Before the age of nine, I was also taught fortune telling with regular playing cards and how to use a Ouija board. I had some perfume from avon in a bottle shaped like a pig that I wore just when I was working on these things. My parents went to seances and were considering some kind of past life regression for my brother as he had reoccurring dreams of being killed in a plane crash as an adult. I have a picture of a southern belle from a family friend that says "to my little Witch" on the back (it was this friend who was teaching me card reading).
I can't remember how doing all this was reconciled with being Christian. I can't remember how to read playing cards or the name of the perfume in the pig bottle either.
I do remember that at the age of nine my family and I became born again Christians and we tore up and threw out or burned everything that had anything to do with reading cards, Ouija boards, etc (the pig perfume went down the sink and the bottle was broken).
It's interesting how Christians and Pagans both like fire.
After that, we were very serious Christians. I refer to that time period as my Fundy Youth (as in Hitler Youth only with a Christian overtone instead of a Nazi one). It lasted for quite some time, almost a decade I think.
As I got older and started to read the bible myself and check scriptures that were quoted in church sermons I became less fundamentalist. I found too many ministers taking things out of context to make them fit what message they wanted to send out. I found the metaphor of "shepard and flock" to be insulting. I found too many biblical contradictions.
In my early twenties, I would say I was Christian but it was more non-practicing. I just didn't really have anything else to call myself. I began thinking that there probably was something out there, or maybe several somethings, but we as humans could not know them with our finite minds. We developed religions as a way to express this belief and we each chose the one that best expressed what we believed. All roads lead home.
All this time, even at my most Christian, I missed those early years of magic. Immediately after becoming born again I began to more seriously read the Greek myths. I had always enjoyed them but then they became more important. They filled in the missing magic.
When I was about twenty six I discovered the modern form of Witchcraft called Wicca. I was immediately entranced. I found the magic of my childhood in an actual religion. After two years of research, consisting of mostly a lot of reading and the occasional seminar, I converted.
I almost didn't as there was a lot of spotlight put on the aspect of motherhood. The Goddess had three aspects; Maiden, Mother, Crone. Physical motherhood was often how this aspect was portrayed. It is only in researching that motherhood didn't mean physically giving birth but mother as a teacher, just as Crone didn't always mean an older woman but a woman of wisdom. Maiden also didn't mean someone who hadn't had sex (and they said you couldn't get your virginity back, ha ha).
Also, there was the issue of any kind of psychic ability. I always thought of psychic ability, and magic as a whole, as science we didn't have the math for yet. (Go back a couple thousand years and an alka seltzer will be a magic pill, go forward a couple thousand years and an alka seltzer pill will be medical history.) I didn't think it was anything supernatural or mysterious; just human talents we hadn't explored fully yet, and like all human talents, some will be better at it than others no matter how much effort they put into it.
The best example of this I can give is tarot reading. I always felt that in a reading there are three things doing the reading. The cards, as a guide, the reader and the questioner. I never felt it was all in the cards or all in the reader. I certainly never felt it was anything supernatural or anything absolute. I also felt that a reader who went professional should have at least have taken some classes, such as intro to psych, psych 101, intro to abnormal psych, abnormal psych 101, intro to counseling and counseling 101 before hanging out their shingle. Part of being a good reader is knowing when you're going to have to say, "you need a different kind of help than I offer."
Another issue I had with the tarot and other “services” of that type was the price. Fifty, seventy five, what? a hundred and fifty dollars for a reading?! I’m not having a tumor removed here! In the twelve years I was Wiccan I paid for four tarot readings and the most expensive was thirty dollars. I thought charging those extreme amounts of money was obscene. How about I pay what I make an hour? They’d be wishing they’d taken the thirty!
At first I studied on my own. Eventually I found a teacher but only stayed with them for about a year as they were more interested in teaching their take on the Craft as opposed to teaching the Craft and letting their students find their own conclusions. I attended one very large gathering once a year which put me in contact with Pagans from around the world and all different Traditions (Denominations) and allowed me to learn about the different aspects of my chosen religion. I enjoyed this gathering immensely but can't always say I enjoyed what I learned or saw there.
I did find a friend who was also a teacher and worked with them for almost two years. This was very satisfying and very much a "hands on" study as opposed to a "listen while I talk" class. The class ended about six years ago and I am happy to say that I am still friends with this person.
As more and more time passed, I noticed I was becoming more and more discontented with my chosen religion. One of the things about the Craft was that there were very few absolutes. The Wiccan Rede ("do as thou will and harm ye none") was perhaps the only true "dogma." I found I was on the fence or just not interested in many of the subjects that most Witches considered part of the religion.
Reincarnation for example. This made some sense to me. Even flowers that decay and become part of the earth again in a way come back as part of whatever grows from their compost. It made some sense that a part of me could come back in a new form, a new body. I just wasn't into past life regression or any serious study of reincarnation. I felt that if one lead one's life awake and aware that was enough; one would automatically deal with any karma or issues left over from a past life (and also make new issues for the next life because, let's face it, if we're breathing, we're packing emotional baggage, the trick is to be unpacking baggage at the same time; and sometimes the baggage is Armani and sometimes it's Second Hand Store, but it's always there, always to be packed and unpacked: always to be worked on). I thought the study of reincarnation, which to me was such a simple, straightforward idea, was just an expense, fanciful waste of money. A few people used it as a crutch. They'd meet someone they just felt like they had known all their lives and run off to a past life regressionist to find out if they had known this person before. Connecting with another human being shouldn't involve cash exchange with an uninvolved third party (and although I believe in legalized prostitution, no, I don’t believe in pimps either).
I only had a vague interest in astrology, no interest in the astral plane, chakras, etc. I never took any classes and only read occasional articles on the subjects. Trance work had no interest to me as it just seemed like meditation with some lucid dreaming added (I trance every day on my way to work, sometimes I even trance while working, and although I've had some "a-ha" moments in those times, I've never considered it anything more than a peaceful, non-thought state brought about by some rhythmic action like driving, work flow, dancing, etc).
Women's Mysteries...I still have no idea exactly what they are. I bleed for five days yet do not die? Most of the issues within Women's Mysteries dealt with what a woman's physical body could or couldn't do with primary focus being on reproduction. This to me is of minimal importance because it's a factor of birth not choice. How one deals with it is obviously important, ie, being treated or treating someone as "less than" due to an issue of birth, etc. It was too heavy on "wymoon being subjugated by the patriarchal establishment” and all male doctors being quacks and all midwives being geniuses looked down upon due to their gender. That’s too much like saying all men are pigs and all women are sheep.
And don’t even get me started on that whole early “matriarchal society” (or as I like to call it, Matriarchal Rome) that was destroyed by patriarchy “herstory.”
There was also some trends within the religion that I was uncomfortable with. Such as the Goddess being talked about or put above the God. Many would say that it was because the Goddess was so ignored in recent history. I would say only in some other religions not in Wicca so why should Wiccans make changes; we aren’t any of those other religions. It just seemed that people were bringing emotional baggage with them when they converted and it was negatively impacting the religion as a whole.
Then there was the new Witch War of the past few years: Witches and Wiccans aren’t the same thing. The Craft and Wicca aren’t the same religion. As far as I could tell, the argument was, simply put, Craft is magic, Wicca is religion. There were specifics given but I felt they were just petty and stupid so I’m not going to repeat them here.
By this time I was going to monthly rituals with a very loose group of friends. No classes or anything, just celebrating the esbats (full moons) and sabbats (holidays). I decided to spend a year going back to the beginning. Rereading a lot, hopefully rediscovering a lot. I also began hosting dark moon rituals once a month at my house.
At first it was a lot of fun. I was enjoying writing the rituals and being with my friends. But I didn’t find any answers and I didn’t find anything to believe.
As I said, I felt that we as a species couldn’t really know Deity, if there was one, or more. We could only create ways to try and understand and call these ways religion. Yet it seems we cannot leave it simply as that. It seems that people must always have a One Way, My Way, This Way, within a religion.
There was too much in the Craft/Wicca that I either had no opinion on, no interest in, or just didn’t believe. There were too many Witch War issues that I didn’t want to get caught up in. I thought about creating my own Tradition of the Craft but I found I wasn’t willing to give it the time or the research I felt an undertaking like that required. I just didn’t believe enough.
I think it was this feeling that stopped me from doing the proper research on subjects that were important in the Craft. Deep down, I just didn’t believe. I liked a lot of the simple, philosophical tenants of the Craft. Ultimately, I didn’t believe in the Craft any more than I believed in Christianity, and I wanted to believe in the Craft.
I realized there was just too many compromises for me in the Craft, to the point that it would be hypocritical for me to continue to call myself a Witch/Wiccan.
I hesitate to bring up this next thing because I know that some people will read it and it will somehow negate everything else I’ve said and it will be all they will focus on or remember, but if I had a great conversation with someone that made me laugh and made me think I would be writing about it, so...
About this time, three quarters of the way “out the door” from the Craft (and any religious beliefs) I’m shown the Showtime series Penn & Teller’s Bullshit. And I thought I questioned! I can’t say I agree with all their stances, I can’t even say I agree with some of the ways they’ve expressed their stances, but I can say that they have most certainly made me think, made me laugh, and inspired me to question and explore. Thinking and laughing, is there a more potent magic? So, although they didn’t help me “out the door” they pretty much made sure the doorknob hit me in the ass on the way out!
I think the Craft was a way for me to express the loss I had when I was nine. A way to regain the magic I had been forced to leave. Perhaps that was part of why I couldn’t truly believe. It was just something I needed to get through to get where I am now.
I can’t say I deny the possibility of there being a Deity or Deities. I’m not sure if this is a “last hold out,” some part of me that just can’t let go of “believing” (which to be honest just smacks of “crutch” to me). Why do I “need” to believe? I don’t know, I’m still working on that. But I am no longer a member of a religion.
So here I am now, for the first time in my life, faithless. It feels scary somehow, and yet, it also feels very, very right.
May 13-15, 2007
May 13-15, 2007
Loose (loos), adjective, looser, loosest, adverb, verb, loosed, loosing:
free or released from fastening or attachment,
free from anything that binds or restrains; unfettered.