To Be or Not To Be: The Art of Becoming Pagan
Despite the growth and acceptance for the many major world religions and spiritual paths, there is still a hush that falls upon the crowd when one encounters a pagan. Being brought up in a Christian-based family, I know the awkward silence all too well.
There is no easy way to come out with the truth. In fact, most pagans (and neo-pagans, as well) are uncomfortable coming out of “ The Broom Closet” and insist they wont be accepted. Perhaps they fear judgment or retribution for their paths and beliefs? As a pagan who came clean and told her friends and family, I can empathize with them to some degree and advise some level of caution with your approach.
Encountering things previously unknown to them easily frighten people; this is the psychology of humanity that has long been understood. And fear drives a person to take action in desperate ways. When I came clean to my friends, I was unprepared. I sat down upon the couch, looked over at my best friend and sighed.
And that was it. She looked at me, incredulous at first, and then her features changed. She became guarded from that moment on. It was, to say the least, instantaneous and I should have eased into it. Instead, I sprung a leak and there was no patching it up.
When coming to terms with the path you have chosen, you must also look at how that path will affect the relationships closets to you. How will it affect your occupation, if they knew? How about your personal relationships? With your immediate family or your friends? But most importantly, how does this affect you?
When I burst out with my confession, I expected nonchalance and acceptance. I mean, these were people who knew me in my childhood. In my mind, it made sense for them to accept all my practices and me. After all, didn’t everyone make it a point to teach me that I shouldn’t judge without knowing someone or make discrimination based on assumptions? Despite what I may have been taught, somehow it changed everything. I was met with neither nonchalance nor acceptance. In fact, my books, altar, candles, and personal items were destroyed. My friends of years spray painted “ witch!” and a number of other inappropriate terms all over my wall and mattress.
My life at that time became some sort of a 21st century version of a witch-hunt- one that ended in anger, tears, and actual fear. I refused to get revenge. The police couldn’t (or wouldn’t) help me and for the first time, I realized the depth of raw judgment and prejudices.
Thankfully, my family was not as harsh when I told them. They believe firmly on the concept, “Don’t ask- Don’t tell”. If I didn’t speak of it or do it in front of them, it was easy to live with. It was as though I never admitted to who I was. This all happened years ago. But to this today, it reminds me of very important things.
While I suffered, what I consider to be, many losses, I also gained a number of significant lessons as well. I learned more about what I could handle and myself. I learned that adaptation, as well as making connections among the pagan community, could have been – and was- very rewarding and fulfilling. I met some individuals- whom I consider to be the most honest, dependable people I know- amid the tragedy I believed myself to be in. The point is, I didn’t lose as much as I thought. While I did lose a few friends and the respect of my family, I gained new fellows and, in those fellows, a new family of brothers and sisters who encouraged me, inspired my dreams, and, ultimately, made me a better person.
In the darkness, where I was convinced I was now alone, I found light and love. A sort of peace, unity, and acceptance. It reminded me of breaking the surface, after being crushed under the waves for so long. I was new and yet, I was the same. It was a rebirth that I welcomed. One I am still undergoing to this day.
The moment you realize- the very second you come to terms that you feel that connection to mother earth or the very being/spirit you believe in- everything changes. In the journey from first admitting it to others and yourself, you’ll find your experiences have shaped you. I became empowered, rather than enraged, by the misconceptions, misjudgments, and opinions of those who cannot accept me. If I were born to be like you, I would have been like you. Instead, we are all born to be ourselves- all sharing commonalities amongst our differences. We cannot control the perceptions of others or force them to understand why we choose to walk an earth-based life. It cannot be read about or spoken of…It must be lived, embraced, and then, perhaps, it can be understood.
I found in these experiences and losses, a certain desire to have others understand that we are people who still very much live in a world that isn’t ready for us. There is a certain amount of delicacy that must accompany any conversation on the subject. But the point that I want to stress is not to fear coming out in public, rather view this journey, despite what blessings and horrors it may bring, as a piece of art, a transformation that is beautiful and all your own.
The Pagan Society, whether we are Druids, Celts, Wiccans, or any of the other represented (and under-represented pagan paths) , still strive to be recognized by the world. We still fight for rights, for freedom of practice, and for the hope that we all may be able to walk together, both monotheistic and polytheistic religions, accepting and respecting one another as brothers and sisters. This is a hope that I pass to you.
So when you decide, to be or not to, exactly who you are AS you are, there will be a moment of celebration, relief that you have said it out loud. Then the fear and doubt may creep in, and you may wonder. What happens now? Does this change who I am?
It’s entirely up to you. Becoming pagan isn’t just learning about the ways of the path you choose, or joining a coven. It isn’t all “ Merry Meets!” and gatherings, learning and growing.
It is, in all its complexity, a living, breathing Art.
The Art of becoming you.
The experience of my fellow brothers and sisters.