Coming out and revealing your "new" faith
Paganism is becoming more public - Wicca, one branch, is the fastest growing religion right now. Yet, despite this, the knowledge out there about Paganism is still very sketchy and often inaccurate. The fundie groups work hard to ensure their understanding of our religion is a dominant viewpoint. The public understanding is still very flawed - so many centuries of propaganda have left their mark. Even though there are increasing instances of Pagan material in the media, the positive influence is slow to grow.
And so many of us keep quiet - it's often easier, not to mention natural. If the topic doesn't come up in conversation, why raise it? After all, is my Pagan spirituality relevant in a discussion as to my children's education?
I agree that it is easier to keep quiet. But I don't agree as to the relevance, or lack thereof. The assumption made by many people is that unless I say otherwise, I am Christian. This immediately creates a bunch of new assumptions about my morals, ethics, values, etc. I know this because I have experienced the conversations where my religious ideology is assumed to be Christian - happens a lot. It doesn't matter whether I'm Jewish, Moslem, or Pagan. The assumption of my religious beliefs is annoying - I don't make that assumption, and it's a refrain I often hear from my Pagan friends. I feel like I am lying by not correcting the assumption, so I tend to offer up the information at some point.
However, the whole "being Pagan" thing can be very difficult sometimes - especially when it comes to living your faith openly. In our world, Paganism is still often a dirty word. Pagans are discriminated against, threatened, attacked, and harrassed - usually by Christian and Moslim people. For many new (and not so new) Pagans, coming out to a strongly Christian or Moslim family is a fearful process. There is something about following one of those faiths that often seems to predispose the follower towards active hatred of the Pagan path.
Even for those of us with more liberal families, there are still concerns - the general public, for example. And ridicule and dislike are not owned by the Christian and Moslem groups. It's a valid concern. Some Pagans are comfortable with their beliefs being known. For them the public censure is of lesser concern - for whatever reasons. They often provide an example that gives courage to others to take that step. For other Pagans fear and discomfit prevent them revealing their spiritual beliefs. These people have very real reasons to be concerned - and unless we are walking in their shoes, we have no right to try and force them to reveal themselves.
But for those who are considering opening up, there are ways to do so without stripping naked and dancing about the maypole! Gradual steps can make the process easier and possibly even prevent some of the more unpleasant possibilities from occuring. Information is the most important tool in this process as it is usually the less-educated who attack the Pagan community. The combination of ignorance, fear, and propaganda makes a potent weapon that only information can defeat. Before engaging upon a path of rededucation, there are a few things to consider.
Firstly, if you are a teenager, coming out is not that easy. If you're under legal age your parents have the right to raise you in their own religious system, and that's all there is to it. Revealing yourself to be Pagan may not be in your best interest - military school, anyone? Right now your best bet is to educate yourself about your beliefs, and if possible, try to gently educate your parents about some features of paganism. Try to create a more sympathetic environment for when you do decide to come out.
Try and avoid the terms Wicca, Paganism, Magic, Craft - these are very confrontational and often blind the listener to whatever else you may say. Instead focus upon the ethical aspects, the nature-focus (if your chosen path has one), meditation, and the similarities to things such as Native American beliefs. These are less threatening as they are more understood, more familiar. And it would be better to refrain from being an active practitioner until you are legally old enough to chose your faith.
I am not trying to advise you to deceive your parents by any means. But if your choice of a Pagan path will cause serious problems, then finding ways to demystify your beliefs will help you and your parents communicate with less hostility and maybe even understanding and acceptance. Compromise is a valuable tool for you.
This may be difficult - after a long time of feeling lost or incomplete, you've found your way. It's a wonderful experience and you naturally want to share it with those you love. You're excited about your discoveries and looking for validation or understanding. It's hard to not let these emotions boil over. But it's important to remember that your exhuberance can easily be misread - as either foolish fad-following, or an attempt to convert others. Hard as it is, try and rein it in a bit.
For the older Pagan, the above advice is still useful. Aside from anything else, it's easy to ride roughshod over others, trying to show them how their prejudice against paganism is wrong. If they'd just listen. But people listen less the more you badger and browbeat - and that's how your exhuberance may come across. It's unfair - you need to share your excitement, but not with those of other paths (unless you are fortunate enough to have family who support you regardless of your chosen faith).
This is where finding other Pagans is valuable. Depending upon your path and your preference, you might want to investigate the local covens, groves, kindreds, or whatnots. Even as a solitary practicioner, the support to be gained from physical contact with other like-believers is wonderful. On-line there are thriving communities as well. These are a great way to meet and learn. And a source for locating other local Pagans. You can also check out your local CUUPS groups. Coming out to your Pagan community first may help you find strength and support as you work towards telling your family. There will certainly be people with advice and a sympathetic ear.
This is also a time to start studying. When you come out aside from the anger and hatred and fear you may face, there is also the very real possibility you'll be inundated with questions. You better have some idea of what you believe and why, because there will be an accounting. It's okay to not know everything - afterall, that's why we're here, to learn - but you need to start working out the whys and wherefores. Not just for the questions they ask. You need to know for yourself. If you don't know, their questions will shake you no matter how much you believe. The best way to know you are walking the right path is to do some study.
Start making a list of the common questions you hear directed at Paganism and see if you can answer them succintly and simply. Pay attention to the lies you hear about Pagansim and work out the reality. When you talk with your family, if the chance arises, start offering some of those simple answers and simple corrections. Collect the ethical values of your faith - what are the good things Pagans believe and do? These are all ways to start paving the way for your own revelation. If you chose to do so. You may decide after all is said and done to keep quiet. There is nothing wrong with that if it is what you believe is best. There are some things that cannot be unsaid, and if your family is unable to hear the truth of your path, you may find it best to leave it unsaid and keep the relationships whole. Only you can know what is best.
If you are a parent yourself, and plan to raise your child/ren Pagan, you need to seriously consider whether you wish to come out. It is hard to raise a Pagan child - seeing them face everything you face is sometimes heartbreaking. It is also hard to raise a Pagan child in secret. Aside from the "slip-ups" when children innocently ask grandparents about the God and Goddess, there's the whole living one's faith issue. Do you wish to create the contradiction of being honest and open while insisting upon concealing the family faith from family and friends?
Whatever you chose to reveal, remember it is your choice. But also remember that how you live and what you say has an impact upon your inner self. Make sure that the choices you make are ones you can live with.