Porsha Williams knows a thing or two about walls – metaphorical ones, that is. She’s been up against a lot of them, whether religious, psychological or cultural.
She describes herself as a “raised Christian, converted to Pagan woman.” And that conversion is the source of many of these walls.
Williams has always been intrigued with Kemeticism, an ancient Egyptian form of Paganism. But it wasn’t until about three and a half years ago that she decided to start practicing it.
Telling her family was one of the biggest challenges. Her father was raised by someone from New Orleans who believed in Voodoo.
“But Paganism – when you say the word ‘Pagan,’ ‘Kemetic’ or otherwise, their immediate thought is devil worship,” Williams said.
Her father is Southern Baptist; her mother is Methodist. She was also baptized Methodist.
“They don’t see that there is any other religion, other than that,” she said. “They don’t recognize it.”
Since her conversion, she’s also felt distance from the small, tight-knit African American community in her hometown of Mexico, Mo. Part of the distance came when she left for college and stayed away for years. But much of it comes from her faith.
“Everyone goes to church every Sunday,” she said. “You either go to the Methodist, church, the Lutheran church or the Baptist church. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. And everyone knows and sees everyone, so not to see me there, knowing that I was raised in that church, and then to realize why, because I’m very open about it – that was hard on my parents … and it was hard on me because it alienated me more.”
And there aren’t many outlets for Pagans in mid-Missouri – though a few that started online are becoming more and more active. Hearthfires, a mid-Missouri pagan alliance, meets once a week for food and fellowship. And Mid-Missouri Pagan Pride holds a special event every fall.
“They’re coming out,” Williams said. “And I think that that was the biggest hurdle, was for them to come out and to say, ‘OK we are here, we do practice we do want to be recognized.’”