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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: 24,927,172  

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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 Am Definitely Out Of The Broom Closet. I Am 16 Years... Aug 28th. at 6:30:06 pm EDT

Kitty Campbell (Siler City, North Carolina US) Age: 16 - Email

I am definitely out of the broom closet. I am 16 years old and am the first to admit that I'm not an expert on Paganism. However, I've been studying it for about three years now and am slowing becoming more and more serious about it. I have been open about my interest in Paganism from the beginning. That is mostly due to my family. I am lucky enough to have incredibly open and understanding parents. My mom was more than happy to buy me my first books on Witchcraft and to loan me books on other spiritual paths. I never had to go through an awkward "coming out" with my parents or other members of my family. My choice was simply accepted. Outside of my family, it's a different story. People at school were afraid of me in 8th grade when I first started reading about Witchcraft. My best friends tried to convert me back to Christianity and then turned their backs on me when they realized I wasn't going to change my mind. Those people have since grown up and become more tolerant, but unfortunately not everyone has. I've heard the usual comments that most Pagan teenagers hear: "Are you a devil-worshipper?" "What does that star mean?" "You're not going to put a curse on me, are you?" I've faced mild persecution at school and at work. I say "mild" because compared to what some people go through, I've had it very easy. Maybe that's why it is so easy for me to be out of the broom closet. My parents raised me to stand up for what I believe in and have promised to support me as much as they can, as long as I'm not hurting anyone else or myself. I've never faced REAL persecution like death threats, physical attacks, or having my rights stripped from me. Those are the reasons I feel comfortable bringing my religion out into the open. I am truly one of the lucky ones. There are many teenagers at my high school who are Pagan, but no one would ever guess it. They are forced to hide their beliefs because of their friends, familys, jobs, clubs, sports teams, etc. Some of them would be thrown out in the street if their parents found out about their chosen path, and many of them would lose their friends and their social status. I would never say that they are cowardly or weak in their beliefs because they hide their religion. They have all the reason in the world to hide it. Fortunately, I don't. In a way, I feel like it is my duty to stand up to people in my area and say, "Look, I'm Pagan. I'm not going to hide or change who I am for you. I'm proud of what I believe, and I'm going to do all I can to increase understanding about it." That doesn't mean I go around shouting it in people's faces, but I have many pieces of jewelry and clothing with pentacles or Pagan references on them, not to mention a couple of Pagan bumper stickers. I put it out in the open that I am Pagan and a witch. If people want to know more about what I believe, they ask, and I answer them to the best of my ability. If I don't know how to answer a question, I redirect them to sources that might be able to give them the answer. I feel like I should stand up for the people who are unable to do it for themselves. I hope that by exposing people to Paganism and encouraging them to learn more about it, I will be helping other Pagan teens, not just myself, by increasing awareness about our religion. I know that I'm only one person, but I want to do my best to make a difference. I want more young Pagans to have the option (and the courage) to come out of the closet.

I Was Raised As A Witch. I Was Never 'in' The Broom... Aug 28th. at 7:07:28 pm EDT

Tasha (Arlington, Texas US) Age: 20

I was raised as a witch. I was never 'in' the broom closet. I was never told when I was little that there was a stigma about the word 'witch'. I was persecuted and ostracized for my beliefs until high school. Even after I started high school, I was persecuted, but at least then I had friends who accepted me for myself. I think that some Pagans and Wiccans really do need to stay 'in' the broom closet. I moved to Texas 4 years ago, and I had never before faced such bigotry. I think that those of us that are very out spoken about our religion are doing a good job, but we are long way from the end of the education process.

I Have Been A Witch And Priestess Of The Old Gods For... Aug 28th. at 7:11:04 pm EDT

Anufa Ellhorn (Vienna, Austria) Age: 35 - Email

I have been a witch and priestess of the Old Gods for more than 15 years by now and live my religion very openly for the last ten of them.

The worst thing happening about paganism here in Austria is, that people hardly having a clue what they are talking about, are very outspoken in public and media. As they do not care what their appearance will bring for the pagan community (as there hardly is one over here...) they just talk about their "successfull magic operations", "hidden moonlight rituals" and "extatic celebrations". Never ever there is mentioned one word about paganism being a religion.

Allthough I talked to TV and radiostations a few times, I was much too uninteresting for being invited (also as I just wanted to do live talks or wanted to see the cut version befor broadcasting...). I was told that people would not be interested in the religious side of witchcraft (by the way since when is that a religion???) as this would not push quotes up.

So I understand perfectly well, that a lot of sisters and brothers of the Art who live a witches life over here, simply do not want to appear in public - they do not want to be intermingled with those, who were on TV up to now.

Maybe the time is not yet ripe over here...

I Believe That We Should All Be Capable Of Expressing Our Religious... Aug 28th. at 8:32:59 pm EDT

Porphyry (Montreal, Quebec CA) Age: 25

I believe that we should all be capable of expressing our religious beliefs without having to worry about losing our jobs, family and in some circumstances our health.

By this I don't mean "in your face". Live your life and only speak of your religion if someone is interested in hearing about it. There is no need to try and glorify it by spouting it to anyone within earshot. It is really a deep bond you have with the gods.

With that said, I am out-of-the-closet with only my very closest friends. Religion pretty much stays out of the office except for a Catholic friend of mine. We discuss religion, but he does not seem terribly interested in what my personal religious beliefs are and doesn't spout his about either. We agree to hold our personal beliefs to ourselves.

Sadly my parents do not know. My father is a strict Roman Catholic and would most surely disown me. I kid thee not.

My Group Has Worked On Public Relations For About Ten Years Now... Aug 28th. at 9:57:40 pm EDT

Kate Barton (Springfield, Missouri US) Age: 34 - Email

My group has worked on public relations for about ten years now. Our main reason for becoming an educational coven was because I was pregnant with my first child. My brother and I were both raised Wiccan, and, as children will do, we told our friends we didn't go to church, we didn't believe Jesus was the only Son of God, and we believed in the Mother Goddess. This was in the mid-seventies, in northern Arkansas. Guess what the general reaction was?

As I grew older, I swore my children would never have to go through the things I did growing up. I decided, with my mother, my brother, and my Christian husband that the best thing we could do for our children was educate the public. It's been a raving success. So much so that I forget there are still other Pagans out there, fighting tooth and nail just to have the right to worship in their homes.

I'm all for coming out of the broom closet. Not in the militant, "in your face" manner some to be fond of, but with good information, a level head, and a friendly smile. Yes, we did get pushed down from time to time, but I couldn't see giving up. I have too much at stake.

Oh, and my children are now nine and seven. They have no problems at school with the other kids (or their parents). I like to think we actually have made a difference, even if it's just here at home.

I Am Very, Very Glad That There Are Pagans In The Broom... Aug 28th. at 11:54:23 pm EDT

Bell (Winnipeg, Manitoba CA) Age: 50

I am very, very glad that there are pagans in the broom closet, as well as out. We need both. The people ÒoutÓ, who present the public face of the craft, are necessary for any path not utterly concealed.

But the people ÒinÓ preserve the teachings and the practice when society goes looney. They also practice in private - another way to be strong. And I assume they keep sensitive specialized teachings alive which should not be widely available, as do all mature religions.

IÕve been ÒoutÓ at work, home, even church, everywhere for ten years. This has included radio shows and articles and classes and whatnot. In my area, this is a non-issue, scarcely raises an eyebrow. In all that time IÕve only been rebuked twice (not counting the educated caller who corrected my Gaelic pronunciation, and I wish heÕd call back, I need coaching...)

But one reason for the freedom I enjoy is the hard work put in by other local pagans, before I came on the scene. I appreciate it. But I am very glad the secret ones are out there, to hide me under their beds should our government move even further to the right than they are already. I donÕt pretend it couldnÕt happen.

Hmmm.... Where To Begin.... Might As Well Start At The Beginning, Since... Aug 29th. at 12:00:42 am EDT

Erik Miller (North Delta, British Columbia CA) Age: 15 - Email

Hmmm.... Where to begin.... Might as well start at the beginning, since that's only logical. =P

When I first started to research Paganism and Wicca, I kept it as secret as anyone could keep anything. Hiding books under piles of clothes (already coneniently strewn about my room), performing rituals in the dead of the night, and all that gobbledegook-ish activity that most people do when they're starting. I kept everything to myself for about 7 months due to the fact that I seem to have a steadfast fear of rejection.

The first person I told was my school counselor. I always knew she was extremely open-minded (well duh, she's a counselor) but I was still afraid to tell her. Man was I glad after I told her. It felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. She had been way more knowledgeable about it than I thought, and even tought me a few things. =)

Then I decided to take the plunge and tell a few of my friends. I am unbelievably close with them, which I guess made it a bit harder to tell. As it turned out, 2 of them were wiccan and the other knew all about it. "I'm uhhh... wiccan." "Really?? Me too!" "Okay this is just wierd. I'm wiccan too!!" =P

Ack. I'm blathering again. One more experience and then I'll wrap this up.

Here's the prerequisite tale of anyone who's out of the broomcloset: the parents. My mother, who can be quite... temperamental, was the first one I told. I had no clue as to how she'd react because my family never talks about religion. Turns out she's incredibly open and the reason that faith is never discussed is because she's an aetheist (which I never knew) and my dad's an agnostic. My mother encouraged me to continue exploring spirituality and actually was glad that I was "becoming a better and inspired person." Now that was a shock. =)

Anyways, to wrap this up...

My position is for pagans to come out of the broomcloset if they're in an area where they can feel safe doing so. Self-evicting yourself from the closet in, say, a Bible-Belt town wouldn't be the smartest thing to do. If you DO decide to come out, tell the people you care about the most first, then just stop hiding it from everyone. That way, the ones you care about won't feel as though they're getting the "wholesale treatment" as I like to call it. And you never know, they just might surprise ya. =P

I'll be going back to school (grade 11) in a week, and it'll be the first time that I've worn my pentacle openly at school. Wish me luck! =)

During My First Year In College, I Often Saw These Funny Little... Aug 29th. at 12:03:04 am EDT

Nelli (Carmel Valley, California US) Age: 23 - Email

During my first year in college, I often saw these funny little men running around with signs draped over their shoulders that said things like "repent" and "love Jesus", ranting about all the sinners. The list was long - it started with rock 'n' roll bands and went downhill from there. These fellows were always considered fair game for torment and mockery, as they had something insulting to say about nearly everyone on campus (it was a very liberal campus). One day, I passed one of these men as he was working himself into a fine froth about sin and redemption, and this incredible thing happened to me - i had this incredible moment of pure compassion. I *understood*, in the deepest sense of the word, this man's pain and fear. The depth of my compassion faded rather quickly - I am not very far on my own spiritual path - but the understanding remained. People like this man have to preach; they have to witness, to press their faith upon everyone they meet, becaus ethey are afraid that if even one person does not share their faith, it means, at some unconsious level, that they are wrong, and that their faith is meaningless. Yes, Christians are told that conversion is one of their duties, but it is all based in fear. Fear that acknowledging more than one religion invalidates one's faith. I have met "out" witches and pagans with this same frenetic energy, this same desperation to announce their faith, perhaps feeling that somehow, through announcing their faith, they are making it real. People who *know* their path are seldom prone to talking about it unless asked. there is a saying, "who is wisest, says least". Clearly, I am not very wise, as I have blathered on forever, and this is my second posting for this question... but anyway. I am writing to urge that we have compassion not only for those who must stay in their closets for fear of losing jobs, respect, family or lives, but for those who are "out" in a desparate attempt to make something real in their minds. These people are as frightened and lonely as those still"in", if for different reasons. And yes, while we are at it, I would urge compassion for those who try, through persuasion, logic, threats, etc., to "prove" to us that their faith is the only true faith. After all, the people they are really trying to convince are themselves. Blessed be...

I Have One Foot In And One Foot Out. My Friends Know... Aug 29th. at 12:33:39 am EDT

Raven Moon (Belle Mead, New Jersey US) Age: 17 - Email

I have one foot in and one foot out. My friends know I'm Wiccan, and so does my family. However, I don't walk around with a giant "WICCAN" sign on me. If someone makes a derogatory comment or has a question about my religion I answer/defend my religous beliefs. True, I don't tell many people about who I am. If I feel that the people abject to my views I try not to talk about them and throw them in thier face. I don't deny about who I am.

I feel that people should be comfortable with their religious choices. If it would make your situation especially difficult to come out of the broom the broom closet, then don't. If you feel proud of who you are (even in the face of discrimination) then remove your self from the broom closet.

One day, hopefully, every Witch, Wiccan, and Pagan will be able to be completely honest with everyone and stand in the living room with the rest of the world. Until that day comes, however, I feel it is the personal decision of the practicioner to stand in whatever storage space they feel necessary.

Those who make a bad name for Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans by being so open they are outside, and no longer in the living room with the rest of the world, are "too out". And those that stand in the dark so much so that they are afraid or unhappy are "too in". It's a delicate balance. It's a personal balance. One that is up to the individual.

Wether I'm Actually "in" Or "out" Depends On What Circumstance You Are... Aug 29th. at 12:40:45 am EDT

Wayne Andrews (Siler City, North Carolina US) Age: 48 - Email

Wether I'm actually "in" or "out" depends on what circumstance you are talking about. When considering my family, I'm *definitely* out!

About 5 months ago, I left a copy of the Wiccian Rede next to my computer in the bedroom, hoping Mom would discover it. Sure enough, she did with plenty of questions about the why's. The next month, I had no choice to continue living with my relatives. My brother who owns the property said that I had to plan living somewhere else. "I'm not going to let my brother practice Witchcraft around my kids!" was his response.

After a family discussion, my Mother told me that she respects my religion, and doesn't hold anything personally against me. This came as an utter shock!--Considering that my family are all Jehovah's Witnesses! Moving is not all bad--It can afford the opportunity for change. This kind of change, I welcomed.

For you Teenagers, this could be a real possibility to think about.

As far as other people in town or elsewhere, I'm partially "in" the Broom Closet. I need to work on courage. Perhaps it is best to take the advice of one person. Be polite and tell the other person that you respect the path that they have chosen. I have chosen my path. Have a nice day!

Thank you Fritz, for that wonderful inspiration!

Blessed Be Well,
Wayne Andrews, aka "Flying Eagle"

Both For Me. I Don't Go Running Around Telling Everyone I Meet... Aug 29th. at 3:37:34 am EDT

Shanda (The Dalles, Oregon US) Age: 24 - Email

Both for me. I don't go running around telling everyone I meet but I don't keep it to myself if asked. I do have one friend however that I don't bring up religon with at all, other than that I'm pretty open.

For Quite A Long Time, I Was "in The Closet." I Guess... Aug 29th. at 3:39:21 am EDT

Gwydion Canu Bleidd (Memphis, Tennessee US) Age: 31 - Email

For quite a long time, I was "in the closet." I guess that my story wouldn't sound a whole lot different from that of other Pagans--I really struggled with whether I should tell anyone, and I quite believed I was alone, despite the fact that I was brought to Paganism by (duh!) other Pagans. Then, too, there was that idea presented by the more cynical, jaded Pagans I've known that those new to the religion should be forced to stay locked in a closet for the first year or two (this also applies, in their opinion, to newly-converted Christians, who seek to convert everyone else while "spreading the Good News" hither, thither and yon). And having been burned a time or two at first, I did hold back on telling anyone; during my relationship with my ex-girlfriend who was a(n) (admittedly non-practicing) Southern Baptist, I was more or less held inside the closet by main force. She would demand of me that I *not* wear my Pagan jewelry or T-shirts in public here in Memphis, or around any of her friends. Consequently, I had a very hard time meeting anyone else, and my growth stagnated quite a bit until she and I broke up. Two months later, I attended the First Annual Pagan Pride Day here, and I haven't looked back since. I have simply decided that, in the words of Don Henley, "I will not go quietly/I will not lie down."

But then there is the question: Is such a bold move wise for everyone? Not necessarily. My current lover has two daughters she could easily lose if the wrong people found out she had been studying Paganism, and I already know I would do anything to protect her from that sort of harm, not to mention I would like those two little girls to know what it is that Mommy is studying, and that they too could become Pagan if they wanted to. That this sort of thing happens--that people lose jobs, lose children, and the respect of their own friends and families, and occasionally their homes and even lives because of their choice of religious beliefs--very much upsets me. To quote yet another songwriter, in this case Graham Nash: "In a land that's known as freedom/How can such a thing be fair?"

I think that the greatest reward of being out and known Pagan is that, once you are, you draw others to you and our community grows a little more and another voice is added to those already lifted in praise to the Goddess. I believe that it would be wonderful if everyone could be out and open, and that the rest of the world would, at last, accept us and embrace us as nice, normal folks who just follow an older (albeit revised and renewed) Path, who have real values and morals and virtues like them. Sadly, I fear we will always have intolerance to deal with, and thus it may be more prudent for some to remain in the closet; I would just be glad if those who are still very deeply in would allow themselves to be out at least to their fellow Pagans. Too many still aren't and won't be.

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