Setting an example

The misrepresentaion of pagans has always been a problem that our community has faced. There are many posts concerning this, the most recent to my attention the post of The Wild Hunt's "Killing Spells, Underage Covens, and Bad Stereotypes" regarding a current tv programme. Witchvox is also littered with reports of bad press and misunderstandings of our beliefs and practices. My question is, how can we begin to dispell this?

Now, I know my limits, this is too big a question for me to answer adequately, especially since there are many more prominent and wise members of our community already on the case. But I'd like to look at this from a personal view, concerning a problem I have had to deal with today (although this hasn't been the first occassion by far).

I have just started at a new job in a mainstream secondary school in a SEN (special educational needs) department. Part of my job is to go around in general classes and aid the children in whatever they may be learning. Today, in class, I kneeled down and rested my elbows on a groups table to speak with them about their work. Before I could get a word in, one of them asked me if I was Jewish.

(Me) "No, I'm not Jewish."
(Child #1) "Then why do you have a Jewish star on your necklace?" (pointing at my pentagram)
(Me) "It's not a Jewish star."
(Child #1) "What is it then?"
(Child #2 to #1) "It's an evil star isn't it, stupid."
(Me) "No it is not evil at all!"
(Child #2) "Yes it is, evil people wear them."
(Me) "I think you're getting it confused with an inverted star that tv and films use to portray ritual killings etc. It's not this star. Now get on with your work!"

EVIL PEOPLE WEAR THEM. Lord and Lady help us.

Now, I have my reasons for not disclosing what my pentagram meant. Firstly, it was afterall a busy english class, and the teacher obviously wants them to work; it's hardly a place to hold a philosophical/spiritual discussion. Secondly, if I had told them, more questions would follow, and as stated, it was neither the time nor place. Thirdly, it is my second week there, and children do talk, and they would misinterpret or warp whatever I would've said, and children and staff alike could've begun to treat me very differently.

Now I could just not wear it to avoid these situations, but there is a reason I wear it anyway (other than the obvious reason!). I like to see the reactions it invokes in people. It can introduce me to a fellow pagan due to recognition. It can show me the kind of intolerant people I want to avoid having friendships with due to negative reactions. But most importantly to me, it's because I want to set a good example for us. I'm not perfect (just ask anyone who knows me!). But a lot of people out there have only experienced pagans through the eyes of the media, or from the mouths of their often misinformed friends. The stereotype is of someone who thinks they wield awesome power through casting spells (preferably naked), hexing all and sundry. Or of a tree-hugging, idealistic hippy convinced of the existence of fairies and pixie dust, living in our own deluded fantasy worlds. Now, elements of the above may be true for a minority, but I have to say the pagans I have met, of whom I feel are the most genuine, have been incredibly, well, normal. That goes for myself too. We live ordinary lives, and have the same concerns, worries and joys as others. Most people who meet me are shocked by my normality, and I like to consider this a good thing. It shows that we aren't some kind of cult, and that actually, they probably have met quite a few people who they didn't know were pagans. It makes them, even if only a little, more open to us.

Now interestingly, at lunchtime I sat down with the lunchtime supervisors. Suddenly the woman said aloud in reference to me "Now there's a woman after my own heart!", nodding to my necklace. We got talking, and she said how all the children knew she was a White Witch. We didn't have a lot of time to speak properly unfortunately, but I wonder about how they and the other staff feel about her.

Right now I'm wondering if any of you out there think little of me for not explaining to the children about my pentagram. Some could see it as denying or damaging my relationship and commitment to the God*dess. But let me tell you this - I will always try to act in a manner befitting the the love, compassion and integrity of the Lord and Lady. And when the day comes when I do explain the truth to the children, I will hope that I have shown them by example what it means to follow the path of the God*dess.

11 comments:

Celestite 15 January 2009 at 16:48  

To answer your question...yes you did the right thing. I don't think that was the appropriate time, place or audience for a discussion of religion.

otherwise.....WELCOME to the pagan blogasphere...or is it blogosphere? Whatever, welcome and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Haley @ Iridescent Dark 16 January 2009 at 12:20  

Thankyou for the response and the welcome! I'm already enjoying the community here. Likewise, looking forward to more posts! x

Feithline 16 January 2009 at 15:04  
This comment has been removed by the author.
DarklyFey 16 January 2009 at 15:05  

I think you did the right thing. It wasn't your classroom, it was time for work and not play, and it was enough to say what you did. Perhaps that child will bring their questions home to their parents, or perhaps they'll bring it up to the teacher. How heartening for you, though, that you found a fellow witch in the school! Personally, I wouldn't have been terribly comfortable with being 'outed' like that, but I understand how exciting it must have been for her to see one of 'us' sitting right there in front of her. :)

Haley @ Iridescent Dark 16 January 2009 at 16:27  

Thankyou, I'm glad people that you and Celestite think I did the right thing, I did beat myself up a bit for it a little after. I am glad I didn't say anything though. And yes, she was very happy, and exciting for us both! Likewise, I would feel uncomfortable being outed too, but she seems to enjoy telling them to behave or she will turn them into frogs! I don't if that is doing any damage but hey, they all seem to be taking it in fun (as far as I know)!

Skuld 16 January 2009 at 17:29  

Personally, I keep it to myself. I had a bad experience when I was "out" of the broom closet and lost a job over it. I wore my pentacle all the time and they actually thought I was jewish too. When asked, I told the truth, because I really felt that I could teach the world a thing or two about what witchcraft was and wasn't. Guess what? They really didn't care. It was dreadful. They mocked me, made rude jokes, and eventually fired me for no reason except that "it wasn't working out". I have decided since that I am NOT going to be able to change the world! (Although, I still try from time to time) ;)

Haley @ Iridescent Dark 17 January 2009 at 03:46  

That's absolutely terrible! Unfortunately, I bet that it isn't too rare. At the end of the day there are some people you just can't change because for them it's easier not to. I'm really sorry you've had to go throught that, and I hope wherever you are now you're happier.

sabrinam82 19 January 2009 at 14:57  

Hi Haley--
Welcome to the blogosphere and welcome to teaching! I've been a teacher for years but a practicing pagan for only a matter of months. I think you did the right thing in the classroom to table the discussion indefinitely. I have recently been posting on my blog about my own coming out process--it's ongoing, but nowhere near my classroom for reasons you will understand if you read my post, "Anxiety Down, Happiness Up" and especially the comments following it at
http://pagandawn.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/anxiety-down-happiness-up/ .

Blessings,
Sabrina

Haley @ Iridescent Dark 20 January 2009 at 10:13  

Thankyou Sabrina!

I'm sure you understand the dynamics then of class discussion, lol. I'll head on over to your blog now and have a gander ;).

Beverly 26 January 2009 at 06:37  

Living in a small fundamentalist town like I do I found it easier to start off wearing a Celtic cross. Most people here don't realize it was originally a Pagan symbol. I had been working in a "Christian" hospital and some people knew I wasn't Christian and asked about the cross. Depending on who it was I explained the history. Now that I'm working at home I'm on the lookout for a pentagram that suits my personality and will work from there.

I have always been a kind person and when people find out I'm Pagan they seem to accept it more because of the kind of person I am. Reflecting the goodness and earthiness of Paganism and the Goddess seems for me to be the best way to help pave the road of acceptance.

Haley @ Iridescent Dark 26 January 2009 at 10:41  

Ooh celtic cross =D

I think you're doing the best thing by leading by example, and I try to do the same. Glad to hear you're doing a good job of it! x

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I am a pagan, special needs teaching assistant, BA Hons Drawing graduate, artist, amateur tarot reader, half-welsh, big sister, eldest daughter, lover, volunteer, bookworm, intense dreamer, nature and animal lover, over-protective friend, ex-barmaid, fledgling activist and general eccentric. Nice to meet you =D.

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