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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: 12,758,717  

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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 

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?

Well, There Is The Ever-present Satanist Myth Which I Seem To Spend... Sep 25th. at 6:46:56 pm EDT

Darkmoon (None, Wisconsin US) Age: 13 - Email

Well, there is the ever-present Satanist myth which I seem to spend most of my time online (and quite a bit of time offline, now that I think about it) explaining away these days. It really bugs me. Not that I have any problem with Satanism, but, knowing what most people think they are like, it is more than a little insulting. Then, there are the numerous myths reinforced by TV shows and movies like The Blair Witch Project (and DON`T tell me that`s not insulting to Witches, just the title is enough), Sabrina the Teenage Witch (one of the many one of the many reasons I no longer have Cable), The Craft (The Crap), and Charmed (self-explanitory). Then, there is the cat-sacrificing myth, which is probably one of the Top Ten Most Rediculous Things I Have Ever Heard (it beats Monsters in the Closet). I could rant (type would be more accurate) like this for hours, but I don`t have the time, so, Blessed Be, and may the few, the proud, the Neo-Pagans NEVER be stuck in the broom closet. =)

I Would Like To Tell You A Story About Something That Happened... Sep 25th. at 5:15:21 pm EDT

Demarkus (Indianapolis, Indiana US) Age: 24 - Email

I would like to tell you a story about something that happened to me. I had never hidden the fact that I am pagan. My family believed I would grow out of it and because of what I am about to tell you, they think I did. I had entered into paganism at 15 and now being in my mid twenties, I think it's safe to assume I'm going to stay this way.
Now my story begins in mid 1995 when I was 19. (you do the math) My wife and myself had moved from the midwest to Texas. I won't bother getting into the reasons for this sudden move, but needless to say it was a BIG mistake. We knew no one, didn't know the area, I couldn't find work because the town we had moved to, Beaumont, was so small, there were no jobs, and we learned after arriving that we were going to have a baby.
By August, everything had blown up in our faces and we were homeless. It was then we decided the only place that could help would be the Salvation Army. Now here's the situation for going to the S.A., I had money coming to me which my wife and I were going to use to head home. It was just a matter of time before it reached us. We were going to stay at the S.A. until I received the money and then we would head home to the midwest.
Well, we had to fill out an application before being allowed to stay at the S.A.'s facilities. Like I had said, I am very open about my religion. I marked on the app my pagan affiliation without even a thought. The young lady who was like a manager, but she had another title that I can't remember, said my wife could stay, but I could not stay there. My wife, being Christian by birth, was allowed to stay because of her religion.
How do I know this for a fact? Because the young lady, whom I will refer to as "Ms. M" had stated "We don't need the influence of evil here."
Now, here is what I to this day do not understand. The Salvation Army was supposed to provide assisstance to the needy. No matter whom it might be asking.
Then why was I to be turned away? I hadn't done anything wrong to anyone there, I hadn't caused any trouble, caused any problems, I had barely even said a word to these people. They knew nothing of me as a person. But because of my religion I was being forced to sleep on the street, unable to find work because of it, and being forcably kept away from my 5 month pregnant wife!
May the Gods forgive me for calling that woman a "Nazi" to her face.
Needless to say my wife spoke to the commanding officer in charge of the facility and her convinced Ms. M to allow me to stay.
It is the attitudes like that which cause events to take place, like Inquisitions and witch hunts. It showed to me just how blind prejudice is. Ever since that happened, I decided it would be better to practice in silence. It was just recently I had came out and revieled I am still pagan. Yet only a few very close people know this. But slowly I am opening back up.
I came to the conclusion that I can't let one bigit get to me, no matter what the situation. All of us need to stand up and fight for our rights against the establishment. Let the know we will not be ridiculed and ignored anymore! We were always here, and we will remain long after the fundamentalists are dead and gone.
To bring a happy ending out of this story, I am happy to say I now have 2 very beautiful little girls and we were able to return home to the midwest. My wife and I have been married for 6 years Augest and we are very happy. And on one final note, Ms. M was fired from her job for basicly being a bigit. Seems she called a black man the evil "N" word in front of the commanding officer.
Looks like the good guys finally got one!

First, As A Background On Where I'm Coming From, I Am Not... Sep 25th. at 3:45:50 pm EDT

badgerdance (Central, Texas US) Age: 34

First, as a background on where I'm coming from, I am not Wiccan and do not call myself a Witch, though I am pretty "out there" with my Paganism. The misconceptions I encounter most often are:

1. Pagans worship Satan. This is something that usually can be explained away to your basic liberal Christian, but to the fundamentalists, there is no swaying this misconception. It does no good whatsoever to tell them that Satan is a Christian invention that we do not even believe in, much less worship. To them, Satan IS, he exists, period, and they are as sure of that as they are sure the sun will rise tomorrow. In their mind, you don't have to BELIEVE in Satan to worship him - he's there, and if you aren't serving Christ then you are serving Satan. End of story. This is the most supremely frustrating attitude I have ever encountered.

2. Pagans are devoid of spirituality. Well, of course, we're not worshipping God so we're not worshipping anyone, right? And we're all a bunch of Godless atheists with no morals or ethics, and we're raising our children to be hedonists at best and soulless automatons at worst. Uh, yeah, right. People with this misconception are always amazed to learn that I consider myself a HIGHLY spiritual person, that I pray, that I continually strive to be a better person and to instill morals in my children. I find that again, the liberal Christian is open to a little pantheism/animism 101, but a fundamentalist is just NOT going to get it no matter what you say or do. In their eyes, you are deluding yourself with a bunch of make-believe because there is only one God, period.

3. Pagans, by virtue of being/calling themselves Pagans, are thumbing their noses at Christianity and/or "The Establishment." We're just doing this to be rebellious, dontcha know. Somewhere along the line we got pissed off at a Sunday school teacher and thought, "Aha! I'll show YOU!" Unfortunately, I am always so surprised and flabbergasted by this attitude that when I encounter it, I'm at a loss for words. It's so ridiculous that I don't even know how to respond. This falls into the same camp as "Paganism isn't a REAL religion." How do you convince someone your religion is "real"? I honestly don't know! I usually end up babbling something lame like, "Well, I know what feels right for me."

I really don't know how to get around these problems. I think there are certain people out there who are going to think of us as doomed and damned no matter what, because their worldview is so infinitesimally small and they just can't accept anything that falls outside of it. But if we Pagans continue to be ourselves and live our lives without shame, hopefully those whose minds are open will see that we are not weird, we are not evil, we are not defective or deficient. We are just normal, loving citizens of Earth.

A Witch? You Don't Look Like A Witch." With A Long Pause... Sep 25th. at 3:45:41 pm EDT

Little Witch (san diego, California US) Age: 22 - Email

..."a witch? You don't look like a witch."

With a long pause I then ask. "And what does a witch look like?"

"THey're suppose to dress in black and hide from the populas." Normaly I would just shake my head and raise a coy eyebrow with disgust. Note: Me, wearing blue jeans w/ bell bottoms and sandals wearing blue beads and a tank top.

The problem is people seem to think that Witch's-Pagans are the same as Gothics. Or they seem to think that we are mean un caring people. Most of the time I get brrom stick jokes, and I usually have a nasty retort to go with it.

The Witch in general seems to have improved in some senses. Look at that show charmed, cute, fluffy, but not so much negativity.

Then there was that Craft movie, close, but not quite. I had people asking me for weeks if I could control the weather like that, balancing the forces of nature. People please I would say..I can barely balance my check book!

I Think The Most Disturbing Misconception That I Have Encountered Is That... Sep 25th. at 3:28:42 pm EDT

alison jennings wohleb (gig harbor, Washington US) Age: 44 - Email

i think the most disturbing misconception that i have encountered is that witches are people to fear. and out of fear can come alot of very negative things...violence and cruelty, for example. i think the average person out there still thinks that we worship satan, eat children, and will, if given even HALF a chance, sleep with their husbands.

what can we do? well, talk is cheap. we can reassure people about who we are , but i think it's best for us to set a good example. we, as a people, need to be aware that most people out there really have only negative opinions generated by a long history of misinformation. so, a little at a time, we need to educate friends and strangers alike. and "walk the talk"........if we are engaging in destructive behavior to ourselves or others, or behaving in other "un-witchlike" ways then we are taking a step back and dragging other witches with us.

a value judgement? you bet...........but life is full of them , and another phrase for it is common sense. if we follow the witch's rede, it's pretty hard to go wrong.

an "opinionated" witch....alison

I Don't Know About Other Areas But In My Area... In The... Sep 25th. at 2:53:55 pm EDT

Callisto (Toronto, Ontario CA) Age: 21 - Email

I don't know about other areas but in my area... in the Scarborough region of Toronto there are so many misconceptions about Wiccans/Pagans. People here think that we summon spirits all the time and ask them to do curses for us and to go out and scare people. The most common time for these misconceptions to occur are during Samhain. A few years ago I took my little sister trick or treating and we started off in our building. When we came upon one family's door that we knew as generally nice people, one woman came out and screamed at us: "We do not celebrate the devil's holiday! We are Christians!" and slammed the door in our faces. It's hard to believe that people can make such uneducated statements as that.
Another incident was at a bus stop. A woman approached me and started looking at my pentagram that I was wearing. She came upto me and said: "You are one of those devil-worshipping witches" I immediately started to set her straight. Although she didn't listen when I told her that Witches have nothing to do with the devil and that they didn't even believe in one she went on to tell me that I needed to be saved anyway because I have strayed from the Christian path and have abandoned Jesus. Then she proceeded to pull out her tarot cards so she could see how being a witch would affect my future!!! I was astounded that a Christian would do this. Gee..I thought seeing the future and using tarot cards for Christians is a major no-no and gave them a first class ticket to hell? It was obvious to me then that this woman had no clue at all about her own religion and yet she was trying to tell me that my faith is the wrong faith.
The most difficult thing for me right now is being a Wiccan in a family of Orthodox Christians. My family is from Eastern Europe and most people from there are set in their ways and won't budge no matter what. My parents don't know that I am a Wiccan however, my brother and sister do. I wear my pentagram at home all the time, that's not a big deal for me because my parents don't know what it is. My sister totally supports me and accepts me, my brother on the other hand does not. In one conversation we were having he asked me: "How can you be a Wiccan when you were baptized?" I responded with: "Just because I am baptized does not mean that I believe in that or in Christianity." And his response was: "You are so stupid, you have to show your respect to your religion" I went on to explain things to him and he proceeded to tell me that I am lost. On the contrary I told him, I am very found and happy with the faith that I have chosen. I have explained to him many times that religion is personal and that people need to follow something that is right for them and not because they were born into it. Well..sad to say till this day my brother still has not accepted me.
Have these misconceptions changed over the years? In my opinion..very little. It will be very difficult to have people change their views after being set in them for years and years. Coming from an Eastern European background and knowing how people react from that part of the world I know that it will take many years for them to accept and support those who follow a different path. It's very sad to see that people do not want to open up their minds and learn the truth. What can we do about this? I think the only thing we can do is to continue to fight for our beliefs and just live our lives to the fullest. When we are faced with a confrontation we should stand our ground and if the other person is willing to listen..then educate them. If they refuse to listen just walk away because forcing the issue won't get you anywhere. People who are set in believing that Wiccans/Pagans are devil-worshippers won't change their mind even if the truth is right before their eyes.
We have the truth on our side and that will eventually set all of us free. Until then we just have to be who we are and not let people who are ignorant and uneducated bring us down.
Ok..I think I have put my two cents in :)

Goddess Bless everyone,


A Fellow Once Wrote Words To This Effect: Their Rituals Are Performed... Sep 25th. at 2:47:29 pm EDT

Ned "Greywolf" Farnsworth (Lafayette, Indiana US) Age: 27 - Email

A fellow once wrote words to this effect:
Their rituals are performed at night, in secret places. Before the ritual, a baby in covered in bread dough. The new members of the cult are encouraged to beat the dough with a stick, not knowning the infant is concealed inside. The child is, of course, killed by the beating and the participants then eat its flesh and drink its blood. Afterward the lamps are put out and they fall upon each other in lust.
The fellow was a Roman governor. The cult he spoke of was, of course, Christianity. The views he esposed about Christainity were, at the time, a popular misunderstanding of their holy sacrement, along with some sensationalist rumors based on the secrecy of ancient Christianity.

Ironic. Once the pagan establishment called Christians "baby-eaters", now the Christian establishment calls neo-pagans "satanists."

It's almost enough to make one believe in the Threefold Law.

In My Area, The Dominant Misconception Is That Wicca Or Paganism Equal... Sep 25th. at 1:33:33 pm EDT

Cat (Asheville, North Carolina US) Age: 35

In my area, the dominant misconception is that Wicca or paganism equal Satan worship. When I encounter it, I try to politely draw the distinction without getting personal or offering anecdotal evidence, since I'm deeper in the broom closet than a lot of brooms. But I have to say that it doesn't usually work. Say someone says, "there are a lot of devil-worshippers in this area." Educated people generally know better, if they think about it at all; but I've given the five-minute explanation often, only to be met by the uneducated (and often, alas, young) response, "Yeah, but there are a lot of devil-worshippers." This last came from a student who had met a Wiccan teacher; had heard a lecture on the difference between Wicca and satanism (much better than my five-minute special, I'm sure); had listened patiently; and had still walked away convinced that he had heard a lecture on devil-worship.

Other than the five-minute special, which I tend to hang on "some pagans I know" rather than on my own experience...I'm ashamed to say that I don't do much of anything. I was very moved by the "We Still Work Magic" rally in Asheville, but I didn't go because I had a relative staying with me who wouldn't've understood. It's hard to say that I think these folks are doing the right thing--becoming visible, standing up and being counted, refusing to be ignored--when I'm not doing it myself. It's hard to say "This is a valid religion, but I'm afraid to be affiliated with it." But I am afraid, though I'm ashamed of it. I'm afraid of the abuse and assault that tend to come with being counted; I'm afraid of having anything else I can say or do reduced to the one bottom line of "crazy witch", especially in the classroom; I'm afraid of losing the respect, not of my Christian relatives, but of my atheist ones; I'm afraid of having my name on the next Joseph McCarthy's list.

I know a life of fear isn't what Wicca's about, and I know that fear cuts me off from potentially wonderful things--on the most immediate level, it kept me from standing in that stadium last week, which I'll bet was a very wonderful thing. So I keep working on it. When the misconceptions come up, I speak, though without the power that would come from owning that position, and I honor those of you who are doing more. But I know that until I can acknowledge my position, my speech will lack power, and my respect and honor, kept in the dark, will mean little.

Blessed be.

I Think That The Biggest Misconception About Pagans Is That We're Devil... Sep 25th. at 12:44:51 pm EDT

Sunfell (Little Rock, Arkansas US) Age: 40 - Email

I think that the biggest misconception about Pagans is that we're devil worshipping misanthorpes who hate established religions and seek to destroy them. The fundamentalist idea that we are guided by evil spirits and have no minds of our own is extremely offensive to me. Since we do not have a central 'bible' to refer to, and think for ourselves, we become a threat to revealed religions.

Another bothersome misconception that I still have to put up with is that because I understand Magick, I might 'zap' someone who crosses me. Well, if a verbal or written rebuke in the course of normal business is a zap, well, yes, I do. And so does every other interacting human being. But to presume that I will harm someone just because I am a Pagan is ludicrous and insulting. Old misconceptions never die- they just get endlessly recycled.



Where To Start... I Have Been A Praticing Wiccan For Twenty Years... Sep 25th. at 12:39:48 pm EDT

Galen (New Westminster, British Columbia CA) Age: 34 - Email

Where to start... I have been a praticing Wiccan for twenty years, and in that time I have seen interest in, and persecution of Wicca, Witchcraft and Paganism ebb and flow like the tides. As others here have noted, the most vocal opposition seems to rise up around Samhain (All Hallows Eve, Halloween) fueled by rumors of sacrifice and all that garbage. It does not help that the mainstream media trivialises our beliefs and attitudes, playing us up as deluded outsiders, instead of showing us the same courtesy as their inhouse Christian writers. (they seem to show this disrespect to anyone not of thier 'one true faith')
I have read dozens of artilces in various newspapers where teens who commit crimes and are even in the least bit interested in Paganism are immediately painted as 'satanists' and therefor must be sub-human. No matter how often we (Wiccans and Pagens) protest that Satan is a figure of Judeo-Chritain mythology, we are ignored, or self proclaimed 'experts' quickly deny our point of view.
Most of the movies and television programs that portray Witches, Wiccan, and Pagans do so VERY badly. They ascribe powers and actions to us that are nothing but fiction, very loosley based on a minimal amount of research, or what they are told by a freind of a freind. The 'X Files' are to be partiularly noted for this sensationalist drivel.
There are many badly written novels available with antagonists who are portayed as witches. Same argument as above.
As for the Fundamantalists who repeatedly assure thier terrified sheep with tales of mass murder and infant sacrifice, and have 'proof and statistics' to illustrate thier point... if what they said was true, the entire continet of N. America would be badly underpopulated, and hip deep in corpses.
I did live in Edmonton, Alberta where two incidents of Christian extremism took place. The first was the burning of a bookstore where a copy of the 'Maleus Malificarum' was on display. The other was another case of arson where a locally well known Witch had her home and store burned after the tornado that struck in the mid 80's.
I have personally been in arguments with those who wish to see us back in the broom-closet, or better yet (in thier opinion) burned at the stake. The best defence I have found is to smile and ask them to justify the various Crusades. Or to explain how most of those killed in the burning time had their homes and land taken away to profit their accusers. I also ask them to explain the appaling cases of child and spousal abuse commited by 'good christians'. They never can.
On the other hand I have had good friends who were devout Christians honestly concerned for the 'welfare of my soul' as they put it. My reply that if I was bound for thier Hell, I was going to be wearing dancing shoes. We would smile and laugh, then go on to other things. They are two who I hold up as models for others to follow, because they still respected me and my beliefs.

Well It Certainly Looks Like Quite A Few Of You Are Living... Sep 25th. at 12:03:01 pm EDT

Michael (Dublin, European Union, Ireland) Age: 22

Well It certainly looks like quite a few of you are living in very religous areas, while I myself live in Good old Europe, Ireland to be exact.
Here Pagans and witches seem to have a much less tough time, certainly if the pagan connection is made obvious. There is even a certain level of respect there amoungst those who don't think we are imagining it all (which we could be for all they know).

Druids and such like were very much real here in Europe and in Ireland particulary in our history, there is often reference to Brehon laws (Druidic Judges that survived well up into documented times and the introduction of common law) and the musical Bards.

Documentation is always hard to come by as the never wrote down and documented their knowledge, it was learnt strictly off by heart, and so there is bound to be misconceptions and mistakes, but then you can't have everything eh?

If you ever do get into a trickey situation with a christain zealot (or other), test them with following, ask them to recite the ten commandments, if they can do this, get them to recite those concerning strictly the moral issues, then compare the basic moral code laid within to your basic moral code. Suddenly the difference is not too big.

Then politely explain that when you leave out all the middlemen in religion and the Dogma, then you suddenly see a very obvious pattern of morality which we all have in common, then if they persist in their badgering, well they are a lost cause.

The other funny thing is that many people might see a ghost film or something and then ask you what you might think of it, (seeking some special insight).. no we don't see dead people... well I don't...

Well toodle pip all,

Do have fun

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