I knew it would come up, of course I did and I was not disappointed. My last post was aimed at the idea of our Pagan pioneers creating a false acceptance for Paganism by lying about the more “displeasing” aspects of our numerous religions. Omitting the existence of sacrifice, cursing and hexing, devil worship, demonology and other such things.
I knew what at least one type of response would be to that post – that of safety. By keeping the displeasing stuff out of the public eye, we keep ourselves safe. We keep from being burnt, attacked, our homes and businesses vandalised.
The first of these comments I saw was on the Patheos Pagan Facebook page and it included a seeming insult at younger Pagans (this actually turned out to be miscommunication on both our parts and led to a very constructive and enjoyable discussion/debate).
We Aren’t That Safe Anyway
So we begin with the harsh truth. We aren’t really that safe right now anyway. Yes we are perhaps safer than we were 100 years ago, and we are certainly safer in our western world than in certain countries like Papua. But when we speak of safety in the western world, it’s not really as good as it should be.
We recently had the story go a bit viral regarding the Pagan business owner whose shop is being vandalised and has been advised that she try to have the culprits charged with a hate crime. I have read multiple other stories of peoples businesses being attacked, Pagan temples or similar being vandalised, peoples homes being vandalised and even burned down, and more. These, in places like the USA and UK, and probably Australia too.
I run the Pagan Homeschooling group on Facebook and I know from the numerous stories told by parents in that group, that our children aren’t safe either. Go to school and wear any type of Pagany pendant, or be known to not celebrate the Christian festivals, or be known to be Pagan and your child will be not just verbally bullied, but often physically abused. And certainly shunned. And not just by the students either, sometimes, depending on where you live, the teachers will be all up in that as well.
Yes, we are safer than we could be – but we aren’t as safe as we should be. If being stereotyped as white light love and peace hippies who aren’t a threat to anyone, isn’t enough to keep the bricks from flying through our windows or the flames from burning out our doors – then what is enough to keep us safe?
The Truth Will Out
That first comment about safety also included a barb about young Pagans looking all gothic on their podiums, taking 100s of selfies. I read this the wrong way, and thought the commenter was accusing all/most young Pagans and Witches of just being in it all for shock and awe purposes. A lot of older Pagans do think this about the younger ones.
I don’t deny that such people exist within the Pagany communities, and they have for a long time now. But the accusation totally discounts the fact that these practices have existed all along, not for shock and awe, but as legitimate practices that are important to many of our religions and traditions. Animal sacrifice is a good example of this, and I have already written on it fairly extensively, so check those posts out if you’re so inclined. But devil worship is popular even within Wiccan style traditions, demonology has been in use since the very start of our modern resurgence – just carefully hidden or only written about by those deemed kooky and not representative of us as whole. Cursing and hexing are the same thing, done all along but carefully hidden or denied by the big voices.
It probably seems like it’s not necessary for us to be open and very public about these practices, it brings no real value to our religions and traditions. However, we live in the age of social media. This is the time we are in, this how life is right now – everything is public. My Gods but peoples toilet habits can go viral – this is the world we live in. We can strive to continue to hide the more displeasing aspects of our traditions, but we aren’t going to win that battle. It’s not really possible in this internet crazy world.
But there is another thing, and maybe it really does make it necessary for us to be open and public. We need only look at the ever so popular and annoying Easter = Ishtar meme. Oh dear Gods, but why do so many in our own Pagan and related communities fall for that? Let alone those outside of Paganism. Again, this is the world we live in, the stupidest things can go viral. What is going to happen when someone conceives of a fun meme about modern Pagans, all faked out to make it look like we really are into blood filled animal sacrifice orgies, with children present no doubt. Best we spread the accurate information first, don’t you think?
Oh sure, it’s probably still going to happen that we will get ridiculous crap coming out and going viral, but at least we can try to dispel the idiocy before it even happens. The more who know the truth before the lies start, the less who believe the lies.
The Truth Would Have Made us SafeBack to safety. We aren’t as safe as we should be, and I have no idea how we can get to that place, if we can. But I do know this – if we had revealed the truth from the very beginning, we probably wouldn’t be any worse off right now.
The white light love and peace stereotype didn’t make us safer than the truth would have, it just made us safer more quickly. The truth about cursing and demons and sacrifice would have made it take longer for us to be tolerated and quasi-accepted, but we would have reached this semi-safe stage eventually anyway. Because time tells. Over the decades we have been doing all these things and what has happened? Have we been mass murderers everyone? Have we been out cursing all the cows and making it rain on a single house for a century non-stop? No, we haven’t and we wouldn’t have either way. And people would have got that, seen it, realised that even though we do seemingly displeasing things, we still aren’t really all that threatening. And overall, we are pretty nice people for the most part. Well, as nice as any person of any other religion or non-religion.
Time does tell, and the decades that have passed could have been used to make our real practices become tolerable and quasi-acceptable. Right now, even with the stereotype of peacefulness, there are many who still deem us to be evil and awful and dangerous. Those people would believe this same thing whatever truth we presented from the beginning. The ones who deem us to be harmless little tree huggers, would have a different view of us perhaps, but they would easily see us as still being harmless, because we wouldn’t have done much harm (not including certain individuals, but every religion and group has those).
Would the Truth Endanger us Now?
This is the big question though isn’t it? With it all coming out now, are we in danger or in more danger than we were, say five years ago?
I guess it depends. The mass public hexings and bindings are not really going to endanger us all that much. The simple truth is, the general public read those stories about mass witchcraft and just laugh their heads off about how stupid and delusional we all are. That sort of thing actually helps to keep us safe. We live in a world* where the idea of someone cursing your cows is laughably stupid, not something to be literally feared.
The Satanic Panic wasn’t all that long ago, it’s not hard to imagine this actually happening again. Especially in todays climate where everyone is afraid of Muslims or some other group or type of person. And everyone is just waiting for another hate train to board. But devil worship that is open and honest about the sorts of things that go on isn’t likely to create too many waves either.
Coming out as a group that accepts and allows things like animal sacrifice as legitimate practices within our religions (though not practiced by all by a long shot) has the potential to endanger us. But the danger we face is not necessarily any worse than what we already face, just by the fears that people hold. As I mentioned above, those who are willing to believe the worst of us, already do believe such and so they are already a threat to us anyway. Those who don’t believe the worst of us aren’t going to go into a huge panic – especially where we are a pretty small, fragmented and ineffectual (on the world stage) group anyway.
The Danger Lies in the Dark
Coming out holds some danger, we know this from our own experiences of coming out of the broom closet, not to mention by watching those other groups that face the process of coming out. Though I don’t think our danger is comparable to those other groups. But not coming out holds its own dangers, and maybe worse ones simply because of what we are attempting to hide.
When people don’t understand a thing, they make up a reality for it, they create a story and dialogue about it. So it is that animal sacrifice holds its own stereotypes, even among the Pagan community. Ritual animal sacrifice equals blood and gore, torture of animals, and when it’s done by Pagans, usually involves sex I suppose.
But this is far from the innocuous truth of real animal sacrifice. Real sacrifice, when enacted properly, is far, far, far less brutal than the more common form of animal slaughter – the type that gets meat onto your table.
Which is safer for people to know? Should we hide in the dark with this sort of practice, and run the risk of someone finding out about it and outing us to the public, with stories of blood and gore and orgies and…. Or do we openly admit to what we’re doing, explaining what it actually entails so there are no secrets for them to make up stories about?
In reality, coming out about something like animal sacrifice holds a pretty big risk of hardcore Vegans picketing our homes. But the risk of someone actually hurting us is really no greater than it is now when just coming out as a witch. Our homes and businesses are vandalised and burned, our children are attacked, we are shunned. These happen already and I don’t believe it would get any worse if we openly admit to cursing, hexing, sacrificing, devil worship, demon summoning and all of the other stuff. And hardly any of us practice all of those at once anyway.
We run a risk either way. But in my view of things, in the western world, we face harsher consequences by hiding than we do by coming out about our darker and more displeasing practices. By admitting to the truth, by being honest, by opening the dialogue and spreading good and real information instead of allowing people to make up scary stories in their heads, we lessen the dangers in some ways.
* The westernised world sees cursing as a joke. But there are still many countries and regions in this world where it is no joke, it is a real fear people hold. In these places, such as Papua, people accused of witchcraft do still get burned to death.