We have the right to be Pagan and not fear persecution. And yet, there is the whole "you have the right to speak your mind" part of that too. And when those who speak their mind get too carried away with their words, tempers flare and conflict arises. There is supposed to be this age of acceptance where it's okay to be lesbian, or bi-sexual, or even trans-gendered. But when we add in religion to the mix, it's best left alone since there are so many who are easily offended. At least this has been my impression of it.
Just the other day, I was talking with a co-worker about my path. He's Catholic, so naturally he wants me to turn towards God and Christianity. I can understand that he fears that "medeling in witchcraft can cause spiritual harm to ensue." However, I was not able to get through to him that a lot of this fear he had was centered around not being educated in Paganism to make a fair judgement on if it's good or bad. It would be like someone critisizing against Roman Catholics without fully understanding what it is that they do and how they follow their beliefs. It's just completely unfair to scrutinize when you are not even studied in what you're scrutinizing.
While being a Pagan in the Bible-belt is a challenge, it's an even greater challenge finding those who want to come out of the "broom closet" to even admit it and form a connection with them. I believe a lot of it has to do with fear, which is completely understandable. I myself, for the longest time, was afraid to come out and say what path I followed. I feard my family's wrath, the loss of friends, and even the inability to claim my family due to being disowned. My mother had found me when I was 16 years old, practicing by candle light in my bedroom on Hallow's Eve. The next day, she tore my room apart and destroyed anything she suspected had to do with it, including journals I had kept since I was 8 years old. I wasn't able to forgive her then, and I've never even to this day been able to divulge anything in her. My trust with her has gone as a result. There are others who have had terrifying experiences such as mine. Some experiences have been far worse. And as a result they are afraid of trusting people who might hurt them like what was done before. Society today may have become more accepting of some things, but there are still those out there who would love nothing more than to drive out all those who aren't "right in their heads" so they can have things the way they believe it should be.
Life is supposed to be full of diversity, variety, and differences. Without these differences, our lives would be boring. In other parts of the country, Pagan communities flourish and continue to grow as more people turn to different paths that are considered non-traditional. They have celebrations, festivals, and even raise their children in their communities. They are generally peaceful people who are just like anyone else: enjoying life and time with their families while working to support themselves. This applies to Pagans around the world. While some areas in the world are more accepting, others are more cruel in their persecutions of Pagans. Despite this, there are those who can still find and create a community of their own where they feel safe. For some, finding others who are accepting and open is a challenge.
And then you run into individuals who are most imaginative and just looking for acceptance when their wild stories can have others not wanting to be around them. Such an individual crossed paths with me in my life. She wanted so much to fit in that she made up stories that were so fantastical that there was no way it could be true. For instance, she had told me a story of a friend who had a doorway to Hell in her bedroom that she went to. And when she opened the door, the Devil was there and he recognized her and talked with her. She said that it scared her so that she swore she'd never go back there. I heard this story from her maybe seven times before I told her I was tired of it. I know it's not her fault, for we all want to fit in. But when one makes a fool of themselves and is saying that they are Pagan when they don't follow any path even related to it, that's when it makes those who are Pagan look bad. They paint us in a different light then we really are. This goes for anyone who tried to pretend to be something they're not, in any walk in life.
The image of hags cackling around a boiling pot, flying on a broom, and consorting with the Devil also make us look bad as witchcraft is often couple with Paganism. Most Pagans who practice the Craft are well versed in what they're doing, and not too mention I don't know of any who are "cackling hags." The reason for the image of the witch looking so deformed and discolored goes back to the days of the Witch trials. Women were the main targets, mainly because they were midwives who followed practices that were traditional to the birthing of the child that the Catholic Church frowned upon. Those who were unfortunate enough to be taken in for questioning were torchured. By the time the young woman would be shown publicly, her nose