In this blog post I’m going to write about spiritual growth, at least with my own as a template. You see I think it’s quite hard to write about spiritual growth generically because each one of us is different and on our own unique and special path, and no two are exactly the same. So it stands to reason that our spiritual growth will be different too. However, I do believe that there are signposts along the way that are common to all. How and when we get to them, however, is up to us and our guiding souls.
Quite often we are brought up with the religion of our parents, or maybe not. I know that although my mother was Catholic I was not brought up as one and never even got baptised (something I think my mother always regretted). Nevertheless, I was brought up with Christian principles and attended church with my mother from around the age of 8 to 12. So, although I had a Christian background it never really meant a whole lot to me. Doctrine was not thrust down my throat (maybe this was because my mother was a lapsed Catholic at the time).
For many years I had no spiritual path and kind of wandered in the ether doing sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Although I always had a great love of nature, something my mother nurtured in me. Despite my lack of spiritual direction I always new in my heart that there was ‘something’ other than just myself. Of course at the time I knew this ‘other’ as God (as in monotheistic religion). When I was in my twenties and having just had my daughter I was visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the time I was a single parent struggling with a new born baby and motherhood and had severe post-natal depression. The Jehovah’s Witnesses seemed to offer me what I’d never really had – a family, which is something I yearned for. So I began a bible study and within three years I’d gotten baptised. I truly felt, at the time, that I’d found my spiritual path and that it was the ONLY spiritual path worth having. Yes folks, I was a bonefide door knocking zealot!
However, a few years passed and I began to feel dissatisfied with my spiritual path. I was fed up with not being allowed to think for myself, for being judged on everything I did and being constantly told that even watching certain TV programmes was sinful. I had begun to have a nervous breakdown over the constant pressure to be a perfect citizen of Jehovah. In the end I had a complete and very nasty nervous breakdown requiring hospitalisation and a lot of antipsychotic drugs – in fact at this time I was rampantly self harming. I do not blame Jehovah’s Witnesses for my illness (little did I know I had long standing and biological mental ill health) but the religion was certainly a catalyst. So there I was in a complete and utter mess and I knew even through my brain fog that I needed something…something I wasn’t going to get from Christianity or any other monotheistic religion for that matter. But what?
Then one day my mother took me and my daughter to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire to visit her cousins and I had an epiphany. Actually I met Cernunnos in the woods and it was an amazing experience. I knew from that time on that I needed to sing with the birds, run with the deer and howl at the moon. Of course I had no inkling about witchcraft or even paganism at the time, although I’d heard all about the wickedness of them via Jehovah’s Witnesses. By this time I’d been a long time disfellowshipped from that religion because I’d started smoking again while in hospital.
In amongst other things and life in general I began tentatively researching nature religions. My very first pagan book was Wicca: A guide for the solitary practitioner by Scott Cunningham. I lapped this up and soon purchased Living Wicca too. I had finally found something my heart and my soul resonated with. It all made perfect sense to me and the wonderful thing was I wasn’t going to called sinful if I masturbated (another Jehovah’s Witness oddity). In those early days I practiced tentatively on my own with no real structure or anything but it felt good.
Gradually I wanted something more. I wanted to learn the Craft properly and in an organised framework (my graduate thinking coming out here) but I knew of no one else in my locality who practiced witchcraft. So I cast around online and found a couple of pagan/witchcraft sites in the UK. Unfortunately, no one had told me how condescending and judgemental some witches can be. There I was so full of enthusiasm and I was met with utter distain. To say I felt disappointed was an understatement and I quickly left these groups. But I was determined not to give up so I asked the Goddess to guide me if I was meant to do this. After surfing the internet for a couple of days I stumbled upon Sacred Mists – Wiccan College. And that is, as they say, the end of the story.
However, it’s not at all the end of the story. Yes, dear reader I completed my 1st and 2nd Degrees in an initiatory Wiccan Coven and became part of this wonderful online family (and I’m still there by the way) but my spiritual path was evolving. I had found my path but as I grew with experience and practice I noticed that I was being called down other paths too – paths that branched off from the main path I was on. At first I dabbled in Druidism but it didn’t feel right at all, even though I actually had done some structured learning and practice with two well known Druid organisations. I took on the tradition of my Celtic ancestors and this felt very right. I had already surrounded myself with friendly and wise plant spirits from my garden and I was being encouraged by them to explore Shamanism, so this is what I did.
Bringing the story up to date I describe myself as a Shamanic witch although I also still am actively involved with my coven. Some might call me eclectic, others might be horrified but the point is it works for me – religion no, spirituality yes! And there’s even a little Buddhism in the mix too. But the story hasn’t ended yet, not by far. I realise just how much my beliefs and path has changed and evolved since that meeting in the woods with Cernunnos (one of my patron deities by the way) and even from reading those first couple of books by Scott Cunningham. In fact my path has meandered all over the forest and what an exciting journey of exploration it is. As I pass through the wooded glens I meet all kinds of beings, some are helpful, others are not but it doesn’t matter because it’s the journey that counts and it has been exactly as it was meant to be.
Maybe some of this might resonate with you, maybe it wont but the point I’m trying to make is that spiritual growth is a given…your path will evolve if you allow it to. When growth is hindered or blocked we stagnate. Growth is what our souls need…so don’t ever worry about your path evolving…it’s a good thing!
NOTE: I feel I need to write this little addendum to all those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and those who might take offence at what I’ve written concerning my time with them. I am not setting out to bash Jehovah’s Witnesses. As I always advocate – each person’s path is unique to them and should be respected for that alone if nothing else. What I have written is MY experience of this particular religion. so please take it this way ok.