School drops Halloween parties in part because some Wiccans are offended.

***Dave pointed out in the comments on another thread that Christian Fundamentalists aren’t the only ones that get their panties in a twist about kids celebrating Halloween and because I want to be fair I’m going to bitch about it for a few minutes.

A school district in Washington state has banned Halloween parties this year in part because they’ve had some complaints from Wiccans in the area.

According to a Seattle TV station, Hanson said there were three reasons that the parties will be canceled. The first reason was that Halloween parties and parades waste valuable classroom time. The second reason was that some families can’t afford costumes. The third reason is that it may offend real witches.

She said schools have had complaints from followers of the Wiccan religion who are offended at the way Halloween is celebrated. Hansen said schools are teaching students to be respectful and take account of the discomfort felt by others.

She said that witches with pointy noses are not “respective symbols of the Wiccan religion” and that their district wants to be respectful of that.

She said any students who show up in a costume might be sent home.

And here I was just recently saying nice things about the Wiccans. OK, as I said to ***Dave earlier, in this case I can kind of see how the Wiccans have a valid complaint, but usually that group tends to be a little more laid back which is why I’m surprised they’re actually complaining to the schools about it. I can also see the school district’s point about how the parties are a waste of time better spent doing schoolwork and how some families can’t afford costumes, but I still think it sucks big time.

Com’on, folks. All things considered Halloween is a pretty innocuous holiday so why all the fuss over it? Is it just that some people out there think that kids, or just people in general, shouldn’t be allowed to engage in some stupid, but harmless fun every so often? What the hell is the point of working so hard day after day at school or your job if you’re not allowed to blow off some steam with a day spent at least partially goofing off? As Brock asked in an unrelated thread: Where’s the harm in this?

35 thoughts on “School drops Halloween parties in part because some Wiccans are offended.

  1. Well, in this case I can kind of see the Wiccans’ point too.  If someone took an originally Jewish holiday, took all the religion out of it, and made it into a school holiday where one of the favorite costumes was that of grossly caricatured Orthodox Jews with hunched backs, glasses, and big noses, I would hope that someone would complain.

    Les, you’ve got to remember that just because a holiday doesn’t mean anything to you, it doesn’t mean it’s completely secular. wink

    I should think this would be a great opportunity for the schools to teach the historical origins of the holiday, maybe invite some Wiccans in to do a presentation, and educate the kids on what could be offensive caricatures and which costumes are less likely to offend.  I’m all in favor of teaching the kids MORE about the minorities around them (especially if they don’t know they’re there).

    Of course, inviting Wiccans in to a school to talk about one of their holidays would probably get a LOT of Christian panties in a wad, wouldn’t it? They’d probably picket the school (while the kids inside start learning the season’s Christmas carols). Sigh.

  2. Ok, I apologize that this grew into a really long rant:

    The Halloween witch stereotype was taken from old stereotypes of monstrous figures used to scare children and bolster support for puritanical persecution of people who behaved outside their norm, pagan (or not), folk doctor, eccentric cat lady, whatever the case may have been.
    I see this as pretty far removed from the whole Wicca movement, which I studied quite a lot in high school (just to let you know I am not completely talking out of my ass), and it’s my honest opinion that these are the few rare self-righteous wiccans looking for attention in the form of a PC contest.
    As I understand it, Wicca is a New Age revival of many old practices with a lot of new stuff thrown in.
    Witches with pointy noses have nothing to do with Wicca, and people looking to attack wiccans don’t really use that image against them.  I think they’d be loathe to invoke the cartoon-y halloween witch for fear of losing credibility.  They use more modernly powerful characters like satan and saddam hussein.
    I mean let’s be honest, those costumes are not symbols of wicca because most of the kids wearing them don’t even know wiccans exist.  Ol’ Soccermom ain’t going into Walmart with little Sally and saying, “I know, let’s get you a witch costume so we can make fun of all those poor wiccans out there.”  The package doesn’t say “Deluxe Wiccan”  It says “Deluxe Witch”  It’s cute.  Kids like it and think it’s fun.  Otherwise they wouldn’t wear it. 
    As for the holiday itself, it, too, is pretty far removed from Samhain (also discussed recently), the pagan holiday that Wiccans have breathed new life into. 
    Really, at least people have fun on a holiday where ancient pagans were intended to honor the dead.  It’s not like Thanksgiving where people celebrate the tragic raping of previous nations and their resources.  I mean, you’d think we created a holiday called “evil burny wiccan day” where children put naked barbies on sticks with moon circlets on their heads and burn them to a plastic blob.  Let’s keep it in perspective…

  3. Man, I started writing before Geekmom posted and by the time I was done, she had posted and now it looks like I am arguing with her.  I am not.  I am talking to the imaginary Wiccans from the article.
    smile
    I see your point, Geekmom, but I have a different position…all respect intended

  4. Having originally brought up the subject …

    While many Wiccans are more generally laid-back (being, almost by definition, social rebels), I’ve known a few who were a bit twitchy about some subjects.  To draw on a parallel subject:

    Q. How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A. THAT’S NOT FUNNY!

    Ahem.

    Now, all that said, and granted that the historic ties between modern Wicca and the Celtic cultures that celebrated (in their myriad ways) holidays like Samhain are open to debate, I know that I wouldn’t be comfortable with my daughter being a stereotypical witch with green skin and pointy hat.  Not, I hasten to argue, out of some bizarro fear that she might take up Satanism (I don’t worry about her taking up bestiality just because she’d dressing up as a kitty this Halloween), but because I’d be uncomfortable with her dressing up in blackface.

    Shana, your arguments aside, many Wiccans do use the “witch” word, and many people, when they hear “witch,” think of Halloween stereotypes. 

    None of this justifies cancelling Halloween festivities, IMO—just a bit of sesitivity over what activities are used.  Hell, I remember marching in a Halloween parade around the school grounds as a kid, and thought it was a blast—and, somehow, I still managed to get an education.

  5. As a Wiccan Priestess and Witch approching my Crone years, I am not now, or have I ever been offended by the stereotype “Halloween Witch”. I am, however, highly offended by the “Politically Correct” excuse to cancel the celebration.

  6. As a practicing Pagan/Wiccan for more than 20 years, I deplore the humorless idiots who caused Halloween/Samhain to be banned from schools.  One reason why I transferred my children to private school is because the public schools in my area have caved in to the right-wing evangelical Christian lobby and banned Halloween celebrations as “devil-worshipping”. [FYI, we Wiccans/Pagans do not even *believe* in the Christian devil, let alone worship this mythological bogeyman.]  I strongly believe that the so-called Wiccans in Oregon learned everything they know about the Goddess and the Craft from watching “Charmed” on TV.  Solemnity must be balanced with fun in this life, else we Wiccans will devolve into litigious, humorless, guilt-tripping religious fanatics (like those who burned my foremothers).  This Samhain, my kids will be out on the street trick-or-treating with Dad as always.  As the wind blows and the moon glows, I will have the opportunity yet again to see the joy in their faces as we re-connect with neighbors we never see the rest of the year. 
        Long Live Halloween, And Blessed Be!

    P.S. As Geekmom has written, So Mote It Be.
    I am offically presenting the origins of Halloween to the military organization I belong to for just that reason: ignorance breeds fear and hatred.

  7. Well in any collective group you will have those who embarrass the crap out of the majority. Such as this chap,  no we didn’t ask him to be high priest of anything, apart from silly bathrobes smile

    In general though we can see the humour in the portrayals at halloween. After all many of the myths about wytches came about because we are great kidders, and it’s easier to let people believe what they want to when the truth doesn’t interest them.

    I think it’s a shame that the PC crowd are even getting among wiccans, I tell you if I catch any in my coven I will turn them into toads and eat their babies!  wink

  8. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday for a number of reasons.  I got to be anything that I wanted to be for one night.  I got to hang out with my brothers because they took me out for my own safety.  I talked with the olders neighbors that I didn’t often get to see.  Charlie Brown Halloween specials and my favorite that nobody else seems to remember with Raggedy Ann and Andy.  That’s Halloween.  Kids dressing up and getting goodies.  How can that be bad?

  9. How about all the fun that ET and the boys had on Halloween? Can’t we have a hoot once in a while? LOL

  10. So now not only are the radical Christians trying to ban Halloween, but the radical Wiccans are too.

    Now I’m not a Halloween person, I’ve never gone trick-or-treating or carved pumpkins. Not only that, but I know nobody who does, Halloween in Australian culture really doesn’t amount to much more than channel ten showing some ancient Simpsons Halloween specials (we won’t get the new one till much later this year).

    However I have run into a few Wiccans (and other neopagans), and they seem to be mostly of the type described in the original post – I’m sure not all Wiccans are of this type, but I can only speak from personal experience.

    Anyway, here’s my opinion, in point form, adressed to this breed of Wiccan (and not the ‘live and let live’ variety of Wiccan who I have no problem with).

    * Halloween does not belong exclusively to Wiccans, yes it was orginally an ancient Celtic festival which was only hijacked by Christianity, but that doesn’t make it yours. You’ve hijacked it just as the Christians did. This doesn’t mean that you’re any less entitled to celebrate it in your own way and it doesn’t mean that your use of the holiday is any less valid than that of any other group, but for most people Halloween has been secularised so that it’s just an excuse to dress up and have some fun with the kids, and you have to share the day with these people.

    * What the hell is so offensive about a kid dressing up as a witch for one day a year? Do you really think that kids even think about the Wiccan religion when they dress up? No, they don’t. They’re dressing up as a witch because the witch is an instantly recognizable figure with her broom and pointy hat, and because on Halloween you dress up as witches and vampires and other monsters. The only reason anybody ever equates Wicca with witchcraft save for some fundamentalist Christians is because Wiccans (this is a generalisation of course) have made a point of identifying themselves as witches wherever they go.

  11. I remember the Raggedy Ann and Andy Halloween special….that’s kinda scary considering I’m only seventeen.

  12. Mick, you’ve pretty much took the words out of my mouth. It’s sort of the same answer I give Christians who ask why I celebrate Christmas.

    Slick, I had successfully purged my memory of that “special” until you mentioned it just now. Damn you.

  13. GeekMom said: “maybe invite some Wiccans in to do a presentation, and educate the kids on what could be offensive caricatures and which costumes are less likely to offend.”

    The problem with that is find me a costume, and I’ll find you someone who takes offense to it. A devil costume could offend a Christian, a Jesus costume could offend an athiest etc. etc.

    I have an idea: All the *adults* finding so much to be offended by could just . . . grow up!  wink

  14. Ah, but it’s all about education, you see.  If you’re going to offend, you should at least know that you’re doing it (and choose correspondingly).  For example, lots of people don’t know that the expression “to gyp someone” is a slur on Gypsies.  Now, once you know that, you can choose to use it or choose to avoid it, depending on how much or how little you care. 

    But if you’re going into a situation KNOWING that you’re going to be offending someone, and telling the offended that they need to “grow up” so that you can remain free to do and say whatever you want, then I’m certainly not going to sit next to you at a party.

    There’s a difference between telling someone that you don’t care whether they’re offended, and telling them that they SHOULDN’T be offended.  I don’t think there’s a lot of ground to stand on for the latter (unless you happen to be a disciple of Werner Erhard).

  15. Ah, but it is not about me being free to do and say whatever I want. It is about children being free to be children.

    Holidays spell f-u-n for kids no matter what symbolism we want to attach to them, and they will be forced out of that childish abandon soon enough. Truth be said, this kind of people are sucking the f-u-n right out of everything be they labeled Wiccan or Christian or Atheist.

    I am not insensitive to religious intolerance or bigotry. I agree there needs to be education, but if you want a group of Wiccans to come in, prepare for everyone because we can’t have discrimination! However, education on the values of ANY religious faith does not belong in public schools. Leaders of ALL religious groups need to educate OUTSIDE the schools. Wiccans have done a fantastic job of doing just that over the years, but this is a setback. I’ve been involved in the battle for fairness in the Pagan community for years, and I dropped my head when I read about this. Do you really think this is helping them? Now they look exactly like the kind of people that have been pushing them around and out for decades! And the children, . . this will not make them realize Wiccans are generally good people. No, this group just put a Halloween spin on the Grinch.

    If people were more inclined to accept reality, our children would realize people were once murdered and worse for being accused of witchcraft, that the witches in fairy tales and stories and Halloween costumes do not represent any real people, that what any holiday means to them it might not mean the same to someone else, respect it, and that the faster they run from door to door, the more candy they are likely to get.

    The way I see it, teach and live in reality, and our children will follow.

    As for my comment, “Grow up,” I stand by it. There is way too much fighting going on, and I would say to that particular group to get their panties untwisted and think. This is not the route to go.

  16. Justice, thanks for making me think out my opinion further.  I think it boils down to my feeling that in a way, the fundie Christians are right:  they are acknowledging (albeit in a very ugly, misinformed way) the real pagan origins of Halloween.  I think religious holidays should have the religion part emphasized and NOT be secularized, as this leads to watered-down religion slipping into the schools and other places where it doesn’t belong.

    I agree that Wiccan values (or other religious beliefs) should not be taught in the schools, but I’d get behind a historical survey of religions without any of them being promoted as Truth.  It would be very hard to understand a lot of history, war and persecution (not to mention the founding of this country) without acknowledging the role religion has played in it all.

    I still think, though, that if the celebration of Good Friday (for example) were institutionalized in the schools where kids were encouraged to draw pictures and wear costumes satirizing the crucifixion of Jesus, for example, the community would be up in arms, and rightfully so, even if the holiday and images had been “secularized” to the point where nobody really knew what the images stood for.  (Cross-shaped corn dogs and flowing ketchup on a stick?  Slavering, evil pedophile priest costumes?)

    As an atheist who will celebrate anything that involves food, I nevertheless can’t manage to secularize the holidays enough for my taste.  As you say, we need to teach and live in reality, and that to me means being clear and honest about what these symbols mean, and that they can be either solemn or offensive to certain groups of people.

    I think the Wiccan complaints about Halloween celebrations were probably counterproductive, but on the other hand, I think they should have the right to be offended and speak up about it, seeing as how everyone else already does. grin

  17. Hey, one up for kids everywhere!

    All kidding aside, GeekMom, that’s really cool. You spark my mental processes a lot, so there’s definitely something intriguing happening here for me. I’m both fascinated and horrified by the division happening around me, in this country, especially because it seems to me so. . . needless.

    I think religious holidays should have the religion part emphasized and NOT be secularized, as this leads to watered-down religion slipping into the schools and other places where it doesn’t belong.

    My question is why? Why not experience things the way they are? Come Halloween, you and I are both raiding our kids’ loot. You might stop there. I might go into my backyard and whisper a blessing on all the farmers feeding my family year-long, and that blessing (I might feel) could be by way of prayer to a god or by way of herbs and candles and a belief that science is quite magic”k”al. Someone else might do what they do to honor the dead right next door to a person who is celebrating candy and a reason!

    My point is there is an increasing number of people celebrating holidays for different reasons and no reason at all. Doesn’t that mean we have reached a reality where holidays mark more of a time to celebrate rather than a reason?

    As you say, we need to teach and live in reality, and that to me means being clear and honest about what these symbols mean, and that they can be either solemn or offensive to certain groups of people.

    You are right there. But I think we also need to be honest about the meaning those symbols have lost. I say it a lot: “It’s just change, man.” And it is with that attitude I wonder, is watered-down religion such a bad thing here? It seems to me a much better alternative to either the flood or the drought. While shopping for the Halloween costume for the school bash, it is the perfect time to teach the little people something about the history of Halloween, even if our spin on it is completely delusional. I mean, think about it. How many of us grew up celebrating Halloween in school and didn’t know the first thing about its origin, but are now well educated on it, have firmly established beliefs of our own, and are still eating the hell out of some candy every October 31?

    . . .they should have the right to be offended and speak up about it, seeing as how everyone else already

    And that’s a beautiful thing. But on this particular thing I say to these people, leave the kids out of it—or at least, leave my kids out of it.

    Christmas is next, and that will really, really suck for the little people.

    Having said all that, I am so getting a cavity this year! cool grin

  18. I just blogged about this recently as well. As a witch, I can tell you it’s complete bullshit. Either some local pseudocoven is on a power trip or there are evangelical taxpayers who don’t want Halloween in the school.

    A witch not wanting anyone to celebrate Halloween is akin to a Christian not wanting anyone to celebrate Christmas. Gak.

  19. This thing was stupid there were so many protests in Puyallup (i live about 15 min. away from there) about letting the kids have the parties. It turned out that some wiccans DID get offended but not because of the children celebrating halloween but because the school officials used that as an excuse to stop it and a lot of the wiccans were even in the protest and signed a petition asking the school to take that reasoning out so they eventually did and just was left with the first two reasonings of taking away class time and not being able to afford costumes.

  20. Ok, guys! Good discussion of a ridiculous trend.

    However,  Puyallup (and Seattle) aren’t in Oregon!!! Sheesh!
    red face

  21. well u should investigate more before ppl talk bad about what they think they know .
    halloween is a wiccan/ pagan holiday just like christmas it has orginated from well i seehope this will cahge ppls attitude towards the matter LOL  smile  smile

  22. By witch I mean ‘someone capable of wielding a power beyond normal’ etc. The Wiki speaks of rituals to cast spells.

    Wicca has exactly the same status as any other religeon. AT BEST pseudo-science and mythology.  It doesn’t matter if you pray, cast spells, speak in tongues or balance on poles.  As a Skeptic I treat all religeons the same. Going One God Further is not just applied to Christianity- we must apply it to all religeons.  Just because a belief system is seen as ‘freindly’, ‘nice’, ‘Left wing’ or whatever does not mean a Skeptic should be any less rigorous.

  23. mad what mad how do u know whether or not there are no such things as witches u dont need to have magical powers to be a witch,to be a witch u only?mostly need to be expeienced in the craft and the way of the wiccan to keep the earth balaced

  24. Witchcraft (from Old English wiccecræft “sorcery , necromancy”), in various historical, anthropological, religious and mythological contexts, is the use of certain kinds of supernatural or magical powers. (Wiki)

    A woman claiming or popularly believed to possess magical powers and practice sorcery. (Answers.com)

    Traditionally a witch is believed to have some form of supernatural powers.  Though Witch is also gaining a place to mean Wiccan, this appears to me to be a cunning piece of revisionism- wannabes who know deep down they can’t cast any form of spell, so have redefined the word.  It seems to me rather like proving their is a messiah or a god by redefining the meaning to fit with Christian (“Because Jesus is alive with in me”).

    Wicca appears to have all the provenance of any other religeon, and is no more or less likely true than Christianity- though I am more receptive to the possibility of a wandering Rabbi approximately 30 CE being cruxified for his preachings.  It would not be without precedent or example.  The fact his is a successful cult means Christianity is more based on reality than belief in unmeasurable power flows.

    Wicca is either wrong or right.
    If it is wrong then it is just so much bunkum like all other religeons.
    If it is right you too can

    win One Million Dollars.

  25. there are no such things as witches

    There is always Which? magazine…

    mostly need to be expeienced in the craft and the way of the wiccan to keep the earth balaced

    Because earth’s environment is in so much better shape now that humans inhabit it…

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