Over the course of this year, my amazing circle, Circle of Fountains, has been bringing you guest articles that reflect their personal beliefs, opinions and knowledge. As Primary and Guest members have been turning in their articles, I have been trying to find away to incorporate our Associate Members - live-in significant others of Primary members.
The following is an immense effort by the Associate and Primary members to bring you a complete view of interfaith and same-faith relationships with pagans and witches as represented by Circle of Fountains. A note that these answers are not written from a generalized perspective; they reflect only the personal experiences of the Associate and Primary members mentioned below. Some answers were edited for grammar and flow, but they are in every other way the distinct answers of our Associate members.
Before we begin, let's meet our Associate members and their Primary member significant others.
Meet the Associate Members in this Interview
Aaron W describes himself as mixture of Catholic and Methodist. He and I have been together for 12 years, and I describe myself as a Nontheistic Cottage Witch with Hedge Witch tendencies. This makes our relationship interfaith and his answers will be marked with Catholic + Witch. These tags will help you keep better track of the background behind the answers.
Larry describes his religious views as Christian. He and Phaedra have been together for about 21 years. Phaedra is a pagan witch, which means that their relationship is also interfaith. His answers will be marked with Christian + Pagan.
Richard states his beliefs are nonspecific. He and Andrea have been married for 8 years. Andrea is an Egyptian pagan. This means that they also have an interfaith relationship. His answers will be marked with Nonspecific + Pagan.
Aaron Z is an atheist. He and Amy have been married for three years. Amy herself is an Eclectic Wiccan, meaning that they too have an interfaith relationship. His answers will be marked with Atheist + Wiccan.
Neal is a pagan follower of Bastet. He and Laura have been together for 14 years. Laura is also pagan and interested in following a Northern Tradition path. Their relationship is a same faith relationship and will be marked with Pagan + Pagan.
Now that you have an idea of the kind of interfaith and same faith relationships represented here, let's begin!
Q. Give me some background about your religion.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): I have been a member of the Catholic Church my whole life, being baptized as a baby and confirmed as a teenager. While my primary faith has been Catholic, my father was Methodist so I was also exposed to that side of Christianity
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): And I raised as a Methodist. But I was always fascinated with the ancient world and its mythologies. As I grew older religion as a whole became quite fascinating and I read and studied many different religions (living and dead), the history behind each, as well as some psychology and ethics. Through that exploration I have settled into my own views on faith.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): I was raised mixed Christian with a mostly Baptist background. Once I left my long term church home, I moved through a series of other churches and began including elements of eastern philosophy.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): I was raised in the Church of the Nazarene. I was a devout Christian until my teen years and the fear of Hell was a major part of my indoctrination. Once I started examining my own dogma closely, the absurdities were just impossible to miss. This is where we're going to stumble on terminology a bit here. I don't have a religion. I'm not even sure I have a "belief system." I assume there is a universe, that I am in it and that it is possible to draw reasonable inferences about it using observation and reason. I am reasonably certain that an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-benevolent god does not exist. I think the concept of such a God is essentially a "divide by zero" error; He is logically incoherent.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): I think I'm the only pagan of the Associates. I'm currently following the Egyptian pantheon as my primary deities. I was raised as an Episcopalian and changed to my current beliefs through a long time of self reflection, non-linked spiritual experiences, and dissatisfaction with the Episcopal church.
Q. How did other people of your religion feel about pagans and witches?
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): In the religion I was raised in, the stereotypical stigmas exist but I never paid them much mind.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): Honestly, when it comes to Christianity, a lot of people form their opinion on what movies and culture say about witches more than the church. I never really believed in any of the stigmas either, though. For the most part, I have always been good at separating Hollywood stereotypes from actual practice. Personally, I don't really remember any sermons or lessons about witchcraft in general but I went to a very progressive church.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Same. One of the few things I remember about the church I grew up in was that it was pretty warm and welcoming. It was a very tolerant "God loves you" view of things. Like Aaron, there was never any discussion that I recall about other religions, but I was pretty young. I think it would have been mid-middle school that my family stopped attending regularly.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): During most of my upbringing, pagans and witches were seldom mentioned. When the topic was addressed no real substance was included, but it did include general comments about "bad people" and the like. I was conflicted on the topic. All people should be treated decently and not discriminated against based on belonging to or not belonging to a group. Of course, this did not mesh well with the prevailing Christian view I was brought up in.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): When I was a kid there was a considerable animus towards witches, but I was not aware pagans still existed. I loved classical history, so pagan had no negative connotation to me. Pagans were guys like Virgil and Homer. I didn't hear anyone identify themselves as a pagan until I was an adult.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I also didn't know Paganism still existed. It was during my research that I discovered Paganism was actually still around in one form or another. This was probably before I knew Andrea was pagan as we met so young.
|Marietta and Aaron W (Witch+Catholic) in high school.|
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): I met Marietta in a high school chemistry class. While we both definitely felt an attraction to each other, I really didn’t think Marietta was in my league. I would say it’s the classic love at first sight, but it just took me a while to work up the courage.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): Laura and I also met in high school and I asked her to prom my junior year. 100% honest answer here: I figured she would be easy to get in bed… I was very wrong.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): I also met Phaedra in high school. We shared a common class - French - and were first drawn together by books.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I met Andrea first I think in Drama Class - high school too. It wasn’t until the next year or so though that we really started to become friends. There was a course that we both took which involved managing/working the on site school store. I became the general manager over the entire store and when inventory came in and had to be counted I always pulled Andrea out of her other classes to assist. I developed a crush on Andrea during this time that never quite went away even though I was dating other girls at the time.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): Amy and I met while we were both involved in a community theater. We had many other interests in common, but the main things that drew me to her were her intelligence and self confidence. I am also very attracted to her sexually.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): Loving, fulfilling, fun and honest. Marietta is my favorite person. We don't have nicknames for each other, preferring to call one-another "You."
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): Laura is my best friend, my conscience and at times the bane of my existence, though I wouldn’t change a thing about our relationship and I love her completely.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): My relationship with Phaedra is enduring, deep, tested, balanced and stable.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Pelicans, hondo, whale sharks, animation and fuzzy.
|Aaron Z And Amy (Atheist+Wiccan) at their wedding.|
Q. How long had you been together before you found out your significant other was a pagan or witch? How did they tell you?
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Honestly, I do not remember when or how Andrea told me. Pretty sure it was well after high school.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): I knew before we started dating. I think Amy identified as Wiccan on Facebook.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): I also found out pretty early on through the course of normal conversation.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): It was before we got engaged but I don’t feel like Marietta was very open about it until after we were married in 2008. Once we were living together, it became a more comfortable subject for her. By 2012, we had a designated room for circle space.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): I actually introduced Laura to the idea of paganism; she started to follow it more during one of our periods of separation.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I was probably not bothered at the time.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): I think Marietta expected a more severe reaction but I don’t think I honestly had one. I loved Marietta for being Marietta and that was just part of who she was.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): Honestly? Confusion. For me, it was not something I had considered before. My world view was rather small at the time.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): I admittedly fetishized it to some extent. I discussed this with Amy early on because I didn't want my fetish to trivialize her religion. Her reaction, essentially, was "of course witches are sexy." I'm perfectly aware that Wicca means a lot more to her than sex, so it's all good.
|Neal and Laura (Pagan+Pagan) at our local RenFest.|
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): Like I said before, Marietta is Marietta and this is just part of her. I love all of her, so I accept all of her.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Andrea’s faith did not change who she is, either. It was just another facet of learning more about her. I’d be pretty hypocritical if I found issue with it.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): No. Amy and I have never had a dispute over religion. We do have disputes regarding our philosophical differences, but those are more to do with political or cultural issues than religious ones.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): I actually had a huge moral dilemma, largely due to lack of understanding and narrow-mindedness. Like I said before, my worldview was pretty small.
Q. How does your family feel about your partner’s beliefs?
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): My mother is still nominally Christian. Amy's religion bothers her but not as much as my atheism does. In an odd way, I think my mother thinks that marrying someone who has some sort of a religion is at least a step in the right direction.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): For my family, it is a mixed bag of emotions. Emily, my sister, was the first to figure it out (benefits of social media) and had a neutral reaction. Mom and Dad found out from one of our parties and reading Marietta’s book shelf in the circle room. Personally, I think Mom and Dad acknowledge it but don’t approve because they're very Christian. Most children want their parents approval but I seek it out through career success and life success. Having my parents' approval of my wife’s religion doesn’t mean much to me. I would rather that we are happy and stable.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): Those same ingrained stigmas on the subject are why Laura's family are not openly aware. However, my family is aware of both my wife and my beliefs; we have a very “live and let live” mentality in all directions, so it doesn’t particularly matter to either of us.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): My parents know. I don’t remember or recall if they knew before the wedding or not. But my parents are pretty laid back and love Andrea to death. If they have any issues or questions, they have never asked me about it.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): My family knows and has come to terms with the situation.
|Marietta and Aaron W (Witch+Catholic) on their wedding day, 2008.|
Larry (Christian+Pagan): Differences can lead to discussion, discovery and insight. You just have to be willing.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): Amy and I share core moral values. Those are more important than religious tenets. Atheism doesn't require hostility to religion, or to religious people. The perception that it does comes from the fact that those of us who are hostile tend to be extremely vocal about it. I am against dogmatism, though. And religion doesn't have a monopoly on dogmatic thinking.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): I think mine and Marietta's relationship works because, like Amy and Aaron, we both have similar core morals. We also both respect our personal beliefs enough that we don’t try to “convert” the other.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I view faith as a very personal thing: Each person must find their own path. I encourage Andrea in her beliefs and point out things to her if I notice them.
Q. What, if anything, has been your biggest conflict when it comes to your beliefs?
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): There's never been a big conflict. Marietta and I have had some small scheduling issues around holidays, but that's really it.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): The closest thing to a religious dispute we have is that I think "free will" only exists in the most trivial sense. A legal sense, if you will. In the larger sense, it's just another divide by zero error. It's not non-existent in the way mermaids are. It's a logically incoherent concept, invented to explain a set of logical obstacles to the existence of an omni-benevolent God. Amy finds that too horrific to contemplate.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): For Phaedra and I, it's been the religious upbringing of the children. We have yet to settle on a stable plan for religious education for the kids.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Andrea did not witness the Greatest Puffin of All Time and thus does not understand how integral the Puffin is to existence.
|Aaron Z and Amy (Atheist+Wiccan) with their newest family member, Gus.|
Larry (Christian+Pagan): The basic driving principles of mine and Phaedra's faiths are the same.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Every religion has multiple points of overlap so it does not surprise me in the least that Andrea and I share some beliefs as well. I think the big one is that there are consequences to every action.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): One belief Marietta and I share is that, be it prayer or spells, wishing something be true doesn't make it happen. A lot of personal effort goes into making something happen and, if you are not willing to put that in, no amount of prayer or spell work will fix that. Marietta's very practical despite the societal stereotype about witches living a "fantasy" world.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): I suppose I was also surprised by how strong Amy's commitment to empiricism is. She doesn't claim that her beliefs have any scientific basis and, in fact, she has even less patience for pseudoscientific claims than I do. I more or less categorically don't have spiritual beliefs but that would be close to a "belief" we share.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): For Laura and I, most of our beliefs are the same as we follow much the same spiritual path, just in different directions.
Q. What kind of wedding did you have? Was it traditional, non-denominational or a handfasting?
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): My family didn’t know Marietta was pagan at the time and I don’t believe hers did either. We knew we wanted to be together, so the type of ceremony we had didn't matter as much. We had a traditional wedding kind of as a cover but also because its primarily for the families’ benefit.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): One of the reasons Laura and I had a traditional Episcopalian wedding was for a similar reason. As I said before, Laura's family is pretty deeply rooted in the stigma view of paganism and we didn’t want to alienate anyone. The second reason was a very close friend of mine, and a relatively good one of my partner’s through extension, had just been ordained in the Episcopal church and we wanted to be the first wedding he performed.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I also don’t think Andrea’s or my parents would have settled for not having the full bells and whistles of a regular wedding, so we had both a handfasting and then a more traditional wedding with a justice of the peace.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): We also had two ceremonies. Friday we had a small pagan wedding for our friends and on Saturday we had a larger non-denominational ceremony for family.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): For Phaedra and I, a traditional wedding was a public declaration of our commitment, but it was also largely for the sake of my family.
|Phaedra and Larry (Pagan+Christian).|
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): I’ve only been to one actual activity, but I’ve been able to meet some people who seem incredibly supportive and fun to be around. So yes, definitely.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): I think if I wasn’t as involved as I am, I would feel like I'm missing out on a large part of my wife's life and interests.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): Same. It's also helped me gain a better understanding of the functional aspects of the practice.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): We were already comfortable with our religious differences. The circle is a tremendous source of support for Amy though.
Q. How do you feel about participating in your significant other’s rituals?
Larry (Christian+Pagan): I usually participate to support Phaedra and occasionally make a small contribution of my own.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): Normally, I participate in proxy, being the one taking the pictures, but I have participated when they have asked. I guess it goes back to the involvement. The circle ensures I don’t feel excluded despite being a member of a completely different religion.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): Now that I've been to one ritual, I might participate more. I mentioned that I follow the Egyptian pantheon, specifically Bastet, and much like her most notable imagery, ritual to her and by extension me, is viewed as a very private and individual practice.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): I like participating in any sort of religious ceremony, as long as I can do so honestly. I wouldn't misrepresent myself to do it - I think that would be disrespectful to the other participants.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I would participate if Andrea really wanted me to.
|Laura and Neal (Pagan+Pagan).|
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): Shopping, research, setup, pictures, clean up, cooking, pretty much every aspect. I appreciate that she allows and wants me to be involved.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): I often participate in or protectively oversee rituals to offer relief and stability for Phaedra.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): I often provide insight on the rituals that Laura is designing, and on pieces of writing that she is providing the circle. The latter includes just basic proofreading and content suggestions.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): Similarly, if Amy asks for my opinion regarding the appropriateness of a particular religious gesture, I'll give her my two cents.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I did steal Andrea’s altar to assist with the airbrush once. But, to be fair, she gave it to me.
Q. Has your significant other ever told you the story of how they decided they were a pagan or witch?
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): Personally, I think Marietta came to her beliefs in a very positive way. She genuinely enjoyed church but just didn't feel connected to it. She even continued to study Christianity throughout college despite being a witch because she found it interesting. I know many people who were raised Catholic (or in one of the stricter faiths) who rebelled against it as teenagers. I think if you are choosing religion out of a, “Well this will show them,” mindset, that’s not healthy.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): I was exposed to Laura through largely the entire process since I introduced her to it. Aside from doing some minor rituals of prayer and self-reflection, I don’t remember any large “epiphany” style moments during the process of cementing the conclusion.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): Amy's conversion involved a complex set of factors. I don't think I could do the story justice.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Honestly, I don't remember.
|Aaron and Marietta (Catholic+Witch) recently.|
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): The hardest bit for Amy is that her mother is a very traditional Christian. She'd be crushed if she found out.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): The situation is not well understood by our society, what with the general "boogy man" impression projected.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): I absolutely think being a witch does make Marietta's life harder but in a different way. She is putting on a much more public face. Since she has her website and she's so active in the community, it creates a lot more interaction than I think most pagans have. I guess I imagine that, normally, it’s just a circle or coven who already share a likewise mindset. Since she has all this external criticism coming in, she has to be much more careful about what she does and says, more studious and more intensely religious than I think she would be if she didn't have such a following. A lot of what she does is more for her circle, the community and her readers than for herself because that's who Marietta is.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I have not asked Andrea. I know she likes being in the circle because it is helping her actually practice, however.
Q. Have you ever been witness to your partner being discriminated against for their beliefs?
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): I don’t feel like I have and I believe mostly that it is because Laura has found such a supportive circle and growing pagan culture in our community.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Well, it's is not exactly something that comes up often in random encounters.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): Exactly.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): Looking at American religion essentially from the outside, the real divide isn't between Christians and everyone else. It's between conservative monotheists and liberal deists - with the majority of US Christians falling more or less in the second category nowadays, along with less traditional religions. The conservative monotheists are the minority now. That's the likely reason behind a lower level of discrimination witnessed in this group.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): Honestly, Marietta has faced a lot of discrimination more from inside the pagan community. She's a nontheistic witch, which I think is sometimes hard for some of the stricter pagans to understand. Online, it's also a result of so many eyes on her work that someone is bound to have an issue with it. But she knows its inevitable and handles it very well.
|Amy and Aaron Z (Wiccan+Atheist).|
Aaron W (Catholic+Pagan): It’s not something we broadcast actively so I haven’t been discriminated against because of it.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): We don’t usually openly advertise that we are Pagan either, so no.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): We also keep religious preferences low key in questionable situations so they do not lead to any issues.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): I honestly do not go out of my way to have religious discussions with people in the first place.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): Likewise.
Q. Do you think it’s easy or hard to be in an interfaith relationship with a pagan or witch?
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Personally it’s easy. I see no reason to make it difficult.
Aaron Z (Atheist+Wiccan): There are two factors that make interfaith relationships difficult: Lack of shared values, and dogmatic adherence to beliefs that create friction in the relationship. It is possible to have those factors in any interfaith relationship. I probably would think twice before getting married to someone who didn't share my values, or who had a dogmatic belief in things that I knew to be untrue.
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): If you are both willing to support the other, then that includes faith. I agree with Aaron; it comes down to the basics of a solid relationship more than specifically being interfaith.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): Agreed. The real key is communication: Talk through the differences to look for things that, while they may look or sound different, are really the same.
|Neal and Laura (Pagan+Pagan).|
Aaron W (Catholic+Witch): Honestly, my advice is pretty generic: Respect your partner. Have respect for their beliefs and ask for respect for yours. Attending a ritual or sitting through mass doesn’t mean you or they have to believe everything going on; it's about being there for one another. Learn all you can about each other’s faiths - specifically, ideologies and personal histories. It’s easier to respect them if you understand where they are coming from personally and what they are choosing to believe in. And, lastly, no one is right or wrong. Faith is highly personal. Just because yours works for you doesn’t mean it works for everyone. That includes your partner.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): If you think you have an issue with respecting your significant other's religion, do research into your own religion and see what its roots are. Learn about the time period where the religion began from a historical perspective. Look to unusual sources for information, not just the usual.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): If you have concerns talk to your partner. If they aren’t willing to explain or compromise to assuage your concerns, then you have problems before you even begin to factor in the interfaith portion of your relationship. I would suggest you seek a neutral perspective for help.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): I agree with Neal. Keep an open mind and look for common ground.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Ultimately, it’s your own choice and action to choose which path to take in this life. Always consider the infinite paths as objectively as possible before making a decision.
Q. Let’s end this on a non-religious note: Tell me your favorite thing about your partner.
Richard (Nonspecific+Pagan): Even though Andrea's my wife, she's also still my friend.
Neal (Pagan+Pagan): The favorite thing I have about Laura is that she encourages me, both verbally and non-verbally, to challenge myself and do more than I would on my own.
Larry (Christian+Pagan): Phaedra is always dependable.
Aaron (Catholic+Witch): Have you ever seen Marietta relaxed? Probably not, but I have. I love how she is when she is relaxed; it's a beautiful thing. It's when she's most herself, when she's the happiest. That's my favorite thing.
If you have any questions for our associate members, feel free to add them in the comments below!