Coming out of the broom closet – revealing that you are a Pagan or a Witch – is not an easy thing to do. I am all for doing it, but please keep in mind, it's just as risky as coming out of the closet, if not more because there are still stronger stigmas out there that don't get addressed. Plus Hollywood needs something to run to when they're fresh out of ideas and apparently Witches and psychics do the trick. A lot of thought should go in revealing your religion to whom, how and when. Some folks respond very well to the blunt approach (not many tho), others have to get warmed up. If the parents already have expressed their opinion about psychics, Pagans or witches and it's negative, maybe you should hold off until you're on your own and with a ready support system of friends and people who care about your well-being.
Words by Black Witch
Note: Ustream chat! Details at the bottom of the column!
If you choose to stay in the broom closet because it is too risky at current, that is perfectly fine and understandable. It sucks, I should know, but it's necessary if it puts you at physical, financial and/or emotional jeopardy. You're just going to have to learn how to adjust and live kind of a double life. And let no one force you out that closet. If fallout happens, that person is probably not going to put you up long-term or send you rent money. If they are Pagan themselves, that's their choice and their consequences to bear, not yours. So for people who are reading this and aren't Pagan but know someone who is and hiding it from their parents - don't force them out because you think that's the best choice for them. I know you love them and think they shouldn't lie to their families because deception is wrong and they come from what seems like nice families but this is challenging their core beliefs and could cause unneeded misery on your friend's head. You can't support them nor promise them a solid future without suffering. Don't make hints around their family and don't joke about it as an intro to admittance. There's no amount of humor that's going to comfort your friend if they become homeless because of your "bright" idea. Just be there for them and let them choose when to out themselves. It's their life, not yours.
Alright, got that out of the way. I love supportive friends, but sometimes their heart is in the very right place but their mind is completely elsewhere.
Now, should you, the Pagan firmly stuffed inside the broom closet, get ousted, it would be time for damage control. If the slight is small - you had an amethyst lying in the sun, you said “gods” instead of “god” - you can lay low and wait for everything to blow over and keep the faux pas in mind. If it's something big like they found your BOS or a book of witchcraft that you own, time for an impromptu confession. Just be honest, you got caught. Tell them that you're Pagan/Witch, pause for the freakout if they have one, and tell them why you hid yourself from them for whatever length of time. Now is the time to be an adult, even if the parents aren’t acting like ones themselves.
Whether or not you spill to your family, you still need a support crew: someone to talk to, learn from and raise yourself with. They can be friends, people at metaphysical shops (that's how I got my bearings) and online spots. The advent of the internet really makes this easier than ever. You can make friends with other Pagans, Witches and psionics. Look at my The Arts! Samhain Edition for a couple suggestions of where you can hangout online.
While I'm all for friends and support nets, there still are snakes in the water when seeking out other Pagans. You have to be cautious of people who say they're bigger than thou, want you to run away from home (and into their arms), and/or want you to do things that are against your morals or are plan illegal - especially if it involves a minor. I've had the...luxury, to be polite, to meet these people and have other pagan friends of mine tell me of others. Every teen witch book you'll read will warn you of this and I'm no different. Here we go:
The "Great God/Supreme Witch": This megalomaniac here thinks he's (can be a she but it's usually a guy) some great and fantastic being that really just wants to get into your preferably underage pants. He claims he has all sorts of amazing powers from the great and holy god (if he mentions a deity, research it! Here's GodChecker, it’s awesome.) and he wants to impart the wisdom to you, oh young tenderoni - I mean, sapling. Young sapling. And the way he wants to do it most likely counts as statutory rape in all 50 states and territories if you’re a minor. If you're not, just take away the "statutory" part. Yep, if this guy wants to meet you in person, I'd say pass up or if you wanna meet him, have it somewhere public and bring a friend or two as well as a fully charged cell phone. If you don't want to meet the guy (which is smart) but you know exactly what he's doing - which is being an online predator - tell someone you trust and call the cops. Grand Lord of the universe, meet Grand Jury of the American judicial system.
The psycho psychic:People like these give people like me such a bad look. And to top it all off, they're not even real! They can't shut up about their super powerful telekinesis, foresight, and anything that makes them sound like they're a rookie recruit of the X-Men. Dear god. I think a good saying that can be applied to this situation is "those who do know don't say and those who do say don't know" - if I'm using the quote correctly. Basically, those who usually act like Marvel or DC comics pens their life story usually are people who want to "stand out" from everyone else and to bolster their low self-esteem by saying they're a powerful individual that are capable of otherworldly feats. I'm not saying psionics does not exist since I have a personal background in it myself but these kids don't have it. Period. Never even budged a psiwheel, made water turn cold, or even focused the heat in their hands. They're posing as something they think is better and cooler than them and, in their mind, that person is a psychic. All that talk they do is hot air. The phony lays claims to big things (“That volcano? I did that.”), anything to make their lives look like it came from a superhero movie. They have huge egos and no brains. And they get on real psychics and psions' nerves because closed minds don't come with closed mouths. The over-skeptical I was talking about in my first column? Chances are crossing paths with the psycho psychic partly made them that way. The average psionic and psychic such as myself doesn't blab and boast around about how "powerful" they are… unless we would like a vat of psychonauts and nutjobs that are relentless in stupidity and fear knocking on our door. Instead of pretending to be bigger than life, we may be excited about finally moving that psiwheel a full turn and how tiring all that practice was. Or frustrated that we can’t read someone or some object as perfectly as we would like. This stuff is normal in our lives and treated as such, no need for extra attention. Fairly aware that we're not Magnetos, it's cool what we do but it ain't like it didn't come without training. I've been doing this stuff for a while (not as much as I used to, though, fairly rusty now), so it doesn't often come up in conversation with my friends unless something is wrong and I could use a second opinion. I don't throw that weight around because to me, there's nothing to throw and I definitely don’t want the attention it’ll bring. Besides, if I'm so good at what I do, why boast?
Pro-Drugs/Pro-Death/Pro-Screw up:These people are in serious need of a reality check...and maybe a trip to the rehab center. They believe that because they are invincible, they can completely obliterate their bodies and minds and think you should follow. They hate their parents, been very close to being institutionalized, problems with authority such as committing actual offenses and getting caught for them, possible harm to animals, possibly mentally unstable, etc etc etc. They think that now they have magick and a different God to answer to, no matter what they do, it's alright. It's not alright. These people need help and unless you have a fantastic grip on yourself and who you are, they'll just be anchors around your ankles. If you can (or have to) deal with them, remember not to confuse what they're doing with the religion. There is nothing in Paganism that justifies harm to yourself, animals or others. It's a nature-based religion, not a religion of over self-indulgence. These people are just using the looser tenements of Paganism to wrongly justify what they're doing. It happens in every religion but with Paganism it simply re-affirms the "self-destructive weirdo" stereotype. They have complexes where they believe wholly that no one likes them and lose every potential friend they could have, which at this point is their fault. Never change yourself for someone else but if you're being a total jerk and complaining about it, either improve yourself or deal with it. No one wants to hang with a self-hating junkie, regardless of religion.
Ok, what other mental cases that lurk online and offline? Ahhh, the persistent noob and the mental Christian.
The persistent noob:They're new and super excited. OMG they're gonna be supaheroes! I'm glad they're so gung ho about learning magick, Paganism and/or psionics but they ask a lot of questions - mainly to you - and won't do any research of their own since you're their reader digest version. It doesn't seem to matter how further skilled you are than them, you could have even started the day after they did, it won't prevent them from pestering you if they think you know more than them, even if it's something small. I don't want to dissuade someone from learning metaphysics if that's what they want but please keep in mind to do your own homework. How else are you gonna learn if someone does the learning for you?
The mental Christian:Now, not all Christians are crazy. It may seem like it when you’re any religion besides Christianity but not all of them deserve a padded room at a mental hospital. There are some pretty well-mannered and level-headed Christians out there but they’re not the ones to be wary of (But please do make friends with them! They’re super pleasant and some of the nicest and warmest people you’ll ever meet!) but the ones I’m talking about do fulfill the “Christians are crazy” stereotype. They’ve found out you’re “straying from the flock”, as they would put it, and want to get you back as soon as possible. They use scripture after scripture to support their frenzied point that you’re ruining your life and it’s all going to be downhill from here. Turn your back on Jesus and he’ll turn his back on you but he’ll love you unconditionally if you stay. Well, how spectacular. They’ve whittled the holy son of God down from an archetypical being of mercy, peace and benevolence to a vindictive, bipolar and overemotional friend with major abandonment issues. Despite what they say, I don’t really count these folks as Christians (but they do). The mental Christian doesn’t even have a very sound grasp on the Bible themselves and use tons of scare tactics to frighten you back into Christianity. They tell you that you’re being persuaded by the devil, that you’re trudging down a path of wickedness and sin, that you’ll be hexing people and eating babies and God won’t hear your prayers. They’re so vehement because they’re trying to save your soul from the fiery pits of Hell. That’s nice but forcing a person to remain unhappily in a religion doesn’t exactly please God either, I don’t think. The mental Christian is only doing what they think is right but you have two choices, either debate them on it or try to explain your newfound belief system to them the best you can. Sometimes these folks do come around and grow to understand that they’re not the only religion a person can follow and sometimes they don’t but it’s not your job to make them fully understand and it’s not your fault if they don’t understand. But remember, if you meet a nice, kindhearted, well-grounded Christian, they’re the legit ones so make friends with them.
Thankfully these people mostly are online since it's easier taking on another personality behind a screen but even if you meet them in person, they're folks to look out for.
It’s a personal choice of coming out of the broom closet or not. No one else can or should force that choice because each person’s life is very different. Some people have very open minded families, others don’t. Some are comfortable letting others know about their religion, others rather keep it to themselves. Any way is fine so long as the person knows that this is the path they want to take in life. Picking a religion isn’t like choosing whether to go to the mall or not, it’s an extremely important decision that anyone should take immense thought into, regardless of religion. So think wisely and surf safely!
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Ustream Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaat! That means I'm going to exercise planning skills and broadcast offically that I am going to have a Black Witch Ustream chat on Saturday (that's tommorow, folks) at 8 PM EST. I haz mah new apartment and now have time to do this stuff at a sane hour! Ask me anything (please, for the love of god, I ramble)!