'Pagan' Safer Than 'Wiccan'?
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Article ID: 10578
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: April 9th. 2006
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So Iím up at the student union at my campus, watching from the sidewalk as our local fundamentalist group is preaching in lieu of Mardi Gras. While Iím there, my friend from high school, Adam, comes up to me. We were never really tight, but still, we were pretty good friends. One thing that he didnít know about me until that moment was that I was Wiccan (I wasnít exactly out of the broom closet in high school).
Now on campus, Iím pretty much open about my Wiccan beliefs. Generally, nobody asks, even when they see me wearing my pentacle Ė itís simply implied, and nobody cares. This time, however, Adam gave an exasperated sigh and asked what I was wearing. ďUm, a pentacle.Ē I responded. He began to laugh. When he asked why, he said something to the effect of Wicca being a fad. Needless to say, that struck a chord in me.
Whatíd I say? ďActually, I Pagan.Ē
He didnít know what being Pagan entailed, so I explained my beliefs a bit. I did say that my practices and beliefs were influenced by Wicca, but that I dealt more with the Egyptian deities, and I believed that all religions were right in their own way. He took this definition more seriously than Wicca, and moved on.
Unfortunately, now I felt bad, because I felt like I was denying something I felt so passionately about. I love the Wiccan religion, and am glad to be a part of it. Yet when Wicca is put in a bad light by someone I know, Iíve been finding myself reverting to saying Iím just Pagan, instead of defending my choice of faith.
In my experience, this doesnít just happen with non-Pagans, although those who do find fault with Wicca tend to be more vicious or mean about it than Pagans who look poorly at Wicca. In part this is because of my age Ė teenagers like me who are serious about Wicca are nonetheless almost always perceived, especially at first impressions, as fluffy bunny, angst-driven teens using Wicca for attention.
But this can be compounded by non-Pagans who donít think of Wicca as being a real religion. They see the vast number of people who follow this path (in their eyes, predominantly teenagers) as being part of a hippie fad. In most of their eyes, they see Wicca equated with Witchcraft, and since most of them donít believe Witchcraft to be real, they seem to dismiss Wicca as being a fantasy in and of itself.
When it comes to these people, I do tend to be quieter about my beliefs. As with Adam, I just say Iím Pagan, explain a little bit about what that is, and go about my regular business. And for the most part they tend to accept my being Pagan more than my being Wiccan. Why? In my opinion, itís because Paganism hasnít received as much media hype as Wicca has. Wicca has been played up in our modern pop-culture, whereas Paganism is resigned to just being a real religion. Simply put, Paganism sounds more real than Wicca to those who think Wicca is a fad religion.
This problem isnít resigned to just non-Pagans. I know some Pagans who feel that Wicca has indeed been far too hyped in our culture, having overshadowed other Pagan religions such as Asatru, Reconstructionist religions, Afro-Caribbean religions, etc. In this case, they see new Wiccans as being part of that hype. And the general attitude is that Wicca has indeed become a fad and as such needs to be ignored.
Then there are the elitist and fundamentalist Pagans Ė yes, such Pagans, and even Wiccans, exist. As with the above groups, I canít speak accurately for everyone, but the general consensus of this group of Pagans is that most people who call themselves Wiccan are in fact fooling themselves, because most of them are not a part of the original Wiccan traditions, such as Gardnerian and Alexandrian. If not this, then itís because theyíre solitary practitioners, or because theyíre eclectic in their practices, or, heaven forbid, theyíre publicly open about their beliefs. Woe be to the Wiccan who fulfills these criteria, for in the eyes of the elitist, they are regarded with great contempt.
Truthfully, all these negative attitudes towards Wicca, at least in my experience, have been minimal. But when faced with such adversity, is it any wonder I wouldnít want to say that Iím Wiccan? I know it sounds like a cop-out, but Iím not the kind of person who likes to make waves. Iím a pacifist at heart who looks for ways to avoid conflict. And it is my belief that if someone truly has a problem with my Wiccan beliefs, then itís none of their business, and theyíll just have to live with what I tell them. In these cases, itís a matter of peacemaking and protection as opposed to stirring up arguments and hurting feelings.
Still, no matter how much I justify my lying, it doesnít erase what I feel inside Ė that Iím not being true to myself. Anybody who lives a life hiding a secret about themselves knows what Iím talking about, and Iím sure many of you in the broom closet know this feeling all too well.
And at times this conflict has made me question my commitment to Wicca. While Iím completely in love with the religion and the philosophy behind it, what does it say about me when I deny loving it? Is it a sign of shame? In the eyes of the above groups, yes, because letís face it Ė Wicca holds a stigma about it that other Pagan religions donít. Otherwise itís just a matter of safety, in which case Iím not ashamed. As far as Iím concerned, Iím not in a place where I can be proudly open about being Wiccan with everyone.
But it is a growing problem when saying youíre Pagan is more appropriate than saying youíre Wiccan. Itís a sign that weíre willing to let ourselves be ignored, that weíre willing to hide ourselves under the umbrella of Paganism. In short, when we allow this, weíre turning into doormats, letting everyone walk all over us. I for one no longer wish to be a doormat. Iím working very hard to stand firm in my Wiccan beliefs, not just hiding behind being Pagan. Iím careful about who knows, obviously, but I am making a commitment to not be afraid of being Wiccan. After all, those who matter wonít care, and those that care wonít matter, right?
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