Her Hidden Children: In Praise of Teachers, I Wanna Be A Minority & Are We Hiding From Each Other

I’ve got three things on my mind and while I have ample coffee I’m going to try to express my thoughts in a semi-orderly fashion.

The first is something that I find weird in Paganism, yet it’s not really exclusive to us. We have a whole wealth of wise folks that influence our community that are unknown to the greater Pagan community. They are priestesses, priests, teachers and elders that never publish essays or frequent forums. They touch our lives deeply and never appear on book covers or in newspapers.

I’m loud and opinionated but I’m no teacher. I’m not suited to that calling and so I serve my community as best I can: by talking incessantly about things that I find important. I am no good at teaching, training and nurturing people on a spiritual path, but because I “talk out loud” on Patheos some people have assumed I’m a teacher. Not so.

We have a strange dynamic in our community since, oh, the 1980’s. Sunfell calls it the third wave of Pagans, the “book Pagans”. We tend to place a lot of credence in authors, and perhaps less in our teachers. Paganism isn’t a static thing, we’re not a “people of the book” and our teachers are the foundation of our traditions.

Personally, I’m incredibly grateful to have living, dynamic teachers who are called to teach and excel at it. I try to keep my tradition our of my writing on Patheos because I’m not qualified to speak for it by any means, but I really appreciate my High Priestess and High Priest. Appreciate the living flesh-and-blood teachers in your life. They keep the hearth-fires burning according to season.

Thing number two bouncing around my noggin is our growth. I’ve had countless conversations where someone mentions that Pagan religions will never become major religions, or that the modern Pagan movement will never become mainstream and we wouldn’t want it to, either!

Um, there seem to be more of us. Have you noticed that? Lisa Simpson defended Wicca on The Simpsons. We’ve delivered the opening prayer at state legislatures and had an active US president mention us, albeit unfavorably. What will the new census reveal? What if we’re growing faster than we’d previously thought? What if we are becoming a major movement? What then?

The next thing on my mind is Pagans in hiding, not just from an outside world that will not understand them, but from other Pagans. I discovered recently that I had lived near a Pagan group for a year in a small town and never knew it. Recently learned there’s a private lending library in my town run by a group that prefers to stay on the down-low.

I don’t hide from other Pagans, and have actually made an effort to be more publicly Pagan short of sporting fairy wings and occult bling. I do try to avoid conflict where I can, although I won’t back down from an attack, and I try to generally be the sort of person that when people learn I’m Pagan it makes them rethink their stereotypes and prejudices. However, I do understand the desire to hide from other Pagans.

Let’s face it, as a tolerant and inclusive community we can attract a few nuts. It’s one of the reasons teachers screen students and groups screen initiates carefully. When I opened up my Facebook profile to be completely public after starting here at Patheos it was reluctantly and warily done. So I understand the impulse to hide.

However, if decent, honest, hard-working ordinary Pagans don’t go public then all the public sees are the nuts and crackpots. Harvey Milk said people’s views of gay people would change once they realized they knew a gay person. I say people’s views of Pagans will change once they realize they know a Pagan.

Now I’m off to do laundry and get another cup of coffee!

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  • Lori F – MN

    When I go out and am wearing my penticle, I do my best to keep a smile on my face and be as warm and courtious as possible. I love wearing black, but that’s not all I wear. I’ve discovered colors! Amazing!
    I’ve even been brave enough to wear it when I work out at my local Curves. There are people there who know me from elsewhere. I make no appology. But I will answer any questions they have for me.
    I’m fortunate to be able to feel comfortable wearing it openly at work. One of the managers wears an Ahnk and takes off for Yule. We don’t talk about religion at work, it wouldn’t be appropriate.
    I’d love to find others to hang with in my area, but I’d have to go very far out of my way to do so and I don’t feel comfortable going into MPLS/STP in the evenings, alone.
    So I communicate with others on line – Hurrah.

  • Greenman

    Star, you raise some interesting points….i think i agree pretty much with you. i would also point out that many of us use names, other than out legal names, when we we are out of the “broom closet”. This is not a bad thing but it does give us two identities. i wish more groups & teachers would take advantage of Witches Vox (and other groups) to list themselves and their contact information.

  • We should be very leery of how much weight we attach to being a Pagan “author”. The publishing industry is not run by Pagans, and it actually has very little interest in producing thoughtful well-written books on religion or any other subject. For the most part “serious non-fiction” is not a money-making genre, and it is getting increasingly difficult even for established authors. Here is a depressing, but fascinating, article written just a year ago on the subject:

  • Lori – I’m rather lucky that my real name is Star. People don’t think anything of my wearing a five-pointed star!

    Greenman – PC podcast did an episode not too long ago about using Pagan names in public. They have a lot of meaning within our traditions but maybe we should reconsider how we use them. Using my real name for Patheos was a big leap for me but I felt it was important.

    Apuleius – I agree. Authors may have helped popularize Pagan religions, but then we’ve definitely had our share of bad books. The list of books on my Horrible list is almost as long as my Must Read list.