It was one year ago that I decided it was time for the secret I had been carrying for some 18 years to be set free. My husband and a few close friends knew that after my parents died, I moved to New Mexico to join a cult. What they did not know was that I agreed to marry the cult’s leader, that I became his 14th wife and that I lived with him and his other wives, together within a polygamous tribal family.
I had existed with this secret for so long that my experiences in New Mexico had began to seem unreal, as if it had happened to someone else or like some long forgotten dream. At the same time I was ashamed of the choices I had made. I was embarrassed and afraid of what people might think of me. After all, what did a middle class, 28 year-old girl from Surrey think she was doing marrying John Twobirds, the 60 year-old leader of a Neo-Native American tribe?
Six years ago when I began writing my memoir, what initially began as a personal project soon evolved into a book that I wanted to publish. I had gone from telling no-one, to wanting to tell the whole world my story….. It was time to tell my Husband.
I was shaking with nerves when I eventually sat him down, scared he would vilify me or think less of me. Lucky, being a somewhat exceptionally evolved being, he took it quite well, as did my supportive and loving friends. In the end I was overwhelmed with the positive response and support I received. I wondered what I had been so scarred about? But a revelation as potentially explosive as this can only be released when the time is right, and only you will know when that is.
After my parents died and the relationship with my first love fell apart, I found myself desperately alone in the world. I was searching for a sense of belonging, I was yearning to fit in somewhere. Lost and alone, I felt that there was nothing for me in London, so I packed my bags, left my rented room in Highgate in London and without telling a soul, boarded a plane to New Mexico.
I had met John Twobirds six moths earlier in London though a friend and had been fascinated by his teachings and ethos of ‘Live in Harmony, be in Balance, Walk in Beauty’. Having attended weekend workshops and participated in sweat lodge and cleansing ceremonies, I found myself being quickly drawn into his world. When one of his senior wives told me that I was ‘signed’ – destined to become his wife, I initially recoiled, but the promise of family and belonging was seductive and before I knew it, I was sitting on a plane to New Mexico knowing full well that I would be expected to marry him upon my arrival.
Exclusive excerpt from my memoir – Becoming Red Bear
The wives are dressed in what looks like their best outfits, – long floaty dresses, their long hair braided with dessert flowers and leaves. They smile at me knowingly as I walk past them. Just before I reach John, two women stop me and begin to smudge my body with the woody sweet smoke from bunches of dried burning sage. Once the ceremonial space has been purified, and the smoke has dissipated enough for me to see again, the wives begin their song to ‘The Mother’ asking her to welcome me as their new woman wife. I walk forward, I’m totally detached, half frozen with fear when I finally I take my position opposite John. I am to wed not just him, but the whole Terra Mater family and Mother Earth herself. That’s why I have flown half way across the world, to find a new family, a new life. But now that I’m here I feel like a panicked stranger, this can’t be happening to me.
Now that my secret is out, I do feel liberated – glad not to have to carry the weight of its burden any longer. Writing about my experiences has been incredibly healing, it has helped me see see how wondrous my life has been. I have suffered through immense loss and grief, experienced crippling loneliness and isolation, but I survived through it. I found my own way back to belonging, and for that I am truly thankful.