Thursday, April 5, 2012
When I was very young, girls were not allowed to be altar servers in the Catholic Church. I was always jealous, not because I cared about serving Jesus, or assisting the priest, or sporting those ultra high fashion robes, but I wanted to play with those mystical toys. I wanted to ring bells after incantations, I wanted to carry offerings to the altar, I wanted to light and snuff candles. It seemed exciting and like it would connect me to something greater.
Fast forward a few years, the Pope announced that females could be altar servers, but by that time, I somehow wasn't interested anymore, probably because I had lost almost all interest in the Church. By that time I was sniffing around for a new spiritual home. It wasn't long after that I found witchcraft.
I'd run off with friends to bookstores and sneak pagan books home in my purse. Many of those books were written by men, but that didn't mean they were male slanted the way that Catholicism obviously was. I took great comfort in the idea of there being a feminine power that really controlled the universe. Of course, MOTHER Nature was not a dude and there's a reason people identify her as such.
I read all about the "history" of witchcraft, a lot of which was given a hippy accent, as much of it was revived in the 60s and 70s. I performed "spells," though I never asked for the selfish things most people would expect. I never once performed a love spell nor a money spell nor a revenge spell. I saw The Craft, I didn't want to be responsible for any poor bitches going bald in the locker room, no matter how nasty they were to me.
I did spells to achieve better enlightenment (or so I thought) or spells that thanked the Goddess, the plants, the animals. Though I did once perform a spell to encourage one of my school rivals to understand that being mean to people was harmful to herself and others....I was astounded when it appeared to work the very next day. She had always been rude and nasty to me, suddenly she was kind and polite. Ah, the Goddess listens, indeed!
A note about spells...they're not what you think. They're basically Sunday Mass for one. Depending on what you're focusing your energy on, you pick certain colors of candles, certain scents of oils or incense, certain days of the week or certain moon phases, place certain stones on the altar, say certain "incantations," or a prayer, ring bells at certain times, etc. There's really nothing magical about it.
It all felt very natural. Perhaps because Catholicism is so deeply rooted in paganism and ritual, I felt very comfortable with the tools of this new brand of spirituality I had found. Bells, candles, incense, chalices, tablecloths, all of these things were familiar and so indulged my inner child. I was finally able to be my own altar server and I didn't even have to wear an ugly robe. To top it off, I got to pick my own incense that wasn't the default Catholic Stank scent! How exciting!!
I stayed in this phase a few years until, like with most things, I got too lazy to maintain it. It got to be too much, maintaining a moon calendar, making sure I had all the right candles, scented oils, incenses, cloths, and whatever other embellishments I seemed to believe were necessary. It was all just too much.
I still have all my witchcraft books and even refer back to some of them once in a while. I do still find that certain scents, candles and stones seem to have an effect on my mood, and I enjoy having them around. There is something comforting about having a theme that stimulates all of your senses. I no longer believe I'm "channeling energy" or "casting spells," or doing anything else besides pleasing my senses, which should have always been good enough.
However, one of the main problems I had with witchcraft was the same as with Catholicism. I didn't feel "empowered" like I "should." Just like I never felt Christ's love burning in my heart, I never felt the Goddess' power coursing through my veins. I thought if I just worked harder on it, I'd be a better witch and would one day be filled with this blessing like so many others claimed to experience, but it never happened.
I think it all goes back to my inherently independent spirit. It's even a big joke in the family. Ever since I was old enough to have a sense of self, I've had one, and a very strong one. As young as age three, the family joke was, "There's the right way, the wrong way, and the the Katie way." My mother always joked that she should have named me "Katie Scarlet," after Scarlett O'Hara. My third grade teacher told my parents in a parent teacher conference that, "It's like Katie knows all this is bullshit." I didn't follow the beat of my own drummer, I WAS my own drummer. I had no need to follow or even to be followed.
This spirit is of mine is not interested in begging, beseeching, or humbling herself. This spirit knows that her values and her beliefs and her feelings are the only ones that matter. "Faith" of any kind will never empower this spirit for a very simple reason.
No one is empowered if she's always powerless, left begging, left pleaing, left sacrificing, left to be someone else's pawn in supposedly greater plan only to be discarded like an empty bullet shell just as soon as she's served someone else's purpose; left with the meager hope that someone else's use and abuse of her just won't be too painful, and left to believe that if it is, it's because she has done something unrighteous, or perhaps, regardless of how unbearable it may be, that she should still drop to her knees and thank someone else for making her suffer because she knows it's part of a higher wisdom that she is clearly too stupid, too small, and too insignificant to understand.
Goddess centered religions are no exception.
It's why I feel like so many feminists have cheated themselves by going into these Goddess centered belief systems rather than realizing the whole faith game is a trap. What's the point of giving a sex change to the one that holds you down? You're still beneath someone else, you're still someone else's pawn, you're still begging someone else for things that you could perhaps just as easily take initiative to achieve. If you were in jail for a crime you didn't commit, would you be so much happier being beaten by a female prison guard?
Some will argue that the Goddess is more peaceful and benevolent and doesn't encourage genocide, murder, sexism, racism, and violence, which does seem to be true from what I've read of her, but it's still a cult of the mind. There is no one, central definition of this Goddess, so how do I know? It's not like there's some kind Bible that tells us everything we need to know about her. Suffice to say, she still "has a plan" for you. She still plays favorites with her hurricanes and volcanoes. She still needs to be asked for basic humanity. She still answers extremely selectively. She still works in ways that are so mysterious they make no sense. Comparing God and Goddess is still comparing evils. Why bother with any evil when you don't have to?
Worst of all, it's all so painfully wasteful. I can never get back the years I lost to "faith," all that time I spent begging to be rescued or helped, wondering if anyone was listening and crying when no one did, enduring misery thinking that suffering somehow put me ahead of the game in the long run. All that time I could have been empowering myself to create the reality I wanted. So much damage, that years of counseling may never undo, has already been done.
Some will say that it's my fault, not religion's, for not knowing how to empower myself all along, but those that would are ignoring the self-imposed slavery that any and every faith encourages. Blowing the enemy doesn't make you superior to him....or "her." Pin It