So recently at work this week, my coworker and I noticed something that we never truly understood until it hit home. Unless you have personally experienced such a thing, you more often than not are prone to blow it off. I am a Wiccan. Now if that sentence didn’t just freak you the heck out and make you want to start blessing your computer with holy water, you might be one of the few religious open minded individuals. But, if you were one of the large majority who grabbed the holy water, please set the water down and just listen. For centuries, witches have been persecuted for their beliefs because it has been said that they either worship the devil, fly around on brooms, cast curses on children that cause death, are the handmaidens of the devil, and/or sacrifice animals. Our school history books even have chapters dedicated to teaching the Salem Witch trials which were because people claimed they saw women doing the above mentioned and called them witches. Those women were said to have been conducting satanic rituals and in those days colonists were so scared of anything not “normal” that their first thought was to kill anyone that even acted suspicious or could have had a connection with said satanic worshippers. This lead to what is still the worst yet most widely recognized stereotype that plagues witches to this day. But where did all that stereotyping come from? Well to answer the where would require a complete new blog entry so I’ll save that for a later entry 😉 But I can say that those stereotypes are completely false!
My, do we witches wish we could fly around on brooms! Most witches would never meddle with curses because we believe in threefold karma. If you’re not familiar with it, let me give you a small lesson. Karma means that anything bad you do will come back at you, while anything good you do will return the same. Witches usually believe in the threefold rule though. Anything bad you do will come back at you threefold; mentally, physically, and spiritually. So before you curse someone, think about how you will impact yourself too. Bet you didn’t think witches cared like that? Pagan means you believe in multiple deities as compared to say Christianity where they believe in one deity, God. Wiccans believe in both a god and goddess because we search for balance in life. How can you have life with just male or just female? That is how Wicca falls under Pagan. Wiccans also practice magic through spells, potions, and rituals. These are not spells like you see in movies where it can make someone fall in love with you, or curse someone (though there are those you could call extremists who believe in casting those spells with no adverse reaction). These are spells to promote relationship growth, focus on a goal they want to achieve in life, heal an ailment, etc. You could almost think of them like prayers. Spells are impossible without the aid of the goddess and/or god. Rituals are celebrated on holidays similar to the Christians’ holidays. Easter is usually the same day or around the same day as our Oestara. Samhain is equivalent to All Soul’s Day. Do you celebrate Halloween? Congrats, you are celebrating a Pagan holiday: Samhain. Yule is celebrated December 18th, whereas Christmas is December 25th. All of those holidays can trace their celebration and traditional roots to the Pagan’s holidays too. At rituals, witches do not run around a fire pit singing to Satan. We don’t even believe in a Satan or hell. Our rituals are very similar to a church service. You enter a theoretical circle that has been cleansed of negative energy with a sage stick, stand in the circle as certain ‘prayers’ to the god and goddess are said, sometimes you bring up special intentions for healing, safety, strength, or even support like special intentions from church are said, you pass around an offering blessed by the god and goddess of ‘cakes and wine’ (normally a type of cookie and juice) just like church communion (No we don’t sacrifice goats for an offering!), say blessings of the god and goddess that pertain to the ritual, and leave in a peaceful goodbye. Now, where in that short brief description does Wicca sound evil? Wiccans believe that words are so powerful that even wishing harm on someone would bring bad karma to them.
Now that I have clarified my religion and how it is not evil, let me get back on why I originally decided to write this blog post. Everyday in our news, we are bombarded with developing stories of a Muslim extremist group and their terroristic threats. There are days when it can be scary to just go out in large public areas or festivals, wondering if where you are could be the next hit spot. There are many Muslims who do not fall into that extremist group that want to just live normal peaceful lives, however they are harassed by terrible name calling and maltreatment from religious persecutors. The extremists are greatly responsible for giving them a bad reputation. Muslims have been under fire since 9/11. Now I am not saying that all Muslims are good, nor am I saying all Muslims are bad. Just like not all Christians or Pagans are good, nor are all bad either. All religions have their extremists that give their religion a bad reputation. It is because of most extremists that people who do not know the truth or real beliefs of that religion judge and fear them. Now, I am not condemning any religion specifically. I am not trying to convert people here, or say, “Your religion is wrong and you need to follow mine!” I am purely trying to clarify something to help try to help stop the religious persecution and stereotyping that people like myself face.
People are allowed to have pride in their religious beliefs. To you, all other religions could be completely wrong. You might feel entitled to “convert” other people to your religion to “save them from eternal damnation.” You do you honey. But that does not mean you need to verbally attack people to their face and behind their back. Telling someone they will go to hell is honestly minute in comparison to the crap that people are pulling nowadays. If your religion says that you need to go around killing people to convert others to that religion, something is definitely wrong. I was under the impression that religions are supposed to bring peace to people’s lives. Death is not exactly the peace I had thought of. The only thing you are managing to accomplish is instilling further fear into people for practicing their religion, but you are not removing their love and faith from the practice. Example: you cannot burn all crosses in the entire world and think Christians will stop practicing their faith. You cannot burn every Jewish temple and Torah and think the Jews will stop practicing. Instilling fear may make the people go underground, but it will not stop them from practicing their religion. I thought people had learned that back when all of Jesus’ disciples were killed. Christianity has now become one of the largest religions in the world. Religious persecution does not just include killing though.
Religious persecution is defined as “the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group of individuals as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations or lack thereof.” (Wikipedia 2017) “The tendency of societies or groups within society to alienate or repress different subcultures is a recurrent theme in human history.” (Wikipedia 2017) This could include name calling, mistreating someone’s personal belongings, and even passing rumors of certain individuals. Better example: girl on day shift at work (let’s call her Karen) makes a cake for this guy (we’ll call him Bob) for his birthday. She left the extra slices of cake at work for the night crew to enjoy. Now guy coming into work(call him Mark) comes into work his normal self, meaning he refuses to talk or even look at the two girls he knows are Wiccans. When the day crew leaves, the night crew sees the cake and begins to hand out the slices. Mark takes it upon himself to tell everyone not to eat Karen’s cake because she “put goat blood in it and invoked Satan into it.” Now to some that might seem laughable, but to Karen who is a vegan by spiritual practice also, this is completely hurtful. That’s like working with a Muslim and saying not to touch their backpack because it’s a bomb. It’s religious prejudice and saying shit like that is a form of religious persecution. It also creates an unsafe work environment for Karen and her other Wiccan friend because Mark is spreading horrible rumors about them. When Mark starts tossing Karen and her friend’s work bags and lunch boxes off the desk into the hallway floor, it becomes mistreatment to the individuals and to their personal belongings. Someone please tell me how that is appropriate?! And sadly, Karen and I (the other Wiccan friend) feel this is only the beginning of the religious persecution. When will this crap end? Why can’t people just push stereotypes aside and treat people like human beings? With the ever growing movements of neonazis and White supremacists, minority’s races and religious practioners have to live in fear of whether they could be the subjects of the next attack.