A phrase, somewhat tongue in cheek, used in the pagan community. "coming out of the broom closet" means revealing to family, friends, co-workers, or whomever else that one is *openly* pagan/Wiccan/asatru/insert "nontraditional" religion here.
This activity in some, if not many, ways can have nearly as many repercussions as the action from which it took its name--*many* companies don't like having "witches" working for them, and sometimes even if the company doesn't care, the co-workers do. either simple ignorance or intentional refusal to understand or accept can lead to very awkward workplace relations. For a mild, mild case of this phenomenon reread the userfriendly strips from around Samhain (Halloween). but people *have* been fired (usually under 'veiled' reasons but not always, just for being pagan.

"Coming out of the broom closet" to friends is usually somewhat less difficult. Many will be curious, not understanding what you believe, and may ask questions. Some may not want to accept this. (very Christian friends sometimes panic because they don't want you to "burn in hell" for being a "witch".)

Explaining to families is frequently the *most* difficult, especially for people under 25 or 30. (some never tell parents because it is too uncomfortable. I personally have yet to tell mine, although someday probably will.) Especially in the case of religious parents, they tend to wonder "what went wrong" and "what mistake they made" that their child is doing *this*! (many people from older generations also have a much fainter understanding of paganism than gen-X and later people do.) For high schoolers and college students particularly, a common parental response is "it’s just a phase", or fear that their child is in a "cult" or participating in "devil worship". Children get sent to talk to shrinks, or pastors because "something must be wrong with them". it should be mandatory to raise your children atheist. nontraditional religions are so often misunderstood.

Although we played on the name and laugh a bit at ourselves that way (as pagans tend to do. even at ritual we're never stonily serious), it *is* a real issue. Society doesn't burn us at the stake anymore for being "witches" but we still receive religious discrimination far more than is acceptable. One needs to give some serious thought, before being public about being pagan. It's a bigger deal than it seems.
This node ended up much longer than I intended. it was meant as like a three-liner, the first bit above the first line. then I got involved and realized how important these thoughts were to me. At this point, I decided to move some information I intended to put here, to its own node in suggestions for coming out of the broom closet, because that actually *is* a somewhat separate topic.

There are additional aspects to consider when coming out of the broom closet. Essentially there are two groups of people who do it and the issues and methods for each are very different. There is the group of individuals who have become "witches" primarily because of the hype, shock value, and attention getting aspects of the craft. Then there are those who have devoted their lives to practicing, studying, and learning from pagan spirituality, be it wiccan or other. Unfortunately there are many more of the first group and their actions tend to get more attention and hurt those in the second group.

Coming out of the broom closet has some very specific things that need to be considered for both groups in American society at least. Paganism and witchcraft are generally considered to be a call for attention by the individuals professing membership to these groups. This is because frequently it is the case and the decision is not based on a serious amount of faith. Additionally it is not considered a "real" religion, or belief system, by many. They consider it to be something people play with, that magic doesn't really exist, and that spells don't work. Alternatively, some people consider paganism and witchcraft to be "the devil's work."This is, of course, far from the case, see Principles of Wiccan Belief for more details. This reaction is generally seen in people who are very religious practicing Christians. They perceive paganism to be far worse than any of the monotheistic religions, or eastern beliefs like Taoism and as such they can have extreme and unpredictable reactions.

Many people in the first group find "coming out" to friends and family a way to garner attention for themselves. It makes them feel different and interesting and gives others reason to gossip about them. They make sure that people know they are a "witch" and frequently wear pentagrams and other assorted mystical symbols from pagan, judeo-christian, or eastern religions, prominently about their person. Coming out can also be used as a tool by teens to get their parents to stop and pay attention to them and the fact that they are making real decisions in their life. Unfortunately this generally works against them because of how paganism is percieved in our society. If the parents see it as something to play with the child is thought less of for doing something that isn't real and "pretending" it is. If they perceive it to be an extraordinarily evil thing they may send to child to religious retreats, disown them, force them to choose between them and the childs beliefs, physically punish the child in sometimes violent ways to convince the child of how bad they have been, and other assorted unpleasantries. For these people coming out is an act of rebellion instead of one of faith and sharing. When they are confronted for coming out they can easily further their superficial goals by arguing and then being able to say that the other person is closed-minded and bigoted.

By pushing their difference and contradictory religion in others faces these people tend to be the ones you hear gossiped about by word of mouth or mass media. Frequently possessing little real knowledge of what it is to live a spiritual life as a pagan, or what witches or pagans believe, or do, these individuals present a warped, or downright wrong perception of pagans. These are also the people who tend to loose interest in the craft within a few years for various reasons.

People in the second group generally only mention their beliefs to others when asked. We tend to accept the faiths of others and go about our lives happily interacting with those people without needing to bring up the issue of our personal beliefs. We generally come out to people because we believe we feel a need to stand up for something or someone, because we want to share a part of ourselves with those we care about, or to make others aware that there are others amongst them with beliefs other than christian or jewish. Generally we are far more careful about who we reveal ourselves to and when we do it because, as with any religion someone believes in strongly, it is a core part of our being, and to have it rejected is to say that there is something wrong or bad with us. It can hurt on a very personal level like being rejected by someone for being homosexual.

In "To Ride a Silver Broomstick" by Silver Ravenwolf (a prominent wiccan writer and activist) she discusses, among other things, coming out and her experiences with it.

When I first began writing this book I was a closeted Witch. No one, save my husband, knew my personal beliefs. As the book took shape, so did my life in the Craft. I began teaching my children, my friends, and now those that have come to my door for assistance.
It has been a slow process, this removal of myself from the dark secrecy of my faith. I do not live in a large city, therefore the minds of many are not open to change or easily re-educated. It has not been easy. I lost my job and found deceit, and I lost of a few vapid, selfish friends - but I found a wonderful compliment of brothers and sisters. I am now an individual that belongs to no one, but shares with many.

She goes on to discuss ways to handle common questions, disagreements, and many other aspects of coming out. If you are new to the Craft I would strongly recommend this book.

People considering coming out should generally first consider their reasons for wanting to do so. Coming out when you haven't committed yourself to a lifetime of paganism can, among other things, lead to a loss of others respect for you and damaging the already bad perceptions of pagans today.

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