But stereotypes persist in news stories that link Pagans with ritual sex and the exotic, if not the satanic. Suspicions of evil neighbors have faded now as many stories offer a more appealing good Witch-next-door. A Las Vegas Weekly cover story put it like this on May 5, 2005: “Oh My Gods! Sex Rituals, Arcane Rites and Homemade Cookies.” What made the Pentacle Quest such an important triumph, not just for religious freedom, but in terms of media representation, was that Wiccan veterans challenged all the stereotypes: evil devil-worshipper, sexy young Hollywood Witch, quaint Witch next-door, and dangerous cult member.

In the new millennium, it seems about time for prison officials, government agencies, the courts, educators, ecumenical organizations, and reporters to move beyond treating Pagans through stereotypes, even more positive ones. News stories featuring rituals for cleansing and healing the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill offer a promising model for a different type of coverage and a new kind of public understanding of contemporary Paganism.

 

Sarah M. Pike is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Humanities Center at California State University, Chico where she teaches courses on North American religions. Pike is the author of Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community (University of California Press, 2001) and New Age and Neopagan Religions in America (Columbia University Press, 2004). She is currently working on a book about religion, youth culture, and radical activism.