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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in broom closet

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

For as long as I can remember, Witches and Pagans have talked about whether or not they are in the “broom closet,” meaning whether or not they’re out about their religion publicly. Whether to be in or out and who to come out to (if anyone) are huge decisions for many Wiccans and Pagans, or at least they have been historically. Last month something happened to me that made me think long and hard about the broom closet, so I'm abandoning my usual question-and-answer format in this post to ramble a bit about my experience. 

The Broom Closet in the 1980s

When I first started getting into Wicca in the 1980s, we heard stories about people losing their jobs when their employers found out they were Wiccan, Wiccans being disowned by their families because of their religion, and Wiccans losing their children in custody battles against a parent who wasn’t Wiccan. It was considered unwise by many Wiccans to be out of the closet to anyone but close friends and family, and the general notion was even those people had to be chosen carefully.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Linette
    Linette says #
    Was married to an academic for 25 years, they look down on everyone for everything. I think it's the reason that they only talk ab
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Since you are now "out of the closet" (albeit unwillingly) this book might help you with your Christian relatives: http://www.amaz
  • Amber Manuel
    Amber Manuel says #
    I agree that no one should out another or pressure them to come out. I am very new to Wicca and was outed recently by a family mem
  • Thea Sabin
    Thea Sabin says #
    I'm so sorry someone outed you. That's just plain wrong. Have you heard Dar Williams' song "The Christians and the Pagans"? It's t
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I prefer to call myself a "Goddess feminist" in terms of my spirituality. I don't always offer either of those terms in everyday c

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Witch Hunting in the 21st Century

 

A little while back I wrote an article about The Broom Closet in the 21st Century. Recently the New York Times had an opinion article about the persecution of Witches in various parts of the world. In that article the opinion writer argued that the age of the internet has increased the witch hunting that occurs. One of the problems is that many of the people accused of witchcraft may not even be witches. They are accused for reasons that may have nothing to do witchcraft, but nonetheless it is used because it's convenient. In such places, the brutality that occurs involves burning people alive, or beheading or stoning them. The majority of such atrocities occur to women and the the people doing the assault are men doing it for prestige or as a way to enforce dominant social values. I mention all of this make a point: That such atrocities, far from being history, are still happening. In some cases, they are even happening in the U.S. And even here in the U.S. we also see the proliferation of ignorant perspectives about magic, because of how the mainstream religion fears the spread of any spiritual beliefs that run counter to that religion. Now whether every single one of those victims did or didn't identify as a Pagan or a Witch doesn't really matter, because those people were still labeled as such and punished for beliefs they may or may not have held.

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The Broom Closet in the 21st Century

When I was 18, in 1995, I was outed from the broom closet. I had kept myself in that closet, because I was afraid of how people would react if they realized I practiced magic. A friend's parents (both fundamentalist Christians) found a book I'd let my friend borrow and contacted my mom about it. She was also a fundamentalist Christian and needless to say did not approve of my spiritual choices. I was still living with her as I was in high school and I didn't have a job at the time. She told me I had a choice. I could move out or burn my books. I had a half hour to decide before she kicked me out. A half hour isn't a lot of time to make such a decision. I made a very practical choice and decided I would burn my books, because I didn't have a job and I wanted to finish high school. I hid the books I hadn't read yet and took the books I had read and told her I'd burn them. She marched me out to the back yard and I burned those books. That incident didn't discourage my practice of magic. If anything, it only made it more attractive and also made me more determined to continue learning. That incident also convinced me that staying in the broom closet wasn't going to help me, and so I decided I'd be open about my beliefs and practices, and I have been to this day.

A short time after the book burning, I was contacted by the father of my friend (I didn't know who he was at the time). He was drunk, had a cold, and told me how he was going to come kill me in 48 hours and he'd call me on the hour, each hour before he came. He started singing hymns to me. I told him if he came over I'd defend myself. I also called the police. He kept calling and eventually I disconnected the phone. The next day, in school, my friend told me that his father and step-father, in a rare moment of collaboration, had decided they were going to try and kill me. The step-father would drive the father over to do the deed. It never happened, but it illustrated to me how intolerant Christians were when it came to any religion or spirituality that wasn't of their own practice. It also illustrated what a risk it could be to be out of the broom closet.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Rebecca Kinney
    Rebecca Kinney says #
    I have also found that the most intolerant and vocal of any religion are the ones with the most to hide. It is as if they use the
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Unfortunately many Christians are intolerant and interpret freedom of religion to only pertain to their religion. Not all of them
  • Joyce ORourke
    Joyce ORourke says #
    I find most Christians to be intolerant of any religion other then their own. If you want to know what a religion is like read hi

Everyone loves to trade early Occultist/Pagan stories.  The corrupt teachers!  The Chthonic beings you summoned just because you could before you could even hold an anthame!  Ostracization for petty crimes committed in your youth!  In fighting!  Coven drama!  Sexism!  Racism!  Getting your car keyed!  Illicit sex with elders and barely legals!

 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Gathering in our circles to celebrate the Gods and to promote fertility has been an important part of the survival of our clans an
  • Deborah Castellano
    Deborah Castellano says #
    As I lean more towards not having children than having children, I have to say I don't really feel like I've missed anything to be

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

It’s a sad fact that there are a few Pagans among us who have to hide their beliefs because it could cause them to lose a job or they feel their religion might be used against them in a custody battle, or an assortment of other legitimate reasons.  Before the explosion of Paganism into the public realm in the 1980s this wasn’t really an issue because most covens were kept secret and there was little public information about Paganism or Witchcraft.  Since that time, the term “broom closet” (borrowed from the LGBT community’s term) has grown in use.  It contrasts those of us who do not hide our Pagan beliefs (“out of the broom closet”) versus those who do (still “in the broom closet”).  As more and more of us stopped hiding our beliefs (which is not at all the same as advertising them), this term became more and more common.

As a Community, we have been very respectful of those who are “in the broom closet”.  We ban cameras at events, we hold events that are closed to the public, and often go so far as to keep secret the location of events, even from participants, until the last moment.  Much of this is a holdover from the days when Paganism was hidden.  It is also a legacy of basic practices of many covens, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we have simply incorporated this idea of “hiding in plain sight” into almost everything we do in some Communities.  I think it’s time for a new dialog around this issue.

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  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal says #
    Thanks for the comment Taylor. If I wasn't out of the broom closet before, I certainly "outted" myself when my first book came ou
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    I've been out of the broom closet for a long time and haven't suffered adverse effects. As you say most people don't care and if t

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