Continuing on from yesterday’s post, so you might want to check that out first, and that’s a continuation of Part I.
So, now we’re onto me and college.
I had, over the summer between graduation and starting school again in the fall, noticed that I really didn’t believe in a lot of the “Wiccan” things I’d read. The truth was that I just thought I should believe that stuff, so I said I did. I still believed in magic of sorts, that the gods and goddesses are out there, and that they do sometimes take an interest in humans. But…I didn’t believe in a God & Goddess, or Lord & Lady. I believed in polytheism with gods and goddesses as completely separate. I also couldn’t really hold to the Wiccan Rede or the Three-Fold Law of Return, but that’s another post I think. I just hadn’t really noticed these changes in my opinions over the last years; when I was so busy trying to figure out how to keep people from bothering me about being a witch. But, as I started school I realized that “Wiccan” wasn’t the correct label. More generally broad “pagan” and “witch” were more appropriate, so I began to use those words to explain myself.
I go to a private, Lutheran university. So part of my requirements is a Global Traditions religion class and Christian Traditions class. I took East Asian Religions one semester, which was a real eye-opener and gives me a brand new appreciation for other people’s beliefs and culture. Also taught me about the real idea of karma, but that’s a whole other issue. I took, for my Christian Traditions class, a class on the role of women in Christianity. Did that because I thought it was a 200-level, actually 300, but it didn’t have much homework, so I decided to stick it out and get the requirement done. The professor is a wonderful woman from down in the South, life-long Baptist and one of the sweetest professors I’ve ever met. She knew I was pagan and actually told me that she was thrilled. I was the only non-Christian student in the class, also the only one not raised in a Christian household. She said that she was delighted to have a different perspective, since “Christians even of different denominations will all see the Bible and these texts in one light. Since you weren’t, we’ll have a new perspective that wouldn’t usually be considered. I’m very interested to hear what you have to say”. Now, I was surprised that she was that delighted and happy about it. I had expected to have some cold disdain and dark looks shot at me for the rest of the term, that’s what I usually had happen after all.
Well, I got the disdain and paranoia – from the students. We were discussing the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost/Spirit). So, it seems that in surviving versions, the original ancient Hebrew word for Ghost/Spirit was gendered feminine. The Greek version that translated the Hebrew had the word gendered neuter. The Roman, translated from the Greek, had the word gendered masculine. So, as the class all decided: the ancient Hebrews saw the Holy Ghost/Spirit as a female spirit. Therefore, the Church/Men/Someone in ancient times decided “deliberately” to change the gender to disenfranchise women. Well, I pointed out that gendered languages today, like Spanish and German don’t see the gendered words as being specifically of that gender. Example: der Tisch (masc., table) and die Katze (fem., cat). Tables aren’t male, no German thinks that. Not all cats are female, that’s a proven scientific fact. (I speak German, which is why I’m using it as an example, as I’m familiar enough with it to talk, whereas I speak no Spanish.)
So I asked the – I thought – reasonable question about why they read so far into an article for a word, when modern languages don’t support the conclusion they were trying to draw. Cue drama and hysterics about how I’m clearly suppressing women and I ascribe to the misogynistic society that we live in. Not true, I’m a firm believer in equality and I’d made that clear weeks earlier, but whatever. So one girl told me “Because they clearly disenfranchised the female part of the God”. Again, I asked, why force a reading so far into the one word. Response from another girl was that “The Bible is important and we have to analyze all of it or else we won’t understand the ramifications for modern culture.” Well, I have to admit I laughed at that. Not my best moment, and I did apologize. But I explained that the Bible is an ancient text. So if they wanted to do that much language scrutiny to the meaning of a work, then they must do it for The Odyssey, The Iliad, Epic of Gilgamesh…all the ancient texts. Then they laughed, “Well those aren’t as important as the Bible”. So I lost all respect and now I will admit I got a bit frustrated and quit thinking to not say too much. I retorted that they were far more important to me than the Bible, and I found their disregard of works that shaped all of modern philosophy, literature and even huge parts of culture from cultures that had a far greater impact on Western society (since we were focusing on western society) than just a single book absolutely horrific. I didn’t deny the Bible’s importance. Hell, I live in the US, I know how important that book is. I did point out that society had far more to say about the epics and the cultures that created them than the Bible, as that was only one part, and in comparison of all of culture, we see far more from the Greek and Roman cultures. One girl absolutely flipped and said that I was “Denying the importance of God”.
Her best argument though was “Well those documents are myths and stories, so why should we care if the wording isn’t the same as it was when they were written?” Well, I have to admit that this comment made me extremely angry. I was raised in an agnostic household, or perhaps theistic is better to describe it. Anyway, I was raised that everyone has their own beliefs. You should respect them and not berate, insult, mock or generally do anything disrespectful due to a person’s spirituality/religion. So her sanctimonious delivered comment about the “barbaric myths” of “uncivilized heathen pagans” infuriated me. I snapped back without thinking, “Well to me the Bible is nothing more than a collection of myths, so they’ve got the same level of importance in all truth. Besides that – you can see the history of the Bible. It’s been changed, books added and dropped, canon or laws, rules of the church enacted and changed around that were never mentioned in the Bible as God’s word. So really, the Bible is nothing at all like the ‘Word of God’ that you’re claiming it to be. It isn’t infallible and analyzing a single word to death isn’t right. If you’re going to do that for the Bible, then it must be done for The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Epic of Gilgamesh…all those other texts that are just as old if not older.” Of course, I got the glares of death, so I continued with, “And that sounds absurd to you, doesn’t it? Why analyze a work’s wording so deeply that you lose the intended meaning of a story? Well, that’s what you’re doing with the Bible when you quibble over the gender of the article for the word Ghost/Spirit as pertained to the Bible.” Of course, that led to the comments about me worshipping Satan. I ignored these, calmed down after having gotten that last little rant out. I just told them calmly at that point that I was not going to argue if they were going to insult my beliefs. That led to a fun semester, but my professor admitted that I had brought up a perspective she had never even thought of, something that as a Christian she had never even considered. So the class was bearable due to her alone.
College since then has been pretty mellow. My friends, almost all know I’m pagan. I’ve not made any fuss about it, but they almost all know it, due to asking about my jewelry, or my latest tattoo. It hasn’t been a problem. I answer their questions, they’re respectful. I ask questions of them, they answer, we chat about it sometimes, other times it just ends there. Respect is wonderful, so that’s the best part. We don’t agree, since they’re almost all Christian, but they’ve recognized that I’m happy with my path and they with theirs, so we leave it alone. With peace and the fact that I was no longer engaging in the few arguments that remained to be started, I turned to actually more research.
I finally admitted that Wicca had never been my real path, or what really drew me. I used it because it gave me a name for my beliefs. A name that while most people feared/hated it where I was living, it was recognized as a “religion”. Had I initially said “pagan” or “witch”, I would never have gotten even a bit of respect for my beliefs. Realizing this, I dropped the appellation entirely. I’ve realized also that claiming to be Wiccan without initiation was also inappropriate. I know very well now that I am a witch, not a Wiccan. I’m still learning. I identify as pagan, because I do not yet know which pantheon or gods and goddesses it is that are going to see an interest in me. I’m also still learning on how to communicate with them, as throughout all of middle and high school I just called myself something, saved sites online and bought books, but never actually learned. I am taking it all seriously these last 2.5 years, since I started college, and it is hard work. Hard, but rewarding, so I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve come a long way.
I’m not a fluffy bunny, not anymore. I’m new for all intents and purposes to following my path, but I’m willing and excited to learn. And that’s how I ended up discovering witchcraft and paganism for myself. I’m sure I’ll always continue to grow, so I’ll always have new insights and discoveries. But at least this has been a very solid start for me.∗