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Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
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A Witch in the Bible Belt: Questions are Opportunities
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Article ID: 15868
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Shion Flame
Posted: November 10th. 2016
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I am sure that I’m not the only witch out there who has been asked the question on whether or not I believe in god. My usual approach is to first consider who is asking, determine if there is a reason for their question and then come up with a response that illustrates calculated intelligence as well as a suggestion to inspect their own meanings before inquiring such things of others. To put it simply, in the beginning, people attempting to pick me apart were profoundly annoying to me.
The Bible belt isn’t terrible but it does come with its challenges. Over the years, I’ve learned what to avoid and how to tread but on many occasions people will seem to pop up out of nowhere with the kind of questioning that makes most of us squirm on the inside at least. For a little while it felt like everywhere I turned there was someone questioning me and not always in a friendly way. In a handful of occasions it was public –okay, so it was more like seven out of ten if we are looking for real figures.
Once, while visiting a neighbor to pick up two anatomically correct dolls for my little girls toy chest, I had an interesting encounter with a woman who may never forget me. My neighbor referred to her overbearing relative as a necessary evil. I stood in the doorway thanking the neighbor, who I’ll call Celia, for the dolls when a woman named Sandy came around the corner. Celia waved at her as I took the dolls in my hands. Sandy shot a glare at the dolls before looking at me. “You really allow your child to play with those kinds of dolls?” I smiled. In a split second I’d realized that I knew this woman. I dreamed of her the night before and I knew what she would ask me next.
“Yes, I think it is important to educate a child about their bodies, they are wonderful dolls.” Sandy’s eyes darted up and to the corner. Celia giggled a bit. “Oh, I just remembered I have some little baby clothes for them upstairs, I’ll be right back.” I shifted uncomfortably realizing I’d be standing here with this woman who had her eyes settled on me in a peculiar way. I breathed away the tense feeling long enough for words to escape Sandy’s mouth.
“So, do you believe in god? What church do you go to?”
These were the questions I was waiting for. I’d heard her ask them in my dreams where I couldn’t figure out what to say. It wouldn’t be so in waking life despite a nervous feeling that crawled in my stomach. So I stood tall and I smiled. “You know, I don’t actually go to a local church. Nature is my church. I am a representative of the mother goddess. If you are interested and would like to hear more I’d love to speak to you more about her.”
I saw the increasing horror spread across her face as I reached out my hand to shake hers. It was a tactic common for Southern Baptist ladies in the area. I felt that her eyes might really pop out of her head with surprise. She crossed her arms and stalked off around the corner of the apartment building. Celia came down in just enough time to see her disappear.
“Oh here are those clothes, where did she go?” I glanced upward and gave a wry smile. She knew I wasn’t innocent. “I might have said I was a representative of the goddess when she asked me if I believe in god.” Celia laughed. “Oh good lord, I can hear her now.” She might chew my ear with questions you know.” “Well, just send her my way.” I waved her off and grinned as she locked up the door shaking her head in a little disbelief.
There was something special marked for me on that day. I realized how many times I’d been bullied into speechless feelings and identified the inner panic that took me over when I was afraid someone might just find out too much about me. The sudden need that I would have to justify my position ate me up. Silly, isn’t it? It was no wonder I attracted the circumstance over and over again.
On another occasion, a family member of a previous fiancée who was a devout Christian asked me all her life. She felt very much that my soul was at risk, destined for the realms of Satan and Hell. It was a true fear. I could see it in her eyes. She explained to me that it was her deepest beliefs that made her afraid. She told me she’d never been given an option. As a child, she was told there was one way. If she didn’t choose that way, she would be tortured in the afterlife and never see her family again.
Compassion. Seeing the other side of that story often helps in my choice of words or actions. It doesn’t mean I feel guilty for who I am. It might mean that despite personal efforts such a person truly will end up failing to understand our choice. What did I tell her? Yes. I told her I believed in god but that the details were much different. She asked if I believed in an after-life. I told her Yes and that seemed to suffice. In retrospect, the conflict doesn’t necessarily dissolve but it allows for a deeper understanding of the motivations behind actions.
Beliefs are furry fickle little creatures. At any moment they can shift, make us question or simply change all together. I can say I “believe” in many gods, in spirits of nature, of one supreme deity, of many worlds or just one but why am I saying these things? What prompted the beliefs?
I didn’t realize that in some ways it was an “easier” road for me. There was no need for me to question ghosts or creatures that lived in trees or that dreams were connected to the waking world because personal experience had painted a picture for me before the age of 9 and thus I believed in them. When bigger questions of good and evil or gods and devils came up it was more than easy for me to assimilate these bigger beings into the picture. I barely questioned it. Had I experienced them? No. In fact, it would be years before any being I’d call a god made an appearance and I’d call it subtle to say the least.
Though I grew up attending local churches, I didn’t grow up with a limit I was aware of -spiritually speaking. I was not told there was one way. I was not taught to be afraid of what I saw. My mind was very open.
As I grew older, experience made it increasingly difficult to place things in a good vs. evil format. Spirits that I encountered, such as the one I wrote about in “Spring Creepy”, made it clear that the unseen worlds were not simple. I had to put that into some kind of mental framework too by deciding that the Earth was highly diverse in life, both large and small, and that the same thing must be true about the unseen worlds too.
Several years later, I found myself away at college sitting at a table having lunch with a group of five other people I’d call seekers. They were curious –we all were, really. We spent time talking about everything from techniques in grounding to things like ritual construct and the Craft in some of its more historical aspects. During this particular day, a conversation came up concerning the creation of holy water, its uses and why energy might react to it.
A dark headed, fair skinned man I’ll call Tony, who sat at my left, turned to me and firmly stated, “You’re not an ordained priest so you can’t technically create water that is holy.” Opportunity rarely fails me in situations like this so I simply replied, “Is a priest not a man?” “Yes, but he received the training and went to school for that kind of thing.” It didn’t take long for me to get him to consider that it was still a possibility.
“So, in order for me to be able to create holy water I would have to attend a seminary school and be shown how. Also, I would need the piece of paper that stated that I was certified to do such a thing?”
He thought for a moment and then asked, “Ok, what exactly is making it holy? We continued by discussing energy and Masaru Emoto’s water experiments and more and this went on for some time but the most interesting part is that a woman who’d been watching our gatherings for well over a week interrupted the conversation. I’ll call her Lisa.
She got up from a few tables away and pulled up an empty chair. Several of us introduced ourselves. I suppose I’d put myself in the position of being questioned by encouraging others to question themselves. Lisa looked straight at me and earnestly said; “Can I ask you a question without you getting angry?”
“Yes. Of course.”
“What if you’re wrong?”
I eyed her for more. “What exactly do you mean?” She cleared her throat and settled herself into the chair. “What if right at this moment you died and found yourself standing at the gate of heaven? What if your life was under review and you were looking at this moment where you were questioning?” Her crinkled brow, nervous fingers and slightly dilated eyes showed her earnestly.
I had to think carefully. It wasn’t a question of what to say but exactly how to say it. The only thing I could think of was this:
“Some people believe what they do because their parents or community told them to. Some believe because of an experience lit by curiosity and some because they are afraid of being wrong. I’d rather believe out of love than to simply choose because of fear and if I am to be condemned for that then at least I can find peace in knowing that it was my choice.”
Lisa sat in silence for a moment before saying that in all the years she’d asked the question she felt it was the most honest answer she’d received.
Over and over I seemed to attract situations where people became curious about what I believed and practiced. Imagination plays, rumors sweep like the wind and, of course, if people do find out you self-identify in part as a witch then knowing what you believe and why is important. When I realized that I too was learning from these encounters and that it inspired me to dig deeper into myself and why I believe what I do, I had fewer face-to-face incidents.
It helped to know that I could stand my ground while affirming in my mind that what I know can change and that my own perceptions are simply one way of looking at topics of a spiritual nature. Understanding the self is key. For me, it is the point of the endless journey that I began far before I was able to remember.
As for the good ole’ Bible belt, the best way to handle it is with rationality in my opinion. Know your rights, consider your position, know the faith of those that you are speaking with, focus on the similarities and build bridges. Of course, it doesn’t always work but more often than not it leaves the other party speechless, and takes the punch right out of the power trip they might have been on.
I was asked about a belief in god. I knew I couldn’t open my mouth and spill out my personal understanding or tell about life changing experiences or what lead me to my own beliefs. These things are all a part of my personal Craft. I chose not to share all the details because of my tendency to see the deeper question here in these cases, which were “Do you believe what I do? Are you like me?” Sometimes it would be nice to say: “No. I’m not just like you but that is wonderful because we are connected anyways.”
Despite the way I choose to respond I am no longer too nervous to do it and it is no longer annoying when those questions leap right in front of me. Now, I greet them with a smile because I see the opportunity in the questions.
Copyright: Article written originally April 15, 2015
Location: Kennett, Missouri
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