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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: 14,878,717  

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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 

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

How Strange That This Question Would Come Up! Just Yesterday I Had... Oct 16th. at 7:24:34 am EDT

Maia BlackWolf (Milnesville, Pennsylvania US) Age: 32 - Email

How strange that this question would come up! Just yesterday I had taken a look at the "Blair Witch 2 - Book Of Shadows" Web site to see just how WE are being portrayed. I was, in fact, a bit relieved to find that the Web site did offer some valid background on the Craft.
Now, here comes the "However". As a Solitary Witch who has been practicing for seventeen years at this point, I question the "mainstreaming" of our religion. I was drawn to the Craft because of its "secretive", non-mainstream aura. I was a rebellious, artistic and most definitly different teenager. I could still be described in that way, although at thirty-two I'm a bit more subdued. So, while I can relate to the reasons many teens are being drawn to the Craft, I believe that much of this trend is nothing but a fad. At fifteen I was a very spiritual person and was sincerely seeking an alternative to the hypocritical, duplicitous Catholicism in which I had been raised.
I've had a few young people come to me and ask about WitchCraft. One of the first questions out of their mouths has invariably been about "the casting of spells". I've been asked about spells so many times that I've begun to doubt the sincerity of these questioners. Many teenagers feel as though they have very little control over their lives at a time when they are just discovering their own opinions and feeling strong urges for freedom. I connect this desire for personal control over their lives with this interest in spell casting.
I must confess that I was initially intrigued by the ability to control aspects of my life through spell casting. However, through study and meditation I soon found much more satisfaction with the more spiritual aspects of the Craft. Living in harmony with Nature and with respect for all Life, honouring the Goddess daily, celebrating the Full and New Moons and the Turning of the Wheel of the Year - these are now, for me, the most important part of WitchCraft. These are the things I would stress to anyone with an interest.
I feel that I must also say that I very much resent the "merchandising" of our religion by Hollywood. WitchCraft is being sensationalized in these films and television programs. When is the last time any of the mainstream religions have be used in this way? Since so much fantasy is being mingled with tiny threads of truth in these films and programs, WE are not being portrayed in the best light. I feel that in the end WE are still looked upon as a bunch of oddballs and eccentrics. What we need is complete TRUTH about our religion. Perhaps just a few characters here and there who happen to be Pagan. Characters who go on about their business like everyone else - celebrating their holidays, etc.
Personally, I rather enjoyed the mystery surrounding my religion. Because I feel that religion is a VERY private matter I don't appreciate this "outing" of my beliefs and practices. There is a saying that has been going through my mind as I've been typing this: "Familiarity breeds contempt".
Unless some reality is soon brought to bear regarding WitchCraft as portrayed by Hollywood, I don't see much good coming out this for us.

Okay, Let Me Start With Saying That I Haven't Seen "the Craft... Oct 16th. at 4:04:41 am EDT

Artemis Moonshadow (Kfar Saba Israel Middle East, Israel) Age: 15 - Email

Okay, let me start with saying that I haven't seen "the Craft" "Practical Magic" "Blair Witch" or any of those, so I can't say if they do the Pagan and Wiccan community WRONG.
I have seen Sabrina which is by the way one of the more tasteful teen comedys.
Charmed which I found tasteful but not the best show, you know Aaron spelling:-)
And buffy the vampire slayer which is the best show ever created on television, sorry getting carried away.
I think Sabrina is sort of like a parody on steryotypical Witchcraft, and that is how most people, well people that I know, see that show.
Charmed was done pretty well, but it's also a fantacy show that happens to have writers that did research about Wicca and Witchcraft, garnted they kind of messed a few things up, but they did use the correct words and symbols.
(when I learnt what the BOS was, I was really shocked they used it on the show).
Now Buffy is a complete teen cult show, it shows teen problems and "demons" with real demons and vampires.
The fact that they call Willow a Wicca just means that they wanted someone who can cast spells. And any way if you watched the show you'd see they show Paganism in a really great light. The fact that they add special effects to all the seplls and make the Witches powers more bombastic, that's just for ratings.
Read between the lines, those people have done a little if not sme research about the subject.

PS I by the way discovered Witchcraft on my own, i just really love the shows as well :-)
Blesses Be

First Off, I'll State That I've Never Seen "the Craft". Yep, A... Oct 16th. at 3:26:12 am EDT

Lisa/ChaosMoth (Mountain View, California US) Age: 16 - Email

First off, I'll state that I've never seen "The Craft".

Yep, a young newbieish Wiccan who's never seen that movie. I've seen "Practical Magic", though, and it sounds as if whoever scripted that movie had sat next to Silver Ravenwolf while the latter was babbling with a high fever. Ahem. Still, the content doesn't bother me as much as it might.

What bothers me?

Seeing something which is not by any measure similar to modern Wicca or neoPaganism represented as such. Throwing in a haphazard smattering of terminology pulled from a random volume (Practical Magic committed this offense.)

Seeing stories which mainly attempt to bludgeon viewers with the point that "Witchcraft is eEeEEvViLlL", whether they use trappings associated with the religion or not. (E.g. Jack Chick tracts. 'Watch out for Tolkien and C. S. Lewis; since they wrote fantasy books and are sold in occult stores, they must be worshippers of Lord Sam Hain!')

What does not bother me?

Seeing things that are not equivalent to Wicca represented as 'witchcraft'. The word isn't exclusively ours, and has become a catch-all. There are things which are public domain and should not offend anyone if dropped into a fireball-throwing fantasy, as long as the story isn't a ridiculous moral bludgeon.

I might add that the ridiculous moral bludgeons, when NOT mis-appropriating Wiccan terminology, only bother me by dint of awful writing, which seems to be a pre-requisite.


As Someone Who Has Worked At An Enormously Popular Craft Store I... Oct 16th. at 1:49:19 am EDT

Jessi White (Brooklyn, New York US) Age: 19

As someone who has worked at an enormously popular Craft store I have had more than my fair share of what I like to call "Crafties" come in. You know the types--they've seen "The Craft" and now think they're witches. I think these Hollywood shows are a mixed blessing. I am one of the few Witches I know that loved The Craft. The Witch in the occult store I thought was an extremely positive character. Sure, it hyped up things a great deal, but the underlying message was quite good from a Wiccan perspective and seems to be something that both the film's critics and the "Crafties" seem to forget. Play with spiritual forces you don't understand, because it's "cool" or people will notice you, and you'll get burned. That's why I find it so ironically amusing that the film spawned so much "fanboy" interest in Witchcraft. About other movies/tv shows...I have a mixed opinion. On the one hand, people that would otherwise never hear of the Craft might see a film or tv show and have a genuine interest sparked in it and find a path that is right for them...on the other hand, well, you have the fanboys. Unfortunately the enormous number of teenage fanboys make it incredibly difficult for genuine Wiccan teenagers in the community. People tend to paint us all with the "Craftie" brush. The word "witch" has all sorts of connotations, and I think that anyone who chooses to embrace it needs to realize that. It can mean what we do, it can mean tribal "witch doctors" who do malevolent things, it can mean fantasy "Harry Potter" type stuff, etc. So that is not really a problem for me, an irritation maybe but one I've chosen to live with as a result of conciously embracing the word "Witch". The word "Wicca" on the other hand...I have serious problems with Hollywood co-opting it and twisting it into what they have in order to make cheap entertainment for a quick buck at the expense of a large group of people. Wicca is a religion, period. It is not about this Hollywood crap that's out there, and all that Hollywood accomplishes by using it and co-opting real symbols, phrases, etc. is further muddying up the waters for the genuine practicioners and seekers alike. I for one am sick and tired of explaining my pentacle is "not the symbol from Charmed/The Craft/whatever" but is in fact a symbol that dates back thousands of years in many cultures and I wear it as a symbol of my allegiance to the Greek Gods (Pythagoras used it extensively), among other things. I think the best response to Hollywood is not to call for boycotts and things like that, but to let them know our opinions (the First Amendment is a Good Thing), and to continue educating the public about who we really are and what we really do, so that they can see the Hollywood crap for what it really is: Hollywood crap. BB, Jessi

As An Aspiring Writer, I Understand The Need To Tell A Good... Oct 16th. at 1:16:06 am EDT

Tanais (Spokane, Washington US) Age: 19

As an aspiring writer, I understand the need to tell a good story in this day and age. Nobody in hollywood is really interested in writing the "Great American Novel, " it's more of a get rich quick scheme by making a script for a show or movie that makes about as much sense as a fish on a bicycle. I write for more then just cheap entertainment. And that's what some of these so called, "occult" tv shows are. Just cheap entertainment. I've watched a bunch of these shows and not one of them mentions in depth any type of spirituality or religious practices. If people want to get bent out of shape over Henry Potter books, let them. I've never been able to shoot lightning from my eyes or any other strange thing like that. I honestly don't know why people get upset about these types of shows. It's called fiction for a reason. So, what do I say to someone when they start questioning me about my beliefs? I tell them. I'm pretty blunt about my beliefs and not afraid to share. So, if they ask me to do something that is beyond my abilities, I say so. If these shows promote at least some tolerance by making witches the protagonist, then great because it seems to work if people are wanting to learn more after watching.

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