I had planned to write this certain post at a later time, but today seemed like a far more appropriate day. May 2nd has been dubbed in the Pagan community as Pagan Coming Out Day. It’s a day when those of us who are devotional polytheists, Pagans, witches and the like can come strolling out of the broom closet if we so feel inclined. Now, most people that know me already know my beliefs and that I proudly wear the title of witch. However, the journey to that point has been a long, dark and painful one.
Like most Pagans, I grew up in a Christian household. I was baptized in a Baptist church when I was little. I sang in the children’s choir, and performed in Christmas cantatas and Easter plays. I attended GA (Girls in Action) meetings, as well as Vacation Bible School every summer—sometimes at multiple churches (my parents were divorced so it did happen from time to time). I could recite scripture very well, and my teachers adored me for how well I learned.
Also like a lot of Pagans, I had extremely bad experiences in the church, too.
What my teachers didn’t know was that every Sunday, attending church services was a fight between my mother and me, often fueled by anxieties and fear. I was a child that was absolutely terrified of the things that were taught in church. I frequently obsessed over the entire concept of “the End Times.” Looking back, it took up far more of my time than it ever should have and no one tried to reassure me about it.
Then there’s the little fact that women in my family had always been…different. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were very gifted. My grandmothers often had premonitions and could read omens. My mother picked this up and also had a knack for drawing the attentions of spirits.
I would sometimes know things that there was no way possible for me to know. I communed with spirits of the land and sometimes those that had passed on. Later on I would also start having dreams that often foretold of things.
These things did not make church any easier.
When I was about thirteen I met my first love and started to attend church with her family. This was a big mistake. This particular place was one of those holiness churches that condemned anyone who wasn’t straight and Christian. The type that would try to pray the gay away, and shun if you if you couldn’t be fixed. I’d seen people stand at the front of the room while the congregation spoke in tongues and writhed on the floors while the pastor screamed and demanded the demons leave the poor soul so they could be healed.
It was terrifying every single time I witnessed it. My ex…couldn’t take any of this and couldn’t deal with her feelings. So I became the target of her rage and fear and for four years I stayed in an abusive relationship. I couldn’t really tell anyone either, because, hey, it’s sin and I probably deserved it, right?
After that, I became so withdrawn. A lot of abuse had happened in that relationship. I remember reaching out to God and begging forgiveness for everything that had happened and never feeling it.
It was incredibly lonely.
My father became terminally ill not too terribly long after that and while we had a complicated relationship, I loved him and I was devastated. So I ended up dropping out of school to help take care of him. That was some of the hardest stuff ever. To watch a parent get weaker and sicker each day. To see what medication reactions can do, especially late at night. For years I had been coping with abuse and stress by means of self-injury and an eating disorder. These things only intensified, as did the increasing distance of God and the wavering of my faith. There was this constant gnawing and aching in my heart and soul that felt no matter what I did, no matter how hard I prayed and begged, I was doomed to Hell. I felt I was already trapped there, and the more nothing changed for the better, the deeper I fell into the seemingly never-ending pit.
I had been raised with this religion and while I had no qualms with Christ, I felt God had just pretty much said fuck you. It was some of the most painful feelings I ever endured. I was slowly losing my faith.
People sometimes act as if conversion is this thing that just happens in the blink of an eye and that we can just choose to have faith or change beliefs at the drop of a hat. It was a lot more tedious and devastating than that.
Eventually it got to a point where I longed for death. My fear of what was on the other side kept me alive, yet I was terrified of living. My only pleasures in life were my pets (mainly cats and rats) and a new, long-distance girlfriend. They were what really kept me in this world.
When my father finally died, it brought about all new challenges and emotions. After that, I slipped into a sort of ambivalent atheism. I couldn’t stay in that place long, though. I had had way too many amazing and sometimes scary experiences with the Otherworld to be a strict materialist.
A couple of years after that, after things at home had gotten to be too much to deal with, I hopped a Greyhound and ran off to Louisiana to get married to a longtime friend I had met on the internet four years earlier, when I was about 15. A night or two before I actually left, I asked Christ one final time: show me where it is I belong. I couldn’t believe in nothing, and I needed something more than just the vague agnostic sense that some mysterious larger-than-myself Thing existed.
It was in Fort Polk, Louisiana that I found my answer. My then-husband (now ex) and I had been staying with his NCO, who had a few books on a religion I had never heard of: Wicca. While the two were at work I would do the house work and then read through those books. I was amazed. They spoke to me and made me feel alive in a way I hadn’t in years. It was like a cool drink of water being poured over cracked and parched lips.
So many things fell into place and began to make sense, about myself and experiences I had as a child. I only spent six months in Louisiana but what I went through and found there would lead to many open doors.
When I was a Christian, I was not a happy person. I never got any comfort or peace from the religion. I was lonely and miserable, and while I still struggle with depression, it is nothing like it was. I was given a new family to take the place of the one that had turned its back on me when my father passed. I was given friends and a community and a chance to heal. I was given a husband who loves me more than I could have imagined, in place of an abusive one.
I was given strength and in the lonely and isolated darkness of an absent God, I found the light, warmth-filled embrace of a present and very much alive Goddess.