My mother was Greek Orthodox and my father was Methodist. However, growing up, we went to my mother’s church regularly until I was a young teenager. My parents said we were just too busy to go to church anymore. At this point, however, we lived in an area where the church we typically went to was a little over an hour drive away from us, which takes its toll on both the people (getting up in the morning, going to a place full of strangers, etc), and the car (maintenance, gas money, etc).
Growing up, I attended a Christian summer sports camp, I went on a few religious retreats, attended Sunday school, and was involved with small youth groups/clubs that were related to the church that we attended. My mother attended a regular Bible study (still does I believe?) and both of my parents had a rather strict, “old world” view of the Bible. They are both in their 60s, so it is very likely also a product of their generation’s culture, having a heavy emphasis on religion.
I began growing anxious about my faith when I was around ten years old. I was told by a preacher “Christians should never marry people who don’t also identify as Christian”. This struck me as odd and rubbed me the wrong way. How could Christians continue to spread their faith, if they only married other Christians? It just didn’t make a lick of sense to me.
Fast-forward to when I was around fourteen. The more I learned and was exposed to modern day Christians, the more anxious I became. Every time I went to church with my family, I had a striking feeling of “I do not belong here”. The church I attended was very similar to Gothic cathedrals with tall ceilings, and beautiful stained glass windows resembling Biblical stories (and/or Christian saints). However, I felt like a fish out of water. Despite the church’s beauty, I just couldn’t stand being in such a cold, man-made, isolated area.
I couldn’t stand the cherry picking of the Bible, particularly in Leviticus. One part of Leviticus says “Man shall not lay with another man” (which has been grossly misinterpreted over the years), however, a few verses later, it says something along the lines of “If a woman has multiple sex partners, we as a society have the morale right to burn her at the stake”. Don’t believe me? Look up Leviticus chapter 21, verse 9.
I tried asking my mother about the contradictions within the Bible, since I knew she attended Bible study regularly. She told me “It is just apart of the Old Testament, it doesn’t really matter now”, and when I tried to ask her about the famous anti-gay line in Leviticus (leaving out the fact that it has been grossly misinterpreted), she seemed stumped (we went in verbal circles here). This was very frustrating, being the curious beaver that I am.
There were also stories of people claiming to be “Christians”, but then doing the most anti-Christian things out there (seriously, how do you go to bed feeling good, knowing you screamed at a six year old at a PRIDE parade?). I just could not stand the hypocrisy (and blunt sexism) anymore. What put the final nail in the coffin for me was somehow my Dad and I got on the subject of marriage/serious dating and me looked at me and said “You belong to me until you’re married. No one else owns you until you are married”. It wasn’t a gentle “you’re my little girl” type voice or gesture. Nope, it was a very serious “you are my property” type vibe, and it freaked me the fuck out.
I believe I was around sixteen or seventeen when I began to tentatively dip my toes into looking up information about other religions. I asked some groups on Facebook I was apart of at the time for some help. At first, I was very attracted to the Native American belief system (specifically the Seven Drums spirituality). However, as I looked more into things, I ended up stumbling on Paganism. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I found my home.
I immediately joined as many Pagan groups as I could find, eager to learn. I loved how open and “laid-back” the overall attitude was. There was no strict “you must worship this” (or anything of the sort). Was there the occasional jerk in different groups? Yep, but the groups felt very accepting and loving. I loved learning about the different deities and pantheons that different Pagans worshipped. I loved learning about how some individuals incorporated their own version of Witchcraft. There was not some invisible almighty figure that would cast you down to eternal suffering, just because you didn’t agree with the “laws” of the religion. It felt like a breath of fresh air.
I once read a quote that read along the lines of “If doing something, say engaging in sex before your married, gives you high levels of anxiety, because it disagrees with your religion, it might be time to change your belief systems”, and it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I really wish other individuals would take this to heart.
As I explored, I found my “niche”. I worship the Great Spirit (my personal view of a male deity for Mother Earth) and Mother Earth (my personal view of a female deity for the Earth itself). I have a strong appreciation for Kali, Artemis, Poseidon, Bast, Skadi, Aphrodite, Hades, and Anubis from different cultures. I identify as a newbie nature witch, constantly learning about all the different “ins” and “outs” of being a witch.