Sunday, August 5, 2007

Witchcraft and Stereotypes

I always have an open invitation for anyone who has questions about my chosen path. I hardly get any questions, but I think they might be there. My friend Ariesa (Emmasteen here on MySpace) wrote this up and I thought it was pretty complete (and fun to read) so with her permission I'm re-posting it here for you guys.
First of all, I need to clarify that this kind of thing doesn't happen to me often. When it does, it's usually minor, and no big deal. Today, something minor occured that sparked me to write this blog. And this particular incident isn't what set me off, it just got me thinking, and progressively more agitated.

Witchcraft. Wicca. Witch. Spells.
What do you think when you see those words? What images pop into your head? Is it what pop-culture has made them out to be? Warty old hags in black hats flying on a broom? Or is it what the patriarchal Christian religions have taught you? That we are servants to the Devil who will curse anyone who crosses us? Or, perhaps, do you see a friend, or a neighbor, someone who is relatively normal (well, as normal as anyone can be) with a slightly different religious and philosophical viewpoint?
I am a Witch. Something of a Neo-Wiccan, as I don't belong to a coven. I prefer to follow my own path. I've heard it called Natural Witchery, not because I inherited magickal powers, but because I follow my instincts and learn and craft my own beliefs around both old and new ideas. Old concepts mixed with some of the newer Wiccan concepts.
Today, someone said to me, "you looked cute. you didn't seem the type to be wiccan."
Now... what the hell is that supposed to mean?? My response was, "you know, not all Witches are ugly."
It didn't bother me. It simply made me laugh a bit. Because so many people still have this deeply rooted fear and prejudice of this religion that is so misunderstood. But then I got to thinking about other minor incidents, and then not-so-minor incidents that I've actually heard about, and I was inspired to write this.
Myth 1: Witches and pagans are Satanists.
Truth 1: A couple of years ago, a classmate of mine, who was 42 at the time, and in no way an immature idiot, saw my belly button ring which has a pentagram on it, and asked me, "You worship Satan? You're a Satanist?? You don't look like a Satanist."
My response was, "I don't even believe in Satan, so how on earth could I worship him?"
Satan is a Christian concept. Younger than Paganism. Paganism and Witchcraft predate Satan. It is true, that many Satanists call themselves Witches, and they stole our symbol, inverting it to make one of their own. If you look closely at the Pentagram, only if the double points are facing upwards is it a Satanic symbol. When the single point is facing upwards, it is a symbol of Paganism. It actually at one time was a Christian symbol, but during the Inquisition became corrupted. It is a symbol of peace and protection and balance, not evil.
It is true that Witches use darker deities at times, but I'll get into that later.
Myth 2: Witches have powers that "normal" people do not. I was once asked by my friend's son, who was 15 at the time, "Can you levitate? Can you shoot sparks like Harry Potter??" Sadly, he was dead serious.
Truth 2: We largely have pop culture to blame for this misconception. No, I cannot shoot sparks out of my wand. I don't even have a wand. I feel tacky using one. No, I cannot levitate. That's ridiculous. I cannot twitch my nose and make my room clean in an instant. I do not have the ability to foretell the winning lotto numbers. If I did, I'd be at my mansion in the Bahamas right now, and not here. Magick (spelled different at times to differentiate between it and stage magic) is not a fix-all. It is not a short cut. I cannot turn anyone who pisses me off into a newt, even if I wanted to. I am just Emily, a practicing Witch who uses spellwork to focus and meditation to strengthen my soul.
Myth 3: There are good and bad Witches, just like there is "white and black magick." I can't tell you how many times I've been asked by someone in a nervous voice, "But you're a GOOD witch right? You only practice white magick??"
Truth 3: There is no person who is wholly good or wholly bad. I'm sure Hitler treated some people nicely. Gandhi was even known to beat his wife. There is no black and white, and if you've been paying attention to LIFE IN GENERAL you would know this. A librarian can be a murderer, just like a rapist could be a father. Priests molest little boys, and they are supposed to be the embodiment of good. There is no line. It all lies within the heart of the Witch, just like it lies in the heart of the person to be good or bad. It's all about choice. I'm generally a nice person, but I've had nasty thoughts and nasty moments. Does that make me evil?
Myth 4: Witches have to be women. And they have to dress in black all the time, and be scary looking. They have to never smile. Witches are ugly with warts and crazy hair. Witches are goth.
Truth 4: Before I really get into this answer, here's a funny story. A few years ago, when I was relying on the bus system to get around, I would constantly be harassed on the bus due to my race. You go look at my pictures, you'll see I look totally "normal." When I was talking to my mom about my harassment issues, she said "Why don't you pump up your 'image' a bit? Act the Witch?" So I did. I dressed in all black the next day, with a black shawl, black fingerless gloves, black nail polish, my pentagram necklace showing, black eyeliner, black boots and fishnets, and carried around a spellbook in plain sight. No one bothered me.
I understand these misconceptions. We've crafted them through horror stories and legend. They aren't accurate though. I dress how I want to dress. Sometimes I wear black, but generally I like color more. I don't have warts or crazy hair. Look at my pictures. I AM A WITCH REGARDLESS OF HOW I LOOK. A Witch could look gothic if they wanted to, but it's just as likely to be that perky blonde in front of you at the grocery store, or that little old man with the Santa Claus cheeks who fills your prescriptions.
Also, men can be Witches, too. And NO they are not called "Warlocks." That is horribly misconstrued. If a guy ever tells you he's a Warlock, tell him he better study some history. "Warlock" is the old Scottish term for "Deciever" and was actually a word adopted during the Inquisition when people would turn in Witches to the authorities to be burned at the stake, hanged, drowned or tortured. WARLOCK IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE TERM FOR A MALE WITCH.
Myth 5: Even if they aren't Satanists, Witches are evil.
Truth 5: I had a "friend" once, and the moment I came out of the broom closet and told him I was a Witch, he didn't want to speak to me anymore. He said he couldn't be friends with someone evil. I could hurt him at any moment with a curse or something.
Like I said, there CAN be bad Witches. But ALL of the ones I have met have taken an oath to HELP people, to enrich their lives, to try to make the world a better place. Not to harm them. The Wiccan Rede, which not ALL follow, but I do, and many I know do, states "An it harm none, do as ye will." Meaning, we are not to harm anything. Many also believe in cause-and-effect, or kharma, or the three-fold-law ("And ever mind the rule of Three, what thee sends out comes back to thee.") If we work a harmful spell, or even perform a harmful act, we believe that the Universe will punish us three times worse than what we did. So why on earth would we want to curse anyone if it might make our lives harder in the long run??? This even goes for love spells, or any spells that could manipulate a person's free will. They're probably going to go horribly wrong unless you get that person's permission. Even for a healing spell, they have to give their permission. Because it is WRONG, maybe not always harmful, but WRONG to manipulate a person's life.
Myth 6: All Witches mess with drugs.
Truth 6: As I've said before. This can't apply to everyone. But I personally do not use drugs, and many Witches do not like to use mind-altering substances. How can our focus and intention and magick and spells work if we aren't in our right mind? Many Witches prefer a completely toxin-free lifestyle as it's good for the body and the Earth.
Myth 7: The broom in the corner of the room? We fly on it.
Truth 7: Sadly, I HAVE been asked if my broom is for flying. No. If it was, I wouldn't own a freaking car and bother with gas prices. Brooms, or besoms as we call them, are used for sweeping away negative energy, and are a symbol of hearth and home.
Myth 8: Witches make animal sacrfices.
Truth 8: Remember the "harm none" rule? Yeah. Witchcraft is about Nature and a connection to the Earth. Animals are part of nature. We love animals. We would never hurt them for our own gain.
Myth 9: Witches summon demons.
Truth 9: Demons are scary mother fuckers, why the HELL would I want to bring one willingly to me or anyone else??? That's just stupid. Granted, some of our gods are called demons by Christians, like Loki the Norse God of Chaos and Mischief, but they are not demons. Like I said, that is just plain stupid.
Myth 10: Witches go to hell.
Truth 10: There is no truth here. Just belief and perception. Witches are not Christians therefore Witches do not believe in hell. It is a Christian concept. We believe if we do something bad, we will pay somehow, in this life or the next, because there has to be balance. Tell me I'm going to Hell all you want, I'm just going to smile and say "They probably have AC by now."
Myth 11: Witches try to recruit people. I knew someone who thought I was trying to convert him when all we were doing was discussing the differences in our religions.
Truth 11: Witches are big believers in free will. We do not try to force people to do anything. If they hear the call to the Craft, they will come. It's not for everyone. Religion is a personal choice.
Myth 12: Witches are always using "voodoo" and spells. It's all about the magick.
Truth 12: I actually got into Witchcraft for the way it made me feel spiritually. I do very few spells. They are tricky things. I pray and meditate and study far more than I perform spells. And I don't use voodoo.
Myth13: Witches don't believe in God.
Truth 13: My favorite response to this is "Well, which god are you talking about??" I don't believe in the Christian concept of divinity, that's for certain. But I believe in a higher power, that we couldn't possibly understand. I refer to them as my God and Goddess in general, and I use the names of different gods depending on what I need in my life. Most Witches are very spiritual, and feel a connection to that higher power. However, ask 5 witches about divinity, and you will get 5 different answers. I personally believe that there are many facets, so many we can't even concieve of them all, and they all make up that One that connects us all. I pray. I speak with my gods often. How many Christians can say they pray daily?
Myth 14: All Witches are hornballs with overactive sex drives.
Truth 14: If you're a Puritan you might think that. But no, we're not. We do, however, believe that sex is a form of worship, a symbol of the God and Goddess coming together and of human connection, as long as you are with someone you care about. Sex is holy to us, so yes, we are very open about it. Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of sex that meant jackshit, but it was just practice for the times that mean something. When it means something, we feel it, probably more so. Because the act of coming together with someone you have an emotional connection with is deeply spiritual and uplifting for us.
So there you have it. Take from it what you will.

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