Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chapter 11

I was pretty angry inside. I felt I'd made bad choices with consequences I could not change. I didn't like where we lived, I didn't like seeing my children grow up without the kind of Jewish community I'd grown up with, I was ashamed of our romance with nutty fundamentalism, and I didn't like feeling powerless about it all. My husband was attending the Episcopal Church, and bringing our children, and occasionally I'd join them, because I actually missed the ritual. On Christmas Eve we'd go to the "Teddy Bear " Mass at Boston's Church Of the Advent. It's called the "Teddy Bear" Mass because everyone brings children's gifts for an orphanage, and they are carried in procession to the Creche. We love The Advent, the Anglo-Catholic center of the High Episcopal universe, and it plays an important role in our conversion. But more about that later.

I needed to find myself, so I returned to one of my first loves. I had read the Odyssey about seven times when I was a kid, and I still had my old dog eared paperback. I pulled it out one day and began to read it again. It's one of those things, like comfort food. You know what it tastes like, and you might even be bored with it, but you just have to have it when you're down. I realized how much I loved the story, and it was sort of restorative to me. Then, one day, while sitting on my porch and reading it, I saw something straight out of the pages of the book. I saw a hawk swoop down and capture a morning dove, right in front of me. Those of you who know your Classics, will recognize a sign from the gods right away. So, in good "New Age" fashion, that is exactly what I took it for, a sign from the gods, that everything was going to be alright.

I figured the Hawk, sacred to Apollo was probably one of my totems. I read the book "Goddesses in Every Woman" and found Athena in myself. I went to a Shamanism workshop at the local New Age bookstore. I tried to get involved with our local Unitarian place but it was too witchy and lesbian. I still really love some of the concepts about the Greek gods being archetypal of certain personality characteristics. To cap it all off, I took myself on my own pilgrimage to Delphi to celebrate a major birthday.

I had a great time. I managed to lose all kinds of weight, and I looked terrific. I loved my trip to Greece, and when I came back, I set up a "cyber-pilgrimage to Delphi". Through the miracle of the Internet I discovered Hellenic neo-pagan reconstructionists, and for a couple of years I was part of various chat groups devoted to restoring the ancient religions to Europe. My children thought I was a complete embarrassment, but they were adolescent so that's just a package deal anyway. My long suffering husband was very patient.

Little by little , it began to dawn on me that some of the people who I was chatting with online were more than a little weird. Many of the European neo-pagans turned out to be Nazis, real ones! Show me a group that traces it's spirituality to "Atlantis" and I will show you a Nazi friendly religion. Most of the Americans I came in contact with were either bi-sexual, homosexual, transexual, deviant sexual, and , thanfully, most of them were childless . Here I was, your basic suburban, soccer mom,minivan driving, pagan priestess........sort of......but with a subscription to the Jerusalem Post.

I began to back away quickly from these folks, and I removed my Delphi website after someone left the following message in my guestbook:

"Hail, Great Priestess, servant of the Gods. We will destroy the Jews, who inflicted their evil desert god on the holy peoples of Europe, and their vile slaves the Xtians."

Boy, did he have the wrong girl. I was so out of there in a hurry.

A few times a year, my husband and I would trot into Boston to hear the marvelous choir of The Advent sing the full Mass. They do it every Sunday there. Bells, smells, music, lacey priests, the whole nine yards, the full kit, and my Ulster born husband's guilty secret! The Church of Ireland actually forbids the use of incense, and I think candles are restricted. As they say, Anglo-Catholics are more "Catholic than the Catholics", and it was our introduction to the concept of the "Real Presence". There is no denying that the structure of the liturgy and the centrality of the Mass are incredibly powerful. (getting a little high on the incense doesn't hurt either). I began to recognize
that the ritual was derived from the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. I loved the participatory nature of the various pious movements the congregants engaged in. (The "fairy baseball" as a wicked friend of ours once called it!) It was lovely, but it wasn't "home". I felt like had two warring personalities within me, the Jewish one, which was so basic and solid, and the "Christian" one which was the enemy camp.....

And it really became the "enemy camp", after the Episcopal hierarchy in Boston decided to picket the Israeli Consulate on behalf of Bishop Shaw's beloved Yassir Arafat. There was Bishop Shaw, the ever politically correct Bishop Barbara Harris, and various other self righteous lefties marching around for the media in their "little pink dresses", as one of my Anglo-Catholic friends said. What made it even more egregious, was they never tried to "dialogue" (you know how they love that word) with the Consulate or anyone in the Jewish community except for a radical group of three 19 year old "activists" from the local college scene. "See, we have Jews with us!!"


Then the anti-Israel stuff started from the pulpit of our local Episcopal church. At that point, I announced I would not enter the place except for weddings and funerals. About a week after a particularly brutal sermon, a man in drag walked into a hotel Passover Seder in Israel, and blew the place to smithereens.

Tomorrow, Jenin, volunteering in Israel and more.........