Category: Coming out of the Broom Closet


It’s Ask Black Witch, time to answer some questions! However, before we do, let’s see who are the winners of Samhain Pickers! Well, winner.

– Reshena J

Also, don’t forget! Black Witch Ustream chat tonight at 9 PM EST!

Alright, let’s move on to the questions!

Hi there! I have a question for you. I have been on and off the Pagan path for years and am finally trying to take the time to really dedicate myself to it and finally find my place. I have been in the process of researching and connecting with a Patron Goddess. Just purely reading books and internet sources to find which ones I’m attracted to in general. But I’m having trouble connecting with ones of Celtic or Welsh backgrounds. I think because I am black, my mind is trying to guilt me and tell me I don’t have the historical right or heritage to try to connect with these deities….Any thoughts?

 – Danielle T.

There are thousands and thousands of deities that exist in the world. I would recommend going on MythologyDictionary so since that has the best resources on deities that I have found so far.

Now, you’re not alone when thinking “I’m Black, shouldn’t I just stick with African gods?” because some are worried they are somehow rejecting their heritage (they’re not) or that they have to stay in their own corner…or worry that White Pagans will force them to.

Speaking of White people and participating in things one has absolutely no historical right or heritage to whatsoever, look up yoga, rock music, jazz, American slang, mohawks, urban activism, graffiti, Bed-Stuy, street dancing/pop-locking, art toys, The Harlem shake, Macklemore, Miley Cyrus, The Black Keys, kale, quintoa, United States, war bonnets, life-hacking, baby hair, shamanism, dream catchers, Buddhism and Christianity. This is the very, very short list, we’re talking .243 picometer short. As long as you’re not going as far as pretty much stealing from other cultures and disenfranchising/othering the people that has created those cultures, you’re fine.

If you, say, want to pray to a Shinto deity but you always consider Japan as that weird country over there because you don’t want to learn how crass imperialism from the West made it “weird” and you’re not interested in learning the history behind Shinto, the people or anything, then yeah, you’re doing it wrong. Your connections to the gods are going to change over time because you as a person will change over time. If you want to connect to the Celtic or Welsh deities, that’s fine but don’t forget to study their histories and backgrounds (this will be well outside the scope of a new age book, you’re going to have to go to a regular library if you haven’t already). However, because there’s such and overbearing amount of European deities in Paganism, I still recommend you learn about all the deities all around the world, including Africa because it’s best to have as wide a net as possible to pull from and so to feel comfortable when practicing with whatever deities you wind up with. You shouldn’t let the fact you’re Black barricade you from pursuing whatever means something to you. I usually work with spirits and entities but I really take a shining to Apollo. However, that doesn’t negate my heritage nor let me think lesser of African and African Diasporic deities. It will take a while because there’s a lot to hack through (and idiotic people, mainly White Pagans, to deal with).

As long as you don’t become the Black version of a White person wanting to learn Voodoo but only Black person she’s seen is Obama and she thinks calling random things “ghetto” and cracking ebola jokes are funny but gets really upset when called out on her racism, you’re fine.

I live in a Bible belt. There is a church on every corner! Most people around here do not understand Pagan religion. How would I go about making my beliefs public?

– Robyn H.

I live in a southern state (Maryland) so I know the feeling. The best you can do is gauge your audience and engage your audience, if that’s what you want to do.

Some people are a little more open-minded than others, try to stick around those people if you can. You may be the first out Pagan they have ever met, however, that doesn’t mean you should have to teach people about your faith when they most likely have access to internet to do research on their own. When I deal with folks who I can sort of tell are not going to be that open minded to my faith, I give them the nutshell version of Paganism, “It’s a nature based belief system.” That’s it.

Granted, since you’ll be dealing with Christians and many of them feel the active rejection of the Christian god is the passive acceptance of the Christian devil, expect idiotic questions that pretty much boil down to “But why aren’t you Christian, tho? Can’t you force yourself to like this religion for my comfort? Doesn’t matter if you believe or not (but I’ll guilt you all the same if you don’t) but can’t you fake it like everyone else I know does?” Make sure they get it through their thick head that not everyone believes the same things and that Paganism is not Christianity so you believe in different things they do but it doesn’t make you amoral. If Christians do think that being non-Christian will steer you to do bad things, bring up the Ku Klux Klan, Westboro Baptist Church, the Unabomber, most serial killers annnnnd the majority of American government and how we like wars but don’t like to help the poor. It won’t make them like you but it will get them away from you pretty fast. Knowledge, it’s very useful stupid-repellant.

You can express your faith however way you wish. I have my tourmilated quartz and my pentacle/trinity ring that I wear everyday. I take off for Pagan holidays. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get people who talk badly about a faith they don’t understand, my faith (and if they do, now would be a great time to bring up the numerous scriptures in the Bible about being accepting and how they’re angering their god with their dedication to ignorance, self-awareness freaks them out) but I also tend to stand my ground because after a decade plus of trying to walk on eggshells, eventually you get tired of trying to spare others’ feelings while yours still get wrecked. That’s not fair.

Feel free to make notecard sized sheets of “What is Paganism?”, which is in the Links of Interest on this site, to give to family and friends who ask about your faith but also know it isn’t your job to be someone’s walking life lesson. And if the Christian people keep forcing the issue that you’re not Christian, feel free to stand your ground and mention if the roles were reversed, they would be upset. As long as you’re not proselytizing or treating people badly and hiding behind religious script for it, you’re fine.

Also, if they drag race into it (“Ain’t only White people Pagan?”, “Jesus was there for us when we were slaves”), bring up that indigenous faiths existed loooooooooooooooong before Christianity came around, Africa learned about Christianity through imperialist brainwashing to make obedient but psychologically tattered slaves. This does not mean they are mindless slaves because they are Black and Christian but how Black folks met Christianity? This is actual history.

I am not really new to witchcraft, I use to study about 10 years ago but I am finding some commonalities between quantum physics and the law of attraction.
I am thinking very seriously about doing a binding spell on my 17yr daughter who recently  tried to kill herself. I am afraid for her.
I have been working with the material world for a year, and it doesn’t seem to be working.
I am thinking about doing a binding spell and then try to do some crystal healing.
I am trying to find a friend in the witchcraft community.
Your help/advice would be gratefully appreciated.

Thank you

– Danette

So suicide is a pretty big deal for me. Parents tend to screw up dealing with their children having crises. My response:

Okay, here is a novel idea: ACTUALLY TALK TO YOUR KID.

She’s feeling trapped and NEEDS someone to talk to. Not to be bound, listened to. NOT yelled at, listened to.

Did you try listening to your daughter? Or better yet, making it so, so that she knows she can tell you honestly what is bothering her? You don’t need magick, you need ears.

I’ll go more in depth on Ask Black Witch at the end of the month.

Thing is, I understand the point of wanting to do a binding spell as she tries to figure out what is with her daughter but it sounded like at this point, she was missing the basics. A lot of parents tend to go for the “lecture till done talking” route, which doesn’t fix anything.

I have done everything under the sun. I have talk to her .. Her dad talk to her… This has been going for two years now.. Psychiatrist .. Therapist .. Consolers… Family therapy has not helped.. She said in she doesn’t know why she feels lost… Honesty I am at the end of my rope.. I just don’t know what to do any more… She and I are close but she still can’t figure out why she feels this way… She starting cutting 2 years ago…   I would not have sent this if i did not try trying every thing possible.. I am not an authoring kind of person. She is lost and I have tried to lead her home… But she doesn’t want to come… So I am looking for something spiritual to help her because drugs and doctors and we as parents are running out of options… I love my baby girl and would give her the world if she just would open her heart and eyes to see it sitting right in front of her… 

– Danette

Now, it’s nice that the parent has tried to be proactive in trying to fix her daughter’s problems, even if it seems that nothing is working. Here, I can somewhat see the use in a binding spell but also I wonder how comfortable the daughter feels with talking out her problems to her parents and psychologist, which can be a hard match (we still have an outdated mental health system here in the United States. Look at all the mass shootings we have (and treat like normal)). However, the daughter needs waaaaaay more than a binding spell. It is entirely possible she is not opening up because either she herself is still confused by her feelings or worse, she feel like her parents and psychologist (all authority figures and one of them has to report to other by law if they, the doc, feels there are major issues) are not going to understand or simply make her feel worse. For example, I have seen people with highly homophobic parents say the same “My child can talk to me about anything” line when the reality is, here’s what better not be brought up: the child’s homosexuality. Ever. But even they claim to love their kids, even though they’re usually the source of why many queer kids are homeless or living in abusive households. You have to make sure your daughter can actually trust you, the psychologist, whoever she is talking to, and that trust is not really that common, judging from the letters I get both here and on Tumblr. Not very common at all.

I know when I had (don’t know why I’m talking in the past tense, I still got them) problems, my parents are the last people I would have talked to because of the worry of being fussed at for my problems and when it comes to mental issues, they are hard to fix. The daughter could be hesitant for a number of reasons. And, remember, she’s a teenager, her emotions are going to be on the fritz. The best you can do is just let her know that she truly can talk to her parents without judgment or worry that you guys will ship her off to a mental hospital or race police (“Black people don’t have depression.”) Ask her what would make her feel better. It could be a myriad of reasons from not wanting to be bullied to her just saying she feels depressed all the time but don’t know why. And make sure her therapist can really connect to her. Otherwise, anything else is pointless. It’s going to take time (I’m sure you know) but the best you can do is to show that you’re honestly there for her.

Hey Black Witch! I’ve been looking into your blog lately and I’m really enjoying it. My question is, I’m thinking about coming out of the broom closet to further my path as I’m going on my second year of being Wiccan and I want to start actively practicing magick and no longer hiding in the closet. I still live at home and am in my final year of high school in an African American household that isn’t too Christian, but they do claim that faith. When would be a good time and how?

 – Angelique

The best thing I would recommend is know your audience and gauge that audience. If it seems they’re not really that open to being tolerant of other faiths, you have the option of continuing to hold off until you move out or to have a long talk with them about how this is your faith and that you’re serious about it. Granted, remember that if the risk of being thrown out or anything dangerous like that is likely to occur (oddly enough, despite all the nice-sounding talk Christian parents say about themselves, teen homeless shelters and statics tend to prove opposite. Very opposite.) then try to get a job (refer to the Black Witch The Arts!: Employment guide) so you can plan to leave. Remember, this is if the home is likely to get hostile because a non-Christian faith appeared.

If they seem okay with other faiths (not as common but these unicorn parents do exist), not treat it as if you’re going through a phase or that you’re going to be some evil person that is now in cahoots with Satan (make sure you remind them that Wicca has nothing to do with Satan or other Christian concepts of good vs. evil. You’ll be doing this multiple times) then you’re just going to have to work with them a lot to make sure they fully understand that there’s nothing wrong with you and that this is a regular faith like any other.

How to break it to them is to just be very mature and state that you’re Wiccan. Don’t phrase it like you’ve gotten a disease and only have two weeks to live, just pick a time when tensions are not running high (this means “avoid holidays”) and tell your parents that you’re Wiccan and that you don’t have anything against the Christian faith but you needed to find a faith you better gelled with and believe in. If they’re good parents, they’ll be apprehensive because they’re parents but not take it as a diss on their faith. It’s going to take a while for them to warm up to Wicca because they most likely have never heard of it. And it started in 1957. Just work with them if they choose to work with you.

As Black parents living in America, if the worse thing to happen to them is their kid join a nature based religion, they need to high five each other, high five President Obama, do the swerve and the cabbage patch because here’s a short list of what they ducked:

– kid is not a gang member
– kid is not on any drugs (ya better not be)
– kid is not on the pipeline from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse
– kid is not slingin’ drugs (ya better not be)
– kid is not pregnant
– kid is not bringing home abusive and terrible guys (bonus points: is not showing desire to marry or have kids with terrible guy)
– kid is not murdered by police or performed a “houdini suicide” while detained by police
– kid is not murdered by gang member or have a “suspicious” death by gang violence

Basically, they have performed Achievement Unlocked: Black Parenting: You Didn’t F*ck Up/Kid Isn’t Dead

First and foremost, I want to remind everyone of Samhain Pickers. It’s happening! Everyone who wants to take part and get a free divination reading from me has to send an email with “Samhain Pickers” in the subject line and this information in the body:

– Name

– Email

– Types of Divination: (Tarot, cartomancy, natal chart, dream interpretation)

Got it all filled out? Send to thisblackwitch[at]Hotmail.com and I’ll pick three winners, chosen at random on Halloween/Samhain.

Next, are you aware that you won’t get great updates from the Black Witch Fan Page on Facebook if you don’t click “Get Notifications” on the Like button?

keep up with BW on FB

And finally, keep in mind that on Halloween/Samhain, I will be having my annual Ustream vcast. It will be at 9PM EST and broadcasted here. You can also interact with me either using the Ustream chat function or send me questions via twitter (@thisblackwitch).

Also, keep your black cats inside since Halloween is coming around, some people erroneously think witchcraft involves horrific animal sacrifice and Halloween is when these stupid people are at their most active. Don’t murder innocent animals because you’re an easily-duped idiot. Just go trick or treating or watch Charlie Brown’s The Great Pumpkin or The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror.

Ok, so announcements are out of the way, let’s get started.

Since Samhain is coming ‘round, here comes that special time of year where I do the tricky dance that is getting off on Samhain due to religious observance. It is most trickiest when the job is new. I dread it a little. (Woo, update at bottom!)

I kid you not, usually whenever I initially ask, “Hey, can I have off for Oct 31? Religion thing, I’m Pagan,” the boss looks at me like this:

Are you serious

And I totally get it. Paganism isn’t that well known so if someone says “I want off for Halloween because religious reasons.” They’re thinking, “Eh-henh. Religious reasons being you’re looking for the Great Pumpkin? Riiiiiiiiiiiight. Next you’ll want Arbor Day off.”

Even though I can easily retort, “We take a day of for Christopher Columbus, the rapey, disease-carrying, imperialist pillager that couldn’t read a map. One dude. Didn’t even find America first, I think that was some dude in China. Besides, people already lived here before Mr. Follow-the-what-star stumbled onto them,” and want to follow with, “Can’t I switch? At least one of the days mean something to me,” instead, it’s a delicate parrying of words. Which suck.

Usually, I have to first explain to people what Paganism is. Since most folks are from Abrahamic faiths (usually Christianity), this means I also have to inform them that I am not somehow evil. And since I work in the Library of Congress, it never ceases to amaze me that folks overlook that we already work for morally wayward people – the most obvious ones being housed in the third word – but being Pagan can still spook folks. The worst I do is be the snack bandit and make fun of the overly White-washed exhibits, not destroy communities and greenlight wars for profit.

However, when it comes to asking for Halloween off, I usually like to work at a job for at least six months and also have poked the higher up for a day off for a different Pagan holiday like Mabon or Solstice. At least I can ease people into the fact that I’m Pagan and no, I am not going to perform acts of evil because I am Pagan. I don’t have enough lobbyists to do so.

Now, in previous jobs, I have gotten Halloween off, in addition to other Pagan religious holidays. They told me I would have to use my personal leave but eh, whatever. But I have learned in my experience that it’s easier getting Halloween off when I already asked for other holidays because it reaffirms that, yes, I actually am an observant Pagan and no, this is not an excuse to go party all day. I don’t even really party like that. I can’t even drink alcohol and all my musician friends are either touring, in the studio or too far away. The cat is my most constant source of entertainment, next to Tumblr. So taking off other holidays like Mabon and such (I like Mabon because of food and it’s the start of the holiday season for me), it helps reduces the chance that my higher up is going to look at me like I’ve gone temporarily stupid and remember, at my job, some of our patrons are actual members of Congress so we know stupid. Excruciatingly familiar with stupid (and childish). Therefore, I have to be on my p’s and q’s. And occasionally refresh my knowledge on worker rights in regards to religious beliefs.

It’s just, Christian holidays are already built into the work calendar and there’s even laws in some places about how you can’t work on a Sunday because that is supposed to be the Sabbath (in the Christian faith), and so on and so forth, it sucks around these times when you’re a different faith because you have to decenter all that. And it isn’t really fun when you have to work on your bigger holidays but know good and well if Christians were told to work on Easter and Christmas, they would start citing the first amendment quickly.

Granted, employers want to make sure their workers aren’t making up holidays or reverences to already established holidays just to have an excuse to not be at work but when there’s irrefutable proof of an actual practitioner that wants to take a day off for their holiday, the request shouldn’t be under that much great scrutiny. If I were running a workplace and someone asked me for off on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, it wouldn’t be wise of me to respond, “You eat fish, pork and you’ve made bets on the Super Bowl annnnnnd you take office paper clips home as if we’re a store, and I’ve never heard you refer to Jesus or God besides swearing in anger, how can I be sure you’re Christian?” because since the holidays are Christian based, people are going to wonder why I’m trying to dig deep since you don’t have to live like the Amish or Quakers to be Christian.

How frustrating. If I can’t take off for Samhain, there better be a good snack haul that day.

EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: One of my direct supervisors is Pagan. W00t. Still gunna come in though. I’m new, remember? That and free fewd.

Here comes the holidays! I guess this is more of a “what to do if you know someone who is Pagan but isn’t out the broom closet yet” post with some bits of “what to do if you’re recently out of the broom closet” in it. Eh, we’ll find out as we go along.

For those who know that someone is Pagan but that Pagan has not opened up to family yet:
DON’T. OUT. THEM.

It is not your place to determine whether the Pagan you know should let everyone know that’s their faith now. It’s never your place to out them. It never will be your place to out them. It’s up to the Pagan person to out themselves. If the Pagan person that you know don’t want to open up to family yet, don’t spill the beans for them. They won’t appreciate it (I can definitely say that from experience and so can others, don’t do it) and, as I always remind, you could be shredding your own personal relationship with them because you pretty much disregarded their trust. Don’t risk it. Even if you think that things would be so much better if they just told everyone that they’re Pagan and got it over with, remember that life does not work out that way. If the Pagan person is still living with family, you could be risking them getting thrown out or treated extremely poorly. Also, no one likes to be surprised with having to deal with whatever fallout could occur – and yes, they’ll mainly be dealing with the fallout because it’s their problem, not yours – and trying to navigate temporarily rocked familial relationships on the fly. You can be for the Pagan person that you know as much as you like but it’s their move on the when and where when it comes to revealing to the family about being Pagan. And if the Pagan person explicitly asks you to tell the family for them, review it with them to make sure they’re actually okay with it and that you fully understand. Or better yet, tell them to say it themselves.

For those who have recently came out the broom closet to family:
You’re probably going to deal with some douchebaggery. Y’know, family members that think that your religion is a phase or a hobby you’ll grow out of. People who think that while their faith is valid, yours isn’t, which means it’s probably going to be derided or outright disrespected. Usually here I would say that you have to tell them that they’re going to have to choose between their bigotry and you but I understand that some Pagans live with their families. With that, I’m going to have to say you’re going to have to pick your battles but try not to let anyone walk all over you. The best you can do is keep religion a non-issue and don’t mention faith at all or try to inform people about being Pagan, including correcting their inaccurate assumptions.

Even though the holidays are supposed to be bright, merry and gay, it’s become a really stressful time if you’re new to opening up to family about being Pagan. No happiness at all. The best that you can do is to try to navigate it the best that you can.

If you’re not Pagan but know a family member that is, be nice and make them feel welcomed but don’t be annoying with a series of prying questions. No one likes spending the holidays feeling like they’re being interrogated, especially about their faith. If you’re that interested in it, that’s why libraries exist. And you don’t have to interject their faith into everything. If they want to get a glass of water, it’s probably so they can drink it, not summon some random ocean deity. Just treat them normal and if the person wants to talk about it, they will. It’s cool to ask a couple (non-prying) questions but keep it light and few unless they really wanna talk about it. Basically: try not to be a douche about it.

Next Week is The Arts!
– Holiday funsies!
– Play with Shelter Kitties

Good friend of mine, Crystal B., has been calling for submissions of the minority Pagan experience to create a follow up anthology to Shades of Faith called Shades of Ritual! Here are the details!

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press (Stafford, U.K./Portland, OR, U.S.A) is seeking submissions for a follow up anthology to Shades of Faith, released in August of 2011.  This anthology will focus on people of color working in magical communities and their spiritual practices.  This anthology will provide another opportunity to get the voices and experiences of minorities within the Pagan community out to the world and address some of the challenges, stereotyping, frustrations and the beauty of being different within the racial construct of typical Pagan or Wiccan groups. These communities include (but are not limited to) groups and individuals working in Wicca, Voodoo, Umbanda, Shaman, and other Pagan paths.

As many of the roots of Paganism come from the lands of people of color, much of the color of Paganism is often forgotten in the cultural mainstreaming that often happens to ethnic cultures. Many people of color within Paganism walk between the worlds of their birth ancestry and culture, and that of their spiritual culture.  This anthology is meant to show how that might look within the spiritual practice of one’s home.

Here are some suggested topics to give you an idea of the focus of this anthology.

  • Rituals
  • Poetry
  • Your experience of integration into the Pagan community and how that might correlate with your practice
  • Magical work
  • Ancestor work
  • Deity specific practices and relationships
  • Integrating your birth culture with your spiritual workings
  • What magical work are you doing now? How do you describe it? Do you work alone, in a group, or in several settings?
  • Your birth culture and spiritual workings
  • Stereotypes and prejudice and the impact on spiritual or magic workings.
  • Being the only person of color in a coven, group or community
  • Sharing your culture and history with other Pagans
  • Cultural history and how that plays a role in your spiritual practice today
  • Family culture and how that plays a role in your spiritual practice
  • Cultural appropriations and how that works in your practice.

Rough drafts are due August 15, 2013. These drafts will be edited in a back-and-forth process with the editor. Essays should be 1500-4000 words, although if your work falls outside those limits, do submit it – we can discuss this during the editing process. Drop us an email if you are unsure whether your idea fits into the content. The sooner you start the communication process the better, as after the deadline we won’t be considering additional ideas.

Essay requirements:
• Citations for all quoted, paraphrased, or otherwise unoriginal material
• Bibliography of works cited
• Prefer APA format

Do write in your voice! If you’re academically inclined or trained, feel free to be as intelligent and technical as you like. If your work entirely talks in the first person about your own experience, please include this also. There is a wide range of voices, and we are interested in being as inclusive of style as possible.

Accepted contributors will receive a free copy of the anthology when it is published and additional copies sold at 40% off the cover price to contributors. All contributors will be provided with a contract upon final acceptance of their essays, not when they are accepted for editing. If your essay is not accepted for the anthology, we will tell you after the first round of edits.

The anthology will be edited by Crystal Blanton. She is the author of two books with Immanion press; Bridging the Gap; Working Within the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society, and Pain and Faith in a Wiccan World.  She is also the editor of the first anthology, Shades of Faith; Minority Voices in Paganism. She may be found online at http://www.crystalblanton.org and her email address for this anthology is crystal@crystalblanton.com .

Immanion Press is a small independent press based in the United Kingdom. Founded by author Storm Constantine, it expanded into occult nonfiction in 2004 with the publication of Taylor Ellwood’s Pop Culture Magick. Today, Immanion’s nonfiction line, under the Megalithica Books imprint, has a growing reputation for edgy, experimental texts on primarily intermediate and advanced pagan and occult topics. Find out more at http://www.immanion-press.com.

Building friendships and magick. Sometimes they don’t mix.

I have to admit, sometimes when being openly Pagan, you can take a hit in the friend department, which can really hurt if you didn’t have many to start with. Since Paganism still has a strong stigma with it, you have to deal with a particular wonder of if people don’t like you for you or if you’d have better success being social if you weren’t such a pretty misunderstood faith.

Within the last ten years of me being Pagan, I have dealt with folks running from me, crossing the street when they see me, keeping me at a clear distance, arguing, appearing visibly threatened, giving me odd looks, the silent treatment, etc etc If it is a negative reaction short of actual assault, I have experienced it and man, is it something to get it from people you actually cared about, respected or held in high esteem. If anything, it makes you a little more cynical and apprehensive about meeting new people.

And this is with folks I’m open with. With others, it can be a total tightrope between talking about my life and censoring out the more important parts of it. So if I get frustrated because something not cool happened regarding Black Witch and I hang with these folks, I have to either learn to be really good at masking or come off as mysteriously moody. Or, if I have an amazing achievement, I can’t share it. And then there’s when positive experiences in my life that are related to Black Witch or the success of Black Witch have to be delivered with huuuuuuuuuge and disconnecting plot points, if at all.

As much as I would like to tell folks, “I’m Pagan, deal with it,” I can’t be that way to every single person on earth because believe it or not, there are still some folks who don’t know that I’m Pagan and the uphill battle of explaining to them may not be worth it. It’s really frustrating, mainly because I already know what has happened when I jumped out the broom closet so wantonly. I still think twice when sharing pictures from Pagan Humor on Facebook (they’re really funny, check it out!)

When I was part of the P.O.D. fan site, The Southtown, when I was around 15 or so, someone had asked about Wicca in the “Spiritual” section of the forum boards. Now, I was a regular there so no harm, no foul right? It was a pretty regular question any ol’ ways, as I thought, and I responded to it like a regular question. Oh wow, the response overnight was deafening. For those not in the know, P.O.D. (Payable On Death) is a rock band that can definitely be a bit Christian faith heavy so they have a tendency to attract Christian fans.

You can probably tell that it is not gonna be a happy story.

I never saw folks go 180 so fast ever before that. Maaaaaaan, people were pissed beyond belief. Bible thumping like never before, people sending me angry messages and pretty much no one coming to my defense until waaaaaaaaaaaaay later. Wow, so much for Christian kindness. These were people who already knew me prior beforehand but in an instant, disliked me as if they never cared to start with. And best of all, I had no one to go to, really. If these people who really liked me at some point in history turned really fast, who else wouldn’t? It was really disheartening. I only talk to about three people from that site today.

This kinda was my first experience in dealing with simply going, “Lemme just be as normal as possible about this faith and all will be fine,” and so early at that. Layer this on top of the fact that I have always sucked with being social with people because people didn’t always like me. When I was younger, it was because I could read, didn’t really find hip hop to die for (I got the feeling at a young age a lot of it wasn’t really that positive, especially to women), I liked learning and was made fun of for being different, lacking “Blackness” and never really understanding the other kids. I never was actively mean to people, I barely bothered people, if anything because I got the opposite. I just didn’t get people and never fitted in. Still pretty much don’t.

I didn’t always have a crappy experience with it came to making friends while Pagan. At the old metaphysical shop I used to go to, I interacted with plenty of people and even made some great connections there (mainly in the form of being a derpy teen hanging about a metaphysical shop daily). This is not to say every interaction was perfect, I still have my crappy social skills to account for but I really would be a little more social (read: total chatterbox) when comfortable.

So when it comes to dealing with people and being my usual worrisome self, it’s like dealing with the Pagan version of Negro Neurosis. Negro Neurosis is not being sure when a displeasing event occurred because you were unlucky or you simply were Black. The Pagan version would be me not knowing if the distance of friendship or reactions was because I really suck with people and they won’t tell me what’s wrong or because I’m Pagan and that squicks them out (perhaps a combo?) The best example of this is when I meet someone at a concert and they’re really warm and then out comes the fact that I’m Pagan either through friending each other on Facebook, I mention Black Witch or something and all of a sudden its pauses, careful wording and delayed responses as if, “Oh no! She’s really different. Not cutesy weird or mock weird or even artistic weird. She’s just plain weird and I have no idea how to interact.”

It really sucks.

Usually, when I have these issues with people, they’re tough to tackle. No one wants to look like the person who won’t be friends with someone because their faith is different but it doesn’t change the fact they may act that way. To tackle the subject can cause friction (which could have been avoided possibly) or become like pinning down a slippery fish. When I feel something is wrong in a friendship, I generally ask, “Is something wrong? We don’t seem to be getting along well” or something of the matter because, hey, might as well talk about a problem before it gets out of hand. Even when I have approached folks about it, I can be met with a stunting silence. I know some people would rather duck such a question to avoid hurt or abrasive feelings but if I’m at the point I have to outright ask what’s going on, we pretty much already punched out the “stung emotions” box on the Friendship Problems bingo card, might as well start getting things out in the open because been there, done that. Not a fun dance to just tease things out and slowly piece them together. I’ve lost the patience to wait for people to finally snap on me, have someone go from friend to fiend in what appears like a flash, cry over crumbling friendships. Instead, those things annoy me now. I take friendship seriously and if there is a problem I take that seriously, too, and rather fix a problem when it makes itself apparent.

When it is comes out that the fact I’m Pagan is an issue, I try to have a mini Q&A because honestly, whatever issue they have isn’t usually with my religion and its beliefs but whatever stigma they learned about it. I’m Pagan, the most harmful I get is that I want people to cut the rings in their six pack holders and I may ignore people if they have a cat/bird/hedgehog/dog/ferret in tow. Not exactly vicious. I rather get stuff like that out the way so that the friendship can grow unhindered, if it ever does. If it is about my personality, I just rather talk it out and see what is going on and how to fix it.

If anyone is wondering why I don’t outright cut off people the second they make me miffed or frustrated, firstly, that’s no way to have a friendship. Even a best friend will work your nerves from time to time because they are a separate person from you with their own thoughts and ideas. Plus, I’m simply a firm believer that sometimes people don’t even know that they’re doing something wrong unless notified and I am especially that. There have been times I unknowingly pissed someone off and didn’t find out until waaaaaaaaaaaay after the eruptive fall out because either a) they dropped really subtle hints that I never picked up or b) just got sick of dealing with me but didn’t want to talk to me about it when it first became a potential irritation.

It sucks trying making friends and not being entirely successful at it. Sucks even more when you learn part of it is because of your religion (or race, or gender). It’s really difficult when first encountering and easy to become bitter from because usually everyone tries to say they’re equal opportunity friendly, it isn’t always true. However, it’s up to you on if you want to maintain the tango of friendship, let them go or put your foot down. You don’t need to roll about with a big pentacle around your neck and you’ll learn – or have learned – that sometimes it’s better to keep quiet and take an L. Just move with what’s best for you but don’t be a doormat nor an explosive cannon.

And don’t forget: Hang out with Black Witch! Two events in Baltimore, Maryland!

BW Meet and Greet (April 14) : Let’s hang out and meet each other! This is the Black Witch Meet and Greet, where you can meet me, fellow readers and have fun. Located at the Washington Monument, (if it rains, we’ll be at the Central Library) this event is open to any and everyone. The meet and greet will be on April 14th starting at 1 PM EST and going to 4 PM. Be there! If this one is really successful, there will most likely be a monthly BW meet and greet.

Ka-ra-o-ke! Music Time With Black Witch! (May 5): I love singing and I especially love karaoke! So let’s do some karaoke together! We will gather at Rainbow Music Studio on 2126 Maryland 2 and have a room to sing the night away! Rooms prices are $35/hour for up to six people and increases by $10 when up to six more people show up (Ex: $45/hour for 12, $55/hour for 18, so on and so forth) so depending on how many people come, the price could be really small ($5.83 per person if up to six, $3.75 per person for up to twelve, so on and so forth) or bigger than that so although I will keep everyone updated, be sure to bring at least $15.

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!

Busted

So, now my mom knows that I’m Pagan.

It wasn’t through my choice or this would be waaaaaaay down the line. Newp. I got outed by my sister out of some kind of show of concern trolling. None too happy about this because this is something I tote very often on the column: If you know someone who is of some kind of alignment that is not readily socially favorable such as gay or Pagan, you leave the battle alone. It’s not your choice to decide whether the person wants to have that big discussion (or argument), it’s theirs and it doesn’t matter what your opinion is on the matter about the person closeting themselves, it’s up to them to decide on when to say something about it. Unless you plan to 150% care for the person and the possible ensuing problems, don’t bother.

So, I had a surprise conversation about my faith with my mom. She asked me if I had anything against the Bible and I had no clue what she was going on but I knew that it would probably be better for me to fluff like usual because while I don’t mind challenging churches and closed minded Christians about my faith, it’s a little different when the person I could be debating with is my mom. Granted, as much as I would love to express my faith to her, we don’t live in a perfect world and I’m more than aware of that. My mom isn’t some rabid Christian but she’s still strongly Christian enough for me to have concern about going “I’m Pagan! I haven’t prayed to Jesus since Bush was trying to explain exactly what happened in New York and why this somehow justifies invading Iraq.” She never seemed the type to have a liking towards metaphysics and things like that so yeah, I was doing just fine keeping my mouth shut and pretty much living a double life where around her, I don’t bring up anything that has anything to do with religion and if so, I try to end the convo as fast and seamless as possible. Friends have asked me in the past when do I plan to tell her but my response has usually been, “Somewhere between the future and never. Maybe waaaaaay in the future or just not at all.” See, if I can avoid an argument that’s not really necessary, then I do because I’m not a very confrontational person, believe it or not. I mainly only push when shoved.

Continuing where I left off, my mom asked me if I had anything against the Bible and I was hemming and hawing, completely surprised. Apparently my sister thought my mom kicked me out a year ago due to religious differences and said that I had a faith that was opposite of mom’s. Here’s the bullsh*t in the sentence: I moved out because I’m getting older, simple as that. Also, Paganism is not the opposite of Christianity. If anything, that would be Satanism. I’m not a Satanist, I’m Pagan. Paganism is different from Christianity in a few ways but we’re not their opposite.

After hemming and hawing (I already thought about running but figured that was pointless and senseless), my mom asked me what was my faith’s name and so I told her, totally concerned that she would flip out. She didn’t, thankfully, and pretty much told me how she was younger and she was into things like astrology and such. Some of the stories were interesting and it pretty much was a good hour or so of me being quiet and trying to keep things from going nuclear. So far things were fine but I didn’t want push it.

After her talk it seems that she’s most convinced that just like it was a phase for her, it’s one for me. Usually hearing that makes me pretty miffed because I’ve been practicing Paganism for the past ten years, far beyond “phase period” but since I pretty much didn’t talk about how long I actually practiced, I let it go. I already was dealing with the fact that she knows about I’m Pagan, I didn’t feel I needed to go into specifics.

Though the conversation went much better than I thought it would (mainly because I let her do the talking), I’m still quite pissed at not having the choice to decide when was the right time for myself. Though my mom said she’s okay with me being Pagan, now things are awkward because hey hey, she found out her kiddo’s Pagan. What fun.

It is a good thing that I live on my own and not under my parent’s roof because this would be very tricky because I don’t feel like answering questions on my faith and why I’m not Christian anymore when I’m not in the mood to do so. It is a good thing I can pay my own bills and do not have to worry about being disconnected financially. I can buy or borrow tons of books on magick and Paganism and not worry about my things getting rifled through or those books getting thrown away just because. I can run Black Witch a whole lot better when not hiding my business cards and business papers. I’m lucky that I’m pretty independent with my living and finances (and Black Witch always takes donations) because others usually aren’t so fortunate when someone opens their mouth at the wrong time.

This changes a lot of things for me and as you could see in the writing, it’s pretty hard to talk about. It definitely sets me back emotionally because I totally didn’t think I would have to deal with this so soon. A lot of thinkin has to go into how to go forward and I didn’t exactly plan for this.

So again, to those who know someone who is Pagan and also know their family doesn’t know: Please keep silent because it’s not your fight and not your problem. The Pagan in question knows what’s best for them, not you so let them choose. Unless you really want to have a nice, heavy rip in your relationship with this person (because they’re not going to be grateful), just stay silent.

Before I continue along with my column, I would like to address any potential curiosities of why there was no Black Witch Public Service Announcements (BW PSA) last week regarding World AIDS Day. The short answer is that I don’t care about World AIDS Day as a “holiday/awareness day”. My long answer is that I don’t care about World AIDS Day because AIDS and HIV are terrible pandemics that are rife through the international Black community and other minority groups every day. It takes way more than a day of kumbayahs and reflection to beat this disease. Every day, not just on Dec. 1st are people being infected. Every day, not just on Dec 1st are people dying from complications the disease causes. Every day, not just on Dec. 1st are people misinformed about the disease and it spreads, both the misinformation and the virus that rides under it. This is every day, not just for the first day of December. If any readers would like an extensive learning on the subject, please go to the Links of Interest on the sidebar and click Greater Than AIDS, it’s a great starting place. Stay protected, get tested and remain informed. It’s more than a physical disease, it’s a Black social crisis. [/soapbox]

Continuing with the column:

Dealing with Christians in the Black community can be a funny experience. Funny “Dear god, this is weird” during the experience and sometimes funny “haha” afterwards. Regardless, sooner or later, the excuses, arguments and pseudo-concern start to repeat themselves. One that always makes a return like a stubborn computer virus is the question, “Who hurt you?”

Yes, folks, you can see one installation of happening in Mental Mentality and I can assure you it has happened a few more times after that instance. Now, I’m sure that some random reader is thinking “Don’t say anything, problem solved.” Yah, it’s that easy. Not really, mate. Ask your gay friends how they fare when living in a world where rampant hetero-normativity ties their hands and mouths when they can’t talk about their relationships as freely as their straight friends, get questioned why they “choose” to be gay (BW quick note: they can’t choose who they like but you can choose whether or not to be a dick about it, choose wisely) and risk getting fired or worse, killed if they show any sign of liking the same gender. Same here. A Christian can do anything they like just about (enforced laws withholding) when it comes to expressing their religion and not catch the same “oh, it’s a phase” crap that I and other non-Christians catch. Take the Norway terrorist for example. We’re not going to assume all European-descent people are intuitively capable of airing out a room with a few blitzes, that Christianity is the religion of crazy and backwards extremists, that you have to suspect every Christian is packing enough heat to make hell look chilly to the point laws are made about it and media will openly demonize Christians as crazy murders in a second. No tv shows making them the enemy, no cable channels dedicated to spreading hate about the religion, no nothing. Despite one ill-balanced and trigger-happy Christian White guy, society doesn’t assume all Christians, especially White Christians, are all potential murderers like the very same society does about anyone who is Muslim or even potentially looks Middle Eastern over 9/11. Religious privilege sucks if you ain’t got it.

So, carrying on from that rant, many Christians ask “Who hurt you?” when you correct them about your religion or even bring it up in passing. Hey, they like to talk about their Christmas plans, I like to talk about my Yule plans, it happens. Of course, they don’t blurt out with “Who hurt you” right off jump, no no. They first try to clarify what they just heard: Did someone just say they didn’t believe in the almighty power of Jesus? Then, they attempt to insert their faith in nearly every utterance, especially after they figure out your religion has nothing to do with theirs. They expect you’ll magically catch the faith in Christ and abandon your heathen ways right then and there. Continue to refuse and bam, there goes the “Who hurt you” because apparently converting away from Christ and some of his less stable-minded believers means that you must be a victim of sexual abuse or any other form of abuse (but they seem to have a preoccupation with sexual abuse). Well…that’s nonsense, to be frank.

This implication gets on my nerves so much because what it says is: “My religion is so great and I couldn’t see it any other way. No one would ever leave the protective hold of Jesus unless they were severely abused, which would trick them into leaving thanks to the Devil and his wicked ways. The church does have legit abuse cases that aren’t talked about but maybe if this person feels connected with, they will leave this devil worshipping and idolatry of false gods and return to the one true and loving god [that couldn’t protect them from alleged abuse, but that’s another subject].”

Christianity is nice but I say this all day, every day: Christianity isn’t for everyone. Nope, it’s not. People change, their views change and while most Americans are raised Christian (I was), some figure out that maybe this religion doesn’t work for them for one reason or another and go elsewhere more spiritually beneficial. This revelation doesn’t come from abuse, that’s tragic to assume every once-believer is a victim of abuse and the transfer to a different religion is a symptom of said abuse instead of the conversion out of Christianity could be of its own benefit. This is boisterous thinking because the Christian believes that A) Anyone who leaves Christianity must have been severely inflicted somehow to even think of leaving Christianity B) If you have someone who was once a Christian then ah-ha! Even if that person is well adjusted, they must be a victim of abuse or something traumatic enough to steer them away from the everlasting love and benevolence of Christ. C) Any person who believes in a god that is not the Christian god must have problems somehow because there is no other god besides Christ and His Father so this must be a lie and a sign of self-defensive delusion.

Why is this nonsense? Because A) Christianity, the religion itself, can sometimes be its own exit sign. There are many reasons why people leave the religion and usually they are legit. Not everyone agrees with some of the tenements of Christianity such as homosexuality being a sin, woman is inferior to man, conflicting verses, etc etc etc. B) Abuse doesn’t make people run from their religion usually. It makes them definitely have unsettled responses to what has happened but insta-conversion isn’t it. To assume every person who has left Christianity did it as a response something as traumatic as abuse is wack for both ex-Christians and the abused. Those who are Christian and abused usually hold on to their belief in Christ stronger (sometimes to the point Jesus is the not-so-sticky tape keeping them together) because they rely on Christ more to get them out of their jam and have faith that Christ will oversee their recovery, not the opposite. Conversions due to abuse do happen but they’re a reaaaaaaally small minority and it usually shows itself in the person’s personality and in their religious practice sooner or later. C) There are thousands of religions in the world, even I haven’t heard them all. Guess what? That’s okay. Because there are over 7 Billion people on this earth and it would be absurd to think that every member of that 7 bil.+ would believe in the same faith, completely ignoring that different cultures with different faiths exist and that every single human being on this earth does not know (or care) about Christ. Simple as that.

It sucks for those who actually are a victim of abuse because the talk around it usually is in the vein of ignoring the abuse for what it is but working around it and making sure that the faith is still intact at least a whit but not really taking down the person who did it. Or worse, not even believing the victim and ignoring them – yet being an abuse victim the first thing the Christian may think of when someone says they’ve transferred to a different religion: “Oh that person must have been abused somehow and is simply acting out.” Real swift.

I do understand that Christians are taught that their religion is the only one, true way to God and if you have that hammered in your head since you were young, it would be a little odd meeting someone who was once Christian but not anymore. Given the current Christian is taught that no one should (or can) leave the religion, it would be easy for them to believe that the one who left probably has something wrong with them to the point that they felt like turning their back on what is perceived as a very rudimentary idea of being, to have unwavering faith in Christ and henceforth, be easily led away by Satan from the path of righteousness onto the path of condemnation and wickedness. But here’s the thing: following a different religion isn’t being led astray on the path of righteousness. It’s a different path of righteousness.

It isn’t fair at all to those of other religions because we can’t do the same. It’s not right to assume someone is a victim of violence just because they don’t follow what you believe anymore regardless of religion but it is not fair that if I were to meet someone who said they were once Wiccan or Pagan or Witch but moved on to something else, I couldn’t ask who harmed them. There are tons of dabblers about and while I do wonder of their motives sometimes, I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) outright assume it is because someone treated them horribly – though if you said you were a hardcore witch and then changed your mind in a short period of time, I might assume you probably read too much Harry Potter and took The Craft too seriously. People change, people figure out who they are – sometimes at the expense of others’ nerves – but never assume that if someone left, it’s because of a horrid encounter they had. No religion is perfect and not everyone will agree with the same religion because not everyone thinks and feel the same. If you used to be a Christian but moved onto something, you’re damaged goods but apparently if you move to Christianity from another religion, you’ve seen the light. Something doesn’t seems right.

It isn’t fair to assume that if everyone was Christian then all would be good in the hood. Nope, there are deep divisions in Christianity that disprove the notion easily. If you run into someone who used to be in your religion but isn’t anymore, don’t ask if they’ve left because they’ve been hurt somehow. It’s not a rude question to ask why they left, it can make for great conversation, but it is rude to assume something bad had to happen for them to leave. I left Christianity simply because I didn’t fit well with the religion. I’ve never been sexually abused by a preacher or anything, I just didn’t want to be part of a belief system that I didn’t really believe in. And I’m certain I’m not the only one and not in the minority either. People convert for different reasons but it isn’t a symptom of abuse or neglect. It’s a symptom of people wanting to follow what’s right for them.

Coming out of the broom closet – revealing that they are a Pagan or a Witch – is not an easy thing to do.

I am all for someone coming out of the broom closet – revealing that they are Pagan/Witch – 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 doesn’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.

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!

I would like to start this column with a story. Why? ‘Cause I wanna and the story is an awesome lead-in.

When I was the president of the Pagan Student Union at my university, we had divination workshops. I and a couple other diviners in the club were teaching tarot and cartomancy* for beginners. We had a few people, none of them truly memorable except for one guy scared of touching a tarot card right after handling a cartomancy equivalent, a playing card.

But there was this one girl that a friend of mine brought. I’ma call her Patty, the friend that was brought. Oh geez, I could tell Patty was going to be a problem from her stern body language. She sat at the cartomancy table where I was teaching and she felt the sincere need to interject at every instance that she believed divination is a fraud. I remember trying to quell her and talk to the rest of the people but she was simply foaming at the mouth with a steady boil as she tried to quiz me about the history, background and validity of cartomancy. Good lord was she rampant in tuning out reason. I’m fairly used to dealing with skeptics of the moron kind (over-skeptics as I usually refer to them) so I explain she can borrow my cartomancy book as I instruct so she can read the history section and the bibliography. Newp, she wanted to know how, without aid of beakers and lab coats, can one see into the future because science said it can’t happen and gargle gargle foam foam.

To be honest, I was worried she was either going to give herself an aneurysm or her heart would give out. There’s less anger in the Middle East than what was on Patty’s face. Plenty of derp, to put it youthfully. She was not at all here to learn anything but clearly to disrupt, debate one-sidedly and foam. I probably could have told her her whole life story and everything she’s going to do for the next three months but she’d probably still call shenanigans and continue raging disproportionally for the situation at hand. Those people are awful annoying. Discussion is fine but going bonkers isn’t helpful because that doesn’t equal disagreement, it just equals going bonkers. I don’t mind helping out filling in the blanks for better discussion; I did offer Patty my book for her to read and fact-check. She can still be against it but at least she could understand the other side of the argument. Patty decided to bypass all that and just go nuts simply because it bothered her that much. Now, she didn’t have to come and she could have simply walked out, I wouldn’t have been at all bothered. I understand Patty was with one of my friends but even when I’m going to a place or an event I don’t like, I bail. Should I come with a friend, I just let them know that I’m not going home but I’ll be waiting somewhere else and they should call me when they are ready to go. I know this is my tactic because I employ it often when I go to an event that I won’t dig but my friend does. Even if that event is Bible Study – though I can usually get out of those.

To finish the story, Patty, after having a meltdown over people aren’t seeing it her way, she knocked it off long enough for the Student Events Board to have a chat with her over at the side. And I believe she left or kept quiet. Has Patty changed? Not sure but I still see her as uptight and mental. Her body language certainly haven’t changed.

Yes, skepticism is healthy. A good BS meter is nice, if not essential, when involving in metaphysics. Or anything else that require critical thought. To take anything at face value is asking to be hoodwinked. However, it’s not smart to act like Patty, when met with something they don’t agree with, all walls are up. Instead, pick your battles if you’re that passionate about it. Like I mentioned earlier, I will bail out on Bible Studies super fast. I don’t make up excuses often because there’s not always a need (the only exception is when offered by elderly women) but I don’t go because I know I’ll get into a debate quick.  I don’t debate at Bible Studies simply because that’s rude. The people studying aren’t hurting anyone and I don’t like debate, actually. Me and confrontation don’t go well. They’re minding their business, I’ll mind mine. It’s a different story if they bother me a la the lady from Mental Mentality but Bible Study? I rather walk around the church looking at the pretty architecture and art. Have I been trapped in Bible Studies? Yes. Dear God is it bothersome because there are just some things in the Bible I honestly don’t agree with. I try not to act like Patty because, while I  may understand the frustrating emotion of “Why don’t they get it?”, it can come off as how I described: metaphorically foaming at the mouth. It helps no one and is really embarrassing. To avoid foaming at the mouth for me, I try not to get roped into Bible Studies because they won’t change my mind and I won’t change theirs. And there’s no reason to.

So, in dealing with an over-skeptic, here are some rules of engagement that I notice works:

Pick your battles wisely: Sometimes stern skeptics are just closed-minded people who reject change. Not all, but some. They’re quite close to being an over skeptic but not nearly as rude when introduced to something they disagree with. Also, sometimes people have to learn and live a little before modifying or creating better critical reasoning for their skepticism. (Remember this if you argue against a teen or someone who is super sheltered.) Also some battles don’t need to be fought because there isn’t a battle there. Some people simply don’t need the argument.

Be fair: Don’t go off the deep end. No insults and if they are insulting, then let them know. If they’re going to that level unprovoked, they’re obviously not going to respect you any time soon. Call them out on their wackness and leave it at that.

Keep to facts: Don’t incite unfairly. For example, I’ve used picking apart the Bible as a useful tactic but I won’t sit there and come right off the bat with a (if Christian) “You believe in a zombie carpenter that even science say doesn’t exist!” or (if Atheist) “Science is your Jesus!” Knowledge by itself can be kryptonite for stupidity and it also garners respect from onlookers.

They’re Yelling? Don’t Match It: Over-Skeptics who are obstinate and tend to yell so you don’t. Let the screamer look outrageous and stupid. Coupled with what they’re probably going to say, it won’t be hard to depict them as the fool.

Dealing with those who are super skeptical is annoying, that’s fact. You feel like you have to prove all and everything just to shut them up. It’s not easy especially since major skeptics of the metaphysics are just so hard on to coin you’re a fraud and even crazy. A healthy skeptic is willing to keep an open mind, willing to learn something new – even if they don’t agree with it, they’ve learned a new perspective. A poor skeptic has a mind like the Iron Curtain: solid in their opinions, beliefs and are hard to help understand different points of view. A terrible skeptic is possibly a solid moron, simply refuses to see it any other way and any proof, no matter how good, is simply a trick. If the person is a terrible skeptic, then just don’t bother. They just want to flail and scream and foam at the mouth even at the slightest provocation.

Trust me, I know.

Next Week: The Arts!

Who’s featured:
– Occupy The Hood
– Bea Gaddy Thanksgiving Drive
– Anxiety Cat

* Cartomancy = playing card divination

%d bloggers like this: