Why Are You Like This?
Barb here, Dissy and I were discussing what we should write about for our very first Witchy Wednesday and settled on answering the main question everyone gets when talking about non-mainstream religious beliefs. Some people are nicer and more polite about how they ask, some are mind-blowingly nasty, but the general gist remains the same. “What happened to cause you to be this way?”
Interesting how no one asks that of people who belong to “acceptable” religions, but that’s another rant for another day. The reasons for following this path are as varied and individual as the people doing it, so these…. are our stories. DUN DUN! (I couldn’t help myself, totally not sorry!)
I was raised Catholic, which in my family meant spending my entire school career at Catholic schools, and sporadically attending church on Sundays because it was required to stay enrolled. The most important thing I can tell you about Small Barb is I was relentlessly logical. I’m still fairly practical and like things to be orderly and sensible, but Today Barb seems positively wild compared to Small Barb. Imagine if Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy had a baby with a Vulcan and you might start to understand.
The other important thing is, 1980s Catholicism had no patience for anyone who felt compelled to Understand All the Things. No questions, no looking deeper, simply obey and believe. You can imagine how well that worked out.
The story I most frequently use to illustrate my experiences comes from when I was very young, I think about 6-7. We were being taught the parable of the good shepherd. Being the tiny Spock that I was, I asked the teacher in all earnestness, “What if I no wanna be a sheeps? What if I wanna stay a peoples?” Instead of giving me an age appropriate explanation of what metaphors are, the teacher sent me to the principal’s office. Things did not improve from there.
By the time I reached high school, I was pretty well over it. I wanted to feel the connection other people talked about, I wanted to know what it was like to go through life confident that Something was out there that loved me and was looking out for me. Somehow it just never happened. At 20, my life was not going well, and I had given up, convinced that either nothing was out there, or if it was it didn’t give a single solitary mouse shit about me.
The day that changed everything I was at the mall, wandering around a bookstore (this was back when malls and bookstores still existed, haha!). I happened upon this small, purple and silver book that I felt like I HAD to pick up. In that book, I started finding answers to all those questions, answers that made sense. I haven’t looked back since that day.
When I was a youngster, and, by “youngster,” I mean between the ages of 3 and 9, I was both fascinated with and terrified by tales of the strange and unusual. I had the odd connection with the grass, the dirt, the trees, the leaves, the sky, and the sun, moon, and stars, that imaginitive children tend to develop when they spend most of their days playing alone. They were my friends. I talked to them, and they talked back in the offer of a soft carpet for my bare feet, a sturdy place to lean my back, or the generosity of shade on a hot day. If I had a book with me, I’d read aloud to the trees, grass, and sky.
In my bones, I feel that I’ve always been a Witch, and not because some facebook quiz told me I was. When I began to learn of paganism, it felt more like coming home than “discovering” something. I can’t swear that, left to my own devices, I’d have always been a witch, but that connection to all the world, feeling the life force energy in all things, well, that’s what always felt right for me.
When I was a child, my sister and I were raised in holy-roller type churches. That never felt natural to me. Needless to say, that type of environment terrified any kind of esoteric bend I may have had right the fuck out of me. I mean, who wants to burn in hell for an eternity? So, I tried. Spoiler alert: I eventually gave up on the notion of heaven/hell/christianity. I’d say the largest break came when I was 12 and some woman stood in front of a youth group and told me that my father, who had just died a few months before, had likely gone to hell. I mean, maybe he did, but WHO SAYS THAT TO A CHILD? Still, I kept going because my mom made me, and, when I was old enough to put my foot down, I quit.
Over the years, I tried to find a path within the “norm,” and I always failed. That’s why I laugh to myself when people inevitably say “not all christians…” Well, sir/ma’am, that has been MY experience. People become more about serving and maintaining the “religion” than being about the principles that built the religion. I mean, sure, I know some good people. I would never know they were christians unless they told me. I don’t hold that up as the reason that they’re good people. They’re just good people the same way I’m a good person, the same way atheists I know are good people, the same way trans-gender people I know are good people… you get the picture.
So, there I was in 2006. I was reeling from the fallout of a horrible breakup. I didn’t lament the loss of the relationship so much as I was having massive difficulty with the “me” aspect of the breakup. The self loathing that comes when you realize that even a worthless shitbag doesn’t love you, so what are the odds that someone who isn’t a worthless shitbag ever will. Let’s compound that with the ridiculous amount of self loathing and inner contempt involved when your whole adult relationship experience is a seemingly endless line of one worthless shitbag after another. There were a lot of other hideous things going on with the demise of that particular relationship that I’ll keep to myself for now, but let’s just say I was NOT in a good place internally.
I tried the prayers. I really did. I mean, that’s how I was raised. That’s what I was told would work. That’s what I was told would help me. Guess what? It didn’t, and all I wanted was a little comfort, some hope for fuck’s sake. Alone, I prayed suffered and cried until the day I just wanted to die. Luckily, I didn’t, but that really, that was my breaking point with traditional spirituality. There was nothing to help me, nothing to comfort me, nothing to save me, and I was goddamn tired of fearing a hell that I wasn’t even sure I believed in. The realization then hit me. I was on my own. It was up to me to save my own soul. I own this life, no one else, and no one is going to clean it up for me. Instead of depressing the hell out of me, it was probably one of the most freeing thoughts I had ever had.
The next day, I re-acquainted with an old high school friend on MySpace (how’s that for a blast from the past?) I quickly became friends with he and his wife, who was an openly practicing pagan. She asked me if I’d be interested in learning about it after I’d asked about 17 billion questions. I said I was, and we were off to the races.
One night, about a month later, I looked outside and saw the most beautiful full moon I had ever seen. It was a warm night in July, and I just had to be outside in the moonlight. I took a simple candle outside with me. I sat on the ground, placed the candle before me, lit it, tilted my face toward that gorgeous moon, and I closed my eyes. I sat like that for what seemed like an eternity just soaking in the energy I was feeling. When I opened my eyes, I took a chance, and I poured all of my shame, self-loathing, and misery into the earth in the same figurative way one “gives it to god.” You know what? I’d love to say I have never questioned myself since that day, but that’s not true. I did, however, feel better. I felt hope for the first time in ages. I felt capable of getting through it, whatever “it” may be. For me, that was a miracle.
As my lovely cohort says above, “I haven’t looked back since that day.”
Basically, Witchy Wednesday will be about witchy topics. Feel free to ask questions. We will do our best to answer. We welcome your inquiries. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we LOVE talking. Have a FANTASTIC Wednesday, folks!