Being open with your practice to friends and family isn’t everyone’s goal, but for some people, trying to hide is just too much, and they want to be open to the world, or at least to their loved ones. However, this isn’t always so easy to do.
Here are some tips and tricks for gradually introducing and explaining your practice to those who are closest to you, so you can begin to step out of the broom closet. Although these won’t work for everyone in every situation, use these suggestions as a place to start as you move towards sharing your practice with others.
Before you dive in
Before we start in with suggestions, I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that you never have to explain yourself and your practice to anyone. If the people close to you don’t “get it,” then that’s fine too. If you are not comfortable with giving more information, educating, or being open with your practice, then you do not have to be.
Do not let anyone tell you that you have to reveal your practices, that you have to be open and out. It is your practice, it is your life, and you get to decide what that means. Do not feel pressured to reveal your beliefs to anyone.
The advice contained in this article will be always be here for you when and if you’re ready.
Related: Secret witch: Magick when you’re stuck in the broom closet, by Donyae Coles
Figure out where they are
A lot of misunderstanding comes from people trying to discuss something from two drastically different starting points. If I jump into a conversation about advanced physic theories with all the jargon and assume a certain knowledge base, someone who only has a basic understanding of math and science simply isn’t going to follow that conversation. In much the same way, if you begin speaking from a place of heavy metaphysics, occultism, or religion, then you’re going to lose your audience.
So, before you dive into a full lecture, ask them what they already know. Chances are they have some misconceptions about your particular practice, and tend to rely on pretty general knowledge of the magick-sphere. Which is to say that unless they have some background, they probably just think you’re some version of Wiccan or a Vodou practitioner, especially if you’re practice happens to have a bit more “colour.”
This technique is an easy way to introduce and correct some common misconceptions that they may have about what you believe in. This is an entry point conversation. Don’t try to unload a full understanding of what you do and believe in this space, as it will be too overwhelming. This conversations should lay the groundwork and gently correct the ideas that they may have mistakenly applied to you without knowing better.
It is also a way to find out what they already know or understand. This knowledge can act as a foundation for greater understanding between you and your friends and family. For example, they may be familiar with Wicca because it is very common in the west. They may know about the worship of gods and the respect for nature. However, you may not be Wiccan, but the concept of ritual and worship of multiple god and goddesses can be a starting point from which you can explain your beliefs.
Don’t be surprised if your loved one says some radically misguided things. People just don’t know what they don’t know, and gentle correction will likely be the norm as they begin to understand more about your specific practice.
Related: Stepping out of the broom closet: Coming out as Wiccan or Pagan, by Psyche
Related: Wicca Demystified, reviewed by Psyche
Tell your story
We all came to the paths we follow in different ways. There are different reasons that we were attracted to this to begin with, and varied reasons as to why we chose the paths we did. Sharing your personal story with your loved one may help them better understand why you practice as you do.
Perhaps it is the community that embraced you, the connection to your own ancestors, or your innate power that fulfills you in a way that more common belief systems do not. Whatever the reasons, they are yours and sharing them may help bring others into greater understanding about what you believe and practice.
One of the biggest questions people have is a simple “Why?” More than anything else, they want to understand why you have chosen to go off the beaten path. Sharing your personal story can help to bring people into greater understanding and acceptance, as it then becomes about the person, and a set of beliefs that they don’t quite get.
Be open with the smaller things
Our practices can be intense and involve a lot of rituals and work, but there are likely many everyday acts that you perform without even thinking about it — especially if your practice is heavily tied into some aspect of your life.
Just drop smaller parts into causal conversation. Make jokes about astrology, tarot cards, and crystals (if that’s what you’re dealing with), or relate things back to your beliefs when appropriate. In the same way Christians say things like, “It’s in God’s hands now,” you too can make comments like that about your deities!
Or if you do some daily, practical ritual, something small, then simply don’t hide it. Let people see it so that they can become more comfortable with how you work your practice. This doesn’t mean they have to be on hand for a full, hour-long ceremony. If you give thanks at your altar before leaving the house or carry a pendent of your particular patron with you, let others (who you trust) see these things, so that they become demystified for them.
Of course, this advice extends only for those practices that allow such things to be open. I would never advise anyone to go against the teachings of their belief system, especially if the practice is meant to be kept secret.
Get some good reading for the layman
If your friends and family are interested in learning more, then now is a good time to introduce some learning materials that will help them understand the basics of what you believe and do. You do not want to drop a 900 page text on them! Instead, you’re looking for books, websites, or videos that go over the basic aspects of your beliefs. This may take a bit of digging on your part.
Most of us have a ton of books and materials that we’ve picked up while we were learning and finding our own paths. But these aren’t really the best materials for people who are just curious. They’re too much information and just too in-depth.
Instead, you’re going to want to find materials that give a quick read on what the practice entails. You want the Cliff Notes version. Usually, if you follow someone in your faith, they often have online resources that have quick rundowns of your practice. YouTube videos can also be an excellent source. Just search for your practice on the site, and see what you find. You might learn some new things yourself!
These sorts of references are part of your understanding toolkit. A way to say, “Oh, if you’re interested in this, then check out this website, it explains better than I can!”
For example, if I were trying to explain hoodoo to someone, I would likely direct them to my past article on candle magick, “Hoodoo magick primer,” where I explain hoodoo in brief. The explanation is very simple and short, and easy to understand.
Invite them out
Going to PantheaCon with you might be a bit much, but your friends and family probably won’t turn down a trip to a local metaphysical store or botanica. Taking them with you while you pick up supplies, or even have some sort of work done for you, might help them better understand your practice and feel more relaxed around it.
It’s up to you what events you invite them to. You could take them out for a shopping trip that is simple and very approachable. They will be able to ask questions, look at and handle a number of items, as well as meet others who share similar beliefs in a low-key setting. And they can leave when they want to, with no added pressure.
You can also opt to take them to a small ceremony or gathering, if your group is open, and they are willing to check things out. Of course, this means that they will need to stay longer, and there’s a greater chance for personal discomfort, but if your loved one is willing and open minded, this may be an enriching way to share your practice. Even if they don’t participate, and instead just observe and meet other people in a more personal setting, it may help ease any fears they may have due to misunderstanding.
If inviting a loved one to a gathering, then it is also very important to prep them on what is and isn’t acceptable inside of that space. Don’t let them go in blind, but don’t scare them!
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Invite them to witness
It is unlikely that your loved one will want to participate in any sort of ritual, but they may want to watch so that they better understand what you believe and how you practice. Again, if your practice is private or demands secrecy, please understand that I am not compelling you to go against that. This is just general advice.
Watching you go through the steps of something more involved related to your practice may help your loved one better understand how you practice, and remove any confusions or ideas that have been planted by too many movies and fantasy novels.
This doesn’t have to be a lavish ceremony either. It can be a small gathering for any of the many, many feast days found in a variety of belief systems. It can be your weekly altar visit where you make your offerings and ask for favour. It’s really up to you what you choose to share.
However, be prepared to set boundaries. You may have rules against touching your sacred objects, and you should be clear about that from the very beginning, so as not to cause tension and confusion in what is meant to be a friendly and educational experience.
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Dealing with pushback
Some loved ones may say things that are harmful, hurtful, or downright hateful. Not everyone can be open minded, even when approached with the best and warmest intentions, and unfortunately that can leave us feeling very hurt.
If faced with this sort of reaction, it’s best to let the person know right away that what they’ve said is offensive, and you’re not standing for it. It maybe that they were saying something jest that they did not realize was hurtful. In which case, feel free to continue to engage and educate, if you’re comfortable doing so.
If that’s not the case, if they did say it to be mean, then it might be best for you to discontinue any discussion about this part of your life with them. This may be hard, especially if the person lives with you, but you do not have put up with someone being ignorant towards you.
Ultimately, when and how much you share of your practice is totally up to you. These tips are just a starting point for you to share and educate those that are close to you, but, remember, it is perfectly fine to keep your practice to yourself.
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