“Pagans Worship The Ground you Walk On”.

“Pagans Worship The Ground You Walk On”

Author:   Forest

This was the bumper sticker that I read on an old station wagon earlier today on my way to work which got me to smiling (and at 6 in the morning, that can be awfully hard to accomplish).

The car was sitting quietly in its spot beside my place of work, and I went to take a closer look at the sticker, smiling as I read what it said. I loved that bumper sticker; it brightened my day.

What surprised me though, wasn’t the fact that it could put a smile on my face at 6 in the morning, but the sheer horror as to the fact that someone had keyed “Witch Bit**” into the side of the car.

I mean come on, what is wrong with people nowadays? Are they so against our faith that they must do that in order to make themselves feel better? It’s ludicrous is what I think, but you can never be too sure.

I thought about it for a moment and I realized that almost every movie with witches in it has the phrase “Witch Bit**”. The whole thing must’ve started out with a movie like “The Witches of East Wick”, or “Practical Magic” or something along the lines of this. The phrase can be heard almost anytime someone wants to make a rude remark to a pagan person.

Honestly, the word has come to be a household name for people who are not of the old way.

I felt like crap as I walked into work, and saw who it was who must’ve owned the car. You see, apparently, she couldn’t get the car out of the theater parking lot because someone had slashed her tires and keyed that obscene remark on the side of her car. So, instead of feeling an ounce of sympathy, my boss told her that since she had the entire night to move her car and didn’t, that her car was being impounded.

The woman looked really strong; she must’ve seen a lot in her life, and she looked to be about 60 years old. Though, through all of this, you could tell that she was on the verge of crying.

I asked for a leave of absence so that I could take the woman home, and luckily, I got it. Her car was about to be towed, and/or impounded, and I didn’t think that she would be able to handle the fact that my boss was about to make her pay money for something that wasn’t her fault.

People aren’t very surprising. A lot of us have the same kind of arrogant personality going around and making people feel like fools.

You’ve seen some of those people, witches included, who say some stuff like, “Psh, I’ll make acid rain come down over his head while he’s sleeping, I have the power.”

I mean, we can be arrogant just like anyone else. When you go around parading something that some people really don’t care for, you’re begging for something bad to happen to you.

The same thing happens to those boys and girls who flaunt about how they’re homosexual. I mean, I understand about being open about it, but to hit on every guy or girl and dress like a girl/guy, that’s just pushing it, I mean, I’m bi, but I couldn’t really understand why some of them did it until recently.

Yea, the world’s screwed up, and these people know this, yet they flaunt themselves around like they’re a lamb on the spit. I’m sorry, but when they say that they’re victims, they’re absolutely right.

But they knew that it would eventually happen, so that’s what made me start pondering about the world.

Humans are a proud race. I mean, some of us are ill-willed and weak-minded, but in the end, we all pretty much stand up for what we believe in. We all have the power to delve into our memories and conjure up something that can fuel our onward path. All you have to do is believe ,right?

I love people when I think that these people chose to flaunt their religion, while knowing that by doing so, they might get in a little bit of trouble along the way. These people are truly my heroes. They stand up for their beliefs, they stand up for our religion, and these people are healing the earth in doing so.

Some of us are (using the melancholy term) “In the Broom Closet”. Well, it’s time to come out, because the world isn’t as terrible as you think it is. Sure, there are rough spots on the way, but then again, you have fellow pagans all around you who will help you along the way.

We all need to take a stand. We need to hear the voices of the people who were shamed because we were to weak to stand up for them when we were hiding in the shadows.

We all have it in us. I mean, we’re pagan, we’ve been here longer than anybody. Our souls have prospered the Earth. It’s time that we needed a batch of good karma, so why not make it ourselves?

I mean, we are witches, right?

I’m just putting this article out here for something for you to ponder on. You don’t need to respond, but hopefully some people can understand what it’s like to be these people, the ones who are ashamed, the ones who get beat up, broken down, and downright miserable.

We all need help once in awhile, so lets give some right now, just think about it ok?

If you understand what it feels like, then why let it happen to other people? We all need to understand that when you’re broken down and crying in the dirt, you’re not just at rock bottom; you’re rock bottom under 8 feet of mud and concrete, and you can’t get out without some help.

Just think about it.

My Pentacle Is Bigger Than Yours!

My Pentacle Is Bigger Than Yours!

Author: Devon, The Maid Of Epona

I’ve been a practicing solitary witch for a little more than ten years. I have just recently decided to wear my pentacle openly.

Does that mean I’m out of the broom closet? Heavens no! I like to describe myself as having one foot in and the other out of the proverbial broom closet. I believe this to be the smart way to be, living where I live. Hey! Pennsylvania isn’t California!

I’m not a militant pagan although I do have a serious warrior’s streak. But being a warrior also means picking and choosing your fights. I work in the small animal business in one job and in the horse business in the other.

When working in the horse business, keeping your mouth shut about what faith you are, especially if it is an alternative faith that is greatly misunderstood by others, is the wiser way to go.

If I were to be open to everyone about my faith, it would have a detrimental effect on my career. People in the horse business would immediately assume that I was one of those “tree hugging, wackos” and I suddenly wouldn’t get hired or be able to buy or sell horses because gossip runs rampant in stables and sometimes is taken to be truer than the Bible! I also deal with many of the Amish community and I hide my pentacle out of deference to their beliefs.

So I pick and choose when and where to display my symbol of faith openly. I have also made an agreement with myself that, when I wear my pentacle openly, and someone questions my faith, then I must answer truthfully and intelligently.

I tell them that my pentacle stands for the four elements and the element of spirit. I tell them that it is a symbol of wholeness and balance, not of negativity and hatred. And its meaning cannot be twisted by reversing its direction, at least not in my eyes!

The first day I wore my pentacle, I walked about with a heightened sense of awareness, waiting for everybody to judge me. I guess I was expecting the whole world to gasp, point their fingers and declare me a witch in that tone of voice that meant nothing good. The actual reaction of people was much more subdued and confused.

Instead, the only question I had to deal with was, “I didn’t know you’re Jewish!”

Do you know how hard it is not to roll your eyes at someone and exclaim, “What? Can’t you count”?

I took a real risk this past Christmas. My husband had given me two gifts I picked out from our favorite knife catalog; an unusual knife and a pentacle decorated with red gems that I thought was pretty. So what it wasn’t silver!

Well pictures in catalogs can be deceiving!

I thought the pentacle to be modestly sized and the knife to be around the size of a Bowie knife. Well the truth was things were reversed.

The knife was the size of a pocketknife. The pentacle was big. REALLY BIG!

Try a pentacle with some serious attitude and lots of bling to the red gems on it. There was no mistaking it when I chose to wear out. It just reeled you in. Ooooh boy!

Then I decided to wear it out and obvious to a family function. Hey! It was a Christmas gift from my hubby that I still really liked in spite of the size. I wanted to show off my sparkly!

Now, not all of my family knows my religious denomination but most are aware. My parents are a blessing from the Goddess! They approve as long as I don’t go around trying to convert everybody. My brother and sister know and are open minded enough to not make a big deal about such things. My cousins even know and are cool with it.

My uncle? Well, lets just say his religious views scare me! He attends an ultra conservative church that has several ministers, several auditorium sized rooms for worship and boasts an attendance of several thousand people.

I was told to never tell my uncle what religion I was.

He was coming to the party as well.

I probably should NOT have worn the pentacle. But I did.

I also chose to disguise it with my new fashion statement, which was to wear cowboy clothes. You see, in the western horse show world, they have this design that is called a Texas star. It’s like a sheriff’s badge. Hmmm. Guess what? That’s a pentacle!

So I immediately went out and got my western show attire decorated in “Texas Stars”. I’ve got them on my hat and even my horse’s saddle and bridle sport little “pentacles”. No, I won’t wear ten million pentacles on myself but I’ll completely festoon my poor, long suffering horse with them!

Anyway, I showed up at the party with my hunka, big, new pentacle and my “Texas Star” hat. And my uncle showed up later. He looked directly at my new pentacle and then me and my newly dyed, black hair.

And then he asked if I’d had any of the steamed shrimp he brought.

I felt like I had had the rug pulled out from under me. I tried not to laugh my relief.

The pentacle was a big hit though.

Two people asked about it and my religious persuasion. I found out that they also were open-minded and we had a lovely evening chatting about esoteric things. Those conversations would have probably never happened if I hadn’t been daring enough to chance wearing it out.

But the real point of the matter is this: A pentacle, or a cross, or a Jewish star, or whatever symbol you choose to wear is nothing but a piece of jewelry unless the belief is behind it to make it more.

Those Wiccans that chose not to wear a pentacle or any other symbol of faith, does that make them any less of a Wiccan? No.

Sometimes I wear my pentacle and sometimes I wear my favorite jade horse pendant. They are both symbols of faith in my opinion and are as important to me as the cross is to someone else.

But I am not a Wiccan because I choose to wear a pentacle. I am Wiccan because that is what language my heart sings.

And no one can change what you feel in your heart. You can only choose whether or not to speak it.

Do you wear your pentacle on your skin or in your heart?

Essential Pagan Etiquette

Essential Pagan Etiquette

by Amanda Silvers

I have been to a number of “open pagan events” recently, and I’ve observed that some people don’t seem to know the generally understood codes of conduct. Since I hadn’t seen a good piece on pagan etiquette for a good long spell, I thought I’d put a few of my reflections on paper.

I know that not everyone will know how things should go, for example if you’ve never attended a ritual before. That’s okay; every one of us began somewhere, and we didn’t know how to act either! If you’re a beginner, say so. People will help you and introduce you around and forgive your faux pas (if you make any).

On the other hand, most of my suggestions will come as nothing new to many of you. Practically all standard rules of courtesy pertain to pagan events and gatherings.

The following bits of advice, some general and some specific, cover open pagan events, festivals and rituals. They are commonly relevant to private functions as well. Don’t regard them as comprehensive, though. Always investigate and find out whether there are any special rules for the gathering that you are planning on attending.

Arrival times

Arrival times are frequently set at a certain interval of time preceding the actual beginning of the ceremony, feast or festivity. For example: Arrival time 4 p.m., ritual to follow at 6 p.m., feast after, then drumming. This time interval is generally built in – for latecomers, for people to get their energy settled, visit, have a drink or bathroom visit and so on.

Check with the high priestess, host or event coordinator to confirm that this is the custom of the group you are joining for the event. Festivals generally have a set time at which the space opens, and you cannot arrive prior to that. There is often an opening festival ritual that you will want to attend. Try to arrive in time to participate; it helps the whole group feel cohesive and connected in a different way than if you miss it.

Double-check times always, and don’t arrive after the rite has begun unless you’ve cleared it with the hosts ahead of time. It is generally safe to arrive a bit early and volunteer to help with setup. Particularly if you are new to the area or are attending an event put on by a particular group for the first time, assisting will give the impression that you are sociable and helpful, and people will remember you.

If you do arrive early, and the ritualists are conferring or doing a pre-ritual run through, don’t disturb them!

Certain groups have a policy to lock the door after a certain time, and you won’t be able to get in if you are later than that. “Pagan standard time” (that is, late) is not a standard to aspire to!

What to bring

Do bring a benevolent disposition, a cooperative spirit and an open attitude. Shower or bathe and brush your teeth just prior to ritual if you can; it gets very gamy quickly when 50 to 100 people are in a warm closed room, very close together. Besides, you should cleanse your body just prior to ritual anyway, as an offering to the gods! Also, don’t wear heavy perfumes. They can be almost as offensive as bad body odor. Especially, patchouli and musk oil can be very potent.

Wear a smile, and for most events your fanciest ritual wear (if you have it), ritual jewelry and so on will be appropriate. This is the time and place to don a cape and your best or weirdest ritual array – entirely black clothes or your coffee-cup-sized pentagram.

It is always a good idea to bring a snack or a nonalcoholic drink to share. Offering a snack is a really good way to make new acquaintances! Bring any flyers, announcements, business cards and so on that you want to share with the community.

Bring drums, rattles and musical instruments for yourself and one or two extra to share, if you have them, especially if music or drumming is mentioned in the invitation.

Bring the site fee if there is one, in cash – check ahead to find out so there are no surprises. More about site fees later on.

What to leave at home

Do not bring your disagreeable or superior attitude, head games or grudges or animosity toward others into the circle.

Do not bring animals of any kind. As much as most of us like them, many people are allergic, they can be disruptive to the circle, they may get into the food and so on. It’s okay to allow your familiar into your own circles if you like, but please don’t presume to subject a public group to your pets.

Please, do not bring small children – unless you are prepared to supervise them closely, and to get cut out of the ritual if they become disruptive. (If they do become obtrusive, please motion to one of the ritual staff that you’d like to depart from the circle.) It’s very difficult to concentrate or meditate when there’s an infant shrieking beside you. We all (or most of us, anyway) actually enjoy children when they are reasonably well-behaved, but tempers flare when they begin to encroach on the experience of those who took the trouble to get a sitter or are childless by choice.

Do not bring illegal drugs or alcohol unless you have been assured by the hosts that such is gladly received. With innumerable pagans in recovery now, it’s a good bet that a lot of the people attending an event will be clean and sober. If you do feel that you must have a wee drink or toke, do so very prudently. You never know which person around you might be inclined to call security.

Munchies

Make sure to determine if there is a potluck, and if there is, bring a dish to share that will feed 8 to 12 people. Please be creative when you select what to bring for the potluck. Many times, I have seen four or five containers of deli potato salad and no cheese, bread, drinks, fruit, veggies – well, you get the idea. I recently brought fresh fruit of various kinds and Devonshire cream to an open full moon – it went over very well and was gone in a twinkle.

Homemade is always preferred, hot dishes are frequently at a premium, and meat is popular. However, vegetarian dishes are always a reliable bet, and if you have a specialty that you feature, bring that! Unusual drinks, breads, cheeses, desserts and appetizers are a good risk, as is unique ethnic cuisine.

Check to see if you need to provide your own dishes and tableware, and don’t forget a serving spoon or fork for your contribution, as well as napkins, cups or glasses! I have a fairly large picnic basket that I keep packed with everything I might need – plates, bowls, knives, forks and spoons, napkins and all, including blue plastic goblets and salt and pepper!

If there is no potluck planned, be sure to eat something substantial prior to attending. Keep your blood sugar level up, and you have less of a chance of falling over due to hunger.

Social interaction

Behave toward others with courtesy, kindness and respect. Introduce yourself to and make an authentic effort to meet and make the acquaintance of at least three additional people at each gathering you attend. Expand your foundation of friends, and make other newcomers feel like the local pagan community is gracious and sociable.

Do be cautious when encountering strangers – don’t rush up and leap on them like a puppy with bad manners! Approach them with consideration. Don’t interrupt a conversation, but do contribute if you sense that you have something to add. Query, but don’t pry. Certain pagans are yet in the broom closet and may not wish to divulge a lot of personal information. Take a cue from how candid and friendly they appear to be.

Bringing a small gift for the host or something for the altar is an excellent notion. Flowers are usually appreciated for either.

Ritual behavior

Attempt to observe the customary conduct of others and follow along. Please do not talk, jest or criticize the ritual cast during the ritual. (I have been guilty of this one myself, and I apologize!) Endeavor to not disrupt the ritual energy at all, unless you absolutely can’t wait, and use the bathroom prior to joining the circle!

If there is music, chanting, singing and so on – don’t sing along with the music unless invited to do so by the performers. Then sing only after you’ve listened long enough to be able to sing the words and melody correctly. Respect and honor what the performers have spent their time and energy learning by lending an ear.

Do not touch the altar, ritual items, the ritual cast or anything that does not belong to you without asking first! This includes people’s jewelry and knives. Keep your paws off if it’s not yours!

Energy

You may or may not experience the energy in a public ritual. Practically all are intentionally performed at a “lite” energy level, for the best interests of the collective. The ritualists can never know the skill level of all of the participants.

If you focus and breathe and follow along with the priest or priestess, you will get much more out of the experience. Furthermore, why take the time and effort to attend an event just to convince yourself that it was not satisfactory and then complain about it. Where is the fun in that?

Be mindful, though, that you don’t get “ritual energy overload” if the ritual does in fact have some “juice” to it. If you feel that this is happening or if you get any symptoms such as ringing or buzzing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, queasy stomach, feeling suddenly very hot or flushed or very cold (unless you’re outdoors in October!), you may be getting an energy blast.

If you think you might collapse, or vomit, please make your condition known to the high priestess or priest. It will be much less embarrassing to be ushered out of ritual than just to crash to the ground! Not to mention how unpleasant it might be for others if they believe that you’ve had a heart attack or something.

Not infrequently, you can surf through an intense energy surge by grounding and breathing slowly, maybe by moving your body or by eating or drinking something, if possible.

Personal matters

In my experience producing events, there is no way you can ever make all the people happy all the time – no matter how hard you strive. Please take the time to think about your complaint prior to voicing it. Is it that important to you? Will it be productive? Will it make any kind of difference? Are you willing to help or offer useful, positive suggestions on how to improve things? Are you just having a bad day? My opinion is, if I’m the hostess, I get to do things my way. If someone else has a better idea, they’re welcome to go do it! Don’t just bitch at the producers of an event because you don’t like what they’re doing. If you positively don’t like it, make a note not to attend again, but endeavor to have the best time you can while you’re there and permit others their experience.

Again, please abandon your “attitude” at the door. I have attended numerous events where there were one or two troublemakers, complainers, disrupters and just ordinary assholes. Such people are a pain in the butt for the ritual staff, and often for the attendees as well. After the staff works really hard to make an event happen for the community, then they are subjected to a person who does nothing but complain because the staff hasn’t provided especially for the complainer’s particular, probably unexpected requirements.

Hedonistic composure

I am extremely sex-positive, but I want to say that pagan events are not a place to try to get laid. Ritual is not a place for sexually predatory behavior, and if you do exhibit this, you will quickly gain the reputation of a wolf, cad, or loose woman. You may not be invited – or allowed – to return.

It’s okay to flirt and even to “come on” to someone if who seems receptive, but make sure that person is interested and that you know his or her relationship status (and that person knows yours) before you leap!

If a person says no, respect that! No means no! If someone is not interested, move on to someone else. If you do move from man to man or woman to woman at a ritual or festival, be assured there will be some people who will notice your conquest mentality. A lot of people won’t want to be just another notch on your wand. So use discretion and common sense when choosing sex partners.

At some events, there will be the opportunity for sexual expression for those who wish to revel in it. I really appreciate it when there is a shrine provided for worship of Aphrodite or Pan or other gods that are sexually oriented, and I feel it is appropriate to make a sacrifice to them in this way.

However, if you partake of the shrines and make a mess, please clean it up! Dispose of condoms, gloves and dams properly by wrapping them in a tissue and putting them in the garbage. I don’t know how many times I’ve found used condoms lying in a shrine. Ugh!

Furthermore, wipe up any spills or mess, put out the candles and the incense, throw away the tissues, fold the blankets and so on. Leave the place as you would like to have found it. Remember this is the gods’ domain; you owe it to them.

Also, just as in any similar situation – if you are having sex with a new partner, use latex! We’re living in the ’90s, people. There are many, many incurable diseases that you can catch or pass on. Some strains of hepatitis can be fatal, and several are sexually transmitted. Thus, even if your partner is not at risk for HIV, they could give you hepatitis B or C or herpes. Latex should always be used for all activities involving body fluid exchange with a new partner.

Cleanup

Please pick up after yourself and your party. Make sure the area is as clean or cleaner than when you arrived. You might ask the ritual staff if they need any help with cleanup of the ritual space, kitchen or whatever. Again, volunteering to do these little things shows you are willing to go out of your way, and that is a welcome trait. It also helps you get acquainted with people you may never have met.

Some groups have a work exchange program, so if you want to get in free, ask. Some will require you to do setup and cleanup. Some will not require much at all. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and pay if you’re able. If you want the events to continue to be available – support them, bring your pagan or pagan curious friends!

Time to go?

There are usually times posted for public events, as in: Ritual from 7-8:30. Such a schedule is sometimes loose, and sometimes not. If the event promoters have to pay extra for the building after a certain time, it is annoying to have people just hang out for hours after the ritual is over. Take your cues from the majority of the people: When they leave, make for the door.

When you are at someone’s home, be sensitive to the fact that your host may be tired and want to go to bed. If he or she is yawning and everyone else is gone – go home!

Final suggestions

The time to discuss, analyze or process your experience is when you’re home, behind closed doors. If you have serious criticism, call the promoter or ritualists and ask if they want your feedback. If so, try to convey it in a nonjudgmental tone. If you come across as a whiner, they won’t hear or heed your words!

Don’t forget to express your thanks and appreciation of an event well done, too. Remember, no one and nothing is perfect, so if things went fairly well and you had a good time – call and let them know that too! It’s is a thankless job (most of the time) to produce events, and it’s nice to get some positive feedback occasionally instead of just bitching.

Take advantage of the public events to connect with the pulse of the local pagan community. Experience the diversity of the traditions in the area. Enjoy yourself and learn something new, and honor the people who produce the events and rituals with your presence, attention and energy. Most of all, worship the God and Goddess with those of a like mind. And have a great time doing it!

Tell them I sent you.

One Pagan Steps Out of the Broom Closet

One Pagan Steps Out of the Broom Closet

 

by L. Lisa Harris

In days past, stepping out of the broom closet meant sitting at the dinner table and blurting out, “Mom, I’m a witch,” then waiting for her to accept the fact and ask you questions, or faint dead away. She might tell you it was a phase you were going though or refuse to talk to you for a period of time. As a general rule, if it wasn’t accepted, it never left the dinner table. It just wouldn’t do to air the family’s dirty laundry to the neighbors (what would they think?).

Today, it could still be as simple as telling a trusted co-worker that you go to circle, instead of church, or explaining to a potential significant other why there is 7-inch dagger on a small table next to your bed. You might even be lucky enough to be outed by your 9-year-old child, who in an argument with a neighborhood kid yells, “Yeah, well, my mom’s a witch, and I’m going to go get her right now.”

However, with the advent of the Internet, one’s “witchiness” (along with anything else of interest) can be world news in a matter of seconds, as I quickly learned. The speed at which such information can travel and how far it can get can be quite surprising, even for one who is “out of the broom closet.” You can give in an interview to the local paper, and the next thing you know, you’re getting e-mail from Australia.

My adventure in pagan PR and world news began early last winter when I received a phone call from Steve Maynard of the Tacoma News Tribune advising me that he was planning to do a feature story on the Earth Centered Spirituality Group at the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church in Tacoma, which I have facilitated for the past two and a half years. Steve covers religion for the paper and was slowly but surely making progress with his editor in getting earth-centered events covered on the religion page. We both knew he had a long way to go before he would be permitted to treat our group as the paper did other religious groups when, last Easter season, his editor would not allow him to use the word “pagan” when he was describing a UU church service in which elders read children stories of how four traditions (pagan, Hebrew, Christian and Unitarian) celebrated the Easter season.

I was expecting his feature story to be on the religion page, as we were just beginning to get calendar space in the Saturday edition in that section. Imagine my surprise when he told me that it was going to be the cover for the “Sound Life” magazine section and that there was also going to be a photo layout. He was even going to use the words “pagan” and “witch.” For a moment, I couldn’t believe it. All the months of pestering him and sending press releases and information had paid off. We were going to be taken seriously. We were going to have a chance to let Western Washington know what we were and what we weren’t. I was elated.

But on the drive home from work, I asked myself, “What was I thinking?” A nice little column on the religion page was one thing, but to be on the magazine cover of a Sunday edition was another matter. I have been “out” with my family and friends for 13 years and even wear a triple moon pentacle at work, where I have no problem educating those who would malign others’ religion out of ignorance. But when I thought about the conservative Christian parents of the girls I coach in softball and volleyball on the South Hill of Puyallup reading in the Sunday paper about their coach being a witch, something in my stomach did a double back-flip with a twist. I had visions of girls being pulled from the team by parents who didn’t want them corrupted by that “tool of Satan,” other kids not being allowed to play with my daughter and picketers throwing rocks in front of the church. Steve and I had been working towards this for almost a year and a half, so it was no small matter that I found myself reconsidering the wisdom of the situation.

Most witches I know would meditate or cast a circle and ask the Goddess for guidance when dealing with an important situation like this. My goddess never waits for me to do that. I’ve learned to deal with it. She likes to slip into the passenger seat of my car when I’m trying to drive home at the end of a busy day or corner me when I’m in the bathroom and can’t get up and leave because my pants are around my ankles. This time she chose the car, and she really let me have it. “You’re the one that wanted to be a warrior. Now you’re given a chance to battle ignorance and you’re afraid? Don’t be a wimp! Get out there and act like a priestess, not a weenie!” I don’t recommend dedicating yourself to the Morrigane unless you’re the type of person who can stand up to a drill sergeant without flinching. Of course, as I remember it, I didn’t have a lot of say in the matter. She chose me.

About the time I was feeling completely unworthy, my cell phone rang. It was my daughter letting me know that she was home from school. “Honey, how would you feel if the next article about me was in a bigger paper than the last one?” I asked.

“Um, okay, why?” she replied, her mouth overly full of partially chewed banana. I explained that it would be a front page spread and my picture was likely to be in it. More chewing, and another “Um, okay” followed the sound of the fridge being rummaged through. I asked her what her friends would think if they saw the article, and she assured me that her friends don’t read anything other than the horoscopes, music reviews and comics.

“How would you feel if one of your friends wouldn’t hang out with you anymore because your mom’s a witch?”

“I don’t think that would happen,” she said.

“But what if it did?” I pushed.

She swallowed the rest of her banana, which I’m sure was not properly chewed, and in her best exasperated-adolescent voice said, “Well, that wouldn’t make them very good friends, now, would it? Can I go over to Morgan’s?” So much for the girl being traumatized by it. That was one excuse gone. I reminded her to chew with her mouth closed and take smaller bites, then hung up the phone.

The next call came in right on schedule, from Hubby, who was on his break at work. “Hi, honey, how would you feel if all the guys in the break room at work read in the paper that I’m a witch?” I asked, thinking that there was no point in beating around the bush since he only had 10 minutes to talk.

His response was immediate and enthusiastic, “Cool!” he said. “When will it come out? I’d love for some of those dumb, right-wing conservative jerks I argue politics with to see it, so that I can yank their chain.” When he found out it would be in the Sunday edition, he was extremely disappointed he wouldn’t be there at work to watch the looks on his co-workers’ faces when they read it. It would have been amusing, since I used to work in the same place and know all of them. Great, Hubby wasn’t going to be an excuse either. I was going to have to go through with it.

The next step was to set up interviews and photo opportunities. The interviews weren’t going to be a problem. I’d been talking to Steve for over a year and a half and had sent him volumes of information. How much was there that he could possibly ask? I found out that there was plenty. It seemed that the more information I gave him, the more questions he had. He found that the more people he talked to and the more research he did, the more disagreement on basic issues he found. After a month of spending my lunch hours, breaks and time after work talking to Steve, I still couldn’t come up with answers to some questions other than, “Well, if you ask 30 people that question, you’ll likely get 30 different answers.”

I could hear him shaking his head on the other end of the phone line, but he kept with it. He interviewed Ph.D.s, ministers, theologians, authors and other high priestesses in the local community. He attended Tarot classes and rune workshops that we put on in order to get a better understanding of what our group does and interviewed several people at those classes to get a feel for the local community.

The photo editor wanted to photograph a ritual. “We don’t allow photographers at our rituals,” I explained. When I offered to set something up with people who didn’t mind being photographed, he told me that at the paper they “don’t like things that are staged.” “Great!” I muttered to myself. I already had a Brigid ritual to write, a class on the runes to put together and lines to memorize for a Candlemas ritual that another group was putting on. I knew that the only way the layout was going to work would be to put on a real working with participants who didn’t mind being photographed. I made the offer of a special ritual, with a real working, and once he was convinced it wouldn’t be “staged” and I had his agreement the photographer would not disrupt the flow of the ritual, the date was set. I put out a call to the local pagan e-mail lists for volunteers who didn’t mind being photographed.

Getting the volunteers was much easier than I had imagined, and I was rather pleased with how things were working out. The difficult part, I discovered, was going to be finding a ritual that wouldn’t expose material that many in the pagan community would consider “inappropriate” for public use or that would offend or exclude anyone. I soon discovered that what some considered “outer court” material, suitable for any public occasion, others considered “oath-bound.” I was also faced with the fact that just because something is published and sitting on a shelf at Borders doesn’t mean that it isn’t considered oath-bound by one tradition or another. I suddenly had to worry about being pagan politically correct.

Then there were the personal preferences of those who were going to be in the circle. My Wiccan friends didn’t want a Wiccan ritual “performed” for the media. Some of the pagans didn’t want to be confused with witches, the neo-pagans didn’t want to be confused with “New Agers,” my Brit-trad friends didn’t want to be mistakenly identified as Unitarians, and some of the Unitarians didn’t want to be labeled at all. I had 17 ritualists with 17 different ideas of what would and wouldn’t be appropriate.

As I sat at my computer, staring out the window at the woods out back, I thought to myself, “If my close friends and those who trust me to present paganism to the media are this fired up, what about all the pagans who are going to read this in the paper and had no say in the matter? What are they going to think?” Suddenly I went from feeling like a champion of those who suffer religious oppression to feeling like someone not worthy of the task. I had lost count of the number of people who thought that no reporter could be trusted and that I was making a huge mistake. But I had been talking to Steve for a long time. I knew him. I knew what he wanted to accomplish and trusted him to do right by us. I thought I was doing a good thing, and it seemed that it just ticked everyone off. Visions of angry pagans wanting my hide were added to the already scary ones of crosses burning on my lawn or windows being broken at the church by those who fear us. More doubt filled my mind. I tried to brush it away as quickly as I could. I really wasn’t up for a bathroom visit from a ticked-off goddess. I was starting to get a headache.

Two glasses of wine later, I had decided that we would use only published material, to which I would make some changes so that no tradition’s sacred material would be exposed to the media. The ritual would be a working for community understanding, which seemed fitting for a media event. I scanned my bookshelves, literally sagging under the weight of what my hubby considers my “excessive” book collection, hoping that something would present itself.

I noticed my old dog-eared copy of The Spiral Dance sticking out a bit farther than the other books on the shelf. “Starhawk! She knows how to deal with the public and fight for the cause. I don’t really think she’d mind if I borrowed a few things,” I told myself. I found a ritual written by Alan Acacia titled “A Circle for Healing During Struggle,” which fit in perfectly with what we were planning. I modified it to be less priestess-centered and to have the quarters read their parts themselves. I picked out some nice invocations to the God and Goddess, and soon I had a basic ritual ready to go.

The ritual was beautiful, so beautiful in fact that I forgave my friend Dana without even giving her a hard time for calling me a “circle Nazi” in rehearsal. Everyone showed up in festive clothing and colorful robes. People who came to sit and watch but didn’t want to risk being “outed” by being in the circle were drawn in; they just couldn’t stay out. The quarter callers performed their parts perfectly, the candles all stayed lit, and our sound and lighting person hit every musical cue. We passed a small cauldron, which was later lit, around the room, so that each person in turn could hold it and speak aloud what they hoped to accomplish with the ritual. Everyone was so eloquent and sincere and came up with such wonderful, positive wishes that the reporter was frantic trying to copy them all down. We danced a spiral to raise energy, and everyone in that room could feel a strong, palpable force, even the photographer. We had been asked prior to the ritual to send healing energy to a critically ill girl who was on a respirator in a children’s hospital, so we added that to our ritual working and sent it all flying out of the circle in a powerful stream of golden light. Afterwards, everyone in the circle had a look on his or her face as if they had just had amazing sex. I’d call that good energy.

At 4 a.m. on February 8, after weeks of worries and what ifs, I drove down the hill to the mini-mart to get a copy of the paper. I took a deep breath, readying myself in case it wasn’t really there or my trust in the reporter had been misplaced. On the cover of the “Sound Life” section was a full color picture of the ritualists with their outstretched arms, adorned with rings, bracelets and colorful robes, sending healing energy to the ill girl, and the headline “Pagans at Peace.” The light bouncing off of the sanctuary wall in the background looked just like a ball of gold light being tossed out to the universe. There were pictures of the rune workshop and flaming cauldrons. I must say it was possibly the best article I have ever seen on paganism in the mainstream press. Steve had even quoted Christian clergy to explain what attracts seekers to witchcraft and paganism. Yes, there were some things left out, and a couple of people didn’t think that the press should have made it sound like all pagans share a common set of beliefs. All I could do was say, “Well done, Steve. Thank you.” (To see the story, check out “NEW !!! UUAT In the News” under http//members.nbci.com/uuatearth/.)

There were no picketers in front of the UU church that morning. No threatening messages had been left on the answering machine there or at home. Everyone in the church was excited about the article, and some new people even showed up because of it. A friend who works in a local hospital arrived at work to find the article pinned to the bulletin board and a request for pagan clergy posted. The hospital staff had taken notice of the article section that spoke of pagan hospital patients not having access to clergy services. Now there is a group in Pierce County putting together a program to get pagan clergy registered with local hospitals.

The article made it around the globe in a few hours, thanks to the Internet mailings lists and bulletin boards. It made at least two appearances in the “Wren’s Nest” section of The Witches Voice Web site, and I received congratulations from Circle Sanctuary. Soon I started receiving e-mail messages from all over the world. One told me how the article came at a perfect time to show to a judge in a child custody battle in which the mother’s Wiccan religion was being used against her. Another letter told of a case where a young girl was missing and the local media had blamed it on the fact that she had visited a Web site on Wicca. The story went out on the Howard-Scripps News Service and was reprinted in several other newspapers, sparking a whole new batch of letters, all with similar stories and gratitude to Steve for portraying us in a positive light, not just as a media curiosity at Halloween, as many newspapers do.

When it was apparent that nothing bad was going to happen because of the article, I was almost disappointed. I wasn’t going to have to do battle against ignorance or have an exciting and dangerous story to tell in Widdershins. I came to realize, though, that I did have a story to tell. It isn’t about confrontation or hate. It is about battling my own fear and self-doubt. It is a story of a group of people who came together, regardless of personal risk, to accomplish a goal for the greater community. It is the story of a little girl who got off of a respirator and is back home with her family, who incidentally are not pagan.

Coming Out Of The “Broom Closet”

Coming Out Of The “Broom Closet”

Author: Lea

I am lucky to have two parents that fully accept the fact I am a Pagan. In fact, after I converted, my mother followed; the jury is still out on my father…he would be willing to join in for ceremonies or feasts, but he still goes to church some Sundays and doesn’t really know anything about religion in general. The rest of my family was technically raised Presbyterian, they don’t go to church and we just say grace before big family meals, mostly because of my grandmother.

I doubt my family would have major issues with the fact I am a Pagan, they would probably brush it off and think it was “just a phase”, or ask me questions about what Paganism really is, but they wouldn’t disown me.

Yet, I still have found myself unable to come out of the “Broom Closet”. So, I kind of want to talk about why, or why not, to come out of the broom closet.

All of my information is taken from personal experiences of friends and of myself, and from the website Lady of the Earth, which is credited at the bottom of this essay.

Picture if you will, you’ve been studying Paganism for a while, and maybe you’ve managed to cast a couple of circles, built up a rather nice collection of oils, incense and candles, and really proud of what you’ve learned. So, now what? Are you ready to tell your friends and family?
Wait, we’ll have to consider some things first:

“In Africa today, someone may be brutally murdered because they were accused of Witchcraft. Whether or not they are or aren’t doesn’t matter. Just an accusation.

Closer to home, in America today, someone may lose his or her children because a social worker was misinformed. Children have been taken from their parents because a ‘child welfare’ worker believed they would be sacrificed at Samhain.

Very close to my home, in Canada today, someone may be forced into a mental institution for practicing Wicca. Some institutions believe that practicing modern Witchcraft is a sign of mental distress or social maladjustment.

In the world today, someone is losing a job for being Pagan; someone is losing a friend.

Someone is polishing a gun and muttering about the ‘baby killers’. Someone is holding community action meetings to deal with the ‘Wiccan threat’.”—Lady of the Earth

These may be old numbers, as many areas have repealed “anti-witch” laws, but we must always remember that people are misinformed about Pagans, and they get all their information from Hollywood or outdated sources.

When I first came out of the broom closet, my father had some misconceptions about Paganism, even though he is an educated man with a university degree in accounting, from when he was a child being raised in a very Catholic small town. In fact, when my mother and I stopped going to church because we converted, he got very defensive.

With common misconceptions dispelled, however, he now understands why we converted, and why we weren’t very happy with the Christian church. It made the relationship a bit tense at first, and he would often leave Sunday mornings to church and not tell us—we assumed he went to the office to do some filing or make some calls without bothering us—and he almost seemed ashamed to admit he was going to church. I sometimes wonder if he thought the big scary Pagan women were going to curse him!

You must always remember, coming out of the broom closet will change everything, usually for the good, but you must realize that sometimes it will be for the worst.

If any of you reading this are gay and have come out of the closet, I’m sure you’ll know how difficult it can be. I think that is why Pagans use the analogy of “coming out of the closet” to describe telling people of their religious views, and by making it a “broom closet”, Pagans give it their own twist.

This is not intended as a how-to come out, but more of an essay on what you can do to come out, and some things to consider. Everyone’s coming-out will be different and unique to the person and situation. Also, keep in mind there are different forms of being “out”. If we want to be technical, I’m very much out in the open, but at the same time I am very much in the closet.

I am out with my friends, but for my cousins wedding that happened on August 1st, I was more half in the closet. I am more out with my mother than my father. Ordering books online is more anonymous than going to your local bookstore. Do what feels comfortable for YOU. This is your life.

Paganism is about trust in yourself and the world around you. You have to trust in what you do in rituals for it to work, for example. Therefore, the basis for coming out of the broom closet is trust. So, if you want your family to trust in you after or during your coming out, you have to make sure you’re doing trustworthy things.

Don’t hide the fact you collect oils or incense; tell your family you are looking into aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is used in spas, so it is less suspicious than hiding about it, or arguing, or straight out lying. Saying you’re using aromatherapy is, at least, somewhat truthful. Though you could argue it is lying by omitting, it’s still a lot less risky. Think of it along the same lines as the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

Safety is the next consideration. Is it safe for you to come out? If you think it is unsafe, then don’t come out, at least not yet. Safety includes protection from physical abuse, but can also include having somewhere to live, or the emotional worry of having people harass you or even attempt to convert you.

I have a friend who was unable to come out in her hometown because of an abusive situation. I doubt I could come out to some of my extended family just because they think anything outside the “norm” (in that area, Christianity) is wrong, and they already think I’m weird because of my personality.

The next step is then to try to predict how the people you are coming out to will react. Start with one group, like your parents. Will they understand? Curious? Supportive? Angry? I do suggest starting with people you live with, because you can predict their behavior best. Make note of how they act talking about religion in general. This stage might take only a few days to have a general idea of how they will react. It might take several weeks. Be patient, and keep your eyes and ears open.

I did this myself just recently, when coming out with my mother’s sister, who comes over to our house pretty much every Sunday for a visit and dinner. She is not exactly open-minded, but she’s not close-minded either: she’s more in-between. I had wanted to come out to her for quite some time, but was unsure how to mention it.

She had seen my collection of candles, incense, and admired my collection of Egyptian statues. She was there when I picked up some of my tarot decks and Pagan books, and was with me when I purchased some Aztec prints. She reacted pretty positively to the items, always commenting how much I had loved this stuff when I was younger.

Finally, just a few weeks ago, she was watching me while I was putting a few finishing touches on an entry into my Book of Shadows, and asked if the spell book I was copying from was “made up” like in Harry Potter. My mom and I gave a jumbled reply saying they were from old grimoires and such, and my aunt took it all quite well. She said it was interesting, flipped through it a bit, and then went back to what she was doing.

You may be lucky, just like I was. Your family may not need your choice explained to them, and they will support you no matter what. But, if I have learned anything, it’s that never trust luck. Always have an explanation. Make a list of what you like about paganism. Write a little paragraph or two explaining why you converted or are not impressed with more mainstream religions.

Also, be sure to plan to explain some of the common misconceptions about paganism. This can be really helpful if you would rather write a letter or e-mail to your family to come out and let them come to you.

The biggest trick will be to remain calm. Are you prone to anger very quickly? You’ll have to work on that before even considering coming out. Calmness is key. If you speak calmly and explain your points in a level voice, they will be more prone to listening. To help remain calm, you can really benefit from preparing beforehand.

Plan for EVERYTHING you can think of, because it can give you something to refer to, and it will help you keep your thoughts in order. You can even make cue-cards to refer to during your actual coming out. It may seem like over-planning, but if you are forgetful or easily frustrated, the more planning you have, the less likely you’ll lose you cool, because you probably have something written down.

Another good reason for this is, if your parents learn better by reading, you can physically give them something to read with all your points on it. My mother is like this, so when I came out, she ordered herself a book on Wicca to educate herself on my religion.

In many cases, what is known about paganism by the general public (people who haven’t studied it) are the misconceptions and rumors spread by Hollywood and religious bigots. Remember, your parents and friends love you, and want what’s best for you and want to keep you from getting hurt. Reassure them that paganism is not a cult, and that you are educating yourself on all aspects of the religion.

Please be patient with them; it may take them some time and some research of their own to fully accept your actions. Also, use common sense. If they are in a bad mood, don’t bring this up; you can wait until they are in a good and talkative mood.

It is more than likely, if you’ve explained your position well, that your family and friends will be supportive, even if they don’t agree with you. The teachers at my high school were very open-minded and prided the small pagan community we had; my friends may not agree with my beliefs, but they happily accept that it is what I believe and support me.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll really pique someone’s interest and aid him or her on his or her own spiritual journey.


Footnotes:
http://www.ladyoftheearth.com/lessons/how-to-tell-family-friends.txt

http://www.ladyoftheearth.com/lessons/10-beginner-mistakes.txt