FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE I was taught about meditation, visualization, crystals, tarot cards, psychic powers and spirit guides. By the time I was 10, I had reviewed my astrological birth chart, knew my numerology and was informed of what psychics had predicted before I was born. All the signs pointed towards becoming a spiritual teacher or leader. That was my life path and purpose.
When I was 14, my father handed me a book on Wicca and we began to study it together as a family. It seemed as though we had found a name for things we had already been practicing and believed in. Later that year, we went to our first festival. I remember falling in love with festival culture and feeling certain that if I was meant to be a leader, it would be in the pagan community as a priestess initiating people into the mysteries.
Between the ages of 15 and 23, I explored several different groups, not yet realizing the power of venturing out on my own. I also didn’t yet realize that a deep connection with “Spirit” came from a place of sincere practice that often gets lost in the group experience.
Publicly I sang with a chant group for Covenant of the Goddess rituals, performed rituals for Pagan Pride, and eventually became the ritual director for Harmony Tribe. But it seemed the more I ventured out in the community, the more criticism I received. I was told many times that my ego was out of control and that I needed to check my motivations.
At this point, I began to question whether or not my parents had unwittingly implanted in me a sort of narcissistic Jesus complex with all their “old soul” talk. Maybe my purpose didn’t lie in leading people through spiritual experiences. Maybe it really was my ego striving for recognition.
Ten years ago, I stepped back from the community because I kept receiving the message that I was seeking validation for an overblown ego. Since I have returned to take on a more active role, it has become clear to me that 99 percent of the drama within the pagan community has also revolved around “ego” and “validation.”
Validation is what draws us into groups, relationships and alliances in the first place. It’s the spark of shared ideas, experiences and emotions. But when you create a social structure that is based on external validation, it disempowers the individual and eventually creates opposition.
Seeking external validation is an unconscious act of giving power to someone else — with the expectation that they will later confer it back to you. This is where schism starts. There is little in our world that teaches us how to validate ourselves that doesn’t include cautionary tales of ego, narcissism or controlling behavior. There is a notion in our culture that claiming one’s power is the path to the “dark side,” that any self-proclaimed person is not that thing, and power can only be wielded by those that do not want it. So we wait, hoping someone will find us worthy enough.
Training is great for giving us the tools necessary to go forward grounded in knowledge. But no one has the right to tell you when you are ready, when you are worthy, or even if you are capable. Putting one’s self in a position of only doing what others say is appropriate prevents you from experiencing the potential richness of your own life.
Today, I am the author of this column, I am the marketing director for a festival, I recently published my first CD, and appeared as an anchor on a pagan television show. What got me here was deciding that I was done waiting. Self-validation says, I can be or do anything, and I am tired of holding back.
What will you decide?