Many of my most memorable and transformative Pagan experiences have taken place in early Summer. On July 1 1994 I rediscovered the Craft as an adult through the pages of DJ Conway’s Celtic Magic. A few days later I said my first ever prayer to the Goddess and one year later I performed a dedication ritual, forever wedding me to Paganism and Witchcraft.
My first ever large Pagan gathering occurred in late June when I visited Circle Sanctuary’s Pagan Spirit Gathering in 1997. That week I became friends with several people who are still a part of my life over twenty years later. In June of 2012 I launched this blog and in June of 2015 I signed my first ever book contract. There are just so many milestones this time of year that it’s hard to keep track of them all. The Summer Sun has blessed me time and time again it seems.
This time around the Summer Sun came a knocking to remind me just how much I love being a Pagan, not a Witch, but a Pagan. Over the last few years (outside of the online world) most of my focus has been on Witchcraft related endeavors. The only groups I’ve been actively involved in have leaned heavily towards Wiccan-Witchcraft, and even on the festival circuit my workshops and experiences have been mostly Witchy.
For most people there’s probably not much of a difference between Witch and Pagan (meaning if it’s Witchy it’s also Pagan, I certainly don’t mean to imply that all Pagans are Witches) but for me there have always been distinctions. My life as a Witch is about serving my gods, my tradition(s), doing magick, celebrating the sabbats, and serving it all up with a heavy dose of pomp and circumstance. My experiences as a Pagan have always been more primal, closer to the Earth, and tend to take place in the great melting pot of extended community and family.
Last week my inner Pagan came out in abundance at Pagan Spirit Gathering, and I’ve been wearing a huge smile on my face ever since. There was something about the experience that simply reconnected me with who I was twenty years ago, back when I was more likely to wear tie-dye than a Bro-Witch shirt with Gerald Gardner’s picture on it. There was a time when I was more Pagan than Witch, and it was nice to revisit that feeling.
Sometimes bubble culture is more than just something experienced online, it can permeate into our daily lives as well. One of the downsides of being a part of a successful Witch-coven is that I don’t hang out with Druids, Ceremonial Magicians, ecstatic dancers, and every other shade of Pagan with the frequency I used to. Getting out of my “a circle, four quarters, and a cloud of dust” way of doing things was like being embraced by an old friend.
Due to space issues most of my rituals these days take place indoors. My coven’s Temple Space is full of its own energy and I love it, but doing ritual next to the shore of a lake, surrounded by thousands of horny frogs, with the pulse of the nearby trees echoing below my feet . . . well that’s a different kind of energy entirely. My Pagan-side is the part of me that LIVES for that, that wants to howl at the moon, and dance around the campfire. Lately everything around me has gotten so serious, and yeah the world is a serious place, but sometimes you just need to commune with the timeless energies of the natural world-energies that will long outlast our species.
I’ll admit that I have trouble with ritual circles that don’t feel organized, and walking deosil in sacred space hits me like being slapped in the face, but sometimes that more free flowing ritual is just so full of JOY that I can’t help but jump into the energy. Is everyone trying? Is everyone happy to be there? Does it FEEL Pagan and feed my soul in some way? This past week the answers were yes, yes, yes, and yes! A walk in the woods with 600 other Pagans may not always be a cure for what ails you, but sometimes it most certainly is.
A QUICK BOOK REVIEW: THE PATH OF PAGANISM BY JOHN BECKETT.
Speaking of Pagan things . . . . .
There are days when I think the word “Pagan” has completely jumped the shark. The community that has coalesced under that word has grown so diverse, and fractious, that the idea of a shared and universal “Paganism” has become hard to wrap my head around. But then I read John Beckett’s The Pagan of Paganism and came away with a completely different view of the word, and our community. Apparently we do still have things in common, Polytheist, Witch, Re-constructionist, Druid, and Wiccan! We are all unique, but there are places of common ground and John captures it all so wonderfully that he gives the word “Pagan” a new life and a vibrancy I swear wasn’t there before reading his book.
In addition to providing the foundation to a more fulfilling spiritual practice, John’s book is full of all kinds of good stuff. Re-reading it again (time number four!) in preparation for having John on as a guest on my podcast, I found myself actively taking notes out of the book to use in my Witchcraft class. In a year full of great Pagan and Witch books, John’s is my favorite, and I highly recommend adding it to your “must read” pile of books.
-I don’t listen to much Pagan music at home (unless one counts Led Zeppelin), but I found myself loving it this past week. There are few things more infectious on a perfect Summer night than a whirling cascade of drums a la Spiral Rhythm (and those harmonies!), and a solo SJ Tucker concert near midnight can either serve as the cherry on top of a perfect day, or a prelude to even more hijinks. Continuing with the “Being in Love with Being a Pagan” schtick of this post there are few things more joyful than Arthur Hinds belting out Pagan Beat.
Seriously, there’s something so joyous about Arthur, and it’s something I can’t put into words, but the guy is an absolute force of nature. Watching him draw down Pan one night and then MC a performer’s rite of passage stage show the next was cool to see. Both take radically different skill sets you see, and Arthur does both with aplomb, and makes a mean margarita to boot.
-My love affair with Druids continues. One of these days ADF and OBOD both are going to get my money because the best conversations I have at festivals are generally the ones I share with Druids. Last week it was mostly Damh the Bard as we were bunk mates in the
Witch’s Tit, M etal Teepee, the Cone of Power (seriously, it was a big metal cone with an air conditioner, refrigerator, and flushable toilet-for an outdoor Pagan festival we lived like kings).
I’m always reminded of how much more alike most of us are when we converse with one another. That’s so easy to lose sight of on the internet (yes, I believe that Facebook is increasingly bad for Paganism). The folks whose agenda seems to be about splitting up Paganism are usually not the folks sharing a midnight bottle or three of mead talking about the things they love and cherish in their own practice and in our extended community.
-One thing I did a lot of at PSG this year was go to rituals. Hard to pick a favorite, but a Tuesday night ritual about new beginnings and personal pathways has resonated with me. My original intention during that ritual was to focus on simply being a good ambassador for Wiccan-Witchcraft in our greater community, but that’s not what I ended up taking away from it. Instead I’ve found myself thinking a lot about letting go of things I have no control over.
Instead of worrying about whatever bullshit Person X is saying about me online, I should ignore the stupid and just get on with my life. This is going to be a challenge for me but it’s something I was starting to put into practice before PSG and now I’m even more determined than ever to keep heading that way. And as my wife says, I could post “The sky is blue” on my Facebook page and 30 people would start arguing with me about it. That’s not a good use of my time, instead of arguing, I’ll let my actions speak for me. (This may not be where you thought your ritual would take me Ash, but the unexpected roads we travel are often the most rewarding.)
-We spend a lot of time online writing about Pagan Community, and yet at the end of the day most of us probably retreat into the bubbles of our respective traditions and ways of doing things. At indoor festivals I often feel as if there are several different festivals taking place simultaneously, they just all happen to be under the same roof. That’s harder to do an outdoor festival where everyone is gathered under the same roof (the sky) and hanging out at the same events. I just so loved jumping into that spirit. It might have only been for a week, but the energy of it all is going to stay with me much longer than that.
-And I met all sorts of wonderful people at PSG, and just because I’m not writing your name on this blog doesn’t mean our interactions lacked meaning. Indeed, there are just so many interactions that I’m not sure I can list them all! (And I’m not sure whose names I can write in such a public space and which I can not.) So thank you if we shared a drink, a cider, a coffee, or whatever else it was. And to everyone who came to my workshops and ritual, BIG THANKS! I think I was mostly not awful.
-And one of the best things about getting away from the city is always the stars and the starry maidens that often join me in staring at it.
-Thanks to everyone at Circle and PSG for letting me be a part of last week’s festivities. I promise it won’t be another twenty years until I go back.