Monday, April 18, 2011

No Wonder They Always Ask Us about the Kittens

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" A quick note to President Obama: Yes, dear, Republicans think Democrats are stupid. You should have learned that in grade school. Bear it in mind in the future and act accordingly.

I was supposed to drive to Spoutwood Farm on Saturday to participate in a rehearsal of the pageant we're putting on there during the May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood, happening in just 11 short days! (Come and join the Mountain Tribe! We need you!)

On Friday I scuttled the trip after looking at the weather forecast. I've driven home from that area in driving rainstorms before, and I wasn't keen to revisit the experience.

Good thing I decided to stay home, because by mid-afternoon I'd developed a late season bout of the flu. I was pretty sick for about 24 hours, which nicely coincided with a "Tudors" marathon on the telly that was punctuated with numerous Doctor Who commercials.

Today I stayed home because I'm still weak as water. Zero energy. So Mr. J and I were watching random shows this morning. While I half dozed in the chair, he started watching a movie.

Eventually it woke me up because of all the screaming. Turns out it was about four girls in a coven who were wreaking black magic havoc, killing their schoolmates and eventually turning on each other. In the end, the "good witch" girl held all the power, having sent the "bad witch" girl to a padded cell, totally insane, and nearly killing the two others with a fallen tree branch.

This piece of rot was made probably in the 1980s or early 1990s, but it illustrates the pitfalls facing modern Pagans who are asked to speak to the media. Sadly, the people in the media who are asking the questions have most likely been raised on doses of bad witch movies rather than authentic experiences of Pagan practice. My friend Hecate has written some powerful and informative posts about the inevitable plight Pagans find themselves in when dealing with the press -- having to say what they are by explaining what they are not, and then the not gets thrown into the newspaper/telly/etc.

For example:

"We venerate the natural world and the deities within it, promising to harm none and to help all. We seek to restore a positive balance to our place on the planet by promoting sound environmental practices and by advocating for peace. We do not slaughter kittens in pentagrams or paint pentacles on tombstones in Christian cemeteries."

Quote used in the newspaper: "We do not slaughter kittens in pentagrams or paint pentacles on tombstones."

Most people really don't know what Pagans do or how they do it. Most people don't realize that the nice next-door neighbor is a Pagan, the librarian is a Pagan, the seamstress who alters your prom dress is way into Faerie, the fresh spice lady at the farmer's market is a Pagan.

Americans' views of Pagan practice are informed by bad movies, misinformation linking Paganism to Satanism, and deliberate smears on popular programs such as "Focus on the Family." It's very hard for us to counter these stereotypes, and frankly I don't see any pressing need to do so. Maybe it's the hillbilly in me speaking now, but I find that no amount of sane, scientific, or reasonable information will change the thinking of someone who has grown up believing that Pagans slaughter kittens (and hillbillies are lazy and ignorant). If you add to this the sad reality that the media will always chase down the one kitten-killer or lazy Appalachian and do a feature story on that person, you're just sunk.

Therefore, we at "The Gods Are Bored" suggest that Pagans stop talking and start doing. By doing, I mean acts of public charity. Fairy festivals. Earth Day observations. And yes, National Day of Prayer, at which we behave with all the humility and decorum of other faiths.

And as for Pagan Coming Out Day (May 2), I say move with extreme caution. You are up against hundreds of years of bad press that is still in full swing. Don't be surprised if, when you come out, the first thing you get asked about is kittens. I know. It happened to me.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I hope you feel better soon! And find some better movies to watch in the meantime!

Intense Guy said...

I hope you feel better soon -

The press often screws up - in your case - they took the "sensationaling" portion of the quote and manage to distort what was being said beyond hope.

Alex (a slave to felines) Pendragon said...

Oh, PAHLEEAASE don't mention that kitten thing to my diva cat. This creature actually thinks I like it.......

jenmoon said...

I believe in being out to certain folks, not screaming it across the world.

Which is to say: I have a job where I've worn a pentacle about and nobody cared, but that probably won't be every job, and almost all of my relatives would foam at the mouth if they knew, so why bother?


I had one of my friends say to me about all my volunteer work at the Rest Haven: now see that's why I don't understand you being a pagan. I think of what your doing as Christian...she never did understand why I got so pissed at her..sigh*

Kayla said...

Excellent post. I too find myself having to backpedal and explain what I am not before I have the chance to explain who I am. Mainstream media takes the chance to sensationalize Paganism at any opportunity, unfortunately. Just look at last US election season's Christine O'Donnell "witch scare"!

I am, for all intents and purposes, "out of the broom closet," being transparent though not particularly noisy in most social situations, barring my husband's very Baptist family's hand-holding prayer seasonal events. I get a lot more curiosity than aversion from people in my area (suburban Houston, TX), because most of them simply do not know what (a) paganism, (b) Druidry or Wicca, or (c) a pentacle is. I view it as an opportunity to engage in genuine conversation, and mostly it ends positively.

harmonyfb said...

I disagree that people raised to be bigots will never change. My own family were raised to be bigots - as a child, I was not allowed to invite a friend from camp to my birthday party because she was black. Fast-forward some years, and I came home from college to find that one of my brother's friends (who happened to be black) had moved in with my family (because he was having issues with his dad). I was boggled...and it showed me that people can change, no matter how right-wing they are, no matter how narrowly they were raised.

I try to live by the maxim "Act like you belong, and everyone else will, too." I've found that treating my faith as though it's just like everyone else's has mostly yielded positive results.