Today I would like to share a part of my story with all of you that are going to resonate deeply in one way or another. Unfortunately, many of us understand those gut feelings we get when we know we are in danger, yet we choose to go forward anyway.
I learned a very hard lesson early on in life from my mother about religion and spirituality. Before I get started here I want to add I have nothing personal against anyone who has a different religious belief from my own. My goal here is not to bash anyone, only to share my journey and how it has shaped the woman I have learned to become.
It happened during my young teenage years. My mother and I had gone to my favorite local discount bookstore in the mall as we did every payday. This was among a very of the limited hobbies she and I enjoyed together. To walk into a bookstore and take that deep grounding breath as you smell the fresh paper scent of newly published books. I am a creature of habit always first stopping in the New Age section of any bookstore to gauge if it were truly a place for people like me. We walked along the rows of the New Age section and I gently touched each new book looking for that special one …. Or five to add to my library at home.
On this particular day things were very different I felt it in my stomach the moment I stepped foot into the bookstore. Something felt off to me, however, I was so excited I finally had enough money saved for the book I had been drooling over for two weeks that I Ignored my guts. As I walked the length of the aisle and touched the beautiful golden binding of the book about Valkyries and walking between worlds, I became aware that we were not in a safe space. The skin on my arms itched like a thousand red ants were attacking me. I looked up and around to see who was near us to find a young man in his 20’s watching us from a row away. His eyes were like a cat stalking from a distance, He made eye contacted then looked away pretending to read a book title in front of him. I kept watch of him out of the corner of my eye. He looked up at us again and began to slowly move closer to us.
Listening to the conversation my mother was having with me on the book she had found called Animal Speak and how it referenced Native American Cultures and how they viewed Spirit Animals.
I turned my eyes to the books and spoke lowly in a language only known to our family. It was not really an exact art yet we all, mother, siblings, cousins and grandmother all spoke it. We all understood it. I let her know we were being watched and followed by a predator, my arms hurt and I needed to get away. She refused, curious to see why he was around us, he was alone and seemed to be watching anyone who was in the New Age row looking over the books.
After about 15 more mins, the young man had slowly moved much closer to us still pretending to look at the books as well until he was within arm’s reach of me.
My mother being the hot-headed confrontational type she was, grabbed my arm and moved me to pass her body and stepped directly in front of him. “Hi, I could not help but notice you’ve been watching my young daughter and me for the last 30mins as we look over the books. Is there something you need? Or any particular reason why you are pretty much stalking us?” The young man was obviously caught off guard took a step back and blinked several times not really sure how to respond.
“Well Ma’am I am here today to save your daughter’s soul, yours is already lost. She, however, is innocent and I want to save her soul from going to hell for practicing witchcraft. I am from the Church of ___ and I am doing God’s work, he has called upon me to save the lost souls of young female witches.”
I felt as though someone had knocked me in the stomach pushing the air from my body. I made direct eye contact and lashed out
“Who the hell are you? and what business do you have in saving my soul?”
He looked past me to my mother, not acknowledging that I even existed. “Ma’am have you ever actually read the bible? About God’s word on witchcraft? By standing here and allowing your Daughter to learn about Satan’s rituals you are pretty much turning her into a child bride selling her soul directly to the devil himself. You are lost in his eyes already, a horrible undeserving faithless woman”
Now I was angry he crossed a line. This stranger had no business randomly walking up to me or my mother outside of the church to brassy judge where he felt my soul was going to the work I was doing in this world.
His words were insulting, cut like a knife to the core. Satan’s ritual? How does lighting candles in the moonlight to celebrate Mama Earth’s new season turn into Satan’s Work? Who does he think he is to tell me who I am to worship? What God I should serve. Then to boldly Pass judgment on me and tell me my soul is going to hell.
I turned to my mother’s face, something was shifting, she was allowing this man to devalue her as a woman in the middle of the bookstore and said nothing. She had always been the type of woman who stood wildly passionate for her beliefs. She was a shaman in her own right, ever since I was a very small child we would randomly come across injured animals.
My mother would drop down to their level, and tell them “ Shhhh! I see you little one, I know you are Hurt. You were meant to find me today. Let me help you. I will take you home, I will give you a family to help you heal, then once you are healed you may leave as you like. Don’t hurt my kids or I will end your life.” With that, she would swoop down and pick up wild animals, cats, dogs that had been hit by cars left to die on the side of the road. I remember one year we had a beautiful raven fall from our orange trees in the backyard breaking its wing. Every day she would feed him cow liver and talk with him. For many years after he would sit in the orange trees during summer and watch us kids playing defend the fort.
Where was her head to let anyone tell her what her purpose should be in life? Why was she actually buying his line of bullshit? “She and I have native American roots, we come from a long line of strong Cherokee Indians. My grandfather was a powerful medicine man back in his small town. He had the power to heal and curse breathing fire using only his words.
She is like him, She finds the sadness she feels in a roomful of people. She stands next to them and breathes encouragement, and love to them so they find comfort and heal. I have been teaching her the ways of a shaman, she has been learning about animal spirits and the vivid dreams she has at night scare her. She wakes up screaming most nights, we are here to find answers that the bible tells us to ignore. So, I just thought this was the best answer to her questions.” Tears poured down my mother’s face as she spoke. I am not a worthy servant of God nor have I been for many years. Tell me how to be worthy of God’s loves so I may go to heaven and finally save my damned soul.”
He spent the next 4 hours with a bible he picked up from the shelve two books over from the New Age book I had been viewing showing my mother scripture on how to redeem her soul and save the souls of her children.
As this man spoke I watched his body language around my mother and looked for him to be nodding to someone near us. He had captured her attention in a hypnotic way. His head moved shaking yes or shaking no as he spoke and she shook her head with him following along. He told her shaman were bad people that healing is God’s work not the work of mankind.
He told her a woman’s place was to bow her head and follow her husband for she was his property. She was to obey him, in every way. That was the word of God. That a woman should not want to heal animals but to pray for them that God will heal them instead. Allowing the circle of life and God’s plan to flow freely.
He then went on to explain this was the reason his church had started a deprogramming unit. For this program, they collected every young female who they could find who was currently involved in witchcraft. The girls would live on site and have no connection to the outside world for 1 year as they learned how to become women of God again. Several families were already on board seeing positive results in the updates given by the church officials.
I gripped my crystals in my pocket tightly as I watched him. I made mental notes of the unnatural pointed shape the top of his ears came to. His mint green shirt had cat hairs around the shoulders.
His words, the way he spoke, he could persuade a person to do things they would not normally ever consider. That put fear into me. I tried to remain calm on the outside while inside I was panicking.
I gently touched my mother’s arm. “Mom it’s time to go the bookstore is about to close and we need to head back.” His eyes rolling over the shape of my body in a very uncomfortable way until he found my eyes watching him. I kept a close eye on the people around and behind us as we left the bookstore that evening. I offered to drive us home and took many turns making sure we were not followed home.
That night my mother was silent, she grabbed her old bible and sat in her rocker, and that was the night the madness really started to set in.