are involved with the occult tend to be devoted followers of Star Trek". It is well known that almost all of the occult groups which hold their meetings on the same night that "Star Trek" is shown in their viewing area always finish their rituals in time to watch the show. The reason for this is unknown.
9. For some reason, a lot of the women have red hair. I once had to get up at an occult conference and announce to the group that although Morgain, Mairi, and Maura all had red hair and glasses, we were not the same person and would appreciate it if people would bother to learn to distinguish us rather than addressing us indiscriminately by each other's names. One would perhaps think that there is a genetic predisposition for redheads to go into magic were it not for the fact that most magical redheads dye their hair! (Except for me, of course.)
10. Satanists and Witches are devoted to the Constitution of the United States, expecially the First Amendment which preserves their right to worship as much as it does that of fundamentalists, Lutherans, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. I once heard a fundamentalist at an "occult seminar" reply to this argument that, except for the fundamentalists and the Lutherans, the rest of the people in that list were all damned and didn't deserve religious rights anyway. I wonder why the Lutherans were OK?
Now then, Mr. and Mrs. Average American, don't these dreadful and threatening occult types sound an awful lot like you and your spouse? That is, in fact, the most horrible truth which the modern witch-hunters are trying to conceal from you. If everyone knew the truth, that being a Satanist or Witch can be as ordinary and normal and boring as being a Presbyterian, then the witch-hunters would be out of a job. Their mission would be unnecessary, they would no longer be able to raise (and probably skim) funds, and they themselves would become laughing stocks.
Do you want the world to go on being deceived by the suppression of these horrible truths? If not, then spread them, promulgate them, foment them! Let the whole world know, and then maybe we can all get on with our lives in peace and without fear.