Educating about Paganism, without kicking Satanists under the bus
Now as Samhain (Celtic and more broadly Pagan) and Halloween (secularized version of Christianized Samhain) approaches, many Pagans, Druids and Witches will be doing work to educate the public about our religions and holidays. I have some suggestions about this.
*Witchcraft and Wicca are not synonymous
*Not all Pagans/polytheists etc. celebrate Samhain as religious holiday (or even Halloween as a secular holiday, especially if they live in a country where it isn’t typically observed)
*It’s pronounced saw-winn dammit!
*It may also be worth mentioning that Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a different holiday of Mexican origin, though it bears many similarities to Samhain.
Another problem that often arises in public relations work surrounding Witchcraft, Wicca and Neo-Paganism is the usual “We’re Not Satanists!” disclaimer. Now while it’s fine to calmly explain to people that we honor deities and spirits of pre- (or possibly post-) Christian mythology and folklore and this does not include Satan, there are actual Satanists and Luciferians out there and I don’t think we should be well, demonizing them. It’s because of public relations that we often do not include these folks in our communities, we are too paranoid about being confused with them. One argument I also often hear is that Satanists draw on Judeo-Christian mythology, so they should be included as Pagans, going by the non-Abrahamic definition. With all the angels, Kabbalah and other Jewish and Christian derived magic and folklore in our altars and bookshelves this is rather silly to me. I do notice a sort of feminist bias- reclaiming Lilith and Mary as goddesses- totally cool! But Jesus and Satan? No way that’s the evil patriarchy!
My opinion on this has developed over time, after learning more about these religions and philosophies. A few years ago I remember reading a critique by Diane Vera, a theistic Satanist of the typical “We’re Not Satanists!” disclaimer, this particular one was written by ADF’s own Isaac Bonewits. I thought her arguments were all quite fair and valid. She also has an interesting essay discussing the origins of Wicca, and its ties with literary Satanism, which has more to do with the Enlightenment and people rebelling against the Catholic Church than worshipping Satan.
Now, I am not saying we all necessarily need to approve of Satanism and I don’t really feel like defending their “right” to be under the Pagan umbrella, since as I’ve discussed I’m not sure how much I really believe in the concept. But we should not be spreading misinformation about other people’s religions, even if we disagree with them. Pagans have just as many misconceptions of Satanists as Christians do, probably more since we’re more preoccupied with them “ruining our reputation”. I think it’s time we educated ourselves more, and I will continue this in my next post.
Personally, since I’ve long identified as a Druid, I haven’t had to deal with a lot of the Devil-worship PR issues Witches and Wiccans do, and fortunately most people in my area aren’t prone to read Jack Chick tracts (even my fundamentalist mother-in-law would likely find them ridiculous!) I’m more likely to have to explain that actually it’s a real religion, not just a class in D & D or World of Warcraft. (Which of course, are also Satanic!)
Lastly, if you’re going to call yourself a Witch, a Pagan, a Heathen or a Druid, be prepared for at least a little notoriety. Persecution and misinformation about our religions sucks. But a little hint of danger and mystique? You know you want it!