Modern paganism and witchcraft are hot topics for comics. Writing and drawing this subject matter does present a problem, however. That’s because modern paganism and witchcraft are often misunderstood. Thus they are wrongly represented. However, BLACK MAGICK, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Nicola Scott, does a great job at representing this very real and very wide-reaching community.

Episode 59: Interview with LAZARUS’s Greg Rucka

What Is and Isn’t

To understand the representation of paganism and witchcraft in BLACK MAGICK, one must understand a few things about the two. There are some concepts of each that are often misunderstood. This usually starts with the relationship of witchcraft to paganism. The misunderstandings of both include traditions, modern practices, and the like. An important thing to remember is that witchcraft and paganism are not the same thing. BLACK MAGICK recognizes this, to an extent.

There have been heavy suggestions of the Wiccan faith being different from the witchcraft in BLACK MAGICK. While it’s correct that the characters do not take part of true Wicca, this distinction does not separate magick from faith. It only distinguishes the Wiccan faith from the witches’ beliefs. Magick is still identified as a part of this religion. The thing about modern witchcraft is that witches recognize how magick is a spirituality not a religion. Many witches have different faiths, ranging from christian to polytheistic and beyond.

Witchcraft involves beliefs in energies and or similar things. Religion, meanwhile, deals with deities, or the lack thereof. Paganism is defined as a religion that is not widely known or recognized. BLACK MAGICK does not separate the two from each other. The comic does separate Wicca from the comic’s real magick. Unfortunately, this is not differentiating religion from spirituality. Still, the comic does give great recognition to the fact that witches don’t have to be Wiccan or worshipers of demonic figures. That, however, is a different accomplishment.

Demonic Revelations in BLACK MAGICK #11

Pagan Religions

The witches of BLACK MAGICK are pagans. However, the term “pagan” can actually refer to multiple religions. Alex (one of the witches in the series) performs a chant in BACK MAGICK #7. Based on the chant, we can safely assume that the witches are polytheistic. The type of polytheistic paganism that these witches follow seems unclear but very interesting. Moreover, this representation of polytheism does give recognition to the lesser known religions that still fall under the umbrella term of pagan.

In particular, Alex performs a chant as part of a ritual to cleanse a space. She shouts, “Hephaestus! Loki! Brigid!” These all are pagan gods. She uses their names as part of a cleansing spell. So, we can safely assume she is drawing power from them. This leads readers to believe that she worships these gods. Interestingly enough, in this form of polytheism, we do not see it restricted to one pantheon, or one group of gods.

Image Courtesy of Image Comics

Hephaestus, a Greek god, represents the pantheon following Greek deities. Loki and Brigid, meanwhile, represent the Norse pantheon. Many pagans will choose one pantheon and devote themselves to that. However, it is not unheard of for pagans to meld pantheons together, so that multiple beliefs coincide. This is most likely the path that the witches of BLACK MAGICK follow. The witches also seem to include Wicca in their faith. Rowan, the main character, and Alex repeatedly refer to “the lord” and “the lady.” This incorporation of multiple faiths recognizes the validity of each of these faiths. They are represented both as separate religions and as one religion combining multiple others.

BLACK MAGICK #7 Review: Real Life Witchcraft

Representing Witchcraft

Witchcraft includes so many different things that it becomes hard to define. BLACK MAGICK does an excellent job of representing witchcraft, as an indefinite practice. We see magick with many different implications. In modern witchcraft, many witches do not believe in light or dark magick. Some think that magick cannot be defined so easily as good or evil. BLACK MAGICK shows this idea.

The hand of glory, appearing in issues #10 and #11, represents dangerous magick. We also see it in the spell Rowan uses to save herself from the man holding her hostage in issue #1. This is never marked es evil, exactly. We assume that the hand of glory is evil. However, the spell Rowan uses, while extremely dangerous, also serves as self defense. This idea of magick having dangerous qualities is widely accepted in the witch community. The danger, however, is not always labeled as being a part of light or dark magick.

Image courtesy of Image Comics

Even the magick that people uneducated in witchcraft would call good, or light, readers never see defined as such. In BLACK MAGICK #4, Alex casts a divination spell. She simply wants to find out what has happened and why. This did not go well for her at all. However, in casting the spell she has no intentions of causing trouble or danger. Some would call this light magick. Yet the comic does not give it such a label. Many in the witch community do not use these terms as well.

BLACK MAGICK #6: Classical Paganism

Tradition and Introduction

Tradition seems important to the practice of the witches within BLACK MAGICK. They do as their parents taught them, and as their parents were taught. For some witches in modern times, tradition is still important. However, many witches frequently introduce new ideas, spells, and other such things. We see this part of witchcraft left out of BLACK MAGICK in favor of traditions. A problem lies with traditions of witchcraft. There isn’t a whole lot of documentation. BLACK MAGICK has a solution to this.

The series makes sense of the witches knowing the traditions so well in two ways. First, the traditions were a part of a closed community that passed down their knowledge, generation to generation. Second, the witches in the comic are able to remember their past lives. This makes sense of how these witches know so much. Even then, there is a problem with tradition in witchcraft.

Image Courtesy of Image Comics

Passing down traditions might have led to the idea of a hereditary witch — that is, a witch who has been born into a line of witches. These witches, born of other witches, may be the center of elitism in witchcraft. This does not always happen, of course. Yet it does still exist as a possibility. The idea that one witch and one practice is more “real” than another can come from many sources. This can be one of them. In BLACK MAGICK, it would appear that the characters do not believe in other traditions or practices mentioned. Yet they do not think themselves above the other beliefs. This is excellent character work by Greg Rucka. He made the characters rooted in their pagan beliefs and witch beliefs without an elitist quality. That is what many in the pagan and witch community try to be.

BLACK MAGICK #1: Welcome to the Magickal World of Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott!

BLACK MAGICK, Pagans, and Witches

BLACK MAGICK bases itself on beliefs relating to paganism and witchcraft. It also does a wonderful job at representing aspects of these communities. The witches of the series follow a polytheistic religion, not definable as Greek or Norse. This use of blended religions represents the way real-world pagans may worship. The witchcraft they use does not present itself as either dark or light, good or bad. The comic simply allows it to exist as magick without a label. This practice represents a belief pattern followed by multiple witches. Readers do see tradition favored in BLACK MAGICK. Yet the writing does not allow this belief in tradition to become elitist. While still a work of fiction, BLACK MAGICK does a lot to represent the modern witchcraft and pagan communities.

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