Being Outed As A Pagan With ‘Blessed Be’

Being Outed As A Pagan With ‘Blessed Be’ September 6, 2018

Last week, I was outed as a pagan in front of complete strangers.  What made it worse was that the person used the words ‘blessed be’ to greet me.  I was taken aback and confused, to say the least.

blessed be pagan wiccan cultural appropriation outsider witch
CC0

We were in a busy restaurant with about ten people at a big, round table.  I wasn’t out as a pagan or witch with most of these people, and I wasn’t wearing any pagan jewelry.

“And this is Astrea,” my friend said, introducing me.

I smiled and nodded.

“Blessed be!” said a stranger wearing a cross.  (My friend confirmed they were Christian, and not one of those pagan Christians, either.)

I was stunned into shocked silence. Their eyes grazed my chest repeatedly as they waited for me to answer.

The stranger continued. “I heard you were a pagan, so I looked it up online.  That’s a greeting you use, right?”

fear jungian psychology cracks transmuting negative energy
Photo courtesy of Pixabay, CC0.

With those words and my inability to react to them, I was thrust from my cozy little broom closet and into the bright lights of the strangers, front and center.  I know, I have a public pagan blog, and I go to a lot of pagan festivals, but I’m a pagan in a red state with a very public job.  At pagan gatherings, I’m all out, all the time; but in mixed company, I like to talk with people and make a good impression.  I prefer to feel out whether there’s good chemistry before I lay my broom on the table.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to bring up interest in someone’s personal life, specifically their spirituality.  An example of the wrong way would be the instance above.  It shouldn’t be an outing, or amongst strangers, or with lewd behavior.  It also probably shouldn’t be the first words out of someone’s mouth.

It comes down to the non-pagan’s intent and respect for the other person. People should be made to feel safe and respected, so that anything they want to share would be taken well.  Give them the chance to open up, or ask questions around the topic.  Talk about other things to show them you’re not crazy.

This situation would be totally different if this person was a baby witch or newbie pagan.  It might be different if it wasn’t a public place, too.  If they were wearing a pentacle, I would welcome such a greeting from them.  I love talking about spirituality and strange experiences.  But this person wasn’t like any of those things.  I felt as if they took pleasure in bringing it up.

The last thing I want to add about the experience is that the outing came with the added expectation of a response from me.  When I didn’t immediately respond, the additional prod with even more information about what they thought I did was like blowing my broom closet door off its hinges.

It was compounded by the fact that I wanted to correct all their assumptions, but I held back.  We don’t owe anyone anything — not an explanation or a correction.  In the past, I would have talked about it for a long time, and then felt terrible for oversharing.  But I didn’t take the bait.

I shrugged, and the conversation continued onto something else.

I know I won’t have a broom closet forever, and that’s a good thing.  But for now, in my conservative area, and with my public job, it’s pretty important. It’s not the end of the world to be outed, and I’m proud of the way I reacted.  I hope this article helped you make sense of what you’ll do if you’re ever outed.  Goddess forbid, but that which does not kill us…

 ~ Starlight Witch ~

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Note: this article has been edited to more accurately get the right point across: that it’s wrong to out someone, no matter what words were used to do it, or the intent behind them. 

About Astrea
Astrea is a polytheistic pagan witch, fire dancer, new ager, and writer of fiction. Check out her social media accounts to see all her blog posts and extra special witchy / artsy / personal content. You can read more about the author here.
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  • I’ve been “blessed be” by a lot of well meaning folks over the years, and I take it as a compliment. “Someone cared enough to take the two minutes it takes to look such stuff up!?!?” I think that’s great. Witches weren’t the first people to use the turn of phrase.

  • Adie |

    I don’t like the phrase “blessed be” in general. I understand it has specific religious/historical context for Wiccans, but even when I was still a practicing Wiccan I thought the phrase sounded pompous and ridiculous. I don’t really care how other people want to greet each other/be greeted themselves, but for me personally it always sounded like, “Hey, we’re a part of this super secret club and since 99% of the population would never actually talk like this in real-world scenarios, everyone who can currently hear us now knows we’re ~special!” And that’s how I felt when people within the community said it to me. I can’t even imagine the visceral rage I might have felt if someone outside the witch community said it to me.

    What’s wrong with just saying “hello”? I live in 2018 with the rest of the world. I don’t need fancy, faux-ancient greetings, thanks.

    • I agree, these are not words I’d use, along with “merry meet” which always makes me feel like I’m at a “Ren Faire”. That said, I’m always glad to be greeted at all these days!

    • Maritimer1

      If that caused you to experience “visceral rage” you have some pretty big and deep issues to work through…

      • Adie |

        It’s called hyperbole dude. Welcome to the internet.

  • The thing is, people don’t necessarily know that you are not out. They don’t necessarily know that there is even a state of being in or out. That’s why I’ve always chosen to be out. It keeps things simple.

  • April Stiers

    Much ado about nothing.

    • mptp

      For you.

      You’re lucky.

      • Maritimer1

        It’s only a big deal if you make it one. Or if you took a job at a religious institution that is less than accepting of differences….

        • Queer & Proud

          Or you live in an area where not being “normal” (in this case, Christian) can lead to very real social consequences and ostracisation

      • Bobbo

        For the writer too. It went nowhere. It was innocent and even…well meaning.
        Im sure they couldnt fathom this person was hiding their religion. I understand hiding things but the writter should have told the friend that they werent out publically. Considering the blog and community meetings i would never think oh, they are hiding. Now if you told me, whatever. Your business.

  • MacKenzie Drake

    I’m sorry it happened to you. I’ve had some sticky situations over the years as well because I do live out. For me, in California, it’s been mostly family, but I’ve had jobs where my team got really uncomfortable once I was identified, while other coworkers paid me to do work for them when nobody else was around. The risks are something you do have to sort for yourself, and it’s entirely your right to do so.

    • Novelista

      Kids in school always tried to get me to do love spells and I turned them down because I didn’t want to get involved.

      I guess it’s just what Hollywood makes them think they want. After all, no one asked for a good grades spell!

      • MacKenzie Drake

        Or grades were less of a stressor. They are very much in demand in Japan, Korea, and India, where so much is riding on test scores.

        • Novelista

          I could see kids in Japan lining up for cram school spells!

  • kenofken

    I have no more sympathy for closeting of any kind. It is a losing strategy with a time proven 100% failure rate. It perpetuates and enables oppression and ultimately buys no real safety at all.

    • Pennybird

      But sometimes you’ve got to make do at work and with your family. The writer says she’s in a red state, and if it’s in one of the places where which church you go to is the first introductory remark, then she definitely has a compelling reason to keep her beliefs under the table.

      • kenofken

        How did that strategy work out for LGBT people? I’m just shy of 50 years old. In my lifetime gay people went from literally subhuman status – virtually legal to murder in many areas, to winning equal status. Those gains happened for no other reason at all other than refuse to be invisible any longer.

        Anywhere you look at any oppressed minority in the entirety of history- Jews, ethnic minorities you will see the same thing. All of them had compelling reasons for hiding or downplaying their identities. All of them tried it at length, and none of them ever achieved real safety or dignity that way.

        Pagans who are in the closet are doing their enemies work and helping to guarantee that their sons and daughters will be living in the same chains of fear.

        So I understand the reasoning behind closeting, but I cannot accept it or respect it because the reasoning is fatally flawed.

        • Pennybird

          People have a right to privacy socially, even if we’re about to lose the constitutional right (but I digress).

          Coincidentally, just yesterday I listened to the story about Oliver Sipple who was outed without his consent, and it was ruinous to him. Mind you this was 1975.

          https://www.wbez.org/shows/radiolab/oliver-sipple/3022e3dc-c854-493c-b26e-3dae0273a3bc

        • Queer & Proud

          “How did that strategy work out for LGBT people?”
          Let’s ask all the queer kids who have been abandoned, abused, or killed by their family members because they were outed.

          “So I understand the reasoning behind closeting, but I cannot accept it or respect it”
          Never mind the fact that for some, it is literally a matter of life or death. At least you get to sit nice and proud on that high horse of yours

      • Maritimer1

        Being in a red state is an excuse. I live in the midst of the largest concentration of Christian Reformed in the US and I’ve never found being open and honest about my beliefs to be a problem. Not professionally (in the medical community) and not personally.

        • Queer & Proud

          Your completely anecdotal evidence is duly noted. Funnily enough, not everyone is as lucky as you

          • dwango

            Or as sarcastic with a chip on their shoulder like you. I live in a very blue state and have received more hate and insults than in any blue state I’ve been. I you don’t think like THEM, they will come after you. You seriously need to roam outside of your comfortable circle.

  • K Randall

    To me this sounds like a case of the christian wanting brownie points for being tolerant and interested enough to look up Paganism and demonstrate that they learned something.

    • Maybe. So what? That’s about 1000 times better than a Christian wanting Brownie points for being intolerant or spreading disinformation.

      • Maritimer1

        Why so confrontational?? K Randall was just making an observation, not a condemnation.

    • kenofken

      It’s awkwardly adorable sometimes when they do that. A conservative German Lutheran cousin of my last priestess was outwardly horrified but secretly curious about us and our rituals. One time he asked if he and his wife could come by the next time we did “skycladding” 🙂

    • Bobbo

      I think it says something about people who instantly assume a bad motive. Are you looking for brownie points somewhere? Modern Christains are extremely tolerant. Imagine if they werent. If i was the Christian mentioning someone being a anything it would be because its different and interesting compared to my usual encounters. I would never assume anyone is in the closet. If they were their friend who told me, should have told me. Which im guessing they didnt know either.

      Anyway I would much rather people not tip toe around me. Get it out and open and lets move on or part ways.

  • I think most who know me also know I have a pagan side – the fact that I’ve been mentioned in articles here on Patheos helps with that…LOL…but no one really says anything to me (at least not yet). I’m also identified as a Unitarian Universalist (and President of my congregation’s Board of Management) so they probably already think I’m weird…LOL

    I do think that people should not be “outed” by random strangers – that means that someone is talking about you behind your back, and that never makes me happy. I don’t dwell on it, but it’s just not cool. Unless and until we can be truly accepting of others’ religious / spiritual / non-religious / chosen paths, it’s best to let THEM decide when they want to come out of the “broom closet.” That’s not my choice to make for them.

    Some of this attitude of mine also comes from being a member of an organization that was reason enough for folks to be killed not so long ago – the NAACP. There are still people in my local branch who don’t openly admit to membership – a holdover from the time when it was dangerous to do so. Perhaps that’s where my acceptance of others’ desire to stay in the broom closet comes from.

  • Patrick Fitzpatrick

    So at first I saw the title of the article and thought

  • Maritimer1

    Well, frankly, you were obviously not as “In the closet” as you thought you were if a nonPagan, virtual stranger had heard you were a Pagan far enough in advance of meeting you to have time to do some homework. I think you are way over thinking this. I have been “out” since the 1970’s yet I managed to have a career in medicine and have worked with and been friends with people of every imaginable religious/spiritual path. Just like the CRC’s (I live in CRC central, West Michigan) as long as you don’t make it a practice to shove your beliefs down people’s throats, no one really cares. And the few who DO care aren’t worth your energy.

    But yes, that was a classic passive-aggressive move…..

    • kenofken

      The idea of closeting as even an option in the age of social media is absurd. You are never farther than one errant or spiteful mouse click away from being “outed.”

      • Queer & Proud

        “The idea of robbery in the age of lockpicks is absurd. You are never farther away than one errant or spiteful individual from getting ‘robbed'”

    • Novelista

      I live in a small, predominantly town near Lansing and have never had a problem…but I don’t exactly go around with fireworks and a brass band announcing myself, either!

  • I think I would have just smiled and said something like “That sounds like something you would hear at a Ren Faire!’

    • Helmsman Of-Inepu

      or reply with something geeky / offbeat like “May the force be with you.”

  • Novelista

    I don’t say anything unless I see a pentacle because I don’t know otherwise!

    I also can’t ever remember to wear mine anymore, so I don’t get noticed in return! (Of course, I started wearing it inside my shirt in high school because I had a bad habit of playing with it in class.)

  • Agni Ashwin

    “Blessed Be”? Yo no hablo inglés.

  • WickerMandy

    I had someone do that at a party. A husband of a neighbor. Right in the middle of all my other neighbors/friends, noticed my semi-hidden pentacle necklace (the design creates an illusion of a tree.) Asked if I was Wiccan (I’m not.) Seemed like a scene from a funny movie where everyone stops talking. I wasn’t prepared so I just made something up about new age friend bought me the necklace. ***But my huge concern isn’t me. I can ignore negative folks if they have a problem. My concern is my children. I’ve always been worried that their friends couldn’t come over and vice versa. My second concern is my husbands family. They are very Christian and I don’t want them to freak out. So I just keep it on the DL because spirituality is a private thing. I wouldn’t walk up to anyone of any religion and just shoot my mouth off loudly. I would discuss privately after we have a rapport.

    • SabrinaFaire

      We’ve had an issue with that, re: kids and their friends. The parents of one of her friends discovered that we are not christian and the girl wasn’t allowed to talk to my daughter anymore. They lifted the ban once the girls started high school, but that right there is why we’ve done our best to keep it under wraps when the kids were little.

      • WickerMandy

        Yes. I’m not too worried about my two teens because their generation is so open minded nowadays, but I have a 9 yr old son and I don’t want his friends parents ostracizing him.

  • SabrinaFaire

    You did awesome. I don’t know that I would have responded with such equanimity.

  • Helmsman Of-Inepu

    It’s a serious problem if you’re looking for a job, and not just in red states. The person screening resumes just needs to find out through social media snooping, and your resume quietly slides to the bottom of the reject pile. They don’t need to be a fundamentalist, just anybody who thinks pagans are delusional.