I was raised old-school Church of God in the Bible Belt of the deep south from the time I can remember until I was 12. For those unfamiliar with what that means, let me offer some background.
Church of God, the old school ones, anyway, are very serious when it comes to their religion. I suppose every religion is in it’s own way, though.
Women wore dresses, below the knee, 24/7, not just for church services. No make-up, no jewlery other than a wedding band.
Even though I attended Sunday school with children my age, the pastor’s voice carried throughout the small building. While we were memorizing John 3:16 and learning the about the New Testiment, stories of fire and brimstone and eternal damnation echoed around us.
Sunday and Wednesday nights, we were privy to what the adults got. Shouting, speaking in tounges, running up and down the isles, people laid out in the floor vibrating and shaking from the power of their beliefs. The nights these events occured were considered among the best of the services by the adults.
I never realized how disturbing this could be to someone not familiar with the practices until I took Draco to a service at my cousin’s church (my family is full of pastors, gospel singers and devout Christians) where he is the pastor, and Draco spent most of the service looking ready to bolt for the door. He was raised Church of the Bible Covenant, which I gather is more like Baptists, who are much more docile in services than Church of God.
I also spent a fair amount of time at the local Baptist church. They often held special events and anyone was welcome. Women in pants and the quietly spoken “Amens” were uncommon in my world where church was concerned.
When I was about 8 or 9 I suppose, life opened up. Aunt Hattie (my babysitter my whole childhood and an extremely devout Christian) would drag me to church every time the doors opened. My great aunt that I lived with would take me with her to a honkey-tonk every Friday and Saturday night. There was a battle going on between them there that I wasn’t aware of until I was an adult. My great aunt didn’t attend church. I nerver knew why.
Above my bed hung a Certificate of Dedication to the Church of God with my name on it. When I got old enough to ask my great aunt what it was, she said she had me dedicated to the church when I was very small, that way, the church was responsible for my soul and not her.
I went to live with Mom when I was 12. Even though Mom had been raised in the same faith as me, she didn’t attend church. Dad’s Dad is a pastor, something I wasn’t even aware of until I was grown, and he didn’t go either.
Weekends were spent riding in the car, most often in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which is still my favorite place to be.
Dad taught me about life, love and nature. He could identify any plant and it’s uses, he taught me to watch the skies – the clouds, sun, moon and stars – and how those things effected every living thing. He taught me respect for the world I live in and at his side, I found more of a connection to God and Divine energy than I ever had in a church.
I learned of a gentle but powerful Divine energy. I learned more about feeling that Divine energy in my heart and soul than I ever did cooped up in a building reading a book I didn’t understand.
I learned to be human and humane. I learned about this awesome world we live in that most people take for granted. I learned that everything is alive with that divine spark, not just humans, and I learned how to feel Divinity within me, and through it, my connection to every other living thing. The world and nature became my church.
I know that my Dad had no clue that I was finally finding religion while we sat on the bank of a lake fishing and talking or while we wandered around exploring nature. I know it wasn’t his intention to bring me religion, but he certainly brought me to it.
I’ve searched most of my adult life for somewhere that made me feel that way inside in a church. Somewhere that talked about the God I found wandering the Blue Ridge Mountains. The God I felt as I rested my head against a maple tree to smell the sticky sweetness oozing from it and listened to the squirrels and birds chatter in the woods around me. The God I felt in the rush of water around my feet as I stood in the middle of a cold mountain stream, arms stretched wide, head thrown back, the kiss of the sun on my face and the wind blowing through my hair.
The God I feel stirring restlessly in my soul as the fall fades to winter and the world he created sleeps. The God I feel begin to stir again as the air warms and buds begin to peek out.
Where is that God in the Sunday morning services held behind closed doors and stained glass windows while a man gives me his interpretation of who God is supposed to be to me? That environment just isn’t for me.
So where does the Goddess you hear me talk about fit into all of this?
When you get down to the bare bones of what I believe Divinity is, you see the Goddess aspect come into play.
Put simply, I believe that all gods are one God. I believe that that One God encompasses everything. It has no name, no gender, because of this, it is every name and both genders. It is Divine Energy, The Divine Spark. It is every name from God to Buddah to Zeus. It is also Mother Nature, Mother Earth, Gaia, and even Hecate.
The Pagan path I follow is more nature related, but even an old tree-hugger like me finds need for prayer and asks for help and guidance. It helps, in my mind, to be able to work directly with certain aspects of Divinity sometimes, and this is where names and genders come into play for me.
In my next Exploring Phases post, I’ll delve deeper into how these aspects come into play in my life and how I made peace with the dual-gender aspect of Divinity.
Until next time…