Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Stereotype

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.


  1. Excellent Sarah!! So true...especially this time of year.

  2. yes there are a lot of cape swirlers out there, well said.

  3. While I agree on most parts, I still think there is a point where you have to be able to poke fun at yourself and go with the lighter aspects of popular culture's witchiness. ;) You talk about the emphasis on peace, love, and compassion - don't forget to have that for even the people who frustrate you enough to spur writing this post. :)

    Have you ever heard of Project Pagan Enough? You might enjoy reading about it. -

  4. YES! Thank you for your honesty and candor. I just discovered you from a facebook share of this post. Totally agree. We may not think we need others to take us seriously, but in all honesty, we do need that, in order to foster unity between us and non-pagans. And not scare the muggles away. :-P

  5. Cheers! I've always had a problem with people showing up in faerie wings, brooms, ect...and then getting upset that people aren't taking them seriously. We need to be able to poke fun at ourselves, because life should never be taken too seriously. Then again, I have Coyote medicine, so take that with a grain of salt of two.

    The difference comes in when we are presenting an inside joke to a public audience that isn't in on it. It's quite different if it was presented as comedy or fantasy. But when you have a Pagan Pride event, it is in the best interest of the community to have some self respect and some humility. Pagans aren't all bat-shit-crazy, but we can't convince the public of that if we keep encouraging people to dress up and act ridiculous.

  6. I think the time to let loose and let your inner child play is when you are among like minds. I love going to rituals with my friends because I can be my own wacky self without feeling like others are judging me (and poorly too) for my choices.

    When attending events or walking around in the general public, I don't entirely loose my own style, but I tone it down enough that I'm not shoving it in people's faces.

    And especially at any type of public Pagan event, I think that Paganism has enough hurdles trying to get people to understand what we believe in that we don't need to muddy the waters by joking around or pretending to believe all those fantastical things that we constantly post in FAQ that we don't believe confusing for outsiders to be told at a festival that we don't believe we can fly and turn around to see a 'flying lesson' on plastic toy brooms.