Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Making of an Existential Pagan, Part II

*WARNING* If you are SQUEAMISH or EASILY OFFENDED, it might be in your best interest to STOP NOW and go read something a little more tame. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Part I may be found here.

As a teenager in the groovy 1970s I began to explore alternate faiths. First, I dabbled in the occult, but the mumbo-jumbo aspects of it felt all wrong. That and a certain little book of spells which raised dark suffocating mists out of my closet pretty much cured me. Looking for something a little more wholesome and substantial, I became interested in pagan mythology, beliefs, and the history of earth worship. It is a field I have spent over 30 years researching and accruing texts on. I'm not comfortable using the term "Wiccan" because it has come to mean something different than it's actual definition. (It is a Saxon word, meaning "earth worshipper") I understand and respect the sects that follow a female-only faith, but for me, it needed to reflect both sides of the biological picture, as it would have for the ancient believers.

During this time I also went to church occasionally with Miss Q, who is Catholic. I remember one mass particularly where the priest spent the entire sermon time (after the Catholic aerobics) telling us how much money we should be tithing every month to the church. After this material and spiritually bankrupt sermon, he offered to bless throats, it being cold and flu season. Needless to say, I passed on that dubious protection from such a suspect source.

I have found it increasingly harder as I get older, to embrace organized religions. Bea and I went to a couple of Full Moon Women's Circles, at a local Unitarian church, and while it was interesting to see how someone else interprets goddess worship, it felt kind of silly to both of us. I think it was the flake, er guest priestess who took us on a tour of Ancient Crete (in our imaginations, don't you know?!) that pretty much did us in. I'm no expert on Ancient Crete, but wouldn't you think they had more than one damn melody for singing every single song with? I was hard pressed not to sing harmony, and Bea was just next to me, giggling uncomfortably.

A couple summers past, I attended church with my aunt's family. It was her 70th birthday and I knew it would make her happy if we at least made an effort to attend and show family solidarity. My father opted out, but my younger brother and I went. Right before we went in to sit down, I realized I had started my period. I didn't have any supplies with me, so I went into the ladies' room and made a make-shift pad out of toilet paper and paper towels (I know, this qualifies as TMI, but it does pertain to the story, so pipe down).

We sat down behind my cousins as the singing began. My brother and I went with the flow and picked up the tunes quickly. So quickly, that my cousin turned around after one song and asked if we already knew the songs, which we didn't, but we're just that good at fudging it. After the singing had ended, a man dressed all in black got up and stood before us. He began with a story that had been in the news recently, or at least that's the way he told it. A man and his wife, who were pagans, had sacrificed their child to their pagan god. A huge trio of screens behind his head, where the lyrics to the songs had been displayed, flashed a message: LISTEN TO WHAT GOD IS TELLING YOU.

He went on to tell us this was like a story out of the Old Testament, about what had happened to the Jews during the time their king Ahab married a pagan princess named Jezebel.

Now I know the story of Jezebel, intimately, and it's a horrific one. It's one of the examples Merlin Stone uses in her book, When God Was A Woman, to illustrate how early matriarchal cultures were libelled and stamped out by invading patriarchal cultures in the ancient middle east. Jezebel was the daughter of the king and queen of the Canaanite city of Sidon, who were also the High Priest and Priestess of Ashtoreth and Baal in their kingdom. When Ahab, the king of the Jews married her, he knew she would be bringing her religion to his country. He and his people appeared to be OK with this, until a rumor was started, supposedly by Jezebel, which resulted in the death of a man. Jezebel was murdered most gruesomely by the "avenging Hebrew hero Jehu", who saw in this an opportunity to get rid of both Jezebel and the king, and stamp down followers of the goddess religion at the same time. Shortly after her murder "Jehu called for a solemn assembly of the people who paid homage to Ashtoreth and Baal, tricking them in this way into gathering together at their own temple at an appointed time. The whole shrine was described as being full from one end to the other." Jehu then had his men murder "every member of the congregation and then finally made a latrine of the building itself." Nice guy, huh? If you don't believe me, go look it up in the Old Testament - II Kings. It's some blood-chilling shit. It also qualifies as genocide, to murder an entire faction of people for their beliefs.

So there's Pastor Skip (not his real name, but my brother liked it) , telling us this story, from the viewpoint of the righteous, mind you, while all the time the big screen is flashing the giant letters: LISTEN TO WHAT GOD IS TELLING YOU.

It's about this time that my cobbled-together feminine protection is beginning to fail me. I'm already miserable about having to sit through this mockery of a sermon, that is essentially telling these "lambs of God" (they got the SHEEP part right) that if God tells you to commit genocide, its OK. There are people raising their hands and uttering "Amen" around me. I realized at that moment that MY GOD was telling me to get the hell out of there, so with the blood of my femininity gushing forth as my excuse, I did.

I think that growing up in the time of the newly emerging Feminist movement made the idea of goddess worship not only more available and palatable, but gave it a legitimacy that might not have been there before the Burning of the Bras and the reclaiming of the Divine Feminine. What also cemented it for me was that my sister had arrived at a fairly similar spiritual place and helped to legitimize both my faith and hers with sisterly solidarity. Now does this mean that I concretely believe in a female deity? No. That's where the Existential part comes in. It means that I recognize the Divine aspects of both male and female in our natural world, as well as in ourselves, and while I revere them, I don't recognize either as an actual physical presence.

*Quotations are taken from When God Was A Woman, by Merlin Stone, pages 57-58, 188-189.


Chanda (aka Bea) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
flutter said...

See now? This is exactly the kind of thing you should be writing.

Maggie, dammit said...

You are most definitely going to hell if you don't accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior right now. Repent, sinner.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!! I'm so funny sometimes.

This is damn good writing, lady. Interesting stuff. I find it fascinating that so many people of the more mainstream churchy persuasion assume that just because a person isn't Christian, they know nothing about religion or history. Clearly you have a wealth of knowledge and education to back up your convictions, and that's a helluva lot more than I can say for some people

P.S. "We sat down behind my cousins as the singing began. My brother and I went with the flow..."

Get it? FLOW?


OK I'm going back inside of that little cage my loved ones know better than to let me out of.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

I am neither squeamed nor offended, and giggling uncomfortably is just what I do. It's part of my charm.

Seriously though, I think this two parter is a great subject to tackle. Organized religion, at least in my eyes, has been the catalyst for many of the atrocities man has inflicted upon their fellow man. A personal sense of spirituality based on your own experiences, and a general inclination to do no harm is more to the point of what I feel religion should accomplish. And Pastor Skip is nothing less that evil incarnate. You could write a Stephen Spielberg "Poultryheist" type character around him. " Are you lost sweatheart?" *Shudder*... But I digress... no big suprise there.

Excellent post dahling! I know you don't see yourself as a writer, but I think I have to trow the BS flag on that one.

Ben & Bennie said...

Ah shit. Blogger ate my awesome post.

Here's a summary:
1. God created man and woman to be equal. That is a long story short.

2. That comment about "flow" cracked me up!

3. What's up with Eve sinning and getting to achieve multiple orgasms? That has to tell Pastor Dumbass something.

FairiesNest said...

Amen Sister! And I'm with Bea on the writing comment.

jennifer h said...

I was laughing about the flow comment, too.

Bea's right. You're a writer, like it or not.

I'm glad you're writing this. Can I get some pagan street cred if I tell you I have a miniature Stonehenge on my desk? No? All right. I was worth a shot.

jennifer h said...


Julie Pippert said...

This post rocks. Period.

Melissa said...

I love this.

I admit I am a Christian, but not a sheep. The type of Christianity you talk about, and is rampant here in TX, drives me batty.

Thanks for sharing this in the HDH today. :)

Anonymous said...

God would have been telling me to go home and rearrange my sock drawer.

Anonymous said...

Catholic aerobics? Too funny. Reminds me of the time my late husband went to mass with me and asked me afterward what was up with all the standing and kneeling? Didn't we ever just sit and listen?

Myanmar-Advertising said...

Good read, I am a Buddhist but do not have to go to monastery nor to pagoda if I do not want to. It is not organized like other major religions and I like it that way.