Wherein Yr. Loyal Correspondent Attends a Pagan Orgy.

Wherein Yr. Loyal Correspondent Attends a Pagan Orgy. June 11, 2013

No, really, that’s how I ended up re-joining the Pentecostal church.

About six months after leaving fundamentalism the first time, my boyfriend at the time, Biff, went to a church service with the specific intention of trolling the Christians there and ended up getting “exorcised” of a “demon.” (Scare quotes are used because I never, not even in my most fundie moments, believed that he had really been possessed, much less was exorcised.) He thought I’d immediately rush right back to church once he’d recounted to me this irrefutable proof of Jesus, and he was downright stunned when I was not persuaded.

He began this long campaign to win my soul for Jesus. Incidentally, I still considered myself a Christian, just not a Pentecostal, but you’d never have guessed that from how Biff treated the situation. Alas, most of what he did backfired. If he was taking me out to show me that he was still the romantic, lovable rogue I’d fallen for, he would show up an hour later than promised. If he wanted to shower me with roses, he’d get distracted on the way and end up going witnessing for hours and hours, then show up with wilted flowers and a triumphant story about how Jesus had saved someone. He once tricked me into attending a prayer meeting under guise of asking me out on a date. Oh, and he said he couldn’t fool around with me anymore, which annoyed me quite heartily–but in practice what this meant was that he’d play grab-ass with me in his usual disrespectful way and then loudly repent and beat his breast about it and make me feel like I was personally responsible for his “falling.”

In retrospect it’s probably not shocking that I was coming close to just dumping his butt. But something was about to happen that would make me think that he was right about everything.

One weekend I had had enough of his BS and decided to go to an SCA event with my friends–I was looking forward to just kicking back in medieval costumes and getting away from the modern world for a bit. Biff for some reason was panicky about this event; he couldn’t attend because of some church thing he’d promised to attend and was convinced that without his protection, my friends, who were pagans, were going to gang-rape me. Pagans were just prettified Satanists in his mind–he claimed to have been both a Wiccan and a Satanist pre-conversion and used the terms interchangeably–and his own understanding of sexual consent was iffy at best, so I can easily see him judging others by his own example. I told him to get stuffed.

“Fine,” he said, “But if you run into any kind of trouble, here’s what you should do.” And he taught me a magic incantation: “In the name of Jesus, I banish all demons here!” I already knew the general formula from my previous involvement in Pentecostalism, but I rolled my eyes and said I’d be sure to remember it if I needed it.

Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) and Hillary Flammond ...
Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) and Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge) break the fourth wall after Hillary says, “It all sounds like some bad movie”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Yeah, we both probably looked like this. I’m just posting this pic because I had such a huge crush on Val Kilmer back then.

And indeed, I had a lot of fun. I got a bit of heat exhaustion, which made me a bit loopy, but otherwise we kicked back, watched guys in armor beat each other up, drank medieval herbal tisanes (nothing illegal–I’ve never done any street drugs in my life), and I can’t remember either way so if I did any drinking, I couldn’t have done much of it or I’d have remembered. Basically, I was tired and a bit out of it but overall fairly compos mentis when one of my friends, Galadriel, mentioned that her folks had a house on the lake near the event site, and did I want to go hang out there? The guy who’d driven me (who I had a bit of a crush on anyway; he looked exactly like Val Kilmer’s “Iceman” character from Top Gun, so guess what I’m going to call him?) and another friend of mine to the event said he was fine with going there before we all trucked home, so  we all went to the after-party at the lake house.

Galadriel as depicted in the 1978 film.
Galadriel as depicted in the 1978 film. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). My Galadriel rocked that headband just as well.

Once there, I was impressed by its gorgeous ultra-80s Nordic touches like its warm wood beam construction, high vaulted ceilings, and comfortable furniture. Galadriel invited us all to partake of her parents’ liquor cabinet, which plenty of people were happy to do as she put on some loud New Age music. The place quickly filled with people from the event and things got rowdy.

Out on the patio, as I sipped soda, I listened politely to Galadriel’s breathless description of how she was going to lead some kind of Wiccan ritual later on to heal the spirit of the lake.

I remember looking at the dark, rippling waters of the large, mysterious lake, with trees draped over its shores like lacy black shawls. “The what?” I asked, and she said that yes, there was a spirit that took care of the lake, but it was getting very sick and needed her Wiccan coven’s spiritual energy to get better. It turns out she was the coven’s high priestess, too. Would wonders never cease!

I remember people were getting super-friendly. I went back inside and sat on the couch to rest a minute, but people followed me. Women put their legs in other people’s laps and people began to get really touchy-feely. I was getting woozy from the heat exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed by the folks cuddling and dancing super-close in the living room. Somehow this casual get-together was turning into Club Paradise. I was starting to feel a little nauseated when Val suggested I go to a smaller study to get my head together. He offered a back rub. Since I hadn’t yet figured out that many men offer back rubs as a way of getting their paws on women they want to bang, I accepted. Truthfully I just wanted to lay down.

By the way, did I mention I was 17 years old?

I discovered that the study wasn’t empty. There were people in there talking about something spiritual, but I don’t remember what. I laid down flat on my stomach on the floor because at this point I didn’t care, and Val straddled me and began rubbing at my shoulders. At first this situation seemed doable. He actually wasn’t bad at what he was doing. As more people came in, I ended up with my head under a sofa, which suited me fine as it kept people from talking to me.

Thumpy music played–somewhere someone’d found a drum, it seemed, and I heard wooden flutes too. Galadriel came in with about eight other people and they all sat in a circle near me. She got out a long flat case and reverently drew a knife out of it.

A knife.

My eyes must have been as wide as saucers. She had a rather ornate-looking dark stone knife in her hands. She held the hilt with both hands and began chanting. The people in the circle clasped forearms and began rocking side to side like that scene in Avatar. Holy moly!

So let’s sum up. I was woozy, nauseated, and more than a little scared. The room got darker and darker, it seemed, and though I didn’t fear getting gang-raped as Biff had thought would happen, it seemed like if someone didn’t do something fast, something terrible might happen.

Yep, it was time to use the magic incantation he’d taught me. I whispered it under the couch, embarrassed that anybody’d see or hear me, but even today I don’t think anybody did.

Are you wondering what happened next? Remember how Willy Wonka (in the first movie, of course; the remake barely registers in my little world) stopped the terrifying boat ride? That’s how it went down. Instantly the room got brighter; the pagans broke free of each other like they’d been dashed apart; Galadriel let out a strange cry and dropped the knife. The tension in the room evaporated. I was so astonished at seeing all of this unfold that I forgot about feeling sick and scared. I came out from the couch and out from under Val and looked around in shock.

Galadriel and her crew all began taking showers in the lake house’s several bathrooms–Val explained that it helped “ground” Wiccans or something as he went to take one himself. I heard Galadriel mutter about a Satanic coven across the lake that had clearly interfered with her ritual. No, seriously, that’s what she said. Satanists had blocked her coven’s power. Satanists.

Well, hell.

That put me in a rather uncomfortable position, since I thought I knew exactly what had blocked her coven’s power and was pretty sure I hadn’t summoned Satan by accident. I wasn’t a logic genius and arguably still am not, but the trail seemed clear enough to me at the time:

Satanists trump Wiccans. But Jesus trumps Satan.

Clearly if I wanted to be on the winning team, I knew what to do.

Val took me and my friend home, and I was very quiet. He smelled great from the shower he’d had at Galadriel’s lake house (it’s just about a cosmic law that if you shower in someone else’s house, you’ll come out smelling awesome), but I wasn’t in a flirting mood anymore. I was deeply troubled. I hadn’t thought any of that Pentecostal stuff was true, but this experience I’d just had was a powerful one, and there didn’t seem to be any escaping it. Yes, I’m well aware now that there are half a dozen better explanations for what happened than “ZOMG JESUS,” but at the time I didn’t know any better.

I called Biff and told him what had happened. He came right over to my parents’ house and prayed with me, and though afterward I was still deeply troubled, I felt like I was back on track again. I returned to church with him and everybody was so happy to see me–many of them remembered me from when I’d attended previously. I’ve mentioned my dismay about the Star Wars roleplaying game’s handling of the Force–that you have to be either a Jedi and deny your feelings, or a Sith and live in a perpetual state of anger and revengelust (or okay a grey Jedi but that just sounded so weak to me). That’s how I felt about Pentecostalism. I didn’t want their style of Christianity to be true, but I didn’t see any other way out of it being true at that point.

Remember, at this point I didn’t know that there was no way Jesus could possibly have existed in the form the New Testament posits; I didn’t know that most of the Bible’s history is pure mythology; I didn’t know about the logical and moral shortcomings of the Christian message. I really think that most people are either ruled by emotion or by knowledge with regard to religion, and in the absence of knowledge, emotional incidents like this one have a much more powerful impact. The reason I had left Pentecostalism the last time had been largely emotional–disappointment with failed prophecies about the end of the world. But I had not spent my time out of the religion very wisely; I still didn’t know anything more about it than I had when I’d left. Without knowledge to back me up, emotion ruled me again. I’d briefly broken the illusion spell, but it’d ensnared me anew.

So I returned to church and did not free myself again for another 8 years.

(BTW, I’m not dogging on Wiccans. Their religion has evolved quite a bit since the 80s. Galadriel’s beliefs and actions as well as those of her coven don’t bear a lot of resemblance to what I later would see Wiccans believing and doing. Sane Wiccans wouldn’t have had a ceremony like this one under those circumstances, especially around teenagers who weren’t part of the religion–and you don’t often run across modern Wiccans who believe in Satanic powers or demons anyway. I’d also like to note that the SCA has strict rules about minors now and that the party did not take place at an SCA event or on its grounds or involve any of its officers or officials; they are not at fault in the least for anything I described here, and I know that they’d have taken steps had they found out what had happened.)

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