You’ll hear from time to time how those of the pagan persuasion (following earth centered religions) feel compelled to remain secretive of their beliefs and practices. Rarely does this have anything to do with shame as much as worry on how other people will react to learning the truth. I felt it might prove helpful to share my own experiences on this topic, and to provide some useful tips.
I realized Wicca was for me at the age of fourteen. Although my mother used to attend church, neither she nor my father could be even remotely categorized as religious. My sisters were pretty open to the idea as well. In fact, the only problem I faced at the time was my mother refusing to let me burn candles in the house, and my father’s initial reaction of “you don’t believe in all that hocus pocus nonsense, do you?”.
Over the years, I felt accepted by family, and most of my friends. One friend, whom I’d known since the third grade, could not, in any way, shape or form, accept me being anything but Christian (more specifically her kind of Christian which meant joining her church and her church only). We didn’t fight about it, but her nagging got on my nerves. At one point she sent me this book, Wicca; Satan’s Little White Lie which is by far the worst book you’ll find on the subject. I believe her hope was to deter me from the evils of Wicca and get me back on the right path.
Thing was; this book spouting lies about Wicca, saying you’ll end up with orgies and drugs. I’ve been Wiccan/Pagan for almost thirty years now and never encountered orgies, and only occasionally saw pagans smoke pot at festival. Generally, however, being irresponsible with drugs, alcohol, and sex are still frowned upon in most Wiccan circles. (others don’t see them as sins).
So I never spoke to my friend again after that, finding other friends who’d accept me as I am.
Workplaces, on the other hand, can often prove worrisome should you consider being open about your religion. I don’t think religion should be avoided on the job, but I don’t think it should interfere or impose on others. Only once did I face rumors that I sacrificed goats at the full moon, and even then, a co-worker (a Christian, by the way) spoke up in my defense to tell them “She would never hurt any animals! She’s a vegetarian!”. I still feel my religion touched upon their reason to fire me, but it wasn’t a job I wanted anyway.
For the most part, however, I’ve found people accepting and even curious about my choice in faith. I had one boss who was a Southern Baptist who’d tease me about it, and a coworker who liked to call me ‘witchepoo’ or ‘broomhilda’, but it was light-hearted. They knew I went to a pagan festival and I was allowed vacation to go.
I’m self employed now, and have three groups i organized. I deal with many diferent folks in many different venues, I use a few tips should I ever feel compelled to share what I believe in;
- Don’t use the terms witch, pagan, or spells before first explaining the basics of your beliefs. Those words tend to shut down minds of people who either think there’s no such thing, or that all witches are Satan worshippers. Tell them your beliefs first, then put a label on it. They’ll be more open to the idea.
- Ask yourself if its necessary to even share specifics of your religion. Trust me when I say you can lose your job. They won’t fire you over your religion, but workplaces can find other reasons.
- Understand that some people might treat you differently or assume things about you because of your beliefs. One such belief seems that Christian friends assume I feel they are wrong in their choice of religion. Quite the contrary. In fact, I encourage my Christian friends on their religious path, providing they need that from me. That’s what friends are for.
- Avoid being anti-Christian. Christianity is not the enemy, nor is it ‘wrong’ compared to our own faith. Remember that Christ is a Harvest/Sacrificial god not unlike our own, who taught many valuable lessons.
- Be honest with yourself and with others. Don’t use your belief as shock value to others. Its unnecessary to wear black clothes, and accessories to show off what you are, when most people have no understanding what the symbols even mean.
I would like to emphasize that when talking to others about your faith, you don’t want to convert or sound preachy, nor do you want to go on the attack or on the defense. You’re not doing anything illegal or immoral, so be firm and honest and consider from where the other person is coming.
I can say that by taking this type of stance when explaining to others, a few people I know ended up being pagan themselves after they did their own research on it. Others accept me, despite being of another religion, and we can get along fine (even discuss religion) without argument.
“To thine own self be true” Shakespeare