If ever I doubted the healing power of online diaries, I no longer hold any such doubts.

There was a time, between 7/97 and 5/98 that my mother and I lived with mom's sister & family. That is the time period I not-so-affectionately refer to as my "10 Months in Hell." And Hell it was.

My family found out about my religious beliefs (specifically, that I was Wiccan, not Christian, as they were) and, pardon the pun, all hell broke loose. Granted, I wasn't trying to hide anything, but I don't think I was throwing it in their faces, either. At first, there was an unspoken policy of "you don't bring it up, I don't bring it up, we pretend it doesn't exsist and we live with a modicum of peace." Then Shawn, a very confused boy in need of massive amounts of professional help, called me.

His mother was listening to the conversation in which Shawn asked me if I did blood sacrifices, if I worshipped the devil, etc. Naturally, I told him the truth - no, I didn't sacrifice anything, and I didn't believe in the devil so I certainly didn't worship him. Somehow, Shawn's mom twisted this into that I was "teaching her son how to do blood sacrifices and spells and summon demons." She called back after Shawn hung up and bitched at my aunt and uncle (who, btw, are a sunday-school teacher and hymn-leader respectively at their local Church of Christ) about it. A massive blow-up ensues after which I am left sobbing hysterically in the middle of the room, arms wrapped around my knees, rocking in place and beseeching the Goddess to "Please, show them what they do. Show them the truth. Make them see what are lies." For most of an hour I cried like that.

Then the most wonderful thing happened. I felt the arms of the Lady encircle me, a strong, protective, maternal aura enveloping me and comforting me.

15 minutes later or so, my aunt came downstairs and apologized for blowing-up as badly as she did, and she said she knew that I wasn't doing most of the things Shawn's mother accused me of.

However, the issue got taken to the Elders of the Church of Christ, who decreed, as I was told, that either "all items that could be used in pagan practice had to be removed from the house, or else I had to be." This meant all my books, figures, tools, etc. were packed up and put in the trunk of my mother's car for the next 9 months. (I was able to keep candles and incense, as my aunt & uncle couldn't justify denying me those, when all three of their daughters were permitted to have them.)

I remember my uncle, on several occasions, attempting to rip the pentacle from my neck, even if we were out of the house. (I didn't wear it in the house, though I did keep it hidden, usually in my bra.) But that wasn't the worst of it. The worst came from those my own age.

At school, literally 1/2 the people in the school were afraid of me - afraid that I would "cast a spell" on them, if they pissed me off. Those that weren't afraid of me would torment me. Whisper over my shoulder in the hallway "I'll see you in hell, witch!" or put "tickets to heaven" in my backpack, or scrawl "pagan-esque" grafitti on my desks, books, papers, etc. And I didn't escape it at home, either.

I had thought it only once or twice a week (though I find out now it was daily), my cousins (the 2 oldest girls, 6 mo. older than me, and 1 year younger than me) would come downstairs and rifle through my belongings, searching for anything pagan that could be reported to their parents. So many times I wanted to hate them for that. They seemed to delight in the possiblity of catching me with some "contraband" item.

I think the worst came one night I was working on homework on the computer, and picked up the wrong floppy disk. I opened the disk and realized right away it wasn't mine, but a filename had caught my attention: shala. It was so close to my name (shayla) that I opened the text file. My stomach hit the floor a moment later, as I read a fiction story written my the elder of the two cousins who had been doing the "search & report" duty. The story told of a girl (Shala) and her mother (Sharron) who had come to live with the happy, Christian family when they were in debt and had no place to go. The daughters in the story discover that Shala is an evil witch who is doing spells to attempt to break up the happy family (who, mysteriously, have been arguing and at each others' throats since Shala arrived). When Shala's spells are discovered, the family confronts her, and she slashes her arm with a knife and begins chanting in Latin (presumably another spell). The father of the family leads everyone else out, leaving Shala standing on the table, chanting, as he douses the side of the house with gasoline and proceeds to burn the evil witch alive within. But of course, the family, who still has each other, lives happily ever after.

That story crushed me. I wept for days over it, and I think it destroyed any vestiges of the childhood friendship my cousin and I had shared. I think I've still got the copy that I printed out, in fact. Even after Mom and I moved out of my aunt & uncle's, my relationship with my cousins - the eldest in particular - stayed broken. I just didn't feel I could trust her anymore - like if I confided in her, I would be betrayed. This was all 4 years ago.

And today things changed.

Today, I read her diary entry at http://horngoddess.diaryland.com/020615_10.html. I have gradually been able to get over what was done to my mother and I when we lived with my aunt & uncle - after all, it had a large part in making me who I am now, and I rather like who I am. But I needed one final thing in order to be able to forgive anyone for their actions. I need to know that at least one of them was sorry for what happened.

I know that the cousin in question will eventually read this, and I have something specifically for her.

Tabitha, I forgive you. Thank you - I needed so much to hear, to know that you regretted your actions. I know I wasn't perfect either, and I'm sorry for all the strife my presence caused. Perhaps now we may be able to rebuild that friendship we had so strongly when we were small girls running around after dark in my neighborhood and then giggling for hours under the covers after Mom insisted that we "shut up and get to sleep." *smiles and hugs you tightly*

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