I am a nonbinary, transgender, asexual, animistic, polytheist witch, and artist, seamstress, writer, and teacher. I acknowledge divinity and unique natures in not just deities, but in all manner of ephemeral and supernatural beings, spirits, living beings, and the souls that embody the physical objects and spaces around us. My practice is lifelong and of an intuitive nature, seeking fulfillment through mutable asymmetrical balance. My perspective as a witch and an artist influences everything I do.
Like the Hermit who follows their own light down a dark path, I have no idea where my path will ultimately lead me. All I can do is engage with what is in front of me, and share it with you in the hopes that it may help to illuminate your own path and find balance no matter what terrain you find yourself traversing.
My website: http://sidneyeileen.com/
My Pronouns: All pronouns are my pronouns. I was assigned female at birth and am a femme presenting trans nonbinary, but I have no pronoun preference. Use whichever you would like.
A Brief Summary of My Path Thus Far
I think I was about eleven or twelve when I first realized that not everyone felt the intangible energies of the world. Such awareness had been with me my entire life, as natural as seeing or hearing. It was quite a shock to find out that was far from typical, but it did explain why the idea of animism seemed so foreign to everyone else around me. Because of how I experienced the world, animism was a natural conclusion, even before I knew the term to describe it.
You might think that awareness would have led me to dive into books on the occult, but no. I did not think of my experiences as witchcraft at the time. My awareness of and ability to manipulate energies was simply part of what it meant to be alive. Although I enjoyed reading about mythology, and I enjoyed perusing the local new age shop (the closest thing to an occult shop in town), at the time I had no interest in developing a formal practice.
I was introduced to real witchcraft and the pagan community in my early 20’s. It was the late 90’s, and I was living in the North Bay of California. Most of the people I met were nice, but I had many other interests that were of greater importance to me, and the people I met didn’t seem to be following paths that were applicable to my experience. Everywhere I turned, either the symbology exclusively aggrandized the gender binary and heterosexuality, the framework was so formalized and rigid it seemed like too much bother, or I felt like too much of an outsider to seek deeper involvement.
I investigated books on witchcraft and paganism, but the same aggrandizement of the gender binary and overly formal structures were mirrored in the books I looked at. I had zero interest in books of spells, or books that were lists of correspondences. I was superficially interested in tarot, astrology, herbology, and crystals, but not interested enough for deeper study. I found deities interesting but had no desire to follow a devotional or dedicatory path. What few books seemed topically interesting were usually so full of mis-defined terms, logical fallacies, appeal to fantasy tropes, denial of science, and internal contradictions that I couldn’t get through a single chapter. I am sure there were good books out there, but finding them was so frustrating that I pretty much gave up on occult books for a long time.
For the following two decades I made various attempts to be part of the greater pagan community. I sporadically attended moots and pagan pride events, and public ritual with different groups, but nothing ever panned out long-term.
In my mid-20’s I practiced for some months with an ADF druidry grove. I had decided I liked the idea of a defined tradition because it would be easier than figuring it out from scratch, but I was not willing to follow a tradition unless it truly spoke to me. I was not willing to settle. Druidry appealed because it was based in nature worship, was inclusive, and did not seem to be bogged down in formality. However, instead of providing any real guidance or advice, I was simply told to research and develop my own path, with an emphasis on finding the pantheon I wanted to revere. Since I was not interested in devotional practice, and did not need to be part of a group to self-teach, I drifted away.
In my early 30’s my partner and I became friends with a married couple who were wiccan. Wicca had never appealed to me because of the overwhelming emphasis on the gender binary and heterosexuality as divine perfection, but it was nice to observe full moons and the solar cycle with friends. The husband in particular was devoutly wiccan, and neither my partner nor I had any formal expectations of ritual, so the four of us used the wiccan structure he preferred.
After several months of consistently meeting, the husband invited my partner and I to be initiated as Wiccan priestesses. It was clearly very important to him, and we enjoyed holding ritual with them, so both of us agreed. It seemed right at the time, but our hearts were not in it for the right reasons. Neither of us wanted to be Wiccan. It was simply a concession for him. If I had it to do over again, I would be true to myself and refuse the initiation.
The highlight of the initiation came when the husband “accidentally” initiated me as a priest instead of a priestess. I did not realize it at the time, but he was a transphobe. However, he was also very skilled magically, so the energies of the ritual caused him to name me in a way that acknowledged I was genderqueer. He immediately “corrected” himself, but it was done. My enby transgender self, with a very female body, was named a priest of wicca.
Within a couple days, one of our cats got into the bag holding our initiation cords and peed on them. My partner and I washed them thoroughly, but one of the cats specifically sought them out and peed on them again (we never did figure out who did the deed). I think we held ritual with our friends one or two more times, but the synergy of it was gone. I am certain that our lack of dedication to wicca was part of it, but refusing the invitation most likely would have ended our rituals regardless. It meant too much to the husband that we become wiccan, regardless of our individual paths and needs.
By that time, I was rapidly in the descent of chronic illness, which took over my life. I found myself disabled, unable to work, and struggling to hold onto whatever scraps of my life I could manage. One of those scraps was pagan spirituality. I may never have found a defined tradition which called to me, but I still found solace in reverence for nature, and beauty in pagan trappings.
I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, and not much I was capable of doing with it, so I attempted to refocus myself on my path as a witch, and bring into conscious understanding what that meant to me. The desire to be given direction by a mentor had drifted away, just as I had drifted away from so many could-be teachers before instruction even began. I worked intuitively and sought to deepen my understanding of those things which drew me.
That push lasted for a year or so, but, as usual, my attention moved to other activities as I sought to keep myself doing. I love doing things. I love making things. I love being busy, and somehow witchcraft and anything I strongly associated with it never felt like being busy. My almost daily working at my altar turned into roughly weekly, and then became intermittent. My daily meditation practice fell by the wayside. My effort to make pagan-themed art stopped along with all my other drawing and painting endeavors, as my illness created tremors in my hands and they refused to do what I wanted them to.
Somehow, in the middle of the worst of my illness, my partner and I again found two friends who were also pagan. Although our gatherings were anything but regular, we did meet for a few sabbats, and this is when I started to develop my own elemental ritual structure.
I had long ago decided that I did not need formal structure in my personal practice. I could make magic and do observances alone without the pomp and circumstance, but in group settings some level of formality is valuable to keep everyone on the same page. The only group ritual structure I had ever experienced, even at pagan pride events and druid gatherings, was based on the wiccan model of closed circles and elemental watchtowers. After my experiences holding ritual with our wiccan friends, I was able to identify what exactly about the structure was so incompatible with my own needs.
As a nonbinary asexual, the emphasis on God and Goddess and Divine Union was definitely a sticking point, but it is easy to use the rest of the ritual structure and alter those details. For me, it was far more than that. The calling of the watchtowers, and overall treatment of the elements, didn’t jive with my experiences and understanding of the elements throughout my life. It also felt wrong to always close off from the outside world. It seemed to me that when holding ritual for purposes like celebrating the season, it made more sense to stay fully connected to the world outside the ritual space.
The ritual structure I was creating was in its infancy, but the major components were all there. Instead of calling on the elements as guardians associated with directions and genders, I would call on the elements as archetypes and pervasive components of reality. Through the ritual process, their energies would be amplified to ward and render sacred the working area, and to empower the purpose of the ritual. If a hard barrier was needed for the purpose of the ritual, that could easily be included in the casting, but otherwise it would be a soft barrier which allowed free flow of beneficial energies with the rest of the world.
I finally felt like I was making progress on my path, building something that I needed to build, but again, it did not last. I was very ill, had a lot of other priorities, and wasn’t sure what exactly to do with what I was creating. When our gatherings stopped, for a time it languished.
The practical, physical needs of life took front seat for a couple years, but my practice stayed in my awareness even when I was not actively practicing. When my life settled again, I started feeling the pull to lead public ritual, and to write. I co-led public ritual at a local occult shop for several months, which gave me the opportunity to refine the ritual structure I had begun developing years earlier. When the scheduling for that hit a roadblock, I started blogging, and reached out to Patheos Pagan.
I was not sure exactly what I was going to write about when I started, but I knew I had a lot of thoughts and an unusual perspective. It has been incredibly gratifying to find other individuals who share some aspects of my perspective and have similar criticisms of the trends and limited materials available in my youth. There are writers publishing books which sing to my soul and my path, and I am happy to be able to call some of those writers friends.
I have no way of knowing where exactly this path will lead me, but at last my feet are steadily moving forward with dedication, determination, and boundless possibilities. I hope you will walk with me for a time, and that if you drift away it is to follow your truest path.