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Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés

Author: Ashka Ryo
Posted: January 13th. 2013
Times Viewed: 3,929

[For some time I debated if I should even write this piece, let alone submit it. As I briefly explain later in the posting, this essay isn't a slur on Wicca or the Pagan faiths. It pertains rather to certain self-aggrandizing behaviors and basic misinformation. So please, dear reader, do not take personal offense; it was not intended.]

Over the years, I have found that many a person has this strange idea when it comes to the Pagan faiths. It’s as if as soon as one converts, one [the pagan] is thrown back to the Middle Ages. People also have this rather quirky notion that pots and pans turn into wands and broomsticks, or that tables and chairs turn into sacrificial altars and stone circles. Too many people think that once they devote themselves to the God and Goddess, reality bleeds away and is magically replaced with Hogwarts Schools and Weasly-like houses. Others also believe that our God and Goddess are just whores or, even worse, the Christian devil.

We are not the demons some people try to make us out to be.

During the weekdays when I somehow manage to get myself out of bed, (and after screaming and cursing the day for not giving me one more frigging hour to sleep) , I enjoy some lemonade, more toast than anyone should eat, and a nice helping of thinkprogress for my news. While shifting by numerous stories, I found a random link to 10 Clichés Christians Should Never Use. Written and later expanded upon by Christian Piatt, it is an interesting insightful piece on how some "religious" sayings can just be mean or down right insulting. From the first paragraph I knew it was going to be good:

"We Christians have a remarkable talent for sticking our feet in our mouths. When searching the words most commonly associated with “Christian, ” the list ain’t pretty. I think part of this can be attributed to a handful of phrases that, if stricken from our vocabulary, might make us a little more tolerable. Yes, these things may mean something to you, but trust me, non-Christians don’t share your love for these tried-and-true clichés."

After reading, and very much enjoying, the posts, I began to see the further merits of his rambling. The reader comments calling Christian (the author) an "anti-Christ" and a "false prophet" really caught my attention. Every religion has those who have been called much similar names. Because it's true. Let's face it, now matter how great we think we are, or how much of the moral high ground we may have, we all have our idiots.

The loud mouth git who just wants to cause drama in the name of [x] religion, the one who holds up whatever holy symbol and shoves it into people’s faces, or even the "convert to [x] religion or burn!" people. We all got them. In my previous rambling, I spoke about how growing up as Pagan in a community that was mostly "you are the devil" folks wasn't easy. I wrote about how it wasn't rainbows and sunshine (like with most minority religions) , but in time it got better, almost to the point where I can laugh about many such incidents now. So despite some feathers I might ruffle today, I want to write about my frustrations with our community. By that, I mean the idiots who give us all a bad name.

Well, because of The Burning Times, I suffer...."

Let us begin with one of the two clichés I have heard fellow Wiccans/Pagans use and the one that really just makes me want to stab someone with a really hot and greasy French-fry. It is a constant source of migraines to know some people have turned a historically tragic event into "I'm more persecuted than you" or "Waahh, pity me" fodder.

The term "Burning times" refers to one of the many dark blots in our history (1692-ish) when men, but mostly women, where burned at the stake, sunk to the bottom of rivers (or worse) because they were accused of being witches. During the trials, witnesses recounted said persons flew on brooms, cast spells to harm neighbors or had a sexy time with the devil. Apparently watching someone having sex wasn't a crime... but having sex was.

While people did burn at the stake and witch trials are historical true, some of us have gone a bit too far with their interpretation of events. According to the ‘poor us’ theory, nasty evil Christian witch-hunters -- whose single minded purpose was to ‘root out practitioners of older pagan religions’ -- roamed the lands unchecked and unchallenged. Que typical horrir theme here. Stories of Satanic worship, strange sex orgies and even odder things were just made up in order to sway the masses into believing ‘Wicca’ (which was not even established until centuries later) was a major problem.*1

In addition to this, and as if to add provability to said theory, because women were mainly targeted during the various trials and executions, some choose to believe that every woman who was killed was indeed a witch. Why? Because women were generally considered the caretakers of magical and divine knowledge. And people say women don't do anything, ha! During this time, it is often repeated that “over nine million pagan lives were wrongly taken simply because they were Wiccan”. Wikipedia tells me:

This number was first calculated by an 18th century German who used a single location over a short span of time as his sample and then multiplied it to cover the entire period of the trials across the entire [scope]..”

So, a couple points here:

While events like the Salem Witch Trials and various "witch burns" are historically true, it was not because so-and-so was a Wiccan, Pagan or something of that nature (is that a pun?) that these people suffered as they did-. Wicca is the modern day reconstruction of the old pagan beliefs and it was founded in the 1950's... way AFTER the witch burnings. Also, the majority of the people accused of being witches and burned were most probably not witches at all.

Anyone who was not Christian (this included Jews) , who was a Christian but acted funny, looked funny, healed with herbs, or was not well-liked in the community was also subjected to "witch burnings". Think of it as a giant popularity contest gone wrong.

Many so-called witnesses from the trails later admitted that they lied. They just wanted the other person to suffer for [x] reason. Historians, and ones who actually know their stuff, put the actual number between 40, 000 and 100, 000 wrongful deaths. This is based upon trial records and takes into consideration that not all records have survived or were even taken in the first place.

Making the claim the "nine million of us where murdered in cold blood" is not only vanity; it is also untrue. When people of this mindset make such a claim, they sometimes also add they are worse off than the Christians who were lion feed and even than the Jews during the Holocaust. This claim gives them permission to approach the rest of the world with a "you owe me something" attitude. Honestly now, it wasn't “nine million poor innocent Wiccans”. Hell, it even wasn't “us" for that matter. Randomly picking out events from history and then getting all whiney about it isn't an excuse to badmouth others who happen to share a religion (Christianity) with the witch-hunters of four hundred years ago. (My mom is Christian and raised me very well. Should she should be punished for some idiot’s actions 400 years ago?)

Not only is the myth of the "Burning Times” false (or in some cases, misinterpreted) , it's also disrespectful to the real victims of the witch-persecutions. If you really want to claim the moral high ground, refuse to accept "the Most Persecuted Group in History" award. You can freely wear a pentacle in public; you are not suffering because of the “Burning Times”. There are no evil witch-hunters out to get you. "But what about that religious bigot who is bothering and hating on me/" They would have done it anyway. Like many countless idiots, they are only using religion as an excuse. Doing ‘no harm’ also means not bashing other faiths for the actions of the idiot population claiming the religious title.

"This pentacle means I'm a real pagan!"

Every time I hear someone say this, I want to load up Civ5 and watch the world burn. While the pentacle is a holy sign for people who believe (relevance and mileage may vary) , it is rather meaningless to people who know nothing about it. Shockingly, buying some cheap base metal necklace from Hot Topic does not automatically make you anything. While many of the pagan faiths have adopted a "feel good and accept yourself" and "find your own way to the divine" attitude and way of life, there is a lot more to it. (Like you know the God and Goddess, for one thing...) Wearing certain types of clothing, jewelry, or using certain buzzwords does not a Pagan make. The meaning, the heart and the will must be there… else it's all useless and offensive fluff.

"I'm Wiccan, I can do and believe what ever I want!"

Wicca, in general, is really big on finding your own personal path to the divine. The followers of the faith are encouraged to find what feels right (method of contact, worship, names, etc) and go with it. So while Wicca (and some Pagan faiths) does allow some personal leeway with such actions, there are still set rules and codes to follow. One cannot go out and shoot someone, then claim "I'm Wiccan, so it's okay!" Moral standards, like "ye harm none, do what ye will", are not things you can change because they are too hard to follow.

"Hey look at me! I'm a seventh generation/incarnation Wicca from [insert powerful family/mythical being here!”

Awesome! Now, what's your point? In a previous time when life was simpler and we lived (mostly) with the land, I was a healer who used herbs and various potions to help the sick and dying. Does that mean I know anything about healing now? No, of course not. The closest I come to it is as an acceptable healer in a video game. While it may be cool to be part of a generational family of pagans, this is something that should be shared and honored by the family, not thrown in people’s faces for popularity. Just like in the Harry Potter movies (please pardon the reference) , being part of a "long time magical family" does not make you any better or worse than anyone else. Remember, Wiccan and the various Pagan faiths are religions, not popularity contests.

As always, I welcome and love comments, suggestions and feedback. Oh, and if you have any clichés you want to share, send it my way so I write Part 2! LOL!

Blessings to all, and to all a good night!

*1. Hmmm, making stuff up to confusing the masses, sounds like our currently political climate, doesn't it?


Ashka Ryo

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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