The lighting of an eternal flame, the spiritual aura of heroism and triumph, the parades at once boisterous and solemn: The Olympic rituals that stir our hearts each time the Games roll around all take their inspiration from pagan Greek religious life, as interpreted by the classics-besotted Europeans who revived the event in the late 19th century.
Over the next two weeks of the Tokyo Olympics, Greek pagan pageantry will make a temporary place in a culture that has its own deep sense of myth and magic. How the two compare has become a point of fascination among scholars and practitioners of modern Western paganism.
Witches dominate Japanese pop culture, particularly in comic books and animated movies aimed at teens. The manga series “Liselotte and Witch’s Forest” and the television show “Little Witch Academia” are hugely popular. Some, such as the films of Hayao Miyazaki (“Kiki’s Delivery Service”) have become favorites in the West as well.