I’m walking through Pawtucket to the Farmer’s Market and up ahead on the sidewalk are men on a mission from God–two young white guys in dark suits. One has a Bible in his hand, marking a place with his finger, ready to engage in a scriptural debate and win a soul.
They give me a pleasant hello, say they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and just want to talk. “We’re all Christians, we’re all coming from the same beliefs.”
This is my call to witness.
“Well, actually, I’m a witch,“ I say.
The last time I said something like this to a Jehovah’s Witness he ran right off my porch. But these guys are chill. They don’t even change expression.
“You guys know what it’s like to be a minority.” I said. They nod. Jehovah’s Witnesses take a lot of opposition for their beliefs, including imprisonment in some times and places.
At this point my voice is shaking a little, but I keep engaging. “I’m grateful for religious freedom.” I say.
They agree. We leave it at that, grateful for religious freedom. I’m grateful for common ground in our appreciation of our rights.
Usually, I tell acquaintances and co-workers that I’m Unitarian. The Unitarian church offers a sheltering roof to all kinds of religious seekers, and their acceptance was what led me to sign the book. First Unitarian is my church home.
To people I know a little better I come out as Pagan. But my inspiration came from the Feminist philosophers, Starhawk, Z. Budapest and Luisah Teish and it’s to honor them that I also claim the name ‘witch’. It’s a label often applied to un-submissive women. Had Anne Hutchinson, friend of Roger Williams, been born a little later she might have worn that name to the gallows in Massachusetts, instead of simply being exiled for heresy. Anne Hutchinson challenged the religious authorities and by doing so challenged the social order of the state. Which Jesus also did– and was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced according to the laws of the occupying power.
I was brought up Catholic. This holiday brings to mind all the good women and men who were unjustly convicted, who suffered and died for conscience. Holy Saturday is the day Christ lay in the tomb. The lamp is extinguished and the Tabernacle empty.
Tomorrow the world celebrates resurrection. My Pagan heart celebrates the return of the crocuses and the sweet, long days. Nature performs her miracles every year and rains on the just and the unjust. We are always standing on holy ground.