On the subject of ‘out of the closet’

catYou’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

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6 responses to “On the subject of ‘out of the closet’

  1. Thanks for this post! I always enjoy hearing about how others handle this touchy subject.

    I’ve been Wiccan for 13 years, but I’ve been Publicly Pagan for about 10. When I first started on my path, I was very unsure of how family and friends would accept my change in lifestyle and religion, so I kept it pretty quiet.

    When I started a new job in 2000, I waited for 6 months, until I felt it was going to be ok, to finally answer some questions about my faith and the pentacle I wear around my neck. The women had already gotten to know me, and knew that I was half-cracked, so being non-Christian just wasn’t that big a deal to them.

    I get teased occasionally, and that’s fine, because I tease back, gently, of course.

    But my brother’s another story. We were raised Lutheran, but he switched to Baptist a few years ago, and has gotten rather fundamentalist about it. He asked me to read that horrid book (which I won’t dignify with naming again) that you mentioned. I barely got through the first 2 pages, and had to wrap it in butcher paper and put it outside my house. I gave the book back to him, and told him it was filth, and lies. And if he ever wanted the truth about my faith, he’d have to ask me.

  2. Its unfortunate your brother couldn’t be more loving (or Christ-like) about it. When my friend gave me that book, I realized we’d never agree, she’d never accept me, and our friendship was based on her being a Christian rather than a mutual respect.
    I also thank you for the comment, which lets me peek at your blog and I must say it looks very entertaining. I highly recommend this for my other readers to check out: http://breaaire.wordpress.com/
    Thanks for the comment!

  3. I wish this post would have been posted several years ago. I too have been persecuted at more than one job for my religion. One of them I never spoke about, only wore a pentacle. The other I didn’t even wear a pentacle, but had a photo of an owl and a moon, and the moon had a pentacle in it. Both jobs fired me.

    Thankfully though, I have never encountered that book which you both spoke of.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I like what you say about Christian not being the enemy. I was just thinking today that it is unfortunate that some Wiccans see Chistians as the enemy and spend a lot of energy attacking them. It’s kind of sad. I also like to encourage my Christian friends in their faith . . . and there’s no reason why you can’t take Mary or Jesus into your pantheon of Gods/Goddesses 🙂

    I like your first point about words to avoid at first. I’m going to keep that in mind. The few times I have said “Pagan” I’ve gotten some weird looks.

  5. Your whole entire blog is amazing! I would comment on all of them, but it will take me forever to read all of the posts!
    I’ve been pagan since before I remember. It’s been in my blood and soul since I could talk. I cried with the witch melted on Wizard of Oz, My Grandma, and her grandma were all pagan.

    🙂 I wish there wasn’t such a crappy stereotype on Pagans. We’re not evil. Far from it. 🙂

    Love and light,
    Brittany
    [iloveowls.blogspot.com]

  6. Wow, I’m so glad everyone liked the post, and these comments really perk up my day. Its readers like you guys that encourage me to keep writing.
    😉

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