The late afternoon sun created streams of multicolored light through the small windows near the front of the church. One of the rays rested quietly on the bare foot of a statue of Joseph hanging on the wall in front of me. He was holding the baby Jesus. A second statue of Mother Mary hung by his side. Beneath them was an altar of candles with a kneeler in front.
I took my jar of holy water and moved to stand before the kneeler, tilting my head up toward the feet of Mary and Joseph. I lit a candle, knelt down, and rested my head on the smooth wooden surface meant for the elbows of a praying woman.
I stared at the Easter lilies as tears rolled down my cheeks. My childhood self would have roamed the church, looking for Jesus under pews and around corners as if we were playing a special game of hide and seek. My adult self wondered what I’d say if I actually found him. Especially now.
Going to church as a child taught me about ritual and prayer as well as the concept of good versus evil. I learned about the good fight between God and the Devil and how not to be a sinner.
Becoming a Druid brought my Spirituality to life. It allowed me to honor my body and my human experience. I remembered the first time I danced barefoot around a campfire to the sound of djembes and frame drums. There was something hauntingly primitive and primal in the way my body moved. It was my soul in its purest form of human expression. Druidy taught me how to fully embody my Spiritual communion with the Divine. It also gave me a Goddess.
For a child growing up in the Bible belt, the ability to pay homage to a fully empowered Goddess as an expression of Divinity was life-changing. My early ties to religion taught me I was born from the rib of a man whom I later betrayed. My betrayal caused his ruin, placing us both in disfavor with God. Our punishment together was the loss of Eden, my further punishment was to be cursed with menstruation and painful childbirth. I was taught my only hope for salvation was to become an obedient wife and mother – that this would be my most important duty as a Christian woman.
So I became a Pagan one instead. A wild, unapologetic, fully empowered, menstruating, breast feeding, daughter of the Earth. I celebrated my womb and the life I bore from it. I learned to love my body and accept my place as the Divine Feminine counterpart to God. I chose not to be subservient or obedient. I was not a child among men. I was a woman, and without me, humanity could not exist. I allowed myself to be powerful in my own right. I gave myself permission to enjoy being all the things men are not. To be what they cannot be. I took my place as a woman, not to punish men, or hate them, or try to prove myself to them. I took it because that is what I am meant to do. It is my divine birthright to be the female expression of humanity in its fullest, most empowered and impeccable form. It is my birthright to honor my body as sacred and holy.
I gazed up at the statue of Mary.
“Surely you must understand me.” I whispered to her. “How could you have given birth to divinity if you, yourself, were not divine.”
I wondered what it meant for her to be both the beloved mother of Jesus and the cursed daughter of Eve – the good and the evil – the sinner and the saint.
That moment – kneeling in a Catholic church, talking to Mary and searching for Jesus while honoring my Pagan connection to God – made the polarity of my Spiritual identity even more complex. As I’d mentioned in my first blog post, The Day My Soul Cracked Open, I was experiencing a full blown crisis of ego. I felt overly sensitive and vulnerable with an acute inability to discern the reasons why. This, coupled with a lack of Spiritual judgement and consistent weepiness over not being able to feel like ‘me’ anymore, made the task of figuring out what was wrong with me even more daunting.
I had no idea how to be Christian and Pagan at the same time, but I was.
How does a woman like me talk to Jesus when Pagans and Christians are not on speaking terms? How does a woman like me even exist?
A knock on the door and the sound of people’s voices snapped me out of my troubled mind. I rose from the kneeler with my holy water and resumed my place in the front pew. I watched while the priest opened the side door for a small gathering of parishioners eager to receive the sacrament of confession.
How long had it been since I sat face to face with a priest and told him about all the things I’d done wrong? At least 30 years.
I’d been invited to attend mass the following morning by the woman with the key. I felt the only way I could do that in good conscience was to ask permission from the priest.
How, exactly, does a Druidic Witch say confession to a Catholic Priest? I was about to find out…