Do you practice witchcraft out in the open or are you more secretive? Perhaps you’re partially open with your craft and only certain friends and family know about your spiritual life. Or maybe you’re not yet sure where you fit in this dichotomy! It can be a difficult decision to be open or not about your practice with the people in your life.
While a lucky few have friends and family who are accepting and supportive about their choices, many people have reservations when it comes to witchcraft. The people around you might think that your craft is a weird phase, an attempt to be edgy, or just plain fantasy. Worse still, incredibly religious friends and family can make life extremely uncomfortable if they find out. How is a new witch supposed to navigate these murky waters?
If you’re stuck in this situation and feeling really conflicted about what to do, know that you’re not alone. I’ve been practicing for my entire life and I’m about as open about my practice as a witch can be (hello entire internet!) but even I feel apprehensive about telling new people about my spiritual life and beliefs.
It’s tempting to give everyone a blanket feel-good sentiment like “you shouldn’t care about what other people think about your practice!” but these ideas aren’t practical. As uncomfortable as it is, there are people in your life who have direct influence over your quality of life. Parents, spouses, friends, bosses, coworkers, maintaining harmonious relationships with these people can make your life significantly easier and it may not be worth your peace of mind to rock that boat. Blanket statements simply won’t do in this situation so today I’m going to break down the pros and cons of each side of this argument so that you can get a better idea of which approach might suit you best.
Pros & Cons Of Practicing Openly
Practicing openly is always touted as the preferable option in this debate but that’s not necessarily the case! While there are some unique benefits that come with this choice, that doesn’t mean that it’s right for everyone. Just because other people feel like being open about your craft is the ideal way to be, does not mean it’s going to be right for you. Between being open about your craft or keeping it a secret, neither is inherently better. There is only what is right for you and your life.
The benefits of practicing openly largely come in the form of community. When you’re open about your craft, other people can connect you with other witches that they know, you’re free to pursue witchy meetups, and you can have witchy friends without worrying about being outed. This is a powerful benefit! Many people underestimate how wonderful community can be for a spiritual practice and while there are certainly plenty of witches who are happy being solo, many of us thrive in a community setting.
There’s also the benefit of not having to censor yourself. When everyone knows that you’re a witch, you can mention it casually in conversation without worrying that you’re about to blow your cover. This allows for peace of mind for those with accepting friends and family.
The last big benefit of practicing openly is the ability to have your craft out in the open, literally. Altars, crystals, tarot cards, and personal symbols can be kept out in the open and be used to decorate your living space without worry that they’ll spawn unwanted questions. This can allow your altars and spell materials to be far more elaborate and beautiful. When you can collect, curate, and enjoy your materials all the time, you develop a personal style and preferences that helps you tailor your witchy decor and tools to your tastes without having to worry about whether or not it can all be stowed in a shoebox under your bed afterward.
Being open about your craft isn’t all sunshine and rainbows though. Putting yourself out there can cause a whole host of problems if you’re not careful. As we all know, there’s a strong religious presence in many parts of the world that can make practicing openly not only uncomfortable but for some people quite dangerous! If there is someone in your life who has a good deal of power over you that you think might use this information to your detriment, you should keep that information to yourself! It’s not worth risking your safety and wellbeing.
Dangerous people aside, there’s still a great deal of damage to be done by people who are simply dismissive, condescending, or rude about your practice. A large number of people think witchcraft is a joke. And while you absolutely should not let these peoples opinions deter you from doing what feels right to you, you don’t have to open yourself up to unnecessary criticism and grief simply because someone isn’t likely to be dangerous. Some witches are mentally fortified enough for these kinds of comments to slide right off but witches as a whole are a sensitive bunch. That’s part of why we find witchcraft! I would just about bet that many of us are far more likely to be hurt by unkind or thoughtless words and you do not have to tolerate or invite this kind of behavior by being out if you find it distressing.
Pros & Cons Of Practicing Secretly
Secret witches get a lot of flak and I think it’s about time we lay the idea that being secret is somehow lesser to rest. Keeping your craft close to you and private has many benefits, not the least of which is that it’s incredibly traditional! In Mastering Witchcraft, Paul Huson discusses the four pillars of witchcraft and along with will, belief, and imagination, secrecy is the fourth pillar. Secrecy is embedded in our culture in many ways, from the traditions that spawned grimoires, to the keeping of secret witches names. Keeping your craft secret can add power to your working simply by merit of nobody knowing that you’re working magic! If your working is secret, then nobody will know to counter your spells.
Secrecy affords witches a kind of freedom in the craft that can be hard to achieve any other way. When you keep your craft to yourself, you never have to answer questions, explain your beliefs, or reassure someone again that you’re not going to curse them. You never have other witches telling you how you should or shouldn’t practice, nobody will morally police your magic, and you can pursue exactly what interests you without other witches, friends, or family members expressing their opinions about how you live your life. This can free your mind to explore the intricacies of the craft that feels most genuine to you and that is a wonderful expression of personal power!
Secrecy also means safety. In a world that is often violently opposed to all forms of otherness, it can be a relief to not have to worry about whether or not your life will be turned on its head because the wrong person found out about your craft. If you’re careful about keeping your materials and your practices covert, you can practice right under even the most intolerant noses without any danger to yourself. This often requires you to amend your craft to look more mundane, or even to require few to no tools but safety is well worth the effort it takes to learn these kinds of magic.
Of course, secrecy also comes with a sense of loneliness for many people. When nobody knows of your craft, you lose all potential outlets to discuss and get feedback on your magic. It can be very uncomfortable feeling so different from the people around you while still pretending to be otherwise. This disparity between reality and the personality you’re projecting to the world can be damaging in the long term if it’s not a way of living that comes naturally to you.
When you’re secretive, you may miss out on many of the things that originally draw people to the craft. The witchy aesthetic becomes harder to achieve without arousing suspicion, you can’t keep books about witchcraft out in the open, and sacred or magical symbols will largely need to be kept under wraps unless they can be disguised as artwork that might be found in the average house.
Which way is right for you?
Deciding which approach is right for you and your life is going to be unique to your own life. No two people will ever find themselves in the same life and nobody can weigh the pros and cons against your personal situation better than you. Keep in mind that you are not required to be open about your craft with everyone. It may suit you best to tell a few trusted friends but keep your craft from the rest of the people in your life. This is entirely ok! You are not obligated to divulge every aspect of your self to anybody.
The one hard and fast rule I would encourage every witch to abide by is this: Never, ever put yourself in danger because you want to be open about your craft. It is not worth your safety! If you cannot practice openly without your physical safety, your food security, your housing situation, or your job being put into jeopardy then DON’T. Keep your craft secret and yourself safe above all else.
This post is aimed at witches who are over 18 but I’d like to take a moment to address those minors who may find their way here. You should know that in the US at least, it is not legal for anybody to teach spiritual material to a minor without parental consent. This sucks, I know, but if you’re in a situation where your parents or guardians would object to you practicing the craft then you should not practice. Wait and hold onto your interest in the craft until you come of age and can make such decisions without endangering yourself or those who would help you learn. Minors face uniquely difficult circumstances in this realm since they are often entirely dependent on their guardians and legally underprivileged. Please, do not place yourself in a situation that will put your safety and wellbeing at risk. The craft will still be here when you’re old enough to make such decisions on your own!