The Long Hard Road
Article ID: 13140
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,092
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Author: Scott A. Johnson
Posted: June 7th. 2009
Times Viewed: 2,772
By way of introduction, I'd like to share yet another story of "how I got to the Craft." Please feel free to read, or to skip over this one, as you like. Just who the hell am I and why should you care? I was once that intolerant bigot. I was once the one who condemned what I didn't understand.
I suppose this essay is part apology, part therapy, and part story of how I came out from under my own cloud of stupidity. Take it for what it's worth, and realize this is simply the story of one person trying.
Like many of you here, I was not born into a Pagan household. I was, in fact, born into a fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist tradition, where there was to be no drinkin', no dancin', and no "belly-rubbin'" (whatever that meant) . From the earliest ages, I was taught that the devil lived in the tiny bar down the street and only sinful folks went in there, that people who dated outside their race were damned to hell, gays were likewise damned, and every Witch in the world deserved to be outright murdered in the most brutal fashions imaginable. Welcome to south Texas.
My attitudes toward every other religion in the world continued well into my teens, until I was enrolled in a martial arts school. It was the first time I was exposed to the beauty of another culture, and the first time I was taught the concept of Chi (or Ki or inner power...Whatever you want to call it) . I spent a great deal of time and developed a real discipline for the art, practicing meditation and honing my skills. While I began to think maybe Buddhists were all right, my attitudes toward the Craft didn't change.
My attitude toward magic wasn’t one of scoffing and disbelief, but rather one of fear. See, although I was always taught that there was no such thing as magic (or even Majick) , and everyone told me that witches had no real power, everyone treated them with a great amount of fear. When I asked why, there were no answers forthcoming.
When I was eighteen, my brother and I moved to Los Angeles. The term "culture shock" comes to mind. It was during those two years that my brother revealed to me an interest in the occult, but he used his knowledge not to educate, but to further frighten me. During those same years, I met a young woman named Elizabeth, with whom I had a romantic relationship.
She was, you guessed it, a practicing Wiccan.
I didn't know anything about her religion, except that she was a Witch, and was therefore going to hell and evil. That didn't stop me from going out with her, but it did create in me a wall from which I wouldn't come out from behind. I left California and came back to Texas, glad to be rid of all those "weirdos" and especially the Pagan community.
Realize, please, that this is the extremely truncated version, as the full story would take far too much time and would most likely bore you to tears.
A year after I returned to Texas, a little more wide-eyed and thinking I was a whole lot smarter than I was, I met another young woman. Her name was Tabatha. She had one green eye, one eye that was half green, half brown. I didn't know it at the time, but she too was a practicing Witch. To make a long story short (I know, too late) , I married Tabatha, and we both went off to college together.
In our first year in college, I enrolled in a class on Philosophy, fully prepared to have my faith in the Christian church attacked and then reaffirmed. But during that class, a curious thing happened. I was not attacked, but I began to be the one asking questions, the largest one being "Why?" My teacher's answer was, more often than not, a wry "Why indeed?"
Over the course of the next two years, my wife's religion emerged, and I clung to the role of the indignant Christian, condemning what I thought to be the "devil's work" and every other rotten stereotype on the planet until it seemed my marriage would be torn apart. I went so far as to question whether or not my wife was a fit mother, and so many other things I now find abhorrent, so disgusting to think of myself doing, all in the name of Christianity.
It was also during this time that I began to slip into the deep throws of clinical depression. I couldn't abide her lifestyle, but I loved my wife so deeply and so completely that I thought that if heaven had no place for her, it could do without me as well. The depression worsened because I truly believed that, for loving the most fantastic woman I'd ever met, I was going to hell.
The years dragged on with me becoming more resentful and more depressed. Then, a funny thing happened. The house in which we lived at the time had an extra room, which I used as an office. Why I needed an office I don't know. It was mainly just a room for my computer and junk.
I was sitting in my office on a day when my depression was at its worst. My thought process was that if I died, my wife would get the insurance money and be able to provide a better life for our daughter (who was eight at the time, and already beginning to show interest in the Craft) . Suicide was a sin, but I was going to hell anyway, so why not?
I was close, so very close, to ending my life when the door to my office opened and my daughter, Anna, walked in.
"What's wrong Daddy?" she said.
"Daddy doesn't feel well, " was all I could manage.
The little girl, to whom I hadn't been the best father and to whom I had no idea how to relate, put her arms around my neck, climbed into my lap, and hugged me and said "I love you, Daddy."
I cried for hours.
Something broke inside me, and I experienced what the drunks call a moment of clarity. If, for all my faults, and all my miserable mistakes in the world, this tiny child could still love me, maybe there was something there worth saving. Maybe the thing that was wrong was my own perception. I began to evaluate everything I'd ever read, heard, or been taught, particularly in regards to my wife and her religion, and I learned a few things, and had more questions.
The first thing I learned was this: Any group that teaches hatred toward any other group, for any reason whatsoever, is wrong.
Second: People should be judged by their actions, by how good a person they are, and not for what they believe.
And third: Murray, the bartender at the bar down the street, was not the devil and was, in fact, a nice guy. I also discovered that I like dancing, the occasional rum and coke isn’t a bad thing, and if “belly-rubbing” is what I think it is, then that ain’t a bad thing either. In fact, if it weren’t for the rubbing of the belly, that whole church would’ve been empty generations ago. Hmmm…
Then there were the questions: If Witches weren’t a tool of the devil, then what were they, and what did they believe? Why were pagans the only ones I knew that were openly tolerant of most people, and did genuinely live by their own creed of “An it harm none, do as thou wilt?” And why were they so damned happy all of the time?
Also, if, as my parents and church elders claimed, witchcraft wasn’t a real power and witches were all delusional, why were they so damned afraid of them?
The last question was easy to answer: Ignorance. People fear what they don’t understand, and what they fear, they kill. Such was the reason that witches were so hated where I come from.
I sat down with my wife and told her that I didn’t care what religion she was, that I wanted to keep her and my daughter (and the new one I learned earlier that day was on the way) in my life. I didn’t pretend to know anything about what she believed, but I wanted to know more. So began my introduction.
When she brought home a book on the craft, I read it too. When she brought home a book called “Kitchen Witchery” (a great book, I might add) , I read the recipes. Whenever I had a question, I asked and she answered. And when I didn’t understand, she showed me. My eldest and I began learning about the Craft at about the same time, I think.
That was ten years ago.
During those ten years, I’ve developed a healthy respect for all belief systems. Just because I don’t believe them doesn’t mean their wrong. It just means their belief isn’t what resounds with me.
I don’t hate Christians, but I am wary around them. I still live in Texas, after all. And, by the way, I’m quite proud to call myself a Witch. I embrace the old/new religion (depending on how you think of it) , and even made my daughter her first Book of Shadows.
I no longer feel like I’m condemned in the afterlife, nor do I feel the need to condemn others. Not because I’m all “fluffy bunny-ish, ” but because I truly believe that it is how I should be. I truly believe in the Rede, and in the energy that comes from within. I have cast off so many of the stupid misconceptions I had, and will openly discuss any of those misconceptions with anyone else who asks.
If only I had a dime for every time someone asked me if I worshiped Satan…Oy…
So this is me. My name is Scott. I’m a husband, a father, a professional writer, a martial artist, a ghost hunter, and a Witch. I have met so many in the Pagan community that have welcomed me with open arms, and so many that have enriched my life.
My journey hasn’t ended. In fact, the path will never end. I’m just resting my feet for a while to tell you how I got this far.
Scott A. Johnson
Location: Kyle, Texas
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Bio: Scott A. Johnson is the author of novels An American Haunting, Deadlands, and Cane River: A Ghost Story. He has also written ghost-guides to Augusta, Georgia; and San Antonio, Texas. He is the Paranormal Studies Editor for http://www.dreadcentral.com, where he writes a twice-monthly column about real haunted places in the US. To find out more about him, visit his website.
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