In Part I of my three-part article I explained how the pandemic laid a drop of poison in the roots of my spiritual practice. In the second part I am sharing my experiences of abuse that added to the dismantling of my core beliefs. I will go over how I left Wicca and every theological / philosophical belief that I practiced for 20 years and how my search for happiness led me back home.
Disclaimer: This article is about my experiences of physical abuse, mental abuse, and the abuse of authority within my local community. I will avoid actual names of people and places in order to maintain their reputation and my own. There will also be triggers of emotional distress, isolation, and depression. I find sharing these states of being with you (the inter-web readers) to be cathartic and healing. My hope is that this will be a resource for someone out there. You are not alone and abuse is never okay.
Me Speak Pretty
My childhood is a bit confusing and filled with a lot of vague areas that ultimately remain unanswered. When we read about a person who experienced physical and mental abuse as a child and they are part of the LGBTQ+ community, we assume the abuse is related to bigotry. To make this assumption would be very wrong when it comes to my upbringing. My experience coming out was wonderful and well supported. My experience with abuse can only be summed up to personal demons that my parents must have had to face.
Physical and mental abuse was frequent as a child. It left a massive gap in my life from ages one through 18 that was primarily filled by my maternal grandmother. She was such an amazing human being and I am honored to have had a person like her around to save my life. No amount of praise can truly describe her heroic deeds. Her exit from this world created a vacuum in my life that was temporarily filled by my parents. I believe we both genuinely wanted to have a healthy relationship. Especially now that I am an adult and less of a dependent. We began to form a closeness that allowed for open conversations and support.
After I moved into a new home in April, 2020, I had hoped to have a conversation with them about some hot items. One was politics (yup, already looking bad) and the other was some racist terminology that made people in my life feel a bit uneasy around my parents. I knew these items would be sensitive and wanted to broach the conversation as delicately as possible.
First, I mentioned the issues of terminology used. This definitely perked their ears up and they participated in conversation. Next, I asked about their support for our previous leader-in-disgrace (did not use this term with them). Instead of answering me they chose to ignore the question and I didn’t hear anything from my parents for a day or two. Not until I received a voicemail that threatened my life and a text message that could only be written by a drunken hand. It was very much “me speak pretty, you listen, I’m right, you wrong”. Not a clean conversation at all and we went from 0-100 really fast!
When I said that this kind of behavior was not acceptable and it showed me that nothing changed from the past, all hell broke loose. I found out very quickly that victims of abuse are usually isolated, lied about, and villainized by their abusers. It wasn’t an experience I expected to have in my 30’s, let alone from my parents. Moreover, people encouraged me to return to my abusers because having a family was better than not (I can’t blame their logic since they haven’t experienced this).
Most of their abusive responses were met by a cold door that began to shut them out. I felt numb inside and reverted to a state of survival. It was familiar to me and I remember doing this as a child. Hiding, recoiling into a corner, and just practicing magic to try and make it all stop. It was happening again as an adult. Only this time, the magic was gone.
My feelings were purely focused on getting through to another side and being the person who survived. I began to question my identity in my family because of the isolation. I even questioned keeping the same last name at one point but felt like that was a little dramatic (it isn’t too dramatic FYI). Now everything was under question about who I was, what I believed, and all of the choices I made in this short life. I was drowning in my thoughts.
Wake Up! They Tried To Kill You
I want to note something before we go further. I realize my options are a privilege and I do not take them for granted. I acknowledge that for so many people mental health support is not an option. Please know you are not alone and there are resources available through the national suicide hotline and most local hospitals will work on sliding scales.
So maybe I was being gas-lighted or maybe I was overreacting to the situation. I honestly couldn’t tell anymore. I was stressed from my work with the pandemic and felt like I had just been beaten up and shoved in a cupboard (5th Grade, actually happened). I knew that I had been down this road before and that abuse was unfortunately something I was far too familiar with. Typically, I would try to handle the situation on my own and work it out with my grandma (she needs to be canonized ASAP for helping to raise me). However, I didn’t have my grandma and I felt like I didn’t have the comfort of my faith. It was like taking a bath in lukewarm water and I just wanted to feel better.
I clearly needed help and I reached out to my work’s employee assistance program for a therapist. I was assigned to someone who is frank, strong, and I think a little tired of humanity’s bullshit. She was and is the best possible solution for my situation. I enjoy her rogue style and blunt approach. Judy (pen name) had a way of looping me in and simply saying, “Tyson, they have a history of physical abuse, mental abuse, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse. Wake up! They tried to kill you.” Those words pull someone back from returning to the cycle of abuse very fast!
Throughout my time with Judy I didn’t practice any form of spiritual practice until she suggested Buddhist meditation. I am well versed in several sutras and schools of Buddhism so this opened a can of worms she didn’t intend. I could almost hear her eyes roll from our phone therapy session.
Instead, she said to recognize the air you take in, the life, the stability you have, the emotions, and just let them be. I mentioned, “Umm… Judy, this is starting to sound very Pagan to me” and she could not have been more delighted that I recognized this. She encouraged me to try dabbling in items that brought me comfort and decreased my cortisol levels. Working with her added the metaphorical soil to the seeds I planted from science.
You’re Gatekeeping and Hoarding Chihuahuas
Shopping is a therapy and I know that will be disputed by many. For me, though, it truly is a massive dose of serotonin that hits my brain and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Add to that my analytical side which assesses if I actually want an item and if it adds value (I NEVER ask if I need something because that answer is usually no). One of my favorite places to experience this drench of serotonin was at a local spiritual shop. For protection purposes we can call it The Witch’s Puppy (-20 points for creativity).
The Witch’s Puppy was more than just a store, for me. This place was a safe haven during the pandemic and their online presence was filled with other Pagans who actually made me think. This store and community genuinely made a positive impact on my life….until it didn’t.
The problems started when I decided to go to the store after a particularly painful argument with my parents. I wanted to gather some supplies to help mend my aching heart and their apothecary had everything I needed (spell at the end). Whilst gathering my herbs I overheard an argument up front, between a Norse Pagan and one of the store’s employees. It wasn’t going well and to say I was uncomfortable would be an understatement. The argument reached its pinnacle when the employee accused the Norse Pagan path of being filled with nothing but racist teachings and white supremacy.
White supremacy was enough to alert me to hurry up and get out of the store. I paid for my items and left. This had to be a one-off situation, I thought. A shop would and should be a safe place for all Pagans. So I went onto the group’s Facebook page to see if other notable remarks popped up and sure enough they did. I found several remarks of gatekeeping, prejudice, and flat-out bullying. In one such post there were damning words about light-workers (I know, loaded topic of its own but not worth harming anyone over). I spoke up and just as soon as I did, I was also banned from the community.
I’m not particularly great at witty comebacks during an argument and the best I could come up with for the owners of The Witch’s Puppy was that they were gatekeeping and hoarding a bunch of Chihuahuas. Why Chihuahuas you ask? Because they’re small, timid, and are known ankle biters. That really was the best I could do. It just isn’t my nature to attack the jugular with my sharp tongue (sharp like a baby spoon).
Remarks aside, it is valuable to note that gatekeeping and control within the Pagan community should be discouraged. Even if I couldn’t use language that was nearly as vulgar as this store’s owner, it was important that I spoke up. This owner was creating a toxic environment that isolated people who already likely feel alone and that was enough to condemn this type of power abuse.
Sessions with Judy were always metaphorical and deeply reminded me of talking with my grandma for hours. Judy’s comebacks helped me confront a shop owner who still waves their ability to curse people who wrong them. I also faced my own demons, which are a great deal scarier to me. After some time I noticed I was scheduling appointments just to have that familiarity back in my life. I suppose that is when I knew it was time to wane our sessions and put on my big boy britches.
I mentioned earlier that she gave me the soil for my seeds and in an earlier post I mentioned how science was a vessel for my beliefs. In many ways I can attribute my return to Paganism to therapy and science. What clicked for me was people’s powerful strength to move past abuse. There is magic in therapy and our human ability to intuitively guide others towards a better version of themselves. We don’t rehearse compassion. That is what makes compassion so deeply magical to me.
Thank you Judy for being that stone cold and yet somehow warm person that kept me on track.
My Exercise for You
Heart Mending Spell
- 2 oz. rose petals (edible)
- 2 oz. lavender (edible)
- 2 oz. peppermint (edible)
- Tea infuser
- 5 tea-light candles
- Cauldron or fireproof container
- Pen & paper
- Perform this during the waning moon. I like to do this about an hour or two before bed.
- Take a nice hot shower, not a bath. A shower will let you cleanse but stay a bit more alert.
- Add 1 tsp. of rose, lavender, and peppermint to your infuser and make a hot cup of tea. Let it steep for at least 7 minutes. Ideally, steep for 10 and sweeten with honey.
- Bring your tea to your altar and set the candles up with each of the cardinal directions.
- Cast your circle and light the candles. Take a moment to meditate while repeating, “Earth, air, fire, water”. You can take as long as you like but at least 10 minutes should be spent meditating.
- On the paper, write down what troubles your heart. Give it as much detail as you can and then sign the bottom of the paper.
- Fold the paper away from you three times.
- Light the paper on fire and place it in your fire-proof container and say, “What harms my heart burns away. What weighs me down is ash today. My worries are gone and heart will heal. May love, protection, and abundance be revealed.”
- Offer the remaining rose, lavender, and peppermint to the fire.
- Enjoy your tea while the worries burn away. Contemplate the soothing qualities in the herbs and take a second to realize how everything is calm and okay in this very moment.
- Safely discard the ashes after they have cooled. I usually add a bit of water and take them out to the garden for an offering.