Purim, Witches, and Jews- Oh My!

This week Jews will be celebrating the minor holiday of Purim. I’ve spent some time this weekend preparing for the holiday, and I’ve done quite a bit of thinking. I’ve been thinking a lot about the similarities between Jews and witches. 

For those of you who don’t know, Purim is the holiday that celebrates and commemorates the events described in the biblical book of Esther. No matter what your religious views, I urge you to read this story if you haven’t done so. It’s relatively short- ten chapters- and is full of tons of intrigue: beauty pageants, murder plots, jealousy, revenge. You know, all the good stuff. 

But, if you don’t want to read it, allow me to give you a brief overview. The setting is ancient Persia, ruled by Xerxes and his queen: Vashti. Xerxes has a party that lasts a week and when everyone is drunk he demands that Vashti come out wearing her crown. Well, the thing is, he wanted to have her come and and wear only her crown. She refused. In an attempt to thwart other Persian wives from refusing their husbands, Xerxes has Vashti banished (perhaps even murdered). He then declares that there will be a type of beauty pageant to replace her. All the eligible virgins in the kingdom are either sent or kidnapped and brought to the palace where they endure 6 months of preparation. Then each young women has one night with the King and he chooses Esther to be his bride. Everyone else becomes part of his harem. Now, Esther is Jewish, but at the urging of her uncle Mordechai she has kept this secret. At the same time, Xerxes’ second in command, an evil man named Haman really hates the Jews. One day he is coming out of the palace and Mordechai, who is a scribe, refuses to bow down to him. This infuriates Haman who talks Xerxes into giving him his signet ring. This means that Haman has the right to make laws and seal them with the king’s ring at which point they can’t be undone. So, he gathers all the scribes and tells them that in one year everyone in the kingdom will rise up and murder the Jews. While all the other scribes are busy sending the message here and yon, Mordechai secretly goes to Queen Esther and tells her that now is the time to reveal that she is a Jew. Well, even the Queen can’t approach the King unless he sends for her, and he hasn’t. But, Esther decides that she will do it anyway. She goes before the King hoping he won’t kill her. He doesn’t and asks her what she wants. She invites him to a banquet- three actually- before revealing that she is a Jew and that Haman wants to kill them all. Xerxes is mad. In between all this Haman has built a gallows to hang Mordechai because he really hates him. Well, Xerxes is so mad that he has Haman killed on the gallows he built. Then, Xerxes promotes Mordechai to second in command and gives him the ring. Since Haman’s law can’t be undone, Mordechai makes a law that on the appointed day when everyone attacks the Jews, the Jews are allowed to fight back. And that’s what happens. The Jews win. There’s a big party. We recreate it every year. We eat little triangle shaped cookies called Hamantaschen which means Haman’s ears. The End. 

So, how are Jews and witches alike? Persecution. Both groups have been persecuted. Witches are persecuted for being in league with the Devil, and Jews have been accused of the same. Hate is such a strong emotion that goes way beyond being a simple emotion. Witches and Jews both have been murdered for existing. There are other groups who are persecuted as well, but, for the most part, that persecution isn’t predicated on religion or spirituality. Christians and Muslims both have been as well. Sadly, most of these four groups persecute each other. 

What I find fascinating is the history of Judaism that includes witchcraft and magic at it’s roots. Modern Judaism would balk at the thought that our religion has a basis in witchcraft, but I argue that we do. I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say, many Jewish practices and beliefs are founded in magic. Perhaps witches and Jews should work together, reach across the divide and join hands in facing hate. Some of us already do. You can’t be Jewitch and hate part of yourself. 

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