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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.