Walking into the local PTA meeting was always a gut-wrenching, fearful event for me while my children were in school.
I was the same as all the other mothers and fathers who attended these meetings, mostly. We were all there to support our children and their school by finding ways to fund a better education for all of the children and to commune with the other parents over common childhood issues. Yet every time I walked into the room, my stomach would drop and butterflies would flutter. I was sure that as soon as they knew the “real” truth about me I would be tossed out and shunned.
The “real” truth wasn’t that I was a criminal, completely off-the-wall or some sort of moral degenerate – it was that I practiced a misunderstood faith and that the fear of my faith that had been taught to the masses by “traditional” faiths, and the media could turn on me all too quickly.
My worst fear came true about seven years ago.
My place of employment found out I was Pagan. I had done an interview with a local newspaper on the triple aspects of the Goddess and about a local event that was taking place to celebrate it, and they printed my legal name instead of my “craft” name. (A public name is often taken to protect the legal identify of a person who practices many of the Pagan paths.)
I was out of the broom closet, as some of us in the Pagan community say – there was no more hiding my faith from my peers, my children’s friends or their parents. At work, I went from being a great employee to being the worst employee in the company in less than six months. The parents I had made contact with through my children no longer wanted to talk to me or them. Even the people I thought were my friends no longer wanted anything to do with me.
During the entire process, I wanted to shout, “But I’m so much like you. I have similar values, similar ethics, and similar interests! Why do you fear what I am so much?”
Since that time, I have tried to educate others about my religion. Every day, I share who I am with people in an effort to bring understanding and acceptance for all religions because no one should ever fear walking into a PTA meeting.
My name is Victoria Chance. Most people in the Pagan community know me as “Taz.” I am a Wiccan High Priestess, a teacher of my path, an activist and a regular Joe. My daily life may seem pretty boring to most people. The majority of Pagans are, in fact, regular Joes. We don't always dress up in Goth, Steampunk or Ren Faire garb. We don't party all the time. We don't do drugs. We don't fit the stereotypes that we are often labeled with. We work, we pay taxes, we volunteer, we go to school, we worship and we raise our children. No matter what specific tradition we follow – Paganism is not a homogenous religion but rather an umbrella term used to describe a number of spiritual paths – we usually commune outside in nature and worship monthly. We hold to a strict set of ethical standards based on the values of our traditions.
In my clan, a group descended from the First Temple of the Craft of WICA, we believe that supporting one another spiritually is the goal of community. We honor the Divine as it is expressed within each of us and all around us. Every aspect of life is sacred to us. As a result, we work to better our communities through inter-traditional and interfaith collaborations in order to work for the betterment of everyone. It is our belief that if we hold our hand out to help someone up, no matter who that person is, then that makes our community a better place for all.
One of the most amazing things about our Pagan communities is that we hold helping others as one of our top priorities. We plan and work urban gardens. We hold community events to help educate. We go to church to worship and build a sense of community. We have youth groups. We have coffeehouse discussion groups. Most of the time, unless you ask, you cannot tell the difference between a Pagan and someone of any other religious faiths. We buy groceries, go to plays, have our cars fixed and live our lives.
Pagans also hold to a strong belief in personal responsibility.
For Wiccans in particular, this is encapsulated in the Wiccan Rede, a statement empowering the Wiccan to do what they will in life but ensure that it harms none. Other groups have other value structures, but the underlying concept of taking responsibility for and accepting the consequences of one's own actions remains a strong theme throughout the various traditions. Some Pagans have sacred texts or a list of virtues to strive for; others rely solely on mystical experiences to guide them. Some Pagans worship alone; others worship in groups. Some Pagans honor certain deities; others acknowledge the deities but work more closely with ancestor spirits and mystical guides.
Almost all Pagans would agree with the idea that the point of practicing their faith is to come to know themselves, the deities and the world better, and to become a better and wiser person than when they first started on the path. In doing this, we almost all reach out to help others, which takes me back to the beginning.
Hi, my name is Taz and I’m a Pagan. I would like to reach my hand out to you, work with you, and learn from you as we work together to build a better community.
– Victoria "Taz" Chance