Christine O’Donnell and the “Satanic Altar”

By Gustav Niebuhr I’ve been following elections since the 1960s, but this weekend marks the very first time I have … Continued

By Gustav Niebuhr

I’ve been following elections since the 1960s, but this weekend marks the very first time I have ever heard a candidate for the United States Senate use the words “picnic” and “satanic altar” in the same sentence.

But there we have it, courtesy of a video clip from Bill Mahar’s former program, “Politically Incorrect,” in which Ms. O’Donnell–now GOP candidate for Senate from Delaware–appeared on a show broadcast Oct. 29, 1999. Her story: she went out on a first date with a guy whom she described as a witch who took her for a midnight meal on a “satanic altar.” And Ms. O’Donnell said she once “dabbled into witchcraft.”

I see four basic questions here: one, about dating and satanic altars; two, about grammatical usage; three, about mealtimes, as Americans understand them; and, four, well, about satanic altars, for crying out loud!

But first, let’s get a basic disclaimer out of the way: I have met quite a number of practicitioners of Wicca — contemporary witchcraft — and every single one of them has flatly said they do not worship the Devil because they do not believe in one; they blame the whole Satanic idea on monotheism. Is that clear? Trust me, the people I have met are emphatic on this point.

Now, let’s take those questions in order.

1.) What kind of guy takes a woman out on a very first date to a “satanic altar,” and brings along a picnic basket? Yes, there are 300 million people living in this country, but who would have thought of such a thing?

2.) “Dabbled into witchcraft?” If Ms. O’Donnell wants to work criticism of public education into her campaign, and assuming she went to public schools at some point in her lifetime, she certainly has ground to wonder why she never learned the proper use of prepositions.

3.) A picnic at midnight? To whom is candidate O’Donnell trying to appeal? Yes, Spaniards may have their evening meal when the clock strikes 11 or 12. But your average American settles down to his or her meat and potatoes a good five hours earlier, thank you very much. Eat at midnight? Maybe a snack on a TV tray while watching Leno. But not outdoors. Unless you live in very far north Alaska, the sun’s down, so how are you going to grill?

4.) Now, let’s get back to the “altar.” Please, Ms. O’Donnell, tell us more! What did this thing look like? It’s not like we all know, like we’re on our daily commute and just happen to look out the car window and see, well, yes, “There’s that ‘satanic altar’ over there, Edith. Wonder when those folks get that thing going?”

Exactly once in my life have I seen a photo purportedly of a “satanic altar”–in this case, a rather modest edifice created by the showman Anton LaVey, now deceased creator of the very, very tiny Church of Satan. If I remember right, there was a person lying upon it, alive, but (ahem) underdressed. I can’t imagine picnicking in such a venue… after all, wouldn’t it be a bit crowded?

So many questions! But at least no one can ever call Delaware dull anymore.

So here, dear readers, is a question: Could Ms. O’Donnell possibly be simply confused, or is she the sharpest political operator to hit the scene, bigger even than Sarah Palin, able to dominate the headlines and rise to “got-to-book-her-now” status for every news show in America’s 24/7 cycle?

Based on the evidence, this woman can feed the beast–by which I mean the news media, not the ever-unhappy being that Dante so effectively described.

  • bm66535

    American political system sucks big time. No wonder the world hates and does not trust the United States. That is those that are independent of our financial power, and afraid of our cultural power.The idea someone like this could even rise to the top of a political party in the United States tells the world how depraved America has became.Sarah Palin is not choice either. Nor are those godless agnostic Americans in the democratic party, or their counter part in the US controlled media circus.

  • blarsen1

    If this were a democrat, the right would be going berserk. This “gal” is not qualified for dogcatcher according to the republican party. Now we find she was a Wiccan. These are the same people who complain about Rev. Wright. Give me a break!

  • thomasmc1957

    Once a Satan worshiper, ALWAYS a Satan worshiper.

  • good_angel

    Note the wild eyed leftists in these comments stating she is a Wiccan, which she is not and a Satan worshiper, which is not and never has been. She is a strong Christian.The liberal media is really getting desperate now, bringing out a silly comment about something this lady did when she was a kid in high school. As I understand it, she dated a fellow high school student that was interested in witchcraft once and she was naive enough to bring that up on an ultra liberal talk show years ago. She is 41 years old. This happened when she was a little teenager. Her opponent, Chris Coons, wrote a paper about himself titled,” The Making of a Bearded Marxist” and the liberal media has not spotlighted that or this comment by Harry Reid, “I’m going to be very honest with you — Chris Coons, everybody knows him in the Democratic caucus. He’s my pet. He’s my favorite candidate.”

  • WhateverHeSaid

    She didn’t feed the media beast, Bill Maher did. And he says he will continue to do so with clips from O’Donnell’s 22 appearances on ‘Politically Correct.’What a 31-year-old O’Donnell was doing on ‘Politically Correct’ babbling “I dabbled into witchcraft — I never joined a coven. But I did, I did. … I dabbled into witchcraft” is anyone’s guess.Reading the mind of the dim-witted chancer is always a difficult task.

  • PurlGurl

    GKAM comments, “Gustav Niebuhr…the first two respondents instead turned on you.”Niebur critiques grammar. Niebur writes an article which is littered with grammar errors. Pot — Kettle.However, Niebur’s crayon scribblings are considered works of art by left liberals who cry “foul” when the table is turned.My presumption, GKAM, is you are challenged to recognize grammar errors within writings.By-the-by, did you know Christine O’Donnell is a witch? Yes, ma’am, left liberals actually believe she is a witch. However, I find Niebuhr’s lack of acceptable writing skills to be more amusing.Okpulot Taha

  • timecycle

    Give it a break “SavageNation”—The attack from the left is NOT hypocritical. You have conveniently failed to address the issue. Christine “I dabbled into witchcraft” O’Donnell is a proclaimed ultra-conservative, champion of moral responsibility under the rule of a “christian” god. And here she is babbling on about having a little picnic at the altar of Satan on her first date while implying that there had been a blood sacrifice to boot. The issue is the stark contrast O’Donnell is projecting within herself with regard to the polar extremes of “christian” piety and liberal Satanism. Just like the “christian” evangelist Ted Haggard who at the same time rails against gays in a homophobic fashion he also enjoys homosexual physical pleasure. —Talk about hypocrisy

  • PurlGurl

    During the presidency of Billy Clinton, between Billy smoking cigars with a fat young female intern, Billy and Hillary held many seances led by a psychic right there in the White House. Hillary talked with deceased Eleanor Roosevelt and talked with deceased Mohandas Gandhi.OH NO! Tell me this ain’t so! Billy and Hillary dabbling? This cannot be!Left liberals are such ignorant hypocrites.Okpulot Taha

  • eezmamata

    ” Then when someone they hate because of their own dogmas is found doing what they’ve always done, …”why is it so hard to explain their hypocrisy to conservatives?The liberals aren’t hating her for doing what they do, they hate her doing it then claiming she DOESN’T do it, then claiming she’s better than they are because she doesn’t do it.This is as clear a hypocrisy as has ever existed. Why is it so hard for you to understand that last part?

  • areyousaying

    I wonder if the mice she thinks have human brains play with themselves, too.As if this hypocrite has never stirred the soup herself.

  • areyousaying

    Attention all Christians!!!!!!!Be wary of this woman and Palin’s witch doctor as well. Do what your Bible commands you or you aren’t really one of SavageNation’s “believers”![Exodus 22:18, KJV] “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”Maybe “Pastor” Jones in Gainesville could burn her and a few others as well in the name of poor old Jesus.

  • SavageNation

    Funny how the Radical Left uses behavior it LOVES such as Homosexuality and in this case Wicca as a PUT DOWN for it’s political enemies. They scream for freedom to do whatever they want, and cry when people judge deviant behavior. Then when someone they hate because of their own dogmas is found doing what they’ve always done, they attack that person as if they are all of the sudden on some moral high ground. Hypocrisy is a foundation of a modern Liberal.

  • PurlGurl

    Gustav Niebuhr your writings are absolutely laughable. Your silly contextual theme, your poor choice of words, your amateur attempts at writing with style and those grammar errors of yours, all have this English professor giggling and firmly convinced you write with crayons upon wide ruled notebook paper.Sign me “Devilish”.Okpulot Taha

  • ms_jenny_girl

    I don’t think the author was attacking her for dabbling into witchcraft. Actually, I don’t think he was attacking her at all. He made some jokes about witchcraft generally, and it could be said that part of the humor was people’s perception of the hypocrisy of wearing one’s Christian purity on one’s sleeve when one has a less-than-pure-Christian history. But “hate” and “attack”? No.Personally, I’m liberal, and I’m glad to hear that Ms. O’Donnell has explored other faith traditions. I hope she doesn’t repudiate that part of her past, because I think the way we learn is to open ourselves to people who are different from us. For example, I have some very conservative friends.Of course, I can’t speak for all liberals. But I don’t see the hypocrisy in my own position that you claim is a liberal’s foundation. Still, I’m willing to listen if you see it otherwise.

  • johnnormansp

    Midnight “picnic” on a date, on a satanic altar — yes, I can see where the snack would be involved there.

  • gkam

    Great stuff!!Gustav Niebuhr, we have noticed that, unable to debate your points, the first two respondents instead turned on you.In turn, I wonder if the person with the self-inflicted moniker “savagenation” realizes that he has identified himself with a draft-dodging coward, who hid while we grownups went to war in the late 1960′s. The real name of “Savage” is Michael Weiner, but I don’t know if it’s pronounced Weener or Whiner, both of which fit. At any rate, he’s one of those stay-at-home patriots who need to send others to do their dirty work so they won’t feel so SCARED.What is left unsaid is the fact that everything the Teabaggers whine about was their fault: The World’s Biggest Bad Debt came from the Fiscal Conservatives Reagan and Bush. The Family Values Conservatives taught us all the techniques of toilet-stall Christian pickups. The Compassionate Conservatives took programs from poor folk and poor schoolchildren so millionaires and billionaires could get tax dodges. Then, after their Criminal Negligence on 9/11, they launched two bleeding, festering, unending, Bush Wars, including the commission of War Crimes!Next time, just ask them how they are going to PAY FOR THEIR BUSH WARS. That usually stops them.

  • citysoilverizonnet

    WHY should I vote for a person, who is not only extremist but well beyond Christian and moral values? She looks like, talk like, have past like Sarah Palan and that is more than enough to ignore her and ignore what ever other Pundits are saying about her. She is wasting her time and her supporters money. I am little bit upset about Obama the way economy is going but hearing Republicans and their economical plans to allow Millionaires to become billionaires and middle class to go down to the poverty index is very risky . I will continue taking little more risk in supporting Obama and democrats rather than tea party and witch party Republicans. They look like real ghosts and witches to me, if I look them very carefully.

  • Koom

    SavageNation , that the Republican Reich wing are thee Christian party , thee family values party is the ultimate hypocrisy and the biggest lie of all . Any so called Christian falling for that nonsense never reads the Bible apparently and they just accept the false claims and accusations , no critical thinking , no logic or reasoning what so ever . The Republicans play Christians like a fiddle , and many of the Christian leaders are nothing but frauds and charlatans working hand in hand with the Republican party , it’s all about money and power for them , not Christ and not saving souls , not helping people . Ah yes , the Christian and family values party , take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich , greed is good … just like Jesus taught right ? Ginrich and diaper David ( Vitter ) , yup , the Christian family values party ! LOL . In eight years , six of those years being an absolute one party rule dictatorship what did Bush and the Republicans do in regards to abortion or gay marriage ? Answer : nothing . They could care less about either issue , as I said they use Christians , play them for fools , play them like a fiddle . Judge a party or a person for what they stand for and what they actually do , how they actually operate ( behave ) not by what they say and tell you . Pull your head out .

  • APaganplace

    “”She said he was a satan worshipper, so he evidently wasn’t a real Wiccan. So let’s just all be honest. He took her there to get it on. The only question now is… did she?Posted by: j_mcdouglas |”"I wish people had the reading comprehension to see that the author here went well out of his way to distinguish whatever Ms O Donnell claimed happened from Wicca. What her claims *really* say is that along with her ‘anti-masturbation crusade’ she was buying into defamatory Satanic Panics, (You know, those people who’d say that if you wear a Metallica T-shirt, you’re part of a baby-eating Satan-worshipping occult conspiracy (With ‘bloody altars?’ Yeah, they claim Wiccans believe in the Christian Devil, (And sometimes claim more babies are sacrificed yearly than have ever gone missing in the history of the nation, of course, but since every investigation has shown they *made it all up, why not go big, I guess.) Again, your Devil isn’t even a *character* from our religion, and of the few words Wiccans treat like ‘Scripture,’ we have right from the Goddess: ‘Nor do I demand anything of sacrifice, for My love is poured upon the Earth.’ What this means is she’s either lying or was reading too many Jack Chick comics about what it means when kids mess around. Pretty standard procedure for them to claim, ‘Oh, I dabbled in ‘the occult,’ before I was ‘saved,’ our Devil is real and his minions are all over, selling Harry Potter books and voting Democrat…’ The point is, it’s ridiculous BS, and anyone who grew up around those times will remember the idiocy of Fundie ‘occult experts’ saying Stars of David and White Tiger T-shirts meant someone worshiped their Satan.

  • david6

    Christine appears to be a silly storyteller who doesn’t even have enough background understanding to have a coherent story. Maher enjoyed having her on the show because she made right-wing religious nuts so entertaining, not because she has any idea at all what she is talking about.Thanks Tea Party voters for saving the Democrats from themselves.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    She is one of the most gay-hatin-est tea-bagsters to come along yet!

  • j_mcdouglas

    Why are people even pretending it was a “picnic?” Are Americans that naive?She said he was a satan worshipper, so he evidently wasn’t a real Wiccan. So let’s just all be honest. He took her there to get it on. The only question now is… did she?

  • FarnazMansouri2

    I wonder if she can see Russia from Delaware.

  • JerryBrownDemocrat

    If I were a journalist, I’d be looking for her date. I don’t want to call her a liar, but I’m finding her story very hard to believe. I want proof that this ‘date’ really happened.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Christine says, “masturbation is a sin.”So what? What if it is? What does she plan to do about it? I guess she must have some things up her sleeve to put an end, once and for all, to masturbation. She’ll show’em all a thing or two.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    What a crazy world we live in, war, economic decline, high unemployment, and the Repbulicans keep harping on masturbation and pornography. If Christine could pry every man’s hand off of his penis, how is that going to help with unemployment?

  • Carstonio

    anyone who grew up around those times will remember the idiocy of Fundie ‘occult experts’I remember one who traveled to colleges in the 1980s playing clips from rock songs like “Stairway to Heaven.” His argument was that the human mind could hear backward messages and be influenced by them.I’m not sure if such people see “Satan worship” as simply license to act with abandon, or if they really believe that a being of pure malevolence seizes control of humans’ minds and makes them punch old ladies and kick puppies. Some of them seem to see God and the Devil as matter of simple allegiance between one or the other, and some seem to see “Satan worship” as being like the dark side of the Force. (I use that term in quotes because it sounds like a Hollywood creation, like Damien Thorn exhorting his followers in “The Final Conflict.”)

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

shutterstock_134310734
Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

shutterstock_188545496
Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

5783999789_9d06e5d7df_b
The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

concert
Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

shutterstock_37148347
What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

987_00
An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

shutterstock_188022491
Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pile_of_trash_2
Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

sunset-hair
From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.