Mystic Wicks is a lively online Pagan community that I recently discovered. In July 2009, Ben Gruagach (webmaster of WitchGrotto and one of the forum moderators) posted a poll asking people about what started their interest in Paganism. I thought I’d share my story.
As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t grow up in a religious family, but my parents saw any kind of spirituality as brainwashing. And yet, I was always drawn to the occult. The occult shelf was one of my regular stops at the library. I learned how to read regular playing cards as a teenager, and I was collecting Tarot decks even before I knew how to read them.
Occult stores were my favorite places. I was also crazy about crystal shops. I could never afford the really big crystal balls, but I had a collection of smaller ones that sold between $15 and $25 (in the 1980s). Whenever I’d wander around these places, I felt like I could be whoever I was without feeling ashamed or questioning myself. That, of course, was a very different experience from what I had to put up with at home.
My parents were strangely tolerant of my interest. The most I worried about was ridicule. My mother, though, had some interest in the irrational, though it was more about holistic healing. She did go occasionally to a palm reader or astrologer, and she believed what they said, but it wasn’t like I felt I could share my interests with her. I think my father thought it was a harmless phase, but then he had trouble taking anything I did or said seriously.
Occult knowledge, though, isn’t exactly Neo-Paganism, and that was actually something I had to get used to. Not all occultists follow a religion. Neo-Paganism involves experiencing a higher power through rituals and following a set of behavioral codes (basic stuff like “harm none” and “what you send out comes back to you threefold”).
I didn’t really begin to explore Neo-Paganism as a religious practice until I was well away from my family. I began with Wicca, and while I still read Wiccan books and websites, I don’t exactly consider myself Wiccan. Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner and Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner were my main starter books. I liked his positive, fluid approach. I think spirituality should be creative and dynamic so that it grows as you grow.
Although I never grew up in a religious environment, I got strong messages about obeying authority. I really didn’t want to think of the divine power that was all around me as some kind of authority. As I learn more occult knowledge, I’ve come to believe that the Goddess and God are a kind of illusion. I really don’t believe there’s any separation of Spirit. I call that unified spiritual energy the Creative Force. The dualistic concept, though, of “female” and “male” energies is useful to us on this plane of existence, so I do think in terms of a Goddess and a God, but they’re not like divine beings that dwell on some higher plane.
I never think of myself as having to be obedient to some omnipotent deity. I think of my relationship with Spirit as one of cooperation. I believe we all receive messages from the Creative Force on a daily basis in multiple ways, some of which we understand and some of which we don’t. In my belief system, the Goddess and God aren’t in any way judgmental. If I screw up, as I often do, it’s only me who’s hard on myself.
Neo-Paganism fits into the worldview that I’ve been working so hard to cultivate since the spring of 2008: dynamic, growth-oriented, creative, adaptive. Very different from the rigid, rule-oriented worldview that I was raised on. It’s a tough transition. I don’t always cooperate so well with Spirit, but I’m learning.