My Experiences with Persecution

Posted on October 8, 2011
Filed Under Culture, Magic, Taylor Ellwood | 5 Comments

When I was 18, and still in high school, I dealt with my first experience of being persecuted for my spiritual beliefs. I’d been careful about hiding what I believed from my mom, and from most others, but I had a few friends and one of those friends had fundamentalist Christians for parents. They found a book I’d let him borrow and he told them it was mine. They contacted my mother, who was furious. She is a hardcore Christian herself. My friend told me that they had told her about my beliefs and I remember going home, dreading what would happen.

She didn’t bring it up. She’d been acting weird the last couple of days, and I realize she must have known and been chewing on it. I actually wrote her a letter, explaining my choices and why I’d chosen not to tell her…when I got home, I was greeted to an ultimatum. I had a half hour to choose. I could choose to move out, and no longer live with my mom, or I could choose to burn my books. This was a hard choice, because I didn’t have a job at the time and I had no way of knowing if she’d even let me take the car I usually drove. I made the most practical choice, and allowed her to burn my books (most of them anyway). There were a few books I was working my way through or hadn’t read, so I hid them carefully, and the ones I burned were ones where I’d already mastered the exercises. When I told her my decision she searched my room carefully, and even made me burn The Books of Magic comics. It was a shameful experience and one I’ve never forgotten. She grounded me for a week and several days into it, I told her if she ever made an ultimatum like that again I would disown her for the rest of my life.

Why did I do it? I did it because I didn’t have much money or a place to live. I was still in high school and I wanted to graduate. I wasn’t about to ask one of my friends for a place to stay. I did it because it was the practical choice, but making that choice forced me to evaluate why I was hiding my beliefs. My mom burned my books because she was a Christian and had been taught ignorance through her own beliefs. Even to this day, I don’t talk my spirituality with her, because she judges me for it. She knows I’ve written books, knows I don’t believe in her God or the values she ascribes to. She doesn’t approve of my choices. Then again I don’t approve of her being Christian and I’ve made it clear I don’t want to hear about her beliefs. Most of the time she honors that request…and occasionally she doesn’t.

My second experience with persecution occurred later that year. The father and step-father of my friend decided that they should kill me for my beliefs. My friend’s father called me once on the hour, every hour, telling me how he was going to kill me, and how I was going to hell. I told him I had a cross bow bolt just for him, and I called the police. He didn’t call after that, and my friend later told me that his father had called me, and that his step-father was in on it. Nothing else ever happened, but I still remember those calls.

That experience convinced me that hiding my beliefs was wrong. If people were going to judge me for those beliefs and possibly harm me, it was better to be completely in the open about my choices. It was better to come out of the closet. I went public from the late 1990’s and on.

Currently I have somewhat different feelings about that choice. I’m still open about my beliefs, but I don’t go out of my way to talk about them. If you Googled my name, you’d find out quickly what my beliefs are, but I’ve found most people don’t go out of their way to do so. I think most people aren’t that curious, unless its for a job search. Good thing I’ve chosen to go self-employed, as I’m willing to bet that many companies would hesitate to hire me on the basis of my spiritual choices. Occasionally I do have people Google me and it always prompts some interesting conversations, but I notice that people seem to be more tolerant and accepting. I factor it in large part to where I live. I know in other parts of the country people are less accepting and willing to tolerate beliefs that run counter to the mainstream religions.

Even to this day I am wary of Christians. I have seen too much of their fanaticism and willingness to forcibly convert people to their beliefs. I know some who don’t act that way, but my experiences with the religion, both in growing up, and in the recent past and present has shaped my perspective. I can accept their choice to believe what they want, but I want them to leave me alone and allow me to follow my beliefs.

 

Comments

5 comments
aartiana
aartiana

Wow Taylor! I thought I had it rough, I experienced nothing like this! It is bad enough when people outside your family attempt to ruin opportunities in career, etcetera, but actual death threats? From parents nonetheless? These so-called Christians never figured out their own motto of "What would Jesus do?" did they? Incredible! I guess this also was a test that ended up most likely creating even MORE of a desire toward your following of your personal path to your spirituality. Glad you handled it all, and I understand not having a "craft" name - I am happy you are out of the closet! It is hard to live a double-life and I understand why some people need to do so, but I am glad you chose not to do that! ;-)

highway_hermit
highway_hermit

As long as I don't count the one crazy Internet stalker who's been trolling me for almost a year, I'm lucky enough that I haven't encountered any really hateful persecution resulting from my beliefs. The worst I've encountered has been condescension and closed-doors (both literal and figurative) from some Christians. I was once looking over a new Tarot deck I just bought in a coffee shop at B+N when a born-again type next to me took it upon himself to explain to me that I was doing the devil's work. I stayed calm and explained that as an pantheist I don't believe in anthropomorphic deities and don't believe in his spiritual paradigm, but he just wouldn't relent. He believed he was correct to the exclusion of any other belief and that conversation ended when I got up and left.

thesilverspiral
thesilverspiral

When I came to realize that I am a witch, when I was in high school, I was so ready to shout it from rooftops. My Catholic father, however, looked at it as me slapping the faces of my ancestors all the way back, and it drove a terrible wedge between us for many years. (Now, though, he's relaxed quite a bit, and while we enjoy a nice don't-ask-don't-tell relationship on the matter, for the most part we're as close as can be and the rift has healed.)Because my last name is pretty unique in the USA, I don't use my real name on anything Craft related. I live in Tennessee, and because I run my own business, I can't afford to have people Googling my name and coming up with all sorts of things that would make them want to send those same kind of phone calls to me. I might think you're an intolerant jerk, but I still want your business. ;)I want the same thing for all people as you do - so long as your beliefs don't infringe upon others, do what you will. But once they do, I'll be the first to call it out. I don't want to see anyone a victim of spiritual bullies.

Magicexperiment
Magicexperiment moderator

@highway_hermit It's a sad fact that many of them will do that. But this persecution isn't limited to one religion. My wife's ex isn't a Christian, but he was more than willingly, during the divorce, to look into the possibility of how he could use our beliefs against us to get custody of her kids. Fortunately we're not in Indiana where that could happen, but it showed me another level of persecution based on spiritual beliefs.

Magicexperiment
Magicexperiment moderator

@thesilverspiral In my case, long before I lived on the West coast, I'd gone ahead and used my real name. If I had to do it over again, I might've gone a different route. One of the very intentional I'm self-employed is because I knowing that hunting for a job would likely be much harder, because I've purposely chosen to be so open. And that openness has created problems. My ex was inadvertently outed by me when her sister decided to Google my name. She hadn't told her family her beliefs and they weren't too thrilled to discover she held them.

At the same time, I'm encouraged by seeing the slow, but steady progress toward more tolerance toward our beliefs.