That Voodoo that you don't do

voodoosanteriaobeahIndispensable Pagan blogger Jason Pitzl-Waters brought an interesting story to our attention. It begins with a fire at a San Diego store. Here's how the San Diego Union-Tribune described the situation:

An unattended candle in a voodoo supply shop started a fire early yesterday that damaged three buildings, causing $340,000 in damage and displacing two adults from a home nearby, officials said.

The Associated Press, local broadcast outlets, and papers nationwide also described the fire at a voodoo supply store.

The only problem?

It wasn't a Voodoo store. It was a Santeria botanica.

David Silva, of San Diego City Beat, reported the news that the national outlets missed:

Centro Botanico La Santisima wasn't a Voodoo supply store. It catered to practitioners of Santeria, an obscure religion that, like Voodoo, has distant West African roots but has as much to do with Voodoo as Catholicism has to Judaism.

"Santeria is very different from Voodoo. We have some of the same saints, but other than that, we're something else entirely," says Carlos Perez, a santero -- or priest -- at the Santeria shop Botanica Santa Barbara on El Cajon Boulevard. "Santeria is a religion. Voodoo is more like witchcraft."

Practitioners of the various forms of Voodoo would likely take exception to that characterization. For them, Voodoo is as much a religion as Santeria. But Perez' point is clear: Santeria is not Voodoo.

Silva interviews a local pagan who ran the store Superstitious. The man was described in a Union-Tribune article as Wiccan when he's actually an elder priest of Stregheria.

Perhaps lost in all the confusion, unfortunately, is that the loss of Centro Botanico La Santisima was disastrous for those who depended on it.

"It's terribly sad that the store burned down," says Misty Johnson, a wedding consultant and head costumer at Dragonmarsh, a pagan supply shop in Riverside. "That was someone's livelihood, and it's going to make it harder for people to get the supplies they need."

In the years I've been paying attention, it has struck me that Santeria, Voudoun, Paganism and many other religions and philosophies that are not one of the big three monotheistic religions are not treated with respect. This story clearly got national attention because editors loved the shock value of a Voodoo store burning down. It's not that difficult to get basic facts right and reporters shouldn't be afraid to ask a few questions to get the story down.

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