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"Our lives are a book that has already been written. The brilliance of the plan is that we are only given a chapter at a time..." ~A. Drayton Boylston

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coming Out of the Broom Closet Without Tripping

As a Witch on the web, I often get questions from young people about how to "come out" as a Witch to family and friends. It is important first to think about whether you do really want to come out of the closet, and why. Religion is oftentimes a personal thing, and it is not entirely necessary that you broadcast your beliefs to anyone who will listen. If you think coming out of the broom closet will help you.... by making it possible to get support and encouragement, and perhaps a ride to a ritual.... then read on.

Discussion about your religion usually begins with family members. When considering broaching the topic, take a look at their lives. Do they enjoy watching TV programs that feature psychics, mediums, and other mystical topics? Do they buy crystals as "decorations", try to recycle whenever possible, read their horoscope in the newspaper? If so, then you have more common ground to build on. If, on the other hand, they are Fundamentalist Christians, you may want to either rethink telling them or REALLY think through before you tell them. One of the easier methods to break the ice is to leave obviously magickal books or magazines lying around, maybe even leave them on the back of the toilet. Or, if you happen to have a taped documentary about the Craft lying around, leave it running and watch what kind of reactions you get.

One of the most important points you can make when talking to friends or family about the Craft is that everything they have learned about the Craft up until that point has most likely been what the media and church has taught them. YOU have to become the starting point for new understanding, so keep a cool head and a warm heart.

Hopefully you will have examined your beliefs, studied, and done at least a few spells to determine that you are in fact a Witch and aren't just attracted to the shock value or glamour aspects. Explain the research you have done on the nature of your faith and what it means to you on a daily basis. Emphasize that this is not a cult or a fad, pointing out the positive nature of Wicca/Paganism, perhaps most importantly the law of "Harm none", which is the equivalent of the "Golden Rule" in Christianity. Time and patience will be your best ally, because the longer you live in magickal reality, the more people will see the truth in your words instead of depending on preconceived notions. It is not recommended that you open yourself up to everyone you meet, but if you choose to disclose your faith to others, keep the following in mind:

1. Keep yourself informed. Anticipate common questions that people will ask and have intelligent answers ready. Know what you're talking about. Always accentuate the positive. Try to stay away from what may be considered a "scary" concept to others....the Great Rite, performing ritual naked (referred to as skyclad) with other people, hexing, cursing, using bodily fluids in spells, etc. You probably don't want them to scrutinize your every move.
2. Don't assume the person you are speaking to has any knowledge of magickal jargon. Explain yourself in simple, down-to-earth terms they can relate to.
3. Keep calm. Your actions speak louder than words.
4. As silly as this may sound, answer any questions with sincerity. If you don't know the correct answer, DON'T MAKE IT UP. Admit that you don't know, but that you will find out for them. Remember that the only exposure this person may have had to the Craft is beginning with you.
5. Remember to show as much respect for their ideas and beliefs as you hope for your own. Tolerance is the greatest tool to better understanding.
6. You have absolutely nothing to apologize for. Be firm yet courteous. Magick is not a gimmick or fad to get attention, it is a way of life that means a lot to you and many others.
7. Don't try to share too much information too quickly. It is better to let a little bit digest quickly, and then build on that foundation.
8. Wisdom is a good thing to keep close to you. As difficult as it may be, there are times to speak and times to be silent. Learning which is which can save a lot of unnecessary confrontations, and more importantly makes any conversation more productive.
9. Avoid cosmic lingo. Most of the time these expressions are misunderstood by common people to begin with, and unless you explain yourself, they will rely on whatever knowledge they have to try and put what you are saying into a system they can comprehend.
10. Know when you are just wasting your time. There will always be people who want to banter about your beliefs just to get you riled up, or in an effort to prove you wrong. In these situations, it is usually better to bow out gracefully and let the matter rest.
11. When attending a discussion/gathering/seminar where the opposition is speaking, remember:

*Look responsible. Appearance counts for a lot!
*If you are with others, spread out around the room. Good speakers can spot trouble-makers when they are seated together and thus avoid confrontation.
*Take notes. These can prove valuable to asking pointed questions or even just for information to pass along at a later time.
*If you find you have hit a weak spot, keep at it. Rephrase questions until you are getting the honesty you seek.
*Never get out of control or become rude. This does nothing more than prove their point, and makes your arguments and questions less valid to those in attendance.
*It is not necessary to let the speaker know what group you represent. Your questions are valid whether or not you are a Witch. The idea here is to get answers that pertain directly to the question, not your personal faith.

By following these basic guidelines, you will find that your experience talking about the Craft and Craft-related ideology are generally more positive. Recognize that you will first have to educate people on the truth about magick and its history before any kind of positive perceptions can be born in them. In a land which was supposedly founded on religious freedom, the responsibilty for educating others about the Craft are still largely in our hands. As long as we practice our religion in good faith, practicing what we preach, we can make a profound difference on the way others see our religion.


One way to educate those close to you is to give them Marion Weinstein's book, Positive Magick, or Scott Cunningham's The Truth About Witchcraft Today. Marion Weinstein's book is good to give people who are not comfortable with the "W" word. Both books are marvelous for anyone else. Be prepared to answer their questions as they read. Try not to get on the defensive.

Staying in the Closet

Some Witches prefer never to come out of the broom closet. This can be a very intelligent decision when confronting others may cause you to be disowned or cause you and your family great pain. Some just feel that the Craft is a totally relgious belief and don't feel the need to share it with the world in general. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you feel comfortable with this decision. When you are ready to tell your family and friends, make sure you have done your research, and center yourself before the discussion begins. Witchcraft is going to go where you take it.

Just the Facts Mam

Of course there can be variations among traditions of Wicca, but there are some basic ethics and concepts Witches live by. Below are some of the basics that may be helpful to highlight for those who are new to hearing about the non-Hollywood version of Witchcraft.

1. The Divine Spirit is present in all beings and things.

2. The ultimate creative force represents itself in both masculine and feminine aspects, so is often symbolized as God and Goddess.

3. The aspects most popular in Wicca are the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Maiden, Mother, and Crone), and the Horned God of Death and Rebirth.

4. Reincarnation and Karma are true concepts. Upon death, one goes to a place of rest and reflection, and eventually chooses when and where she/he will be reborn.

5. Magick is practiced for positive purposes: spiritual development, healing, guidence, safety, etc.

6. Rituals are practiced outdoors when/if possible, during the New and Full moons, and at 8 Sabbat festivals which mark the seasons.

7. Magick and celebration are performed in small groups--3-13, called covens. People may also choose to practice Wicca in private--they are called solitary practitioners.

8. There is no Holy Book, or any equivalent of the Bible. Individuals have access to the Divine and do not require an intermediary. EVERY initiate of the Craft, whether self-dedicated, or dedicated by a Priest/ess, is considered a priest/ess.

9. The CENTRAL ethic is: An' it harm none, do what ye will. Whatever energy, positive or negative, that one sends out returns threefold. So it is WISE to be kind to others.

10. We should live in harmony with nature and the Earth, we shall not exploit them.

11. Though Wicca is a VALID religion, it is not the only one. We do not recruit people into our religion claiming that it is for everyone. People should be FREE to choose the religion that suits their needs. Anyone of any age, race, or sexual orientation can be Wiccan.

12. The concepts of original sin, sacrifice, redemption, confession, the divinity of Jesus, sinfulness of sex, Judgement, Heaven and Hell, denigration of women, bodily resurrection, and the Bible are NOT part of Wicca. NEITHER are Satanism, the Black Mass, desecration of ceremonies, the sacrifice of animals and babies, etc.

Arm yourself with information and keep an open mind and heart.... and you should emerge from the broom closet unscathed :)

Urban Pagan by Patricia Tolesco
To Ride a Silver Broomstick by Silver Ravenwolf

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