Next week in America is Thanksgiving, where everyone celebrates by stuffing their face (including me), watching parades and the coming advertising onslaught of All Christmas Everything. This is a time to deal with family and friends, fending the turkey from the pets and dealing with the emotional punji pits that can be at an all-time high around this time of year.

It can be tough being Black and Pagan during the holidays. There’s the usual emotional punji pit that comes with relatives being relatives and their billion questions, some of them that pose outdated beliefs or simply make you want to endure waterboarding instead of spend another minute with them. Then there’s being Pagan on top of that and if whether you’re in or out the broom closet, it’s really tough to navigate what to say and do and not result in some nuclear meltdown. Families are like countries, everyone has their own rules, customs and taboos. And just like countries, some don’t get along with others, some have more in-fighting than others, some are just simply peaceful or with a weird past.

If you’re out the broom closet to your folks, congrats! Prepare to experience questions and remarks that will make you wish you didn’t. Given that Black culture is heavily influenced by Christianity to the point that it is part of the African-American/African diasporic gaze (how Black culture sees and interprets stuff), expect a lot of churchy questions to spike around this time of year. You know, the usual accusations of devil worshipping, blatant misuse and cherry picking of the Bible to back up those accusations as attempts to scare you back into Christianity, crazy conspiracy stories that somehow explains how Witchcraft (or a real humdinger, Christianity) is truly evil, folks talking about Indigo children or complaining about how fluoride in the water is somehow killing people and the government practices witchcraft and somehow the connection between them makes sense. Yaaaay, the fun world of interacting with people while practicing the occult or metaphysics.

These questions are probably going to be stupid, some very fear-mongering and don’t feel bad if you’re new to being Pagan or out of the broom closet. It’s more them than you, to be honest. Paganism/Wicca/Witchcraft has had quite the nasty slandering of reputations for a very long time and then you layer on the historical forced practice of Christianity on Blacks when we were slaves as a method to make them more dependent on the new culture they’ve been dragged into and then have that same religious institution be instrumental to important movements once those slaves take back the right to be human, you’re going to get a WTF salad a good bit of the time. Being Pagan, practicing magick, simply not adhering to the Abrahamic faiths, none of those are bad things in and of themselves and you have to remind yourself that. Chances are, when you got started in the practice, you had a lot of the same notions and beliefs as well until you finally picked up a book so try to be understanding from that perspective. This does not mean you should proselytize and be annoying, this means that you can’t always get frustrated at your uncle if he doesn’t understand why you left Christianity and erroneously claim you suffered from “church hurt” because it’s not 100% his fault. It’s the culture.

The best way you can go about this is being as factual as possible and, if you can, set your boundaries. This is supposed to be a family holiday, not an interrogation. Unless you’re running about on a broomstick or a mop screaming, “I’M PAAAAAAAAAGAAAAAAAAN! I DO WIIIIIIIIIIITCHCRAAAAAAAAFT! I PLAY JAY-Z TO DO MONEY SPELLS AND KANYE WEST TO SUMMON NARCISSUS! I’MA WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH!” it’s pretty certain that the questions you’ll get will be from others that are curious (to put it nicely) that you’re somehow not practicing their faith and why. Be as factual as possible, even about the Bible, and if you don’t want to talk about it anymore, you should be able to establish that. Being part of a different faith does not give anyone the right to be an absolute jerk. If anyone says, “You shouldn’t have became a Pagan if you didn’t want people grilling you with questions about it,” bring up the fact that there are people who think if Blacks didn’t want to experience racism, they should somehow become lighter, stop talking about racism, ignore history and drop the culture. Again, something that is your identity is not anyone’s greenlight to be a nuisance. That is very stupid thinking, remember that.

Now, dealing with others is going to differ depending on if you live with your folks or not. If you live at home, any faux pas during the holidays will not end after the last guest has closed the door so pick your battles wisely. You don’t want the act of telling off your cousin about how you don’t even believe in Satan to continue well into the new year because your parents think that your new religion has made you a tetchy hothead. If you live away from home, you can have a little bit more freedom in standing your ground and expressing how you want to be respected. The only weighing factor is how much you want your faith to be respected and how much would it mean to you if they expressed disappointment or threatened to go as far as disowning you but weigh carefully.

If someone wants to genuinely have an actual conversation – not a one-sided blame game, an actual dialogue – then talk to them. You don’t have to do it in front of everyone, you can do it in private if you or they want and actually listen to them. They may have just as stupid questions as the ones as you possibly fielded but remember, this person simply wants to learn about what it is you’re doing and all they have to go on is what they picked up growing up. They’re trying to understand you and your faith so help them out. You don’t have to lecture them or anything like that, just answer questions as plainly as possible and with bite sized information so in case they tell others, they’re going to recite the correct facts.

Staying in the broom closet? That’s a perfectly fine place to be. And it should be your choice on how long you wanna stay there. There are many reason to why a person should not reveal themselves until the time is right: there’s the possibility of financial issues, not being able to handle the emotional strain just yet, worried of fallout and/or wanting to make sure that Paganism is the faith they’re going to choose so if they take heat for it, at least it’s worth it. The holidays can be a stressful time, you don’t have to out yourself if you don’t want to. Yeah, everyone is all together thus it can look like it’s ripping off a bandaid when broadly announcing your faith but it can create a perfect storm of stress because everyone is all together to drill you about being Pagan. Don’t feel ashamed about keeping your faith to yourself, it’s a waiting game but one that is for your safety and wellbeing.

Know someone in the broom closet? Let them stay there. As you probably saw from the last post, “Busted”, it’s not really appreciated to drag someone out of the broom closet. Yes, you may think, “The truth will set you free,” and that’s really nice but in some instances, the truth can also leave you broke, alone, homeless or outright killed. Ignorance (in very small doses) can be bliss. That means your job is simply to play ally, not spokesperson. What this means is that if you’re cool with the relative being Pagan, then be there for them. Be the sounding board, listen to their stories and ideas, be there for them when they vent. Heck, be their alibi or distraction when the heat is starting to come down. Being an ally means that you’re cool with the relative being Pagan but you have to remember when they finally come out the broom closet is their choice alone. They’re probably going to talk to you about it but that’s not your cue to out them. Help them weigh their options but don’t pick it for them because that is most likely going to cause an irreparable rip in your relationship. You’ll be identified not as an “ally” but a “backstabber” instead and you don’t want that.

So! Now that everyone knows what to do, go out there and have fun. Navigate the emotional punji pits, try not to fall in any of them and have a happy, happy Thanksgiving!

Next week is TheArts!, let’s see how is getting featured:

– Bea Gaddy

– Straight Line Stitch

– Zen Writer

Don’t forget, Ask Black Witch is at the end of the month! Don’t forget to send your questions! Good questions are appreciated, bad questions are eviscerated!