As the holidays are quickly approaching, there are halls to be decked, presents to be bought (or made), carols to be sung and family to be dealt with. For many of us, it is that yearly trek that updates us on family and for some of us, reminds us why we don’t often stay in touch for the rest of the year. It could be the teen niece wants to dress like Nicki Minaj and throws a tantrum if you tell her to turn down her Usher. The deadbeat cousin that can always think of some get-rich-quick scam – I mean, “idea” – but seems to always need a dollar from someone. The old uncle that says he’s got Black pride but has nothing but seething hatred for President Obama, thinks Lupe Fiasco is a God-hating terrorist out to destroy hip hop and poison minds and Wocka Flocka is some new candy from Willy Wonka. The aunt that believes no one in the world but her is saved and the little impressionable nephew that you’re doing everything you can to keep from becoming another T.I. in the making, misogyny, jail time and all.
Not all families are the same, that extends to Black families as well but the various personas within families such as the drunk sibling, the sport-babbling aunt, the overly religious grandmother often exist despite the family tree. Is every family like this? No. Every family is like a nation with its own rules and taboos, what is okay to talk about and what prevents World War III, packed up within a long and extensive history. Like nations, some cooperate very well with each other, some tear each other apart. Some are friendly to outsiders, some make the Iron Curtain look like aluminum foil. Families are more than genomes and biology, they’re the people that either makes us proud of our bloodline or wonder, “When are they going to tell me that I’m adopted? Please let me be adopted.”
The holidays can be a time of relaxing or exercises of diplomacy, negotiation and avoiding emotional punji pits (for those who don’t know what a punji pit is, here is explanation #1 and explanation #2). Religion is an all-time emotional punji pit (as well as race and politics (can we add sexuality too?)) but the holidays is that extra layer of agitation that can make the truth fall out. Whether you want to come out of the broom closet or remain firmly in it, the holidays are a tricky dance.
If you want to come out the broom closet around the holidays time, be careful of what you say and how you say it. How does your family usually react to metaphysics and psychism? That tells you what route to take. Doesn’t mind it: good. Think it’s the devil’s work: might want to sugarcoat your words for a bit, don’t go straight on and say, “’Sup, everybody! I’m a Witch! Deal with it, nyah.” Either way, take it easy, ask different relatives how they feel about God being a woman (if you’re very Goddess inclined) or how they feel of belief systems, religions or ideologies that are strictly nature based and not incredibly organized like Christianity or Judaism. If they are open to other paths in life, this is a great sign! If they are open with a little bit of prodding, that’s better than flat-out opposition but tread carefully. Basically, if they seem fairly positive or neutral, you could open up and hope for the best. Family gatherings are great because even if your immediate family may have their misgivings (and maybe they won’t, who knows) you may find a cousin or relative that is accepting or also practices. If you find that said relative, get to know them and click with them if you can, support is always important.
Maybe you didn’t mean to come out the broom closet but got ousted somehow. A relative discovered your books, something fairly Pagan stumbled out of your mouth, you got caught reading my site (sup, confiscators! Check out my Ask Black Witch submission form and direct your hate mail there) or you forgot that not everyone thinks palmistry and tarot cards are harmless. Now you have to figure out how to enjoy Christmas and survive to see New Year’s. The best damage control at this point is to be honest. You could lie and stuff yourself back in your broom closet the best you can but the cat is out of the bag now. Whether you wanna pass it off and deny it, it’s going to be in everyone’s heads that you’re doing something suspicious so either deal with lingering questions and accusations or deal with upfront questions and accusations. Explain yourself the best you can but don’t scream and shout and don’t pretend you have all the answers, especially if you’re new to Paganism. Instead be honest, that’s about all you got. Assure them the best you can you’re not going to slay cats in the name of the devil, Paganism is not Satanism, you don’t hate Christ and your parents did not go wrong somehow. Paganism doesn’t make you White (please do not use the “Christianity was forced on Black slaves by their White masters” argument, now simply is not the time), you’re not atheist and you’re still you, just on a unique path. Hopefully they will listen, maybe they will not, you don’t know for sure but freaking out along with them is not going to help anything. Shouting contests rarely fix anything and calling names just dig wounds deeper. Out of safety for your stuff and preventing impromptu funerals via heart attack or stroke, please don’t show them your Pagan books or things, it may freak them out more. Just be honest, don’t shout (even if they are) and try to make the best of your holidays.
The holidays are something to enjoy, I know I love them. Be yourself, just be careful and have fun. Don’t focus so much on religion if you can and do something fun. Go ice skating, feed squirrels and birds, listen to some Jackson 5, Boys II Men and Earth, Wind and Fire Christmas music. If you want to celebrate Yule (December 21), do so by going outside if the weather isn’t icky or lighting festive candles to celebrate the return of the sun on this longest and darkest night. You could even say a prayer and get a wreath and decorate it! The wreath is an archaic symbol of the wheel of the year, totally appropriate! Whatever you do, this is a time of year where you spend it with those that you love and appreciate most, do so and be merry.
If you happen to be a non-Pagan reader of mine and you find out that someone in your family is Pagan or Pagan leaning, you know not to fret and basically ruin someone’s Christmas. Instead you’ll be of open ears, not asking stupid Harry Potter questions (except about the latest Harry Potter movie perhaps, I heard it was pretty good) and streamlining them to this site. Quietly wish them a happy Yule and chat with them, they’ll appreciate the support. If you want to give them gift, you can be totally normal about it all or give them something thoughtful like a Yule poem or a small tealight candle pack. Don’t treat them like glass or as if they have a vicious allergy to Christianity, just be a good relative to them, that’s it.
This is the last article/post of 2010, the installments are next. It was really nice being a heavy-duty columnist for seven months, going on eight. I am honestly shocked I managed to keep it up so far. Thank you everyone for being so supportive!
- African American Wiccan Society
- Lupe Fiasco & KRS-One Christmas Battle