PHOTO STORY: All things connected, All things divine
In one of Rene Ramirez's most vivid childhood memories, he sits in his maternal grandmother's lap with cards spread out in front of them. Unlike your average grandmother, though, she isn't playing bridge or poker - she's using the cards to tell someone's fortune.
Ramirez grew up in a nominally Catholic family, but the Port Lavaca native says his grandmother regularly practiced fortune-telling, or divination, as it is sometimes known.
She claimed to be able to predict the sex of an unborn child using a pendulum and the mother's wedding ring. She believed she could end a rainstorm by sending her youngest child outside to make the sign of the cross with a kitchen knife.
Some members of the family referred to this as "voodoo" and chose not to speak of it, but Ramirez said the exposure to his grandmother's practices had a profound effect on him.
After years of being around her and after seeing films such as "Practical Magic" and "The Craft," he decided to start researching alternative religions.
"And I really never transitioned back," Ramirez said. Now 25 and living in Victoria, his bedroom is full of candles, crystals, spell books, bags of herbs and artifacts featuring the five-pointed star symbol known as a pentacle or pentagram.
Although the words "witch" and "witchcraft" are clearly visible on the spines of many of the books on Ramirez's shelf, his fundamental belief is simply that all things in the natural universe are sacred and interconnected.
"I do believe . 'do what thou will but harm none,'" he said. This particular tenet is taken straight from the nature-centric religion Wicca, but he does not identify as strictly Wiccan.
Spirituality, he says, "isn't a path you follow; it should be a path you make."
You can learn more about Ramirez's spirituality by following his blog, On the Pagan Side.