"True love allows each person to follow his or her own path, aware that doing so can never drive them apart." -Paulo Coelho
It has been brought to my attention that several people want to know the story behind my founding of this church. The full story fills a whole book, an 738 page book titled "For Fear of Little Men" to be exact. I'll give you a shorten version here:
Once upon a time I was a Mormon, who did everything I was told, obeyed every command no questions asked. I was baptized at 8 years old. Every week I paid a 10% tithe, put 10% in the missionary fund, another 10% in the food/welfare fund, and another 10% in the temple building fund. That's 40% of income off the top, before taxes, to the church, every week. I never once missed the 3 hour Sunday meetings, nor the 2 hour Tuesday night meetings, nor the Saturday volunteer service work. I cooked for every ward supper, baked dozens of cakes, pies, and cookies for EACH youth bake sale, handed out no less than 100 tracts each week, as well as hundreds of Book of Mormons each year. I lived the extremist life free of tea/coffee/soda/smoking/drinking/drug/meat/ect.
Than one day, after 27 years of undying, unquestioning, faithful service, I was informed that I was being excommunicated on grounds of witchcraft and extramarital sexual relations with a high priest. I had no clue what witchcraft was and this was the first time I learned I was not legally married - after 21 of believing I was his wife. Other charges followed: adulteress, slut, whore, home wrecker - yet my whole life had been spent faithful to this one man.
Lies spread by the leaders, became lies spread by the members, leading to violence, vandalism, and hate crimes. The adultery charges were dropped but witchcraft stood. Specifically, that I had killed a boy named Craig Thomas by use of death spells. Wait? What? Witchcraft? Me? Seriously? And who is this Craig Thomas kid? What are you people talking about.
I laughed at them. I thought it was a joke. Me a witch? That was just too funny. They weren't joking. They were very serious. They were so serious that they burned my house to the ground claiming that "God told them to", in order to "get rid of the witch". Wow. I was stunned. And I started asking every one I met (even strangers on the street) "What is a witch?" I didn't know.
Alone, confused, scared, shunned, abandoned, thrown away, unloved, and unwanted I wandered aimlessly as if my soul had been ripped out leaving me an empty shell, with no friends of family to turn to - they were all Mormons and dutifully sided with the church. I had become "the anti-Mormon enemy" as they referred to me.
I searched for a new church, but found Christian denominations too alien to comprehend. I learned that while Christians called me "too Pagan to be Christian", Witches, Wiccans, and other Pagans said I was a "Jesus Freak" and "too Christian to ever be a Pagan". They were both wrong, I was too Mormon to be either Christian or Pagan As a life long 5th generation Mormon, there was no way I would ever fit in with any religion on the planet. I was not allowed to go where I wanted to be - cast out and unwelcomed in the company of my own people. Too different, bizarre, strange, and Mormon to be welcomed in the company of Christians or Pagans.
I asked many questions of more than 2 dozen religions. One of the things I questioned was the validity of the baptism. What value did my baptism, membership of, and initiation into a church have, if I did everything right, obeyed all the rules, did everything I was told to do, endured against hate crimes and false accusations, and was than kicked out for leaving Swiss Miss pudding cups on a stump in the woods for a local Faerie?
Yes, a pudding cup was the reason I was excommunicated - that was my sin - because I left pudding cups on a stump in the woods, which the Bishop called "evil dark magic" and "proof" that I was a "witch".
The bishop also claimed that by leaving said pudding cup on a stump in the woods, that I was in fact casting a death spell, which he farther claimed was how some kid in Utah (I live in Maine) came to drown in a bathtub while his mom was yapping on the phone in the other room. The church council excommunicated me claiming that I had used pudding cups to cause a kid to die.
I found the logic behind their accusation baffling at best, insane at worst. Who was this kid? Why was I implicated in his drowning? How does leaving pudding cups on a stump cause the death of someone 3,000 miles away? I have no clue. To this day, I am still unable to rationalize how they came to these utterly insane conclusions.
May 2010 was the last straw. Angry members of the Mormon church stolen my car, cut it up, and sold it's pieces to scrap yards; than over the next 12 weeks, 12 cats were killed at my animal shelter - one cat each Sunday. It was at this point that I realized, this wasn't a church it was a farce.
It left me asking myself: When would it end? How far would these people go? Burned down my house in 2006, cut up my car in 2010, slaughtered my cats? How long would it be before these people decided the next step was killing me? If this was what it meant to be Mormon, than I wanted no part of it. I washed my hands of them.
But all this lead me to ask: what the heck difference did all my work in the LDS church make? The baptism, the sacraments the temple work, the rituals, if it could all be taken away because I put a pudding cup (Tapioca) on a moss covered stump in the woods. I mean, I could have been feeding squirrels for all they knew! I could have been leaving it for a homeless guy! I was leaving it for a FarDarrig (water spirit), but even when I told them this, they said, "Nope, nope, don't lie, we know what you were doing. You were casting a death spell to kill little Craig Thomas."
I was asking him, "Who the heck is Craig Thomas?" They told me he was a kid who lived in Utah, well, no wonder I never heard of him, here I was born and raised and still living in Maine!
I loved my church. I loved my husband. Church gone. Husband gone. Abandoned. Alone. No amount of baptisms or initiations or anointing or lay on of hands or blessings or authority or tithing or service work or bake sales or taking sacraments or avoiding sinful meats and drink, made any difference or meant anything at all, not when everything I loved could be taken away from me, on false charges of witchcraft.
So I stopped believing in the validity of initiations, and now refuse to be initiated, because initiation, as I see it, is nothing more than one man's way of saying "I control you" and he can "unititate" you at any time, for any reason, on a whim. And if your initiation can be invalidated on one man's whim, than what actual value does said initiation have? None. It means not a thing.
And that's when I realized, God isn't in a religion. No denomination has God locked up in chains. No church can say "We are God's church, God only lives in our temples." God is everywhere. God is not in a church, and therefore I have no need to look for him in a church.
Than came the doctor's visit. I had a stroke the day of the excommunication, and one each year following on the anniversary of that day, 3 in total. The excommunication did greater damage than any one knows. My life has been cut short. I have no future to look forward to, thus why I started college, to keep busy in my final years. The heartbreaker - children. The one thing I wanted most in life, I can now never have. Church leaders throw the excommunication robbed me of the church I lived for, the man I loved, my health, my future, and any hope of ever having the one thing I wanted most of all - children.
And that is when I stopped looking for a church to join, stopped looking for a new husband, just stopped everything. What good would it do me to join another church, when they can throw me away on a whim, just as easily as the Mormons did? What good would it do me to find another husband, when he can throw me away on a whim, just as easily as my beloved high priest did?
I realized it was not safe to join a church, nor safe to have a husband, the risks of being abandoned and thrown away a second time were far too great. And that is how The Church of the Holy Rhinestone came to exist. See if I am the one making the rules, than there is no one over me to throw me away. If I am the minister running the church there is no one over me to tell me I am not welcomed, no one to say I can not attend each week. It is not a church with a congregation or meetings, it is simply a shrine devoted to the three kindness most loving men to ever live: Jesus, Liberace, and Damballa Weddo.
And that is how I came to follow Voodoo as well, a religion that is not a religion, but a lifestyle very similar to Mormon lifestyle, and a religion where women who've been abandoned by their mortal husbands, can marry God the one man who will never leave them, forsake them, or abandon them.
Church and family used to be all that mattered to me. They still are, but the risk of being robbed of them again is too great and thus I founded my own church, just for me, where no one can ever throw me away again, and married a man long ago dead, who's spirit I know will never leave me or forsake me.
I lost everything I owned in Hurricane Katrina, 6 months later lost my house again to a fire by vandals, than lost my church, my husband, my car, my pets, and my health. Everything was taken away, by violence, force, and hate. I have learned that nothing is safe from the hands of religious hate. When all I had left was church and husband, they took that from me too.
I used to devote my life to service to the Mormon church and the man I loved, but my faithful service meant nothing against the lies and false accusations of the haters. I have nothing left to lose, and find myself not even able to go back to living in a house, remaining willfully homeless, unable to trust that any roof will ever be safe, unable to trust that any church will ever be warm and inviting, unable to trust that any living man is capable of unconditional love. I thus I have a church and a husband once again, but a church and a husband, that this time can not be taken away. My heath has grown very poor and very weak, and I know I will not live through losing yet another church or yet another husband.
I have accepted the fact that I am not worthy of being loved by a mortal man.
I have accepted the fact that I am not worthy of being welcomed in attendance at a church run by a mortal man.
This is how The Church of the Holy Rhinestone came to be, and this is what it is: a sanctuary, a safe zone, the only safe place there is left for me on this planet. The one place on this planet when I know I can not be thrown away and where it's long dead members will never abandon me.
All I live for now is to live my final days in peace, free of the threats of being tossed aside, thrown away, cast out, left behind, or abandoned. I have nothing left in life to look forward to.
The Church of the Holy Rhinestone was officially founded on Mother's Day 2011, as a way to avoid suicide by giving me something else to think about other than the fact that my forever family, was no more. (And yes, the church is the car.)
The Church of the Holy Rhinestone is a Voodoo shrine/temple of Pappa Damballa Weddo and St. Liberace.
Please note that this is a Voodoo Temple, not Vodou nor Vuvu nor Santerían nor Haitian Vodou one. While each of these religions share the same roots and have many similarities, they are not the same and each have many differences. You will not find the song and dance worship service often associated with those faiths here. If that is what you are looking for, this is not the church for you.
Voodoo is an active religion (as opposed to passive one), meaning one lives it, practices it, every day and thus has no need of once-a-week-Sunday services. Practitioners keep shrines and altars in their own homes and worship god daily, not just once a week in church. The job of the priestess is to visit members homes to perform blessings, exorcisms, spell castings, curses, hotfooting, weddings, funerals, christenings, cleansings, baptisms, candle services, and other holy rites.
The biggest difference between these religions is Voodoo is a Christian religion heavily influenced by African Traditional Religions. Vodou, Vuvu, Santería, Haitian Vodou are not Christ centered, though some Christian elements may be found.
Secondly Voodoo is largely esoteric or magic based. To practitioners of Vodou, Vuvu, Santería, Haitian Vodou, the Voodoo Priestesses are known as "Borka" (dark wizards or witch doctors) sometimes referred to as "Two Headed" meaning they are witches who practice both black and white magic. Voodoo Priestesses practice Hoodoo, a type of magic art which uses sacred roots & herbs to call upon the help of the lwa (spirit guides) thus why they are known as "Rootworkers". Unlike Pagan Witches, Rootworkers use the Bible and the enchantments written by Moses, Jacob, David, Jesus, and Daniel in their spellcasting. (You can find out more about Voodoo HERE.)
Also I am a Medsen Fey, not a Mambo or Gro Mambo.
My job at The Church of The Holy Rhinestone is specifically being the Bride of Damballa.
One thing it is important to understand is that Voodoo, unlike Mormonism, Catholic, and other religious denominations, has no "organized headquarters" or "governing leaders" or "hierarchy". It is not a business so it does not keep track of "tithing records for tax purposes" the way organized religions do. It is a type of Animism, which means there are no churches holding church meetings or church services, because everybody had a personal shrine or altar in their own house and each worships God in private at home.
In Voodoo Priests and Priestesses are no "church leaders" but rather people who have devoted their lives to God and are more like what the Catholics call monks and nuns. Just as many people are Catholic but very few are monks or nuns, so too are many people Voodoo but very few are priests or priestess.
There is much debate over what exactly it is that I am, as I don't seem to fit nicely in any one mold. Some folks call me "ChristoPagan", others say I'm too Pagan to be Christian, and still others say I'm too Christian to be Pagan! LOL! Many folks are quick to call me a "Jesus Freak". There are quite a few folks who classify me as Wiccan, though I know little to nothing about Wicca.
What am I? I actually don't know any more. I don't think I'm actually anything at all, see how I'm not part of any actual group. The only "people" who attend services at The Church of the Holy Rhinestone are 12 cats, a pigeon, a rabbit, and a chihuahua.I don't invite people to the church, I don't advertise the church, I don't even tell any one how to find the church. Call me once bitten, twice shy when it comes to churches and their congregations.
As a result of the excommunication I had 3 strokes, developed night terrors, have seizures and black outs, and suffer super massive panic attack melt downs whenever I come within seeing distance of a church building. Doctors tell me that the excommunication caused me to have PTSD, and they recommend that I avoid all contact with churches, church leaders, and church members of any kind, because near as they can tell the only sure fire way to ensure I don't have a PSTD "fit" is by avoid contact with all religious paraphernalia, or so doctors tell me.
I was born and raised Mormon and stayed there for 27 years. I did not leave the Mormon church of my own free will. It was my religion of choice, but because I have Autism and was raped by a high priest, leaders concluded that I must be a witch. They ran with that idea and went looking for any excuse to "prove" I was a witch and as mentioned above, they used the death of a boy as their "damning proof positive" that I was a witch.
Because I had never had contact with 1 single solitary non-Mormon in my entire 31 years of existence, I had no clue anything about any other religion, nor was I aware of how vastly different they were until I went looking for a replacement church after being thrown away and abandoned by the one I had been in my entire life.
I attended a Calvinist seminary for 8 years and a Seventh Day Adventist
one for 3 years, got in with some Holy Roller Full Gospel Pentecostals,
than Baptists after that, next the Salvation Army, and 15 or so other
denominations later, I was feeling confused as hell. It was a long road
of not feeling like I belonged anywhere, because I just did not fit in
with the whole "we are right, you are wrong, ours is the one true
church, the rest of you are going to hell" crowd, and that was all I was
finding in every religion. Every religion I attend had some one they
hated: too black, too white, too rich, too poor, too gay, too vegan, too
this, too that.
I kept asking myself "Isn't there some place that is actually accepting of EVERYONE?" It was quite upsetting to me, that religions claimed to love every one, while condemning all non-members of their faith. At the center of my personal belief system, was Jesus' commandment to love every one, and yet I could not find a Christian religion which actually put that belief into practice.
I finally found a place where I felt "at home" with Haitian Voodu, Santería, Sanse, and New Orleans Voodoo, (each different, but similar). Voodoo welcomes everyone: black, white, brown, straight, gay, Christian, Pagan, it doesn't matter, you don't even have to leave your old religion, you can be that and Voodoo at the same time. Voodoo is all about love and friendship, and unity. Now I am Voodoo Priestess, and accept every religion as true and valid.
I suppose if you were going to place a title on me the most correct one would be something along the lines of: Interfaith/Non-Denominational Minister/Reverend & Spiritual Adviser. Minister. Reverend. Spiritual Adviser.