Tuesday 15 November 2011

Are witches really that camera shy?

I was at Witchfest on Saturday. As usual it was a fantastic event - very well attended, with a great line-up of speakers and performers, a large marketplace of traders and plenty to see and do. Sadly, I can't show you any photos of it, because photography was banned. Only one official press photographer was allowed to take any photos.

It hasn't always been quite that rigid - in the past, as a reasonably well known pagan blogger, I've once or twice been given permission to take photos of people who were giving talks so long as I asked them first and no one else appeared in the shot. Generally, however, Witchfest is a camera-free zone under specific instructions of Children of Artemis, which organises the event.

Other pagan and witchcraft events also control photography - though not usually quite to the Witchfest extreme of banning it entirely. At the PF 40th Anniversary Conference this summer photography was allowed so long as you asked permission of anyone who was going to be in the shot.

The Charge of the Goddess Conference last year had a wonderful display of items relating to Gerald Gardner and people were allowed to photograph that as well as being allowed to take pictures of speakers who permitted it, but photography of delegates attending the event wasn't allowed.

Are witches really that camera shy?

The reason usually given for limiting or banning photography at pagan events is that some people need to keep the fact that they are witches secret for fear of persecution. In the past, certainly, people have lost their jobs simply because they were pagan. Quite understandably many witches preferred to play safe and keep their religion absolutely secret from those outside the craft. They certainly didn't want to risk their boss seeing some photo posted on the internet in which they could be recognised attending a pagan event.

But is that level of secrecy really necessary these days?

In the UK, pagan religions including druidry, Wicca and witchcraft are far more acceptable and well known than they were even four or five years ago. Although I suspect some discrimination still takes place, I haven't heard of anyone being sacked just for being a pagan for years in England. If they did, I am sure they would have a very good case to take to an employment tribunal.

It seems perfectly reasonable to have a ruling saying that you must always ask permission before photographing anyone at a pagan event. I can also understand photography being banned during rituals and ceremonies, because many witches believe that the use of electronic devices can disrupt the flow of magic. It would also seem sensible to ban flash photography during performances because it can be distracting and spoil the show.

But surely it is time to get a bit more flexible.

My feeling is that most witches these days would be quite happy for photography to be allowed at pagan events. They would like to be able to take photos of themselves and their friends enjoying a great day out. I would certainly like to be able to show you photos from events such as Witchfest on my blog.

What do you think?


Hermit Witch said...

I think you're right. I work for myself these days but when I was employed I was quite open about being a witch and no one batted an eyelid. I got nothing more than mild curiosity and a surprising number of informed and intelligent questions when they first found out and then it settled down and was accepted as normal. Sometimes I wonder if we hide for the sake of hiding.

vivienne said...

maybe the more pagan/witches hide e.g. thorough not taking photos, the more people think there is something [?nefarious] to hide. so it does seems if "things" are more visible and open the less prejudice there would be. and anyway what do people think pagans/witches would do if its known that one is a witch or a pagan?? is paganism or witchcraft still so powerful[to me a gentle power] as to cause prejudice and fear in these modern times? if it so then theses traditions must still have a relevant place in this modern world. it is also sad because the prejudice and fear about witchcraft/paganism has been foisted on people by,often, totally distorted views by various media forms---film,books, TV etc.!!

H.A. Blackthorn said...

Unfortunately, persecution is still far from over. In the US, there have been many cases in which someone who was identified as a Witch became the target of stalking and harassment from right wing Christians, and even entire churches, who declared "spiritual warefare" against them. In my own state, even the sheriff bragged that he had helped "drive out" a Neo-Wiccan family from a small town. I don't know what it's like in the UK, but in many places here it's still perfectly legal to discriminate against people for religious reasons.
Also, for many people, Witchcraft is more of a private thing. Secrecy was a big deal in the past, and I think it's something many people undervalue. The old saying of "Don't cast your pearls before swine" comes to mind. If you go showing everything you do, and all your rituals, to the public you've basically turned a sacred event into a cheap publicity stunt. Especially for Trad Crafters, Witchcraft tends to be more of a private occult path, and less of a public, ecunemical religion. That being said, I do think to ban ALL photography seems a bit much; if one wanted to be photographed, I don't see what the harm would be if you didn't take pictures of anybody else.

chilledchimp said...

I've only disclosed to certain colleagues at work in the past, although I have selected Pagan on equal ops forms where the category existed.
Three years ago I worked with a lot of evangelical Christians and line managed some of them. The work relationship would not have been helped if they had known I was a Pagan. One of them sent me inappropriate emails about people going to hell for listening to rock music because she knew I liked rock music!
When I disclosed that I was a Pagan in my last job a colleague disclosed her religion at the same time. Up until then, she hadn't felt comfortable about work knowing she was a Buddhist.
Re photos at Witchfest - I saw a few people taking photos of the bands in the evening, and no-one challenged that. I think it is probably better to err on the side of caution, as we don't know what kind of people witches work with or meet in their day-to-day lives. That said, a ban on photographing speakers seems a bit odd. Could be easier to police a blanket ban, perhaps?