We all started somewhere.
Walking the pagan path may be a family way-of-life for more people today, but back in the 1990s and early 2000s it was a personal choice. You had to find your way home, often with minimal guidance and a lot of luck.
This is my story of “coming home”.
Living in California during the mid-90s, I was really into magic. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was my thing, The Craft (movie) came out, and Harry Potter was soon unleashed upon us all. I enjoyed writing little rhyming spells, LARPing with friends (not that we called it that at the time), and mixing rainwater into potions for fun.
In 1999, I was a middle school student in Kentucky. A high school girl who spoke to me from time to time at the bus stop mentioned this book she’d found in the school library. It was “Wicca” by Scott Cunningham, and it spoke to me from the first line. I self-dedicated within a week.
My parents weren’t religious, so I managed to avoid that drama. Instead, I enjoyed going to my friend’s youth group meetings while simultaneously praying to the Lord and Lady at night. There were a couple of books at the public library (under 133 in the Dewey decimal system, I recall). The only one directly related to the growing pagan movement was “Spells” by Matthew Green. I almost memorized the book cover to cover, though it was full of witchcraft (i.e. spells and charms) rather than Wicca (the spiritual practices).
I faced little issue as a Wiccan in my early years. In high school, I had a couple of friends who weren’t allowed to have my over anymore after I was discovered to be a witch. It hurt, because no one had ever disliked me before; I didn’t understand why I was the perfect influence as a straight-A student with perfect attendance one minute, the devil’s minion the next. That seemed… silly. I hadn’t stopped being a good student or well behaved all of a sudden, but you’d think I’d taken up smoking pot or drinking by the way their parents reacted sometimes.
I found myself fascinated by every little piece of paganism I ran across back then. I didn’t have internet at home, just a computer with Windows 1994 that I used to write and play Tetris for hours. If a friend printed out a copy of some spell or ritual for me, I cherished it; who knew when I’d get to see something new again. I even snuck a chance to print the long version of the Wiccan Rede poem while at my dad’s office one day; he was mad, because that crap was printed under his login and blah blah blah.
For a while, I had about 95% of the Wiccan Rede poem memorized by wrot, largely due to rewriting it over and over for myself in notebooks and on new copies for friends. Not having a printer meant handcopying everything I wanted to keep for myself, which made me willing to admit the brilliance of “ancient” practices like forcing a new coven member to handcopy the coven’s BOS themselves.
Anyway, I ended up teaching various people along the way. They were curious, mostly, and I don’t think more than one or two of the dozen actually remained pagan after experimenting with me. It’s not for everyone.
At the start of the new millenium, we moved to Germany (Army life, yay). I became more solidly pagan when surrounded by the gloriously weird people of my high school. I taught a few more people, led and joined teenage circles for moons and sabbats on a regular basis. I wrote my own rituals, with all the bells and whistles. I danced in a circle until the energy crackling across everyone’s skin and made us moondrunk. It was beautiful.
Coming stateside again was hard, because we moved to El Paso, Texas. Catholics, everywhere. I returned mostly to my little broom closet, but it was more an act of antisocial behavior than any real attempt to keep a secret. I tried out a local pagan CUUPS group, but they were too anti-Christian for me. I found a pagan-ish store that sold incense, herbs, and candles. I waited.
I got married and moved to Germany again (Army life, round two). My then-husband switched from Christianity to paganism for me, without my request and of his own free will. That didn’t go well. I didn’t do much in the way of practicing, because I was a new adult dealing with a new marriage, deployment, and the adjustment of living overseas once again.
I got divorced, returning to Texas to start over. There’s a lot of life drama in between there, but it had little to do with my spirituality (other than remembering I didn’t believe in cursing or hexing others just for being jerks). Once life settled down, I found a local coven and joined.
I learned, and I grew. I initiated, and I taught. I led rituals, and I helped others lead. I left for a while, disillusioned by circumstances I couldn’t control. I returned, ready to wipe the slate clean and try again. And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
And now I’m turning 29 in February. It’s been 16 years since I started down the pagan path, about two decades since the interest in magic and nature budded in my heart. I’ve never left my path, not completely. I’ve taken breaks where I didn’t do much in the way of practice outside of the occasional candle or prayer. But all in all, I came home to the gods and stayed.
As I research my move to Washington for the spring, I’ve discovered that the most abundant members of the local pagan community are 16-18 years old and full of spunk. At first, I wanted to roll my eyes as I saw a 17-year-old boy starting up a coven in the small town I used to visit during the summers. But then I remembered…
At age 8, no one would’ve considered the choosing of a pagan path as valid or mentioned it to a girl with leaves in her hair and flowers in her heart. At age 12 when I dedicated, I would’ve still been seen as too young to be taken seriously as a follower of anything, old gods or new. At age 16, the very thought that I bothered to try teaching others about a path I’d barely walked would’ve been laughable. At age 21 when I initiated, I still recognized the way my youth could and sometimes did make it hard for older pagans to take me seriously.
I have to remember those times. *We* have to remember those times.
Because a person’s age isn’t all about the number of years they’ve lived in this particular body. Because they can be wiser and more spiritual than the oldest members of our community, sometimes. Because they can be lost and hurt by our lack of faith in their budding spirituality. Because it isn’t our place to judge the path another person chooses to walk.
I repeat: It isn’t your place to judge the path another person chooses to walk.
We all started somewhere.