Pagan Coming Out Day… Things To Think About

May 2nd is International Pagan Coming Out Day, a day when all Pagans should band together and joyously shout to the world… “I’m Pagan and Proud!!!” and dare anyone to take issue with it. Ok, not really, however it is an annual “event” that strives to “achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.

As mentioned directly on their website, “coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so“, and there is an absolute truth to that. While it would be very nice if we could all be open about our religious/spiritual choices or practices, in actuality it’s something that we need to think long and hard about. On the one hand we shouldn’t have to hide who we are, on the other, it’s worth noting that there are still plenty of countries that will kill Witches almost on sight, and even in countries where there are laws against that sort of thing, many have very poor opinions of Pagans, or really anyone who has a different religion than what is considered mainstream.

So when considering “coming out of the broom closet” we need to first decide if the benefits of doing so, outweigh any potential negative consequences. Then given that there will likely be at least a few negative consequences – are they manageable, or will having to put up with them make life miserable enough, that staying silent is the wiser course. Some things to think about…

  • First and foremost how will your friends and family react? If you are still living at home, or having to depend on your family for support, this can be a major factor in keeping one’s path to oneself, especially if you think they won’t take it well, and might kick you out. Are you willing to put up with potentially losing friends and/or alienating your family if they don’t understand where you are coming from? Are you willing to gather up relevant information on your path, and have calm, rational (can’t stress those two words enough) discussions, in an attempts to inform others on what your path is about?
  •  How will your employer react? Unless you plan on wearing overt symbols of your faith/practices to work everyday, this may not be a huge issue, but it’s still something to consider. Job security isn’t the best these days, so if there is any possibility that being out will cause you trouble at work, it might be better not to say anything at all. This would still apply if you are in school as well – though they can’t fire you, teachers (and fellow students) can make things difficult for you if they so choose. So it’s something to keep in mind.
  • How will your local neighborhood/community react? If you live in a large city, again this might not be a big deal, but if you are in a smaller town, or a close-knit neighborhood, then outing yourself as a Pagan, could have an impact.
  • For those who are married or in a committed relationship – how will your significant other react? I have this separately, even though it’s technically lumped into friends/family, but it’s a really big one, so it deserves it’s own consideration. If you are in a relationship with someone (or married to them), and they don’t know that you are Pagan, be absolutely sure that they will be ok with it, before saying anything to them. Keep in mind that telling them, can literally be the end-game to your relationship. Things may eventually work out, but you need to be willing to weather the bumpy ride, to get through it, if they are not overly thrilled about your choices.

I know at this point it may seem like I’m against Pagans coming out, and in reality that isn’t true, as I dream of the day that we can all live – if not harmoniously, then at least in perfect apathy to each other’s religious/spiritual choices.  However as we are not yet at that point, “coming out” can be a monumental, life changing event, and I don’t think that mere words can adequately convey the seriousness of the situation. I’d like to think that in this day and age, most people are cool with it, but if I’ve learned anything out of recent “current events” in the US, it’s that we really aren’t as “cool” as we’d like to think we are, if anything we’ve started to backslide quite a bit.

So while I encourage those Pagans who can, to “come out” on May 2nd, I definitely urge everyone to think carefully before jumping right out. Not that we shouldn’t all be proud to be Pagan, but ultimately it’s a question of… is this the right decision for me at this time? If it is… go for it!! If it isn’t, then there is nothing wrong with keeping it to yourself. You’ll know when the timing is right!!

If you are out, or are planning to come out, on the 2nd… feel free to comment and share your story with us. We’d love to hear from you!!

For more information on IPCOD, you can also check out their FB page.

Sacred Moments #1

Hello readers!

We’re going to start posting “devotionals” a couple of times a week – inspiring quotes, snippets of lore, prayers, meditations, ideas and pictures that we love. Some of it will be religion-specific, and some of it will be a lot more general. Some of it won’t even be Pagan-specific. We hope you enjoy them! We’re calling them “Sacred Moments” – at least to start with – to reflect the moments in one’s day when one pauses, and one’s mind is quiet, and the sacred is immanent.

Sacred Moment #1:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

– Siddhartha Gutama the Buddha

TIP: Books of Shadows

Hey guys. Been a while, huh? Sorry about that. Well, here we are with a new tip. This week we’re talking about Books of Shadows.

A Book of Shadows is a personal book containing rituals, spells, poetry, experiences and information that a person comes across in their studies. It’s a term primarily used in Neo-Pagan witchcrafts of various types, but I’ve met non-witch Pagans who use the term also for their personal religious book. It’s usually considered distinct from a spiritual journal and reserved for things of import that are representative of one’s craft. (Or indeed one’s faith.) To some, it can serve as a self-compiled set of scriptures; to others, it’s a recipe book of all their favourite spells, oils and tinctures.

The term comes to us through Wicca. Gardner reportedly discovered the term “book of shadows” in a magazine and snapped it up for his own use. In Wicca (and in some other initiatory or semi-initiatory witchcrafts that follow Wicca’s lead) the Book of Shadows is copied out by each initiate, in his or her own “hand of write”. The content of each BoS is the same, but each Wiccan can add his or her own impressions after the main text. Some Wiccans will refer to the Wiccan BoS by capitalising it (Book of Shadows, vs book of shadows) but the term is one any witch can use. (This includes non-Pagans!)

Don’t feel like you have to have one, though. Whether or not a person creates a book of shadows is up to them. Many people will create one as a compendium of notes when they are starting out – for this reason many more experienced witches will recommend starting out with a ring-binder of shadows instead, so that things are easy to re-arrange, add to or remove. It’s pretty gutting to buy a fabulous expensive book of shadows and have to rip out several pages – or trash the entire thing – years later when your craft and your ideas change! Regardless, keeping one is a personal choice, and many people prefer sticking with an exercise book for their notes and keeping a spiritual journal. And unless you’re a part of a specific tradition, there isn’t anything you must (or can’t) include in yours. Aside from the term applying mostly to a book of craft work rather than more of a journal, everything in it is up to you. Some people will have tarot spreads, some will have the Charge of the Goddess, others will have recipes for oils.

It’s also common now to have, instead of (or as well as) a book, a folder on your computer or a flash drive to store the information you come across and wish to keep. People also use blogs for this purpose – some private, some public.

There are other terms for the book of shadows, many of which have their own implications. A “Grimoire” tends to refer to an old book of ceremonial magic, while some use “Book of Mirrors” to refer to a book of just one’s thoughts and experiences – more of a spiritual journal, no spells or rites. Others will use this term as a straight synonym. Another, perhaps less popular, name is “Book of Light”. The Seax-Wican book is called “The Tree”. You can call yours whatever you like, but “Book of Shadows” does seem to remain the most popular.

For my part, I’ve heard that “Book of Shadows” is meant to imply that what one reads in it – rituals, thoughts etc. – are just the shadows, the silhouettes of the practice and craft itself. Valiente explains that it is so named “because its contents can only be this world’s shadows of the Other World”. This is one of those things that doesn’t need to be one or the other; I imagine the term means many different things to different people.

Do you have a book of shadows, reader? If so, what form does it take, and what does it contain?

The Origins of Easter

Something that I’ve noticed at certain times of the year, is the tendency for some Pagans to claim that the Christians stole our holidays. This primarily happens around the Christmas season, but it hops out around Easter as well, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to put a little effort into clearing up some misconceptions that might be floating around.

One thing that I like to point out, is that many of the “Pagan” traditions that have eventually become associated with a particular holiday, are generally due to those Pagans who were converted finding ways to keep some of the comforts of their old practices, while still conforming to their new ones as well.

As to the origins of Easter, the approximate dates for it are actually pretty clearly outlined in the Bible, and it was originally celebrated around the same time as the Jewish passover, as that is when the Crucifixion is said to have taken place. In 325 the Council of Nicea decided on a more precise method of calculation, which in essence combined the two primary methods that were currently in practice at that time – calculating it based on moon phases and having a specific set date. From that point forward, the date of Easter would be on a day following the first full moon, after the Spring Equinox, though it took quite a bit longer for the particular day (Sunday) to be solidified across all communities.

What is important to note, is that although there have been references made to Easter being associated with the Goddess Eostre (primarily due to Bede’s work), it is likely that this may have been an error on his part, or at least not something that had any basis in provable fact. While details are rather sketchy on her existence, it is entirely possible that she was simply associated with the dawn, and new beginnings, rather than Spring itself. Also, historically “Eostre-month” was a month long celebration, rather than any one particular day.

I also find it interesting that in almost all other languages, the term for this particular holiday is Pasha/Paschal (in reference to the Jewish Passover) – even the full moon after the equinox is called the Paschal Moon. So it is only in the English language that there is even any association made to the term Eostre.  All of which makes the argument that Easter is an ancient “spring festival” that has been stolen by “teh ebil Xtians”, a less likely version of what really happened.

additional resource – The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton