Saturday, 20 June 2015

Looking for Peace in the Grey Areas - Karen Sargent

When I was thirteen, a friend of mine lent me the first two books in the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan. In them, a seventeen-year-old high school student named Morgan finds out that she is a “blood witch” and learns that her birth family is descended from a long line of powerful Wiccans. Morgan can make fireballs with her hands and shoot them at people.

I, unfortunately, cannot, but I can make a mean turkey burger. It doesn’t have quite the same effect, but I like to think they still “blow” people over.

I grew up in a household with a strong-willed Catholic grandmother who insisted on baptizing me and putting me through religious education, which I obediently completed until my confirmation into the Church at the age of seventeen. She was a lovely woman, but not very tolerant of other belief systems. I didn’t hold it against her; she was a product of her generation. I was happy to be Catholic under her influence, but when I found out about Wicca through the Sweep books towards the end of middle school I felt an instant connection with it.

I had enough of a grasp upon reality to know that if a person was Wiccan, they couldn’t actually throw fireballs or communicate telepathically or really do any of the other fantastical elements from the series. They were added for dramatic effect, and it definitely made the series more fun to read. I think that if the author had written about what Wiccans actually do, we might all be a little disappointed: mostly, it’s some herb crushing here and there, some spells (or “hands on prayers”, as I like to call them), and some appreciating nature. I still hate bugs, though.

Full altar with God (R) and Goddess (L) candles, a card depicting relationship between the God and Goddess, 
offering plate to Thor, Karen's patron deity, surrounded by my four elemental stones (clockwise: earth, air, fire, water), 
a blue candle for Thor, a chalice cup to symbolize the Goddess, and bells to start a ritual. Photo Credit: Karen Sargent

After finding and reading through most of the series, I bought some other books to see what Wicca was really about. I learned that there is a belief in a God and a Goddess, appreciation and attention to the changing of the seasons, and a lot of symbolism. I loved it, but after a while of looking into it, I went back to being Catholic because I was afraid of family repercussions. This is actually a pretty common event among Wiccans; we call it being in the “broom closet”.

I forgot about Wicca, until my junior year of university. I realized that I didn’t want to be Christian anymore because I didn’t agree with some of the fundamental beliefs such as Jesus as the Son of God, the Trinity, and belief in sin, so I set out to find what I did believe in. I had made a friend who was Wiccan, and she patiently answered my questions. I remembered why I liked Wicca in the first place: it’s flexible, open, accepting, and unique. It’s nature-oriented and there is a belief in something greater than us; but at the same time it encouraged the divinity within each person. I loved the idea that I not only had the Divine in me, but also that I could reach into myself and find it at any point.

At the point that I re-discovered Wicca and realized I wasn’t a Christian anymore, I was going through some tough feelings related to Christianity and felt fairly resentful. If I compare it to a breakup, it’s one of those breakups that is slow but a long time coming. It hurt, but I knew it was the right thing to do. At the same time, I was still working out my bitter feelings I harbored unfairly towards Christianity, simply because of some of the people who had promoted it that I had encountered during my time as a Christian. I knew logically that religions are not always interpreted correctly by their people, but I was still slightly resentful and angry.

I’ve long since forgiven myself for those feelings, but more importantly I have forgiven the others and the experiences that had caused them. For a while, I forgot to see things in grey – all I saw was black and white. I was upset at the loss of something I had held dear to me, but I knew that it was a necessary step on my journey of self-discovery. Through Wicca, I also learned that things have to die in order for new, better things to come in its place. One of my favorite examples of this that is also seen in nature is the turning of the winter into spring. My soul was in its “winter” period; a time of bleakness and feeling disillusioned and hopeless and what no longer helped me had to be let go, in order for the buds of spring to come in its place.

Photo 1: Candles for spells, with different colors representing different themes such as black for clearing negative energy/protection and yellow for happiness. Photo 2: Homegrown herbs and my salt for cleansing. Photo 3: Tarot and rune decks, given as gifts, for a third perspective! Photo Credit: Karen Sargent

As a Wiccan, I also opened myself up to the idea that some things are meant to happen. When I was Christian I believed this, but in-between moving away from Christianity and finding Wicca I had lost my optimism that told me that some things were meant to be. Wicca showed me that sometimes, there are events that happen at exactly the right time but the path that we are on is forged by us. There will be life-changing events no matter where we head in life; we just need to remember to keep an open mind to be able to look for them.

Wicca also taught me to count similarities rather than differences. It can be so easy to lose ourselves in the “they believe that, I believe this” type of mentality that we end up making a rift between us and our brothers and sisters of different religions. Wicca is about finding what works best for each of us, whether that is through Wicca or through another religious or spiritual path. I used to focus on the differences, but now I realize that if our religious beliefs bring us happiness, peace, joy, and encourage us to make the world a better place, then that’s exactly where we need to be. I have friends who do not believe in evolution, or in gay marriage, because it’s against their religion. I might not agree, but it’s not the beliefs I admire, it’s the soul beneath them.

Wicca has taught me to transcend differences, it has shown me find beauty in ambiguity, and it has healed me of bitterness and spite. It taught me that I don’t have to look any further than myself communication with the Divine because the Divine is in us, waiting to be listened to. It gave me peace with my thoughts. It reminded me that humanity can be linked together despite surface differences. It made me whole.

Karen Sargent is an anthropologist and lover of cute animals from Boston. She is passionate about interfaith relations, abolishing Islamophobia, tea, and bookstores. Find her on Instagram (@thecozywitch), Wordpress (, and twitter (@SLHTblog).

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