It went perfectly. No, I’m serious. There simply could not have been a better way that the situation went.

I spoke with my boss, the owner of the company, the next morning. I’d thought about what I was going to say (of course) but didn’t try to script it, because that doesn’t work for me. I just made sure I had the highlights in my mind.

His response: “Before I say anything else, let me say this: I am MORTIFIED that your religious beliefs are a topic of discussion in this office. That is unprofessional. It is wrong.”

See? The absolutely correct answer, right off the bat. I never once, then, or later in the hour-long discussion that ensued, EVER said what my beliefs are. Which, in retrospect, was a perfect way to bring it up. Think about this: WHAT you believe is not, and never will be, an issue. Religious beliefs are protected.

It would probably be more difficult to have this conversation if you were asking for an exception but you won’t reveal your beliefs, and therefore the support for you request. But I’d never brought up my beliefs in teh office — NEVER. I don’t wear particular jewelry. (Although I do have a special ring I frequently wear, it is usually taken for a flower curved around a blue stone, not as the Goddess image that it actually is). I don’t dress in any stereotypical fashion. There is NOTHING whatsoever to idenify me as a witch outside of my private life… and here, on the Internet of course.

My boss also never once blundered by asking me what my beliefs are. He too realized that they are irrelevant, as long as I didn’t proselytize them. He made a point of telling me that as far as he’s concerned, any public conversation about private matters was inappropriate. Sexuality, political beliefs, and religion were all one and the same: taboo topics and not for office discussion.

I was relieved. And reminded of how fortunate I am to have found this haven for a person like me.

Because, of course, this is not the case for many of us who are outed in the work place. I firmly believe that those of us who practice discretion in the workplace will fare better than those (mercifully few) who flaunt their … diversity. Ok, lets be straightforward: their DIFFERENCE. Yes, its annoying when you work in an environment that supports the mainstream and you are safer if you are quiet. Its worse when you are so quiet that everyone assumes you are like them too — so you should join in and participate in whatever they are doing. I’ve heard numerous stories of Pagans being asked to Bible study groups because ‘everyone else in your team is there’ or working for small family owned companies where they are excluded from many important (career-building) events because they don’t fit in.

Fair? no. Legally permissable? much of it, yes.

I didn’t want a fight to happen on my behalf. I took the correct steps, I informed my manager of indirect harrassment, and he and I have agreed to a course of action that includes my asking for different, or further, actions be taken. I was treated with respect.

Perfect.

It has finally happened — I’ve been ‘secretly’ outed at my workplace. It’s not like anyone has asked me about my beliefs, but someone finally did a Google search and found my so-called alternate life.

I found out by accident — a comment overheard, a whisper misdirected, and I can put 2 and 2 together to get the right answer: I’m being whispered about. Worse, my ability to function as a person is being criticized — not because I’m doing a bad job, but because I am a witch.

Fundamentally, witches and Christians have a wildly different view of the universe. In one, God is all-powerful and singular. In the other, there are many ways the Divine expresses itself. That, from my POV is the beginning and the end of the discussion.

The Christian’s ’10 Commandments’ are a worthy collection of rules to live by:

Text of the commandments

The following is the text of the commonly accepted (by Christian and Jewish authorities) commandments as found in the book of Exodus 20:1-17, New Revised Standard Version. Because Jewish, Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic traditions divide the commandments in different fashions, they are presented as verses below, without itemization.

(1) Then God spoke all these words: (2) I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; (3) you shall have no other gods before me. (4) You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (5) You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, (6) but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (7) You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. (8) Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. (9) Six days you shall labor and do all your work. (10) But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. (11) For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (12) Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (13) You shall not murder. (14) You shall not commit adultery. (15) You shall not steal. (16) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (17) You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Exodus 20:1-17  (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments)

Certainly far easier than the rules according to Leviticus.

My own code of ethics is simpler, but stricter: Harm none. I’m not about to get into a debate about meat-eating, but living a life where I do my best, my utmost at all times to harm none is stringent.

Like the Christians, I don’t lie, cheat, steal, kill, commit adultery, or covet (because that harms ME). I honor my parents. I try to take time, regularly, to worship the Divine.

But, somehow, because I do not believe in a single, male, God I am a bad person. That hurts. It hurts that people are making jokes about ‘don’t cross the witch, she’ll turn you into a toad’ and insinuating that clients will not contract our services because there is a witch workign in thsi company. Never mind that I don’t appear anywhere on our website or in our marketing materials. Nor that I have never, not once, told any single person in this company that I have religious beliefs at all.

And yes, when people have had hard times I’ve asked them if I may pray for them. And when they said yes, I did pray. I prayed for the best outcome, for the return of health to them or their loved ones. Of course I pray: its directed energy towards a specific outcome, asking for the intervention of the Divine. No, I never did a spell — that would be harmful, even if they never found out.

So, now I wonder: who will be the first to tell my boss, the owner of the company? Who will try to harm *me* all because of a label, a difference of attitude, a disagreement over a specific point of view?

Last night, peacefully, Marione Thompson-Helland left the physical plane.

Marione was the Editor of The Beltane Papers, coordinating an all-volunteer group of women as we collected articles, poetry, recipes, reviews and information celebrating women. She first volunteered for TBP after reading issues #1-#4 and has been the editor since 1996. The mother of six, grandmother to nine, Marione earned a degree in Women’s Studies. Born in California in 1938, Marione was an early participant in the Witch movement, continuing her practice after she moved to Bellingham, WA in 1992.

The women of The Beltane Papers have spent more than 20 years being spirited women, speaking our mind, and pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable. It’s part of our philosophy that we don’t expect everyone to like or agree with every point of view expressed in any given issue. We have always hoped that it encourages our readers to think, and that they find something in each issue that speaks to them personally and that they are left with a comfortable feeling of fulfillment after reading it. In her time as Editor, Marione kept that assertive spirit bright.

Issue #38 was published in August, delayed by a month by the news of her diagnosis with Stage IV lung cancer. In her honor, the other volunteers picked up where Marione no longer could do the work. In her honor, people donated the money we needed to replace the shortfall of a distributor’s bankruptcy and increased printing costs.

Marione Thompson-Helland was a guiding light for me. A general request for help led to my becoming the Review Circle Coordinator almost 10 years ago. The two of us became more than colleagues and something less than old friends. We simply haven’t had time enough to be old friends. She was the Crone who oversaw my birth as a Queen, I was her staunch supporter.

An amazing, gifted, joyous woman has left this phase of existence, and the hole gapes wide in her absence.