As my readers of “Ethics of Killing for Food,” my summer solstice celebrations didn’t start off the way I had planned. After the ordeal over the raccoon, I felt emotionally and physically exhausted. I told my mother that I was calling off the special dinner, bonfire, and fireworks I had been planning. She urged me to not give up. She told me that she would help me make the solstice feast, and told my father to gather brush for the bonfire as an apology for his actions toward me and the raccoon. We worked together to make the honey mustard barbecued chicken, stir fried peppers, and honey cakes.
What really touched my heart was when she said she was going to make scalloped potatoes. In my family, scalloped potatoes are only made for major Christian holidays like Christmas. Up to this summer solstice, I celebrated every pagan holiday alone. The rest of my family saw my celebrations as nothing more than a strange curiosity. They didn’t take a real interest in what I celebrated or what I believed, and certainly didn’t treat my holidays as “real” holidays like they treated their Christian holidays. Their attitudes toward my spiritual path in general ranged from indifference to outrage.
I was born into a Catholic family, but began dabbling in various pagan paths as a teenager out of a search for spiritual solace that I could not find in the Catholic, or even Christian, faith. I started out talking to my family of my interest as purely academic, out of an effort to learn more about world religions.
When I was fifteen years old, my mother saw me looking on a website with information about paganism. She started verbally attacking me, calling me a devil worshipper, a Satanist who had been led astray by evil. I kept trying to explain that paganism wasn’t anything like that. She blamed everything bad that had happened in my life, like being bullied in school, on my religion. At one point, she even threatened to kick me out unless I promised to renounce paganism.
My mother had a very misguided view on what “paganism” really meant. I blame her sudden outburst on something she heard from a hardcore evangelist she used to watch on television.
The same can be said about tarot cards. I can vividly remember a moment in my childhood when we were all gathered at my grandparent’s house for a family dinner. My grandmother had bought a deck of tarot cards from the thrift store, thinking they were playing cards. My brother, cousin, and I started playing with them, to the horror of my mother. My mother told my grandmother that those cards were evil and that she should burn them as soon as possible. When I bought a deck of tarot cards a few days ago, I expected a similar reaction from my mother again. Instead, she started asking me questions about them before concluding that they were a “good investment of money.”
Since I have come back home after living seven months in an abusive household with my ex-boyfriend and his family, my mother has often made the statement that my spiritual path was harmful because it had not stopped me from leaving home to go live with my ex. While I was gone, she removed all my goddess images from my wall and disposed of them. So you can imagine my surprise at her offering to make scalloped potatoes, a gesture toward treating my holiday like the rest of my family’s holidays.
I thanked her for treating my holiday as a real holiday, and she responded by saying, “Your holidays and beliefs are not bad or evil. They are practices our ancestors did. You respect and celebrate our holidays, so we will respect and celebrate yours.”