Tag Archives: broom closet

Witchy Wednesdays – In or Out of the Broom Closet

Way back in the early days, I wrote a post regarding my thoughts on the Broom Closet generally, but I don’t think I have ever really written about it from my own perspective before.

I tend to waffle back and forth between being in and out depending on the situation I find myself in.  I think that the concept of the broom closet is a little different for us in Canada.  There is considerably less religion pushing here, and most folks tend to just leave it as something that isn’t really brought up in polite conversation.

I grew up on the west coast, but in a small town where everyone belonged to one of our three churchs, the kingdom hall or the sikh temple.  Now that I think about it, that is an awful lot of religious buildings for a town of less than a thousand people.

My mother was brought up in the United Church, but went to a Catholic high school.  My father was an atheist, and after my parents split up, and we moved back to Canada, I think it became important to my mom that we have some manner of religion in our upbringing.

As with many small communities, the town we moved to was not terribly welcoming to outsiders. The minister from the Baptist Church was the first to arrive on our doorstep to welcome us to town and invite us to Sunday services.  We went as a family for a while, but the teachings didn’t really jive with my mom’s beliefs and after a while it was just us kids who went – more for community involvement than anything else.

Anyone who has had dealings with Baptist Churches can probably tell you how pushy they can get — especially with strong-willed girls who have no adults around to back them up.

I can remember the fights and the pressure from neighbours to shut up and learn my place, but I can also remember that grounds were so beautiful and the back field was surrounded by old forests.  I can remember watching the moon rise over the barn-shaped building one winter afternoon while I was supposed to be rehearsing for the Christmas play.  I remember skipping home in my pretty white dress under the warmth of the late spring sun.  I guess we remember the good parts a little easier when there is enough space between us and the hurt feelings.

After a particularly nasty Sunday school session when I was about 12, I refused to go back again.  My brothers kept going for a while, but that tapered off as we settled into a religionless life.

As I have mentioned before, I came to the Craft during a time when it was stepping into the mainstream as cool.  My mom had concerns regarding the Satanic Ritual Conspiracy crap that for some reason still refuses to die amongst the townspeople where I grew up, but she read the cards, taught me to make my first pendulum (which I have since given to my daughter), and believed in palmistry and various other New Age techniques, so there wasn’t a lot of pressure on me to hide what I was reading about and learning.

Once I was out on my own, I had no restraints at all, and I tended to hit both ends of the scale of *really* in your face and out, and *so deep in the closet you would never guess in a million years*.  I think it had a lot to do with my own confidence in my practises and beliefs.  In the end, I tend to believe that it really isn’t anyone’s business what I do.  I like my privacy, but I don’t want my kids to feel pressured to hide what we believe.  In Canada, I can have the best of both worlds, and I feel pretty lucky that I don’t have to choose one way or the other.

If I don’t want anyone to know about my path and my beliefs, I just don’t bring it up.  However, if you really wanted to know, all you need do is plug my name into Google, and it will bring you to this webpage.

So, am I in or out … the short answer, I guess, is yes.

Blast From the Past – Circa 2004 – The Broom Closet

The Broom ClosetThe broom closet is a term, similar to the metaphor used by the gay community, that refers to someone who keeps their Pagan beliefs and practices hidden from their friends, family and the general public. The reason for the secrecy (outside early periods of spiritual adjustment) is usually fear – fear of prejudice, fear of violence, fear losing the comforts that appearing ‘normal’ can afford us.

It has been a long time since the Satanic witchcraft scare of the 80s put everyone who was even slightly outside the socially accepted ‘norm’ under a microscope. Very few of us now need fear for our lives or our safety because we are not ‘good little Christians’. The twentieth century saw many people fighting an uphill battle so that modern Pagans would feel comfortable celebrating their holy days in public, and discussing their beliefs openly.

This freedom has lead to a great many people claiming that the need for the secrecy and protection of the broom closet is gone, and that to remain hidden in plain sight is selfish and does nothing but hurt the Pagan Community as we fight the last remnants of misinformation that float around society. To me, this seems to be a rather sheltered viewpoint.

The prejudice and hate has not gone completely away. People are still living with constant harassment … they still lose their jobs, their homes, their friends and sometimes even their children to a society that seems to have a hard time accepting that anyone who has turned away from a mainstream, Abrahamic faith could be a good, competent person.

Now, granted, these things do not happen everywhere. Those of us who live on the coasts of North America seem to enjoy a little bit more freedom to express ourselves. However, even here the fear of oppression lies just beneath the surface.

Looking at any issue of controversy within the Pagan Community illustrates this vividly – dark magic, hexes, blood, sacrifices, Satanism, etc. All these topics tend to bring out the attitude that the old ways are misguided and now that we have more options and information available to us, they are unnecessary at best, immoral at worst.

This may seem like the hallmark of the fluff bunny, but they are not to blame in this instance. There seem to be far more Pagans that I realized who change and omit rites and practices for fear of causing a backslide of acceptance for the rest of the Pagan Community. They seem to believe that by watering down their faith, they can gain the ‘ok’ from mainstream society. It saddens me that otherwise rational, level headed Pagans would cower at the mysteries because they cannot be forced into neat, easily understood boxes, ready for the consumption of the masses.

When we allow ourselves to be told that our traditional practices are barbaric or evil, simply because they may not be pretty or easy, THAT is when we begin to lose the ground that our elders fought so hard for. When we would prefer to change, rather than explain, for fear that our inquisitors may just not ‘get it’, we start that trek back to the broom closet. The road of fear, secrecy, lies and outrageous rumours ends in a church pew, where pretend devotion keeps up the appearance of normality.

The trip from the broom closet needs to remain a one way street. Part of being ready to come out is that you are no longer willing to allow conventional wisdom to dictate what is and is not acceptable beliefs and behaviour.

Now, I am not saying that everyone who is ‘out’ needs to be an activist or public educator or that they cannot have private lives. What they do need to be is true to themselves, and their path. The fact that someone might see should not be a deciding factor in how your practice your craft. The fact that some may not understand should not limit the symbols you use or the deities you call to.

We all turned to this path because there was something missing in modern secular and/or Christian culture … because ‘normal’ was not good enough.