Slowly Drifting Out of the (Broom) Closet

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 16, 2008 — 4 Comments

Over at the Llewellyn Journal, author Kate West notices the slow, perhaps subconscious, drift away from strict secrecy within modern Paganism.

“As Witches, we used to be far more secretive; no wearing our pentagrams and Goddess symbols openly. No celebrating our Craft in our homes and lifestyle. We did wear long skirts, but that was the fashion. Visit the home of almost any Wiccan or Witch today and even the most discreet will have many clues to their path on display. I’d have counted myself among the discreet until I took a good look around me. Without moving from the keyboard I can see God and Goddess statues, decorative Witches and bats, and even a glow in the dark rat (but that’s got more to do with having a 10 year old than the Craft). There’s a crescent moon hanging in the window and a Horned God plaque over the door. My altar is not hidden, or even sensitively placed in the bedroom. There are witchy books stacked on nearly every step of the stairs (which can make coming down in the dark entertaining), and even the doormat says Blessed Be!”

As allegiance to a modern Pagan faith ceases to be a big deal in many places, some are finding that activities and strategies that used to be necessity, like making your own ritual implements, or keeping quiet when you have a party in your backyard, are no longer needed.

“Our secrecy extended further than appearances; many of my close friends (let alone my neighbours) lived in blissful ignorance of the Witch in their community. Now not only are my near and dear aware (and as at it happens, mostly supportive) but only the other day my nearest neighbour said how nice it was to hear us “enjoying our pagan parties” in the garden. It was only a summer barbeque, and I’d thought we’d been fairly discreet! We used to live with a fairly keen level of dread at being discovered: it could mean your job or even having your parenting skills examined by authorities with the power to put your children into care. But now my son’s school is not only aware that we’re not Christian, they’ve had my books into school to show to the children.”

Obviously this newly-discovered freedom doesn’t apply to all, there are still plenty of places unfriendly to Pagans outside the generally recognized “zones of tolerance”. However, West does bring to light a very real trend that I have noticed in my own life. While I was never “in the broom closet”, my friends and I were very cautious about exposing our beliefs to anyone who might disapprove or make life difficult for us. Finding other Pagans was done with the subtle art of jewelry spotting, and haunting the “metaphysical” section of bookstores. Today, if I don’t mention I’m a Pagan, it is mostly because I don’t feel it’s a big deal, and finding other Pagans can be as easy as turning my laptop on.

How about you gentle readers, have any of you slowly drifted out of the “broom closet”? Where once you kept a discrete home, and watched what you said, do you now notice statuary and Pagan-oriented books lying everywhere? To paraphrase Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, did you not so much “come out” as “saunter vaguely outward”?

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Copper Asetemhat Stewart

    I’ve always been out as Pagan, primarily because I was already out as Queer and had had experiences with marginal religious status after being a traditionally-dressed ISKCON Krishna devotee in high school in the 80s. The first Pagans I met were both out and traditionalist, and the major shifts were already underway at the time of my decision to name self as “Pagan,” 10-12 years ago, so I never saw any benefit to closeting.

  • Livia Indica

    I find this so-called trend hard to swallow as I’ve seen no signs of it in my homeland, the Ozarks of southwest Missouri. There are only a few pagans around here and we have to keep quiet. With a Christian church on every street (sometimes more than one of every street) and the dense population of rednecks this open and out trend may never reach the Ozarks. ..at least not in my lifetime.

  • Pagan Magic

    I’m very lucky where I live, in that most of the people around here are pagans. In the 1991 census 35% of the population put their religion as Pagan – but I would imagine that’s its considerably more now. Dawn x

  • Folks call me Lore

    I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m out in some aspects and very much still closeted in others. I was outed (both as queer and as pagan at the same time) to my family against my will (damn you MySpace!). I’m very open with friends and usually coworkers (with rare exception). But I live in South Florida which, despite having a very diverse population, is still the south. There’s a church on every corner, people with signs that say “Repent, the end is near” at every intersection and people who are more than willing to confront you about their Lord Jesus Christ.And yet we also have huge pagan celebrations, metaphysical shops, Meetup Groups and fairs. I meet a lot of people who, while they don’t “get it” are still tolerant, if not downright curious.It’s a strange mix.