My Path to My Path
In a sense I’ve been Pagan all my life: I just didn’t have a word for it.
I was raised “generic Christian” but I don’t think I ever really felt it. I never wanted to go to church on Sundays and only joined the Presbyterian Church because it was sort of expected of me — I wasn’t forced into it, but there wasn’t really any choice presented, either. I tried — I really did — to be a good little Christian, but there were just so many things that didn’t make sense to me, and too many questions that never got satisfactorily answered. But I tried. I went to church when Mom got on a “go to church” kick (but never went of my own volition). But my heart and interests were elsewhere. Always.
When I was about five, I asked my grandmother, “If God created all the mountains and trees and stuff, why do we have to sit in a church man made in order to worship Him?” Even then, I felt closer to Deity outside under her weeping willow tree than I ever did inside a church.
Fast forward to high school, and a class on Greek and Roman mythology. Somewhere along the line it dawned on me that this had been their religion, just like Christianity was to us, and that these had been their sacred stories. This made me wonder what made the Bible anything more than another set of myths. (Fortunately, I was wise enough to keep that question to myself!) I also thought it was sad that the old gods were no longer worshiped, so on the way home from school one afternoon I “adopted” three of them: Athena, Artemis, and Apollo.
Athena, as Goddess of Wisdom, was important to me for school. She is much more than what was glossed over in that class, but I learned about that later. At the time, I was drawn to Her for Her wisdom. And owl. I’ve always loved and collected owls.
Artemis, as Huntress and Protector of the Wild Places, fit so well with how I’d been raised. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, in Elk and Cameron Counties, where the deer outnumber humans by about 5000 to 1. (Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one!) My maternal grandparents lived in Elk County and both were active in conservation activities. Artemis was a natural for me.
And Apollo. What can I say? God of the sun, of music and poetry and philosophy and healing and art and archery… He has become increasingly important along my path.
So, anyhow. There I was in a small town in Western Pennsylvania in the mid-70s with a love for the Greek Gods and no idea what to do with it. I’d never even heard of Paganism, much less Wicca. ( The only religions I knew about were Judaism (I had never met anyone who was Jewish, but I knew they existed) and Christianity.) So, I did pretty much what I did with Jesus — I talked to them (mentally) while walking to and from school, etc. (I think I’ve always been more spiritual than religious. I always thought of Jesus as a brother I didn’t have. After all, if God is the Father and Jesus was His son and I was His daughter, didn’t that make us siblings? Um, yeah. That’s another of those thoughts I never mentioned to anyone.)
College served to introduce me to Tarot and a few other things that would not have been approved of at home. (No, nothing illegal!) It also opened me up to the vague awareness of the “supernatural.” (In quotes, because I now believe that nothing is supernatural, but that’s a topic for another day. Paranormal is perhaps a better word.)
Then, along came the much-maligned New Age Movement, which brought an interest in crystals and healing (Apollo’s influence?) and spirit guides. And my first Tarot deck. (The Mythic Tarot — still my favorite.) But all of these things, which felt so right and so natural to me, were “wrong” according to the way I’d been raised. It was frustrating and guilt-producing.
Then, a couple years later, a string of “coincidences” put me in touch with a friend/acquaintance from college, and she introduced me to the concept of Goddess-worship. It accepted all of the things I was interested in and gave me words that expressed my view of the world. Everything I learned felt not so much like “learning” as it did “remembering.” It all felt so right…
Except that it didn’t feel any more balanced than a strictly patriarchal religion did.
So, I tried to blend them on my own. It didn’t work. The only concept I had of “God” was the one from Christianity and I spent most of my time feeling like I was stumbling around, lost in a swamp. Once in a while I’d find some firm footing, but most of the time I was floundering and sinking.
But, my readings about Goddess worship, and my correspondence with my friend, had given me a more positive definition of the word “Witch,” which turned out to be a catalyst in finding my Path.
I was in a Walden Books (I don’t remember where) and was looking at their woefully small “New Age/Occult” section and this small book sort of jumped out at me. The cover was nothing scary or occultish. Anyone seeing it wouldn’t have given it a second glance, even if they had read the title — the cover made it look more like it would be an argument against Witchcraft than an explanation of it. The book was The Truth About Witchcraft Today by Scott Cunningham. I bought it, read it, and felt like I had come home.
That was over 20 years ago, and I’ve never had any desire to leave.