Friday, November 9, 2012

Others Church: A Glimpse into Recruit Memory

For anyone that doesn’t already know it, I am in the military. I joined while still in High School, and off to recruit training shortly after graduation. By that time I had known for years that the military was for me. The decision as to the Marines vice the other branches was due largely in part by the influences of a couple of my teachers. As a result, Veteran’s Day and other honoring of our own warriors, dead or alive, type holidays ring strong within my being. War is not something any of us want, but as long as there is conflict then the few must put themselves in the center of it for hearth and home. The ancients knew this to be true, and it is still so today.

Thinking about Veteran’s Day and being a Witch in the Corps, I decided to give a rare glimpse into one of my experiences as such. I am going to talk about Others Church. So what exactly is Others Church? Before I get into that there is a bit of other primer that needs to be set or else the color won’t show.

Others Church as I am about to describe it may no longer exist in this form. After all, it has been eleven maybe twelve years, in all honesty I don’t feel up to the math this early in the morning. Needless to say the Corps has changed a lot since I first joined. When I arrived at The Island (Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina) we were in old tri-color cammies, in black boots that had to be polished, and a whole list of other make you feel your age things. The military is organic and so too was/is Others Church.

On Sunday morning in recruit training those that are spiritual, and let me tell you that boot camp brings the spiritual out in people, were given four hours of not being yelled at or otherwise stressed/harassed in order to attend church services. When it became time to go, we were divided into three groups; Catholic Church, Protestant Church, and Others Church. Basically if you weren’t Catholic or some form of Protestant you were an Other. There were six of us in my platoon of about seventy; a Buddhist, a Seven-day Adventist, myself, and three whom I do not recall. This was not how my Drill Instructor (DI) described it though. A lot of boot camp is a blur of memory but his words still ring soundly.

My DI explained Others Church as being, “Where they worship sticks and shit.” Please excuse the vulgarity, but it is a direct quote. Anyway, the six of us were sent off to this place called Others Church. The facility itself turned out to be a large building full of smaller rooms, each labeled by the “other” faiths. Thus during recruit training I had arrived at a small room full of Contemporary Pagans, with a small sign on the door that said, “Wicca.”

Navy Chaplains, the Corps doesn’t have its own, are fairly clueless when it comes to any religion outside of the Abraham Family. As such, the term Wicca is used as an umbrella term for all of Contemporary Pagans. It is wrong, but its inclusion is a start. So in this small room labeled thus, there were about a dozen people, and as I would find out, this was below average, with the norm at about twenty.

The Wicca Group was completely Recruit led. Every Sunday we were all put in a little room and left to our own devises for four hours. Who could ask for more? The only effort that appeared to have been made was that there was an old copy of A Witches’ Bible, missing the front cover, put in the room for our use. Though the ignorance of the Chaplaincy shows through with this act, they had inadvertently started something truly beautiful.  

You see, at some point in the unknown past, who knows whether it was years, months, or weeks, some recruit had written some simple instructions in the back cover of our “Bible” as we jokingly called it. On one hand, this was in jest, but on the other hand by doing so it helped to insure the book stayed in that room. The instructions were simple. They outlined the roles and duties of two officers of the group, the aptly named “Leader” and “Teacher.”

It was each officer’s job to name their successor the moment they took over. With recruit training only lasting thirteen weeks, this was important. As I am sure has been guessed, it was Leaders job to decide what was to be done week to week and to lead it; the recruit that was Leader when I arrived like to lead a lot of meditations. It was Teachers job to teach guided discussions whereby we talked about whatever topic people wanted to know more about; the recruit who was Teacher when I arrived was fond of tarot and other divination, his discussions were often filtered through the lore of such.

Eventually, these two individuals graduated and a new Leader and Teacher took over. The role of Leader was taken over by one of the older recruits, he had previously been in the Army, who was a solitaire Druid associated with Ár nDraíocht Féin, and I became Teacher. The two of us were chosen because we were the only ones in the room who had any actual experience not solely from books. I was Teacher for about six weeks before my own graduation approached and I passed the mantle to a Recruit that had, albeit only learned from a couple of books, practically memorized some of Scott Cunningham’s work.

There you have it, that is my tale of Others Church, Wicca therein, and how I spent six weeks as the appointed officer only known and named by fellow recruits as Teacher. It was all simple, organic, and full of so much beauty. It makes me wonder just what form has evolved and taken shape in that small room since last I sat there. Happy (early) Veteran’s Day!

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."


Anonymous said...

That's an interesting and funny story. Perhaps you all should have made a stick figure to "worship" for the DI! Instead of the cover I am surprised Janet's picture wasn't missing instead, lol. And regarding Veteran's Day so close to the election - To all those who did not vote because "my vote doesn't count" then at least vote to honor the tens of thousands of soldiers who have died so we have the right and privilege to do so!

Spanish Moss said...

Janet's picture was intact and the center of some discussion if I recall correctly.

Interestingly, I remember using acorns picked up off the round on the way to "Church" as representative of the Lord on our make shift altar.