What Is a ‘Persecution Complex’? And Why Is it Bad for Wicca?
One thing that surprised me the most when I first started using the internet was that so many people—even others in the magical and Pagan community—saw Wiccans as a bunch of whiny, defensive crybabies out of touch with reality. The Wiccans I had long known in my coven and from Pagan gatherings were not like this, so I didn't understand it.
It doesn't take much looking around to figure out how this perception came about, though. It’s the result of what many of us call the “Persecution Complex”, and it's been made worse by a lot of irresponsible authors (both in print, or self-published on the internet). Not everyone has it; but those who do are a vocal minority who are damaging our community’s image in a way that embarrasses many of us.
What do you mean I can't dress like this for work?
Wiccans With a Persecution Complex
Have ever known one?
What Is a Persecution Complex?
Once you begin reading books and websites about Wicca, start hanging out in Wicca chat rooms and message boards, you will inevitably come across some situations like this:
- My boss wants me to work on Yule because it’s so busy, but then he closes for Christmas! This religious discrimination in the workplace is against the law!
- There’s a Christian church in my town that were handing out tracts saying Wicca and Pagan religions are wrong! This kind of hatred is why 13 million Wiccans were killed during the burning times! They’re still persecuting us!
- My parents won’t let me wear a pentacle or buy Wiccan stuff for my room! They make me go to church with the family on Sundays! They’re taking away my constitutional right to freedom of religion!
Not to mention, sometimes you buy a Pagan CD thinking you might get some good music, when instead there is track after track of Pagan rebel songs talking about Christians raping and pillaging us in the past.
I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s the kind of thing that makes me totally cringe. It’s the poor, wounded, angry bird attitude, The person who is convinced the only reason he does not get his way is that there is a conspiracy against his religion. Just the act of someone disagreeing, or – Goddess forbid—disliking Wicca is seen as a universal injustice, a wrong that needs to be righted!
If You Are Wiccan...
Did you ever have a Persecution Complex?
You Might Be a Victim When...
There have been cases of real wrongdoing. People have:
- been singled out and banned from doing things in public places that other religions are allowed to do
- been fired, denied a job, apartment, etc. because of their religion
- been taken to court to have their custody of their children challenged
- abused or thrown out of their home as children
- been picketed or run out of town for trying to open a religious-based business
- been jailed, tortured, put to death
These are just a few examples of very real cases of oppression, discrimination and persecution that unfortunately still occur today. So I don’t mean to say that everyone who complains of unfair treatment is just being overly-dramatic. When someone has a legitimate complaint, it’s not a Persecution Complex.
Now THIS Is Persecution
When You’re Not Really a Victim
A Persecution Complex is when people make a stink over non-issues. It’s when someone misinterprets the reason for not getting their way as being due to their religion. It’s when a person A thinks that person B should put his own religious beliefs aside when person A is around. It’s when a person invokes things that happened a long time ago, or things that never actually happened, as ‘proof’ to make another group look bad.
- Unless you explicitly outline it in your contract, your boss is not under law obligated to give anyone holidays off
- It's not wrong for private business owners to decide what image they want their employees to project to their clients
- While public schools may not be allowed to discriminate about who is allowed to wear what religious symbols (they either have to ban them all, or allow them all), private schools certainly are allowed to do so
- people saying they don't like your religion, thinking it's wrong, thinking it's a threat to society, etc. is not discrimination; it's free speech
- if someone doesn't feel comfortable with different religions being practiced in their own home, they have every right to ban it. Unless you legally rent a room/apartment from the person, it is their business and right to ask you to cease and desist
- the Constitution guarantees the government can't take away your religious freedom; it does not mean your parents can't expect you to attend church or prohibit you from attending Wiccan events or reading Wiccan books
One of the worst effects of the Persecution Complex is when someone distorts history to have a chip on their shoulder and justify their own hatred and prejudices -- like when Wiccans invoke the 'burning times' to paint Christians as villains. How many Wiccans were killed during the ‘burning times’? None. Wicca didn’t even exist back then. There were not millions of Witches killed (it was around 60,000 at most). The vast majority were not Witches or even Pagans—they were mostly Christians, victims of mass hysteria. Not to mention, Pagans burned accused Witches, too. The word ‘witch’ was never associated with good people until almost the 20th century. But even if ancient Christians burned Witches-- how does that make modern-day Christians responsible for it?
Save Accusations for the Real Thing
If You're Not Wiccan...
Have you ever known a Wiccan with a persecution complex?
How It Hurts Our Community
A Persecution Complex makes the individual look like an uninformed, hypersensitive drama queen, but the whole attitude reflects badly on our community. Standing out there crying persecution, oppression or discrimination is self-appointing oneself a spokesperson for our entire religion. When a Wiccan accuses Christians of burning us and trying to kill us, it makes people think this is some kind of Wiccan teaching. If a Wiccan is basically the boy who cried wolf, it makes us all look bad.
We are not required to hold sabbats or esbats on specific days the way Jews have to observe Rosh Hashana or shabbos. We’re not obligated to wear pentagrams the way Muslim women are obligated to wear head coverings. It’s not against our religion to sit through a Christian prayer or church service the way it might be against a Christian's religion to sit through one of ours. When a Wiccan expects special consideration at work, at school, or even in the home, when they’re not even really necessary, we look unreasonable. When Wiccans dress up, donning pentagrams the size of dinner plates and what looks like renaissance garb, don’t be surprised at the negative attention it might bring. This would be the equivalent of a Christian going to a majority-Wiccan country (if there were one) in a white loincloth while carrying a giant cross. It practically screams, “Go ahead— say something about me! I dare you!”
When someone does, crying persecution just makes you look like a fool.
Mostly, it’s just irresponsible behavior. It belittles and detracts attention from legitimate cases of discrimination and persecution. Wicca is certainly not the only religion to have members with a Persecution Complex, but no matter where it comes from it’s never a good thing. Intellectual dishonesty and false accusations are exacerbating the problems between people of different religions, not helping them. Everyone needs to think long and hard before pointing any fingers because we have a responsibility to our society and to our community to treat such accusations very seriously. That includes thinking carefully about them before making any.