Pagan Living In a Red or Purple State

Pagan Living In a Red or Purple State July 30, 2017

It’s not easy being a pagan witch in a red or purple political state, especially with so much hatred and willful misunderstanding in the world. I encounter religious prejudice, racism, sexism, and homophobia, usually on a daily basis.

Daily Life

Being a pagan in a red or purple state means the mono-religion culture is pervasive and seemingly inescapable. It’s rare to find people who aren’t of an Abrahamic religion. Unless I’m wearing my pentacle, people assume I’m Christian or Catholic. My beliefs and practices are never questioned before people preach their beliefs, as if I’m one of them. It’s like there’s consensual reality of ‘this is how it is for everyone.’ Only it’s not.

goddess-1500599_1280

Photo courtesy of CC0 Public Domain

Years ago, one of my clients lamented that there’s a ‘war on Christmas,’ because people of other religions wanted to celebrate their holidays too. He assumed I was on his side. I let him prattle on before wrapping up the call. He didn’t deserve to know who I was, and he certainly couldn’t handle the truth about my religion.

I don’t know about you, but apart from saying the rare “Happy Solstice,” I never assume anyone observes my holidays or worships my gods. Imagine what would happen if I took a coworker’s hands in mine and spoke a prayer to Aphrodite in a similar manner that they took mine and prayed to their god. I’ve never done this, but I can only guess the person would be so shocked that they would stop me and pull their hands away. There might be gossip about how strange I was, and possibly even a complaint.

Sometimes, people from other religions say they’ll pray for me. Think about this – they would pray to their god for me, unbidden, for the result they want for me. I recently read that this could be viewed as black magic, and yet these intrusive behaviors are considered normal for some people. It’s seen as non-threatening – as a kindness, even – because their culture is dominant.

Being a pagan in a red or purple state also means my dating options weren’t limited to the pagan pool. To do otherwise would that’ve limited me severely, unless I wanted to move across the country. I fell in love with, and married, a muggle. So did several other pagan friends of mine. But I have no complaints. My husband is brilliant and kind, and our life together is still magical, even if he doesn’t join me in meditation or ritual.

Fear of the Other

Living in a red or purple state means there’s fear about ‘the other.’ There’s pressure to conform to the mainstream. I know exactly what I need to do to assimilate, or at least blend into society better, although I don’t like to do that. I feel that my wildness sticks out like a wolf’s tail under my skirt.

Photo courtesy of Pixelbay
It’s hard to hide your wildness when you run with the wolves. CC0 Public Domain

For decades, I was afraid to use the word witch, even though our country was founded on religious freedom. In my state, being a pagan / wiccan / witch is sometimes seen as devil worship or satanism. When I wore my first pentacle, in my early twenties, strangers commented on my ‘pentagram’ and asked me questions about ‘devil worship.’ Even after I corrected them, and told them it was a pentacle and not a pentagram, they told me it’s so close that I should just get rid of it.

Being a pagan in a red / purple state means I’m the only one like me at work, if you don’t count my one friend who identifies as a Buddhist and another with Buddhist-Druid leanings. It means there are a lot of pagans and wiccans in the broom closet at their various jobs, who have to hide for fear of losing their job, even though it’s illegal to be fired for being pagan or wiccan. The reality of religious intolerance is real, and discrimination may occur, even if it’s not blatant.

Living as a pagan in a red / purple state means I may be the only out-and-about pagan someone meets in their entire life. I’m an ambassador of sorts. As such, my actions and deeds may be judged more heavily. It also means I have to correct strangers’ and associates’ assumptions that I ‘cast spells on people’ (which I do not do), or that I worship the horned god (which I don’t discuss with those people).

wrought-iron-fence

Healthy boundaries are an important part of daily life in a red or purple state. Photo CC0 Public Domain

It means I set boundaries about what I will and won’t talk about with associates or at the checkout line. I may or may not tell some people I’m a pagan witch who honors the cycles of nature, but I’ll never tell them what I do, where, with whom, when, or which god / goddess I call upon. That kind of discussion is rightfully reserved for my fellow pagans and trusted non-pagan friends. Rarely, I may share my joy with includes trustworthy associates – people who have proven to me over time that they’re not going to run screaming if I tell them I had a great moon circle over the weekend. But usually not.

The Big Picture

Being a pagan in my state means that whenever there’s an election, the voting results look like a sea of red with tiny blue dots where the counties with cities are located. It means I must vote every chance I get for progressive issues, because it’s always so close. Half of the population disagrees the other half, and only25-70% of the population votes.

Being a pagan in a red or purple state also means fewer pagan bookstores, sadly. If you went to one, or even a big-box bookstore, you’d have to paw through shelves of books about aliens, feng shui, and positive thinking to get to only a handful of the most introductory pagan books.

There seem to be fewer covens and community rituals here compared to when I lived on the west coast. Because covens around here are more rare, every one I’ve encountered was ‘full.’ (Or maybe they just didn’t want me, who knows?)

Instead of covens, there seem to be more general circles of friends, where people are free to commit to a full moon ritual, or flake out and stay home, as they wish. There are more solitary pagans and witches here. Maybe it’s because of the pressure to conform, or maybe it’s isolation in general. In any case, it means going to pagan festivals are super-important for feeling community and branching out.

Three graces detail of Primavera, Botticelli 1481, 
Three graces detail of Primavera, Botticelli 1481, 

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t left the west coast, but I have a very tight-knit group of friends. We’ve bonded together like superglue because we’re as rare as flaming-red poppies in a cornfield. Although not all of my friends are pagan — some of my top twenty closest friends are Jewish, Agnostic, Atheist, and Catholic — they’re very accepting of my path, as I am of theirs.

To me, our friendship and progressiveness is like a tiny model of the ideal world – one in which everyone is free to be themselves, to worship as they choose, and to not live in fear. Celebrating our differences is something my friends and I practice every day, and I hope my state adopts this trend more in the future.

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  • In the Susquehanna Valley of PA here…a purple state that is like an oreo with blue cookie edges and red cream in the center. I am in the red…and small town red. I am only too glad I am not smack dab in the middle of the state.

    But this:

    Being a pagan in a red or purple state means the mono-religion culture is pervasive and seemingly inescapable. It’s rare to find people who aren’t of an Abrahamic religion. Unless I’m wearing my pentacle, people assume I’m Christian or Catholic. My beliefs and practices are never questioned before people preach their beliefs, as if I’m one of them. It’s like there’s consensual reality of ‘this is how it is for everyone.’ Only it’s not.

    There’s pressure to conform to the mainstream.

    There are more solitary pagans and witches here. Maybe it’s because of the pressure to conform, or maybe it’s isolation in general.

    All very true from my experience. Solitary…for me it is due to isolation, not that I would want to be in a coven or group, but the town I am in fits your descriptors exact.

    I once had a conversation with a Christian woman…she was one of the Giddeon type of Christians, and when I told her about my pagan views (that I am pagan…this years before I chose the atheist ietsist label for myself), she thought I was from a different country. *sigh*

    • Astrea

      An oreo — how clever! I suppose I could call my state the worst chocolate chip cookie ever. Mostly dough with just a few chips. I feel your pain.

  • http://www.paganpride.org/where
    This might help you find a few like-minded folks.
    True story. I thought I was the only one & discovered
    almost half my writing group was Pagan. I’d been
    in the group four years when I found this out.

    • Astrea

      That’s a great link. Thanks for posting it!

  • *Hee hee* I hear ya, guys! I’m super-careful about my practice and the details of my private life- ditto for and with my kids. We keep mum about everything. In case you’re wondering:
    Idaho. And, I work for a Mormon-family-owned business.
    Illegal to be fired for religious veiws, you say? Au contraire!
    Idaho’s a right-to-work state, and like any of these, you can be fired for pretty much anything- and people are- because the burden of proof is on the employee, not the employer. Good luck, proving what your employer’s motivation is, whether it’s sexual harassment, racial discrimination, or whatever you want to name. I’ve seen it in action. The employee has an almost impossible hurdle, there. Right to work is really more like “right to be fired on a whim”.
    Discretion really is the better part of valor, particularly when you’re the primary wage-earner. Thankfully, my Gods and Goddesses haven’t called on me to advertise for them. 😉

    • Astrea

      Wow, everything you said — I understand completely. Unfortunately, that’s the way it has to be sometimes so we make it through unscathed. I’m glad you’re taking the proper precautions, and I hope you get to go to festivals to experience a release every now and then. 🙂

    • Soror Sinistra

      I live in Idaho, too. I’m a Thelemite and we have established a chartered body of the Ordo Templi Orientis here. We are fairly ‘out,’ we plan to participate in events in Boise in addition to what we already do at Goddess Fest. People just think we’re strange unless you mention Crowley, then all hell breaks loose. Our efforts in the pagan community locally have largely fallen flat. Fear on both sides: fear of Christianity, fear of ‘evil’ Crowley.

  • Richard Donnelly

    Hey Astrea!
    Are you familiar with CUUPS at Miami Vallley Unitatrian Universalist Fellowship?
    “Chalice of the Willow, a local chapter of CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans), is a gathering group for pagans, earth centered spiritualists, and anyone interested in exploring the spiritual connections between humanity and nature.”
    Here’s a link to CUUPS chapters in 10 midwest states
    http://www.cuups.org/chapters/chapterlisting_MidWest.html

    • Astrea

      Hi Richard. I had not heard of that group. I’ll check them out. It looks like a great resource for people in need of community. Thanks!

  • Spot on with this write-up, I truly assume this website wants far more consideration. I’ll in all probability be once more to learn way more, thanks for that info.

  • What i don’t realize is in truth how you are no longer really a lot more smartly-liked than you might be right now. You are very intelligent. You realize thus considerably in the case of this matter, made me for my part imagine it from a lot of numerous angles. Its like women and men aren’t interested until it is one thing to do with Girl gaga! Your personal stuffs great. Always handle it up!

    • Astrea

      Thank you so much, Lavina! I’m just starting out blogging, and your kind words mean so much to me. I have so many feelings and thoughts about things and it makes me glad that you can relate. 🙂 have a wonderful day!

  • Tim Mather

    I live in North Carolina and I’ve never experienced problems from the religious right. I am a very open Pagan along with my wife as well. Not all people who are Christians are preachy judgemental people, hey are just people I interact with just like Pagan. We as a world need to work to celebrate our commoness and respect our differences. I’ve been Pagan for over thirty years, and yes I do remember to judgemental preachy people but as I got older, I just didn’t care what people thought. What I did care about was how I could love and cooperate with those I interacted regardless of our differences. I take every opportunity to educate people on my religion, I stand up to prejudice in all of its forms. I also pray for Christian friends in my way in the same manner as they pray for me. We all need to live in harmony.

    • I totally agree with your experiences, Tim. I have dared to be open about my wiccan paganism, and I have not encountered any open hostility. No doubt, people will say things about me–people do that. But I have an opportunity to present a realistic and positive image of who we are and what we do that counters the lies and fear-mongering people may receive from other sources. I’m a decent and loving human being, so I speak well for paganism. That’s important. Nature seldom destroys a human city–Katrina aside. Nature sends a blade of grass up between the cracks of the pavement, small-scale, slow, relentless. So should we. Wear your pentacles. Joke about God is good, at least SHE’s always been kind to you. If someone asks about your religion, at least say that you are pagan, and if they inquire further be more specific. We are different yes, but we don’t do anything evil. Let it be known. The Goddess (and the God) appreciate your courage in this time, but we must make the change.

  • Marina

    This is so true! I live in a tiny, ultra christian country, and everything you said is spot on. It can be truly isolating and heartbreaking.

    • Astrea

      I know. Just keep your chin up, and find good community, books, and articles to keep your spirits up. Hopefully you can make it to a festival once in a while. <3

  • Woods Wizard

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it is no different in my blue state. People still make the same assumptions, do the same things. It is how the majority treats the minorities everywhere – as I recall Pagans fed Christians to the lions in an earlier age. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • turtlex tristaine

    Wow, I can surely relate. I’m in East Texas and feel completely as if I’m the only Pagan anywhere. The link about Pagan Pride was wonderful (thank you RN) but also, it is hard to get to places – out here in Texas, I’m just not near any of the more populated places that have Pagan Pride days, or CUUPS. The nearest to me is more than 90miles away. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for this blog post – it really touched my situation well.

    • Astrea

      🙂 Hang in there, until the next festival, anyway! I know I’m going to commute to a few things just to feel the sense of community and freedom.

  • James V. Jones

    Trust, I TOTALLY get it. I live in Ohio; we used to be a blue state a long time ago, but we’re definitely more purple these days. Many, MANY moons ago I used to work at Blockbuster Video store. One day, an older lady noticed my pentacle necklace when she got to the checkout line. She wasn’t sure what it stood for, so she asked me about it. After I explained to her what it was, she became highly offended. She even went so far as to go to my manager and demand that I be made to take it off. Thankfully, my manager disagreed and refused to go along with that. The lady was totally irate. “I’ll never shop here again. I realize other people have religions too, but that doesn’t mean they have to show it!”, she blabbered. Seriously? She didn’t even know what it was until I told her! That was one of my first life lessons about being too honest with people; sometimes, you can cause yourself grief by sharing too much of yourself. I’m one of those people who insist on being myself ALL THE TIME, but I’ve had to learn to curb a lot of that. Not everyone appreciates open candor, especially where religion is concerned.

    • Astrea

      That sucks, but I get it 100%. That’s the world we live in (Ohio). I’m glad your manager didn’t back down. Some people are just old and crazy. Keep being you. 🙂

    • Rachel O

      I live in Michigan, like Ohio, once blue, now red. I can very much identify with the need to be more closeted, careful with what I say. It is a larger problem I learned as a school bus driver for several years. More often than I like to admit, I would make mistakes as to who was responsible for a problem, they ARE all behind, so its difficult. Anyway, if I had disciplined the wrong kid and apologized, this could throw the kid and the kid’s parents into a frenzy “I knew it! I told you so! You should be fired”, and so forth. The ruckus just wasn’t worth the honest, straightforward apology. Its hard to know when to stand on principle , and when it is just best to keep one’s silence. To be sure, not all responses to “I made a mistake, I am sorry” got such a negative response, more than half the time, they did, though. There seem such a lack in open civil discourse at this time. I am in my 70’s, so I am sure I have a far different perspective. I really enjoy reading your articles.

      • Astrea

        Thanks so much, Rachel. 🙂 I can only hope things get better. I’m trying to be the person / the change I wish to see in the world, and it sounds like you are, too. That’s all we can do, sometimes.

  • Boadicea

    Never had a problem. I have been a Pagan for over 25 years and in a Red State I find pagans all over the place and heck I’m also a card carrying member of the NRA and Conservative Libertarian which you can find us all over the place. In fact I have more Conservative Pagan friends than Left leaning pagan friends, and none of us have had problems living in a Red state. I will stick with a red state where I have had less people stick their nose into my business.

  • Jennifer

    I find this to be true to my experience, as well. I live in west central Georgia. No paganish stores in town and we have to travel, which we do, to get to Pagan Pride every year.

  • psnew

    I always read through your articles carefully. I’m furthermore fascinated by magic, you could discuss that sometimes. Bye!

  • Master Blackthorne

    Catholic is a Christian religion. Write “they assume I’m either Catholic or Protestant” and don’t be taken in by Fundamentalist Protestant slander. Also a pentagram/pentacle is the sumbol of witchcraft, never mind if it’s in a circle or not. But you are right: I explained the symbolism of the petagram to this bigot from South Carolina and it was like talking to a brick wall. These people are kept in a state of ignorance by a fear of hellfire. Say Blessed Be and use your pepper spray.

    • Nathair /|

      The pentagram “can” be a symbol of witchcraft, but it has many other meanings as well. Some Christians have even used it to represent the five wounds of their god. Pythagoras used it as well.

      • Master Blackthorne

        Yes, I know that. It is also on the Moroccan flag. If you see “Casablanca” and look at Captain Renault’s uniform, it is decorated with pentagrams. So you are preaching to the choir.

  • Sol Seeker

    Sounds remarkably like Utah…

  • SabrinaFaire

    Thank you for writing this. Sometimes, I feel like I must be paranoid or doing something wrong, but reading that you know about this, too, proves that it’s not just me.