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Out of the Broom Closet

Note: I’ve left this up for his­tor­i­cal pur­pos­es, but it’s out­dat­ed as I’m an athe­ist now. — Cyn, 2012

There are many won­der­ful sites on the inter­net with excel­lent expla­na­tions of what pagan­ism is and infor­ma­tion on var­i­ous kinds pagan­ism. This isn’t one of them. If that’s what you want, go to WitchVox and you’ll find both infor­ma­tion and links to oth­er sites. This page is only about my path and how I got here.

Yes, I’m a pagan. It’s tak­en me years to claim the title open­ly. I danced around it, flirt­ed with it, kept myself care­ful­ly reserved — and was deny­ing an impor­tant part of myself. Yes, I’m a pagan. I have been a pagan for many years. I read Mar­got Adler’s Draw­ing Down the Moon around 1989 and felt like I’d come home. I fol­lowed that with Starhawk’s Spi­ral Dance and Dream­ing the Dark and Dream­ing the Dark.

I got the idea that pagan­ism must be a Cal­i­for­nia thing, though, because I cer­tain­ly didn’t know any pagans here in Geor­gia, and I didn’t know how to find them. I did not, in fact, con­nect with oth­er pagans to any great extent until after I got online in 1990, and even then it took some time to find peo­ple local­ly. It took even longer for me to find peo­ple with whom I felt com­fort­able — there’s a regret­tably high flake fac­tor in some pagan groups, and I have a rel­a­tive­ly low flake tol­er­ance — espe­cial­ly when it comes to the peo­ple to whom I’ll expose my child.

My per­son­al path is an eclec­tic one. I take what feels right to me from var­i­ous tra­di­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly Celtic and Native Amer­i­can prac­tices. I am not a Wic­can and I don’t con­sid­er myself a Witch, although some of my beliefs and prac­tices are sim­i­lar to those of Wic­cans.

There are two main “rules” if you will, that guide my life as a pagan. The first is often called the Wic­can rede: “If it harm none, do what you will.” The sec­ond is usu­al­ly called the rule of three — what­ev­er you do comes back to you three­fold (what goes around comes around, kar­ma, etc.). So what­ev­er you do that is good or cre­ates pos­i­tive ener­gy comes back to you tripled, as does any­thing neg­a­tive. (It isn’t quite as sim­ple as it may sound — I sug­gest read­ing Robin Wood’s When, Why … If for a thor­ough exam­i­na­tion of pagan ethics.)

I have no sacred texts and rec­og­nize no mor­tal as hav­ing author­i­ty over me in my beliefs. I respect some teach­ers, like Starhawk, Isaac Bonewits, Robin Wood, Luisah Teish, Mar­i­on Wein­stein, and oth­ers — but I don’t fol­low any­body as a guru. No mat­ter how many books I read or peo­ple I learn from, I take each bit of knowl­edge, exam­ine it, check it against what I know to be true, see how it fits, and either make it mine or dis­card it. I wor­ship the eter­nal in male and female aspects as the God and God­dess. I’m find­ing that I have a par­tic­u­lar affin­i­ty for Oya, but I feel very attuned to Brigid as well.

I have no patience with peo­ple who asso­ciate Satanism with Pagan­ism — Satan is part of the Chris­t­ian pan­theon, and bears no rela­tion to pagan­ism. Satanism is a Chris­t­ian heresy, so only some­one who is a Chris­t­ian at some lev­el could be a Satanist!

I’m not inter­est­ed in pros­e­ly­tiz­ing, in con­vert­ing any­one, in caus­ing any­one to doubt his or her faith — your faith is yours. Your path is yours. I wish you joy on it. I sim­ply ask that peo­ple give me the same cour­tesy — don’t try to wit­ness to me, lead me “back to Jesus,” show me what you think are the errors of my ways, etc. — I’m not inter­est­ed. I’m not anti-Chris­t­ian, any against anyone’s reli­gion If you find your­self threat­ened by what I’ve writ­ten here, you need to look inside your­self to find out why, rather than rail­ing about me or any­body else.

As to how I came to be a pagan — well, I cer­tain­ly wasn’t raised in a pagan home. My par­ents are deep-water South­ern Bap­tists. Dad­dy is a dea­con. Mom sings in the choir. They’re both at the church every time the doors are open (and church­es at SB church­es are open a lot, which is why there’s an old joke about good Bap­tists only dying of exhaus­tion). They raised me and my sib­lings with absolute­ly no option of choos­ing a reli­gion — we were Chris­tians, by God, and we would stay Chris­tians. I was bap­tized when I was sev­en and sent to absolute­ly every church-relat­ed group, class, Bible school and trip that came along. My par­ents did every­thing that Chris­t­ian lead­ers rec­om­mend to raise their chil­dren to be devout Chris­tians.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Chris­tian­i­ty just nev­er worked for me. By age nine I was talk­ing to our preach­er about prob­lems with con­tra­dic­tions and incon­sis­ten­cies in the Bible. I got in trou­ble for ask­ing about the sim­i­lar­i­ties in folk and fairy tales from around the world and Chris­t­ian mythol­o­gy — there are many flood tales, cre­ation myths, and vir­gin births of kings who die and rise or are reborn. I want­ed to know why there were dif­fer­ent kinds of Chris­t­ian church­es and was told that the South­ern Bap­tist church was start­ed by John the Bap­tist and all the oth­ers weren’t real Chris­tians. That didn’t ring true, of course, so I start­ed read­ing about the his­to­ry of the Chris­t­ian church. The more I learned, the less I trust­ed church lead­ers who were either igno­rant or delib­er­ate­ly spread­ing lies.

I tried — I real­ly did. I read the Bible — sev­er­al ver­sions of it — and stud­ied my Sun­day School lessons and asked ques­tions and read lots of the­ol­o­gy and inspi­ra­tional fic­tion and non-fic­tion. I beat my head against resolv­ing the parts that didn’t work for me until I was in my ear­ly twen­ties. I searched and searched for a denom­i­na­tion that would work for me, some church whose teach­ings would help. Noth­ing did. I prayed, med­i­tat­ed on scrip­ture, and sought out Bible study and prayer groups out­side the church. C.S. Lewis has been quot­ed as hav­ing said that he was dragged into Chris­tian­i­ty, kick­ing and scream­ing, by his intel­lect. As much as I respect Lewis, just the oppo­site hap­pened for me — I was dragged right out of Chris­tian­i­ty because there was no way for me to rec­on­cile it with my intel­lect. (Of course, the misog­y­ny inher­ent in an orga­ni­za­tion that says women are not good enough to be ordained min­is­ters, to lead men in any way, or real­ly to do much except give the church as much time and mon­ey as pos­si­ble didn’t help mat­ters. I’ve often won­dered how things would have gone had I been raised in a more lib­er­al tra­di­tion.)

One Sun­day morn­ing I was sit­ting qui­et­ly in a young adult Sun­day School class, sip­ping my cof­fee and try­ing not to say any­thing to upset any­body (again). One of the oth­er class mem­bers, a young man “called to the min­istry” who was prepar­ing him­self to be an evan­ge­list, said that God had giv­en him the bless­ing of great insight that past week, at Dis­ney­world of all places. He relat­ed how he had been watch­ing the ani­ma­tron­ic char­ac­ters and sud­den­ly real­ized that they were what God was refer­ring to in the book of Rev­e­la­tion when he said that the stones would speak.

I couldn’t con­tain my laugh­ter — cof­fee spewed every­where. Sure­ly he was jok­ing, right? But every­one else in the class was star­ing at me in shock, want­i­ng to know what I thought was so fun­ny. They actu­al­ly believed this guy. They took him seri­ous­ly. I looked around at their faces, got up, and walked out. I haven’t been a mem­ber of a Chris­t­ian church since that day.

For a few years I con­sid­ered myself a human­ist or an athe­ist, but there was still part of me that need­ed some­thing else, some­thing that acknowl­edged the pow­er and beau­ty of the uni­verse with­out requir­ing that I turn off my brain or ignore gap­ing log­i­cal holes in its the­ol­o­gy. I found that some­thing in pagan­ism. The whole flesh=evil/temptation thing was also a prob­lem for me in Chris­tian­i­ty. I have a body, a mind and a spir­it, and why would I have all three if they aren’t all sacred? Pagan­ism per­mits me to be a whole, healthy per­son — so I’m a pagan.

Hon­est­ly, it would be so much eas­i­er to be a Chris­t­ian — any sort of Chris­t­ian — or to at least pre­tend to be one. Hey, I live in the Bible Belt! I can’t do it though — I’ve nev­er been a good liar. One of the rea­sons I didn’t talk about pagan­ism for a very long time (except with oth­er peo­ple who I absolute­ly knew were pagans) was that I didn’t want to deal with their reac­tions, their reli­gious prej­u­dice, or the pos­si­ble neg­a­tive effects that prej­u­dice could have on my daugh­ter. Katie is old enough now, though, that it’s impos­si­ble for me to both be a good exam­ple of an hon­est per­son and stay clos­et­ed about pagan­ism, so here I am, out to the whole world now. And hon­est­ly, it feels good.

Last updat­ed Decem­ber 19, 2000