Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of personal spirituality. My grandmother died when I was young and I remember the pastor in my church telling me that the only way I’d get to see her again was if I was baptized. I remember studying late into the nights, reading the bible as though it were a fascinating puzzle to figure out, and finally reaching the point where I could be baptized. I remember standing there in front of all those people, my feet firmly planted on a stool so I could reach the tub they used to immerse a person in. Even today, I remember the feeling of having my head dunked under this cold, almost icy water, being held there while my sins were washed away.
That was my first experience with spirituality. Everyone I knew was proud of me. Eight years old, and I had the entire bible memorized. I could spout off doctrine, as easily as another child might be able to recite the alphabet. I was given a gold medal for the most attendance to Sunday school, Wednesday Bible Study, and Friday Spirituality classes. I was accepted into the adult discussions because of my dedication to the church.
If I hadn’t left the small, republican town I grew up in, I might still be that award winning, bible spouting person that could lecture an adult on the bible’s version of right and wrong. I remember disliking gays by the time I was seven. I remember believing that African Americans were descendants of men who’d been punished by God. I remember all the hard fast rules, and most of all, I remember that there was no such thing as individuality. We were all alike. We all followed the same scriptures. There was no room for personal growth, because we all grew up believing the same things.
This is not me. This will never be me again. I am twenty-six now and have been living by my own personal spirituality since I turned twelve. I lived next door to this couple. Nancy and John. They were both in their late sixties, and I absolutely adored them. They were the kindest people I’ve ever met, and they always had time for me. I would show up at their house at four in the morning, and we would spend hours upon hours just talking about religion, and spirituality, and morality.
That’s when I learned that I wasn’t a Baptist. I wasn’t a Catholic, or Jewish, or any other Christianity based religion. I was just Brandie, a girl who cared about learning the truth of the universe.
John and Nancy brought me into the world of paganism. Through them, I discovered my own personal beliefs. I discovered that I didn’t believe in one supreme God that set strict guidelines for us to follow. I discovered that I had a choice in what I wanted to believe; I didn’t have to lead my life as a brainwashed girl who believed she’d only see her grandmother again if she went to church, married a nice boy, and had babies, resented gays, and judged African Americans.
John and Nancy changed my life. I don’t know what I’d call myself now. I suppose pagan would be the most appropriate term, because I believe there are many Gods. I don’t believe they’re all knowing, I don’t believe they want us to follow a specific set of rules, and I don’t believe they’re sitting up in the clouds judging our every action. I believe that they are an integral part of us that help us when we make decisions, guide us when we need counseling, and above all else encourage us to use meditation and our own morals to decide what is right and wrong.
The Goddess that I choose to place my faith in is the Norse Goddess Skadi. She is the Goddess of Justice, Vengeance, and Rightful Anger. I don’t know if she’s real, I don’t care if she’s real. Just the idea of being part of this energy that focuses on those aspects has shaped me as a person. It has made me judge people considerably less, consider whether my anger stems from an external source that deserves it, or whether it stems from my own insecurities or beliefs. It has made be believe that vengeance is not retaliation, but a fair punishment for the wrongs that are done. This includes making amends for the wrongs that I’ve committed.
Most of all, realizing that I didn’t fit into a nicely labeled box has taught me that I don’t have to live by society’s views of morality, but those of my choosing. I can decide what’s right and wrong. This has led to several spiritual dilemmas that I have been able to work out because of my own personal strength and power.
I know I have a spirit animal out there somewhere, but so far I have been unable to find one that fits me perfectly. But Skadi fits me perfectly, and whether she’s real or not, the fact is, she has changed my life. She has made me into the person I’ve always wanted to be, and this has allowed me to make friendships, to make amends for the wrongs I’ve done, and to treat everyone as fairly and as non-judgmental as possible.