So I went and saw The Last Witch Hunter this weekend with Vin Diesel in it.
Now, I know many in the Pagan community are not exactly thrilled with this movie. If I haven’t already seen it, I will doubtlessly will. How it denigrates witches, celebrates killing witches, paints witches are evil. So on and so forth.
The thing is, I suspect that most of those people will not have actually gone to see the movie in question. They will have refused to give their money to something so witchphobic or whatever you wanna call it. Racist? Religiousist? No idea.
But I like Vin Diesel, and I do in fact like movies like this, so I went.
So I’m going to start by clearing up a few things. This movie is not anti-witch. Hel, Vin Diesel’s character, the witch hunter, is not even anti-witch. He does go around hunting witches, and even killing them, but he is not, in fact anti-magic or anti-witch.
He’s a cop.
See, the movie kicks off with him and a bunch of men from his village setting out to go kill a witch. This witch, called the Witch Queen, is responsible for unleashing a plague which claimed the lives of most of the village. (There are some references to this being the Black Death, in which case there are some logistics and history issues, but the symptoms shown of said plague seem to show that it might not be the black death, but rather something which got a similar name. The movie however leaves this vague).
They go, fight the witch, and he manages to kill her. In the process, she curses him with immortality. He then goes on to use said immortality and increased healing to take out other witches.
There is a war somewhere in the backstory between witches and humans, but they end up coming to a bit of a peace that allowed witches and humans to live together. The rule; witches do not use their magic on humans, especially to harm them. If they do….Witch Hunter.
The cool thing about this though is that he doesn’t just automatically kill them. For at least a while before the movie takes place, he brings them back alive where the Witches try them, not the human order for whom Diesel works. It was actually a pretty cool scene.
As events proceed, his friend gets ganked, he tries to find out why, teams up with a witch, and fights a returning Witch Queen, who is intent on wiping out humanity. Who she sees as a plague against the natural world.
So really, the Witch Queen is something of an eco-terrorist, the same way Richmond Valentine from Kingsman was. Except where Valentine was using technology to trigger everyone’s aggression to the point where they would beat each other to death, the Witch Queen was using plague insects.
Which, I suppose it says something about environmentalists that they’re the up and coming villains these days.
So instead of being offended at the existence of this witch hunter, I actually was put into mind the Wardens from the Dresden Files. People who go out and stop those that abuse their magical abilities, for gain or politics or what have you.
Now, even though presently magic works mostly on a metaphysical rather than physical level (I haven’t seen anyone manage to cause an earthquake or throw fireballs yet), we haven’t worried about it as much. We’re reaching the point where not every Pagan practices magic (in fact how much of what I do is magic and how much of it is more faith based is debatable), but I would hope that everyone can generally agree that there does need to be at least a moral code to the practices of magic. Still, even as a more metaphysical thing, most of us either have stories, or have heard stories, of those who have abused their magic.
Frankly, sometimes, I wish we did have wardens or witch hunters. To go after those people who do unethical things with their magic. And I’m not talking things like getting fame or wealth or stuff like that. I mean things like warping people’s minds, trying to kill them, harm them, stuff like that.
Because let’s be honest…people would do that. We like to treat magic as some sacred thing, but it’s morally neutral. It’s how people use it. And like the Witch Queen in the movie, if given even half the chance, there are a lot of people who would use that power to get what they want.
Witches are people. They’re not perfect fonts of moral goodness. They’re not horrific monsters either. And people, well, people can do bad things. They will do bad things, with the best of intentions and the noblest of reasons. The Witch Queen wanted to save Nature from Humanity. It’s a line I’ve often heard from many pagans, including one I’ve fairly often been “Debating” with on this blog.
So before you condemn this movie, remember that. It’s not the story of a fascist, or a racist, or a person who wants to just kill witches because they can. It’s about a man tasked with finding and stopping those who would harm others with magic. And that’s something, frankly, we should all at least consider, even if we don’t get behind it.
I wanted to talk about this in the article, but it felt too much like tearing off on a tangent. I once tried to start a group expressly to deal with a “warlock” who abused his magical power. That story can be put together in the archives of the blog, from a few years ago now, I guess.
I called it the Order of the Crimson Thunder. The name came from one of my favorite Hammerfall songs by the same name. It was a song that spoke of hope, of rising up, of making things right. More importantly, about being the people who did that. At first we were supposed to be a group of equals, but thanks to drama, laziness, a lack of personal investment, it fell apart. In the end, I suspect that of the six or so of us that started, only two of us did any serious work against the warlock, and of those two, I led the charge and had to drag the second along half the time.
But the idea has always stuck in my head. The idea that there needed to be people who could go out and stop those who abused the gifts and powers of magic. I wanted to be a part of something like that, I wanted to see something like that. Because I knew what it was like to be powerless in that situation and to see the person get away with their wrongs.
Could I ever be part of something like that now? No idea. Could I ever revive the Crimson Thunder, start fresh, with an actual organization and hierarchy and stuff? Again, no idea. But the idea is out there, it is something to consider, and perhaps somewhere, someday, someone can start their own order.
Because Paganism is growing, the use of witchcraft is growing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someday it became much, much more real one way or another. And at that time, either we who know of magic should be prepared to step up, or be prepared to face what happens when someone without limits does as they please.