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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: 27,669,068  

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Reponses: 63

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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 

Oh, The Misconceptions Go On And On. And Unfortunately, Some People Don't... Sep 29th. at 11:56:28 pm UTC

SilverSong (Rolla, Missouri US) Age: 18 - Email

Oh, the misconceptions go on and on. And unfortunately, some people don't accept you even AFTER you've done the hours of explaining. Most of my friends are very accepting of me an my religion, except one. No matter what I tell him or show him, I am still a Satan worshipper. (Even though there is no such being!) To a Christian, everyone else is a Satan-worshipper who may just not know better. No matter that their Pagan neighbor gives to charity, donates their time and is all those things that a "good Christian" is.
I've found the best way to deal with these kind of people is to just let it go. Neither person is going to sway: YOU know what your religion is, and they "know" what it is too. It's kind of like those "topics to avoid on a first date:" religion and politics. Just don't talk about it. To them, they are doing what is right and you can't really blame them.

Misconceptions About Witchcraft/paganism Are Many And Diverse - As Are Misconceptions About... Sep 30th. at 3:23:27 am UTC

Nelli (Carmel Valley, California US) Age: 23 - Email

Misconceptions about witchcraft/paganism are many and diverse - as are misconceptions about all the abrahamic religions (judaism, Christianity, Muslim), and buddhism, etc. The misconceptions about us just happen to tend towards the more sinister end of the continuum. We seem to be everyone else's scapegoat; minorities always are. Christians were scapegoats once... but that topic has already been covered adequately by previous postings. Actually, I think just about everything has been covered adequately - I just want to get in the eternal two cents...
The most important thing to me is humor; and this is my big project. I take myself *way* too seriously, and tend to get worked into a froth at the slightest provocation, imagined or real. I sense that I may not be the only one in this community with those tendencies. Of course one must draw a very clear line between benign idiocy and malicious propagandizing - treat the former with compassion and humor, and handle the latter as you would handle any venomous, explosive or otherwise deadly thing, with extreme caution, careful and constant alertness, and be prepared to fight for life or run like hell.
Now about the myth that we are all a bunch of flakes. Um, unfortunately, there are some really flaky people out there (I've met *tons* of them) who call themselves witches or pagans, and the general public often encounters them, because they love nothing more than to talk about their witchiness, their elaborate visions of Goddess, and the cosmic ray of Whomever that they use to... whatever. Anyways, I find these individuals to be on a par with evangelists/fundies, much more frightened and confused and unsure about their role in the world, than truly faithful/spiritual. Nevertheless, they perpetuate the stereotype.
About the books and TV... some shows are ignorant and offensive. Some are cute. some are funny. There's this new show that's supposed to air after the olympics on NBC (I think) called cursed. I was tempted to be angry and offended, but it actually looks kind of funny. And books, well, there are a ton of novels out there that exaggerate the power of witches - the Harry Potter series being one of them. Sometimes entertainment is just entertainment. It would be fabulous if all the major networks, plus discovery and PBS, ran accurate, current and thorough documentaries on real witches and pagans, and I think that eventually they will. I don't think we'll ever be a big enough group to take on Hallmark - they've completely preempted the creation and perpetuation of hallmarkdays, I mean, holidays, and I don't think they are interested in sticking to the facts. As long as it sells, they'll make it. That goes for everything - TV, books, comics, radio, 'net... as long as people buy, they'll sell. The myth of the wart-nosed hag is a deeply established archetype. A long time ago she was the Crone, Death, and she was revered as much as feared. Then she was demonized, as were all our gods and goddesses, and then she turned into a Hallmark card, and the rest is history. It is fightening how many people consider a card company to be a source of truth and fact, but... if someone silly enough to believe things like the broom schtick (no pun intended, I swear, it just came out that way), the cursing, the cackling, the eye of newt (eeeewww!!!) asks me about it, I try not to laugh too hard, unless they're being jerks about it, in which case I stoop to their level and laugh in their faces as loudly as I can. Same with the more serious fictions about sacrifice and amorality. Gentle laughter will set most people at ease. I have found that most people (in my experience) who ask about these things don't *really* believe it, it's just what they've heard/learned and they don't have anything else to choose from. Hence, the constant need for education. There is certainly a malevolent and/or violently ignorant contingent out there that should be taken *very* seriously, but I think that this movement may lean towards forgetting laughter sometimes - it is a hard, scary, nervous-making world right now, especially with this crucial election coming up and everyone getting more and more vocal. All the more important that, just as we can laugh at people who really believe that we eat (or even touch) amphibian optical organs, we should also be able to laugh at Sabrina's juvenile dilemmas, and at the angry young woman who curses the poor guy who won't go out on a second date with her (the plot for Cursed). It's easy to laugh at the muggles (satisfying word, that), but we must also maintain a sense of humor about ourselves. two quotes to close this, both from those pretty little "brush dance" cards:

Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.

Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused!

Love, laughter, and many blessings,

There Has Been Change In Awareness Of Witchcraft And Paganism. Thanks To... Sep 30th. at 2:31:36 pm UTC

Gekko (Schenectady, New York US) Age: 26 - Email

There has been change in awareness of Witchcraft and Paganism. Thanks to the protests made by people in reaction to bad movies and prejudice, I feel that more and more people are not only getting information about Paganism, but they are also becoming more tolerant. Once people discover that they HAVE to live with something they originally objected to, they tend to relax and accept its existence. It is through our perseverance that our opponents will realize that they have no choice but to allow us our space and our rights. Our presence is much stronger than it was even five years ago. As such, when errors are made (i.e. websites describing "Lord Samhain"), our community steps up and educates those who made the errors.

I think we're doing pretty darned good for ourselves!

I Have Not Lived In America For Very Long And Am Not... Sep 30th. at 8:24:36 pm UTC

Silver Snowdragon (Kansas City, Missouri US) Age: 50

I have not lived in America for very long and am not familiar with all the cultural bells&whistles. So, out of curiousity, I tuned in the television program _Charmed_ the other night. It was ridiculous - witches working to save the world from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!?! Absurd. I decided that I had other things to do with my time and tuned out. But how many viewers continued to watch? How many viewers take a television program as authentic - especially on a subject as exotic as witchcraft? If Hollywood wants to use a religion on a program viewed throughout the country, they ought to at least get their facts straight.

This Will Sound As Pessimistic, But Hear Me Out. I Do Not... Sep 30th. at 11:58:53 pm UTC

Danielle Taylor (Riverside, California US) Age: 25 - Email

This will sound as pessimistic, but hear me out. I do not try to change someone's mind when they react negatively to paganism. I know that, fundamentally, I cannot open their hearts to tolerance and kindness- that is something which is their own decision to make. Now, this does not mean that I do not stand up for my beliefs (a pagan/eclectic/agnostic melting-pot, really) or my husband's, nor for any religion which is being unfairly represented. I do. And I, usually, patiently and carefully refute their arguments, which, usually, enrages the one making the accusations.
So how do *I* personally deal with it? If someone is _relentless_, I simply tell them to tell it to someone who cares. If someone challenges my beliefs, I will, if I think that it is important, challenge theirs (sinners casting stones, judge not lest ye be judged, etc). But if that person is not relentless, I will make my point simply and clearly, and drop it.
I have the freedom to do that, because I am an adult. Unfortunately, many children don't have such an opportunity- schools (public in particular) and 'youth communities' are intolerant of differences- look at the violence occurring when children who are bullied and persecuted finally snap? And this is simply for dressing differently, in most cases. Multiply that many times over for differences in religion and philosophy. What do I think we should do? Vote. Vote to enforce laws protecting our religion(s), our alternative-faith communities, and our children. Take legal action against those who break the law with their bigotry. Stand up, either alone or together, and take the anti-pagan(insert religion here) establishment on. Try to form networks among communities. And, please, _get along_. So many of us choose to fight amongst themselves because of misunderstandings, egos, or arrogance. So many of us choose to make enemies out of our own community, and in doing so, make ourselves _incapable_ of presenting a unified front to those who attack us. How can we earn respect from the outside communities when we have none for ourselves?
It grieves me that my husband, who is active in the community, cannot be open with his religion due to the inevitable discrimination which it would cause. it grieves me that, as a pagan with a possibly terminal illness (I have been confined to my home and my bed for a year now, as my immune system and endocrine system have failed), who is trying despite extreme poverty and no coven to whom to turn to for support, I cannot even find those of my own beliefs to spend what time I do have among those who think and feel about certain things the way I do, and who will not judge my spiritual beliefs.
And I am not alone. There are many like me. And, so, to get back to the point- we may win this fight eventually, but we'll win it a lot faster if we work together, stand up, vote, push for new laws or the repeal of unjust ones, network, and stop putting our egos ahead of what is right. If we believe, as I've seen some post, that there is nothing to be done, then we will certainly fail- as we will it, so mote it be.

Danielle Taylor

At One Point, The Roman Government Accused The Members Of The New... Oct 1st. at 2:36:34 am UTC

Gryphontamer Azurewing'd (Corona, California US) Age: 29 - Email

At one point, the Roman government accused the members of the new Christian faith of doing everything we're currently accused of doing by the religious right: eating babies, sacrificing animals, meeting in hidden places. They were called the "Christian cult" or "the cult of Christ." Technically, though we call ourselves the "Old Religion", many uneducated, ill-informed, or closed-minded people will always see Wicca, Druidry, Asatru and the many other NeoPagan paths as "new" or "a cult".

What can we do about the religious zealots? Not much, except prove them wrong by our actions. Experience tells us that actions speak louder than words. This doesn't mean bending over backwards not to offend -- far from it! But it does mean showing by our actions that we are not demonic, Satan-worshipping, soulless monsters.

The other thing we can do from zealots who lie about us is disprove them using their own Bible. There are, in fact, ways to do this.

The misconceptions I run into are things like this:

1 "Are you a Bad Witch(TM)?"
My answer: "No. Are you a bad Presbyterian/Baptist/Catholic?"

2 "Are you going to cast a curse on me if I make you mad?"
My answer: "Not even if you give me a good reason to. That goes completely against my ethics."

3 "How can you be sure you're not following Satan?"
My answer: "For the same reason you can. Are you following Satan? Besides, I don't believe in him."

4 "Don't you believe in Jesus Christ?"
My answer: "I believe he existed. I don't believe he was any more or less a child of God or the Gods than anyone else. I believe he taught good lessons. I don't believe most of the current Christian churches are following his teachings, though."

5 "Aren't you afraid you're going to go to Hell?"
My answer: "No, because I don't believe that Hell exists."

6 "Do you dance naked under the full Moon when you cast your spells?"
My answer: "Not usually, although there are Pagans who do. It's called practicing skyclad."
Alternate answer, in a humorous tone with people I know well: "Can you really see me doing that? I like being naked, but only when I'm by myself, and there's no place around here that I could do that." Then I continue on to the answer above.

7 "Why do you call yourself a Witch? Isn't that just inviting trouble?"
My answer: "Would you ask the Jews to stop using the name 'Jew' for themselves just because Hitler tried to demonize it?"

8 "Why are you wearing a Satanic symbol/Why is there a Satanic symbol on your car (my pentacles)?"
My answer: "The kids who pretend to be Satanists, the ones who talk about 'selling their soul to the devil' and do things like sacrificing animals, aren't true Satanists. And the symbol has been perverted by them in the same way the inverted Christian cross is a perversion of Christianity. The pentacle is not a Satanic symbol and it never has been."

Interestingly enough, I've never been asked to cast a love spell or a curse for a friend. I've never had anyone ask me if I've sold my soul to the Devil, killed/eaten a baby, or why I have a black cat. I think, perhaps, that my acquaintances and friends are a little more savvy than that.

I've been accosted twice by strangers who probably are frightened. We need to remember that people who lie about us are often afraid of us. They've built up this picture in their minds about who we are and what we do, and they won't be convinced otherwise. It's sad, but there are many people out there who are like that.

I See Misconceptions About Pagans Everywhere In San Antonio (texas). One In... Oct 1st. at 11:49:49 am UTC

Geneva Kelley (San Antonio, Texas US) Age: 21

I see misconceptions about Pagans everywhere in San Antonio (Texas). One in particular that sticks in my mind is a commercial for one Sunday televised church service where there showing "negative images" around us. They flash pictures of war and killing, but then they show a horned goat, the "Devil", and a large pentacle next, and the word Witchcraft. It was appalling and disgusting. So despite all the work we all have done to change the view of Pagainsm, some awful Christians are still close-minded on the subject of freedom of religion. All I can do, as one person, is show that I am a respectable, decent, honest young woman. That I love everyone with an open heart, and when the opportunity arrises I let those around me know that I am a daughter of the God AND Goddess. The Earth is our Mother. We must respect Her. Thank you. :)

Yes,somhow The've Changed And Somhow They Didn't. I'm Still Trying To... Oct 1st. at 11:56:16 am UTC

Jade Silverdragon (Buenos Aires, Argentina) Age: 22

Yes, somhow the've changed and somhow they didn't.
I'm still trying to explain to people like my grandmother what this is all about.She's the kind of person that is more catholic than the Pope...
She thinks that everything outside their religion is "evil".
My mother is a very open minded person and she understands me , even when she's a litlle bit scared.
I'm actually afraid of telling everybody that I'm an eclectic Wiccan because they don't even know what it is, and YES, like in the old times some of them would burn you if they could.
I find myself explaining my religion and beliefs to my grandma over and over again, but I came to the conclusion that people like her just DON'T WANT TO HEAR about it, and don't even bother trying to understand.
But from my place, day after day , if they ask me, I will still be explaining, over and over again.
My boyfriend is catholic and thinks that what I believe in is wonderful he's always listening to me :)
Only one of my friends is ok with my beliefs, but, saddly not everyone is capable of understanding and tolerance.
I hope that those who still don't understand what tolerance is , look back and think if we weren't tolerant to them....

I Feel That Some People Don't Want To Accept A Belief System... Oct 1st. at 1:03:58 pm UTC

Beth (cheltenham) Age: 22

I feel that Some people don't want to accept a belief system which gives them control as most people don't want to be held responsible for their own actions and cannot cope with out guidance because they are scared that they will make a mistake and become socially unaccepted. Everyone is an individual yet we are continually being controlled by other people in order to be accepted yet it is for who we are more about what we are. Some people feel that a minority group or seen to be out of the norm group is wrong. I believe they act this way because they don't understand the concepts of that group and are therefore frightened of what it may lead to. Everyone has a right to believe in what ever they want to but everyone has a duty to respect other peoples opinions. I feel this is a point which some people just don't get.

There Are Misconceptions About Everything...paganism Is Right Up There In Misunderstanding... Oct 3rd. at 3:14:18 am UTC

Shannon (Coleman, Michigan US) Age: 23 - Email

There are misconceptions about everything...paganism is right up there in misunderstanding with Goths at this point. Everyone thinks that Goths are satanists, depressed, do drugs, listen to only sad music. Just like everyone thinks all people who play D&D are social morons with no friends and who snort when laughing (you know the typical geek)
And paganism? Well...Just last week someone asked me what the difference between a pagan and a hippy was. In a tone that said, "I'll eat my shoes if you can find a difference!" Are all pagans hippies? No way. But this person thinks so. If I'd told her that I was a witch, she probably wouldn't know that a witch is, in fact, a pagan, but would have said something like "So, you're goth, huh?" Anything I told her about myself would have made her place me into a neat little category, defined by the media. Yikes.

My Experience To Date Is That It Is Only Those Who Are... Oct 4th. at 7:10:08 am UTC

dawn (adelaide, South Australia AU) Age: 31

my experience to date is that it is only those who are not strong in their own faith who feel the need to condemn the faith of others. when we recognise our own faith we are able to accept and recognise the faith of others. when people feel the need to justify their faith to others i often wonder whether they are really trying to justify their faith to themself. i have found an effective way to deal with the 'religious zealots'who belive that anyone who does not believe what they believe is obviously in legion with the devil. i invite them to my healing circle to experience first hand what i do. well, in six years i have not had one person take me up on this offer. regards

I Think The Worst Things I Have Seen Are Those Aimed At... Oct 4th. at 10:51:31 am UTC

Illianna Quicksilver (Greenville, North Carolina US) Age: 26 - Email

I think the worst things I have seen are those aimed at children, I have a five year old, and some of the movies and cartoons are simply horrifying. The good part about it is that it gives me a jumping off point to explain that witches do NOT "find babies tasty". (found in a book geared for children three and up) This does not however go to say there are not wonderfull stories out there, even some by non-Pagans. The most common situation that I face is my pentacle. I have recently spent some time checking identification in a local bar to help out a friend, and out of a line of people it has become a routine "no I do not believe in the devil, how could I have sold my soul to him?? The biggest problem I have is people touching it, can not seem to keep their hands off it. I wore a celtic triangle for three years and in two days more people had laid hands on my pentacle. My grandmother was catholic and had a saying that I use to this day. "Let those who have no capacity to understand remain ignorant". I learned this after many years of hour long debates(arguments) about religion. The most common myth I encounter is the idea that witches are "loose", (I won't use the four letter word I was actually called) and are given to having sex with anyone who is willing. To end on a positive note I have encountered many religions over the years and met beautiful, sensitive and warm people who ask only to understand, who love for the sake of love and who find that faith is the most important part of life. And they encourage mine. I thank the Divine for those people, and I think you will find that there are more thatn you think.

Blessed Be

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