How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Demons

That Time Spiritual Psychosis Cured My Religious Trauma


Naia M. Lanton

If I’m possessed by a demon, a single solitary demon, that demon’s name is Naia–she’s me.

I am, I have come to think, chronically possessed. I have had a non-zero number of exorcisms performed on me at this point. 

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’ve ever puked snakes or crawled up a wall, though, HOW FUCKING METAL WOULD THAT BE!? God, I wish my exorcisms were that cool, mine were just panic attacks and tongue talking. Anway, 

I left pentecost. You can read all about what led up to my exit from pentecost in another article I wrote, but this is the first point. I’d dealt with spiritual delusions before the first big incident, but most of them directly stemmed from the borderline PTSD that I was left with. When I wrote “Prodigals”– yes this is a sequel– I was going through my edgy antitheist phase and thought that religion, especially Christianity, as a whole was a cesspool of delusion and fundamentalism– what I didn’t tell you in that one, though, is that I’d begun my first baby steps as an occultist. 

Angel Numbers and the Multiverse

When you study theology, you want to take that shit in bite-sized pieces. There is a scripture in the bible that goes something like: “Paul, thou art beside thyself! Much learning doth make thee mad!” with which, if I put my own opinions of St. Paul to the side (totally not a false prophet or anything lol) to say that, I agree–there’s not much in The Holy Bible (KJV) that I agree with, but I will say that the more you learn, the more susceptible you are to complete delusion. 

That’s where I was. 

It was somewhere between leaving pentecost and a.) learning the origins of the word “Demon”  and b.) getting back into humanism– 

I’d only really come to an understanding of Tiktok’s brand of McPaganism where it was shortform, aesthetified and completely delusional. SWEETIE YOU ARE NOT MARRIED TO THE HUMAN VESSEL OF LOKI YOUR MAN IS JUST A DUDE– a human dude–unless he’s been impregged by a horse and has a kid named Sleipnir somewhere. 

So anyfuckingway! I got really into the angel numbers and multiverse side of the delusional bullshittery. It was the summer– maybe spring– I’d just freshly reached out to Hecate, like barely even had an altar to her, and then I had the dream. And dear reader, it gets fucking poetic from here on out. 

The Dream

I was at my old church–everything smelled like blood. I was outside, and I had a cigarette–no–I had a smoking habit. My mother was worried about me starting back up. I checked my phone–in some way I knew it was a dream. Where was I? When Was I? It only said 1749– maybe 1497– were these angel numbers? A date? “Donald Trump Arrested” was scrawled on a headline of some unrecognizable news app. 

As I approached the chalky red canopy my mom came out to yell at me for not being in church.  I plodded back into the building as mother-dearest shouted behind me “She doesn’t care…” She then called me Stella: “Stella doesn’t care.” My name is Naia. “She doesn’t care, she wants to move in with Rachael!” my mother said. Rachel is also not my partner’s name. No one seemed to care–the people in the foyer rolled their eyes and walked away. Weird. They don’t care that I’m trans? My hair was shorter–but I looked more like a girl than I did when I’d been six months on estrogen. 

Soft-butch–I rolled my eyes, too–and kept walking toward the sanctuary. 

Rachael in the Sanctuary

She, Rachael, was sitting on the second row from the back. I passed by family members who didn’t go to that church and found her. She was short, plump and had tight, white blonde curls. She smelled like old blood and perfume. 

“Why didn’t you call me?  I waited for you to call me,” she was crying.

I cradled her, kissed her, and told her that my mom was “back on her bullshit”  

She was wearing a black-red tulle dress with a short black cardigan over it. 

She was literally adorable–So adorable that even after I woke up, I could still feel her arms wrapped around my neck. I think just before my eyes popped open we’d agreed to move in together. The whole church was fine with it, which is not the reputation that the UPCI has. 

The problem is that she didn’t exist. Before I woke up, and just before we agreed to live together, I remember snapping back to Naia–not Stella. I looked at her and in my own voice asked where or when this was. She looked at me, confused, and told me that it was–she said some nonsensical date and something like “the Apprehension of Trump.” So, maybe it was prophetic. I have no idea–I just knew that I felt an emotion for someone, who, for all I knew, wasn’t real. 

But then– maybe it was something else– Maybe, this Rachael was from somewhere else– maybe, another dimension? 

From Delusion to Muse

I watched “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness” and this confirmed it for me! It had to be real. Stella was telling me her–our–story. Another version of another me! I had made contact with another version of myself! We would work together and we would strip my mother of the power she had over us, we would send energy back and forth through the rift, fight God and work together to override fate itself!

I was a motherfucking superhero!

I was infinite.

I was…


It was hard to swallow, realizing that neither of these people were real. It was crushing. There was only me. A human. There wasn’t another dimension, there wasn’t another me– there was just one me–and the life I had. What was I going to do with it? (Fail all my classes, apparently…)

The dream was torn to shreds like a favorite sweater. There was comfort in the imagination, in the dream. It was gone–the crushing weight of reality killed it. 

And then a few more discoveries happened, and I had an idea: a love for these two that was shared by my partner. They were a part of me, after all. They, together, were a muse, a new muse: Stella, the trans lesbian with a smoking habit and her–Why did Rachael smell like blood anyway?–VAMPIRE! She was a vampire. So it was a transbian witch and her vampire girlfriend. That was something. It had to be something. And then I came up with an idea. I’d write a book–I’d write several books–I’d write poems and short stories–I’d make them real in the only way I could. 

Words are Real

I don’t know if magic is real. But I know that words are real–and they’re pretty fucking magical in their own right. Maybe there isn’t a huge multiverse, and maybe Stella wasn’t a version of me from another world–but maybe she didn’t need to be. Maybe the relationship she shared with Rachael was just inspiration, and maybe that’s what the universe intended for me–to have an inspiring flash–  

When I wrote “Prodigals,” I hated pentecost, but I denied the fact that it was still a part of me. This isn’t me going back (I think the UPCI would have to very blatantly say Gay Rights and Protect Trans Lives! before I’d ever even set foot in one of their churches again) but there was something darkly romantic about the whole thing–something folkloric–mythical– 

I analyzed the setting: my old church, how it worked and how I felt being back there, even in a dream. It was nostalgic but horrifying, like a family reunion at the Manson Household. I won’t say it was perfect. Hell no! It’s an abusive cult! But I think that’s why I romanticize it. People romanticize tyrants and cult leaders all the time– =look at the Lana Del Rey fanbase.

It felt like a blood-soaked cabin in the middle of the woods, like inbred, banjo-playing death cults, like swinging chains covered in rust, and the vile stench of roadkill along an Appalachian highway. 

It Was Gothic–It Was Southern–It Was…

My least favorite genre of media–Southern Gothic. I hated Southern Gothic– It was all decaying animals and red light bulbs–distorted pianos and…I kinda loved it suddenly. I took a second look at the Holy Rollers and snake handlers, and realized something–I am a Holy Roller. Still, even as an agnostic pagan–even as a queer transfem occultist, socialist, antiwestern, anarchist– etc,. I am a Holy Roller. 

If I’m possessed by a demon, a single solitary demon, that demon’s name is Naia–she’s me. She’s every thought, every feeling, every idea, every bit of inspiration and epistemology–she is me. I am my demon. The rebellion and witchcraft, the divination and chaos, is me–because I’m human–that is humanity. 

I am human, therefore I’m a Holy Roller. I grew up as a Holy Roller, and I will always be a Holy Roller. But I am also a witch, a pagan, a buddhist, a satanist, a unitarian-universalist, an atheist, an agnostic–I am every philosophy, every religion, and at the same time, I don’t have a religion. In many ways I’m my own religion. I create my “religion” with every choice I make.

Overcoming My Demons and Learning to Worship

I worship God when I curl up next to my partner, when I hug my nephew, when I sip wine in the evening, when I’m writing poetry, when I walk through the woods–that is God to me. God exists in the faces of my friends and people I love–people I have crushes on–she exists in songs and poetic bullshit. She exists when I “cover my lips and tongue in honey” and “menstruate glitter from my throat” she is everything, nothing, chaos, order. She, in essence, is the universe–she’s human. 

I don’t know, maybe there is another me named Stella, maybe that’s all real and it’s not a delusion–I can’t disprove it anymore than I can prove it. I just know one thing for certain: who I am, right now, that’s what matters to me. When the sun goes down, however fucked up my history with religion is, it’s my hostory. This is a Gonzo article, I could have gone off the wall and met black lesbian Jesus if I wanted to–because I am the writer, I am defining, with every keystroke, the story that I want to tell. 

So I’ll write a book, maybe pen a screenplay, turn it into a play or a musical, maybe a Netflix original or a paperback you pass in the bargain bin of a dollar tree. It may live and die on my tumblr–who cares?  My point is that I was so terrified of demons growing up–I rebuked them, had tongue talking panic attacks and then I found myself staring in the mirror. The demon I was so terrified of wasn’t Astaroth or Beelzibub, Marchiosias or Bael–Definitely not Lilith, I actually love her–no, it was just a sick little girl reaching out for someone to love her, someone to listen to her. So, I listened. I held her as she cried and I told her everything would be fine and then I put the mirror away and started writing.