Alright, this is the first Ask a Witch installment for the Black Witch column. Basically, you guys ask me questions throughout the month either in the comments or using the “Ask a Witch” form here in the right hand column. I’ll pick out the three best to answer from the queue and answer them here! You can ask me anything so long it’s not a divination reading or something stupid (I will take silly questions, just not stupid questions).
Because I started asking for Ask a Witch questions kinda midway into July, I’ll be keeping this entry to one question. But ‘tis a good question! I like those.
“One question i would like to ask you, Olivia, is have you ever been threatened, be it physically/otherwise, or descriminated against based on your Pagan adherence? Was there ever a case where you felt you had to take legal action, seek protection, etc.? Curious…” – Darkness Unlimited*
I haven’t been physically threatened for being a Pagan Witch (tho some of my friends have) but I have come across people who have threatened to do wacked out things like say I’ll jinx everyone or that they’ll sic Jesus on me for leaving Christianity. It really doesn’t bother me too much now, I even find it a bit funny at how flustered they are but back then it did worry me because I didn’t want people to think I was an evil and terrible person or something. I still don’t but I’m pretty well-respected for being me and it’s nothing I can’t clear the air with.
I have been discriminated against because I’m Pagan. Some people don’t want to talk to me, they think I’ll ruin their lives, harm their children (I’m not a real fan of kids but that’s not religion-related, I just don’t like kids) or associating with me will have their God turn His back on them. Basically people don’t dig me because apparently I’m the embodiment of what they fear? I dunno.
There’s one eatery I would go to where the wife/owner didn’t mind my religion, she really enjoyed my company but her husband/cook thought I was a walking jinx machine. At first it was funny but that humor faded quick when he thought that even my slightest movements were acts of bad magick against him and he could not get through his head that I’m. not. a. Satanist. If he tripped on a step, he thought it was my fault. It’s a little better now that the wife had a chat with him but stereotypical accusations like that did grate my nerves.
Then there are some places like colleges that are terrified of offending me because they think I have the ACLU on speed dial (next to the NAACP since I’m Black. Geez, White culture). That can get old fast because I feel like I’m being patronized and it’s not like I can’t tell when someone has a personal issue against my religion but trying to fake it with a business smile. Character glows in the dark and I’ve seen this kind of nonsense for years now. I think people should be just upfront with their paranoia instead of pretending and very poorly at that, I would be less annoyed in the long run. While I have been discriminated against for being a Pagan Witch, I’d have to rank it behind racial and gender bigotry. It sucks being prejudiced against as a Pagan but it’s worse for me being Black and female. Yay for being a triple threat…I think.
I’ve never in my life had to take legal action to make any berating of my religion come to a stop. I didn’t really have to because I’m pretty witty with insults and taking apart someone’s faulty logic. Plus I always like joking around, “Oh the ACLU looooves Pagans. We’re open and shut cases. All they have to do is come in, read the first amendment, walk out and we collect money like Monopoly.” Of course it isn’t that simple but it is a good reminder that since Paganism is a religion, any discrimination against me would be a violation of my constitutional right to freely practice any religion I choose. (I like reading law occasionally in my free time and I have two good friends who happen to be lawyers.)
While I’ve never had to take legal action to protect my right to practice freely, there was the one time I think I felt the most threatened of my safety. My apartment complex is owned by a church on the end of our street. It’s a really nice church with wonderful parishioners that have seen me grow up from when my family moved around there when I was about 11 or 12 to now. Now, the parishioners are nice and even accepting of my beliefs (I still have to explain myself from time to time but no brimstone and craziness here) but there was a retreat we went one a couple years ago. It was to some spot in Pennsylvania that was out in nature and I think two miles or so away from civilization. I would have passed up but one of the parishioners who also were a very nice neighbor of mine had already paid for me. I didn’t wanna feel like I was wasting his hard-earned money because it was a really nice gesture. Plus it was nothing but drama and problems at home so the trip was a golden opportunity and I took it. I really did feel bad initially because I felt that my neighbor did this because he figured I was a shut-in Christian when really I’m Pagan so I told him and the youth minister the truth. The reactions were a lot better than I expected, honestly.
Now while the church I went with was really nice, I was A) going to be hanging with my peers B) this trip was the conglomeration of three churches and mainly their youth groups. The main rule of the trip was no electronics – if it beeped, whirred or blinked, it had to stay home. That included cell phones too so I wouldn’t have any contact with the outside world for about three days. I thought I could manage that – the outside world was who I was trying to escape. I would be out in nature and all would be spiffy, the only thing I would have to do is tote a bible. I actually borrowed my bible from the library. (I don’t know what translation; I was just baffled at the wide selection. I thought, Don’t they all say the same thing?) In addition I got a copy of the Apocrypha because I thought that would solidify my “I swear I’m Christian”-ness, and a book called Pagans and Christians because I figured it would give me a good idea of what to say and not to say and where the differences are. I also dragged along my travel B.O.S. (Book of Shadows) with me to journal my experience since I wasn’t gonna have much else to do and I write pretty much everything down in that book, especially if I’m without access to my personal blog on livejournal.
The older parishioners were nice, the area was pretty, it’s those kids I had to hang with. They were mental. Throwing rocks, swearing, being evil, my goodness they were spawns of Satan. I had a feeling that I really should lay very low about my religious and moral beliefs in a spot of 300+ overzealous Christian teens that really didn’t know their own religion very much themselves. How could I tell? One night’s activity was “Showtime at the Apollo” talent show and I sang “Why Wait?” by P.O.D. since I thought it would be a nice song. How wrong I was, people started laughing quick because the song was Caribbean sounding, not a usual boring hymn, and they didn’t know that “Jah” meant “God” so I was pretty defused about everyone after that. I don’t usually mind being a bit open but there were a lot of trees, a combine tractor, some rope, rocks, a big pool of water and close-minded teens on a religious lean. Me no likee pain or death.
The trip wasn’t all bad because I befriended the adults quickly (and they were not crazy, this one lady minister was actually really open minded) but there was this one activity sermon going on that I couldn’t weasel my way out of. The counselor was asking how Christians should treat people from different religions. My hand went up in the back of the room, this should be a cakewalk right? I answered, “We should treat people of different religions with the same equality that we treat ourselves and other Christians as was taught by Jesus Christ.” I thought that was a good answer and so did the teacher. Classmates didn’t, I got a couple looks.
Everyone had to be bunked together in fours so I was lumped with three other girls that were from other churches and plus our chaperone. One of the other girls weren’t bad, she was really nice and from the church I was with, I didn’t really know the other two since they were from other churches. It was the last night so everyone was pooling up together in rooms to spend together. I took this as an opportunity to get to my empty room early, shower, pack up and even get in a rotation of my Wing Chun forms in peace and quiet. Around midnight, I was getting ready for bed, when my roommates and a couple extras were coming in to grab hair supplies before heading into the one room over. Catching me on the byways in our small room, one of the girls had said, “About what you said today…”
I thought, Yeah, it was a pretty awesome answer. All correct and such.
“I don’t think that I should love anyone that hasn’t accepted Jesus into their heart.” The other girls agreed.
Say what? Ain’t that what the whole freaking book is about? Aw, man, this could only mean trouble for me.
Apparently to these girls, I was a bit radical in my thinking (and I was spending the whole weekend thinking I was being super low key. I had a bible, a couple remembered scriptures and everything! And I didn’t really talk a lot either.) so they asked how I felt about the Bible. I didn’t want to outright lie but I also wanted to be asleep and preferably not in a body of water or up a tree. So I just sugarcoated what I could and not mention the rest. I told them, “Well, I don’t really agree with everything the Bible says or how it’s implemented.” They really didn’t like that answer so they decided to pry deeper. They asked what did I not like about the Bible. I just responded about how it’s been cut, reedited, added to, subtracted from, watered down, played up and everything. It’s not a perfect book that dropped from the sky and bopped someone on the head, somebody(-ies) had sat down and wrote all of that, they could have inserted something jacked up in but who’s going to call against it since it’s supposed to be inside the “flawless” Bible. That just doesn’t sit well with me, political uses aside. I tried to keep that as low key an answer as possible but the girls weren’t happy. Neither was I, I was sleepy and I had to explain the difference between an atheist and agnostic to them. It made me miss the people I usually debate about my religion with because at least they were pretty knowledgeable of the world outside them or were learned scholars.
So instead of sleeping, I had to answer a bunch of rapid fire questions with as watered down an answer as possible. These girls I don’t think ever really had to go up against people from different religions before, especially people who didn’t agree with them. They asked me how I felt about homosexuality and how the earth came to be. For homosexuality I said I couldn’t care less, not an issue with me. I got the “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” response. For what started the earth, I believe in creationism-evolutionism (I think it’s called “intelligent design” now? I believe God supplied the spirit and the ball just started rolling from there). I hoped they would focus on the “creationism” – nope, they focused on the “evolutionism” and heavy. One of them said, “I am not descendant of an ape!” Oh geez. I would have debated with her about that but I think I could be speaking in German for all they cared, I just really wanted to go to bed instead of argue. Now, the girls weren’t mean, just really wack and pretty sheltered in their beliefs. Annnnnd I’m on a Christian camp, I did see this coming – that’s why I tried to be low key and blend. I really just was there for the nature since I’m, y’know, Pagan and wanted to get away for a bit. Ain’t no rest for the wicked, I guess.
Apparently not since what got me noticed was that no one knew me at all. None of the three churches’ youth groups knew who I was and wanted to figure me out. That’s totally understandable but I just wanted to sleep. They left when I was about to take a walk myself because they felt they were chasing me out of my own room (good to know they picked up on that). Only one girl remained, the nice one who was from the same church I traveled with. I don’t ever really remember her saying much the whole trip but she was really a polite and decent girl. She felt kinda bad for me so she told me, “Sorry they put you on the spot back there. They just thought you were atheist –“
“’Atheist’?!” I exclaimed. “I’m Pagan!” Whoops.
My roomie was really baffled but a listener. And I could tell that whatever I say to her was going to be repeated directly back to those girls next door so I might as well keep my answers honest, short and fairly memorable. I told her that it’s a nature-based belief system, we do believe in a god, we’re polytheistic but can utilize the Christian divinity if that’s what we choose, and it’s got nothing to do with atheism or Satanism. Hopefully that’s what she told them.
The whole night I slept alone in the room (with exception to the conked-out chaperone that arrived later) and completely facing the door. Well, it wasn’t really “sleep” since I got up to lock the door, checked the locks, pack my bags, contemplate putting a chair under the knob – it really does work! – before thinking it would be too suspicious looking, remembered where all the emergency phones were, figured how fast I could run two miles straight and watched the window next to the door for any movement. I think I just slept a total of two to three hours the whole night until 7 AM when it was time to leave. I knew that a bunch of sleepy teens wouldn’t be up at 7 AM on a weekend when breakfast was supposed to be at 8-8:30 so the second they finished knocking at my door was the same second I was out with a hat on my head and my bags perfectly packed in tow. I shoved them in the coach bus’ loading area, went back to the breakfast area to eat quickly and was on the first seat of the bus waiting for everyone else to get on and go home.
Were all the Christians in my story raving lunatics out to get me? No, the adults were fairly sane and the one lady minister was actually interested in knowing about different religions. She was the only one I told that I was Pagan. I really wish I got to meet her again, she was really great. It was the teens that worried me because they didn’t know Christianity in their hearts, just what was stamped into their heads. The nature sights were beautiful but if I had to go on that again, I’m totally sneaking in a cell phone with Google maps on it and teaching my friends at home what S.O.S. is in Morse code (if you heard the loop for Live Earth, you know it). I don’t generally worry for my safety but when it comes to a big group of nutters and I’m stuck with them, I grow a bit concerned. If these kids totally dismissed Christianity ideals of acceptance, what else would they dismiss?
I’m used to dealing with some friction for my religion, though it isn’t always fun. I do occasionally worry how will people knowing my religion affect how they’ll treat me but since I’m always ready to explain myself and my beliefs – tho not everyone is and they don’t have to, keep that in mind – it usually works out. I have a good personality and fairly down-to-earth so people aren’t so scared to be around me usually. Or if they do, I have fun with it. Like when I met my university’s president of the Jewish Student Union and he was terrified to touch me when he found out I was a Witch. The rabbi, who was on very good terms with the Pagan Student Union (I was the president), let me chase the Jewish pres around a little until he shook my hand.
Discrimination does suck but for now, that comes with the territory. People generally fear what is outside the norm and what they don’t understand. That doesn’t make being a prejudiced prick any more justified, however. When people do make scathing remarks about my religion, I pick apart their beliefs and as well as them. I don’t say anything jacked up about their religion, they shouldn’t be saying anything jacked up about mine. I may poke fun at the denser and literalist followers but never anything too strongly about the religion itself. I know I have served as a very good mirror to those who believe that no one should be close-minded to them but they have a holy blank check to be a total jerk to everyone else.
Whenever people ask me, “Why won’t you return to Christianity?” I tell them exactly how the Christians I run into on average act: Intolerant, biased, hypocritical, could use a refresher on the Bible themselves. If what I meet constantly is the face of Christianity, then I’m staying firmly in Paganism. Pagans aren’t perfect either but at least we know it. Should people in Christian groups me grief about my religion and treat it as a joke, I just tell them, “So this is the face of Christianity. This is what your lord Christ preaches? Doesn’t seem like such a welcoming religion. Lemme leave before I get strapped to a stake in the name of ‘righteousness’.” Generally shuts people up because it reminds them that they are walking examples of their religion and its teachings and if I get graded hard for mine, I will grade very hard for them. The truest Christians I have met in my life are accepting and decent like the people who own my apartment complex but I believe the rest are completely self-righteous and heavily hypocritical dicks. If they actually followed what they were taught, I’d have a cheerier opinion but many don’t. Christianity is not a perfect religion, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. No religion (or lack thereof) is. More people – not just Christians – should remember that.
Usually, I would like to answer three questions for every Ask a Witch but since this Ask a Witch only had one question, I’ma catch up with the next month by doubling up! So instead of me answering three questions, I’m answering six. If they’re reeeeeeally burning questions you want answered, give me a usagi cell charm – nah, I’m just kiddin, just say so and I’ll try my hardest to get back to you. I check my Black Witch email everyday so needn’t worry. Or PM me, I respond to those too. If it’s a burning dumb question tho, it’s getting ignored. And if your question didn’t get picked for that Ask a Witch, feel free to ask again. I may notice your persistence and pick up the question.
And remember, you can ask me anything. About me, about what’s going on with y’all, anything really. Just keep the questions sensible and remember, I will answer silly questions but not stupid questions.