When I was a little girl, I was exposed to a religion that my mother didn’t agree with. My babysitter had influenced me in a way my mother strongly opposed and I wasn’t even old enough to understand what the problem was. A few years later a little friend at school said she was going to catechism classes and invited me to church. Again, my mother opposed and firmly told me that I was a Christian. I had no idea what a Christian was or why I was a Christian. I figured it must have been something passed down to me through my family.
I vaguely recall upsetting my mother one Sunday morning and her sharply informing me that it was important for me to be good on that particular Sunday, because Jesus, the Son of God, had died for me on a cross.
I suddenly felt very sad. I began feeling responsible for the death of God’s son.
I didn’t have much religious training nor education, even though I attended different churches with neighbor kids. I have no memory of my mother taking me to church while I was a child except for when she married my step-father in a chapel.
Church culture was completely foreign to me and while I continued to attend church occasionally as a teen, the teachings of that church never did get a chance to influence my life.
I have a memory of having cards in my hands and not knowing what they meant, but I knew they were magical…somehow. I wasn’t sure, really. I recall my mother telling me that a relative of ours had a friend who was a real witch and I remember inquiring of that relative about this friend of hers. She told me that I “wouldn’t want to have that kind of influence in my life, but that it’s real, very real.”
The lawn in our back yard was well kept and the flower beds were always blooming with flowers and green plants. My mother had frequently taken me out to help her plant and weed the garden. Gardening wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but nonetheless I spent the day on my knees with my hands in the dirt. She taught me how to tell which were weeds and which were flowers. She taught me how deep to dig and how to plant the flowers, cover the roots, and then water them. My favorite thing about the garden was watering. Many afternoons I would go outside and hand water the entire garden and lawn with the hose.
One evening, I opened the back door that lead to the back yard garden. That evening I felt magic calling me. This call intrigued me, yet spooked me too. I closed the door and didn’t inquire about it again.
When I started dating the man who is now my husband, he took me to church with him. I had questions about God and so we began attending a small charismatic church together. It was different and although I didn’t understand a lot of their practices, I found it interesting enough to keep going back.
I was 19 years old and living with my biological dad at the time and tried inviting him to join us, but he politely declined. He took me outside to the garden and explained that we didn’t need a church building to communicate with God. He said we could be in nature and hear him on our own. He asked me to close my eyes and listen. He asked me what I heard, “birds chirping” was my reply. He asked if I could tell how many birds there were and how many different kinds of birds based on their singing. It was a short conversation and I didn’t quite understand what he was trying to teach me. I assured him that no one was making me go to church, but that I was truly interested in it. That was the last time, and only time, he ever spoke to me about spirituality.
I know my grandmother, his mother, believed in some kind of spirituality. My step-mother explained to me that my grandmother believed in prophesies from another woman and that my grandmother read tea leaves and did chanting that made my step-mother uncomfortable.
There’s a lot of mystery in my childhood that I still don’t understand.
My husband and I spent nearly two decades in churches and I gulped down as much knowledge about the bible as I could from the pastors we’ve had. I’ve heard plenty of sermons depicting magic as dark and evil along with threats of what God would do to us if we ever dabbled in witchcraft. We were told that witchcraft was about powers that harmed people, especially Christians. We were taught that the devil would steal our hearts from God and that we were to abstain from anything dark or evil or we would suffer unimaginable pain.
We were convinced, through the preaching of pastors, that if we stayed in church, faithfully attended, gave money, and raised our kids in the church that we would be safe from evil.
That promise began to unravel as we saw more suffering and evil in the church. A teen girl was violated by a youth pastor and prominent leaders in the church would leave suddenly without explanation and without a goodbye. We tried to remain true to our church attendance out of fear that the devil would ruin our lives. Then a registered sex offender began riding the church bus to Sunday School, along with all the other children that were picked up. Other registered sex offenders started attending the church and although I knew that resisting people from hearing about God would be wrong, we felt increasingly uncomfortable and unsafe.
We finally made a decision to leave that church, but jumping into another church so quickly made us uneasy. We wanted to be sure of what we were getting into before allowing our children to be involved in another church.
The next few years of studying the history of the bible and the institutional church made us even more uncomfortable. Although we had learned a lot after we departed the church culture, we both had experiences with God that we could not deny. No matter how many lies we were uncovering in church history, we knew that experience could not be dismissed.
So what were these experiences about? Why would God allow us to go through all that we endured?
He closed doors on our past and opened new doors to walk through.
We began seeing a spirituality in the bible that we had not seen before, nor were we ever taught while in churches.
He kept bringing us back to the garden in the book of Genesis. We felt the pull in our souls to raise our kids closer to nature and to glean what we could from the Spirit as we spent time in the local park and while hiking the hills near our home. By that time, we had been homeschooling for just over a year and we wanted to have our children learn more about this earth God placed us on. I found a local ministry that took good care of the park and taught others about the native plants.
We took a step of faith to take our children to a scheduled event that ministry was having to pull up invasive plants from the park’s natural landscape. Many years ago, a variety of plants were brought to the park, but took over the native landscape. We learned a lot that day about the plant life, but we also learned a lot about the people who led their ministry.
Who would have thought that one day of putting my hands in the earth would give me the discovery of why my soul has felt called to the garden for so many years.
The last couple of years has been quite a discovery for me as I studied about the ancestry of my father’s lineage. Doors were opening for me to see into a different culture of people that has been demonized by many Christians throughout history. I have gotten to know people from different cultures and who follow different beliefs. I’ve learned about their beliefs first hand. These people who love the earth, who know the healing power of nature, and who meditate in their gardens are not evil. Being in touch with the Spirit through nature is not evil nor of the devil. And while Christians don’t want to be judged based on the abusive actions of Westboro and various other cults, I pray they no longer misjudge people of other religions based on a few bad examples from their history.
There have been many atrocities committed in the name of God and the church, too. The same so called Christian leaders of the past who would demonize an herbal medicine woman from the forest would also lead their own armies to pillage other lands and shed blood all in the name of their kings and God. The abuse of people in the name of God has always been a travesty and they falsely accuse and demonize people for praying in a forest while burning sage and incense. Do they forget too quickly that the priests from their Old Testament also burned incense to God? They also made sacrifices, shed blood, murdered men, took their wives and daughters and made sex slaves out of them, all in the name of their God. But they condemn people who find spirituality among nature, away from the piety of religion. They’ve accused witches of being evil, but their religious conquests and forced harems are holy?
Why is a church building better for humanity than spending time learning how nature speaks to us? Why do many religious leaders scoff at saving the whales, hugging trees, or getting in touch with nature in a spiritual manner? Why do we need to spend so many hours every week hearing what those leaders have to say and ignoring what the Spirit says to us when we’re away from that building?
Even when I read and meditate on the scriptures, the Spirit always leads me back to the beginning. The Garden. The Garden is where it all began. The voice that deceives always wants to separate us from the Garden. Why does this deception not want us in the Garden? The place where we hear the Spirit speaks to us is a threat to the lie.
In hindsight, I am beginning to see why magic called me to the garden. In school, my favorite subject was earth and life science. During the news every night, my favorite part was the weather report. On the weekend, I loved laying in the warm sunlight and spending long days at the beach. I loved camping and swimming in the river. Being outdoors has always been a part of my soul’s desire and has given me the happiest memories.
Learning more about nature has given me a profound look into how the Spirit speaks to me. Quieting my mind to hear from deep within my soul as I pull weeds, breathe in the fragrance of roses, and even in the act of tilling the soil. I feel the strength of the wind blowing across the sea and cooling my face with mist while digging my bare feet into the sand warmed by the sunshine. Hearing the magical music of waves crashing on the shore and witnessing the glimmer of sunbeams on the surface of the ocean. All of this beauty and the Spirit speaks to me.
Many Christians believe that Science is at war with faith, but I believe Science teaches me faith. And yet faith is continually attacked by many religious leaders. They attempt to lock it away from us by keeping us locked up and separated from nature where the Spirit speaks most naturally. I’m not saying the Spirit can’t speak elsewhere, but the many noisy voices in the world can be a distraction.
My friends from the park knew things about nature that I never learned in school or in churches. They taught me which plants were for eating, healing, and which ones to avoid for the safety of my own health. They showed me how to love those who are different from myself and gave me freedom to hear the Spirit for myself. They never tried to control me, dictate to me, or threaten me with afterlife punishments of torture like the churches did. I began to see the Spirit with a different perspective and the stories from the bible began unfolding with a message very different from the one I had been taught before.
The freedom to hear the Spirit as I spend time in nature has been nourishment for my soul. This kind of communication is mysterious and magical. The voice of God speaks to me in ways that benefit my own mind and soul. I am quieted in my soul in a way no church leader was ever able to give me.
Adam and Eve communed with God in the garden. That is where I have been called back to. You can call it spiritual or magical, but whatever you call it I know who speaks to me and I plan to listen carefully.