This happened a few years back, while John and Mary Creasey's son Richard was staying with me in Phoenix. We were trying to get him a job, and he'd applied to the Post Office. The application involved taking a test at one of the PO's administrative offices, so I drove Richard there, left him off for what promised to be at least two hours, and went looking for someplace to have lunch. As I started to roll out, I noticed that one of the rear tires was flat. Not terribly confident about changing tires by myself, I went looking for the nearest garage instead. I found one within a block, up at the corner, and pulled in. I signed in at the office, where a harried mechanic sadly told me that there were four cars in line ahead of me, so I'd have to wait. Ah well, at that rate, I'd still make it back to the office in time to pick up Richard, so I sat down on a bench to wait.
The nondescript man in the nondescript suit, on the bench beside me, noticed my pentacle pendant and grew increasingly nervous. Finally he burst out: "Ma'am, do you realize you're wearing a Satanic symbol?" Well, I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume he was innocently misinformed. "Oh no," I said, smiling. "That's a Wiccan symbol; it's an upright five-pointed star, representing a human figure -- head, arms, legs and body -- inside and touching a circle, which represents wholeness, or the world, specifically the natural world. The two together represent the unity of man and Nature, which is a big point of the Wiccan theology. The Satanic symbol is a five-pointed star with the point down, representing a goat's head. There's a big difference."
"Difference?" he asked cautiously. "But aren't 'Wiccans' really witches, who worship Satan?"
"Certainly not," I snorted. "Wiccans are commonly called witches, but they're purely Pagans, who worship Nature and the spirits of Nature. Satanism is the worship of the Christian devil -- more specifically, the Catholic devil. I mean, what would a 'Black Mass' mean to a Protestant? Pagans, of all kinds, aren't Christians at all. They don't worship the Christian god, so why on Earth should they worship the Christian devil, let alone the Catholic devil?"
He started to speak, then caught himself -- and I could see him thinking: "For revenge." He didn't say it because he guessed that then he'd have to admit that Wiccans, witches, and Pagans in general had some good cause to want revenge for. Instead, he tried a different tack. "Don't, uh, Pagans consider their religion superior?"
"Well, superior for themselves, anyway." I shrugged. "Consider religion in general as a carved jewel with lots of different facets. Each facet reflects light a little differently, but they're all part of the same gem -- the same desire and spiritual impulse."
"But doesn't one of those...facets reflect light best?"
"Should one facet of a diamond reflect light, and all the rest be dark? Hardly -- especially when you consider that they all affect each other. Paganism affected Judaism and Hinduism, Judaism directly influenced Christianity, Christianity and Judaism influenced Islam, Islam and Hinduism influenced Buddhism, and so on. No man is an island, and no religion either."
He thought that over for a long moment, then tried something else. "But do you, uh, Pagans believe that a spirit of evil exists?"
I shrugged again. "Oh, it probably does by now -- if only because so many people have believed in it, so hard, for so long. Faith itself has power, you know. That's another reason why we Pagans don't give any attention to any spirit of evil; we don't feed it any belief at all." I couldn't help adding, "Faith is the real Food of the Gods."
Again he started to speak, and again he stopped himself. I saw his eyes widening as he took in the implications of that. If human faith can feed a god, any god, and lack of faith can starve and weaken one...
Right then the mechanic came up and told my unlikely companion that his car was ready. He got up, looking downright grateful for the interruption, and hurried off. A moment later another mechanic came up and told me he had a few minutes to help change my tire. Between the two of us, we got the tires swapped off in ten minutes. Buying another tire to put on the old one's rim took another twenty minutes. After that I managed to get a quick lunch at MacDonald's, and got back to the administrative office in time to pick up Richard after the test.
I never saw the curious Christian again, but I sometimes wonder what effect my answers had on him.
And no, Richard didn't get the job.
--Leslie <;)))>< )O(