Deep to on High: Traveling the Way of the River

A Wiccan priestess/UU minister transplanted from Central Pennsylvania to Portland, Oregon, helping those who seek intimacy with the One Who is Many—Male, Female, Both, and Neither—through ritual, seasonal observance, mythology, divination, and examination of current events.

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Spiritual Wounding, Early Musings

I’ve been thinking about spiritual and religious wounding. I have written about it in Your Journey Toward Wisdom and I think it bears consideration during this period of all kinds of special spring holidays.

As a Unitarian Universalist minister and a Pagan priestess, I see many people come into our faith traditions with deep wounds from the traditions, beliefs, and customs, and people in traditions from their past. Many people come to me/us because they recognize their own deep desire for spirituality or a more fulfilling sense of meaning combined with a mistrust, or even antipathy toward religions they perceive as being like those from which they came.

In Your Journey Toward Wisdom¸ I say the following about developing a practice of prayer, though it also applies to any other spiritual practice:

“Praying may indeed require some healing from abusive, oppressive
systems and people. Honor the need to heal, and make sure to be as gentle with yourself as you possibly can. It may even require forgiving the God of your heart.

The God who left you when you needed Him most.

Or it may just require honesty of the sort that tells the God/dess of your
heart, ‘I’m really angry with you, and I don’t really want to talk with
you, so I’m just going to sit here and breathe.’
It may require further that you abandon what you’ve known as religion, known as God, and just start fresh.

As far as religious community goes, don’t force yourself to seek one unless
you really want one. You needn’t be part of a larger group in order to have a spiritual life.

Prayer is one way in, one way toward a sense of wholeness and connection to the Universe. Remember that you are a sovereign being, worthy of love and care. Prayer honors that sovereignty and never hands it over to someone else.”

One of the things I try to offer through The Way of the River is a place to explore and discover who you are, what actions express your being (your such-ness, as Thich Nhat Hahn has written), and maybe what you believe about this life, this Universe, and the possibility of something running through the Universe and holding it like a net of golden threads. I try to make room both for those who are in religious communities and those who aren’t. Those who want to be, but don’t feel as though you can. Those who reject institutions altogether and those who mourn what they have lost.

I realize that this question of wounding doesn’t apply to us all.

I’ll say this. Last week was Easter, the culmination of what is called Holy Week in many Christian tradition. In Roman Catholicism, especially the “high church” form in which I came up, is a big, big deal. Each day of the week has something special, some kind of blessing, some special readings, actions, prayers, and sense of community. It also has misogyny, patriarchy, calcified ideas about sexuality, and valorization of hierarchy built into it.

But I loved it all so much. I loved it, especially the culmination of everything on the eve of Easter – the Easter Vigil. That holiest of holy ceremonies, in which the New Fire was lit for the year, and the Paschal Candle inscribed with carvings and pressed with incense and blessed three times as it was dunked into holy water. (You may notice here why I say the gap from Roman Catholicism to Wicca was not such a big one for me. Ahem. I digress.)

I loved it and I miss it, Holy Week. I miss the hymns with the words as I learned them. While “Lo, the Earth Awakes Again” is a beautiful rendition of a familiar hymn tune, I imagine I’ll always hear, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” in the corners of my mind.

Do you miss things from the religion of your upbringing, even if you no longer practice it? Do you miss the songs? The shape? The community?

Is it more important that you distance yourself from them utterly? Or have you found a graceful way to be apart from them? Or to continue within your faith community, your own sense of grace and understanding growing with you and with them?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Find me at The Way of the River and let me know!

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I am an initiated priestess in the tradition of Stone Circle Wicca, and began my Pagan studies in 1990. I have led rituals for thousands of people, in ceremonies as large as 400 in a Circle of Standing Stones under dozens of branching oaks and tulip poplars, and in rituals as small as a couple of folks in a living room. I am an affiliated UU minister with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, GA. I also provide spiritual direction—what I call spiritual accompaniment or sacred conversation—and have for over 15 years. Over that time, I have been with individual people of many faiths and none as they explored, encountered, and shared their relationships with the Divine. You are welcome to my spiritual accompaniment page for a fuller invitation.  


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