It's a phrase that cycles often through the Pagan community. And as silly as it may sound to some, there are those who find the idea of publicly announcing a connection to this still very misrepresented faith a bit overwhelming. Not silly, but scary!
Not everyone can afford to be linked to something that takes them "off the beaten path" in the eyes of their peers. Forget any hope of being seen as a cutting-edge, unique individual that might offer a refreshing perspective. No, you'll become "the odd man out", "that devil worshiper", "the freak". Or at least that's what many closeted Pagans fear may be the reaction they will face if they ever chose to "come out".
Everyone's situation differs and it may be that you whole-heartedly fear a loss of your job, family or friends should you let your faith be known. No judgments from me! But in my heart I can't see a healthy benefit in masking who it is you truly are within.
In honor of the upcoming International Pagan Coming Out Day [May 2nd], I wanted to take the opportunity to share my own story of finding this well-worn path that many of us call home.
"So, when did you discover that you were a witch?"
something inside [me] shift and change". She speaks of one Halloween when she was persuaded to come to a Pagan event hosted by her friend. Reluctantly she decided to attend.
Deborah writes, "And there, amid the trees, in a clearing lit only by moonlight and candle flame, something unexpected happened. The circle was cast, the quarters called, the gods invoked, and I felt an indefinable something inside me shift and change."
She was amazed to find a profound connection to Nature and to the other members of the party, who had, but moments ago, been merely strangers. Deborah felt as though she had touched the gods and that they had touched her back [chapter 1: page 8].
She proclaims, "never had I felt with any certainty that there was, in fact, a god. But on that Samhain night, in that circle in the park, I was suddenly absolutely sure: sure that there was deity around me and inside me, sure that what I had found was the right path for me. I was a Witch, and I had come home."
Many a-story of finding the Pagan faith[s] elude to this idea of "coming home" -- like it was always waiting quietly in the shadows of your life until that moment when you finally noticed it and it pulled you with warm welcome into its arms. I know the feeling well...
I was raised Roman Catholic -- just about as anti-Witch as you can get! And I didn't really think about it much until... well, until reaching an age when I actually started to think about it!
My mother would dress us up and haul us off to church on Sunday mornings, which, aside from being exceedingly boring, didn't cause me much concern. That is, until my growing little mind began to sort through what it was that they were preaching -- there were stories with lessons and rules [oh! The rules!]. And when I began attempting to make sense of it all, well, there were just too many conflicting details.
And so... what was a confused and curious young girl to do but to ask for clarification [because, after all, the only 'dumb question' is the one not asked, right?]. Not quite.
I was probably age seven or eight when I began Religion Classes. This was my opportunity to make some sense of it all -- or so I thought.
"Are they sure Jesus was born in December? Because that's when we celebrate Christmas but The Bible says there were shepherds living in fields nearby and watching over their flocks and I don't think that happens in winter."
"What do Easter eggs and bunnies have to do with our Lord?"
"You said Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose on Sunday but that's really not three days like they say in church ['on the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures' -- yes it's still burned into my brain]."
This innocent mind wanted to know! And I was ready for their answers [so that I might set some order to the madness I was hearing]. But these answers never came. Instead I was warned about doubting the word of God. "Just have faith" I was told.
Have faith? Have faith that the Lord thinks Friday afternoon to Sunday morning could somehow work out to be three days? I can't imagine the look that must have fastened itself onto my perplexed little face but regardless, that was the end of that! No room for discussion!
It wasn't but a year or two after this that I learned of a particularly well-like Father's involvement in an embezzlement scam. That was my breaking point. I had suppressed my desire to clarify some fairly senseless Christian claims and did my best to "just have faith" when all the while these very people [who stood preaching about righteousness endless Sunday after endless Sunday] were picking the pockets of those who turned to them for spiritual purpose.
I likely couldn't have defined the term "double-standard" back in those days but I sure as heck could tell you how it made a person feel! Abandoned. Lost. Dare I say... bitch-slapped?! I dare!!!
My mother never batted a single eyelash when I told her I would no longer be attending church. I think she herself questioned what benefit the Catholic faith could bring to her children. Truly I believe that the only reason she ever dragged us there to begin with was a thoughtless fall into the family routine she herself was raised to follow. It's just what you did.
I was quite content without religion... for awhile. It was about my junior year of high school that I noticed a soft-spoken emptiness inside and began to explore. I attended a church function with a friend who was Born Again and was frightened away from that very restrictive belief system just about as fast as my cut-off shorts would take me!
It was random chance that would lead me to the "Pocket Guide to Wicca". Random chance. Or was it? Perhaps I was supposed to be in that bookstore at just that moment, walking around aimlessly after picking up a new hard-cover blank journal [to house my totally deep, teenage-drama poetry].
|Property of Looney Toons|
This less-than-virtuous motive was enough to get me to purchase that pocket guide. Little did I know how much it would change my life.
The mini book laid out the basic foundations of Wicca with simple descriptions of rites, elements, correspondences, sabbats and more. The text itself contained no rushing waves of passion and power. And yet, through its simplistic breakdown of the Faith it was very clear to me that this was a belief system that encouraged a more personal connection to divinity. It wasn't about doing what everyone else told you to do so that you might 'find the Lord'. It was about doing what felt right so that you might develop a personal inner relationship with deity.
At age 16 I had found what was needed to occupy the void that Catholicism had left within me. And it truly was a "coming home". It was comfortable and uplifting. The world was brighter, the wind was crisper. After years of reading, learning and following a more typical Wiccan path, I veered onto my own trail of eclectic Pagan beliefs and inspirations.
And today I don't turn to anyone to validate my connection to divinity. Just as author Deborah Blake expressed in her book, I too touch the gods and they touch me. And while I've faced judgments and opinions from others as I've walked this ["off-the-beaten"] path, I need only look within to recognize that what they think they know dulls in comparison to what I feel is right [for me].
My Pagan faith fulfills me. It gives me the foundation to face a hectic and imperfect world with optimism and with confidence. It provides me with a compassion for others -- something that I noticed [even as a young child] is very lacking in the Catholic community [generally speaking, of course]. I live with an outlook of "open-mind & open-heart". Everyone matters because everyone is connected at a level deeper than what this physical world allows us to recognize.
And to now see my two sons growing up to cherish and accept everyone as special and unique -- to know that they themselves hold a special light which makes them a 'one and only' -- that has served to enhance the gratitude I have for my faith.
A friend [one raised to fear and detest Pagan religious beliefs] once told me that I should at least take my children to a non-denominational church so that they are raised with some sort of foundation. Rather than take offense, I almost laughed, with all sincerity, right in her face! My children have more compassion and genuine respect for themselves and others than your average, educated adult! They do not lack anything that a Christian counterpart can claim. And in fact, I find that because they are not taught that one path is the only path, my children are more likely to form a lasting bond of genuine acceptance with another person than might a child from a monotheistic faith.
Yes I'm 100% out of the broom closet! Plenty of storage space in there! I don't worry about the opinions that others form based on misconceptions that continue to circulate... because I live by example. Someone can examine my life, my words and my actions and know that it is my belief system that grants me the open-hearted perspective that I have towards the world around me.
In the Closet or Out, Bless-ed Be my Pagan friends. Know that you are beautiful.
Love & Light,