Aug 192010

Being unique among the world’s religions for being so closely connected with Witchcraft, Wicca will appear in both a Supernatural/Magickal context, as well as in a more Mundane Real People in the Real World category. It is found in the latter circumstance in its first Hollywood depiction, 1991′s The Doors; in Wicca’s “Coming Out” film, 1996′s The Craft, however, we discover Wicca as a means towards levitation, shape-shifting, exploding things with one’s mind, and magickally changing traffic lights- in other words, as a Magickal/Supernatural Adventure story.

In the first of the television industry’s explorations of Wicca, we find the same dichotomy. The X-Files first incorporated Wicca into a November, 1996, episode, covered by Laura in a previous post, Witchcraft on the X-Files and the Broader Picture.   (We see that 1996 was a notable year for Wicca Consciousness and American Pop-Culture.) Wicca also became an element in two extremely popular shows of the latter ’90s and early ’00s- Charmed (which ran from 1998-2006) and Buffy the Vampire-Slayer (1997-2003). As both of these shows fall into the Magickal/Supernatural variety, the Wicca in them tended to involve telekinesis, teleportation, the occasional descent into Dark Side madness, and fending off nasty Demons and Vampires.

Exciting stuff, but not exactly “of the Real World.” A short-lived series Three Moons Over Milford (which ran on ABC Family for eight episodes in 2006) provides the distinction of introducing the first recurring, realistic (non-vampire-fighting) Wiccan character into an American television series.

The fascinating premise of Three Moons was that an asteroid had recently struck the moon, splitting it into three “moon chunks,” parts of which have begun to crash suddenly and alarmingly into Earth’s atmosphere. The inhabitants of Milford, Vt., therefore live in a world that literally may come crashing down on them at any moment; as the show’s theme song expresses it: “If the sky is falling- I’m living for today.” Characters talk of “moons things” (as in, “Is this a Moons Thing?”), by which they mean an existential lunacy that sometimes erupts as people act out impulses and desires which they would have otherwise suppressed. As one character says, “They redefined ‘crazy’ when the moon split,” and as another puts it: “It’s a different world; there are three moons up there now.” Of course, some folks manage to be adaptable: “If one moon was romantic, three must be phantasmagorical!”

It is all an exceedingly fascinating premise; unfortunately the execution seldom rose above a kind of lame, forced “whackiness” that could grow irritating. (Hey- an elderly lady on a motorcycle! Good for you, madam- live for today! What! A woman who waters her flowers in the nude! I guess with the world possibly ending, why not bond with your plants as equal Creatures of Nature. There is what looks at first glance like a same-sex couple emerging from a church. How genuinely transgressive for ABC Family! Wait- closer inspection reveals that they are a heterosexual, cross-dressed couple- she wears a tuxedo and he has on a wedding-dress. You madcaps! Who has time for gender-conformity with the sky falling!?)

The show’s biggest plus was its star Elizabeth McGovern, a graceful, interesting, and always watchable actress. Of interest to Neo-Pagans was the character of her daughter: the Teen Wiccan Lydia (played by the adorable Teresa Celentano).

In the Pilot, we first meet Lydia in the company of two Wiccan school-chums, making a trio of teen-aged Witches. As the girls are supposed to be decorating the school gym for a big dance, the camera approaches them through a curtain of gauze-streamers, while we discover that they have painted a Circle with a Pentacle upon the gym-floor and decorated it with candles, the air charged with incense. The girls comment upon how “” has advised orange to be the best color to “bring the moons together,” and then initiate their chant: “Moons of Three- Let there Be- One Full Moon.”

They all three then pop their hoodies (I kind of get a kick out of this- Wicca meaning, I guess, pop your hoodie first), and the other two watch as Lydia pours way-more-than-is-necessary lighter-fluid into their cauldron. A brief match, and- poof! They are all sitting in great trepidation as a column of flame spurts up to the ceiling.

First lesson from Three Moons Over Milford regarding Wiccan practice- do NOT go nuts with the fire-accelerant! 

Next thing you know- there is a raging fire at the school-house and Lydia is in serious trouble with her mom (Elizabeth McGovern): “You burned down the school doing WITCHCRAFT? We’re Methodists!”

Apparently there had been some worldwide Wiccan plan to re-unify the moon (hence the reference to, implying an Internet Wiccan response to the global crisis of a broken-up moon); Lydia protests to her mom, that “millions of Wiccans all over the planet” had been attempting the same quixotic goal.

I find it interesting that Three Moons associates Wicca with Internet organization, and implies that ”millions” of people” all over the planet” qualify as Wiccan.

The episode ends with Elizabeth McGovern insisting to her daughter again and again, “You are not a Witch!” Lydia is forced to apologize for the destruction of the school in a town-meeting, where an irate woman shouts at her, “Witch!” Lydia is quick to her own defense: “I’m NOT a Witch; I’m a Wiccan! There’s a difference!”

In subsequent episodes, Lydia continues to identify herself in terms of Wicca, as others do likewise. In “Moonstruck” (Episode 3), her boyfriend confesses that her conversation often strikes him as “total Wiccan White-Noise”; when she contemplates the possibility that she is a Nihilist, her brother retorts: “I thought you were a Wiccan; you can’t be a Nihilist Wiccan.”

The ultimate Teen Wiccan fantasy is realized in “Moon Giver” (Episode 4), when Lydia meets a Seriously Cute Boy while she is carrying a book called Signs, Symbols, and Omens. “You into the occult?” he asks.

“Wicca- it’s a Girl Thing,” Lydia replies. “I have my broom parked outside.”

“Cool,” the Cute Guy goes. “I’ve read some Aleister Crowley, though I’m not an expert or anything.” At the end of the show, he signals his affections by making her a present of a Wiccan chalice.

What could be more satisfying from a Teen-Girl Wiccan point-of-view than a Cute Guy, who’s (1) supportive of your Wiccan interest (to the point of giving you a chalice as a “I was thinking of you” gift), and (2) has even done some reading into Aleister Crowley, though (3) he’s modest enough to admit that he’s not an expert (you don’t want a know-it-all on your hands). The supreme Teen Wiccan Girl fantasy wish-fulfilment.

The most challenging aspect to the show’s premise, from a Wiccan perspective, remains unexplored- namely, to what extent does having the Moon (the Symbol of Magickal Motherhood) split into three, challenge Wiccan premise? In the show’s context, the Moon has been literally divided into Three Aspects: how would Wiccans react to this; how would they re-incorporate this into their Wiccan cosmology? (One imagines that naturally they would begin to dub one “Moon Chunk” the “Maiden,” another the “Mother,” and the Third the “Crone.”) I guess this sort of story-line was a little too Wicca-specific for the producers to want to pursue.

I find it interesting that Wicca is conceived as a “Girl Thing” in the series, with its only practitioners (to judge) young ladies in Junior High; like The Craft and Buffy, Three Moons sees Wicca as a phenomenon directed primarily by teen-age females. Remembering that producers of popular entertainment tend to be really good at reading the Zeitgeist- I think that this represents a cultural “take,” an opinion that much of the explosive growth in Wicca in the fifteen years since The Craft was released is caused by female adolescent interest. I find this to be a very hopeful sign, as the more young girls who grow up today practicing the Craft- the more young women doing so in the near future.

In Three Moons Over Milford, Wicca is seen as an Empowerment for young ladies, something significant for them to hang their emerging sense of personality upon. Being a Wiccan is Lydia’s character definition, both how she sees herself, and as how others view her. If nothing else, Three Moons demonstrates how Wicca, with its fascinating elements and ceremonies, can serve as a notable platform for character growth in a recurring television series.

In The Doors, The Craft, and Three Moons Over Milford, we have seen: the basic premise of Wicca as a Magickal Nature Religion established; with the fundamentals of Wiccan practice performed; associated with both adult journalists and High Priestess occult-shop owners, as well as with High School girls, alike; in a situation ripe for on-going character and plot development. Surely in time, all these exciting and colorful components will come together in a gripping and challenging dramatic work, one imagines.

Undoubtedly so: but to judge from what has recently become known as “That Bones episode”- that day is not yet arrived.

  5 Responses to “(Wicca in Television): Three Moons Over Milford”

  1. This is great! I have not heard of this before but I will absolutely have to get my hands on it.

  2. Great find. Just watched episode 1. The series in its entirety can be seen on Hulu here. Where were all the beautiful woman who would get hot over matrix multiplication when I was in the Ph.D. program in OR at Stanford?

  3. You should also look into Tucker’s Witch; created by William Bast & Paul Huson, the short-lived gem from 1982 about a private detective agency run by a husband-wife team; her powers tended to provide almost as many red herrings as they did clues. In ways, though, Medium reminds me a great deal of it.

  4. this is so fasinating and cool i told everone i no and i will do some reaserch myself beacause it is so coooooooooooooool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Thanks for your enthusiasm!

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