Monday, December 1, 2008

Come out, come out, Witchy-poo!!!

Coming out of the Broom Closet. There is no easy way around it, and eventually we all have to do it.

The first few Wicca conversations with my parents ended with them insisting that I would have problems getting a job and was going down a dangerous path. This was just after I’d graduated college with Honors, which I did while taking only 400-level classes, working 20 hours a week at a regional theatre AND teaching a Freshman-level college class. I applied for jobs in New York and was employed in an Off-Broadway company, starting my new career exactly three months to the day as I graduated college. It’s no small feat to begin a career in New York coming in from anywhere—but especially 3,000 miles away. All the while I was kicking serious theatrical and collegiate ass, I was practicing Wicca in a Grove in Vancouver, Washington. I began Priestess training just prior to moving to the East Coast. I did not see my parents’ connection between Wicca and ultimate failure. Wicca had given me confidence and focus. However, my well-meaning, hard-loving parents did not see my connections, either.

I went back into the Broom Closet at the age of 22, figuring that if I were still interested in Wicca at 25, I would come back out.

Two minutes later, I was 25 and not only still interested in Wicca, but running a Coven. (Not highly recommended at the age of 25…but life happens). Please go to the previous entry to see how my coming out went.

I’m now 27 and pursuing a Master’s of Divinity. My discussion of my latest scholastic goal did not sit well with my mother over Thanksgiving. Here’s an edited transcript:

My Mom:
Wicca is a cult. My company blocks its website.
Me:
Wicca has no central organization. There are some sects that are cult-like, but every religion has those. And companies block lots of websites that aren’t work-oriented.

Mom:
Wiccan people are spiritually empty and constantly searching.
Me:
How many Wiccans do you know besides me, Mom? (“None.”) Well, Mom…do you find me spiritually empty? (“Absolutely not!!!”)

Mom:
People won’t want you around them if you are Wiccan. They’ll push you away.
Me:
The only time I felt that someone didn’t want anything to do with me was in one po-dunk store, when I was down south visiting YOUR family, and the clerk wouldn’t wait on me and Izzy (Izzy is my friend and Coven sister). Other than that, hasn’t been a problem.

Mom:
You won’t get a job.
Me:
But I have a job. A good job. And I have worked steadily since college.

Mom:
You’ll have a hard time meeting someone.
Me:
But I have a boyfriend. A real boyfriend who works at People magazine and blogs about music who isn’t concerned by the Wicca at all. Sometimes the Wicca is the ONLY thing a dude likes about me—which presents its own problem.

Mom:
I think Wicca is the reason you didn’t get into Grad School. They didn’t want to read stories about witchery.
Me:
I didn’t submit stories about Witchcraft in my portfolio. I didn’t get into Grad School because my mainstream fiction isn’t that good. P.S.—That was a low blow.

The most difficult part of our conversation came when I asked to explain the tenets of Wicca to my mother, in order to appease her concerns. She did not want to know anything about it, and said so. I declared our conversation complete at that point and went to cry in the shower for an hour.

At moments like these, we can pour our pain into our journals. We can call our Elders and ask their advice. We can vent over IM to our friends and Circle members—but no one can make our loved ones accept our path. This is when we turn to our Gods.

“Brid,” I said aloud in the bathroom. “You found me and brought me to this path. When You have a moment, please send me some tools to deal with it.”

Sometimes Brid audibly replies. Sometimes I hear Her laugh. Usually I simply feel a warm embrace of peace, which is what I felt at that moment. I let it go.

I’m lucky. Some people get turned out of their families for being gay. Some women get buried up to their necks and stones are thrown at their heads for the crime of being raped, before a crowd of thousands. My mom doesn’t like my religion. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme. Plus, she still loves me.

Because I won’t get disowned, dis-employed or dismembered for coming out, it is my responsibility to do so, in hopes that other Witches who have more pressing challenges in being open might someday find more acceptance.

Why should we come out?

A few years ago, I was at a Trance Prophecy workshop lead by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone. During the Trance, one woman allowed The Morrigan to possess her and spoke through her. One of the first thing She said was, “How lucky you all are to live in a time when there are laws to protect you! Why must you all keep hiding? There is no wonder why people think you do bad things when you hide your activities?”

I’ve strived to live openly ever since. I am a Wiccan—but I also work 40 hours a week, pay taxes, dress well, shower daily, work for change in my community and have (mostly) healthy relationships. I am friendly and open and do not need to “hide” what it is I do or believe in. I have a Goddess named Brid and a God named Pan, and I honor my ancestors daily. I acknowledge and respect a multitude of other Gods in this world, and even call on them for assistance when necessary. I do not believe that any one religion holds all the answers because there is no way any human could ever possibly understand the Gods. There is nothing weird or shady about what I have just revealed about myself.

Our Group, Novices of the Old Ways, has a policy that nothing we do within the Circle remains secret. We have no need for it to be. We worship Old Gods and honor our Ancestors. We cast spells to better the world around us. We eat too much cheese and prefer Budweiser to wine in our Chalice. But if we were to hide these actions, why wouldn’t people assume we were drinking the blood of virgins?

We also live in New York City, where people are accepting of the new and different—if they even care enough to pay attention. We can safely wear our pentacles in public. There are other places in the world, and in this country where some people are not so lucky—who might, as my mother feared, struggle with getting a job or even face verbal and/or physical violence for being open. But maybe if we, who can safely do so, show the world that Wiccans are not creepy people who gravitate to shady lifestyles.

If you live in a place where you are safe to be openly Wiccan but yet you remain in the Broom Closet, ask yourself why the hiding is so necessary. Is it possible your hiding may be merely reinforcing stereotypes that harm other Wiccans?

How to do it?

Unfortunately, that is only an answer that you can come up with. Most people find coming out to their friends first is the easiest. In many cases (like mine…) my friends responded, “Duh. We knew you were Wiccan before you did.”

In families, siblings may be easier than parents and a good first step. But whether you sit your family down, write them a letter, or rent a place and fly a banner over their house, do it joyfully. Express your excitement for your new path. If you act scared or nervous, they will be scared and nervous about your news.

When challenged, remember these things:

Sometimes, love makes people act like assholes.

This doesn’t mean you should put up with it. But if your family reacts negatively to your new path, remember that they are scared of negative rumors about Wicca and simply want the best for you. Even if it is presented in a fucked-up way. (i.e. “THAT COURTNEY BITCH IS GOING TO CUT YOUR HEART OUT AND EAT IT BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WITCHES DO!!!”—the mother of a Group member, who now buys me clothes and invites me over for dinner on a regular basis.)

You knew this path wasn’t easy, but you chose it because it called to you.

Right? If this whole difficult thing is news to you…well, welcome to the unmarked trail! We are a new religion. We may have many practices that could be called “The Old Ways,” but as a recognized faith, we have only really been around since the early 20th century. All religious pioneers faced problems. At least we’re not getting burned anymore.

Ways to respond:

-Offer to sit down with your family to explain the tenets of the Craft. If you have a Group, offer to invite your High Priestess or High Priest to come and visit. Your spiritual leader should be open to your family’s concerns. If they are not, you need to find a new group.

-If your family, like mine, is not ready to hear about the Wiccan tenets, simply announce the subject closed and let them know you’re open to talk more about it when they’re ready.

-Remind them of the accomplishments in your current life and let them know they didn’t raise a fool.

-All religions, at their core, are based on peace, love and understanding. If your family is religious, find a passage from their doctrines on love and acceptance and have it ready for quoting.

-Keep your Gods in on the loop. Remind them that you’ll need some help with this.

If you MUST be a smart-ass…

(These are for your Christian relatives—my specialties are Catholics and Baptists. If you have good responses for family members of other faiths, please send them to me!!!)

- “Well, yes, the Bible says, ‘Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live,’ but it also says that women should not pray in Church. (1 Corinthians, 14:34) Should I tell Aunt Flo to knock that shit off?”

- “Why don’t you let Jesus do the judging, okay?”

- “It’s your Hell. You burn in it.” (this one is better on a bumper sticker).

Oh, and….

Prayer for the Fed-up Witch:

Goddess Grant me the Serenity to Accept what I Cannot Change

Courage to Change the things that I can

And the Wisdom not to curse anyone for lame reasons, no matter how tempting

For Karma will fuck bastards on Its own terms.

Staying in the Broom Closet limits your spiritual development. How are we to grow if we stay close to our altars? It is in our challenges that we grow closer to our Gods. In addition, it reinforces painful stereotypes that we are due for overturning. When we hide, others will think we have reason for hiding.

You don’t have to walk around in a cone hat or Ren-Faire cape. But dust off your pentacles, wear them to the job if possible. If asked, tell people that yes, you are a Wiccan. If a co-worker or curious acquaintance asks about your weekend, tell them you and your Group had a lovely Full Moon gathering.

I think I made my point. And this entry is really friggin’ long, anyway.

1 comment:

Magnolia said...

Rhoda,

I love you and accept you. And I would love to hear about your tenets.

Love, Mary