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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: 24,940,463  

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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 

Merry Meet, I Believe It Should Be Every Individual's Choice To Be... Aug 28th. at 1:47:56 pm EDT

Vashtia (Salina, Kansas US) Age: 22 - Email

Merry Meet, I believe it should be every individual's choice to be in or out of the broomcloset. One's relationship with Diety is a very personal thing and the decision to share that with others who may or may not be of like mind is likewise a personal choice. Many factors may contribute to this decision; where you live, what type of community you live in, how you were raised, etc. Those who chose to stay in are not lesser pagans than those who chose to display their pentacles proudly. They simply take a different stance on religion and how public it should be. I consider myself to be in the broom closet. I don't openly wear religious symbols, nor do I openly discuss religious topics. Sometimes, I am met with the attitude (among the pagan community) that I am hiding from myself and from the Goddess. This is simply not true. I am completely open with my chosen form of Diety whether I am in ritual or in public. She know who I am and I know who She is and since everyone's relationship with the Goddess is different I believe it's silly to pass judgement on those who do not express their relationship in the same way as you. I don't "hide" out of fear or embarrassment, I am just as proud to be one of the Goddess' own as anyone...I am just a very private person and do not care to have every little choice I make be on display for public knowledge. Well, that was my two cents. Bright Blessings everyone

Bright Blessings! My Name Is Flowering Desert, And I've Been Out Of... Aug 28th. at 1:51:59 pm EDT

Fowering Desert (Dayton, Nevada US) Age: 34 - Email

Bright blessings! My name is Flowering Desert, and I've been out of the broom closet for the past year.

I live in the West, and from my experience here most people are really very tolerant. I understand, though, that this is not the case in many other parts of the nation. Please, don't misunderstand me, there is plenty of intolerant, misinformed, and down right narrow-minded people out here; no region is ever free of these things. But, being in such a rural area, it is quite a walk to find your neighbors and spy on what they are doing in their back yards during a full moon.

I'm very open about my beliefs, but I do hesitate when I'm around my childrens' friends and their parents. I would hate for my children to become targets, and as children they are weeker and smaller and therfore more easilly preyed upon by the misinformed. I do try to provide a good example, and answer any questions in a straight forward manner, and with complete honesty. I also strive to raise my little ones with the knowledge that there are many different belief systems out there and that tolerance and understanding are qualities to be prized in any one.

I would love to be able to say that everyone should be open about their belief system, and proud of it, too. Religious freedom was the whole reason our nation was built in the first place. Unfortunately, memories are short, and too many times the things we know about any given subject are what we are told by the press, Hollywood, and our political leaders. I think we are getting closer and closer to having more people coming out in the open. However it will take all of us constantly working to educate those around us, and providing fine examples for this to happen. We must all use our given talents whether they be as compelling speakers, gifted writers, or wonderful listeners to aid in the breaking of the barriers that seperate the different belief systems from one another.

Respectfully Your Servant,

Flowering Desert
Dayton, NV

While Living In Greenwich Village And The Chelsea Areas Of New York... Aug 28th. at 2:30:51 pm EDT

IkoStarr (Chicago, Illinois US) Age: 36 - Email

While living in Greenwich Village and the Chelsea areas of New York City almost a decade ago I was exposed to bitter wars of words between openly "out" homosexuals - some of those who were out resented those still 'in the closet' and would publicly "out" these individuals when they were discovered. Many other "out" homosexuals hated to see their closeted brothers and sisters treated this way. How sad that some of our pagan brothers and sisters seem to be approaching our closeted brethren the same way that some of the homosexuals approached their closeted brethren a decade ago. Who are any of us to say when if ever is the right time for somebody else to emerge from the closet? Coming out of the closet, like many other monumental decisions in life, is only a decision that can be made once. Once somebody is "out, " that is a bell that cannot be unrung.

I work in a law firm and I am awaiting the results of my bar exam. I will be a lawyer. I am closeted to my co-workers, though any fellow pagan out there would recognize for what it is the well crafted delicate five pointed star surrounded by a circle that I wear on a necklace everyday. I am closeted to many of my friends. I do not feel the need to proclaim my religion to the masses to legitimatize it - I know it is legitimate and that the only opinion that matters to me most of the time. Pagans sometimes face religious discrimination, but the way to fight discrimination is not to "out" our fellow pagans or feel that we have some duty to jump out of the broom closet before we are ready, if ever. The homosexuals who "outted" their "friends" quickly found that they were not only fighting society for acceptance, but were also considered by a majority of the gay community as a blight on that community. Those pagans that scream at the tops of their lungs that we all must be "out" and carry the pagan cause like some banner (literally and figuratively) in a Fourth of July parade will likely find their circle of pagan friends will actually shrink rather than grow. Those who would "out" others, or those of you who condemn those of us who are not yet 'out enough' in your opinion are, in my opinion, violating the basic tenets of our religion. Harm none. Who are any of you to make these very personal and basic decisions for the rest of us?

Out, But Reasonable About It. In Any Situation Wherein One Chooses To... Aug 28th. at 2:33:25 pm EDT

Orion (Miami, Florida US) Age: 29 - Email

Out, but reasonable about it.

In any situation wherein one chooses to make a statement about one's personal beliefs, be they political, personally religious, etc. , one is opening up oneself to a reasonable amount of criticism. To moan and complain about the fact that another person may disagree, even loudly, with your expression of choice is naive at best and foolish at worst.

Having been pagan for over ten years, I have had cause to see a lot of pagans loudly assert thier religion to unsympathetic or even hostile audiences and then cry "respect all religious opinions" at the negative response. The First Amendment does NOT protect the speaker from critics of that which he has spoken. In other words, you must accept that people are going to disagree with you and that respect isn't a right you can claim. Debate is essential to the expression of free speech in the American society, and no person can resonably expect or demand that the audience tolerate what he or she has said.

My concern lies not in whether or not I am free to announce my faith, since I know I am; but I also don't advertise my religion in any sense. Occasionally I wear a pentacle, more often I don't. No "magic" lies in the pentacle that will ensure I stay pagan. I don't need the assent, positive or negative, from others in order to believe what I believe. Unfortunately, I think far too many pagans who are "out" crave that sort of sanction in order to justify thier faith, and will take negative responses as sanction for a defensive posture of justification.

Should it be a personal choice to be "in or out"? It is always a personal choice, and no person should be "out" for any other reason that one's own comfort. The question I would ask is "What is your reason for being 'out'? What do you expect of others if you 'come out'? Is this a reasonable expectation?"

"Virtute aquiritur honos"

I Am Way Out The Broom Closet. I Proudly Wear My Pentacle... Aug 28th. at 2:38:30 pm EDT

Rick (San Diego, California US) Age: 25 - Email

I am way out the broom closet. I proudly wear my pentacle and other things at times. I even have several stickers on my car. I'm very outspoken at work (US Navy) about religious rights. I get questions about my beliefs on an almost daily basis. This is great. It allows me the chance to inform my fellow human being to what paganism, wicca, withcraft, etc. are about; in general terms of course. It is amazing to see how their perspective on the religion changes, sometimes significantly. I have had very few bad meetings with folks. I do get some dirty looks at time, but oh well. To each their own.

I My Province Is A Native Tribe Whose Name Is Pronounced The... Aug 28th. at 2:39:44 pm EDT

Rathalyn Starwind (Sundre, Alberta CA) Age: 31 - Email

I my province is a Native tribe whose name is pronounced the same way as Pagan(Peigen) so half the time when I do tell someone, they seem to think that that is what I mean, even though I don't look the least bit Native. Then when I start to talk about it they become confused and I have to explain.
I live in a small community, so while some few know I am not Christian, even fewer know I am Pagan. I am of the opinion "ask and I'll tell you" but few know that there is anything to ask about. I wear a goddess necklace, but it just looks like an art piece to most. For the current year I am in a position of respect in my service club (Order of the Royal Purple, sister to Elks) and I have to protect that. The only people I would not come right out to are my parents: I have had some discussions ABOUT Paganism with my mother and she knows i have Pagan friends; I think she suspects. My father, a retired minister, walked in on one of these discussions, said "I don't think i want to hear this conversation" turned off his hearing aids, and walked out.

I Would Give Anything To Be "out Of The Broom Closet" But... Aug 28th. at 2:52:07 pm EDT

SilverFire (Richmond, Virginia US) Age: 21 - Email

I would give anything to be "Out of the Broom closet" but to be out I literally have to give UP everything. I live in a very roman catholic household. My family has already had the nasty surprise (between myself and them) of finding various books I had. From that came threats. Of exorcism, calling a priest, calling the psych ward, calling my friends and denoucing me. The final threat was to disown me. At the time this happened I wasn't prepared or ready to deal with being an "Out" witch. I didn't have my arguments ready, I was caught unawares, and I certainly wasn't prepared for the emotional backlash that I got from extremely angry parents. I was told that by giving up their religion I was giving up my family and heading towards a dark path.

I understand that they dont' want to learn about pagnanism, or witchcraft or anything with these "new fangled new age religions". They want me on the old path that they are on. I KNOW it is not right for me. But neither is it right for me to hurt them. Neither is it right for me to disregaurd the rest of my life just to be "Out" now. I am dependant upon them for school and work and basically everything. I know that doesn't have to be the case but I desperately want to finish school and achieve things that I can only do with my degree.

I fight in the best way I can. I get online and post to various groups and make e-mail messages when I think it's important. If there was the slightest hope of being able to face my family and be welcomed no matter what my beliefs I would do it with the largest smile on my face.

For "out" pagans to grumble because some of us can't be "out" hurts not only the people who are grumbling but the whole comunity. What you send out you get back. Even if it isn't's still out there.

My only hope for all pagans is for us to pull together as a community even more. For those of us who get dumped from our own homes by unwilling family memebers will have somewhere to go where we know that our beliefs won't be held against us.

I'm "in The Broom Closet"... My Family Is A Stric Group Of... Aug 28th. at 3:22:28 pm EDT

Mike Johnson (North Canton, Ohio US) Age: 16 - Email

I'm "in the broom closet"... my family is a stric group of Navarenes, and my girlfriend's family is a strict group of Catholics... so I tend to keep my views private or face beeing called an evil heathen :p

I Think We Are Luckier In The Uk, People Seem Either Less... Aug 28th. at 3:50:56 pm EDT

Constance (Stoke on Trent, , England UK) Age: 51 - Email

I think we are luckier in the UK, people seem either less Christian with a Capital C or maybe just more tolerant - or should that be apathetic!

Anyway, I have not long been a pagan, but have never had the slightest problem. Nobody seems even shocked or horrified, most quite interested in knowing more, and I have met some wonderful people!
Keep up the good work, it is great to have such an uptodate, interesting and intelligent site.

Blessed be,

One Foot Out The Door Best Describes Me. I Consider Myself Very... Aug 28th. at 3:52:10 pm EDT

Aoifa - Dawn Colleen (Muskogee, Oklahoma US) Age: 32 - Email

One foot out the door best describes me. I consider myself very fortunate to have grown-up in San Jose, CA - a very open minded area. I 'found' wicca while in college and have been on this path since then. I married, my husband knowing of my faith, and we moved to Yreka, a small town in Northern CA. Although small, this town still has a open mind and so I practiced freely. Although I do not voice my opinions unless asked, I try to be 'on the up & up' with those around me. I have my books & symbols at home and work.

My husband then joined the U.S. Army & we were stationed in Germany for 3 years. I was pleasently surprised on the official Army policy regarding Wicca/Paganism. While not working & pregnant with our 2nd child, all this allowed me to learn more of myself, gain much self confidence, and follow the path closer than ever before.

Since then we have moved to Muskogee, OK. Now I'm faced with a dilema! My personal feelings is that this is a very 'right' christian town. Almost daily the local newspaper prints opinions in favor of the 10 Commandments posted in schools, school prayer, outcasting or worse to homosexuals, etc. I have gotten dirty looks from neighbors & have been reported for possible child abuse. I'm quite lucky to have more understanding co-workers & daycare provider, however I still catch myself trying to close the broom closet door at times. I am a Witch!! I believe if I close the door now it would be like cutting off my arm, it's who I am now, today. Incidentally, I'm having more of a culture shock here than I did in Germany!

Fortunately my husband is once again stationed in Germany & I hope to be returning there within the next few months. To those of us that live in towns like Muskogee, hang in there. Remember you can still voice your opinions in the local paper without revealing your faith. Point out and/or question *their* hatred of anything different than *themselves*. Please don't allow them to discourage you along your path. To those of us that live in more 'open' areas, relish it!!

Eek! - This Is A Rough One. Personally, I'm Out ... Have Been For... Aug 28th. at 3:58:19 pm EDT

Eowyn Forestchilde (Western, Massachusetts US) Age: 27 - Email

EEK! - This is a rough one. Personally, I'm out ... have been for years. And have the scars to prove it. I have learned something through my travels. You can be out without being in everybody's face about it. I wear my jewelry and my car has bumper stickers, but I don't go around with a wall-clock sized pent on my chest trying make it ok to be Pagan. Being obnoxious is never ok ... it just being obnoxious.

Now, don't get me wrong! I'm not saying that everyone who wears a pent is obnoxious. There's something to be said for being subtle, is all. That, and I understand that there is a time for discretion. As they say, discretion is the better part of valor. There is a time and a place for everything ... and coming out of the Broom Closet during your divorce proceeding when your partner is trying to get custody of the kids is not the one of those times.

Neither is coming out to your grandmother on her death-bed. Aside from that.... We have to remember what was said during WWII, (& I'll paraphrase 'cuz I only know the upshot of the statement); First they came for the Jews, but I wasn't Jewish so I said nothing. Then they came for the Catholics, again I said nothing because I wasn't Catholic. Then it was me ... and there was no one left to speak. We have to remember that the more we are silent, the more they take away. And if we can't get it together, they'll take it all before we know it.

People have to do what makes them comfortable. If they are not ready to be out, that is their perogitive. But those same people should be ready to accept the consequences of their actions, whatever the decision. They need to remember that there are others out there fighting and suffering for THEIR freedoms as well. I have lost friendships and have come close to losing both housing and employment. However, I have never gone back into the Broom Closet, regardless of the situation. I understand why people stay in the Broom Closet. I know about hatred and bigotry first hand. I also know the penalty for silence. Do we want some little girl's memoirs being read by future generations while people cluck about the atrocities done to the Pagans?

I hate to be like that, but it is the only way to present it. Collectively, I think we are the smallest and most silent minority. I know why, and I know why it has to stop. I also know that to force someone into harm's way is no better than to shove them in front of a moving bus. In the end, the decision lies with each person. The community suffers at both the hands of the 'fundie' Pagan & the 'ostrich' Pagan. And somewhere in the middle lies peace.

I Have Been Out Of The Broomcloset Since May 2000, And Have... Aug 28th. at 4:25:33 pm EDT

Clearwater (Clemson, South Carolina US) Age: 20 - Email

I have been out of the broomcloset since May 2000, and have generally found it much more enjoyable being open about my beliefs. Granted, I don't run down streets, yelling, "Hey, everyone, I'm Pagan!" ( that would just be... odd, to say the least), but I do wear a pentacle and my beliefs often come through in the various conversations we have at college, both in and out of class.

One very pleasant surprise for me was how readily my parents accepted my decision. I told my mom first because I wanted my dad to have another informed person to discuss it with after I told him. In general, she was much better informed than I had expected her to be, as was my father. There were two main reasons I told them about my beliefs: First, I'm very close to my family, and I really wanted to be able to share some of the most moving and beautiful experiences of my life with them. Second, I got tired of always having to hide my tools and pentacle whenever they came to visit.

I decided to come out of the broomcloset for several reasons. Mostly, I just got sick of keeping it to myself, of having to make up reasons to turn my friends down when they invited me to church. The more I considered being open about my beliefs, the more reasons I found for me to do so. I realized that it would make it much easier for me to find others who follow a similar path, and that I would have a much easier time finding a teacher. Finally, I realized that the only way to combat the negative perception people have of Pagans was by stepping up and giving an example. This has also lead me to live a better life, because I want to be sure I set a good example. I may not be perfect, but at least I do what I can to make people's lives easier.

To me, being out of the broomcloset is more than wearing a pentacle and telling people you're a Witch/Pagan, it is a whole state of mind. It requires you to be comfortable enough with your beliefs to share them with others, whether they will accept them or not. It means that you can have a conversation with someone with different beliefs and respect their viewpoint; otherwise you have no right to ask them to respect yours. It can be a wonderful experience when done at the right time in the right place, both of which each of us has to determine for ourselves. Sure, people have challenged my beliefs, but in the end these challenges only help me to further my knowledge of myself and my religion.

I no longer look at the world as I did from within the closet, and I have found that people are usually much more likely to accept my beliefs than I had expected a year ago. I don't believe that anyone has the duty to share their beliefs with the world. However, I do believe that each of us should educate those who are interested about our beliefs, and help disprove the mythos the media has used to twist our religion. And that can be done from either side of the broomcloset.

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