In this blog I’ve decided to talk about how I came to be on my path.
I was adopted into a very Catholic family. Well, my grandmother was devout. The rest just sort of gave in to her beliefs because it was easier than fighting her on it. Church was on Saturday nights, followed by grocery shopping, each equally important. Per my grandmother’s order, I started CCD classes when I was about four years old. For those not in the know, CCD stands for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. It’s an educational program that teaches children how to be good Catholics.
So once a week my mom would stick me in the car and drag me to the local Catholic school for CCD classes. There were workbooks out of which the nuns taught. Everything was fine until we got to the part about original sin. My mother had lost six children altogether. She had 5 miscarriages from my father beating her and she’d given birth to a 6th child, a boy named Michael. He was born with Anencephaly, which is the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp. He died when he was just 18 hours old.
There was a lot of back and forth between the nun and I about this particular subject because she kept saying that my siblings, my dead miscarried siblings, had to suffer in purgatory to wash off the inherited stain of original sin. My brother Michael, the one with Anencephaly, went straight to heaven when he died because my parents made sure to have him baptized, but the 5 babies my mother miscarried did not have such good fortune and suffered in purgatory while their sins were washed away.
I was four or five years old at this point and even at that young age I knew I could never believe that, so I jumped out of my chair and left the building. I don’t know if they called my mother or what, but I was sitting outside on the little wall by the oak tree when she showed up to get me. I walked over to the car, looked her in the eye and told her, “I’m never coming back here again and you can’t make me.” All she said was a very quiet, “OK.” And that was that. My grandmother was very unhappy about the whole thing and for years afterward, worried about my immortal soul, but I never went back.
This wasn’t the end for me though. I’ve always been a spiritual person. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t believe in some greater power guiding me in my life. Mostly it was just a knowing that I wasn’t alone in the world. Being Catholic wasn’t the answer for me, but that didn’t discount Christianity altogether. I didn’t realize it until many years later, but I was on a quest!
When I was about 16, a friend of mine finally succeeded in talking me into going with her to her Presbyterian church’s youth group. I was not good meeting new people back then. I was awkward and unsure of myself and a little drunk. That was how I spent most of my days anyway. I wouldn’t say I was an alcoholic. I drank when I could afford to buy it and if I was broke then I didn’t drink. There were never any of the withdrawal symptoms I’ve seen in other people and never the absolute need to drink. I’ve always counted myself fortunate that I didn’t have those addictive tendencies. That would have made things so much worse than what they had been.
I met and became good friends with many new people over the four years I attended the church. I also gained a husband, briefly anyway. At first, I was very happy there and thought I’d found what I was looking for, but I soon realized that this place was also lacking. There was a lot of talk, but no walk. Many of the people I saw at church on Sundays were the same people out boozing it up at the bars on Friday nights. I did my share of drinking in the beginning as well, but there were no false pretenses with me. Everyone knew I drank and I didn’t apologize for it come Sunday morning.
I remember one of the first nights I went to youth group. The church’s Pastor came over and introduced himself to me, which I thought was a nice personal touch, until he invited me to church the following Sunday, “… and don’t forget to tithe while you’re there.” He said. Can you imagine! But I let it go because I wasn’t invested at the time. There were quite a few of these little missteps. The Youth Pastor performed my wedding ceremony, but not long after that he confessed to not only having an extramarital affair with one of the members of our youth group (she was 19 to his 35-ish), but also that she was pregnant. He lost his job and his wife and children that year.
The Pastor of the church, he of the tithing request, went missing one weekend and was found by one of the deacons of the church, out in Los Angeles in a limo with a very young male hooker. These are just a few of the things that went on while I was at the church and while I don’t necessarily blame the religion for the actions of its believers, it did help me to see that Christianity was not for me. There just didn’t seem to be anybody willing to take responsibility for their actions. Instead, it was “The Devil made me do it”.
As I said, I was briefly married to one of the church members and in the end, he proved to be the least Christian of them all. I left because he hit me twice. Not hard, just open handed slaps in the face, but I always swore to myself I would never accept such behavior from my husband. No hitting. Period. When I left him he went around telling our friends that I had cheated on him and that’s why he left me and they believed him. I guess that was better than- I left him after he hit me. For the next year and a half, some of which coincided with my taking care of my dying mother, he stalked me. Everywhere I went, there he was. It was frightening and demoralizing. The police did nothing. Back then someone had to actually see the abuse for it to mean anything to the police. Someone simply following you around just wasn’t important enough. Eventually, he found someone new and left me alone.
Needless to say, this all left a very bitter taste in my mouth when it comes to Christianity. It has taken me years to work through that bitterness when it comes to the church and even now, from time to time, I catch myself thinking those old thoughts. It’s not that I think every Christian I know or have known has behaved this badly. To the contrary, I know and have known some extremely devout and genuine Christians, including my own daughter. It took me many years to see that people are faulty. It isn’t the religion, but the people that give it such a bad reputation sometimes.
After I left my husband and the church there was a vacuum in my spiritual life. I knew then that Christianity just wasn’t for me. I never felt the presence of a greater power while sitting in that church on Sunday mornings. It left me feeling empty and left out if you want the truth of it. I was always more comfortable outside in nature. I grew up in a city and as soon as I got my driver’s license I took off to more natural environments. Long winding roads, reservoirs, lakes, forests… these became my places of worship, even before I knew that’s what I was doing. Ironically, it was a Christian author that led me to my path, or at least a book he wrote.
Larson’s New Book of Cults was at my local library in the religion section and so I borrowed the book and found a whole world I never knew existed. Had I found this book while still attending church, I may have actually believed the things written within, but I was anti-church at that moment and to me that book pointed the way. In other words, if Larson said the groups he spoke of were all cults then I wanted in! One of those groups was The Golden Dawn.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. That was the first stepping stone on my path. That’s the thing that changed my life. It wasn’t so much the group itself as it was a few entries in the book “The Golden Dawn”, by Israel Regardie. There was mention of a group of elements. These four elements- Air, Fire, Water, Earth- were my gateway. I became a little obsessed with them for a while. The many correspondences to these elements fascinated me. Air wasn’t just Air. It was Hot and Moist and Intellect. Air was birth and the dawning of a new day. It was yellow and East and birds in flight! There, in the same library and just a few shelves over from the Larson book was the Regardie book. This black paperback tome of knowledge I’d never dreamt of.
Not long after seeing the book about the Golden Dawn for the first time, I went over to a friend’s apartment and there, sitting on a small table was a copy of that very book! There were also copies of Anton LaVey’s “The Satanic Bible” and “The Satanic Rituals” and the “Necronomicon”. Those last three looked a bit scary, but I didn’t care. This man had the book and I wanted to read it some more. The library copy was fine, but I wanted something I could keep for a while, so I asked if he would mind my borrowing this book and he didn’t. Truth is I don’t think he’d ever opened the book more than a few times. He told me these books were window dressing to scare off any burglars that broke in. These books were his form of ADT, lol.
In the end, I bought my own copy and then found and even larger version of it, “The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic”. It was giant, about the size of an unabridged dictionary. It was bright red under the yellow dustcover and it came with big pictures inside of the people who started the Golden Dawn and different tools of the trade. It was an amazing book. In fact, if I still owned it today, it would be worth well over $300, but I gave it to the same man from whom I borrowed the original book I read and he lost it long ago.
From this book I went on to others. Back at the same library I found more books about the Golden Dawn by the authors Israel Regardie, Chic and Tabitha Cicero, Pat Zalewski and many others. I scoured books by Aleister Crowley, Agrippa and Yeats. I read about Eliphas Levi and William Wynn Wescott. Anything that had to do with this fascinating topic was in my hot little hands.
I took notes while sitting on a lawn chair in my living room with my feet propped up on a speaker that had loud industrial music pumping out of it. I wrote everything down, my thoughts and ideas and feelings. Everything went on the paper and there were notebooks everywhere. Eventually I stumbled on Douglas Monroe’s “The 21 Lessons of Merlin”. Like a lot of people, the legends of Arthur and Camelot have always intrigued me so this was more to feed that than my spiritual quest.
It wasn’t until after I started reading the book that I realized it was indeed another stone on my path and a wonderful stone it was. It was story, but also lessons too. The lay out of this book was so awesome that I was a little disappointed that everyone didn’t adopt this style of writing. The odd chapters were the telling of the story of Merlin the Druid and the even chapters were the magical lessons that came after. It was, and still remains, one of my favorite books ever.
From there, came books by the late Scott Cunningham. This docile quiet man teaching from his soul just moved my every cell further on down my path. Starhawk, Christopher Penczak, Raven Grimassi, Doreen Valiente, Gerald Gardner, Margot Adler, Dion Fortune, Stewart and Janet Farrar, Silver Ravenwolf, Edain McCoy, D.J. Conway, Raymond Buckland and on and on and on. I went on to study Native American beliefs with books by and about Wilma Mankiller, Jamie Sams, Vine Delora, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Russell Means, Sitting Bull, Pete Catches, Arvol Looking Horse, Archie Fire Lame Deer, Crow Dog, Mary Crow Dog, Black Elk and so many more. So many great teachers of our time. These are the people that authored the books that moved me along.
I learned more about the elements, the Sabbats and Esbats, the cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth. I learned about a whole world of deities the likes of which I could never have imagined. I learned that we are all one; that we are all related in a great web of life. I learned that we each, in our own way, effect each other. We are all teachers and students. Most of all, I learned that I could manifest those things in my life that served me best.
There have been many lessons along the way, some big and painful, some small and annoying, but all serving my higher purpose. I learned that everything happens for a reason and finding the reason isn’t always the important part. Sometimes just knowing it’s there is enough to move you forward.
So that’s it. That’s my story and the stepping stones that got me here. I’d love to hear all about your origin story. You can either comment here on the blog or over on my Facebook page.
Blessings to all!