The past couple of weeks have been awful weird for me. I think within a three day span, I had about three to four people on separate occasions to hear of my religion and try to tell me to do something about it which is already embedded in the faith. Lemme illustrate:

Person 1: I told that I used divination to help me determine my issues and the solutions for them, such as tarot. Works pretty solidly for me since I actually know how to do it and done so for a while. They freak out and say it’s potentially demonic and that humans rely too much on themselves when they should rely on God and nature. Thing is, divination, given that the root word is “Divine”, as in “to divine”, as in “to communicate with the divine/divinity using a medium,” is relying on divinity and the collective unconscious of the universe, not the human self.

Person 2: Friend brings up Paganism and Animalism are two different things whereas Animalism is embedded in Paganism as one of the starting points of what we know as Paganism today. Paganism is pretty much the umbrella term for any nature-based belief and Animalism is firmly embedded in it given that Paganism started showing itself around the upper Paleolithic times, which is about 30,000 – 10,000 B.C.E*

Person 3: Some Christian that lives around the corner from me wouldn’t let up that other faiths actually exist and are just as legit as their own, asks me about the basis of my faith. I just say that Pagans believe in polytheism, duality and that divinity is expressed through nature, hence why we don’t have churches or other houses of worship since the earth is already holy unto itself. The lady then turns around and says that while she agree that nature is God-made, still thinks that I lack faith in a God – as in, she thinks I’m an Atheist – and that nature is a work of God, something that apparently I know nothing about, being the deluded, polytheistic Atheist that I supposedly am.

The thing isn’t that they happened necessarily, I’m quite used to witnessing brain farts about my religion. Hey, they occasionally make for interesting reads here on Black Witch! The issue is that they happened so closely together and mostly by folks who know me personally that it almost made me wonder how good of a job I do about explaining my faith without bopping people over the head with it. I mean, some of these questions are like asking a Christian, “Sooooooooo, do you believe in Jesus because Jesus said not to steal and to be nice to everybody. Are you sure you believe in a higher being?” They’re well embedded in the faith and kinda on the 101 level of things. While I’m glad that the people I know are knowledgeable enough to not try to stake me while taking a nap or attempt to bottle my tears because they heard they’ll live forever that way**, it does make me facepalm a little when they still see my faith through the lens of “something quirky she believes”. If anything, it makes me wonder what they think I actually do believe if they managed to bypass some of the more basic facts of my faith.

It should be noted that the average person is not a pro in comparative religious studies but still there are some basics that are well known (or at least should be) for various faiths. Such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity are all monotheistic religions, Buddhism doesn’t seem to have a violent streak in it, Atheists don’t believe in anything (except the wonders of science) and Hindus have various deities, thousands of them. Since Paganism isn’t very well known but kinda well stigmatized all the same, it is a little understanding that my friends and especially the random person on the street wouldn’t have all their facts in a row. So we’re not exactly working with a tabula rasa but kinda against the tide with some spots of tabula rasa resemblance.

Paganism, regardless whether the average Pagan would like to admit it or not, is still a little known religion. Regardless of how fast it is spreading, and it is spreading at quite a pace, Paganism is still little known and highly stigmatized and the stigma is what rests in common memory. Either that or the misinformation, such as assuming every Pagan to be Wiccan, regardless what kind of Pagan the person has identified themselves as. Or just thinking the person to be outright mad simply because they believe in spells and telling the future.

When the average person hears the term “Pagan”, the idea of a fairly normal person doesn’t spring to mind, simply a person that is straight from the story books as demon-summoners, wicked people and blood drinkers. These folks aren’t very Pagan at all. Have they existed in Pagan religious/cultural history? Oh sure but there’s no religion on this planet that hasn’t gone straight into WTF territory somehow and with such the wide umbrella such as Paganism, we’re going to dredge a lot of folks who are a bit more eccentric than most in our past. However, it doesn’t mean that Pagans today aren’t civilized people, just like any other practitioner of some sort of faith. It just means that you could be a civilized, normal person that is Pagan and the average person may still think you might sacrifice their cat to the Devil, even if you were a card carrying member of the Humane Society.

There’s not much really one can do about it but keep correcting nuances and mistakes as they come along. Sure, it’ll be like straightening up the memory of an Alzheimer’s patient but repetition does make for learning. It is a bit frustrating but necessary, especially if the information can alarm others, such as divination or witchcraft. Now, I’m not going to say that the average person has absolutely zero reason to climb the walls upon hearing that someone reads tarot cards or cast spells given the usual spooky stigmas surrounding those two but it still isn’t a good excuse for them to do it. When it comes to things like divination and magick, prepare to just play a repeat session of 20 Questions over and over again until the person gets it through and through that you’re not going to summon Satan in their living room and you’re not a Satanist simply because you use tarot cards and palmistry to help determine what to do next. That’s pretty much all a Pagan person can do, as well as keep an eye out to identify any myths that they may mention obliviously or take as fact. I know in my personal experience, when I bring up divination to my older friends, they’re quick to assume that I’m summoning demons or other malevolent spirits until I remind them that if you’re doing divination right, no spirits should be conjured at all because they’re not needed. As for the witchcraftin’, I judge on how long the person has known me and how likely are they to freak out about spells and to what extent. So some folks know I do stuff like that and some don’t. Then others find out because they discover I write Black Witch.

Now, this is not for every Pagan as no Pagan has to serve as the cultural ambassador. Newp. You can mention what you plan to do this upcoming Samhain and if anyone foams at the mouth about it, you can just leave them there to froth while you find more rational people. It shouldn’t be a privilege to talk about what you do in your religious faith just as normally as anyone else.

And this goes for anyone who knows someone who is Pagan or Witch: albeit it is always great to get facts from the horse’s mouth, no one is obligated to be your Encyclopedia Pagananica. That means if they say something you don’t understand about their faith and you’ve already grilled them relentlessly before (if not sure, think about if the person was exasperated at the end of it all or had a “Plz stop talking” look on their face), juuuuuust make mental note of it, assume it’s most likely not evil and try to Google it later on if possible. That and remember, if you’re not a practitioner of the faith, you probably don’t know more about the faith than someone who has practiced it for years so it would not be wise “educate” the Pagan friend on things they probably already knew existed in their faith. Nothing is wrong with sharing what you learned, that’s fine – always makes me happy when my non-Pagan friends take it upon themselves to learn about my faith without drilling me endlessly with questions and make me more amiable to clear up mistakes in the nuances – but I will admit it’s a liiiiiittle aggravating when it feels like someone is trying to teach me something that was already well espoused in my faith. So, to be short and dry, your Pagan buddy is not your personal Well o’ Paganism and should you learn a thing or two on your own, please remember that your Pagan friend probably has known this as well. Oh, and don’t forget to listen the first go around, it usually make everyone happier in the end.

And that’s all the Black Witch for this week! Huzzah! Sorry I’ve been uber late with the postings. Either I get caught up in something else, stuck in bed, playing video games performing intellectually strenuous tasks, things like that. I just gotta get back on top of things, that’s all.

*Note: Wicca started in 1957 by Gerald Gardiner, it is not an ancient religion. It was created around the same time the television set was.
**It doesn’t work. Total myth. Do not attempt. Who seriously thought that one up?