I know we're a few days past Halloween, but I thought I should comment about this, because there's some firsthand knowledge involved here. As usual, around Oct 31, the major media present a bunch of stories about "real witches"/neopagans/etc. And of course, as is their wont, they end up ridiculously and grotesquely mis-representing neopaganism.
Well, sort of. Because I suppose its impossible to "misrepresent neopaganism", when as a religion it hasn't really got any universally agreed core definitions whatsoever. But it does have a mainstream within it, a very broad vague mainstream, but a mainstream nonetheless. And it is never that mainstream, of this belief system that by some accounts has half-a-million adherents in North America, that the major media covers, but the kooks or the scam artists.
And I don't mean just bloggers or tabloids. I give you CNN, making a news report about the relationship between Wiccans and Halloween that is just patently absurd.
Now, this is a great case study because the "witch" in question they've interviewed happens to be from my home territory, and I already knew quite a bit about her. Far from some kind of highly respected representative of paganism in her province, most pagans I know can't stand her. She is now claiming that she is a "family tradition" witch (that is, the totally nonsensical idea that someone's family "Have been witches for hundreds of years" even though the religion itself is only 50 years old); but I know people who knew her when she first came on the scene a few years ago as a complete newbie with no great ancestral tradition of unbroken wiccan heritage. So for starters, she's a liar. She's also an aggressive offensive nutcase, and her church has nothing "traditional" about it. She's a narcissistic egomaniac, a perennial losing-candidate for the local green party (who has in fact lost a great deal of support for that party in her riding by mere virtue of her candidacy), has a long running vendetta with a local pagan store, and has no qualifications whatsoever to be any kind of "authority" on neopaganism. No one but herself would define her a in any way a valid "spokesperson" for all Wiccans.
Second, the idea that Wiccans (as spokespersoned through this individual) "hate Halloween" or find it somehow offensive to their religion is utter bullshit. Pagans by and large LOVE Halloween. I've seen countless witches do facebook posts bragging about who has the scariest jack o'lantern, who got more kids knocking at the door for candy, who did the spookiest decorations. Pagans have a religious holiday (that Wiccans especially consider important) on Oct 31, and do rituals for that event; but they also make a point of having huge ridiculous Halloween parties where they dress up in costumes as stupid and as utterly non-sacred as everyone else does.
So its pretty much the perfect storm of a religious movement that has no central doctrine or authority and happens to have a much higher percentage of kooks than average, with a group of journalists that don't give a fuck about accuracy in any way. But its also not like the latter had no choice; it is in fact a very conscious choice on their part to report way out of the mainstream. While there is no single central authority, the slightest bit of research would have allowed reporters to find any number of organizations that have much more broad-based mainstream qualification to speak accurately (rather than ranting their personal absurdities) to the media about neo-paganism in general or Wicca in particular than the kind of looneys that they inevitably bring out of the woodwork for cheap thrills.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Volcano + H&H Beverwyck