Have you ever seen depictions of Wiccans on television, waving crystals, praising the goddess and being all too chipper? Do you think all Wiccans and Pagans are like that? You might be surprised.
Unfortunately for a lot of us in the Pagan faith, many people think that Pagan and Wiccan are synonymous, and they have a bad impression of Wiccans. Lack of education has lead the general public to believe the wrong things about Wiccans and Pagans. Wiccans are actually a type of Pagan, and not all Pagans are the same. There are many different Pagan belief systems, and great variances in the people who practice them. However, the media has paid the most attention to Wicca, and unfortunately most of that attention has been given to Wiccans that are not an accurate display of the group as a whole.
Many people see Wiccans as “crystal-waving hippies”. A great deal of the public perceive Wiccans as a bunch of super-feminine, Goddess-oriented, sweetness-and-light tree-huggers. While much of that is true in a way, it has been blown out of proportion by some Wiccan posers, and even further by fictional books and movies. While many Wiccans are women, Wicca is a primarily Goddess-oriented belief system, and they do have a great respect for nature and a generally positive outlook, not all Wiccans are the over-the-top type that many people generally think of.
I personally know Wiccans of both the ordinary and overblown types. In all honesty, you can’t tell most Wiccans apart from any other person you might run across, unless they’re around other Pagans where they might be discussing their beliefs and practices. There are some however, who look and act like leftovers from the free-love era, and both speak and act in such a way as to make themselves obvious to everyone around them. In some cases these people are real Wiccans who just happen to be a little too bright, cheery and nature-loving for the average person’s tastes. From my experience though, a lot of these obvious types are not real Wiccans in the eyes of the Pagan community.
Why aren’t they real Wiccans? Well, they’re people who typically use Wicca as an excuse for social gatherings and a sense of unity, but don’t really understand the faith. I’m sure many of you have seen them, the groups of teen girls or housewives that have formed a “coven” and go around chattering about spells and the Goddess and the beauty of the Earth Mother, and so on. They’ve likely got a copy of some Silver RavenWolf book under their arm or on their shelf. Everything out of their mouths is about love and light and the Goddess. These folks go over the top in every way.
These types typically take environmentalism to the extreme, since every single thing is sacred in their eyes. They will often wear multiple pieces of jewelry with pentacles and goddess symbols, and there’s almost always one or more stones or crystals somewhere on their person. These are the kind of people who get shown on movies like The Craft, and in episodes of Bones like “The Witch in the Wardrobe”. (Interesting to note that in almost every movie/TV representation of the now stereotypical “fluffy” Wiccan, there is also a depiction of a “dark witch” who does something horrible. In all reality, most Wiccans and Pagans in general accept the polarity of good and evil, and there really aren’t many “bad” witches out there.)
So what effect does all of this have on other Pagans? Well, since so many people have the misconception that all Pagans are Wiccan, and they think Wiccans are crystal-waving hippies, they think that of all of us. Well, that is the portion of them that don’t have the ridiculous idea that Pagans and Satanists are the same thing and that we’re all evil. The stereotypes that have developed from both the too-good and too-evil Pagans and pseudo-Pagans affect the community as a whole.
Because so much of the public sees Wicca as this fluffy free-love and herbs nonsense, they don’t take the faith or its practitioners seriously. They also think that the behavior of those small groups is indicative of the behavior of all Pagans, which it certainly is not. It is very similar to problems faced by other faiths. Just because one Christian group thumps their bibles and shows hate for anything that’s not approved by their book doesn’t mean they’re all like that. Just because one Wiccan group dances naked under the moon while waving crystal wands and chanting doesn’t mean they all do it.
I think it’s important for people to really find out the truth before forming an opinion on a whole group of people, and especially on an entire faith. Just as there are oddballs and extremists in other faiths, there are the same among Pagans. We’re not all the same. Pagans and their practices are as varied as anything else in the world. People should not lump us all into one basket with one idea of what we are. You might be surprised at how many wonderful Wiccans and Pagans might be in your own neighborhood, and even be your friends.