Broom Closet: In or Out?
Author: Rev. Ryan Saunders
One topic that comes up every now and then, both here at Sacred Mist and within the Wiccan and Pagan communities as a whole, is the ever-present “Broom Closet: In or Out”. Over the years, for me since I first started studying the Craft of the Wise, this question has been asked, “Are you in or out of the Broom Closet?” In the beginning, I was so deep in the Broom Closet that I had no idea what faith I was. Okay, maybe you don’t know my back-story, so let’s start there.
For the first 15 years of this life, I was raised Protestant and toward my early teens I started falling in with a bad crowd. They did drugs, drank, and, in general, were bad news (hacker, outcast, even borderline terrorist) . Me, I was a bit of a goody-goody. The joke became: “You are so good you’ll either be a cop or a priest!” Sure enough, I started to train as a youth minister. Never finished and the reason was this:
My Grandmother (my mom’s mom) had cancer. I asked to go see her. I was denied and told to go to the church and pray. She passed away. I asked to go pay my respects. Denied, on the grounds she looked too bad and she wanted me to remember her how she was. “Now, go and pray”. I asked to go to the wake. Denied. “Pray”. I went to church and prayed for all that I had asked for and just to say goodbye. But I felt hollow, like my prayers were unheard. I ran from the church and back to my bedroom at home. I hate to say it: throughout these times of denial and prayer, I tried to kill myself at least once but my Aunt (my mom’s sister) caught and stopped me.
I knelt in the middle of my room sobbing, begging, and pleading with every fiber of my being for answer or for death. To this day, the following is etched into my mind. As I knelt there, a bright light lit the room, and before me stood God (the Christian God) arms spread wide with a sad look on his face, “Come unto.” He said. I looked up eyes full of rage and yelled “HOW DARE YOU TAKE THOSE WE LOVE WITH NO GOODBYE! HOW COULD YOU ALLOW CANCER TO TAKE THOSE WE LOVE?” I lowered my head and sobbed while flipping him off with all the angst of a hurt teen.
His words echo in my mind, “I sorry you find no comfort in my light. I pray you find it in the light of another.” With that, he faded from the room. But even as he left, the light of the Full Moon streamed in from the window behind me. As the moonlight slipped up my back, I felt soft feminine arms wrap about me. I knew I was in the arms of a Goddess. She said not a word. She just held me. Without thinking or knowing, I said, “Thank you, Mother! Thank you, Mishra!”
Soon, I begged to be sent away, to get away from the troublemakers, and start fresh. It wasn’t until my second year at the new prep school that the school officials made me a Big Brother in charge of helping new underclassmen get settled in. That is when I meet the kid who would change everything and ultimately became my best friend. We got to talking about our beliefs and when I told him mine, he said I sounded “Wiccan”. Not knowing anything at that point, I went to the bookstore and started looking.
I picked up a few Scott Cunningham books, a Tarot beginner’s pack, and a few other things. I kept them all hidden, and the only one other than me who knew was my friend. I rarely did anything to show who I was and what I believed in. To most, I was just the weird guy who played D and D and other such games that involved “magic”. I would hold Esbat holed up in my dorm room, always mindful of the anti-candle rule. Back then, I hated going to the bookstore to get more books on Wicca, as the clerks would give me the dirtiest looks. But after reading the books, I could never tell why that was. I found them to be really positive. Then again, looking at Cunningham’s work, he never really covered the history of the Craft. So for those first few years of study, I missed any references to hatred towards the Craft.
After I graduated the prep school, I went off to college at College of Mount St. Joseph (Yes, a Catholic college) . I started wearing my plain silver pentacle out in the open. One day a young man got in my face and yelled, “HIDE THAT, YOU %$^#en SATINIST!” Before I could react, a nun slipped between us and said to him, “Did he ask you to hide your crucifix? No? Then why should he hide who he is?” He turned beet red and walked away. She turned to me, shook my hand and said, “I’m Sister Maryann, and I look forward to seeing you in Personal Spirituality class.” I signed up that day.
In her class on the first day, we all went around the room and told what faith we practice or believe in. At first, it was Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, but then someone said, “I’m a Druid”, another proclaimed “I’m Pagan”, then a young woman named Kat, “I’m Wiccan”, and finally there was me, “I am also Wiccan.” Kat and I became close friends in a very short time, and she introduced me to a new Wiccan Bookstore, the Celtic Knot (sadly this closed years ago) . It was there that I meet Cynthia (an older Wiccan Priestess) and Lucas (who was a Wiccan Elder at only 15 years old) , and they invited me to take their Wicca 101 class.
Classes were great and those who were with us all started to feel more and more like family. After class or ritual we would all head out to Big Boy’s for a meal together and talk about class or ritual and what we planned to do next. But during all this I was still very much in the Broom Closet. I kept my books hidden, and kept my Pentacle tucked away most of the time, and outside of certain classes, my faith never came up. That summer was Cynthia’s Witch Camp. I, of course, could not pass that up! I had a blast with it and found the parts that would become the Wolf Star I still wear to this day. I also found my Shapeshifter Tarot, black scarf and rosewood box to hold them, my oak walking stick, and my crystal balls that summer.
At home though, I was still in the Broom Closet and miserable for having to hide.
I came home from work one night after stopping at a shop to have my ear pierced. My parents flipped. I came out of the Broom Closet too; they flipped. At this point, I would say they are in the final stage of “grief” and have given in to things, a.k.a. denial. Back at college, I was becoming ever more open. Everyone knew if I left the dorms, backpack on, walking stick in hand, I was headed out to the woods to work my magick or hold a secret ritual. I met a woman (who we will not talk about) , who helped to craft my Wolf Star and for a while worked with me. Friday and Saturday nights before we would all head out to the clubs and bars, I would be in the common room of the dorm doing Tarot and Crystal reading for the girls. For the most part, things were great.
Then some close-minded jerk started messing with me. He would vandalize my dorm room door and other such things. One night at 2a.m., there was a knock on my door. I hesitantly opened it. Standing before me, cracking his knuckles was the quarterback of the football team with two other members. “We know who is messing with you, and why they are messing with you. Say the word and we will take care of them for you!” I told him, “I am completely opposed to violence but do what you feel is just.” No one ever messed with me again.
The only other incident took place out in the woods. A young man had followed me out to where I held my rituals. I had just called an Elemental Circle, when he approached. I told him “Come no further just yet!” He asked what was I doing. I cut him an opening and said, “Why don’t you come in and find out? Head to each direction and feel the energies there.” He entered and I closed the Circle behind him. He moved to the East and as he pushed his hand forward “There is a breeze here but no wind elsewhere.”
He moved to the South and after a bit and pushing, his hand went forward and then he jerked it back abruptly and yelled, “Ouch! It’s like I just stuck my hand in a fire but there is no flame here!” He held his hand out feeling the heat for a bit then moved to the West. As he push his hand forward, he said, “It feels like my hand is in water but it is in midair.” As he pulled his hand back little drops of water fell from it.
He moved to the north and as he pushed his hand forward said, “This feels like the freshly tilled soil on my daddy’s farm.” I called him over to join me at the center, and he said, “This feels like I’m standing in Church in the presence of God.” I told him those are the Elements that make up my Circle: Air to the East, and Fire to the South, and Water to the West, and Earth to the North, and here in the Center the energy of Spirit.”
I closed the Circle and he said, “Man, am I hungry!” I told him, “Yes, Circles will do that to you. Which is why after Circle, we Wiccans like to ground ourselves with a good meal.” We headed back to dorms and then out for a bite to eat. We became good friends after that.
I rarely ever hide who I am any more. Why should I? Because others are too close-minded and still believe the negative press of the past about the Craft? I think not! After all, if I have the strength and courage to openly show who I am and what I believe, I owe it not only to myself but to all other Wiccan who are still in the Broom Closet, to be as open and honest about my beliefs as I can be (without coming across as a BoS thumping loony like some other faiths tend to be) .
Looking back at history, is there a good reason why many pagans still want to stay in the Broom Closet? You bet! Like a 400+ year-old smear campaign against Witches. I mean, come on! The Burning Times in Europe, the Hanging Times in the New World… Take those, combined with the fact that up till the 1950’s there were still laws against Witchcraft in England and till 1957 in the US, and if that wasn’t bad enough to scare some to stay in the Broom Closet, the news stories from around the world of people still being killed as Witches is enough reason to remain hidden.
Heck, even the horror stories of Wiccans finding their beloved pets “nailed to a tree as if on a cross!” or having their sacred places vandalized, threats at work or home, even the threat of death. Is it any wonder at all that most want to remain hidden? Yet, then there are those like myself who step out of the Broom Closet and take action.
When I heard of the Pentacle Quest, 10 years ago when it first started to help Wiccan and Pagan soldiers killed in action and families add the Pentacle to the headstones of those soldiers where none had been allowed before, I proudly signed every petition, and wrote letters to congress to make this right. After all, that is what it is a RIGHT! After years of hard work, I was beside myself to see the news that the Pentacle, along with many other symbols of faith previously disallowed in government-run cemeteries such as Arlington National and others around the country, would be allowed from that point forward and added to those who had made to request. At this point in time, I know of 80+ such graves that bear the Pentacle proudly. I have even run across Pentacles in other graveyards as I have visited my own deceased relatives’ gravesites. But none of those Pentacles would have ever come to be unless we, as Wiccans, had the courage to step out of the Broom Closet and make their voices and rights known to others.
It is said that being Wiccan is not about titles, degrees, or initiations, but it is about how one leads life as a Wiccan. I find this very true in many ways, especially out of the Broom Closet. When I told one of my friends back in college I was a Priest he said, “How can you be a priest? You are not even ordained are you?” Foolishly (you will see why I say this in a moment) , I sought out how to become ordained. As I soon realized ordination is for legalization not legitimization, I felt foolish for a time, but in a way, adding Reverend to my name gave it some more “weight”. And signing more petitions and letters as Rev. Ryan Saunders (joke realized: goody-goody became a Priest) seemed more effective.
This is due to the way our society views titles like Reverend or honorary Doctorates. Just having them somehow makes us seem more important to others. Yet if you do nothing truly meaningful with that title, then what is the point of that title? If you study hard to work your way up to High Priest/High Priestess/Elder or whatever title it is that you’re working towards and still are hiding in the Broom Closet, who, other than your peers, know what you’re working towards. And even if out of the Broom Closet, if you have those titles, most will not care one bit as they carry little weight or meaning outside certain (no pun intended) Circles.
But if you do have those titles and you do step up and take action in a positive and meaningful way that makes a difference. It shows you are not just living your title; you are living your faith. If you truly don’t want to step out of the Broom Closet, then stay there, keep yourself safe. You can still take action, working on cleanups, taking part in chats and forums on rights and ecological protection. But think about it this way: Who are people more apt to listen to? Riolis Silverwolf (as you know my magickal name) ? Or Rev. Ryan Saunders, when I sign those petitions and letters? You can only remain hidden away for so long, before you want to drop that mask, and step out of the shadows.
I’m not saying go out and thump your BoS, or press your beliefs on others, or “save” others. Leave those things to other faiths. But stand up for your rights, your beliefs, and for those who feel they can’t stand up for themselves. Know that your actions can make a real impact on our world. But too know that any time you play to the stereotypes or show Wicca in a negative light, you are undermining all the hard work that others such as myself have worked to bring about.
If you wear your Pentacle out in public, you owe it, not only to yourself, but also to all other Wiccans, to do treat this –right and it is a right — with the highest level of pride and respect. If someone gets your face and tells you to hide, do the same thing Sister Maryann did, “Did I ask you to hide who you are? No? Then why should I hide who I am?”
Beyond my work within Craft related petitions, I have also backed the rights of other groups, from the LGBT community to Environmental causes to help save and protect rainforest, reefs, sharks and rays, and many other animals and plants. I have had to face opposition at every turn.
This has also led me to get behind and support a number of anti bullying campaigns such as Cartoon Networks, “Stop Bullying! Speak up!” to the Matthew Shepard Foundation for LGBT Anti-Bullying Support, and even Wicked’s “Defy Gravity!” that takes parts of their play to schools to show kids the effects of bullying and how to rise above it.
Sure, this has made me an even bigger target for some haters. Even my own sister has clocked me on Facebook for backing Gay Rights. But, are they really “Gay Rights”? No, they are not! They are Human Rights, hands down. Why would I back those Rights? Just look at how LGBT community views things. They are in the Closet just like some Wiccans are in the Broom Closet, hiding out of fear of what others might do to them if they show themselves as they are.
On that note, let’s take a look at a not-so-good story first, and then I’ll cover a good one I heard a few weeks ago.
The bad story starts when a good friend of mine and of my sister, who was at the Mount with me, after seeing me come out of the Broom Closet, worked up the courage to come out of the Closet as Gay to his parents. This backfired on him big time, as his folks were not as willing to be open as mine. They kicked him out of their house, had him removed from college, and sadly, I lost track of him after that. I only hope he found the courage to stand on his own and start anew. The tragic thing is this is how many such stories go and some end worse. People either kill themselves or get killed over things like this. It shouldn’t be like that. Why should the courage to show one’s true self be so harshly punished?
Okay, now for a good story! This one took place while I was up diving in Venice a few weeks ago. I had just finished cleaning my gear and was headed back to the car. As I was walking, I took notice of an older lady with a couple of Fairy tattoos, one holding a Quitrotra, the other holding a Pentacle. I couldn’t resist going over and greeting her with a “Merry Meet and Blessed Be!” She looked at me and said, “You must be Wiccan too?” I told her, “Yes, I am Wiccan. Rev. Ryan is my name and it is always a pleasure to meet a fellow Wiccan.” We got to talking and I told her much of what you have seen here. That’s when she told me her own coming out of the Broom Closet story with the best twist ever.
You see, she had been in the Broom Closet for 20+ years; only her husband had known; she never told her son. She worked up the courage to tell him and planned to when he came home from the Navy. Now here comes the twist. When he came home and dropped his duffle bag some books toppled out. “Umm… Mom, I can explain. I have been hiding something from you…” Before he could finish she said, “And I have been hiding the same from you! Blessed Be, my son! It looks like we are both Wiccans!” Just goes to show, sometimes we share the same secret with those around us but it takes courage on both sides to reveal those secrets.
Let’s wrap this up with some of the more common tips you might hear about how to best come out of the Broom Closet, or at least handle the haters and survive the bullies we will face in life out in the open.
Okay for one, don’t do what I did unless you are totally ready to face the fallout. When I came out of the Broom Closet, it was like “Shooting a bazooka to blow open the Broom Closet door with a HONEY I’M HOME!” I couldn’t help it back then. I was young and tactless and more than a little foolish. If I could do it all over, I would use a tad more tact and come out more gently.
But who am I kidding here? Chances are good at some point my Craft books too would have tumbled out and been found. This is the usual way our secret is revealed to our loved ones: by pure dumb/or bad luck. How they, and we handle things after that moment sets the tone of how the rest will play out.
I handled things really roughly back then. My mom yelled, “You were baptized! You were confirmed! How can you turn your back on that?” I told her the blunt truth, “I never truly felt connected to the Protestant faith to begin with.” My dad asked, “Do you still believe in the Bible?” Again the blunt truth slipped out: “I find most of it hard to swallow, I mean, come on! All people came from just one man and a woman formed from a spare rib?”
A better way would have been to gauge their take on different faiths first, preferably in private, in a calm environment. Maybe even ask if they believed if Witches are real. And if they said no, ask why they say that. If yes, find out how they view us. By this point, they will be wondering why all the questions about Witches! At this point, depending on their views, it might not be the best time to be blunt.
Keep asking questions, and if asked questions, give a tad more info of what you know of real Witches. Always be mindful not to play to stereotypes and steer clear of pop culture icons. Maybe work off of what you do know from the works of Gardner, Buckland, Cunningham, Starhawk, even your work. This will show you have been doing a lot of reading, research, and deep thinking on a little known topic. Depending on how they take this, you might then want to say, “I have been giving this a lot of thought, and now I wish to tell you I have been keeping a secret: I am a Wiccan, what you may more commonly known as a Witch. I know this might sound hard to take. But I have found a spiritual path that is very positive and truly means harm to none.”
Okay, at this point was roughly when things sort of ended until my dad asked a few more questions. “Are you part of a cult?” My response to this, “In order to be a part of a cult, one must follow a charismatic leader and I practice my faith, for the most part, on my own and sometimes with class at a local Wiccan Bookstore. So am I part of a cult? By those definitions, the answer is no; I am not part of a cult.” He asked, “Who made you turn to this path?” My answer, “No one. I stumbled from one path and landed on another, and found I love this new path. It was like I came home.”
He asked, “Do you believe in God?” I said, “I believe in Gods and Goddesses, more in line with the polytheistic beliefs of older pre-Christian Europe and Egypt.” Him: “Do you still believe in Jesus?” Me: “I believe he may have been a real man at some point, but his stories are too jumbled and have way too many holes and gaps with no hard evidence to back them in my book.” Him: “Do you hate Christianity?” Me: “No, I have to say my only animosity toward Christianity or any other faith or institution is in so far as they claim to be the one and only true way to divinity and, in so doing, have sought to suppress the beliefs of others. I would never press my beliefs on anyone. I only insist on the right to practice my faith freely, as it is a truly valid and positive path.”
Off and on through the years since then, the topic of my Wiccan beliefs hasn’t popped up much around my family. I mean, sure I came out to my cousins at the New Orleans Voodoo Museum, while taking a tour of it…and my other cousins (heavy Bible family) found my books and told me I was going to hell. I just smiled and laughed, “Hell? What’s that? Never heard of it?” “As to Satan, that sounds like some sort of fairytale to scare kids from doing bad things!”
One of my favorite moments was when I finally got my mom to read the Harry Potter books. When she finished one she looked at me and said, “So your dad and I are Muggles, and you are one of them. Is that right?”
Sure my mom or sister still tries to make me tuck my Wolf Star out of sight and not wear my rings. But again, I can always fall back on “Did I ask you to change your style? No? Then why should I change mine?” They say they are embarrassed to be seen with “Flavor Flav”, but please… my Wolf Star is no bigger than most Crucifixes or Stars of David. The say, it is tacky for a guy to wear such a necklet out in the open. But that is what I see all the time in my day-to-day life at work and around town, so what’s wrong with that? Nothing.
Other than that, I look like a normal guy and really don’t stand out. I lost the ear stud years ago, my tattoos are non-visible, and I don’t really talk much about myself other than with my closest friends and co-workers. But if asked about my Wolf Star or rings, I give open honest answers. If asked about my beliefs on the clock at work, I switch the topic as I feel faith is best not talked about on the clock. All the while working quietly, yet in the open, on the things I truly care about.
I follow all the news stories of the oppressed and those fighting for their rights, and if there is a way for me to help out, I try to. I pick up trash wherever I find it, and recycle what I can. I lend an empathetic ear to those who want to vent, and try to help them through their problems. And I try never to turn down a person in need. Sure, this leads some to see me as just being used or as a doormat, being abused. I never see it as such. When I help out, I know if I ever need help myself, I too can ask for it.
In truth, being out of the Broom Closet is not that much different than being in it, with the key difference that being out makes it easier to take action when need be. Being out is not revealing anything that truly must be hidden, like the things we learn that are not meant to be shared, but to unveil a faith that was pushed to the shadows out of fear and misguided hatred. Being out of the Broom Closet is both a right and a huge responsibility, as it shows you are willing to be open about a faith that has only been legally recognized for a little more than 50 years. Our words and actions must show that those things that pushed the Craft to the shadows were indeed falsehoods.
But always be mindful even though showing our faith is a legal right in the U.S. and in most of Europe, and the Burning/Hanging Times are in the distant past, the dangers and damage of those times still linger in our world to this day. In parts of Africa, men, women, and tragically even young children, are still put to death as Witches or as the demonically possessed. This belief is spread by a handful of Evangelical extremists. Worse, they are trying to spread that same poison outside of Africa, resulting in hangings and burnings and other grisly murders in the U.S. and Europe. This same misguided understanding of the Craft, resulting in murders of “Witches”, leads Africans to take homophobia to the extreme level too. Gays are jailed and even outright killed because of the belief that they are the sole reason for the spread of HIV/AIDS. As you can see, in both counts, human rights would seem to carry little weight there.
The killings of “Witches” are not limited to Africa today, as within parts of the Middle East and Far East. People are also killed based on “Witchcraft” charges. In those cases, these charges are lowered on people when other charges can’t be applied. A recent case took place in Iran, when two women spoke out over the oppression of women by their husbands and sought to divorce them. The husbands sought a law that would not allow this to happen based on the grounds that women are “unworthy of Rights”. When no such law could be found, the husbands trumped up a “Witchcraft charge” on their wives. The end result: the women were decapitated as “Witches”.
Even here in the U.S., we may not be as safe as we think. There have been some who have the idea the Wicca is a false faith and that we should convert to Christianity or be put to death. This was part of a statement made by a Congressman recently. To paraphrase this statement: “Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, should all leave the U.S. and go back to their homelands, and Wiccans should convert or die as the USA should solely be a Christian nation.” Under this misguided ideal, the right to freedom of religion would apply only to Christians and to no one else. How is that “freedom”? Is it any wonder this chump didn’t get re-elected? But it goes to show this same bad idea may be taking root.
All those above stories may scare you into thinking being out of the Broom Closet may be a really bad idea. And yeah, in some ways, it could be. There are nutjobs out there who may burn, hang, and murder people. Their perceptions are based on 400 years of negative propaganda and warped stereotypes. Sure, books like ‘Harry Potter’ and shows like ‘Charmed’ have tried to show Witches and Wizards in a more positive way but still rely on misguided stereotyping.
Thus, it becomes more than a right to be out of the Broom Closet. It becomes a duty to dispel the stereotypes. This is never an easy thing to do. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been asked to curse, hex, or jinx someone. Or had someone say I affected the weather or caused something to happen. In almost every case like this, I have said, “That is not how magick works, and even if it were, I wouldn’t do those things as they are not in line with the Rede of and it harm none, do as thy wilt.”
I have been asked many questions about my faith only to have the person not really listen to what I have to say; instead, they spin it as I am trying to convert them to a sinful path and start throwing out Bible passages. There are a few who really listen and start to see Wicca as a non-threatening, positive path, to be respected. Still, others could care less and want nothing to do with any faith-based ideas, Wiccan or otherwise. But the biggest reason all these reactions pop up is because I am open and honest about my path. I never would reveal the truly deep secrets of Wicca nor talk about anything of a confidential nature to others. Being out of the Broom Closet is not about revealing everything, but is mostly about working to dispel stereotypes.
I was spotted one day walking into the woods with two brooms. Someone asked me, “Are you going to fly on those?” I told them, “No. This one is a mundane broom to help sweep up the trash I found left at my Sacred Grove, and this one is magickal and is used to clear out the negative energy left by the ones that left the trash behind.” This person looked at me and walked off. I caught them following me into the woods, trash bag in hand, and they helped me clean up the mess.
Being open and out of the Broom Closet may open other opportunities to us as well. I have heard of Wiccans and Pagans becoming chaplains for Prisons, Hospice, Colleges, and many other such things. I, for one, plan to ask about working as a chaplain for AVOW Hospice, a local hospice here in Naples FL. After all, isn’t it the job of a Priest/ess to ease the mind of those about to pass to the other side and to console and council those left behind? I would even consider the Prison Chaplain role, but there is no jail close to Naples.
With more time and training, I could take steps to join anti-bullying programs and speak at schools and other areas where bullying and hazing are issues. I sure am glad to see that these programs are starting to become more common. How many young Wiccans and Pagans are out there afraid to show who they are because of bullies, or worse still were bullied because they were not afraid to be who they are?
At the end of the day, the fact that you’re in or out of the Broom Closet really matters little, if at all, as most people truly do not care at all. They take little note of what you may or may not have done, unless it was something that really hooks their limited attentions. Case in point, two news stories headlines:
“Wiccans and Pagans gather at Stone Henge to celebrate the Solstice”. For us this is a good story and a fun read. Even better if we were lucky enough to be at that gathering.
The second one “Woman believed to be a Witch killed her neighbor and child. Now which of those two headlines do you think most would zero in on?
Your neighbors see you out in the backyard calling the Quarters while holding that new sword or axe and call the cops (and yes I have been there) . Are you ready to answer their questions? Are you willing to invite them and your neighbors over for the feast after your ritual (I was, they still declined but I did ask) ? What type of garden do you keep? Is it really “Witchy” or sort of none descript? I have been to houses with both and they blew all other gardens on the block away. And of course, the best looking yards attract all types of attention. Not always good. I have seen open Wiccan friends gardens have fairy statues broken and herbs ripped up by haters. But that same friend helped a kid stung by a bee recover with those same herbs, went home and told his mom who was happy to see my friend had helped out and wanted to know what herbs she had used.
Being in or out of the Broom Closet is a responsibility at differing level. At the core is maintaining the secrecy and confidentiality; this is very important when it comes to our teachings, for sure, but doubly important to protect our fellow Wiccan, online and off. I may be out of the Broom Closet, but someone else may not be and even if we attend the same Circle or go to the same local Wiccan Bookstore, they may not want anyone outside of those places to know. So respect their wishes if they decline going to a more open, exposed Esbat out in a park, or attending a function at a local restaurant, as they may not want to bump into someone they know who does not know they are Wiccan.
Even with the seeming cover of changing our names online to our magickal name or other alias used to cloak identities, anything you share online once out there is out there. The privacy settings on Facebook are good filters, but not 100%. I may have been out of the Broom Closet to my family, but when I started liking and sharing LGBT newsfeeds, I had to come out of the Closet as being Bi to my family as well. This was a tad easier, as they already knew most of my “secrets”. I also explained to them I back LGBT Rights because I see them as Human Rights just as I see my rights to my beliefs.
Even if you use a high level of discretion and try to hide away everything Witchy in your life — aka no telltale jewelry, your altar hidden in a closet, your books tucked away maybe even locked up, and nothing shared online — someone may clue into a change in you, they might stumble across your altar, or ask what you have locked up. This would be a good time not to come out right away to them, but to start asking questions and, more importantly, listening to their answers.
How do they react to questions like “Do you think magick is real?” “What about Witches are they real?” “Do you think the symbol of a Pentacle is evil?” Just test the waters, so to speak, and see what type of answers they give. It is never easy to sit on a secret for such a long time, and even harder to share that secret. But with knowledge on your part, and understanding on theirs, it might not be that bad.
One of the projects I followed for years and signed every petition that was connected to it was that of the Pentacle Quest. If you are not familiar with this, it was a 10-year quest by families for deceased war Vets who were openly Wiccan/Pagan to get the Pentacle added to their headstones within Arlington National Cemetery. After all those years, I am proud to know that our efforts paid off and that 80 headstones in Arlington and over 100 more in other VA cemeteries now proudly show the Pentacle alongside Crosses and Stars of David (and dozens of new symbols of faith that are now being added) .
These men and women had the courage to fight for our country, I felt honor-bound to help fight for their rights after they died to protect our country. So weigh things on the scales: In the Broom Closet hiding in fear and carrying the weight a heavy secret for most of your life? Or taking the risk of coming out of the Broom Closet and using that as a springboard to help bring about lasting changes in your life and the lives of others. Blessed Be and go forth with Courage!
Without trying to be more open and allowing ourselves to remain even semi in the Broom Closet, aren’t we just relegating ourselves to the oppressive shadows that we have been forced into by the negative propaganda of the last 400+ years?
I look back at history and think, where would African Americans be today if Lincoln had not pushed to end slavery, or Dr. King to end Segregation? If women had never push for their Rights, or any other minority pushed for their Rights? And let us never forget the success of Pentacle Quest! Yet because we are still seen in such an unfavorable way, what things we learn, can do, and what our core values reflect, are so overshadowed by the perceived negatives reactions of others. I am so tired of feeling like even though I am out of the Broom Closet, in so many ways. I still am in it. For every step into the light, I am forced to take one back into the shadows.
And so, although I respect those who wish to remain in the Broom Closet, I personally see absolutely no reason why we should have to hide who we are if we truly mean no harm and respect the Earth and all living things.