Shopping for clothes was no longer about finding something to cover my nakedness, but could make a statement about the new me. I discovered Brighton, with it's wonderful Goth and Indie shops in The Lanes, and started reinventing myself. It was around this time that one of my brothers was reading "Beowulf" and thought I might enjoy it. Then he said about some graphic novel that featured strong female deities and how it sounded right up my street. I'm ashamed to say, I never read either, though it sowed the seed in my subconscious.
Growing up here in the UK, religion was almost subliminal. I grew up in a fairly large village where, in those days, you saw familiar faces. I was christened as a baby in the church my parents got married in, not because my parents were devout (far from it) but because in the 1970s that was a part of life. Later on, my mum said it gave me the option to get married in church if I wanted to. I started primary school, and everyday we sang a hymn or song and said a prayer. I think we also had to say the Lord's Prayer before having lunch in the dinner hall. Did it instill some sense of fervour? No, not really. I accepted that God made everything because it was what I was told. I also accepted that fairies were real, because I'd read a book about them.
Fast-forward twenty years, and I found myself adrift spiritually, but not finding comfort in any of the religions I'd learnt about at school, and certainly not Christianity, which tried telling me that God was always "He", never "She", and that Man was made in the image of God; women were a sort of afterthought as a weak vessel for the next generation of believers. I got detention for arguing that if men were so special and women so flawed and weak, why was it women had the power to create life within them; as this was clearly a profound act, why was it not given to the men? Or, to put it another way, why does this amazing power make us women less than men? My teacher said this was neither the time nor the place for that sort of question and I was to see her after; in my naivety I thought it was to help answer me, but instead she told me to stay back over lunch to write an assay on how God had influenced my life. When I wrote an essay explaining the ways God HADN'T effected my life, I got an after-school detention. My parents were furious, not with me but with the teacher.
My mum understood that although they brought us all up in a general Church of England way, as we grew up we might not want to follow that path. I was aware of the modern witchcraft scene in a general way, and as I'd always been fascinated by witches, I hit the web to do research. Men and women as equals and living in harmony with nature? It ticked all my boxes.
The turning point came one night. You see, during the day I could keep busy and forget about my life being torn down around me, but at night all those unanswerable questions came back. What had I done wrong? Were there signs that I had missed? Conversations, both real and imagined, raced through my head. By 3am I was exhausted. I could see the full moon shining bright through my curtains, and I knew the moon symbolised the Goddess, so I asked Her, "Please, just make the voices stop so I can have one night of peaceful sleep". The amazing thing was, my head fell silent. Just like that. I had found my path.
For part two, click here.
For part two, click here.