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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: 25,096,516  

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Reponses: 181

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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'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.

To Be In Or Out Of The Broom Closet Is The Individual's... Aug 31st. at 11:52:28 am EDT

Danielle Gminder (Key West, Florida US) Age: 25 - Email

To be in or out of the broom closet is the individual's need. Personally I'm out of the broom closet. I work for the county and the people in charge actually think it's cool. Plus they know the law pretty well because they are the law. In the case of your area being prejudice to something different may necessitate being in the broom closet. Such as the alabama pagans. They have the right to be in/out of the dusty old broom closet. Like I said. Opinions come in all different shapes/sizes. It's the individuals choice depending on the circumstances.


I Need To Say This, Here And Now! I Know You Are... Aug 31st. at 12:13:49 pm EDT

Little Wolfen (Springfield, Missouri US) Age: 12


I know you are not supposed to post on WitchVox unless you are over fourteen, I will be thirteen in three weeks. I got interested in witchcraft when I was ten and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I wanted to know more and didn't have to go far, my neighbor runs a new age store and introduced me to witches that lived near me and a good coven. My mom and dad approved my jooining a local coven's classes, they had to sign a paper, and weren't supprised when I decided to become dedicated, which will be Sanhaim.

I wore my penticle on the first day of middle school last year and our school security officer was the only one that gave me any trouble, and when he took me to the principal it was him that got trouble from her. My teachers are not really interested in my religion at all as long as it doesn't affect my work, and I am on student council, in chess, computer, math and science clubs.

I feal very comfortable being a witch, and if other people dont like it. Tough.

I Am Open About My Beliefs But I Dont "trumpet" Them. I... Aug 31st. at 12:20:01 pm EDT

Li Ferelwing (Houston, Texas US) Age: 23 - Email

I am open about my beliefs but I dont "trumpet" them. I am of the opinion that my works and words will show what kind of a person that I am and that if asked yes I am pagan. I dont agree with the idea that I have to shout from all the corners that I am pagan. I am active on issues that mean something to me, and I speak when I need to. I admit on occasion to putting my pentacle in my shirt, especially when walking past proselyters. I just dont want to deal with the hassle that they will give me for my necklace and my beliefs. There are times to fight and times to just have a "tongue in cheek" action. I dont believe in being openly argumentative, I prefer to speak in a civil tone with people and if I know that the atmosphere is too charged I prefer not to get into the fray unless it is a legal issue. I do not like those who walk around with a chip on their shoulder expecting people to immediately respect and understand their religious beliefs regardless of what the other person believes. I have no problem handling tough situations but I dont like being told that I am taking the easy road when I do not choose to get into a battle with someone who I know will never see things my way. You cannot change people's minds but you can try and there are some people whose minds are so closed talking to them goes in one ear and out the other. So I would say I am out of the closet, I will tell someone what my religious belief is if they ask, but I will NOT force feed it to them. So I am out but not dogmatic about it.

As for those who are not out, I do not hold it against them. It took a long time for my family to accept me and still they dont completely understand and they are still always trying to get me to rejoin their church. Its a give and take. I have gotten used to it and since it is well meaning I do not let it bother me. As for my husbands family, they know but choose not to make it an issue which is fine with me

This Is Not An Easy Question, But One That Needs To Be... Aug 31st. at 2:12:38 pm EDT

Lee Ann (Miami, Florida US) Age: 34 - Email

This is not an easy question, but one that needs to be addressed. It would be wonderful if we lived in a country where we had no fear of religious persecution, or of expressing our religious beliefs and could be "out"! I can appreciate the feelings of pagan activists, that those who remain "in" are reaping the benefits achieved by those who fight for pagan rights. On the other hand it seems to be the "in thing" to do in some cities, which is unfortunate in that this leaves us open to misinterpretation and misrepresentation(a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing).

Personally, I live in Miami, FL, where there is a relatively large pagan community. Also, this region is so diverse, I think it is easier to be "out".
However, I am not (at least not yet), though I would like to be. For me the fear of negative reactions comes not from my family (my mother, though not practicing has many of the same beliefs), but from friends and co-workers. My best friend (28yrs) is a devout Baptist and would never understand. Religion is a topic I won't touch with her, although we both went to the same Christian school all our lives - my parents sent me for the education, not religious reasons. My boyfriend, while aware of my interest in paganism, has no idea to what extent. I don't know if he could ever accept it. Though not religious, I see him becoming more so as he gets older (he's Greek Orthodox).

My hope is that someday pagan religions will be considered more mainstream, or "acceptable"(and I hate to use these terms), even if still minority. There are so many false ideas about pagan beliefs that have to be overcome, there is centuries of damage to be undone (and it's sad to say, but damage by the church). If I'm fortunate enough to have children, I hope to raise them in a pagan household. Maybe by the time they are adults, being pagan won't be considered "evil" or "wrong".

I feel that to be "in" or "out" of the broomcloset should be considered a part of a persons personal religious freedom - their choice.

In An Ideal World, The Answer Would Be Easy, Everyone Would Be... Aug 31st. at 2:57:11 pm EDT

Willowwynde (Cincinnati, Ohio US) Age: 26 - Email

In an ideal world, the answer would be easy, everyone would be out of the broom closet. It isn't though. With more and more groups forming that attempt to crush our religious freedoms, it seems like it is becoming not a matter of preference to be out of the broom closet, but a matter of safety. These groups professing their right to pray do not consider for a moment our right to be a witch, pagan, or what have you. From listening to the news and reading news updates on the Witch's Voice, I have to say, I can not believe this country has gone so far backward.
Just a few years ago, I was quite open about my beliefs, but not now. What is more disturbing is the tone and attitude that protestors take. The coven that was driven out of town is incrediable.
Aside from problems in society, there is always the family to contend with. My family would never accept it. I also have two little girls to think about. As I tell my oldest about her parent's beliefs, I have to make it clear to her that her grandparents do not accept these beliefs.
On occassion, when the opportunity to help change someone's attitude about Pagans and Witches presents itself, I step out of the closet. It is important to be tactful. As for my family, I wear a lot of symbols that they should ease them into it, but I wouldn't stick a sign on my front door proclaiming Pagan or Witch to the world. I rebel against the Bible Belt that I live in, I just do it tactfully. It is like everything else, there has to be balance in coming out of the broom closet.

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