Witches, Wicca and popular understanding



In the past, whenever Batman was mentioned in the media, it was usually accompanied by such verbal cleverness as…Wham! Bam! Pow!  Holy Batman!  This was inspired by the silly TV show from the 1960s, which was the popular cultural view of Batman.  It was obligatory for any news story about the comic book character to start off with a recognized cliche. Back when the first Michael Keaton Batman movie came out, this was common.  And today?   When Batman is mentioned now, the box office success or the acting of Health Ledger is discussed with no “Holy Cow Batman” in sight.  What happened?  The popular cultural view of Batman has changed, evolved. 

Occult hit: Witches bucking religion trend


A couple days ago as I was reading the newspaper during lunch, I came across an article on page 10 of the Chicago Sun-Times.   It was a story about witches.  I was sort of taken aback, since I can’t recall when I saw an article with the word “Occult” in the headline. 

The article is a fair story concerning Wicca and “new” religions.  As a page 10 story it wasn’t hidden away in the depths of the newspaper.  Does this mean that Wicca has been accepted in our mainstream culture?  Not really.  While the article is nice, it has the same “gee whiz Batman” condescending air that shows Wicca has a long way to go in the popular imagination.  For instance, the first two lines of the article, ”They don’t toil over bubbling caldrons or cook lost kids. They have no use for flying monkeys.”  Oh please!  Cauldrons and cooked kids.  Sigh.  Wiccans are still thought to be caricatures from Halloween and the Grim Fairy tales.  When will Wicca be mainstream?   When news stories don’t begin with brooms, pointy hats and references to the Wizard of Oz. 

Another misconception is using the words “occult” and Wicca in the same breath.  They are not the same thing.  Wicca is a religion.  “Occult” is mostly a philosophical approach that touches on religion, but is really not religious.  An occultist may seek to understand and interact with a hidden reality and aspire to higher consciousness, but it does not offer information about the nature of God.  Mysticism is religious, concerning man’s attempt to have direct knowledge of God.  The witch, the mystic and the occultist are not exactly the same thing, even if one person could be all three at the same time.

On the bright side, it is nice to see alternative spirituality recognized in the media, so bravo to the Sun-Times.  On an unhappy note, the Chicago Sun-Times filed for bankruptcy this week.  The Chicago Tribune already filed for bankruptcy earlier.  What is going on with our newspapers?  I love newspapers, I am a daily reader, and I enjoy the feel of newspaper, the way the ink darkens my fingers.  It is one of life’s great simple joys, like having a cup of coffee in the morning.  Reading the news online is not the same relaxing, tactile experience as reading a newspaper.  Lets support our local newspapers!


12 Responses to “Witches, Wicca and popular understanding”

  1. Ash Says:

    It is hard to believe that we are here in 2009 and as you said, Wiccans and other non-traditional belief systems still so misunderstood.
    Thankfully, I live in a town full of Wiccans and other alternative spirituality folks – slowly, progress is being made. Love your blog!

  2. David Says:

    Hi Ash,
    This article was written by the newspaper’s religious reporter. Maybe they told somebody standing around the press room…”Son, today you’re our religious reporter, go find something to write about. Make sure the first two lines catch the reader’s attention!”

    If you check out the online article, look at the comments at the end, they really are more interesting then the article itself.

  3. Arlene deWinter Says:

    Have you thought of writing a newspaper article about this subject, David? Then you could enlighten people about about witches and support print newspapers at the same time! I know they are always looking for stories. I might try it myself.
    Great article again!

  4. Rev. E.M. Camarena Says:

    Sad to report the Sun-Times link is dead. Any way of your posting this article? I am particularly interested as the American Tarot Association’s Vice President for Communications. (http://ata-tarot.com/)
    Thanks for the post. Nice to have a new favorite blog!

  5. David Says:

    E.M., thanks for letting me know the link is dead. I posted a better resolution scan that is readable. Geez…why would a newpaper have a dead link? There were a lot of very interesting comments on their site associated with that article. Better then the article itself.

  6. Silver Phoenix Says:

    The reasoning for the pointy hats was so witch’s are in line with the ground, sky, the earth. And what was really done with broom sticks is you always sweep west, to keep bad energies out of your house. :)Love your blog by the way.

  7. David Says:

    Hi Silver Phoenix,
    I did not know that was what the pointy hats were for. Thanks!

  8. Anthony Says:

    Even though they may have toyed around with Wicca and Witch’s in the article halfheartedly, it did at least provide some exposure. And who knows, as it is stated in the article itself. It may catch people’s eye and spark an interest to look into it a little more. If the community is growing, then in the long run this misconception will dissolve some. Good article btw :)

  9. Geslina Says:

    One big reason it will be a long time before wicca is taken seriously is mainly because of the type of person, the walking stereotype, that is attracted to it. The most ignorant of them are the ones who don’t stay around long, but they make the biggest impression because they tend to be the noisiest. Lots of kids, the “Charmed” generation, those desperate for attention and in need of a feeling of power get into wicca. And that is one of the main reasons that they are attracted to the path, other than saying it is a “nature based religion” most of them probably couldn’t tell you a thing about the spirituality of it. All one needs to do is turn on youtube, which has been overrun by this younger generation of “insta-witches” with their videos about their altars, their new candles, their 108 decks of tarot cards, all the crap they buy – they go on and on and on about everything BUT the spiritual aspect of wicca. If it weren’t for the theatrics, all the cool stuff, and being able to shock everyone, most of them wouldn’t even be the slightest bit interested in it. Sadly, these are the most visual of wiccans today….and, they are what comes to mind when the average outsider thinks of wicca.

  10. David Says:

    Hi Geslina,
    Since Wicca and witchcraft have been exploited by popular culture, it feels like there has been a decline in its appeal to those who are into the faddish aspects of paganism. To be at the cutting edge of something unrecognized by general society feels great. Not so much when subcultures go mainsteam.

    Speaking of which, here is a story about misunderstanding Wicca in popular culture:
    Real witches cry foul at portrayal on “True Blood”

  11. jenn Says:

    I am trying to research and ultimately find individuals (mothers and families) who would be open to discussing a television series that would bring light, understanding and acceptance to women in the occult.

    Would anyone here have any ideas or individuals who might be open to that.

    I’m asking in all seriousness and work for a highly respected television company in New York. I can absolutely verify my credentials with anyone who might need reassurance.

    I appreciate your time and opinions.
    Thanks so much for your help.

  12. David Says:

    Hi Jenn,
    I removed your email address you provided, as that will only attact spam bots. But your website is http://www.silentcrow.com/ and if anyone is interested they can contact you there.

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