It’s that time of year when lots of people want to engage me in earnest conversation about the dangers of Halloween. I was engaged in such a conversation only yesterday which culminated in me being told:
“There’s witches on Dartmoor, you know.”
I don’t know if there are witches on Dartmoor or not – and, to be honest, if there are I have never perceived them to represent much of a threat. There are many old tales of witches on Dartmoor – not least about Vixiana the Witch – you can read all about her here!
“She was an awesome sight, she stood at around 6 feet tall and was a thin as Devon shovel handle. Her nose was large and hooked like a buzzards bill. Her eyes were sunk deep into her head and as green as the moss in a featherbed (Dartmoor bog). She had only two rotten front teeth the shape of peat knives and these hung slightly over her bottom lip. Her skin was as wrinkled and cracked as a dry peat hag and her hair was long, limp and greasy. Those that were unfortunate to get close to her said she smelt of sheep’s urine.”
She sounds like quite a catch! The thing is, this is presented to me as if the very telling of it – “there’s witches on Dartmoor, you know” somehow proves that halloween is very, very bad and churches should get worked up about it and warn against its dangers (this despite the fact that I doubt real witches have any interest at all in halloween and are more likely to be active and engaged around lunar pagan festival times.) What I CAN say with confidence is that there are REAL greedy people in Newton Abbot and REAL selfish people in Kingsteignton and REAL hard-hearted people in our churches. The lifestyle modelled and displayed by these people is a FAR GREATER threat to the children and young people in our lives than Vixiania or any of her followers. If we as churches are going to get steamed up about something – let’s choose the right place to start.