I'm Channing. I'm a witch and a Mormon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Almost a year ago I had a really painful experience in my church.

I love to read. I am a lover of stories, especially myths and fairy tales. Over the summer of 2017, this love deepened into a curiosity about the archetype of the witch, a major character in old tales and ancient stories. I studied the history of pre-christian goddess cultures and nature worship, how women were systematically removed from positions of power and influence in their communities by "witch" propoganda, and what the patriarchy is. I wrote a bit more about that here if you're interested. This was my first real study on feminism and it was powerful. Life-changing. When potent women's issues were added to my interest in environmental sustainability, an ecofeminist was born. That, topped off with my intense love for religion and spirituality, forged me into a passionate, creative, and inspired activist.

For me, the archetype of the Witch became symbolic of a spiritual, earth-loving, feminist force for healing and good. I fell in love with the Witch - not anyone in particular, not any particular "practice" - but an image of a woman reclaiming her place in the world as an equal, as a spiritual guide and healer, as a protector and friend of the earth. When Halloween rolled around, I decided to really embrace the idea of stepping into the role of a powerful feminine figure by dressing up in a witch costume. I shared a picture and some heartfelt words on social media:

I got a usual amount loving words of support in response, but otherwise, this post disappeared into the immortal abyss of Instagram and Facebook with little fanfare.  One week later my husband and I were contacted by my local church leadership for a meeting. I don't want to re-hash the story of how, in that meeting, I was accused of witchcraft in this post, but you can read my detailed account of it here.

After that meeting, I also met with a higher church authority to get help handling what happened. I also ended up meeting with my local leadership again and was able to have some reconciliation and closure. I attended church the following Sunday. Everyone moved on.

Except me. I could not "move on".

Here I am, ten months later, still talking about "the witch thing". Part of me feels ashamed, as if me still talking about it is an indication of my own pride and inability to forgive. I am constantly beating myself up for thinking about it, constantly telling myself to "let it go". But this last month I've started to understand just how far-reaching the effects of that experience have been and the difficulties I've had healing.

For months after, I attended church feeling I had a scarlet 'A' sewn on my dress. Sometimes I walked in the building on Sunday afternoons and wanted to turn right back around. Church no longer became a place of solace and community for me.

To this day I don't know who to trust at church. Apart from a few people I don't know who is my friend and who thinks I'm a satanic witch. Am I welcome to attend Sunday meetings? Do the people in Sunday School roll their eyes at my comments? Are those whispers and laughs in Relief Society about me? Will someone tattle on me for talking about Heavenly Mother or loving the earth? I now lead the music in Relief Society and if I'm 100% honest I have some anxiety about standing in front of my fellow sisters, some of them the wives of the church leaders who accused me of satanic witchcraft.

I had a good, strong, friendly relationship with the children I taught before I was released from my calling as a primary teacher. Now, I see them in the hallways at church and hesitate talking to them, let alone give them the hugs they reach for. I wish I could tell them why the same primary teacher who made them necklaces, treats, and was making plans for a weeknight Moana movie and pizza party was suddenly so distant and cold. But I don't, because they are young, because I love them, and because my cheeks still turn red and my eyes grow hot with tears when I think of what happened to me. I am doubtful I will feel comfortable having a calling in or interacting with the children's and youth organizations in church ever again.

It is one thing to forgive. That happened last year, soon after the "witch thing" first happened. It is quite another to be re-traumatized every Sunday: every sacrament meeting when I'm looking at the stand, every meeting with leadership about callings, every time I go to Primary opening exercises to watch my daughter give a talk, every time I see the sweet girls and boys in my old class in the hallways.

Its been increasingly difficult for me to feel the spirit in church the last few months. I've only recently figured out why. Church is no longer a place where I can be vulnerable. I show up to church every week having studied the lessons and speaking the language, but I have hidden myself away into the closets of my shame. Doing so has made me angry, empty, and ready to pack up my broom and leave the church forever. I do not learn. I am not fed.

I am marah - bitter, like biblical Naomi.

I feel, since the "witch thing", I cannot be my whole self, especially at church. After ten months of splitting myself in two - a Mormon at church and something deeper every moment outside that - I realized I am dying inside. I'm living with my heart outside my body and dumbly wondering why I feel numb and empty. That is not wholeness. That is not peace. That is not reconciliation. That is not at-one-ment.

My battle cry for months has been "I am not a witch!" But something about that statement didn't feel right. I realize now that it was as close as I could get to the truth with the language I had to express myself.

What I meant to say is this: I am not evil. I didn't sell my soul to the devil; in fact, I'm quite fond of it, maybe even overly-protective sometimes. I don't believe in hurting people. I do not do the things people usually think of when they hear "witch" and "witchcraft".

I do consider myself a witch. The words "witch" and "witchcraft" carry meanings with them that incite feelings of fear, disgust, and shame. They invoke images of satanic worship, death, and warty hags cackling over a bubbling cauldron. This ability and imagery is a great example of what thousands of years of patriarchy and propaganda can do to the idea of a woman in her own power. But for me, being a witch is not about eyes of newts and riding brooms over a full moon (though that would probably be an amazing experience to be honest). Its about being a whole woman, at one with herself, her community, and the earth. Witchcraft is about healing, learning, and forming relationships with the same.

I believe in the equality of men and women. I believe that nature has much to teach humanity and gives us so much goodness. I believe it is my responsibility to have a relationship with and learn the language of the earth, so I do just that. I believe in conservation and sustainability. I believe that plants can heal. I believe that the earth, the water, and the celestial beings have meaningful things to say if I learn to listen.

I believe in the power of women, individually and collectively. I believe in their ability to teach, learn, grow, know, and speak. I believe in the healing and sustaining power of sisterhood. I believe a woman has rights to claim her own spiritual gifts, healing, and relationship with God. I believe in the eternal, tangible presence of a Divine Feminine, a Mother God, a Heavenly Mother.

I believe in the equality of women and men. I believe we are all affected by the influence of patriarchy and can work together to heal the wounds it has inflicted on us all - spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I believe in equality of all - not one is above another. God is no respecter of persons. Neither am I.

I believe in the healing power of stories. I also believe that ignoring the gifts of myths and stories from other cultures and religions as well as the stories of individuals is a conscious choice to cut oneself off from growth, understanding, and empathy.

I believe in God, Jesus, the Atonement, and continuing revelation.

I consider myself a strong, committed, righteous member of the LDS church. I will forever be reconciling my questions and answers, but that is what faith is about.

I am aware of the possibility of others reading this and 1. not understanding and/or 2. not agreeing that its possible to be both a witch and a righteous member of the LDS church. I accept that. I know that by describing myself as a witch that I open myself to the ridicule of others and the possibility of discipline from my church if someone decides my local leaders need to know about it. That's okay too.

I can say this: Never before have I been so committed to making the church I love so deeply and dearly better as I am now. Never have I been so Christlike as when I open myself to the experiences and stories of others, and vulnerably offer mine in return. Never before have I been so passionate about advocating for the "least of them". Church, if you decide to kick me out because I love the earth and Jesus, its a loss for both of us.

Why am I sharing this? Friends, I have to be vulnerable again if I want to genuinely connect with you. I have to give my whole self, not just the parts that are deemed "good" and "acceptable" by society. I've come to see that my inability to accept this part of myself has been a huge creative and spiritual block. I need to be brave and come as I am, be who I am, if I ever hope to have integrity and peace. I want to experience courage and genuine connection. Do you want to join me?

Hi, I'm Channing, and I'm a witch and a Mormon. Can we (still) be friends?

How the Enneagram Taught Me How to Love Myself

Friday, July 20, 2018

Have you heard of the Enneagram?

That's how I've started many conversations over the last few months. Almost every person I have talked to has not.

The Enneagram is a personality typing method. This is no Facebook quiz that asks you to pick five pictures and gives you a complimentary paragraph about yourself. Its a legitimate test that has been used and studied for a long time. There are nine different types, each with unique traits, characteristics, and purpose. To find out more about the history and how the method works, check out the Enneagram Institute's Overview and History.

Admittedly, I have known of the Enneagram for a few years but have been willfully ignorant of it, considering it to be a 'lesser' method compared to the Myers-Briggs method which boasts 16 unique personality types. More is more, right? My first introduction (and continued exposure) to the Enneagram was made by Anne Bogel. I've been following Anne on her blog Modern Mrs. Darcy for a few years and have loved her heartfelt and informative writing style. She has such a passion for personality typing, she wrote an entire book on the topic. When I saw "Reading People" at my library last year I checked it out with enthusiasm. The book spends time overviewing a variety of personality typing methods including the Enneagram, but it was not 'Reading People' that finally brought me to try out the method for myself. Instead, it was music.

When Anne included an announcement in her newsletter that a musician by the name Sleeping At Last was writing songs for each of the Enneagram types, I immediately took a test to find out which type I was. As a girl who has always harbored a secret dream of someone writing a song for and about me, I had to know: Which song is for me? What does someone love about me?

First I took this free Enneagram test here but I was unsatisfied with the results. I had a close tie between two of the types and I wanted a definitive answer. I made my way to the Enneagram Institute's online test. I think $12 is a really small price for the wealth of knowledge a test like this has potential to provide. Comparatively, the Myers-Briggs paid test ran about $70 a few years back (still a worthy investment). I took the 140 question test in about 15 min (fair warning, it can take upwards of an hour if you take tests at a slower rate) and got my type: 4. "I hope that means I'm special," I thought to myself as I clicked on the type descriptions. I laughed as I saw the title for the Type 4: The Individualist.

"Mmmkay, maybe the Enneagram is not for me," I said to myself as I read through my type description on the site. Apparently I am "The Sensitive, Introspective Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, and Temperamental". That doesn't describe me at all! I thought. I enjoy the friendship of others. I am polite and tactful and want people to like me. I take great pride in my Myers-Briggs type, ENFJ, "The Protagonist". Its one of the least common types (which I tell myself makes me special) and is very "people" focused, almost to a fault. ENFJs are extroverted, enjoy interpersonal relationships, love to encourage people to be their very best, and intuitively know what makes people "tick". This makes them great friends, problem-solvers, mentors, and teachers. Basically, I'd make a really bomb advice columnist. If I had really lofty goals I'd be a great human rights leader. Me, self-absorbed and temperamental? This test is wrong.

Brushing off my annoyance, I made my way over to YouTube to listen to the song for Type 4. I was hoping for a deep, touching experience. Something I could cry my eyes out over, ya know? Instead, I felt nothing. The test had to be wrong.

The test was indeed interesting. Even my official Enneagram Institute test results tied for two types: 4 and 2: The Helper. The "Caring, Interpersonal Type: Generous, Demonstrative, People-Pleasing, and Possessive". (Side note: I think its really interesting for an ENFJ to tie those two types) I wrote off the Type 2, as the results did mention that women can sometimes incorrectly type as 2 because of learned social behaviors and expectations. I was starting to get annoyed with the Enneagram and almost completely wrote it off. I gave it one last shot by listening to the Sleeping At Last podcast for the release of the Type 4 song. What I heard was life-changing.

The podcast is hosted by Ryan, the singer/songwriter behind Sleeping At Last. He also hosts guest Chris Huertz who is an Enneagram expert and the two of them spend a lot of time talking about each type. They highlight their strengths, inner landscapes, challenges, hurts, and advice for those in relationships with each type. Listening to Ryan and Chris talk about the Type 4 helped me fall in love with myself.

In summary, their discussion reveals Type 4s as deeply introspective. They seek the meaning behind being. They are incredibly sensitive to the nuances of emotion, experiences, and relationships. They have a rich inner world in which they explore the depths of themselves and the role they play in the world. They want to know, "What makes me significant? What meaning do I give to the world?" Certainly, this "self-absorbtion" can be viewed in a negative light, but it roots in a place of wanting to belong in a world, among other people that they see carry so much significance. In a healthy Type 4, this search for meaning grows into a beautiful fulfillment of purpose, both personally and in the community. Hearing myself described in this way healed the self-doubt and shame around my intricate, involved, sometimes heavy inner self. I felt seen. I felt loved. I felt celebrated.

I have a friend who is passionate about language and the power of words. In our conversations, we often celebrate when we discover new words and concepts. She often reminds me that having the language to express oneself is power. Though it may seem silly to some, personality typing methods such as Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram are more than just fun quizzes to feel good about yourself. They provide a framework to explore and discover oneself. For me, the Myers-Briggs test types my outward motivations and the way I interact with others. It was powerful when I was first introduced to it by my aunt eight years ago. The Enneagram is equally transformative for me because it provides me with a concept and language to describe my soul.

Ever since discovering this amazing language, I am obsessed with learning to speak it. I'm reading this book and encouraging those around me to learn about the Enneagram too. I am privileged to be married to a Type 3. My soul sister is a Type 2. My lovely twin-wife (that's what we call each other because our husbands are identical twins) is a Type 6. I love having real-life examples of each type because they help me understand the Enneagram better, and the Enneagram helps me know them deeper. But my favorite thing about the Enneagram is not how it helps me know others. I love it because it helps me know myself.

What are you waiting for? Go ahead and fall down the rabbit hole already! Here are links to every resource I've talked about here:

The Ennneagram Institute
Modern Mrs. Darcy Blog
Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
Free Enneagram Test
Enneagram Institute Paid Test
Sleeping At Last Podcast
The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Chris Huertz
Four by Sleeping At Last
Two by Sleeping At Last
The Myers & Briggs Foundation
Myers & Briggs Free Test
Myers & Briggs Paid Test

And because I can't help myself, I have to know...

What's your type?
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