I’ve thought often about writing an article such as this. There are so many different religious paths in existence in our world and so many venues available for spiritual research. I’m also familiar with the difficulty experienced by some of us when involved in the quest for a spiritual path that truly mirrors our mostly deeply held beliefs and understandings, as well as our heritages.
That said, I feel this piece needs to be written, although I will admit that I was hesitant to write it-hesitant to admit that I was not one of those people who immediately understood what I believed, chose a path, and stuck to it!
To provide the reader with a bit of my background and thus lay the groundwork for why my spiritual quest has been so involved and, at times, so difficult, I will tell you that I come from a family that is half Irish Catholic and half Jewish (although my Jewish grandmother was Irish).
I was raised with a strong connection to my Irish roots and feel most at home within Irish traditions in my current spiritual work. I am, in fact mostly Irish and have always longed to find a connection between my Celtic heritage and my spiritual path. Because I was raised with a sprinkling of combined Judao-Christian traditions, I was always open to different concepts of what a spiritual path could entail.
My father always advised me that it was important to have a belief system, but that it was more important to have a belief in God than it was to follow any one particular religion. Religion was never forced upon me and any knowledge gleaned was the result of my own initiative.
I was first introduced to God/Goddess traditions during my first year of college. I naturally gravitated toward the closeness with nature and emphasis on feminine/masculine energy as an equal balance that these paths offered.
At the time, however, I was involved in largely selfish endeavors and don’t feel that I was really able to make the connection with true spirit. I believe that becoming close to the Lord and Lady involves a level of being able to truly and deeply give of one’s self.
Living a happy spiritual life requires being willing to do more than simply cast spells to make one’s own life more satisfying (although I do believe that the God/Goddess does want us to be happy as individuals and to live prosperous lives).
I drifted for awhile, always reading books and trying to learn more about the path I was trying to walk but never really engaging; I never celebrated the various holidays of which I am now so wonderfully aware, never cast a circle to celebrate Imbolc, Litha, etc.
Thus, I never became fully immersed in the Pagan life; I never really connected to that part of me that’s made of spirit and never made a real connection with the spirits who govern the elements. I think that I believed that they existed, but I never spent enough time outside of myself to be able to really reach out to them or to the God/Goddess whose illuminating presence I feel today.
Over the years, I studied both Catholicism and Judaism. Some of the traditions of both religions were interesting and even beautiful, but neither spoke to me wholly. Neither encouraged a belief in the Fair Folk who I just knew lived in my gardens, or a belief in the spirit guides and wise ancestors who I today feel guide my readings when I turn to Tarot to help answer some of the difficult questions life throws in my direction and who are always with me offering their wisdom and protection.
I flip flopped for years between both, feeling like somewhere along the way I would have a breakthrough, a “white light” experience which would show me which path I was supposed to take. I felt like because I’d been born into these two religions they belonged to me somehow, but I was forever torn because I could identify with aspects of both but not the complete ideology of either.
Before my daughter was born in 2004 I knew that I needed to make a decision with regard to which spiritual path fit me best. Because Judaism encouraged the delving and question asking that Christianity seemed to discourage, I chose that as my path. I went to synagogue, lit candles on Shabbat, whispered guided prayers, and looked for confirmation from the Higher Power that I was on the “right track”.
Still, something was missing.
I was going through the motions but still not feeling wholly engaged. I would attend services at the synagogue and, although the people there were for the most part kind and friendly, I didn’t feel a true part of the whole scene.
I believed in tattooing as a connection to the world of spirit but I had to hide my body art when attending religious services. I possessed a freedom of spirit, which felt crushed by the dogmas of Judaism; I was being told that modest dress was required of me but I didn’t feel comfortable or natural wearing “modest” clothing.
I didn’t view my body as ugly or my sexuality as scary thing. I didn’t see magic as an instrument of evil and I didn’t feel that people who were homosexual were unnatural or unloved by the Blessed Ones of the Universe.
I saw my homeland not as Israel, but as Ireland. I once joked with my husband that I felt guilty feeling that if I had a choice of anyplace to where I could travel, my choice would absolutely be blessed Eire. And, there were so many other beliefs that I felt I was compelled to follow without really believing them in my heart and soul.
In short, I felt a bit like a hypocrite, believing one thing and mouthing another, following rituals which were beautiful but not completely who I was.
Eventually, my longing for a return to my Celtic heritage drew me toward the religion of my husband, who is Catholic. I thought that maybe it would be easier for my daughter to be raised with two parents who believed the same thing.
I thought that I could go to church with my husband and soak up the elements of the Mass which reminded me of my Irish roots and focus on the traditions which were derived from Irish Pagan culture. In the end, of course, this brought me only a deeper sense of being a hypocrite and a further sense of unease.
As all the other congregants were staring at the huge likeness of Jesus on the cross hanging over the altar (an image which from the time I was a child I found horrific and violent), I was gazing with love at the statue of Mary, envisioning her as the Goddess rather than as the mother of God portrayed by the Catholic church.
I would cringe at various parts of the sermons, for although the priest spoke with a thick brogue, his words offered me little comfort. I found little of my own truth in the words I heard during those church going days, and felt suffocated by the dogmas being bandied about.
I felt like I was being mentally lashed for my own beliefs, but my Pagan beliefs felt so natural and so normal.
No one could make me believe that they were evil or wrong, for I knew that they were coming from a place of love and peace. At this point in my life, I knew my own spirit enough to understand that I couldn’t be a horrible person simply because the church said being a Witch was evil; my ideas couldn’t be completely off base just because they didn’t correspond to how I was being advised that I should think and feel and behave.
In my heart, I was a Celtic woman of the wild, and I loved that. I could NOT let that go at any cost.
In the end, I returned to the Pagan roots that I explored during my college years, although on a much deeper level. In them, I find truth and comfort. I find a natural avenue toward the spirit. I feel enriched by the connection I have with the earth and with the elements, by the uninhibited connection I feel with my wise ancestors and my spirit guides.
I know that I don’t need to feel guilty about the spiritual gifts I’ve been given, gifts I feel we all possess but that we can’t all access because we’ve been told by certain organized religions that they are a pathway to Satan, or whatever.
I hate that there are religions out there that cause people to feel guilty for being different, for being gay, for being lesbian, for being able to communicate with the animal world and see that world as equal to the human one. For trying to force people into unnatural behaviors and stirring up hatred deep within the depths of humanity by telling people it’s their duty to convert “non-believers” and even, in some cases, to kill those who refuse to repent to their religions.
My religion is one of love and tolerance. I believe strongly in the law of return and in sending out good, positive energy. I believe in love as the only real pathway to understanding others and to relating to the world in a creative rather than in a destructive way.
I want to raise my daughter as a free little spirit, to nurture a belief in the magic and wonder of the world (and the otherworld) that she naturally, as a small child, believes to be real. I want to teach her that it’s important to be concerned about the health of our environment and that it’s important to stand up and speak out when events are unfolding that she knows are unjust.
I want to teach her that there is something inherently wonderful about being a woman, and that the discrimination she might face at the hands of those whose religions tell her that women are somehow inferior to the male species are wrong (and, oftentimes, very misguided).
My sense of wonder has been renewed and at last I feel wholly able to connect on a spiritual level. My hope is that this piece might help others who have experienced similar quandaries with regard to their faith. There is no need to be afraid of what you know in your heart to be your truth.
The Lord and Lady are waiting patiently for you to reach out and let go of your fears, guilt, and shame.
Once you’ve set your spirit free to wander the beautiful path offered by them (whatever your own particular path might be-there are so many fabulous ways of connecting to spirit within the Pagan community), you will find that the universe is a magical place indeed.
Brightest of blessings.