How the Catholic Church Led Me Into Paganism

How the Devil Got My Soul

I grew up in religious Catholic family with a long history of Jesuits and nuns, but I was never Confirmed.
The Bishop did not deign to come to our one-horse-town but once every twenty years, even though 90% of its tiny population were French and Irish Catholics. What that meant was that, when he finally did show up, we were all teenagers and able to think for ourselves.
“When you go up to the Bishop, he’s going to slap your face, and then you have to kiss his ring,” said my mother.
“What?”
“You heard me.”
“What for?”
“Obedience!”
My mother’s favorite word….
Well, I had a major Aquarius attack! There was no way somebody was going to slap my face and I was going to kiss his ring!
As all of my peers lined up to have their faces slapped, I skipped out of Confirmation.
Everyone came out from the church with these new middle names, mostly Bernadette and Paul. I would have chosen Francoise, for St. Francis of Assisi, because he loved animals. (I named myself anyway, and stuck to it until I realized that St. Francis had also taken a Vow of Poverty. When I was sick of being poor, I dropped it.)

Maybe that was how the Devil got my soul, and I became a Witch….

First Doubts

I:

As a child I had the measles. I remember having refreshing dreams of thrashing rivers and waters flowing. I must have been thirsty from fever. I decided, since I was confined to bed, that I would read the Bible from start to finish.

I could not reconcile “Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men” ( we were all Men in those days) with all the violence and treachery in the Bible.

“Ma, how come the Bible is so violent?”

“I don’t know. That’s the Old Testament.”

“So?”

“Your only supposed to read the New Testament.”

“Then why is the Old Testament in here?”

“Just because.” Pause. “Catholics aren’t supposed to read the Bible anyway.”

“Why not?”

“The priest is supposed to read it for you.”

I was disillusioned.

II:

When Vatican II happened, they took all the art out of the Church. Sculptures and paintings were  now “graven images” and had to be removed. Decorations spoke of unfair wealth and pride. They threw out Latin and replaced it with English “for the people”. They started having “Folk Mass”. That meant church was turned into a coffee house where the son of the owner of the sleaziest bar between Leicester and Worcester was on the altar playing the guitar, and we were forced to sing along.

“Kumbaya, my Lord…” ewe!

Everything was ruined!

The original Catholic Church had given a creative girl, from a tiny podunk town in Massachusetts, exposure to the great art of Leonardo and Michelangelo, soaring music, a mysterious ancient language, incense, bells,  sonorous chants, shining robes, elaborate magical rituals… Towering cathedrals, rich with carvings — some of them even Pagan — instilled a sense of the Divine. You were part of something wise and ancient, primal, reaching out through the shadows of history to take you into another world.

Wasn’t religion meant to inspire? To transfer you into the Divine realms? To show you the highest aspirations of the soul?  Was Richie Hennessy and his guitar supposed to replace all of that? Kumbaya replace the Ave Maria?

III:

Because I had grown up listening to English folk music, I became aware that many so-called Christian ballads were much older than Christianity and originally told stories about Pagan rituals honoring Goddesses and Gods. My interest in the Child Ballads led to the discovery of Pagan rites such as the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance — still practiced in England — as is Cheese Rolling and the Hobby Horse. (They were rolling cheese down hill while I was living in England in the 21st century.) Ballads of Robin Hood seemed deeply ritualized, hinting at a lost spiritual tradition of the forest.

Folklore became a passion of mine. I traded the Bible for Greek and Roman mythology; the origins of Christmas really fascinated me. “The real color of Christmas is black…” said one of these books. Darkness and fire, gold and red shining in shadows…of course, the Holy Grail appeared to be Christian except that it was guarded by Ladies of the Lake, Sorceresses, and other Faeries…In fact the whole Arthurian Legend spoke to me about the liminal space between the Old Ways of Magic in the countryside, and the encroaching Christianity of the Royal Courts, hinting at the forces struggling against each other in the dark ages, that mirrored the struggle going on in me. Morgan LeFay was the great protector of the Old Way of Magic against the usurping Church, and she was the character I that held my interest most.

I was far more drawn to this Old Religion than I was to this Folk Mass Catholicism. I guess I was looking for a replacement for the Mystery I had lost.

Ceremonial Magic

As began to study the occult, beginning with my clairvoyance and the Tarot, and then moving on to mythology (I included the Bible in this category now) I came across writers who suggested that the old Catholic priests were really magicians and the old Catholic Mass was a magical ritual descended from Roman Paganism. It made sense to me since the Church started in Rome. I suppose it should always have been obvious except for the smokescreen of a certain guilty “goodness” that  was always put forth, and the way that American Masses didn’t seem to have much power –they just seemed to be going through the motions while the congregation looked around at each other, slept, cried, sang off pitch, or looked as bored as I was.

I later found out that in France there were churches where the Transubstantiation took place, which means the Host and wine actually became the body and blood of Christ. How Gothic is that? What is that about?

The Holy Grail stories, with visions of Christ coming out of the Grail, were extremely powerful magical workings capable of taking the hero into Heaven while still in his living body. Contact with the Divine Blood transformed the seeker into a kind of demi-god. We prayed in church for Christ to wash our sins away in His blood.

We celebrated Pagan holidays, we had sublimated human sacrifice, we believed in resurrection from the dead — for wasn’t Lazarus raised from the dead by Jesus? Necromancy must have been perfectly acceptable then. We held fertility rituals using symbols of eggs, rabbits and trees.

Sacred Earth

I think I have shown how many of the seeds of my early choice of Paganism was logical given the underlying truth of Catholic tradition. My brother discovered this too and took a different Christian path — as if the Pagan past was a bad thing! I feel the opposite; it is a good thing. The Pagan elements helped me find my way home.

It is interesting to see how people can come to such different conclusions, no matter how close they are. I found my path because I carry the Witch Blood. My brother must not, but he couldn’t live in a manner he found hypocritical any more than I could.

It was a further revelation for me to visit Cathedrals in England and France where all of the great art is in place, as it has been for centuries. In France, church images are far more honest as to their roots. The aisles are lined with columns meant to represent trees in the forest — the first cathedrals. Green men, or men with asses ears peer out from the walls. Most, if not all Catholic churches in Europe are built on the site of ancient Goddess worship. This didn’t happen to erase or stamp down the old powers — oh no! The cathedrals were built there to absorb the old powers, and transform them to use in the Mass.

Spiritual power resides in the Earth aligned with the stars. You can’t get more Pagan than that!

Lourdes Grotto

Lourdes Grotto


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