Charlie Sheen, Angry Warlocks, and Me

I recently read that a few years back, bad-boy actor Charlie Sheen offended yet another group. This time, that wacky, screwed-up rogue got on the wrong side of a Salem, Massachusetts, witchcraft gathering, the Coven of the Raven Moon. The Salem witches and warlocks were angry over a statement in which Sheen described himself as a “Vatican assassin warlock,” whatever that means.

A member of the coven, a warlock named Christian Day, said Sheen’s mischaracterization was a “blatant offense against our ways and teachings” and called the actor “reckless” and “obviously disturbed.” He said that Sheen’s description made warlocks sound like raging, warlike individuals who are out for blood. In reality, Day said, “Warlocks are peaceful and enlightened. They have the ability to communicate with the dead and learn from it. They have nothing to do with aggressiveness and anger.”

For pretty much the only time ever, I have something in common with Sheen. I was also once the target of angry warlocks who felt I was marginalizing them. No, really. They weren’t angry at me, personally. They were angry at the student newspaper I worked for at the University of Virginia. The Chief Warlock of the university’s Necromancy Society (a group of which nobody at the newspaper had heard) sent in a meeting notice to be run in our announcements list. This was decades before it became commonplace to hear of people referring to themselves as witches or Wiccans. A few of us saw it in the in-box, thought it was a joke, and went on with the business of putting out the paper. Like poor “disturbed” Sheen, we had no intention of offending warlocks. We just hadn’t realize that any existed at U.Va.

When the meeting announcement failed to appear in the paper the next day, the head warlock sent us a note. He wrote that the members of his society had been able to divine the time and location of the meeting using their powers, even without an announcement in the paper. But he still thought we were discriminating against them and needed to be taught a lesson.

The New England witches were apparently more forgiving than our Virginia variety. Day responded to Sheen’s comment by holding a ritual in which the coven sent positive spirits in the actor’s direction. He called it a teachable moment, an opportunity to educate Sheen and others about his beliefs.

Our warlock was more interested in revenge than in education. He said he was placing a curse on our newspaper. He included a plastic bag of what appeared to be animal hair, herbs, soil, twigs, and other disparate items. While this curse was technically against the entire newspaper and its staff, I was the editor who had been responsible for the announcements column on the night in question, so I felt as if it was meant for me.

But once again, we had a newspaper to put out. After passing the plastic bag around among mildly amused staff members, somebody tossed it aside and we continued our work. Then the computer typesetting system went haywire. It started balking at the simplest commands, spitting out error messages we’d never seen before, and giving us screens full of gibberish.

Standing by the machine, coaching the operator through some troubleshooting steps, I noticed the hex in its little plastic bag, and I absent-mindedly lifted it from where it had been laid on the top of the typesetting machine. Lo and behold, as soon as the bag was lifted from the Varityper, the error messages disappeared and the system began working exactly as it was supposed to. Of course it was a coincidence, I thought. I gingerly set the bag down again…and immediately got more gibberish on the screen.

Heading outside to toss the offending bag in a dumpster, I noticed an eerie ring of light around the moon.

The warlock never again submitted a meeting announcement to our newspaper. But if he had, I would have run it.

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