Tuesday, March 28, 2017
My Ever Changing Beliefs
When I say beliefs, I mean of course, my spiritual beliefs. You may have come to realize that over time, your personal beliefs on the divine have changed radically, as have mine. This post is an attempt to summarize just how much my personal spiritual beliefs have changed in the last decade or so.
I'll preface by saying that I was not really raised with religion. My mom had my brother and I baptized Methodist when we were infants, but beyond that I never really had any particular belief structure forced upon me. We went to church, perhaps, twice a year and only if we felt like attending - my grandparents preferred that we attend church with them on Christmas and Easter, but this was not something my mother enforced.
So I was largely reared without too much religious dogma, and as such was allowed to have free reign over how I interpreted things I experienced as a child. Faeries in the woods at grandma's house? You bet. Fish-tailed monsters in the lake? Sure thing. Opening up doors and stepping through to other worlds? A popular play-time theme. Imaginary friends might not have been so imaginary - indeed.
I came into this world with a sense of wonder and magic about me, and while I lost that sense for a good number of years, I'm slowly regaining it.
In middle school, I had a friend who was utterly convinced she was a vampire. I suspect a large part of this was due to the influence of her older teen cousin, who was really into BDSM and blood-play and enjoyed the role-play involved, but she took it wholeheartedly. Even styled her entire persona and lifestyle around it. Melissa was a vampire. Good for her.
But she also told me that I was a witch, even if I didn't know it at the time. As a youngster in middle school, I was preoccupied with crushes, homework, family problems, and my own crisis surrounding puberty and gender-conformity. I didn't have time for make believe things like faeries and monsters anymore....but she was insistent that I had some magical ability. And it was the first time in a LONG time that I toyed with the possibility of opening that door again.
In high school I started practicing Wicca. Finally, a whole slew of resources for the budding magical practitioner! Something that wasn't centered on a male-deity and upholding outdated gender tropes! A belief system that was about love, and light, and female empowerment!
I dove deep - and I started finding things that just didn't add up or jive with me. I can't tell you how many times I pushed the concept of the Three-Fold Law onto other people and nodded sagely when other Wiccans scolded people for asking about love spells. How I defended the concept of duality between male and female - that each were equal and powerful in their own ways. But deep down, some of it really squicked me out and so I had to do some serious personal analyzing.
Wicca, and lots of other New Age movements, regard womanhood as sacred. While this isn't inherently problematic, it ends up veering into trans-exclusive radicalism pretty quickly - especially when you equate womanhood with the womb and ability to procreate. This reduction of women as vessels, even sacred vessels, was something that REALLY rubbed me the wrong way as a young Wiccan. Menstruation wasn't something to be proud of or experience joy over - it was an inconvenience at best and painful at worst. The ability to bear a child or become a "mother" wasn't something that resonated with me either, but Wicca told me that I should cherish that obligation. It was what defined me as a woman.
The maiden, mother, and crone thing just didn't make much sense to me either. That a woman was either a child, a vessel for another living being, or a wizened old lady felt really limiting. Where was the agency of the woman who wanted to be a warrior? A hunter? A lesbian....even?
So much of Wicca ended up feeling very transphobic, Euro-centric, and wrong. Energy wasn't either "male" or "female" - associating feminine energy with being passive, nurturing or calm was incredibly sexist. Same with assigning the characteristics of strength, aggression, and virility to males. Oh, but they cried! We all have both male and female energies within us!
a) That's kind of insulting to someone who might experience gendered dysphoria
b) Not everyone (myself included) identifies with the binary and...
c) Do you really think the incredible energy of the infinite cosmos is bound by our human insistence on duality?
So I had a lot of soul searching to do on my journey as a witch - and ridding myself of some of the problematic beliefs that I held was an important step.
I also used to be a soft polytheist that bought into the Three-Fold Law and was deathly afraid of curses and hexes. Today, I'm a definitely a hard polytheist (though I don't call myself pagan or currently work with any deity). Today, I can say without a doubt that I see no evidence whatsoever that every action I take will come back to me 'three times' and I've definitely cast a curse or two in the past. I no longer use terms like feminine energy or male energy - I don't really buy into the concept of duality - but I will substitute in "destructive" or "creative" to describe the intent of certain energies.
I no longer believe my power as a witch is a gift from the Goddess, but rather something inherent in me to cultivate as I wish. I no longer believe that all spirits are good or want to communicate with witches - there are plenty of nasties out there. I no longer believe that for spells to work, you have to cast a circle and call on certain entities to make sure it all goes right...I can be as creative as I want in combining different elements in my practice.
Even today, what I believe still has the capacity for great evolution and expansion. The more I come into contact with others and hear their stories, the more my beliefs change. The more I practice my craft and refine what works and what doesn't for me, the more my beliefs change. And that's okay! Change is a good thing.
How have your spiritual or personal beliefs changed over time? Let me know!