Essay, Research Paper: Witchcraft In Hollywood

Religion

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It is said by many that Hollywood is persuasive. People see something on
television or in a motion picture and believe that what is shown is, in reality,
true. Misconceptions will occur, and unless people are shown evidence against
the delusions, it will be taken as fact. In the past, many groups have been
poorly represented onscreen. Organizations such as the Mafia, the government,
the military, spies, gods, monsters, and others are just a small example of
those prejudiced. Since the misconceptions have occurred, much of the truth has
come through for those mentioned. However, one topic that is repeatedly
misrepresented in Hollywood is the practice of the Craft, more commonly known as
witchcraft or Wicca according to Jeffrey Mann (personal communication, April 14,
1999). Witchcraft has been shown onscreen as evil, black magick, rather than a
faith, and most people see spells cast by wiggling the nose or pointing a finger
to be valid of the ‘witchcraft fable’ (1997, Bewitched online). Is
witchcraft a true, spiritual religion, and if so, are people willing to tolerate
it? Many are uninformed of the religious aspect of the Craft, and those that
are, believe it to be false or wrong according to Jeffrey Mann (personal
communication, April 14, 1999). In today’s society, religious tolerance of
different groups of people or cultures is extremely important. By understanding
and accepting the differences of real versus imaginary using witchcraft as the
prime example, people will be able to see these groups as part of actual society
and not just a fictitious, magickal portrayal in entertainment such as
Bewitched, Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and The Craft. Hollywood’s
portrayal of witchcraft in movies and shows is invalid. Now on reruns, the
television show, Bewitched, was once very popular. Samantha and Tabitha are
shown casting spells nearly every other minute of the half-hour (1997, Bewitched
online). The show brought forth a revival of the knowledge of witchcraft. In
history, before Christianity, Paganism was a primary religion in Europe.
Witchcraft is a form of Paganism, just as Wicca, Shamanism, and others are. When
the Christian religion was being formed, many Pagan beliefs were still used
(1998, A witches overview of Wicca online). The Pagan tradition of Yule, the
winter solstice holiday, was to bring a live tree into the house and decorate it
with food, balls, and a star on top to protect the household from the evil
spirits (Adler, 1997). In the past century, a man named Gerald Gardener came
forth with his ancestor’s religious practice that has been passed down
generation after generation called Paganism. He began bringing forth the Wiccan
movement to modern witches according to Jeffrey Mann (personal communication,
April 14, 1999). Bewitched was made in the midst of the sort of ‘coming out’
of all that was practiced. Romanticizing witchcraft started with Bewitched, and
from then on, a new fetish of shows and movies had begun. The Warner Brothers
Network recently aired a new hour-long show featuring three sisters who have
just discovered their witchy powers (see attached graphic one of Charmed
sisters). They are referred to as the ‘Charmed Ones’, which are the most
powerful of a long line of good witches. Their mission is to protect the
innocent against all evil (1999, Charmed online). The show features many
distinct realities of witchcraft. The show refers to the Book of Shadows, which
is a book of memoirs, spells, thoughts, and goals, which must be handwritten and
personal to that witch (1998, A witches overview of Wicca). The three sisters
use this book for casting spells against evil, which is the basis for
entertainment on the show. Freezing time, traveling to the past or future, and
evaporating monsters are just some of the sisters’ outlandish powers (1999,
Charmed online). Religion has no part in the hour that the sisters are fighting
the darkness. Witchcraft, in reality, has no ‘natural’ witches as implied in
Charmed. Having ‘power’ is a belief that comes from within your soul, not
from genetics (Valiente, 1998). The power of spells to witches is like the power
of prayers to Christians. If Charmed was based on three Christian sisters, the
show would be primarily about how they pray and have immediate and obvious
results according to Jenn Vinson (personal communication, April 13, 1999).
Clearly, both concepts are not accurate. Praying in all religions has results
personal to that worshipper, just as casting a spell is to a witch (1998, A
witches overview of Wicca online). It is implied that spells are the most
important part of witchcraft, which is false. Casting a spell is not necessary
to be a witch; many witches are solitary and chose to practice without the use
of spells (1999, Pagan Organization of MIT). Although Charmed uses many of
witches’ tools for spells, and practice, its accuracy is severely skewed in
the portrayal of the religion of Wicca, or witchcraft. Sabrina the Teenage Witch
is a children’s show aired by ABC on Friday night’s hotspot. A high school
student, named Sabrina, uses her magick to cause more blunders than not.
Although sophomoric, the show does not focus on evil, darkness, or the devil.
Sabrina must keep her practice a secret; neither her boyfriend nor her best
friend knows the truth (1998, A review…of the show Sabrina). Keeping her Craft
a secret is the entertainment along with turning the school bully, Libby, into
frogs and other animals. In reality, many that practice Wicca are secretive (Valiente,
1998). It is not because of shame, but rather that other’s do not understand.
Nothing is meant to be harmful, however, many unforgiving people in this world
condemn for a religion they know little about (Valiente, 1998). For example, it
is said that witches worship the devil. This is not only ridiculous, but also
wrong (Adler, 1997). Witches believe that God is everything and everywhere, just
not merely a distinct entity. All Gods and Goddesses are one God, and by calling
him a different name than other religious followers do will neither make him
angry or damning. Witchcraft is moral and ethical, which nearly all religions
are based upon (1998, A witches overview of Wicca). Sabrina is a good student,
niece, and friend who chooses a different spiritual path to follow (1998, A
review…of the show Sabrina). Although Sabrina the Teenage Witch is cute and
humorous, religion has little if no part in the show, unlike some more adult
portrayals. The focus of evil in the motion picture, The Craft of Columbia
Pictures, is the leading misconception of the film (Fleming, 1996). By far the
most accurate in the portrayal of the Wiccan religion, the movie follows the
beliefs of four high school girls that have discovered the Craft according to
Jenn Vinson (personal interview, April 13, 1999). Using all religious tools such
as the pentacle (see attached graphic two of the witches protection symbolizing
earth, air, fire, water, and spirit) in their practice, the girls focus on
practicing the nature religion. Experimenting with spells, reading materials,
and keeping personal Book of Shadows, The Craft keeps reality in check. The four
girls attend a Christian school, while not so secretly believing something else,
which occurs with many young witches. Until Nancy, one of the witches turns
evil, and Sarah, another witch, discovers her ‘natural’ power, the movie is
almost a perfect example of witchcraft (Fleming, 1996). By focusing on one of
the girls in the circle being evil, the truth of witchcraft is altered. Darkness
is the focus of the second half of the movie, scaring viewers to believe that
this evil occurs in all witches. Murder and evil spells are focused upon leading
the watcher to be frightful of the Craft and condemning of the religion. All
religions have followers that give it a bad name. Some Christians can be found
starting cults, clans, and general mayhem. Of course, these ‘bad apples’ are
not the true followers of the religion. The Craft’s evil character, Nancy, can
be thought of as one psycho in a good religion which is, like The Clan, a very
small proportion of the believers. Questioning the true meaning of Wicca
Clearly, the religion of Wicca is extraordinarily twisted as portrayed in
Hollywood. After seeing a movie, is a typical reaction what is witchcraft (see
attached graphic three)? Or do people accept what they are shown? What can be
done about this problem? There is one solution: education. Teaching people that
witchcraft is not fictitious or evil will bring forth an influx of understanding
according to Jeff Mann (personal communication, April 14, 1999). Some churches
teach that Wicca is a devil religion that should only be regarded a cult.
Realizing that religious tolerance and religious belief are two separate
entities will alleviate the problem of a taboo denomination. Many believe that
by viewing witchcraft as a religion, they are condoning the practice. Therefore,
people look upon it as little more than magick and will never consider
witchcraft to be of any God in fear of their own practice’s sins (Adler,
1997). If Hollywood released a film about a true follower of Wicca and not a
romanticized version, would it sell? That is one way to have an audience
understand the true meaning of witchcraft without the witchy power jargon to
‘spice it up.’ Being educated about religions not only makes us more
tolerant, understanding, and open, it also awakens us to other culture’s,
countries’, and ethnicity’s’ philosophies. Unless the masses are educated
that witchcraft is indeed a spiritual religion, the misconceptions will continue
(Adler, 1997). Loving and/or Accepting Witches There are many different
religions in this world. America itself is a melting pot of ethnicity and
diversity. What other country could so readily accept assorted beliefs than the
‘home of the free’? Religious persecution, emotional or physical, will be a
past phenomenon. First, all people must be considered a part of society’s
whole. When all members of each religion can see the other as equal, all men
shall then, and only then, be created equally. When viewing a movie or show, it
is necessary to understand that the magick portrayed is imaginary. Think about
it: black pointy hats, black cats, and brooms are symbols of the myth of
witchcraft, just as clouds and fire are representations of Christianity in
movies. Understanding that distinction will lead to understanding witchcraft as
a true religion and not a fanciful fable. Tolerating Without Condemning
Witchcraft People in this world are fast to judge. Because the entertainment
industry portrays witchcraft in a spell casting, dark, evil way that is what
people are likely to believe witchcraft is. It is not some made-up magick, but
rather a faith that has been stretched to fascinate people (1999, Pagan
Organization of MIT). It is not make-believe, but a real and true religion.
“Paganism is an affirmation of the beauty and sacredness of life on this
earth, and of our unity with it” (1999, Pagan Organization of MIT). By
understanding and accepting that one religion will look to Mecca, while another
prays to God, and another worships Buddha, society will be tolerant and more
open minded. Hollywood glamorizes, and people are fast to trust it. Through
witchcraft, it can easily be seen that people are quick to believe Hollywood is
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