I was raised Catholic in the tradition of my part Italian father and his fully Italian father; a tradition that my great-grandparents brought with them from the shores of Western Italy. At 16 when I refused the holy sacrament of confirmation, what would have been my affirmation of the Catholic faith and my welcoming to the Church as an adult, I broke this sacred tradition. This break became the catalyst for my shedding of Christianity. Bibles and crosses were given away, old church t-shirts were trashed and with this materialistic shedding I began an emotional separation by mentally classifying everything related to the Abrahamic faiths as non-nonsensical and useless. I sought like-minded friends, those who had not only never experienced Christianity, but those who had forcefully rejected it like myself. I began a path of exploration and discovery that I still walk today.
And yet Mary was always there. She would come to me in little ways, whispers and nudges, tickles at the back of my mind. I would find myself praying to her in moments of hardship and I felt ashamed. I felt dumb.
Everything else about Christianity felt so wrong, it left a sour taste in my mouth, but Mary had a rightness about her that transcended the patriarchal monotheism that had brought her to me.
It took years for me to accept the Judeo-Christian pantheon as a set of allegories and archetypes in the same way I accepted the Aesir and the Olympians. Realizing the Bible was a collection of folk-lore left behind by a desert people was a revelation. By being told to take the Bible at face value, I had been alienated from its worth as a historic, culturally significant document. I did not accept the Eddas as fact or as a falsification of history, why then should I treat the Bible in that way? I don’t have to hate the Bible or its characters, I can accept them as a pantheon, a mythology. It was a liberating experience.
When I came out of my hateful tunnel, an adult who realized her beliefs were fluid and intimate, Mary was waiting for me. She took her place besides Athena and Frigg, Hecate and Artemis, Freya and Kali.
Mary, you who are the one woman the followers of Abraham and Moses hold up with high regard, you who stepped through a male dominated spirituality and surpassed it, how could I reject you?
When I call on the Mother, Mary’s face comes to me. She is a powerful force of the divinity of the feminine. A woman who bore a child without a man, a mother who suffered for her children, and has evolved over two-thousand years, absorbing Europe’s pagan mother-goddesses into her. Rather than making her a fraud, this adds to her power. Even if she is the invention of a few creative Semites in the desert, hundreds of years of prayer and belief have crafted her into existence.
To this day, when in need I still close my eyes and whisper to her. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art though amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.