Modern Pagan Persecutions
By: Jonathan Hutchins
I wonder about this whole big deal of how unrealisticly paranoid
people can get about Paganism. I live here in the real Bible Belt.
People get pretty extreme here about religion, although there are
places where it's worse. They even refused to install the statue of
Ceres that was commissioned for the Kansas State Capitol building
because she was a Pagan Goddess. (There followed the three worst
grain harvests since the dust bowl.)
Still, we have a thriving Pagan community, and not a small share of
misguided fundamentalist teenagers rebelling into holywood satanism.
We have had a lot of trouble with cases of religious persecution - but
not the kind you might think. What has happened has been that a
borderline Pagan has imagined or misunderstood something, and started
telling all their friends that _somebody_ was being hassled for being
We have a Rennisance Festival here, and the rumor mill there is
boringly predictable. Every year, two stories are guaranteed to make
One goes that a knife was stolen from a participant, and used by a
parton to stab someone. Therefore you can't carry live steel. Funny
thing, no one ever seems to actually know either the participant, the
patron, or the victim. And responsible people still carry their
The other story varries a little; either the adminstration is hassling
participants for wearing pagan jewlry (ridiculous - 1/3 of the jewlry
sold out there is "pagan"), or someone was planning a circle on the
grounds and got hassled about it, or someone actually _had_ a circle
and was raided. (How do you do a circle of 100 or so people, and get
raided, within 200 yards of all the people camping on site, and not
make a single noise?)
We've had problems with the Heartland Pagan Festival too. One year,
someone started a rumor that there was an objection to our beliefs and
practices on the part of the people who owned the camp we'd used. One
of the people who was peripherally involved with the planning group
took it upon himself to do something. Unfortunately, that something
didn't involve checking out the rumor first - he just called the Camp
offices and gave everybody who would listen to him holy hell <sorry>
for being religious bigots.
Fortunately we were able to explain that he was not an official of the
organisation, and we were able to mend things sufficiently that we
were allowed to use the camp untill it was sold last year.
Unfortunately, we were never quite as well trusted as we had been, and
the camp staff lost their new found belief that we weren't all just a
bunch of nuts.
Why does this happen with so often with Pagans?
Those of us who've studied the history of the Christian Church may be
aware of the power the church found in being persecuted. It gave them
a binding common enemy. It gave them a reason for extremism. It gave
their persecutions of heretics legitimacy. It made people willing to
sacrifice everything for the church.
When true persecution ended, they found goals for the Crusades that
carried on the tradition of holy war. Even today, if you watch
Fun-D-TV, you will find that they use the false story that the church
is a persecuted minority to drum up support an dcontributions, and to
justify their actions.
Is this what we're after? Do those of us who come from these
traditions find it so hard to leave the old habits behind, even when
we've dressed them in new forms? Do some of us even see this kind of
activity as legitimate?
Gods save us from Jehova in drag.
We do ourselves more damage with false, imagined, and exagerated
claims of persecution than is done against us by all the fundies
If we are to be credible, if we are to be taken seriously by the
mundane world, if we are ever to be able to mount a real defense
against those who would persecute us because of our beliefs, we must
refrain from crying wolf.
We must be vigilant to apply our critical minds to the accounts we
hear, to track them down, and to explain to the people who start and
spread them that we are held to a higher standard of truth because we
are in the minority.
Next: Magick Christians (Alfgar Maharg)