Out of The Broom Closet
In 1997, I made two Samhain resolutions—one to quit smoking (which I’ve done), and the other to come out of the “broom closet.” Since exiting the general clutter of my particular broom closet, I feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever. My faith is a large part of who I am, and keeping that from people was like living a half-truth. I don’t feel that I could have continued to grow spiritually without acknowledging who I am, and without letting important people in my life know. I’m lucky in that my family is not religious, and I had no reason to fear telling them; I felt that after practicing for nearly 10 years, it was time!
My mom. This went better than I had even expected. I had been looking for an opening to introduce the topic of Paganism, and my mom couldn’t have provided a better one if I had asked!
I flew to Nebraska from DC to visit my mom and stepfather for the holidays, arriving on Christmas Eve. My mom had originally wanted to go to Midnight Mass at a local Catholic church-she’s not Catholic, but is thinking of becoming one. But my plane arrived late, and my luggage arrived even later; instead of Midnight Mass, we ended up sitting in the kitchen, talking, and she mentioned that she felt people should go to church on Christmas Eve because it’s part of “getting back to the roots of the holiday.” At this point I explained the true roots of the holiday-the Winter Solstice, Yule, the Pagan beliefs and customs, etc. She was surprised about the origins of many of the holiday’s traditions. Then she looked at me and said, “So, are you Pagan?”
I said, “Um … yes.”
“You’re not Christian?”
“Um … nope.”
I explained the basics of Wicca, and gave her a copy of Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon.
We went out into the cold, snowy night for a walk, and to discuss it some more. She said she felt guilty that I had had no religious upbringing. I assured her that I did not regret it in the least, that I was happy with my choice, and that I knew it was right for me. I said that not raising me as a Christian did not result in a bad or less moral person. I said that I was raised in a loving, supportive family, which is more than many people can hope for, Christian or not. She felt that perhaps if I had had a background in Christianity, I would have made a different choice. I told her that I knew enough about Christianity to make this decision, and that this choice was not based on a reaction to or a dislike for Christianity; rather, it was a love of Wicca. I said that she shouldn’t feel guilty for not teaching me about Christianity; if that were the case, she should also feel guilty about not teaching me about Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Scientology, you name it. She laughed and agreed with me.
I had been staying away from using the word “Witch” during this initial phase of explanation. But at what would have been the close of the initial conversation, she said, “At least you’re not a Witch; I don’t think I could trust a Witch.” I stopped walking, and she turned around and looked at me and said, “Oh.” So that opened up a whole new conversation as I explained the difference between a real Witch and the common media portrayals.
The bottom line is that she loves me and trusts my judgment; she accepted Wicca as a religion because this is me, her daughter, and she knows that I wouldn’t get into anything “bad.” But she told me, “Don’t expect me to go around telling people ‘My daughter is Pagan or Wiccan or a Witch, ‘” and I told her that was just fine. I said that I do wear a Pentacle and that her friends might notice it; she asked if I could wear it inside my shirt, and I said no.
I think she has a better understanding of who I am now; she also has a new understanding of Wicca and Witchcraft, and has shed the stereotypical beliefs that she held. And I really enjoyed it when she opened a gift from my stepfather the next morning-it was an outdoor wall plaque to hang near her garden, and it was the Green Man! She even knew what it was called-she had picked it out of a catalog herself. She said, “Look, it’s called a Green Man! Isn’t he great?” When I finally stopped laughing and could breathe again, I explained what it was, and we all had a good laugh.
My mother also attended the legal handfasting that my husband James and I had on Ostara of 1999; talk about being exposed to a large pack of Pagans! :) She did just fine, though. She even helped make a list of all the (very Pagan) gifts while James and I were opening them, and I must say there’s just something funny about seeing words like “ritual dagger” or “love butter” written in your mother’s handwriting!
My dad. My father lives in Oregon, and I’m in Virginia; needless to say, I don’t see him as often as I’d like. I also grew up in Europe and didn’t have much opportunity to visit him; I didn’t even see him between 1982 and 1988 at all, and then not again until 1990. We had a short visit in 1994, another in 1996, and then he came to visit us in October of 1999. Although I hadn’t spent a lot of time with him while growing up, I wasn’t nervous about “coming out” to him, either.
Our house has a very “Pagan” feel (gee, the cauldron and the wonderful “Great Mother” statue in the foyer might have something to do with that, not to mention the ever-present scent of nag champa incense), and I knew he’d pick up on it quickly. That, and the bumper sticker on our car says, “Pagan and Proud.” Kind of hard to miss! But he was fine with it; he recognized that Paganism is a religion, and that was very important to me. Nothing fazes my dad; he and I are so alike that I just knew he would understand. He said that there are all kinds of “New Age” shops in Portland, and that now he knows “what to get me for Christmas!” Heh. :) (I got a lovely pair of silver and onyx knotwork earrings. Yeah, Dad!)
The workplace. I’m the corporate publications manager/desktop publisher for a management consulting/information technology firm in Northern Virginia. It’s a rather conservative company, where image and professionalism are the drumbeats to which we are supposed to march. Oops! ;) This was the scariest place for me to wear my Pentacle. The first day I wore my Pentacle to work, I really fought the urge to slip it inside my shirt; however, I persevered. And what do you suppose happened when I started wearing it openly? NOTHING. Big fat zero. No reactions. Nada. I have to admit I was disappointed, in a way!
However, I have had some very interesting conversations with one of our company’s vice presidents; he is from an Italian-American Catholic family, but is very curious about Paganism, and this is probably the most fun interaction I’ve had as a result of being out of the broom closet. Frank was trying to figure out my religion for a while; he once asked if I was Catholic because I was wearing an Indian cotton skirt, the kind with the bells on the waist ties, and at first glance he though it was a rosary. He obviously had no clue what my Pentacle was; I said, “No, Frank, I’m not Catholic; I’m just a good heathen girl.” I think this made him curious!
When the trouble occurred with the Druids at Stonehenge, he mentioned it to me and said, “I’m surprised you weren’t there.” I said, “I’m not a Druid, Frank.” He should his head and had this funny look on his face like, “Drat, I know I’m closer to getting it!” I was enjoying this immensely. :) Then the night before the 1999 Samhain drum circle at the Jefferson Memorial, Frank came into our department and said to me, “So, I hear there’s going to be a Pagan drum circle at the Jefferson.” I said, “Yes, Frank. I’ll be there. Will you?” He sputtered and said, “Um, no, I’m not going.” But Monday morning he came into my office and asked how the drum circle went; I told him it was a lot of fun. He said, “So … um … do you consider yourself to be … um … well … a Witch?” I said, “Yes, Frank.” And he said, “Oh! Um … wow, really? Oh!” There, he finally had it! Success! He was so pleased with himself! I just giggled. He has been very respectful of my beliefs, and in genuinely interested in my answers to his many questions, and such dialog is always welcome!
The neighbors. Our working group, Magick Belly #9, holds open Sabbat celebrations at our house. Our first open Sabbat was Midsummer’s of 1999, and I was a little concerned about how the neighbors would react to a bunch of people chanting in a circle in the backyard. We live on a nice, quiet cul-de-sac in North Arlington, and the neighbors definitely noticed; but they just shook their heads and went back to whatever they were doing.
No problems, until three celebrations later; we did frighten away the trick-or-treaters on Samhain. How were we to know that a circle of people holding candles on the front lawn at night would be so scary to the neighbors’ kids? Whoops! Now whenever the neighbors see people gathering at our house, they watch us with a kind of “what’s going on this time?” air of expectation. The neighbors do still talk to us, however, and wave whenever they drive by, or smile and say hello when we pass them on the street. I think they’ve decided that we’re harmless.
Overall … I have to say my “coming out” experiences have been overwhelmingly positive, and for that I’m thankful. I realize that not everyone can afford to be out of the broom closet, whether it’s because of where they live, where they work, or other similar concerns. To those of you in the broom closet, take heart; we all know it doesn’t make you “less Pagan.” I’ve been lucky, and I know it. Oh, it should have nothing to do with luck; we’re guaranteed religious freedom, no matter what our religion, right? Right.