Being born and raised in American society, or any society dominated by Christianity, will have effects on people's minds. Even when we question many of the tenants of the Christian faith, there are lingering doubts and thought patterns that remain. For example:
Once upon a time, hehehe, there was a women-only ritual and study group (coven?). The women in this group had been through some trying situations, but each had emerged like a phoenix from the flame to find themselves reborn. Most of the situations were brought on by controlling, alcoholic, and insecure men. Once they had broken away from their codependent relationships, they completely rejected everything patriarchal and even all that involved males. They were so adamant about this, that when one of the women became pregnant with a son, she was no longer allowed in the circle for the duration of her pregnancy. The members of the group explained to me, "We cannot have any male energy contaminating this safe space". They would also not allow male animals in the residence during a circle, not even in another room.
These women, though quite well intentioned, and quite within their rights to do this, were following a very hierarchical dictate. This exclusive mind set, and idea of contamination, is often a Christian or modern societal program. Ok, so I know this sounds like the ravings of a paranoid lunatic, and it is NOT my intent to criticize the beliefs or methods of others, these are simply true life examples that help to demonstrate my point. Here are some more examples:
Throughout early Christian history, especially from 500-1600 AD, members of the church would go on pilgrimages to seek "holy objects" such as the remains of a saint. These relics would be on display at the church, and it was considered good luck and a blessing to lay eyes on them. A sort of collection-admission was expected of onlookers. The churches were often designed with towering spires and intimidating gargoyles, as well as releaf showing horrible tragedies. The interiors were made to look like a refuge from the outside world, stained glass filtered, and CHANGED the light entering the church, so people felt like they were touched by god. The high arches, and quietude evoked a sense of power, peace, and protection. This is no different from modern day advertising techniques. It is also reminiscent of the use of formal, classical architectural designs for modern government buildings, to evoke a sense of solidity, security, and strength. These subtle influences are powerful psychological triggers. The subtle influences of society should be identified and combated if they are hindering your progress.
So, what do you do to identify, and eliminate, the programming of your mind? This is the hardest, and most important step in gaining self empowerment as well as maintaining sanity while walking "between the worlds". What alternatives are available (Especially if don't hate men "grin", don't hate other religions, and generally don't hate)? Here are three things that have helped me discover subtle programming, and alternatives to it:
A) Learn History- Learn about the true history of Christianity, read the Malleus Maleficarum or get a copy at your local library or bookstore, and force yourself to read it. (I got 2/3 through it before I threw up) Read "Drawing Down The Moon" to shatter the myth of modern Witches and find out where the ideas of Wicca have come from. Read "The Chalice and the Blade" for alternatives to patriarchal, or matriarchal societies, as well as many parts of "Food of the Gods" for information on Partnership-Based societies.
B) Catch your mind in the act! For example, (not a great one):
A person is in love with an alcoholic and abusive partner. No matter how much abuse is laid on the partner, they continue to stay together. There have been repeated attempts to change the situation, but the abusive partner is not willing to alter their actions or attitude. The abused partner remains in the relationship because they have been told (by upbringing, peers, society) that they must maintain the relationship. It is their supposed "duty" to make the relationship work or to accept it as it is. The "victim" also remains because of insecurity; they are afraid no one else will love them (a snow-balling cycle that the entire situation perpetuates by confirming the "victim's" worthlessness) so they remain bound to the relationship. The victim in this situation is equally guilty for their situation; by not breaking away from their programming, not admitting and changing their self image, and by not leaving!
C) EVIL-what is it? Ok, you're breaking away from self-defeating mind sets, and maybe breaking away from a Christian mind set, so where are your morals? Are these ideas evil? In Wicca, you immediately hear "oh no, we're not evil, we follow the Wiccan Rede, which is like the golden rule and it says we can't hurt anyone, not even ourselves, or it will come back to us three times over!" That's a neat and tidy answer. But totally irrelevant out of context. When doubts about your involvement or workings arise, take a good look at them. Each person must decide for themselves what evil is. Identify what evil is to you at this time. For example (ooh nooo not another one.... yup, and a true-life one at that):
A local college campus has a stalker who is brutally raping girls at random. There have been 12 "hits" so far, one girl is hospitalized. You are asked to help stop the situation with your magic. Some Witches would scream, "NO WAY! I DON'T DO CURSES OR BINDING SPELLS! That is controlling another person's free will". Some would say, "I can send healing energy to the victims" Some would say, "If what I do comes back to me, then my instincts say to protect my own, and it could only come back as me being less likely to attack or hurt others" All of these answers are correct for the people who have said them. Evil is in the mind of the beholder. Witches simply take full responsibility for their actions.
Exercises for Part I:
1) Catch yourself in the act of utilizing a mind program that no longer works for you. Relationships are good for this, also, everyday "mental chatter" Write down your findings, (in your Book of Shadows / BOS or journal, shadows= shadows of your mind, ideas hidden from normal thought, shadows as in hiding to evade persecution, etc.) Now take "positive affirmations" one step further and remember how your thoughts worked to use that pattern, and reroute them. I don't mean a flaky "I am beautiful" in the mirror, (unless that works for you) I mean, if you just tried on jeans that were too tight, then watched MTV, and then looked in the mirror and said, "yuck" then right away, CATCH YOURSELF! Identify how the ads on MTV made you feel less worthy, identify what makes you feel like a failure when your clothes are tight, identify how society has programmed us to think that we have to look and be a certain way.
2) Watch TV with intention, and Catch the programming within the programming. Not just in advertisement, but also in what ads are with what shows, (Slim-fast with soaps, Beer with sports, women with diet soda, men with regular soda) also identify it in the actual shows, like the "morals" of the story / sitcom. Networks are better for this than Fox or many cable shows.