FOLK MEDICINE HEALING

FOLK MEDICINE HEALING

Folk medicine consists of traditional healing beliefs and methods used in
past cultures mostly by people deemed to have the healing power. As an part of a
culture’s knowledge and values, folk medicine is a system based on traditional
modes of conduct, of coping with sickness. Often sanctioned by the population’s
claims or religious beliefs, these popular practices are used to alleviate the
distress of disease and restore harmony in people who are emotionally or
physically ill, or both. Folk medicine’s lore is widely known among members of a
culture and is usually handed down from generation to generation by word of
mouth.

In general, the system is flexible, allowing the introduction of new ideas about
sickness and healing practices, many of them borrowed from classical and modern
medicine.

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HEALERS

To implement the various folk curing practices, most social groups have
established a hierarchy of healers–beginning with the individuals affected,
their immediate families and friends, knowledgeable herbalists, members of the
clergy, faith healers, and SHAMANS, or medicine men. Many are consulted because
of their empirical knowledge of roots and herbs possessing medicinal properties.
Others are considered endowed with healing gifts because of station or accidents
of birth. The belief that posthumous children have such talents is widely known
in the United States. In the European folk-medical tradition, seventh sons and
daughters are said to possess unusual curing powers; the same applies to twins.
Often spouses and children of known healers are automatically considered to have
similar gifts. As in primitive medicine, many people affected by ailments that
are considered minor and natural treat themselves, with the help of family
members. A vast array of easily available herbal preparations known to most
members of the culture is used to effect a cure. More difficult cases suspected
to be of a magico-religious nature are referred to local healers who are endowed
with special powers. These shamans stage a variety of ceremonies and employ many
of the techniques used in preliterate social groups.

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NAVAJOS

Native American folk medicine is popular in the less acculturated Indian
tribes. A notable example are the Navajos still living in their homeland.
Disease is considered a disruption of harmony caused either by external agents
such as lightning and winds, powerful animals and ghosts, and witchcraft, or by
the breaking of taboos. Three categories of folk healers are usually consulted:
first the herbalists, for symptomatic relief of minor ailments; if no
improvement is observed, then the hand trembler, or diviner, is called; finally,
the singer, or MEDICINE MAN, will carry out specific healing ceremonies
suggested by the hand trembler’s diagnosis. Ritual sweatbaths, drinking of
herbs, and elaborate sandpainting ceremonies characterize Navajo folk healing.

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HOT-COLD THEORY

The hot-cold theory of disease ranks among the most popular systems of
contemporary folk medicine in the United States. In health, the human body
displays a balanced blending of hot and cold qualities. Sickness will ensue
if an excess of hot or cold foodstuffs is ingested. The basic scheme was
introduced into Latin America by the Spanish during the 16th century. Reinforced
by native cultural values, it became firmly embedded in popular Latin healing
traditions. The hot-cold scheme is applied to foods, diseases, and remedies. The
terms hot and cold do not necessarily refer to the temperature of foods or
remedies. Qualities are assigned on the basis of origin, color, nutritional
value, physiological effects of the food or remedy, as well as therapeutical
action. Among New York Puerto Ricans, for example, bananas, coconuts, and sugar
cane are considered cold, whereas chocolate, garlic, alcoholic beverages, and
corn meal are hot. Cold-classified illnesses such are arthritis, colds, and
gastric complaints must be treated with hot foods and remedies. Their hot
counterparts –constipation, diarrhea, and intestinal cramps–require treatment
with cold substances.

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BLACK AMERICANS

The medical folklore of black Americans contains elements derived from popular
European and African beliefs, blended with religious elements belonging to
Christian Fundamentalism and West Indian voodoo. The world is seen as a
dangerous place, prompting individuals to constantly exert caution because
of the whims of nature, frequent divine punishment, and the threat of witchcraft
practiced by hostile humans. Individuals are urged to look out for themselves,
be distrustful, and avoid the wrath of God. Sickness is broadly divided into
“natural” and “unnatural.” The former comprises bodily conditions caused by
environmental forces as well as God’s punishment for sin. Unnatural illness
represents health problems caused by evil influences and witchcraft after the
loss of divine protection; the magical intrusion of “animals” into the body and
the placement of a certain hex play prominent roles in the causation of disease.

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MEXICAN-AMERICANS

Folk medicine is still popular among large groups of Mexican-Americans in New
Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, and especially in West Texas. Their
healing system, based on pre-Columbian indigenous lore, reflects a degree of
isolation and unwillingness to assimilate Anglo-Saxon culture. Moreover, the
inability of scientific medicine to offer relief for various categories of folk
illness further enhances the usefulness of these practices. Five types of folk
illness are most prominent: mal de ojo (evil eye), empacho (gastro-intestinal
blockage due to excessive food intake), susto (magically induced fright), caida
de la mollera (fallen fontanel, or opening in or between bones), and mal puesto
(sorcery). Prominent among Mexican-American folk healers is the curandero, a
type of shaman who uses white magic and herbs to effect cures. In the cosmic
struggle between good and evil, the curandero, using God-given powers, wards
against harmful spells and hexes. As in other folk systems, faith in the
curandero’s abilities is the essence of the healer’s continued success.

——————————————————————————–

FOLK MEDICINE TODAY

Folk medical systems, especially those ftinctionffig in a pluralistic society
comprising several distinct ethnic groups (as in the United States), govern
domestic healing activities to a great extent. Recently, the increasing
complexity, technicality, and cost of modem medicine have spurred renewed
attempts at self-medication and the use of herbal preparations, thus reviving
folk medical practices.

A number of folk remedies used *in the past are now manufactured as
pharmaceutical preparations prescribed by physicians. For example, rauwolfia is
an extract of the snakeroot plant, which was used for centuries in the Far East
for its calming effect. It is now prescribed by physicians to lower blood
pressure. Reserpine, a derivative of rauwolfia, has been used by psychiatrists
‘in treating severe mental disorders. Foxglove was first brewed by Indians to
treat dropsy, fluid in the legs caused by heart problems. This practice occurred
for hundreds of years before it was discovered that foxglove contributed the
active ingredients now known as digitalis. Today digitalis is commonly used to
stimulate weakened hearts.

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A Little Humor for Your Day – New State Slogans

New State Slogans

Alabama: Yes, We Have Electricity
Alaska: 11,623 Eskimos Can’t Be Wrong!
Arizona: But It’s a Dry Heat
Arkansas: Litterasy Ain’t Everthing
California: By 30 Our Women Have More Plastic Than Your Honda.
Colorado: If You Don’t Ski, Don’t Bother
Connecticut: Like Massachusetts, Only The Kennedies Don’t Own It Yet.
Delaware: We Really Do Like The Chemicals In Our Water
Florida: Ask Us About Our Grandkids
Georgia: We Put The “Fun” In Fundamentalist Extremism
Hawaii: Haka Tiki Mou Sha’ami Leeki Toru (Death To Mainland Scum, But Leave Your Money)
Idaho: More Than Just Potatoes… Well Okay, We’re Not, But The Potatoes Sure Are Real Good
Illinois: Please Don’t Pronounce the “S”
Indiana: 2 Billion Years Tidal Wave Free
Iowa: We Do Amazing Things With Corn
Kansas: First Of The Rectangle States
Kentucky: Five Million People; Fifteen Last Names
Louisiana: We’re Not ALL Drunk Cajun Wackos, But That’s Our Tourism Campaign
Maine: We’re Really Cold, But We Have Cheap Lobster
Maryland: If You Can Dream It, We Can Tax It
Massachusetts: Our Taxes Are Lower Than Sweden’s (For Most Tax Brackets)
Michigan: First Line Of Defense From The Canadians
Minnesota: 10,000 Lakes And 10,000,000 Mosquitoes
Mississippi: Come Feel Better About Your Own State
Missouri: Your Federal Flood Relief Tax Dollars At Work
Montana: Land Of The Big Sky, The Unabomber, Right-Wing Crazies, & Very Little Else
Nebraska: Ask About Our State Motto Contest
Nevada: Whores and Poker!
New Hampshire: Go Away And Leave Us Alone
New Jersey: You Want A ##$%##! Motto? I Got Yer ##$%##! Motto Right Here!
New Mexico: Lizards Make Excellent Pets
New York: You Have The Right To Remain Silent, You Have The Right To An Attorney…
North Carolina: Tobacco Is A Vegetable
North Dakota: We Really Are One Of The 50 States!
Ohio: At Least We’re Not Michigan
Oklahoma: Like The Play, Only No Singing
Oregon: Spotted Owl… It’s What’s For Dinner
Pennsylvania: Cook With Coal
Rhode Island: We’re Not REALLY An Island
South Carolina: Remember The Civil War? We Didn’t Actually Surrender
South Dakota: Closer Than North Dakota
Tennessee: The Educashun State
Texas: Si’ Hablo Ing’les (Yes, I Speak English)
Utah: Our Jesus Is Better Than Your Jesus
Vermont: Yep
Virginia: Who Says Government Stiffs And Slackjaw Yokels Don’t Mix?
Washington: Help! We’re Overrun By Nerds And Slackers!
Washington, D.C.: Wanna Be Mayor?
West Virginia: One Big Happy Family…Really!
Wisconsin: Come Cut The Cheese
Wyoming: Where Men Are Men…And The Sheep Are Afraid!!!!!!!!!!

 

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Feng Shui News for Nov. 4th – ‘Candles & Birthdays’

Today is my son’s eighteenth birthday and I am truly honored to be his mother. Today, I will bless him with protection by using the glow of fire. Feng Shui says that burning a white and rounded candle for the first seven days of a baby’s life, or on any birthday and the six days that follow it, will help to ward off illness, injury and disease. This wisdom says that the fire from this light will burn away energies that might bring serious sickness and that protection from illness would prevail. Parental protection from upset and harm is one of the best gifts I can think of to give my birthday boy. Well, that and some cash.

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com

When You Might Not Want to Come Out of the Broom Closet

When You Might Not Want to Come Out of the Broom Closet

Author:   Bronwen Forbes   

A great deal has been written about the benefits and advantages of coming out as Pagan to your family, friends and co-workers, both here on Witchvox and in other places. Living an honest life, helping Paganism be more accepted as more people say “I know a Pagan, ” and taking pride in who and what you are – these are all excellent reasons to be open about your faith. However, as a friend of mine reminded me recently, coming out is never something you do just once. You continue to choose with every new day, every new situation and every new person you meet whether or not to say anything about your spiritual path.

Which means, of course, that there are some valid reasons to never come out to anyone, or only to a select few in specific situations. For example (obvious as it is) , if you’ve recently begun the process of legally severing your marital bonds with someone and, before the divorce is final and all child and property custody disputes have been resolved, and you realize in the middle of all this that you’re Pagan, it would probably be in your best interests not to announce your new path until after the dust has settled.

Another obvious example is on the job. I hate to sound like an alarmist, but in this economy, just because you think it’s safe to be openly Pagan at work doesn’t mean it *is* safe. I lived for years in the Baltimore-Washington DC area where no one, not even my employers, cared if I was Pagan or not.

I left DC for a Midwest town that had a university – and a very prominent journalism school. As leaders of a training coven (consisting mostly of college students including one journalism major) , my husband and I were pretty good candidates for “interview a witch for the Halloween edition of the school paper.” It happened every year. While I wasn’t exactly out at work, between my regular appearance in the university’s school newspaper and occasional mentions in the city’s paper for being on various Pagan-related discussion panels, I wasn’t exactly hiding my religion, either. Five minutes on Google would have told my employers everything they wanted to know about it. I don’t think it even occurred to them to check.

Unfortunately, I took this lack of interest in my religious affairs for granted when we moved to a tiny town in New Mexico and I got a job at the local (much smaller) university in the admissions office. We also tried to help revive the campus Pagan student group which had been prominently featured in the local paper a year earlier, when every Baptist minister in the county denounced its existence (which should have been a clue to me to keep my flapping mouth shut) . Connections were made among the students, and next thing I knew it was two weeks before Samhain and the editor of the school paper was interviewing me. It was a good, well-written article, and no one in my office said a word about the fact that I’d just outed myself to the entire campus. I didn’t think any more about it.

Until I realized that my immediate supervisor was quietly and subtly going out of her way to make my workday a living hell – and had been since the article appeared in the paper.

For example, whatever I did wrong was discussed loudly and in public, while my co-worker, a Catholic, got a bit of quiet privacy when her errors were pointed out (We started the same day and did the exact same job) . I mentioned it to my boss and was told it was all my imagination and that I was “too sensitive.”

Eventually I quit; I’m convinced that if I hadn’t, I would have been fired. Was it because of the article? I’ll never know for sure, but in retrospect my decision to come out of the broom closet was, in this instance, a pretty poor one.

Sometimes, though, the decision of whether or not to come out as Pagan is not so obvious. Family and close friends, for example, are the people you most want to accept this part of you, and as a result your prediction of their reaction to your news may be skewed; you so very much need them to be happy for you that you could project the reaction you want onto them.

I’ve asked around, and a lot of my friends suggest telling a close sibling, aunt or uncle and see how they react before having the “Big Talk” with Mom and Dad. But – and this is hard – telling your nearest and dearest may not only be a bad idea, you may not know it’s a bad idea until it’s too late.

Back in the mid 1980s when I first realized I was Pagan, I told my parents. I had plenty of solid, valid reasons for doing so: 1) I was about to be divorced by my first husband over my Paganism and I thought they deserved to know the truth. 2) I had a strong feeling, even in the early days, that my spiritual path was going to be a major part of my life (turns out I was right) and I couldn’t see cutting my parents out of that much of my world (we were a lot closer back then) . 3) My parents are highly educated people with five college degrees between the two of them, have been professional performers most their lives (i.e. used to odd, artistic, fringe folk) , and are reasonably liberal in their personal and political views. In other words, if there are (or were) two Christians (Episcopalians) more likely to accept their daughter’s new spiritual path with open-mindedness and grace, I don’t know them.

At first it looked like I made a good decision to come out to my folks. My father, a college librarian, found a copy of Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance on my recommendation and read it. He said that while he’d never be a Pagan, he was struck by how “poetic it is.”

Fast forward a decade or so. In the intervening years my religion has been referred to as “that Pagan b*llsh*t” more than once. I’ve been told, “We’re just so relieved you’ve managed to stay away from the drugs” (What drugs? Did I miss the memo on rampant drug use in the Pagan community?) , and treated to this day like a not-quite-bright teenager by – you guessed it – my intellectual, liberal parents.

Was coming out to my parents a good idea? Probably not.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it today? No.

The decision to tell or not to tell someone you’re Pagan is a deeply personal one, and not in any way something you should be pressured into. Coming out as Pagan is not “cool” or something to do for the shock it might cause the listener. Although it’s true that the more of a presence we are in society the less “other” we become, and the more our faith is accepted in the world.

But we need to be aware that sharing our religious choice with anyone or everyone is not always the best solution. We no longer need to worry about witchfinders, hangings and other historically dire consequences for openly celebrating our faith, but we do need to think very hard about our livelihoods, our children and the feelings of the one we’re outing ourselves to before we choose to share this most personal information.

Celebrating Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Laguna Indian San Jose Day

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 18 and 19 September

Laguna Indian San Jose Day

During the late Summer and early Fall, the southwestern part of the United States supports an array of fiestas that honor various Catholic saints and feature elaborate processions, markets, dancing, and entertainment. The Laguna festival honoring Saint Joseph is a prime example. The pueblo of Laguna, some 45 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was established in 1697. Soon after, a Catholic mission was built there and became the official site of the festival. The origins of the festival have been lost over time, but more than likely they revolved around the mission’s patron Saint Joseph and the plentiful late Summer harvest. Today the festival still attracts thousands of people for the two-day celebration. The fiesta begins with a procession for Saint Joseph from the mission to the fairgrounds, which is followed by a noontime harvest and corn dance. After the official opening of the festival, the adults flock to the enormous market for the exchange of local products and food, while the children enjoy carnival rides and games. The fiesta concludes with demonstration dances performed by local Indian tribes and the return of the statue of Saint Joseph to the mission.

 

Celebrating Wiccan Spirituality: Spells, Sacred Rites, and Folklore for Each Day of the Year
By Lady Sabrina

Also In The News – An Introduction to Earthships

By Kevin Stevens, Networx

Imagine a home that heats and cools itself without the need of a furnace or AC unit: one that produces its own zero-emissions supply of electricity, and is not dependent on a municipal source for water. This kind of home also processes all of its wastewater locally, and can even grow a quantity of its occupant’s food. Additionally, the home is built with local and recycled waste products, and it can be built with basic low-tech labor. Does this sound like the ideal home of a space age future? Believe it or not, these homes exist today (many have been built by builders in New Mexico) and have been in existence for over 30 years. This type of home is called an “Earthship” and it exhibits all of these features and more.

Heat and Cooling Naturally

Earthships are homes built with passive solar design principles. During the cool winter months, low angled sunlight enters the home and warms the floors and walls. Exterior and load bearing walls are constructed from a “core” of up-cycled tires and rammed earth. This high thermal mass core is covered with concrete or earthen-based plasters for a smooth and cosmetically appealing surface. The mass of the walls and structure “absorb” the sun’s heat, this heat is stored in the mass walls and is then released back into the living space after the sun sets. In summer, the cool base temperature of the earth around the home provides natural cooling. This is supplemented with convective air flow and skylight vents.

Power and Water

Earthships by their nature are off-grid. This means they are self-sufficient in terms of electricity and traditional service utilities. Solar panels and/or wind turbines generate electric power. The home’s roof surface acts as a “collector” for rain and snow harvesting. Water consumption is further enhanced by re-use. An Earthship’s water stores are “processed” by filtration and purification means for initial use. Grey water from sinks and showers is processed through a biological/planter bed before being used to flush conventional toilets. These planter beds can also be used as gardens (some people grow food in grey water-irrigated gardens; some do not). The waste water from the toilets is then processed in an exterior system that can be used for exterior landscape needs. With this system the water is actually used four times… which is a great savings in its own right. Hot water for domestic use is produced using thermal solar power.

Recycled Building Materials

One of the greatest advantages of Earthship construction is the use of reclaimed materials. The fundamental “building blocks” of an Earthship include tires, bottles and cans. Earthship “foundations” begin with old tires that are filled with simple dirt. This local material is compressed into the “form” of the tire and provides a strong solid and dense “brick”. These tire walls are built on three sides of the structure and provide both thermal mass and support for the home roofing system. Interior and decorative walls are often built using bottles and cans as the “core” materials. This integrated “matrix” of concrete and containers reduces the total amount of mortar that is needed and can provide a great decorative element.
Earthships are gaining popularity and can be found in nearly every climate type. One of the best known examples of this type of architecture and sustainable building style can be found near Taos, New Mexico. Here an entire community of Earthships make up the “Greater World Community.” This “subdivision” has been in existence for nearly 20 years.

The Daily Cosmic Calendar for Sunday, May 20

 

The last week has been filled with many unusual days and a wide variety of powerful alignments. Here is another 24-hour time-span when you need to be on your toes and ready for anything. Healing forces are reinforced as Mercury makes an inspirational, 72-degree contact with Chiron (4:27AM PDT). Additional good news arrives during the monthly Moon-Jupiter union in Taurus (5:36AM PDT). Optimistic vibes are dominant, but this lunar conjunction with the largest planet in the solar system also begins a void uncertainty zone that lasts until 4:06PM PDT. It is during the void time-period that the Sun shifts from earthy Taurus to airy Gemini (8:17AM PDT) while Uranus shocks Mercury via a tense, 45-degree link (3:06PM PDT). Even though the Moon leaves void status at 4:06PM PDT, the New Moon at 1 degree Gemini doesn’t take place until 4:48PM PDT. Then six minutes later, the exact moment of the Annular Solar Eclipse reaches its culmination. This kind of eclipse indicates that a narrow ring of sunlight is visible beyond the dark circle of the Moon because the lunar orb is too close to Earth to fully block out all sunlight. Nevertheless, this eclipse can be as potent and meaningful as a total one. Southern China, Japan, the Northern Pacific Ocean and Western America (mainly Northern California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Western Texas) are in the pathway of this solar-lunar rendezvous. Eclipses were often feared by our ancestors because they didn’t understand the science, math and stellar geometry behind such occurrences. It is best to see today’s event as a super-duper New Moon – where you are being galvanized to take several leaps forward in your main areas of expertise as well as in favorite hobbies. Vesta in a flowing trine of 120-degrees to Pluto (9:15PM PDT) is an extra signal from our cosmic brothers and sisters that you can make a lot of progress in the business and investment realms if you are determined, disciplined and use common sense.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for Feb. 4th

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 February 4
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Comet Garradd and M92
Image Credit & Copyright: Rolando Ligustri (CARA Project, CAST) 

Explanation: Sweeping slowly through the constellation Hercules, Comet Garradd (C2009/P1) passed with about 0.5 degrees of globular star cluster M92 on February 3. Captured here in its latest Messier moment, the steady performer remains just below naked-eye visibility with a central coma comparable in brightness to the dense, well-known star cluster. The rich telescopic view from New Mexico’s, early morning skies, also features Garradd’s broad fan shaped dust tail and a much narrower ion tail that extends up and beyond the right edge of the frame. Pushed out by the pressure of sunlight, the dust tail tends to trail the comet along its orbit while the ion tail, blown by the solar wind, streams away from the comet in the direction opposite the Sun. Of course, M92 is over 25,000 light-years away. Comet Garradd is 12.5 light-minutes from planet Earth, arcing above the ecliptic plane.

Finding Dragons

Finding Dragons

 
 
Dragons live deep underground in caverns, usually with many passages and inner caves where the treasure is kept.
 
Some areas, like Wales or the Catalan region around Barcelona, have strong fire-dragon traditions.
 
Visit places with dragon or drake names such as Dragon Hill near Uffingham on the Berkshire/Oxfordshire borders, close to the huge chalk horse symbol of the Celtic horse goddess Epona.
 
Go also to those spots where there are dragons legends, such as Krakow in Poland where the dragon lived in a cave beneath Wawel Hill under the castle. You can be sure people in times past experienced dragon energies there and so wove the legends. Enter ‘dragon’ in the regional website of the place you intend to visit.
 
Explore dry, rocky, sandy regions, like Almeria in the south east of Spain. Visit also the bush lands of Australia and the Midwest of America and New Mexico, where European and Scandinavian settlers from the Old World carried the dragon mythology and the absorbed energies to join with the indigenous myths.
 
Explore the sacred sites of the creatrix rainbow serpent in Australia. In American, Serpent Mound in Ohio, just east of Cincinnati, which was used for worship by the Adena Indians, somewhere between 800 BCE and CE 100, is another perfect dragon location.
 
Most deep forests also have their share of dragon legends, especially in Germany. Visit different cavernous or rocky areas and feel for your dragon.
 
You may even find friendly fire-dragon energies near seaside caves in sandy coves (watch for tides). Western dragons traditionally live alone except for mating.
 
Collect the legends and your own impressions in your Book of Shadows.

When You Might Not Want to Come Out of the Broom Closet

Author: Bronwen Forbes

A great deal has been written about the benefits and advantages of coming out as Pagan to your family, friends and co-workers, both here on Witchvox and in other places. Living an honest life, helping Paganism be more accepted as more people say “I know a Pagan, ” and taking pride in who and what you are – these are all excellent reasons to be open about your faith. However, as a friend of mine reminded me recently, coming out is never something you do just once. You continue to choose with every new day, every new situation and every new person you meet whether or not to say anything about your spiritual path.

Which means, of course, that there are some valid reasons to never come out to anyone, or only to a select few in specific situations. For example (obvious as it is) , if you’ve recently begun the process of legally severing your marital bonds with someone and, before the divorce is final and all child and property custody disputes have been resolved, and you realize in the middle of all this that you’re Pagan, it would probably be in your best interests not to announce your new path until after the dust has settled.

Another obvious example is on the job. I hate to sound like an alarmist, but in this economy, just because you think it’s safe to be openly Pagan at work doesn’t mean it *is* safe. I lived for years in the Baltimore-Washington DC area where no one, not even my employers, cared if I was Pagan or not.

I left DC for a Midwest town that had a university – and a very prominent journalism school. As leaders of a training coven (consisting mostly of college students including one journalism major) , my husband and I were pretty good candidates for “interview a witch for the Halloween edition of the school paper.” It happened every year. While I wasn’t exactly out at work, between my regular appearance in the university’s school newspaper and occasional mentions in the city’s paper for being on various Pagan-related discussion panels, I wasn’t exactly hiding my religion, either. Five minutes on Google would have told my employers everything they wanted to know about it. I don’t think it even occurred to them to check.

Unfortunately, I took this lack of interest in my religious affairs for granted when we moved to a tiny town in New Mexico and I got a job at the local (much smaller) university in the admissions office. We also tried to help revive the campus Pagan student group which had been prominently featured in the local paper a year earlier, when every Baptist minister in the county denounced its existence (which should have been a clue to me to keep my flapping mouth shut) . Connections were made among the students, and next thing I knew it was two weeks before Samhain and the editor of the school paper was interviewing me. It was a good, well-written article, and no one in my office said a word about the fact that I’d just outed myself to the entire campus. I didn’t think any more about it.

Until I realized that my immediate supervisor was quietly and subtly going out of her way to make my workday a living hell – and had been since the article appeared in the paper.

For example, whatever I did wrong was discussed loudly and in public, while my co-worker, a Catholic, got a bit of quiet privacy when her errors were pointed out (We started the same day and did the exact same job) . I mentioned it to my boss and was told it was all my imagination and that I was “too sensitive.”

Eventually I quit; I’m convinced that if I hadn’t, I would have been fired. Was it because of the article? I’ll never know for sure, but in retrospect my decision to come out of the broom closet was, in this instance, a pretty poor one.

Sometimes, though, the decision of whether or not to come out as Pagan is not so obvious. Family and close friends, for example, are the people you most want to accept this part of you, and as a result your prediction of their reaction to your news may be skewed; you so very much need them to be happy for you that you could project the reaction you want onto them.

I’ve asked around, and a lot of my friends suggest telling a close sibling, aunt or uncle and see how they react before having the “Big Talk” with Mom and Dad. But – and this is hard – telling your nearest and dearest may not only be a bad idea, you may not know it’s a bad idea until it’s too late.

Back in the mid 1980s when I first realized I was Pagan, I told my parents. I had plenty of solid, valid reasons for doing so: 1) I was about to be divorced by my first husband over my Paganism and I thought they deserved to know the truth. 2) I had a strong feeling, even in the early days, that my spiritual path was going to be a major part of my life (turns out I was right) and I couldn’t see cutting my parents out of that much of my world (we were a lot closer back then) . 3) My parents are highly educated people with five college degrees between the two of them, have been professional performers most their lives (i.e. used to odd, artistic, fringe folk) , and are reasonably liberal in their personal and political views. In other words, if there are (or were) two Christians (Episcopalians) more likely to accept their daughter’s new spiritual path with open-mindedness and grace, I don’t know them.

At first it looked like I made a good decision to come out to my folks. My father, a college librarian, found a copy of Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance on my recommendation and read it. He said that while he’d never be a Pagan, he was struck by how “poetic it is.”

Fast forward a decade or so. In the intervening years my religion has been referred to as “that Pagan b*llsh*t” more than once. I’ve been told, “We’re just so relieved you’ve managed to stay away from the drugs” (What drugs? Did I miss the memo on rampant drug use in the Pagan community?) , and treated to this day like a not-quite-bright teenager by – you guessed it – my intellectual, liberal parents.

Was coming out to my parents a good idea? Probably not.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it today? No.

The decision to tell or not to tell someone you’re Pagan is a deeply personal one, and not in any way something you should be pressured into. Coming out as Pagan is not “cool” or something to do for the shock it might cause the listener. Although it’s true that the more of a presence we are in society the less “other” we become, and the more our faith is accepted in the world.

But we need to be aware that sharing our religious choice with anyone or everyone is not always the best solution. We no longer need to worry about witchfinders, hangings and other historically dire consequences for openly celebrating our faith, but we do need to think very hard about our livelihoods, our children and the feelings of the one we’re outing ourselves to before we choose to share this most personal information.