Posts tagged ‘teenagers’

July 13, 2011

Five Years of Earthiness

Today marks five years on my earth religious path. It needs a name … craftday? Along the lines of “birthday” except it marks the beginning of a process; although if you say it out loud it sounds like “crafty” with some extra inflection. Instead, maybe I-first-opened-the-broom-closet-day. What it means to be earth religious, and why I have embraced it, could not be contained by a single post. This is about the challenges and fears that came with adopting a misunderstood religion.

In the summer before my senior of high school, I was standing in a Barnes and Noble with a friend, perusing the New Age section in search of some advice on an exorcism. I was not on the earthy path yet, I just lived in a 100 year-old house with unusual occurrences.

I had been raised Catholic by liberal parents, slowly growing disinterested in the Church and eventually rebelling when I was around 12 or 13. I was required to attend Mass for a year or so longer, and then was free to stop. Two years of wandering and a strong interest in Hinduism (drawn by the radical differences and, a later realization, the inclusion of goddesses) still left me loosely Christian; traces of that identity lingered through the vacant space, even though I was not actively engaged in Christianity. It took the discovery of modern witchcraft to wipe away its ingrained presence. Now, writing this, my Christian past feels foreign.

SO there I was, 17, secretly having always wanted to poke through the New Age section, but always too shy. Standing before those mysterious titles, armed with the exorcism excuse (I know), it was not long before my friend suggested that I look at a book on witchcraft. “No, that’s too scary” — and then a nearby woman quickly interjected, disagreeing. A few sentences later, I was holding her recommendation: To Ride a Silver Broomstick by Silver Ravenwolf. I never told her I was trying to say that I wasn’t ready for witchcraft yet.

Oh yeahhh, I started with a fluff book after an encounter with a woman who turned out to still be Christian, too afraid to make the commitment. It keeps me humble.  Needless to say, it did not include a guide to exorcisms.

At what moment was I authentically on an earth religious path? Was it in those first few days of secret reading? I felt cracked open, a combination of discovery and remembering, as I realized there were actually people out there who thought this way. That summer, books poured in from across the country: my mother would hand me another package from the mail, and I would dash upstairs and hide it. Maybe it was when I began to tell people, although it was occasionally dismissed as a phase. During my freshman year of high school, I hid my books and candles in a (Barnes and Noble) bag under some things; and furtively slipped them by my family as they were helping me move at the end of the year.

Religions are found anew in each person that comes to them. Although some can claim an unbroken history of thousands of years, each religion has adjusted over time to accommodate cultural shifts. There is not a pure, unchanged religion on Earth; and although you can find two members of the same faith, I find it quite unlikely that their beliefs will line up 100%. When our society pushes away those who are fully new, we deny the fluctuating nature of religion — that its life comes from the people. Silver Ravenwolf’s books are “fluffy” because of the content, but also because she falls among the pagans who falsely claim an unbroken tradition over thousands of years in an attempt to appear authentic in the public’s eye.

Although I felt confident on my own, stepping out into that public space intimidated me. Even though modern witchcraft is grounded in the earth, in the trees, and wholly positive, I was afraid of being ridiculed, judged, and disregarded. I did not want to be rejected or misunderstood. Much, much worse has happened to others, I have escaped so far with little criticism.

It was interfaith work that gave me the safe space to develop my voice, and my explanations. I was heard for the first time – to listen, to truly hear the Other is an incredible gift. Although years into spiritual practice, it was the first time someone asked for my story.  It was through interfaith that I met others on an earthy path, and came into my role as a spiritual leader. I suppose by the time I was networking with leaders of other faiths, writing articles from my earthy perspective, and publicly open about my faith, you could say I was official — a legitimate earth religious person. The problem in marking legitimacy is that it denies others their validity. I can look back to my childhood and see signs of earth spirituality, it just took learning about it to open up my religious development. To echo my interfaith community: accept others’ experiences as real and valid for them.

Five years in, I can still feel apprehensive at times. I actively choose to reach out, to normalize and inform, as well as be a source of information, guidance, and support to other earth-inclined people. Recognizing five years brings back those early challenges, the pain of silence and the strain of legitimacy. And I think of the work yet to be done.

Why do I know the exact date? Silver Ravenwolf.

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