I'm a Witch. Openly out of the broom closet, I sometimes forget the road to coming out, and how others don't quite have the same blessings and opportunity many of us do have by being out. It can sometimes come at a price, with many judgments, pain, and loss. I think many of us forget that sometimes, I know I do.
I've been a practicing Witch for over 13 years. An awakening that felt so natural, so much like coming home, my life is so rich from this connection to Goddess, which has connected me to some amazing systers and brothers in the Craft.
I came out of the broom closet early on, once I identified and realized that I was Witch, I wore my pentacle openly, and that was a huge step. Even then, 13 years ago, it was a different time, such a different time. I think the different levels of acceptance continue to shift, mostly for the better over time, but the levels of ignorance vary, though it's still there, some aspects more progressive than others...
I think we sometimes take for granted the ease in which we wear our pentacles. I know I do at times. It's been most recently that I have been having conversations with friends who are still in the broom closet, how they long to wear their pentacles out in public, to be able to attend such events as Pagan Pride Day so openly as I do, to even have their ritual tattoo art honoring their path not have to be hidden from others. It's a sad reality, and even though some of the progression has been for the better, it doesn't make up for those living in fear of persecution. It may not be the Burning Times, but people still have a lot to lose in being so open about their spirituality.
I can remember a time shortly after I had moved in with my husband (then boyfriend), and he had borrowed my car to go visit his mother. When he came back I got in the car and noticed my pentacle was missing -- he had taken it off the rear view mirror and placed it in the glove compartment so as not to "offend" his mother, who has had issues with us being together since the beginning of our relationship. She's by no means an extremist in her religious beliefs, but, like many of the baby boomers and beyond, Paganism is evil, it's not a legitimate religion, and, from his point of view, he didn't want to create any waves, but still, it had offended me at the time. I had worn my pentacle openly, but it's not the same as coming out and saying you're a Witch.
There is a naive notion in some traditions that believe if you can't vocalize it then you're not really one, that you're still standing in shame from previous religious upbringing, etc. I understand the general notion of how prideful and empowering it can be when you vocalize it, not to others, but to yourself. It is a tradition, after all, between you and the Goddess, not society to approve or disapprove of.
While the "rejection" I received by being open about my beliefs have been minor, they are rejections none the less, and they hurt. I had a friend in high school, who I had known for a couple of years and was fairly close to find out that I practiced Witchcraft. She stopped speaking to me, telling me "I didn't know you were one of them." She was a very religious Christian, and we often spoke about religion, but she never once asked me what mine was.
I can recall going to a job interview and, unconsciously, not wearing my pentacle openly. Perhaps there was a sense there that I might not get the job if I had it out, and after being hired I began to wear it, and my boss began to treat me differently. His partner always had questions, but my boss never looked me in the eye again, and most often spoke to me through his partner. It was strange, and distasteful, but it was a reality I accepted knowing that, at that time (and to some degree even now), people can be ignorant, and fear is quite a powerful hate.
You still hear of people losing their jobs, losing their families, being persecuted because of their willingness to stand, proudly, out of a broom closet that we should never have to endure standing in to begin with.
I have had several friends over the years who were secretly practicing Witchcraft, even from their spouses and partners! Such a major aspect of themselves, how do you hide it? How do you hide you? I understand the fear, I do, it's a personal journey to embrace and transform, but in partnership with another, how do you share a life together when you feel that the other won't accept your beliefs?
It's been a while since someone has recoiled in fear/disgust/ignorance at me for being a Witch... the last time that happened? Jonathan's wake. His brother, who is much older and I had never met, saw me talking to his sister (who apparently is quite fascinated by Witchcraft) and he looked at my pentacle and had this strange face of trying to place something he couldn't quite figure out. He asked me what it meant, and I told him. He literally recoiled several steps back, as though he could be struck down by merely sharing the same air as me. It was strange, because I have not really ever had that kind of reaction. There are the inquisitive ones who want to know more or who were brought up to believe Witchcraft is evil, but I would say 9 out of 10 times the shift is different because I don't, stereotypically, represent what a "typical" Witch looks like. "Witches like neon, really?"... and we're even known to scramble our own eggs... go figure...
But at Jonathan's wake, to have his brother step back, I knew it wouldn't be an easy conversation. We were both hurting at the loss of a wonderful man, though his relationship with his brother wasn't pleasant. Jonathan was openly gay, not something his brother seemed to accept. His brother is a staunch Catholic, with beliefs that homosexuality is wrong, that it will lead you to hell, that suicide is wrong... sad to think of where he believes his brother might be now...
He was looking to have an argument, I could tell. He was in mourning and in grief, probably deeper than most people realized at having a dysfunctional relationship with his brother. He accused me of buying Jonathan a book on astrology... astrology of all things, you would think I bought him a book on Voodoo art... pathetic. He stood there, asking if I knew that I was on the "wrong" side, if I knew that God was the only right thing and how I was following the devil, etc etc.
I'm not a confrontational person, I'm not. Even in that moment, someone going on the defense, feeling the need to save my soul from the seduction of the devil, it didn't upset me, it just saddened me. It saddened me for him, for his strict way of believing and living his life didn't allow any sense of openness to embrace another person's beauty, just as they are. That's sad. It's terrifying.
It has nothing to do with Christianity vs Witchcraft, far from it. It's simple ignorance. I don't think he much cared that I wasn't fighting him. I didn't want to fight. I don't feel the need to defend myself, and I think the one-sided discussion was more than speaking about religion. I could see he was filtering through something in himself.
He went on to tell me how he grew up confused, looking for meaning in his life and found God. God came to him, spoke to him, and he then started to get "proof" that his God is the only God... proof... he went on and on about this hard-core proof he had, how he had spoken to scholars and priests and they showed him the proof.
It was the strangest conversation to have, and his sister simply stood next to me, unsure of how to react, because even he didn't know of her intrigue in Witchcraft. He waited for me to say something, and all I could think of in that moment was "I'm happy you've found the path for you". That's all I wanted to say. I didn't want to debate him, not just because we were at a wake and it was completely inappropriate, but because I don't do debates. I don't mind hearing your story, I'm actually intrigued by other religions, as I wasn't brought up in any sort of religion, but I also don't go around talking about the "proof" and how "mistaken" you will be in the "end"... another thing he informed me of, of my own ignorance, that in the end when I came face to face with the Creator I will be shocked to see Jesus.
It was a strange conversation. Sad that people feel the need to lecture vs share, and to force their "true" way onto you as the "only" way. He did comment that he was surprised at how I didn't seem like a devil-worshiper. Oh the sarcastic remarks that flew around in my head... inappropriate for the moment, but still, I wouldn't have responded in any other way, mourning or not. Too much ignorance and hate is what lends fuel to the fire when it comes to Witchcraft. I certainly don't speak for the lot of Pagans; you gather a room full of us and we're all different from the person we're standing next to. We're rich in diversity... I quite like it that way. Still, I wouldn't want someone else ignorantly speaking on my behalf, and I'm sure the same is true for others not wanting me to be the spokesperson for Paganism with my focus on devotional practice vs the science.
13 years later my work has been directly influenced by my journey as a Witch, especially out of the broom closet. I commend those who have the strength to come out, and I honor those who choose to stay in, for the step is huge, and not everyone feels ready/willing/safe to come out. After the conversation at the wake I can't say I blame them -- we're not a hundred percent there yet. But when I think about seeing all of those beautiful, diverse faces at Pagan Pride... how the numbers grow each year, and to stand together, worshiping the Goddess as One... it's such a beautiful sight.