My Seminary classes are heavily populated with Pentecostal Christians. Some are still practicing, many are (as many of my classmates are) questioning the faith in which they were raised and are going back to school for answers. Some of the earliest small-group discussions involved the practice of Speaking in Tongues--when the Holy Spirit descends upon a member of the congregation and they start prophesying. Sometimes, it's in an unintelligible manner of speech that requires translation by an Elder in the community. Sometimes, there are clearer messages. Pentecostalism is similar to the Craft in many ways. As I understand it, many Pentecostal Churches do not require a specific degree to lead the Church (although many Pentecostal ministers do indeed have Seminary degrees). The process involves clapping and focusing on bringing in the Holy Spirit to embrace someone in the room. In some Churches, it happens more than at other Churches. And in the Churches where speaking in tongues was more likely to happen than in others, it was a common assessment that certain individuals were more likely to "take on" the Holy Spirit than others.
They did not use the word possession.
But one thing came up, and that was how to "diagnose" an authentic case of speaking in tongues. How do we know when someone is actually touched with the Holy Spirit or if that person is faking? Or if that person *thinks* they're touched, when they're actually not?
"In Voodoo," I said. "It's common to stick chilis in a jar of rum. If the person is actually possessed, they'll drink it and be able to handle it. If not, they won't. Not being sure of authenticity in spirit-trance is a common issue across faiths."
It was silent in the room.
I hope I don't sound like I'm mocking because that isn't my intention. These Pentecostals were a little unnerved to hear of Voodoo or Wiccan practices mentioned alongside their own practices. Likewise, I was surprised to learn about how much Pagan faiths had in common with the Pentecostals. On my first day of class, I scribbled in my notebook, "Is Pentecostalism the Witchcraft of Christianity?"
I dunno. But it's something to think about.
There is a re-Paganification, if you will, of Christianity emerging. I see it in my classmates and they certainly aren't the only ones. A Quaker classmate of mine asked for the email address of one of my Covenmates--a mate who is himself a Christian, but interested in Goddess worship and magick practice. The classmate is curious about the Pagan roots of Christianity.
Another classmate approached me after a lecture one day, wanting to know about my faith. My first response is always, "What would you like to know?" Their usual response is "Everything." And then, I'm stuck. That's a lot to answer in the usual fifteen minutes we have, if that. This young woman narrowed down the question to say, "How does what you do relate to what we do?"
I narrowed it down like this, "The myth of the God slain to nourish the people is a very old one indeed--going back to Ancient Egypt and the Osiris myth and probably before that. There is no coincidence that your God resurrects at the same time the Earth is coming back to life--at the beginning of Springtime."
Not sure where that came from. Maybe it was my own tongue of Brid's fire. But she went away smiling and learned something. As did I. Sometimes, it takes someone from the outside asking you about your faith for you to learn something about it, yourself.