Last week, I shared a post called Living in a Metaphorical Space, about life in “the Broom Closet.” Speaking to reasons why a person might choose to practice their Craft or religion in a private rather than in public way and offering tips on how to do so. Today, I’d like to share reasons for stepping out of the metaphorical “broom closet” space into an open “public” space.
Coming out of any closet can be a difficult, emotional decision. People choose to be in the broom closet for many reasons. However, a time may come when hiding spiritual beliefs is no longer a welcome protection. Having to pick and choose what to share on social media, or plan a ritual with the craftiness of an international spy to prevent discovery, is exhausting. Lying to protect one’s spiritual beliefs can be uncomfortable. So, for some people, leaving the broom closet is necessary for a more satisfying life.
But how do you do it?
You start by asking yourself these important questions:
- Do you have the emotional energy to deal with the reactions your reveal might incur? — Speaking as an introvert, personal energy for dealing with situations is something I take very seriously. Placing yourself in the “spotlight” by coming out can be draining.
- Will your parents, family, spouse, employer react negatively? — Kick you out of the home, ask for divorce, come up with excuse to fire you, etc.
- Will there always be a “conversation” every time you see certain friends or family? — Interventions or at every Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering.
- Will you be picked on at school, work?– Sadly, there are areas where one still has to consider their physical/emotional safety if they come out of the closet for any reason.
- Do you have to worry about neighbors “evangelizing” you all the time? — You know, the ones who invite you to church for holidays or special events, hand out tracts, or give a haughty sniff at Halloween displays, etc.
- Will some business owners/managers no longer want you to buy or patron their goods and services? — A friend of mine got guff from a medical professional and his staff because of metaphysical material he chose to read while waiting for an appointment. Various reasons were given when future services were denied, but my friend remains convinced his spiritual practice played a significant role in the decision.
Be sure to answer the above questions with brutal honesty. Don’t allow worry to cloud your judgement but consider your family and social circle. Does the place where you live reflect a religious worldview which can be problematic to alternative religious or spiritual paths? Observe the situation as a third party might, if necessary. If you still want to move forward, then let’s look at three potential reactions:
Curiosity — This is a positive response. Ode illustrates it as someone whose lips quirk into a smile, eyes widen and eyebrows raise while saying, “Your a what now?” The great thing about curiosity is it opens the way for meaningful discussion. The person may have misinformation from books and movies but be intrigued about learning more.
Awkward Silence — This response could go either way. There is the potential for understanding but there are unspoken fears. Ode illustrates this as a person who may gulp, eyes widening while the brow scrunches, the mouth tightening into a grimace while asking, “Your a what now?” There is still potential to salvage the conversation. Be open and honest, let them ask questions. Give them time to think about what you’ve said.
Judgement — This response is the one nobody wants. Ode describes it as hackles raised, mouth turning downward while growling, “Your a what now?” You may be dealing with fear, misundestanding, religious prejudice, parental disappointment, et al. The point is the meeting has the potential to deteriorate. Be open. Be honest. Then give the person/people space, especially if the environment feels hostile. Hopefully, this is a situation which can improve over time. However, it is important to remember personal boundaries can be a good thing when necessary.
Let’s back up. Now that you know what you may be facing, here are some tips on how to prepare to have the “coming out” conversation:
- Give the person/people a heads up that you have something important to discuss — Choose a time to talk to parents/friends/employer (if necessary) when you will have their undivided attention.
- Plan ahead — Script what you want to say, if it’s helpful.
- Be ready to answer questions — This is important. Let them know why you believe what you do, why you decided to go this route. If you have left your parent’s religion, let them know you’re leaving is about you, not a rejection of them (unless it is a rejection of them and that’s a whole other discussion. Boundaries are helpful in this situation).
- Do not lead with “I do not worship the Devil.” — Seriously. As soon as those words leave your mouth, all the other person/people will hear or think about is “devil”. Rather, focus on what draws you to your spiritual path. How it is beautiful, improves you as a person, and makes you happy or brings you joy.
- Let them see your spiritual path is beneficial to you — If you are going to be open about your path, allow others to see how it helps you be the best essential “you.” This is not a one and done but an ongoing process. Let others who have reservations about your path understand their fear or worry is not founded in reality.
- Respect their beliefs and ask for them to respect yours — This is crucial. Even if they cannot respect your beliefs, show them the way by respecting theirs, even in disagreement. Be the better person, even if they cannot.
- Enhance your calm — These kinds of conversations can incite strong feelings in others. Do what you can to maintain an even tone and relaxed, open posture. Unless there is a potential for harm and you need to leave before a conversation escalates, breathe and be calm. Leave if necessary to remain focused and level headed.
- Be prepared to accept their feelings about your spirituality — There is the possiblity the individual(s) may never accept your spiritual path/religion. Such a reaction can be hard to live with, especially from a spouse, family, or close friends. You will never be able to force others to accept your path or practice. You go on with your life and hope that one day there can be a better understanding between you.
Being open as a Witch, Wiccan, Heathen, Druid, or Pagan doesn’t mean you have to dress a certain way or even be overt in how you present yourself in public. There are ways to come out of the broom closet which allow you to express yourself and your path. Here are some final tips on how you can be who you are whether you shout it from the rooftops or maintain yourself as a quiet, steady presence in the world:
- Wear a symbol or something to express your spiritual self — I love to wear a pentacle, pendulum, stropholos, or other symbols of my path as a Witch. Wearing a symbol is a great way to let others know your a Witch or Pagan and give them an entry point from which to ask questions.
- If you fill out a form which asks your religious preferance, be honest — Sometimes it’s nice to admit on an official document or questionarre that you are a Pagan or at the very least “Other.”
- Let your children’s school know if they are being raised as Pagan — Pagan holidays are not on the school calendar. If you are open about your spiritual practice, teaching your kids, then give teachers a head’s up if your children will be out of school for a Wheel of the Year sabbat or tell the teacher there is nothing to worry about if your kids are drawing occult symbols on their homework or during free time.
- Support a local pagan business if you have one in your area — If you are fortunate to have a Pagan store or know of a business that is run by Pagans, then by all means support your local businesses. The Pagan community is growing and we need to stick together.
- Attend and support a local Pagan Pride Day or other Pagan events — There is something wonderful about gathering with other Pagans, especially if you have a solitary practice or path. Even if you have to drive to another state, do make the effort to take part in the Pagan community through open rituals, festivals, and other events at least once a year or as you are able. Or if you are like Car, organize a Pagan event in your local area!
- Connect with online groups or friends. Find people who can support you — 3 Pagans and a Cat is very fortunate to have an amazing online community we call “The Pride” (because cats) which has grown up around our listeners. We have vibrant Discord and Facebook groups. Come and hang with people of the 3PaaC community or join one of the many other online groups available. There are lots of options and you can be in more than one group!