I've been sitting here playing Mah Jong trying to think about what I would write about witchy stuff on this Samhain. Was this to be a post about my path to here or about my current practice and beliefs?
And, not surprisingly, I've decided to go with a combination. This may be a longer post...although I'm not sure.
I was born into a family that was solidly Lutheran. I was baptized Lutheran and taken to church every Sunday. I learned to recite the Lord's Prayer and most of the liturgy of the service before I could read. Like most kids, I squirmed during services...used the bulletin to draw and color on. Interestingly, it never occurred to me to bring a book into service to read. Perhaps the one place that books never went. Although, there were all sorts of things to read in the hymnal, so there you go.
I went through the confirmation process, and figured out pretty quickly that I actually sort of understood things in the Bible. I got the analogies, they made sense to me. Confirmation camp was a revelation on several levels...I began to understand a connection that was deeper...I interpreted this connection to the Lutheran God...but I now recognize that it was the divine (in whatever name we attribute to it) that I was connecting to. It may not shock you to learn that it was among the trees by the lake that I felt it the strongest.
I started college and connected with the campus ministry. It was wonderful. I met one of my mentors there, and, most blessedly, they gave me a part-time job which I kept throughout my college years. I'll call my mentor MomToo. MomToo had a way of encouraging people to think for themselves. She also had a retreat house, which I was fortunate enough to visit many times. It was one of the most peaceful spaces that I have been...surrounded again by trees and water. I once saw a mouse eaten by a snake there. Not something a city kid even imagines.
I felt permission, because of MomToo, to branch out. I read things far outside of Lutheran doctrines. I learned about gnosticism. Then one week, I went to a retreat on Native American spirituality. At this point, I was already fully aware of my connection to the earth...to the energy of it. Especially, to the trees (trees are amazing). The ideas in this retreat really resonated with me. But, I also knew, that somehow I wasn't called to follow that belief system.
I joined Lutheran Volunteer Corps a year later. The rough plan at that time was that I would spend a year in LVC, then I would apply for seminary and become a Lutheran pastor. I'm not sure how I thought this would work, but it was the plan at the time.
But several things became blindingly obvious not long after moving away from Minnesota. 1) That I could no longer be oblivious to my feelings of attraction to women...I was going to have to start the painful emergence of coming out as bi. 2) That I could no longer be oblivious to the way that the church felt about queer people. 3) Okay...this one actually came about 6 months in - That I no longer believed the basic premise upon which Christianity was predicated: that Jesus was divine. Well, I should say that I no longer believed that Jesus was anymore divine than you or I.
I was introduced to the writings of Starhawk, who along with the Reclaiming Collective, did much to reignite the practice of witchcraft in the US. I began reading and doing my own small rituals. Eventually, I went to some really powerful workshops and got to have conversations with people who had different ideas about spirituality and the connection of the divine to the world.
Then about 6 or 7 years ago, I started to notice that I was really curious about Freyja. She's a norse goddess...the goddess of Sex and Love. She is considered one of the most beautiful in the pantheon, and married into the Asir gods in order to end the war between the Asir and Vanir gods. She is perhaps the most powerful of the goddesses...she is the bringer of magic (and as such the guardian of witchcraft). She is also the Queen of the Valkyries, and it is she, not Odin, who has the first pick of the fallen warriors on the field of battle. Her twin, Freyr, is the quintessential Green Man...
When I came out here to California, I visited an Asatru group, but found that I just didn't fit in. I don't feel drawn to all the gods in the norse pantheon...just Freyja, primarily, and through her Freyr. I still really felt comfortable with the practices of witchcraft (which the Asatru don't follow), and so I settled on the idea of being a norse witch. Honoring, primarily a norse goddess and god, while still maintaining a practice which comes out of a Celtic tradition.
My practice is solitary...which means that most of my "stuff" I do at home. I do occassionally attend public rituals, and for a time, led several through my church. It's a revelation to me to lead ritual. I love the feeling of creating that time out of time for people to really connect with the divine in themselves.
I'm not terribly regulated in my practice...I don't have a full-moon ritual every month. I always honor Samhain, but it takes many different forms. This year, I will be having a small ritual and may try to do some divination. I do pray still. I took comfort in it when I was a Christian and I still take comfort in it. I chant or sing my prayers at times. I read tarot and sometimes work with the runes. I think of these as ways of connecting and gaining insight more than as "tell me what's going to happen" kind of tools.
My belief system, roughly, is this. I believe that there is a divine force in this universe. I don't understand it fully, but I believe that all things are a part of it. I don't think that we can exclude anything, even if it feels "dead" to us. I believe that we, as humans, make sense of the divine in many and complicated ways by naming gods. I do not believe that any god, even from monotheistic traditions, is fully the divine. I don't think we have the capacity to define the divine fully.
My own connection to the divine is through Freyja and Freyr most strongly. I think that this is because they are my teachers and healers and, in some way, an internal reflection of myself. They are, sort of, my Jungian archtypes for this lifetime. I do believe in reincarnation.
Samhain, what we commonly call Halloween, is the witches new year. This is the time of the year when the veil between the earthly realm and the spirit realm is the thinnest. This is a time to remember those who've been born, and those who've died in the year past. (Hence why All Saint's Day in the Christian traditions are now...stealing another pagan holiday.) It is a time to connect with ancestors or honor those who've gone before you.
I think that's all I want to write right now. I do want to leave this open, though...if any of you have questions about my story or about my beliefs, please feel free to ask.
Have a blessed Samhain...and a Happy Halloween!