With regard to my previous Broomcloset post, I wanted to take a minute to clarify things, and maybe double down on it. I still hold the position that everyone should be out and hiding is stupid. I still believe that the welfare of the many outweighs the welfare of the few and that anyone who would give up liberty for security deserves neither, but I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm telling folks to hang "A Pagan Lives Here" banners from their front porch rail and don "Pagan and Proud" T-shirts before they head off to work or the grocery store. That is not what I'm advocating. That would be annoying. If you do that and end up in the news, I will roll my eyes at you.
The point is to let the world know that #1 Pagans exist and #2 Pagans are normal people. Normal people. Not annoying freaks. Okay?
So, how do you come out as Pagan without annoying the whole neighborhood? You don't have to do anything really, you simply stop hiding. Hiding is unhealthy, stressful and makes people wonder what you're… hiding. It makes people suspicious. It makes Pagans look suspicious. Cut it out. It's as simple as that.
When the opportunity to share comes about, share instead of lying or evading. People who find joy in their religion and are excited about their activities naturally want to share that joy and excitement with others. What did you do this weekend? Oh I attended the most beautiful rite to Aphrodite. You should have seen the candles and heard the chants, it was truly magical! How about you? If you don't have the urge to share, I have to wonder if you are finding joy and excitement in your religion and if you're not, are you sure you're in the right place?
Of course you have to be respectful of other peoples' religion too. If you're going to share you have to let other people share without being condescending or cutting them off. This way you model the behavior you expect from others. And if they cut you off you can say, "Oh what did you do?" and when they tell you you can say "Well it sounds like you also had a meaningful experience." and move on.
Do you want to do rituals in your backyard but you're afraid the neighbors will see? Screw em! I used to live on a main street in my town. Just a block up from Main Street between it and the High School and the party store. Everyone drove past my house. Yet I had rituals in my back yard on a regular basis. Complete with offerings in the fire pit (I cleared this with the fire department of course, especially in the summer, they like to know when you're burning.) The Maypole didn't fit in the back yard, it had to go in the front. My wedding also occurred in the front yard. I am sure a ton of people saw it. Nobody said a word. After all, what I do on my property is my business and what they think isn't. I no longer have a yard, but my friend does and she has rituals in her yard all the time. Her neighbor likes to mow the lawn in the middle of them. I don't think he's being annoying on purpose though. I think he's just oblivious. He like… waves at us as he's going by.
Do you want to take Pagan holidays off of work? Go ahead! (Unless you've got one of those schedules that just doesn't support that sort of thing.) Just be sure to volunteer to work Sundays and Christian holidays. When I worked food service and retail my co-workers were more than happy to take my shift on Pagan holidays if it meant they didn't have to work Sunday morning. Now I make my own schedule so it's not an issue.
Do you hide your Pagan paraphernalia when people come over? Quit it! Do you think your Gods like their altars being stuffed in a drawer because Aunt Hilda is coming over? I think not. I used to do this and I never figured out where I hid my Book of Shadows. I guess it told me. I don't do that anymore. I get questions but hell, it's my house. If they don't like it they'll leave. No one has yet.
Am I out to everybody? No. I realized as I was thinking about this over the last few days that I've never discussed religion with my current boss. I also have no idea what religion he is. We talk politics all the time, but religion has never come up. This is not a big deal. I have discussed my religion with some of my clients, but not many. After all, I'm not there to socialize. My husband's co-workers know because he has a Pagan co-worker. She was delighted to discover a fellow Pagan in her office.
When I worked in an office my co-workers knew. I have a funny story about how that came to be.
Once my boss took me and everyone else who had a birthday in June out to lunch. She was a bit behind, I think it was August. Anyway, she mentioned that she had been doing some genealogy stuff and found out that one of her ancestors had been tried as a witch during the Salem witch trials. We started talking about Salem and what happened there and I recommended some books where she could learn more, and how to get ahold of court records. She commented that I sure knew a lot about it and wondered what sparked my interest I said, "Well, I'm a witch, not the same type the folks at Salem were accused of being, but it's a topic witches talk about and I like to know the truth of things, so I did a bit of research." She didn't miss a beat. "You're a witch? That is so cool." "A Pagan witch." I told her, "Not the Satan worshiping sort." "Oh yea I know Witchcraft is a totally different religion." "I'm not Wiccan… " I said, somewhat miserably at this point, wondering if I shouldn't have kept my mouth shut. "Oh I don't know the difference." She said. And I think at that point we were saved by the arrival of several ice cream brownies topped with birthday candles.
Over the next several years, my status as the resident Witch at the office was well known. I was asked to cast spells, my opinion was asked about the latest Harry Potter movie and I took the only single male employee to the Witch's Ball twice. Man, he was cute. Whenever it was a particularly crazy day at the office, I was asked what the current moon phase was. Because of course, the resident Witch would know, right? This might seem annoying to some folks, but my job was incredibly boring. I found it amusing. When I worked at a kennel everyone knew because I worked every Sunday and got other people to cover me for Pagan holidays. It was not a boring job, so there was little conversation about it.
The hardest person to come out to was my Grandmother. This is actually pretty ridiculous because my Grandmother has a very firm policy about family being family no matter what, get over it and love each other dammit. My mother has known forever. A devout Christian and a Deacon at her Church, my mother made me my Book of Shadows. Anyway, when I got married I really wanted a Pagan wedding and I really wanted my grandparents there. But I didn't want them to have a heart attack. SO I sat Grandma down and explained the situation. She said, "You know there's only one God." I nodded. I didn't know what to say. My mother interjected. "Pagans believe in more than one God. But their Gods are different from how we understand God." Grandma thought about this. I could tell she was trying to decide whether to ask for more information and in the end, she decided not to. "I would like you at my wedding." I said to her, "But I will understand if you are uncomfortable with the ceremony. I won't be upset if you decide not to be there." She looked at my appalled "Of course I'm going to go to your wedding!"
So the ladies apprised their husbands of the situation (that's how it works in our family) but Dad and Grandpa weren't going to go at first. The ladies said nothing, shrugged, glanced askance. Finally, Grandma said to Grandpa, "You're really not going?" (It was about an hour before the wedding.) Grandpa looked at Dad and said, "I'll go if he goes." Dad said, "I'll go as long as there are no animal sacrifices." My mom laughed at him and reminded him that we were vegetarians. And so everyone I cared about was at my wedding. And everyone I care about now knows I'm Pagan, and I tell you, it's a huge relief.
So why am I sharing this? To let you know that I know that coming out is hard. But it's not that big a deal, ultimately. And that I know that people will act weird about it. But if you keep your sense of humor it's just not that big a deal. People aren't going to understand, but you can't be insulted by their ignorance. They can't help it. Yes, people are going to try to convert you, to convince you for your own good to follow their religion, the "right" religion, to save your soul. But you must understand that they aren't doing it out of malice, but fear. If you answer fear with love, you'll be fine.
And in coming out you will be adding your voice to those of Pagans the world over. You will be saying "Hey, I am here!" Each person you come out to, each person who hesitantly asks you what you were burning in your fire pit last night, each person who comments on your beautiful altar is an opportunity to educate folks, one person at a time, to let the world know that we are here and that we're good, kind, loving people for the most part. If you hide your faith, you will never have that opportunity.
There is one important rule of coming out that you must follow, however. That is, don't out anybody else. Many Pagans have alternative names, you should refer to them by those names rather than their real names if you talk about them as Pagans and use their real names when you talk about them outside a Pagan context. It's not your place to out anyone else for anything. For each person it is an individual journey.
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