Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Journey to Paganism Part II

My first outing as a witch

If you are just tuning into this story here is part one.
After an afternoon tea at a typical small town University coffee shop I stopped into the local book store. For such a small town they had a wonderful bookstore. I wandered to the Spirituality section. Out of the many titles the one that spoke to me was called Book of Shadows. For anyone who has not read this book it is written by Phyllis Curott, Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess is Curott's story. As I read this book I found a language that made sense to me. My connection to nature, my belief in revering the source of life, and the patterns that move with the earth and the universe. What I connected with most were the correspondences between the elements and the cardinal directions. Air, Fire, Water and Earth, East, South, West and North had been surfacing in my art work for years. Since I was studying feminism I was looking for a more balanced view of the essence of spirit. The patriarchy that had ruled western society for the last 6000 years had negated the female aspects of the divine. I saw the beautiful lessons in Maiden, Mother and Crone. Honouring the stages in women's lives and revering them.
This book was the beginning of my pagan journey. I read voraciously informing myself and blasting open layers of conditioning that Christianity and popular culture had made on me. This process was not easy, I questioned everything. Along the way some people close to me were forced to endure the exploration. Some rolled with it, luckily some were also going through it, others challenged me which in the end was helpful in my reconstruction.
I read Book of Shadows in the summer and followed it with The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. In the Reclaiming tradition and her lovely way of writing I found a language that was less formal and more inclusive than Curott's.
That fall I did several rituals with friends and tried my hand at creating a Wiccan/Pagan practice in my life. These explorations led me to understand more about the labels and titles in the pagan community. It is hard to not get convoluted when talking about the whys in different terms etc. And I am obviously writing this from the perspective of the informed reader. So anyone who is new to the craft and reading this may need to research some of the terms and jargon that result. Please keep in mind that I am recounting my own personal story and not trying to insult any one's reasons for the terms they use on their path. That goes for my rejection of Christianity as well.
As a feminist I responded to the female principals in Paganism. I do not believe in ignoring the male principal though. The balance of male and female is important to me, I have never practiced with men in a small coven setting, but I honour the male aspect of the God, the Green man and his myriad of faces. I do not believe in outside deities but in the archetypal essences of Gods and Goddesses. They are lessons, guides and markers on which to mirror your own conduct. I sometimes refer to the earth as Goddess, but the universal spirit is both male and female and neither at the same time. The term witch is one that I have always liked. Despite the negative views of witches, I respond to the word on a sub-conscious level. I can't even articulate why I love it, the word has power to me. All the ways you can misconstrue the word, just makes it stronger to me. It resonates on a deep level for most people, one of fear to some and yet that does not make it a "bad" word to me. So while I would call myself a witch, I would not call myself Wiccan. Now I am aware of the debate in terminology in the Pagan/Wiccan community on this issue. Some feel you can't call yourself a witch if you are not Wiccan. I find Wicca to be too constricting to me, too ordered and set with rules. The soul of ritual to me is spontaneity, true intention and a focus on making an authentic effort. Reciting the proper lines, and lighting the green candle before the red is not something I stress over.
So I call myself Pagan in the definition based on the old meaning of "from the country" and in the Neo-pagan sense of reclaiming the spirituality that I believe my ancestors followed before conversion to Christianity.
By the time I left University and moved to the West Coast of the country I had reached these definitions within myself and felt comfortable with them. Much has developed in my Pagan practice over the years here. I joined a group of women, was with them for several years and participated in some wonderful rituals. I eventually left the group (I go into more detail about why in my Witch's Voice article) and have been solitary for the last two years. This has worked out all right for me. I do participate in some larger community gatherings, and sometimes do rituals with friends. I consider my path an ever changing and evolving one. Nature and its rhythms is my guide. Science and environmentalism are also part and parcel of Paganism for me.
I still read many books about the craft, and attempt to make every day a spiritual one. It is not easy with a young family to care for, but I can't be perfect so I do not let myself try to be (most of the time).
Life is precious...and short.


mrsb said...

Beautiful story. I, too, consider myself a "witch" above all else. Though in casual conversation, with people I don't know well, I might refer to myself as "Wiccan" because it is generally a more understood term at this point in time. "Witch" is such a powerful word, whether it is said with positive or negative connotations. Either way, it is a word, and a life style, that I embrace.

silverstarsanctuary said...

Great post! I love that book by Curott as well even though I read it way after I was an "active witch" or found my spirituality I guess you'd say. Love the photo too. :)