My Wicca: A Path to Understanding
Article Specs |
Article ID: 9093
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,283
Times Read: 5,132
Author: Rev. Ryan Adams
Posted: April 3rd. 2005
Times Viewed: 5,132
I came to my present understanding of Wicca after walking an interesting road. Like many of my fellows I was raised in a Christian faith (Catholicism to be precise) and, finding myself dissatisfied with its explanations for why the world functions the way that it does, left the Church in order to seek a spiritual truth that resonated with my core in a better way. Around my 15th birthday a good friend of mine introduced me to Wicca. Here I found something that spoke to me. Here I experienced the feelings of rebirth and exultation that were so common in my Catholic friends during the ritual of the Eucharist, but in which I did not share. As much as I grew under the warmth of my gods’ love and light, I was a minor in a relatively conservative town, so I kept my faith to myself. This was more for my parents’ peace of mind than for anyone else for, as the Rede states, we should always try to cause the least harm, and being a silent Wiccan did not harm me nearly as much as being a public one would have hurt them.
In the winter of 1999 I left for the Army. This was a decision that had been influenced by many things. I desperately wanted to go to collage but could not afford to do so, even with grants. I wanted to be an independent person, away from the burdens of a family business. I also craved a challenge, a quest. In the past young boys had to face a trial before they could be accepted as men by society. In our sterilized and global culture, the last true test for a young man is military service. There you are forcibly (though voluntarily) separated from all that you have known, forced to assimilate to an alien culture, to accept hardships and persevere. If you do all of this you emerge as a new person, yet still the same. Changed but more wholly what you already were. The Army, I decided, would be my trial. Still, thought had to be given to what I would do after Basic Training. After all, the elements of my test were only the first nine weeks of a four-year term. To what would I devote four years of my life? Looking back at my life before the Army the answer became clear. Nothing inspired fire in my heart more than religion did. My study of Catholicism while in CCD, the search that led me to Wicca and the self-enforced rigor of study once it was found; these things had given my life shape and I would bring them with me into my new life as an adult. With this in mind, I became a Chaplain Assistant.
Now a Chaplain Assistant (CA) has a job that really has no parallel in the civilian world. In the military you live in an environment that can be restrictive to your rights. You do not have total personal liberty because you have pledged your time in order to protect others. This allows certain mandates to be placed on the who, what, when, where and whys of your day-to-day life. One right that you do carry with you into the military is your right to the free exercise of religion…within certain parameters. Priority is always given to the mission, to good order and discipline and to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As long as the practices necessitated by your faith do not conflict with any of these provisions, you are welcome to your worship. Or, at least, that is how it works in theory. In fact people at all levels of command make decisions. These people have varying levels of knowledge about not only the system, but about the religions practiced by their soldiers as well. Even without the human dimension brought on by bigotry, no one can expect a commander to make the right decision every time. Enter the Chaplain and Chaplain Assistant. Their job - my job - was to ensure that, when a bad decision was made, it was corrected. That if a soldier needed to be paid for his meals instead of using a meal card due to dietary restrictions, he got paid. If a solder worshipped on Friday night instead of Sunday, he should not have guard duty on Friday night, but should be able to pull a shift on Sunday. This was a job that I loved because it gave me contact with the entire spectrum of religious faiths that can be found in the United States and it allowed me to do my part to ensure that, for those who wanted it, everyone was afforded the chance to seek the same experience that I had had, the experience of knowing God. My great disappointment, as it turned out, was the Pagans around me.
While I was able to share my beliefs in the Army, I found the most understanding came, not from the Wiccans around me, but from those of other faiths. It seemed like I shared a language with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus that most of my fellow Wiccans did not speak. The problem, as near as I can define it, is that these Wiccans had no spiritual dimension to their faith. Where I could speak to a Christian about opening oneself to the Divine Will, or to a Muslim about the importance of prayer as a daily practice, my fellow Wiccans seemed to scoff at such notions. “Pray? We don’t need to pray. That’s what magic is for.” Or, “What do I care about Divine Will? I wouldn’t worship a God who told me what to do, I’m in charge of myself; that’s what Wicca is all about.” Hearing these statements caused me a pain and confusion that I had not felt since I left the Catholic Church. Had my understanding of Wicca been wrong? Was I the one who misunderstood things so badly? With this weighing on my heart I did what I often do - I prayed.
The answer that I received (and I do not mean to say that this is “Truth From On High, ” merely truth enough to let me rise above my inner turmoil), was that Wicca, as a faith, is still young. No matter how many Wiccans there are in the world, no matter how many pages of information are published concerning theological abstractions of complex systems of magic, people have only been using Wicca as a contact with the Divine for fifty years. Because of this we do not have nearly as many practices for spiritual communion in place as the older faiths do. My use of prayer and devotion, both internal means of Divine communication and worship, are not “more right” or “better” then the outward forms used by most of my fellow Wiccans, they were merely different. Just because I felt called upon to use these skills did not mean that all would or should. Discussing my views with Batman (a Chaplain I worked for whom I will not name here; if you knew him, you would understand the “Batman” reference), I was heartened to discover that my interpretation was shared by him and represents a phenomenon found in all faith systems. Just as all Christians do not speak in tongues, all Wiccans should not have to pray. Just as all Jews do not keep kosher, who said that all Wiccans should have to experience the submission that comes from a spiritual quest? Our faith and its varied expressions represent something thus far unseen in the world, an experiment into the realm of the Divine. Within a span of fifty years we have already moved from a centralized, coven-based initiatory system to a level of diversification in doctrine and practice that rivals what it took Christianity 500 years to accomplish (Reformation to today). Already in the four years since my initial experience with the military Pagan community I’ve seen this evolution take place. I met others who shared my views, worshiped with groups who, while respectful, would hold “no truck” with such concepts, and generally had a good and beneficial time of it all.
Now I am out of the military, but the imprints that it has left will never fade. I came of age in an environment whose mentality was, “Hope for Peace, Prepare for War.” I have visited every part of this country and been to three others. I have discussed religion and worshipped with those who, had this been centuries ago, would have wanted me burned. From this I have taken the lesson that, while spirituality is a deeply personal act, religion is purposely intentional; its forms and expressions the direct result of those gathered in its name. Woe be it upon whoever tries to force this religion of ours, this way of life into a mold for, like grass growing through the asphalt, it will find a way to express the relationship between man and God however we choose. I only hope that I live a long time so that I can see all of the new and beautiful permutations.
Rev. Ryan Adams
Location: Denham Springs, Louisiana
Author's Profile: To learn more about Rev. Ryan Adams - Click HERE
Bio: I was born in the great (though smaller than it should be) State of Louisiana, but grew up in the large (-er then it needs to be) State of Texas. I’m married to a beautiful woman and have been blessed with a lovely daughter. My experience with the Pagan community has included direct work with Open Circles at three installations in two countries and administrative support of many more. My current goal in life is to one day go back into the military as a Chaplain, once again taking up the mission to ensure those who defend our freedoms are granted the greatest freedom of all: Relationship with the Divine.
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