In theory, the United States of America was founded on the concept of religious freedom. This is, of course, a wonderful concept and as far as the law is concerned, one can not be discriminated against because of their religious preferences. Great concept in theory. Unfortunately, the reality of religious tolerance in the United States is something quite different.
Halloween is just around the corner, and while Halloween is a fun holiday for many of us it does, in reality, poke fun at a certain legitimate religion – the practice of Wicca. Cartoon witches are cute and funny – think ‘Wendy’ from the Casper-the-friendly-ghost cartoon. They make us laugh. And how many of us do not still chuckle when a rerun of ‘Bewitched’ happens to catch our attention? In reality, though, these caricatures of witches belittle the practice of witchcraft and the seriousness with which the practitioners of this religion take their beliefs.
Actual witches do not wiggle their noses and turn their husbands into toads. Many of them would probably like to be able to perform that stunt – heck, most women in general would like to do that from time to time – but it does not work that way. Witches to not soar across the skies on their brooms, and they do not wear pointy black hats and cackle evilly when something bad happens. And witches do not wave a magick wand and make anything they want happen.
Magick, to a witch, is a matter of finding his or her personal connection to the earth and all that is natural. It is a matter of living in balance with the forces of life itself, and taking joy in the world around us. Do witches and/or Wiccans use amulets, charms, and those types of ‘mysterious’ accouterments? Yes, much as Christians use crosses, alters, and wine in their worship practices.
So when your child shivers with delighted terror at the depiction of the warty-nosed witch that you have hanging on your front door, it would not be a bad idea to begin providing a little education about what an actual ‘witch’ is, and what an actual witch does. There is probably a witch out there somewhere who actually has a wart on his or her nose, but it is not a requirement for the practice, and if you ever actually see a witch flying around on a broomstick … well, you might want to see a doctor about those hallucinations.
All in all, it is never too early to begin teaching tolerance, and even if you do not think that something is a legitimate religion, it does not mean that those who practice that religion think the same thing.