I don’t think about my childhood much. It’s not that it was particularly awful or that I suffered irreparable damage it’s just that it feels unimportant. Almost as if it happened to another person or it was a movie I saw once but can’t quite remember the details. It somehow does not connect to me anymore, does not inhabit my soul the way childhood does in others.
But I do reflect now and then, dredging up distant memories like faded photographs blurred and distorted with time and age but still recognizable if you look closely enough. If you squint just right, adjust the light the image will begin to make sense and you will find yourself saying, “Ah, yes, I remember now. I had forgotten.”
Upon recent reflection into the question of spirituality and what that means to me I found myself looking at some of those distant memories. I can see myself as a young girl, hair brushed and held securely with a barrette, my nicest dress ironed and immaculate, my white socks and patent leather shoes, everything in its proper place nothing allowed to be out of order. I was sitting in a hard metal folding chair with my notebook and bible waiting for our weekly pilgrimage to “God’s House” to get underway. Two hours of religious instruction in “the way” about to begin. The ritual of prayer, hymns, and dutiful note taking that was a part of my weekly duties as a good daughter. This weekly preparation to save my soul from the sinful and dangerous environment in which I lived known to me as “the world” as if it was a separate state or distant and foreign land was somehow going to keep me safe from the devil “having his way with me” as my mother said making it sound so salacious and almost sexually exciting to a newly hormonal young lady.
I was a good student. I accepted this teaching because it was expected and it was all there was. One way~one God. However it never moved me, never swept me up into a feeling of grace, never inspired or delivered me from heartache. I was told the answers before I was ever allowed to ask the questions. In fact even the questions were picked for me and those that didn’t fit into the churches dogma were quickly discarded forbidden to further discussion. I did what I did, believed what I believed out of fear. Fear of punishment, fear of abandonment, and fear of not pleasing this God that was a jealous and demanding God somehow displeased with the human nature he supposedly created in his infinite and infallible wisdom. Forever paying the price for the sin of the first man and woman, a debt that Jesus paid but somehow I still carried on my account. The sin of individual choice, thought, and desire. It didn’t add up (perhaps why I have always hated mathematics) but I went with it all out of fear.
Until in my seventeenth year of life having been freed from the church going experience since the age of thirteen when I left my mother and moved in with my father I stumbled on a book in the library about the history of witches and paganism. Being the bad ex-Christian I was at the time I stole this book, which later I lost never to be recovered–my first lesson in karma. For the first time in my life the words I read caused a physical and emotional response that had no trace of fear. There was only a feeling of peace as if lost in a foreign land I had suddenly stumbled on a map I could read and understand. There was in fact a spiritual world that seemed to fit me. Although I liked the idea of this particular spiritual path I didn’t start to seek any real training or learning until my mid twenties. I found myself surrounded by other young people who were drawn to Wicca and paganism as I was, but I felt out of place. These young people dressed in costume flirted with witchcraft but didn’t take it seriously. They were like children playing dress up, reveling in shocking and disturbing the status quo with their outlandish and heathen behavior. They were emotionally unstable, personally unreliable, and some even dangerously intrigued by the idea of wielding magic to gain power over others, involved in practices I found to be morally questionable. I walked away from these people and their playacting disillusioned and disgusted. If this was Wicca I wanted no part of it.
Don’t get me wrong I still considered myself a Pagan. I wouldn’t be running back into the arms of Christianity any time soon, but finding no community in which to grow, learn, and practice with that I could trust or even consider real I simply stuck to the central guidelines and forgot about pursuing any deeper commitment to the craft. I rarely performed any type of ritual, I did not continue my studies, and I avoided most so called witches like the plague being completely disinterested in any drama or Hollywood type practices. Most of the people I came into contact with became interested in magic because of a movie they’d seen expecting to find a magical outlet that would gift them with some sort of power they could wield over others. Hogwash. There is no power to be had over another only the power to enrich and expand oneself. Those who seek to control, influence, or even “help” others without their consent are in my mind very dangerous and misguided individuals.
For the next ten plus years I existed in spiritual limbo. I battled (mostly unsuccessfully) my chronic depression, wore my anger and cynicism like a suit of armor, used my humor and indifference as my weapons of choice, and generally just drifted through my life without really ever showing up to the event. I was deeply sad as if in a state of constant mourning. I felt completely disconnected from others and myself. In the distance beyond the fog and shadows in my brain I heard a faint call. So faint I decided it must surely be my imagination.
Imagine my surprise when the call began to get stronger, louder, and more insistent. It was the same voice that spoke to me all those years ago at the tender age of seventeen. The same invitation to leave my state of spiritual limbo and show up to life alive, in color, and present. An invitation to come home only this time my Goddess sent me true guides in the shape of friends. And so now approaching my fortieth year on this earth I resume a journey long ago abandoned, I exchange my armor of anger and cynicism for a warm cloak big enough to share with fellow travelers. I keep my humor but turn in my indifference and select instead an open heart in which to house my many souvenirs, and set out to join the dance of life with childlike abandon and wonder, trusting that this time faith will sustain and inspire me instead of chain and punish me. And I know I am truly blessed to have this time to continue my journey.