Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Growing up, I didn't know that my great-aunt Sophia was a Medium and read tarot. Well, actually she read a gypsy deck of cards, but according to my mom it was essentially the same. When my mom and her sisters were growing up, Aunt Sally, as we all called her, used to read their cards. This was hidden from my grandfather since he was a hardcore Baptist, and when he converted, he dragged the family with him. My sister and I were raised miscellaneous protestants. We started out in the Baptist church, but my mom wasn't keen on the local one, so we started going to the Presbyterian church across the street. My grandparents on my father's side were Methodists. For a week each summer, we stayed with them while we attended vacation bible school at their church. On the Sundays we didn't attend church of some sort, my mother would have a mini bible study with us. And even back then, when we weren't older than six or seven years old, my sister and I asked my mother some hard questions she couldn't answer. My sister (who is about a year and a half younger than I am) started searching for the right spiritual path for herself early. For a while she clung, almost desperately, to the Bible. I remember her giving me a hard time for a Moody Blues lyric that I really liked - "When I heard those guitars that I worshipped so..." - quoting the Bible about worshipping anyone or anything except the God of that book. She was probably 11 years old. In middle school my weirdo friends and I found a book somewhere about hexes. I don't remember if it was in the school library or if someone found it elsewhere, but we thought it was the answer to counteracting all the harassment we got. I wasn't 100% sure it was a good idea, but I remember "using" at least one hex on a basketball in gym class. It was a short-lived phase for the group of us, and we went back to listening to the Cranberries and Nirvana and wearing all the plaid we could get our hands on. Later, when my sister was in ninth grade or so, Wicca and general neo-paganism became a high school "thing" (it wasn't exactly a fad, but most of the kids were in it to rebel against the school and find some sort of community - whether they knew it or not). Movies like Practical Magic and The Craft fueled this, of course. But through all the hype, my sister found the spiritual path she'd been searching for for at least four years. Wicca didn't turn out to be right for her, and she left the coven she started out in because folks in it wanted her to cast the circle and the "leader" of the group (who had been one of my friends in middle school) was jealous, but being an eclectic solitary witch was right for her. When my parents (who had recently divorced) found out, they were freaked out. My mom, who was struggling with her own beliefs; her parents having died about five or six years before, saw it as something prophesied in the Bible - something about people returning to the old religions being a sign of the apocalypse. My father told her to get all her pagan stuff out of his house and he'd believe it was a "real" religion when she flew around the back yard on a broom. My sister was angry, and heartbroken, and it didn't help her severe clinical depression at all. Thankfully Mom stood up for her. She told my father that if pagan-related things weren't allowed in his house he had to get rid of the Christmas and Easter decorations. My sister's altar and books were allowed to stay. I was confused. Being her older sister, I had a tendency to look down on a lot of things she liked. And I found myself lecturing her about the Bible the way she had lectured me years before. It didn't help that she had started hanging out with "the wrong crowd" and was doing drugs at parties. To me the two things were totally related. I didn't bother to pay attention to the fact that her pagan friends and her drug friends were two completely different groups. Meanwhile, my grandmother had visited my mom during a dream. She wanted to talk to my mom, but was afraid to let my grandfather, who was nearby, hear what she was saying. Mom asked her what the afterlife was like, and Grandma told her not to believe everything she'd been taught. Mom was also having a hard time with the hypocrisy in the church that was becoming apparent to her over time. She wasn't exactly comfortable with my sister's religious choice, but she was much more accepting than Dad. Sis got a deck of tarot cards and Mom occasionally had her do readings for her. The fact that my mom was accepting of the tarot cards made them seem harmless enough that I had my sister do a couple of readings for me. I was blown away by how accurate they were. I wasn't sure if they were really telling the future or just helping me to look inside at what I already knew deep down but wasn't aware of, but either way they were right. Later, I had her teach me some pendulum work. Eventually over the years I became more comfortable with my sister's spiritual path. Mom, Sis, and I would have late-night conversations about our own personal philosophies and we learned more and more about my sister's religion. I finally decided at some point around 1999 that mainstream Christianity was not for me. My revelation came when I saw a news report about some Methodist council deciding that homosexuality was a sin - 100%. One of my coworkers was gay and she was the most giving, understanding, helpful person I'd met. She embodied everything I'd learned Christ had taught, and yet my religion (as I'd come to identify myself as more Methodist than anything else) was saying she was sinning against God with love. I was hurt, confused, and angry. I then set out on the quest that my sister had taken - looking for the right spiritual path... if it even existed. I considered the Jewish faith for a long time after finding Beliefenet.com and taking the Belief-o-Matic. I'd scored closest to Reform Judaism, but it still didn't quite fit. Eventually I started referring to myself as a "Pagan Reform-Jew for Jesus", since I liked certain things about those three paths. After all, I didn't think it was Christ's fault that 2000 years after his death groups had twisted his teachings. A little over a year ago, after a lot of thought and some philosophy classes, I realized that the things I still liked about Christianity weren't exclusive to the religion - love they neighbor, the "Golden Rule", etc. - not to mention all things in Christianity that originated with the old earth religions. That was when I approached my sister about good books about non-Wiccan neo-paganism. It was only after I decided that I, too, should follow the path of earth religions that I found out about our magickal heritage. Now my husband and I are exploring eclectic witchery and my mother is working on developing the psychic part of her mind. My father still doesn't understand my sister's path, but he doesn't give her a hard time. I haven't "come out of the broom closet" to him, but I do wear my pentacle around him. If he's noticed it, he hasn't said anything and he doesn't treat me any differently. I know this was rambly, but I've had this floating around in my head for a long time and wanted to get it down.