“Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness, and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, but they also become legends.”
– One-Stab, "Legends of the Fall"
(Dedicated to the two victims of bullying this week in Mexico, Mo.)
Last week in my hometown, we had two instances of the city coming to the small town. One child brought a gun to the school, and another just last night committed suicide. Victims of bullying – victims simply for being who they are. Their lives were made hard, solely because someone did not like them for who they were.
No one is safe to be who they are, unless we all come to the conclusion that sharing our differences makes things easier for others to understand and tolerate. No one will ever be safe to be who they are, until we let those coming up know that it’s OK to be who they are -- and that no one has the right to bully them into thinking or feeling otherwise.
After all, it is differences that make us interesting in the long run, right?
Sometimes, I consider that which makes me different the deepest of curses. But then there are other times, like this week for instance. It’s rare that I go into any detail in regards to how in less than a year I both changed my religion and changed my tune and stopped following the cookie-cutter style of living laid out by The Man.
The events in my humble hometown this week have gotten me to start thinking hard about my call to Paganism. Why in the world do I always have to choose the hard way? Why can’t I just pursue the paths that everyone else does? Why can’t I just blend in?
The answer always comes back, short and sweet and whispered gently in my ear: “Because you can’t. I didn’t wire you that way. And that’s OK.”
I mean, who in their right mind leaves a successful position at their job in Corporate America in order to be a 75-percent-of-the-time housewife, full-time mommy and part-time video store clerk? Who in their right mind leaves the "bigger-than-big" bright lights of the city for their hometown in the middle of the "duller-than-dull" Bible Belt? And WHO in their right mind leaves Columbia -- a one-of-a-kind home of progressive thinkers -- to rejoin life in the Romney supporting, differences-hating center of the world that makes suburbia look like the inside of CBGB’s? Who is that crazy to come out as a Pagan – especially an African-American woman, who sometimes has to "put on" twice as hard to be accepted?
I am. I’m that crazy. And I’m OK with that.
When it comes to the gods and to knowing the path one must take, I’ve always followed the fearlessness of Dionysos. As a worshiper of both Kemeticism and Hellenism (more commonly known as Greco-Egyptian Polytheism), Dionysos has always stood out as both a fearless but compassionate god. The following is a favorite passage of mine, that I share now in remembrance of those who lived with the fear of being themselves:
From the book “Written in Wine: A Devotional Anthology for Dionysos,” by the Bibliotecha Alexandrina:
“You’ve got to be ready for anything he wants to lay on you. You have to be open to pain, yes, but also open to pleasure. Surrender to sadness but also to joy. Accept loss but also abundance. Face your fears but also your hopes. You cannot hold pieces of yourself back, because He knows when you do that. And while he won’t punish you for it (usually) He might try to coax it out of you, and that’s rarely a gentle process with Him. By ‘coax’ He usually means ‘tear you open and dig around until you can’t stand it anymore.” ("What It Means to Be a Maenad," by Sarah Kate Istra Winter, pp. 38-39.)
To me, being fearless sometimes means having the courage to stand up for yourself and occasionally walk alone.
It’s a lesson that I had to learn the hard way, as a person who was previously a bullied teenager. It’s what taught me that making my own decisions regardless of what the world thinks would never be easy. But by doing so, I learned who and what was worth fighting for, because the end results were always the best ones for me. It’s why I’m not ashamed to be a woman, with a woman’s problems. It’s why I’m not ashamed to be an African-American woman and point out my differences with humor, love and light. Best of all, it’s why I’m not ashamed to say “Hail, Dionysos!” out loud in a crowd when something goes well, or fall to my knees and give thanks to the Goddess that moves creativity like the warm waves of fresh bathwater through me.