I believe in fairies. I believe in Greek gods and goddesses, caught up in their affairs, occasionally turning their beautiful heads downward to gaze at the Earth. And the Norse gods, like Oden, with his train of Valkyries, watching over modern battles for heroes to take to Valhalla. I believe in the piskies and goblins of Irish legend, souring our milk during the night and hiding coins in the couch cushions. I believe in the Kami of Japan, alive still in the hearts of their people. Or the Egyptian gods, almost forgotten, but still powerful. I believe that all things, whether seen or unseen, exist in some way if someone believes in them.
My bedtime stories were legends and myths. My little sisters and I would ask for the same stories again and again, and my father would recite them from memory, using high-pitched voices for the young pipsqueaks and making us all laugh. My mother called on Saint Anthony when something was lost, and wrote out her wishes for the universe on paper, pinning them to the wall and decorating them with dried flowers. A pan would clatter on the kitchen floor when no one was there, and we’d all admonish the ghosts and spirits. My family never had any restraints about what could and couldn’t be, and I grew up believing that anything was possible, and all beliefs valid.
All of my knowledge of science and history and even fiction helped to solidify all of the gods and spirits in my world, rather than replace them. Characters in children’s stories joined the rest, and were just as real as characters of ancient legends. The Lorax waited in trees with dryads to protect them from harm, while Totoro acted as a sentry to guide the wind through their leaves. The ghosts of Copernicus, Confucius and Jesus, three wise men of different origins, walked together on high mountaintops, sharing ideas and stories. And I would join in sometimes, just by imagining, just by believing.
And so, whenever something good happens, I’ll thank whichever god happens to be around at the time. If I find a coin on the sidewalk, I’ll put it in a fairy ring, hoping that residents like shiny things. And if I have children, like my parents had me and my sisters, I will tell them all about everything, and all of the spirits and creatures of the world will be real for them, too.
Many people say that I should choose just one religion, that I should believe in one thing, and that otherwise, one belief will contradict another and I will be left with no values. But I have to believe that if anything is good, or wise, or comforting, or beautiful, it must be real, and this, for me, is the greatest value of all. I believe that when I accept all religions, and all wisdom, that I am bringing myself closer to my family and my people— ALL of my people.
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