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Are you a “small-town Pagan”?

This post was written by Elysia
on March 24, 2010 | Comments (14)
photo by Johnny Jupiter Photo

photo by Johnny Jupiter Photo

I am anxiously awaiting a new manuscript from an author of mine, Bronwen Forbes, who has promised to mail it in next week. It’s about the challenges of being a Pagan, Wiccan or Witch living in a small town. For the purposes of the book, Bronwen says that whatever you consider a small town is a small town, whether that’s population 400 or population 22,000 or population 150,000 – the point is that to you, it feels small. Same thing for Pagan – if you consider yourself a Pagan, of any stripe, then you are one for the purposes of this book.

In the book she shares perspectives from many small-town Pagans on a wide variety of topics which frustrate them – for example, not having a metaphysical shop in town for candles, crystals, herbs and books. Or everyone knowing each other’s business, and the gossip that neighbors spread about anyone who’s a little bit different. Or not being in a large enough community to join or create a coven, let alone participate in large public rituals which so many of us take for granted.

 

Photo by sylvester75117

Photo by sylvester75117

There are also differences of point of view based on the person’s origin. If they’ve lived in a small town their entire life, they might feel they’re missing out on valuable training, experience and community. If they’ve transplanted to a smaller town from a bigger city because of work or quality of life issues, they may have a romantic and overly liberal idea of how the locals will welcome them, or may miss their former anonymity.

Are you a small-town Pagan? What has been the hardest aspect of it for you? What do you miss or wish for the most? Are your neighbors supportive, combative, or do you feel you need to stay in the broom closet? Let’s hear your voices! Check back later in the week for an interview with the author.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Shannon
on March 24th, 2010 @ 10:37 am

I live just outside of Greenville, SC. I am soooooo in the broom closet. I’ve lived in a few places and I’ve never lived anywhere so backward and close minded. It’s a real shame, too, because it’s a beautiful area and on the surface, the people are very nice. But I don’t go to church and I (by choice) don’t have children so I am left out of 97% of social groups around here.

I also work with kids. In this area, I would fear for my job if I was out and outspoken about it. Going on past cases in this area I would also fear for the life of my pets (black cat and black dog). I don’t feel this is over re-acting, I’ve seen how close minded people around here are.

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#2 
Written By Trenda
on March 24th, 2010 @ 10:40 am

Oh, my! This is exactly what’s been on my heart for ages. I worry I’ll always be in the broom closet! I live in a town of approximately 3,400 people…in the deep South. I was raised in the Christian faith and played the part quite well, if I do say so myself. Still do. Shhh! Don’t tell the relatives or the neighbors, but I love Tarot and have been studying Wicca for months. I feel an affinity for Wicca, which I never felt for Christianity. It is such an emotional burden to believe differently than the majority and to not be able to share my Truth with those who are near and dear to me. I look forward to the interview with Bronwen Forbes and will certainly buy the book when it is released. Thank you for addressing this topic.

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#3 
Written By Linda
on March 24th, 2010 @ 10:45 am

I live in a small town with a population of about 600. I haven’t had any trouble with non-supportive neighbors. They’re genuinely interested in some of the things I do and make. I’ve actually had the same experience in all the small towns where I’ve lived. Me being a pagan is no problem at all.

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#4 
Written By Eric
on March 24th, 2010 @ 10:55 am

I went from a “big town” Pagan to a “small town” Pagan after i had to move due to the economy a little over a year ago. I would have to say the hardest part for me is finding other Pagans to connect with, the closest metaphysical shop is about an hour away. The up side to this? Everyone seems more accepting here of my path than they did in the bigger town, even though some didn’t even know what a Pagan was! I would have to say my transition went about 50/50. Granted I miss my friends back in the bigger city, but I am slowly (very slowly) finding them around here.

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#5 
Written By Cathy
on March 24th, 2010 @ 11:15 am

I prefer to keep my interactions with society, in general, to a minimum. I have a close circle of friends (who are also Pagan). My husband and I are fortunate to have many acquaintances/friends to spend time with at Four Quarters Farm, an Interfaith Sanctuary about 45 minutes from home. I would love to live in a more tolerant world where I might express myself freely to anyone I meet, but that just isn’t the case.

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#6 
Written By kathy
on March 24th, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

I live in a area of less than 1500. I am in the broom closet to most. My sons and their families know. I do have pagan friends and attend rituals with them. We are a small group and we do know of others that live further away. Tolerance of paganism is very minimal in this community and also where I work. Only one person knows and he also agrees if it got out I am pagan/witch the others would not tolerate me at all. To each his own. I am satified with my spirituality and tend to be a loner. Though I would one day like to be in a area where I do not have to hide my belief and have others to share it with.

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#7 
Written By Deborah Blake
on March 24th, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

What a great idea for a book! I touched on this a bit in my last book, The Goddess is in the Details, but there is so much more to say. Looking forward to reading it.

I live in a small, rural town in Upstate NY (about 10,000). We have 2 colleges here, so people are more open-minded than you might expect, but it can still be tough.

The only Pagan shop in town closed years ago (the owner moved away), so I have to buy everything online. When the group I belonged to for years no longer suited me, I had to start my own in order to have one that did. And I am constantly having to turn away (perfectly nice) folks who are looking to join Blue Moon Circle, because we want to stay small.

And since there is no longer anyone in the area who puts on big rituals, I only get to go to something large if I am willing to travel.

On the other hand, I am out of the broomcloset (hard not to be when you’ve written 5 books on the subject) and have really not run into any problems with acceptance. And I love the area where I live, so it is worth dealing with all the rest.

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#8 
Written By Elysia
on March 24th, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

Thank you all for your comments! If anyone has any questions they’d like me to ask Bronwen for her blog interview, please post them and I will add them to the list!

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#9 
Written By AarTiana
on March 25th, 2010 @ 1:42 am

I have to thank Bronwen (from her LJ entry) for giving me the link to this post, great! For the most part, I would say I fit in this category. I lived in San Diego most of my life (and for a small amount of time in the Raleigh, NC area) before moving to Western Montana, the place of my origins and ancestry (at least on my mom’s side). I would say it is about 10,000 or so here, and even if many are from out-of-state, most are not “aligned” with me. The words “fundy” and even “redneck” often entered my head, and most of the time, these were more than fair assessments. Even the ones from cities were often mundanes at best.

I wanted to teach astrology at the high school’s adult program, when I learned that the guy running it was Mormon – and there are a lot of those around here. Then, I find out he is also the school counselor, and I really hoped I hadn’t jeopardized my children who were pretty much high school age at the time – so, I didn’t “advertise” a lot, thinking I didn’t want to endanger them further. I decided to work for awhile for one of the psychic/astrologer phone services, only to discover their goal was more about money than ethics – so I quit.

I also got tired of general dirty looks from people nearly everywhere I went, and I do not look or dress weird at all – I believe they just do that to everyone to intimidate them for unknown reasons. A couple times, I stared back and nearly made them fall over – and once, a whole group of old men were staring at me and I just lost it and yelled at them – I think all of them filled their Depends that day!

I became an Herbalist, thinking that was “safer” than Astrology. After spreading flyers about the Herbalism only (along with me being 3rd generation to build trust), I discover someone who felt threatened threw away all my flyers and business cards – guess it was another who didn’t want the (imagined) “competition.”

I found a small handful of people who are cool spiritually, but our lives get busy. Everything around here closes early, so there is nowhere really cool to hang out – as the only things open at night are smoke-filled bars, and smoke-filled casinos with drunk gamblers. I run a very different spiritual path on the internet too, since no one is local here that is genuinely interested.

However, as of late, I have noticed some energies “loosening” here, as I and others who are called have been doing a lot of healing work on the land here (in our own inspired methods), to help erase the rigid belief systems and the poverty consciousness so prevalent here. I have been meeting more people lately, getting more local clients (most of mine are still in CA though), and there is even a small pagan store here, which is pretty amazing in itself.

My daughter being a teenager had a bit of trouble some time ago (a story of which I told Sharon at Llewellyn), but now – we are a safe haven for teens of all kinds to explore these things, all while respecting their parents – of which many are flexible to begin with, I had discovered. The ones who weren’t I make sure these teens followed their parents’ rules, since I would want my teen to follow my rules. We have never had a problem this way, and in fact I have even been able to sway many kids away from rebellious behaviors that were unhealthy (i.e. underage drinking, illegal drugs, etcetera).

The advantages of living here are starting to outweigh the disadvantages now. There is virtually no crime here, the cost of living isn’t bad, and we rent a house in which we control the yard – so it is organic with LOTS of weeds – I mean medicine and food! And our garden will be great this year – something I could never do when living in an apartment with chemical landscaping everywhere. The stars are incredibly visible as well, especially if it is a clear cold night – and while I do not like the cold, the sight of that is so gorgeous (and I can tolerate a few minutes to see something that awesome!)

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#10 
Written By Losgann
on March 25th, 2010 @ 11:25 am

This publication is too long in coming out.
I can identify with it completely.
I come from a semi-small Southern town; everyone knows my family, it’s impossible to not be be recognized no matter where I go, or what I do.
No matter if I don’t personally know a person, THEY know who I am….
I have, over the last few years, begun to wonder seriously, though, if it is possible to hide being a witch, or Pagan, due to quite a few “odd” experiences:
People have started (point-blank) asking me if I’m a witch, sometimes in a not-so-joking manner; one time, walking a couple of blocks up the street from work to a deli, a woman with a little girl meeting me looked up at me and stopped in the street, grabbed the childs hand, and gave me a wide berth.
I know what you r’e thinking – NO, I do NOT dress in an “alternative” fashion, nor do I have any unusual habits of make up or hairstyles – well, not THAT unusual! lol….
I do tend to wear heels, and my hairstyle is pseudo 1950′s lady…..
But I am dripping in black vinyl, safety pins, and piercings, either.
I have begun to wonder, frankly, if being a witch is something one can conceal, like being homosexual, or chinese, perhaps? I have no predudice against either, nor am I indicating anything wrong with either. I am simply speculating that, in these cases, most of the time, being a witch is something almost physically apparent, for some of us.
I am quite well aware that it is possible to conceal ones’ sexual preference, or ethnicity, or “witchiness”; but in some cases, is it not possible that it is impossible to hide?
Some thoughts to ponder….
Losgann

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#11 
Written By Melissa
on March 27th, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

I totally identify with this. I live in a very small town, a rural “bed room” community, and I think we may be the only family that does not belong to one of the churches here. My husband is not Pagan, and for the most part I’m in the broom closet. Last year my daughter’s friend’s family (they were in 1st grade)decided they no longer liked our family, stopped making play dates and even stopped saying hi to us in public simply because we don’t go to church! I can’t imagine how these people would treat us (and our kids!) if they knew I was a pagan. I don’t even know how to find like minded others in my area, and the feeling of isolation can be stifling. Even my husband, who is a Christian oriented agnostic, has been made to feel uncomfortable with our lack of church affiliation.

In response to Losgann: I completely understand that “You’re a Witch” look they give you. I’m a jeans and t-shirt style soccer mom with a blue collar job, and I have always gotten that look from people, even as a child. I don’t wear any pagan jewelry, but on occasion I’ll encounter someone wearing a pentacle (the UPS guy that delivers to my work for example) and I get an extra warm smile or a wink.
Due to our mixed faith family and the small town thing, we haven’t addressed the issue of specific faiths with our kids, we give general spiritual guidance without labels. This week we visited a gift shop with funny signs. My youngest (7) pointed out one she found silly, and I casually remarked I think the one next to it was funny too (“Parking for Witches Only, All Others Will Be Toad”). She said we should buy it, I said “Oh really?” and she took my hand and looked me in the eye and said “That’s right, mommy, cuz you and me are witches. Daddy and sissy, not so much.”
I think we just resonate on some level, and some people, pagan or otherwise, pick up on it.

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#12 
Written By Huntress13
on March 28th, 2010 @ 2:17 am

I live in a very small, fortunately I live 12 miles SE of the main town, where….yes they know what size panties you wear!!! I miss sharing my ideas and someone else to either teach me new skills or me introduce the spirituality of the earth religion known as Paganism! THE FIRST RELIGION, if it must have a name for those who can not under the simplicity of the earth and what she can give us…can’t wait for the book to be release so I can add it to my studies of how to deal with being a small town Pagan…..PAGAN AND PROUD OF IT!!!!
Blessed Be

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#13 
Written By The Seeker
on April 3rd, 2010 @ 9:50 pm

You think living in a small town and being pagan is difficult try being a pagan on an Indian reservation. I work on a reservation in South Dakota as a teacher. Natives look at pagans as if we were the devil. They have been indocrinated by the Christian church and some have been endowed with a great deal of suspicion of the pagan ways. About five years ago my school board was ready to burn me for my beliefs, because of the rumors that were floating around about me being pagan. And in South Dakota you can be fired for your spiritual belief, even if you are not preaching it.
Plus those Natives who are traditional look at pagans as Native wannabees or as some kind of kook who is into the wierd stuff. It’s taken me a long time to be taken seriously by my traditional friends, they are still looking for holes in my way of living. I origianlly thought that the Natives would be a natural ally to the pagan world but I learned quickly that that was not true. Don’t get me wrong I love my Native friends and they now respect my way of life because I live my beliefs but it took time and giving them time for them to get to know me.

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