Saying the “P” Word


Not too long ago, in the context of a charitable association I have through the coven that I co-lead, I was invited to a “thank- you” cocktail party.  The experience inspired some bizarre behavior on my part. Let me explain.

Many witches and  polytheists these days have an uncomfortable relationship with what is commonly called amongst many of us “the broom closet”.   We are sometimes uncomfortable discussing our membership in a non-mainstream faith, despite all this “fastest growing religion”  stuff we all keep quoting amongst ourselves (I keep hearing that phrase, but no one seems able to prove it very well, because the US census, as I understand it, does not keep religion data, or does not publish it, and the other metrics seem contradictory as to exactly how many or even how best to calculate this data…)

At any rate, despite the fact that I long ago firmly extricated myself and  closed the door on that dusty closet and am open to family, friends, and even work colleagues, I sometimes feel the need to shield myself.

Which brings me back to the cocktail party. I was invited because our group regularly makes in-kind donations to this charity, something  started by my first HPS. I left our info last year, so they contacted me, and so I went.

It was swell. Open bar, delectable snacks, and folks from across the do-gooder spectrum-postal workers, members of a Shul, (delightful couple) and teachers.  This was my first such thank you event.

In  retrospect, I was an idiot.

Some of the conversations I had went more or less like this:

ME: Hi, Nice to meet you. What group are you from? How did you find (charity x) (I am working on my shyness. So proud of myself here!

THEM: I am from (insert perfectly mundane group here. Local “Association of  Florists”.  Teachers. Postal workers.) We do an in-kind drive every year- we collect toys, clothing.

ME: That’s great. So does my group, but ours if very modest. (Biting in to tiny sliver of pizza, taking swig of vodka.)

THEM: What kind of group is that?

ME: Well… we kind of do… like… meditation…. folklore… mythology

THEM: Really? Like what?

ME: Oh, it’s just a group that hugs trees, meditates, does stuff..and I try to remind them to give back and all…

THEM: Oh. That’s nice. What is it called? What do you mean- hug trees??

ME: Ummm… how about those Mets? (grabbing waiter for another snack)

I don’t know why, suddenly confronted with this situation, I felt the need to hide it and mumble and otherwise bury the “P” word.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that non-profit work is within my future career spectrum, and I didn’t want any raised eyebrows to go up in any kind of circle or circumstance where people with even an indirect and remote chance of impacting  my  future earning capacity are present.

But then, in retrospect, it occurred to me that they had the name of my group  already in their files–though only my personal name was on the name tag they gave me for the reception–they had invited me with an envelope that had our group’s name on it (although spelled incorrectly) and why should I be ashamed of what I believe?

After all- wasn’t it those very beliefs that motivated me to organize our modest little in-kind donation in the first place?

I think so.

And isn’t my  name already all over the internet next to words that scream PAGAN if you truly wanted to search for it?

And even if it did impact my future career, would I want to work for an organization that subtly, and against the law, I might add, refused to hire me or promote me or otherwise utilize my skills because of my religious beliefs- when they should focus on my  suitability for the job, and be rejecting me or accepting me on that basis alone? Even if I was desperate for a job and truly needed one right this second?

I realize that with my mouth and gregarious personality and enthusiasm for spirituality- not just my own but my curiosity  about others as well-I should probably be more judicious about bringing up faith in conversation. “Religion is nobody’s business!” a fellow seeker on my path told me recently. And I suppose they are right- for them. And I mean no disrespect and try to respect other people’s wishes, even if they are contrary to what I would wish for myself.

But I have to admit- I find it hard sometimes to know what to do.  To me, it seems like the only way we can start living in peace and not drive ourselves crazily unhappy in the process- is to begin to deconstruct and cease the behavior that communicates that there is something wrong about being who we are, and to shield myself from you, I not am going to say what I am.  Aside from the fact that it may be insulting to the listener–why should I presume they will denounce me?– how could we have  begun discussing the notion of same-sex marriage as a nation if no one had avowed their identity back when the modern gay rights movement began? Seems to me that movement would have gone nowhere- instead of into the national consciousness and our state and federal legislatures.

I am not saying that this is the right stance in all times and places- of course, it is not. I am lucky- I live and work in a liberal milieu, for the most part. But for me, this is what works.

I won’t hide the P word again, but I won’t club you with it either. I Promise- with your Permission.

Regards and welcome to my blog.


1 thought on “Saying the “P” Word”

  1. Nice reflections, Valerie. IMNSHO, the very best PR Pagans can do is just be who they are (out) in normal social situations. Not to make a big deal of it, but to speak of our religion(s) if it comes up or when asked, as in your case, just say your group is a coven, or a circle, or a small worship group, or something like that if coven is too provocative a word.

    Be prepared for lots of questions, tho. You need to be ready to answer stuff about Paganism (or Craft) in general, or else be clear that you’re only answering for yourself and/or your group.

    I know the syndrome of which you speak. When you answer candidly, sometimes others become ill at ease, but with your gracious manner you can usually allay their concerns. Or you can guide the conversation to another topic.

    If the subject of your particular religion comes up, you can always speak of it in terms of the environment, Nature, conservation, etc.

    Hope you’re keeping warm and cozy. We actually had snow on the nearby mountains this week, something that happens once or twice every few years. Brrr!

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