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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: 12,306,268  

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Question of the Week: 11 - 10/16/2000

Hollywood Hype

Hollywood Hype through movies such as "The Craft" and now the "Blair Witch" movies, and television shows such as "Charmed", "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer". "Freakylinks" and "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch," have all contributed to the rise of public interest in the Pagan paths and especially Witchcraft. If someone came to YOU after seeing "The Craft", "Charmed" or "Blair Witch," etc., what do YOU want them to know about real Witchcraft and Paganism? What would YOU-or do YOU- tell these folks?

 Reponses:   There are 74 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Have Such A Knee-jerk, Cringing Reaction To Questions Brought To Me... Oct 16th. at 8:54:56 pm EDT

Lynne-Renee (St. Louis area, Missouri US) Age: 28 - Email

I have such a knee-jerk, cringing reaction to questions brought to me about Wicca/witchcraft that I would prefer to not have our religion publicized. In the mid-eighties and later, people were so rabid about tearing us down. A true destruction was called for and attempted--I do live in East Central Missouri.

Nowadays, I'm occassionally delighted by someone's response AFTER asking me if I'm Wiccan. I inwardly groan, try (failingly) not to roll my eyes and say, "My personal religion is nature-based and I see Divinity as the Lady and the Lord. If that's your understanding of Wicca, then that's me." I'm just no fun, am I? The great part is I drone it out like a 5th grader whose recess was taken away and has to write: "I'm not supposed to talk to my neighbor." At any rate, now and then someone says, "Oh, my son's girlfriend is Wiccan. I think it's great!"

More often than not, unfortunately, I get the "Ooo, you're not going to get mad and cast a spell on me are you?" Or the spooky-eyed, "...if I could do anything I wanted..." It's just a drag.

I may have just talked myself in a circle here; at least the people haven't been trying to beat the tar out of me lately. I still get lots of nasty, "...tree worshiper..." crap at work from very frightened fundamentalists. But that is better than "devil worshiper." Hmmm, maybe the b.s. makes the whole thing less scary for others. I just regret it makes my profound, religious feelings seem like those of a nutcase.

Merry part

Dear Witchvox Patrons, Well, It`s That Season Again: Hallowe`en Is... Oct 16th. at 8:36:59 pm EDT

Darkmoon (Around the Fox Cities, Wisconsin US) Age: 13 - Email

Dear Witchvox patrons,
Well, it`s that season again: Hallowe`en is here, and in full swing this year, as I see from the numerous decorations and advertisments for Hallowe`en related stores. I both love and hate this month. I love it becuase of the beautiful leaves, and, yes, I do like the 'traditional' Hallowe`en, the one with candy and little kids running around dressed as ghosts, pirates, etc. And (not so happily) the yearly 'Witch Craze' is in full swing, even more so this year, what with scary movie writers popping out films about 'witches' (laugh) and not really seeming to know or care about the consequences. I am getting heartily sick of it all. I mean, come on, do you really need to make these shows and movies? If anybody tried to do a Christian movie involving weird rites, they`d be sued for about a million dollars AND have their picture on the cover of People magazine with the caption, "Really Big Jerk Insults Good Christian' or something like that. Well, I say it`s time to STOP. STOP the dumb little movies that confuse Neo-Paganism with Satanism almost deliberatley. STOP making stupid television shows about people who wink and say a rhyme and get whatever they want. STOP demented web sites that give out 'spells' JUST STOP! I am very open about my religion, so could these people PLEASE STOP making it extremely hard for me to not immediatley run into the 'Broom Closet' every time I hear another lie or horrible (and unfunny) joke? And all you little whiners who say it`s 'harmless': from my experience, lying is NEVER harmless. Ever. And niether is biggotry.

Best regards to all Witchvox patrons,


I Feel That These Movies And Shows Etc, Put Across A Very... Oct 16th. at 7:44:14 pm EDT

Draco (Aylesbury, UK) Age: 26 - Email

I feel that these movies and shows etc, put across a very fluffy view of the craft or of the various different forms of Paganism. If someone were to come to me saying that they had seen these things and were interested, firstly I would speak to them to gauge whether or not they are interested in traditional craft or the newer more "fluffy" stuff, and then I would give them some references to read and research from there. I may put them in contact with other people depending on which path they were wishing to follow, but the response is very likely to be the same from those quarters too.

If they were then to come back to me again, then another conversation would ensue about where they were with their learning, and if they had made any choice of path etc. In almost all cases, I would refer the person on to someone else with particular expertise in teaching one path or another. My interaction is just about enabling that person to decide what path they wished to follow.

The first movie I ever saw about paganism or any other form of craft magic was "The Wicker Man", a very seventies kitsch view of paganism on a remote Scottish island. It's very good and accurate in places although it has nothing to do with Wicca (as is often assumed by it's title!). I wholly recommend it to anyone that can get hold of it.

Why Do We Expect To Be Treated Any Differently Than Any Other... Oct 16th. at 7:09:42 pm EDT

Rev. Catherine M. Wagner (Minneapolis, Minnesota US) Age: 31 - Email

Why do we expect to be treated any differently than any other stereotype?

I mean really. Come on. Whether it is a religious type or a lifestyle choice, Hollywood has a tendancy to exaggerate the "common knowledge" of your typical John/Jane Q. Public. Look at how Jewish homelife is treated - "Jewish American Princess" is a Hollywoodism as is the stereotype of the Jewish (or even Catholic) mother. Look at the stereotypical African-American Muslim man...most of the ones I have met face-to-face are gentle, intelligent and friendly men - nothing like the intimidating ogres of some of the different shows. The stereotype of the Catholic priest - ignorant bumbler or rampant criminal. The stereotype of the "swishy" gay waiter or the militantly feminist lesbian. I could go on.

However, on the positive side...even while catering to the prejudices and biases of John/Jane Public, they sometimes come across with a kick to the chops that brings across the opposite awareness.

A few examples:

The Craft - the ETHICAL one retains her powers, the worst one of the lot goes crazy.

Sabrina - as fluffy as this is, every time she uses her magic to "shortcut" reality without learning the lesson, she gets into BIG trouble.

Buffy - Willow may talk about the "black arts" but heck, so do many goth Wiccans. Doesn't make it right, but the proof is in the pudding - she only uses it positively. The grouping of so-called Wiccans that Willow and Tara meet through is just stereotypical enough to actually make some's those people who aren't in it because of the spirituality, but for the "coffee klatch". Every religion has that grouping of people that wants the social aspect alone, but talks the religious aspect.

Charmed - Yes, it has the fireworks and can be fluffy at times, but the people are more real, the issues difficult, the ethical decisions occaisionally as amorphous as those of reality.

Do I really need to continue?

I Tell The People That Ask Me If I Can 'turn People... Oct 16th. at 6:43:10 pm EDT

Ebony DragonFire A.K.A. Alexis Gale (Dartmouth, Massachusetts US) Age: 14 - Email

I tell the people that ask me if I can 'turn people into frogs' that that is just movie magic, like "The Craft", "Buffy", "Charmed", ect. They think that I am lieing but I know I'm right so, that's all that matters, I guess... (heh)

The First Movie I Ever Saw About Wicca That Halfway Correctly Described... Oct 16th. at 2:08:57 pm EDT

Silver MayKitten (Springfield, Missouri US) Age: 55 - Email

The FIRST movie I ever saw about Wicca that halfway correctly described Wiccan practices and feasts was The Wicca Man, made about 1975. It rather put me in a bad mood that they would depict human sacrifice as part of the Pagan belief system. I will admit that my first exposure was in a trashy pulp mystery digest durring the 1957-58 school year; my teacher had a huge pile of of these mystery and science fiction digest size magazines in the back of the room in order to encourage her students to read. I forget what magazine it was in; but the first story I read that used the term Wicca was "A man dies at Lammas" from the "Silver Storm, Psychic Detective" series written by Dianna Winter. The detective in the story was a fantastic character and I didn't realy understand that many of the more interesting points in the plotline were real parts of Wiccan belief and practices. Alas she only wrote four stories, with a fifth in progress, before her death.

The police said she was killed by an intruder durring a burglery, I later found out, by tracking down her parents, that she hda been brutally beaten to death, and her parents thought that her Wiccan belief was the real reason for her murder, her parents even had the name of a suspect, but the New York City Police would not listen to them.

At the time I read her books the dictionary definition of Wicca was "A mystic psuedoreligion based on organized superstition somewaht related to Celtic Druidism." And the encyclopedia said little else. I got my introduction to what witch craft was really about from "Diary Of A Witch" by Sybil Leek and "Bringing Down The Moon."

I Would Like To First Talk About The Tv Show Of Which... Oct 16th. at 1:41:59 pm EDT

Maya H. (Laramie, Wyoming US) Age: 19

I would like to first talk about the tv show of which I know the most about: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I obsess over that show. I admit it. That doesn't mean that I don't have a few problems with how it portrays witchcraft. I am not bothered at all by the flashy stuff. It's a fantasy show. It's not SUPPOSED to portray reality. The only problems I have a very minor.

First: they keep referring to it as "the black arts". This has a naughty connotation to it, even though Willow, Tara, and Amy (before she got turned into a rat) are all helpful people on the side of good.

Second: Amy's mom was a witch. She was really evil and kinda stupid (she was obsessed with being head cheerleader, for Gods' sake). This was the third episode (I think) of the series, so at the time it had more of an impact on me. The first witch they showed on the show was bad! I have much less of a problem with this now that the show has developed more and witchcraft isn't shown as bad.

Third: Willow and Tara's college Wicca group. They were a bunch of flakes. I understand that this was somewhat necessary to promote the plot of that episode, but I really wish they hadn't used that tired old stereotype. It was still a good episode, though. The creepiest thing on TV ever (and I don't get creeped out easy). If you ever get a chance to see "Hush" see it! Even if you don't like that show.

And as for all the other shows and movies, I just don't really care, because I don't watch them. Some do a bad job of portraying what we do (The Craft, Sabrina). Some are just have bad plots and aren't that well written (Charmed). And as for Blair Witch (the first one, I dunno about the second one) I thought that was more about people's psychological reactions when put in an extremely stressful and creepy situation more than it was about witchcraft. Sure, it started out with that little legend, but there are actually real legends similar to that all over the east coast (I've heard tons of them growing up). They started out back in the day, so of course they're going to have the Puritan slant on them.

I Think The Pagan Community Reacts Too Harshly To These Things. Personally... Oct 16th. at 1:37:06 pm EDT

Seeking Bird (Anchorage, Alaska US) Age: 19 - Email

I think the pagan community reacts too harshly to these things. Personally I find a couple of them rather offensive (The Craft drove me nuts) but most of them (even the Craft, I admit) have a good underlying theme. People worry about bad press... well really, if someone is so malleable in their opinion as to be swayed by a movie, they will probably not have a very firm opinion about us after watching the movie anyway. I think we only have to start worrying if it becomes a regular thing to portray Wiccans in a bad light, while it's an irregular thing to portray us in a good light.

I don't really understand why people get so fired up about it all. I haven't seen Sabrina, but from what it sounds like, it can't be that bad. Really, which is worse? Thinking we can do awesome things with a wave of our hands, or being child-sacrificing devil worshipers? I'd rather take the time to set people straight about magick - a tiny portion of our faith - than have to try and explain the complex belief structure that we have.

And for every person who rails about movies and tv shows, what about books? I could name a number that do no justice to Wicca. (Satanism and Halloween especially. My girlfriend's father gave that to her to read when he found out I was a pagan. Lovely book. Really.) Which one is more damaging? I think that pagans waste time and effort on something not so important. How many people take what they read over what they see? Everyone I know is more likely to believe the written word than the pictures onscreen.

Blessed Be,

Anything That Brings Magick, Wicca, Neo-paganism Etc. Into The Public Eye In... Oct 16th. at 1:08:23 pm EDT

Trish Telesco (Western, New York US) Age: 40 - Email

Anything that brings magick, Wicca, neo-paganism etc. into the public eye in a positive manner is, IMHO, a "good thing." Are these movies and shows 100% accurate - of course not, but thanks to them a lot of people are asking questions and looking for answers who might have never otherwise considered even thinking about us with anything other than a fearful outlook. Additionally, let's face it real magick isn't flashy (although it can be really fun) -- sadly it doesn't make for good movie/tv material without the sparks and pretty lights .

That having been said, how do we gently educate about the differences between hollywood wicca and real life? For one, visit BBs boards that discuss these movies and shows. For example, both WB and SafeSearching have Charmed bulletin boards. Several witches, including myself, of varrying traditions visit here and post about the magickal techniques and ideas presented in each show vs. real life. The thread is always pretty long by the time everyone's done with questions :-).

Along the same lines watch for online chats with producers like those witchvox has so kindly highlighted. This is a chance to get your voice heard and let producers know we're watching and watching closely.

For another, mail a few good resource books to the production office writers. It never hurts. They may not immediately use the books, but at least you know an effort has been made to provide sound information.

Finally, just keep your eyes and ears open. When the subject of a media production comes up, and magick starts getting talked about, be ready to answer honest questions with similar honesty and humor. Humor is good soul food and a great teacher. If people can laugh, they can begin to get past their fears and see us for who we really are.

Although These Movies/shows/etc May Incorrectly Show Aspects Of The Pagan... Oct 16th. at 10:40:45 am EDT

RavenDreamer (Calgary, Alberta CA) Age: 27

Although these movies/shows/etc may incorrectly show aspects of the pagan way of life, it really depends on how they are portrayed. My view, is that as long as it is positive press, its fine. They do this with lots of other religions. Think about the vampire movies where they have the catholic priest that runs aruond slaying vampires. This doesnt really happen in real life either....but its fun to watch. Its when its bad press that I think something should be done about it. As for what I tell people who come to me after viewing these movies and want to know about the real paganism, I tell them that it is great that they are interesting in paganism as it is a worthy path, and I refer them to a book or two.

Not That I Am The Most "educated" Person With Regard To Wicca... Oct 16th. at 10:03:44 am EDT

Chrionna Paistin Ni Graham (Silver Spring, Maryland US) Age: 30 - Email

Not that I am the most "educated" person with regard to Wicca/Paganism, but I do know what my beliefs are and what offends me. When people, some teenagers, some not, ask me questions about the how, why, and when's of Wicca I believe I have a duty to tell them what I can. If not, they will just wander around with this belief that if they had "power" they could swish their hand and make something happen or that we all stand around a cauldron putting hexes on people while the skies swirl under our commands.

Being the director of a discussion group for Wiccans/Pagans, I have people from all walks of life and experience attend these discussions trying to find out more or just answering their curiosity. Several people ask me to teach them "the power". With this type of request, I politely refer them to several books, say, "take two of these and call me when you're done". One of them is Silver Ravenwolf's To Ride a Silver Broomstick and the other is Raymond Bucklands Complete Book of Witchcraft. Consider these the Wicca 101 reading materials. Knowledge I will offer, experience I can explain, power...not a chance. It's like a beacon phrase that weeds out those interested because it's a religious belief for them, and those who just want control. The movie/tv producers put all that hocus pocus stuff in there just to get the ratings, sort of like Baywatch using the breastiest women they can find to depict lifeguards. Just as the breast and the bikini has nothing to do with saving people from drowning, the "power" has nothing to do with the religious beliefs. Witchcraft is a tool yes, it can assist in life yes, can it "do" things for you....nope. Only you can do things for yourself. This "power" that people speak of is you and your will, the driving force within each of us. The universe swirling in our veins - the power is the recognition of this. You are the universe, the Goddess, the God...and they are you. You do have the power to control things...your things, hopefully for the betterment of this lifetime, this world. Dressing in black and lighting candles might look really cool still won't make anything happen unless you make it so.

I guess my advise to others would be this, before you jump on the pagan bandwagon...educate yourself, look into the reasons this is interesting to you and see if they are real. Read some of the books, go to the websites that really tell the true story before you try and dabble with anything. You may not know what you're getting yourself into. And be cautious of those who say they can teach you the power if you join this or do that first. They're in it for the control too...but usually the control of you.

For those who walk the path in search of truth, may the blessings of the Lord and Lady guide them along the way.

Bright Blessings

Personally, I Adore The Craft, Practical Magic, And Blair Witch I Have... Oct 16th. at 9:42:57 am EDT

Candle Ogham (Tamai, Italy, Italy) Age: 22 - Email

Personally, I adore The Craft, Practical Magic, and Blair Witch I have them all on video. I adore them b/c I love a well told story, regardless of the content. Since I live overseas (military), I have AFN and that's it for English - speaking TV, so I don't know about Charmed, but I think that Sabrina is a cute, harmless show. I watched the Wiccan episode of JAG however, and was quite disturbed. For those who haven't seen it, it deals with a woman who was raped by a HP of a local coven. Come to find out, he does this quite often. I didn't like that only this negative side of Wicca was shown. When one of the characters said that she didn't want to tell others she had been raped b/c of the bad publicity towards Wicca, one of the JAGs asked if that was the Wiccan Party line. To me, the episode seemed like we Wiccans were a cult, and not a religious group.

I have been asked if Witches were like Sabrina, and I just laugh it off. I explain, without getting my robes in a bunch, that I wished, and that I would never spend a penny for something that I could just conjure out of thin air. It's not the fantasy depictions of Wicca and Witchcraft that I have a problem with, it's the shows that are outright false or demeaning that get me in a tizzy. I have enough of a sense of humor to laugh at myself and I take my religion seriously, but not so seriously that I am protesting something at every turn. I'd rather find the humor in these shows and movies than hold a picket sign all my life.

Lord and Lady Bless You All

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Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.