Coming Out of the Broom Closet!
Article ID: 11023
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,883
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Author: Rev. Lynne
Posted: November 5th. 2006
Times Viewed: 5,050
I have gotten completely caught up in the fight that Roberta Stewart and Circle Sanctuary are engaged in against the VA. Their fight to have the Pentacle approved as an emblem of faith on fallen soldiers’ grave markers is something we should all pay attention to. This is more than just a bereaved widow's plea to have the sacred symbol of her and her husband's faith inscribed on a piece of marble; it is a fight to ensure the continued freedoms of religion for Wiccans and all other non-mainstream faiths. It is more than a slap in the face that the VA continues to deny this request. They turned their backs, snubbed their noses, and shrugged their shoulders at us like we are just a pesky, buzzing, annoying insect that will fly away if they continue to ignore us.
But then, as I was driving into town the other day, the thought crossed my mind: How many of us don't or won't wear our pentacles openly out in public? How many keep them securely tucked inside our garments or hidden away in the back of the dresser? How can we expect the VA, or society in general, to accept our emblem of faith if we hide it away like it is some dirty little secret that should never see the light of day? The only way we can end the misbeliefs and hysteria about Wiccans (or God Forbid -- Witches!) is for us to be as open and public as we can about who we are and what we believe.
For some, I know this could be scary, and in smaller Bible belt communities, perhaps even dangerous. You know your social waters better than I, so it needs to be a matter of personal discretion. I live in a small town too, but I wear my Pentacle and spiral Goddess pendant openly. It is my choice (as it is yours) to be open about who I am and to accept the consequences.
As of today, the only response I have gotten to my public Pentacle display is questions -- a lot of questions! When I answer their questions about the general precepts and beliefs of Wicca, they have shown interest and none have been negative or condemning. If I were to confront anyone with such uneducated behavior, I would not engage them until they were at least ready to listen. You can't have any kind of discussion with someone who has a closed mind. You will only create more hostility and rejection of your point of view or beliefs if you try. If and when they come to you with an open mind and are ready to listen without chastising you to their Hell, then tell them as candidly as you would any new seeker.
The Pentacle quest is only one and the most recent issue regarding our rights to practice our religion of choice. The recent airing on Lifetime of the story of Brandi Blackbear, who was ostracized by her fellow classmates and faculty where she attended school, showed how ignorance and fear can spread when knowledge is suppressed.
Although Brandi was not actually practicing Wicca or Witchcraft, out of fear and ignorance she was accused of practicing the Craft and casting spells and placing hexes on her teacher, causing him to become sick and require hospitalization. As a result, notebooks where she had recorded her research into Wicca were seized, her locker searched, and she was expelled from school! What hysteria by supposedly educated people! The point is, they had no right to do what they did even if she had been practicing Wicca!
In 2004, a Schaumberg, IL insurance company, Crawford and Company, fired Rebecca Sommers once she declared she was a Wiccan. Up to that time, all her performance reviews had been favorable and she had received bonuses. Once she let her faith be known and requested a day off for a Wiccan Sabbat, she was told to keep her religion to herself and others called her a devil worshipper. After that, supervisors started criticizing her performance and claiming she was not performing satisfactorily and she was subsequently fired. Her case is still pending in IL courts. What would they have done if she had declared herself to be an Atheist? Taken away Christmas and Easter as holidays?
If you think the blind hysteria of the 1600’s is gone today, think again and read some of the articles on the “witch craze” of Kinshasa in the African Congo River Basin. Hundreds of children are being accused and abused by their families for being Witches! (Of course their practice of Witchcraft has nothing at all in common with today’s Wicca!) They are turned out into the streets, shunned by the villagers, and left to defend for themselves in anyway they can. They are beaten, burned and accused of flying with the birds, eating human flesh and communing with the Devil.
To me the most horrifying part of this story is the role the Christian fundamentalist sects in the Congo are playing in this nightmare. They have made a business out of identifying witches! For a fee of $5 or $10, parents can bring their troubled children to these “investigators” and they will interrogate the child to determine whether or not they are possessed. For an added fee, they will exorcize the child by withholding food and water for several days and beating and torturing him to exorcize the devil within. What fuels this type of mania? Ignorance! But people, this is a third world country, not the United States of America.
Could any of this happen to you? Frankly, yes. For centuries we have practiced in the shadows because of the fear, ignorance, and misinformation that is rampant among the masses. Out of this age-old tradition of mistrust and fear, Wiccans and Pagans have kept their knowledge, beliefs and practices hidden from the world.
No one accuses a physician of being a devil worshipper because they can perform miraculous healings. No one calls an astronomer a heretic because they can read the stars or know the mysteries of the universe. I’ve yet to hear P. Allen Smith (well known gardener) accused of witchery because he is well versed in the knowledge of plants. These practices are not practiced in secret and are no more evil than the practices of the Craft.
If a nation like Zimbabwe can lift a ban on witchcraft that went back to Colonial times, what is wrong in this supposedly well-educated, enlightened, freedom-embracing country?
In April 2006 the country of Romania officially recognized Witchcraft as a legal occupation. Thirty-one year old Gabriela Chukar challenged the courts over her chosen profession as a “medium” and finally won after months of testimony and deliberation.
We have more to gain by being honest and open (as we can be) about what the Pentacle means to us. Show people how gentle and awe-inspiring our faith and traditions are. That doesn't mean go do public rituals or proselytize on every street corner. Just be who you are! This is your faith, the call you answered from the Goddess.
Don't hide Her in the closet or under your clothes. Be proud of who you are! Stand up for what you believe! Nearly all of us have come from ancestral lines that were the first adopters of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. They fought for religious freedoms, and now it is our turn to carry on the fight.
Step out of your Broom Closet and stand up for all paths of Paganism.
People have always feared the dark, and if we stay in the dark, they will continue to fear what they do not understand.
Live and practice in the light and erase the shadows that surround us so that the centuries-old contagion of fear can be eradicated.
Location: Chillicothe, Ohio
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