It’s not the candy, or the parties, or the cobwebs in people’s bushes. It’s the ugly stereotypes of my faith that get perpetuated, year after year.
Halloween. October 31. Trick or treating, candy, black-and-orange frosted cupcakes, kids in superhero capes, carved pumpkins, grinning skeletons, giant plastic spiders, vampire famgs, zombies, princesses and Dorothies, ghosts, hot masks and too-big shoes, snaggle-tooth witches, white haired hags, books of evil spells, cackles and curses and pointed hats…
Let’s back up a moment.
Ask any given person what they think of when you say Halloween and you’re going to get most of the things on that list and more. Ask what they think of witches and you’re going to get the last few things on that list…and more.
The chances of getting anything positive are almost nil. If you do, it will likely be along the lines of Harry Potter – wands and quidditch and flying on brooms – which are quite benign and appreciated.
But by and large, witches and witchcraft are still the subject of derision and fear, stereotyped into fairytale villains that poison apples and terrorize children, or put love spells on unsuspecting men, or curse or hex anyone who crosses them. They are twisted and warty, or dark and sinister. And by and large, they are portrayed as woman. What’s one of the last acceptable public insults for a woman whose behavior you don’t like? Witch.
Which makes things a bit dicey for some of us who are open about our faith and our beliefs as practicing witches.*
There’s plenty of blame to go around for this…movies, television, comics, other popular media…but Halloween gets a lot of the credit. Which is why I hate it so much.
For several weeks every year, we are bombarded with negative images of witches and witchcraft, the uglier or sillier, the better. Devils and upside-down pentagrams and vertical pentagrams on mangled statues pop-up at big box stores and Halloween emporiums. Churches begin to rail against Halloween and the evils of witchcraft in a variety of flavors, whether witches worship Satan or are consorts of Satan or practive black magic or eat children or (insert horrible deed of your choice here). Halloween as the devil’s holiday when witches play spills into the conversation when people start talking about what to do on October 31.
Earlier this week, I got to listen to some party planners talk about decorations for a Halloween event. It was to be evil witches, hex signs, black magic “stuff”, and other things that were out of my earshot but well within my imagination. I cringed, and then my best friend got to listen to me have a good long cuss about it.
Last year, one friend got publically called out for wearing a pentagram, told that that was satanic and inapproapriate and wrong and evil and how could she wear THAT?
I had a person give me one (she has seen the one I wear everyday) that wound up in a lot of jewelry she was given because she didn’t want that “dirty thing” in her house, because her daughter told her that it was satanic and witchcraft and evil. I asked her if she had ever talked to someone who was a witch. She said no, and I said she was talking to one, and did so every week. Stopped her cold, and after a long conversation, she hugged me.
I do not hide my faith, nor am I preachy about it. I practice it quietly, in my own way, and discuss it with fellow Wiccans and Pagans (my pentacle pendant is a sure conversation starter). If anyone says anything about my jewelry, I politely educate them. Most listen. Some tell me that I need Jesus in my life. Some just tell me I am going to hell.
But at this time of year, I get angry. And sad. But mostly angry. I want to post signs and write letters and scream at people that this hurts. It hurts like signs and graffiti painted in religious slurs and carried around. It hurts like Christians and Muslims and Jews and people of all faiths hurt when they are visibly and publically derided. And it hurts most because it is socially acceptable. It’s big money. It’s a laugh-a-minute. It terrifies children. It perpetuates stereotypes. It keeps us in the broom closet.
And for weeks per year, it’s everywhere.
*Not all Wiccans refer to themselves as witches, not all witches follow Wicca. Some men use the title witch, others use wizard or warlock. I use Wiccan or witch for myself, gender-inappropriate though it may be. -JV
Author’s note: The purpose of this article was to share my personal experiences. I chose not to go into the history of Halloween and witches, but there is a lot of readily available information online.