Because it's applicable to this journal, I'm posting my three "essays" on here. No, I don't feel they are formatted as essays, but I've not done a proper essay since 1994. Still, it is good reading, if I may be so bold. Enjoy. :)
How did you come to Paganism?
I never came to Paganism. Honestly, I would say that Paganism came to me, as it was not quite a conscious choice. Rather, it was a realization that I likely already was a Pagan, who just did not yet realize it. I will attempt to relay my story here, to the best of my ability.
In 1987, I was 11 years old, and had begun to discover the joys that reading can bring. I happened across a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and eagerly devoured it. I quickly read the rest of the series, and bemoaned the lack of similar tales in my school library. One day, though, I decided to grab a book on mythology. I suspect that it might have been a young adult version of 1001 Arabian Nights. I was hooked. I went through every single mythology book that was in my school library in no time.
At that time, I had just recently stopped going to church on a regular basis, due in part to my mother deciding to attend a new church with a very New Age feel that felt more like a snake oil show than a place where I could practice my spirituality. I did not really miss going, because I had questions that could not (or would not) be answered at church, such as “What was here before God?” and “How do we know that all the world’s religions aren’t ultimately worshiping the same God, but using different names?”
Something in those ancient tales tugged at me, and I began to thirst for more stories like the Chronicles of Narnia and the world’s mythologies. Finally, in my early teen years, my aunt purchased two books for me, because I showed an interest in fantasy that even she noticed.
Ironically, while the two were from different series, both novels dealt directly with Gods and their actions in the world for which they were responsible. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing a shift in how I viewed the world, thanks to my love of reading. Over the next few years, I read many more novels. The ones that stuck with me best (and stick with me to this day) were those in which the Gods had a role to play.
Years passed, and my subconscious search for the Divine was put on a back burner while I threw myself into mundane pastimes. I still read, but I had become so distant from my spirituality that I barely noticed that I had stopped looking for something to fill the void left by Christianity.
Then, in 2002, I had my lack of spirituality catch up with me. I had financial troubles which led to the repossession of my car by the bank. I began to keenly feel the lack of a guiding force in my life, and wanted to change that. I looked again to Christianity, but again found that its adherents could not stand up to scrutiny.
Music has always been very important to me, and it was in that same year that I discovered Blackmore’s Night. I got their three releases at the time (“Shadows of the Moon,” “Under a Violet Moon,” and “Fires at Midnight”). Many of the songs on those albums spoke to something within me that I could only describe as primal. The title tracks of the latter two releases particularly spoke to me, and for the first time ever, I began to wonder if I was destined to be something non-Christian. I didn’t know enough about Paganism at the time to realize there were more paths than just Wicca/witchcraft.
Over the years, I had known several friends who claimed to practice witchcraft, but I did not see any sign that there was more to it than playing with magic. However, the magic I felt coming from those songs made me actually do a search on the subject. On October 23, 2002, I discovered a vital spirituality that spoke to that part of my soul that I’d long forgotten was still searching. Here is an excerpt from a private LiveJournal entry on that day:
Tomorrow is payday, and I think I'm going to go to Waldenbooks, and pick up a couple of books on Witchcraft. There, I said it. The "OOOooo" word. For some reason, I don't know if I want to call myself a witch. I don't know if I want to cast spells. Of course, to be fair, the more I've read on the subject, the more I've seen everyone saying "don't assume that you are going to do the Hollywood kind of magick" and "if you came just for magick, then prepare to be disappointed". This implies to me that it's on a deeper level than it was with Charles, Murray, and group.
I wound up picking up a couple of Scott Cunningham’s books, including The Truth About Witchcraft Today, and Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. I read them both, though it would be years before I was comfortable with the idea, simply because of my preconceptions regarding magic.
I met Brian Young through work, and grew to be friends with him. One evening in early June 2010, someone did a Tarot reading for me at his house, and I knew I needed to explore this path again.
Outline your Experience in Paganism:
My experience with Paganism began initially over eight years ago. I’d been keenly feeling my lack of spirituality in life at the time, and in October 2002, I finally did a web search, coming to http://www.wicca.com. After reading several of the articles on the web site, including the FAQ, I made the decision to pick up at least a couple of books on the subject.
I picked up two books by Scott Cunningham: The Truth about Witchcraft Today and Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Both were amazing to read, though I balked once the latter got into actually practicing magic, for I had known some friends who had played with witchcraft, and had it go horribly wrong for them. I wanted a spirituality, a religion, not a way to cast spells.
Over the next several years, I picked up more than a dozen books from a variety of authors, including Raymond Buckland, but each time I got to the point the book began discussing using magic, I would put them down. I really connected to the spiritual side of the books, and got to know many of the basics that way, but was unwilling and afraid to go further with actual magical practice without someone with whom I could talk. Ironically, it never occurred to me to search for Memphis pagan groups, and I did not even imagine that a pagan church could exist.
In January 2008, though, I was transferred by my job to the Kroger at Poplar & Highland. It was there that I met Brian Young. Over the course of the next two years, I grew to know him and consider him a friend, though we never really spent any time together outside of work.
I had my last fling with Christianity early in 2010, and gave my box of pagan/witchcraft books to Brian, thinking I was never going to need them again. After about a month, though, I ran into the inevitable “my way or the highway” attitude again, and quit trying to make Christianity work. I confess that I might have talked myself into it because I had feelings for a very devout Christian woman at my job, and I lost interest when the relationship with her fizzled.
In early June, though, I had the opportunity to go over to Brian’s home, where I met Jon Peppers and Jessica Gross. That night, Jessica gave me a tarot reading, and I was amazed that I felt that I might have found where I needed to be. I inquired about Brian’s path, Asatru, and he suggested that I read Diana Paxson’s Essential Asatru.
I liked what I read, but what really struck me was that it didn’t assume that I would be using magic, and it was the first time that I really saw a non-Wiccan pagan faith. I also noticed that the Nine Noble Virtues actually stressed personal responsibility, and I felt I had found something I could stand behind.
Over the next several months, I read many more books on the subject. I had the opportunity to talk to many folks for whom that was a path, and I learned a lot about Asatru, Heathenry, and Paganism in general. I became a paid member of Summerland Grove Pagan Church, and attended every church meeting that I could. I attended the Sabbats that I could as well, though I refrained from participating initially because I was nervous that I would “do it wrong.”
In November 2010, I was invited to visit Trudy Herring’s coven, because I expressed an interest to see a ritual that Brian was going to do. Before I left that night, I was invited to join the coven, and I attended it until March 2011, when I decided that I wanted to figure out my faith for myself, before I put myself into an interfaith coven like that.
Also in early 2011, I received a gift of a set of Ogham sticks from a friend, who commented that she saw me on a Druidic path. Ever one to research, I picked up John Michael Greer’s The Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth. After reading that book, which I took my time doing, I began to see more of how I acted, rather than how I thought, in Greer’s writeup of Revival Druidism. I am not switching paths, though, until I feel I have done sufficient research into both, so that I can make an informed decision.
In the coming year, I anticipate that I will learn a lot about myself through my shadow-work and that I will better understand my path..
Describe Your Experience in the Pagan Community:
It wasn’t until June of 2010 that I knew there even was a Pagan community in the Memphis area to participate in. I read books on the subject of Wicca/witchcraft, but never did any practical work with them, mainly because I wasn’t interested in magic, which stemmed from a fear that I would do something stupid, blundering on my own without a teacher.
By August, I had joined Summerland Grove Pagan Church, and was attending the church meetings whenever I could get away from work. I also attended any Sabbats that I was free to attend, though I was shy about participating in ritual until recently.
In October, I went to my first Festival of Souls. As my first pagan festival, it exceeded my expectations, once I was able to relax enough to enjoy myself.
I visited Trudy Herring’s coven in November, and was subsequently invited to join them. I remained a member until March 2011, when I withdrew so I could focus on my own developing path.
Early this year, I participated in FoS planning meetings as a member until the meetings went to staff-only.
I look forward to the coming year, and meeting even more of the pagan community here in Memphis.