No one knew why the woman sitting beside the Orpheus Pagan Chamber Choir was wearing a black, feathered, Carnival mask, and I doubt anybody asked. Pagans are known to be eccentric with their attire, after all, and who’s to say she wasn’t paying homage to a deity or something? Tres faux pax to question a Pagan’s choice of bling. You’re treading on holy ground there.
Her display may have seemed a bit dark for 9:15am on a Sunday, but who was I to judge? Me, with my purple bow-tie and thistle blossom lapel flower, proudly donning purple to show my Pagan pride. I stood out just as much as she did from my mostly white haired, much more plainly dressed neighbors, and none of them were giving me any grief.
There was occasion for pagan pageantry on this morning, whether that be pentagrams and feathers or labradorite and velour robes. The Witches had showed up in force at the Unitarian Universalist church, and they were ready to cast a circle.
Who Are The Witches In Your Neighborhood?
The Sunday service at Jefferson Unitarian Universalists Church, appropriately titled, “The Pagan Next Door,” was led by a prominent Wiccan Priestess and Priest from the local Pagan community with the help of several UU Pagans. Unlike other UU services, where individuals representing a single faith tradition might sprinkle in bits and pieces of their religious language and practice into a standard UU framework, this was set to be a full-fledged, Wiccan rite.
Now, I’m not a Witch (and I can’t type that without hearing in my head a certain auto-tuned political parody), and this service was all about the Witches. The Four Quarters were called, Deity was presented as Lord and Lady, and a circle was cast — something that we don’t do in ADF Druidry. But that was all okay with me. I didn’t need for the service to reflect my own practice in order for it to be relevant. This event mattered for one simple reason:
It was a moment to practice proclaiming our legitimacy.
The occasion was worthy of a bow-tie.
Preaching The Legitimacy Gospel
The Priestess spoke for great length about the normalcy of Witches, and I found this to be particularly interesting. Covens, in seems, are as apple-pie as your HOA. Little Witch-kids are playground stomping next to little Christian soldiers, and big Witch-adults are ringing up your groceries, policing your streets and suing your insurance companies. Witches are just like you. Well…mostly.
I appreciate the sentiment, and I see the value in this kind of preaching (though I doubt the Witches in question would use the word “preach” to describe their sermon – another iffy word). But as I see it, that’s what they were doing. Making the case for normalcy and commonalities is important for people living on the fringes. Take if from a Gay.
Just a few days ago, LGBTQIA activists (i.e. “Queer Folk”) and supporters claimed a victory in New York after gaining the right to legally recognized civil marriage. That would have never happened without thousands of Gay-vangelists preaching the Legitimacy Gospel, not unlike what these two Witches were doing at the podium.
WE’RE HERE!! WE’RE WITCHES!! And we’ll meet you in the common area after service for coffee and snacks. Please join us. 🙂
This evangelism may not appeal to everyone out there, but it is necessary work. You’ve got to get in there and mix with the muggles, let them know you’re not a monster, and say quite plainly and with respect that who you are and how you practice your religion is valid.
First, though, you have to believe it yourself.
How Do You BECOME Legitimate?
Simple answer: you behave as though you already are.
My husband calls is, “acting as if”. Its a technique we’ve used to get us through some hard times, and I think it would be useful to Pagans who are seeking greater recognition outside of the Pagan community.
In our case, we aren’t recognized as a “legitimate” married couple, but we act as if are. We treat each other as if the world already saw us as legitimate, both privately and publicly, and in so doing we begin to create a life for ourselves that functions similarly to any other legitimate relationship.
In the case of the Witches, most churches won’t have anything to do with them. They villainies them, misconceive them and distort that which they hold sacred. But on this Sunday, the Witches greeted people at the church door, congregated in the commons area, and shared the limited variety of crackers and coffee available. They handed them program leaflets, passed the collection plate, and most importantly shared sacred space with people who do not identify as Pagan. They acted as if they belonged.
And they did. We did. We were welcomed, and it was a good feeling.
Maybe I’ll Be A Churchy Pagan
I intend to return to the UU church on a less witchy Sunday to see what a normal service is like. I’ll be sure to wear a bit of purple and I’ll plan on engaging with parishioners about my spiritual journey, the evolution of which I feel needs to be examine and unpacked longer form.
See, I am on my own personal quest for legitimacy. As much as I know, I still must re-learn constantly how to act as if my path–my life– is legitimate. I must learn and re-learn the language that best communicates what I know in my heart and what I practice before my altar to people who may practice and believe differently than me.
I take inspiration from the Withes, though, and their churchiness. Perhaps I’ll follow their lead.
What about you? Do you find any challenge in acting as if your spiritual path is legitimate? Have you ever been in a position where you were able to preach the legitimacy gospel? If so, please tell me about in the comment section.
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Post Updated on July 4th to include links to Orpheus Pagan Chamber Choir and Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church.