Monthly Archives: August 2013

I Am Not A Broom (part 1)

First of all, non-Pagans reading this may be asking themselves about the title of the post.  After all, it is fairly safe to assume that I am not an inanimate object. (At least, most of the time that’s a safe assumption.)  The title refers to Pagans who are not (or cannot be) open about their beliefs – they are said to be in the broom closet.

Why can’t you be open about your beliefs?
Lots of reasons, but the main one is fear.  Fear of harassment, job loss, eviction, loss of friends and family, persecution… When I first started on my path, many, many years ago, Wicca was not nearly as well-known as it is now, and a lot of people (maybe even most) were afraid of serious repercussions if anyone found out that they practiced “witchcraft” or followed a Pagan path.  People lost jobs, homes, even custody of their children in divorce cases simply because of their religion.

Things have changed (are changing) but those fears were (and still are) valid – in some places more than others.  Coming out is still a risk, and I don’t fault those who stay in the closet – it’s a scary world out here at times, and the laws don’t necessarily always protect your rights.

So, why come out of the broom closet at all?
For me, it began to feel false to hide my beliefs, to hide who and what I was.  I felt as if I was denying my religion, denying the legitimacy of it.   Or that I was ashamed of what I was.   Staying in the broom closet sends a message – to our own subconscious as well as to other people – that we are doing something wrong, or shameful, something that has to be hidden away.

Those things did not sit well with me, so I began sneaking out of the broom closet on occasion, starting with wearing a pentacle.  And despite living in a small town in Pennsylvania nothing drastic happened.

Yes, there is a risk in being open.  But there is also a risk in staying in the broom closet:  inside the broom closet nothing ever changes.   Those changes I mentioned above?  They didn’t come from people in closets.  Change only happens if people make it happen.

People who choose to stay in the broom closet can still make a difference. They can still work semi-anonymously, behind the scenes: writing letters, donating money, spreading the word of injustices…

But people are afraid of what they don’t understand, and by hiding in the broom closet others don’t get to know that Pagans are people just like them.  They think that they don’t know anyone like that, and that Pagans are strange and different and evil and spooky and… you know the stereotype.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but so far, the worst I’ve had to deal with is some mockery.  I welcome sincere questions but I do have a co-worker who crossed the line a few times.  I finally said “I don’t mock your religion.  Please extend the same courtesy to mine.” He looked surprised – maybe even shocked – but I haven’t had any problems with him since then.

So, I’m out of the broom closet, but I don’t make a big deal of it: being out of the broom closet doesn’t mean being obnoxious and in –your-face.  I wear my pentacle openly and I’m always willing to answer questions, but I don’t go around saying, “Hi! I’m a Pagan!”  After all, it’s just who and what I am.  Besides, other people don’t go around saying, “Hi! I’m a Christian!” (Or Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.)

For the most part I’ve had a “don’t ask don’t tell” kind of attitude.  (If you don’t ask I won’t tell.)  Some of that has probably been pretty much blown by my posting this blog to my FaceBook feed, not to mention all the posts from Pagan groups that I’ve liked or shared.  People who didn’t ask and who I didn’t tell are now probably aware that I follow a different religion.

And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  If other people can post openly about their beliefs, so can I.  And if they are offended by what I post, then they need to look within themselves and ask why they feel threatened by my beliefs.

And if they want to block me or unfriend me because of my religion, that’s fine too.  I don’t need their approval and I am not going back into the broom closet.

I am a person.
I am a Pagan.
I am a Witch.

But I am not a broom.

Engaging in Community

This isn’t the post I had planned for today, but oh well, there’s always next week.  Something occurred to me and I wanted to share it.

I left work last night (Tuesday) and on my way to my car I stopped (in a safe place) and checked my email on my phone.  And there were some messages from someone on Twitter saying she hoped I started tweeting again soon.  And, as usually happens, I started thinking about things and one thought led to another and…

The reason I stopped participating in Twitter (other than my blogs posting to it, courtesy of the magic of WordPress), is that it seemed like almost every post was an advertisement for something.  There was no participation in community, no chatting, no back and forth getting-to-know-you vibe… just… people selling stuff.  It was starting to feel anonymous.

It wasn’t like that when I first joined, but somewhere along the way it became a marketplace.  Whatever happened to the “social” in “social media”?

So, I stopped going to Twitter.  I went back briefly but stopped again — if anything it had gotten worse, so I quit again, and, quite honestly, I haven’t missed it.

But those notices in my inbox made me stop and think.  By only doing automatic posts announcing my blog updates, am I not doing the same thing that drove me away to begin with?

In other words, am I becoming part of the problem?

Sadly, the answer is “yes.”

The solution?  To start doing what the people that made me leave aren’t doing — participate, engage in community.

And, my mind being the off-beat thing that it is, took off in a different direction.

I’m a solitary.  I have been ever since I started on this path.  I’m also a hermit at heart. I just don’t do community.

For one thing, I’m not comfortable in groups.  I don’t socialize well, especially not with strangers and sometimes not even with people I know.  (One on one is all right, but groups?  Um… not so much.)

Part of the reason that my thoughts strayed that direction may have been that I was near Harmarville at the time. (Sorry. Harmar. It seems to have lost its “ville” at some point.)

Anyhow, there is a Pagan meet and greet there once a week — sadly, it’s on a night that I work and is over about an hour before I roll past the exit — but even if it wasn’t I’m not sure I’d go.

And yet, I long for community.  I want to have Pagan friends — local Pagan friends.

I don’t think I want a coven or a circle or any other type of ritual group, but it would be nice to just have other Pagans to hang with.

But would I?  That’s the question.

I know of at least two people who would read this and say, “No, you wouldn’t.”  And they’re probably right.

So, what is the answer?  How do you engage in community — a real, live, face-to-face community — when you are a solitary, and a hermit at heart?

I hope someone has an answer…

Because I don’t.

Religion or Magic?

I love synchronicity.  So often it seems that I’ll be thinking about a subject, or talking about it with a friend, and suddenly that same topic seems to turn up in half a dozen different ways in vastly different areas of my life.

The two current topics are finding time for spirituality, which has been cropping up a lot for the last month or so, and, more recently, the use of magic.

And, oddly, the two are related.

When I first started on my path, I did a lot of energy work, both with and without crystals.  Healing, shielding, meditation… all were part of my daily life.  And I cast a circle for every Esbat (full moon ritual, for the non-Pagans who might be reading) and Sabbat (our eight “holy days” (in quotes, because all days are holy – or should be) that mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year.)

And I used magic.   I used it to clear negativity from my home and to keep it a safe haven.  I used it to clear my own emotions.  I used it to help in job-hunting.

I was open to energy and magic and my life was full of wonder and connectedness.

And then… something happened.

I’m not sure what, or why, but it seems as if I sort of… stopped… working.

My Esbats and Sabbats became more informal.  I rarely if ever cast a circle or even had cakes and ale.  They became more of a mental exercise, a meditation on the meaning and event.

And slowly the magic in my life began to fade away.

And I want it back.

“As above, so below,
As within, so without,
As the body, so the soul.”

Somehow I had forgotten the connection:  that what we do on this plane ripples into the others.

I always felt that magic was secondary to the religious and spiritual aspect of my path, but now I am beginning to realize how completely intertwined they are.   When one of them fades – becomes less important in your life – the other fades away as well.  And when I let magic fade — because it was the religion that was important — ritual observances faded away as well, because, after all, it’s what’s in the heart that matters most, right?

I’ve been feeling as if I’ve lost my way, and now I’m beginning to see why:  it’s not magic OR religion, it’s magic AND religion.   And with that realization came the understanding of how to get back on track.

I need to get back to basics, to bring the spiritual into the physical.  That was sort of the point of this blog – that spiritual life was taking second place to physical life and I wanted to correct that, to bring spirituality back into my life.

But I’ve been going about it the wrong way:  instead of trying to bring the spiritual into the physical, I need to start by taking the physical into the spiritual.

“As the body, so the soul.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a ritual to see to…

Remembering

So, I had a week off work.

And it was wonderful.  Relaxing.  Non-stressful.  I got a fair amount of things done.

I made one carnivorous and three regular terrariums.

I did some stitching (counted cross stitch) and kitted up a couple more charts.

I did some writing.  (Not as much as I wanted or needed to, though – I need to kick myself back into gear for that or this series will never get finished, let alone get finished by the end of the year.)

I completed a bunch of small but time-consuming projects.  (And kept moving a few others further down the list.)

I made some small progress in the chaos in my room.  I’m not exactly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but at least I’m aware that there’s an actual tunnel and not a painting by Wile E. Coyote.

wile e coyote tunnel

And most importantly I have taken a few minutes each morning before starting my day to spend time opening up to the gifts of the Gods and to thank Them.

And I have remembered – or been reminded – how much that helps.

I work in a jail.   Not exactly the most relaxing, peaceful, or spiritual place on the planet, but it’s a wonderful place to learn.  (And you probably don’t really want to know some of the things that I’ve learned there!)

I find that my day goes much better if I take time, either while walking from the parking garage to the entrance, or before getting out of my car, to ask that the Gods, especially Apollo and Hermes, be with me through my day.  (Sometimes I feel the need for Athena or Ares, but usually Apollo and Hermes.)

What do I pray for?

I ask that Apollo fill me with His presence so that my presence may be one of warmth, healing and enlightenment to all with whom I come in contact.   And I ask for protection, spiritual as much as physical.  And I give thanks for the reminder – a shaft of sunlight, a brush of breeze – that I am not alone, that my Gods are there with me.  And I ask Hermes to guide me safely through the darkness and back into the light so that I don’t lose my way.

Those brief moments before I enter the doors help me find my center – and make it easier to return to it when it gets lost during the demands of my job.

And when I step outside again at the end of my shift those few moments taken hours before make it easier to leave the darkness of the spirit behind me.