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This is the thirteenth entry in a series on a set of Pagan guidelines known as the Ordains. The Ordains, as we know them today, can be found in the works of Gerald Gardener. Maiden’s Circle uses a simplified version that has been edited and altered to reflect our core beliefs.
“Never lie to yourself for this is the ultimate act of deceit.”
I believe this is a tough one because most of us tell ourselves too many stories to count. Personally, as someone who is pursuing a career in writing fiction, I find that it can be quite easy to build a story in my head and even easier to believe it. The older I get, the more vigilant I have to be about what those stories are.
In the last two or so years, I’ve gone through some pretty big shifts emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And while the core of my belief hasn’t changed, a lot about the way that I practice and the way I think of myself is very different from five years ago.
Five years ago, I moved to New York with my mind set on following a particular path. At that time, I told myself I was being guided by Goddess and, if I didn’t take that exact route, I was a failure. Failure, in my warped mind, was equivalent to badness. So, when I moved here set on a certain course and I couldn’t hack it, that meant that I was bad.
The lie I had told myself was that people chose their path and stuck to it. Anything else was wrong.
It’s taken a few years to overcome those stories, as well as the fear of not living up to them. But I’ve realized that those stories don’t have to be true. When I accepted that, I finally began to feel like myself.
From childhood, I told myself so many stories. I listened to what people said about me,—that I was too quiet, that I was smart, that I was weird—and stepping out of those labels always left me questioning my identity.
But so many of those stories were false beliefs. Because they weren’t true, the part of me that knew that suffered. These lies I told myself led to near-constant confusion, depression, and feelings of worthlessness. They led to self-destructive choices and unhealthy compulsions. Things I’m still facing.
Nowadays, I’ve reached the point where I’m more aware of the things I tell myself. Of course, it takes work to actively try to change the kinds of thoughts that come into one’s mind. Many people knock the idea of positive thought, but it’s part of what’s kept me alive.
With words of affirmation, rephrasing negative thoughts, and reminding myself over and over that I don’t have to believe every thought that crosses my mind, I’ve found that my mindset is a lot more stable than it was a decade ago.
When we lie to ourselves, we’re robbing ourselves of the opportunity to feel peace. We’re stealing happiness from ourselves with dreadful stories.
How many people do you know are struggling to find a job? How often do you hear them say things like, “No one will hire me,” or “I just can’t seem to find a job.”? We lie to ourselves when we engage in bad behavior due to mental illness, but refuse to acknowledge any personal responsibility in the matter. These lies serve to absolve us and to temporarily free us from the hard work it takes to live fulfilled.
The more we believe these lies, the harder it becomes to understand ourselves and to truly feel joy. As we age, it becomes that much harder to find true freedom. That is, the freedom to be our most authentic, joyful, and spiritually-connected selves.
Many people think therapy or medication is the way to finding balance. I believe that those methods have extreme value in one’s healing process, especially therapy. That should be a resource that every person has access to. However, it sometimes feels like people use therapy as a tune-up, while doing little to no maintenance in-between sessions.
They go to a session, suss out their feelings, tell themselves they’re fine for a week, and then start the whole routine over. For whatever reason, many people seem frightened of the deeper, harder work. There’s no questioning of their beliefs and morals, no examination of their daily thoughts, no consideration for what they truly desire.
Instead, they continue on their routine. Work, home, dinner, entertainment, bed. In and out. Then, it’s back to therapy to discuss how they feel like they’re in a rut.
If we don’t work to reach the core of our problems and take the steps to solve them from within, then we can’t come to a place of true healing.
The only way to solve our problems is to face them and be honest about why they’re there. I counsel everyone to do so. The world will be much better for it. No matter how scary that is or how much it hurts, look at yourself with clear eyes. Ask yourself the hard questions, then ask again a month later or whenever you’re feeling unsure of who you are.
This is something I’m still learning. There are still things that I believe or that I tell myself that I know aren’t true. There are moments when I question my motives and my work, but that’s just one story. It doesn’t have to be true, and if I can see the lie for what it is, I can get through it to see the truth.
Have there been times when you knew you were lying to yourself, but kept going with it? Why do you think some of us do such a thing?
With eternal love,
Lady Morgana Brighid HP MCCA
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Last night, my partner and I were watching one of my favorite shows on Hulu, the instant classic Black-ish. It’s a show that stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson as a mother and father of four children living in an affluent, predominately white neighborhood. While the show is filled with hilarious jokes and ridiculous situations, it also provides valuable teaching moments in every episode.
At one point, they present an episode in which one of the main characters reveals that they don’t believe in the Christian concept of God. Unsurprisingly, this causes a huge upset with the lead character, Andre—which he laments at length to his free-spirited wife, Rainbow. As he states it, black people are supposed to be Christian. Why does he make this claim? According to him, it’s “what we do.”
Being that this is a family sitcom, the situation is resolved in a very sweet, believable way. The purpose of that episode, I believe, was to show why American black people have relied on their Christian faith for so many generations, as well as to show how important it is that our community become a little more open-minded and accepting of other walks of faith.
Unfortunately, for some of us, it isn’t always easy in the real world to admit that you aren’t Christian. It’s especially difficult to come out as Pagan or Wiccan. Of course, I acknowledge that, depending on where you live, coming out of the broom closet can be tough for anyone. However, the idea that Christianity is “what we do” is disturbingly and consistently present among black Americans.
It’s this pervasive idea that makes every interaction I have with an elder a little more charged; so much so that, as much as I love talking about my path, I tend to avoid the subject of religion entirely when I’m in their presence. I won’t deny my beliefs if asked, but it’s impossible not to cringe when, after explaining I’m not Christian, the questions are followed by a lecture on why I should be—or remarks that make it clear exactly what they think of me and my blasphemous ways.
These may be entirely unique experiences, but considering that Black-ish is but one of many sources in media that restate that stereotype of black people only being Christian, it’s easier to believe that this is a common occurrence for many of us in the Pagan community.
In addition to the pressure we get from media and black Christians who believe such things, it seems that the overall Pagan community is suffering from an imbalance when it comes to visibility and representation of people of color. I’m fortunate enough to live in one of the most diverse cities in the country, and I think that’s accurately demonstrated during large Pagan gatherings (like New York’s Annual Witchsfest).
The same can’t necessarily be said for the smaller groups I attend, in which I am often the only person of color. I’m not saying this to be disparaging towards those groups—they’re wonderful and I genuinely appreciate everyone I’ve met and the beautiful ceremonies they provide. Still, I get a bit like a kid seeing a unicorn whenever I see another black person at ritual.
While there may be fewer black Pagans in America, which I’m not so sure is still true, I think the cause of this imbalance goes a bit deeper. In fact, the topic of race relations throughout the Wiccan and Pagan community is wrought with tension and disagreements. Saying that racism is still a huge problem in the community tends to push against some people’s core beliefs. They often believe that, because Wicca is such an encompassing religion, that Wiccan groups are inherently free of hatred.
This is a clear disconnect from the reality that all Wiccans/Pagans/and literally everyone else is a human with their own personalities and beliefs. When you factor in that racist terrorist groups are still allowed to operate and that there is a volatile political atmosphere currently at play, you have to acknowledge that the likelihood of every single Pagan group being intersectional and welcoming of the perceived other is extremely low.
The fact is, I would be naive to assume that just because a group is Pagan or Wiccan, they’re going to welcome me with open arms. Before I attend a group, I have to do my research. I have to ask how they’ve treated people who don’t fit into the mainstream standard Wiccan box in past. This includes how they treat black people, but I also have to know how comfortable of an environment they provide for people in the LGBTQ community, how women are treated within their internal structure, and how they treat people who don’t necessarily agree with everything they have to say.
I never recommend anyone join a group without first understanding that group’s core beliefs. That said, I want to encourage other Pagans of color to reach out more. I do think part of the reason we’re so nearly invisible in the community is because we’re still entrenched in this old idea that if we aren’t Christian, we’re doing something wrong, so we hesitate reach out.
I’ve been Wiccan for a decade and a half but, even now, I sometimes think, “What if?” What if—despite all my studies and experiences—there is a Hell and I’m going there for my beliefs? I feel deep in my heart that this isn’t true. But because of the pressure I grew up under to be Christian, and because of the scare tactics that were used in the churches my family attended, I believe these thoughts are echoes of my childhood fear. I also believe I’m not alone in having them.
The seeds of fear that my religious environment planted in my childhood are like deadly weeds in my spiritual garden. When those thoughts crop up, I’m usually in a place of depression. Sometimes depression just happens and, when it does, it somehow manages to make me believe that all the good in my life is a lie. Luckily, my faith is strong enough to stamp down those dangerous, fear-based thoughts.
It’s that faith that inspired me to look for and connect with other Pagans, even in a place as religiously strict as the town in which I grew up. By that point, I was already an outcast for a whole list of other reasons, so I didn’t have much to lose by stepping out into the light.
I realize this isn’t the case for everyone. Many black Pagans have a lot more to lose than I did. The fear of being ostracized, disowned, and becoming the subject of the family rumor mill is powerful. That said, I want to urge my fellow black Pagans to act against these fears and make a real effort to not only become part of the current community, but to come together and create groups in our own communities, which typically don’t get much Pagan exposure.
It’s not solely up to the majority to create space for people of color, it’s our duty to create our own facilities. I could be biased because I’ve always been the kind of person who, if I see something I want but don’t have a route to it, I tend to try to forge my own way. This means I have to be flexible with my goals and the way I achieve them, while still maintaining a clear objective.
Some day, I’d like to see Pagan schools that are just as common as Catholic schools. I don’t know the exact steps I’ll take to get there, but I do know that my goal influences how I choose to run my business and my life. I want this because I want to send my future little witchlings to such a place. However, dreams like that can’t be achieved by just one person. My goals ultimately affect the Wiccan community, and therefore it’s essential that I try to be an active and helpful member.
Whatever your goals are, you’re going to need a support system. No one exists in a vacuum. If your Wiccan or otherwise Pagan faith is important to who you are, then be willing to step forward so that you can find and create your tribe. We’re doing no favors by remaining in the shadows. Too many little black kids are raised with no choice in what they believe, no other visible options, and the lesson that our religion is evil. I think it’s time for that to change.
I’m Pagan. I’m black. I’m proud.
What are your experiences concerning diversity and representation in the Pagan community? If you’re a person of color, what is your experience being Pagan in your community?
Thank you and with love from the moon and back,
Lady Morgana Brighid HP MCCA
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