A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about various aspects of reinvention and reconstruction prompted by some posts I’d seen around depictions of witches and ‘reclaiming’ the moniker with a more contemporary portrayal. In brief, my feeling is that ascribing something a new or revised definition doesn’t – and shouldn’t – invalidate other portrayals and interpretations. Attempting to obliterate unpalatable historical associations rarely ends well.
I made a brief observation about the additional inherent challenge of trying to depict a ‘modern’ witch in the first place – I feel this would do little other than create ‘new’ inaccurate stereotypes, and it got me thinking a lot about not only how the world portrays modern pagans, but how we ourselves portray modern paganism, specifically in terms of imagery.
It troubles me. I would say about 95% of the images I see (magazines, adverts, posters) are scantily clad, young white waifs adorned with some token rustic/historic/romantic/mystic accessories (the rest tend to be stereotyped hags). This is especially true of memes – pair an eye-catching image with a brief insightful, inspirational or amusing caption, send it out into the world and watch it go round three times before the truth has got its boots on. And the pretty young things made up as fairies or shamans or viking shieldmaidens are certainly eye-catching. But where is the representation of diversity, of inclusion, of individualism, of reality that we purport to advocate for and champion?
And of course it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – the more that these images are seen to be popular the more these are the sorts of images that will continue to be produced. But we have no stake, no interest, no obligation and certainly no benefit in continuing that cycle, and every opportunity to step out of it.
So I would urge you – next time that pretty, witty, wise image box pops up in front of you, no matter how uplifting and meaningful the message*, look closely at what you’re being encouraged to propagate and think twice before sharing as to whether it really reflects the values and representation you believe in. Seek alternatives, or compose your own (it can actually be pretty easy when you get the hang of it!). We need to start being the changes we want to see.
*And if the text is an actual quote, try to make sure there’s the (correct) credit in place!