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Salt City Pagan: Things I Haven’t Told You

Salt City Pagan: Things I Haven’t Told You July 20, 2021

Writing for the Pagan community or writing for public spaces in general means putting yourself out there in a very vulnerable way. Whether you write to express deep experiences, share in your successes, or simply to try and contribute to your niche, you’re still offering part of yourself over. I’ve found writing about Paganism to be the best way for me to connect to my own spirituality. My hope is that someone out there reads these words and relates. I’ve struggled to choose which path I should take and felt like eclecticism was not working for me.

My own little part of the Patheos world has some deeply personal stories. I have covered my own abuse, loss of family, death, and some pretty controversial topics. However, I haven’t blatantly said where I stand and where I plan to go next within Paganism. I write about my experiences and share them with you in order to give up part of myself and hope that it inspires others who might be struggling as well. Today, I want to go over my self-examination, practices, and share which direction I am going in my journey. In some of my blogs I have alluded to the fact that I am nearing the metaphorical fork in the road in my spirituality and I am now fully there. I am staring that fork in the face and she demands that I choose my path and so I have. Let’s discuss some of what didn’t work for me, why, and where I am now.

Public domain photo via Creative Commons.

What Didn’t Click

Wicca and Witchcraft were never for the cool kids when I was in junior high and high school. Reflecting back, I’m not all together certain what really was for the cool kids. Our prom queen was pregnant and our cliques were all pretty comfortable with each other. Paganism was very much a Barnes and Noble situation or sitting for hours at your local public library. When I was initiated into a group it felt utterly magical and like I fell upon something that was ancient. Obviously, Wicca is not ancient and neither are any of the Modern Pagan faiths.

At this juncture, though, Witchcraft is very much in vogue. It doesn’t frazzle me to see the development of TikTok witches or the witches of Instagram. I’ve actually seen quite a few beautiful ideas and I recognize a new avenue that is in desperate need for intellectual saturation. The same thrill that people gain from posting on social media reminds me of my thrill from initiation. It is completely magical, even if it is a Hollywood glamour that isn’t fully reality. Eventually you will see reality and that experience is like a box of cake mix. It is deep in flavor, fun, meaningful, and far more work than you thought but somehow rewarding in its simplicities as well. Also, the ancient aspect is a lot smaller than you may have originally thought (Cakes are old but cake mixes are new. Paganism is old but current practices are new.).

Satire and such aside, I began to realize I wasn’t one of the cool kids. I mean, this isn’t a new revelation by any means. I’ve always been a massive nerd and someone who is on the hedges of cool. My understanding of magick-theory never completely jived with the teachings found in Wicca or my experiences in Modern Witchcraft. I’ve been trained in three branches of Wicca and each one gave me an in-depth perspective on magickal theory and application. This was all wonderful except that when it came to application, I was still running your basic run-of-the-mill style spells. It never really felt important to me to expand beyond folk magick. This is because my personal beliefs involving interconnectedness made my desire to perform higher magick much less appealing.

Public domain photo via Creative Commons.

Moreover, if you’ve been following my blog at all you will see a person who has had a spiritual crisis for some time. There has been a massive unsettling sensation that I was not doing what I needed to be doing. There wasn’t a real-life satisfaction in my practice that didn’t require some level of masquerading. In short, I wasn’t being true to myself and addressing the elephant in the room. The massive truth being, I was practicing Witchcraft and Wicca because it is far more accessible than other paths.

Now, this is my own truth and it shouldn’t dictate your own truth. If Wicca and Witchcraft bring fulfillment to your life, keep going! I am advocating for each of us to find meaning in our lives. I also want to be honest, I don’t think I will ever completely drop folk magick practices. They just work and sometimes you need that extra OOMPH!

Looking At What Might Work

I know the above is a bit vague and might not make too much sense. It may even feel a bit disjointed from the rest of this blog. This is largely because within Wicca there are a lot of oath-bound practices. Even in circles of Witchcraft I kept and adhere to oaths I made. I will say this though, the Wicca that the public thinks they know and the Wicca you see in bookstores is not the full picture. It really is a framework that provides something sturdy enough for solitary practitioners to formulate a likeness to traditional forms of Wicca. Witchcraft can have this same feel to it, though I am seeing more books that are willing to open the doors to secrets that were once well guarded.

Public domain photo via Creative Commons.

What I feel now about Wicca and Witchcraft is less of a desire and more of a methodical observation. I enjoy learning about various methods but I no longer have a desire to implement magick in the way a Wiccan might or a Witch. I have explored avenues that weren’t readily available before. I’ve looked into Heathen practices and Norse Paganism. Both of which are largely popular in Utah at the moment. I’ve found beauty in various Celtic traditions and am actively reconnecting with my ancestry.

So which path have I chosen? Which turn on the fork called to me most? I have spent the greater portion of the past few years debating which direction to go. I have used logic, reasoning, and definitely overcomplicated the entire process. I was continuing the cycle of masking the facts that were right in front of me. Snapping myself into reality, I took a moment to breathe, and then listened to my intuition. I also pulled myself back and observed my hobbies, joys, and thrills outside of Paganism. All of these signs helped me put one foot in front of the other and begin walking down the path of Druidry.

There are several options out there for an aspiring Druid. You can choose to study with ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin), AODA (Ancient Order of Druids in America), or OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids). My personal choice has been to study with OBOD and I can go into more detail about why at a later date. This isn’t the first time I have tried to study with OBOD though, or other orders for that matter. I like to be upfront about my attempts, failures, and how I have stood back up to try again. I’ve attempted to do the Bardic grade course from OBOD three separate times.

Photo by the author.

The first two attempts to study with OBOD were not successful because I was not ready. I was too busy trying to figure out which path was right for me and what I truly believed. I was flailing around in my self-created discomfort and that didn’t allow room for me to truly devote myself to a fantastic order with rigorous teachings. The third time has been the charm and something feels like home at this time in life. I can’t repeat this enough, be honest with yourself, and the rest will come easier to you!

Aside from self-reflection, I had some help in choosing my new direction. It was marriage that came along and kicked me upside the ass. My husband is so supportive that the government should consider hitting him up for road infrastructure ideas (yes that was a joke….and I am writing this late at night. Pardon the corny humor.). His kindness and views around disregarding what is convenient for what is fulfilling inspired me to give Druidry another try. I was hesitant to admit that I was in love with this new path. In fact, I avoided writing about it because I wanted to be certain that I have made a choice that will serve me long term. I wanted to ensure it was fulfilling, not convenient, or a passing amusement for my curiosity.

Other items that helped me along the way came in the form of environmental studies. If you’ve even casually been exposed to the news you know that the Western half of the United States is either on fire, super dry, or abnormally hot (like marine life is cooked alive hot. No joke, happened in BC.). It is a scary time to be alive and there is no ignoring the genius loci / local spirits. Mother Nature is not messing around anymore and her message is loud and clear, “Keep living this way and your species will die”. I know that is very apocalyptic and macabre but it has been enough for me to wake up and listen to who is talking. The lessons found in OBOD have helped me navigate these ecological messages without a sense of doom. Instead, I feel a connection to the Earth and like-minded people that want to make a positive difference in local ecosystems.

Public domain image via Creative Commons.

This Is What It Is Like – So Far

It is still very lonely and that is something I have to face as I choose to walk this path. Paganism is small to begin with and Druidry is an even smaller fish in the pond. There are resources though and the work that goes into the online groups has been drastically different than what I found with Wicca or Witchcraft. It feels as if Druidry knows they are small fries but they relish the research and opportunity to support each other. My encounters online have shown me that there are some outstanding / scholarly people in the Druid community. I’ve had some people who are well versed give me brutally honest critiques but I appreciate it and learn.

Wicca and Witchcraft certainly have resources and an equal amount of people interested in scholarship. I in no way want to downplay the outstanding efforts from Wiccans and Witches. What I am about to say isn’t 100% the status quo in forums and online communities but there is very much a “We VS Them” sensation. Traditional Witches vs Wicca and so the battle continues. You’ll have to let me know if this is something that you’re experiencing as well and how this can change to better support those who are interested in Wicca and Witchcraft.

Because there aren’t larger groups of Druids near me, my enthusiasm for topics around Druidry are not shared. Since I am somewhat new to Druid teachings, they excite me, and I find myself wanting to talk with others. So who do I turn to when there aren’t groups around? I turn to my other Pagan friends and they don’t quite have the same thrill. Their studies and interests are still very much in line with Witchcraft, which is absolutely wonderful, but it can be very jarring to realize how different you are. Does this cause a schism in my friendships? Not at all but it enhances my desire to find other Druids.

Being part of OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) comes with a system for learning and I am provided with a mentor. This has been extremely helpful in those moments when I am feeling particularly distant. It also helps to have a person who can navigate the path ahead (like Siri but for Druids!). OBOD does not enforce dogmatic beliefs or ideas. It is structured in a way that can be a religion if you want or it can be a spirituality or even both! This was optimal for me since I come from an eclectic Wiccan background and value some wiggle room.

Photo by the author.

Druidry has been fantastic in reviving my interest in Irish, Welsh, and Scottish languages, myths, and my own Celtic ancestry. There is genuine power in saying epithets to Lugh or Brigid in Gaelic. Although I am in America, I am still able to connect to Irish-Celtic deities in a way that feels honorable to their native lands. The same can be said for any other Celtic deities. Their myths may have been retold from the words of monks but you can see the glimpses of an ancient past.

So far, it has been extremely pleasant and I am enthralled with the material I am exposed to. Druidry is connecting my hobbies with my chosen spirituality and that has made a drastic difference for me. No longer am I frantically reading book after book after book to find some fragment of truth. I now read for pleasure and to find threads of mythology that add to my experiences. Additionally, distance is no longer a primary concern. I have access to Druids across the world, religious material, and shared rituals. Being in Utah does not prevent me from being part of a community that is oath-bound. What I am getting at is, Druidry is accessible where some traditional paths of Wicca and Witchcraft were not and this has made a massive difference for me. I am part of a community again and can practice from anywhere in the world.

Looking To My Future

Nobody can firmly say what their future holds but we can certainly try to build something in the present. My desire is for a future that will include furthering my experiences in Druidry. It will likely include making the effort to find seed-groups near me. I want to expand on my identity as a Druid and see what I can bring to the table as I work with OBOD.  I am also continuing my education outside of Paganism and potentially making some major moves as well.

My goals within Druidry will mean going onto my ovate courses and eventually a Druid level. I hope this will be in conjunction with locating a seed-group and practicing / learning together. My sense and need for community is strong, even more now that I am new to this path. It fills me with so much joy to think about my expansion and all that I will continue to learn as I transition from Wiccan to Druid. I will be very curious to see what stays with me and what is put onto the shelf. I look forward to sharing this here as well.

Photo by the author.

Above I mentioned that there is an ecological crisis where I live. I have also mentioned a few times that Druidry can feel lonely here, at times. Each of these factors have contributed to a shared desire to leave Utah. There are other driving forces and a fair amount of logic behind our goal to call another place home. However, it also feels fitting that my spiritual path would influence my mundane path. Some of the factors around leaving Utah include: LGBTQIA+ equality, rights, and safety. Job opportunities that fit our chosen careers. We also feel a sense of loneliness in more than one area of life.

Utah is a truly stunning place. It is filled with such a wide range of eco-systems. From mountains with deep pine forests to red rock plateaus that are dotted with arches. We have petroglyphs just outside of Salt Lake City and outstanding views. It has been heartbreaking to witness people harming the place I call home and to no longer feel like I am at home here. Some of our closest friends and family reside in other locations and we have been separated for far too long. Those that are still near us are beginning to also grow on separate paths.

I am a believer that when you listen, you will receive guidance. The world around my husband and I is guiding us towards a future that looks different than where we are now. We are excited, nervous, and approaching this path cautiously.  It may be months or years before serious changes happen. However, whatever comes, we are ready for the experience! Here is where we hold our breath before we jump….

About Tyson Chase
Tyson Chase is a practitioner of Druidry, living in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a business professional by day and an avid amateur researcher by night. His research includes over 15 years of Pagan studies, history, comparative religion, and science. He is committed to helping the fight against climate change and advocating for the Pagan community at large. You can read more about the author here.
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