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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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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.
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| There's One Particular Misconception I Haven't Heard Anyone Mention Yet, And It's... ||Sep 25th. at 7:28:06 pm EDT|
|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 EDT|
|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 EDT|
|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 EDT|
|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 EDT|
|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.
| Holy Cow... Reading All These Responses Has Made Me Realize How Lucky... ||Sep 26th. at 12:05:33 am EDT|
|Amanda (Providence, Rhode Island US) ||Age: 20 - Email |
Reading all these responses has made me realize how lucky I am. Since I am a fairly open witch, I thought that when I became a Resident Assistant (RA) at my college I'd have the intolerance heaped on me by at least the parents, maybe the students. Well I've had this job for three years and the most popular response to my pentacle has been "Are you Jewish?" I sometimes get questions about my beliefs, which I answer openly and honestly as best I can. On big family days like opening and closing of the building, I've never had a parent even *comment* on my necklace. Maybe they didn't know what it was. Maybe they did... My friend Ira down the hall is a "son of a preacher man" ::smiles:: Both he and his father are the nicest people you'll ever meet, very comfortable in thier own faiths, and very accepting of others.
I think my residents spend more time worrying about Amanda the RA than Amanda the witch. RA Amanda has the power of "write up", something Amanda the witch can't match. I don't make a big deal of my religon, and I don't flaunt it in anyone's faces. People here know me, and they know I'm a witch, and that's ok. Either way, I'm not looking foward to the day that I do experience trouble. I'm not optimistic enough to think it will never come, but I hope I'm prepared when it does and can deal with it appropriatly.
| I Think In Some Places There Is More Curiousity. But Still The... ||Sep 26th. at 12:29:21 am EDT|
|Rainy (Hubbard, Ohio US) ||Age: 38 - Email |
I think in some places there is more curiousity. But still the old satan link continues. I run into alot of questions like well then why aren't you rich, can you turn my boyfriend into a frog, tell me what my room looks like (on line) and many too silly to list.
When I lived in Ashtabula I took on the local ministers in press about their mishandling of who and what we are. I always try to stay calm and fight stupidity with knowledge. But it gets really tiresome. Year 2000 and people still believe that we are the bad guys sometimes and do some outrageous stuff over feeling threatened by our being.
I fully realize you cannot alway change minds...but a little more tolerance would be nice. Has anyone else noticed christianity and various organized religions becoming like the AT&T guy trying to get you to change your long distance carriers.
It is kind of weird. I canno decide which is more irritating...the telemarketers for at&t or god's telemarketers.
| I Suppose That The Most Common Misconception I Hear Is That Pagan... ||Sep 26th. at 1:23:52 am EDT|
|Sylver Hawke (Worcester, New York US) ||Age: 18 - Email |
I suppose that the most common misconception I hear is that Pagan/Wiccan equals Satanist. I encounter that a lot. If you are a Pagan, you are a heathen and a Satanist. I have even heard that we are pure evil (lower than most people I suppose). I think a lot of people are better informed now than there were 10, 15, 20 years ago. Yet, there are still those "religious zealots" who's minds will never be changed. Regardless of how much you try to explain, their ideas are set in stone. I just try to ignore people like that. I realized about a year ago, there is NO changing their minds. I was wasting my time, energy, and breath trying to explain to people who keep their minds closed. I will try to correct misconceptions, but I don't go much further than that anymore. I try to remember that they have just as much right to think I am evil as I have to practice what they deem so.
| It's Pretty Well Obvious, Isn't It? The Most Common Misconception Which We... ||Sep 26th. at 3:15:47 am EDT|
|Gwydion Canu Bleidd (Memphis, Tennessee US) ||Age: 32 - Email |
It's pretty well obvious, isn't it? The most common misconception which we, as Pagans, Wiccans, and the like have to deal with is that we are evil/Satanic/possessed by demons. (Take your pick, they're all up for grabs one way or t'other.) Shortly after I became a seeker on this path, declaring myself Pagan though not really having any affiliation at that point to any specific belief or group, I found myself having to explain to my parents that I was not practicing Satanism or devil-worship in any way, shape or form. I've had people I thought were friends and/or reasonably open-minded either become befuddled by my declaration of my beliefs, or be outright hostile. (Needless to say, I've learned in rather short order whom I could trust, and whom I could count as true friends, and I'm here to tell you, sports fans, it ain't a whole lot of people!)
It doesn't help, of course, that I live in Memphis, TN, the very Buckle of the Bible Belt--there are, after all, well over 1000 churches in this city alone, gospel music is one of the four types of American music that can claim the Bluff City as their birthplace, and it's the cradle of the Church of God in Christ, and they hold their annual conventions here every November (not coincidentally, I believe, a week or so after Samhain). Also, we are across the river from where the infamous murders took place in 1993, the ones for which Damien Echols, Jesse Miskelley and Jason Baldwin are now spending the rest of their lives in the Arkansas State Pen, with Echols on death row. Not long after I arrived here six years ago, I was informed of this by my mother, who advised me not to make an issue of being a Pagan because of this terrible and tragic incident. I find it impossible to remain closeted, and so I wear my T-shirts and my pentacles openly, quietly daring anyone to say anything. I have Pagan bumper stickers on my car, too, and I sometimes wonder if I will find my car vandalized because of this. To date, it has not happened; perhaps the Goddess looks after her bolder (and more foolish?) followers.
I have also been accused of changing my religious beliefs to suit my moods "this week", and I'm happy to say that's not a bit true. I have stuck to this path for 10 years, folks, and I'm not looking back. I don't eat babies, I don't sacrifice cats (and how can they say such a stupid thing about us, when you see how many Pagans and Wiccans have cats as family members? Get real, people), and I like to think I'm a perfectly sane and well-adjusted individual. And I don't do love spells or money spells, nor would I advise anyone else to do them. And I'm a real being of flesh and blood. (I've been told that "witches aren't real"--if that's the case, then how do you explain us?) Oh, it's truly amazing what some will believe...
| I Would Say Stick To Healing And Truth, Along With Following The... ||Sep 26th. at 5:46:11 am EDT|
|Laurie Crooker (Addison, New York US) ||Age: 37 - Email |
I would say stick to healing and truth, along with following the idea of do no harm to others, animals, and our planet. Eventually a new consciousness will continue to evolve. Laurie Crooker
| I Know It Is Not Peaceful Folks Like You Who Abuse Animals... ||Sep 26th. at 8:29:34 am EDT|
|Patricia (Asheville, North Carolina US) ||Age: 43 - Email |
I know it is not peaceful folks like you who abuse animals, but I worry about my beloved cats on Halloween- they are our fur-children. If you have any suggestions on protecting them, please respond. For years I have heard of evil people who do this cruelty to defenseless loving creatures, and have lost two black cats years ago in Florida around Halloween-never to be seen again. We have 2 blackies, 2 sylvesters and one "white tiger, " all darlings(usually!)
| I've Been A Witch For Eight Years And Have Seen And Been... ||Sep 26th. at 10:39:13 am EDT|
|Michele (randomfactor) (this space intentionally left blank) (fnord) (memphis, Tennessee US) ||Age: 24 - Email |
I've been a Witch for eight years and have seen and been through a lot of misconceptions. I've been more or less disassociated from a good part of my family because of my boldness with who and what I am. Now, in Memphis, TN, where I live, I find myself being bold enough to wear the pentacle out, and reply quietly and thoughtfully when asked on it. This I do for myself, however, and nobody else. Minds are not going to change overnight. Some die-hard believer isn't just going to throw up his hands and say, "Oh! Witches must be good because Michele says so!" Words don't change minds - actions do.
No. That's why I am a firm believer in Teddy Roosevelt's "Walking softly and carrying a big stick." Rather, I'd say, "walk softly and carry a big heart." The vast majority of the time, the light others see you in will be tinted by your behaviour, not your preaching. If you flaunt your "witchiness" and have no morality, intelligence, or common sense to back it up, you'll be viewed as a flake at best... at worst... well.. I'm certain the Malleus Maleficarum does still have significance.
The best way to dispel the myths? Present yourself as the reflection of God/Goddess that you are, walk with pride and humility, speak softly and listen loudly. Command and entreat respect. Then, if someone notices that pentacle, they'll be much more willing to respect your path..
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