Tag Archives: broom closet

I is for Identity

Queer: this identity comes to mind very quickly, since I use it very often when describing myself. I am very fortunate to have a (mostly) queer-friendly family, supportive friends, general internet wonderfulness, etc. Since my partner is male and I’m ostensibly female (though really my gender is a big ball of wibbly-wobbly gendery stuff that I haven’t quite worked out yet) I can keep this bit of my identity hidden, though I often feel safe enough not to. I am queer.

Hufflepuff: Yeah. ❤ Hufflepuffs are loyal, patient, hard-working and value fair play. I still maintain that this is a superb thing to aim to be in your life, and I am a proud Hufflepuff.

Pagan: I’m feeling more confident and certain in my identity as a pagan. I’m bringing my faith and my religion into my daily life, into my actions towards others, into my decisions as to my behaviour. I’m becoming the person I want to be. When I’m at work I sing songs to Brigid; I watch birds out of the window; I chat with customers and try to learn about their lives and make their days a little better. I mean, I’m pretty sure I was trying to do this before – to be a good person, be kind, be nice – but this is more driven, more urgent, more determined. I’ve made it a necessary core facet of my being, so I must do my absolute best to be good, kind, compassionate, etc. (Whilst at the same time being compassionate to myself when I struggle or fail!)

I fail at kindness so often. I speak defensively, sarcastically; I realise too late how my words sounded harsh, cruel, rude or unpleasant. I have an anxiety disorder, and consequently suffer with low self esteem, which can make me defensive. I have begun taking steps to work against these negative cycles of behaviour. I apologise, rephrase, clarify, state my actual intents.

On the other hand, I am a human being. I am allowed to mess up, to say the wrong thing, to not be polite every time I interact with someone else. It can just be something to strive for, not something to chastise myself for if I get it wrong. Compassion for myself and for others is key.

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I’m trying out being out, seeing what it’s like when people know about my faith. It’s scary being yourself, being vulnerable and out in that respect. I’m gently trying it out on FB, mentioning it to a few family members, seeing if I can handle being open about my beliefs and my religion. I was an atheist for so many years, and most people knew me as an atheist, so it might lead to conversations which I’m not sure how to have. I don’t even know the answers to some of those questions, let alone how to phrase them to other people. I’m not sure how to react if people laugh at [my] faith when it’s people I care about or people I love. It’s one reason I’ve been so gradual and hesitant about coming out, because I don’t want to lose people or have them lose respect for me.

There’s the argument that I shouldn’t have to hide who I am and what I believe, which is nice and ideological but not entirely practical. Then there’s the other side of the argument, that faith is (or at least can be) entirely private. I guess I will carve out some middle ground for myself: something that feels comfortable.

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E is for Employment

I’m fortunate enough to have just got a job working in a beautiful historic property run by English Heritage. I work in idyllic surroundings: nature-filled woodland, panoramic vistas, at least two giant oak trees I’ve discovered so far, and the thousand-year-old property itself. I think it will be very easy to be spiritual at work, and to get spiritual fulfilment from my work, which I haven’t found in previous jobs.

One thing I find crucial about employment, and life in general, is that I must feel I am helping others and somehow making the world a bit of a better place. It can be hard sometimes, especially in retail, to get that kind of fulfilment and enjoyment when you might not believe in the things you’re selling or might spend entire shifts under florescent lighting. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people who seemed really passionate and enthusiastic about their work, the company’s conservation and heritage work, and I think the environment is no small part of that.

On a personal note, I was really pleased to be able to come out to a couple of people as Pagan during my training, which is something I’ve previously struggled with. I would eventually like to be able to speak openly and joyfully about my faith, so this was a good first step.

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B is for Broom Closet

It takes me a while to realise things that may have been obvious to others.

So, for instance, when I was in primary school and couldn’t stop staring at a girl in my class – I didn’t know quite what to make of those feelings. And when I was a teenager, and there was that girl with the name of a flower, whose very presence made me giddy, and I still called myself straight. And then when I was seventeen, I was walking up some stairs and idly glancing at the bottom of the woman in front of me and I realised I might not just fancy men.

I thought to myself, “Ohhh, that’s why I fancy women – I’m bisexual!” (A few weeks later amended to pansexual, and a few years later to queer.) I finally realised that my feelings had a name, had a place, had a community, etc. But it took me a while to get there.

Faith

I was brought up atheist, by former Christians. I was – probably unintentionally – made to believe that those with faith were at best ‘silly’, and at worst ‘delusional’. So, in 2009, when faith metaphorically smacked me round the head and went “HI THERE” I didn’t quite know what to do with it. I didn’t know what my beliefs were; I didn’t know how to feel; I was quite worried it was a side-effect of the medication I’d just started. I looked to the nearest thing I could find, which was the church in the village. I spent good few months with churches, with bibles, in groups, and finally in Friends Meetings. Collective, silent thinking was good, was helpful in some ways, but my social anxiety had the better of me. (And I had a Meeting where Some Dude was staring at me, and I had to leave because it made me so uncomfortable.)

I could best connect with my faith when outside, when in nature, and I couldn’t quite get the hang of monotheism. I sat in a church and felt nothing, but in the graveyard, among the trees, with the sun on my skin, listening to the birds? Oh, I could feel it there.

(But still, I failed to connect the dots!)

It took another good few months, reading verses from different religious texts and not connecting with it. I think I was still searching, and I stumbled on the wikipedia page on animism and realised that this was actually a thing I believed! It was something that I thought was so self-evidently true I didn’t realise it had a name. It was something I realised that I had always believed. And look, the animism page connects to a whole hub about paganism…

Somewhere in those weeks it clicked. I first called myself an animist (still am!), then gradually called myself a pagan, and I happily realised I am also a witch. I had discovered the broom closet, and found myself far inside! I haven’t told my family, not in so many ‘pagan animist witch’ words, but gently hinted that I simply love nature and animals. I have told my partner of three years, not least because he will notice when you set up an altar in your bedroom. (He asked if it was to summon Cthulu. Cheeky sod.) I’ve told online friends and discovered a few pagans and heathens, which has been both reassuring and joyful. Celebrate all the deities!

About a month ago one of my partner’s siblings asked me whether I was religious, and I paused in terror – the immediate fear of “Arg don’t tell people you’re religious! They’ll think you’re delusional!” ingrained by my atheist upbringing – and then explained I was. I said so with stumbling, self-effacing humour and deflecting behaviour, but I said it. I told someone. They didn’t cast me away! They just went, “Oh right” and then went about their life. (In my defence, I also have an anxiety disorder; I do tend to panic about things that do not seem scary to people without anxiety disorders.)

It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s business, but if someone asks I can tell them the truth. I am a pagan.

My name is Hare, and I’m a Pagan.

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