Thursday, October 30, 2008

Out of the Broom Closet in the Name of Religious Freedom and Tolerance

Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Samhain (pronounced saw-win), Candle Night, Spirit Night, Feast of the Dead, Ancestor Night, Harvest Night, Harvest Home, this is the highest Holy Day for Wiccans, the modern day witches of the world, of which I am one. Yes, I am a witch, a Goddess Worshiper, my religion is Earth Religion. Yes, I am a witch, student of the Craft, complete with black hat and broom and I am right here celebrating the souls of all my beloved dead and honoring my ancestors with treasured rituals and family traditions like costuming, real jack o’ lanterns, lighting the torches and welcoming the trick or treating children, inviting friends over for wine and laying a special altar with photographs of my parents, grandparents and great grandparents where we’ll light candles and invite them to visit a while, being that on this night the veil between our world and the spirit world will have grown thin. Yes, I am a modern day witch, born and raised and carrying on still in the Caribbean and with this writing I’m coming out of the broom closet in this blog.

I'm publicly claiming my Wiccan/Pagan/Goddess worshipping religious traditions here today for numerous reasons, the first one being simply that I know of no other Caribbean woman blog writer who has done so, and someone must. Someone has to break the silence in my country and start the conversation. The one about the reality and validity of spiritual traditions other than Christian fundamentalism. The one about religious diversity, how it is essential for civilized society, for cultural enrichment and for visionary creativity. The one about tolerance for all people. The one about the importance of the open mind, the sense of humour, the wide view. And the conversation too about how religious fundamentalism can strangle the breath and blood right out of the writer, how it endangers the creative freedom and inspiration of all artists, and causes us to be fearful, silent and dreadfully boring. I long to hear these conversations being had among Caribbean writers and artists especially, because these are our greatest thinkers, responsible for our collective enlightenment, our communal awakening to the rightful presence among us of people who are different.

I'm writing too in a small act of resistance against that evil woman who approachd my twelve year old son in the checkout line at the store where he stood waiting to pay for a new witch's hat for me. She saw he had no parent and like a predator moved in. Pushing in front of him in the line she asked, "What are you going to be for Halloween?" "A pirate," he told her. Then she launched into her tirade: "My daughter is twenty one years old and I never allowed her to have Halloween. Halloween is not a god!" (I can tell immediately what fundamentalist sect she belongs to, but in the name of tolerance won't mention it here. My son was deeply offended. He talked all the way home about how stupid and mean it was for a mother to deny her child the joys of dress-up and trick or treating. He talked about the lies he's heard being told among kids at his otherwise very progressive school, the most prevalent one being that Halloween is the devil's birthday. He told me there is a move afoot among some parents at the school to ban all Halloween celebrations at the school. He talked about how sorry he's feeling for a sad friend whose mother will make her spend all of Halloween night at church. Wow. So terribly sad for her. And for others of us who are looked upon with suspiscion, fear and even hatred by loved ones who know nothing of the truth of my worldview or my customs, rituals and traditions. Why can't they love us in our truth, our wholeness? Why can't they love us when we come fully into our authentic selves? The Green Boy is now old enough to wonder about these things.

I claim the Wicca religion/world view right here, right now, as an act of resistance against anyone who would try to deny me the right to individual religious freedom.

But mostly, on this holiest of days, I declare my devotion to Wicca in gratitude for the friends, sistas and comrades in my life who love and support me, who do not recoil in ignorant terror when I tell them that yes, I worship the ancient Mother Goddess, that I believe that Earth is a living, conscious being, that I believe in the reality of the spirit world, and that on this night I'll be welcoming the spirits of the Ancestors into my home for communion, celebration, and a little smoked salmon and mulled wine, causing harm to none.

A blessed Samhain to you all.


Helen Klonaris said...

Lynn, thank you so much for speaking against the silence, against the fear of repression, against the fear of being different. Your words continue to make an opening where there was none, and out of that opening life can flow towards the places that are in sore need of it... Yes, ashe, blessed be... we can... yes... oh, yes, we can...

Lynn Sweeting said...

Thank you sista Helen, for hearing. I know one of the places we need to get to is one of kindness and compassion for children. On Halloween night as I looked from our torch-lit yard to all the dark houses around us, I thought of all the pharisees hiding inside, refusing to to provide a little fun for children. The children who come to my house every year are poor. Most have no costume, a little of mum's make up on, holding out plastic foodstore bags. They are thrilled to come here, its like a little neighbourhood theatre, they are always touched by the magic, shreik and laughthey stare and exclaim, (she's a real witch, you know!), (one said, "she must be Dracula's wife," I said, "no, I'm God's wife!), i give out masks as well as candies, I tell them they are magic masks and they believe me, they go away all lit up, encouraged and hopeful, counting their chocolates its good to make children happy, it blesses my heart. The mothers are out in the car waving, saying thank you, I wave back to my sistas who are also determined to give their kids some kindness and joy, for that moment we are a Community... ah , just a little love and kindness, it's all we need in this town, this world... (and way less fundamentalism.) In hope.
Brighter Blessings!

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