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Revisiting The Spiral
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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
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Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Growing Pains
Article ID: 15075
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,550
Times Read: 4,424
RSS Views: 70,490
Author: Ashka Ryo
Posted: June 3rd. 2012
Times Viewed: 4,424
Before we begin, let’s be 100% honest with ourselves; growing up can be a real - well, I'll let you choose your descriptive word there...Forcefully being removed from a blissful world of near perfect entertainment with friends, caring for nothing and using your parents money like candy is not a super awesome thing. Being forcefully injected into a world of cold hard and unforgiving reality is not something anyone embraces either. But that's life, as they say. Traversing the sands of time towards the march of adulthood, our childhood joys are replaced with worries about puberty, voice cracking, social awkwardness, jobs, pay checks, taxes, bills, dating, Facebook and so much more. When you throw in our “glorious” technological age where every embarrassing moment can be recorded and put on YouTube in under ten seconds, one wonders how teens don’t suffer more mental breakdowns.
So yeah, life just sucks sometimes....
When last we gathered, I wrote about how Christianity just wasn’t working for me, even at a young age. Many questions were answered only with “You will understand when you are older”. Being only months away from the big thirty mark, I can say I still don't understand. I can also assure you this is by no fault of my own. Too many questions, zero acceptable answers. As I take a moment to think about this, it probably didn't help being surrounded by people who claimed to be Christian, but who were more interested with converting others, being right and the towing the line than actually following Christ's teachings. So after much soul searching, research, and help from actual supportive people, I am now part of the Wiccan fold. Maybe at some point, I will go into just how awesome that feels...
So what does any of this blabbering (I know I do tend to ramble on to much) have to do with today’s ‘Rambling of a Pagan Guy’? Well as we know from personal experience, growing up today is not an easy thing to do. When one grows up willingly embracing a religion many considering "Satanic", well that just makes a bad trip worse. Today's rambling is partially the ongoing record of my experiences as a teen and young adult, and part message to the younger generation of Pagans out there. We "old heads" know what you are going through and we know the constant pain and mental abuse you often experience at the hands of the ignorant.
You are not alone.
Like many teens, of any era, I spent a lot of time at school wishing I could spend significantly less time there. Classes that bore little relevance to the real world would blur together with classes I was actually suppose to pay attention to. At some point, it seemed to my younger self that I was being force-fed a raging river of textbook knowledge eight hours a day. While my freshman year was traumatic enough with the "normal" crap, my religious problems really didn't start until my second year of high school. After bearing my first pentacle with (somewhat exaggerated) youthful gusto, two things collided to make the rest of my stay at Arch Bishop Ryan a rather unpleasant one. The first was that I was the very hot-blooded teenager who believed very strongly in human rights and the second was that the Catholic school took a deem view of other faiths. One might even say that they belittled other faiths. Does that sound incredibly bitter (or familiar?) to anyone else? Well, in all honestly, it should. There is no nice way to described being bullied because you’re Pagan. Bloody hell, there is no nice way to describe any type of bullying, now is there?
In any case I can remember the single event that set the theme for the remaining three years of high school: The "religious" teacher I had the misfortune of having during my second year of high school was the type of person who was akin to speaking with a brick wall. He was unable to consider or explore others’ points of view. He was always right because "God said so". Frequently during class he would take great pride in belittling, dehumanizing and demeaning anything that didn't fit his perfect image of his world. As you can imagine, he even went to the point of identifying students who needed special "preaching" to. I remember at least three of us in the class.
The first was a quite Jewish girl who you swore wasn't actually there. She was the type of person who never said anything, never socialized much with classmates but always turned in homework in time with no questions asked. Yes I had a crush on her. She wore the Star of David (silver with glitter stuff on it) around school except when she entered "Religious Studies". Our teacher had an annoying habit of writing up anyone who wore necklaces in class… unless it was a cross. When class began, he would start with a prayer that always mentioned something to the effect "Forgive the Jews for murdering Christ, and allow them to see the light and convert". When asked just how all Jews where responsible, and how they killed Christ when he still is around, he would retort with either "you wouldn't understand" or threats of detention. He would also attack Jewish beliefs (only Jesus can save) and places of worship (if there isn't a cross, it's not a place of worship) , even going as far to question their parenting skills (Who would let their kids willingly go to hell?) . Disgusting.
The next person was an extremely brave guy who ‘came out’ while attending a Christian high school. Keep in mind, this was before people started waking up to bigotry, before the "No H8" campaign and even before the "It's get better" project. To identify as a homosexual was to shoot yourself socially in the face. But this kid did not care. This is how he was born and he would not be ashamed of it. Seriously, how awesome is that? When our religious teacher learned of his "horridly blasphemous fact", we had a weeklong retreat explaining the dangers of homosexuality and how it would destroy the world if left unchecked. Oh, how I wish I were making this up. At the end of the retreat, the teacher had us all write essays on how we felt about homosexuals destroying the world. I got an F for refusing to do it. The student lasted about three months of this bullying before he literately told the teacher to "take your b.s. religion and **** off". I never did see him again, but I did hear he sued the school and actually won. I hope he is still okay.
Finally there was me, the horrible pagan who apparently worshiped the devil (or Satan) . But a bit of back story first. Having finally scored myself a steady job (which I still have, 13 years after) , I used my first paycheck to purchase two things: my first cell phone and a pentacle. The cell phone was this little piece of crap thing that I would probably be impressed to have around now. What? A little vanity never hurt anyone...
The second was my first pentacle. It was pretty badass, if I do say so. It was made of pewter metal and shaped to look like it was made of branches. I later painted browns and greens into it. Anyhow, the first day I wore it into school was the first day I got my first real taste of religious bigotry. When our religious teacher saw it, he went on a rant that would dwarf all of my Ramblings combined. He bellowed about how I was bringing the devil in this ‘Sanctuary of Christian Learning’. He told me to remove the evil symbol and rebuke Satan right away or I would be written up and given dentition. Being the hot-blooded Irishman I am, I refused and told him what he could do with his suggestion.
That's how I ended up in this discipline office. And yes, it was my own fault. From here on out, it become a weekly trend that degenerated into some completely mental that wouldn't be worth my time now-a-days. It would start with the religious staff calling me to the discipline office to have my pentacle removed, despite the fact it didn't violate the school code.
Staff: You can't wear necklaces during school hours.
Me: Since when?
Staff: Since always Mr. Biddle. Do not talk back to me.
Me: But students are wearing crosses around their necks all the time...
Staff: That's different!
Me: ... but it's a necklace...
Staff: Talk back again and that's double dentition.
Obviously the above isn't word-for-word, but it is the general gist of the conversations I had. Religious double standards were a way of life when at AR, and there was little that could be done about it. In conjunction with the above, it was recommended (aka forced) that I spend time with the religious counselors at least once a month in order to pray away this evil satanic influence inside of me. I still remember our first meeting, too...
Counselor: How are you doing today Mr. Biddle?
Counselor: Great! Now how is Jesus in your heart today?
Me: What? (I could have just lied to her and been out in two minutes, but I wasn't thinking)
Counselor: Jesus in your heart, sweetie.
Me: Oh.. I'm not Catholic.
Counselor: Oh? What are you then, Jewish?
Me: I'm Wiccan.
Counselor: Oh my! You know you are worshiping the devil then!
Me: Not really. I have a God and Goddess. (It was Horus and Bas at the time)
Counselor: That is just an illusion put on by the father of lies. You must pray with me before it's too late!
Me: I'll pass.
Counselor: But if you don't, you will burn in hell! Is that what you really want?!
Me: I don't believe in hell. We rock out in the Summerlands until we are reincarnated. Well, if we need to be.
Counselor: This "summer lands" is really hell.
Me: No, it's really not.
Counselor: But it is, dear.
Me: Do I dictate your beliefs to you?
Counselor: Pardon? Well no, Jesus does that.
Me: So I don't tell you what you really believe and don't believe in?
Me: Then don't tell me what I believe in and what this or that actually is. I can do that just fine myself.
Counselor: You seem a bit hostile. Don't you think this could be from Satan -?
Me: No, it comes from constant harassment from religious idiots like yourself who insist on making everything evil that doesn't conform to your b.s. way of thinking. Stop forcing your religion on me, and you will find me in a better mood.
I learned a very important lesson from that first three-and-a-half hour meeting. I learned that sometimes it's best to pick and choose your battle, rather than going in cannons firing. If I had told her what she wanted to hear, I wouldn't have had to suffer three years of "religious counseling". In place of hour-long prayer meetings, I could have been in the library seeking out information on the world-wide-web (which was still in it's teen years back in my day) . Yet still, I can't see myself doing any different. It was utterly disgusting how one group of people could tell another they were wrong and going to hell... all because they thought the Bible said so.
So yeah, high school was fun growing up...
The home life wasn't nearly as bad as high school and was always a loving home, to say the least. However, when religion came up... well, let's just say there was the awkward feeling in the air. Having my brother already renounce Christianity (I think he is a Atheist now) , my mother was determined to have a proper Christian son. Oh by the Gods, she would go off on proud speeches about me being an altar boy and such. However, as I mentioned in my previous ramblings of a pagan guy, things just didn't work out and I merrily converted to the Pagan way of life (Is that a pun?) .
After a failed and rather embarrassing attempt to have my brother "talk the Wiccan thing out of me", they mostly resorted to dropping sad hints here and there. While there was never the "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, DEVIL WORSHIPER!” ...there never was the acceptance either. There would forever be that religious rift. She could not accept my religion, and I could not accept being a Catholic. After many failed attempts to guilt-trip me, we stopped talking about religion altogether. As I grew older, as I ventured into the "real world", I found myself not really giving a damn anymore. There was nothing I could do to change the minds of people who used religion for ego, profit or attention. There was also nothing I could ever do to be accepted by these people. So I just stopped caring. In my heart, I know the path I have taken is right for me, and honestly, that's all that really matters.
Before we part, there is just one bit of wisdom I would like to pass on to the younger generation. There are going to be times when you cannot avoid a verbal fight. When this happens, remember that shouting, screaming or cursing is not always the best solution. When these people set out to get you mad, or to make you look like an insane git, just remember who you are and never sink to their level. There will also be times when the bullying will be so bad, you will wonder what is the point continuing. There will be times when the black-and-blue marks are just to bloody much to handle any more. This I know from personal experience, and yeah, it really sucks.
No matter how bad it gets, no matter how low they try to drag you down, no matter how much the all loving bs'ers rant or beat on you, you are better than them. You are a beautiful miracle of nature. You are a blessed child of the God and Goddess. You are a friend and a brother/sister to nature. Never let anyone drag you down. It gets better, trust me, and you are not alone.
Much love and blessing,
P.S: I also want to thank the people who wrote me various emails about my first ‘Rambling’. It's super awesome to hear from my fellow Pagans out there :)
Copyright: This essay is also cross posted with my blog found here: http://dwellerofrhymes.blogspot.com/2012/05/ramblings-of-pagan-guy-growing-pains.html
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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