This dilemma is something that has always fascinated me, probably because for me it has never really been an issue. Not because my self-assurance is higher than anyone else's nor that I never worry about how my personal belief system will be perceived by strangers, but because my chosen career and the people I interact with within that occupation makes it, for the most part, a non-issue. As an artist I spend a great deal of my time alone in my studio with no one to question me, and as the art world is a pretty forgiving place where oddity, eccentricity and uniqueness are the norm, no one has ever so much as batted an eye at my pagan earth witch path. To me it may be nothing unusual, but to many (outside of art at any rate) this path is pretty strange.
Family, however, is another story. While most of my relatives are open-minded and respect my choices, there are a few who, as uber-christians, simply cannot see me as anything other than a devil-worshipping, baby eating, demon lover and no amount of attempts to explain the truth of my gentle, compassionate and earth-based faith would or could ever change their minds. And even some of those loved ones who honor the person I am can't seem to help the occasional eye roll or smirk if the topic turns to sabbats and witchcraft. It just comes with the territory, I guess.
Still, there are so many people out there who practice The Craft but have to keep it to themselves because of the region they live in, or the people they work with or for, or even family who would disown them for their beliefs. Like any misunderstood and frequently maligned minority, for some witches it's just easier to hide who they are than to face the potentially devastating consequences of "coming out." And being forced by circumstance to deny who you are is a very sad thing.
And then of course there is the flip side: those witches I have met for whom it is an in-your-face challenge of sorts to tell everyone they pass on the street that they are a practicing witch. I'm not sure if this is a defense mechanism, like if they tell you first before you somehow find out on your own they'll somehow maintain all the power, or if it's more about the current "fad factor" and less about the spiritual side of the path that has them broadcasting their beliefs to the world at large simply because it's quirky and cool.
At any rate, the choice is a personal one whether to remain in the broom closet or fling that door wide open and step on out, spell book in hand. I prefer to walk a comfortable middle ground where I am neither hiding who I am nor ramming it down anyone's throats. And I will always be intrigued by the choices that other witches make and why they make them. As with everything in this life, this is one more thing that makes us interesting and unusual in our own individual ways.
Vintage 1940s witch photo courtesy of Judibird on flickr.