Though I can’t say I was necessarily hiding, but in 1996 I decided to come out of the broom closet. It meant I generally stopped avoiding questions regarding my religious beliefs and began wearing my pentacle openly. Remember, this was prior to large social media sites as we understand them today so it wasn’t like I could change my Facebook status and make a mass announcement.
I was fortunate to not be faced with any animosity by my immediate family regarding this. I’m closest with my father whom wasn’t really sure what to make of this information. His best way to deal with this was to make light of my newly professed religion by making it the butt of jokes. Luckily, that didn’t last too long. After a while jokes about my religion stopped all together and over time my father came to realize how sincere my practice and beliefs were. Every now and again he would ask me a question about how Wicca viewed something or about what certain objects or symbols meant; with genuine curiosity.
In sharp contrast, I was greeted with jeers and condescension from any co-workers that learned I was not Christian, which was difficult to avoid as they had an active bible study hosted by one of the employees. They wondered why I wouldn’t join them. Apparently saying, “I’m not interested” isn’t good enough. One woman actually told me I was wrong for having my beliefs. Did I mention we were at work? I wasn’t telling her what to believe or going on in any fashion about my beliefs, she took it upon herself to inform me that what I believed was wrong and chastised me as though I was a small child. I was in my late 20’s at that point.
Once she finished I explained that I didn’t appreciate her opinion, and that I’ve never told her that I thought she was wrong for her beliefs and felt her words were not only unappreciated, but entirely inappropriate at work. Thankfully she never spoke about it to me again.
I never asked my father what he thought about my being involved with Wicca. In fact, I never really thought about how my practicing Wicca might impact him. That is until the media attention began. Once that started I was much more mindful of how those who oppose my spiritual views might react and how their reaction might impact my loved ones.
The writer for the Orange County Register newspaper had reached out to me because of the Meetup groups I organize. She was interested in a different group for a different article, but then asked if there was news within the pagan community. At that time The Pentacle Quest was the biggest news in our community and the mainstream media was either ignoring it or putting further back in the paper where it got very little notice.
I was the current National Public Information Officer for the Covenant of the Goddess when she contacted me. She found the information interesting, but wanted to put a local face to the story, so she tied it to a “slice of life” piece about me. The article was written, but held for about a month or so and released on the day after 9/11’s 6th anniversary with all the memorial articles that year.
Honestly, I expected it to be on the 10th page of the “Lifestyle” section or something. The newspaper was out the night before online. I was a little nervous, but again, I didn’t think many would really see it.
Heh. I could not have been more wrong.
It ran on the FRONT PAGE. No really, my picture and the article were on the freakin’ front of the freakin’ Orange County Register! The very same paper I had a paper route for when I was 12 years old. The front page of the flagship publication of Freedom Communications! This is the main newspaper for our very conservative county.
It’s one thing to be out of the broom closet for other pagans to network with you easier, but to be outted to my entire county… that’s all together different. Our county is well known for it’s young Republicans and very conservative values. So, I braced myself in case of any backlash by über conservatives.
Instead I got phone calls and emails from friends all around the area that saw the paper, with words of encouragement and support. Also, a long lost friend I hadn’t seen in 11 years reconnected with me when they saw the article. But the most unexpected part of all was the phone call from CBS news that afternoon. They read the article and wanted to swing by on their way up from south OC.
Um… how did they both get my phone number AND know where I live? We’re unlisted.
An hour later CBS was at my house with a camera crew talking to me about Wicca and the Pentacle Quest. The short interview aired on both CBS and KCAL9 TV a total of 5 times that day. Each airing was a bit different.
The online version of the newspaper article had been translated into 3 languages and had been blasted world wide thanks to the internet in a short period of time. I suddenly had people from other countries contacting me because of the article; mostly new folks on the path looking for guidance.
Wow. I truly didn’t expect that.
The following year I taped the “Secret Lives of Women” TV show. During the filming I was asked to go somewhere else so they could talk candidly with my father about his opinion regarding my being involved in Wicca. I went upstairs while they interviewed him downstairs. I was actually a little nervous because I honestly had no idea what he would say. In fact, I didn’t find out what he said until the show aired 6 months later.
I was pleasantly surprised. My father had some very positive things to say. One being that all the ridiculous myths that people believe regarding our neo-pagan religion was false. He appeared proud of me and all that I’ve done.
I am keenly aware that not everyone is able to have such positive experiences with their loved ones once they make their spiritual path known. I know of several cases amongst friends where admitting you follow a different spiritual path, not just Wicca, was greeted with disappointment, anger, hostility, or disdain. Immediate family members, best friends, spouses would behave so poorly they would turn on the people they love. But is it love when you turn your back on someone for following a path different from yours? If they aren’t committing harm to themselves or others, and are still the same person that their loved ones know, but might perhaps be happier because now they’re finding spiritual fulfillment, why be angry with them?
Roddy Frame is a singer-songwriter and musician from Scotland. He was the founder of the 1980s indie band Aztec Camera, and has undertaken a solo career since the dissolution of the band.
This is perhaps my most favorite of his songs off the album “The North Star” (1999)
Roddy Frame – Hymn To Grace