*Warning: Explicit Content
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. But first, let’s get to the Purim spiel.
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- aka- the Purim spiel.
The setting is ancient Persia, ruled by King Ahasuerus. I’ll call him Xerxes to make it easier because Ahasuerus and Xerxes were one and the same- one being his Hebrew name and the other his Greek name. Now, in the third year of his reign Xerxes had a six month party. And right after that party, he had another party which lasted seven days. Because, why not? When you’re king you can do whatever you want to. During this second party when everyone was drunk, he demanded that Queen Vashti come out wearing her crown. Well, the thing is, he wanted to have her come out and wear only her crown- literally. She refused.
Well, we know how patriarchal things are now, and of course, even more so back then. Xerxes wasn’t having it. He was pissed. In an attempt to thwart other Persian wives from refusing their husbands, Xerxes had Vashti banished. Some say he even went so far as to “have that bitch killed”. And then he went to do what any man of the time would do- rape and pillage Greece. And let’s just say, Xerxes was pretty damn good at that.
Well, a few years later when the raping and pillaging were over for the time being, Xerxes was all “poor me”. He wanted a wife. Never mind the dude had a harem the size of I don’t know what. But, being King, he felt like he was entitled to even more. I mean, why not, right? So he then declared that there would be a type of beauty pageant to replace Vashti. I mean, after all, looks are the only thing important in a Queen. She certainly didn’t need a brain. As luck would have it though, Xerxes’ new queen had more than just beauty. She had brains and fucking chutzpah. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back to the royal beauty pageant. All the eligible virgins in the kingdom were either sent or kidnapped and brought to the palace where they endured six months of preparation. We’re talking beauty treatments, spa treatments, the whole nine yards. Anything that would make these girls look better, smell better, feel better, whatever. They got it. Then each young girl had one night with Xerxes to wow him. I mean, what a fucking status symbol to be chosen as the new queen, right? Well, he chose Esther as the one and everyone else became part of his harem.
Now, Esther was Jewish, but at the urging of her uncle Mordechai she kept this secret. See, Jews were low key hated by everyone else. Sounds familiar. Well, one of those people who hated the Jews was Xerxes’ second in command, Haman. He was a real asshat, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
One day Haman came out of the palace and Mordechai, a scribe, refused to bow down to him. Mordechai was all like, “I don’t bow to any damn human- just my G-d.” Well, Haman wasn’t about to have any of that shit. He decided he wanted to hurt old Mordy and all those weasel Jews with him. So Haman talked Xerxes into giving him his signet ring. This meant that Haman had the right to make laws and seal them with the king’s ring at which point they couldn’t be undone.
Well, what did Haman do when he had the one ring to rule them all? He gathered all the scribes and told them that in one year everyone in the kingdom would rise up and murder the Jews. But wait! Mordy was a scribe, remember? So he was right there writing down everything Haman said- which was exactly what Haman wanted. He wanted Mordechai to know and be afraid.
But, our hero Mordy had way bigger balls than Haman. While all the other scribes were busy sending the message here and yon, Mordechai secretly went to Queen Esther and told her that it was finally time to tell her husband that she’s a Jew. But Esther was like, “He’ll kill me! He’ll kill me!” and Mordy was like, “Buck up buttercup. If you don’t tell him, you’ll die with the rest of us.”
Well, even the Queen couldn’t just approach the King unless he summoned her, so Esther had a reason to be afraid. Mordy told her that she needed to be the damn badass bitch queen he knew she could be. And Esther responded that she was all badass feminist and her balls were bigger than even his- so big in fact that they were on her chest because they wouldn’t fit between her legs. “All right,” she said, “I’ll go, and if I die then I die.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Esther did go to Xerxes. He didn’t kill her. He was so shocked he welcomed her and told her to ask whatever she wanted. She invited him to a banquet- three actually- before revealing that she was a Jew and that Haman wanted to kill them all. Xerxes was livid.
But wait! There’s more! In between all this Haman had built a gallows to hang Mordechai because he really really hated him. Xerxes was so mad that he had Haman killed on the gallows he built. Then, Xerxes promoted good ole Mordy to second in command and gave him the ring. Well, even with the one ring, Mordy couldn’t undo Haman’s law. But he could make another one. Mordy’s law said that on the appointed day when everyone attacked the Jews, the Jews were allowed to fight back. And that’s what happened. The Jews fought back and won. There was a big party. We recreate it every year. We eat little triangle shaped cookies called Hamantaschen which means Haman’s ears. The End.
And thus ends our Purim spiel. 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 its roots. Despite biblical prohibitions against magic, it’s always had a strong root within Judaism. In fact, the biblical prohibitions against magic are there because of the prevalence of magic. I’m not going to go into this in depth right now. It’s best saved for a future installment. But, suffice it to say that magic never left Judaism, and there’s a strong history of Christian persecution of Jews because of magic, witchcraft, and antisemitic stereotypes- all of which are found in the Purim spiel.
Perhaps witches and Jews should work together, reach across the divide and join hands in facing hate. Some of us already do. As a Jewish witch I do. Those who work with me do. I don’t tolerate hatred and anti-semitism in my community or with my clients. I’ll tolerate it in the Purim spiel, but only because I’m telling you a story.