by Holly Fenner
The fixation with witches has sparked the silver screen for decades. According to Wiccans, Hollywood has yet to script an accurate witch image.
Forget about broomsticks and boiling cauldrons; Hollywood has overdone it again. From "Bewitched" and "Charmed," to "The Craft" and "The Blair Witch Projects," seldom do the cameras capture the taste of a true witch.
"I've yet to see a witch wave a wand and turn someone into a frog, other than in the Sci-Fi channel's advertisements," Dennis Mahlmeister, a practicing Wiccan, laughed.
According to Mahlmeister, who has been practicing Paganism since 1983 and headed the largest online pagan community on New Age forum for 10 years, the media misconception of witches has shifted. Mahlmeister said that witches used to be portrayed as inhuman and amoral tools of the devil. "Now, we've become sort of an "it" fad to be trotted out at Halloween or for a supernatural movie opening," he said.
"Yes, once again it's 'Name the Witchcraft Stereotype' with your host, Hollywood," Chad Anctil, the Membership Secretary and Web Master for the Witches' League for Public Awareness, wrote in his review of "Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows." The witch craze has Hollywood spellbound, but a lack of research and crucial details gone wrong have sparked controversy among witches. Anctil has written multiple reviews of movies and TV shows whether the portrayal of witches was good or bad. Read Anctil's reviews here.
Anctil has thanked TV shows like "JAG" for cutting the hocus-pocus and showing real facts about witches and making a strong effort to distance Wicca from Satanism or any type of sacrificial religion. While shows like "Judging Amy" and the "Blair Witch 2" were criticized for their inaccurate images of witches as freaks with wild hair and sunken eyes and drunken potheads. Though a fan of the TV show "Charmed," Anctil has been disappointed by such things as the show's faux-pas connecting the upright pentacle (the witch's symbol) with evildoers. "It's details like this that create confusion over what the modern Wiccan movement is all about," Anctil said.
By definition, pagan means any religion that isn't Jewish, Islam or Christian. Paganism does not have a set "holy book" or "doctrine." Wicca is a denomination or subset of Paganism. All Wiccans are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Wiccans. The term 'Wicca' was 'crafted' in the mid-1900s by Gerald Gardner, who combined several religious philosophies that match his own beliefs.
So where do witches enter the picture? All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are wiccans. "Wiccans are benign, binding ourselves with vows of not bringing harm to others," Mahlmeister said. On the other hand, witches practice magic, which is a tool that can be used for good or bad depending on the intent of the witch. "Magical things do happen, and spells work, but it's not with the Hollywood flash and thunder," Mahlmeister said.
The witch hoopla continues in Tinseltown with upcoming movies like 'Harry Potter' and 'The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe' heading for the box office. "We don't have the power or resources to fight the stereotypes in the media," Mahlmeister said. "So we pick our battles and show others by our actions who and what we are." Guess we'll find out if actions speak louder than Hollywood hype.