Well, I’ll be…
Well, put this in the “I’ll be darned” category.
When I got my new job, a friend asked if I had worn my pentacle to work. It’s my favorite one and I’ve taken to wearing it all the time. As in, I don’t take it off. So, yes, I’d worn it to work. She wanted to know if anyone had said anything to me about it.
She asked because she’s also from South Louisiana. We’ve both had histories of people making disparaging comments about our religious jewelry. In fact, when I lived here several years ago, I was advised by a co-worker at my previous job that it would be unwise if I were to wear any jewelry that let anyone know I was Wiccan. Didn’t stop me, and yeah, I got funny looks a few snarky comments, but that’s about it.
When I moved to Denver, I almost always wore my pentacles. Even wore one to my interview. It didn’t have a negative impact as far as I could tell. In fact, once I had the job, several people asked about it, not in a negative sense but in a “that’s kind of cool” sense, or at a least a “that’s interesting” sense. I think that’s because Denver, like the rest of the west, with the exception of perhaps Colorado Springs, still has a kind of frontier attitude when it comes to religion. People moved there to get away from expectations “back east” and took an attitude of “do whatever you want, just let me and mine be and I’ll do the same for you.”
Back to Baton Rouge – I expected perhaps the same snarky comments or looks. Oddly enough, I’ve gotten nary a one. There also hasn’t been the standard barrage of questions about “where do you go to church?” If I didn’t know better, I’d say no one here cares anymore. But I do know better. I’m sure someone does, but I just haven’t run into them yet.
Then I got an even bigger shock from a very unexpected source. The Boy Scouts.
Yes, you read that correctly, the Boy Scouts.
You see, my son wanted to be in the Boy Scouts. I have a whole range of objections to some of the official Boy Scout policies, specifically their stance on openly gay members and leaders, so I wasn’t going to let him do it. But there are a lot more things about the Boy Scouts that I do respect, such as their philosophy of responsibility to self *and* community. That fits right along with what I practice as a Wiccan. So I let him try it. He loved it! We started in Denver and his Pack leader knew I was Pagan (again, not hiding the jewelry was kind of a give-away and she asked). And even though faith is a part of the BSA curriculum, the leaders in the Denver pack considered it a very personal thing. It was each parent’s responsibilities to discuss faith, if any, with their son.
So I was a little concerned when I moved here and he wanted to continue. In Denver, the pack met at a school. Here, they meet at a church. In Denver, they didn’t start each pack meeting or event with a prayer. Here they do. As I haven’t taken off this pentacle in a few months, they’ve all seen it. I was really surprised when, after speaking with the pack leader for a few moments before one of the events we attended, he started the prayer by looking at my son and me and saying something to the effect of “please join us as your faith would have you pray.” He proceeded to do as generic, as neutral a prayer as possible. Granted, it didn’t include anything to the Goddess, and I doubt everyone would have wanted me to pray as my faith would really have me pray by casting a Circle and calling Quarters, but I could tell he was sincerely trying to be inclusive. And he’s done that at every event we’ve attended since.
So what does all this mean? Has Louisiana suddenly become a place of tolerance? A safe harbor in the rough sea of open hostilities and agendas hidden like rocky shoals, looming just under the surface? Given that the Louisiana Republican Primary went to Rick Santorum, that’s not bloody likely. But maybe it is a bit of hope.
And I’m going to hang on to that hope for dear life. In fact, I’m going to use it as my anchor for the upcoming International Pagan Coming Out Day (www.pagancomingoutday.org) on May 2nd.
I had grand dreams of setting up a tent in the middle of downtown Baton Rouge with the IPCOD logo on a poster. I just wanted to be a presence in a busy place and be available to answer questions or talk. I knew I wouldn’t have a large group of people with me. The Pagans I know here are “out” in their own circles, but some are, understandably, very concerned about being so publicly “out” of their respective broom closets.
Alas, May 2nd is a work day and I don’t have the hours available to take off. Darn it! The weekend before wouldn’t have been as big a deal because, well, Baton Rouge downtown life isn’t all that vibrant on weekends. I’d get about as much attention then as I would standing in the middle of LSU’s Tiger Stadium when there isn’t a game going on.
Instead, I’m going for a more low key approach and will encourage my friends here to do the same. Here’s some suggestions for May 2nd. Do one or as many of them as you would like!
- Print out postcard size pictures of the IPCOD logo (available on their website). Put one on your desk, one in the window of your car, one on your backpack, purse, briefcase, etc.
- Change your computer wallpaper to the IPCOD logo.
- The logo is green and brown, so make a bow with ribbons of those colors and wear it that day. (You KNOW someone’s going to ask what it’s for!)
- Change your voice mail message and email signatures to include “Happy International Pagan Coming Out Day!”
I’m sure there are lots of other little things that can be done. The point is, to do something, anything, that just says “I’m here, I’m Pagan and I’m going to publicly celebrate that fact for one day.”
And maybe, little by little, it won’t be so surprising that Boy Scout Pack Leaders are trying to be inclusive of the Pagans in their midst.
Gaudeum veni incus
A note on the column name: When Patrick asked me to name my regular column, I wanted to come up with a name that reflected the culture of South Louisiana. “Lagniappe” (pronounced “lan-yap”) is a word used in South Louisiana to indicate a special gift, or a little something extra you weren’t expecting. I decided that seemed to fit quite nicely. So enjoy the Lagniappe!