How I Came Out of the Broom Closet
Article ID: 14974
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 464
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Posted: September 2nd. 2012
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I’ve been reading a couple of the Teen Pagan essays here on the Witches Voice lately. As I write this, Cicada has just recently had her article Being a Teenage Pagan published on the home page, and faery wing’s essay, Telling Your Parents is opened in a tab on my Internet browser. As I read her words, I’m reminded of the beginning of my own spiritual journey and how I came to Wicca, and with those happy memories of discovery and wonder come fearful and sad memories as well.
Why do I have those emotional memories? Why are some memories from my path to Wicca filled with these negative emotions? Well, to be honest, those memories stem from a very important step I took, a step I feel has not only shaped me as an individual and as a Wiccan but was also an inevitable part of my journey. And it’s something I want to share with you all, if only to gently remind all that even the most fulfilling and wondrous spiritual journeys, be they Pagan or not, are never without some sorrow. But that sorrow can be something to embrace, as sorrow as well as happiness and how we respond to each shapes us as human beings.
So here it is: the story of how I came out of the broom closet. And what better (if somewhat clichéd) way to start than at the very beginning?
I started out life as a Christian. Obviously, I’m far from the first Wiccan to have come from a Christian background, but I still feel this is an important aspect of my own spiritual experience. I was baptized at a small Congregational church in Connecticut at about three or five years old, alongside my younger sister, who’s two years younger than me. The first school I went to was a Catholic private school in Connecticut, because my mom didn’t approve of the public schools in our school district. From an early age, my school days were filled with prayer, religion classes and Friday morning Catholic mass. I still have somewhat vivid (though still fading) memories of seeing my Catholic classmates receiving their First Communion in the second grade, while I, being from a Congregational church, could only go forward for a blessing.
After finishing the second grade, my family moved for the first time, and from then on, we moved from church to church. I remember going to both Lutheran and Congregational churches, as well as going to public school for the first time in the third grade. As if it wasn’t hard enough to be starting over at a new school with no one I knew in class, the lack of religious material in the curriculum threw me out of my comfort zone a little. After our second and final move to Minnesota, we found a new church home where my mom found a new job as a secretary. I still remember all of the pastors there with fondness, for they were all (and still are) good people.
It was around high school that I began exploring other religions and had my first experience with Wicca. Starting around my freshman or sophomore year of high school, I watched the TV show Charmed for the first time. Yes, I know that Charmed is primarily a fantasy show with bits of Wiccan ethics and other stuff thrown in, but it’s still a great show. Anyways, always looking up anything I was interested in on Wikipedia, I eventually followed the page from the Halliwell sisters’ book of shadows to the article on Wicca. From there, I began to read more and more about it.
At first, I agreed with the ethics and ideologies of Wicca. The Wiccan Rede, “An ye harm none, do what ye will, ” made total sense to me. And yes, I won’t deny there was a strong part of me left over from childhood that retained a fascination with magick. Despite knowing that Charmed was a fantasy show and that the supernatural powers on the show (throwing fireballs and lightning bolts) weren’t true, the idea of magick fascinated me to almost no end.
This continued into college, where I began to explore Wicca more in depth. Growing past the simple interest in magick, I began to see Wicca as a path to spiritual fulfillment and connection that I had never before experienced in Christianity. But this led to an internal struggle, particularly in my first year at St. Olaf College. Before that point in time, I hadn’t considered changing religions. It seemed like a completely foreign concept to me, and the thought of doing so conjured images of the oft-exaggerated “wrath of God” in Christian literature. It scared me. Would it be a sin to change religions? After all, Wicca and Christianity seemed to espouse many of the same ethics. But Christianity denounced all Witchcraft (or so I thought at the time) , and images of the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials kept going through my head.
Eventually I began to discuss this with another friend, a religion major at St. Olaf. Through conversations with him, I began to realize that there is no one true path to spiritual fulfillment, and that everyone treads a different path. Thus, though I still hold a lot of respect for the teachings of Christianity, I decided that I wanted to be a Wiccan instead. However, with this new resolve came both excitement and fear.
I was happy to read more about Wicca and other Pagan religions, and I’ll never forget that sense of bliss the day I conducted my first ritual. But with all that came the fear of discovery and rejection, mainly from my parents. Though not particularly religious themselves, my parents still maintained a habit of going to church as often as possible and still considered themselves Christian. The same could probably be said for my younger sister as well. While they encouraged me to study other religions (particularly Asian religions, as I was starting to study Chinese as a language and pursue my Asian Studies major) , to me it seemed like they wouldn’t understand.
As I stated in my first essay, Building a Wiccan Library as a Broke College Student, my dad in particular believes that magick in any form does not exist. If I were to talk about the spells I worked, he would think I was having delusions of power. My mom wasn’t quite as bad, but she still gave me the impression that she didn’t think Wicca was a real religion. I vividly remember her saying “Wicca is a cult, ” implying the negative connotation of the word as we know it today. Over time, that fear increased, to the point where, if I ever mentioned Wicca at all, I tried to disguise it as a mere scholarly interest.
Eventually, in December of 2010, I told the first person in my family about my conversion to Wicca: my sister. My sister has always been close to me, so I felt more comfortable telling her than I did our parents. She took it quite well. She didn’t yell at me or say I was going to burn in Hell. She accepted it, with a quick note to me not to tell Mom and Dad. This filled me with a little more confidence and relief, but my fears were not assuaged at all. With this further advice not to tell Mom and Dad, I began to imagine how they would react if they found out. And my mind always went to the worst possible result: that they wouldn’t love me anymore, and would kick me out of the house or something. Perhaps these fears were influenced by a lot of the Wiccan fiction had started reading, in which the main characters found rejection from family members who found out.
These fears were all too real to me, and it eventually came to a peak one night when I was talking with my mom before bed. At some point, I broke down in tears, and, after asking Mom if she would still love me even if I changed religions (to which she said yes) , I finally told her about my change to Wicca. After emphasizing that I was looking to Wicca for spiritual growth and a deeper connection with the Divine and nature, she reacted in a way I hadn’t expected. She said that she was glad I had shared this with her, that she was glad I was pursuing Wicca for those reasons, and that she realized I was getting to a point where I should be in charge of my own spiritual decisions. Sure, the change worried her, but as long as I wasn’t hurting myself, she was fine with it, even though she didn’t understand the religion as well as I did.
I had a similar experience when I finally told my dad. With Mom’s support, I gave him the same explanation I had given her, along with asking him the same question of whether he would still love me even if I had changed religions (to which he also said yes) . Through my tears, I could hear him say that, despite the fact that he didn’t really know much about Wicca, he was glad I had done as much research into it as I had and thought I had good reasons for choosing the path I did. While he still expressed his misgivings about magick, he accepted my choice.
So why am I sharing this? Well, aside from the desire to share my story with others, there was something about the essay faery wing wrote that I connected with. Her essay was written only last year, but it touched on many of the same things I experienced in telling my own parents despite our difference in age. faery wing was thirteen when she wrote Telling Your Parents, and, at the time of writing this, I’m currently twenty-two years old and about to graduate from college. Yet, at any age, the thought of coming out of the broom closet (as I’ve heard many Wiccans and Pagans refer to it) is often filled with fear. Despite how my parents accepted my conversion to Wicca and respected me for pursuing it for the reasons I did, just thinking about what I went through before I told them still almost brings me to tears. That fear is still real for me, and it has kept me from telling any other members of my extended family.
Still, the relief of having done so and seeing their acceptance of my decision has filled me with a great relief. I no longer feel the fear I used to feel to the same extent, and I’ve actually engaged in some meaningful discussion with my parents about Wicca. A while back, Stephen Colbert mentioned Candlemas in a Groundhog Day related segment of The Colbert Report. Once the show cut to commercial, Mom and Dad asked me about it, and I happily shared what I knew about Imbolc/Candlemas and its Pagan roots. Though we don’t talk about religion often, it still feels good to know that I still have their love, even as a Wiccan.
So, to all of you out there reading this who have experienced this kind of fear, know this: you are not alone. I am far from the first person to feel this fear in coming out of the broom closet, and I highly doubt I’ll be the last. That fear is natural, and indeed, there are many times when telling someone about your beliefs may not be the best idea. Unfortunately, we live in a world where not everyone has the same respect for other people’s beliefs, and though we’ve come a long way from the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials, there are still many who hold fear, contempt, or misunderstanding for our beliefs.
But, if you feel that a relationship would benefit or grow stronger from telling them about your faith and you know that person will love you no matter what, I say feel free to tell them. You don’t have to, by any means. I’m not trying to say that. However, sharing your faith with someone who loves and respects you can lift a great burden off your shoulders, and it can be a very positive experience.
Thank you all for listening to my story. Blessed be your own path! ^_^
"Being a Teenage Pagan" by Cicada,
http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usar and c=teen and id=14876
"Telling Your Parents, " by faery wing,
http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usma and c=teen and id=14505
"Building a Wiccan Library as a Broke College Student, " by Luna,
http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a= and c=words and id=14840
The Colbert Report, Episode #992, aired February 2, 2012
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