I like reading occult fiction, even though it’s only rarely done well. I am particularly interested in occult fiction that is at least somewhat realistic, but that’s pretty rare, indeed. Another thing I’ve noticed is that, these days, a surprising amount of occult fiction is written for teenagers. I’m not a teenager, but I will still read occult fiction for teenagers, mostly because I’m curious about the ideas about the occult being given to kids these days.
Well, I’m afraid to say the image kids are getting of the occult is pretty bad indeed. In particular, I want to talk about one book series, called Sweep, by Cate Tiernan (I’m pretty sure that’s a pretentious alias, but who am I to criticize? I call myself Protagonist). It’s fourteen books long, and has been out for awhile. I read it when I was a teenager myself, and recently revisited it to see if it seemed any better than before. It didn’t.
The story follows the life of Morgan Rowlands, who is just an ordinary teenager. Except (oooh!) she finds out that she’s a “blood witch” descended from one of the ancient “seven great clans of Wicca.” Yes, you heard right. Wicca. Tiernan is actually writing about Wicca, a real religion, and butchering it every step of the way.
For the uninitiated, let me just say that there’s no such thing as the “seven great clans of Wicca.” Wicca also isn’t ancient. It’s about as old as rock and roll in its present form. Wiccans also can’t shoot sparks of electricity from their hands, which is another element of Sweep. There’s also no such thing as a “blood witch.” Wicca is a religion, not a race. How do Wiccans not find this incredibly offensive?
I suppose I should say a little bit about the plot of Sweep. Morgan meets a guy who introduces her to her (inherited) witchcraft powers, and joins a coven comprised of horny teenagers. Then, she finds out that her boyfriend is actually evil (OMG!) and trying to steal her powers or something (it’s not incredibly clear). Then, she gets a new witch boyfriend, who helps her defeat her old boyfriend.
After that, uhh, something happens with her father. He’s like, evil or something, and planning to do something bad to her. Again, it isn’t terribly clear, or maybe I just didn’t care enough to read closely.
Another weird thing about the book is it’s interspersed with Gaelic words and chants. Except, not really. None of the so-called “Gaelic” in the book is real, meaning Tiernan wasn’t satisfied butchering a religion and had to butcher a language as well.
There’s an aspect of Sweep that I think is really damaging to the occult community. It stems from its use of the “blood witch” concept. Tiernan presents magick as something only accessible to a select few, something to be inherited. In other words, something you don’t have to really work for. It’s just there because of who you are. Indeed, Morgan does all kinds of amazing things, with not a lick of time spent with her working for them.
At one point in the book, I guess the author wanted to kind of explain away Morgan’s precocity and lack of hard work, so she has her undergo a Tàth Meànma Brach (fake Gaelic again), a spell where she suddenly gains all the knowledge and ability of her friend without any study or work.
Maybe I’m being too hard on Sweep. It’s fiction, after all. But it’s also for teenagers, who can’t always tell the difference between fiction and reality. Kids read this and they get the idea that a) by declaring themselves Wiccan they get cool powers with no hard work, and b) if they don’t get cool powers right away, they must not be the “chosen one,” so magic is inherently pointless.
Don’t you just wish that Tàth Meànma Brach thing were real, though? If it were I’d do one with Bishop and become some kind of virtuoso.