Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wiccan response to ‘Fox and Friends’ hosts’ take on the Wiccan faith

After viewing a recent video of a portion of last Sunday’s Fox News and Friends Weekend, it becomes necessary to respond to the disturbing discussion between the show’s hosts, Anna Kooiman, Clayton Morris, and Tucker Carlson.  The show’s hosts did little more than belittle Wicca and its practitioners.  Readers can view the clip from the show above.

The show’s hosts, primarily Tucker Carlson, purposefully mock and ridicule the Wiccan faith and its adherents, and the hosts’ comments are unprofessional, unethical and unwarranted.  Carlson willfully attempts to make Wiccans, and anyone that acknowledges the faith system as valid, appear ridiculous.  His assertions and many of the statements offered by his co-hosts have no sound basis in fact.  The commentary on the show only serves to belittle an entire population of people that the hosts of Fox News and Friends Weekend really know nothing about.

First, Clayton Morris mentions the Wiccan and pagan population and questions whether or not they make up a large percentage of the population.  Tucker Carlson responds with: “I do, they don’t.”  

This response is interesting since there are no clear statistics on just how many pagans and witches there are, so how can Carlson possibly know more than anybody in the entire world about the pagan population.  The majority of population surveys are mere estimates, but if one bases an understanding on any estimates (including the notion of a “large population” as subjective,) one will find that the pagan population is considerable.  A little bit of research reveals that according to 2001 statistics, there are an estimated 200,000 to 768,000 Wiccans and pagans in the US alone, depending upon the cited source.  Additional research reveals that the US population of Wiccans is doubling about every 30 months and in Scotland, the Neo-Pagan population is doubling annually (source: http://www.washington-baltimore-paganclergy.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2006/01/wiccaprofile.pdf). 

The Puralism Project at Harvard University has a variety of statistics sources, several of which make estimates related to the pagan population.  In 2000, the Covenant of the Goddess, a highly regarded pagan organization, suggests that there were about 768,400 pagans and witches in the US.  The Ontario Consultants from Tolerance.org suggest a population rate of 750,000 (with a 50% margin rate for all errors) and The Witch’s Voice estimates a population of 1 million pagans and witches in the US and 3 million worldwide.  Additionally, When Carlson says that there are more Zoroastrians than Wiccans in an effort to make the population of Wiccan and pagan practitioners appear small, his efforts do not negate the validity of the Wiccan faith, diminish the significance of the faith system to its followers, or devalue the tremendous spiritual fulfillment Wiccans derive from their religion.

Clayton Morris then mentions the University of Missouri’s Guide to Religions: Major Holidays and Suggested Accommodations and the Wiccan and pagan holidays included in the guide.  Nowhere in the guide does it say that pagans and witches need to have all of their holidays recognized.  In fact, if the hosts take a look at the guide, eight Wiccan holidays are mentioned, not 20 as it is erroneously mentioned in the hosts’ conversation.  (and yes I can name them all).  The eight holidays include Samhain, Yule, Candlemas (also called Imbolc), Ostara (also called Spring Equinox), Beltane, Summer Solstice (also called Litha), Lammas, and Fall Equinox.  If one looks under each of the holidays in the guide, there is a description of the holiday along with some information detailing pagan practices.  However, there is no mention of any recommendation whatsoever to stop planning exams or significant study activities.  Thus, despite the fact that Wiccan holidays equal about one-fifth of the 46 holidays mentioned, there are no recommendations that would suggest to faculty members of the university to allow the holidays to influence academic planning. 

Wiccans do not choose their religion based upon the number of holidays in the faith system.  For Clayton Morris to say such a thing is ridiculous and is tad amount to saying that a Christian is a follower of Christ because they like to take Christmas and Easter holidays off each year.  When Carlson later asks how many Wiccans can name all of their holidays, guessing about 50%, again such a comment is completely out of line.  Any Wiccan who is a sincere practitioner will have little difficulty telling anyone about the eight seasonal sabbats celebrated on a yearly basis. 

In the discussion, Carlson mentions that the downside of Wiccanism is “that it is obviously a form of witchcraft,” and this statement raises two questions.  First, does Carlson know anything about real witchcraft at all?  Since he identifies the “upside” as being a “ton of holidays,” and he states, “Every Wiccan I have ever known is a compulsive Dungeons & Dragons player or is a middle-aged, twice-divorced, older woman living in a rural area who works as a midwife,” it is clear he knows little.  When he co-host Clayton Morris pipes in his view and says, “and [Wiccans] like a lot of incense,” the extent of their knowledge about the Craft and its practitioners is made brutally clear.  Therefore, knowing as little as the hosts of Fox News and Friends Weekend do about witchcraft, Wicca and its adherents, what puts them in the position to judge?  Second, witchcraft is a downside for who?  If the practice is not right for the hosts of Fox News and Friends Weekend, that’s perfectly fine, but why then is it necessary for the show’s hosts to devalue the practices and beliefs of others? 

As far as Samhain (Halloween) being a major holiday for Wiccans, the day is one for honoring deceased ancestors.  The hosts mock one of the most sacred sabbats, suggesting it is not something to take seriously.  Then Clayton Morris suggests that Halloween is an event that has more to do with paganism than Wicca.  Here it should be mentioned that paganism is an umbrella term for people who do not follow the major Judeo-Christian religions, and Wicca is just one branch of paganism.  A bit of research will reveal to the hosts of the show that modern Halloween practices are actually pagan based practices.  If they had read the university’s holiday guide more thoroughly they would have been able to read the full description of the holiday on the university’s website that reads as follows:

“One of the four "greater Sabbats" and considered by some to be the Wiccan New Year. A time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on, welcome those born during the past year into the community, and reflecting on past relationships, events and other significant changes in life. 

General Practices: Paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones who have died."  

Wiccans honoring of Halloween is no different from when Christians honor the death and resurrection of Christ on Easter.  Just as Easter holds tremendous significance to those who follow Christ, Samhain holds great meaning for those who are adherents of Wicca. 

As for the interview with Tammy Bruce with her suggesting that Wiccans and Pagans are being used for political purposes and to devalue tradition, the question arises, how do our equally valid traditions devalue the traditions of other faith systems, especially when the university’s guide has no recommendations to make any academic changes for Wiccan holidays whatsoever?  How does the integration of Wiccan traditions “downgrade” other traditions through an “anti-tradition action?”  With confidence in speaking for the majority of the Wiccan community, Wiccans are pleased to have come as far as to have their holidays acknowledged as celebratory events.  Nowhere have Wiccans demanded academic accommodations for them.  Of course, if Wiccans did start asking for holiday accommodations, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with doing so.  Again, Wiccan celebrations are just as significant, important and meaningful as holidays in any other religious tradition. 

Anna makes mention of when Christians in the U.S. say “Merry Christmas” to others it is sometimes viewed as pushing one’s faith on others.  In part this sentiment is true, and the issue works both ways.  A Christian might be highly unappreciative of someone wishing them a “Blessed Samhain” or a “Blessed Lammas.”  The underlying message in such situations is that it is important for everyone, Christians, pagans, and people from all faith systems to have consideration for others.  Whether we agree with someone’s religious values or beliefs is of no import.  What is most important is that we respect one another and act in considerate ways: this is something the hosts of “Fox and News Weekend” failed to do.

There is a petition on Causes.com looking for Wiccan practitioners who want to demand an apology from the hosts of Fox and Friends.  Interested individuals can sign the petition at the following link http://www.causes.com/actions/1733105-demand-fox-news-apologize-to-pagans-and-wiccans.

A Facebook page has been established, demanding an apology from the show’s hosts as well at https://www.facebook.com/FoxNewsPagan.
The co-hosts of Isis Paranormal Radio are planning a discussion on Sunday, Feb. 24 related to the show and the hosts’ commentary.  Interested individuals can listen to the live online radio show at 1 PM ET at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/isisparanormal.  Listeners can join in the conversation, call into the show, and express their opinions in the chat room.

Article by: Dayna Winters, a Wiccan and the co-author of Wicca: What’s the Real Deal? BreakingThrough the Misconceptions.