~ "How do I Tell People I'm Pagan?" ~
(c) 1999 Spirit Online, http://www.spiritonline.com. May not be reproduced without permission first.
One of the most difficult struggles for a pagan is telling your family and friends
about your beliefs. The majority of wiccans and pagans today practice their faith
in secrecy. But it's a great burden to keep such an important secret from those
close to you. Once you feel you are ready, how do you tell them? How will they react?
Well, knowing how people are likely to react before hand is the most important factor
in how you should handle "coming out" about your beliefs. There are three basic
levels of reactions. By understanding these, you should be able to estimate what
reaction you will get from whom. This chart will help you prepare to deal with these
various levels of reactions:
Level 1: Acceptance. This person will not discriminate against you or change their
opinion of you when you tell them about your faith. The level 1 person will probably
show an interest in understanding your beliefs. They will not try to change or judge
Level 2: Conflict. This person is more difficult. Their initial response will probably
be denial. ("This is just a stage, you'll get past it.") If you do not show signs
of "getting past it", they will attempt to persuade you to change your mind. They'll
do things like invite you to church, bring up religion often, give you pamphlets
relating to the religion they think you should belong to, or try to "witness" to
you. Parents will probably "forbid" you to practice paganism if you are a minor.
The best way to handle a level 2 response is to tell them about your beliefs. Try
to clear away the misconceptions and create an understanding. Let them ask you questions.
If it's a family member, make a compromise- for example, if they will listen to
your side and try to accept and show tolerance, you will join them for their holidays
and religious celebrations as a family. But let them know that if they care about
you, they won't try to change you.
Level 3: Persecution. The most difficult struggle is with a level 3 person. Generally,
they are very conservative and religiously zealous. Worst of all, they are probably
hugely misinformed about paganism. Their initial reaction, like level 2, will be
denial. They might just make jokes at your expense to try to degrade and weaken
you or change your mind. They will proceed to argue and debate with you about your
decision. Eventually, if they are not satisfied, some level of discrimination will
come in. Friends will avoid you, or family members will give you the "silent treatment"
to try to convince you to conform. Some might even do something extremely drastic.
Parents have been known to take their children to be exorcised of evil, or tell
them they are mentally ill and get them therapy. This is the extreme, but it has
A group of level 3 people can be dangerous. They might try to get you out of the
community (neighborhood or city) by scaring you. This is rare, but may occur in
conservative Christian communities.
How do you handle a level 3 reaction? The best idea is to avoid it altogether if
you can predict it and fear for your safety. If you are uncomfortable in your community,
move. If you are a minor and live with your parents, and they are likely to react
this way, you should wait until adulthood to "come out". Until you are an adult,
your parents dominate you. It is better to avoid persecution and tension within
the home if you can.
This article is not intended to scare you, but to prepare you. You should consider
and analyse those you wish to tell. Based on what they have said in the past, what
they think about certain social groups, and what they say about people who are "different"
than them, you can make an estimation of what level they might be. From there, build
a plan. Decide what you will say, and be ready to answer any questions they would
want to ask.
If you wish to publically "come out", realize that you will be dealing with people
from all three levels. Make sure you are really ready and feel you can trust the
community fairly well. Most of all, be prepared for any level of response!
I hope this has helped you to at least begin mapping out how you wish to tell others
about your spirituality. Remember that those who truly care about you will understand.
Give people awhile to adjust to the news, but don't let them bring you down. Be
proud of who you are, and let your gods give you strength. Good luck to you. Blessed