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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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112. Elders: Who Are They and Do We Really Need Them? - [74]

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7. The Ethics of Magick and Spellwork - [43]

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 11,669,249  

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Reponses: 63

Lurker/Post Ratio: 520 to 1

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 

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!

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,

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.

I Believe There Has Been Some Positive Change Mabee Not As Quick... Sep 29th. at 11:07:44 pm UTC

David Crocker (Dawsonville, Georgia US) Age: 42 - Email

I believe there has been some positive change mabee not as quick as we might like , but at least it`s moving in the right direction there is still a large number of folks that don`t even know of our existence that witches are all make believe but this too is changing as our numbers grow and we connect with each other and learn how to (dare I say it)organise ourselves and to work together as a team we accomplish more I believe we need to get more in the public eye there are some fantanstic web casted shows and programs out there , we need to have more on regular broadcast media as well, As for the liars I have found calm logical quizzing them on their information quite useful , the old saying of "give`em enough rope and the`ll hang themselves with it " comes to mind but if they are of the , Don`t bother confusing me with the facts , my minds made up , mindset I just don`t bother, or I sometimes Thank them and say the more I hear you talk the more I convinced to be pagan, this usally takes the wind out of them for awhile at least. well moving right along...OOh another idea I had for helping the get the message accross about who we are and what we are about is by yusing the field of aport mabee have a pagan softball, soccer(pick a sport) league/team this could be a great avenue to do some good PR work well that`s my thoughts ...well some of them at least Bright Blessings to all

Story Without An Opinion -- Maybe.) Update I Was Told This Morning By... Sep 29th. at 1:55:43 pm UTC

LittleWolf (Springfield, Missouri US) Age: 13 - Email

(Story without an opinion -- maybe.) UPDATE

I was told this morning by my principal and home room teacher that "George" has been suspended from school for the next four weeks for "intimidating another student, (two weeks;) defamation of another student's religion, (one week) and intollerent actions tword another student." (One week - all consecutively)

These actions are their own comment. I thank my school administration for their quick action about this, and

Blessed be

I Think That The Public View Of Witches Has Changed Over The... Sep 29th. at 12:28:03 pm UTC

Kaicielia BlueDragon (Madison, Wisconsin US) Age: 24 - Email

I think that the public view of witches has changed over the years. Thank the Gods it has gotten better, in some ways at least. Me and a friend once rented an old documentary film, that was labeled as something that had been lost for years and recently recovered. It was about witches and what was supposedly true about them. Of course, there were a bunch of old, dirty hags hiding in someone's basement, doing gross and immoral stuff. It was really quite disturbing, I'm glad my children didn't watch it. At the end there was some "expert" saying that, in truth, these people were all crazy, and needed to be put into an assylum instead of persecuted as they were.
At least now, with paganism being more out in the open and people fighting for what we believe, we have something to fight with. The only new negative thing I have seen is the arguement that, since we are so open now, we are out to get people. Trying to turn children to our side, doing whatever we can to make ourselves stronger. "They are everywhere, and cannot be trusted." Many of the old views are still around, but this new one has turned up recently.

Let's See... (the Following Are Statements That I Have Heard Expressed) Pagans... Sep 29th. at 11:11:57 am UTC

Sophandros (Irving, Texas US) Age: 25 - Email

Let's see... (the following are statements that I have heard expressed)

Pagans have no morals and are hedonists.

Pagans chose their path in order to rebel.

Pagans hate Jesus and Christianity.

All Witches are radical feminists, lesbians, or "loose women." A male isn't a witch , he's a "warlock", right?

Magick comes from the Devil.

Pagans are all hippies or freaks.

Paganism is a "make it up as you go along" religion.

Paganism and Atheism are the same.

The Dictionary has a definition for you, so that's what you are.

The Bible has a definition for you, so that's what you are.
I'm sure that we've heard all of these and more, and have our own ways to rebut tthem. I think that we can all agree that education and civility is the best route. I also think that we have all experienced situations where it is difficult to be civil with those who have no respect or tolerance for us. I've been told by some people that religious tolerance will never happen. Of course it won't as long as others violate one of their commandments and continue to bear false witness against their neighbours. While it's important for us to fight the misinformation out there, it is more important that our Christian friends who know that what is being diseminated is incorrect stand up and remind their brethren that their behaviour is not to be accepted. An example of this happened during Labor Day. We need more help from the tolerant Christians--the Christ-like Christians--in our struggle against the Paulians.

Of course, this is only my opinion, and I could be wrong.

The Oddest Misconception I Continuously Get (even More Than The Fear In... Sep 29th. at 12:51:03 am UTC

Fishgoat (Winnipeg, Manitoba CA) Age: 36 - Email

The oddest misconception I continuously get (even more than the fear in the eyes and plastic smile thing) is when people see my pentacle they ask me, "Are you Jewish?"

I don't get it. Can't people count to six anymore????? *sigh*

Eduaction is the only way to go. And live your life so well that when the accusations are lobbed at you, no one will believe it.

No one said this was an easy path to walk.

What I've Found Is That Many People Who Have The Misconceptions Still... Sep 28th. at 7:49:33 pm UTC

Roy Brooks (Bath, North Carolina US) Age: 24 - Email

What i've found is that many people who have the misconceptions still see witches as worshiping a devil :( despite the many times in which i have told them that we don't even acknowledge such a being. That plus many see witches as evil simply because we are witches. but fortunalty a good number of my friends no longer think that because i've spoken to them about who i am as a witch and at least they have accepted me.

This Viewpoint Is From Someone That Was "brough Out Of The Closet... Sep 28th. at 3:12:57 pm UTC

Justin Travis (SirTravers) (Munford, Tennessee US) Age: 27 - Email

This viewpoint is from someone that was "brough out of the closet" before he was ready. I'm a father of two kids with one on the way. I've always known that I was different from the rest of the family, but only realized I was pagan within the last two years. I'd been visiting a pagan chat room for a while when I found out that one of my younger cousins was also there. Well she was 16 at the time and couldn't restrain the urge to let the whole family know that she wasn't the only pagan in the family. Consequently the last four months of my life have been filled with dirty looks, emails, letters, and cold shoulders by my so called "loving, christian family"

Suddenly 27 years of appearing normal, nice, and a good father are out the window. They all think that because I'm a pagan that I'm evil, out to get their kids, and living in a fantasy world. I guess that educating your family wouldn't be so hard if you were ready for it, but getting caught off guard has been tough. It doesn't help that any resources I point out get ignored either.

I just want to thanks everyone here at the VOX and the kind folks at Summerland Grove in Memphis for being so supportive.

Thanks again,
from Deep in the bible belt

Merry Meet, I Have Been A Wiccan For Just Over Two Years... Sep 28th. at 1:57:57 pm UTC

GaiasForestChild (Ivybridge, England UK) Age: 16 - Email

Merry Meet,
I have been a wiccan for just over two years now and am 'out of the broom closet' to everybody except my Grandparents because I honestly think the disappointment would be too much for them too handle (especially since my mother i.e. their daughter died '97...).
The best way to battle misconceptions is education, besides, what other methods do we have open to us?
I have given a few talks about wicca and paganism at my school and, if nothing else, that has changed a few TEACHERS' minds! Mind you, I get my fair share of odd looks from the kids lol.

My experience is that people don't discriminate against you because they actually believe the misconceptions, but because ignorance is bliss and discriminating against others is more fun. I've tried many things to deal with these people but the only thing that works is forget it and go back when they've grown up (like in 50 years or so).
I have a pentacle on my bag and sometimes kids who are walking behind me kindly point out (er thats one way of putting it...) that I am wearing the sign of the devil and that I therefore must be a satanist or words to that effect. Whenever that happens, after a few minutes of an impromptu lecture, you will find a bunch of wide-eyed kids standing in the corridor; an expression of wonder and disbelief on their faces. They never bother me again : )
Oh my Goddess, there are so many misconceptions about Paganism and Wicca. The one that I most commonly encounter is 'Do you have a broomstick and can you fly with it'. Sad, but true.

So I start explaining how Wicca is a nature religion so it wouldn't make sense to break the laws of nature etc. and 8 out of 10 will ask 'But do you fly?'

Some people are really hopeless. But the good side is, that two people have understood that I don't fly, that I am not evil, that I don't do blood sacrficies, and that I am not so different from them.

Those two people make all my efforts worthwhile and I will always continue to educate people about what Wicca REALLY is.

*Other fun questions*
- do you have a black cat?
- could you please change my eye colour for me (you see, I'm going on a date with this really cute guy...)?
- if you're a witch, then how come you aren't wearing black?
- oh wow, you're a witch, tell me will this guy go out with me next friday?
- can I have a love spell?
- I'm not really a witch but I've seen 'The Craft' and I've done some spells for example my eyes used to be blue but I made them turn brown, honest! What would be the best way to get blood from the person I am doing this love spell on?
- don't you think it's unfair to use magick to get good grades (note: *Never have, never will* but I happen to be a straight A student)
- but if you're a witch, then why do you wear the sign of the devil (that question usually comes AFTER I've been explaining about the pentagram)
- why do you do blood sacrifice?
- want to have sex with me? I mean, you being a witch and all, that's what they do isn't it? I'll even pretend to be Satan if you like!
- is it like umm witches' law that you have to be naked when there's a full moon?
- aren't all witches goths?
- I saw you walking past my house yesterday and now my dog is ill, why did you do that to me, what have I ever done to you?
- in reincarnation right, doesn't it like hurt the soul that's already in the body when the new soul tries to get in, and is that like a posession?
- (this is my fav but it only makes sense when written) Can you really exercise Satin? Answer: Er well, I didn't really know satin had to be fit, but boy, my cotton is sure looking fat!

Misconceptions About Witches.....hmmm... It Seems To Me Nearly Every "minority Group... Sep 27th. at 3:39:12 pm UTC

Anna (Charles Town, West Virginia US) Age: 31 - Email

Misconceptions about Witches.....hmmm...
It seems to me nearly every "minority group" has to fight stereotyping, discrimination and ignorance. (African Americans, Asians, Gays & Lesbians, Jews, Muslims, etc.). Ignorance is our worst enemy, regardless of our affiliation (race, sex, religion or orientation).

This century has seen the most change - technologically, socially, economically - we are changing everything. Even countries' names seem to change, almost monthly!

With change comes uncertainty and some are frightened by this. We are not facing anything that the Christian's didn't when their religion was new and Rome decided better to feed them to the lions than let their society be "ruined" by their influence.

Our world is shrinking and it's not so easy to pretend the world is made of people just like you. Your grocer has a dancing elephant in the back store room, your librarian wears a pentacle, your systems admin wears a funny little hat and your human resources manager has a "same sex partner" named Denis he brings to the company picnic.

I think we (as Americans) are some of the most intolerant, xenophobic and inhibited people on this planet. I also think the few voices still crying "baby eaters" are losing credibility - fast.

I say continue with education, try, if you can to be more open and remember to lead by example. If you are a decent human being, people will accept you - and then when it comes up that you are pagan, they'll have your character to consider. It's hard to think of the lady who makes cookies for everyone at Yule as an evil person.

The funniest thing I hear is people assume I am "such a good christian person" My mother assumed her neighbors were good christian people (though they light bonfires every month in the yard).

We'll beat the misconceptions by education and that seems to work best one on one. Those whose minds are open will understand, those who can't, well.... just don't give them any matches. LOL

My rambling...

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