PUBLICLY PAGAN Or: Coming Out of the Broom Closet | Nashville Pagan Pride Day

Originally Published June 30, 2014

I wrote this essay to fulfill part of a requirement for my 2nd degree with Three Maples Coven in Dayton, Ohio.  The theme for Nashville Pagan Pride Day 2014 is “Say it Loud! Pagan and Proud!”


PUBLICLY PAGAN

Or: Coming Out of the Broom Closet  

By Zorya Evenstar


Pros and Cons about being publicly pagan in a non-pagan culture


You’ve found it! The most wonderful splendiferous belief system ever. Spirituality you never, ever, thought possible. And who would have thought there was really a (whisper) Goddess. It’s too big, too amazing to keep to yourself. You just shout it to the world, “I’m a Pa...” - wait a minute. Let’s think a bit before we rush into something here. Before you dance on your burning bridges, let’s talk about why one should or should not be publicly pagan.


So why should one be publicly pagan? One reason is that staying ‘in the broom closet’ can take a heavy toll on a person. Hiding your beliefs can be very stressful, both physically and emotionally. Mentally, it forces you to disconnect your spirituality from the rest of your life. Spiritually, hiding your beliefs implies that they are wrong, evil, invalid or shameful. By extension, this implies that you must be wrong or evil, too. Playing ‘let’s pretend” with something as integral as your spiritually is not

particularly healthy.


How does one go about revealing that they are a pagan? You certainly can’t take out an advertisement in the local paper and announce “I’m Lady MoonBlossomMyst, a pagan and I dance with the fairies!” Well, you could, but that is very inadvisable. But close to one way to be publicly pagan:


1. Flaunt it. I’m talking all the bells and whistles. The witchiest clothing you can find. Highly symbolic tattoos. Enough occult jewelry to burn out a metal detector. Necklace with a pentacle the size of a hubcap. Yeah baby!


This rather flamboyant method does have its benefits. First, it is very empowering. You are no longer living a lie. Second, it is a strong, albeit flashy, method of mitigating the negative aspects associated with hiding one’s beliefs. Third, it paves the way for future believers to go public. In a way you are a pioneer for social acceptance.


Now for the downside of flaunting your beliefs. You run a very real risk of turning people off, particularly if you tend toward the overboard side of flaunting. Some people will feel that you are shoving your beliefs in their faces. There is also a risk that you will reinforce negative stereotypes. Our culture has a variety of boogymen, from the evil wizard to the wicked witch, and an over-the-top presentation could very well evoke fear rather than understanding and acceptance. You could also alienate people who are near and dear to you. Finally, flaunting your paganism could hurt financially, specifically in potential promotions, not to mention current and future job security.


2. Mouse it out. Hint about your beliefs obliquely to a few trusted friends. Put out some feelers with your co-workers and/or family. Get the lay of the land, so to speak, before you strike out and make the big reveal.


This method has the benefits of not outright alienating friends and families if you are discrete enough. A little bit of information doled out at intervals can make the concept more palatable to those who would otherwise reject your beliefs outright. It also allows you to “stand in the closet door” with the option to close it again if the prospect of being public becomes too uncomfortable.


On the downside, this method may feel a bit too fugitive for some. It still has aspects of hiding an important part of your life from those whom you hold near and dear. We want people to accept us exactly for who we are, and this is most true in our relationships with family and close friends.


3. Don’t worry - be yourself and go with the flow. Share the knowledge as it naturally would come up in your daily living.


After all, pagans don’t proselytize. We have no need to convert others to our beliefs. Without the imperative to “bring people to (insert god here)” there is no pressure to “come out” to everyone. You can reveal as little or as much as you choose. This approach also helps you define what things are necessary and what are just trappings.


The downsides to this approach are similar to flaunting your beliefs. There will always be someone who will be uncomfortable with the idea of working or living with a pagan.


So are there any reasons not to go public? Well sure.


1. I’ve got a secret!  Why should you tell anyone? Just hold that knowledge to yourself and not tell any of the mundane people around you. Secrets can be fun. Secrets can be empowering. Secrets can confer a sense of superiority, particularly if you are really good at what you do.


2. Sometimes being public can be problematic. If you are live in a large city or a loosely organized community people tend to be less intolerant and more accepting. However, small, insular communities are not very accepting to differences. Religious bigotry can be a powerful and dangerous force. Moreover, hostility toward you can spill over onto family members.


3. Not everyone feels that it is necessary. Although in a world where putting your life out on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram is becoming the norm rather than the exception, some people don’t see any real reason to put the entirety of their lives on display to others. Nor is there any reason that they should feel pressured to do so.


Ultimately, going public is not a decision to enter hastily. Whether you go public or not and how you do so is up to you. Broomclosets are safe and secure, but stepping out of one does have its benefits as well as potential hazards. Understand the ramifications of your decision before you act on it.

© Nashville Pagan Pride Day 2016