I grew up Catholic. I wasn’t Catholic. My father insisted that we were Lutheran, but we rarely went to church, and when we did so, it was all very grudgingly. I also hadn’t a clue on what being Lutheran meant. Often, kids at school would ask why we didn’t take Communion or go to Confession. They asked, ‘aren’t you Catholic?’ It’s rare to be any other faith apart from Catholic in a Catholic school, but there were a couple kids who were Jewish and a couple who were Methodist. My answer, for a long time, was that I was Christian, but just not Catholic.
I wonder if they thought I was just being difficult or enjoying the cloak and dagger aspect of belonging to a secret religion. I really hadn’t a clue on what I was. Much of the religion confused me; I didn’t understand the point of Confession or why it was necessary to take Communion. I once tried to take Communion just to see what it was like. It didn’t help me get it. I know now that it has to do with faith.
But I didn’t know what faith was. I think I may have always been too curious. I wanted to know how priests could have the power to forgive sins if only god could forgive sins. I wanted to know what stopped anyone from sinning if you could just confess after every time. I wanted to know why it was so bad that Eve ate the fruit in the garden because how could knowledge be bad? I picked apart the wording in The Ten Commandments and I remember being confused about the ‘You shall have no other gods before me.” I asked if that meant that there were other gods that you could worship, so long as that one came first.
I was full of questions. I have to say, that they didn’t like that. After years of not getting answers, at one point, they started ignoring my questions altogether, I stopped believing that I was even Christian. I didn’t understand what being Christian meant. It made no sense to me. And then Atheism made even less sense to me. Eventually, I found Paganism, specifically Wicca, and while it’s original find was partly a sort of ‘screw you, Christianity’ teenage rebel thing, it also made more sense. You can see nature. You can find nature all around you. And I understood the symbols better. I can’t explain why I could understand Wiccan symbolism but not Catholic symbolism.
With Wicca, I felt that I had to keep my body pure, my mind relaxed, and that I needed to respect the world around me. I found comfort in meditation that I could never find at church. I found introspection through Tarot. I found a love of life that had been missing. And it was then, that I understood what faith was.
In Wicca, there’s a Year and a Day ritual, in which you begin to honestly commit to your faith. If I recall correctly, you begin on Samhain (Halloween), you celebrate the holidays and you decide if the path is right for you. I had just started my Year and a Day about a month before the car accident.
I never did finish it.
At first, I was tired and in pain. I had never really been injured before and it was a very strange and exhausting thing. I was told that I only had broken bones and that things shouldn’t hurt as much as I did. People thought I was exaggerating everything or using it to get out of doing things. Needless to say, this made me rather miserable.
I tried to celebrate Yule. I slept through it.
And then, over the next couple months, I was mad. I realize now that most of my anger over things wasn’t over becoming disabled, it was about how no one believed me and how much I really hated crutches and that I didn’t have a good way of getting around. But of course, I blamed my gimpyness because that’s what everyone’s taught. Supposedly, it’s easier to fix yourself rather than becoming innovative and finding new ways of doing things.
Through this, I lost the easy faith I had. I had believed in a religion that taught that the body was sacred. And I saw my body as broken. I couldn’t fit the two together. I tried. I really did. But meeting other Wiccans in places are no more accessible than old churches. And I had never been in a Pagan shop that was even the slightest bit accessible, and to find out information, books, or other people to meet, the shops are really the only place to go.
I had lost the community at a pivotal point. I had just recently become open about my faith and while my family didn’t understand, they were accepting. It felt wrong to hide faith, but I waited until I didn’t need faith to practice it in a more symbolic manner. I had wanted to meet others. I wanted to join a community. I wanted to feel faith with others like the Catholics in church.
But I couldn’t. And for all that I liked of the Wiccan faith (and including other Pagan faiths), it has a tendency to be full of people who believe that if you just believe hard enough, or wish hard enough, you’re body will be perfectly healthy.
I’ve long since decided that things just happen. That life just happens. At times, I still call myself Wiccan, though perhaps, ‘tentatively Wiccan’. Perhaps faith changes on an ‘as needed’ basis. Perhaps I’ll find something else that fits me better. Perhaps there’s something that’s more on living life. Or perhaps I’ll go back to Wicca and remember that most of my issues come from other believers, not the religion itself.
Perhaps it’s not about having the perfect body. Perhaps it’s more about respecting your body and listening to its needs. Perhaps it’s about understanding your body. In a world full of body-image issues, weight and health issues, perhaps that’s where we’re all going wrong. We’re ignoring our bodies to listen to people who tell us ‘if we only tried harder’ or ‘if you only lost weight’ or ‘if you just wait until you’re cured’ or ‘you don’t want to use /insert mobility device here/’. Perhaps it’s about taking care of ourselves how we need to without listening to all the people who shame us.