I tend to grow reflective around my birthday (Saturday, January 4). That it’s so close to the secular New Year probably plays a part in that too. Not only does this time of year mark another turn of the calendar, it always begins the next chapter in my own life. I don’t tend to think of myself as a “notable Pagan” but I’ve certainly made Paganism my life’s work. There’s Raise the Horns of course, but also workshops, festivals, and various other writing opportunities. I don’t think our professions always defines us, but for me Paganism kind of is my profession, so my spiritual achievements sometimes go hand in hand with what the mundane world would think of us as my professional ones.
This year is also something of a milestone in my own life, it officially marks my twentieth year as a Pagan. Since I have trouble believing I was a Christian at age three, I have now spent more of my life with the hooves of Pan than with the outstretched arms of Jesus (apparently, this is not a phase). If I’ve learned anything in my twenty years of Paganism it’s that Paganism is a journey, not a destination. I’ve heard people say that discovering Paganism was like “coming home,” but for me that’s never been the case. Perhaps my soul is too restless, or maybe I’m never satisfied with what I know, but “home” implies a settling down that I’m incapable of.
I’ve never really strayed much from the first Pagan Path I set out upon. I was immediately attracted to Modern Witchcraft and it’s the ritual form that I’ve always stuck with. I played around with the Druid thing for a few months, and I’ve always had friends trying to push me into the O.T.O. and other forms of ceremonial magick, but that’s never been where my heart is at. I need four quarters, a circle, cakes and ale, and both a Goddess and a God to feel comfortable during ritual. Anything less (or in the case of the Feri Tradition anything more) and my rites feel incomplete.
When I was a Christian there was never this burning desire in my gut “to learn more.” Paganism (and sometimes more specifically British Traditional Witchcraft) is like a relentless quest for my knowledge. It’s learning about the gods, the histories and origins of my Craft, and how to truly walk between the worlds. As soon as I think I’ve exhausted an avenue for growth another question arises, and I find myself back in the stacks again, attempting to weasel out an answer. This past year has seen journeys into the heart of the Wiccan Rede and Cunning-craft, and then circling back to the Indo-Europeans and their gods who became the template for half a dozen pantheons.
During this Wiccan Journey my companions have changed several times along the way. When I first began the journey I walked only with the Lady; primarily the Great Goddess in her role as Mother. I first encountered the God as a solar deity, but mostly abandoned that aspect when I discovered the Horned God, or perhaps I should say “horned gods.” I sometimes use the phrase “Horned God” but what I’m really most familiar with are specific deities, gods like Pan, Cernunnos, Dionysus, and Kokopelli (there’s a very real phallic thing going on there if you dig beneath the surface), and up until recently that was rather static, but then I was reminded of the whole journey thing . . . . . . . .
I’ve had to draw down the God at my coven’s last two sabbat rituals, and the gods we’ve drawn down have been outside of my usual experiences. In addition to the Horned God we generally see in modern representations of deities like Pan, I think there’s a second, darker, version out there too. This is the Horned One as leader of the Wild Hunt and gateway to the Summerlands; the Horned God not generally written about in poems. I don’t think this revelation is a shock to anyone, and I’ve always been aware (and sometimes wary) of Pan’s more primal aspects, but I’ve never had much of a relationship with this darker side of Horn Head. It’s there now though, and waiting to be explored.
At Yule this past year I was supposed to draw down the Lord of the Sun, and in my mind I envisioned a figure like Sol Invictus, and I got something else entirely. I’m never sure exactly what’s going on outside of my self when filled with deity, but inside I was deliriously happy, but in a completely child-like manner. There was an image in the back of my brain too, it was young and reminded me more of Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Past than Apollo. It was one of the most enjoyable drawing down experiences I’ve ever had, and I feel like I’ve picked up a new companion.
My personal practice has progressed over the last twenty years as well. I went from eclectic-style Wicca to being an initiate, with lots of stops at the varying degrees in between. Over the last year and a half I’ve gotten especially serious about doing ritual consistently and using it as a work space in order to improve myself. I’ve been a part of many circles, covens, and groups over the last two decades, but few of those groups have been as consistent as the one I’m working with now.
Since we’ve begun our work together nearly everyone in our circle has felt their lives improve, whether it’s with school, jobs, money, etc. There’s a universal sense that something is going on and that the spells we are weaving are having their intended effect. Working with the same people over and over again has made ritualizing easier too. Recently our group had to step in and assist with a local public ritual at the last minute, and the parts were all so well oiled that it looked like we had been practicing for months.
I started out as a solitary Witch, and over the years I’ve gathered quite a cohort of deities and communities, but I’ve still generally walked my path alone. Over the last few years that has changed significantly. The roads we walk are obviously are own, but more and more I feel like I’m always walking that road hand in hand with my wife. It’s as if we’ve chosen for our paths to converge. We both have different passions within Paganism, but where our focuses are the least aligned is when we tend to compliment each other the most.
If I squint really hard I can see my beginnings on this path (and if I really concentrate I can almost see the route it took me to get just that far), but when I look forward there’s no end in site. There’s knowledge to be gained, gods to discover, and secrets to be revealed. Twenty years in and and the journey is just as inspiring today as it was when I first started. Many of us often say “blessed be,” in our rites, if we were expected to respond to that phrase I’d most likely say “blessed am.”