Contemporary Pagans and Stigmatized Identity


  • Gwendolyn Reece American University



concealable identity, concealable stigmatized identity, Heathen, minorities, Neo-Paganism, Paganism, prejudice, quantitative, stigma, stigmatized identity management, survey, Wicca, Witchcraft


This quantitative study investigates Pagans as having a concealable stigmatized identity and is based on data from a large-scale national survey of Pagans, Witches and Heathens in the United States (N=3318) that was conducted by the author. Following the thought of Goffman and his successors, this study provides a quantitative snapshot of the ways stigma affects contemporary Pagans in the following domains: personal and household relationships; the workplace; social institutions; and with the public at large. Particular attention is paid to the fear that Pagans will suffer false accusations. This study provides data about the prevalence of reported adverse events that the participants attribute to prejudice against their stigmatized Pagan identity. Participants’ perceptions of risks of negative outcomes arising from stigma are also analyzed. Individuals with a concealable stigmatized identity must make information management choices concerning whether or not to employ a “passing” strategy or to disclose their stigmatized identity, each strategy bearing different costs. This phenomenon is colloquially known within Paganism as the “broom closet.” The relationships between the “broom closet” and adverse events and perceived risk are analyzed. Numerous areas for further research are suggested.

Author Biography

Gwendolyn Reece, American University

Gwendolyn Reece is Associate University Librarian and Director of Research, Teaching and Learning. Her rank is as a tenured associate faculty member.


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How to Cite

Reece, G. (2016). Contemporary Pagans and Stigmatized Identity. Pomegranate, 18(1), 60–95.