Executive Board Interviews: Part 5

Are you an “out” Pagan? What has influenced your decision to remain in/out of the “broom closet”?

Cat: I have had the luck to never much have to be “in” the broom closet. I started identifying as a Pagan about 2006, and by 2008, I was helping lead my university’s Pagan student group, which involved interviews with the school paper. Papers tend to use your name when they write about you, so being in the broom closet wasn’t much of an option.

I came out to my parents in about 2008 I believe, when I told my mother I wasn’t going to be home that weekend as planned because I was going to an event. She asked what event, and I told her it was an Ostara ritual. I have never been one for lying (not since a severe grounding as a child!), so when she asked, I just told her.

Being “out” has basically always been my default when it comes to my Pagan identity. I have had the fortune to not deal with any real bigotry or discrimination over the years, and even my team at work is aware that I am Pagan.

Kate: Yes. It never actually occurred to me to be anything other than out when I realized there was a term for what I already was. I guess that would have been about 25 years ago now.

It did take me awhile to settle on a term to describe my Pagan path. I started with witch because that is what made sense. I remember my mother being concerned that that term might be too scary for some and she suggested practitioner as a term and I toyed with that for awhile. I lived in very conservative places – Nebraska and Indiana – hence her suggestions. I used that for a bit, then tried on the generic term Pagan, then eclectic Pagan and then circled back around to witch about 20 years ago. 

I began using the term traditional hedgewitch in the last ten years. I was trying to find ways to describe myself in the community that indicated that while I was a witch, I was not a Wiccan.

Tal: [Coming soon!]

Aleja: It’s mostly public knowledge!  There are a few family members and acquaintances with whom it’s more of an “ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies” sort of open secret arrangement, and more often than not I deflect or tell a partial truth if a stranger asks about my spirituality, but the majority of the people I see the majority of the time know that I’m pagan and a witch.

I think my experiences growing up in a very actively Catholic family led me to mask some of my spiritual seeking from some of my more narrow-minded family members, and my time in the deep south where even Catholicism wasn’t an acceptable type of religion leads me to hesitate engaging with strangers I’ll likely never see again.  However, for people I interact with frequently, it becomes worth the time and energy to explain exactly what I mean by “pagan” and “witch”, and I hope to help members of other religions, particularly the dominant Protestant Christianity denominations, put a face to a largely unknown spirituality, and to clear up some of the confusion and combat some of the harmful stereotypes.

Do you celebrate any specific holidays? Which one is your favorite?

Cat: I have a couple of holidays that I like to celebrate each year, but mostly it is the vernal and autumnal equinoxes and Samhain. Sometimes Beltane. I celebrate the equinoxes as a reflection of Persephone’s annual journey to and from the Underworld. Samhain is just super fun, as I have always loved Halloween. That one is probably my favorite, as it is a good time to really let loose and be very blunt about being a Pagan and/or witch.

Kate: I celebrate Samhain every year. It has always had a deep place in my heart particularly because so much of my work is with ancestors. 

I often celebrate the other pagan holidays as part of the wheel of the year but that tends to only happen when there is a public ritual I am attending. For a couple of years, I made it a point to celebrate all of them but that has never been consistent for me.

Tal: [Coming Soon!]

Aleja: At home, my family and I celebrate the eight neopagan High Days, and we’ve created our own associations with our main deities.  I also celebrate a few Kemetic holidays, and I’m beginning to notice a pattern with the star Spica in the constellation Virgo, so I may end up adding small holidays to mark certain days in its cycle.  

It’s hard to pick a favorite holiday, but I particularly like Imbolc (because it’s near my birthday), and Beltaine (because in our home practice it’s for the Fair Folk, and late spring is my favorite time of year)!

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