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Elysia Gallo



Witches on the Air
By Elysia Gallo

If you're anything like me, you take notice when anything even slightly witchy turns up on TV. And if that's a Pagan family on Wife Swap or Tyra Banks' all-out assault on our witchy sisters, it really gets your attention!

Now if you happen to live in a box that's not hooked up to the Internet, chances are you have missed the flurry of blogs and web commentary galore about the "Lives of Witches" episode of The Tyra Banks Show that aired on January 29 (check out some of the blogs in the links section to get caught up!).

However, if you're like the rest of us, you've been reading them all and rolling your eyes. How dare Tyra say she needed to burn sage (our thing) because she got the "heebie jeebies" from her own guests? How dare she insinuate that it was offensive to her viewers to refer to Wicca as a religion? And what roles do Satanists and born-again Christians have to play on a program about Witchcraft? In the end, I guess it's just sad that anyone felt that she would even attempt to be unbiased; she showed clearly enough that she was petrified of offending her Christian audience.

But just how right-wing Christian is her audience? I did a very, very informal analysis of the viewer comments that appeared on the network's web site by the next day. At that point, I counted roughly 150 peeved Pagan voices, some demanding an apology; about 50 comments that didn't admit being Pagan or not but said either that they enjoyed the show or that they thought Tyra was being too biased; and less than 50 that said they were irate with Tyra for being so irresponsible as to brainwash all these innocent, susceptible teens who watch her program because all witchcraft is of the devil. That's about two hundred against fifty. So all in all, Tyra did a much better job at garnering Pagan wrath than the Christian variety.

But let's back up just a bit. Tyra may or may not be deserving of this outcry (did she ever claim to be an unbiased journalist, or is she a daytime talk show hostess?) but what about Fiona Horne? Pagan venues have been saying some rather unfriendly things about her, mainly about being too light, fluffy, and who knows what else. Does she deserve this? She is simply putting her best face forward as a non-threatening, clear-spoken, mediagenic representative of Witchcraft. Pagans are more tolerant of people from other religions than from their own, even though we know and acknowledge at every turn that Paganism - and witchcraft - is a highly personal belief system that differs for everyone. Who is anyone to say that Fiona is "too light" in her beliefs or practices, or in her public image for that matter?

I'll tell you what (here comes my two cents). There are always going to be newcomers to Wicca, who will seek out those 101 books so many of us are bored with; who are curious about a new, empowering belief system that works for their lives; and if they find even a grain of interest in what gorgeous blonde Fiona had to say, then Fiona did deserve to be on that show. And you know what? There were tons of viewer comments asking who she was, what the book she mentioned was, how they can do the spell she talked about. And if she can get these curious seekers into the metaphysical section of the bookstore or library, or even to do a little exploring on the Internet, it is widening their horizons and opening their minds. As Fiona wrote in her blog, "Despite the ending being so loaded with negativity against Modern Witchcraft (as the show wrapped on the Christian girl's negative opinion and Tyra echoed that) something wonderful happened. I have had so many Christians emailing me and saying they didn't support Tyra's opinion and saying positive things about Modern Witchcraft." (Check out her blog for the full account of what happened behind the scenes that day with Tyra, and afterwards!)

Later this spring we will be publishing a book by Fiona, L.A. Witch, that details in a fun and rather bubbly way how to get together with like-minded people to form a coven. (Having fun is a good way to get people involved in their spiritual life - just look at Christian youth groups for a case in point.) In it, Fiona never says that her way is the only way. She encourages readers to go further, to form reading circles, attend workshops, and "experiment, explore and enjoy!" She outlines a whole slew of study topics that wouldn't fit into just one book, and recommends her favorite books, including ones by Phyllis Curott, Amber K, the Farrars and Gavin Bone, etc.

So what's my point? Simply that we have enough Tyras to bash Pagans; why should Pagans bash each other? In today's American media, yes, sometimes we need a beautiful, articulate celebrity just to open the door for people to actually consider us as something other than evil, dark, scary and Satanic. I say go for it, Fiona!

This article is courtesy of Llewellyn's Witchy Update newsletter.