Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RETAIL: Lost Abbey beer label riles some witches

However, brewer supported by local Wiccan leader

SAN MARCOS ---- The Lost Abbey has landed in a pre-Halloween brouhaha over one of its beers.
Some practitioners of Wicca, also called witches, have criticized the microbrewery's Witch's Wit seasonal beer because its label depicts a woman being burned at the stake. The medieval-themed imagery is offensive, some Wiccans say, because it makes light of their historical persecution.

However, Lost Abbey said the story behind the beer bottle label denounces the intolerance shown to witches. And a local Wiccan leader said he supports Lost Abbey.

Wicca is a nature-based religion. Believers say it has nothing to do with Satanism, a charge often used over the past several hundred years to justify persecution.

"When we did the label, it wasn't like we were condoning it," said Vince Marsaglia, who owns the company with his sister, Gina.

"There's a back part of the label, and I don't know if they (protesters) were reading it or not," Vince Marsaglia said Friday. "I stopped answering the phone. Some of them are really very angry people."
A couple of the protesters even hinted they might retaliate with spells, Marsaglia said. However, he said, one person made a more reasonable complaint that he responded to. And some people have objected to the "political correctness" of the protesters.

Marsaglia said he's open to changing the label illustration, possibly in cooperation with Wiccans. He said nothing has been decided yet, partly because he's not the only decision-maker.
San Marcos resident William Eade, high priest and national director of the First Celtic Wiccan Church Inc., said Lost Abbey is being unfairly attacked.

"I don't see that Lost Abbey bringing out the facts on this is a bad thing," Eade said. "I know the people over there at Lost Abbey, and they're good people."

Religious beers

In keeping with its name, Lost Abbey produces a series of beers with religious themes, such as Devotion, Inferno and Judgment Day.

The back label for Witch's Wit describes burning at the stake as an evil act, and the sin is committed by the crowd that condones the practice:

"I became more fixated on the guilt of the crowd," the text states. "There would surely have been people (the faceless souls) who could have/would have wanted to help. There also would have been some righteous people smug with satisfaction knowing another 'witch' leaving their world. The Point of View for this back story label is about that smugness and righteousness in light of a horrific atrocity against mankind."
Marsaglia said he's a bit mystified by the timing of the criticism. The beer has been sold without protest for three years, he said.

Earlier in October, prominent pagan Vicki Noble sent e-mails denouncing the brew, prompting blog posts and articles across the country, including an article in the New York Times that quoted Noble.

Opponents even set up a Facebook page urging a boycott of Lost Abbey and sister company Port Brewing.
Marsaglia and other Lost Abbey staffers have been busy ever since dealing with the fallout, including phone calls and e-mails.

Brewmaster Tomme Arthur wrote about the uproar on his Lost Abbey blog:

"We have a stack of e-mails asking whether we would show Jews being gassed or African-Americans being lynched. Of course not was our reply," Arthur wrote. "Others seemed to think we were responsible for recent incidents in Darfur as well. It was amazing chain of events to say the least."

Lost Abbey can be reached at http://www.lostabbey.com or by calling 800-918-6816.

Call staff writer Bradley J. Fikes at 760-739-6641. Read his blogs at bizblogs.nctimes.com.

Original Article

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