The Beauty in Belief

We grew up with the idea that there are three things that should not be discussed. Politics, religion, and money. And while I can agree to that to a certain extent, I think we have been trained to not talk about those things because they can become quite uncomfortable to talk about. With that being said, typically the most uncomfortable topics are the ones that need to be discussed the most. So, on today’s episode of “What the fuck is on Brookana’s mind today?” I would like to introduce you to the world of religion. 

My dad was never a religious person. He doesn’t believe in God, or any deity for that matter, and that is totally fine. My mom identifies as a Christian, and she tried to get my brother and I involved in the church at a young age. I briefly mentioned in another piece that I was confirmed as a methodist, but I never have believed in God. I don’t believe in the Devil, resulting in me not believing in Hell. Truthfully, I think I mostly went through with confirmation because I wanted to hang out with the other kids, and I thought it was fun. I was actually so against the idea of God and Heaven and Hell that I actually used to mock the people who believed in it. I wanted to rebel against it for some unknown reason, and I never shied away from making my opinion known.

I used to have very little respect for Christianity. I honestly thought that it was a religion where people could pretend to be amazing individuals in the church so that they could feel better about being horrible in the real world. I thought that Christianity was nothing more than a hypocritical, thieving, and conniving institution where people could get away with everything because “Jesus died for our sins.” Now, I still think that there are some people who lean more towards the questionable side within Christianity, however, you can say that about every single religion. There are always going to be a few bad seeds no matter where you go. 

There were points in time where I felt the need to believe in something. I had always been open to there being something beyond this life. I would research different religions and think to myself “yes, that is absolutely correct!” or “wow, that makes a lot of sense.” There were times where I thought “maybe I should just be a Christian.” I would find myself praying to God, trying to connect, but there was never anything. I never felt a connection. My heart was never in it. I never believed in God, and yet I was trying to because I knew I believed in something but I didn’t know what it was. 

You see, I had always had a special relationship with the universe. I have always walked outside barefoot on the grass so that I could feel the Earth’s vibrations shooting up into me. I used to feel an incredible amount of peace by lying on the grass (despite my extreme allergies) or by touching a tree or holding a flower. Animals have always been attracted to me and I have always been attracted to them. I feel the most wholesome when I am outside and I can hear the wind blowing past me or the birds chirping. 

I have always felt that I could see and feel souls from beyond. I used to have premonitions when I was younger. The dream that I remember the most was my brother and I playing in our playroom in the basement of our home, having a conversation at the same time. I played with specific toys, I said specific things, and then a few days later, it all happened exactly how I dreamt it. I remember in high school I once told a classmate of mine that I could see and feel spirits. He laughed at me and told the whole class. It didn’t bother me though, because people don’t necessarily know how to handle something that seems too out of the ordinary. Some people aren’t capable of accepting the things that are right in front of them. Another thing that I have known about myself is that I am EXTREMELY sensitive to energy. I can tell you if someone has more good or bad intentions. I know when someone is lying to me. I know when someone isn’t feeling well. I can feel what others feel. I can easily figure out who a person is within moments of being within their presence. I used to think that I hated people, but as I have gotten older and have learned about my gifts I have learned that I do not hate people, I just hate the energy that radiates off of them. I am trying to learn how to not allow others’ negative energy to penetrate me, but it takes time and skill, both of which I need more of. (By the way, if you were curious about what gifts I have I am a Clairsentient Empath with a dash of telepathy.)  

Anyway, I have written an article about my religion and my beliefs, but in case you didn’t read it I am a Wiccan and I practice witchcraft. I have never been more at peace in my life, and I have never felt so sure about myself or my path. This is what I am supposed to be doing, and just like I have said before all the beliefs that I have ever had finally have a home. Another beautiful thing is that I don’t believe in God, but I have found my deities. My deities have been so helpful to me and my path, and I truly have a deep connection with them. I work with Brigid and Hades, and thinking of them brings pure bliss into my soul. 

This leads me to why I am writing this. I have noticed that a lot of people think that what I am doing is nonsense. A lot of times, people voice concerns over me reading Tarot, talking about spirits, or even doing rituals. I like to talk a lot about Wicca and witchcraft and make videos explaining it because I think there is nothing to hide. In fact, if I could, I would teach everyone about my beliefs. This is only because I know that I find all belief systems so intriguing, and I thought that maybe others would like to learn as well. I refuse to ever be the type of person who gatekeeps my beliefs or the type of person that pushes my beliefs on to others. 

Many moons ago, my mom said something to me that has stuck. It has been something that I have often reflected upon, but haven’t fully appreciated until the past few years. When I was a teenager and in my “rebellious” years, she once sat me down and told me that it doesn’t matter what others believe in as long as it brings them peace. She said that, as a Christian, believing in God and in Heaven is comforting to her, and it isn’t anyone’s place to judge what brings people happiness. And you know what, she is absolutely correct. Now that I have found my spirituality and my “home” I understand what it feels like to be attacked for your beliefs. In my eyes, as long as you are not harming anyone or anything then I would want you to find peace with your beliefs or even a lack of them. Even if you don’t believe in anything at all that is fine! 

It boils down to this, no one, no matter what religion or belief system you belong to, can say with one-hundred percent certainty that their belief system is factual. There are thousands of religions out in this world, and any one of them could be what actually happens, or none at all. There is even a possibility that once we die that’s it. It could just be blackness and nothing. We don’t know. But that is the beauty of belief. There is something so special in the feeling of believing and resonating with something so much that your soul feels at peace when you think about it. There is nothing that feels better than strengthening your spirituality, and for me, working on my gifts. 

I am a human being, and I have had to learn a lot about respect and appreciation over the years. When it comes to others and their beliefs, especially with Christianity, I have had to learn to allow others to believe what they want to believe if it makes them happy and if it helps their soul. I don’t think that there is a single person on this planet that should judge someone else’s belief system, or tell them that it is not real. Those people are the people who are somewhat empty on the inside because anyone capable of tarnishing something so precious to another person has some life lessons to learn. 

So, with that being said, no matter what belief system you believe in never allow someone to make you feel bad about that. Take pity upon them, because they are lacking while you are thriving. There is a little bit of magic within us all, and that magic stems from the soul.

Salem: Part Two

After the plane touched down in Boston I was completely elated. I kept looking at the itinerary that I made for myself on the plane and was ready to embark on my new adventure. After gathering my luggage and walking for what seemed like fourteen miles to the rideshare pick up lot, I met with a lovely man who just so happened to be my Lyft driver. On the way to Salem from Boston, he showed me awesome looking buildings with such enthusiasm, and it gave me reassurance that I made the right choice with choosing Salem for my first solo trip.

I was staying in downtown Salem, and boy was it different than what I had been expecting. It was small. Like incredibly small. There was one section of the town where my hotel was that had older cobblestone, so the only vehicles that were allowed to drive on it were delivery vehicles. As a first impression, Salem left me in awe. The town seemed quaint and adorable, which was shocking to me due to the morbid history that took place on its very land. There was a cemetery that was a two-minute walk from my hotel, museums galore, and homes that were centuries old. There were shops and small restaurants everywhere, and they were incredibly enticing. I was so excited to start exploring and to learn as much as I could possibly learn about the place that I had always wanted to visit. 

My hotel, Hotel Salem, was hands down the best hotel that I have ever stayed at. I saw the same people basically every day and had pleasant conversations with one person in particular. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and the hotel was GORGEOUS. I checked in early, and my room had just been cleaned and set up for my arrival, so the door was sitting open waiting for me to occupy what was inside. When I saw my room my jaw literally unhinged itself and involuntarily opened. I stood there, in shock and in amazement at how perfect the room was. I actually left my room just to make sure that I was in the correct spot, and to my excitement, I was. When I travel, which is rare might I add, I usually stay in Holiday Inns or places like that. So I was expecting the same old same old with my hotel, but what I got was so much better than anywhere I have ever stayed. The ceilings were tall. I am not great with measuring heights and whatnot, but I would estimate probably like twenty-five-foot ceilings. I had a king-sized bed with multiple pillows, (which I got extra excited about because I was going to have that all to myself) and I immediately wanted to curl up in it and take a happiness nap. My bathroom was probably the most beautiful bathroom that I have ever seen. There was this stunning dark blue tile on the walls and in the shower, which I immediately told my husband I wanted for our bathroom. The tub was huge and it looked like I could easily unwind in it, and the shower was pure magic. The shower was huge, and every day after exploring I would just hibernate in the shower for a bit to unwind. That hotel made me comfortable and relaxed, and I will stay there every time I go back to Salem. Oh! And I simply can’t forget to mention that my room had an interesting little bonus feature to it. I am pretty convinced that a spirit lingers there. One of my dresser drawers kept opening as if my little friend kept trying to prank me. One night it kept opening and every time I would turn my back after closing it would open right back up. I was (am) still so convinced that it was a spirit that I set up my phone on video to try to catch it in action, but I think my spirit was too smart to be caught. Sneaky little bastard. 

Anyways, after seeing my room I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before and from traveling, so I simply ordered some lunch and took a much needed two-hour nap in my ginormous comfy bed that I could actually sleep on diagonally. It was a spiritual experience having that kind of restful slumber. When I awoke from my nap I was so out of it that I had to remind myself where I was. I got up, splashed my face with some water to help wake me up more, and then I grabbed my jacket to go explore my temporary home. 

I feel like I started exploring at the perfect time. It was chilly, but not too chilly. And the sun was starting to go down. As I mentioned before, there was a cemetery that was about a two-minute walk from my hotel room. So I decided to make my way towards that spot. When I arrived at the cemetery I was shocked that it was actually one of the places that I wanted to explore. I was at Old Burying Point Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Salem. It was beautiful. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting, but man it still took my breath away. The gravestones were incredibly old, and just seeing them was very humbling. You know I am not oblivious to the fact that one day I will die just like everyone else, but even with that knowledge there still is that sense of invincibility. I know that I will die, but it is still hard to process that. But seeing all of these graves, all of these people whose ages ranged from a year old to people well in their eighties, it reminds you of the fragility of life. The cemetery was the most peaceful spot in Salem in my opinion, and I could easily spend hours there. But the sun was almost completely set and everything was starting to shut down, so I headed back to my hotel for some rest. 

I actually went back to Old Burying Point multiple times during my time in Salem because of the peace that I felt almost became addictive. I loved looking at each gravestone and paying my respects to the people who are there. I felt such a magnetic energy pulling me to Old Burying Point, almost as if the spirits of the people that were residing there were trying to keep me there to tell me something. Call me crazy, but I do believe that spirits are a real thing. And I think that when we die, we learn everything that there is to learn about the universe and about life. Every single secret becomes common knowledge, and I think the people on the other side are screaming at us to listen to them. They want us to know these secrets, and maybe we just aren’t listening. Anyways, now that you guys know that I am crazy, (hi, I’m Brookana) Old Burying Point is as breathtaking and beautiful as they come. It is hands down my most favorite part of Salem. 

Luckily, adjacent to Old Burying Point was the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. This particular memorial was for the victims of the witch trials, and it was truly moving. The memorial had large stones with each of the victim’s names engraved onto them, and it seemed as if that was Salem’s way of trying to apologize to each of the people that they executed. Some of the stones even had flowers on them, which I found beautiful. It is important to remember that despite how fascinating the history of the trials is, there were still innocent lives that were taken and we should always remember who they were. I visited the memorial three times while I was in Salem, and each time I felt a tremendous amount of sorrow for the souls whose lives were stolen from them.

 

 

Another great memorial that I visited was Proctor’s Ledge, which was where the victims of the witch trials were hung. I found this memorial even more moving than the Salem Witch Trials Memorial. I felt as if I could feel this heaviness to me. I was grieving the loss of these innocent people, people who lived many centuries before me. I can’t imagine the fear and the agony that they felt, and the pain that their families felt when they were taken away from them. When I learned about the witch trials back in middle school they never really talked about the humanity behind the victims that were executed. They never talked about the repercussions that the families had to face or the torment that the victims had experienced. But seeing the place where the majority of the victims took their final breath is an indescribable feeling. It is a chilling feeling. A feeling of pure terror and disgust. And it makes you respect the trials even more because of the people who had their lives wrongfully stolen from them. 

I also paid a visit to the Salem Witch Museum. This was a cute little museum that consisted of two exhibits, and I feel like I definitely learned a lot about how the trials had begun and the hysteria behind it all. The first exhibit was basically the story of the trials told over a loudspeaker and the second exhibit talked about the history of witchcraft. It was a very interesting experience, and I am happy that I went. 

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Past six o’clock at night there isn’t really much to do in Salem since all of the shops pretty much close down, so I decided to embark on a walking tour through Salem Night Tour. The tour meeting spot was a shock to me. We met at a store that sold Harry Potter merchandise, and I knew that I was about to have a wonderful evening. I even purchased my very first wand. The tour was a lot of fun. I was in a smaller group, which I loved because it gave me an opportunity to ask the tour guide questions when one would arise. They were very knowledgeable about Salem’s past, and I found myself to be intrigued throughout the entire tour. We walked by where the prison used to be during the trials, we walked by Salems Town Hall where the movie “Hocus Pocus” had filmed a scene, we walked past Old Burying Point, and we walked by the house that the board game “Clue” was based on. The stories that the guide told us were equal parts scary, horrifying, and enthralling, and despite the chilly weather, I had such a great time gaining more knowledge on Salem’s past. 

The Witch House. There is not enough time to discuss how much I loved Witch House. The Witch House is a home that was owned by Jonathan Corwin, who just so happened to be a judge during the trials. I was told that eighty percent of that house is original, and I could feel that that was true. I did a self-guided tour throughout the home, where I was fortunate enough to see many pieces of furniture that are dated back centuries. Throughout the home were various papers that had intriguing facts about how people lived back in the 1600-1700s, and it was totally captivating. There was something about the house that had a similar magnetic energy to the energy that I felt at Old Burying Point. I felt oddly comfortable in that house. Like I never wanted to leave. It felt peaceful and welcoming, and like a place where I could learn so much. It was one of those places where you could feel the history, and it just made me feel like I went back in time and experienced what it was like living in that house back then. But it wasn’t just the history that made me feel like I never wanted to leave. There was the sweetest woman who worked there that was incredibly knowledgeable about not just Witch House, but Salem as a whole. I definitely monopolized her time for upwards of forty minutes, just asking her questions about the home and about Salem. She answered every question that I had and was eager to share the history of Salem with me. She even showed me markings around the house that left me in awe. There were builders marks and marks of protection etched into the walls and ceilings of the house, and it made me feel as if I found a time machine and when back to the 1600s when the house was built. I was fascinated, and the house still has me fascinated to this very day. I would say that Witch House is my second favorite place to visit in Salem. There is so much to learn about the trials and about that time period, and the house helps you understand the history so much more.

 

A fun little activity that I decided to do was get another tattoo. There was a tattoo shop that was about a minute walk from my hotel called Witch City Ink, so to commemorate my first solo trip, which happens to be my most favorite trip that I have ever been on, I got a witch hat with a couple of sprigs. The shop was incredible, and my artist was so talented, and I constantly catch myself staring in awe at my newest addition.

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There are a ton of really adorable shops in downtown Salem, but my favorite shop hands down has got to be Emporium 32. They have a fantastic collection of oddities and just cool items that range from books, art, alcohol cups, absinthe spoons, jewelry, and hats. Everything was so unique and breathtaking, and I spent more money than I would like to admit at that store. My wallet is going to be in trouble for when we buy our house because I found out that they ship artwork and I plan on utilizing that convenience

There is so much to see, do and learn in Salem. Everything about Salem is so special to me. I loved the feeling that I felt in Old Burying Point and Witch House where I felt like I could feel the history. I loved learning about everything that happened there and why everything happened. Even though downtown Salem was adorable and beautiful, the history of the land is unscathed, and that morbid feeling that you get from that pain and suffering also turns into appreciation and gratitude for the generations that have lived before you. It truly is a magical town filled with magical curiosities.

The Magic of Holidays

This holiday season was the first time in four years that I was able to spend it with all of my family members, and it truly was spectacular. When I was younger I would always correlate joy, happiness, love, and peace to the holiday season, and that was mostly because that meant that I was going to be able to spend quality time with my family. The number of laughs that we all share, the conversations about past stories that kept me completely enthralled, and just spending time with my loved ones always felt so special. The magic of Christmas was never about the gifts for me, it always stemmed from the love that I felt when I had my loved ones around me.

When Stephen and I made the decision that we were going to move down to Dallas we didn’t even think about what the holidays were going to be like. We had a dream to move and we were willing to sacrifice everything to make that happen, but little did we know that the cost of the dream of moving was exorbitant. We knew that leaving home and everyone else behind was going to be sad, but nothing prepared us for how truly soul-crushing and lonely that whole experience was.   

Being away from family was always difficult, but nothing made you realize how alone you truly were until the holidays would come around. I went from having an immense amount of excitement starting at the beginning of October to being filled with sorrow and dread. I am already a severely depressed person, so the thought of being alone during the time of the year that I used to crave just made me even more devastated. I had Stephen and my furchildren, with whom I cherish more than my own life, but sitting alone watching movies while everyone else was enjoying one another always made me sink into another low. Perhaps being alone made me realize as much as I always loved spending the holidays with my family maybe I also took it for granted. I missed the magic, I missed my family, and I missed that wholesome feeling that I felt whenever it was the holiday season. 

When Stephen and I made the decision to move back home to Chicago in March one of the first thoughts I had was “I can’t wait for the holidays!” The thought of being with all of my loved ones and feeling all of that love fueled me with eagerness and excitement. When the beginning of October came around, I started to feel that magic that I always used to feel growing up. When Thanksgiving finally arrived, it felt superb to actually get in the car and drive forty-five minutes to my grandparent’s house. Seeing my dad making mashed potatoes and having my Mema squeeze me the moment she saw me filled my heart with so much happiness. This is what I have been missing. This is what I have been wanting. This is what I have been desperate for. Then it was Christmas time. I have been filled to the brim with that magical feeling for a few months now, and this was the moment I have been waiting for. Christmas Eve and Christmas day was the happiest I have been for a very long time. I was with my parents, my grandparents, my husband, my in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Hell, people who I didn’t really know. But it was incredible being surrounded by all of these people just celebrating one another. When I was with everyone I found myself laughing again, telling stories about the past that kept me completely captivated and spending quality time with the people who I love so incredibly much. This year, the holidays felt exactly like I remember them feeling before we moved away, and for that, I will always be grateful and appreciate this time of year. 

The magic of the holidays doesn’t stem from the gifts you receive. No. It stems from the love that you feel when you are with the people you adore and cherish.