I have been actively “out of the broom closet” with many of my friends and neighbors for about a year now. It happened in small ways — a question about which church my kids would be going through to do their first communions (“Well, we aren’t exactly Catholic….” (much of our area is).
Or there was the time that my (then) 7 year old explained to her teacher (the other students, the teacher’s aid…) how her mommy is a witch.
For the most part, all of my neighbors know what I’m about. And it isn’t that I’m hiding it. I wear shirts that say “Neighborhood Witch” (looks like a “neighborhood watch” sign, given to me by a neighbor!), just plain “Witch”, “I might be a witch, wanna try me?”. People think they are clever ways to say I’m bitchy. No one ever asks.
And that’s what it comes down to. People don’t ask about religion that much, so I have no reason to explain it to them. Who, no matter what religion, introduces themselves as “Hi! I’m Kris! I’m a Pagan!/Catholic!/Jew!/Buddhist!”? That’s right, no one. So most people don’t know. If they asked, I would be happy to tell them. If they had questions, I’d be happy to answer.
And I’m thinking now that there might be questions on the way. See, one of the things that inspired this blog is an article that came out in the Star Ledger, NJ’s most read newspaper. You can read it here. Basically, it’s an article about Beltane, and how paganism is becoming increasingly more “out”. I loved that the paper had a pagan themed article that was not Halloween based. So I wrote them a letter of praise. And today, it was printed in the editorial page, with my full name and town. I would guess that the majority of the people in my area either subscribe or pick up this paper. Who knows how many actually read the opinion page. But it’s there for all to see.
And, not to sound full of myself, there are many, many people who know my name and town in the area. The youth group I lead was in several newspapers lately for their work creating the gardens I talked about in a previous post. I have worked with the city council on various activities. I accepted an award on behalf of my group at a recent city council meeting. My kids go to three different schools, and I’m pretty active in two of them (the third is in high school and would be mortified!). I’m certainly not, on any level, a “big name” in town, but my name is fairly recognizable in certain groups.
So now it is what it is. People will either see it or they won’t. They will either recognize the name, or they won’t. They will be appalled or not suprised, or both! I am, I admit, a bit freaked out. There is always that fear that this could bring negativity with it. That someone will keep their kid away from mine because of this. That some crazy could come burn a cross in my yard. It’s not unheard of, that’s for sure. But we shall see.
I couldn’t find the editorials on line from the paper, but I here’s a copy of what I wrote to the paper:
I was so pleased to see your article “Going back to nature worship.” How refreshing to see a positive article on paganism instead of a stereotypical October “Let’s meet a real witch!” fluff piece.
As a practicing pagan, it’s wonderful to see how the pagan culture is starting to “come out of the broom closet” and take it’s place with more mainstream religions. As you mention, many pagans are environmentalists. We are also your PTO moms, youth group leaders, lawyers, firemen, clerks, policemen, reporters and soldiers. There are estimated to be as many pagans in the United States as there are firemen, paid and volunteer. You probably know one or two, even if they haven’t “come out” to you.
It is finally time for pagans to take back their image. We are not devil worshipers (the devil is a Christian belief that many pagans don’t accept). We don’t sacrifice babies or pets. Life to us is sacred, as are death, deity and this earth.
Thank you for helping to show the pagan community in a positive light. Let’s hope that it won’t be the last article you do on the subject.