When I think of religion, I automatically start asking questions. I’ve been asking these questions for the last forty-eight years. Have I found answers? I would say definitely yes, and I have discovered many answers. Have I uncovered this elusive “truth” of which everyone speaks? First, I must define Truth. When you are studying psychology, the definition of Truth is this: “Truth is a property not so much of thoughts and ideas but more properly of beliefs and assertions. But to believe or assert something is not enough to make it true, or else the claim that ‘to believe something makes it true’ would be just as true as the claim that ‘to believe something does not make it true.’ Therefore when I speak of Truth, it will be my Truth that I have experienced and seen with my own eyes. I will write using a year’s timeline to keep things consistent and linear and avoid confusion.
Background: I have studied every major religion in the world. When I use the word study, I mean I have fully immersed myself into the religious experience so that I might find my Truth therein. I have always been fascinated with religion. Mainly because people are willing to sacrifice so many vital things in their lives for a concept, I realize that this concept offers hope and an explanation for one’s purpose on earth, but it is still just a concept.
I was born and raised in a small southern town. Rural northeast Georgia, to be exact. I am sure my mother took me to church from birth. She was Southern Baptist by nature but would often go to the small Pentecostal church two doors down from our house. She’s often told me that as long as you can pray and worship with like-minded people, God will understand the purpose of your heart. Therefore, she wasn’t so picky about the church we attended. I will remember the one clarifying moment in my religious existence until the day I die. I remember sitting on a pew in the tiny Pentecostal church at the end of our street, trying hard to stay awake. I’m sure all the church-going folk born on or before 1968 know the consequences of falling asleep in church! The preacher was not loud this particular Sunday morning, and no one was dancing in the aisle, so I was extremely bored. During this silence, a very tall gentleman in front of me randomly stood up and screamed, LOUDLY! I was five, remember, so my startled reaction was to scream loudly as well. Not only did I scream, but I also jumped up and ran out the door screaming all the way home! I didn’t even check to see if my mother was following me; I just ran out the door. I can’t remember if I got a spanking, but I’m sure I must have gotten one. I do, however, remember the conversation I started that day. I asked the questions that I would continue to ask for many decades that followed. Why do people scream, dance, and shout during a church service? Why does a creator we call father love us unconditionally, but if we “sin,” this loving creator will send us to hell and watch us suffer for all eternity? A psychology class answered the first question, and the answer is this: once emotions are triggered, no new learning can take place. Church services and sermons create emotional feelings, and the brain is happy, so there is no questioning of knowledge. A result is a submissive group of people — the exact purpose of the council of Nicea. I will always maintain that I only discovered this because my five-year-old brain was unhappy with the consequences that followed the experience of that one man screaming on that faithful day. The second question has never been answered to my satisfaction.
My mother started studying with Jehovah’s Witness when I was about fourteen. The rebellious teenager that was me thought this must be hell on earth. However, I came to love the continuous studying and questioning that was a significant part of this religion. I could ask as many questions as I wanted, and no one ever got angry or frustrated with me. I am sure this was the catalyst that started me on the path of religious studies and comparisons. However, neither myself nor my mother was willing to sacrifice our family and friends to become Jehovah’s Witness.
I was introduced to Judaism and all of the customs by extended family members in the early 90’s. I was fascinated with the different factions of Judaism, especially Kabbalah. The kosher eating guidelines made perfect sense to my intellectual self, so I adopted them and still use them to some extent today. My family did not live up to my expectations from watching other Jewish families. I initially thought that the Jewish religion was the glue that created loving, happy families. Yes, you can laugh, but please remember I grew up with no father and a mother that was always tired and overworked. I saw Jewish families praying together and observing holy days with love and affection, but this was a surface illusion. The first reality I encountered was being told that I could not attend services in a Jewish Synagog because my mother was not Jewish; therefore, I was not recognized as a Jew. I am stubborn by nature, so my reaction was this: okay, I don’t need you, I’ll do my own thing in my own home. My own thing turned out to be studying Kabbalah, Zohar, and Talmud teachings while maintaining a kosher diet. I was constantly searching for similarities between Judaism and Christianity, and I was never disappointed because there were many. The one thing that made a significant impression on me was that I was praying as a Jew and not a Christian, AND God was still answering my prayers. I was sure at the beginning that God would smite me for recanting my Christian heritage and becoming a praying Jewish woman. However, this never happened.
I was given a Koran by a friend in 2009. I promised I would read the book, and had it not been for the promise, I would never have opened it. Why? I had been taught my entire life that Muslims were an enemy of God, terrorists, and worshipped another god altogether. Scary stuff, right? I started reading the Koran after dinner one night and finished it early the following day. I cried all night, not out of fear but out of sheer relief. The Koran was almost the same as the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah. The “god” they worshiped and called Allah is the same God everyone worshiped. The only difference is that God translates to Allah in Arabic. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that I emersed myself studying each religion. When I started studying Islam, I decided to wear a hijab and modest clothing many Muslim women wore. Please remember I still lived in rural northeastern Georgia, and the general thought about Muslims was only “911” and terrorist. I was also going through a nasty divorce with five children involved. I wanted to be left alone with my thoughts and plans for the future, and wearing a hijab ensured that no one would talk to me. The year 2010 was an eye-opener for me in many ways. I met and married an Egyptian man. You can ask me why and I will honestly tell you that in my naivety, I thought that as a good Muslim woman, I needed a devote Muslim husband. I traveled to Egypt twice and was amazed at the cultural inconsistencies. I had always heard that Muslims and Christians inherited this hatred for each other. What I discovered were Coptic Christians and Muslims living next door to each other, going to school and working with each other, and being close friends with each other. When I asked how this was possible, the reply was this: we don’t talk about politics or religion. The most important thing I discovered about Islam is that Muslims are human, just like everyone else. Some are good, and some are not. They are not all terrorists, and they are all involved with family and career, just like the rest of us. While praying five times a day, I discovered that the “god” I had always prayed to was there and listening to me. Nothing changed for the worse, and I expanded my intellect and wisdom in the process.
The three years between 2011 and 2014 should be called my grey period. I gave up on everything religious. I spend this time contemplating my life, career, education, and making connections between all of these things. These are my conclusions:
I had always depended on something or someone else.
I had always had faith in everything but myself.
I had always stated I did not care about others’ opinions; however, I shaped my life around these opinions.
I had always been too open and vulnerable, and it had never served me well.
I started my first master’s degree in education in June 2014. This degree was the beginning of my newfound hope, purpose, and intent. The biggest change I made was to stop looking for hope, faith, and strength outside myself. I turned my search inward and found my true self.
I resigned from my job in May of 2015 and decided to stop talking about my dream job and start living my dream life. I packed up my kids and moved north to an Apache reservation. I have to add that I have always been fascinated with ancient religions and cultures. When I began studying Apache shamans, I decided to uncover my roots. I had never known my father’s family and could find no information on Ancestory about them. To my amazement, I sent in a DNA sample, and it was of 100% European/British Isles descent. I had heard stories that my great-grandparents were murdered on a train leaving my grandfather an orphan. I am sure now this is true. The journey that followed was fantastic.
I learned everything I could about Apache heritage and culture. I am doing this, comparing the stories to the ones I knew in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I was also contemplating why I had always been drawn to the supernatural aspects of every religion. I stumbled upon Apache Witchcraft and read the entire book in one sitting. As I read book after book on witchcraft, shamanism, Celtic magic, and Druidism, I felt like I was remembering and not learning. I completely reformed the bullet list I had previously made. My promise to myself was this:
I would always depend upon myself first.
I would never lose faith in myself.
I would always value my opinion of myself and no one else.
I would never be vulnerable again.
There is more to these statements that need an explanation. I purposefully tattooed a crescent moon on my forehead in 2015. The tattoo is my constant reminder of who I am and have always been. I can be fierce, strong, determined, and still be flexible, loving, and feminine at the same time. I also started learning to focus on one thing at a time. This focus is how I define intent. I connected all the dots and firmly believe that prayer works through intent — one thing at a time, and each thing in its time sort of thing.
I still had questions that needed answers. The most pressing question was why some prayers get answered, and some don’t. I now wanted to know why some spells worked and some did not. When I discovered the answer, I knew I could no longer hide my identity from the world because I had too much to share. I realize not everyone cares, but those who do what I have to say are important.
Have you ever read the book titled the “Secret.” When I finished this book, the secret was still a secret! I vowed never to do this with anything I learned. We cannot share knowledge vaguely or in parables. Actual knowledge needs to be concise and available to all. The following are my truths. Does this mean they are true or your Truth? That is for you to decide.
Your intent is the key to prayer and spell work.
Your purpose must be hyperfocused and clear.
Vague should never be in your vocabulary.
Christianity has one particular lie that impedes all spells.
This lie is that Jesus was the final sacrifice.
Any intense spell work requires a sacrifice.
I use beef or chicken hearts and livers, and this works well.
You can also use Alcohol, incense, flowers, and food for minor spells.
You never know it all, so keep searching.
Follow the right-hand path, or you will get sidetracked trying to right all the wrongs in the world.
Trust the universe; you may not want everything you ask for once you get it.
If you want people to respect you, you must respect them and their religion.
Not everyone is ready to know you are a witch.
There is no three-fold rule if you do spells right and with the right intent. Notice I said right, not good!
Good and evil are perceptions.
I suggest you read every text on Ancient Sumeria, Egypt, India, China, and Mesoamerica. Look for similarities and consistencies. I am still learning, studying, and asking questions. Before I end, I have to add that I practice Voodoo, Celtic witchcraft, Strega magik, and Apache witchcraft. It seems easier to say I am a Druid Priestess when someone asks what I am. If I were honest, I would say I don’t know what I am because I don’t have the vocabulary to explain what I am. I am a Reiki Master who can heal without using Reiki. I am a psychology Ph.D. candidate who never wants to practice psychology, only observe how humans learn. I am a history teacher with a questioning mind. Most people would not understand that I am old energy residing in this human form.
I also did not include Eastern religions. I don’t consider them to be religions but a way of life. I have adopted many philosophies from Buddhism, the Tao, and Hinduism. The Four Agreements are my inspiration, and Don Miguel is my teacher. When we define ourselves as one thing, one religion, one ethnic group, or anything, we limit ourselves. I envision becoming one energy with all other energies and connecting with source energy to become whole.
A Ph.D. student and Celtic Priestess who is an explorer of knowledge, spirituality, and political incorrectness. Your voice and knowledge are your power!
VNESSA ERLENE FOLLOWS
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