Let’s Talk Witch – How to Explain Your Beliefs
When describing your beliefs to someone, it’s not always necessary to explain everything. It’s best to start with your personal beliefs, and then to segue into a longer explanation. It also helps to make connections between Neo-Pagan practices and the practices of other religions. Finally, you should be prepared to allay fears people have about magic and those wild Pagan orgies.
Share the Basics
When first explaining your beliefs, stick to a skeleton of your basic belief system. For a coworker, it’s enough to say something like, “I follow a nature religion.” You can answer further questions if you want to, but try to steer clear of talk about working skyclad. With friends, you can explain your beliefs a little more deeply. It’s okay to mention the deities you follow, your holiday celebrations, or anything else that seems appropriate. Your friend may or may not ask questions. If she does, then explain further. For example, if you’re asked if you believe in God, you can answer that you believe in a god and goddess. If you are asked if you worship Satan, you can explain that Satan is a Christian construct and that you don’t worship anything that could be construed as evil.
Answer the Questions
Family members and people you have a romantic connection to will ask the most questions. Work slowly, starting from the basics. Allow the person time to digest your answers and then think of new questions. You might want to invite them to attend a ritual with you, or send them a copy of a ritual so they can see what it’s like.
You will most likely be asked if you still celebrate the holidays of your original faith. Many Pagans choose to celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday and share the day with family and friends, just as they did before, but without the trip to church. Most Jewish Pagans find that their traditions work very well with Neo-Paganism and are able to honor both the Jewish and Pagan holidays. You can also explain that you honor the cycles of the sun and earth, or adhere to a holiday calendar that predates Christianity. You can point out that many of these celebrations continue in the regions where they originated.
Some Christians don’t know that Christ’s actual birth date is unknown. Christmas was first moved to December 25 in the fourth century, and was later set by Pope Gregory. The new date coincided with Pagan celebrations of Saturnalia, the winter solstice, and the birth of the sun god Mithras.
If you are asked specifically what you do, then give a very basic rundown of an average ritual. You will most likely be asked if you use magic. If you do use magic, you can explain that you don’t practice black magic or sacrifice animals during your rituals (unless you’re Santerían). Magic can be likened to prayer because both are tools for asking the gods for help.
The tools, especially ritual knives, usually arouse the most curiosity. Explain as much of it as you feel comfortable with. For example, you could explain that your athame is a symbol of the element of fire because steel is forged from fire. You don’t need to get into its relation to male energy and the symbolic Great Rite unless you already explained Beltane.
Make Connections Between Religions
When explaining your faith, it also helps to make connections to more familiar religions and holidays. For example, you can liken the goddess to Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, whom many Pagans honor as a goddess. When asked about Yule, explain that you celebrate the return of the light in the form of the sun god, spelled Sun. You can point out that the Christmas tree, holiday wreaths, and decorations are all pre-Christian practices.
If you use other practices, such as shamanic journeying or meditation, compare your practices to those of Native Americans or Buddhists. Other practices, like wearing a Celtic Cross pendant or hanging a Witch Ball in your window for protection, can be related to the folk traditions of Europe and the British Isles.
When people hear the words heathen, Pagan, and Witch, all sorts of scary images are conjured up. Your family members may worry that you’ve joined a cult or gone off the deep end. You should clarify that you are not a sorcerer or the Wicked Witch of the West. You should explain that Pagans have no single leader, you’re not required to give all your money to anyone, and there is no strict dogma, so it would be difficult for you to be a member of a Pagan cult.
If a friend or family member insists on trying to “save” you, gently but firmly explain that you believe differently, but you appreciate the concern. You might want to give him a copy of a beginner’s book on your chosen path or direct him to an explanatory Web site.
Once you’ve explained your personal beliefs, your friends and family members may be less worried but might still have a few concerns. You may be asked if you have orgies in the forest. Even if you do, that might not be the right thing to tell your mom. You might be asked if you hex people. Again answer with a simple “no,” unless you want to get into a long conversation about magical ethics.
The most common fear is that you’ll become a different person. Reassure them that you are the same person you always were, and you just have a different religion. Chances are you had Pagan leanings before you made the conversion, and once they recognize that, they will be better able to accept your religious choices.
Source:“The Everything Paganism Book How to Explain Your Beliefs by Selene Silverwind