Cross and Pentacle: Two religions at the crossroads

I was a Jesus Freak, a passionate theologian, and a Southern Baptist minister. I worked hard to convert pagans. The pagans won.

Discovering magic as a witch with an intimate knowledge of western christianity I explore the juxtaposition of these two faiths. Christianity and paganism alike are undergoing dramatic changes with parallel trends, conflicting challenges, and a growing concern for interfaith dialogue.

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Searching For Balance In Hot Springs

Warm water bubbles beneath my knees. I feel weightless. The pool is just deep enough that I can't sit, so I let my feet touch the sandy bottom while the rest of my body floats. The water must be the same temperature as my blood for I feel neither warm nor cool, as if heat and cold were a foreign concept. In these hot springs it is easy to forget where my body ends and the water begins. I run my hands up and down my legs. I expect little bubbles to rise to the surface, the way they do in the hot tub, but instead I feel a thin slimy film upon my skin. I wonder about the mineral content of the water. The smell of rotten eggs announces sulfur and I wrinkle my nose, then quickly re-frame my association from disgusting-gaseous-anomalies to miraculous-healing-waters and manage to enjoy the odor.


Seconds blend into minutes and hours. I have no idea how long I have been in this pool. It doesn't matter. Today I have nowhere else to be, nothing else to do. Someone gets up and leaves the pool and I feel the sand shift a little underneath my feet. There's concrete underneath the sand. There's concrete all around the little pool and even some of the "rocks" are crafted out of concrete.


b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20150822_110324424.jpgThe whole pool is made to resemble a naturally occurring body of water, asymmetrical and unpolished. The grass around it is neatly cut, but not manicured. The colorful planted flower beds are buzzing with insects. Mint fills every crevice between real rocks and concrete imitations.  This is not nature left to her own devices, but land designed and shaped by humans to appeal to our needs. The trees are not native, nor are the flowers or the grass.


The hot springs' website calls this a faux natural pool. My instinct is to mock the concept, to deride this intrusion of civilization into wilderness. I begin to question the peacefulness around me and probe into what I know about this place. The hot springs were developed into a resort nearly 150 years ago, shortly after the cattle ranches settled into the surrounding valley in the 1850s. I cringe as I think about what stories hide behind the settlement of places. I can imagine the earlier history of this area well enough from what I know of the colonization of this country in general.


Dark thoughts intend to usurp the tranquil state of my mind. Oppression, injustice, environmental degradation. The fact that this environment has been designed by humans makes me ponder all that is wrong with humanity. I sigh. This is not what I came here for. I came to take a break. I am here to be present.


I notice two turquoise dragon flies chasing each other on the edges of the water. A blue jay lands on a newly planted maple and a thin branch bends to the ground under its weight. The bird’s caw interrupts the endless song of springs cascading over rocks down into the meadow.


There are animals here that I don't see in the surrounding woods. The dragonflies love this place, and so do the blue jays, chipmunks, and squirrels. Humans have created an island of crafted nature in the midst of wilderness. When I allow myself to be present, to be here, I can’t help but find it beautiful. The grass is so much softer than the ground cover of pine needles and wood chips in the surrounding forest. Normally I prefer wilderness over manicured gardens and parks. They are always too perfect. Why then, I wonder, do I take such delight in this landscaped patch surrounded by acres of national forest?b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20150822_121539307.jpg


Balance. The answer comes to me as a single word. There is balance here. This is not pure wilderness nor is it a perfect garden. The beauty of this hot springs is in its uniqueness, it is an island in the wilderness, a small patch shaped by and for humans, surrounded by land shaped by the creatures of the woods.


Balance. Beauty lies in the contrast between our landscaping and nature’s wildness. Every species shapes the environment to its liking. We do not have to choose between sculpting and controlling and being at nature’s mercy. We can choose balance. We can create liminal spaces. This pool is designed for the comfort of humans but when the bipeds are asleep, woodland creatures stop by for a drink.


I breathe in the beauty of the soft grass and the sharp pine needles. I breathe out my desire for purity. I breathe in acceptance of imperfection. I breathe out the burden of control. I breathe in what is. I breathe out what should be. I sink deeper into the water and embrace balance, right here, right now. 

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Born and raised an evangelical Christian in Germany, I joined the Jesus Freak movement as a teenager and became a passionate evangelist and worship leader. No one was surprised when I went to the US at age 19 and came back a tattooed and pierced fundamentalist Christian, betrothed to a "Chrispie" (a Christian hippie, that is). I was a virgin the day we married. Five years later I graduated bible college with highest honors and post traumatic stress disorder. I deepened both my theology and trauma on the road by traveling the country in a big yellow school bus. For three years I lived as a nomad, playing music and leading bible studies, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I learned that Christianity in America encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, from Amish groups casting demons out of school busses to Roman Catholic priests breaking into government buildings. I saw Jesus in the oddest places. And then everything changed and I ended up a polyamorous Witch in a Pagan community in California.


  • MikZ
    MikZ Friday, 20 November 2015

    I prefer natural spaces too, but as a human, only to a point.

    I think it's fair to note that the 'point' varies: I'm seemingly less prone to mosquito attack than most people, so there exist riverside spaces that I think are lovely, but many of my fellow homosapiens hate them. I imagine that to them, it felt like the twenty minutes I spent in the Amazon one night, before I fled to my citronella-soaked tent. OTOH, those same people probably handle cold water much better than I, who strongly prefers the 37° you soaked in.

    Anyhow, I continue to strive for 'balance' as well, when I think about the impact I choose to make on the world. But in recent years, I've been realising this is a cop-out. I think, a few decades ago, it would still have been possible to distribute resources so all humans could enjoy a sustainable lifestyle, by thinking about their impact, and also striving for balance. I even think, in a few decades, it might still have been possible, even with the increase in population... if only the climate wasn't changing.

    It's clear to me now that this kind of balance can't be available to everyone. This opens up a terrible can of worms about who gets to enjoy it. That question haunts me, but I still hope you and I both get to enjoy it many times yet, and take a break from these sorts of questions.

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