How I Wear the Pentacle (or Not)
Author: Dessie Silverglass
If I had to guess I would say that most of the people who identify themselves as Pagan are familiar with this symbol: the pentacle. The pentacle is perhaps one of the most widely recognized Pagan symbols. It is seen in books, on Pagan websites, on television, and on Pagans and Wiccans themselves.
Whether you wear one yourself or you know someone who does, chances are you know that jewelry featuring pentacles is very popular with some Pagans. I myself have a pentacle necklace that I love to wear whenever I can. I’ve had some interesting experiences when wearing it or seeing someone else wearing one.
Probably nine times out of ten, if I’m wearing my pentacle necklace, it’s hidden under my shirt. This is just easier for me. This helps me avoid any unwanted conflict. But this also brings up questions from friends who know I’m Pagan and can’t seem to understand why I’d hide it. I’ve been asked way too many times, “Are you ashamed to let people know you’re Pagan? Why are you so embarrassed, girl?”
Very rarely do I wear my necklace where others can see it. If I’m at home, I don’t really care if it’s hidden. My family is aware of my Pagan beliefs and has come to accept them (at least a little bit) over the last several years (It’s been a long process).
Sometimes, if I’m going somewhere alone or with Pagan friends, I’ll wear my necklace so it can be seen… really, just to see what it’s like and what might happen (a social experiment, if you will). Thing is, this social experiment usually has negative results: everything from the nasty glares in the frozen foods section of Wal-Mart to the outright laughter and nasty comments at the movies with friends. But truly, I think that those people are a minority; most people don’t notice at all.
If I’m on campus (I’m a college student) and I’m wearing my pentacle necklace, it’s always hidden. The university I go to has a fairly strong Christian presence, and though I don’t think anyone would be truly nasty, I’ve never felt quite comfortable with the idea of being openly Pagan there.
If asked, for most of these last few years, I’ve always identified as a solitary Pagan. I’ve made Pagan friends in my own town, from my old high school, and online. I’ve even been in this situation in high school: I’d heard a rumor that a girl in one my classes was a Wiccan, so I pretty much just asked her at lunch, and we’re still good friends.
The first time I heard of Wicca or Paganism, I was more than halfway through my freshman year of high school. It was awesome at first. I met a group of friends (There were like six of them, not including me) who said they were Wiccan and started hanging with them. I borrowed books from them; we had conversations at lunch about witchcraft and the Goddess. We thought we were it. We were just totally awesome. Then I told my mom about my new interest and she freaked out. My parents convinced themselves I was worshipping Satan, but it was also just a phase that would pass. (Soon I’d decide I’d done bad and become a good Christian girl.)
Then the other students noticed. That’s when things started getting really bad. Some of my classmates cornered me after my last class (gym) one day and held a mock exorcism with someone’s cross necklace and “holy water” from the water fountain. A teacher who witnessed this did nothing to stop it. I also had a pentacle necklace I wore back then. I took it off one day because a bunch of students were laughing at me. It disappeared from my bag sometime between the end of lunch and the end of the school day. Summer was a welcome break that year. My parents thought I was over the whole “Wicca thing.”
Summer break was over too soon.
My sophomore year was miserable. Apparently, the rumor mill had a longer memory than I’d thought it would. I was picked on constantly from the first day back because of the group of friends I hung out with. I was lectured for reading articles on this website using the library computers during lunch. My teachers found out and started giving me these “that’s so sad” looks. How could such an intelligent honors student get caught up in something so bad?
It was a shock to have people react that way. I pretty much jumped head first into the “broom closet” (and I hadn’t even heard that term at the time).
I reconnected with some (and made new) non-Wiccan friends (while ignoring the Wiccan ones at school) . I showed up at Christian events like “See you at the pole” before class and helped out when a local church held a food drive. I fought to make even better grades, to impress teachers and my parents. I felt like a poseur, a fake, and a liar. While junior year wasn’t exactly awesome, it wasn't as bad as the first two years.
My senior year was awesome, and by far the best year of my high school education. That year made up for most of the horrible crap that went on during the first three years. By then the rumor mill had pretty much stopped buzzing, there were far more important things going on: college applications, class cookouts, and all around celebration. We were seniors! I was the “good girl” again by graduation day.
Over those years, my beliefs didn’t fade away, they grew stronger. My parents noticed this and I think that my being the “good girl” has made it easier for them to believe that I’m not worshipping Satan every night after they go to sleep. I read more and more. I tried to reconnect with those Wiccan friends (only to find that all but a few of them were “over it”) . For them, it had only been a fad, a passing phase to get attention from classmates. Others were angry that I’d pretty much abandoned them (and they had every right to be).
At some point I can’t remember, I stopped calling myself “Wiccan” (with lots of exclamation points and smiley faces) and just became “Pagan.” I’ve had people tell me that I started out as a “fluffy bunny” and finally grew up and became a “serious Pagan.”
So, I’ve been asked many times: “Why don’t you wear your pentacle so people can see it? Are you ashamed to be Pagan? Why are you so embarrassed?”
The answer is no, I’m not ashamed. I’m not embarrassed and I don’t want to be. I’ve just learned that there is a time and a place for everything, including displaying religious symbols and beliefs. I’ve learned that this world isn’t the all-accepting place I’d thought it would be. Even though the First Amendment guarantees “freedom of religion, ” that doesn’t mean that others will accept or understand my beliefs. It doesn’t mean that they have to know about them either. I learned all of this the hard way.
I’ve worked so hard to make it to college, you don’t even know. I’m lucky that I made it at all; it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s expensive, the coursework is difficult, and if I can walk away better educated and with a degree in four years, then I’ll be better off for it.
Yes, overall college is a more accepting place with better people than I grew up with. I won’t trust it that much though. My early high school years were horrible. I don’t want my college years to be the same. I won’t risk it, and if you think I’m less for that…well fine, that’s your prerogative and your way, not mine.
If I’m wearing my pentacle necklace, chances are you won’t see it. It might be a long time before I change my religion on Facebook to “Pagan” (if I ever do; right now I’m thinking that won’t happen) . I don’t tell everyone I meet while walking down the street that I’m Pagan. My beliefs and my spirituality are my business and mine alone if I don’t want anyone else to know. That doesn’t mean I’m less proud of my beliefs than you are.