Finding My Goddess; or “The path to Hecate was littered with shitty fanfiction. And I wrote most of it.”

I was sitting on my toilet earlier and thinking, as one does when waiting for their loving spouse to locate a roll of toilet paper for those emergency “Why the hell didn’t you replace the roll after using the last of it you dipshit!” situations, when a thought occurred to me that I forgot about until a few minutes ago while browsing Twitter (no, not while on the toilet).

The gods (or God, whatever your belief) come into our lives at such strange times and we often aren’t even aware of it until years later. I’ve said before in passing that Hecate is considered my household’s patron goddess, and has been for my mother and I since before I married. Since before we came back to Georgia in 2010. I’ve also told my long, winding spiritual journey and yadda yadda yadda. That’s the “official” version, at least that’s what I call it. It’s got the main plot points, the important details, but lacks the down to earth, slice of life details and stories between the major plot points. This is one of those little, silly detail stories.

My mother’s a Christian again, but not the sort to completely ignore or rally against what she believed before. It was a natural progression for her, and it makes her happy. And I’m happy that she’s happy, too. But that’s just here for context. Before she returned to Christianity, she worshiped Hecate. And through the part of her life that she did, Hecate was what she needed most. And I am happy that the goddess welcomed her and helped her through a very troubled and dark time of her life in ways that I could not be there for her.

And while I do not consider myself a devotee and have her as my main deity – she is among my personal pantheon and does fill the role of primary goddess in it, with Death itself as the god role (which for my personal spiritual practice takes a more prevalent position in my worship. More on THAT in another post on another day). So, in my practice and worship, she’s around and pops up when she feels she needs to.

But it occurred to me earlier, and again right before making this post, that I was drawn to Her long before I knew anything about paganism beyond basic Greek and Roman mythology we learn in grade school.  Bizarrely, this particular stroll down memory lane takes a sudden and sharp turn into the world of Fanfiction. I’ve mentioned before that I write the stuff (but I do not post it to this blog). But first, a bit of context as to how this links up with the rest.

I love books and I love learning (despite what all of my teachers in the past were led to believe). I would think of a subject, and look it up in the dictionary, then thesaurus, and eventually the encyclopedia. When I had a chance to go to the library, I’d take a notebook and just do as much research from as many different sources as I could. I didn’t have to, no one made me, but I just did it. I would devote entire summers to learning about a subject as much as I possibly could. This continued from second grade all the way up until part way through college and I had a job that took most of my time away from my academic leanings.

In 1997, my family got our first computer through the Finger-Hut catalogue. Technically it was my mom’s, but we kids were allowed to use it for school and a little bit for the internet (mostly, again, for school). A family friend set it up for us, and he gave us some nifty programs for it, too. One of them was an encyclopedia program. Needless to say I was the most excited of all of us over that one. Mind you, Wikipedia would not be launched until 2001. So this program that I got for free was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. The summer of ’98 I used that encyclopedia program to do a lot of reading. Every subject I could think of until finally, I settled on Greek and Roman mythology. At the time I already had a basic grasp on it, a little more than my peers, but only because my favorite anime or all time had been (and still is) Sailor Moon, who’s characters’ super heroine forms are named after the planets and have attacks based partly on the elements and partly on the particular gods/goddesses associated with their planet (except Saturn and Pluto. That one gets a little weird and mixed up – but the rest are pretty close to the mythical origins to an extent). It was also around this time I discovered… Fanfiction. See, I told you it would all connect together.

One of the main plot points of Sailor Moon is the love story between Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom and Prince Endymion of planet Earth. I had never heard the name Endymion before, so I was curious to see if like many other aspects of the show, it was based on mythology. Imagine my middle school aged surprise to learn there was more than on goddess of and/or associated with the moon. I read up about the Selene and Endymion myth, which led me to an entry about moon goddesses in general. This entry, of course, led me to Artemis and Diana (funny enough, the names of 2 of the 3 talking cats on the show). However… in a footnote among other articles and names of gods and goddesses in the “See Also:” section was Hecate. I’d already decided to go through every entry even remotely linked to Greek and Roman mythology that I could uncover, but that entry in particular caught my interest.

And later that summer, when I decided to try my hand at Fanfiction, it was with my fanmade character Sailor Dark Moon, Princess Hecate. A dark and edgy version of Sailor Moon who came from the dark side of the moon. Yes, very original, I know. Go ahead and get your giggles out now.

Take a breath. How about some water? Need a bit of air?

You good now? No?

I’ll give you another minute to compose yourself.

Okay. Let’s continue. Yes, that was a very awkward period of my life and I am insanely grateful that I never committed any of THAT fanfiction to digital format. The handwritten stories that were circulated among my friends now no longer exist, thank the gods. I burned every single last copy. The take-away from that experience though is that I devoured the information more than I had any other of the gods and goddesses in the encyclopedia at the time. And over the years, when I happened to come across information regarding Hecate, I’d read through it. I didn’t seek it out though. Just one of those “Hey, random article about this subject cites this other article about Hecate. Neat. Wonder if there’s anything in the Hecate article I don’t already know.” And so I’d click it to read it. But I never went out of my way to look for information after that summer.

Well, after that summer, I really didn’t want to go to church anymore. I wanted to branch out and explore other beliefs. But at the time, my hands were tied and I kinda had to go to church if I wanted anywhere to go out and do. It was the only way we could afford things like bowling or skating at the skating rink, etc, as part of church trips. A few years later, around early 2000, I didn’t have to go to church anymore, and this afforded me the freedom to explore other beliefs. So I read a lot. Went to the library, and checked out any book I could about all kinds of beliefs. At the time my library wasn’t even close to being as big as it is now, but it was better than nothing. It was nice. Of course, I looked up old Hecate when I explored Greek/Roman polytheism and at the time it really didn’t connect with me all that much. Still, it was an interesting read to me at the time.

A few years later in early 2003 (my 16th birthday no less) my family moved to Florida. Much of the first few weeks I try to block out of my mind. However, where we lived – we were very close to a little store within walking distance of my house called The Purple Door. And it was run by a nice Wiccan named Gretchen. It had all manner of pagan stuff, and it was here that my mom found her path, or rather, the path that was needed most at the time. We stopped in just because “Hey, there’s this place that literally has a purple door.  They’ve got neat stuff in the window. Let’s stop in and see what they do there since we have time to kill today.” and it seemed like a good idea at the time. And it really was. My mom went back, bought a couple of books. Talked with Gretchen a bit. Of all my mom’s kids I was really the only one who had an interest in her newfound spirituality because I was the only one who’d really tried to branch out and find something new for myself. And I felt she needed at least someone in the family who was supportive of her in this regard that she could talk to with no judgements. She experimented with different gods and goddesses, until at last she had settled on with Hecate. Boy was she surprised when she told me about Hecate and I went and told her even more (at least in the academic sense).

At the time I remember thinking it was pretty funny because of my silly little Sailor Moon fanfictions that were inspired by Hecate. And while she wasn’t exactly one of my personal pantheon at the time, she was still an influential deity of my spiritual life at the time because she was the one to which my mom turned in her faith and belief (alongside Hestia and other home-maker type goddesses to a lesser degree).

Ten years later, after meeting my husband and right around when we started dating (right before we “officially” started dating. He actually courted me. It was cute. This next bit is during that “courting” period which lasted about 2 weeks) I’m over at his and his mother’s house for dinner. Somehow we got on the topic of spirituality and witchcraft and Wicca in general (I must note, by this time I firmly identified as not Wiccan) and something I said must have impressed his mother quite a bit because she actually started going pretty in-depth into the topic with me, and later said it was a better conversation on the subject than she’s ever had with any of my then-almost-boyfriend’s past girlfriends. And of course, given the subject matter, Hecate’s name came up. She might have been impressed with the fact I didn’t do full on woo-woo new age sparkly glitter about the sparkly glitter version of Hecate that most of the fluffy woo-woo types go on about, and more on the realistic expectation of personal belief plus the academic perspective. At least, I like to think that’s what it might have been. I know she was surprised that I knew some stuff that typically doesn’t come up on a surface level Google search. Whatever it was, she was satisfied that I gave the goddess her proper respect and reverence, so I guess that’s a tick in a win column somewhere.

But thinking back on all of that, earlier today, it makes me want to giggle. Because again, you never know when the deities you may or may not believe in will step in, make themselves known, and then just kinda poke their head in from time to time whether or not you actually believe in them. Needless to say, by 2013 Hecate had become part of my personal pantheon as the main goddess among them, where she continues to be to this day.

But it’s just a little funny that for me, the road to Hecate started not with a dire need for something to believe in. Nor was it a deep spiritual devotion and hours upon hours of meditation. It started with a 1997 no-name computer from a mail order catalogue, with 1997 encyclopedia software, and an obsession with the anime Sailor Moon.

Advertisements

Yes, Witches Hex. – A Ramble.

Firstly, here’s a link from a friend’s blog, where she’s pretty much summed up that yes, Witches can and often do hex.

Moving on, here’s some of my own thoughts on the subject.

Recently there’s been all this hooplah big enough to make it on media sites and news outside the pagan community about a mass hexing of the Stamford Rapist. Within the pagan community however, a BNP (Big Name Pagan) voiced his opinion that you can’t call yourself a witch if you hex. And that he and the other trail blazers in America had been working decades to remove the stigma that we’re all gonna hex people. He went on to say in subsequent rants that his books were not books of witchcraft but books of magick and spells.

…..So, if magick and spells are not witchcraft, are they special attacks and action options in tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons&Dragons?

The fact of the matter is, yes he and others in the earl and mid 20th century pushed hard for the sanitation of witchcraft in order to make it more palatable for the bigger religions to swallow. They intentionally tried to declaw the cat so to speak. But the thing is, they weren’t pushing for witchcraft – they were pushing for a religion called Wicca.

In today’s world, many see the terms Wicca and Witchcraft as interchangeable, along with Wiccan and Witch. When I tell people that I’m a Witch, they immediately jump to things about The Rule of Three and the Wiccan Rede (which is a LOT longer than 8 words, but most Wiccans don’t bother to learn that). Usually at that point I have to stop them and explain that no, I am not Wiccan. And then we get into an argument over semantics and I have to go into lengthy explanation that a Witch is someone who practices Witchcraft and can be anyone from a Voudoun to a Wiccan to even some Christians. Whereas Wicca is a religion, and all Wiccans follow it, and not all Wiccans are witches. Usually at that point in the discussion, one or both of us gets annoyed and flounces off in frustration. (A better explanation of this might live on for another more in depth post.)

Anyway, part of this idea that they are interchangeable was due to the fact that in the early 20th century, Wicca was just getting started. Just planting its roots – and its creators had a heavy background in Witchcraft. So much of the practice of witchcraft made it into this new religion. In the mid 20th century is when distinctions began to be made between Wicca and Witchcraft, but much of it was still interchangeable due to the fact that Wicca employed much of the practice within it. It wasn’t until the late 20th century when the general practitioners of both began to realize that they are not one in the same. One merely employs the many of the practices of the other to some extent – limited mostly to basic and fundamental information, and by the time of the late 20th century was pretty much exclusively the “positive” types and tropes of Witchcraft. The occasional hex here and there was re-labeled a “curse” but the idea of “cursing” someone was simply too terrible an idea so the concept of “Karma” was inserted instead. Thus the Wiccan Witch keeps his or her hands clean of sin and the person gets their just desserts. Hence the “Rule of 3” and “The Wiccan Rede”. The RO3 states, in it’s simplest form, whatever you send out will return to you threefold. So under this idea, when “Karma” kicks in it’ll be 3 times worse for the perpetrator. And the Rede, in the most common form states: Do what you will, but harm none. So by letting “Karma” take the wheel, the Wiccan Witch’s conscience is clear because it was out of their hands, and they did not bring harm themselves.

3risbcx

This, in essence, is a load of bullshit. Because that isn’t how Karma works. Allow me to introduce to you the concept of Kalifornia Karma. You know it, I know it, everyone who ever cites Karma as being the reason for something knows it. Kalifornia Karma is named so because it began among the New-Age movement out west, and at the time the fad was most prevalent in, you guessed it! California! (The C is replaced with a K because it looks nice with the K from Karma.) So what is Kalifornia Karma? Well, imagine driving down the highway and someone cuts you off. Then they cut off someone else. And speeds away. Later down the road you see they’ve been pulled over.”Well, that’s what you get for cutting me off.” – Kalifornia Karma is the same as Instant Karma. Cause and effect. Immediate reaction.

The true concept of Karma, however, has nothing to do with that. Imagine that same driver again, and again they cut you off on the highway. Then someone else. They speed off, like before. But this time when you see them again, they have not been pulled over. They have crashed. Assuming the person who died in this imaginary crash was a general asshole, according to the laws of Karma they would be reborn in the next life to make amends for their assholery, or at a lower station of being as punishment for their assholery. Karma is not instant. Karma accrues over a period of a lifetime. It is the sum total of good and bad deeds a soul does. The simplest way to remember this is in the common phrase “What, did I kill a Pope in a past life?” in relation to bad things happening to you. This takes the concept, in it’s simplest form, and essentially states “I am having a lot of bad things happen to me now as punishment for something I did in a past life.”

Now then. Why do I go so deep into Karma and tangent away from the actual topic here? Well, it’s actually completely on topic. See, most those who spoke out against a mass hexing by witches of the Stamford Rapist subscribe to the ideology of Wicca whether they call themselves Wiccans or not.The call for “Let Karma get him!” and “Send love and light to the victims instead!” followed quickly by “Oh be careful! Rule of 3!” and “You’re not a real Witch because you don’t follow the Rede!” all stem from this simplistic view that all witches follow a homogenized standard of rules and policies made up by people who borrowed from older traditions and practices to create their own religion. This is not unheard of as Christianity itself set precedent when it broke away from Judaism. While the main focus of Christianity is indeed Jesus and the New Testament, the Christian Bible and many a sermon and Sunday School lesson includes books and works from the Old Testament. Christianity’s earliest beginnings were as a messianic cult that believed the prophesied messiah had come and it was Jesus of Nazareth. (Yes, I know, overly simplistic. But if I didn’t go simplistic we’d be here forever arguing over semantics. Lets move on, shall we?)

Now then, all of this, just to get down to brass tacks. The terms Witch and Witchcraft were, essentially, co-opted by the religion of Wicca, to the point that the general populace legitimately believes they are one and the same. And wherein the Wiccan practitioners, and indeed some of the BNP trail blazers legitimately believe that you MUST follow the Wiccan faith to be a Witch, but you DO NOT practice the Witchcraft that preceded it.

tumblr_o2cg9gPCCf1u3ev8zo1_500

And yet, even historical evidence points to the fact that witches have been around in some form since the dawn of human belief and spiritual practice. And for all that time, they have been both hexing and blessing. Sometimes in the same breath.

So where do I stand on the mass hexing of the Stamford Rapist? If I had the time and space to set up an altar, I’d do it my damn self. For many of the reasons stated in my friend Boudica’s article I linked above.

In closing – in claiming that true witches do not hex, one is denying our history as witches. They are rewriting what we are, who we are, to fit their sanitized and sterilized view and to fit into a perfectly and neat and “safe” category for the benefit of others outside of our religions and practices. It is, in and of itself, erasure of those who hold to the age old tradition of Witchcraft.

Rainbows! Rainbows EVERYWHERE!

And for good reason! As many have no doubt heard already, today is the day that the Supreme Court of the United States declared that it’s fucking ridiculous that one group of people can get married and one group can’t just because people don’t like it. So they went and fixed that niggling little issue.

As a bisexual, I am so thrilled that my country finally allows same-sex marriages nationwide! Yes, I am married to a man, but that wasn’t always the case. As a teenager I worried about whether or not I’d not just ever marry, but ever be ALLOWED to marry because at the time, I didn’t know if my “one” was going to be a man or a woman. When I came of voting age, LGBTQ+ rights was one of the main issues that decided who got my vote, or if I even voted that year.

And as a parent, I’m even more thrilled, because I don’t know if my son will grow up straight, gay, or anything inbetween. This is just one step towards knowing that whatever my child grows up to be, he’ll have the same right everyone else has. He won’t be faced with the uncertainty so many people have faced simply because they love someone that another group of people says they shouldn’t. Maybe my son does grow up straight, but has a friend who isn’t. He won’t have to worry about his friend’s predicament. He won’t have to watch a friend go through the struggle of trying to be seen as equal.

People can threaten to set themselves on fire, they can threaten to move to another country, but the fact of the matter is finally… FINALLY people can marry the one they love. Period. That’s it.

Only, for some people it isn’t that simple.

I’m a former Christian, so I understand the apprehension many have regarding gay marriage from that perspective. Some people just find it disgusting, and that’s their perogative. But for the average person who happens to be Christian, they worry about what the Bible has to say about it, because that’s the book of morals and values they live their lives by. From their perspective, it’s a sin. And I totally understand that. Biology dictates that the species is continued by a man and a woman procreating, which is what a lot of those old tennets are really about. In those days, when those verses were written or meant to take place, the continuation of your family was the single most important legacy a person could leave in the world. To ensure this, the concept was written into the doctrine. And that’s fine.

See, the thing about these United States is that we have the freedom to practice whatever religion we like. It’s one of the founding principles of our country, religious freedom. It’s why those famous pilgrims came over here, after all. But one must understand that just because a law states it CAN happen and is LEGAL, does not mean there is someone standing there with a gun to your head making you violate your religion because of it. You still have the right to say yes or no. The people you say no to don’t have to be happy about it, but you can still say no. The great thing about this law, though, is that same sex marriages can be carried out in the secular courts and in all other systems of belief where to do so won’t violate their beliefs and faith.

This great country of our’s is not a single religion. We are many and varried. And just because Christian pastors, ministers, priests may not perform these marriages, they are also no longer the gatekeepers of marriage. And I think that scares a lot of people. They think that the government will swoop in and force people to choose between their faith and the law. But we as US Citizens have the fundamental right to say yes or no. There are also things called Religious Exemptions, also known as Exemptions of Belief. People use these exemptions for all kinds of reasons, and if you were to go through the proper process, the LEGAL process then where is the problem? The Christian belief of marriage between man and woman can still be held sacred to Christians, their religious practice and ceremony left intact, and the right to marry still applies to everyone under the law.

Now, I understand that allowing religious organizations to go through the process of exemption, which again is perfectly legal for them to do, will make it difficult for same sex couples who want to get married in the church by a Christian pastor/minister/priest, etc. But not all Christians hate the idea. Not all pastors/ministers/priests hate the idea. And there are those out there who marry people regardless, and have been marrying people regardless because they understand that love is love and we are all God’s children in the end.

As for all the other myriad of religions out there in our country, I can’t speak for most of them because hey, I haven’t done more than brief stints to see if they fit me or not. But I know Wiccans and many under the Pagan umbrella have been marrying same sex couples for decades. We’ve called it by other names, but it’s the same concept. In fact, marriage predates Christianity. It was a concept invented by pagans.

fucktyeahrainbows

This is not me, but this pic I found happens to have glasses, long hair, boobs, and a laptop. All of which I have.

So, if this post happens to reach any Christian pastors/ministers/priests out there, if you are one of those who does feel so strongly against same sex marriage, then please instead of just outright refusing, go through the proper legal process our country has already had in place prior to today’s SCOTUS decision and do the religious exemption paperwork. That way not only can you stand there and say “It’s against my religion” you can also say that you have done things the right and fair way. By having the paperwork to back up your words to show you’re not doing it out of hate and spite, but that it genuinely does place you into a conflict of faith. These exemptions exist for a reason, and have existed prior to this decision. It is possible for both Traditional Marriage and Non-Traditional Marriage to coexist without this country falling into ruin.

Now that I’ve got the initial “OMG YAY MARRIAGE EQUALITY!” and the “Let’s be reasonable religious people” everyone can have this gif I found on Google. Because fuck yeah rainbows are really cool even without all the loads of symbolism people attach to them for so many different societal things! FUCK YEAH NATURAL WATER PRISMS!

A Ramble – What I am.

Paganism is a very broad umbrella. It encompasses so many beliefs from the well known Wicca and reconstructionists to the followers of ancient Pantheons and more. Some even consider the LHPs of Luciferianism and Satanism falling under that umbrella. Because Paganism is so broad, it’s often difficult for many to figure out exactly what label applies to their beliefs, if any label applies at all.

For many years I have simply called myself an Eclectic Pagan. I draw many of my beliefs from different paths, and meld them together into something that works for me. I try to find beliefs that are universal to all if not most religions and beliefs I have come across. And these have become my core belief.

I believe that there is no true concept of good and evil, light and dark, right and wrong – because these are concepts based on human perception. What is good to one person is evil to the next. Actions done for the greater good can be done by people who walk in shadows. Positives turn into negatives and back again on a regular basis. One literally defines the other.

But recently, I have felt the label I have given myself as an Eclectic Pagan is not enough. At least for personal use. To the rest of the world, I’ll still use the easier term that the majority understand, but for me, I have this need to know. To pin it down. So I did some research. I started looking. And I think I have found what I have been looking for. But, as with all things in life, this label may change. New information may come to light, terms can be redefined, ecetera.

I have now chosen to further label myself a Polytheistic Pantheist.

To use a sort of for dummies version of definitions – Polytheism is the belief of many gods/goddesses. Pantheism is the belief that the Universe itself is god, and everything is part of that divinity.

I worship the Universe as my all encompassing deity. Even science shows we are all different combinations of the very same elements that make up stars, planets, comets, plants, animals, air, water. We are all part of a greater whole. But I also believe in the many gods and goddesses, with Hecate actually being my family’s Patron. I believe in other deities, and mythic creatures, and that the soul itself continues on once the body has lost its purpose and dies. To me, the gods/goddesses are distinct, conscious, and self aware manifestations of the Universe. Of it’s power, of it’s different aspects. When we appeal to the gods and goddesses, we are making an appeal to the primordial powers of the Universe to give us aid and comfort.

Now that I sit and I put this into words, some of my favorite personal sayings make so much more sense now.

I gave up arguing with the Universe a long time ago, because I’m really just arguing with myself.

Spiritual and Religious Practice or Hardcore Porn? – A personal ramble about posting nudes on social media.

Briefly – on Facebook, in the wake of the ACoW 2015 debacle, the parody group turned into a discussion group, into a sort of watchdog and information resource group. Here is the group description for Pagans & Witches for Spiritual Responsibility.

It is an unfortunate fact that the Witchcraft and Pagan “community” has its share of self-proclaimed leaders with dubious claims of degrees, certifications, and lineages. There are frauds, predators, and the delusional who hide within groups or the community at large and claim to be witches and pagans, yet treat it like a game or source for ego feeding or to rip off the unwary or naive. This group looks at people or groups who seem to fit that profile and where possible, show factual information for others to see and decide for themselves.

In this group is discussed many topics – from spiritual leaders who are actually scam artists, plagarism, what books and authors spread wrong information, etc. One topic that came up was nudity and sex, more specifically, what is meant by “explicit”. It is no secret that in wicca, and other forms of paganism, people and covens have been known to perform their rituals skyclad (for those who don’t know, that’s naked). It is also no secret that some people and covens have been known to perform fertility sex rites (between consenting adults). This is part of their spiritual practice and religion, and that’s perfectly fine. No one is arguing that point. To post images into a public forum that allows nudity, to me, is perfectly acceptable when done so in a strictly artistic or religious/spiritual context.

But that’s my personal opinion. Others, however, may have more delicate sensibilities and not wish to see it at all. Then there is the ever present issue of children who lie about their age in order to gain access to social media and groups. These children are then exposed to images that in all reality are actually very innocent, or shared to a group with the understanding that everyone in said group is an adult of legal age. – As I said, children lie about their age. And they do it often. – Then the images are often taken out of context. Be it a person’s immaturity, their delicate sensibility, or simply because they’re a stickler for the rules and TOS enforcement…

And herein lies the rub. On Facebook, and I’m sure many other social media outlets, it’s against the TOS to post nudity of any form with the sole exception of classical art and things of that very specific nature. In places like Facebook and sites like it, I say whatever the TOS says, we abide by. We agree, whether we actually read it or not, to the TOS when we sign up for the service. We agree to abide by whatever silly rules Facebook puts down. We also agree that Facebook, at any time, can close down our groups, pages, and accounts, for whatever reason they deem fit. That said, my personal opinion on the matter is that I personally won’t post any nudity, as it is not part of my spiritual and religious practice. If someone in one of my groups posts photos of themselves or their coven and it is very obvious that the images are of a spiritual and religious nature, I won’t report it. I may caution that they should make sure it doesn’t violate the group rules laid out by the admin(s), but other than that, I’d applaud them. However – if it is obvious that the images are NOT of a spiritual and religious nature, I’ll be the first to hit the report button.

Like a large number of adults, I do like seeing naked people. I like my porn. But Facebook and social media is NOT the place for it. If I want porn, I’ve got a few favorite sites for that, thank you very much.

As for the discussion on Facebook between myself and another member of the group, it was sparked by a warning post that came up on my feed about a user who had been posting “explicit” nudity and sexual images. I screencapped it and posted it into the group. To end the debate, I went to the origin of the warning in order to get their input and description of the images so that I could clearly explain that the user in question, and the images which had prompted the warning, were NOT infringing on any spiritual or religious practice and were in fact simply hardcore porn.

Things I have learned from being a Witch in a small God fearing town.

The town I live in, I’ve been in most of my life. Though I was born elsewhere, I grew up here. From age 3 to 15, a day shy of 16, I lived in this place. When I was a child, from 5 to 12, I went to a local Baptist church. I was like any kid that age. I liked to play outside, play with my toys, watch cartoons. And of course, since I was sent along to church every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening, I was a devout child of Christ.

I began to question my faith around 11 years old, and by 12 it was a chore to get me up on Sunday and send me off. I found myself asking the touch questions that no one in Sunday school really wanted to answer. Questions such as “If God created Earth and man 3000 years ago, then how come the dinosaurs were here first? How did they get here? Why would God create fossils and show that the Earth is older than we think it is without a reason?” I also wanted to know things, as all humans do, like what is the point of it all? Why would God deliberately let bad things happen to good people? And so on and so forth.

The only answer I ever received was “You have to have faith that God knows what he is doing.”

For a curious 11-12 year old who, as a 1st grader took a serious interest in all things dinosaur and science, this is a rather big thing to ask of them.

I left the church at 13. I could not take the blind faith any more. I began my searching for a new belief, a new faith, at this time. I went to my local library and I read up on every religion I could find. I educated myself on the different beliefs across the globe. I found a lot of the material useful and that it was similar across all religions. So these things, I took and applied. I cobbled together a belief that worked personally for me. Little did I know at the time I was starting down the path of paganism.

And this worked for me for quite some time.

The day before my 16th birthday, my family moved to a new town in a new state. I had no friends, and I had no family that I could actually get along with. My dad’s relatives were… not the greatest or nicest of people. What kept me safe and secure at the time was the hodgepodge of beliefs I had pieced together. The belief that there is a reason for everything, and that the Universe would provide.

When we finally found a house and moved in, it turned out we lived within walking distance of a small new age metaphysical store. It was your typical new age shop. Candles, herbs, pagan oriented books, tarot and incense. Knick-knacks and some hippie-like clothing. The woman who ran it was really nice, if a bit too trusting at times.

It was with her help that both me and my mother were able to learn more about our non-conventional beliefs and spiritual paths. We frequented this shop until it closed down, and then discovered one Halloween the small town of Cassadaga, FL. which had hosted a family friendly haunted hike with street vendors of all sorts and open house for their bookstore and hotel after hours. Cassadaga is a Spiritualist camp where the main attractions are the the temple, the bookstore, the haunted hotel, a post office, and the numerous psychics and mediums that populate the very small place. (Seriously, there’s ONE main intersection and a small pond. THAT’S IT.)

In this town, we found a small shop where I would later take a job. It was here we met people that would shape my spiritual education in the next few years to come. But at this time, we had found a new place to expand our knowledge and gather our supplies for our belief practices.

My mother became a solitary practitioner of Wicca. Myself, I continued my hodgepodge, and could confidently call myself an eclectic pagan. A label I continue to use to this day, though I am closer to a Witch than anything else really.

Two years later, I found myself responding to a very small index card sized Help Wanted sign in the window. I was hired less than 72 hours later, and would remain cashiering and acting as receptionist/secretary at this job for the next year and a half.

It was at this time I met Mr. and Mrs. Sekunna, the owners of the shop. Dawn Casseday, a shaman psychic medium. Sherre Wellins, an astrologer and numerologist, DruAnn Welch, a tarot card reader and collector, and Rae Moonwind, a psychic medium on the weekends and a school teacher during the week.

These people taught me so much in my short time working with them. Not just spiritually, but emotionally as well. At the time I was hired I was a completely different person than I am now. I was emotionally numb. I had allowed depression to rule my life. Dawn’s unyielding kindness, even to those who showed her only bile, helped me to start reaching out to people in kindness and love rather than skepticism and distrust. DruAnn’s life mishaps taught me perseverance and confidence in myself no matter what problem arose. Sherre’s carefree attitude taught me to loosen up and not take myself so seriously anymore. To accept that things happen, and I can still smile and laugh about it afterwards. And Rae… Rae taught me perhaps one of the most important lessons of all. To take care of myself. My WHOLE self. To listen to my body and take direction from it rather than put myself through hoops and let myself collapse. To push myself, to my limits and beyond, but to do it safely and in a manner that my body can handle.

Mr. and (now former) Mrs. Sekunna taught me the value of hard work. To stand up for myself and have confidence in my abilities. To expand my horizons and lead rather than be led.

To these people, I am forever grateful. Without them I would not be here today. The only reason I had even left that job in the end was financial. It was, and will always be, the best job I have ever had in my life. I helped others, but also rediscovered myself.

It was the things that I learned in Cassadaga that would see me through the next phases of my life. College, such as it was, didn’t pan out. My depression got the better of me and I had a breakdown resulting in a bipolar diagnoses, medication, and therapy to help me cope with the depression and mania cycles I kept going through. I worked as a scrap-booking and crafting teacher in a JoAnn’s in Sanford, FL for a while. Then, life happened, my family fell apart, and I had to move again.

My mother and I returned to that small town in which I grew up. Sure, we had visited a few times over the 8 years we had been gone. We still had relatives here after all. But it was an alien place. Much had changed, both geographically and within ourselves. Our relatives were and always have been severely Christian in their beliefs. And we had to live in the broom closet while living with them.

During this time, I took a brief 6 month stint back to Florida in search of employment. Had that panned out, I would still be there now. Obviously, it didn’t and I returned to this small town. I lived with relatives again, this time my aunt instead of my grandmother. While living with my aunt, I had to attend church every so often. I did this out of respect for her and her beliefs rather than because it was forced. At least, that is how I managed to muddle through it. I often found myself talking with one of my cousins who was curious about religions and beliefs outside of Christianity. Of my relatives, she was the only one who actually was outspoken about her support in alternative beliefs, but like all of us, did not speak thus in front of her mother.

Educating my cousin on paganism in general was for me a small blessing. The more she learned and understood, the more open and accepting she became not just of myself, but of others. I feel that this small act was my way of passing on the things I have learned along the way, and the values and lessons I learned in Cassadaga.

It was during the time living at my aunt’s house, near the end of that time actually, that I met my husband and his mother. I had taken to wearing my favorite pentacle when outside of my aunt’s home, and when I was not with my relatives. After making a comment about a DVD my now husband was holding at the time, I saw he wore a pentacle as well. He and his mother took notice of my choice of accessory that day, as I did theirs. I was flabberghasted, to say the least. In such a small and staunchly Christian town, there were others like myself.

We quickly became friends, and animatedly discussed our chosen paths, among many other non-spiritual topics as well. And while I now know of others in this community who believe differently from the norm, it is still difficult being a pagan in this community. I find that when I come across people I grew up with, I went to school and played with, I get strange or disgusted looks from them if my pentacle is showing. One man, who while we were in school together was my closest friend, accused me of worshiping Satan in the middle of Wal-Mart and immediately stopped communicating with me on Facebook. Now if he sees me in public, either alone or with others, he turns and deliberately walks the other direction away from me.

Not attending the local churches, as I am not Christian, is also a disadvantage in the job market here. Often I have found myself passed over for less qualified people due to the fact that Person A knows Person B (or a relative) from Sunday School. I do not have any jewelry or identifying markers of my beliefs when I attend these interviews. Churches, from an outsider’s perspective, are a primary networking tool rather than a place to worship. In this town, the church you attend is also a status symbol. The current “high status” church in this town is a local pentacostal megachurch (which happens to also be the one my aunt and cousins attend). While some in that particular church I have met are good eggs, the majority that I have met are egotistical and obsessed with status and prestige rather than faith and belief, even if it means being contradictory to their faith and downright obscene in their ignorance.

Another side-note on Christianity, Churches, and the job market in this town. Our local craft store, the only craft store really, is a Hobby Lobby. It is common knowledge that this is a staunchly Christian chain of stores. So much so that I can legitimately state that I have been discriminated against during the one interview I did managed to get with them, and before and after that interview. The only reason I got the interview was because the store had gotten a new manager and I managed to get hold of him as I was out shopping one day to ask a simple question about a brand of products they used to carry (it was a type of colored gesso used to prime canvases) and we started talking about teaching classes and when the store would be hiring again.

What got me? I said “Merry meet” when greeting the interviewer (a slip-up I realized rather quickly by the confused look I received) and “Blessed be” rather than “God Bless” or “Have a blessed day.” The two customary farewells of the employees at Hobby Lobby.

Not to say that I don’t like Christianity or hate Christians and churches and whatnot. I don’t. Matter of fact, the few I have met who are the good eggs, they have restored my faith in Christians as good honest people. In my personal view, a little misguided, but does not every person believe that about anyone who does not share in their beliefs?

Do the difficulties presented by my alternative beliefs and lifestyle make me reconsider returning to the church? Not in the least. If asked by a friend or family member to join them in attending a service, I would accept based on the fact that I respect them, something that I hope they would do in return.

The basic tenants I learned as a child from attending church still stick with me, as they are present in one form or another in all beliefs I have encountered. Love your enemy, even if they hate you. Show kindness to others, be they in a higher or lower station, it does not matter. Kindness and love are universal to all manner of creature, and all are deserving of it. Respect others as you would like to be respected. Share your knowledge so that others may learn from your wisdom and mistakes. Do not live in regret, and keep moving forward. The future is not set in stone, and it is up to us to shape it.

And lastly…

Have faith. In your chosen belief and path. In others. In life. In the universe. And most importantly, in yourself.