Coming Out Of The Broom Closet: You’re Doing It Wrong

Coming Out Of The Broom Closet: You’re Doing It Wrong February 18, 2019

Just kidding.

You probably came out of that broom closet just fine.

Or maybe you’re still in that closet, which is fine, too.

Or maybe you are doing it wrong? Maybe I am. Maybe we all are.

Yesterday, a friend and I spoke about our levels of Witch “outness,” and whether our work as Witches should be about giving Witches a good name. I told her how I felt:

Sometimes, I don’t want to be an “Out” Witch.

For a good decade after I became an “out” Witch, I did everything I could to give Witches a good name. I wore my pentacle proudly while doing volunteer work. My Coven organized food and clothing drives. I blogged, I attended interfaith councils where I offered gentle, earth-loving prayers over meals. I happily answered even the most obnoxious questions (“Wait, you guys vote?” “Aren’t Witches really into sex?” and of course, “Do you worship Satan?”) with the most honest, but bland, answers as I could. Of course we vote. Isn’t everyone into sex? And no, we don’t worship Satan, Dr. Religion Professor (yes, I did have to explain that to a professor of religion). I even pretended, in view of the sneering skeptic, that Witchcraft was primarily psychological and I didn’t really believe that Spirits were all around us.

No matter how positive I tried to be, no matter the do-gooder face I tried to show, it didn’t seem to change anything. A slightly drink friend might say, “I love you…I just wish you weren’t so evil.” A co-worker would accept my donation to her Church’s fundraiser, but then tell me she’d pray for my burning soul. An acquaintance would tell me how much he disagreed with “everything I stood for,” and then immediately ask for a Tarot reading. Interfaith councils would dutifully include me at their events, but individuals would later reveal there had been secret protest about my being involved.

I grew tired. I stopped caring what non-Witches thought of me: Yes. Witches curse. Yes. Witches are better in bed and you’re missing out. If you think I’m evil, stop breathing my air because I have errands to run and evil shit to do. 

What a relief to pop back inside once in a while! I can come out again whenever I want!

But yesterday, I was reminded that this relief is only afforded to some.

We live in the blue, largely non-religious state of Oregon. Witchcraft and Paganism is so prevalent out here that it’s largely taken for granted. But that doesn’t mean that it’s safe for Witches to be out, everywhere.

My friend keeps a careful lid on her being a Witch. Her husband works in a conservative area and her kids attend a school full of conservative families. As she even said, “I got the side eye from their classmates’ parents when they asked, ‘What is Church?'” She worries that if his that her husband, a contract worker, would lose his job. No, they couldn’t fire him for having a Witchy wife–but they could simply not renew his contract, no explanations necessary. Her kids could be ostracized, other parents not wanting their kids to play with them.

“What if my daughter runs for president someday?” she mentioned. “Would my public Witch self ruin that for her?”

In an age where Witchcraft is all over the media and social media portals, when it seems to be more acceptable and popular than ever, there are those of us who still need to keep a low profile.

Even in seemingly progressive areas…even as Witches outnumber Presbyterians. What can we do about it?

If we can be out, we should be out.

I’m lucky. I work a job where people are not only accepting, they are excited to have a Witch on the team. A highlight of our annual staff retreat is getting a Tarot reading from me (there’s usually a long line). My extended family may be nervous about my soul, but they treat me with respect. I’m relatively new to my more-purple-than-blue town, so my husband and I have been a little quieter about our Witchcraft than we were when we lived in New York City, but that’s still a luxury.  It would seem that someone like me should be as out as possible. By my being out, I can help educate the masses. Someone may see that I’m a reasonable person living a healthy life and when they encounter anti-Witch sentiment at their Church, they might say, “Well, I know a Witch and she seems all right…”

But sometimes, I get tired.

If we can be out, great. But we don’t have to be out.

Being out is exhausting. I’d love to be able to go to a party and not have to explain all of the tenets of my faith just because I’m wearing a pentacle. I also don’t always want to interpret everyone’s dreams, explain that I have to charge for Tarot readings, or deal with yet another Monty Python reference (SHE TURNED ME INTO A NEWT! BURN ‘ER! ). I don’t want to say that yes, I’ve heard of Occam’s Razor and no, that doesn’t undermine the spiritual experiences I’ve had.

Sometimes, I don’t wear a pentacle. If someone asks me what I do for a living or what Church I go to, I might make something up rather than say “Pro Witch” or “Church of the Moon and Sky and Self.” Sometimes I need a break from being every Muggle’s token Witch friend. Sometimes, I just want to be Courtney.

Taking that kind of break will help me do better work in the long run.

If we can’t be out, maybe we should be out, anyway.

I travel frequently to highly conservative areas of the country–where people back away from me if they see my pentacle. I’ve been harassed on the subway. I sometimes worry that I’ve been too public and someone is trying to figure out where I live. Even in my relatively protected Witch life, there are times when I feel it’s better to keep it to myself.

But those are the moments when I feel it’s best to be out. Look, someone has got to try to educate the people, right? So, I’ll smile sweetly at the people most afraid of me. I’ll quickly find an exit off the subway, but not before calling out, “Love and light!” to the harassers. I’ll love the shit out of the protestors at the next Witch event I speak at. 

We’ve got to break the ice somewhere.

If we can’t be out, maybe we SHOULDN’T be out.

My friend had a point. Everything she does affects three other people–her husband and their two young children. She might prefer to be out–carrying a broomstick everywhere she goes. Being closeted is a great act of love for them, and a genuine sacrifice. For her, it’s the right choice.

In other parts of the country, it’s not even physically safe to be out. In those cases, STAY IN. We need you to protect your beautiful, Witchy selves. We’d rather have you closeted than not have you at all. Martyrdom is overrated.

The moral of the story….

We don’t all have to be out. We don’t all have to be out all the time. We might pop out once in a while, do a little educating and then go back in. We might find that’s our call in life to be out, always. All are good. All are right. And it’s going to change for us as we go through the cycles of our lives.

And no. You’re not doing it wrong.

Check out the latest episode of That Witch Life Podcast: Witchcraft in Ritual Performance.

 

About
Courtney Weber is a Witch, author, Tarot adviser, and activist. She is the author of Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess and Tarot for One: The Art of Reading for Yourself, and the forthcoming The Morrigan: Celtic Goddess of Magick and Might. She is a co-host of That Witch Life podcast. Courtney produced and designed Tarot of the Boroughs, a modern tarot deck set in New York City. She has been featured in the New York Times, Maxim, Playboy, Huffington Post, Vice, and the Thom Hartmann Show. Visit her online at www.courtneyaweber.com You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I first became an “Out” Witch when I joined the Army. That was an interesting experience as my particular job was “Chaplain Assistant”, the duties of which centered around ensuring that Soldiers had their religious needs accommodated. When I reentered civilian life it was in East Texas and…there was some culture shock. Surprisingly (haha) the civilian population of that area was not as supportive of my constitutional right to free exercise of my faith as the military had been. Still, I continued to do what I did and time went by.

    Now I find myself in a bit of a quandary. I work in a somewhat conservative profession, with a bunch of co-workers who tend to be much more conservative than the area we live in is. I am still an “Out” Witch (with a website and blog, organizing public events on facebook and all of that), yet I have managed to accidentally fly under the radar at work. There I go by a nicknames derived from my first name. My public interaction (and all of my friends) use my middle name. This has turned into the nomenclature equivalent of Clark Kent’s glasses, insofar that in three years no one at work has connected the dots.

    Occasionally they will bring up the subject of a woman who worked there a decade ago who was a witch (normally as the punchline of a joke) and I have to decide if I am going to ignore it, or respond it it. Knowing what I did in the Army, people have accepted my responses as me speaking from professional experience as opposed to personal experience. Still, one of these days I know the band aid is going to come off. I guess I’m hoping that it will just kind of come out and be a total non-issue.

  • Sometimes you open the door, and sometimes the door is opened for you. Either way, it is like Pandora’s Box – once opened, the contents have escaped forever. I am not as public as you are, yet, I sometimes get quoted in the local press, using my nom-de-plume. People ask me about my rings – I tell them I prefer wearing silver to gold and I like the design – both true statements. My conservative associates haven’t made the connection, and I’m OK with that.

  • kenofken

    If you wait until it’s safe to come out of the closet, you are working to help ensure that day never comes. Closeting has been tried countless times over countless centuries by every religious, ethnic, racial and sexual minority which ever lived. It has failed, without exception, in every single instance it has been tried. It is an exchange of all of your dignity for a completely false and fleeting promise of safety. It actually increases danger over time because it breeds disrespect and contempt among your enemies, which is far more dangerous than hate alone. Those who closet are actively aiding and abetting their oppressors work.

    Everyone can come up with what seems like a sensible reason for staying in the closet, and it’s really a decision we each have to make for ourselves. But the options are not equal, and they most certainly are not “all good” to anyone who understands history.

  • Catalyst Spark

    I came out back when I was living in the backwards south. Yes, I was physically attacked by so called “good” christians, and of course everyone took the bible thumpers’ side. So, I started busting heads when they came at me. Attack me and you dang well better believe Imma put someone right on their arse. They sure are violent towards those they think are evil, but you have to ask, if they really did believe that we were in cahoots with the devil and going around hexing people, then would they really be dumb enough to attack us? I mean, if someone really had the power to screw up my life without touching me then I wouldn’t be going looking to piss them off and give them a reason to do so. I think that, somewhere in those little pea brains of theirs, they KNOW we’re not evil, hex casting, devil spawn, they just use that BS are justification for their hate.

    I’ll admit, I never really cared about being an example of a “good” witch (I actually don’t consider myself a witch at all, but that’s another topic altogether) but I got no problems being an example of why you don’t make the mistake of attacking one of us, a lesson I will teach again and again until they realize that, yes, some of us WILL fight back and you never know which one of us will curb stomp a bigot who so much as looks like they’re gonna lay a hand on us. You also never know which one of us may be packing, since some of us have no problems with firearms, so that’s another point there. I think they have this image in their mind that pagans are pacifistic tree huggers who won’t defend ourselves when we’re attacked, which is real funny since they claim we’re so evil and dangerous, almost like they can’t even get their own hate straight.

    I may sound harsh but, you have to remember, they started it, I just finished it. There are many christians down south who would gladly kill someone for being pagan, and droves more of the worms who’ll attack innocent people just for being pagan, and even do so in public because they know they can, and have in the past, get away with it. Teaching them that they won’t get away with their hate and violence is important and, in my case, was the only way I made it through my teen years and young adult life without more injuries than I already have. Sometimes the only way to get through to someone is to speak their language, and christianity has made it clear that violence is it’s mother tongue.