Being that it’s Sunday, writing about this is fairly appropriate especially since the rest of my family are devout Christians. Now, this song was originally written as a Rastafarian anthem, adapting the lyrics from Psalm 137:1-4 and Psalm 19:14 (amusingly enough, my sister and I were discussing this post, and I told her that the words were from Psalms. She insisted they were from Jeremiah and perhaps one of the Pauline epistles. Searching the Bible, I was able to essentially say ‘neener, neener’ to her about it). I originally told her it was a disco version, but after re-hearing it, and researching it, it has a far more reggae sound than a disco one.
Just because I’m Pagan doesn’t mean I have lost any of the knowledge I learned from the first 20 years of my life. Sadly, outside of my family, somehow SOME Christians expect me to have completely forgotten my entire education in a Christian setting from fifth grade on to the sophomore year of college. But you also have to understand that my family – as usual – are weird. We’re one of the families that bought the “Bible Trivia” game (just like Trivial Pursuit, but questions based on the Bible – challenging your knowledge of it). My parents had a magazine subscription to Biblical Archaeology Review (I have no idea if they still receive it). I still study the Bible, because many of the people I minister to as a Wiccan priestess are people struggling to find their spiritual place – and often I need to prove to them that they are Christians, and cannot blame the religion for the actions of individuals. I still have discussions of Christian theology with my family.
Additionally, yes, I do still sometimes listen to music that has a connection to the Christian religion (no matter how outré or thin the connection may be). Again, it’s a matter of having a rather extensive knowledge of the Bible and its stories.
In this case, the song means so many different things to me. In some ways, I can describe my life with my ex as being in captivity. Just because the bars surrounding me were mostly of my own making, doesn’t make a difference. Why? Because if you’ve studied your Bible, you’ll know that essentially the nation of Israel (both sides of it – Judah and Levi versus the “Lost 10 Tribes”) bore responsibility for their own captivity (at least based on the statements found in a number of the books of the Old Testament). They “turned away from God” repeatedly – and finally, like a parent frustrated at a child who just will not keep their hands away from the burner on the stove (personal experience here, eventually my parents let me find out just how hot it was, because I wouldn’t listen when warned……yes, I’ve always tended to need to learn things the hard way….hopefully it’s a habit I can break).
The part of the song that is adapted from Psalm 19 is another reminder for me. The Divine speaks, if we are only willing to hear. But in order to hear the words of the Divine, we need to have our minds and hearts open. We have to get out of our own way. Again, this is another lesson I had to learn the hard way. It doesn’t matter that my Goddess is Morrigu – although, she doesn’t necessarily have the patience with ignorance or stupidity that some other manifestations of the Divine might have – She’s more of a 3-strikes kind of Goddess, at least for me. After the 3rd strike, out comes the cosmic 2×4 (or sometimes 12×12).
This is not the only song that occasionally soothes me. In fact, Sarah McLachlan’s “Prayer of St. Francis” gives me peace quite often.
The reasons these songs soothe, is because they use symbolism and wording that is familiar and comforting from my childhood. It doesn’t mean that my faith is being shaken simply because I am listening to songs written as a praise to the Christian god.
This song also sometimes helps (although, I prefer Imogen Heap’s version more):
The reality is, after 2,000 years, quite a bit of our American and European cultures have so many concepts of Christianity embedded in the culture that it is hard to actually understand something without using a Christian-based analogy.
For example, there is a state that all people of spiritual faith experience, called the Dark Night of the Soul. It’s not just a momentary doubt of one’s faith or a minor blip on their spiritual radar. It is a sense of hopelessness, a sense of sheer isolation as a minuscule and unimportant cog in an unfeeling Universal machine. It’s a questioning of existence, of Self. You become completely stripped of all of your masks, all of your vices and virtues.
Many Pagans equate this Dark Night with Ishtar’s Descent into the Underworld. Gate by gate, She is stripped of everything. But it is the experience there in the dark, in the isolation, in the Void, that allows a human to evolve.
Some people take longer to learn those lessons, while others seem to do it with ease. I’m occasionally skeptical of those who seem to find it an easy, simple journey. When you are digging that deeply into your soul, reaching that far outside AND inside of yourself, it IS a long and hard journey. Even Ishtar didn’t simply waltz in and right back out.