I was raised semi-religious, read the Bible, went to church occasionally as a child. For a short time I went to a Baptist evening youth group once a week. I was always Protestant... Baptist or Non-denominational. I spent many years trying to find a Christian faith that I could believe in. It never worked though. I discovered Wicca when I was about 12. Because of my age, I was afraid to get involved. Instead I continued to half-heartedly study the Bible, but was always drawn back to Wicca, the one religion that I felt I didn't have to try to change myself for. I still read and studied the Bible, and ended up thinking that I could never accept all the contradictions and mistranslations that skeptics pointed out to me. I went from one church to another, looking for one that I felt held "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" and each time I went away disappointed. As a teen I even briefly studied with Mormons and at one time Jehovah's Witnesses. But I never stuck with anything for any length of time.
I believed in karma and reincarnation because of dreams of 'past lives' that I had. The dreams seemed different than normal dreams. They seemed very real, but also very plain. They were kind of like "A Day In The Life Of..." Imagine someone watching you all day as you go about your boring chores... and that was about it. Except I knew that this person I was watching was Me. So I believed I had lived before.
I have seen ghosts or spirits, although I haven't decided what exactly they are. One time, I was spending the night at my friends house, a few months after her brother, Charles, had accidentally shot himself. I woke up in the morning before anyone else had, got up and went to sit in the living room. It was quiet and I was looking for the remote to turn the TV on, when a reflection in the TV caught my eye. I was sitting on the love seat, and adjacent to it was the couch, where Charles had often slept. For a minute I thought the reflection was my own, but it looked strange. As I looked closer, I realized it was a reflection of the couch, not the love seat. On the couch sat Charles, with his feet propped up on the coffee table, calmly smoking a cigarette! I looked at the couch itself, and there was obviously nothing there, but in the reflection on the TV he was there. I was so freaked out that I had to leave the room, and when I returned later, the reflection was gone.
I also have had psychic experiences. As a child, I talked to "God" or "Jesus" and he talked back to me. Another experience I remember was when I was in Jr. High School. My parents woke me up in the morning, and I would often lay in bed for a little bit before I got up to take a shower. As I was laying in bed that morning I suddenly got the mental image of myself falling in the shower. I actually giggled because it looked funny. But I wasn't laughing a little while later in the shower when I dropped the shampoo, bent over to pick it up, and slipped!
Along the same lines, while I was in school, in certain classes we had assigned seating. In one class that I had been in for quite a while, so long that I was very used to sitting in my assigned seat, I went in one morning and sat down, hardly thinking. I then looked around and realized I was in the wrong seat. It was the first and only time I can recall doing this. I was a bit embarassed and moved to my assigned seat. Once class started, our teacher announced that she was changing the assigned seating due to some people being disruptive during class. Everyone was being moved so as not to single out the guilty parties. She read off a diagram she had made previously, and moved me to the seat I had accidentally sat in. Did I somehow know that was to be my seat from now on?
Most of these things are not accepted fully by Christians, or they are explained away as mere coincidences. I know I experienced them, and it made me more interested in the occult. I read everything I could get my hands on, hungry for knowledge. I was desperately trying to quench a thirst that I now know only The Creator, in whatever guise, can quench. Or as a friend once put it, I was trying to fill a God-shaped hole in myself, and nothing else would fit.
My questions were never answered in the Christian denominations I studied with and my doubts in Christianity and the Bible grew and festered until I sort of rejected the Bible. I found some Bible contradiction websites, and when I saw all my own doubts laid out in print along with numerous other contradiction I had not yet noticed, I was overwhelmed. Finally, at 18, I decided to accept that I would never find a Christian faith that I wanted to join.
I became Pagan and practiced Wicca for almost 5 years. I joined an online coven called CFFN, part of the Church of Universal Eclectic Wicca, and went through their teachings until I was a student of their Second Circle. I thought my new faith would fulfill me, but I was only happy until the newness and mystery wore off. Eventually even Wicca became hollow and I saw just as much hypocrisy from 'tolerant' Pagans. They were no better than the Christians I had run from, and I soon came to realize that it wasn't the religion that was to blame. There are nuts and hypocrites in every religion. I stopped trying to make Wicca work and basically just gave up after it got too hard. My Pagan beliefs stopped making sense to me. Deep down, I realized that even though I rejected it, I still thought the Bible might be right, if only I could understand it.
As a Pagan, I became bitter and cynical and paranoid. Through my teens and early adulthood I had also been using drugs, trying to fill that empty space inside and couldnt stay clean. I felt irritated by religious messages, and cringed everytime someone said "God Bless..." I stopped attending certain self help meetings that were making my life better after someone ended a meeting with a prayer to Jesus Christ. I realize now my unhappiness had less to do with my Pagan path than it did with a conflict still raging inside me.
Thats when something changed. In September or October of 2001, one of the Pagans on an email list I was on posted a link to a forum on DelphiForums.com called "ExWitch" intending to ridicule it. I went and checked it out and found it to be the opposite of what was said about it. I stayed and asked questions and eventually I too became an ex-witch. I bought into their thinking because, all along as a Pagan, I was still conflicted about Christianity inside. I thought I had unknowingly hardened my heart and mind to the message of Christ. I started talking to my JW best friend again, I started watching PAX TV and Touched by an Angel. I cried over the messages of Gods love. I was finally able to open my heart to Jesus and began Bible studies again. I thought I had found my way back. I almost became a Jehovah's Witness, but there was just too much I couldn't accept.
Religion is not an area where you should try to please other people, Religion is something personal that you need to feel comfortable with. So I realized that totally rejecting Wicca was not yet right for me either. Even though I quit doing 'witchy' things, I couldn't give up everything cold turkey, so to speak. It was hard for me to suddenly give up all of my Pagan beliefs, easier to go slow. At first, I thought my path lay somewhere in between Wicca and Christianity... Christo-Paganism? For a while I called myself a "Henotheistic Christian" or a "Wiccan Follower of Christ" or a myriad of other labels I tried to fit into. But it was still more out of rejection of Christianity than acceptance of Paganism.
And yet my search did not end. I was still hanging out at Exwitch and listening to them. I still sought out knowledge in the Bible. I still read everything I could find. At the lowest point in my search, just when I was ready to give up, I thought I found God. The only thing I ever really learned about the Catholic church was what I heard on the news or bad things from other denominations saying why the Catholic church was wrong. I realized that I had never given Catholicism a chance. So starting in October of 2002, I spent a few months really studying with an open mind, and this time I thought my questions were being answered. Finally I believed I had found the foundation that the Bible fits perfectly into. I started on the journey of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), became a Catechumen, and planned to be baptised at Easter.
However, the more answers I sought in the Bible, the less I found... the more knowledge I sought, the more questions and contradictions I found. I tried to work out the contradictions in the Bible, but I didn't think it could be done. I thought there was just too much stuff in the Bible that I couldn't accept. The idea of "fake it until you make it" just didn't work for me. So I opted out of being baptised. I have to say, looking back now, I went a bit overboard. I was hanging out with "fundies" and started sounding like them, just to please them, not because I really felt that way deep down. It finally came to the point where I was removed from that staff at exwitch, locked out of their private exwitch folders as they no longer considered me an ex-pagan.
As of February of 2003, I felt discouraged and agnostic. I thought I was right to come to the conclusion that no religion had gotten it right. I though there probably is a God, but we as humans cannot ever really know God entirely and it seemed impossible to prove the existence of God. But I kept on looking. I couldnt shake my deep down belief in Christianity. I still prayed the rosary. I still prayed to God whenever I needed to. I kept seeking. I never did get to the point of believing every little thing in the Bible was true, but I thought I believed in the overall message. And still I kept seeking. Another year went by, and I found Christian Panentheism and Christian mysticism. In 2004 I began calling myself a Panentheistic Christian Mystic. And still I kept seeking.
Then we come to 2005. I had finally worked through that internal conflict that always plagued me. It was only through embracing the Christianity that I was taught as a child that I could move on. Rejecting it was like rejecting a piece of myself, and I could not be happy as a Pagan whilst doing so. However the amount of acceptance needed to fully become a Christian also caused internal conflict, because again I was rejecting part of myself, the part that saw the contradictions and felt the doubts. Look how many years it took me to work through it and realize this simple truth. I am not a Christian, but I don't reject Christianity. It is a fundamental part of what formed the "ME" I am today. So after embracing and moving through Christianity in a positive manner, I can finally embrace the true essence of myself. I realized Christianity still did not fill the God-shaped hole inside me. It was like putting a round peg in a square hole, it fit but it didnt fill all the corners. I went back and studied Thelema, one of the first paths I had studied as a Witch.
Moving on to 2006, Thelema had renewed my childhood love for Ancient Egypt and I finally heeded the call of the Netjeru. The correlations between Christianity and Wicca and the Religion of Ancient Egypt make sense of my confusing journey, showing me how something learned in one place helps me to understand something else that may at first seem unrelated. In July 2006, I was divined by Nisut Hekatawy (AUS) to be daughter of Sekhmet-Mut, beloved of Bast and Aset, and I became a shemsu of the Kemetic Orthodox Faith. If you would like to read the official view of Kemetic Orthodoxy, please visit Kemet.org And I finally felt that God-shaped hole completely filled by Netjer. Nekhtet! Yet I kept moving on, and in late 2007 I decided that the structure of Kemetic Orthodoxy just wasn't for me. I am a bit more Kemetic UnOrthodox.
So, what am I now? I am a phoenix, constantly changing, dying to myself and being reborn. I am a Panentheist, I see the Divine as being in every part of creation, yet transcending this material world. Everyone likes a nice tidy label, don't they? So I suppose the best label for me is Kemetic Pagan or Tameran Wiccan, as I still love the Egyptian Gods and the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. But really labels don't matter. I am more happy with my religious path at this point in my life than I ever have been before. When I first found Wicca I was one of those who agreed it felt like I had finally come home, but this time it is different yet. It is a bit difficult to explain, but his time it is like I have opened a door inside myself and discoved that my home has always been right there.
Congratulations if you have read this entire rambling, and I don't blame you if you are still confused about me.
Em Hotep, Peace be with you,
Copyright © Melissa Blakely-Merrall