I have been asked on more than one occasion about the sense of comfort and calm that I carry. One co-worker asked me if it was my spirituality that made me such a peaceful and happy soul. I tend to think that my demeanor would be the same regardless of my spiritual path, and yet I surely would not be who I am today without it.
I started my spiritual journey at age 23, at a time when I felt unfocused and unsure of my future direction. I was raised Unitarian Agnostic, so had an openness toward learning about world religion and alternative paths of spirituality. I had gone to church with friends while growing up, and had experienced multiple denominations of Christianity, but was never able to find a connection there.
As a teenager, and an adoring fan of a certain chiffon cloaked songstress, I developed an interest in learning about Wicca. I recall asking my brother one day, “They call her a witch, but her music is uplifting and makes me feel good… so how can she be bad?” His reply was that she wasn’t bad, she was a Witch to Wicca, as a Catholic is to Christianity (providing clarity to a non-religious kid).
In the mid 1980’s, there was little to be found in the library on that topic. I found a brief outline in an encyclopedia that I photocopied, but it didn’t do much to help my understanding. It felt too foreign and strange, and so I dropped my inquiry.
Then, in February of 1992, my Mom signed us both up to attend a workshop at our church, called “Women in Religion – A Walk in Many Worlds”. It was a weekend of experiential learning about Feminine Spirituality, hosted by Margot Adler. I can still vividly recall the Saturday morning ritual that was simple in nature, but powerful. There were 120 women in attendance, and Margot (the late NPR Correspondent, and granddaughter of famed psychiatrist, Alfred Adler) invited any woman who was going through some kind of trauma or sorrow to enter the center of the circle. When I looked around, there were not enough women left in the outer ring to be able to clasp hands. For me, it was a moment of empathic clarity to understand the prolific suffering of others. Prior to this gathering, I had not yet come to understand that what people display ‘on the outside’ does not necessarily reflect how they feel on the inside.
As we joined voices for my first healing chant, there was an unmistakable energy rising. It came up through the soles of my feet and poured forth through the tears in my eyes… there was so much suffering in this circle. I longed to hold every woman in sacred space.
These are the words that we repeatedly chanted: “I am a circle, I am healing you. You are a circle, you are healing me. Unite us, be one. Unite us, be as one.” I still find this chant to be powerful and incredibly moving, whether in a circle of three or three hundred.
At the time of our gathering, I knew one woman in the circle, but when I would later reflect on that moment that changed my life for the better, I would realize that a good number of those present would become my people.
Aside from the healing chant, there is one thing that really stands out in my memory of that weekend. We were all invited to bring an item to place on the altar, and had a chance to explain the symbolism of our offering. Margot spoke of the item she brought, which was a replica of a Neolithic age goddess image known as the Venus of Willendorf. She dates back over 30,000 years, and here’s the thing… she is not a stick figure. Willie is actually rotund by current standards. She is full, and round, and fertile, with hips meant for childbearing. Margot said that when she learned to see this ancient relic through the eyes of those who created her… with a sense of awe and reverence… she could begin to see herself that way. Can you imagine – realizing that someone who looked like you was once considered divine and worthy of worship? There really might be something here for me, after all, I thought.
After the workshop, my mom found an ad in the paper for a six-month class on Wicca. Again, she signed us both up. Mom left the class when she knew I was safe (i.e., not getting involved with a cult), as this path was not for her. I continued my weekly commitment from March through August of that year. We learned about different mythological pantheons, sacred ceremony, herbalism, astrology, divination (such as tarot and runes, etc.), and more.
It’s funny to come from the perspective of skepticism and open mindedness. It takes a really long time to move through disbelief and prove-it mentality to genuine knowing – even when you’ve been witness to real magick and minor miracles. It helps to be a highly committed individual; you can just keep trying, until it clicks. It also helps to have others with whom you feel safe to explore. When the class was over, I was initially not sure I would do anything with what I’d learned. There were parts that resonated, and parts that did not. But, as fate would have it, I was invited to join a small group of classmates to continue this exploration. These people valued my authentic nature, and did not judge my lack of education on the subjects into which we would grow. With their confidence and support, I began to blossom. I was their ‘maiden’, and the tarot card that symbolized my place on the path at age 23 was The Fool… a curious soul at the beginning of an unknown and exciting adventure.
For me, what was most profound in this exploration was the ability to finally find myself in the divine. For on this spiritual path, through Margot Adler’s introduction and the class on Wicca, I met the Goddess. Before this, the only expression of divinity I’d been shown came in male form, and quite frankly, having been betrayed by a male at age 20 to whom I had given my heart, well… I just wasn’t interested. How could I trust Him? And so here, in the proverbial lap of the Goddess, I was ready to make my home.
Over the last 25 years, my personal definition of spirituality has fluctuated. I remain committed to a permanent state of evolution, as I allow life and experience to alter understanding. I am an eternal student gathering insight from many paths, traditions, and religions. I find focus and strength in the archetypal feminine via Jungian psychology. I am grateful to have been raised with an open mind, not tied to a single belief system or dogma.
I love that we all have the freedom to explore and ultimately define what it is that makes us feel safe, supported, transformed, fulfilled.
For me, an earth based, goddess centered path still resonates most clearly… but my understanding of consciousness continues to evolve, and today I define myself as spiritual, but not religious – hesitant to limit my own possibility for growth and expansion.
What I’ve gathered from every single path I’ve studied… is that symbolism is powerful. We can find commonality in the Earth’s path around the sun through the changing seasons, and the cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth of nature. And just as Mother Nature sheds her leaves each fall, we too can choose to drop what no longer serves us, be it an attitude, a toxic relationship, or a path that no longer meets our needs.
Whichever path you have chosen, and however you define it, dear ones, I hope that your own sacred journey is paved with love and healing light, and that you are surrounded by a community of supportive, loving, compassionate friends who will take your hand when you need guidance through moments of darkness. Knowing that I am never alone, and that I am surrounded by so much love has always been a great blessing to me… and from the center of my being, I wish the same for you.
Thank you for walking this path with me.