I’ve been peeling the layers of the onion…
While I will not chronicle every step of my journey here, I will share the occasional epiphany or amusing anecdote. You are most welcome to follow along and if anything here is even remotely useful to you, please do comment.
A bit of backstory…
I was and will always be a child of nature, intrigued by the play of light on water and leaves, the shifting of the seasons, the tumult of storms and the immensity of the night sky. The whisper of the wind on my skin, the warmth of the sun, dirt beneath my feet. None of it is mundane. None of it is taken for granted. All of it nourishes me.
As soon as I was able, I spent most of my time in the forest or the creek or the garden. As a very young child, I had a favorite tree in which I would pass hours and hours, weaving flower garlands, hanging baskets and ribbons from branches, and munching my grandmother’s wonderful chocolate chip cookies. I would sit out gusting wind and driving rain under the front porch with the family dog, awed by the forces of nature. Everywhere I wandered I found beauty and imagination and wonder. Idyllic? Entirely!
And then we moved from that idyllic Upstate New York village to the Bible Belt. Gone was my forest, my creek, my favorite tree. Gone was my wonderful school and the coolest Kindergarten teacher ever and the music room and the kiln. I was heartsick. A new chapter was beginning. And along with boxes of housewares and garden tools and braided rugs came, unfortunately, my mother and grandmother’s religious affiliation. Sadly, keeping that was natural and expected for them, as it was the only continuity afforded them, a shared history with parents and grandparents. But while the northern village’s contingent was quite benign (or seemed so), the southern group was anything but. Anti-Yankee resentments, barely concealed racism, divisive cliques, heavy-handed administration and arbitrary application of the ‘rules’ were the order of the day.
I am, in a word, a survivor, of what I have come to refer to as a ‘psuedo-christian cult’. I was alternately lauded for my public speaking abilities and made the subject of repeated interrogations over spurious allegations of misbehavior. Throughout my adolescence and most of my teenage years my only refuge was my writing, my books and music. Denied the freedom to choose my friends, pursue any outside interests or question anything about that bizarre cult and its teachings kept me wholly isolated. (Thank the Goddess that my mother respected my intellect and privacy enough to never censor what I read or listened to! Or maybe she was just afraid to find out, as that would have necessitated a confrontation and she wasn’t up for that. Either way, I thank her.)
I cut ties with the cult at seventeen. By twenty-six, I was back in earnest, as a promise to my dying mother. And that was a necessary step for me, as it enabled me to see the cult in all its sinister glory, how expertly it utilizes fear to isolate and control its followers, how it attracts and exploits those who are depressed or chronically ill or who have experienced painful losses of loved ones and dreams. Four years and some ugly experiences later I celebrated my departure with a bonfire. Every book and pamphlet, every ledger full of assembly notes in my mother’s meticulous hand, every cassette tape…whoosh! up in flames they all went. That was a ritual of letting go, the first of many.
A couple of years and a new marriage later, I found my way into the welcoming arms of the cult’s favorite target – the Catholic church – which, incidentally, is the religion I would have been raised in if my great grandparents hadn’t been snagged by the cult. My husband had been raised Catholic and we attended together. In short order, I completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and experienced Christian baptism.
In retrospect, it seems a natural next step for someone accustomed to inflexibility in matters of faith and seeking a mainstream spiritual ‘home’. But what held the greatest attraction for me was the ritual of the Mass and Marian devotions. Always learning, I delved deeper into the historical record and the unassailable truth of it, along with the modern Church’s tenacious resistance to change, demanded that I reassess the spirituality that I was offered.
There are people like me aplenty. The details of their backstories are, of course, as unique as they themselves are. But the common thread is how pervasive the suppression of the authentic Self is and how much of that suppression originates in mainstream fundamentalist religion. Whether it is the call of one’s native spirituality or creative voice or sexuality or all those aspects combined, mainstream religion is so often employed more as a means of enforcing conformity and promoting docility and far less as a tool for enlightenment or discovery of peace-promoting commonalities. For some, the inherited affiliation is adequate, for not everyone is a seeker of deeper truths. But for the rest of us…
There is a Polaroid of me, age five, standing on my swing with a wide sweep of early autumn forest beyond me on the other side of that creek. And in my expression there is such seriousness, as if some part of me divined what was to come. But along with the gravity I see laughter and promise. Those old-soul eyes that look back at me across the years remind me that there is work to do. Good work. Necessary work. The work of a lifetime. The work of uncovering and remembering and discovering the authentic Self.
Exposing and dismantling the barriers, dusting off the dreams, opening to the magick and reclaiming the path that was always mine.