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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 20,003,089  

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Question of the Week: 4 - 8/27/2000

The Broomcloset-In or Out?... What's YOUR View?

Some Pagans feel that it might be better if everyone Pagan was just open about their beliefs. Some, on the other hand, are sick of 'in your face' Pagans or groups. Others feel that in some areas of the country being "in" is almost a necessity. But we've also heard some background grumbling that expresses rather resentfully that those who remain hidden are simply reaping the benefits earned-while experiencing none of the backlash-by those who are openly fighting for pagan rights.

The apprehension of what the impact of openly declaring a pagan belief might be on a family or work relationship is as much a concern in the decision-making process as what the reaction of a neighborhood or community might be in other cases. So, are YOU in or out? How far out is 'too far' out? What are the pitfalls or the rewards? Why should everyone be out, in, or just make his or her own decision about the broomcloset occupancy rate.

 Reponses:   There are 181 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Believe That It Is Right To Be Proud Of Your Religion... Aug 30th. at 4:21:54 pm EDT

Mita Sanura (Auckland, New Zealand) Age: 12

I believe that it is right to be proud of your religion, but religion can also be a very personal thing. If it is possible (without causing yourself alot of trouble)I think you should come out of the broomcloset, and give who ever you tell some background info on WitchCraft/Wicca/whateverelse. But this dosn't mean you should broadcast your religion. I have told my parents, one friend, one ex-friend (ex for other reasons) and that's all. I basically stay quiet about my religion and don't really talk about it, but if anyone asks about it I'll tell them.

Hello All, Basically, It Does Come Down To Personal Choice And Comfort... Aug 30th. at 5:23:31 pm EDT

velkyn (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania US) Age: 34 - Email

hello all, Basically, it does come down to personal choice and comfort zones. I'm out but not usually in your face about it, except in the letters to the editor part of the newspaper. There, I take great delight in letting the public know that there are other points of view and Christianity does not have a lock on "good". I do think that being out is better than being in. It is appealing to be secretive but that breeds misunderstanding. "Building the mystery" can backfire with a vengeance.

I wear a 7 pointed star from personal preference so I don't get as many odd looks. Star of David? .

The Decision To Be Openly Pagan Or To Remain Secretive About Your... Aug 30th. at 6:33:40 pm EDT

Deborah (WindDragon of Danu) MacFarlane (Washington, D.C.) Age: 47 - Email

The decision to be openly Pagan or to remain secretive about your spiritual path is a highly personal one. It depends on your ability to withstand criticism and even ostracism, as well as your ability to live with yourself. And that can still depend on where you live:

The constrast I have experienced between living in a small city on the Ohio River in West Virginia , and living in the BIG city of Washington D.C. has been profound. I have felt free to not only to practice my religion but also to proclaim it to the family and to the work place, because of the open minded, tolerant, and ( yes, even ) the kind people of Washington D.C. Whereas, in a so called "safe place" of rural America where I had moved to many years ago to raise my (then) small children, I found that I dared not to even wear a hidden pentacle for fear of discovery . The intolerance of anything or anyone who was different from the WASP viewpoint was so harsh that when I expressed my long-held belief of Pacifism ( as well as reinforced that belief in the up-bringing of my children ) in that all violence was wrong and that children should not be permitted or encouraged to fight, we were called cowards and I was labeled as an eccentric. As a result, we were ostracized by the neighbors: my brave young son took several beating and was terrorized by neighborhood bullies, I had to walk away from several violent parents ( who tried to provoke me into a fist-fight ) who could not understand my objections to their children's behavior, my sexually budding daughter was subjected to vicious and sexist gossip that destroyed her self-esteem, landed her into fist-fights and then into a gang ( along with the drugs and stealing, yes, they are in rural America ) that would protect her from THEM. By the time I got the so-called law authorities involved who kept claiming they couldn't do anything because it was between minors, and that I would have to talk to the parents ( Ha! ), the vicious rumors ( along with one, that I was causing touble - i.e. calling the police in ) had gotten to the landlord and we were evicted out of our townhouse that overlooked a beautiful valley. Can you imagine what would have happened to us if I had ever said that I was a Pagan, not to mention a Socialist , a Feminist , and one who loves and respects people of all races as well? But now we are free of the narrow -mind, hate-filled people. Free to be ourselves so now we can live with ourselves, all because of the wonderful people of Washington D.C. who accepts and even appreciates us ( and do help other people ) :

Make no mistake, the choice is yours alone. Be ready to answer questions from those who are not afraid to ask what that pentacle means, make sure you are strong enough to endure harsh criticism from those with closed minds and hearts, including family members. If they do not love you enough to tolerate your choice of the Pagan religion, then close them out of your life. You don't need their negativity in your life - it will only serve to destroy you. Many will eventually come around to accept you as a Pagan, especially family members, when they see your devotion and strength. My strong and beautiful adult daughter is a Christian, and never a harsh word has been spoken between us because we love and respect each other. My teen -aged son has not chosen yet - he seems to worship the computer. And do not fear ostracism, after all , " We have nothing to fear but fear itself" happens to be very true. I might add, only you can choose to live in fear or shame for the rest of your life, or your can get off your butt and choose to live in freedom - and there is nothing like the taste of being free! You can always find another job, especially after you sue them for first amendment violation. Likewise, you can choose to make any part of the world your home. Again, the choice whether to come out and pronounce yourself as a Pagan or to remain hidden and perhaps safe is a personal one, whatever you can live with and be true to yourself. I choose to stay ( you can't get rid of me that easily ), and raise my voice for all those who also suffer ANY form of oppression. I AM A PAGAN and I WILL REMAIN FREE !

All I Can Offer To The In Or Out Debate Is My... Aug 30th. at 6:46:46 pm EDT

Wolfsong (Glendive, Montana US) Age: 31 - Email

All I can offer to the in or out debate is my own experiences. I live in a small eastern Montana town that is predominatly Christian. I have been a practing Witch for 3 years and I have been out since day one. I have however not been an "In your face" type of person, my religious beliefs are mine and yours are yours, I take the time to research and know yours why not do the same is my belief. I wear a pentacle openly and proudly and yet have never had the problems I figured I would.

I have dealt with stares and plenty of questions, but mayhaps through luck the questions have been truly inquisitive and out of shear curiousity. This I found strange as the town I live in just a few years back held a huge meeting about Satanism and Roleplaying games, the bible thumpers were out in droves looking to tie the noose around peoples throats, yet a Witch, open and proud such as myself has not had a single problem.

I run an open circle and house as to knowledge and the sharing of ideas and experiences and openly welcome any who desire to learn or just look through a book or two, I would never think of going into the proverbial "Broomcloset" as I feel that through learning and lifes lessons I am strong enough to face what may come, and believe me I am well aware of what may come.

As for those who wish to stay hidden? one of the greatest things about Paganism in general is its freedom, the ability for one to make a choice based upon ones one feelings. If a person decides to stay hidden then it is their choice, they need to deal with it and to realize that both good and not so good may come of it. I have seen Witches who came out, not really knowing what to expect and they got lambasted(sp) on all fronts, so either way, in or out I hope people educate themselves not only about our choosen paths but about the paths of those we may meet, and the consequences of being who we are...

I suppose I better stop or I will go on and on...*lol*

Bright Blessings
~Nature teaches those who listen~

In Or Out Is One Of The Most Difficult Questions That, I... Aug 30th. at 9:09:20 pm EDT

Dragonheart (oklahoma city, Oklahoma US) Age: 28 - Email

In or out is one of the most difficult questions that, I ever asked my self I decided to throw caution to the wind and come out somewhat I'm proud of who and what I am but it angers me every time they call me devil worshipper or avoid me like I'm a lepar. I have seen both sides in my 13 years cops follow me at night like I'm up to no good. I try to educate everyone who will listen in my attemtp change their view of wicca but the good must out weigh the bad in my life because I'm still in there fighting for equal religious rights. So if you love something strong enough fight for it.

I'm Out. When I First Told My Parents, They Simply Refused To... Aug 30th. at 9:22:35 pm EDT

Lady Sine of Silver Star (Buffalo, New York US) Age: 44 - Email

I'm out. When I first told my parents, they simply refused to believe me. Since I didn't live with them, I decided I wasn't going to let it bother me, and I went on.

I went public at work gradually (I was working as a civilian at the police department, answering 911 calls), since the rest of the platoon and I kept ourselves awake some nights (midnight to eight shift can be a challenge sometimes!) with extremely complicated philosophical discussions on everyone's view of religion. We were a varied bunch: we had me, an agnostic, several Catholics, a devout Lutheran, and a Bahai. We agreed to disagree on several points, but we all remained friends. Little did I know gossip about me was getting out! One day, totally out of the blue, I got recruited as a consultant: the detective bureau had come across stuff they were pretty sure was Satanic, and they wanted the truth, and advice. I gave it.

I don't work there, any more, but they know where to reach me; I still work for the county. Now I work for my local county's social services department. And I'm the one who gets all the minority religious cases, or I get consulted. And I'm the local pagan community's resource re interfacing with the police and social services, too. So, I'm serving two communities, while trying to live my life as an example of how a witch can be an ordinary American just like you! And I used to be afraid I'd be bored...!

I wear my pentacle openly, I discuss taking time off work for Sabbats, I share information about Wicca and paganism to anyone who asks. I have envelope sealers that say "Never argue the phases of the moon with a Witch!" and everyone on my floor knows that I'll know when the moon is coming full and things are about to get crazy again.

Despite all this openness, I'm pleased and proud to say that NO ONE has ever attacked my beliefs or me in any way that I've actually noticed. Some people are a little nervous if the issue of religion has to be addressed, but it is usually easier to get along with another religious person, of whatever faith, than to find common ground with an atheist! Both personally and publically, I have recieved at least respect and politeness from co-workers and clients, friends and relatives...

Well, parents have moved in with me, now, and they are uneasy about my faith, but they are relaxing to it. I'm still their kid, and they know I couldn't be evil, so it must be okay, right? I made it a point not to tell my grandparents, because it would have upset and frightened them, and they were too old and fragile for me to risk that. They've all gone West, now, so they know more Truth than I do! Next time we meet, we'll be able to talk more.

I can understand why some people feel a need to be in the closet...a lot depends on where you live (neighborhood/city/region) and what the circumstances of your life are. Too many of our co-religionists have lost jobs, marriages, property and custody of their children because they went public. So go slow: wear a pentacle one day, and see if anyone notices. If someone asks if that's a star of David, say no, and wait. If they really want to know, they'll ask what it is. THEN you tell them. If you still aren't sure, say it's the Renaisssance man symbol: earth, air, fire and water are solids, gasses, liquids and energy, the three states of matter and the energy that makes existance possible, and the top point is the human soul, that makes the other four significant. The circle makes the five into one.

I keep a copy of Farrar's WHAT WITCHES DO in my desk at work, and I pass it out to anyone who asks for details; I ask them to read it and then come to me with any questions. I make it a point to remember that there are no stupid questions. This usually satisfies anyone who is just idly curious. Maybe you'll find a Lost Child of the Goddess and help her find her way Home!

Good luck. Bless your bees...

this is me, walkin' in a Wiccan wonderland...

I Believe That There Should Be A Moderation To This (as In... Aug 30th. at 9:32:33 pm EDT

Imogene (Vancouver, British Columbia CA) Age: 20 - Email

I believe that there should be a moderation to this (as in everything). Wiccans should be allowed to be out of the broomcloset, yet restrain themselves from shouting it from the rooftops and trying to preach to others. Its always better to be out of the broomcloset, but lets keep in mind that the people of America are still very shy about things that aren't extremely common and since the majority of the population isn't educated about wicca or paganism, then if we went around shouting "I'm pagan!" there might be more discrimination developing.... you get the picture. Out is good, but lets know where to draw the line.

Burton's Top 13 Ways To Make Sure Coming Out Of The Broom... Aug 30th. at 10:09:01 pm EDT

Marcus Burton (Bellingham, Washington US) Age: 45 - Email

Burton's Top 13 Ways To Make Sure Coming Out Of The Broom Closet Is A Memorable Experience

1. Always Wear Black
No matter what the occasion, time of year, social setting, etc., always insure you are recognized by the color of your clothes. Oversized capes, Obi-Wan hoods and unusual hats only enhance the effect.

2.Jewelry is Important
In addition to the always popular dark clothing, mass amounts of heavy, gothic jewelry are always a hit. Rings on every finger, pentacles visible from all angles, skulls, chains & pendants galore. You want to make sure there's enough weight there to offset the tried and true tradition of determining witchcraft through buoyancy. Choking clouds of essential oils (patchouli is particularly effective) allow even the visually impaired to appreciate your presence.

3. Don't Be Afraid To Speak For The Entire Craft Community
You're the one coming out, right? All those other namby-pamby witches still closeted MUST just lack the intestinal fortitude to do what you've done, right? Obviously, family relationships, job situations and child custody issues are never a factor, so why not make as much noise in public as possible? Media attention around Halloween earns extra points, particularly when enhanced with #'s 1 & 2 above.

4. Be Sure To Display Your Vocabulary Whenever Possible
The general public wants to know all the terms commonly used in The Craft. Hexes, Spells, Covens, the "W" word, and that old perennial favorite "Warlock" should be slipped into conversation whenever possible. Your craft name should be used whenever possible; if you have trouble finding one, there are several excellent automated generators available on the net.

5. Mobile Advertising Reaches More People.
Bumper stickers aren’t just for bumpers anymore. Make sure they get the message
coming AND going. Crafty eco-awareness stickers on the old rolling mosquito
fogger are particularly impressive. The funkier the vehicle, the better; after all, economic and career success is for mundane yuppie boomers.

6. Always Be a PAGAN Volunteer
Participation in community service projects is often a requirement for achieving
degree elevation, so why not make sure folks know right up front you are a
practitioner of the Old Religion well before they have an opportunity to form a
negative opinion of you as a person.

7. Educate The Public
Your path may be oath-bound with regards to revealing secrets, but that doesn't
preclude you from being pro-active about giving information on other paths now,
does it? Remember, don’t confuse the issue with a lot of irrelavent facts; most people want just the basic picture, even if you haven’t ever studied that particular path in detail. A little information can go a long way.

8. Emphasize Your European Heritage
Real witchcraft originated in the British Isles and Western Europe, right? I mean whoever heard of an Asian or African-American witch? The cowboys and the US
cavalry wiped out any Native American spirituality, and slavery and the missionaries took care of any indigenous African practices, so what's left? At the same time, all those tribal tattoos look really cool, even if you don’t know what they mean or where they originated.

9. All Christians Hate You
This gives you the right to tell stereotyped jokes, bash their rituals and generally be obnoxious concerning all aspects of the church in which you may have been raised.

10. The Occult Is For Everyone
Above all, remember that the craft is for the masses, if they just could understand where YOU'RE coming from. Witnessing is always welcome. Persistence is the key.

11. Graceful Distancing
Make sure that folks know you follow a “mainstream” Wiccan/Pagan path and that
those "other" paths (Asatru, Satanism, Santeria ; shoot, you can even include the Dianics if you want to) aren't "real" paganism.

12. Maintain Your Focus
Instant hostility to folks who don’t understand your path is always effective in
assuring you will be taken seriously. Humor has no place when it comes to educating the unwashed masses. This approach can be very effective in getting
favorable coverage from the media. (see # 3 above for more media tips)

13. If All Else Fails, Claim religious discrimination.
After all, you came out so people would KNOW you were different. If people don't like you, it MUST be because you follow a different religion, and has nothing to do with the fact that you were, are, and might always be obnoxious now, does it?

C. 2000 Marcus Burton
All rights reserved

You Know, I've Always Found Closets To Be Dark And Somewhat Stifling... Aug 31st. at 12:15:26 am EDT

BrightRaven (Willaimsburg, Virginia US) Age: 22 - Email

You know, I've always found closets to be dark and somewhat stifling places, but then I feel that way about just about any place that doesn't let me breathe fresh air and feel the wind. I have been pretty much out of the broom closet for about 7 years or so. I am not pushy about it- if someone asks about the pentacle, or if they make some sort of statement that assumes a Christian viewpoint and I disagree, I will tell them. Otherwise, who cares? I have no reason to warn anyone that they're talking to a Witch any more than my mother warns people that they're talking to a quilter!

I do not, however, blame people for not openly talking about being pagan. I know all too well the attitudes that some will get- for some reason the fundamentalists like to show up on my college campus and tell us that we're going to hell. Uh, yeah. My favorite time was when one of them was parading in front of the religion department's building with signs about obeying ALL the strictures of the bible, and one of the professors came up to him and asked him if he always went outside the city limits to go to the bathroom. That is actually an old testament stricture! Everyone listening found it highly amusing. Unfortunate that these pushy jerks aren't treated this way everywhere. For those of you who live in places like Pell City where the a****les predominate, or are at least sure enough of themselves to be dangerous, may you ever be guarded by the Maiden and the Hunter, and may you live to see a peaceful, open existence.

I Think It Is A Personal Choice To Be Either In Or... Aug 31st. at 1:00:34 am EDT

Casey (Rochester, New York US) Age: 17 - Email

I think it is a personal choice to be either in or out of the broomcloset. I myself am both. In the real world, like school and work, I am quite open about my beleifs. At home with my family, I try not to wave it around.. although my room is full of books, incense, candles, and herbs- nobody seems to notice.. so either they are really really dense, or they don't care, but I don't feel like risking my family relationships by being too open with my beleifs (my mother is strongly atheist, my stepmother is rather christian.. she allready calls me a heathen..., and I have no clue where my father stands on the subject, and I don't ask.) I think it all really depends on a person's situation. Allthough I live in a rather christian area, I am open with my beleifs in public, because I am comfortable with them, and I don't care if people criticize me. I have yet to be too socially devastated for my beleifs, and I don't think that will change.

Hi, I Live In Holland, And Here We Have A 'freedom Of... Aug 31st. at 9:29:02 am EDT

christie maas (delft, Netherlands) Age: 28 - Email


i live in holland, and here we have a 'freedom of religion' thing, which is also a law.
holland is in principle a _very_ tolerant land, and as far as the law is concerned, as long as you harm no-one, do as you like!
so: as long as nobody complains, we get to do whatever we like, and are born and raised in that view.

now, in theory, that's also true for the U.S., in theory.

here: in or out doesn't matter. there are lots of weird people, and well, frankly: nobody gives a shit about what you do in your private life, and nobody is really very interested.

in holland, we still have discussions on the morale of tv shows like jerry springer. lots of people here feel that on the one hand, it's too much an intrusion of people's privacy. on the other hand: everybody's making his or her own choice, and nobody's putting a gun in there head so the appear on tv!

so, now my point, which i will formulate in a question: what's the difference between all religions?

some people are catholic, and keep that a private thing, and some are catholic, and are also always trying to convert other people. same with every religion. everybody makes his or her own choice, as is their right!

As A Wiccan Of 11 Years I Have Seen The Pagan Movement... Aug 31st. at 10:24:40 am EDT

Christopher Willow (Pepperell, Massachusetts US) Age: 31 - Email

As a Wiccan of 11 years I have seen the Pagan movement go through changes both good and bad. For me personally, I have made the choice to be open about my spirituality, but I am careful in how I approach it.

I blend my regular life with my Wiccan life. In my house you will find stones, crystals, faeries, interwoven with plants, pentacles, a sofa, get the idea.

I do wear a pentacle around my neck and it hangs low enough that it stays inside of my shirt for the most part. If it bounces out and someone asks I'll explain to them what it otherwise I just leave it where it is.

I have had very few problems by weaving my spiritual life into my regular life.

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