Over the last couple of years a part of my late Summer routine has been cleaning out my basement to donate items to a local yard sale sponsored by one of our localish open Pagan groups. Donating items to Community Seed is good for a variety of reasons, the biggest one is that it’s an opportunity for a fine group to make money. The other really good thing about it is that I can get rid of some Pagan-ish things with the hope that they will go to a home that will appreciate them. I hate throwing things away, giving away stuff on Next Door or to a yard sale is a win win.
Every year now I try harder and harder to part with the stuff I no longer use. I realize that last sentence sounds a bit silly, it should be easy to part with “stuff,” but I have a deep attachment to a lot of my stuff even stuff I no longer use. I came across my first pentagram encrusted shirt yesterday . . . . I have vivid memories of wearing that shirt to Pagan events starting in the late 90’s, and then to other stuff up until about the year 2012. That’s a pretty good run for a t-shirt, and surprisingly it’s in good shape, off to the Community Seed yard sale, maybe another Pagan-type will find value in it (and perhaps it might fit them!).
Perhaps the hardest thing to get rid of yesterday was a pair of stereo speakers I’ve had since 1994(?). Oddly, outside of several hundred cassette tapes, a few CDs, and a large Shogun Warrior named Dragun, those speakers are one of my oldest possessions. They’ve rocked house parties in Missouri, Michigan, and California. Heck they’ve been in the living room of my current house, which actually feels a bit unbelievable considering people in Cape Girardeau Missouri spilled beer on those very same speakers while listening to the Offspring in 1995.
I came across something the other day suggesting that every ten years we become “different people.” Those changes are obviously not on a genetic level, and maybe not drastically on a physical one, but ten years of experiences has the power to transform who we are internally. I have certainly noticed this in my life over the years, and sometimes the drastic changes happen in shorter time spans as well. My life in 2022 feels radically different from the one I lived in 2012, and yet I live in the same house and have many of the same friends.
Maybe it shouldn’t be all that surprising since my Witchcraft has gone through a similar progression. Just like those stereo speakers my journey into Witchcraft began back in Missouri. In those long long ago days I believed that the Craft was truly “the Old Religion,” driven underground by zealous Christians scared of Witchcraft’s power. Back in those days it was common to believe that the Old Religion derived from Matriarchal Goddess Religions, and of course I bought into the idea completely.
Because books told me to, I also did silly things with my Witchcraft practice that make me laugh today. I divided my altar into “Male” and “Female” sections because nothing screams DUDE like a bowl of iodized table salt. I was quite invested in doing everything right, or at least “right” according to the authors I was reading at the time. I was also zealous back then, bordering on being a proselytizer, and it sort of embarrasses me, but young people discovering the Craft and then wearing pentagrams the size of hubcaps feels almost like a right of passage at this point. No reason to be all that ashamed of it. (I never know wore the giant pentagram, I was a bit more subtle with my dress, rarely with my words.)
When I moved to Michigan a few years later my practice changed again. Though I had fallen in love with Wiccan-ritual structure, I was probably more of a “Pagan” than a Witch. I experimented with lots of things: deities, magick, groups, ways of practice, etc. For many years I carried around an unhealthy Jesus obsession. (Hilariously now reviews of my books often complain that I’m “so mean” to Christianity; for the record I’m only mean to Christians that deserve it.) In recent years I’ve begun calling the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to Paganism/Witchcraft “Pagan soup.”
Pagan Soup has room for all sorts of things. Need to set up an altar to the Virgin Mary? Go for it, she’s just a manifestation of the Great Goddess after all. Need to learn the secrets of the Celts? Well it’s time to open up the 21 Lessons of Merlin for the whole unvarnished truth. Good gods what was wrong with me?
My journey into Pagan Soup lasted a pretty long while, but my eyes were eventually opened when I started reading smarter books in the very late 1990’s. Of course Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon was the biggest eye opener, but there were several others too that illuminated the origins of Modern Witchcraft and opened up a different road. I was also initiated into Gardnerian Witchcraft near the end of my fifteen years in Michigan, which would lead to other roads …..
Over the last ten years I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff that had become a part of my Witchcraft. No more gendered tools, and no more altars to the Virgin Mary either. Moving to California and being able to start a new coven led to a rekindled love affair with Wiccan ritual and practice. Pagan soup was fun, but it’s much nicer to mostly focus on a particular practice (along with a few favorite deities).
One of the biggest changes has been more recent and has forced to re-evaluate how I look at life and the relationships I share with others. Witchcraft may not be the Old Religion, but it might helps us connect with those we most value again and again over the centuries.
Wiccan-Witchcraft was never a spirituality whose primary focus was male/female polarity, it was a reincarnation cult. The Witches who initiated Gerald Gardner back in 1939 didn’t believe they were doing something genuinely old, they believed they were a bunch of old souls who practiced magick together in past lives, and their version of Witchcraft offered them a chance to connect once more. We all know sex is intimate act, but a touch or a look can be one as well. Even something as simple as sharing food and drink is an intimate act, just as sharing magick is.
Practicing magick with my loved ones, whether of the Witchcraft variety or something else, is one of the most intimate things I can do with someone. And often, instead of those bonds taking years to develop, they occur quite quickly, mostly because it feels like I’ve known the people I’m practicing with for years and years:
At Samhain we say these words every year:
“And when our time comes, as it must, O thou Comforter, Counselor, Giver of Peace and Rest; we will enter your realms gladly and unafraid. For we know that when rested and refreshed among our dear ones, we will be reborn . . . . Let it be in the same place and the same time as our beloved ones, and may we meet, and know, and remember, and love them again.”
That is growth, that is change, and it feels like a totally different life than the one I had in Missouri or Michigan or even just ten years ago in the space I’m currently sitting in. A Witchcraft that doesn’t grow, doesn’t allow for change and innovation, doesn’t allow room for new ideas and expressions is just not really Witchcraft.
I didn’t need anyone to take my antiquated ideas and give them to a yard sale, but getting rid of them has led to new horizons. We should be different people every ten or so years, and our Witchcraft should most definitely reflect that.