What It Feels Lke to Be in the "Broom Closet"

Author: Quill ofQuillsOccultSupply / Labels: ,

With the witchcraft resurgence now growing some real chin hair, fewer and fewer witches came from a time when secrecy was considered a must.  But I remember that time and it wasn't all that long ago. It pleases me greatly to see the openness present in the magical community today.  I have learned to be quite open so that perhaps I can spur it on.

When I first began to practice I was steadfast about keeping it a secret.  I told only my mother and sister--once--and never really mentioned it again.  My brother before me had started his career in the occult while still living at home and though he was by then grown and in the Navy, the sour taste of it was still fresh in my mother's mouth.  She denounced my interests in a general way (seeming interested only in washing the topic away as quickly as possible, but noting especially that she hoped I wasn't getting into "the religion of it" though we were by no means a religious family) and then simply ridiculing the rest.  I said I was only really interested in casting spells and that mainly it was out of innocent curiosity.  She scoffed but left it at that.  I never discussed it with her again.

From this experience, and everything I had read at that point, I decided that witchcraft was simply something you don't talk about (and from a occult perspective, you can't talk about).  So I went out into the wide world with an open mind and a closed mouth.

At about 17 I dated a guy who revealed after a month or so that he was very interested in magic.  I said nothing.  He talked at length about occult theories he'd learned, the meaning of different symbols he invented for spells, and friends he had who also practiced.  I said nothing.  Here was a golden opportunity to dig into what was then a burgeoning community right in my own area and I let it slip away.  Now, this guy wasn't any kind of magical genius and even at the time I could see how many of his ideas were silly, yet opening up about my practice could have lead me into a greater realm than was previous available in my life.  We dated for only a few more months and then parted ways without me ever telling him that he was, in fact, explaining nothing new to me.

A few years later, at my first "paycheck" job, I met a young woman with coke-bottle glasses and a giddy laugh.  One evening as we talked casually over our work counters (about 10+ feet apart) about our interests and lives, she openly talked about casting spells.  My lazy gaze suddenly snapped to 
attention and I calmly asked what she meant.  She went on to describe how she owned many spellbooks but that as she read them she would never read aloud because "even just saying the words is enough to make stuff happen.  You have to be really careful not to make stuff happen accidentally." Suddenly aware of how public this conversation was, I asked if she should really be talking so loudly about all this.  I even breached the topic of the the Witches Pyramid (to know, to will, to dare and to be silent) by asking if "people like her" didn't have rules against talking to outsiders.  "'Oh, no!" she declared, "We can talk about it whenever, where ever!"  And, with that, I decided that she was much too blithe about witchcraft to bother with and I never talked to her about it again.  Perhaps things would have been different if she'd known that by that time I'd already been practicing for years.

For much of those early years I was quite content to stay alone and not discuss it with others.  This indifference was a juxtaposition with my deep longing to have a teacher, or at least, a like-minded friend with whom I could learn.  I've met some folks who are still quite reserved today, whether because they want to maintain something rare and special for their own or because they simply are not social creatures who need the company of others.  In those instances, none of what I experienced would have affected them in the slightest, but to me it was anxiety-ridden. I would be calm on my own and then suddenly struck with an electricity in the presence of those who actually knew something of the occult.  I wanted to say something, anything.  I wanted to declare myself one of the band, the tribe that was connected even if disjointed and strange.  But that misunderstood dictum--to bee silent--and the rules I lived by to keep me shut away, held me back.

Oddly, I think I only held onto the concept of a "broom closet" for as long as I did out of habit.  It was a safe place where I didn't have to prove anything or compare myself (or be compared) to anyone else.  Now that I am away from that mindset, and I have seen how judgmental the magical community can be, I understand my logic.  But living in the dark, away from the rest of those like oneself, is not the same thing as being protected.  Instead I was cloistered and closed off from the greater world.  I was actively denying myself knowledge, the closest thing to a mortal sin among witches.  That is not where I ever wanted to be and it was only my husband who convinced me to discard it.

When we first met, I talked about my love of art and Monty Python, family trips to Canada and Florida, my many books and my prized typewriter.  But I never talked about the most notable part of my life, witchcraft.  Indeed, it wasn't until I was set to move in with him that the truth wriggled its way to light.  I had packed up all my things and brought them to his place, all set to begin a new life. He, in his eagerness, was proud to show me the whole shelf he'd cleared for my books.  I was touched by this gesture (any readers out there with as much affection for the printed word as he and I will instantly see what a sacrifice it is to give away shelf space) and right away I began to unpack my many books, one after another on the topic of witchcraft.  My poor husband/then boyfriend watched quietly, his head tilted to read the spines, and then asked, "Is there something you want to tell me?"

Can you imagine?  I was so set in my silence that I could very well have ruined a wonderful relationship just as it was beginning, all for the ties I had and never expressed.  Lucky for me that he was so understanding; I have heard of other couples who weren't able to weather such a thing.  I think about any other deeply held belief--like a religion or even a prejudice--and can see what a bombshell it would be to have the news launched at you by the one you love.  What a strange past I have woven from following what I believed to be the rules.

I have met many practitioners since, but now that I am open about what I do, I may make myself a
part of the exchange instead of just witnessing it.  I have been stopped in the bookstore and the grocery store, I've overheard bits of conversation that posed interesting questions about witchcraft
and I was compelled to interject my answer.  I've put myself in the open for public view not, as I thought in the early days, because I am foolhardy or a braggart but because I am not alone.  Surely some of the times when I have been outspoken, one of my kind was listening quietly at a distance, too cautious to speak up with me.  So I wear the pentacle and I cast outdoors, our family holds rituals in plain sight and we have taught our kids to dance in the springtime to the "Song of Isobel Gowdie" (with such incredible lyrics as "We sing this song in the devil's name, with joy and feasting to his fame.").  We do this because we are not afraid.  Those who went before us, those who broke the silence and made our work protected under the law, those who refused to be misrepresented, they made it safe for us.  There are avenues now that we may take against injustice and intolerance.  And, in our everyday lives, the most obvious avenue is to be completely obvious.

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About Me

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My name is Quill and I've been practicing witchcraft for the past 17 years. 10 of those years I've been reading tarot and teaching.  I own a shop on Etsy called Quill's Occult Supply (check it out at QuillsOccultSupply.Etsy.com) full of handmade ritual and decorative items, spell components, and wild picked herbs.

I love to work with my hands.  Magic is a tool to shape our lives, and I'm using magic to shape tools to shape magic.  Cosmic! 

I use a lot of my favorite things in my shop: herbs, candles, wood, fabric, paint, clay.  And I get to carve, burn, grind, mold, think, dream ... I'm in the perfect business!

I've written 3 manuscripts for publication (2 non-fiction and 1 fiction) and am an avid NaNo-er!  I and my husband run a local coven called Orbis Prosapia, and our children are growing up surrounded by magic, mythology, fairy tales, Earth worship, art, open discussion, music, and humor. 

In addition to working on Ex Penna about my experiences as a professional witch, I also write for Scenes from the Circle about being a coven leader. 

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