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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: 25,096,463  

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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 

Personally, I Believe It Depends On The Individual's Situation. As For My... Aug 30th. at 2:30:53 am EDT

Skye (Lakewood, New Jersey US) Age: 32 - Email

Personally, I believe it depends on the individual's situation. As for my status: I am the resident witch as far as my friends, coworkers, acquaintances, etc go. My hubby follows my beliefs and my children are taught to honor and respect all creatures, human or otherwise. Now, as far as my in-laws go, forgetaboutit! They are of the the old Italian Catholic variety type and I have a very low tolerance for pain.
It's a sad thing to say that in this day and age, we still have to fight these prejudices, but many of us do.

Well The Funny Thing Is That In The Vast Majority Of European... Aug 30th. at 7:43:18 am EDT

Michael (Dublin, European Union) Age: 22

Well the funny thing is that in the vast majority of European Kindoms, Republics etc, we do have laws which guarentee freedom of religion... the simple truth is that nobody really cares if you are a pagan. It's not really that remarkable.
Some regions of Europe like Northern Ireland have sectarian violence, but this is limited to "internal fueding" between Christians. As The E.U. is predominantly christian we don't have the problems of fights between muslim and christain like the scale in the Balkan states.

I have not bothered to mention my pagan connections to many people, in fact I mentioned it to one close friend in passing one afternoon and he remarked: "Oh, my mum's a pagan also" and that was all that was said. No big deal.

I could not imagine someone being discriminated for being a pagan, they (the non-pagans in society) might find it a little eccentric or maybe a little odd, but you would not get the "you are going to hell" speach.

People often have this picture of pagans running around naked in a forest at night howling at the moon, but it is not seen as something negative... just a little funny.

While a sizable amount of people are christain in name, they tend to be not very religious, so the chruches are more concerned with survival than with condeming minorities.

Europe is very liberal these days with regard to spiritual conciousness.

So in conclusion to coming out of the broom closed... well I don't bother I just do what I do without fanfare, what would be the purpose?

I hope religous tolerance is something that will grow and grow.

When I Found The Pagan Path About 5 Years Ago, I Had... Aug 30th. at 8:44:50 am EDT

Autumn (New York, New York US) Age: 33 - Email

When I found the pagan path about 5 years ago, I had been going through a very trying time in my life emotionally. I had been in and out of a hospital being treated for bipolar disorder and had entered a full-time therapy program to help me get back on my feet, working and participating in life again. It was around this same time that I began reading about paganism and Wicca and my current coven "found" me. This timing couldn't have been more perfect. Both activities reinforced each other and complemented each other and I got well much faster than I would have if I had stayed a lapsed Catholic as I'd been for years. I believed at the time that the god and goddess saved my life.

The need to be in or out of the proverbial "broom closet" has not been much of an issue for me personally. I was very open with my family and friends through my entire discovery process. And although several did not completely understand and were aprehensive; it was obvious that the change that had taken place within myself had something to do with this new faith I had found. Now I wasn't out there shoveling it down my loved ones' throats, but I guess I did talk about it quite a bit in the beginning.

Then I returned to the work force. New York City certainly isn't a hotbed of discrimination for pagans in many regards. It's easy to blend into the woodwork and go about your business. I openly wear one simple chain with a moonstone pendant my birth mother gave me and a pentagram. Some people may glance, some actually comment and say things like "me too" and new acquaintances are made, others occasionally ask a question or two then just let it go. But for the most part, it's ignored completely. I don't make a point of telling strangers that HEY I'M A PAGAN, NOTICE ME! But I never hide the fact either and this practice has worked well for me, even romantically.

But I think that the decision is a very personal one. There are people I know who work with children, or in other areas of the country or even in the northern suburbs of NYC who cannot be out at work at all for fear of losing their positions and livelihood, but are out in their social life to an extent. Then I know some who are completely out and give interviews to the NY Times about their beliefs. I respect every person's decision in this matter. Yes, the more of us that CAN come out will benefit the rest of us who for whatever reason, cannot let their faith be known at this time. Some people can just afford to take the heat, others don't care if they have to suffer to fight the good fight. It's all good and in the end, it's always a personal choice.

I also know several people who believe that there are benefits to being "the hidden children of the goddess" and relish the privacy of mystery and prefer no one to know of their religious choice because it's PERSONAL, plain and simple.

Are any of these people right or wrong? No, I don't believe so. They're different, with different lives and responsibilities and personalities, which weave the beautiful tapestry that is our pagan community. Each contributes in their own way to complete the whole. As for myself, I will continue not to hide my beliefs at all. And that's comfortable for me.

Blessed Be
Autumn Fire

I'm Still In, But I Peek Out From Time To Time. Of... Aug 30th. at 1:32:11 pm EDT

Richard Gant (Northern Kentucky University, Kentucky US) Age: 27 - Email

I'm still in, but I peek out from time to time. Of course, that's largely how I was *before* I became a pagan. When I considered myself Christian, I din't see any reason to call attention to the fact. I just assumed that if you couldn't tell from my actions, I wasn't doing it right anyway. The same holds true for me as a pagan. I don't see any reason to advertise what I am, but I won't lie about it if I'm asked. As far as I'm concerned, it's much more important to live your principles and beliefs as best you can - if you can't do that, it doesn't matter what label you give yourself or what religion you profess.

I Suppose I Am Both In And Out... I Peek My Head... Aug 30th. at 2:20:05 pm EDT

Dyana MoonRose (Granville, West Virginia US) Age: 21 - Email

I suppose I am both in and out... I peek my head out for long periods of time. I am a college student, married, and living on my own with my new husband. I wear my pentacle openly, and my mother knows that I am Wiccan. She doesn't like it, but there is nothing she can do about it. My sister knows, and I am sure most of my family knows, but it never comes up. I suppose they feel it is my business and none of theirs, and they are quite correct. I am currently taking an Anthropology of Religion class at my college and the professor has asked me to do a presentation on Wicca for the class. This particular course focuses on magick, and spirituality - witchcraft and wicca are mentioned several times in the course, and he wants to get the perspective of a witch for the class, I suppose.

I don't flaunt my religion. My religion is mine to practice how I choose, that is very true. But I don't feel the driving need to run up and down the campus quad yelling, "Hey!! Look at me! I'm a witch!!!" That would serve no other purpose except making me look foolish, which, strangely enough, I would not want to do.

I respect people's decisions to go around and be "out and proud" or to stay in for personal reasons. It isn't my concern. I am involved in the pagan community. I write for the Mountain Pagan Newsletter, which is published quarterly. I assist in moderating the West Virginia Pagans Mailing list, and help with the webpage as often as time allows me to.

Those that feel resentment towards pagans who remain in the broomcloset are being silly in my opinion. Those grumblers do not know, and have not experienced those people's lives and have no idea of the consequences that they may face if they DO come out of the broomcloset. They have no right to say that everyone has to be as open as they are simply because they are experiencing a nonfavorable backlash because of their openness. They should trust in the fact that they are doing a job that needs to be done so hopefully one day those broomcloset dwellers can come out to a more favorable atmosphere.

I am happy that I don't have to hide too much. I put up my books when my parents come to visit, simply because I want to make them as comfortable as possible, and avoid a possible argument or fight. I wear my pentacle openly on campus, and have had people ask about it rather infrequently. It isn't a very big deal here.

In And Out. Out In That In General I Can Wear My... Aug 30th. at 2:34:40 pm EDT

David Reynolds (Cedar Rapids, Iowa US) Age: 25 - Email

In and out. Out in that in general I can wear my necklace (a pentacle overlaid with a stag's head) in public and not get any flak. I usually tuck it under my shirt for official meetings at work, especially with parents or social workers (I work with troubled kids) mainly because the explanation time would be all-consuming. I've gotten the "star of david" comments, and a few coworkers' strange looks, but I don't advertise it in general (if I need off for a holiday, I just ask for it, not why. And I get plenty of holiday pay for working 12/25 and Easter!).

The saddest thing to me is in working with the kids, that they are often pushed away from understanding other religions. Many of them are hunting for something they can belong to and draw strength from. But often they are selected as being "at risk" for no other reason than that they are interested in witchcraft and/or Wicca. And other times, they think witchcraft means satanism, and I itch to correct them (or at least offer a non-satanic alternative). But aside from having a few informal discussions with groups of kids I already know when they notice my pentacle, I can't do much. I'm still slowly researching the legal aspects of this.

As far as family goes, they don't in general know. My mother is devoutly Christian and while she does not agree with me, she doesn't try to change me either. She raised her kids far too stubborn for THAT to work.

In ...out ...or On The Threshold? I Found Myself Pondering This Question... Aug 30th. at 2:51:16 pm EDT

Ocean WindSong (Pahoa, Hawaii US) Age: 37 - Email


I found myself pondering this question for a second time the first posting didn't make it to the masses :-(

I am rather fortunate to reside in Hawaii. A culture rich and full of mystery, magick and Kahuna. On any given day you can see the results in the worship of Pele, Maui, Ohia, Lehua, etc. This environment allows me to be all that I am!!!

I am OUT...always have been. I neither hide nor force my OUTNESS on anyone. BUT...I drive a little black hover craft covered with stickers of statements. My way of passing a bit of what I conscious statement to the world. I find myself being approached , on any given day, by others ...." I love your car" " Can I take a picture of your car". Yes, yes...I know...many beleive that a vehicle is an extention of ones personality. And they are right!!! I beleive that change must occur for all to be free. And change begins with an individual making a small difference on a small island in the middle of the pacific. Perhaps one day...a young witch will see my car, approach me and ask for guidance. For that young witch may be 'in' the closet and feel very much alone. For that simple reason ' I am responsible'. With being OUT..there also comes immense responsibility. Responsibilty to conduct ones life in the public eye with the awareness we are being watched, judged and scrutinized. This is not an easy task, by no means, but one I feel I was prepared to make that faithful day I placed " PAGAN AND PROUD" on the rear end of my car.

I grew up in a open-minded Unitarian family. So I never experienced the limitations imposed by the "traditional western judeo-christian" beliefs. My "freakness" was always accepted and even emulated by others. I was always taught acceptance, love and tolerance of all, even if I didn't agree. So 'coming out' wasn't difficult for me. Of course, we all find ourselves at one time or another with thoughts of 'what will they think'. But on a whole I have no need to be concerned of what others opinions of me are at any time in my life. They have the right to those opinions. That is THEIR choice. My CHOICE is to be true to self as I define it, not as anyone else shall define it.

I have friends who are still "IN" or standing on the threshold. This is their choice...much like mine is mine. I accept their choice with love and tolerance as they do mine. One thing I realize though: the energy expended to 'hide' in the closet is energy removed from self and worship. For this I am concerned. I feel the pain and frustration. I feel the duality of being OUT to some and the hiding from others. This duality breeds confusion and eventual feelings of self-doubt.

In in all things in is an individual CHOICE. If one chooses to be must also accept the responsibilty to the collective. It never is a simple black/white issue. We are made of grey matter and shall forever be caught in that dichotomy.

Blessings Abound

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.

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