Today on my blog I have a very special guest – my fellow Crooked Cat author: the fun, fabulous and bewitchingly fascinating Ailsa Abraham.
Welcome, Ailsa. I’ve been fascinated by your intriguing postings about religion – and I’ve noticed that your beliefs appear to be very diverse. Please tell me – how do you reconcile them?
Thanks for asking, Sue. I know that my mentioning of various belief systems confuses many people, and I'm asked, “Well what exactly ARE you?” The answer is simple. I'm a spiritual being who has come to the conclusion that it is all one and only the ways of expressing it, rituals and forms of words change. The trappings are not important, it is what is in your heart and the way you treat other people that matter.
That may sound radical but my Quaker friends agree. They don't use the word “God,” they say “Spirit” – which fits in perfectly with my Shamanistic training.
It's probably that I was exposed to most of the world's major religions at an early age. My father was Jewish, but played the organ at the local Anglican church because he was the only organist they had. Mother had been brought up Presbyterian, nearly converted to Catholicism but settled on “All purpose Protestant” after marrying my father.
So from early years I was just as at home in a synagogue as I was in a church. Then came my life surrounded by Muslims. Because my late aunt worked in the Sudan, we had very close connections with her students who were sent to the UK to study in British hospitals. I played with the other little girls and learned that in their house I put on a tirha to cover my head and we ate with our right hands only (by dint of being made to sit on my left hand to avoid mistakes).
Coming into adulthood, I was drawn to the pagan path. I studied Wicca up to High Priestess level, but shortly after my ordination I had to leave and so was without a coven. That was when I took up Shamanism, which respects the spirit of all things.
I believe very sincerely that there is a Spirit of the Universe, but the human mind is incapable of taking in the immensity of it, so man makes God in his own image. That's fine. The Green Lady of the pagans is the Blue and White Lady of the Catholics, Quan Yin of the Buddhists and just an expression of the feminine side of the infinite.
I was only co-opted into the Catholic community because I live in a nominally Roman Catholic country and I'm a healer. People in the village came to me for healing, but were uncomfortable thinking it was some form of sorcery. They wanted to believe that my healing gifts were from their God, or (more precisely) from the Virgin Mary. Fine, no problem, I'll connect with her as well as any other. Keeping other people happy and doing “When in Rome” is a way of life for me. Particularly “when in a Roman's house...do what is expected of you.”
I totally respect anyone's faith or absence of one. I don't force anything I feel to be true on anyone else, and I appreciate it if they do the same to me. I will join in with whatever festivals, celebrations or customs are expected with a few exceptions. When the local corner shop was run by a charming Hindu couple, I made a point of paying homage with a Namaste to their shrine to Shiva and Lakshmi. On buses in Malta where there were religious tableaux above the driver, I crossed myself as I saw others doing. I may not have spoken the language, but I got my arm patted by a few old dears for knowing how to behave.
It comes down to respecting Spirit, in whatever form, whether it is a tree, flower, statue,touching a mezuzza, lighting incense... it really isn't important. Respect is important. Not upsetting people is important.
One final thought – as one who has been on the pagan path, Roman Catholicism is very easy to switch over to. It is very feminine-centred, and their Mary looks awfully like the Goddess she replaced all those centuries ago. I say good morning to the Lady on the Hill every day, because I think She understands that it doesn't matter what colour she is wearing, we know what we are both on about.
If this upsets anyone, I'm truly sorry. But that is probably because you think you have the One True Answer...and I don't believe that anyone has that. Not me for sure!
What a fascinating and thought-provoking post, Ailsa. Thank you very much for sharing it!