I was raised a non-denominational Christian. By the time I was eight, I had read three versions of the Bible and “graduated” from Sunday school to attending the actual services with my parents. I went to a few of the Bible study classes with my parents, both at the church and at the homes of various fellow church goers’ homes. I participated in the annual Bethlehem Walk and went to Youth Group with my sister. The whole family went on trips with the church and to Christian camp.
My mother was in the choir and joined in various plays put on by the church. My father passed the collection plate and I joined the puppeteer group. We prayed before every meal. We went to potlucks, vacation Bible school, and we were routinely greeters on Sundays. Anything that we could be involved in with the church, we were. We were on first name basis with the minister and his wife.
And in the midst of trying to be good Christians, my parents’ failing marriage finally gave out.
I remember being a complete ass to my mother. I remember, at the age of eight, feeling a sense of rebellion when we changed churches and I refused to take communion. I remember scouring the Bible for verses denouncing divorce and the people who pursued getting one. I remember telling my mother that she was breaking God’s heart by divorcing my father.
I remember being angry at her for taking away my best friend. I remember telling her – this woman who gave me life and who was only trying to better her own life as well as ours – that she was tearing our family apart.
And I remember feeling like it was my fault, somehow, that I couldn’t hold them together. I remember getting angry after my prayers continued to go unanswered. How could God want this? Why wasn’t He stopping it if He hated divorce so much? Why wouldn’t He talk to me, explain to me what was happening? Why didn’t I feel comforted after praying to Him? Why didn’t He care like I cared?
And then it didn’t matter anymore what God wanted. To my child’s mind, He had let my family crumble and He hadn’t had the decency to even explain anything to me. I didn’t feel the out pouring of love from Him nor from His church goers. I felt shunned. Exiled. Bastardized.
So, I picked up this labelled feeling and I wore it. If God didn’t care about me, then I didn’t care about Him. Keep in mind: at this point, I was barely nine years old and had very little idea on how to cope with such extreme change, let alone how to empathize with someone making such a difficult decision after 20 something years of marriage.
I lost faith. Plain and simple. I carried my pain and confusion like a badge of honor, like armor. Who could possibly hurt me more than the god that turned a blind eye to my supposed suffering?
And then, something happened. I watched The Craft and suddenly thought I had found a solution. The girls I hung out with dabbled for a little while, but soon I was left on my own again to find answers.
I, thankfully, found out sooner rather than later that movies are misleading. I found true Wicca and I knew I was on to something. My first bit of magic? Casting the Circle.
I walked three times around the circle and envisioned a warm white light coming down through my head, down my arm, and through my pointed finger. And I could feel the pulsating barrier of the circle beneath my palm. I sat in the middle of the circle and I felt dizzy with the amount of energy the circle held in. The air was warm and reminded me of breathing through a blanket.
I reached out to the Goddess and the God, despite my mother’s concern that it was demons and Satan I spoke to. I called to the Lord and the Lady and asked to simply be there in their presence.
I felt the enduring comfort of a Mother’s Love wash over me. “It is not your fault,” she said. “Your heart is cut so deep, your pain is great.” And she held me. “Feel your pain. Experience its agony. Do not deny that it exists.”
Pain demands to be felt (Thanks for the phrase, John Green). “Do not let this pain define you. Rise, daughter of the earth, child of the moon. Rise above it. Master it. Channel it to your benefit. Grow from this.”
And I think that I have done that. I cherish the feeling of acceptance that the Lord and Lady have provided me. I appreciate their guidance and support. I would be lost without their patience with my shortcomings.
As of now, I cannot say that my faith is as strong as it is supposed to be. I cannot pretend that I am as devoted as I feel I should be. I do not know exactly how I want to practice. I struggle to feel secure in my path.
But this is the path that I still feel at home with. This life challenges me, it requests that I prove to myself how dedicated I am to what I believe in. And what I believe in is in a constant state of revision and a process of clarification.
As of right now, I do not consider myself Wiccan. I prefer the term Pagan. I feel that it is more inclusive of my eclectic beliefs. But as of late, I have found myself wondering exactly what kind of Pagan I am.
Group ceremonial magic makes me have dreams where my teeth fall out. Elaborate rituals don’t feel genuine to me. Esbats (magic typically done based on the moon cycle) pass me by for the most part. The few that I do catch are spent cleansing crystals and smudging my house. I go in spurts of lighting incense on the altar every day and then not at all. Some days I can focus enough to meditate for hours and other days, I can’t hold a single image for longer than a couple of seconds. I wear crystals in rings and necklaces and keep them on my work desk. I still wear my first pentacle on a regular basis, even though sometimes I feel like I’m not worthy to wear it.
I spend a lot of time living in the future and making future plans for how I am going to make myself a better, well rounded Witch. And then, those future plans don’t ever happen. For years, I have told myself that I am going to build a shrine under my lilac bush for the land wights or that I am going to make an altar to honor the ancestors. I have promised too many gods that I am going to be in their service. I have begun too many training covens and practicing covens to count and every single one has fallen through. I want the companionship of other practitioners, but I feel like I begin to lack sincerity in my practice when I work with them all the time.
I have this idea that there is a basic curriculum that I am lacking when it comes to magick. And this is something that I have not really discussed with anyone I have practiced with, so I don’t know if other people feel the same way. I think things like knowing what certain herbs and crystals do is important. I think knowing some form of divination is useful. Knowing what the colors symbolize and how to incorporate numerology and astrology in magick seems to be key. Understanding how and why we meditate and what visualizing is actually doing is also important. In short, being a jack of all trades when it comes to magick is better than being a master of only one subject, I think.
As of late, I have begun a project of love. When I was beginning my path, I didn’t have someone to learn from. I just sort of floundered around and made a lot of rookie mistakes. So, I decided that I didn’t want my nieces, nephews, or future children to run into that sort of situation should they ever decide to get into this. I have started to pour through the books that I have found most useful over the years and pull together that basic curriculum that I felt I was lacking and I have started to compile it into a working Book of Shadows or Grimoire. I have talked to various practitioners and gathered advise from them on what they would tell a newbie to our way of life.
Since starting this project, I have found a couple of obstacles that require consideration especially when it comes to wording. And while I agonize over how I want to explain meditation, I find myself thinking back to one of the only teachers I have every actually had. He was a shaman and a dreamer. The first time I met him, I knew we were kindred spirits. A giant Irish flag hung from his dining room wall, cats lounged on every surface of his apartment, and there again was the feeling of coming home.
He lived with his girlfriend and best friend. Eventually, I was asked to move in with them and we formed a coven. We spent Full Moon together and New Moons on our own. His lessons were typically taught in the kitchen while dinner simmered on the stove, with a bottle of Jameson in his hand.
I remember one night in particular. It was during New Moon in the winter and we hadn’t practiced together for months. I stood at the stove making dinner and he came into the kitchen. I could tell by the look in his eyes and the way he leaned against the door frame that he had something to say. So, like little ducklings, we clustered around and waited. Sure enough, he made his easy way into a discussion about knowing ourselves and knowing where we stood with the Lord and Lady. He talked of self discovery and growing on our paths. He talked of companionship with each other and supporting one another. He talked of conventional love and defying expectations.
I had never felt closer to these people than on that night. I listened to him with a heart full of love. He was my teacher and friend. These people were my safe haven, my happy little family. Since that night, we drifted apart and I have heard that he no longer practices, let alone teaches and my heart is broken. Even if I cannot learn from him anymore, it hurts to know that his path was abandoned and no one else will get to know the teacher that I knew.
But, I digress. For now, love one another. Cherish the little moments of every day. Feel the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair.
May the Lord encourage strength and courage in you. May the Lady inspire love and tenderness.
Until next time.