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Note: I’ve left this up for historical purposes, but it’s outdated as I’m an atheist now.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