Witches aren’t wicked, practitioners weigh in on the peaceful roots of paganism

By Elizabeth Biernacki, Staff Reporter

Green faces, black cloaks, pointy hats and curses are what we imagine witches as, not peaceful, spiritual beings as their historical roots would reveal. This image is especially prevalent near Halloween.

Paganism is an earth-based spiritual practice, Tara Nelson, founder of the Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance, said.

Paganism can follow many paths including Celtic, Norse, Irish, Egyptian and more, Clayton Cross, a freshman studying nursing at  Rend Lake College and also a practitioner, said.

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“Basically any pantheon of gods there are, you can also find a path that goes with them,” Cross said.

Paganism is a very old religion and has actually existed since the beginning of time, Cross said.

Over time, Cross and Nelson said, stereotypes such as witches being evil or bringing bad luck to those who know them emerged.

“You think of the Hollywood horror movie version a witch, none of that is right,” Nelson said. “We have to remind people that this is fiction, this is Hollywood, this is not real life.”

As a result, Cross said, people who do not understand the religion who find out others are part of it will blame real witches for bad luck based off of the Hollywood standpoint that witches are evil.

“The Devil is a Christian concept,” Nelson said. “We don’t have an all evil entity within our faith system, it was never something Pagans believed, everything falls in between.”

The traditional black pointy hat, cloak and broomsticks associated with the Hollywood version of witches emerged from old fashion trends from hundreds of years ago, Nelson said.

“[The witch’s hat] actually was a very useful hat because the shape of it kept water off your face,” Nelson said.

The black cloak, Cross said, originated from normal clothing people wore hundreds of years ago since people were modest and kept themselves covered.

“If you have a wool cloak on with a big hood, you’re going to keep your body heat inside, and that wool is going to keep you warm and dry,” Nelson said.

The broomstick, Cross said, also originated from ancient practices.

“We don’t ride broomsticks,” Cross said. “That actually comes from an ancient practice in dancing with the brooms in a field.”

Despite the misconceptions, Nelson said, none of it bothers her much. She said she would rather take the opportunity to educate rather than get upset.

Staff reporter Elizabeth Biernacki can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @EBiernacki_619.

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