It dawned on me the other day that I passed the ten year mark this summer. Though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I “became” Pagan, I have chosen the day I cast my first circle as my anniversary. While at the time I was still unsure of what I was doing (and wouldn’t yet have been brave enough to use the word “Pagan”), that was the moment when the research I’d been doing for years went from theoretical to practical. On that day I challenged my fear of… God’s wrath? Hell? Too much change?… or whatever it was that was holding me back and allowed myself to follow where I believed (and still believe) a higher power was leading me. (You can read more about my conversion in my bio or in my earlier post “Convert and Convict – The Incredible Difference of Two Letters or No, Seriously, They’re Different Words.”)
A lot changes in ten years.
I remember the beginning when I had more questions than anything else — there was so much to learn! I remember the difficulties of finding teachers who wouldn’t auto-reject the n00b as a fluffy bunny. I remember wondering if it was possible to find a pagan culture that wasn’t goth, yogini, or hippie (don’t get me wrong, I love goths, yoginis, and hippies, and I’ve learned a lot from all three of these groups, but my standard scene is a little more vanilla). I remember being bemused when I learned the differences between British Traditional Wicca (BTW) and Ecclectic… and deciding that Ecclectic was more my scene. I remember my first introduction to the Reconstructionists – mysterious Pagans who were obsessed with old books, attended lots of Ren-Faires, and maybe even sacrificed pigs or something (I wasn’t really sure, but pagans sacrificed pigs 1000 years ago, and Recons emulate a religion from 1000 years ago, so clearly they all sacrifice pigs). I decided to stay away. I remember the fear of coming out for the first time to my husband and close friends and the angst that ensued.
A few years in I started to hit a stride. My husband and friends had come to accept – and sometimes even champion – my decision, and I felt comfortable being more open in public. I had experimented enough that I had started finding ritual formats that worked for me. I had researched pantheons and started conversations with different gods and goddesses to see who I worked best with. GG and I started doing seasonal rituals together, and we found that the ritual, while important, worked more for us a springboard to discuss issues inspired by the seasons and hash over life issues that turned along with The Wheel. I officiated my first Pagan wedding. I attended circles run by various groups around town. I continued reading voraciously online and in published books, trying to learn as much as I could about moral philosophy and conceptions of God – pantheist, hard polytheist, soft polytheist, panentheist, trinitarian, monotheist, atheist – and I experimented with what I found. I learned that, as attractive as magic sounds, I wasn’t interested in being a witch. And somewhere, I realized that Wicca, with its emphasis on formal ritual and tradition based largely on Celtic mythology (which, while gorgeous, is not something I easily connect with), wasn’t the best home for me. So I quit calling myself Wiccan and started calling myself Pagan… just Pagan.
Time continued to turn, and in the past few years I started facing some of my preconceived notions. Notions like my ancestral gods, the Norse pantheon, were all about violence (they’re not). That I would have to butcher my own pork to be a Reconstructionist (I wouldn’t). And that it’s impossible to revere ideas from the past without joining the SCA (while I’ve nothing against the SCA – they are faboo for research – I don’t have the patience to spin my own yarn or hammer my own kettles.) In the past few years I’ve realized that Reconstructionism is not about replicating the past, but about recognizing value in pre-Christian morals and spiritual views – the idea that Christianity, while a legitimate alternative to native spirituality, is not progress from native spirituality. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize how entrenched that belief was (it’s what I was taught my whole life!) until I got heavily involved researching Medieval history for a fiction project. (Hopefully one of these days that book will be published and I can share it with you!) With that discovery, researching not just mythology but cultural history became a part of my pagan journey. I set up my first ancestral altar and tried calling on the gods of my ancestors. I started looking at the amazing commonalities among native faiths from all over the globe, like ancestor worship, polytheism, the idea of a “Great Spirit” or nature as an “over-god” and many others. Eventually I realized that those crazy, animal-sacrificing Ren-Faire folk (who don’t necessarily sacrifice animals nor attend Ren-Faires) was where I belonged.*
I’ve learned so much in ten years. Changed so much in ten years. The main thing I’ve come to understand, however trite it may be, is how much I don’t know. I plan on continuing to learn, to change, and to grow over the next decade. One piece of my Pagan journey I’ve absolutely loved is starting the Pagan Princesses where I can share my thoughts and read what other people have to say, and I look forward to our community growing in the future! (Expansion of the realm?)
How long have you been Pagan (if you’re Pagan, that is)? What are some of the biggest changes you’ve made or things you’ve learned since you’ve been Pagan or been hanging with Pagans?
* In case you can’t tell, I like harassing my peeps.
+ Featured image: Neopagan meditation in Rocca di Cerere by Dedda71