Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Druidic Witch Goes To Confession: Part Three

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It took only 10 minutes for me to find Todaji Temple once I saw the map on the side of the building.  I was surprised to see it open in the storm. I payed for a ticket at a small booth occupied by a middle aged Japanese man huddled on a stool. He spoke only a few words of English – “Your ticket please, thank you.” 

“Arigatou.” I replied, bowing my head while I thanked him. 

The steps to the temple were thick and tall. I climbed them carefully in the rain. I walked through the ancient wooden doors of the dimly lit temple. Three huge statues embodied most of the building along with a singular wooden altar stretching the full length of the space.  I shared the temple with a small Japanese woman. She was kneeling in front of one of the giant Buddhas, praying intensely. 

There was an ancient sacredness within Todaji Temple. It engulfed me the moment I stepped inside. The smell of over 1400 years of incense, sweetened by the dampness of the typhoon, caressed my skin as it made its way into my pores. It settled on my tongue as I inhaled, allowing me to taste the divinity of generations past. I could hear the whispers of the ancestors as they prayed forward their desires for peace, harmony, and love. Todaji Temple sheltered me not only from the raging storm outside, but from the fear and doubt of my own heart.  It made me feel somehow ‘found’ after the panic and despair of being lost in a strange city in the middle of a typhoon. 

This is what I wanted from Jesus. This is why I went to confession. This is why I was trying so hard to make a connection with the priest sitting in front of me. I wanted to be surrounded by the holy sacredness I felt in Todaji Temple. I wanted to be held in generations of prayer. I wanted to feel as intimately connected to God – to the divinity of the space I occupied – to nature – to my body – to my life, my family, my work – to my everyday life – as I did in that moment in Japan.

I looked at the priest and wondered – How can there be so much fear in the heart of a man who has dedicated himself to God?  It engulfed him as he continued to clench his hands around his knee while looking at the floor.

“I’ve done a lot of things in my Spiritual life the Catholic church would consider sinning.” I admitted, getting to the heart of a true confession “I’ve prayed to the old pagan gods, I became a Druid, I’ve spent time with women who call themselves Witches, and I studied Shamanism. I celebrate Yule and the Summer Solstice. I do most of my praying outside while dancing around fires. But, to be honest, none of it feels like sinning.”

The priest’s gaze shifted as I spoke the last sentence. He looked directly at me for the first time since I sat down.

“I think spirituality has less to do with what church you go to and more to do with why you’re going there in the first place.” I said. “I’ve spent my life looking for a loving connection to God. I’ve travelled half way around the world and back to find it. I don’t want what I find to be full of fear or shrouded by a Devil. I want it to be meaningful and inspiring. I want it to bring me peace.”

The priest softened his posture and nodded his head as he considered my dialogue. I appreciated his willingness to engage with me – to try to find something redeemable in a self-proclaimed Druidic Witch. It was a stretch for him, but he was brave and admirable in his priestly robes, and he allowed the confession to continue without trying to stop me or correct my thoughts.

“I want to find a connection with Jesus that doesn’t require a contemplation of the Devil or a denial of the rest of my Spiritual identity…”

My voice trailed off as I pondered what I’d just said. I could hear the wistfulness in my voice as I spoke. The underlying sadness of a spiritual life led in the absence of this man’s God, the first God I’d ever known, permeated the air between us.

It was the crux of the crack in my soul – the dividing principle that kept me in perpetual Spiritual limbo. I’ve prayed as a pagan to so many other gods, feeling the full divinity of those experiences. Why was it so hard to find the same connection with Jesus?  The little Catholic girl in me cowered at my thoughts while the eclectic spiritual adult demanded answers.

“I don’t feel evil.” I said, looking directly at the priest. “I’m not evil.” I shifted my gaze to the window again, allowing my statement to fill the room. “I’m just a woman who wants to spend some time with Jesus.”

I knew he was still afraid of me. Yet, he did his best to overcome his fear so as to offer me comfort and engage in my dialogue. “Perhaps you would be a good bridge,” he said, “between Christians and Pagans. If what you say is true, if your story is simply one of finding a path to God, perhaps it is not the path of a bad person. I think there are bridges of understanding you could build between people.” He drew my attention back to his face as he spoke. “If you are dedicated to finding love and finding a loving connection to God,  I would have to agree by saying I also do not think you are evil.”

A sigh escaped me and I thanked him. I grew up believing it was every good Catholic’s first order of  business to find the evil parts of her Soul. The parts the Devil got ahold of, or would if she stepped out of line, and admonish herself through prayer until all that evil was gone.  It was refreshing to hear a priest speak to the peaceful side of communion without abashing the human experience surrounding it. It gave me hope for the morning mass I wished to attend. It made me feel that perhaps I could go back to church – back to Jesus.

“I came here mostly to confess what and who I am to you, and to ask your permission to attend church tomorrow.” I said, allowing my voice to silence my doubt. My pagan instincts knew that, for whatever reason, Jesus wanted me to go back to church. I resolved to do so with an open mind and an open heart.

“Yes, you can.” he replied as he steered the conversation toward the conclusion of my confession.

I ended with a few Hail Mary’s and left the church wondering what mass would feel like after a 30 year hiatus.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Druidic Witch Goes To Confession: Part Two

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I looked out the window and thought about my confession. Chairs, candle holders, and music stands huddled impatiently against the walls behind me, making the room feel even smaller and more closet-like. The priest fidgeted nervously as he prayed to his God to help him solve the crisis of a witch in his confessional.

I cleared my throat and began another round of trying to explain my Spirit to the man sitting in front of me.

“I left the church when I was young because I was afraid of the Devil.” I turned my head away from the window, allowing my gaze to slowly return to the priest’s face.  “When I say afraid, I mean my soul felt tortured. That’s why I stopped going to church. In fact, I stopped doing anything spiritual for years.”

I was obsessed with my fear as a young teenager. I prayed myself to sleep night after night, hoping that when I woke up, I would still be a good girl. A girl God loved and would protect from evil.

“I hid from God as much as I hid from the Devil.” I continued.  “I was too afraid to allow anything religious to cross my mind for a long time. Essentially, I became atheist.”

The priest furrowed his brow as I spoke about my abandonment of God. I knew he considered it sinful, but for me, being atheist allowed my soul to rest. It put distance between me and my fear of God. It was a soothing pause in an otherwise tumultuous road toward salvation.

“When I was able to start thinking about Spirituality again, I started seeking out connections to God that were loving and positive. I wanted my God to be a loving God, – or Goddess.” I added with a pause. The corners of my mouth turned slightly upward as my face softened.

The priest sat back in his chair, allowing the implication of a female deity to slip past him. I was left to decide if he was humoring a Pagan misconception he’d expected to hear or  if he was irritated by the thought that the crude, heathen woman in front of him was too uncivilized to understand the magnanimous nature of God. A God who transcended human genitalia. He countered this with an undertone that if God were a person, he would be male – The Bible proved it with Jesus.

I kept speaking under the stern, watchful eye of the priest. “I started reading about Spirituality in different cultures. I went to a few Native American ceremonies. I taught myself how to read Tarot cards and studied numerology. I eventually enrolled in a Druid Mystery School where I learned about Shamanism and how to create a Spiritual connection with nature. I met a group of witches during my Druid studies who taught me how to do spell work and magic.”

Magic. Witch. Druid. Spell. The words hung in the air like thorns. I wondered, as I watched the priest resume his silent prayers, if Jesus was answering him as definitively as Buddha had answered me in Japan.

… I stood on the street in Nara, Japan, crying and praying as the seriousness of my situation creeped its way into my bones. My traveling companion, a woman in a wheelchair with limited mobility and medical needs,  was alone in her bed at the hotel. I had been walking in a typhoon for over two hours. I was lost. I couldn’t speak the language. I had no idea how to get help and I was on the verge of hysteria.  

I prayed to Buddha with an earnestness I’d never felt before. I prayed because I was lost.  Not just a little lost, but half-way-around-the-world-in-the-middle-of-a-storm-with-no-one-to-talk-to-and-no-way-to-get-home lost. I prayed because someone’s life depended on it. I prayed because every human resource I’d ever developed for solving a crisis was rendered useless. I prayed because it was the only viable action I had left before giving up. 

“Please give me an answer. An actual, real, in my face, no mistaking it, answer.” I asked.

What makes God decide to answer prayers? I wondered. Is it urgency? Necessity? Worthiness? What if I get an answer I don’t like? What if the answer is that I never find my way back? 

I looked around as I repeated my plea, hoping the gods I prayed to would take pity on me. Would they offer this stranger any mercy or compassion? Would they guide me back to safety – To a place where everything feels ok again? 

I looked to my left and found my answer. A sign from Buddha letting me know he’d heard my prayers and chosen to help me.  He delivered it in the form of an actual, real, in my face, no mistaking it, 5′ by 7′ map painted on the side of the building next to me. On the map, in English, where the words, “You Are Here.” The words were accompanied by a white arrow pointing out my specific location, on a street, half way between the Buddhist Temple I’d been looking for and the hotel I couldn’t find.

Todaji Temple and the hotel I’d been staying at in Japan were only a few blocks away from each other. In fact, they were located on the same street. Yet, I’d spent two hours walking in circles in the middle of a typhoon unable to find either one of them.

I felt like this was my confession. The priest and I, each wandering around in the storms of our thoughts, looking for the right answers to give one another. Answers that would help the other Spiritually while allowing our individual Souls to remain undamaged. How do a witch and a priest talk safely to one another about God?

My experience with Buddha in Japan had been direct. He answered me clearly, concisely, and with no paraboles attached. Jesus was taking his time. He was allowing the priest and I to sweat it out.

How long will it take us to find common ground?

 

 

 

 

 

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