Letters From The Fishbowl

The life, times, fiction, and mind-lint of V.B. Rising. Enter at your own risk, traveler, for here there be rants and misplaced modifiers.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Let Me 'Splain. No, There Is Too Much. Let Me Sum Up.

Let's clear something up here, once and, hopefully, for all.

Faith is involuntary.  Religion is a choice.

That's all there is to it.  You can have one without the other, so it is important to realize that they are not the same.

I bring this up because, although I don't like to go on and on about my religion on this blog*, I am noticing a disturbing trend as far as the general public's spiritual awareness, and if I address it here, then whenever I run into it, I can post a link and not have to repeat myself.  Also, traffic, yay.

As most of you already know, I am a practicing Pagan.  Some people would call me a witch, which I don't mind, and is also technically correct.  Some people would call me a Wiccan, which I also don't mind, although I would correct those people and point out that I don't follow all the tenets of Wicca, so I don't like to use the term.  It's like when people who aren't even remotely interested in following Christ's teachings call themselves Christians.

Following an alternative religion is a choice, but I notice that a lot of people seem to think believing in alternative tenets is also a choice.  I don't think that it is.

To be more specific, I present to you a typical conversation.

Person Whose Business It Is Decidely Not:  So, you're like a witch?  What does that mean?

Me:  Well, basically, it means I believe in the duality of nature and god.  Everything has a light and dark side, a male and female side, etc.  Also, I believe everything in the world is connected to everything else, and that what you send out along that web is what you're going to get back.

Person Whose Business It Is Decidely Not:  Huh.  And when did you decide all that?

Listen.  I didn't decide that these things were true.  It's not like I made a chart and weighed out whether it would be best to believe in the Christian God versus the God/dess form.  It's not like I thought, "You know what would be neat?  Karma.  Karma would be neat, I should make sure I believe in that."  I believe in a light and dark side to all things, because that's what I see, that's what makes sense to me, that's how I have always observed the world to work, and that's the only way to view the situation that sits properly in my mind.  I believe in the web and the Wheel of the Year because I see them represented in every aspect of my life.  I observe the world's cyclic nature, and because it has never once wavered, I believe in it like I believe in water.  It just is.

This is not to say that my beliefs are right, and yours are wrong.  If you believe in a single god, awesome.  I would never ask you to try not to.  I would never ask you what made you believe in the Christian god, because if you were any kind of Christian, you just would.  You would believe because you feel that benevolent or righteous presence in your life.  You wouldn't choose it consciously.  You would close your eyes, fold your hands, and reach out to whatever form of deity feels natural and right to you.  Just like I do.

I choose to be a witch because I cannot choose what I believe.

I believe what I believe.  Trying not to believe something you know in your heart and soul is true, in something you feel right down to your very bones, is like trying not to breath.  Or trying to convince yourself the sky is orange.  I believe what I believe because I can't not.  I have always held these beliefs; I just didn't know there was a name for them until I discovered witchcraft.

Believing in something doesn't necessarily mean you have to make it your religion.  Religion is a choice where belief is an instinct.  Because my beliefs line up with witchcraft, I have made the choice to pursue it.  If I packed up my candles, sold my stones, donated my books, and stopped marking the lunar highlights on the calendar, I might not be a practicing witch any longer.  But I would still be what I am, by nature of what I believe.

I'm not a witch because I think it's trendy or because I'm desperate to belong to something or because I look good in black.**  I'm a witch (whether or not I practice a religion) because when I was a kid, I used to talk to the wind in the trees.  Because I love the feel of wind in my hair, sun on my skin, grass under my bare feet, riding ocean waves.  Because I think anything we owe to ourselves, we owe to others.  Because I think everything looks better by moonlight.

I choose my path based on my beliefs, and I can't turn those on and off like I'm throwing a lightswitch rave.

Long story short, I'm a witch because I'm a witch, and y'all can either get with that program, or get the fuck out.

*Note to all bloggers: nobody gives a shit.
**Although I do.  Hot damn.

Broken Bird at a Party

"Don’t touch it," they warned.  "Touch it and it’s yours."
But I took it up in a cocktail napkin,
the soft little ball of bone and feather,
rolled it this way and that,
two storeys down from its mother.
It had landed with a thump we would never have heard
if we had not also seen it fall and land,
with so little ceremony,
on the newly-sealed drive.
"She won’t take it back now," they warned,
but anyone could see there was nothing left to take.
It made no move, no sounds.
It breathed and barely kicked.
Its feathers had not yet grown
over its round babybelly and broken wings.
"Someone should…" and we looked among us for the one who would.
It was my father’s drive, the nest in his eaves,
but I could see in his eyes he would end it soon,
just barely too soon.
Maybe before I had lifted the weak weight into my hands,
I would have let him take it, toss it, walk away before it breathed its last.
But I had touched it, and now it was mine.
It could not be taken back.
I had it now, and I said to my father's relief,
"I’ll take care of it."
An acre back and a million miles from where it had already been forgotten,
I knelt in my sundress behind a budding May bush.
"I’m sorry, little bird."
And I closed my eyes and placed my hands and I knew
I must be quick to be kind.
"Born of earth, and to the earth returned.  Goddess guide him home."
He was young and elastic and I was well-intentioned but trembling, and when his neck did not snap (like they do so easily in stories), his outsized beak opened wider than I’d ever imagined it could, and he cried…  In terror and pain and, I despaired, for his mother and I hope and prayed she could not hear.
It was an endless, plaintive cheep.
You would not have heard it from even the other side of our bush,
our bier,
but it came from the open V of his beak like cries from any nursery.
I used the heel of my boot.
All I wanted to do was walk away, but I could not,
not till it was still.
And later, when I sobbed with guilt and uncertainty and sorrow,
I wanted to forget.
But I could not, will not.
It cannot be taken back.
Because I had touched it, and it was mine.

Everything You Need To Know About My Mother

My mother's feet
like cinderblocks
to support her children's beds at schools far from home,
hard as rocks
tossed at cheating boyfriends,
carried her tiny frame
through it all.
From spring to snowfall,
no shoes,
no socks,
no softness in those feet,
sandpaper heels to smooth the way for pedicured daughters.
My mother's feet,
of which I am obscenely proud,
of which I begin conversations with politely-smiling friends
who cannot know by my rum-soaked telling of it
what they walked her through
and over.
Gravel prickers blacktop a thousand degrees in the high of July,
sawdust and woodchips
hot coals
Over and over and across,
they carried her.
She carries us.