I often babble about how Paganism just is a natural part of my life, therefor I don’t had to show it off or do all those rituals others do. However some days I wonder whether this is more then an excuse for not having the balls for doing something that might be considered odd to the world. In fact it’s all about the broom closet again. Being a „kitchen witch“, as I am, with little need of magical supplies and tools whatsoever, hiding me being a Pagan is pretty simple. Like in if I never told my common-law-partner he possibly wouldn’t know by now. And of course the very same makes it pretty easy for my surroundings to accept me being Pagan: They just don’t have to deal with it. They don’t have to face any kind of issues that might be connected to me being Pagan.
But what was to happen if that ever changed? What would happen if I claimed my rights as a human being and as a Pagan. Namely the one of freakin’ acting as a Pagan. The one of not hiding my religion and my believes – even though, like many Pagans, I keep telling myself I am not hiding them but rather just not showing them off unnecessarily. What if I put „Pagan“ on that data sheet handed to me by my company? Writing „none“ for religion’s not quite the truth, isn’t it? Until recently I could still go with writing „roman catholic“, which – go ahead, blame me for it – is the religion I was brought up in after all. But now I am officially no longer roman catholic, no longer Christian, so now I’m in troubles. The registration office at the town hall made it pretty easy for me these days supplying an online featuring a drop-down menu of choices featuring „none/other“ next to mainly Christian confessions (actually Buddhism or Islam would have been „none/other“ too). So no problem there. But what about forms without a drop down list? What am I to put there?
Imagine every Pagan would just put „Pagan“ in any form of that kind handed to him. Total numbers of Pagans might come as a shock – to Pagans before all others. I’ve just recently read an estimate of numbers of Pagans in South Africa which featured about 45’000 – 50’000 individuals out of a 43’000’000 population – of which a majority is black and I assume, as the paper was talking about European paths, those Pagans would mostly be found among the 13’000’000 white South Africans therefor Pagan numbers among the white population might reach up to 0,4%. For the US there are reasonable estimates of up to 500’000 Pagans. As far as Europe goes I wouldn’t know about any estimates in numbers, but I’d guess percentages are considerably higher then in the US or South Africa – adding perhaps another couple of hundreds of thousand Pagans from Europe. Add other Caucasian-inhabited ares, such as Australia, New Zealand, Australia, other African states etc.
So all together – globally – the European traditions Pagan community might easily spread to more then a million individuals. Can you imagine that? A million Pagans? Imagine a million people worldwide would, all of a sudden, handle their Paganism as if they were Christian. Have you ever seen a Christian writing „none“ for a religion on a registration sheet? Even if he happened to live in a country which’s not mainly Christian? Most of the time Christians living in non-Christian surroundings tend to make quite an effort to show off they’re Christian. They’re different to the rest. Which is, by the by, one reason why they’re pretty easy a target to all kind of troubles, as opposed to the virtually invisible Pagan population. Why don’t Pagans do that too? Why don’t we write „Pagan“ in registration sheets and why don’t we wear our pentacles with our heads held high just like Christians wear their crosses? Why don’t we go out there and claim our freakin’ right of religious freedom? As in: Being able to marry the Pagan way. Being able to be buried the Pagan way on a non-Christian, a Pagan cemetery. Being able to celebrate our holidays out in the fields just as we used to, instead of hiding in the basement with a fake may pole. And freakin’ being able to educate our children the Pagan way without fear they might be subject to harassment or worse because they’re „odd“.
Common opinion has it in Europe you’d have all the freedom you need to do either of that and as for people knowing your religion it’s nobody’s business anyway. I’ll just ask the next Christian confronting me with that kind of an argumentation to hide during next Christmas. Preferably in a non-Christian country where there’ll be no Christmas decoration. No Christmas songs in the radio. No Christmas sale craze. No nothing that will remind them it’s Christmas. And, of course, no day off for Christmas.
I happened to live in Germany for last Beltaine. Not too far from Broken, actually, and of course I would have simply loved to seize that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the Beltaine celebrations there. To actually spend a Pagan holiday together with other Pagan people at a place my ancestors actually went to, instead of in my flat dreaming of what things could be like. What a pity our employer had no clue what I was up to and, just a few days prior to it, decided my partner was to work late shift on Beltaine night, which would have me have him home by about 10 pm. So what were we to do? Lift our heads, go to that boss and tell him I was Pagan and this was our freakin’ Christmas? The most important day of the year? A night like no other and he needed to change shifts just for that one night so we could get there in time for the celebrations? Could anyone out there actually imagine doing that?
Well, we couldn’t. So my partner went off to work and I spent the day at home, writing poetry and pitying myself. I couldn’t even bring myself to decorate the flat with some flowers or so. Do anything Beltainy. By the time he came home I was crying. And this was pretty much just how I spent most of my Beltaine night. My partner, of course, was the great guy he always is offering me to drive to the Broken in the middle of the night so I could get at least some hours of the celebrations but what use would there be arriving at a party that had already peaked? I rather stayed at home and cried some more. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I won’t be in Germany for next Beltaine anymore. In fact I likely won’t be on the Northern Hemisphere anymore, so given that my next Beltaine ‘s going to be a Samain, I’ve quite some time until the next Great Holiday to be spoilt.
„So what?“, you’ll likely say now, „has happened to anyone of us. Sure it’s sad, but that’s the way things go.“ Now imagine my little story would have been about Christmas. How many readers do you think would have shaken their heads in disbelief? How many would have been outraged? How could you possibly deny a young family the night of Christmas? How can you reason for a young woman crying at Christmas night? How many Pagans would have emphasized the same way with the unfortunate Christian woman caught alone at Christmas? In the end most of us are still first generation Pagans and have grown up in Christian families remembering Christmas celebrations very well. Could you imagine working late shift on Christmas without people even noticing it? Staying at home alone without as much as a family member dropping by making sure you’re all right?
But then, my little story’s about a Pagan woman, not a Christian one. And it’s about Beltaine, not Christmas. So most likely nobody’s ever to give a crap about it. People seriously still believe freedom of religion is when you’re not burnt for what you believe in.
Brave new world. Really.