Public Awareness in Wicca

Coming out of the “broom closet”

When to let your friends and family know you are Wiccan, and how to let them know depends on many factors. Its going to be different for everyone. Some people feel they can never let anyone know, and others are completely “out of the broom closet” doing public rituals, writing books or being interviewed on television.

Many new students of Wicca are so excited about their new-found path that they want to rush out and tell the world. This is usually not a good idea. There is also the temptation to wear a pentacle right away. This is also something that needs some thought. Something you need to consider before telling anyone is that regardless of their reaction - whether its good, bad or indifferent, they are likely to ask you questions about your beliefs and will definitely ask you what that pentacle around your neck means. You need to be ready to calmly and clearly answer any and all questions which are asked. Depending on how much you study it could take six months or more before you are ready to answer the most frequently asked questions. Studying our “What is Wicca?” page and our “Frequently Asked Questions” page will give you an idea of what your friends, family and complete strangers are liable to ask you if you advertise the fact that you are Wicca by wearing a pentacle. Many who are new to Wicca and those who choose not to be public wear a pentacle but keep it hidden under their shirt. Wearing a pentacle is not a requirement, but it tends to give a sense of connection to the Earth, to the god and goddess, and to other Wiccans.

While in the United States and many other countries there are laws against religious discrimination Wiccans still may face being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes or losing their children in custody battles merely for being Wiccan. None of this is fair, and with good legal help Wiccans do win lawsuits if they can prove discrimination. If you find yourself facing one of these problems there are organizations which may be able to help or advise you. See a list of Wiccan Education and Anti-Defamation groups or (Covenant of the Goddess) The best course of action, however, is to avoid confrontations whenever possible. Rarely will an employer or landlord admit religious discrimination. They will come up every other excuse imaginable. The best defense is clean living. If you live by the Wiccan Rede (An it harm none, do what you will) then it is assumed that you are acting in your everyday life as a kind, considerate and honest person. It will be difficult for anyone to find any “evidence” against you when you act and live according to the tenets of Wicca.

If you feel ready to let some of your closest friends or family know that you are studying Wicca we suggest printing out a copy of our, “What is Wicca?” page to give them during your discussion. It was written for just that purpose and will help dispel many myths they have have heard. Most people are understanding and happy to be educated. Others - especially those from fundamentalist religions will not be reassured no matter what you tell them. Their religious beliefs tell them that anything to do with witchcraft is evil (of the devil) and they will not believe anything you say. Its better to save your breath and stay away from the topic of religion if you have regular contact with people of fundamentalist beliefs.

Some of the best “coming out of the broom closet” stories we have heard have come about naturally. Generally people studying Wicca find themselves becoming happier and more at peace. This shows, and sooner or later someone is going to ask, “What's new in your life - you look so happy?” You will still need to decide if this is a person you are ready to talk to about your new path. You may, however, want to avoid use of the word “witch” when describing your path, at least a first.

If you are confronted by a friend warning that you will, “burn in hell” for following Wicca, just thank them for their concern and change the subject. If they persist just firmly and politely tell them that you choose not to discuss your religion with anyone who feels that way.

Regardless of how open you decide to be, do not forget that you will be representing all of Wicca to the outside world. You may be the only Wiccan someone has ever met. Unfairly or not, they will judge Wicca by what they see and hear from you. If you decide to put Wiccan bumper stickers on your car make sure you are a polite driver. Refrain from making rude “hand signals”. Practice your deep breathing and relaxation techniques when someone cuts you off in traffic instead of letting them upset you.

While there is no “dress code” for Wicca we hope that you will use common sense. We once had a young lady complain to us that she had been suspended from school for wearing a pentacle. We found out that the truth was something different. She was also wearing black fishnet stockings, an extremely short black skirt, and a top which showed her midriff. You do not have to dress like the “witches” in movies to be a witch. These clothes were against the school's dress code and she was suspended for this reason - not the pentacle.

Your school or work place can not deny you the right to wear religious jewelry if they allow the jewelry of other religions to be worn. If you are asked to remove your pentacle respond calmly and quietly. Most employers or school administrators who ask this have simply have not realized it is a religious symbol just as the cross is for Christians or the Star of David is for Jewish people. Their response may be to ask people of all religions not to wear their jewelry which is at least fair to all.

Some Wiccans wonder if they are being “dishonest” when the hide their religion from some friends or family members. We believe that only you can know when it is good to reveal your beliefs and when it makes more sense to keep that part of your life private. For example: if your 85 year old Christian grandmother would have a heart-attack if she knew - then don't tell her! While it is good for the pagan community in general for the public to see how many of us there are we still need to focus on personal safety first. So - come out of the broom closet if you can, but if you feel it isn't time to do so do let anyone intimidate you into doing it. And never, never “out” another Wiccan.

Talking with the media

If you decide to come out of the broom closet, sooner or later you may be asked for an interview by a newspaper, radio or television reporter or columnist. If you do not feel you are ready for that refer them to someone with experience in dealing with the media, or at least someone with more experience in Wicca. There are some things you can do now to prepare for possible interviews in the future.

Get to know the writing styles and personalities of your local reporters and columnists. Be especially sure to read the religious column in your local newspapers. This usually appears on Saturday but may appear on Sunday in some papers. What you are looking for is whether they reporters are fair and objective or whether they seem to slant all stories in a particular direction. Be sure to read any interviews with people of non-mainstream religions to see if the writer handles them fairly. If a writer/reporter whom you do not trust asks to interview you feel free to say you are willing to do an interview but only if you get to talk with so-and-so (the writer/reporter you have found through your research to be fair).

Reporters have a habit of describing Wiccans as, “self-proclaimed witches”. If this phrase bothers you (and it probably does) then make it clear before you begin the interview that you do not want that phrase used. They may try to tell you that their editor requires it because they do not want a defamation lawsuit. Assure them that you willingly call yourself a witch (if this is the case) so you are not going to sue them if they call you one as well. Refuse to do the interview if they do not respect your wishes on this or any other issue that is important to you.

If you decide to grant an interview which includes photographs or video remember again that you are representing all of Wicca. If you are preparing for a ritual it would be natural to be wearing a ritual robe, but otherwise try to appear as “normal” as possible. Even if you usually dress if a very unusual way you may want to tone it down a little so those who see you will not be distracted by the clothes or jewelry. Think about Tammy Faye Baker, the Christian television personality - does anyone ever notice what she says? Probably not - her hair and makeup are too distracting.

The most popular time for the media to look for witches to interview is, of course, Samhain. If you feel qualified to give interviews you may want to contact your local newspaper's religion columnist about a month ahead of time to let them know you are available if they want a witches point of view on Halloween. They may not know how to find any Wiccans and they may do a story from a purely Christian point of view. That is what we want to avoid. If you can offer to do another interview around Yule or at another time of the year so that the public does not associate witchcraft and Wicca solely with Halloween. You could offer to talk about Handfasting ceremonies for the Wedding supplement that many newspapers publish around June.

It is considered very bad taste in Wicca to allow an actual ritual to be photographed, videotaped or filmed. We sometimes see people standing or dancing in a circle in a documentary on Wicca which is ok, but it is never in good taste to film the invocation of gods or someone's initiation or other significant rituals or parts of rituals.

Whenever you talk to the media (or anyone) about the craft be sure to make it clear that you are speaking from your own perspective and that you do not speak for all of Wicca. It is important for people to understand that Wicca is practiced in a variety of ways. If you do not know the answer to a question be honest and offer to research it and get back to the interviewer.

Advertising your classes or coven

If you are thinking about holding classes on Wicca or you are open to taking new students into your coven, there are some procedures you can use that will help ensure your safety and limit the amount of time spent on people who may not be right for the class you are offering or the group you run. Some of our suggestions may seem overly cautious, but unfortunately we still sometimes experience discrimination from those who do not understand the path of Wicca.

Where to hold classes

Many metaphysical book stores have classroom space and will be willing to rent it to your or perhaps even provide it at no cost. Public libraries usually have rooms which non profit organizations can use at not cost for public meetings. Space may also be available for rent at community centers. We do not recommend holding classes in your home unless you already have experience teaching and know the people you will be inviting into your home.

How to advertise

If you do not have your own store location then you will probably want to get a post-office box for mail. Never advertise your home address. You may also want to get a separate phone line with voice-mail or an answering machine for inquiries about your classes.

If you will be holding your classes in a public place you may be able to post a flyer about the classes. You may also consider posting flyers in any metaphysical store or health-food store in your area. We have found that these are places most likely to be frequented by potential Wicca students. Be sure to include the dates and times of the classes and an address (p.o. box) and/or telephone number they can call for further information. You do not need to include an exact address on this flyer. We usually do not do that for safety reasons. You want to be able to screen potential students over the telephone before you let them know where the classes will be held. Some people are out of the broom closet, but use a different name for public Wicca-related activities. You will know best whether this is something you should do in your community.

You may also want to consider running an ad in the classified section of your local newspapers. One we had good luck with was worded simply: “Love the Earth? Wicca classes, call xxxxxxx”. Most classified newspapers sections have a variety of topic headings including one for religious ads and one for classes or instruction. Most towns also have one or more free magazines which specialize in metaphysical advertisements. You can find these in metaphysical and health-food stores. They are another good place to advertise classes. You may also be able to run an ad in your local newspaper's Saturday church section where all types of religious organizations and meetings are advertised. You may find some newspapers will refuse to run your ad. Since they are privately owned they do have that right as unfair as it seems. Advertising on an appropriate radio station is another option, but may be costly.

For more permanent advertising of your group or on-going classes you can consider having a phone number listed in your local telephone directly under “religious organizations”. Your coven may also be able to join the Chamber of Commerce in your town, and there may be other religious groups to which all local clergy belong. Whether you, as a Wiccan, will be welcome to join these organizations will vary from town to town. We have found that Wicca is most often accepted in towns or cities near large Universities.

Some covens have “adopted” stretches of roads or highways in their community's “adopt a road” program. In exchange for getting together and cleaning up litter along the side of the road once or twice a month the community puts up a sign with the name of your group on it along “your” stretch of road.

Screening students

If you are just conducting a one-time class such as “Introduction to Wicca”, and it is meant to be an overview which does not necessarily lead to more advanced classes then screen students does not need to be as intensive as it would for the more advanced classes. You may want to open introductory classes up to the merely curious non-pagan who is honestly seeking to understand what Wicca is but not to necessarily become Wiccan. You may ask them to sign a form when the register for the class that says they understand and agree that the classes are open to those who come with open-minds and good intentions.

If your classes are to introduce your circle or coven to new students then you may want to do some serious screening. We recommend first a telephone interview and then meeting with the potential student in person. We include a suggested questionnaire on this website. Some of the questions can be asked during the initial phone interview. At that time it is a good idea to find out which books on Wicca, if any, the student has already read. If they have not read any good, basic books on Wicca then give them a title (one we usually recommend as a first book is, “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” by Scott Cunningam) and ask that they get it as soon as possible and to call you as soon as they really get into the book. If they call you back in the next day or two that will be a good indication of their enthusiasm. If a week or two goes by before they call back and you are unsure as to their enthusiasm or unsure if they are seeking classes for the right reasons then you may try assigning a book such as “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler. That book is known to weed out the merely curious or those who want only “power” and magic. We require all potential students for coven-oriented classes to read at least one entire book (such as Cunningham's) before the first class begins.

When the student has finished reading the book make arrangements to meet with them in a public place such as a restaurant. We usually choose a fast-food restaurant since it won't put a strain on anyone's budget and you can usually sit for an hour or more just sipping coffee and talking without the management getting annoyed. First talk about yourself, your background and about the classes you teach. Ask the potential student if they have any questions. This will help put them at ease before you start asking them questions. Be sure to cover all of the questions contained in our suggested questionnaire. We leave it up to you to decide what answers to the questionnaire are acceptable for your group or classes. You will find that you will be evaluating the student not only on their answers to the questions but their reactions to the questions as well. At the end of the meeting promise that you will let them know in the next day or two whether you feel your classes or group will be right for them. If you decide for whatever reason that this person will not fit into your classes or group then let them know that you feel you are not the right teacher for them and offer some suggestions of where else they might look for classes or teachers. It is important that they understand they are not being rejected as people but that not every teacher is right for every student.

If you have decided that you would like to work with this student then let them know when and where the classes will be. You do not need to reveal the location until this point. We also hold a “getting to know each other” get-together before the first class begins so the students have a chance to meet each other and decide if they still want to go through the classes. At this get-together we have everyone introduce themselves and talk about their religious background and state why they are taking the classes.



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