Willow Silverwitch over at A College Witch's Experiences posted a link to the story that has been circulating around the witchy community over the past few days (no, not the one about That O'Donnell Woman) in which a school district in Washington state canceled annual Halloween celebrations in order to be more "respectful" to members of the Wiccan/Pagan community. The supposed logic was that the "traditional" Halloween witch (warts, cauldron, cackle, etc.) was disrespectful to those of us who rally around a witchy flag and, thus, the celebrations shouldn't go forth.
I say "supposed" because many folks have opined that this is just a veiled attempt by Christian parents to purge the schools of all things witchy as Paganism becomes more widely-known and accepted. This seems plausible to me. It also seems plausible that this might be a backlash against the protests of Christmas parties and Easter parades made by those living outside the Christian umbrella.
In any case, some witchy folk seem to be very upset about this whole thing, and I have to say...it surprises me a little bit. It seems to me that if Wicca and Paganism in general are mainstream enough to be purged from the schools, we ought to be happy. It means we've risen to the status of a "top tier" religion in the eyes of the district. Sigh.
Here's the thing: if you are a witch and you are arguing that Halloween should be allowed to be celebrated in schools because it's a sacred holiday, in my opinion (I'm sorry...I know this will upset folks), you are missing the point. Public schools should NOT be the place where children learn about the religious traditions of various faiths.
Now, before you flame me and call me ugly names and question my witchitude, I KNOW. Public schools in America--and particularly in my particularly sweaty home Under the Buckle--have long been places where children were made to pray to a Christian god, pledge allegiance to a Christian nation, and been made to listen to stories about empty Easter eggs over the intercom. (My head exploded more than one time when I was a public school teacher. Remind me to tell you about the football game I went to once in which the flag corps of the visiting team's band came marching across the field carrying giant, purple-draped crosses. I almost fell out on the sidelines gasping "separation of church and state" while my fellow teachers murmured about how beautiful the entire sequin-bedazzled spectacle was.) BUT that doesn't make it right and federal case after federal case has come down the pipe which uphold the idea that public schools CAN'T subject children to religious indoctrination.
My point is this: we can't say that we want Halloween to be celebrated at schools because it's sacred to us. I mean, we CAN, of course, but that doesn't make it Constitutionally correct. If you want your children to celebrate Halloween as a religious holiday, that is your right as an American and more power to you. Hold your kids out from school and use a religious holiday excuse and if your school wants to start something with you, I will be there with bells on and my copy of the Bill of Rights pasted to my forehead (with eyeholes cut out, of course.) However, if you want to complain about how the school won't let you celebrate a religious holiday at school, I'm sorry, I'm out. I won't get all rowdy with the Christians about this, either. Or the Muslims or Jews or Hindus or even the Worshippers of the File Cabinet. Because I don't believe that any religious celebrations should occur at public schools.
Now...that doesn't mean that I can't get behind the idea of a secular holiday celebration. Bring on the witches and cauldrons and jack-o-lanterns and whathaveyou. Because even if those things have a religious BASIS, they do not, in our modern times, represent religious PRACTICE. They are cultural levelers, in my mind. A kid is just a kid when she puts on a Pink Power Ranger costume. Skin color, religion, even gender don't matter on Halloween. We're all just crazy people eating candy and dressing up.
The same thing goes, for me, with Christmas celebrations. (And here's where I become even MORE separated from many in the witchy community.) Santa Claus and Christmas stars might have religious bases, but they are not, in current practice, religious. Again, they are cultural levelers. Any child can believe in the magic of Santa, no matter what his or her background. Yet some witches and Pagans get NUTS over others in our belief circle who celebrate the Jolly Old Elf.
My question is...can we have it two ways? If we want as a belief circle for our "out of the box" religion to be acknowledged, doesn't that mean that it has to be separate from the public domain? If we want people to see Halloween as a religious holiday, doesn't that mean that we have to stop embracing the secular aspect of it?
I really don't know the answer to these questions. All I know is that wanting to have our candy corn and eat it too comes a little too close to the righteous indignation of Christians who get all peeved at the commercialism of Christmas while railing against the phrase "Happy Holidays."
So, to sum up, I really feel, ehh, in short, to recap it slightly in a clearer version, in the words of David Cassidy: religion is hard.