Sometimes you gotta destroy one thing to make another
One of my happiest memories involving Ishtar is also one of the most difficult for some folks to understand. I used to hang out with a girl named Nessie, with whom I became friends during my junior year of high school. That was my first year in Texas, and I’d probably only been walking with Ishtar for three months or so when Nessie and I first hit it off. As explained previously, we bonded when Nessie’s parents got divorced. She and her mother were in the process of moving to an apartment across town together, and they needed a lot of help. For some reason, I felt like it was really important for me to volunteer, so I did. And that’s how I became such close friends with Nessie and her mother.
Nessie’s parents were very strict evangelical Christians, and she was really into Jesus when we first met in school. But here’s the thing; her parents got divorced because her father finally decided to come out of the closet as a gay man. To this day, I have no idea what it must have been like for him to live a secret life and go to church with his family and listen to everybody say that queer people will go to hell all the time. I can’t fathom what it must have been like for Nessie’s mother to discover that her husband had never been attracted to her and had simply married her for other reasons. And I can’t even begin to relay what it was like for Nessie to not only lose her stable family but to lose her faith in Jesus, the Bible and the authority of her pastor all in one fell swoop. I can tell you, however, that there were many nights when she cried on my shoulder.
Children whose parents get divorced often blame themselves for their parents’ mistakes, and Nessie was no exception in this regard. She beat herself up real good for a while, and her depression was amplified by her terror that she and her family would all go to hell. That was just too heart-breaking for me to stand, so I finally came clean with her: “I’m not a Christian, and I think the bullshit some Christians say against gay people is flat-out wrong. I believe there are way more Gods than just the God of the Bible, and if you really want to know, I worship a Goddess. I’m pretty sure She doesn’t care that your father’s gay, and I’m also sure She doesn’t want you to beat yourself up about any of this. None of this is your fault, Vanessa; not your father being gay, not your father lying to himself and your mother all this time, not your church drilling its bullshit into your head, not your parents splitting up, and not the fact that you feel horrible right now. None of this is your fault, and if I have to telling you that over and over again, then by the Goddess, I will!”
(I’m not necessarily quoting myself verbatim, but that’s basically what I said.)
As you can probably guess, Nessie was absolutely shocked by this revelation; she literally didn’t know what to say. I think she had to think about it for a while before we could broach the subject again; I don’t remember having our follow-up discussion on this until sometime during summer vacation. But it happened, all right. One day she called me right out of the blue and asked if I’d like to catch some dinner. I said yes and we went to a local pizza place; then we went to a deserted playground in some neighborhood I can’t remember and sat there and talked until something like 10:00 PM. (We came so close to becoming a couple that night, it’s not even funny. Nessie looked really cute in those faded green shorts she was wearing, and I’m pretty sure she’d have eaten me alive if I hadn’t been pining after some other girl at the time. I can’t even remember that other girl’s name, so what does that tell you? I was a total stooge back then, that’s what!)
Anyway, Nessie asked me to tell her more about this Goddess I was worshiping, so I did. Of course, my understanding of Ishtar wasn’t quite as good back then as it is now, so I must confess that the information I gave her wasn’t entirely accurate. But I think I got enough of my facts straight for me to count that night as a “win” for the Scarlet Woman. Nessie had never even considered the idea of a female Deity before, and she was pretty intrigued. I think it did her a world of good to have somebody explain a completely non-Christian view of the world; since she’d spent her entire life in a small Texas town up to that point, evangelical Christianity was all she knew. But now that she had an alternative viewpoint to consider, it helped her to overcome those horrible feelings she was having about herself in light of her parents’ divorce.
Sometime after that – I can’t remember when exactly – I came over to Nessie’s house while her mother was out. We had a fire going in the fireplace, and we were discussing life in general when Nessie suddenly got up, picked up her copy of the Bible, and started tearing its pages out. She then threw them gently into the fire one by one. This was not exactly “planned,” and it certainly wasn’t a suggestion on my part. I guess Nessie just decided that she’d finally had enough of her upbringing and that she had to do something right there and then to free herself from the ideology she’d been programmed to blindly accept from birth. She wasn’t angry or upset while she did it, either; she was completely calm, even serene. We sat there together, watching the belief system that had tormented her for so long disintegrate into ashes and dust.
I realize some of you probably think that burning a Bible is a horrible thing to do. I respect that opinion, and I’m certainly not an advocate of “book-burning” in the political sense of the term. (I don’t believe any book should ever be banned for any reason.) But it’s not like Nessie and I went around town, burning every Bible we found; it was just this one, and it was a Bible that belonged solely to her. She was destroying her own property, not anyone else’s, and she was doing it in private, not in public. Nor was she necessarily expressing hatred or contempt for the Abrahamic religions or their God. She didn’t know the term at the time, but Nessie was basically enacting what people on the left-hand path sometimes call a “rite of blasphemy.” This is a symbolic act in which you intentionally desecrate something that is sacred to you. It can be a religious object that other people consider sacred too, but it can also be something completely secular and that’s only “sacred” to you personally. The purpose of such magic is not really to shock or offend anyone else, but to shock yourself out of an unhealthy mindset that you associate with the object you’re destroying.
(A secular example of this would be if you’re married and get divorced, but can’t bring yourself to start dating other people because you still feel “committed” to your ex-spouse for some reason. In this case, you could perform a rite of blasphemy in which you destroy your wedding ring to rid yourself of this toxic mindset. As such, rites of blasphemy can actually be considered a form of execration, since they help you to overcome your inner demons.)
Nessie needed to free herself from her evangelical upbringing, and she needed to burn her Bible to do this. So while it might sound horrible to other people, this was actually a very beautiful experience for her; and I felt truly honored that Nessie was comfortable enough to share it with me. Not long after this experience, she became a Wiccan. I haven’t seen Nessie since 2003 or so, but the last I heard, she had joined a coven and was dating another Pagan dude in Dallas. I certainly hope she’s doing at least as well today as she was when I last saw her, if not better.
So sharing my love for Ishtar with this girl helped her break free from the horrible, guilt-ridden life she’d been living. I can’t claim the credit for this myself, for Ishtar’s the one who actually saved Nessie from falling into inertia. (I was just Her messenger boy.) But I like to think that maybe the Goddess had great plans for Nessie, and that Nessie’s become a most formidable witch by now. I don’t know where she is or how she might be doing, but I pray that Ishtar is with her still.