Way back when I was young, naïve and Pagan, the pub where we held our local moot used to go out of its way to have appropriately themed beers available when we were in. This was particularly easy in the run up to Hallowe'en, but at other times, Pendle Witches' Brew made regular appearances. And we loved them for it. No doubt if Lost Abbey Witch's Wit had been available then, we'd have made a beeline for it.
But is seems that these days, there are some Pagans out there who seem to think that they need to behave like other religions to get respect, including whingeing and kvetching about the tiniest perceived slight. One practitioner of Delicate Flower Wicca is Vicki Noble, allegedly
expert in astrology readings and shamanic healing but not, it seems history. She's objecting to the label featuring a witch being burned at the stake.
Those against the label condemn the image as offensive to practising pagans, and women in general, and argue that it is inappropriate to use a violent historical reference to sell beer.
The problem here is that the past was an incredibly violent place and, in parts of Europe, people accused of witchcraft were tortured and killed by burning them alive. None of them were Wiccan, but that doesn't matter. In a time of increasing religious lunacy, it's always a good idea to draw attention to the atrocities committed in the name of religion, and this is something the brewer understands far better than the fluffy bunnies:
I encourage you to look at all of Lost Abbey's beers and consider them in context. Each of the Lost Abbey beers features a label which depicts a theme of Catholic excess -- good and bad -- on the front, and tells a moral story on the back. (Our founder is a recovering Catholic.)
In the case of Witch's Wit, the back label is a story of the bad consequences of religious intolerance and oppression. The woman on the front is referred to as a
healer on the label and accuses the Church of being narrow-minded and violent, threatening the same fate to anyone who would help the woman. The label ends with a note that this beer -- a light, sweet and golden ale -- is brewed in honor of that woman (and all those who died for their convictions).
I'm also intrigued as to why one of the articles cited below keeps mentioning the Helen Duncan case in 1944. Contrary to popular belief, the 1735 Witchcraft Act abolished the crime of Witchcraft on the grounds that it didn't exist. It replaced it with an offence of claiming to have magical powers, which was obviously fraud. It wasn't the law used to execute people in England, where hanging was the method used anyway.
I wonder if my local specialist beer shop has any?
Lost Abbey Witch’s Wit Ale may Change Label Due to Wiccan Protests—RightJuris, 25th October 2010; Lost Abbey Burning Witch Beer Label Riles Wiccans—Washington City Paper Blogs, 26th October 2010.