Last night Network Ten’s The Project aired a piece about witchcraft.
I will endeavour to post a video of this piece online if it becomes available, but suffice to say it was fairly simplistic and stuck to the basics (no, witches don’t worship the devil; and no, they don’t ride around on broomsticks), and featured interviews with the likes of Stacey De Marco, Lucy Cavendish and others.
The piece was not particularly good or bad. While I have many issues with the idea of “Big Name Pagans” preying on the naive, the stupid and the mentally ill and profiting from their pseudo-celebrity, not to mention the whole notion that witchcraft is for sale, happily there was no opportunity for any of the “personalities” involved to spruik their overpriced wares.
Rather, the witchcraft it discussed was a fairly homogenised, “mass consumption” PG-13 version of what many consider to be witchcraft, with a focus on oracle cards and spell casting. To Network Ten’s credit, the word “religion” was thrown around more than once, and there didn’t seem to be much glamorising of covens or suggestions that teen witches could turn their ex-boyfriend into a toad or any other nonsense.
The Project’s piece received a mixed response from the Australian Pagan community, but more importantly it brought into light the old argument of whether witchcraft should be “promoted” at all, in this way or in others.
A decade or more ago, I would have said that yes, we do need pieces like this: to debunk rumours of satanic rites, of pointy hats, baby eating and broomsticks.
But we are almost in the year 2014. If there are people out there who still believe all that stuff, I say we let them. They certainly don’t make up a majority of the population any more, and most of them are so set in their ways that a three minute fluff piece on a magazine-style news panel show probably isn’t going to change their minds anyway.
If mainstream media simply must report on witchcraft, then it would do us a lot less harm to do so a bit more impartially, without going in for all the stupid stereotype garbage or interviewing only a certain kind of witch from a certain part of the country… not to mention the dark, sinister music. But hey, it wouldn’t get the ratings they want from mainstream audiences!
The main purpose of pieces like this is to advertise witchcraft as being a come one, come all new-age religion, suitable for everybody into something a bit spooky. The danger here is that no, it isn’t, and to portray it as such just leads to more and more misinformed people spending their hard-earned money on ridiculously overpriced products and “workshops” to become even more misinformed…. Unfortunately, the most insidious and parasitic of our BNPs are always there with open arms to empty the wallets of the naive and vulnerable folk who foray into witchcraft.
I’m not saying that witchcraft should be an exclusive little club (or maybe I am, I haven’t decided yet). My point is that knowledge and spiritual growth are not commodities, and should not be touted as such. Generally if people genuinely want to find out about something, they will look into it for themselves in their own time, and make up their own minds.
Witchcraft does not need “promoting” in this day and age. My religion is not a trend, a fad, a hobby or a spectator sport. Is it really so bad that I just want to go about my spiritual business without it being televised?