A Christian would say that “God moves in mysterious ways.” Apparently so do Goddesses. This is, in effect, my origin story; how I became a witch and where my Craft name came from. It’s a bow of respect and acknowledgement to the Goddess Who called me to the Craft.
I was born to be a mystic. I don’t see the world the same way a lot of other people around me do. There are things out there that we don’t understand. There are experiences that defy rational description. I quested for that numinous something with vigour. My parents are Agnostics and so I began to ask questions of my friends. The only option I was initially offered was Christianity.
I liked Jesus, and I liked the idea of Heaven, but as I’ve written about before, there was a lot I couldn’t get behind. Why was God so mean and unfair? Why was it all Eve’s fault when the Serpent was the one who had lured them into wrongdoing? Why was knowledge of good and evil such a bad thing anyway? Above all, where was Goddess?
My legal name is Diane. It wasn’t exactly a common name in 1975 and sometimes people made fun of it. I was a very empathic and emotional little girl (Pisces much?) and so when people made fun of me, it really hurt my feelings. So I was always drawn to positive examples of my name, and the first one I discovered was Diana Prince.
The nerdy among you know that this was one of the names for an incarnation of Wonder Woman. What a phenomenon that character was for me as a child, growing up in the “bra burning” days of the feminist movement! I’ll write more about that sometime, but for now, the important elements are that she had my name and she was an Amazon. I immediately latched on to that archetype. I wanted to be the clever warrior-woman who more often than not defeats opponents by outsmarting them rather than beating them up (though she could go toe-on with that too if she wanted too.)
Also, as I wrote about recently, I spent a lot of time in nature as a child. I sensed the numinous in the natural world. I sensed the numinous in my friends’ churches too; but usually only when we sang, or when I studied the art (which wasn’t often, because my friends were Baptists, Mormons, and Presbyterians, and all of them value Protestant austerity).
These were the first tickles, if you will. Then a whole lot of things came together for me all at once. I was very young; often people don’t believe how young. I was ten and eleven years old. The year I am describing was from 1985 to 1986.
The first thing was that I was an early bloomer and puberty didn’t just hit me, it bashed me with a stick. And with my monthly cycle came powerful lucid dreams. And some of those dreams came true. At first I thought it was a coincidence, but it became much more frequent and common. I began to tell my friends about them, and then things happened, and my friends corroborated what I had said; though of course, nobody’s going to take the word of a bunch of ten-year-old girls about such things.
The second was that my school librarian, an awkward, geeky sort of man whom I knew as Mr. Walter (I believe his first name was Elmer, but I was young so don’t quote me) did something for which I will ever raise a cup running over with gratitude. He harnessed my voracious reading habit by putting me on the list of kids who evaluated, and voted for, the Children’s Choice Awards. Through this, I had an opportunity to read some amazing, powerful books, one of which was “A Swiftly Tilting Planet” by Madeleine L’Engle. I was immediately drawn by my many likenesses to the character of Meg, and I read all of the series, which is about a family of psychic children who are shown the nature of time and the mysteries of the Universe. St. Patrick’s Rune was given in the book as a spell of protection. It stuck with me.
The third and fourth things were also books. I discovered Raymond Buckland’s “Practical Candleburning Rituals” in my school library, which introduced me to the concept of witchcraft (though he was also careful to use Christian terminology in that book). And then, as I was reading about astronomy, a subject that fascinated me as a child because I wanted to understand the mysteries of the stars, I found this picture:
Diana, or Luna, Goddess of the Moon. She was in a book that was printed by National Geographic. They pictured each of the deities for whom the planets were named in their introduction page. I knew my name meant “goddess of the moon,” but I’d not yet discovered Her. And right about that time was my introduction to Greek and Roman mythology as part of the school curriculum, so I was just getting to know Her.
My youthful feminist self was completely enchanted by this Maiden Goddess, untouched by man, striding through the forest with Her hunting bow; and yet, the patroness of birthing mothers and the animals of the forest. I loved what She stood for.
And our mythology class taught me that Christianity wasn’t the only option. Once, people had worshiped other deities. Once, there had been Goddesses! All the books were smugly convinced that moving from polytheism to monotheism was the natural, proper progression of a more advanced consciousness; I wasn’t so sure.
My best friend Kelly and I were both enthralled. She was drawn to the image of Venus in the same book. We started pretending that we were priestesses of those goddesses, and we danced to them and we did ceremonies under the moonlight and the wild places a child could still go to in the eighties. Once in a while we even pretended that we were the Goddesses Themselves, having adventures right out of the mythos. And we would make magical potions together; and I swear to you, I had no idea of the connection at all, It was just something I was driven (or maybe guided) to do.
So there was one night in the height of summer in which something magickal happened. The Aurora Borealis set the sky alight. It’s not common for the Okanagan Valley to experience the Northern Lights in the first place – we are usually just a little too far south for that – and for it to be happening right around the Summer Solstice . . . well, that was something truly amazing! I watched the sky flood with colours I had never seen in the sky before, dancing with a ghostly, misty shift and shimmer from bright blue to bright green and even purple, like glow-in-the-dark watercolours in the rain. And if that weren’t magickal enough, an enormous silver full moon rose in the night sky while Venus shimmered more brightly than I can remember seeing Her before. Researching for this article, I have determined that it must have been the night of June 21, 1986, which was actually two days after the Solstice that year. But whenever it was, I had a moment of complete transcendence. I felt the presence of the Goddess in the night sky! And quietly I recited an adaptation of the rune I had learned in “A Swiftly Tilting Planet”:
“Lady,” I said to the hovering orb of the silver moon, “I want to serve You. I’m not praying to God anymore. I’m going to pray to You instead.”
With Diana in this fateful hour,
I call upon Heaven and all its power:
The sun with its brightness;
The snow with its whiteness;
The fire with all the strength it hath;
The lightning with its rapid wrath;
The winds with their swiftness along their path;
The rocks with their steepness;
The sea with its deepness;
The earth with its starkness;
All of these I place,
By the power of Thy grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.
I was inspired to look down at my wrist, which was adorned with a cheap metal bracelet I’d picked up at a neighbourhood garage sale. That bracelet was a serpent eating its tail – an Ouroboros, as I would later learn it was called. I strongly felt that the Goddess Diana had blessed that bracelet with Her powers, and I kept it with me, and wore it everywhere, until it literally broke in half and fell off of my arm. By then I had my first silver pentacle to take its place.
And suddenly I found that I could change the weather. And that my vision-dreams were even more clear. And that I could tell what cards were going to come up next in the rummy game.
About a year or so after that, Kelly’s mother sat us both down and told us that what we were doing was witchcraft; that it was wrong and it was evil, and that we needed to stop. So Kelly stopped joining me in ceremonies under the trees and the moon. I continued to practice in secret, making things up as I went along. I never looked back.
When I discovered Wicca and the formal study of magick, I became everybody’s “weird witch friend.” Well into my twenties and thirties, and sometimes even now, I have found myself trying the next step before most of the people I know do, and then teaching it almost immediately.
For some reason, throughout my teen years I constantly found myself defending the underdog and standing up against unfairness. Often it was in my own life, but it was also in the lives of others. I became the champion of the geeks and the outsiders.
Later discoveries only served to reinforce my bond with my Goddess. I found out in high school that as much as early mythology classes simplify things, Artemis and Diana have much in common but are not necessarily the same. I learned that Diana was one of the names used by the early British Traditional Witches to describe the Witches’ Goddess. I learned that Diana’s lack of interest in men did not mean She had no interest in sex, mostly She “preferred the company of woman.” Except that She had at least one affair with a mortal male, and as a bisexual woman, I found this to be an even more perfect link with the Goddess who had chosen me.
Then someone suggested I should read “Aradia: Gospel of the Witches“. And then I glimpsed the full face of my Goddess for the first time. Queen of All Witcheries. Moon who seduced Her brother, the Sun, to give us Aradia, Her daughter, sent to the world to teach witchcraft to the masses and to liberate the oppressed. And I also found Her in the Charge of the Goddess: The beauty of the green earth, the white moon among the stars and the mystery of the waters; the dusts of whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the Universe. I had been searching for Her my whole life, and even as She touched my world, She remained shrouded in Mystery. Suddenly my purpose, and the reason that Diana had been drawn to me (and I had been drawn to Her) became crystal clear.
Everyone I knew in the Pagan community already knew me as Sable. The name came from my Society for Creative Anachronism pirate persona and had just kind of spread because most of the first Pagans I met were through the SCA. So when it was time to take my name for my Third Degree, the choice was clear. Sable, because it was my name, one I had earned for myself; and Aradia, because I was, and because I remain, Diana’s daughter.
I recognize the role I have been asked to fulfill. I am here to do my best to balance the energies of Sun and Moon (or Apollo and Dionysus) within myself. I am here to brew potions (and maybe poisons in the form of entheogens!) I am here to teach witchcraft to empower the people. And I am here to liberate the oppressed. These are the tasks that the deities have asked of me, and I continue to do my best to fulfill them because love of my Goddess, and my God, inspire me. This is the meaning in the world that I choose to make. I am a daughter of the moon.