The road that one takes on the way to becoming a devout member of any religious system is often a long, tangled road, with a lot of downed trees and mudpuddles along the way. My own road, from confused and depressed Church Christian to healthy, happy, Wiccan, was just such a road. I have written this small autobiography to help others who are on the same path, and maybe help some Christians understand what Wicca is. HOWEVER, people will believe what they want to believe, and, at the risk of being called everything from a liar to a dupe, I'm telling my story.
Like many groups, the Christian church is often hard to escape, from the time I stopped coming to the churches in my town to the present, I have been subjected to the very worst in mankind. I have been threathened, bribed, cajoled, pleaded with and humiliated in an attempt to get me to "rejoin the flock." These actions, ranging from calling the Department of social services on me to knocking at my door at 5:00am every Sunday, have only strengthened my resolve to never go back to Church Christianity.
It is not the fault of one church, or even the four churches in my small town in the Northeast that do these things, that I have "left Christ," as they say. The fault lies within the Church itself. Not within Christ, mind you, or even the teachings of Christ, but in the actions, focus, and anger of American Christianity. In fact, I am a Christian Witch, and still love and follow Jesus.
I was raised baptist, although my family's church was not a part of the Southern Baptist Covention, so the church was not the stereotypical angry baptist church that you read about these days. (My father said we were baptists with a little "b", and as a yankee whose great-great grandfather had lost a leg at Gettysburg, was quick to point out that our church was definately not a "Dixie Baptist Choirhall") In contrast to the "submission of women", the church I attended for the first eighteen years of my life was practically run by a woman, even though she held no "official rank" in the church. While it was known she managed everything from the Forth of July Picnic to her husband's sermons, she never once asked for credit or complained about needing rank or money. Unlike many of the pastors and priests, male and female, of today's Christianity, this woman's image lingers in my mind as the very example of Christ's teachings. She was modest, strong in her faith and quite possibly the least judgemental person, Pagan or Christian, that I have ever seen.
Unlike a lot of the people who break away from their church, I had a Norman Rockwell childhood. While my father was strict and didn't spare the rod, his temper was metered by a deep ability to express sincerity and love. When I performed in the school play or chorus, he'd be the first out of his seat to whoop and shout "that's my girl" when the scene or song stopped. We did all of the typical yankee family pastimes, swimming in the creek ("only hicks call them cricks" my father would say), apple picking, fishing, praying, gathering with the whole "fam damily" for holidays and more. It seemed, to my idealistic kiddie eyes, that my mom was Timmy's mom from Lassie, and my dog, an irish setter named "O'Malley" was at least as smart if not smarter than Lassie herself.
A friend of mine is fond of saying that "stereotypes usually have some basis in fact" and it seems to me, looking back through the family album, that my family is the whole basis for the stereotype of the fifties and sixties. I had the buxom blond older sister who became a nurse, the older brother in injured in Vietnam, the younger brother who became a cop and the younger brother who, well, rebelled. In fact, all I had that seemed different from the life portrayed on television was a big family, and compared to my best friend's 10 brothers and sisters, it didn't seem so big.
During the so-called "turbulent sixties" I was in High School. I liked the Monkees better than the Beatles, and my family never watched the news, so I basically missed the issues of the day. When my brother went to Vietnam, no one even really talked about it. He hadn't lived at home for a few years, and basically chose to go. When he had his knee messed up and they sent him home, he moved right back to Boston and still appeared for the holidays, and the only difference was his new limp and the brace around his knee. As sick as it appears in retrospect, I was much more concerned with the onset of puberty and meeting boys than the deaths and injuries of neighbors, friends and family.
In fact, I've often told my daughter, the hippy, that I missed the sixties. The sixties of television and movies, even of the documentaries, just didn't happen in my town. It was that small. Everyone was white, so there was no civil rights movement, every girl that didn't want to grow up to be a housewife went off to college in Boston or New York or other exotic-sounding places, so there was no feminist movement. And, being Yankees, we didn't care what went on inside another person's house as long as it couldn't be heard or seen from ours, so, in my mind, there was no child or domestic abuse, alchoholism or even unhappiness in my town.
To tell anymore about my childhood would be painfully boring. It was really that idyllic. I topped off my childhood by marrying a local man who did good, a boy from my high school who had graduated a few years before me, gone off to college and came back with a degree, a nice car and a beard. He was a graduate student at a university about 70 miles away, and, after a summer of never, ever going "all the way" we were married in November of 1971, two months before my twentieth birthday.
His family was not as happy or as well off as mine, so it was as if David was just an addition to my family. We had the same Christmas and Thanksgiving as always, even after the birth of my three children. When my mother died, in 1979, the celebrations moved seemlessly over to my house. It was in 1980 that a fellow professor where David taught Biology invited us over for a night that was an abortive attempt by fate to change my life.
Jack's wife was astounded at me. I was the little housewife from the fifties, a spitting image of my mother. While she thought me a relic, I considered myself way more liberated than my mom had been. I was a secretary at the university, mother of three and a girl scout leader. She, on the other hand was a radical, bisexual Witch, who bought me a copy of The Spiral Dance by Starhawk, which I read, dismissed as garbage and tossed out. At my insistance, David and I never really spoke with the two of them again.
In 1986 my youngest brother, who was also named David, came out of the closet. The announcement that he was gay mobilized our family and we became regular attendees at a local pentacostal church that had an outreach program to "help" "people like my brother." Truth be told, although a devout Christian, I thought that the pentacostals were a nutty cult, and my the end of the year were we "commuter christians" driving an hour and a half to attend the church were we'd both gone as children. There had been quite a shakeup with the death of the woman who had "run" the church, and the sermons we now heard were completely differant than the love your neighbor stuff we'd grown up with. "Satan is among us," we were told, and in the car on the way home the conversations with my husband turned into intense theological discourse.
Our eyes had been opened to Satan's agenda, and we decided that we would be part of the army that quelched the agenda. In addition to sending a barrage of bribes, pleas and worse to my brother to save him from what we percieved a doomed "lifestyle," we picketed abortion clinics, burned my son's Dungeons and Dragons books and became very wary of the increased percentage of Satanic students at the university. During a protest at an abortion clinic, I slipped on a wet stone and fell down hard, breaking my arm at the shoulder. My husband, usually with me, had gone home because my daughter was ill, and as I lay there, with a group of people around me staring in shock, a teenager who had been an escort broke ranks and drove her beat-up car right up to the crowd, nearly hitting some people who had been spouting all sorts of advice but following little of it.
With the help of the girl and some spectators, I got into her car and she rushed me to the emergency room. She waited patiently through the whole admissions proceedure, called my husband for me and even came to see me every day that I was there with my shoulder in traction. We had some long, heated discussions about abortion, but in the entire time I had been "political" I had never had such polite disagreement in my life. The last week I was in the hospital, she mentioned that she belonged to a "Wiccan Circle" and asked if I would mind if she and her "coven" did some "energy working" for me. I objected strongly, and expressed concern that she was a satanist. Her objections fell on deaf ears, and I made up my mind that I would help this young woman find Christ again.
As she was leaving, I told her that I would pray that she found her way to Christ, and for the first time since I had met her, this girl became angry. She reminded me that she had asked my permission to pray for my well being and pointed out that I was neither asking her permission to pray for her nor was I praying for her well-being, but that I was praying that she lose her religion. Put simply, I neither understood nor accepted her arguements, and prayed that very night that she find a way to be rid of the chains of Satan and be free of the cult.
In retrospect, that night was one of the low points in my life. As I sat there and prayed that she walk away from her chosen path, a great rebellion stirred up inside me. I was vividly reminded of the rulers that the church had given out every year, they were yellow, and said "The Golden Rule" and our Church's name on one side, and "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" on the other. On one side, I thought, I was praying that she find the love for Christ that I had, and that was a good thing, but on the other was the deep seeded doubt that I might be doing to her the same thing that my church claimed Satanists did to Christians...actively pray that we stray from our church and family.
This doubt convinced me that the girl had put some kind of curse on me, that my conversations with her had opened the door and let Satan's influence into my life. I sat the next morning with my pastor, preparing to go, and he agreed with my observations. We prayed together, and he handed me a Bible that he'd found in the church basement a few years earlier. It had been my mother's, although not the hardcover she'd been buried with. I remembered it fondly, it had been one of her favorites, and the gold dipped on the edge of the pages had worn away from children's fingers rubbing at it. It was a "red letter" bible, with the words of Christ written in red. It had always seemed to me that these red words were somehow more holy than the plain black around it, and I often would flip through the bible, only reading these red parts.
That night, I did just that. One of the things I noticed was how much of these words I hadn't heard in a very long time. The parts of the Bible favored by my church, especially the parts used to remind us of Satan's agenda, were rarely the parts credited to Jesus. The Jesus of these red words, the Jesus that was speaking, seemed to be preaching a deeper message of love and even tolerance. The terrible and awesome god of my church, the God I feared and lived my life to be worthy of, was not the God of this being speaking to me in these red words. His God was a God of Love, a God that was a father that loved his children. I was not unworthy of this God, and having to live my life to be worthy of this God, I was worthy of this God by virtue of my birth, by virtue of being human. It wasn't the "in-crowd" that found salvation, as my church silently preached. It wasn't the people who went to church and were "born again" it was the people who lived their life in Jesus' image.. The people who were gentle, and honest, and loving, and forgiving and gave without expecting to get something in return. To my newly opened eyes, the me that had given so much of herself to be worthy of the kingdom of God had gotten it all wrong. I was to give so much of myself without expecting anything in return. Not because I wasn't worth anything, mind you, but because I was worth a lot to Christ.
I was driven to reread the bible, from back to front, and at home, still required to "take it easy" I sat with a concordance, three versions of the Bible that I considered reliable translations and a dictionary and immersed myself in this project. I did research at the university on the weekends on Jewish and Roman culture and mythology, anything that could help me to better understand what I was reading. I tried to put myself in the place of the people of the Bible. Would I have taken the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil? Would I have rebuked my lord in the face of death? Was I as flawed and as human as so many of the people in the Bible?
I read a paper called "The Exodus Covenant" it was a written by an atheist who made a very valid arguement that the Christian church had accepted the presence of other beliefs and even other gods right up until around the time of the Christianization of the Roman emperors. The author pointed out that the words of Exodus were very specific, and that Hebrew was a very specific language. Translated into today's English, he claimed, "The Exodus Covenant" would probably read something like "I am the God of your fathers, and, since I have freed you from slavery, you will follow no God other than me, and make me first of all Gods." He pointed out, as did my Wiccan friend in her arguements, that no where in the Bible does Jesus, or Moses, or anyone go out and recruit followers from other cultures. They respect the fact that other cultures have other gods, and, when claiming that God is the superior god, never, ever claim that these other Gods don't exist, just that God is more powerful.
The Satan of the church was not the Satan of the Bible, either. The church gave Satan way more power than the Bible did, and many sources point to Martin Luther's followe rs as the first that assigned all sorts of new powers and motovation to Satan. One current Wiccan author refers to this as the "New Improved Satan that dices, slices and even juliennes" this Satan became the "blame" behind all of these human flaws that Jesus taught were natural but should and could be overcome. My study of history and the Bible led me to a search for Jesus' Church in Christianity, and I couldn't find it. To a one, every church in my town, possibly every church that exists, was more interested in pushing the agenda of men than the agenda of God. In fact, they even seemed to decide that whatever agenda their pastors assigned was the agenda of God. I began to wonder if God even had an agenda.
I realized I'd been duped out of a relationship with Jesus because of my relationship with my church, and I stopped going, with my family behind me one hundred percent. Instead of going to church, we'd sit in a circle and read a chapter of the Bible and discuss it. As a group we felt we'd become much closer to Jesus. The churches began to hunt us like escaped convicts. First the Pentacostal church we'd left increased it's sending of members to our house, when it became known in town that we'd given up on all churches, we were stopped on street corners where former friends told us that we were under Satan's control, but with the knowledge of the bible and Jesus' light as our shield they fell away from us.
When I left the pro-life movement, the tension increased. I was called a "murderer" accused of actually assiting in abortions and condoning them, and worse, I was later accused of sacrificing babies to my "pagan gods." For the record, I am still anti-abortion, but I think such things need to be between a woman, her family, her doctor and God, and I know that the "pro-life" movement is more interested in promoting itself than helping a single child and these days is little more than a murderous cult that would rather kill a person and destroy a family than lift a finger to help a woman on welfare with too many mouths to feed. My eyes have been opened to the fact that life isn't black and white, cut and dried. Sometimes a woman has an abortion because she can't feed the kids she has now, and frankly, unless that newborn is white, adoption does not work. It is horrible and unforgivable that our culture has moved to a point where a woman has to stop a life to save a life, but that's how it works, and no one has the right to force a family into poverty unless they are going to help free that family from poverty.
My conversion to Christianity instead of Churchianity continued when my brother and his lover Mark were married in a Christian ceremony that my family attended. The grooms celebrated their seventh anniversary in January of 1998.They have one son from Mark's previous marriage, and have adopted a pair of lovely twin girls with the most beautiful eyes in the universe. Their mother was on welfare and had three children already and the two met her at a group for gay and bisexual parents. Despite some worries at first about two white men raising two black girls, the five of them are a loving, healthy family. Two children saved from abortion with real help, not clinic bombings or doctor shooting!!
In 1995, I met the girl who had driven me to the hospital again at a grocery store. She was married, seven months pregnant, and, to my surprise, still Wiccan. I helped her with her packages and we went out to an ice cream shop to talk. I told her of the way my family and I now practiced Christ's word, and she told me how happy she was that I'd "recovered" from the church I'd been in. We got into a long conversation about cults, and we both commented how the very groups most interested in "saving" people from cults seemed to be the most cult-like groups. Toward the end of the conversation, she told me that there was a local group of Christian Wiccans that I needed to meet.
I was stunned. Even though I was really open minded, I was sure that one couldn't be both Christian and a Witch. Certainly what I had read in The Spiral Dance seemed pretty non-Christian. she assured me that I should meet these people, who were an off-shoot of what she called a "coven focus group on Christianity." I consented to having her give my phone number to one of the members of this group, and went home, more than a little bit trepidatiously.
When Maria called me I was very frightened of her and her group. Wicca and Christianity seemed to be in opposition to each other, so the thought of a Wiccan AND Christian group was both confusing and frightening. Maria assured me that the group was not a trick or a gimmick, and that I'd be welcome to sit in the back of the church where they met and listen to them talk. I agreed, and attended their meeting the next Saturday.
The group of thirty, about 2/3 women, sat in a cirlce at the front of the church, and scattered through the pews were a few curious onlookers. To my surprise, the first thing the group did was clasp hands, bow their heads and pray. Their prayers was of thankfulness for the good things that had happened during the week, and each of them mentioned something that had happened. A few were miraculous, one woman's son's cancer had gone intio remission and another one was uninjured in a very bad car accident, but most were mundane, a child with an A on a term paper, a pregnancy, an early christmas bonus, a sale of a house. After the blessing, where they thanked the "Mother and Father" they unclasped their hands and began to pass a hat. The hat, I heard, contained questions each of them had been asked that week about their religion, and everyone drew one slip of paper, and read the question before answering it. A young man, maybe 19 years old, drew out a crisp slip of paper and read out "How can you be Christians and Witches at the same time, isn't Witchcraft a sin?"
I had asked Mary nearly that exact question, and I watched the entire group sigh and knowingly nod toward each other. He thought for a moment, and then straightened up in his chair and cleared his throat. He told the group that, as a Christian and a Witch, he often got that question, both from Pagans and Christians, but that Wicca, or the form of Wicca he practiced, was not a choice of Gods or the practice of Magick, but a strict moral code or lifestyle. Christianity allowed that moral code, he said, and Wicca allowed his Gods to be the Forces of Christianity, The Male and Female faces of God and Jesus Christ, who he said represented not only the hope that mankind could learn to embrace his teachings but that we all sprang from God.
The group continued, there was no "Magick" no "Sacrifice" although they did break a loaf of bread and share a goblet of wine. There was no rebuking of Christ, no calling to Satan, nothing that my church had told me existed in such circles happened. While I was told that Pagans worshipped "the creation, not the creator" I saw them "cast their circle" by calling upon "forces" of the Earth that they believed were endowed by God with a holy quality. Never once did they place the creation above the creator, although they refered to God not as "Father" but as"Mother and Father" or "Lord and Lady."
I was intriqued, after all, my pastors had always said that God was without gender. I approached this young man and asked him what exactly the "strict, moral code" of Wicca was. He handed me a document that was titled the "Five Points of Wiccan Belief," he said that these five things, as well as the belief that God was not a masucline deity, formed the foundation for Wicca that these people had based their coven on. He told me that they practiced the Christian holidays and the Pagan ones, recognising that the very changes of the Earth were blessings from God.
I confronted him about other forms of Paganism and how it was that they could ally themselves with people who practiced such things, but he just shook his head and told me that "the path to heaven is straight and narrow, but not the only path, nor is heaven the only destination." I discovered later that he was quoting another person, but the depth of the words vibrated inside me. Like I'd discovered with my research into the Bible, these Christians were very aware of the fact that Jesus had never demanded that everyone follow him, just that everyone who did follow him and "the God of Abraham" did it fully, not half-heartedly.
I discussed the meeting and the Five Points with my husband and eldest daughter, and we decided that we'd attend the next meeting. Pretty soon we were attending every meeting. In all of my life I have never felt so at home in a church group. Since joining them, I have reconciled fully with my brother, and my family has found the joy and love that a deep relationship with one's god can bring about.
The only sad part of this story is that we are doomed to be misunderstood if we reveal our religion to anyone. Since becoming Wiccan, for even though I follow Christ I am most assuredly a Witch, I have been accused of Child sacrifice, of following Satan, of being deluded, of selling my soul, of sleeping around and being a liar for "denying it". The fact that the Magick of the Wicca works should not be feared by the Christian, because Magick is Prayer and Prayer is Magick. The fact that Wiccans are misunderstood should be prayed against, not promulgated.
Almost all that Christians are told about Wicca by those that seek to gain noteriety as the "spoilers of Satan's plots" is false. I have been there, both within my Christian Wiccan coven and as a visitor to other Wiccan covens. More trecherous than the lies are those bits of information about Wicca that are deliberately true, but are explained with such slant and given such false definitions as to barely resemble the truth. These people that diseminate such information are not prophets or saviors, for their fruits never reveal truth or save a person. Their fruits are lies and deceits, and they are liars and decievers... and thus, not men of God.
On this Samhain Eve, as I await the birth of my first grandchild, I will not dwell on the haters and liars, but on the love that our Gods, whoever they are, and wherever we may find them, have for us. Wherever you are, and whatever you have become, you can change, as I did, and be happy.
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