The altar I'm speaking of is the one on the right, closer to the light switch. It's made out of wood, not compressed wood particle board, so it's a little heavy but pretty amazing. I'm still shocked to this day that someone wanted to throw it out, but I'm certainly blessed because I would have never had a chance to get to know it the way I have throughout the years.
It's hard to believe that I took this picture ten years ago. This is a segment of my room from when I was fifteen. Notice my nightstand looks rather familiar? While it appeared to serve as only a nightstand, the blue book beside it was my BOS and, inside the drawer sat my tools of the craft, which may have amounted to a few candles, stones and herbs.
Also notice the cross and Virgin Mary hanging above my bed?
I've stated before that I did not have a negative experience with Christianity. I grew up in a Catholic-cross-Baptist household. Bapolic as I liked to call it. Up until I was seven, my parents attended church regularly. Up until I was 10, I attended church with my grandmother of my own free will. While I really enjoyed it, I could never really connect. I was searching for something that aligned with my beliefs in nature, the elements and the connectedness of the world. I longed for something more interactive.
It was in seventh and eighth grade that my best friend introduced me to the concept of pagan religions, specifically Wicca. Initially, I was interested but weary. The beliefs seemed so similar to mine, but what if I was going against God? It took me about a year to reassess my beliefs in what I knew of the divine, a surprising amount of soul-searching for a twelve-year-old.
Honestly, I don't really remember when everything just clicked, but it happened sometime within that year. By the following year, I was fervently studying Wicca and Witchcraft.
In my previous post about my positive experience with my interfaith relationship, someone posed the question:
Is it possible to practice your religion safely without any negative effects if you're still in the broom closet?
My answer: Yes, but with caution.
In your life, there will be some people that you will never be able to tell. For me, that's my dad. Raised Catholic, the first time he saw a pentacle around my neck, he told me I was wearing the sign of the devil. This is the same man that had a major meltdown at a doctor's appointment when he found out he had the same number of ribs as my mom on an important x-ray. If woman was made from the rib of a man, how can that be? Shouldn't man have less ribs?
I've never seen my dad as uneducated. He and I can have incredibly long discussions on science and history. But it was definitely that key moment where I realized that I would never be able to tell my dad that I was a pagan. He'd likely never speak to me again. And thus the cross and Virgin Mary hung above my bed until I moved out of the house.
What I'd like to say is that you should wait to practice in your home until everyone inside it is comfortable with your religious choice.
It makes life a lot easier. If your parents are uncomfortable, wait until you are out of the house. Practicing undercover makes it hard to focus and breaking a circle is physically exhausting. Think about the amount of time that you'll be waiting to practice versus the number of years you'll have to practice freely. Is it worth the headache now? Because I typically would imagine it isn't. And, honestly, that's my solid opinion.
But I also remember being in the house and feeling the need to practice. If I were to say that everyone should wait, I'd be a hypocrite. When I was in my teens and living at home, I was casting circles behind closed doors. I would stay up until just hours before the bus came transcribing my Book of Shadows and studying the meaning behind semi-precious stones.
I would have preferred to do it with my parents' consent. I was never the rebellious kind. I got straight A's in school, never got a detention or write-up one and, generally speaking, most teachers and parents loved me. I came home and did my chores every night before heading to my room to study. I wanted to be the kind of kid any parent could be proud of.
I just so happened to be pagan as well.
So here's my advice if you feel you absolutely, absolutely must practice behind closed doors, whatever your situation may be. Keep in mind, I'm still not condoning practicing in a house where you will be nervous or uncomfortable, or where others will be uncomfortable. But just like teenagers will have sex whether you tell them to abstain or not, it's better to wear a condom than to fly free. Your protection, in this case, will be caution.
1. Know your religion.
If you think it's hard living where you currently are, wait until you're discovered and can't accurately describe what it is you believe and do. So, whatever it is you believe in, develop a concise one-minute explanation. It won't get you out of trouble, but you'll be better prepared to deal with the circumstances. Books like Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner are also helpful. In addition, you should be well learned in your religion before practicing anyway. Spend a year and a day studying, which also puts you a year and a day closer to moving out. The internet is a great source and the history is easy to clear.
2. Prepare yourself for accidents.
In the scramble to pick things up quickly, I definitely dumped a number of candles on my floor. An area rug for the center of my room helped cover it up quickly until I could get some ice to place on the spot. In retrospect, I should have practiced with no or fewer candles. Too risky. If you do decide to use candles, for the love of everything, use the proper protection and practice safely with fire. Keep large bottles of water or even an extinguisher. Things happen.
3. Keep in mind that spells reflect the energy you put into them.
If you're too busy freaking out about your parents discovering you, your spell will have a panicked, negative energy imbued into it. What's the likelihood of it working out in your favor then?
4. Learn how to work with more inconspicuous tools.
Most of my accidents involved candles. The elements could have been represented more simply: offering bowls with my breath blown in, water, an unlit candle, and some grass clippings and leaves. Or even just little swatches of color. Honestly, my imagination could have also worked. I never had a wand, athame, pentacle tile, broom or other tool at my disposal. Most of my spells involved lighting a candle, saying a few words, then using a candle snuffer to extinguish the flame and burying it outback. There are simpler spells that leave fewer traces. Research them. Create them yourself. If you believe in it, it will work.
5. Be prepared to be discovered.
I was fortunate enough to never be discovered, but some of my friends certainly weren't so lucky. Don't ever cast a circle without knowing the chances in the back of your head. Don't ever think your roommates, parents, siblings or significant other won't find out. All it takes a misplaced book, a small wax stain on the carpet or even just that surprised look when they enter your room.
I suppose I cannot reiterate enough that it is truly more comfortable to practice in a household where it is accepted or wait until you move out. However, I know not all of us are fortunate enough to have that luxury. I remember that time and it was difficult. I didn't celebrate the sabbats with full ritual until I moved out. I maybe did one or two spells a year.
On the bright side, my lack of practicing gave way to more study time. What I post in this blog is less research and more memory. And the internet is such a powerful tool! There's so much more information out there than when I was young. Use it to your advantage! Become a learned Pagan, Wiccan or Witch. It's worth the time of investment in the long run.
Question for my readers: Have you ever practiced in a situation where not all members of your household were aware or accepting of your beliefs? What's one tip you could give someone in the same situation?