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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 18,733,337  

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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 

I Almost Always Ask Those Silly Religious Bigots, "what Were Those Human... Oct 25th. at 5:57:21 am UTC

Kathrynna (Huntington Woods, Michigan US) Age: 20 - Email

I almost always ask those silly religious bigots, "what were those human beings up to before the age of christianity, anyway?"
A world certainly must have existed before the bible (maybe a better one at that). Since people who lie over and over about paganism and any other faith are mainly christians, I then ask them, "has anything ever been right besides christianity?" Why are people so extremely content on converting the whole world to the ways of jesus christ? It is an infinite mystery beyond us, I believe. Sometimes, but just sometimes, it is quite difficult not to hate, just as they so willingly do.

The Most Common Misconception I Find In The Pagan Community Is The... Oct 7th. at 9:34:53 am UTC

Jeremy Cantrell (Dalton, Georgia US) Age: 19 - Email

The most common misconception I find in the pagan community is the one about "The Burning Times." Anyone who had done even a minor amount of personal research would have found that there were no real witches burned. The witch trials, or werewolf trials in Europe, were a Christian vs. Christian thing. All the witches, pagans, and others of the kind were living the high life. The British king at the time's number one advisor, I appologize for forgeting his name, was an open witch, alchemist, astrologer, and many more things. In the center of London lived a widow, a young widow, who openly practiced healing majick as her occupation. There are many, many more examples of witches like these, and as you can see, there was no reason for any witch to be living down in the slums with all those stupid Christians, and I personally am offended by anyone who would think that our kind would have ever been held down by dirty little puritans.

I Would Like To Actually Say Something Positive In Defense Of How... Oct 6th. at 1:58:08 pm UTC

Lira (Lunenburg, Massachusetts US) Age: 30 - Email

I would like to actually say something positive in defense of how Witches are portrayed in The Craft, Practical Magic and Charmed. Ok, they are fluffy, popularized movies/shows rife with inaccuracies - but they all have something in common that a lot of us seem to overlook; they are not about evil hags worshipping the devil. Their heroines range from misguided (california teens meddling with power beyond their abilities - hmmm, like you've never heard of THAT happening), to benignly meddlesome (older women working ethically questionable love spells), to actually positive and beneficial (hereditary witches fighting the forces of evil, albeit a Judeo Christian model of evil).

Cut them some slack - compared to the abundant negative press that can be found demonizing and condemning Pagans, these movies/shows are the best thing to happen to us in terms of publicity for quite a while. The women portrayed live fairly "normal" lives. They don't eat babies, and in both Practical Magic and The Craft, it is specifically stated that Witches don't worship Satan.

I would like more than anything, to see a show portraying us positively AND accurately, but until such a time as Producers and TV Acquisitions execs begin holding their products to those sort of standards, I am willing to settle for positively.

Yours in the Goddess,


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

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

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.

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.

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 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. :)

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.

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

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.

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