Everyone Is Entitled To His/Her Opinion? “Oh Puhleez!
Article ID: 12063
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,637
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Author: Zyalia The Crone [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: December 9th. 2007
Times Viewed: 4,363
I belong to a local Yahoo list of literally hundreds of people who self identify as Wiccans, Witches or Neo-Pagans of some other stripe. As a Witch, Wiccan and Neo-Pagan elder who also happens to be a working journalist I am always seeking to find such people to interview for various stories either revolving around seasonal Sabbats or political actions such as the Pentacle Veteran Headstone effort.
As a journalist and a Witch I feel the responsibility to present “our” perspective in a dignified and truthful manner keenly. Because I am a feature writer and not doing op-ed stories I cannot speak as a practitioner…others must step up to the plate for that. The benefit I bring is that I know the story and won’t be misled nor will I misinterpret a subject.
To make a long story a bit less tedious – of my list of hundreds, exactly three emailed me volunteering to be part of a story in response to my request. I even posted a plea on the Witchvox, which went totally unanswered.
Now yes, these three people have the courage of their convictions, but to be honest this is New Jersey, suburb of either New York City or Philadelphia, Pa – hardly the buckle of the Bible Belt.
I can say with honesty that I have been out of the closet for at least the past 35 years, have never lost a job, custody of my child, or been evicted from my home due to my religious beliefs. IF I have ever been discriminated against, I never noticed it, but if I had there would have been the devil to pay…
Oddly enough, the reticence in being exposed, words forever printed in black upon the white page, is not that of being outted at all. It is, instead, about having that article somehow find its way to the Witches Voice - the Wren’s Nest!
It seems we witch folk are hardy enough to accept the barbs of the occasional Cowan, but the poisoned darts of our “fellows” prick more cruelly than the inquisitors blade.
“Puhleeze” (oftentimes spelled ‘Puleeze’, ‘Puhlease’, or some other variant) is an immediate indication that the poster is apparently far more learned than he who is quoted in the media…. all quite anonymously, of course.
While the witch quoted in the article has their name and town right out there for all to see, the poster’s identity is comfortably protected behind the moniker Lady RavenBitch from Whocares, OK or somesuch.
The factoid that their “students would laugh if they ever tried to tell them the same nonsense” speaks more to the caliber of those students and their teacher than it does of the subject matter.
These treasures of the community are a real rarity, as they seem to know virtually all there is to know about every tradition. Such a learned person should be writing letters to editors and being interviewed in real life, not taking potshots from behind a computer screen at those willing to speak up and wear the target.
Then there are the supercilious comments of those who consider themselves ‘serious Pagans’ (sometimes accompanied with :eye rolling: or :blink blink:). To them the goths, vamps and fairies of the festival crowd are deliberately undermining their personal attempts to recreate yet another ho hum establishment religion under the umbrella of modern Paganism (at least in the eyes of their bosses and neighbors).
Blend in, don’t stand out and they will know we are the real Pagans, the GOOD Pagans.
Not at all to be confused with the nutters who don black capes and trance around the fire and wear transparent wings because fairies are beautiful, and gather at the Stones for Solstice and believe in crop circles and collect dragons tears and see those beings who dwell in the Places Between; you know, the really fun people like we used to be in the 60s when we adopted Uncle Gerry’s witchcraft and made it our own.
I say can we get those High Episcopagans to stop giving us such a solemn rep?
Where is the free-spirited fun that used to define being Neo-Pagan?
Like Peter Pan in Hook, have we grown up so much we have forgotten how to fly?
Naturally there are those who like to blame it all on “the media”, that dreadful machine that the Left says is run by the Right and the Right swears is owned by the Left and that everyone pretty much agrees is godless and far from the purveyor of truth.
While there are indeed media forums that are controlled by one ideology or another, the vast majority of the main stream truly makes every attempt to “get it right”. Of course the quality of their reporting is only as good as the quality of their source material.
When it comes to Witches that can be a problem.
Most reporters and editors wouldn’t know a Wiccan from an Asatruar or a Hedgewitch from a Druid. It is fair to say that they can and should do research before they do an interview.
Unfortunately with deadlines and short staffed newspapers trying to compete in an ever electronic world filled with bloggers and instant rss feeds, that is not always practical from the reporters perspective. They generally rely on their source to give them accurate information and usually have no way to know how good that information is.
Sometimes an editor will have to cut down a story to fit available space and in so doing inadvertently changes the direction of the piece. Frequently the feature writer won’t even see a finished article until it comes out in the publication. Occasionally a publication group will have a Pagan on staff who can review such articles, but this is rare. But be assured, deliberate errors in reporting are not the intention.
Of course there are those in the media who still see modern Witches, Wiccans et al as ‘cute seasonal stories’ and tend not to take the subject matter too seriously. Horror of horrors they may even want to write a tongue in cheek story.
It is then the responsibility of the interviewee to GENTLY change their perceptions. Using grace and humor is definitely the way to go to gain the respect of an overworked and weary journalist. Trust me; I know this to be true.
Offering a list of suggested questions will help them immeasurably as will providing a short FAQ sheet correcting common misunderstandings and giving correct spellings and capitalizations.
This may be overruled by a controlling editor, but if a reporter has it in writing from the authority (you) that will go far in getting the right info out there.
So what is the point here? Three really.
1) If you have a bit of courage and are a reasonably knowledgeable person who self identifies as a Witch, Wiccan etc, make yourself available to your local print media. Start by writing a letter to the editor. Talk about issues or upcoming Sabbats or Pagan Pride events or the coven who volunteers to clean up a section of highway or does animal rescue work. Be articulate and be open and don’t try to be a know-it-all. Speak of what you know and don’t say “all” or “everyone” does such and such. Speak openly and honestly about what you and your group do.
2) If you haven’t got the courage or the skill set to speak to the media, at least be supportive of your brethren who do. Instead of picking apart every single “error” and complaining about the quality of the writing or the quality of the research, pick out the bits that they got right and build upon that. And for pity’s sake THANK the people who have the courage to step up and speak out and wear the target on their backs while you sit anonymously snug and cozy behind your keyboard. If you are not willing to speak up, then it is my considered opinion: you have no right to put the b in witch!
3) And if you can’t write your post in word and auto-correct at least the obvious spelling and grammar, then maybe it would be best if you didn’t post at all. Lots of people besides us read the Nest and other pagan websites, and a poorly spelled, grammatically laughable and typo laden post just lends credence to the belief that we are illiterate fools who truly require saving.
Ultimately it does more harm than any number of incorrect media stories.
As Sean Astin said narrating the nature program Meercat Manor, “Predators are always a threat, but sometimes the greater danger comes from your own kind.”
Copyright: Copyright 2007 by Trish Reynolds
All rights reserved
Zyalia The Crone
Location: Budd Lake, New Jersey
Bio: Trish Reynolds aka Zyalia, the crone, is a working journalist, editor and author of the Seekers Quest novels. She resides on a lake somewhere in the northwest wilds of New Jersey with her two cattens and assorted invisible creatures.
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