We are the same people, wiser than before
Growing up, children relate to their same sex. They are drawn to what they know, because they seek comfort in the familiar, even when the curiosity and mystery of the unknown pulls them. Whether intentional or not, boys and girls often choose role models of their own kind, be it the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, or Henry V and Jeanne d’Arc, or Arthur and Guinevere.
Spending my childhood in a fundamentalist Protestant Christian home, however, I was faced with a God that was solely masculine. It was hard to grasp the concept that there were things that boys could do, that girls could not. My mother tried to smooth the rough edges for me, encouraging me to be what I wanted… insofar as the ultimate goal was wife, mother, and homemaker.
I wondered as to why men were special… why women were best suited to be supportive. I looked at figures such as Elizabeth I, and wondered why she was such a renowned queen, or even Deborah, in the book of Judges. The only reply I received was that women were used when the men failed, to shame them, because there was no other choice. My secret dreams of being strong like Princess Leia never revealed themselves as more than fantasy stories. Still… I wondered.
When I was about 14, my entire family converted from Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy. At last, I was given female role models whom I could go to, pray to, and who I thought might understand me more as a woman, than a masculine God and his Son would. In the Theotokos I found a mother figure, one whom I believed to not judge, but rather accept, listen, and let me pour my soul out to… and so I did. When I picked a patron saint, I picked one out of a miscommunication, and to whom I had no real ties. I wanted St. Katherine, the Great-Martyr… a woman who died at 18, but out-debated many older, and male, philosophers. I wanted to be like her.
Truth be told, I spent more time in prayer to the Virgin Mary than I did to God or Jesus. I would spend time crying to her, asking for guidance, and pouring my heart out. Whenever I looked upon her icons, I firmly believed she was smiling at me. It did me good.
Still, there was something unsettling in my mind. There were still clear lines defining what a woman could do, as opposed to a man. I felt guilty going into church, for wanting things that I shouldn’t want, for not being content to stay at home, to be a loving wife. I felt guilty for wanting something more. I wanted to go out and be me, to make the world more beautiful, to not constantly worry over whether I was sinning.
I began questioning. Instead of praying, I found myself fleeing to what parks I could find in the sunny metropolis of Los Angeles. I spent time at the beach, just listening to the waves lapping at the shore, the breeze rustling past, and the call of the gulls. I found respite taking long walks through the rolling bumps that passed for hills at a park, watching the long grass bend in the wind. I questioned why I believed what I believed. For the first time, the girl who’s gift was faith, started to find herself without it.
I slowly left my religion, and for many months, I tried to free myself completely from its, and any other religion’s, grasp. I felt as though I had jumped off a cliff, and didn’t know what lay below, or even how far up I was. Somewhere, however, I began re-reading the myths that I had loved so much growing up. I remembered the Celtic fairy-tales, the Nordic myths, and wondered what was really driving Morgana le Fay.
From thence, I slowly began reading books on paganism, Wicca, earth-based religions, the Wheel of the Year, and magic…
The moon, the stars, the forests, the mountains… the music and the dance… they are my temple, they are where I feel at peace more than anywhere else. Fleeing to the world of nature was something I did when highly emotional from a very young age… now… it is second nature.
Learning the tales and beliefs of those who recognize the Divine Feminine in the world just as much as the Divine Masculine provides me with a sense of feeling at home. I am proud to be a woman… I am equal to men… there is a speck of the divine in me… and I found a world rich with symbolism that I could relate to and find meaning in… not a religion that forced me to fit into a box, nor a religion that I made up as I went along, but rather a spirituality that was a reflection of who I really am.
I sing to the Goddess within my heart