Saturday, October 20, 2012
This happened several years ago and I am always reminded of it around Halloween/Samhain time. I suppose it's all the barely-there witch costumes and the silly posters on FB showing corny fantasy art of what a "witch" "looks like". Then followed by some weird saying like "yup, I'm a witch, deal with it" or "my other car is a broom". Really? It is? I doubt it.
I used to do lectures and workshops at our city's Pagan Pride Day. I took a few years off right after I had my kids and then accepted an invitation to come back and teach a "Paganism 101" lecture. Let me tell you this; there is nothing I dislike more than doing Paganism 101 classes in a Pagan venue BUT that was what the coordinator thought was most beneficial and I agreed. The point of a Pagan Pride Day (believe it or not) is for those who don't know about Paganism to come out, get to see what we do, get to know us and see that we are just like them. It's about squashing fear and stereotypes.
So why then, when I show up, are people dressed in cheap velveteen capes they bought from the "after Halloween sale", donning make-up similar to the band KISS, sporting pentacles that resemble Flavor Flav's clock necklace, and hopping around on brooms like they are hobby horses? Then I hear someone yell "Come on over! Free broom lessons! Get on your brooms witches!" >face palm<
Really. Look, you don't ride a fucking broom. You may want to, you may think you do, but you don't. And you look and sound ridiculous which, in turn, makes ALL of us look ridiculous.
The non-Pagans who came over to see what was going on with our gathering, quickly walked away...
And we wonder why no one takes us seriously.We wonder why we are stereotyped so badly, why people think we are freaks. Why our religion is made fun of and taken as a joke. We are angry about a problem we cause for ourselves because many of us resemble these stereotypes. Many of us are the reason these stereotypes exist.
If you are angry about stereotypes then stop contributing to them.
If we want to be taken seriously as events, lectures, and workshops, if we want to really reach people, then we need to be professional. We need to take our own religion seriously and project that. Sadly, these events are more about dressing up and acting weird than educating non-Pagans. If you are holding a ritual, teaching a workshop, or giving a lecture then LOOK like it. Our religion is not a hobby, it's not a joke. Dress and look how you would to give a presentation in college or at your place of work because your religion IS work if you want to improve it. Dress like you would if you were thinking at all about trying to make others feel comfortable with a new group of people. Dress how you would if you were not just thinking about your own ego.
When we wear black capes, theatre make-up, swing swords around, and pretend to ride on brooms, all we are doing is making the gap between "us" and "them" larger. We are creeping them out and making them leave. They don't want to hear what we have to say because we look fucking ridiculous.
Isn't one of of our core beliefs that there should be no "us" and "them"? Isn't that what we hope and wish and fight for between all religions? If it is, then we must create a playing field where we can not be segregated from them. A playing field where we can not be told apart because of our cloaks and Flavor Flav pentacles.
Now, for those of you would like to wear that stuff, that's fine-in the appropriate venue. Trust me I am all for self expression; I have a multi-colored mohawk, 13 hours of tribal tattoo, facial piercing and branding. The truth is that the black capes, theatre make up, and fake British accents have NOTHING to do with being Pagan. They may have everything to do with what YOU like but YOU aren't all Pagans. Non-Pagans don't know that. If we want to open the lines of communication then we must meet half way. We will reach far more people by looking professional than we would by falling into the stereotypes that were created to discriminate against us in the first place.
Let us try to convey what our religion is truly about. Let us teach about our hundreds of thousands of years of history, our reverence for our culture, land, and nature. Our honor and respect for our earth, our tolerance for the beliefs of others. Our emphasis on peace, love, and compassion. These are the aspects of our religion that should be shown. Not capes, wands and brooms.