Thursday, December 9, 2010

On Secret Identities

I recently switched career paths and my new job has a lot of people on facebook and does a fair bit of informal communication via FB. Though I could have just kept my FB private, I wanted to participate, so I created a separate non-occult related Facebook Page. This surprised a more than a few people that I, a published Author, lecturer, and professional Sorcerer would choose to be "in the closet". Since there are so many people who feel passionately about being out of the closet I thought it would be a good discussion for the blog.

Funny enough, while most Pagans want to get people more and more out of the closet, I actually recommend that Sorcerers stay in the closet! This position has surprised a couple people. There are three main reasons for staying in the closet about your magical practice, and I am not sure that people think very much about all three.

1. OUTSIDERS: This is the obvious one and it doesn't need much explaining. If your concerns are mostly about Wicca or Paganism as a religious movement than it totally makes sense to make a stand and come out of the closet despite whatever resistance you receive. I respect this highly and do not want the rest of my post to seem like I do not. A lot of people today have an understanding about these kinds of things anyway.

If however you are mostly about magic rather than religion, than you might be concerned more with how being "out" will effect your success and acceptance. This too is valid. Some institutions are better than others. When I hear someone that works for the state, tell someone who works for a Catholic Charity that they don't understand why they wont come out of the closet at work, I just shake my head because they are very different environments.

2. INSIDERS: This is actually my primary reason for being in the closet at work and in certain social circles. Despite the reasons above the worst scenario is not that someone I work with discovers my books or blog. The nightmare scenario is when someone that likes my work or who I do work for decides to come to my job or call up or leave a message about demons or exorcism or some shit like that. The nightmare for many of us that have professional careers is not them, its us.

Think it doesn't happen? It has happened. I was outed at AIG in the 90's by someone having an "emergency" and needing me to cast a spell for them immediately. I had a friend who lost his job at Motorola based on a similar situation.

Unfortunately if you are involved socially in any kind of Pagan or Occult community you have to deal with a higher than normal ratio of people that range from having little to no discretion to being nearly insane. If you see me out on the street and want to say hi, please do. But if you don't know who I am with, please do not share the story about how my book on protection magic helped you fend off a cult that was cursing you. Do not tell the group of my friends what a great lecture on Necromancy I gave. Do not ask the people I am with what "tradition" they practice in. The rule should be to assume discretion unless given the all-clear by whoever you are talking to to speak openly.

3. MAGIC: Being out about religion is not the same as being out about magic. You may be a Wiccan and have your co-workers fully accept and get behind your talk of the God and Goddess, Sabbats, Circles, etc. Do not expect those same people to be quite as accepting if you start talking about the spells you do with business cards to influence the minds of your boss, or rituals to insure promotion, or even your incantation to get laid. Witchcraft the religion and witchcraft the craft can be two different things when dealing with outsiders.

Besides that, as a Sorcerer you may be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or even Athiest. The religion is not what you are keeping in the closet, so what gets served by letting everyone know that you are a magician?

Anyway, lesson that I want you to take away from this post is not whether you should come out. It's simply that you should respect whatever decision that other people make based on their circumstances.


Apuleius Platonicus said...

Thanks for this post. I think too many people have a knee-jerk reaction to the whole "coming out" issue.

The modern world is very anti-magical. Anyone who doesn't understand that is in big trouble. And, unfortunately, anyone who doesn't understand that probably IS big trouble.

Pallas Renatus said...

I love point #2. Half of the "insiders" I meet already seem over the top to me; I can't imagine having to explain them when they run into my boss.

Anonymous said...

Great post, I agree 100%

Gordon said...

Sterling advice, as ever, Jason.

For me -big shock here- it boils down to results. Presumably people choose employment because they wish to make money. Anything that puts this at risk, as far as I am concerned, is not good magic.

I use facebook for work so I keep that purely muggle. Twitter and, oddly enough, LinkedIn are open season for my fellow magical weirdos. My point is that I have a clearly delineated strategy.

Some industries are more amenable to you letting your freak flag fly. Others aren't. This makes it difficult to create best policy for an entire community.

And if you're new to an industry then the best thing you can do is hold off on flying any flag whatsoever.

People who decide to let their freak flag fly have made the decision that being noticed for their beliefs is more important to them than maximising a job opportunity. Otherwise they wouldn't do it. That's not a judgement, it's just an observation.

I don't roll that way at the moment because making the most money I can is more important to me than being known for my atypical beliefs. It's very 'Dr Phil' but I geniunely believe you can break this down to the core question: "what's the payoff?"

PS - And besides, magicians have been in the closet for one and a half thousand years! Do we have to have a fucking parade for everything??!! :)

Astrophel said...

I don't make a big deal of it but neither do I hide it. Eventually my coworkers started asking questions. They pretty much all wanted palm readings from me and I have people text me their personal problems because, y'know, I'm magic and have all the answers.

I can think of worse ways to build clientele.

Ron said...

"Half of the "insiders" I meet already seem over the top to me..."

It is for this reason that I cut many relationships to the local pagan/magical community where I live. I have since cultivated other relationships in order to improve and enhance my life.

Pallas Renatus said...

@Astrophel: That's about the best reaction you can get. Historically, wizards were professional advice-givers, after all =)

@Ron: I've heard that story from more than one person, which is why I'm only (very) slowly introducing myself to people (in real life) that I've already gotten to know somewhat via blogs, etc.

Psyche said...

When I worked in the corporate world (a major Canadian bank) I didn't make any effort to hide, but I also didn't advertise myself.

That I read tarot on the side was known and was considered kind of cool. That I summoned demons and created imaginary friends to carry out tasks on my behalf wasn't really something I talked about.

I've been writing about occult topics online since '96, but it's only in the past couple of years that I've linked my legal name with my online handle.

The culture of the workplace defines how open one can be. In most situations it's not appropriate to discuss religion, let alone who or what was invoked last night.

Cheers to remaining in the closet.

petoskystone said...

in total agreement with this post. especially addition, i don't want my young grandchildren to be accosted by certain christian-types looking to 'protect' them.

Jhonn Barghest said...

Well, there is that notion that magicians should be seen and heard. On the surface, that might sound like advocating for forwardness and openess about one's practices. Perhaps a better interpretation is: See the magician have the world align itself for him or her. Hear the magician mention how the world tends to align itself for him or her. But you'll never see or hear how the magician has done these things.

Ehhhhh, that's sounds like shit typed out, but you get my drift, I hope.

I study both psych and religion at a university, and so I straddle that line between freak flag a normalcy. Being a religion student gets me a little leeway with the esoteric stuff. Psychology, in a way, does too (sometimes). However, go a little too far and the department might think I have schizophrenia. So, if anything, I have a mild curiosity in the occult when I'm in those circles. And that's about it. Straddling lines. Woo!

ConjureMan Ali said...

I'm with you Jason. As a person who is in the field of academia I can tell you that it is a much more open field than others, but you can really loose credibility fast if you are "open" about your identity as a socerer or magician. It is one thing to study it from the point of view of acadmics and another to adhere to such beliefs. I know a few colleagues who have lost prestigious fellowships, professor positions and more for being openly an adherent of magic.

While there is a certain freedom in living a rather open life, there also comes a risk.

Lycan said...

I find myself in agreement. Religion is one thing, and Magic is another.

I've been in those uncomfortable situations when people assume everyone with you is "in the know". Luckily, well placed humor diffuses the situation and alerts the big mouth to put the freak flag away.

Most of the people in my life know that I have an interest in philosophies, ancient religions, and I know an awful lot about mythologies. No harm. No foul. I rarely discuss religious beliefs. I like ideas better anyway.

I'm already a Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner in a town warring between Catholics and Apostolics. No need to give the mob more reasons to assemble with torches.

So yes, closet. Sealed. Check.

Anonymous said...

I am rather open considering my views on magic in the pagan and buddhist circles where I meet people. On the other hand, I do not often tell what for I actually do magic when I do so. I give open magical assistance only to very personal friends. Otherwise I do just natural acts of compassion and very covert things.

I do not bring my religion or magical practice up where I work. I can manage without. Neither I speak openly on the internet about magic - for that I have nicknames.

Anonymous said...

Well, when it comes to people putting you out on front street as it were, there are people who are idiots because they are quite undeveloped and are generally thinking of themselves anyways. I'm not a semi-famous person nor do I ever plan to be so I'm thankful that I'd never be that position but I don't mind telling you that I do work for a Christian based organization while wearing two occult tattoos on my neck. But when I had gotten these tats, life for me was different and didn't plan on ending up where I am now. Sucks but I get through it. I just learned not to answer people who ask me about it. I've attempted this once and it proved to be a bad first impression.

Anyway, people who are Christian don't tolerate anybody who's not Christian even if there are people who hold to such a faith while doing magick or what have you. People feel that if you're not Christian or Muslim (in some circles); that you don't adhere to and worship a God or hold such beliefs, you are evil and gives license to be fucked with and outcasted.

It's funny but the people that I generally avoid in my private life are all lumped together for the 10 hour shift that I work and so it's just best to be realistic and cautious when one has to make their daily bread.

Kebechet said...

I prefer to be in the closet as well honestly. I went through the "I must tell everyone I'm magical and different and awesome" when I was like 13. Now I'm 23, and much better adjusted.

Any eccentricities that show through can be blamed on the fact that I'm an artist :) and artists are always a little on the weird side.

I do have my close friends magical or no, who know about my paganism and/or to some degree my magical practice, but in the professional world my freakishness is kept to a minimum.

Bird's Eye View said...

Great post and very timely! Good luck on the new job!