When I was three years old, the family story goes, I started drawing pictures of full-figured females with ample breasts. I drew them over and over. Though my parents were impressed by my prodigious skills with a crayon, they were shocked and dismayed by what I had chosen to draw. They couldn’t figure out where I would have seen such an image to inspire me. This was 1952, so it wasn’t from the TV. We had quite a large family library, but they would never have a book with pictures like that lying around.
My mother encouraged me to draw other things. She would even draw and color with me, hoping to influence my creative expression. I, however, was not interested in drawing kites and flowers and balloons. I had this image in my head that would not leave me alone. Soon I learned to draw what my parents were comfortable with and drew what my soul wanted in secret.
Time went by and the image shifted to one of a more detailed female figure with long, dark hair, sitting on a rock under a large tree. As I got more proficient, I was able to clothe her in a white or blue gown to make her more acceptable to others. Eventually, I added every kind of animal, bird, and insect I knew sitting at her feet under that tree. It was an obsession with me to include all kinds of life, because she was the loving Mother of Everything, even the flowers which I would put in her hair. When I was introduced to modeling clay, I made three-dimensional versions of her. I often added children to sit at her feet to hear the stories I imagined she was telling.
Besides my artistic obsession, I was having some unusual experiences. I could understand animals and trees. I could see sparkles in the air around living things that would change colors. I could see shadows that moved independently. People whom I knew were already dead would visit me and tell me things. I had seen people all made of light. For a while, I thought everyone could do these things. I eventually found out otherwise and was told I had a very vivid imagination. It seemed to upset my parents. They even had the priest come and do a cleansing and blessing on our house. I tried to focus on other things, like Sunday School.
I was fascinated by the nativity stories from the bible growing up, mostly because I felt a connection with Mary. As a teenage girl, I frequently harassed our Episcopal priest by asking question after question about Mary’s life. The stories said that She had been visited by an angel. Had She seen other things, too? He didn’t seem to be able to answer any of my questions. I was frustrated that the focus was only on the Father and the Son. Well, what about the Mother?
I looked elsewhere for my answers. I visited churches of different denominations. They turned my questions aside and talked about God or told me to read the bible. I read the bible twice, all the way through. Didn’t answer my questions. How is it that priests and ministers who appeared as if they knew everything, didn’t seem to know about what was important to me?
When I got to university, I majored in art and continued to make my female images. I also enrolled in comparative religion courses. Maybe studying other religions would give me what I so desperately needed. I studied diligently and even took a bible course and joined a study group.
One of my world religion professors seemed especially experienced and wise. I made an appointment to talk with him. He sat and listened attentively as I told him of my long and intensive search, but when I got to my questions, he broke eye contact with me. He squirmed in his chair and looked at his watch. He said to me, “Well, this has been very interesting, but I have an appointment across campus. Good luck.” He shook my hand.
So, I thought about becoming a nun. I found Sister Jane Mary and visited her convent. It felt like finally I was on the right trail, but I also found too many rules and not enough freedom. The church and scholars held nothing for me, it seemed. I would need to find the answers for myself.
I decided I wanted to experience the miracle of birth, like Mary. Maybe through shared experience I could understand the concept of divinity. I talked to Mary in my heart and imagined Her at my side when I gave birth to my three precious children. When I miscarried three times, I envisioned placing those small souls in Mary’s compassionate arms. Even when the animals on our small farm gave birth or died, I thought of Her. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was already on the path that would guide my life forever.
Fast forward almost a decade to my life as a single parent, struggling desperately under the weight of responsibilities and poor health. Two wonderful wisewomen were put in my path. They both had a gentle but firmly truthful demeanor that made me feel safe but also held a mirror to my soul. One, Kathleen, helped me to get a hold on my mundane life and the other, Linda, helped me physically and spiritually with her healing hands and heart. I found myself sharing with her my most private musings. She listened and honored my stories. Linda could see my real self. She called me out one day upon hearing me tell of how I had communicated with a dying animal, saying, “I think you’re a natural witch.”
What on earth did she mean? I was shocked and offended. How could she say that about me? I was a good person! Witches were evil, weren’t they? As educated as I was, I still had bought into that false perception. I vowed to never speak to her again and I certainly would never return for more healing work! A few weeks later I found myself thinking that maybe I should find out what she meant. She had never said anything before to hurt me. I went back to see her and ask my big question.
She calmly listened to my fears and with a warming smile, told me about the Goddess. My life changed at that moment. I wasn’t crazy! I wasn’t alone! I had found what I was looking for. I had found where my heart and soul belonged. Linda Diane Feldt became my first teacher of the women’s mysteries.
She taught me the wisewoman ways and introduced me to others who followed paths to the Goddess in Her many forms. Mary had been the Goddess for me down through the years and I spiritually grew as I discovered Her other faces and names. I am still awed when I see Her looking back at me from the eyes of mothers and daughters from every culture on earth.
I had several other teachers after Linda, all appearing just at the right time. I took to heart what they shared with me and challenged them often, as I struggled to my spiritual feet. I learned more about the gifts I was born with and how to use them efficiently to serve others in the Goddess’ name, my true calling. My sacred name, Bona Dea, is one of Her names and is a symbol of how I honor Her with my life’s work.
I am still learning and always will be, and Mary still is with me. When I desire to work a healing, She appears behind me and slides Her hands into mine. I can feel Her heart and am overcome with Her love.