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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How can we [Pagans] educate the general public?

Pagan Magic said:
How can we educate the general public?

Around this time of year the media often focuses its attention on pagans and witches - usually by choosing a stereotypical nutter to speak for all of us. My question this week is how can we educate the general public about paganism in a way that is positive but does not force our beliefs on others? 

Should we have craft mornings, moots, leaflet drops, retreats, public forums? - or are you against the idea of drawing attention to our path?

I said:

A vexed question all right! Like others here, I am reluctant to do anything that smacks of taking an official line. I love that we’re not evangelical or preachy; I love that we don’t have a written text like Bible or Koran. I love that we are individual; I love that ours is a religion of joy and freedom.

Yet I do believe in education as a way of minimising misunderstandings and prejudice.

I like the idea of comparative religion being taught in schools from an early age – if only we could find enough free-thinking teachers to run the courses and open-minded parents to let them. I am not sure that would be much more likely in Australia than the United States!

I do take very seriously the fact that in some places being known as pagan can cost people their jobs, their marriages, custody of their children, their social standing…. So yes, it is vital to educate the public. But how? As many have pointed out, the public is not much disposed to listen!  Clearly it is going to be a slow business.

I treat it as a duty to speak up if I hear things said that bear correcting. I always, as a matter of principle, take exception to the word “witch” being used as an insult. However I don’t seek arguments. I say these things firmly but politely, with good humour.

I’m “out” but not in-your-face. Many people wouldn’t notice it about me; others would. For instance I wear a pentacle that looks like a Celtic knot. Any pagan would recognise it immediately. Others, who might get scared off by something more obvious, have a chance to get to know me before they realise. When people do find out, I become a representative of the pagan religions, whether I like it or not. I don’t think this means having to be extra good, though. I think it’s important to just be the human being I am, and let that be seen.

Above all, I’m  writer, so I write about it. I write blogs, I write poems. I’m even writing a memoir, though it’s going slowly.

What all that adds up to is doing what I can. I think that’s all any of us can do. Band together, and we can do a lot. In Australia there was for a number of years a glossy magazine called WitchCraft. It was produced by and for witches, and it was excellent. Many people who were not witches, but were open-minded, learned a great deal about us from that magazine. It eventually finished, but another one started, called Spellcraft, which is good too. Initiatives like that are good, but they only work with members of the public who are already open-minded. The closed-minded would never look at such a publication. We can only hope for a widening ripple effect.

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