A Breath of Frankincense

I found myself in a catholic church this week and no I didn’t burst into flames!

I did what I always do – fall over the kneeling rail, then sit down and take in my surroundings.

When it comes to religion and spirituality I’m a bit of a Fox Mulder – I Want To Believe. But no matter how many brushes I’ve had with deity, I’m still an agnostic bordering on atheist. Basically I’m a gothic, pagan, agnostic, witch. It’s often a hard road to travel! So I’m always stunned at how I feel when I enter the more pagan of the churches – those that still have pomp and ceremony.

As I looked around I admired the artworks, the statues, the stained glass windows, the architecture and the outfits. When the incense started burning and the smell of frankincense filled the church, I felt a deep sense of peace, of familiarity, of coming home. That smell of frankincense took me back to the churches of my youth. Not catholic ones but orthodox ones.

My earliest memory of going to church was being told that I had to kiss the portraits of the saints as I went in. I couldn’t do it. Not for religious reasons but for cleanliness. I mean how many people had kissed those saints before me? Three planets in fastidious Virgo overruled any fear. I would lean down and pretend to kiss the saints – but my lips never touched the glass!

After braving the gauntlet of glassed saints I would have to endure the boring sermons filled with fear and retribution. I rarely listened to them. I was too busy checking out the really scary elements in the church – the women – or as many of them were whispered to be – witches!! Some of them were clad in spooky all black outfits; their heads covered with black scarves. Others were dressed in normal clothes. They were feared and respected for they could do something that the male priest trying to preach to them couldn’t do. They could cast curses. Throughout the service the thurible would waft the deep, intoxicating smell of frankincense down the aisle and into my soul.

After the service we would mingle outside, trying desperately not to offend the witchy women. It’s what I remember most of those orthodox days; the powerful women and the smell of frankincense.

We stopped going to church as a family early in my youth. The orthodox days were replaced by the catholic years. For some reason many of my school friends were catholics and catholics joined our family. I happily went to all the major celebrations, enduring the sermons by closing my eyes and smelling the frankincense. The catholic years intertwined with the pagan years but those pagan celebrations are a tale for another day.

Now I find myself back in a catholic church. The scent of frankincense fills my senses. I’m dressed in black and have a red shawl draped over my shoulders. Many attending this service know what I am. They know I’m a witch. I’m now one of the women I once feared.

ethiopian coffee

a treat for the senses

coffee & frankincense

a perfect blend of worship – traditional ethiopian coffee served with a side order of frankincense


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