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.

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My Story

It has been a little less than four months since the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses announced my disfellowshipping* (April 4, 1012). Apart from the rumor spreading rapidly across the state once convention season began, I have had little backlash. Living in an area where the per capita population of JW’s is quite high, I worried about bumping into ‘old friends’ and being snubbed. That hasn’t happened. In fact, I haven’t seen anybody—which is out of the ordinary. This tells me they are possibly seeing me first and fleeing.

I remember doing that as a JW (Jehovah’s Witness). I would catch sight of a Df’d (disfellowshipped) person and flee in the other direction to avoid a full-frontal snubbing. This was okay with me at the time because I felt more pious and righteous before God since I was doing his will. If that is what is happening in my case, I am thankful because I made the decision I was not going to act ashamed around them. They put their label on me. I am not defined by it, nor do I accept it. I don’t feel like I have changed—I am still me—except, I am a more authentic version of myself.

Which brings me to the reason for this blog—I was discussing with a friend recently my frustration at not being able to share my feelings with those who have labeled me. People who claim to love me, but will no longer speak with me, have no clue what is really going on with me. They must theorize and in so doing use a mountain of logical fallacies to validate their beliefs and prove I am “fornicating with the devil.”

I know this because I did the same thing many times. Whenever someone is disfellowshipped everyone wonders what the reason was and usually the first thing people think of is sex. This is because in puritanical Christian circles everything leads back to sex. What really helps, however, is if the local congregation has the practice of giving a local needs right after a disfellowshipping.  This is a well-meaning talk given to a congregation to warn of the dangers of falling prey to the exact same thing that got so-and-so “disciplined by Jehovah”. This serves the dual purpose of scaring the congregation into submission and putting to rest any speculation.

I’m only assuming this is what happened in my case, because an old roommate who was disfellowshipped 18 years ago (and lives three hours away across a range of mountains) sent me a friend request on Facebook and said she had heard I was worshipping Satan. I was surprised at the relative accuracy of the rumor as it spread. (I would have been flattered if the rumor had been sexual, but apparently the same people who never tried to hook me up with anyone while I was single would never have considered sexual liberty a part of my personality. *sigh*)

I remember the frustration and helplessness of hearing someone’s name announced from the stage, knowing they are beyond help. Average JW’s are prohibited from reaching out to Df’d ones. I remember when my roommate was Df’d; I cried like she had died, because it was a sort of death. I had to pretend she was dead so I would not be tempted to talk to her.  Now we have to make up for all the time that was robbed from us by the doctrine of a self-centered religion.

But I digress…Whenever I heard of someone who was disfellowshipped; I would ask some discreet questions and somehow come to my own logical explanation to explain things in a way that validated my beliefs.  This is called confirmation bias, and I am positive it is being used to explain my own defection.

Three days before my father died, two local elders paid me a visit to warn me of the dangers of Harry Potter. The second to last movie had just been released in theaters the night before. I had taken one of those fun quizzes on Facebook and was told I had the personality of a Dementor. I thought it was pretty funny, so I posted the results. The wife of one of the elders that stood in my living room that day had “Liked” my status and I thought, “Cool! Sharon likes Harry Potter.” Apparently she narced on me to her husband and they felt it important to come and counsel me as my father lay dying in the next room. (I promptly unfriended Sharon [I can’t tolerate tattle-tales] just like I unfriended my husband’s aunt when I found out she shared my anti-JW status updates with my parents-in-law.)

The two elders told me the success Harry Potter was enjoying in the box office was a clear indication of its demonic origins and that Jehovah hates all who love what he hates. “You don’t want Jehovah to hate you, do you?”

A year and half later I was disfellowshipped for witchcraft. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to assume they have linked the two events. It warms the cockles of my heart to imagine my story has passed into JW legend as a scare tactic to stay away from Harry Potter. Perhaps, my ‘experience’ has even been shared at an assembly or convention. How cool would that be!

So, for anyone who wants to know the truth, it was not Harry Potter…it was Twilight. Haha! Just kidding!

By the time I read the series of Harry Potter I was already out. I knew the warnings against it and choosing to read the books was a beginning of my rebellion. You see, I had been an uber-obedient JW for the better part of two decades. I avoided rated-R movies, never swore, only read literature published by the Watchtower Society, read my Bible every day, learned a foreign language, prepared for every meeting, participated in the field ministry and theocratic school, etc. etc, etc.

I ignored, or suppressed, the anxiety and depression and guilt that rode around on my shoulders year after year. I knew there would come a reckoning. I knew I couldn’t maintain the level of intensity the Watchtower society required indefinitely. Thankfully, I figured I wouldn’t have to. Armageddon was just around the corner.

By the time I got into my thirties I was full on neurotic. I would punish myself for everything I did or said that I perceived as imperfect. I would leave the Kingdom Hall sobbing because I was so flawed.

Marriage and life managed to distract me enough to slow down in my intensity of religious service. Then I went a few months without going to meetings and began to heal. I started seeing a therapist to deal with my extreme anger and resentment that I had carried with me all my life. I began to heal, until I would go back to the Kingdom Hall, then all the neuroses would begin to rear their ugly heads.

I finally realized that mental health existed away from the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses—at least for me.

For anyone still reading this, I am happier than I have ever been. I will never return to that religion, so don’t bother telling yourselves I will come to my senses. I already have. My life finally makes sense to me. I stepped away from that religion and felt like I could take a full breath for the first time in my life. I thought it would be better for me to just fade away and somehow maintain my membership, so friends and family could continue to talk to me. But thanks to another Facebook traitor, I was outed as a practicer of Wicca (not because Harry Potter sold me on witchcraft but because I desire to investigate the sacred feminine and heal through empowerment and meditation). I have only felt profound gratitude since the local congregation decided to disfellowship me. I needed to be cut off from that deep abyss of negativity and have only felt happiness ever since. Thank you, elders of the Terrebonne, Oregon congregation!

I now feel profound pity for anyone remaining under the heavy yoke of the Watchtower Society. I wish that all could become just like me: liberated and grateful for life, optimistic about the future of mankind and non-judgmental.

That is my story.

*For further explanation of the practice of disfellowshipping please visit this website: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/disfellowship-shunning.php

“Free at Last”

I have been thrust from obscurity into the glaring light of public censorship. Maybe this is a good time to point out that I wasn’t being as obscure as I hoped I was. I have a tendency to think most people don’t pay attention, or care, and this has proven to be grossly negligent on my part. When I began writing this blog it was specifically for the purpose of exploring my spiritual revolution. I kept it separate from my other blog and my Facebook account and even wrote it under a pseudonym. In recent weeks I have become less careful.

A couple of months ago, I was talking to an old friend who still subscribes to the tenets of my old belief. She asked if it was true that I was calling myself an apostate and Wiccan. She said everyone was asking her and rumors were rampant. This proved my earlier point–I had underestimated how many people actually were paying attention. So I admitted it to her. Last week I received a visit from an elder–only one–asking me if it is true I was posting things on Facebook regarding Wicca. Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that I thought I had insured my privacy settings were set too high for any probing eyes. Once again, I was wrong. So I decided to come out of the proverbial broom closet and admit my witchy-ways. He begged me not to be so reckless and warned me of ruining my relationship with Jehovah. This surprised me. It seemed common sense that if I was becoming a witch it should be obvious that the opinion of Jehovah, or any other Christian god for that matter, doesn’t matter to me. So he asked if a couple more elders could come for a visit and share some scriptures with me. I have read the bible so many times I know it inside and out–I told him I didn’t think there was anything he could tell me that I didn’t already know and hadn’t already discounted.

Then he saw the pentacle around my neck and almost gave himself a hernia trying to get out my front door, which has a tendency to stick in winter weather. I actually laughed at him. Once he was safely on the outside of my house where no goulies or demons could get him, he turned and asked if I was in fact denying any assistance from the congregation. I said I was. Then he asked if I was determined to continue my wayward course. I said I was.

For those of you who don’t know, this means I am disfellowshipped. A public announcement is made at the next meeting and all obedient Jehovah’s Witnesses will not only stop associating with me, they will pretend I don’t exist. It’s like what happened to Ayla in Clan of the Cave  Bear when she was banished from the clan. In their minds, I am as good as dead. Initially, I was upset because I had committed the unforgivable sin. Everyone I had ever known and cared about would be grieved by my rebellious choice. By the next day, I felt incredible gratitude! I would not have taken this step on my own and it needed to be taken. I was limiting myself far too much out of fear of this exact thing. Now I have nothing to fear and I can choose to do what I want. I feel the same basic freedom as I did in El Salvador when I had everything stolen from me and had nothing left to lose.

A year ago, when I left the JW’s, I felt like the world lay before me and my options were unlimited. In recent months, I have experienced a feeling of floating. I’m not sure what the next step is and it is frustrating. The day after the elder came for a visit, a door opened and now I know where my path lies. I have used the word ‘gratitude’ more in the last 10 days than I have in my entire life, and it was brought on by the very thing I was taught to fear above all else–alienation from Jehovah and his earthly organization. I had hoped the elders would call to tell me when the announcement was going to occur just so I could thank them for setting me free, but that hasn’t happened. I guess it’s possible it could happen this week, but I kind of think it was made last week.

I think my greatest regret in all this is that none of the people who I used to care for will understand why I did it. They won’t know how miserable and neurotic I was under the tyranny of the Watchtower Society. They won’t understand my study of Wicca is to regain my power as a woman after a lifetime of humiliation by men in leadership positions. They will be unaware of just how happy and empowered I feel and how they could experience the same thing if they just chose to.

I wrote a poem in recognition of this. It’s a Shakespearean sonnet and it isn’t great but it expresses my feelings:

Free At Last—a sonnet

Praying for apocalypse day and night

Calling the birds to feast upon the slain

This world and its character gone from sight

“The meek shall inherit the earth,” is their refrain.

These do not grasp the darkness of their dream

“We are God’s happy people,” they insist.

Tired, tortured eyes betray souls that scream

Rot and ruin corrupt their very midst.

“Do not question, do not doubt. Believe all!

Hide who you are out of fear of God’s wrath.”

God is not the judge—they heed their own call

Knocking all sinners who stray from the path.

Their threats are empty, their vengeance is scant

Away bondage! “Free at last,” I incant.

Searching for Answers

I have been feeling rather lost recently. Money is tight, work is sparse, and college is losing its appeal. I am enjoying my math and poetry classes, but am finding homework more burdensome than usual. Summer term is waning and I am looking forward to its end. One of my massage clients told me of a friend who has psychic ability. She lives locally and I thought it would be interesting to see her as I enjoyed my previous experience with the psychic in Vegas.

I contacted her and set up an appointment. Imagine my surprise to realize she was raised in the same faith I was–Jehovah’s Witnesses. She left at 27, though she claimed to have had visions and psychic abilities since she was a child. Such things are not okay for a JW. As with most Christian faiths, anything paranormal or supernatural is considered demonic. She and I chatted about being raised in the faith, and how (and why) we left, then she began the reading.

I gave her the choice of mediums and she chose to just read me without the use of tarot or anything else. She read my aura first and said my torso was yellow and orange (I can’t remember the significance of that). Some of the things she said that did stand out to me, is that I use massage to ground my energies. She said I draw people to me who are like lightning rods, and use them to ground myself. I thought that likely explained why I feel more energized after giving massage.

I complained of feeling like my life was stagnant at the moment and she said, on the contrary, I am experiencing a polar shift. I am becoming a lightning rod. After expressing my frustration at wasting so much of my life on religion, she asked if I planned on dying soon.  I told her I had always felt I would die young. Here she repeated something the psychic in Vegas had said, that many of my previous lives had ended early but she did not foresee this one ending likewise. I told her I was a big believer in genetics and my mother had died at 59 and my grandmother in her 30’s. Here she reminded me of the stifling lives they would have lived under the same religious oppression I had escaped. What an interesting thought! Is it possible we can lengthen our lives by choosing to leave lifestyles that only create feelings of guilt, remorse, and unworthiness? It made sense.

Then she told me, that from the moment she had received my email, she had been envisioning me working at a farmers market, selling my own produce. “Do you have a garden?” she asked. Nope, except for a few herbs in my kitchen. She told me I would definitely be working with the earth. Then she asked me what I was taking in college: Literature/creative writing. Without hesitation, she informed me I would not be using any of it. These words did not come as a shock to me. I had been feeling for a while that literature and writing was not what I was meant to do. I am loving math, however, and I am discovering a love for poetry. So I asked if she thought I might do some poetry. She told me my ability as a poet harkens back to a previous life. Around 1100 CE, I was a Celtic priestess (in the manner of Rumi) who offered my counsel and advice in the form of poetry. (Hmmm, cool. Priestess. That might also explain why I am always so opinionated). I asked her if that had anything to do with my recent interest in Wicca, and she said Wicca was only a temporary distraction for me. The religion I represented as a priestess was an ancient belief grounded in the earth.

So those were the high points. There was one more thing, I forgot. Right after I got into her house, she told me I was clairsentient. She is clairvoyant, which means she sees things that will be and have been. I can feel what people are feeling. Again, that didn’t surprise me. I have always felt particularly in tune with people’s feelings. I think that may explain why I can’t stand talking on the phone. Some people can talk for hours on the phone (like my mother-in-law), but I need to see people’s faces so I know how to respond. This was the first time I had ever heard the term clairsentient and am looking forward to doing more research.

All in all, it was an interesting experience, and I bought a session for my husband as he has never before had a reading. I am hopeful he will find it worthwhile. I have decided to take some classes on horticulture, just to see if I have a hidden interest I have never before explored. It won’t hurt me to learn gardening. I can also see confirmation of something I have always known, I will never be rich. Which is okay. I find I am happy with little. Peace, solitude, and a good book, with a companion to bounce ideas off is all that makes me happy.

Re-Dedication

It is mid-way through summer term and I should be studying for a midterm in poetry class for tomorrow. Instead, I am wasting an exorbitant amount of time surfing the internet and meeting new people on Facebook. I have recently joined an ex-Jehovah Witness FB page where conversations are constant and engaging. I have friended quite a few people on there. I am always hoping to find someone I know or at least someone who lives nearby, but, alas, no luck so far. It is interesting to meet people whose upbringing was remarkably similar to mine, or possibly even more restricted. Like one family who would never by anything from Proctor & Gamble because of an assumed satanic symbol on all their products.  Another would buy Lucky Charms but dump out all the cereal and throw away the box because she couldn’t keep around something that was “magically delicious”. Others couldn’t eat hotdogs, or watch Disney movies, or have Smurf dolls or trolls. If anyone ever tells you JW’s are not superstitious, don’t believe them! As we all know, superstitions come from ignorance and we really shouldn’t expect anything different from a group of people who aren’t permitted to educate themselves beyond what is printed by the Watchtower society. I am glad, however, that my father wasn’t of the superstitious breed. We never went beyond the things written–it’s not our fault that the religious leaders did. Other than the usual prohibitions for all JW”s (i.e. holidays, birthdays, dances, pledge of allegiance, etc.) my father was very strict about holiday cartoons, spiritistic movies/books, and language–Crap, poo, fart, gosh were all no-no’s. The reaction would have been the same if I had used the other four-letter versions. Music was also something that my father couldn’t tolerate. I’m talking pretty much any kind of music. I went through a 50’s phase when I was about 17 and was told I couldn’t listen to Elvis because some of his songs had the word “rock” in them. I learned to keep my radio under my pillow. “You had a radio?” you might ask. Yeah, believe it or not. My parents bought it for me when I was six years old and it still worked well into my 20’s. I got more use out of that gift than anything else I ever received during childhood. I doubt my dad spent more than $12 for it. Since JW’s don’t have Christmas or birthdays, some have “family days” (oftentimes on parents anniversaries) where gifts are exchanged. I only remember our family doing this once, but the memory has always been golden to me. It was when I got the radio. My mother was still in relatively good health and she prepared a nice dinner for us, and dad bought the board game Sorry! which we spent the evening playing–and everyone let me win. My mother became bed-ridden soon after that and life became less joyous and more to be endured. We never had another day like that, which makes that one all the more poignant.

I am rambling, sorry. The real reason I started writing this blog was to inform you of my recent initiation to a local coven. Last Friday, on the full moon, I was initiated and am now considered a first degree witch. It was an interesting event and not as easy as it may sound. My hands were bound behind my back for 45 minutes which became extremely uncomfortable. I had to repeat certain vows while my hands and feet were bound and I wore a blindfold. I also had to answer in the affirmative to a series of questions which reminded me of the questions asked when I was baptized as one of JW’s when I was fifteen. So I am rededicated to another faith–a faith very different from the first. I have been doing a lot of reading in The Witches Bible by Stewart and Janet Farrar and finding it very interesting. I am in a small coven and am looking forward to attending some larger festivals. I have a lot of learning to do, though, and find the prospects exciting! Any other New Age, or Wiccan believers out there?

Imbolc

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I had my first pagan ceremony today! It was very interesting. A neighbor had lent me a book on Wicca, and while reading it I realized a very important day of the year was coming–Imbolc. Irish imbolc derives from the Old Irish i mbolg “in the belly”. This refers to the pregnancy of ewes. A medieval glossary etymologizes the term as oimelc “ewe’s milk”.  It marks the halfway point between the winter and spring equinoxes. Catholics call it Candelmas; North Americans call it Groundhog Day. Celts call it the Festival of St. Brigid (Brid). I decided to recognize the day in the traditional Celtic fashion–being Scotch-Irish and a redhead. Water and fire seemed to be the primary focus of the festival, so I collected 50 candles of various shades of red, white and green. Red being the color of the god, green the color of the goddess, and white the color of the ewes milk–which Brigid was bathed in upon her birth. I built an altar with candles of red and white, calla lilies (white), fragrant evergreens, chalices, a wand (borrowed from my neighbor), sea salt, a corn-husk doll representing Brigid, and melting ice within a womb-shaped trifle dish to signify winter melting into spring. It looked quite beautiful!

Five participated in the ceremony: my husband and I, my nephew, and our neighbor and her daughter. We read the mythologies surrounding the day and the significance of everything. Then said various blessings as we lit the last seven candles of red and white. Then we partook in Sabbat cakes (simple little cookies with a refreshing lemony taste), beer/mineral water, cheese, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Celtic music played in the background and everyone seemed to find the whole affair very soothing.

Afterward, as my neighbor and I sat outside on the chill evening by the bonfire we had built in honor of the occasion, I asked her what she thought of the ceremony. She said she thought it was beautiful and thanked me for including her. She went on to tell me how important God was to her. I asked her, “What do you mean God?” The foregoing ceremony would be labeled positively demonic by the adherents of my childhood religion. Did she mean a Christian God? Her answer? “God is…” That was it. God is not small enough to be sheltered within the tight confines of Christianity. “There is a reason for everything,” she said. “I cannot accept that life has no reason.” So, God is above and all spiritual pursuits  honor  him. A very comforting belief. But is it true? It would be nice if it was. I, however, was raised to believe in a God that had such exacting requirements that few, if any, could fulfill them. So, if her beliefs are true, tonights ceremony was genuinely spiritual and acceptable to God. If my beliefs were true, we are all  pretty much damned–in a strictly non-hellfire sort of way. How do I feel? When I erected the altar last night, I was alone as my husband was in a welding class. I remember thinking that my old beliefs would find such an altar an open invitation to demons. I didn’t feel anything. My house felt normal. The altar felt right. So, either my previous system of beliefs is wrong, or I am so far gone my conscience  has been “marked as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).  What do you think? Is God in all systems of beliefs or just one?