THE “F” WORD IN THE CRAFT
As of yet, I haven’t saddled up beside a hearty Pagan without eventually hearing: “I just don’t have enough faith.” Now. We don’t tell each other that right away, not during meetings or festivals or at the local Walmart. Naw, that little crystal moment doesn’t happen until trust starts vining up our friendships, usually a few years in, a few beers in and a few tears in. By this time, we know each other’s bra sizes. My official response to this moment is: get on. Do you fart, too? Doubting the self is the human condition–‘fraid y’all are all with me in this boat, on account of it’s made of flesh and bone. But, wait. There’s something a little more . . . substantial to chew on here.
Let’s study on this a spell. When everything gets hazy, I turn to my training, which was organic and Southern, slow enough to taste it and strong enough to sustain growing bones. Try this: close your eyes. Imagine someone you love so fiercely you would die to protect their smile. Now. Imagine their “soul,” that illusive/real, red-thumpin’ heart of them. See it? Feel it? Now. Prove it.
That’s what I thought.
What I find intriguing here is that if I told you that wasn’t real you’d pop me one in the jaw, huh? Guess we all have faith in someone. I figure if we saw the universe, Big Momma and our own selves in this way–the “f” word would be a non-issue. And that’s just it. I think we’re talking about good old fashioned lovin’. Let’s get a little academic, here. (I know, I know. But it’s been a minute since I pulled out my Dr. Seba card. Humor an old woman.)
Carol Christ (yes, that’s right) writes the following:
“As we creatively re-imagine symbols, it is important to remember that symbols are not an end in themselves.” 
In Christ’s view (yes, I hear the funny), it is critical to remember that one cannot symbolize or signify anything that does not have some meat to it. In other words, I signify my son as, well, my son. And “Jacob.” And depending on the day, “little shit-ass.” Take all those signifiers away? Still that red-thump one that makes my heart crack open. See, souls are different. They are easier–because they don’t beg for that extra symbol upon their skin to be real. Go a step further: I signify a knife “athame.” I charge it, bless it and slice through all kinds of interesting matter with it–
But if you found it in the yard? Hey. Cool knife. (Y’all ready to jump here? Go pee first . . .)
If we, those red-thump souls, are real then what we touch, love, tap into is also real simply on the premise that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. See, we can get groovy that the soul we love is energy. The snag in the rug is when we try to see that they, also, can neither be created nor destroyed. Science has proven, quite by accident, that souls exist. We cannot destroy it. Got it. Cannot create it. Got it. But we can, oh yes, manipulate it.
I teach my students that an athame is a choice, an extension of your hand that works past our earthly flesh and human doubt. I also teach them to never make the mistake of thinking it’s actually the knife doing the work. Nope. That’s you. You’re just faking yourself out–in the most audacious, universal manner. It seems, at the end of the day, that the very thing in the way of our “walking on water” is: ourselves. We so damn silly.
Now. If we can believe in ourselves, then, we can believe in athames, tarot cards, a priestess cape, an altar cloth . . . you get me? Because we are charging these little items with our own sacred, blessed energy shared by the Great Thump of the universe. As an organic, hereditary witch this makes complete sense to me. But, just in case, here’s a little ditty from the land of red clay:
A friend of mine, a Bear of a man, came by the house the other day after I suffered a little cyber attack. Negativity sucks. So do a lot of things. And, even as I am the one who teaches and protects and provides for my tribe, SKW was a little . . . injured. Not in a place to get my own ass right. Bear shows up and puts a stone on leather around my neck, obviously a beloved item, and says: wear it until this is over. It will protect you. Now, in my ragged state that late afternoon, I was having a bit of a “f” word disability–but I kissed him hard and went on. That night, something woke me up and it took a minute to factor the buzzing around my neck. Warm stone, against my chest, accompanied this feeling of peace like a nicely-strung hammock under a warm, August breeze. Ah. Well, damn. His energy in a rock. Faith on a string.
But. I get you. Oh, sista brotha, I get you. So, you’re having a problem with faith. Try this one too: close your eyes. Wrap your arms around yourself, nice and tight, and rock. Feel that? Mmm Hmm. Now imagine yourself . . . as the universe.
Get back to me on that one. Turns out, it was inside. All along. We can fall in love with each other, heal each other and crack mountains in half with our thumpin’. And just when you thought class was over, a passage from an article I wrote about six years ago:
Clement and Kristeva note that, unlike the religious which must have organization, the sacred: “does exactly the opposite: it eclipses time and space. It passes in a boundlessness without rule or reservation, which is the trait of the divine.” 
Amen. Sacred souls, sacred energy breaking all the rules and resisting policement. Amen. For this old country gal, this means the following:
When I lose faith, I look at my son’s eyes–blue with a chestnut speck–shining in the sun. I feel my husband’s arm around my hip in the dark, snuggled tight against the day-world of bills, bitches and bullies. I smell the skin of a friend’s whiskered cheek against mine, whispering sister. I lean into the whisper of a coming Spring in a backyard haunted by past lighting bugs and laughter. I believe. It’s an active verb.
And it’s all up to me to set it in motion. Because, as George Michael told us, we gotta’ have faith. (The alternative doesn’t sound like a friend of mine.)
1. Carol P. Christ, She Who Changes: Re-imagining the Divine in the World ( New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 200.
2. Catherine Clement and Julia Kristeva, The Feminine and the Sacred, Trans. Jane Marie Todd (New York: Columbia UP, 1998), 30.