Today I walked into the Hess station, and a friend of mine showed me one of the headline articles on the Lawrence Eagle Tribune entitled, “Temple of Witchcraft move concerns some” My first thought was that this was a bold move for the organization, knowing as I do how some people feel about pagans and witches in general, and the second thought was to chuckle at how Salem, NH was beginning to take on some of the airs of Salem, MA, despite the long-term resistance by the town to be even vaguely associated with its southern, more famous neighbor.
Reading further down the article, however, my amusement waned. The title should have been warning enough that the article would address concerns of local citizens. What bothers me is that the vast majority of the article had to do with how the Temple of Witchcraft is a positive organization and how they are highly spiritual. So why the sensationalist title if less than 10% of the article has to do with neighborly concerns? And should the neighbors really be worried?
Knowing some of the people in the organization, the answer is no. And before you ask, I do not belong to the organization, but I am familiar with some of them through personal friends. If people truly educated themselves as to the whys and wherefores of all the religious groups in the United States, they would find that there are plenty of other religious groups who have interesting pasts, but none who cause such a reaction as paganism and witchcraft.
Remember that the news loves a sensation, and a lack of knowledge about things causes unrest. But before you decide that a group will cause problems, get educated on who they really are. None of them sacrifice animals (except to the grill, and if that was a problem, all those men who love to barbecue every summer would REALLY be in trouble!), none of them would ever harm children, and not one of them is going to be casting curses that spoil milk or cause the horses to go lame. Oh wait. Wrong century. Maybe that should be cast curses to cause your internet to go down and lose cell reception, but both of those happen so often anyway that none of us would even notice.
What the pagans and witches really do is try to mitigate the harm so many have caused to the earth, send prayers for the sick, donate food and clothing to the needy, and try to live a peaceful existence just like any other decent religious group. They just do it a little differently. So here is the solution. Try to get to know them. Do it without fear, without prejudice, and without the preconceived notions of the past to hinder your viewpoints. You might be surprised at the friends that you meet along the way.
After all, if it was a Jewish Temple or a Ba’hai House of Worship, both of which are fully recognized religions by every state in the union, very few eyebrows would be raised. The name is the sticking point in this case; that, and thousands of years of misunderstanding and intolerance of other’s beliefs, no matter how beautiful and heartfelt they might be.