I find it difficult to start writing again after a hiatus (third one this year, ugh), so I was pretty happy when Jason Mankey suggested a weekly theme for us at Patheos Pagan for this month of July. Just what I need, prompts and relatively easy ones at that!
I have written about how I became Pagan a few times now, but it’s all bits and pieces spread out among multiple other blog posts. So, mostly it was all in passing, or backstory for another topic. Writing about how I became Pagan in a single post is probably a good idea – so here we go!
I am 30 years old, all the ways my Pagan journey started happened a long time ago – like over 20 years ago. Remembering all of it is difficult. I can remember certain pivotal and notable moments, feelings, ideas, thoughts and actions – but even those that stand out, it’s difficult to remember what order it all happened in. And certainly how old I was for each thing. Honestly, I make it up now!
I don’t lie about it, but I make guesses. I guess what age I was based on other life events. I guess which things happened first based on logic or just a gut feeling in some cases. For example, I know most of it happened when I lived in Queensland, so had to have been before I was 11 years old and moved to Victoria. And I know this thing happened when I was friends with this person, but how old was I when I was friends with her?
Anyway, sometimes I guess, so if you happen to go through old posts of mine – or read things I wrote on the now gone Pagan Veil – then yes, there might be some discrepancies when it comes to the timeline. But outside of that, it’s all the same, every time I write about it.
The Good Book
I think this was the first thing, the first moment. I feel like it must be, because if it wasn’t, then why was it so shocking to me? If I had already had moments before this, then surely this one wouldn’t have felt like a first time. Right?
I went into this one fairly comprehensively in my post about how I first encountered Hekate, but a recap is still good. So, I think it all began with my mothers encyclopaedia of mythology. Reading through that chunky book, learning about various myths and deities, ancient and gone cultures – and some still living. I was obsessed with the Greek section (I think my father may have been into Hercules the Legendary Journeys at this stage, placing me at around 8 years old) and kept reading over the descriptions of the main Gods over and over and over. I loved it.
I have no idea how many times I read through the main parts of the Greek section before I finally got around to reading through the smaller parts, but that is when it really happened. When I read about Her, Hecate (how the book spells it). It was like being struck with lightning, even though there isn’t any lightning, and certainly no real pain. But I don’t know how else to describe a feeling that I felt over 20 years ago. It was simply like lightning.
This Goddess I had never heard of, never read about, never known about. I knew Her.
I Believe in the Gods… I Think
From there on I was in an odd phase. I believed in the Gods, or I wanted to believe in Them, or I wanted Them to simply be real. I wanted that section on Greek mythology to be real now, here, today. But, I also knew no one believed in the ancient Gods anymore, so I couldn’t believe in Them either. But I did, but I couldn’t, but I did.
I say that is when I became Pagan without being Pagan. I believed, but didn’t believe – because that wasn’t normal. I had a religion, but it was a non-existent religion. I couldn’t practice, because what on earth does an 8 year old do for a dead and gone religion that no one believes in? But over the years I added little things, ideas, ideals, even rules into what would one day become my open religion. Uniquely mine.
Witches Can Be Good!
I think this happened after the previous thing – because how could it have happened before? Presumably I had a dream in which witches were real, in the present. They were not supernatural inhuman creatures of evil. They were just people, who could do things. And they weren’t good or evil or neither, but they were human.
And they still wore black (so I may have also been goth before I was even goth).
Ha! I don’t remember the dream, what I remember is the picture I drew of a modern day witch and I remember telling my friend about the dream and about my newfound belief in witches. And… I am a witch! You can be one too, and we can be in a witches club!
Obviously I did not know the term “coven” and no, despite the dates, I had not actually seen the Craft or anything like that. I didn’t watch the Craft until I moved to Victoria (after I turned 11). The only witch movie I had watched around that time (I think it was around that time) was quite different and didn’t make witches look non-evil – I have no idea what that movie was, but I wish I knew its name.
I am a Witch… I Think
And so again, I was in an odd phase. I say phase, but they weren’t phases in the fad sense – but phases in the transitional sense. I was stuck in a sort of limbo of trying to be something, be part of something, but believing that it was impossible to be that something and part of that something. Because those things didn’t exist.
I didn’t know the word Pagan, as a label for any modern belief systems. I didn’t know there were modern witches. I didn’t know the ancient religions were actually being reconstructed, revived, revised right then and there as I struggled alone. I was stuck, I was a no label person who believed in Gods that no one else believed in. And I was a witch, maybe, perhaps – or I was trying to be one, striving, wanting, willing.
I did things, I practiced things, things that have little to no meaning any more. I made it up as I went along, I can’t even remember the things I tried, the things I fantasised about, the things I failed in.
And I learned. I kept reading, what I could – which wasn’t much at that time, because people under 10 are kind of lacking in resources. But I learned what I could, when I could, however I could.
I was a rudimentary wild witch and a no label pagan.
MORE PAGAN ORIGIN STORIES AT PATHEOS PAGAN
How I Found Paganism: The Origin Story of a Druid Priestess by Melissa Hill at Dandelionlady
The Wicca Problem
I was 11 or older when I finally learned that Witchcraft was an actual thing, that people believed in, did, followed. Unfortunately for me my introduction was via a magazine that used the words “witchcraft” and “Wicca” synonymously. And so I dove headlong into a religion/tradition/thingy full of rules and ideals and ideas that really were not for me.
I cannot say how long it took before I became disenchanted and disillusioned with all of it. But the belief that both labels were the same label meant that I abandoned both of them, all at once. Done, gone, lost. It was an odd feeling, this complete loss of everything. It wasn’t helped by the fact that the Gods I wanted in my system were also often used in this Wicca-Witchcraft system. I felt like I wasn’t even allowed to honour Them anymore because They belonged to Wicca.
I think it wasn’t long before I discovered that there was still a label I could use, and one that beat out the notion that the Gods belong to supposed Wicca.
Pagan, Never a Witch
I embraced the Pagan label wholeheartedly but even into my early 20s I was quite gung-ho about being Pagan and not a witch. Ugh, witchcraft, stupid religion that tricks people. I refused the witch label, even though I was a witch (hindsight is mean like that). Even when I finally paid enough attention to realise that Wicca and Witchcraft are not the same thing – old spite dies hard.
The silly thing is, Paganism also caught me in a tangled little trap made from my own limited vision. Just like Wicca (or more precisely, Wiccanate Witchcraft), I let myself believe that I had to follow the rules. Unlike Wicca, Paganism is so diverse that following the rules can become very difficult to do – and so very confusing. Still, I tried very hard to follow what rules there seemed to be. Like, celebrating the wheel of the year – even if you don’t worship or even communicate with the Celtic deities and the wheel of the year just doesn’t fit with your local seasons and climate.
Pagan and Witch and Hater of Misconceptions
It was about 5 years ago that I embraced what I thought would be my final labels – and ones where I wasn’t confined by other peoples ideas and rules and beliefs and idiocies. I labelled myself an Eclectic Domestic Pagan and Hearth Witch (forcing myself to get over the anger at the witch label, because hearth is such a cool word).
I also made it my mission to run around telling people how wrong they are about this belief and that. Not the beliefs, but the misconceptions – the conflation of Wicca and Witchcraft, the rule of harm none and threefold return, the idea no Pagan can worship the devil, that billions of witches were killed during the inquisition and more.
It was misconceptions that kept biting me in the arse when it came to Paganism and I wondered – still wonder – how many end up being driven away because of it. I guess I found the idea offensive and decided it was my task to stop it from happening. I am silly like that sometimes.
2015 was a hard year for me, being pregnant with my third child who I obviously gave birth to later on that year – but also losing my father while I was pregnant. Add to that a bunch of smaller stuff (like fridge dying, mower dying, pets dying etc) and you end with a stressful year that beats you down hard. I hadn’t the energy, the time nor even the motivation to do anything or be anything. I lost touch with it all, I fell down hard. And I didn’t care one bit.
At the very start of 2016 I had another moment, similar to that very first moment that was like a lightning strike. Except this one was more like having a huge hand smack you right the hell down and up and down. She gave me time, She gave me the whole year of 2015 to deal with things the way I need to deal with them – and then the new year hit and She decided that was enough. And not just enough, but more than enough.
It wasn’t time for me to just go back to what was, but it was time to go for more, strive for more. It was time to start building more on what I had begun so many many years ago. It all started with a book on mythology, an obsession with one specific section on Greek mythology and Greek Gods.
It was time to get back to that, to Them.