What My Pentagram Means To Me

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When I first started wearing a pentagram I was brand new to Paganism. I was trained by someone who had a plethora of medallions, goddesses, and pentagrams hanging around his neck at any given moment. I had never worn anything to represent my faith. Not even a cross. My branch of Christianity didn’t believe in the cross. So the idea of wearing something ornamental that would identify me with my faith was foreign and a little exciting. I’m not very ornamental myself. I don’t like to give a lot of thought to jewelry and accessories. I don’t wear rings, my earrings are permanent, and if I put a necklace around my neck it will be there until it falls off.

So I bought my first pentagram and wore it constantly. In fact, I was wearing it when the elders from my former faith paid a visit and decided to disfellowship me for apostasy. That particular pentagram went missing soon after that. I had worn it over a year, yet soon after the visit from the elders it disappeared like it had absorbed all the negative energy it could and needed to take it away.

I bought my second pentagram at a Celtic festival in Philadelphia. I spent a bit more on this one. It is sterling silver and cost me $60 for the medallion alone. It is beautiful and I take very good care of it.

I don’t identify myself as Wiccan and don’t practice as a Pagan. I still hold to many of the beliefs, like reincarnation and the personal empowerment that comes with controlling one’s own destiny through ritual. I still value the connection I have gained to the natural world and try to make choices that are sustainable and environmentally aware. I love the moon in all its phases and still find my greatest spirituality under its silvery beams.

Yet none of that represents what my pentagram means to me. I still wear it prominently. I never take it off and never tuck it under my shirt. I had an employer tuck it under the collar of my uniform once so I wouldn’t offend her clientele. She only did that once.

My pentagram doesn’t consciously represent my connection to the 5 elements (earth, air, fire, water, spirit). It doesn’t represent my association with a particular deity or doctrine. What it does do is act as my shield. I can’t tell you how many people have started out treating me with kindness and consideration until their gaze falls upon my chest and they visibly draw away from me. I haven’t changed. I’m the same polite woman they were animatedly conversing with just moments before. The only thing that has changed is their fear and ignorance has now taken over. Rather than investigating for themselves what the pentagram means, they choose to believe I am fornicating with the devil. My pentagram protects me from such people.

I spent my life under the tyranny of such fear mongering. I forced myself to engage with and form relationships with people who were so ignorant and filled with fear that they couldn’t think for themselves. I don’t want those people around me any more.

Occasionally, when asked why I wear a pentagram I tell people it is to piss of the Christians. That is only partially true. It keeps ignorance away from me. It prevents all Christian faiths from trying to indoctrinate me. Most people don’t mess with me when I am wearing it. It represents my hard-won freedom and its appearance keeps me free. It shields me from judgment since those who spew judgment usually won’t come within a country mile of me.

Before anyone points out that it sounds like a lonely life let me just say that a surprising number of people are not repelled by the pentagram. The vast majority of people won’t treat me any different because they realize it is not the necklace but me that truly matters. They either ignore it or openly ask me what it means. Those who are open and receptive get the “5 Elements” answer. Those who I want to antagonize get the “It’s meant to piss of the Christians” answer.

Tonight I was lying in bed contemplating whether to turn off the light or read. I reached toward my neck, as I habitually do, and noticed the chain wasn’t there. I had taken it off earlier in the day while doing yoga. I recently put the pentagram on a longer chain and it gets in my way during some of the yoga poses. As I lay there, I asked myself how I would respond if someone, a friend, sincerely asked me to remove it to avoid offending someone. When my initial response was anger, I had to ask myself why it meant so much to me. I realized it had come to stand for everything I had lost and gained and the need to maintain the barrier between the two. It is my shield against ignorance and judgment and I believe it protects me in more ways than I am consciously aware of. It also helps identify me as a member of an exclusive group who search for better things through personal growth and empowerment. I have had the privilege of meeting some very kind people who recognize my pentagram and approach me. The simple observation, “I like your necklace,” is usually enough to recognize a kindred spirit.

I am a middle-aged woman with no tattoos or facial piercings. I wear normal clothes and drink too much beer and coffee. There is little to identify me as the member of a fringe group but my pentagram. I wasn’t allowed a Goth stage when I was a kid and the only thing that keeps me from exploring it now is the knowledge that I would look completely ridiculous shopping at Hot Topic. So I wear my pentagram and I have become rather attached to it as the symbol of my freedom from the narrow road. Don’t ever ask me to take it off. Don’t ask me to hide it beneath my clothing. Such a request will be viewed as an assault against my freedom and all I have had to sacrifice in gaining said freedom.

Dreams

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At least once a month I dream about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Usually I am at a meeting or assembly wondering why I am attending when I don’t believe anymore. The fact that I am disfellowshipped is always present in my dreams. I am treated differently in each dream. Some JW’s talk to me, some don’t, some are terrified of me.

Roy is always expressing surprise that I should dream about them so much. Apparently, he never does.

Last night, I dreamed I was associating with a JW family who seemed bent on converting me. They didn’t know I was an exjw and I enjoyed being part of a community again. The husband and wife were very kind and hospitable…at first. As the dream went on it became more and more apparent that they wanted something from me. The kindness soon turned to madness. They made it very clear what was expected of me in return for their hospitality. I tried to tell them I was a Df’d ex-JW. They acted like they didn’t hear me. Then I tried to use reason and point out that nobody would want to join their organization because the members were obviously bat-shit crazy. This didn’t get through either. Finally, I shoved the pentagram I wear around my neck in their face and shouted, “I am a witch and an apostate!” They gasped in horror and shrank away from me like they were vampires and I was wielding a crucifix. I turned and bolted for the parking lot only to find my car wasn’t where I had parked it. I saw a mob of large, angry JW men coming after me. I could see violence and hatred in their eyes. I started to run. I couldn’t find my car. The mob was descending. I knew they meant to harm me.

I woke up.

A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed I was in my best friend’s house. We had been inseparable when I was 17-20 years old. I spent a lot of time in that house and was visiting it to see some work that was being done. In the dream I was Df’d, like always. There were crowds of JW’s around me. Some would turn their backs on me when I would approach. Children would break out in hysterical screams if I got too close. I happened to walk by a group of JW’s who were huddled together. From their gray, indistinguishable midst stepped someone I knew. She walked up to me and gave me a hug. She told me how much she had missed me, and how she always loved me. I thanked her for her kindness. I knew she faced the judgment of others just by approaching me and I was honored by her gesture.

I woke up wondering why hers was the only face I could put a name to. Then it occurred to me–was it possible she was dead? I read a book recently by Mary Ann Winkowski called When Ghosts Speak. Mary Ann is a medium who can talk with earthbound spirits. She says that many spirits stick around after they die and neglect to cross over. But the surest way to know if a spirit has crossed over is if they appear in our dreams, which is how they communicate with us from the other side.

I have never had a dream about this particular person I will call Sandy. We travelled to New York together in 1996. She threw me my bridal shower in 2002. I loved her and valued her, but hadn’t seen her in years. I knew her health hadn’t been good. But that’s all I knew.

I contacted a mutual friend on Facebook and found out Sandy had died a few days before.

I felt like Sandy had given me a wonderful gift! It warms my heart to receive validation and love from the other side. She didn’t need to give me that message. I’m not even family. But I wonder if part of the reason I received that message wasn’t because I was the only one open to it. Her entire family is still very much in the collective JW consciousness. I heard Sandy. I recognized the message for what it’s worth, and I honor her for going to the effort to deliver it.

The world really is a magical place!

Coven Cautions

About eight months after I decided I was done being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses it occurred to me I could believe anything I wanted. I know, I know–why did it take me eight whole months to figure that out? I had 38 years of other stuff to sort through. I spent most of that time unlearning everything I had placed my faith in. I visited a lot of ex JW websites and partook in a lot of forums–all intended to uproot a lifetime of indoctrination.

As I said, at some point I realized I could learn anything I wanted and worship in any way I wanted. I knew I was fed up with Christianity and organized religion as a whole. JW’s spend a lot of time convincing their followers what is wrong with every other religion out there. Once a person realizes there is something wrong with JW’s there really isn’t much left. So I chose a path that has intrigued me since I was 13 years old–Paganism. I remember the stories in the Old Testament of the evil and debauched Canaanites whom God drove out of the Promised Land. Their sex orgies, temple prostitutes, drunken revelries, and illicit sex made their religion sound a whole lot more fun than burgeoning Judaism and its many rules.

Now, I could be a pagan if I wanted. I could study witchcraft or the dark arts, if I wanted. I could even (perish the thought) touch a Ouija board or have a seance, if I wanted. However, I had no idea where or how to get started. I didn’t even know what to look up online. I didn’t know the proper terminology or anything. I was on Craigslist last summer and found a couple in a nearby town looking to form a coven. They even offered instruction for those with little to no experience. I promptly shot them an email and heard back within a day or two. They wanted to meet and interview me before they let me know where they lived. No problem. I met them at the local Barnes & Noble. They were a pudgy couple we will name Jerry and Sandra. Jerry claimed 16 years of practice as a Wiccan and was a high priest. He also, apparently, had numerous large and successful covens in the Portland area. (Even one in which he was the only man and they all tried to put a love spell on him, according to him.) Once i had heard all the foregoing I felt I was in good hands, and, once I apparently passed muster, they informed me of the books I would need for instruction and ritual. I ordered the books (cost me $50) and arranged to attend the first meeting. It was about this time I was informed that the three of us, and one other, made up the whole coven.

We had our first coven gathering the following weekend. It was supposed to be a picnic near the river. I drove 50 miles to attend this coven gathering and the other gal, the other newbie, didn’t show. Not only did she not show this day, she never showed. I never met our potential fourth. The picnic was a disaster and every instinct I had told me to run. They brought four dogs on the picnic and Jerry’s mother, who he proceeded to fight with most of the time. The whole picnic was spent fighting the damn dogs: they didn’t have enough shade, they didn’t have enough water, they wanted to eat our food, they wanted to lay on the blanket after getting wet, etc. Now might be a good time for me to clearly state that I am a cat-person, through and through. I find dogs demanding, messy, needy, loud and irritating (I also find I tend to avoid children who display the same tendencies).

Now that I have alienated 80% of my readers I will continue–soon after this ill-omened picnic, Jerry decided to schedule the first initiation of his wife and I. Sandra and he had only been married two years. She had left her husband and two kids in Louisiana to be with a man 5 years her junior. They had met on the internet. Sandra was more a victim of cult mind control than I. She didn’t have the capacity, intelligence, or self-esteem to escape her southern Baptist roots. She was always apologizing for things, and though I felt a lot of pity for her, I find her shouting at the dogs during rituals rather annoying.

So she and I were initiated without having the slightest idea what we were doing or why. Jerry performed the Alexandrian First Degree initiation ceremony as laid out in the Witches Bible by Stewart and Janet Farrar. He performed the 5-fold kiss on our nude bodies. I don’t have a problem with nudity, never have. After the ceremony, he lights up some marijuana and I take a drag or two. It’s pretty good stuff so I am feeling it and we’re just sitting around talking. It’s not long before he informs me how much he likes the way I smell, then they start talking about sex. I find they are open to most everything: menage a trois, polygamy, swinging, etc. Well, I should say, that Jerry is open to himself swinging but he gets violently ill whenever his wife tries it. I seemed to be the only one in the room aware of the unfairness in this situation. Eventually, the high tapers off and I go home. I must say, I was feeling pretty good about myself for the first time in a long time–somebody actually found me attractive.

Over the next couple weeks I keep trying to get Jerry to show me things or teach me or even answer questions and he just looks at me with a look so blank that his narrowly spaced eyes almost cross. They live in a huge apartment complex in a one bedroom. Their bed is in the living room so they can make the bedroom the ritual room. There is a big black and white flag on the wall with the words FUCK YOU and a picture of ‘the bird’. Oh, and by the way, Jerry is an ex-con. It is becoming quite clear that I am going to have to educate myself. So I start to ask if they have any recommendation for a good book on solitary witchcraft. He lent me a couple books by Silver Ravenwolf. I devoured them! By the time I was halfway through the first one I started implementing the things I was learning at our coven meetings and I quickly realized I knew more than he. I also had more than he did: a besom (broom used in ritual), a pentagram (also important in ritual), a sword (nice to have but not as necessary as the previous two), a scourge (necessary in some initiation rituals)and a bell (also necessary with certain rituals). I had all these things within the first month (the sword, scourge and bell I had for years). I quickly realized he spent most of his money and time on pot. Sometimes I would drive the distance to attend a coven meeting only to find the plan was just to smoke and talk. That is not what I was there for!

He finally found a fourth. A nice guy who worked at the local Burger King and looked like Captain Jack Sparrow–I am not kidding you. A month after he had joined, Jerry decided to initiate him into the coven. I volunteered to act as High Priestess and spent hours sewing a chiffon ritual robe. On the night of the ritual I brought my sword, bell, athame, robe, scourge and the books I was returning. That night belonged in a SNL skit. As we were burning incense and sage for the ritual space the smoke detector kept going off until I reached up to the ceiling and ripped it down. Then the dog pee’d in the hallway. During the ritual, the neighbor walked into the apartment and informed us she had fallen in the parking lot and was bleeding, but could she please take our pictures in our cute ritual robes. WTF? All of this was occasionally punctuated with Jerry telling me how beautiful I was and what a beautiful body I had. This after informing me some weeks earlier that if I wasn’t getting enough sex at home he could help me with that. Fiasco doesn’t even begin to describe that night, and Captain Jack Sparrow never returned.

About this time, I was introduced to the genuine pagan community of my local area. Where there were full moon ceremonies every month and Tarot and Reiki classes all offered by a licensed professional counselor. I loved the group I met at her house and the energy was intoxicating. I paid one more visit to Jerry and Sandra’s. I wasn’t there for 5 minutes before I felt like someone had sucked the energy right out of me. I could tell there was some negativity in the apartment but I felt like everything in me was telling me to run. I left with some stones they gave me as I was just getting into the power of different gemstones. A few days later I couldn’t figure out why I was so depressed, then I remembered the stones. I hadn’t cleansed them. I quickly burned some sage and cleansed them of any impurities or negativity. I had learned to do that through a school I had found online called Witch School. I had also found a font of books and literature and have joined a group on Facebook of exJW pagans who are always teaching me.

I think I do owe Jerry and Sandra for showing me the proper direction in which to take my self-instruction. Jerry couldn’t teach me anything because I honestly don’t think he knows much. Even after 16 years he didn’t have any ritual, invocation, or chant memorized. Everything was read from a book. Which I think seriously inhibits energy and power. I am constantly working on memorizing rituals and invocations. They keep advertising on Craigslist for coven members and in fact their recent advertisement asks for people only within their city limits–this was a blatant slight against me because I told them I couldn’t come and meet with them since money was tight and I couldn’t afford the gas. I thought that was better than saying I didn’t respect them and couldn’t stand the psychic drain in their company. Why must he surround himself with a coven? His rituals are empty of feeling and spirit, so it couldn’t be the prospect of a greater cone of power. I think it is a power trip for him. He likes being in the lead, with his own private harem. I don’t know what happened in his previous covens but sex, and sex with him particularly, seemed his primary concern. Unfortunately for him, all I needed to do was read a single book before I knew more than he.

Since then I have run into a few solitary witches who flat out refuse to join a coven and I can understand why. If you are a practicing, or aspiring, witch be careful in your choice of covens. Interview them to assure you’re a good fit, and don’t make any commitments until you have attended some rituals. Don’t be too trusting until your trust is earned. And make sure if you choose to have sex with the High Priest/Priestess that you won’t hate yourself afterwards.