Recently, I had the opportunity to hang out with an awesome group of eclectic Pagans from my area. We just got together for some tea and conversation. About halfway through the evening, my phone goes off because my best friend had texted me. I explained to the group that normally I wouldn’t take it, but she’s going through a rough patch and I needed to answer the text. Kind of out of the blue, someone in the group asked if she knew about my Pagan activities. I answered truthfully, no she does not. To be fair, this friend and I have known each other for eleven years and I wouldn’t be surprised if she suspected. But because of her conservative religious leanings perhaps this is one subject better left avoided for the preservation of our friendship. And I’m okay with that; I’d rather be friends with this person than not. But the person who asked this question was really put off by what I said, as if it were an unenlightened perspective in an age of more transparency for Paganism and Wicca.
Well. Huh. Alright I admit it; I was annoyed.
The question of whether a Witch or Pagan should be vocal about their faith and practices is one that is extremely personal. Let’s be real: while I maintain that discrimination against Pagans in the modern context is rare, societal pressure from (at least in the U.S.) a one part scientific and one part Judeo-Christian religious culture, judgement from peers, and outright ignorance is real. Unless the Witch generally gives no fucks about what others think, it can be extremely hard to be an open Pagan. Some can do it (the fabulous author Deborah Blake and all the wonderful Youtube witches come to mind as an excellent examples), but a lot of us cannot be completely out of the broomcloset, yours truly included.
For me, it comes down to a case-by-case basis and a real hard look at the relationship. I grew up in an extremely conservative part of the country and have family members and lifelong friends that make my life so beautiful who would think I was off my rocker for believing in the divinity of nature and the perfect love of the Goddess. But, you know, they think that Jesus is the only path to salvation and that hell is a thing. So everyone’s religion is a little wonky. In a perfect world everyone could see past that shit and practice a little tolerance. But this isn’t a perfect world (thank Goddess) and sometimes we just have to respect other people’s beliefs and prejudices. For some of the people in my life, that means acknowledging that they will react adversely to my religious beliefs. As I still want that person in my life, I tend to keep my practices quiet around that person.
Let’s be real. The in-out or in-between status of any Pagan, Wiccan, or Witch is not up for comment or judgement by any person. Not up for discussion. Of course there are varying degrees of being out as a Pagan. For example some people decide not to tell their coworkers to maintain professional relationships, yet are incredibly active in their local Pagan networks. All of the degrees are perfectly acceptable ways to live a full and spiritual Pagan life. Also, there is no reason to feel any shame if you’re not as out as you like to be. As long as you are living your life in a way that is ethical and true to you, then that is all that matters.
© Ariadne Woods