The following is a special election eve guest blog from friend and former co-worker, Peter Engel.
Peter once dated a witch and, if given the chance to debate Delaware Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell, tells me he'd confront her with the following riff on Lloyd Bentsen's classic remark to Dan Quayle" "Ms. O'Donnell, I knew a witch. And Ms. O'Donnell, you're no witch."
Enjoy the blog and be sure to vote tomorrow for your favorite witch, warlock or druid…
When I worked for him back in the mid-Nineties, RepMan took much amusement from the fact that I dated a woman who called herself a practicing witch. While it’s been over 15 years since that ended, he still enjoys dredging that up, even though she’s not Christine O'Donnell.
But O'Donnell ended up playing a role in an exchange between Steve and me in his blog post about poor service in a Boston Panera Bread. O’Donnell’s increasingly outrageous statements about “dabbling in witchcraft” or her awful "I'm Not a Witch" TV ad brought up a question like this: why haven’t practicing Wiccans jumped into the fray to denounce O’Donnell for creating misperceptions about them? Why haven’t their spokespeople taken to 24/7 cable media outlets, the blogosphere, or NPR/PBS-type outlets to chastise O’Donnell and opportunistic media outlets for belittling their deeply-held beliefs?
It turns out that they really don’t feel a need to. A conversation with Rachael Watcher, national public information officer for the California-based Covenant of the Goddesses, revealed that being a part of the noise doesn’t fit organization’s communications strategy. Watcher doesn’t see how bloviating on Fox News Channel is consistent with what Wiccans are about.
“There are legitimate questions raised about the Wiccan religion and witches,” Watcher said, ”shouting for ourselves doesn’t do us any good.”
There was already a lot of information available about the Wiccan religion and witches. But the high school experience O’Donnell has described – the one that “didn’t involve blood and stuff” – has Watcher perplexed.
“Whatever it is she ran across, it’s not our religion,” said Watcher. “What’s come out has been so ridiculous. Right now, it’s just the media looking for sensationalism.”
So what IS the Wiccan religion about? Wicca, or Witchcraft is the most popular expression of the religious movement known as Neo-Paganism. Based on nature and respecting the Earth’s elements, Wiccan revives ancient Pagan practices and beliefs of pre-Christian Europe and adapts them to contemporary life. Wiccans believe in God and prayer, honor all religions and want the world to be a better place. There are over 800,000 Wiccans in the U.S, with several local and regional organizations to be found through the Internet or word of mouth.
The Covenant of the Goddess, non-hierarchical and governed by consensus, has members in North America, Europe and Australia. According to the Institute for the Study of American Religion, it’s the fastest growing religion in Canada, and it’s coming up fast in the U.S.
Here’s what it’s NOT about: Satanism, flying broomsticks, pointy hats, boiling pots, Samantha and her mother Endora, stealing, killing (not even flies), lying, men who call themselves warlocks, or working 'black magic.'
While Wiccans feel anything but victimized by O’Donnell’s statements or the current hubbub, they do see a need to do more education and remove common misperceptions. After the election, Watcher hopes that Covenant of the Goddesses and the worldwide Wiccan community will have a less frenzied environment to build awareness about their practices and beliefs, and demonstrate how mainstream they really are.
The Wiccan religion builds its reputation through spiritual experience; they aren’t particularly eager for publicity in the traditional sense. While that probably won’t mean business for agencies, their communication strategy of first tuning out the noise is refreshing.
I’m Repman and I approved this guest blog.
Peter Engel has over 20 years experience in marketing communications working with clients in automotive, business-to-business, consumer marketing, education, financial services, healthcare, media, real estate and technology. Peter lives happily in New York City and no longer has nightmares about his experiences working with Steve and Ed at Earle Palmer Brown.