Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Polytheism and Faith Questionnaire, Part 2

How did you first come to know the Goddesses/Gods as separate and distinct deities?

It was a long time coming for me. I grew up in a relatively Christian household. My father was more agnostic than Christian and held the Native American spirituality in high esteem, though this was not something he discussed with me until I was an adult. My mother did what she was taught to do, had us baptized, let us explore and answered our questions to the best of her abilities, but religion/spirituality was never very important to them. It was, however, important to me, and I began the quest for my religious affiliation at fourteen.

I started with the various Christian churches in my hometown, and eventually, I ended up converting to Catholicism at sixteen by personal choice and much to the chagrin of my father. It was infective, and I brought half of my family, including my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and all three of my cousins with me. I was a part of a highly charismatic church group, known for speaking in tongues, ecstatic trance and long worship sessions with a full worship band. The music was the main focus of my time with this group. I would stand up and sing for hours while worshippers literally prostrated themselves, wept, danced, sang and otherwise channeled the power of the Holy Spirit. This was when I knew the Gods to be real as well as when the Gods began becoming distinctly separate entities.

Over time, I began to forge a strong relationship with Mary, Mary Magdalene, Hagia Sophia (as the Greeks called the Holy Spirit, “Holy Wisdom”) and a myriad of Saints. None of this was questioned until I began separating the Father and the Son into separate entities, for that was how I experienced them. I had several lengthy discussions with the Priests, who had even called in other Priests to try to dissuade me from this line of thinking. “There is only one God!” they would cry.

I would counter, “But I know them and they are not. And what of Mary? And Mary the Magdelene? Are they not Divine?”

“No, they are Blessed. Only God is Divine,” they would answer.

“But what of the Holy Spirit,” I would ask. “Surely she is Divine in her own right?”

“The Holy Spirit is the breath of God,” they would say. “And the Holy Spirit is not a ‘she,’ though you may think of this as the feminine aspect of our one true God.”

“But what of this line in the bible that says, ‘Thou shalt not have any other Gods before me.’ Doesn’t that prove that there is more than one God?” I would ask, usually to be met with shaking heads and even an exasperated “hands in the air” gesture as though all was lost. I did many, many “Hail Mary’s” and “Our Father’s” to atone for my line of thinking, but the more they made me pray, the more contact I had with each separate Deity, the more I knew them as separate, distinct beings.

Finally, I decided one day while doing yet another set of “Hail Mary’s” to just ask her. I mean, she of all people would know. So, I did just that, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, I come to your feet to seek knowledge that you, in your wisdom, may hold. Will you tell me, are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as one?” I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit surrounding me, for I had come to recognize her presence quite readily. I felt the distinct presence of Jesus beside me as I had come to know him, beginning and ending all things in His name, calling to Him as a messenger Deity, and agent between me and the Father. And when I felt the Father above me, I knew. There was no need for words. I was surrounded by three distinct beings, and I knew there would never be a way to convince me otherwise.

Once I had my confirmation, my proof, I stopped arguing with the Priests. I knew they believed they were right, and perhaps that is how they know their God, as one distinct Being. Over time, as I learned all that I could from the Catholic Pantheon, for that was what it became for me, I slowly began to walk away, to find a place where others were who saw the same things that I did in the world around us. It was with a heavy heart that I left the Catholic Church, because I had loved the Gods so much; however, one doesn’t spend years in the arms of the Holy Spirit without learning how to hope.

How did you first come to polytheism as a religious path?

After I left the Catholic Church, I floated for a while, not sure what to do with myself. I still had a strong spiritual life, and I had proof that there was a World full of Gods out there; however, I didn’t know how to go about meeting them. I mean, one doesn’t walk into a bar and say, “So, I left the Catholic Church and am looking for some new Gods to worship. Know any you could introduce me to?”

My roommate in college was a non-Christian, much to my Catholic dismay. I went to school at a small, all-women’s Catholic school and was very surprised to find that my roommate was not Christian, let alone not Catholic! Needless to say, she and I butted heads quite a bit! She used to read tarot cards while I read the bible. I secretly think she did it to irritate me, but she’ll never admit it. Over time, I even let her read the cards for me. She was the one who planted the seeds of “organized polytheism” in my head, because a few years later when I left the Church, I kept thinking of her.

It wasn’t until I met a woman who passed through Columbus just long enough to change my entire life that I fully accepted polytheism as a definitive path for me. She was very Wiccan, Dianic, to be exact, in that she believed there to be a Goddess with a male consort God, emphasis on the Goddess as superior. I attended an Imbolc rite with her in honor of Brighid, the Celtic Goddess of the Hearth, Healing, and the Arts, and I can use no other words to describe than life-altering. Not only was I introduced to a format for interacting with the Gods I knew to exist, I was also introduced to a number of other people, real live people with jobs and families, who were serious about their spiritual life and had a world view similar to mine. It was almost like permission to experiment, and the rest is history. That was in February of 2002.

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