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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 9,467,973  

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Question of the Week: 8 - 9/25/2000

Misconceptions About Witches, Wiccans and Pagans

The Misconceptions About Witches, Wiccans and Pagans still exist despite decades of educational and outreach work. What are the common misconceptions that you still encounter in books, on the net or in the media about Witches, Wiccans and Pagans? Have they changed over the years? What can we do about those religious zealots who out-and-out lie about our practices and beliefs? How do YOU respond to some of the ridiculous 'myths' that you might see or hear about modern Witchcraft and/or Pagan beliefs?

 Reponses:   There are 63 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 


A Fellow Once Wrote Words To This Effect: Their Rituals Are Performed... Sep 25th. at 2:47:29 pm UTC

Ned "Greywolf" Farnsworth (Lafayette, Indiana US) Age: 27 - Email


A fellow once wrote words to this effect:
Their rituals are performed at night, in secret places. Before the ritual, a baby in covered in bread dough. The new members of the cult are encouraged to beat the dough with a stick, not knowning the infant is concealed inside. The child is, of course, killed by the beating and the participants then eat its flesh and drink its blood. Afterward the lamps are put out and they fall upon each other in lust.
The fellow was a Roman governor. The cult he spoke of was, of course, Christianity. The views he esposed about Christainity were, at the time, a popular misunderstanding of their holy sacrement, along with some sensationalist rumors based on the secrecy of ancient Christianity.

Ironic. Once the pagan establishment called Christians "baby-eaters", now the Christian establishment calls neo-pagans "satanists."

It's almost enough to make one believe in the Threefold Law.


I Don't Know About Other Areas But In My Area... In The... Sep 25th. at 2:53:55 pm UTC

Callisto (Toronto, Ontario CA) Age: 21 - Email


I don't know about other areas but in my area... in the Scarborough region of Toronto there are so many misconceptions about Wiccans/Pagans. People here think that we summon spirits all the time and ask them to do curses for us and to go out and scare people. The most common time for these misconceptions to occur are during Samhain. A few years ago I took my little sister trick or treating and we started off in our building. When we came upon one family's door that we knew as generally nice people, one woman came out and screamed at us: "We do not celebrate the devil's holiday! We are Christians!" and slammed the door in our faces. It's hard to believe that people can make such uneducated statements as that.
Another incident was at a bus stop. A woman approached me and started looking at my pentagram that I was wearing. She came upto me and said: "You are one of those devil-worshipping witches" I immediately started to set her straight. Although she didn't listen when I told her that Witches have nothing to do with the devil and that they didn't even believe in one she went on to tell me that I needed to be saved anyway because I have strayed from the Christian path and have abandoned Jesus. Then she proceeded to pull out her tarot cards so she could see how being a witch would affect my future!!! I was astounded that a Christian would do this. Gee..I thought seeing the future and using tarot cards for Christians is a major no-no and gave them a first class ticket to hell? It was obvious to me then that this woman had no clue at all about her own religion and yet she was trying to tell me that my faith is the wrong faith.
The most difficult thing for me right now is being a Wiccan in a family of Orthodox Christians. My family is from Eastern Europe and most people from there are set in their ways and won't budge no matter what. My parents don't know that I am a Wiccan however, my brother and sister do. I wear my pentagram at home all the time, that's not a big deal for me because my parents don't know what it is. My sister totally supports me and accepts me, my brother on the other hand does not. In one conversation we were having he asked me: "How can you be a Wiccan when you were baptized?" I responded with: "Just because I am baptized does not mean that I believe in that or in Christianity." And his response was: "You are so stupid, you have to show your respect to your religion" I went on to explain things to him and he proceeded to tell me that I am lost. On the contrary I told him, I am very found and happy with the faith that I have chosen. I have explained to him many times that religion is personal and that people need to follow something that is right for them and not because they were born into it. Well..sad to say till this day my brother still has not accepted me.
Have these misconceptions changed over the years? In my opinion..very little. It will be very difficult to have people change their views after being set in them for years and years. Coming from an Eastern European background and knowing how people react from that part of the world I know that it will take many years for them to accept and support those who follow a different path. It's very sad to see that people do not want to open up their minds and learn the truth. What can we do about this? I think the only thing we can do is to continue to fight for our beliefs and just live our lives to the fullest. When we are faced with a confrontation we should stand our ground and if the other person is willing to listen..then educate them. If they refuse to listen just walk away because forcing the issue won't get you anywhere. People who are set in believing that Wiccans/Pagans are devil-worshippers won't change their mind even if the truth is right before their eyes.
We have the truth on our side and that will eventually set all of us free. Until then we just have to be who we are and not let people who are ignorant and uneducated bring us down.
Ok..I think I have put my two cents in :)

Goddess Bless everyone,

Callisto


I Think The Most Disturbing Misconception That I Have Encountered Is That... Sep 25th. at 3:28:42 pm UTC

alison jennings wohleb (gig harbor, Washington US) Age: 44 - Email


i think the most disturbing misconception that i have encountered is that witches are people to fear. and out of fear can come alot of very negative things...violence and cruelty, for example. i think the average person out there still thinks that we worship satan, eat children, and will, if given even HALF a chance, sleep with their husbands.

what can we do? well, talk is cheap. we can reassure people about who we are , but i think it's best for us to set a good example. we, as a people, need to be aware that most people out there really have only negative opinions generated by a long history of misinformation. so, a little at a time, we need to educate friends and strangers alike. and "walk the talk"........if we are engaging in destructive behavior to ourselves or others, or behaving in other "un-witchlike" ways then we are taking a step back and dragging other witches with us.

a value judgement? you bet...........but life is full of them , and another phrase for it is common sense. if we follow the witch's rede, it's pretty hard to go wrong.

an "opinionated" witch....alison


A Witch? You Don't Look Like A Witch." With A Long Pause... Sep 25th. at 3:45:41 pm UTC

Little Witch (san diego, California US) Age: 22 - Email


..."a witch? You don't look like a witch."

With a long pause I then ask. "And what does a witch look like?"

"THey're suppose to dress in black and hide from the populas." Normaly I would just shake my head and raise a coy eyebrow with disgust. Note: Me, wearing blue jeans w/ bell bottoms and sandals wearing blue beads and a tank top.

The problem is people seem to think that Witch's-Pagans are the same as Gothics. Or they seem to think that we are mean un caring people. Most of the time I get brrom stick jokes, and I usually have a nasty retort to go with it.

The Witch in general seems to have improved in some senses. Look at that show charmed, cute, fluffy, but not so much negativity.

Then there was that Craft movie, close, but not quite. I had people asking me for weeks if I could control the weather like that, balancing the forces of nature. People please I would say..I can barely balance my check book!


First, As A Background On Where I'm Coming From, I Am Not... Sep 25th. at 3:45:50 pm UTC

badgerdance (Central, Texas US) Age: 34


First, as a background on where I'm coming from, I am not Wiccan and do not call myself a Witch, though I am pretty "out there" with my Paganism. The misconceptions I encounter most often are:

1. Pagans worship Satan. This is something that usually can be explained away to your basic liberal Christian, but to the fundamentalists, there is no swaying this misconception. It does no good whatsoever to tell them that Satan is a Christian invention that we do not even believe in, much less worship. To them, Satan IS, he exists, period, and they are as sure of that as they are sure the sun will rise tomorrow. In their mind, you don't have to BELIEVE in Satan to worship him - he's there, and if you aren't serving Christ then you are serving Satan. End of story. This is the most supremely frustrating attitude I have ever encountered.

2. Pagans are devoid of spirituality. Well, of course, we're not worshipping God so we're not worshipping anyone, right? And we're all a bunch of Godless atheists with no morals or ethics, and we're raising our children to be hedonists at best and soulless automatons at worst. Uh, yeah, right. People with this misconception are always amazed to learn that I consider myself a HIGHLY spiritual person, that I pray, that I continually strive to be a better person and to instill morals in my children. I find that again, the liberal Christian is open to a little pantheism/animism 101, but a fundamentalist is just NOT going to get it no matter what you say or do. In their eyes, you are deluding yourself with a bunch of make-believe because there is only one God, period.

3. Pagans, by virtue of being/calling themselves Pagans, are thumbing their noses at Christianity and/or "The Establishment." We're just doing this to be rebellious, dontcha know. Somewhere along the line we got pissed off at a Sunday school teacher and thought, "Aha! I'll show YOU!" Unfortunately, I am always so surprised and flabbergasted by this attitude that when I encounter it, I'm at a loss for words. It's so ridiculous that I don't even know how to respond. This falls into the same camp as "Paganism isn't a REAL religion." How do you convince someone your religion is "real"? I honestly don't know! I usually end up babbling something lame like, "Well, I know what feels right for me."

I really don't know how to get around these problems. I think there are certain people out there who are going to think of us as doomed and damned no matter what, because their worldview is so infinitesimally small and they just can't accept anything that falls outside of it. But if we Pagans continue to be ourselves and live our lives without shame, hopefully those whose minds are open will see that we are not weird, we are not evil, we are not defective or deficient. We are just normal, loving citizens of Earth.


I Would Like To Tell You A Story About Something That Happened... Sep 25th. at 5:15:21 pm UTC

Demarkus (Indianapolis, Indiana US) Age: 24 - Email


I would like to tell you a story about something that happened to me. I had never hidden the fact that I am pagan. My family believed I would grow out of it and because of what I am about to tell you, they think I did. I had entered into paganism at 15 and now being in my mid twenties, I think it's safe to assume I'm going to stay this way.
Now my story begins in mid 1995 when I was 19. (you do the math) My wife and myself had moved from the midwest to Texas. I won't bother getting into the reasons for this sudden move, but needless to say it was a BIG mistake. We knew no one, didn't know the area, I couldn't find work because the town we had moved to, Beaumont, was so small, there were no jobs, and we learned after arriving that we were going to have a baby.
By August, everything had blown up in our faces and we were homeless. It was then we decided the only place that could help would be the Salvation Army. Now here's the situation for going to the S.A., I had money coming to me which my wife and I were going to use to head home. It was just a matter of time before it reached us. We were going to stay at the S.A. until I received the money and then we would head home to the midwest.
Well, we had to fill out an application before being allowed to stay at the S.A.'s facilities. Like I had said, I am very open about my religion. I marked on the app my pagan affiliation without even a thought. The young lady who was like a manager, but she had another title that I can't remember, said my wife could stay, but I could not stay there. My wife, being Christian by birth, was allowed to stay because of her religion.
How do I know this for a fact? Because the young lady, whom I will refer to as "Ms. M" had stated "We don't need the influence of evil here."
Now, here is what I to this day do not understand. The Salvation Army was supposed to provide assisstance to the needy. No matter whom it might be asking.
Then why was I to be turned away? I hadn't done anything wrong to anyone there, I hadn't caused any trouble, caused any problems, I had barely even said a word to these people. They knew nothing of me as a person. But because of my religion I was being forced to sleep on the street, unable to find work because of it, and being forcably kept away from my 5 month pregnant wife!
May the Gods forgive me for calling that woman a "Nazi" to her face.
Needless to say my wife spoke to the commanding officer in charge of the facility and her convinced Ms. M to allow me to stay.
It is the attitudes like that which cause events to take place, like Inquisitions and witch hunts. It showed to me just how blind prejudice is. Ever since that happened, I decided it would be better to practice in silence. It was just recently I had came out and revieled I am still pagan. Yet only a few very close people know this. But slowly I am opening back up.
I came to the conclusion that I can't let one bigit get to me, no matter what the situation. All of us need to stand up and fight for our rights against the establishment. Let the know we will not be ridiculed and ignored anymore! We were always here, and we will remain long after the fundamentalists are dead and gone.
To bring a happy ending out of this story, I am happy to say I now have 2 very beautiful little girls and we were able to return home to the midwest. My wife and I have been married for 6 years Augest and we are very happy. And on one final note, Ms. M was fired from her job for basicly being a bigit. Seems she called a black man the evil "N" word in front of the commanding officer.
Looks like the good guys finally got one!


Well, There Is The Ever-present Satanist Myth Which I Seem To Spend... Sep 25th. at 6:46:56 pm UTC

Darkmoon (None, Wisconsin US) Age: 13 - Email


Well, there is the ever-present Satanist myth which I seem to spend most of my time online (and quite a bit of time offline, now that I think about it) explaining away these days. It really bugs me. Not that I have any problem with Satanism, but, knowing what most people think they are like, it is more than a little insulting. Then, there are the numerous myths reinforced by TV shows and movies like The Blair Witch Project (and DON`T tell me that`s not insulting to Witches, just the title is enough), Sabrina the Teenage Witch (one of the many one of the many reasons I no longer have Cable), The Craft (The Crap), and Charmed (self-explanitory). Then, there is the cat-sacrificing myth, which is probably one of the Top Ten Most Rediculous Things I Have Ever Heard (it beats Monsters in the Closet). I could rant (type would be more accurate) like this for hours, but I don`t have the time, so, Blessed Be, and may the few, the proud, the Neo-Pagans NEVER be stuck in the broom closet. =)


There's One Particular Misconception I Haven't Heard Anyone Mention Yet, And It's... Sep 25th. at 7:28:06 pm UTC

Tabeth (Akron, Ohio US) Age: 24


There's one particular misconception I haven't heard anyone mention yet, and it's my personal favorite. It's the idea often found in so-called "liberal" and "intellectual" people that our religion is not old enough to be "genuine, " and we're senselessly looting the traditions of older cultures totally disparate from our own without any thought to their origins, without any understanding of those cultures we're borrowing from or why we're choosing those particular elements. The idea that we're all just picking Celtic knot symbols because they're cool this year, next year it'll be Italian kitchen magic, the year after that, hmm, maybe Crowleyan debauchery will be interesting. I have gotten some stunningly ignorant attitudes from otherwise intelligent and enlightened souls. One of my professors (a fabulous immunology prof, as it happened) lectured me about the totalitarian nature of "shamanistic" religions where the shaman rules with an iron fist while stoned on mescaline. When I explained that Christianity didn't exactly have a history of loving kindness, he acted astonished and had to revert to philosophy when his theological and ecclesiastical history gave out on him.

I'm tired of hearing these so-called scholars assume that "Eclectics" are all loonytunes flakes. Has it ever occured to them that maybe, just maybe there is really no single religion without blood on its hands, and still yearning for spiritual life, we choose the least violent, most ethical, moral and beautiful aspects of that particular tradition to practice? Of course not! And so many then go on to assume that we simply don't know "enough" about Christianity... *sigh* I speak five languages, among them Latin and German. I've translated photostats of the original Vulgate Gospels and Martin Luther's theses. When, oh when, will I have learned "enough" about Christianity to convince the intellectual fundamentalists that I am not 1. rebellious 2. insane or stoned on hallucinogens 3. stupid 4. ignorant 5. trendy or 6. immature? Probably never.

When I first had my own apartment, no roommates, a fundamentalist broke into my house, held a gun to my head, and sexually assaulted me, with the intention of, and I quote, "Stopping [me] from reading books about Satan, " because I had that "Life is a Witch and then you Fly" sticker on my car and an Absolute Witchcraft t-shirt hanging on my clothesline. The police managed to track him down (he was my neighbor, it turned out) and found him extremely schizophrenic and living on SSI because of the severity of his mental illness. That was bad enough, but at least, hey, the bastard was a certified wacko. When otherwise intelligent, obviously mentally competent and highly educated people inflict the same sort of discriminatory, offensive nonsense, I wonder where their heads are at. Where does simple ignorance stop and evil begin?


I Don't Think That Many Of You Get It. Christians, Especially Fundamentalist... Sep 25th. at 8:09:55 pm UTC

the ShadowDancer, Jim (Tucson, Arizona US) Age: 47 - Email


I don't think that many of you get it.

Christians, especially fundamentalist believers, think dualistically. Their cosmology is very simple minded-- if you are not "of God"(their god), then you are of Satan. You are good or evil. You are saved or damned.

We are not of (their) god, therefore we are of Satan. We are evil. We are damned. We may be foolish or deluded enough not to realize that we are doing the devil's work, but we are. That's it. Amen

Black and white.

You can put out all the positive info. you want, do all the good works you can, swear that you are not in league with the Devil. You are just wasting your breath. Frankly, I don't waste my time with them, especially those in my family.

Fortunately in this new Age our views seem to be ascending, while theirs are taking hit after hit. But don't count them as powerless. They haven't burned one of us for awhile. But in this country I've seen in the news gay people tortured and killed, black people dragged behind cars, immigrants tortured, etc. I don't delude myself that such things could never happen to me for my beliefs and practices. They still outnumber us 1000/1 or so. Have you ever looked up CHURCHES in the yellow pages?

We are just at the beginning of dealing with the systematic slander and blame which has been directed at our kind for thousands of years. Babies have been sacrificed, we got blamed. Cows did go sour or dry up, must have been us. Women were barren and men impotent, those damned witches. Even last week some kid in the news cut his mom's head off and Wiccan literature is found-- clearly us (Satanists) again.

This will take many, many generations. And the fundamentalists (Christians, Moslems, and Jews) will never, NEVER see us as anything but pawns of Satan. You can't change that.

Did you ever wonder why the OZ books are charming and Harry Potter is Satanic?


Just Two Weeks Ago, The Local Newspaper Reported The Desecration Of A... Sep 25th. at 8:27:06 pm UTC

Draco (Aylesbury) Age: 26 - Email


Just two weeks ago, the local newspaper reported the desecration of a local ancient well. Nearby were found goat's carcasses and the remains of black candles, and pentagrams were drawn onto the side of the well.

Even though this area is quite famous for Devil worship (the Hellfire Club was founded just down the road in the 17th century and still operates there today) the local paper said that it was obviously witchcraft and then started going on about orgies and the Black Mass.

And this is the 21st century.

This is just one reason why I feel that I cannot be open about my craft in the local community.

The newspaper in question was the Aylesbury Freebee. A letter of complaint has been written, and the editor has been threatened with court action for defamation. The case continues...


Imagine My Surprise When My Supposedly 'open' Mother Revealed That She Thinks... Sep 25th. at 9:01:14 pm UTC

Arial Strophe (Homewood, Illinois US) Age: 13


Imagine my surprise when my supposedly 'open' mother revealed that she thinks that Wicca makes people 'mushy in the head'! She pointed out the example of a girl who lives down the street and tried to join a coven. Apparently she became severely disturbed after that. I tried to point out that the girl down the street is a schizophrenic, and that the mushy-headness probably had more to do with chemical imbalance than with the evilness of these Wiccans. She thinks that we're the folks who sacrifice cats at Samhain, too.

It's sort of silly, because if I'd shot her words back at her with 'Christian' inserted where Wiccan was, it would make about as much sense. 'Those crazy Christians! They think that they can control the world with their beliefs! They think that it makes a difference whether they take communion, or whatever! I met a crazy Christian, once. She would run down the street screaming things. I'll bet it was the Christians that made her do it!' (DISCLAIMER: I actually know quite a few open Christians who are my friends. I was just using an example.)

I am SO not going to tell my mother about my beliefs.


I Am A Wiccan And I Attend A Catholic University In Washington... Sep 25th. at 11:28:11 pm UTC

Tanais (Spokane, Washington US) Age: 19


I am a wiccan and I attend a catholic University in Washington St. Needless to say praising my beliefs openly isn't exactly on my top ten things I'd prefer to do. I know the risks that go along with being different and I thank the gods that I haven't had to deal with full on bigotry. I've had lost some friends when the subject of religion came up and I did have one uncomfortable situation here at school once. Nothing happened afterwards but seeing someone just turn almost fearful after about a half hour of joking around is just staggering. How do you convince someone that the word "Witch" means something totally different then what is in the Bible? Simply having information available doesn't always seem to be enough. I still pray nightly that the new pagan pride movements are not interpreted by those that would wish us harm into declaring full out religious war. How do you change the minds of the stubborn, foolhearty, and totally ignorant? Use the weapons available. Knowledge, pride, and most importantly Truth. We know that we are not evil and don't sacrifice babies or any other foolishness. What I propose is to use the media. Get word out on a larger scale instead of some scattered web sites. Continue the pride weeks, events, and whatever else anyone can dream up; make the cause in the spotlight instead of just in the shadows. Many people won't believe anything unless they see it on tv. (which explains all the evangicals) Get non-paritisans to speak the truth about paganism and debunk all the stereotypes.


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