What I remember of my childhood religion, Roman Catholicism, doesn’t stand out in my life. I remember sitting in pews of oak with knee protectors on the back so you could kneel comfortably during prayer time. I remember not paying attention (I was 7 or 8 years old at this time) and looking at the stained glass windows, the organ, the Bibles, paying attention to anything other than the sermon and wanting to be home already. I had other things going on then that my mind was on, like the abuse from my peers at home and school, and from the teachers at school that I received. At the time, I had been diagnosed with severe clinical depression and debilitating migraines (again, I was only 7 or 8 years old). I was prescribed Lithium for the depression (though not long because I had a “bad reaction” to it) and pain killers for the migraines. The last thing I worried about was Hellfire and God’s wrath. Nevertheless, I was put into Sunday school. I had my first communion ritual, where I was able to received the wine and crackers, and
I didn’t have any sort of relationship to God, and women and girls were taught to be silent and obedient. I confessed to the priest to make my mother happy, but didn’t like being at church or praying to a God who seems to refuse to help me or my family or being in those groups of children because they were particularly vicious when the adults turned their backs. I began to believe that He was out of reach and I was broken and impure and not worthy of anything other than death. No one knew that I was thinking about ending my life.
A year or so passed and my mother and I stopped going to church. My father wasn’t Catholic to begin with, so didn’t go anyway. My mother started becoming more agnostic, not liking how the Catholic church was handling things, and in my teen years she became more of an atheist. When I was 12, I found out that my grandmother on my mother’s side was Wiccan. I became interested and a lot of the beliefs that are central to Wicca clicked with me, but soon my life became swamped with suicidal thoughts and unhappy things, and I didn’t look into it too seriously. Family issues arose, and my mother and I left Georgia for Texas halfway through my 6th grade year. My mental state stabilized for a short while before slowly rolling back downhill from lack of friends in the new place.
It took until the 8th grade to find someone who was willing to be my friend. She was interested in the supernatural and her friends, who quickly became my friends, would tell ghost stories and talk about fiction books (we were a group of nerds) with magic and wizards and such. At the apartment’s we lived in, I spoke to some older friends about “Them”. At the time, I didn’t know who They were but They talked to me like the Catholic priest and devote Catholics said God talked to them. I followed what They told me and I became happier and developed more friends and eventually I learned how to smile again. I grew less shy and quiet and my true personality started showing.
I remember telling one guy friend while on my way home that I was a witch, and the way it felt in my mouth and in my soul was sublime. I was surprised to find that I truly felt like I was a witch. That night, and for two years thereafter, I began heavy and intense research on Paganism and witchcraft. I delved into that world, reading all I could and devouring all the knowledge. I joined forums and talked to experienced practitioners of the faith. I did not practice anything, instead I made absolute sure that this is what I wanted.
Two years passed and I turned 14. I stopped being able to control my depression, since I had had no form of medication since being taken off the lithium. All my friends split to two different high schools and I only knew one person where I went. I eventually met a girl at the bus stop, but it didn’t do much for my mental state. And to top things off, I had stopped listening to Them and my research lapsed. The dark world of severe depression devoured my feelings and my insides again. One day, I was following my friend off the bus to go inside school, plotting how I was going to end my life that night, when I saw a guy. In that instant, my entire world exploded violently. Upon seeing this man, everything I felt and thought was consumed immediately, my mind was akin to a red hot piece of metal, and my body was unable to respond at all. It was like I was pinned under the claws of a massive dragon who was burning me alive. This feeling was not intense fear, nor was it intense joy, nor any other simple emotion. It was the feeling of being scared, of being surprised, of getting a breath of fresh mountain air after being under water and drowning, of your blood searing underneath your skin while your insides are frozen cold, all at once. My soul felt like it had been brittle glass that had been shattered then put back into the furnace and added to iron ore.
This man had been walking towards me and looking into my eyes the whole entire time. Two seconds before he got to me, he turned to my friend and talked to her while he walked her up to the school. My body was on automatic and I still couldn’t feel anything other than this new sensation. Before we got to the school doors, he bid both of us farewell and left. I found out later that he was a witch, and soon I became him student. He taught me how to be a witch without using magick, how to stand up for myself, how to fight, how to be strong on the inside and out. He taught me the Gods and how to reach Them. He taught me that the Gods were not distant, but were reachable and I was able to form a deep, personal relationship with Them. Finally, I had a name for Them and I understood and was amazed that They had found me and had blessed me and had rocked my world so intensely that I could never turn away from Them again. They made Their presence known, both the God and Goddess, and They showed me that They had always been there, and had been waiting for me this whole time.
I did my first spell two years later, for my grandmother, who was dying. I understood the mechanics of how to do it, I was well versed in energy raising, and I had that connection with my Gods. I understood the rules and limits, and I knew that I could not cure her. My father was back with us by then, and we found out that my father’s mother, my grandmother, was dying of pancreatic cancer. My father’s side of the family didn’t think she was going to last very long. The spell I did was not a healing spell, but a time spell. I worked my magick, I invoked my Gods, and I gave her more time. It was two months before we could get the money to go out to Georgia to see her, two months that no one thought she had. We arrived, and spent the rest of the day with her. I had just caught a chicken of my grandmothers and had brought it to the house when they took her out of the house to drive her to the hospice. The next day, she requested that my father and I find a disowned daughter of her’s before she passed away. We did not find her, and were on our way back when my father and I felt her pass away. We found out when we got there that we were ten minutes too late. That time, those precious last minutes, were my punishment for breaking one of the most important rules of spellwork; always ask the person before you cast a spell on them, no exceptions.
It has been seven long years that I have been a witch, and I have learned much in that short, short time. I am close with my Gods, I have found my spiritual guides, I have joined a coven, and I have cast many spells. I now view myself as a witch, which is different from a Wiccan. I have rules I have to follow, but they are fewer than that of the Wiccan faith. For instance, I do not follow the Rede, which states “An it harm none, do as thou wilt”. Instead, I follow my conscious, and I choose what I do. I trust myself to know the right thing, and to learn what is wrong on the way. Unlike Wiccans, I do not include my Gods into my spellwork every time. I love my Gods, and I know They love me, but They have better things to do than to always pay attention to me, much like a parent has things to do other than pay full attention to their child every second of the day. I ask Them for favors only when I desperately need them, and only when I cannot get them myself through mundane (non-magickal) means. It means that They know when I come to Them for a favor, it is important. I am a hard polytheist, and believe in all Gods and Goddesses, and believe that They are all different except for the few whom share different names, like Venus and Aphrodite.
I owe my life to my Gods, and to my friend who taught me my ways. No two pagans are the same, no two pagan’s experiences are the same or viewed the same. This path is intensely personal, and has changed my life radically. Nothing about it was easy, and it will not get easier as I go forth. I look forward to that with relish.