Fiona Shaw’s character on “True Blood” is fun for her, but not for some real life Wiccans

Fiona Shaw has delivered a compelling and often frightening performance as Wiccan Marnie on True Blood this season.

Marnie (and Antonia, the spirit who shares her body) and her coven have been making undeath a living hell for the vampires of Bon Temps. So far, the witches have melted Pam’s face, erased Eric’s memory and beckoned the other vamps into the sun to burn into oblivion.

And out actress Shaw is having a blast. She told New York Magazine that she’s glad she didn’t know much about True Blood before she signed on.

Alan Ball discouraged me from reading the books,” she said, “which I don’t regret; I don’t want to hanker for material I don’t have. But when I started reading the scripts, and the first lot of Latin came my way, I knew there were challenges ahead! [Laughs.] And when we had the first read-through, and suddenly seeing all these vampires in person, that was very stunning. I had to adjust and remind myself that they’re all just actors. Nan and Pam, they’re my favorites. Both vampires, both very sour.”

When Shaw learned she would be playing a Wiccan, she prepared by spending time with the real thing.

“I actually spent weeks going to meetings and visiting witches. I liked the idea that with some covens, if it gets too big, the members can move on and form a new coven and be like bees, swarm elsewhere,” Shaw said. “Rituals can be self made. You can make up a ritual. I watched them conjure the dead, and it’s very moving. It’s all to do with their beliefs, and how they call upon a family member, and you see the comfort they give to people.”

Not all Wiccans are pleased with the portrayal, however; especially when Antonia possesses Marnie. A college professor in New England, who goes by the magical name Taarna RavenHawk, told Reuters that such behavior violates the spirit of Wicca.

“When Marnie gives up her ‘power within,’ which is a witch’s ability to practice the craft without harming others, it allows possession by Antonia who becomes the controlling entity. Marnie lets it happen. It’s unconscionable a witch would act this way.”

A Wiccan known as Moon runs a local online forum in Atlanta, Georgia, for solitary pagan practitioners. She is concerned about the appeal of Marnie’s toil and trouble.

“Since the new season of True Blood began, I’ve seen an increase in new members who are in their teens and may be easily impressed by Marnie’s display of power,” she said. “It’s dangerous when viewers think witchcraft, as Marnie does it, is so easy. For this reason she’s a bad example.”

Other witches don’t take the show so seriously. Ellen Dugan, a Wiccan priestess and author of several books on the Craft, said that she and her friends just laugh at most of Marnie’s sensationalism. “Most witches have a good enough sense of humor,” she said.

Shaw agrees that the witchcraft in True Blood is a bit overblown, but for a good reason.

“This show takes it to the extreme, but the history of witchcraft is absolutely the history of the scapegoat. It’s a forgotten bit of history, but millions of women were killed during the Inquisition, and it became a hysteria. The game of True Blood isn’t nonsense. Sometimes we call these powers by different names, but it is exciting to place our fears into shapes. It’s such an innocent idea to want to jump out of your skin and gallop along! The idea that you could behave temporarily as a horse, that’s fantastic. That’s the magic of television.”

Whether Marnie Stonebrook will survive to see True Blood‘s fifth season remains in question. But if Shaw gets a vote, she’ll be back.

“You never know, do you, with True Blood, so I don’t know either,” she told WetPaint, but I would be enchanted if I were asked back. I would be very, very interested if they could find a way of getting me back! It might take a lot of magic, but if they did I’d be thrilled to. I have had the most wonderful time with this group of actors, who I’m full of admiration for. They’re very friendly and we’ve had great fun and a lot of hard work. And I think that’s the most beautiful combination. I’ve enjoyed myself and if there’s a way I could get back, I’d love it.”

So would we.

What do you think of Fiona Shaw as Marnie/Antonia? Do you think the character is offensive? Are you Team Wicca or Team Vamp?