of the Broom Closet, into the Cauldron?
A while back, TWV had
a global notice about a handfasting party inNashville,
detained at gunpoint by park rangers. The Pagans involved were able to get the
situation resolved to their satisfaction later, but the event was ruined by
this blatant show of hostility. While occurrences like these do happen, luckily
they are less frequent than in the past. Unfortunately, when a Pagan ďgoes
publicĒ with his or her faith, similar
situations can happen.
There you are, newly on your Path,
excited at the spiritual world that this new religion has brought to your life.
You want to share your newfound joy with your best friend, your sister, and the
whole wide world. Thatís great, but are you really prepared for the reactions
When I was a child, I was brought
up in aminority religion; there were only a
few children inmy school who followed the same
spiritual path asmy family.
I learned then that it was sometimes
just easier not to tell people anything aboutmy
religion. It just didnít come up very often.
When the subject did come up, all I volunteered
was that I wasnít Christian. Most people didnít push beyond that tidbit of information.
As an adult who follows a Pagan path, I keep the same
habits. I am not openly Pagan. On the other
hand, I donít go out ofmy way to hide the
fact that I follow a different spiritual choice thanmost
or co-workers. Frankly, I donít seemy
religious preference as anymore of their
business than whom Iím
sleeping with. Tome they are both personal,
privatematters, best kept that way.
Even still, within the limited
scope ofmy one foot out of the broom
closet, I have experienced discrimination and
ignorance. Should I become openly Pagan, Iím
sure there will bemore such occurrences. Iím
coming to a point inmy
life where being hidden is no longer an option. My sweet, little girl had
ďoutedĒ us to her classmates and teachers at
preschool when we lived in the Northeast. In that community
we weremet with curiosity and even genuine
welcome. I sharedmusical
scores with the
teacher. He was thrilled to have newmusic for
the kids. There were a dozen Pagan families
within a short drive from our home.
With such strong presence in the area, we were just onemore
of themelting pot of religions that are whatmakes
the Untied States the joy to live in that it is.
By the time
my daughter entered first grade, we hadmoved
to theMidwest. Big billboards with large letters
proclaim ďJesusĒ on highways and localmain
drags. People have little placards of the Ten Commandments
on their front lawns and the Pagan population is sparser. My daughter learned
fast that not everyone was happy tomeet someone
different than they are. During her first fewmonths
in day-care, a little boy got in her face telling her she would go to hell
because she didnít believe in God. Last Halloween;my
husbandís car was soaped with the word ďwitchĒ from
front to back. My little girl was the one to discover it. I was hard pressed to
explain why someone we didnít even know could
husband and I had our handfasting ceremony,my
aunt, who has knownme since I was a wee
child, askedme if we worshipped the devil. I
was so taken aback by being questioned that by someone
who has knownmemy
whole life thatmy
response was to ask her how she could think such a thing ofme.
Iíve had people stop speaking tome
upon finding outmy religion. (Losing friends
after they find out our religion is not
formany Pagans.) All this and I am
not even openly Pagan. What can an openly Pagan person expect?
As little as five years ago, the
answermight have been different than it is
today. In spite of our current presidentís position that Wicca isnít a ďrealĒ
religion, there are people in places of power in government
and the court system who aremore
willing to be educated about who we are and what we do.
The Lady Liberty League
(http://www.circlesanctuary.org/liberty/) and the Earth Religions Legal
Assistance Network provide information to Pagans for their lawyers to counter anti-Pagan attacks
in child custody and other hearings in which their Paganism may become an
issue. In a majority of these cases, the anti-Pagan offensives are thrown out
as inadmissible in court. Pagan parents are no longer automatically losing
custody of their children because of their Paganism. It is not uncommon for
Paganism to be brought up in custody cases, but when the Pagan parent's
attorney is prepared, it is usually (but not always) thrown out by the Judge as
The rights of Pagan inmates
to practice their religions in prison remains
but Pagan High Priests and Priestess who provide chaplain service are
increasingly networking with each other on the Internet and with Pagan rights
groups, and are becoming better able to help
or locate help.
The ignorance and discrimination
still exist. The events at the handfasting in a public parkmake
that abundantly clear. I have friends who have lost their employment
because they are openly Pagan, and because firing someone
on religious grounds is illegal, other reasons are often cited.
out to your family can also have a less than
desirable outcome. My daughter has learned not
to ask Grandma and Grandpa anything about God,
Goddess or religion. To her confusion, when she innocently did just that, she
was treated to an evening of reasons why the only religion she has ever know is
evil and she was going to die and not go to heaven. Had I been there that never
would have happened, but I was out at a businessmeeting
while the grandparents were babysitting.
Others who have come
out to their families have not been treated as
gently. Many people still have the opinion that we are part of some
cult or worship evil or worse yet, donít know that we are worshipping evil.
When a Pagan comes out of the broom
closet in a family such as this they are often
ostracized, preached at, dragged to churches to be saved or any number
of similar interventions designed for our ďown
legal battles, losing a job or the goodwill of family
and friends, there is the kindness of strangers!
A store owner in Florida toldme
this: ďAbout two years ago, when I was actively involved in running a Pagan
store in northern Florida, there was a young woman
who claimed to be a Muslim,
(and was, IMO, clearly psychotic, whatever her religious affiliation), who came
to the store, threatened to kill the people who worked there, and tried to run
over one of our card
readers in the parking
lot, apparently because we had a poster up in the store advertising a talk that
Starhawk was going to be giving elsewhere in the city. The thrust of her claims
involved something about all Witches being
Lesbians (themen working the store withme
that day found this part to be particularly surprising) who were corrupting
Islam by appropriating Sufi traditions. This
woman also threatened to attend the Starhawk
talk and set both herself and Starhawk on fire. The nice police officer who ran
the call (and helped us get a restraining order issued immediately)
assured us that she wouldn't be out of her 72 hour involuntary commitment
(let alone jail) before the talk, and took down contact information
for the Starhawk event so he could be sure the local PD would help coordinate
This was definitely themost
danger I have ever been in that could be directly attributed to being openly
Pagan - but the good news is that the authorities were clear about their duty
to protect and defend us.Ē
Another friend ofmine
had a New Age supply store in downtownSt. Louis.
A bunch of Fundamentalist Christians decide it
was their gods-given right to warn all and sundry against the evil going on in
that place of business. They picketed and used bullhorn and other aggressive
tactics to discourage customers from
entering the store. Eventually, the store could no longer support itself andmy
friend was forced to close down.
friend has an old van that looks as if it is held together by virtue of the bumper
stickers adorning its back end. Many of the bumper
stickers are Pagan in nature. More than oncemy
friend tells of being run off the road by Fundamentalists
screaming at her or trying to throw their
literature proclaiming Godís love into the
driverís side window.
A different friend went to court in
a smallMidwest town to
have a Christian symbol removed
from the town seal. In spite of the fact that
the ACLU lawyers were handling her case, she lost 3 jobs and her home.
Her children couldnít live in such a hateful environment
and she was forced to send them away to live
with relatives so they could be safe. She won the case, the town had to remove
the Christian symbolism
from their town seal, but it will be years
beforemy friend can rebuild her life. She has
moved to another state where no one knows of
her past and she hopes that neither has anyone there seen her picture in the
papers or on TV.
Are you still anxious to leave the
broom closet? Unfortunately, although we have
come a long way from
the early history of Paganism in this country,
we still have a long way to go to be accepted by the general public. Those of us that do leave the broom
closet whether by choice or accident could be the first and possibly only Pagan
the people we come in contact with have evermet.
people are pretty positive in their responses, but you never know. Before you
venture forth,make sure you are very sure of
whom you are as a Pagan, because nomatter
how you are received, you will be asked a lot of questions about your religion.
Even a well-meaning questioner can ask things
thatmay hurt your feelings or insult you. If
you arenít ready to have your innermost
beliefs brought out into the light and examined,
youíd better rethink announcing, ďIím a
Lyon is an Eclectic Pagan living in Missouri. She has been following a
Pagan lifestyle since the mid 1980s. An accomplished artist, she is currently
in the process of locating a publisher for her illustrated Pagan childrenís
book An Ordinary Girl, A Magical Child
for young readers. Lyon also has several websites. She lives
with her husband, her 8 year-old daughter and two old cats of undetermined