I’m going to be honest with you: this post is one that leaves me incredibly vulnerable, but it’s also incredibly important. I want to be open about my journey because I know it isn’t unique. This could be important for someone reading who needs to hear it right now. And if it hadn’t been for the courage of a close friend opening up about her own journey, I may still be lost, thinking that maybe I was alone after all. But I’m not. And neither are you.
My spiritual journey started the same way many others do: with the Christian church. Not by my choice; I was raised in it. I don’t remember ever consciously choosing to be involved in it, I was just always there. My parents put me into a private Christian school from a young age, partly because of the academic standard, but probably also because of the moral structure. They wanted what was best for me.
So growing up, alongside times tables and gym class, I learned about the bible and God and how He permeated every corner of history and the universe. For a long time, I didn’t bother questioning it, because my world ultimately was very small. But as I approached high school, I began to grow frustrated. Why couldn’t I ask questions? Why was it wrong that my friend wore black nail polish to school? Why did we have to keep memorizing scripture outside of historical context?
High school came and I moved into the public education system. At the beginning of high school, I threw myself back into the church wherever I could, because it was the only thing I knew. Besides, all of my friends were still there. A lot of them had ended up in the Christian high school down the street. I wanted to belong to something, and this was the only thing I knew. So I filled my nights and weekends with youth groups and sermons, even though I had trouble connecting to their message.
The more I learned about the world outside of the context of the church, the more I drifted from the church. Which is probably why they like to keep their congregation close. If your mind opens a little too far, suddenly their rules look a little controlling and their scripture a little unforgiving. (I want to clarify here that I am talking about the church, not every Christian that ever existed, and certainly not their Christ who actually seems like a pretty chill dude when you read about him.)
So I walked away. I felt betrayed, damaged. While none of my experiences had been terribly traumatic, I felt…robbed. Like someone had taken the best parts of the world and stolen them from me just to keep me in line. And I firmly closed the door on that chapter of my life. I remember my mother asking me to say grace before we ate dinner one night, and I told her I didn’t feel comfortable praying to a god I wasn’t even sure existed. I’m sure it hurt her, and it most definitely was a shock. But I was one of the fortunate ones: my parents didn’t force me back to the church when I expressed my discomfort. I have known too many others who never had that option.
So I spent my college years, and many of the years beyond, closing the door to my own spirituality. I was an atheist, firmly, I decided, resolute. If spirituality was only there to shove me into a box designed by religion, and if all religion was like the Christian church, I wanted no part in it.
Funny how an emotionally manipulative relationship with the church prepared me for an emotionally abusive relationship: I was primed for it. I spent nearly two and a half years with someone who isolated me from my friends, family, and the world because that’s what love was supposed to look like, right? Unwavering loyalty, even when it hurt me? After all, God taught us that true love is sacrifice, obedience. This was the only time since I’d walked away from the church that I considered returning to it. It seemed to be the only acceptable community I could join, and I was starved for human connection.
Eventually I got the nerve to walk away from that relationship. I suppose it was no surprise that I did so after staying with family who live in the country. Surrounded by lush, green forest and waking up to birds singing every day awakened something in me. Something that returned me to myself. At the time, I thought it was the physical distance from my partner. Looking back, there was more magic to it than that. But still, Wicca wasn’t even on the radar yet.
I left that relationship and fell into a good one. One that is still going, a decade later, wedding and all. I won’t be talking much about that here, because I like to keep that portion of my life sacred and private. But we spent the first part of our married lives searching for home, where we wanted to put down our roots. All we knew was that we absolutely could not live in a large city. It never felt like home. But we found a place that did, and it’s the place we still are.
We’ve let our roots connect here. We’ve connected with the community and the landscape in a way we hadn’t been able to elsewhere. We spent time hiking and camping and eating on restaurant patios whenever we could, even when it was probably a little too cold for it. And I remember thinking often that the earth is my sanctuary, nature my church. Even then, Wicca was not on my mind.
It took a job that pushed me to my very brink to turn the tide. It was a job that took and took and took from me, but never gave anything back. I was told to be empathetic, not really knowing then that I am an empath by nature. Two years of being the sounding board for everyone else’s issues and I was spent. I found my way out of the job and was so emotionally raw that I would cry spontaneously for months afterwards.
Right after my escape from that job, I went on a trip with a group of women I’m fortunate enough to call friends. I knew one of them was into witchcraft, whatever that meant. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew she was a happy, unique, driven person brimming with light. And I let it be.
It took another one of those women opening up to me about her own Wiccan journey for it all to click. She recommended some reading, and never made me feel stupid for asking a question. And ultimately, her willingness to share with me is why I am so willing to share with others. Most people just need the door open to discover this for themselves.
The more I read about Wicca, the more I realized that I had been aligned with it for years. It is a broad umbrella of a religion, non-restrictive, where practitioners are encouraged to ask questions, be kind, and work on being the best version of themselves they can be. I like to describe it to my more practical friends as psychotherapy with some candles and shiny rocks. Of course it’s so much more than that, but it involves a lot of self-work and accepting responsibility for what you have control over, for the healing you need to do for yourself.
And it was then that I realized I had neglected my true self for so long, devouring these books felt like taking a long drink of water after a drought. My soul had been searching for a place to rest, and Wicca was a glimmering oasis of hope. It was a place that I could do what felt right to me; I am writing the ever-evolving rules to my own religion. For the first time ever, I feel connected to the divine in everything. I feel like it’s all right to be myself without trying to fit into some cookie cutter mold of what a religious person should look and act like. I honor the divine by trying to align with the divine in me. I am kinder to myself and those around me. I’m more aware of the magic in the universe.
I can answer more questions about what exactly Wicca is and, more importantly, what it is not in a later post. But I will leave this ever-important foundation of the religion from the Wiccan Rede here for anyone curious to contemplate:
“An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will”
If those eight words, that simple concept, speak to you, know that you have an open door to learn and to seek. All you have to do is walk through it.