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Posted: Nov. 17, 2002
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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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| Story Offered Without Opinion -- Maybe.) At My School I Have Been "out... ||Sep 27th. at 12:58:45 pm EDT|
|LittleWolf (springfield,, Missouri US) ||Age: 13 - Email |
(Story offered without opinion -- maybe.)
At my school I have been "out" for a year, and I often get asked by teachers to talk to classes about Wicca and Witchcraft, like how real Witches are unlike the Witches in Harry Potter and other like books, how mathmatics is part of Numerology and Astrology, how astrology and astronomy are related and like that.
When George, a guy who is a high member of one of our six religion study clubs at school asked me to give them a talk about Holloween I thought this would be a good opportunity to open some minds. (It takes six to start a club, there are only two WIccans that are out and three that are in the broom closet, so we have no Wicca Studies club.) I really wasn't prepared, this was on Thursday and I was supposed to give my talk after school Monday, but with the help of some of the guys at my covensted, I put togather a nice half hour about how many of the current Holloween traditions spring from Pagan rites and customs.
What I was prepared for was not what happened. I was introduced and when I got up to speek the guy that invited me suddenly shouted, "Why do you witches eat babies!?" I tried to answer that we Wiccans didn't do things like that. then he shouted things about animal sacrifices and other bovine manure like that.
After taking that for too long I finally shouted: "Would you like me to demonstrate the powers of witchcraft by turning George into a toad?" That quited George and everyone else in the room, then I said, "Don't worry George, I charge good money for personal improvements; besides I can't turn anyone into a toad and no witch I know has that power." Now that I had everyone's attention I explaned how George had misrepresented himself and that I was willing to give a talk on Holloween and Samhaim if they liked, and if not I would leave.
For the next at least couple of hours, the janitor kicked us out for staying too long, I talked about the Holloween stuff I planned to talk about, answered questions about Wicca in general and talked about the Wiccan Rede, the rule of three, and the Charge Of The Goddess and other witchie things. All this time George sat in the corner looking at me like I killed him, ground him into hamburger and sold him to McDonalds.
End of story, no comment.
| The Common Misconceptions That I See Are That We Are Satanic, Fly... ||Sep 27th. at 12:37:13 am EDT|
|Sevens (Norfolk, Virginia US) ||Age: 23 - Email |
The common misconceptions that I see are that we are Satanic, fly on brooms, are just completely bad people, that we are totally flaky, that we are in a cult. I also can't stand how we have been depicted in movies and t.v., because that just lends itself to more people thinking we can do things like move objects with our minds or turn people into animals or inanimate objects or something. Whenever I encounter this kind of thing, I make it clear to people who are in the situation with me (watching the movie or the t.v., or asking me about my pentacle, which I wear openly)what Wicca really is and isn't and in most cases, if they don't listen, I will leave the room if they don't change the channel or pop the movie out of the VCR or stop making really stupid comments about Wicca. Which gets kind of annoying, because my best friend loves to watch movies like The Craft (the Crap!) or Charming or Sabrina the Teen Witch or something. Which is funny, because she completely accepts me and my religion, but still loves to watch this junk. But, there is no changing people. I know she doesn't do it specifically to annoy me.
No, these misconceptions have not changed over the years. I can quote a specific situation that happened recently. I was working with this wonderful Wiccan, smart, funny, a good friend, and good at her job. Her and I were the only pagans we knew of in a company of 1000+. We worked in the same department. When she had a yearly evaluation in March with her supervisor, he proceeded to tell her that she was in a cult, that I was in a cult (mind you, this person is not my supervisor)that I was the leader of this cult, made comments about her clothes (which were entirely appropriate for a business setting) and my clothes (yes, yes, I admit to wearing black alot, but that is entirely due to the fact that I am not a morning person and when you are in a groggy state in the morning, black matches with everything). Then after this diatribe, he asked her what her religion was. Now as we all know, THIS IS COMPLETELY ILLEGAL, due to employment laws of not discriminating on a person's race, sex, RELIGION, disability status, etc., hence, they are not allowed to ask. She finally told me 3 weeks after the situation, and when I asked why it took her so long to tell me, she said she knew I would upset about the situation and would probably say something about it. In her words, she said she knew that her supervisor would never voice this stuff to me because I have been there longer than him, I do have a bit of power in my position at work (where the heck would they be if I quit because of him?), and I am known to make a great stink to people if something really pisses me off. Anyhow, to make a long story short, ever since he did that, in my opinion, he was trying to get her out the door before she could alert Human Resources and get him in the proper trouble that he or anybody else deserves for making illegal comments like that. He enforced things with her that he would not enforce on the rest of his staff and especially his favorites, the young, sexy Christians. Anything he did was all a cover to get her out of there, because he thought she was Satanic or something and because he fears what he does not understand. She no longer works with us, which makes my heart sad, because now I feel like I am, no, strike that, I know I am the only Witch in this company. But, she did end up telling Human Resources about him. And she seems happier now than she has been in a long time, having opportunities and doing things that make her happy. I can't really say anything at work, simply because anything I heard from her is technically hearsay and he hasn't had the balls to come to me with this sort of crap (besides my supervisor would protect me and have his head on a stick, in a human resources sort of sense). I can only hope that the Law of Three will work on him and all his negative energy will come back to him, as it should. I can't help talking about this, because it really irritated me. She is a wonderful person who never deserved any of this.
So all in all, I say, no matter if you talk yourself blue in the face, there is just no changing some people. But we still should concentrate on education and someday soon, our time will come when we will no longer have to put with this junk that people spew about us and discriminating against us. Thanks for listening.
| I Have Been An Initiated And Practicing Gardnerian For Over 15 Years... ||Sep 26th. at 10:48:11 pm EDT|
|Sine (western New York State, New York US) ||Age: 44 - Email |
I have been an initiated and practicing Gardnerian for over 15 years, and I was a seeking pagan before that. I have never been a Christian, or followed any other religion. When I was first initiated, I did not feel comfortable announcing this to my family, since my grandparents were still alive and would have been horrified. They were all members of different sects of Christianity, and didn't much like each other, either, but I was NOT getting into that with them! So I tried to come up with a way to "testify" for Wicca and paganism without "outing" myself. The answer was to be an example. Be a good person; follow your own path's ethical structure: I'm Wiccan, so I follow the Rede and the Law of Return.
If someone asks me what the pendant is, I tell them it's a pentacle. If they keep asking, they get more details. If someone asks me if I'm a witch, I say yes. If they keep asking, I keep answering. The rest of the time I live by the Rede. When everyone in the office wanted me to cast a spell to get rid of one co-worker who was making us all miserable, I did: I worked to get him a better job, in a different department, where he would find more friendships, the hours would be better, and he would make more money. It worked, and I didn't risk thwarting the Law of Returns.
Now all the kinfolks who would have been hurt are gone to Summerland , so I can be more open about it. I am internal consultant on minority religions to our local county dept of social services and am also available to our local police. I am an elder in my coven, and, I hope, something of an example of how to be a Wiccan in the US. Never lose your temper; never attribute to malice what can be easily explained by ignorance. We are all priestesses or priests of the Old Ones; we must all be teachers, as well. Be patient...neither Rome nor Newgrange was built in a day!
| Interestingly Enough, This Just Came Up On A Forum I'm On. Several... ||Sep 26th. at 9:03:10 pm EDT|
|Shayla (Phoenix, Arizona US) ||Age: 34 - Email |
Interestingly enough, this just came up on a forum I'm on. Several of the people (mostly Christian) were discussing a heated religious debate on a different forum, and one jokingly said she wanted to post that she was a "baby-eating pagan-nazi who practiced witchcraft." Of course, she meant it as a joke to emphasize the absurdity of the debate, but I took the opportunity to enlighten her on a few things. (Came out of the broom closet, if you will.)
I gave the standard spiel--Pagans/Witches, etc., are not satan worshippers, the Rede, the rule of three, the philosophical similarities and differences between pagan and Christian religions.
I was pleased to find that, despite some misgivings, the people on the forum read my post and appreciated my candor. A lot of them said they had never met a pagan/witch before, and had no idea of what it meant to practice that faith. They thanked me for taking some of the mystery out of it, and giving them a greater understanding. Only one person was negative, but she emphasized that she was simply uncomfortable with the subject, not me personally.
What I normally try to do is educate people, and give them an understanding of the pagan way. I don't try to convert them, and I certainly don't try to put them on the defensive. I try very hard to point out our similarities, rather than our differences. I'm happy to say that I've usually had very good success with this approach.
| I Think One Of The Most Encountered Misconceptions About Pagans And Wiccans... ||Sep 26th. at 7:06:49 pm EDT|
|Jessica (Denver, Colorado US) ||Age: 18 - Email |
I think one of the most encountered misconceptions about Pagans and Wiccans is that we are a bunch of loonies. Belief in forces like faeries and magick are very strange to most people, who think of children's stories. Often our beliefs aren't taken seriously, even by people who try to be well informed.
| I Recently Went To See The Movie "bless The Child". In It... ||Sep 26th. at 2:32:16 pm EDT|
|Lizzy (Springfield, Virginia US) ||Age: 31 - Email |
I recently went to see the movie "Bless the Child". In it, the detective trying to solve the murder of several young children had occult "reference" books on his desk. One of the books was "The Witches Bible" by Stuart and Janet Farrar. The camera closed in on the phrase "do what you will" and tied that in directly with the title of the book written by the murderer in the story. I seethed with frustration that the rede was taken so completely out of context. I actually spent some time after the movie explaining to some of the other patrons what that phrase was from and what it really means.
I think the key is always patience and education. If we, as pagans, become just as discriminatory of other religions as they are of us, then we are no better. Most people I work with know I'm a witch, and they have no problem with it. I am lucky enough to be able to wear my pentacle openly at work with no discrimination. The nice thing about wearing it is that people who don't know what it means ask..and it gives me a great opportunity to educate them on the true meaning of the symbol, and what it means to me. They are almost always amazed at what I tell them...and they feel much better about paganism and witchcraft afterwards.
Just my 2 cents!
| Hi I Am Having Trouble Understanding Whats What. I Know Some People... ||Sep 26th. at 12:57:25 pm EDT|
|Sandra Kirkland (Cumming, Georgia US) ||Age: 38 - Email |
I am having trouble understanding whats what. I know some people who claim to be witches. I've known them for twenty years. When I first met them , they told me that I was the fourth in their cicle. I was only 18yrs old then. I got caught up in it, and I believed. Now I am having second thoughts. They are talking about curses and spells, and I just don't feel comfortable with this. I have never tried to enhance my gifts, they just seem to mature with me. I feel ok with myself , but I don't feel right with what they are exspecting of me .Do you have any advice you can give me ? I'm not into the evil side , I am a very good person. Sometimes I see things that really scare me.
| Well, Since I Go To A Public School Nobody Really Cares What... ||Sep 26th. at 11:14:28 am EDT|
|Artemis Moonshadow (Kfar Saba - Israel, Israel) ||Age: 15 - Email |
Well, since I go to a public school nobody really cares what religion you are, a few people have asked me if I was part of a cult becasue of my pentacle, I just raised my eye brows at them until they got uncomfortable.
But I've had one girl in my class come up to me, I'm pretty much an outed Witch even though I've hardly practiced but I'm an outed Pagan. Any way this girl came up to me and asked me to do a cseance with her.
I was a bit surprised to be asked this, she wants to contact the ghost of her dead father, I'm trying to figure out a way to turn her down.
I have practically no experience in spell casting, so I don't want to do anything.
Where I live, only the extremly world knowing, know what Witchcraft really is, the others generaly think it's something that dies in the 17th century
| 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..
| 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 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
| 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...
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