Mind Matters

by the Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 421
January 28, 2002






Striding rapidly to the outdoor pool--to minimize the bite of the November chill on my unclad body--I stopped suddenly, momentarily forgetting the cold, mesmerized as I was by the well-tattooed body of the lifeguard. My question, "Do you mind telling me about the tattoos," received a ready reply. She proudly pointed to her massive upper-chest shoulder-to-shoulder Wicca tattoo, to the sentimental tattoo which matched her daughter's (the family that tattoos together...), and to a couple of smaller tattoos added when she was in a more playful mood. She said my questions were a relief from the usual non-verbal and often disapproving oblique look she gets from others.

Wicca? My last real contact with Wicca was three short paragraphs, and an accompanying picture of Stonehenge, in a book on world religions. Intrigued, I decided to fill in gaps in my sketchy knowledge.

She spoke of the rich tradition of witchcraft that traces itself back, in an 'unbroken line,' from the pre-Christian times of the Druids. It was a "Give me that old time religion," but spoken in a way alien to its use by Christian preachers. Quickly, she cleared out some underbrush by denying Wicca's belief in black magic. Finally, she gave a personal testimony about the way that Wicca helped her pull her life together, gave her a community and friends, and was a dependable source of renewal. More than anything, though, it was obvious that she treasured the community that gave her a sense of 'place' in life.

My shivering body brought that quick course in Wicca to a quick end. Then, swimming the repetitive laps gave me time to reflect on that brief, but informative conversation.

I realized that seldom do I hear such a succinct and clear statement on why a person is a member of a church. Probably, I thought, such clarity is the mark of making a choice, in contrast to moving unthinkingly along a well-trod spiritual path. With choice, a person consciously moves away from something as well as moving toward something, thus giving clarity and purpose.

I again realized how important, truly important, is the community that a religious group provides. American life, with its strong emphasis on individualism, makes finding a community, a place where one belongs, critical. A community provides humans who wish you well, healing from life's assaults, and security from which to venture into the unknown days.

I was pleased that the lifeguard found a community for the coldness she had found in life. My coldness at that moment required a hot tub.


--Robert H. Tucker
10 December 2001
© Robert H. Tucker, 2001.

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