Think about pagans, and what do you imagine? Cauldrons and broomsticks? Angsty goth teenagers? Women dancing naked around a bonfire?
Witchcraft in pop culture has created many ridiculous tropes and ideas about pagans that are completely false or exaggerated. "Pagan" is defined as any religion that is not one of the major world religions, which includes thousands of spiritual practices.
Paganism in movies and TV shows is often portrayed as extreme, violent, or evil. But many of the ideas most of us have about pagans are rooted in pop culture, not reality. Check out these tropes movies would have us believe about paganism.
- Photo: Hercules / Buena Vista Pictures Distribution1
Gods And Goddesses Of Death And The Underworld Are Always The Villain
The Trope: Every time a god of the underworld makes an appearance in any movie, they're shown with razor-sharp teeth, an evil cackle, and are just all-around bad.
Why Is It Inaccurate? In many ancient pagan religions, the gods of death and the underworld are worshipped the same as all the other gods. Death was accepted as something everyone will experience, and there wasn't fear surrounding it like we have today. Ancient pagans believed so strongly in the afterlife that death wasn't a dark and terrifying concept.
The Egyptian god Osiris was not just the god of death; he was also the god of fertility and rebirth. His green skin symbolized life and vegetation. The Morrígan is an ancient Irish goddess of death and the battlefield. She could transform into a raven and was referred to as the Great Goddess. She was worshipped and prayed to for protection in battle and was also connected to land prosperity.
There were layers of complexity and depth to the ancient gods and goddesses of death and the underworld, and they were not feared.
Notable Offenders: Hercules, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom22854Convincing trope?
- Photo: Pet Semetary / Paramount Pictures2
Burial Grounds Are Strictly Off Limits
The Trope: Burial grounds are bad places. If you mess with them, you'll unleash demonic hell.
Why Is It Inaccurate? Because of some popular cinematic storylines, Americans became obsessed with the idea that their house could be built on Native American burial grounds without them knowing. Like in Poltergeist, they were afraid this would lead to evil spirits tormenting them and their family.
The haunting and the murders depicted in the Amityville Horror were said to be true and caused by the fact that the house was built on a Shinnecock Indian burial ground. Years later, this was revealed to be an "elaborate hoax," and the clairvoyants and writers who were behind the lie were hit with a lawsuit.
This trope is rooted in a number of problematic beliefs about Indigenous culture and spirituality. It reinforces the fallacy that native people are vengeful and violent. It also engenders the idea that any religion other than Western Christianity is evil, magical, and dark.
Notable Offenders: Pet Semetary, Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror18142Convincing trope?
- Photo: The Witches / Warner Bros.3
Pagan Gods And Pagan Beliefs Are A Source Of Evil
The Trope: Pagans are evil and will use their powers to hurt you.
Why Is It Inaccurate? "Pagan" is an umbrella term to describe any religion that strays from the main world religions. It was a term originally coined as a slur towards people who hadn't yet converted to Christianity in the fourth century.
In reality, there are hundreds of pagan religions with many different practices and ideas. Being evil isn't the main idea for any of them.
Notable Offenders: The Witch, The Witches21067Convincing trope?
- Photo: Evil Dead / Sony Pictures Releasing4
Pagans Worship The Devil
The Trope: Pagans worship the devil, sometimes signing his book and often dancing around naked with him, making them susceptible to possession.
Why Is It Inaccurate? This one is pretty simple, yet thousands of people have been burned at the stake for this inaccurate belief. Pagan religions have no connection to Catholicism or Christianity at all, therefore they do not follow the belief that the devil exists. How could one worship something they don't believe in? Satanism is a religious practice, but it's a very different thing than most pagan and occult practices.
Before modern science and medicine, many would attribute epilepsy, schizophrenia, and other illnesses to demonic possession. This made it easier for people to jump to conclusions about how the person got their affliction.
The idea that pagans worshipped the devil also cost over 80,000 lives during the witch hysteria in Europe. It's unlikely that any of these people were worshipping the devil or even practicing witchcraft. Claiming devil worship was an easy catchall for anyone who wasn't complying with the rules of society, especially disobedient women.
Notable Offenders: The Evil Dead, The Witch, The Exorcist16548Convincing trope?