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Lisa Simpson: The World’s Most Famous Wiccan

Author: Zan Fraser
Posted: January 3rd. 2010
Times Viewed: 11,593

I am convinced that a major milestone in the progression of Wicca into the public consciousness was achieved on Nov 29, 2009, when The Simpsons aired “Rednecks and Broomsticks” (Season 21, Episode 7) , in which Lisa Simpson “came into” her Wicca-hood.

The Simpsons’ place as a unique representation of American culture, brilliantly refracted through a particularly demented form of parody, is too well known to require establishment. It has been therefore all the more intriguing to discern hints and whiffs of Wicca drifting throughout the show in later years.

As so much of the The Simpsons’ humor derives from the non-sequitur, I find that I am unable to recall from which episode exactly the following exchange derives, but as an example: Bart and Lisa are having a fight, wrestling with each other on the floor. Marge tells them to stop. Bart protests that, “Lisa put a speeeell on meeee” (waggling his hands to indicate sorcery) . Lisa goes, “It’s called Wicca and it’s empowering!” Bart goes, “It’s a Hollywood fad!” Lisa goes, “That’s Kabbalah, you idiot!” And they go back to wrestling.

There are many other examples: a sight gag outside of Springfield Park advertising “Witches’ Coven meeting tomorrow.” Homer telling Ned, his neighbor and enemy (in the episode where Homer believes that he has discovered the date of the Rapture, when Ned wants to join Homer’s “pre-Rapture party”) : “Noooo Ned- weeee’re- Gaaaay- Wiiitches- for abortion!” And Homer whips the drapes shut. Never mind the Halloween episode “Easy-Bake Coven, ” which skewers the Salem Witch-trials while telling the story of the “first caramel-cod.”

In fact, some of us Simpsons fans have been making predictions for a few years now that the show is gearing up to a story-line involving Lisa embracing Wicca- which prediction came true at the end of this past November. Whilst hiding in the woods playing a game of hide-and-seek with the slow-witted children of slack-jawed yokel Cletus, Lisa comes across the initially alarming sight of three robed figures chanting in the woods beneath a full moon, boiling herbs in a cauldron. The mysterious ritualists pull back their hoods to reveal that they are all three girls like Lisa and introduce themselves: “We’re Wiccans!”

Effectively the seventh episode of the twenty-first season of the The Simpsons officially introduces Wicca into the Springfield universe (causing me to wonder if someone did not plan that, as there seems an awfully lot of permutations of the magical numbers 3 and 7 going on in that air-date) .

While Wicca has appeared in other shows, notably the fantasies Charmed and Buffy the Vampire-Slayer (a short-lived show called Three Moons Over Milford also featured a teen-aged girl who was a Wiccan) , there has never been a more famous “personality” than Lisa Simpson to embrace Wicca, on a show of the scope and cultural significance of The Simpsons (a peculiarly Simpsons-like irony is that we are talking about a cartoon character, voiced brilliantly by actress Yeardley Smith, as if she were a real celebrity) .

In the twenty-one years of the show’s broadcasting, Lisa has arguably undergone the most personality development of any of the characters. From starting the series as a brainy, but depressed and alienated little girl (an early episode has her telling Bart, “Having never received any words of encouragement myself, I can only imagine what they are supposed to sound like, but here goes”) , Lisa has embraced the artistic expression of jazz, a potent sense of feminist identity, a passionate commitment to the environment and vegetarianism, and a spiritual awakening into Buddhism.

Whereas Homer and Bart (for instance) remain remarkably unfazed by twenty-one years of doings and mishaps, Lisa’s storylines frequently find her challenged by a new understanding or realization, which she must then adopt into her worldview- in other words, despite being a cartoon figure, she has “grown” as a character in the course of what is currently America’s longest running television series.

All the more fascinating that “Rednecks and Broomsticks” not only introduces Lisa to Wicca, the second half of the show has her initiated in a circle of candles in the woods (with atmospheric music playing on an I-Pod and utilizing the traditional exchange “How do you enter the Circle? With perfect Love and perfect Trust”) ; the show concludes with a radiant Lisa experiencing the joy of spiritual rebirth so familiar to many who journey the Pagan pathways. (The show also ends with the apparent promise of future conflict with Ned Flanders, the Simpsons’ very-Christian next-door neighbor. We discover that Ned keeps an emergency “Witchcraft Advisory” on his speed-dial and frets that, “Buddhism has led directly to Witchcraft- ooh and she’s teleconferencing with the Devil using that computer from Hell!”)

This refers to one of the episode’s best sight gags: Lisa’s looking up “Wicca-pedia, ” the “Wiccan homepage, ” on the Internet.

Bart: “Is that a Pentagram I see? Lisa! You’ve gone over to the dark side!”

Lisa corrects him and affirms for the second time her interest in learning more about Wicca. (She has already told the Wiccan girls whom she has met that she is interested in Wicca, asking them, “Are you a minority group as defined by Ivy League admissions?” When informed, “We worship Nature, ” Lisa responds joyfully, “I worship Nature!” Lisa’s fierce and established devotion to the cause of environmentalism is apparently what helps “seal the Wiccan deal” for her, as she has discovered a spiritual path that- even more so than Buddhism- specifically treats as sacred the natural world of Mother Gaia.)

The show’s depiction of Wiccans is no cheekier than their portrayal of anyone or anything else. As was the case with Buffy the Vampire-Slayer and Three Moons Over Milford, the Springfield Wiccans are adolescent girls. A stroke of Simpsons-brilliance cast Neve Campbell as the lead-Wiccan; Ms. Campbell is of course famous for being one of the Witch-girls in the cult-teen-Witch flick The Craft.

Tattoos and Goth eyeliner indicate characters with an edgy sort of vibe, while the self-identification of one of the girls as “Gwendolyn NightShadow” pokes gentle fun at the practice of Wiccan “Names.” So too does the somewhat self-conscious style of the girls’ “Wiccan-speak”: “Come, Sisters of the Elements- let us depart this place in a manner most Wiccan!” (This means, “Text your mom to come pick us up.”)

The Simpsons, of course, exist to satirize everybody; even so, the “Intro to Wicca” episode depicts Wicca fairly. When Lisa meets the Wiccan Coven, they are gathered in a snowy wood on a luminous night, explaining to Lisa that they are conducting an Esbat, which they describe as “an ancient ritual celebrating the full moon.”

Lilith is apparently their patron-Goddess (perhaps the Lilith Fair music festivals had something to do with this) . Lisa discovers them chanting to their Deity, “Dark is She, but brilliant! Black are Her wings- black on black!” Later (in the hysterical aftermath during which it is believed that the Wiccans’ magic has cursed the citizens of Springfield- Simpsons episodes can be difficult to explain) the girls again appeal to their Divinity: “Goddess Lilith who knows our hearts are pure- Oh Queen of Magic, show our persecutors that they are blind!”

The show references the old “dunking stool, ” a barbaric device used to determine a Witch’s “guilt” by immersing her underwater; there is also a mention of Miller’s play The Crucible. This portion of the episode is meant (I believe) to remind of the Persecution Times; the Wiccan girls are saved from dunking, however, when Lisa comes running up at the last minute: “Don’t dip those Wiccans!” (She has figured out that the town’s blindness was caused by the dumping of moonshine into the water-supply during the moonshine competition- the episode is called “Rednecks and Broomsticks, ” remember.)

Another great line comes during Lisa’s woodlands initiation into Wicca. Just as they are about to pour grape juice into a chalice (cause they’re kids, right?) , Police Chief Wiggum jumps out to arrest them: “Do NOT sanctify that Witch!”

What follows is Springfield’s “first Witch trial in twelve years”; anti-Witch protestors demonstrate outside the courthouse with placards that read: “Brooms are for sweeping”; “Now Burn the Coven” (read downwards, this forms “NBC”) ; and “Bewitched was a terrible movie!” (Homer also has a super “Homer line” in the show, albeit one without connection to Wicca: “Ohhhh- why do my actions have to have consequences?”)

Despite the typically hysterical Springfield over-reaction to the introduction of Wiccans into the Springfield community, the show ends on a charming note, as Lisa skates gracefully on a frozen lake (the show has taken place during winter) . While Donovan’s 1966 psychedelic hit Season of the Witch plays, she carves out a perfect circle in the ice.

The conclusion seems to hint at a wonderful new future opening for Lisa as she is increasingly guided by the precepts and Deities of Wicca. She says as much herself when she observes of the Wiccan girls (who have begun to call her “Sister Lisa”) : “They believe in friendship and respecting the earth- and they made me feel cool- cool! Me- Lisa Simpson!”

Lisa’s loneliness and alienated detachment have been storyline-staples and the source of characteristic humor since the program’s beginning. A significant new phase is opened in the development of Lisa’s personality with the realization that- in Wiccans- she has found kindred spirits.

Blessed be, Lisa Simpson.


Zan Fraser

Location: New York City, New York


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