The opinions posted on the Pagan Perspective pages are those of individuals and are not neccessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
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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| 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.
| 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
| Ya Know, It's Funny. I Thought All The Crap About People Thinking... ||Sep 25th. at 11:52:44 am EDT|
|Joshua Gadbois (Baltimore, Maryland US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
Ya know, it's funny. I thought all the crap about people thinking witches and pagans worshipped satan was reactivist hoopla left over from the dark period of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Being 26, I grew up in the eighties and nineties in an urban metropolis where we were encouraged to diversify our belief systems, and I was convinced the "burning times" were over, and those who continued to find xtian and secular persecution were manifesting it themselves out of some inner need to be persecuted.
Here I am now, in my first "real" job. I'm making more money than Hades at this point, and am really doing less labor than ever before. It's full bennies, stock options and over 50k a year. Woo-hoo! (BTW, this position manifested as a direct result of focused magickal workings. Not a prosperity spell, but a directed series of daily workings towards accomplishing a single goal. Magick DOES work, and it works according to the rules.)
So here I am, making more than ever and doing, imo, less than ever, so I've got free time to surf the web. I'm meeting druids and ADF people, so I do a search on Isaac Bonewitz, and there's a page on his early experiences in Satanism. My supervisor comes over, sees that it's a pagan page, and immediately latches onto the word Satan. It took me a while to demonstrate the truth, and it's all cooled over now, but his initial reaction was the stereotypical non-pagan reaction you read about in Drawing Down the Moon and think doesn't happen anymore.
Maybe now with the media attention the neo-pagan movement has gotten made it easier for me to explain in this particular instance that no, I'm not a satanist, and no, I'm not any more wierd than the muslim down the hall who wears a dress and brings a prayer mat. Less so, in fact. But the experience was a real eye opener. There are people out there in positions of power and influence STILL laboring under the miscomprehensions and beliefs that made it a frightrening experience to "come out of the broom closet" for so many years. We aren't "safe." The bigotry remains. Lulling ourselves into believing that "they can't DO that anymore" doesn't make it true.
I used this opportunity to explain to at least one straight the difference between pagans and satanists. But it's not over yet. There's an article at witchvox today that covers a gathering in north carolina. One speaker invokes Ares at the end of her speech, and states that we are in a war. My first reaction was that she is starting a war, or continuing by evoking these energies. But that's not true. We're in a war of beliefs. A war in which we're fighting not for our lives, but for the right to believe as we will, raise our children as we will, and still have access to the fundamental liberties the straights share. We don't deserve to have our security and peace of mind threatened by out-dated bigotry.
It's true we're more accepted now than ever before. But there's still a long way to go. Don't think the war's over because we've won a few battles. The price of liberty is ETERNAL vigilance, if I'm not butchering the qupte too badly. Eternal Vigilance.
--Pope YHSVH ben ABRHM
| I Run A Small Home-based Candle Business. I Sell From Word Of... ||Sep 25th. at 11:31:41 am EDT|
|Morrigan (Indianapolis, Indiana US) ||Age: 31 - Email |
I run a small home-based candle business. I sell from word of mouth, festivals and out of the back of my car. I recently paid to be a vendor at a neighborhood Farmers Market, sponsored by the Garden Club. I was doing well until an older woman saw my pentacle, turned a nasty shade of pale and ran up to the coordinator. As expected, I got a call the next day telling me that the Parks Dept. said the glasses I use as containers was against the rules. I called the head cheese of the Parks Dept. and he was furious with the fact that they used his Dept. as a scapegoat. I gave him the coordinator's number and he chewed her a new one. I got another call from her a week later telling me that the garden club 'decided' that my 100% bees wax-organic essential oil scented candles weren't 'garden-y' enough and the only way I could sell them at the event was to put them in tacky flower pots...but She was watching my back...seems that it rained heavily everytime the event was held, and they didn't make any money. Karmatic revenge..ya gotta love it!
| As Someone Who Does Numerous Interviews I've Been Generally Pleased By The... ||Sep 25th. at 7:52:04 am EDT|
|Trish Telesco (western, New York US) ||Age: 40 - Email |
As someone who does numerous interviews I've been generally pleased by the change in attitudes I'm seeing. It's slow, but steady. However, some misconceptions and notes of surprise still appear. In particular:
1. Witches have ethics: some folk still view us a bit like the Hippies - a free for all, feel good click that's doomed to its own devices (surprise!)
2. WitchCraft has a religious element: there is still the misconception that Witchcraft is all methodology and no philosophy (this ties into #1). Also, learning that not all Witches are "wiccan" often comes as a surprise
3. Male witches are called witches! LOL - a lot of people still seem surprised that men are even involved in the craft.
4. Witches won't just tell people how to "curse" others: I always get these questions on the radio asking me to curse a co-worker and I staunchly refuse to share any information on the idea saying it's unethical (reinforcing #1).
5. Witches are the people next door (for our neighbors we ARE!) and few would even guess there's anything unique about us but for my natural gardening methods. We don't hang signs outside our homes saying "witch within" nor should we have to.
6. Witches do not try to undermine Christians or any religion. Somehow people still expect us to get out our book of Shadows and start brow beating people of other faiths. Meanwhile, our tolerance and encouragement of positive paths confounds.
Generally speaking I battle prejudice with humor. For example most of my interview requests come at Hallows to which I respond that I am a witch the other 364 days of the year too! When asked about brooms, I recommend hoovers (hey, more power!). When people laugh you can communicate far more to them effectively, and they begin to listen because you've disarmed the argument.
We won't change the world over night. I happens one person and one situation at a time. But with patience and on-going political activism it can happen. We just can't get lazy and let our rights be stomped by those who simply don't understand or refuse to see the truth. There will always be those who oppose us (sadly), and so we must find effective ways of showing prejudice for what it is.
| Misconceptions. We All Know They Are Out There And There Are So... ||Sep 25th. at 7:35:32 am EDT|
|Kim (Oakville, Ontario CA) ||Age: 18 - Email |
Misconceptions. We all know they are out there and there are so many of us trying to break the old untrue myths that sometimes you just want to scream. To call out to anyone that is within distance "No! I am not a satanist. No! I do not sacrifice children to any god, horned or not. No! I will not go quietely back into the night. No! I do not fly on a broomstick, I use American Air."
Unfortunately yelling wont get us very far for it seems the louder we yell sometimes the less people hear us. With all the media coverage that paganism has recieved as of late I almost forget sometimes that not everyone really knows what paganism is. Well, I was certainly shown that this past week when I was having lunch with a friend of mine. We are the only two people that have our lunch together so you can usually find us outside near the field relaxing in the end of the season sun. Josh is a great big sweetie and really easy to talk to. We got into a great religious discussion one day last week that kind of re-opened my eyes, as it were. No, remember, that everyone of my friends is aware that I am pagan so it came as a shock to me when Josh had said he hadn't known. Even more of a shock when he asked me "Oh, whats paganism". After I had picked my jaw up off the floor we started talking again. Josh is a very open minded person yet everything that left his mouth about witches was basically every bit of propaganda out there. He wasn't malicious or anything, he simply didn't know. So I explained to him about it, we talked so much we almost missed last period *woops!* and when I was talking about the burning times he looked absolutley horrified. I kinda felt bad about making him think about all that but it was a good conversation and it really opened his eyes to the possibilities. I wouldn't be surprised if the first thing he thinks of when someone says witch is the wort faced hag but at least now it wont be the last image he sees. Now, he'll see me too. *sans worts* And maybe one day, the wort women will completely vanish from his mind. That is something I look forward to. The day we are considered just like everyone else. I certainly enjoy being a unique individual but I'm still a normal person.
Now, not all experiences are that much fun. Some are downright unpleasant and some can even be dangerous. I've had people see my pentagram ring and ask me if it is a satanic symbol. I always answer truthfully. Nope, I say, and leave it at that if it seems that they are satisfied with that answer...which they usually aren't.
Some people dont want to talk to others about it and when asked about jewellry or something they said will run. Maybe because it is not safe to talk or because they are in the broomcloset still. I can't do that. I can't know that I have the means to change a bad preconception and not do anything about it. We cant just expect someone else to start changing the problem into a solution because if we do we will probably be waiting a very long time. We all need to do whatever we can to make this world safe for us, our friends, and our children *when I have some ;o}*
For those that lie about you and our religion. I say, call them on it. Lies like that cant really be backed up because they aren't true. Which isn't to say that someone wont believe it simply because it isn't true. People believe lies all the time. But it will probably help.
Ok.... I think that I have taken up enough room with my constant chirpings.
Sometimes I run on at the mouth a little, but at least I'm not silent. :o)
Be safe, and happy and be loved,
| We Still See So Often The Warty Big Nosed Old Hag Who... ||Sep 25th. at 1:12:35 am EDT|
|Helen Hodson (South Australia, South Australia AU) ||Age: 31 - Email |
We still see so often the warty big nosed old hag who eats children, or the slutty temptress leading men astray... or the devil worshipper playing with people's lives. There are more books and shows coming out though that contain more positive role models - try Mercedes Lackey - the Diana Tregarde investigations PI who is a witch, the new swathe of tv shows and even though they are fiction they are at least pagans as positive roles.
All we can do is show ourselves to be what we are and keep plugging away.
I am a 5'2" blonde with a snub nose (no super model figure though I am afraid!) and can only respond to the traditional image of well my nose is not hooked and warty is it? and we dont slaughter goats on friday nights cos we are busy dnacing naked on a hill top! humour defuses a lot of the situation when the answer is so ridiculous they often realise how silly there idea was too.
the hardest situation is the zealot, our daughter goes to a xian school (long story but the govt schools are not much use around here)and while the school is very understanding we have had the odd person who is convinced we are going to hell, that only jesus will save us...but I just stayed calm and said I don't believe in hell and I believe in a LOT of gods and goddesses and am comfortable in my beliefs as you are in yours, I think they may have thought about it as the next time I saw them they were aloof but have not mentioned it.
The real trouble starts if they cross the line but then there are legal paths to take.
Family is the hardest of all though, and I guess that while we dont want to lose them it comes down to the decision that is the price of losing your religion or keeping it hidden worth keeping the family? i have been lucky, my husband got curious and worried then I shoved books at him which he read and discovered he was a 'latent' pagan too! so we have a solid base in our house but the rest of the family has a hard time accepting it even though they are only xian as it is easy and acceptable to everyone else. I guess it is about being strong in your own beliefs and allowing everyone else to develop themselves - we can only change ourselves. the really ironic thought is that these same families that shun and pray for us etc etc would be fighting tooth and nail if we were in a religion or cult that forbid them contact with us!
so yeah the myths are still out there but they are changing so we are on the right track, it is going to be a long road though and we just have to keep at it. and yeah, with the zealots - be calm, be comfortable with yourself and realise that it is them feeling insecure not us. they preach acceptance and love but they need to show it, we can show it and lead by example.
in love and light
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