Doubts about the hidden world

One thing that withheld me for a long time from calling myself a pagan, is the popular association with witchcraft. As Christians, we were often warned for dabbling in what is called the occult. As a student of philosophy, magical thinking had no place in the framework of the mainstream world view.  Words like magic and witchcraft were a no go area in two distinct ways, so I have always gone out of my way to avoid it.
Yet I have always had experiences with what could be described as the supernatural or a usually hidden part of the natural world. Many of these experiences were unpleasant. There were nasty dreams that came true, and I was almost always afraid in my childhood home at night. The most striking encounters with this world were my involuntary meetings with the shadow people, or the so-called hatman. I thought I was crazy at the time, but since the advent of internet I have learnt these experiences are extremely common across the world. I was very surprised to learn these sightings are as common as they are. Luckily I have not had these experiences in years. Either it had to do with where I lived, or I have become more “grounded” and less susceptible to these experiences. But it has left me with two clear impressions about this other world: it exists, and it does not always feel benign. Those events made me follow the warning about witchcraft and divination in the bible for a long time.
Lately I have been rethinking this. Reading The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler made me consider the story of Adam and Eve, or rather Eve and the snake, in a new light. I found this book very interesting, although from a scientific view there are many problems with it as well. But what if this myth is in some ways an allegory of a conquered female spirituality? Snakes were in many cultures a sacred animal, and snake cults were usually associated with the reverence of female goddesses. An inextricable part of these older religious practices were divination and spells, or at least that this other world could and would be influenced by humans. By choosing the apple, Eve expressed her desire for an independent path of (self-)knowledge. This, however, went against the desire of a jealous God, who reveals himself as a male entity.
It is understandable why people who reject Jahweh, the jealous God, also disregard the warning on witchcraft and divination. Yet Christians themselves practice a kind of magic, by healing prayers for instance. They will, of course, say God does the healing, but in a way it is also using a spiritual energy. In more recent years, I have felt the power of prayer myself. Good, wholesome things were miraculously manifested in my life by truly believing and actively inviting them. One could call that the grace of the God(s), but it could very well be a form of magic too. Maybe it is the former Christian in me who fears to tread into that part in the woods. Maybe it is self-preservation: I have unwillingly encountered the other world and it was not always benign. Maybe it is just not for me or I’m not spiritually mature enough to handle these energies. I remain indecisive on this point.
I cannot and will never judge for anyone else. Someone with a completely different set of experiences will of course come to different conclusions. Personally, however, I will stick to what I have been doing before. I will burn my candles, say thanks for and honour the woods, the river and the fertile soil I live on, share my worries. But I will not actively invoke anything, or anyone.

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