Should You ‘Out’ Yourself as Pagan?

Subaru plastered with Pagan bumper stickers
I wonder what religion this Subaru's owner follows. (Colorado Springs, June 2010)

Over at Pagan + Politics the call is for everyone to “out” themselves for the good of the movement or something:

I did notice that those who are in the “come out, come out, where ever you are” camp are becoming more vocal about the need for the majority of us to be more public and open about our faiths. Not that they wish for us to go around saying “Goddess Bless” to everyone while wearing huge Pagan bling, but they do want us to be more unapologetic and matter of fact about our faith. To live our lives in the sunshine, not just by the light of the moon.

What surprises me is the assumption that it’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

In some cases, such as university teaching in some departments, being a faithful follower of any religion brands you as a “anti-intellectual” and a “fanatic,” with a possible exemption for easy-going Reform Jews.

As for family, I have long been “out” to some, while to  others I might prefer to say that I just was not the church-going type and preferred to go fishing on Sundays.

And what’s wrong  with the light of the moon, anyway?

Youthful black-and-white thinking. Bah, humbug.

13 thoughts on “Should You ‘Out’ Yourself as Pagan?

  1. gosh, that is quite the car really..

    for me being out or not out of the proverbial broom closet, is all about balance. i guess i am pretty lucky as i have nothing to loose when it comes to employers or anyone else knowing my religious belief, also i live in New Zealand, so there is not so much of a stigma attached in that OMG she is in legue with devil kinda way. more often than not in New Zealand the first reaction i get is ” is that real?”

    my friends and family all know and a fair amount of people who are not friends or family also know. however i do not always feel the need to shout it from the roof tops.

    so balance.. there is a time and a place.. for some that is keeping it out of the work place, or being much more sublte about it at work, for others it is wearing their pentacle proudly, and for others still it is all about rolling with the punches. and sides, so often balance is nothing to do with black and while but more about the intensity of the spectrum.

    *ponders random thoughts*

  2. Cosette

    Both of those attitudes annoy me. I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m open about my faith, but one might never know it just by looking at me and it’s probably never crossed the minds of most non-Pagans I deal with everyday.

  3. I live in Dallas, Texas and wear my goddess pentacle almost every day. My friends and people with whom I work know I’m alt-spiritual, though they may not understand paganism. It’s just part of who I am. To each their own. However, if anyone were to ask me what my religion is, I would unequivocally state “Pagan.”

  4. Pitch313

    The way I see it, confident liberty means that you do not have to come “out” about anything if you have any reluctance to, but that you may if you want to. But the important thing is the “confident liberty” part, not the “coming out” part.

    Now this is a personal outlook, but I think that it is is accord with the outlooks of the Neo-Pagan Trads with which I am affiliated. Act in life as you, the practitioner, deem best for you and without outside constraints. Don’t do stuff because somebody else or something else holds POWER OVER you. Take magical steps in order to follow your path not the one somebody else insists you follow.

    I have discovered that it matters very little that other folks in general know that I am a Neo-Pagan. It matters more how I treat them as other folks, usually with respect and some discretion. Of course, I am a Neo-Pagan because I value Paganism as an alternative to the dominant culture. I don’t particulalrly want or need that dominant culture to accept me. Just not hassle me.

    Not getting hassled sometimes means doing things that don’t attract those would would hassle you.

  5. Pingback: The Wild Hunt » A Pagan Coming Out Day? Plus: Heathen Harvest Closes and X-Day Arrives

  6. Google, Facebook…all the information is there for whoever cares enough to start digging. No doubt the “outing” thing is important in some situations, but I would never insist that everyone do so, or even that it was a good idea in general.

  7. It’s obvious to me that this is a stupid and pointless campaign. But I’m also trying to figure out why this is being raised as an issue right now by some people? Is it just some random fluctuation, or is there some reason why some people feel an urgent need to make an issue out of a non-issue?

  8. I think I just have a problem with “calls” to “the movement” on general principle.

    What they really seem to mean is they want /me/ to “come out” for /their/ benefit. That kind of attitude just riles me.

    Witchcraft doesn’t pay for broken windows, and I doubt these people would be willing to pay for them either.

    I’m out where I want to be out and not where I don’t, and I’m just fine stickin’ with that. 🙂

  9. Cara

    While there are Pagans who are calling for (most) everyone to “out” themselves and are doing so in a fairly aggressive way, what I proposed on Pagan+politics is supporting those who decide to voluntarily out themselves while acknowledging those who still must keep their religion a secret due to possible negative consequences. Celebrating the victories our community has in gaining equal rights while focusing our collective attention on areas that are still lacking.

    I did not propose that everyone must be out nor am I defining what out is. Those are deeply personal decisions that people can only make for themselves. But I do feel strongly that until more of us are no longer actively hiding our religion we will not make much progress in gaining equal treatment and being able to openly practice our religion without fear of losing our jobs, families, and personal safety.

    We are in the very beginning stages of creating an International Pagan Coming Out Day so if anyone would like to help us, please email us at pagancomingoutday at gmail dot com.

  10. Cara, it seems that a lot of people read your initial post both as prescriptive (“You should ‘out’ yourself”) and as simplistic (“One is either ‘out’ or ‘in.'”).

    If we are wrong, perhaps another, more nuanced post is waiting for you to write it.

  11. Cara

    Chas – you are certainly correct that another more nuanced post is waiting for me (and others) to write. Probably many! You are also correct that some of the people I wrote about do have very simplistic and prescriptive ideas about Pagans being out and that is something I don’t agree with. Perhaps that energy can be channeled into something more constructive – like a day focused on encouragement, support, and understanding?

    This idea is just at the baby stages and will be shaped and formed by those who wish to become involved to help shape and form it. It will evolve, mature, and hopefully gain some useful depth in the coming weeks and months.

    I wanted to thank you for writing about this idea. This discussion, and others that are going on around the Pagan community about this topic, are very healthy and I know I appreciate them deeply.

  12. Brighid (Mahita)

    In and Out of the Broom Closet-that’s how I have experienced my journey. I owned two “Witchy Shops” and at that stage of my life was very out. But when I was adopting a baby I put a veil around my beliefs. One-way of living isn’t more evolved than the other. I too dislike the either or. Life is complicated. When I was younger I imagined that by age 50 I would be strutting down the street waving my broom around if the mood struck me-but now there is an issue of grandchildren and other complexities.

  13. Chas, I am with you. There are still many sectors of society, certainly including academia, where an open profession of a Pagan spiritual identity could be immensely problematic for one’s work and social relations, and could even be the kiss of death. If you are in a position where you can speak out and about such things freely, and either don’t anticipate or don’t mind any possible negative consequences, great! Go ahead and, in the immortal words of Jimi Hendrix, “Wave your freak flag high,” but don’t expect everyone else to do the same, because not everyone is in that same position.

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