Left of Center: A Look in The Pagan Mirror
Article Specs |
Article ID: 2117
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,602
Times Read: 15,300
Author: Cather -Catalyst- Steincamp [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 19th. 1998
Times Viewed: 15,300
"am looking for an elven contact. my friend lost contact when he got mad and ran the local elves away from his house, so we need new contacts, perferably thru ICQ if you have contact or know somone who does, please contact me."
- Actual message sent to me by a seventeen year old boy on ICQ
Wicca, as a religion, has a slightly different background that most major religions. For one thing, a vast majority of us have chosen Wicca as our path rather than having been raised in it. Wicca tends to attract those of us with a healthy imagination. We don't punish people for being different; we celebrate their differences.
In Burning Water, Mercedes Lackey puts forth an interesting-- and I think, valid-- theory. Her character, Diana Tregarde, chastises one of her friends for his comment about what nutcases they've been coming across. According to Tregarde, society punishes the different. They are emotionally scarred, and often develop many little personality problems and problems with reality along the way. To put it more bluntly than Tregarde did, they're driven just a little bit nuts.
I can relate to this pretty well-- I was one of the weird kids growing up, and I just got weirder as time grew on. I actually announced to my seventh grade class that I was a mutant, like in The Uncanny X-Men comic books. I really believed it. I calmed down quite a bit once I got surrounded by less hostile people, and started my return to reality. I started channeling my imagination into writing comic characters, rather than trying to become one. The psychic awareness in myself grew, and in the course of my study of it, I came across Wicca.
I wish I could say the story ended here. It would be really nice. But after I got involved in Wicca, I fell into a group of other Wiccans & Pagans. Among them were the reincarnation of Merlin (in the course of time I've met three), a vampire, and quite a number of other whackos. I was young, I was impressionable, I was suckered. I bought into the whole reality pretty hard and heavy. Lots of things happened, and through the power plays & backstabbing that were going on, I'm still to this day not entirely sure what was going on. I honestly believe some of the stuff that happened was real, and that's just a little scarier than the thought that it was all in our minds. I realised that something was wrong, and I got out. I didn't make a lot of friends in that process... and I kept running into others along the way that helped drag me back into that fantasy world.
Do I blame those other folks? Well, hell, yes.... but it's not all their fault. Mostly mine. I bought into it. I wanted to believe the fantasy, and I contributed. I told my own share of all tales, and by the time I started realising that maybe everybody else was as full of it as I was, I couldn't say anything, because, well, I'd told stuff that was even farther out. Andwhen lies were told that included me, there wasn't a whole lot I could do about it.
We, as a pagan community, need to stop embracing and celebrating these people. They are often charming and engaging, but they are dangerous to us. Not just to those who get drawn in, but to those of us who know better. I'll elaborate.
The Wiccan Community has a problem with the Christian Community. Why? Not because the average Christian is a bigoted, power-hungry zealot who would love nothing more to expand the grip he or she has on society by wiping our religion off the face of the planet. The average Christian is an average person, and a good number of them are kind, decent, sincere people. We fear the Christians because their most outspoken are the ones who go too far. We don't think of the average Christian when we think of "the Christian," because they pretty much mind their own business and don't get in our faces. We think of the Zealot.
The average christian doesn't think about the cop, the banker, the lawyer, the teacher of the year, or the computer programmer when they picture "the Wiccan." They think of the fruitcake in the mall, running around wearing midieval clothing, stoned out of his mind, talking about the vampire in the record store. They think of the girl they knew in college, who slept with everybody she could and didn't seem to understand the concept that the sixties were over and talked to everyone about how she saw the Goddess on campus, planting flowers.
There's another angle to this: the seeker. The one who most of us were at one time. The seeker who comes across Wicca in the bookstore, online, or the occasional positive spot on TV and goes looking for real people to explain the questions that the book doesn't cover. When this person comes across one of the people I'm talking about, they can get turned off to Wicca. Especially since the nutcases are the ones that go out looking to convert people.
These people serve to keep us a stereotype. They misrepresent the average Wiccan, and what's worse, they make it harder for the good examples to come out of the broom closet. I know Wiccans who don't even want other Wiccans to know their religion, because they're a) afraid of being confused with the nutcase, and b) they don't want to deal with the nutcase.
What can we do about this?
As long as we hide, scattered in the shadows,
- Don't encourage them. Sure, their stories are entertaining, but when you listen to it, let them know you're not buying it. They feed on people believing them, and it only serves to pull them further into their delusions.
- Challenge them. Here I speak from personal experience. When I was that bad example, my primary weapon was the unspoken rule that to argue with me was to argue with the tenets of Wicca. Don't buy into it. Not only is it a disservice to yourself, but to the person who's telling the story, and to the people who are listening. Your silence is a validation.
- Question everyone, including yourself. This is especially important in a group situation, because groups are more likely to go off the deep end. Think about mob mentality. I've prepared a little list of signs. It's humorous, but it's almost not. Check it out.
- Know when to shut up. I can't tell you what's real and what's not. That's not my job. Maybe that kid who sent me the note at the top of this essay really did see elves. I'm not in a position to know. But sending a message like that to a total stranger is going to get you looked at funny. Think about what you're saying and how it's going to be percieved. We've all had some pretty powerful experiences in Circle, but the average person is just going to roll the eyes at the stories. (To be fair, they wouldn't believe it from a Christian saying it happened during intense prayer.)
- Provide a positive example. Don't complain about the stereotype if you keep silent and don't give the world something else to look at.
we will be seen as dwellers of the dark.
Cather "Catalyst" Steincamp
For Other Essays check out...
|Catalyst Point||This little collection of essays is my contribution to the Wiccan Politcal Arena. I thought this would make a nice difference compared to the usual "I'm a Pagan, this is what I am, these are my pagan friends' pages" kind of stuff we see.|
The essays to date are as follows: A Message to the Wiccan Community, A Good look in the Pagan Mirror. Supplement: You Might Be A Bad Example if...
WebCrafter: Cather "Catalyst" Steincamp
Important Note:This article is presented by the author as a starting point for discussion on the issue. Each author has submitted his/her article independently and may or may not agree with all the viewpoints in the entire series.
Cather -Catalyst- Steincamp
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