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Religious Life Stories: W

Wiggins, Lisa

Interviewee: Lisa Wiggins
Interviewer: Suzanne Degnats
Date of Interview: October 24, 2012
Format: WAV file, transcript
Length of Interview: 79 minutes
Transcript: 42 pages

Click here to hear the interview and read the transcript.

Biography:
Lisa Wiggins was born August 11, 1976 in Augusta, GA.  She describes her community as very conservative and traditional. Her family was of Baptist origin.  When she graduated from high school, she went to a liberal arts college in Augusta and was exposed to other ways of thinking.  Lisa expressed an interest in psychology and sociology. She received her bachelors and masters degrees in psychology.  She stayed in Augusta and worked as a child and adolescent therapist until her mid-twenties when she moved to Atlanta to work at the CDC.  She eventually earned her PHD in psychology at GSU and currently works for the CDC as an epidemiologist and developmental psychologist in autism research.
 

Abstract:
Wiggins religion of origin was Baptist. She describes her family as very religious, although her nuclear family did not attend church all of the time because her mother was caring for her sister who had special needs.  When she was a child, her Catholic grandmother died, and Wiggins was very affected by the fact that they would not allow for Catholic rites.  There were many things about Baptist Christianity that confused her; she said that she couldn’t understand being told you would burn in hell if you don’t accept God’s love.  Wiggins loved being in nature, and she always saw God in nature; she credits this as the origin of her future Wiccan beliefs.  Another pivotal moment came in high school when she attended a gathering for Christian teens and was singled out as being a non-believer; this turned incident turned her away from being a Baptist.  When she was in college, she went with a  sociology professor and a group of students to a  Wiccan Samhain ceremony in Atlanta coven. She was attracted to Wicca but does not think that all of the drama is always necessary, but she still described it as a life changing event. Wiggins began a solitary practice as a Wiccan and also started meditation practice.   She went through many personal changes including a move to Atlanta and the death of her mother during her twenties, and started seeing a therapist.  The therapy helped her integrate her religious practices into her everyday life. She kept practicing as a solitary, and eventually joined Oak Spring coven.  She is currently a second degree priestess, and is a third degree candidate.  Additionally, she studied with the Michael Harner Foundation for Shamatic Studies, and is a practicing shaman.  She has traveled to South America to continue her studies, and teaches at bookstores and different schools and churches in Atlanta. She feels strongly about being open about her religious practices in her professional and private life. She gives details of her experiences in her narrative. A single mother, Wiggins joined the local Unitarian Church so that her daughter would have a church community that would expose her to a variety of belief systems.  In addition to her daily personal shamanic and Wiccan practices, she attends events at the coven about twice a month.

WOODMAN, BETTY

Interviewee: Betty Woodman
Interviewer: Suzanne Degnats
Date of Interview: January 22, 2013
Format: WAV file, transcript
Length of Interview: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Transcript: 48 pages

Click here to hear the interview and read the transcript.

Biography:
Betty Woodman was born in a small New England town in 1958, and attended Christian church as a child. Outside of church, she didn’t think about religion much until she entered her adolescence. At that time, she became fascinated by religion and ‘enthralled by Jesus.’ She joined the Pioneer Girls at her church and soon became a leader. ‘Things started to unravel’ when she started asking questions about the bible and Christianity that the adults in her church could not answer or appreciate. She also started becoming aware of gender differences when the girls would naturally defer to the boys during church functions. This realization would follow her and set the trajectory for much of her life. When she started college, she was in a head on collision that she should not have survived. She worked hard to regain use of her body and her legs, making a full recovery, which made her start questioning if there was a purpose, a reason she lived. After graduating with a degree in engineering, she joined the workforce and also started focusing her free time on politics and volunteer work, working with the homeless and battered women, among other causes. At this time, her politics, feminism, and religion came together, and she experienced her volunteer work as a ministry. After her son was born, she explored various church communities, gravitating to the Unity church. She has also been involved in a variety of meditation, prayer, and spiritual healing practices. She emphasized the importance of love in her religious life; this was the same love that she felt for Jesus and his teachings when she was a child. She has since gone on to obtain a Master’s degree in Religious Studies and an Interdisciplinary Doctorate, focusing on Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Gender.

Abstract:

In this interview, Betty Woodman describes her spiritual evolution over the course of her life, beginning in her devout childhood, through her skeptical adolescence, and into her adulthood, when she came back around to embrace a belief in God. She describes experiencing a serious car accident as a college student and discusses how it affected her life. Woodman talks about becoming aware of sexism both in religion and in the workforce as an adult. She talks about becoming active in social justice work as a means of spiritual expression and ministry, and discusses ways in which she has witnessed the power of love and human connection. Woodman describes volunteering with domestic violence agencies and in a foster home. She talks about her decision to leave her corporate job and eventually begin graduate studies in religion, philosophy, and gender studies, in which she earned a PhD from Emory University.