A question posted within my spiritual community recently asked how we came to our pagan pathway, and whether it changed our lives.
Personally, the date I remember of saying, “enough is enough” with Catholicism was March 28, 1999. I was 14. I was listening to Silverchair’s “Neon Ballroom” album, sitting at my desk in my bedroom, doing homework for RE at high school. Something clicked, and that was it. That was the moment I stopped being a Catholic.
My mother, however, recently told me a different story. I was 12, had just completed my Confirmation. I took my stole off in the car and proclaimed, “well, that’s the last of the sacraments done!”
Coming to Paganism was an interesting process. What began as a “phase” that a few friends and I started going through slowly took off. There was little available online, and even what I could find stated you HAD to be either Gardnerian or Alexandrian, and you could ONLY take that path through initiation by someone else (which stands true). The idea of a solitary witch was a complete alien process for my teenage self.
So I took my Pagan beliefs, not knowing there was a name for them, and slowly did bits and pieces. Introduced myself to the moon, watched the seasons, sat in nature, talked to the waves at my favourite beach, ordered those silly spell books through a friends’ mum’s book-buy club thing (remember the ones with the sparkly ribbon to tie them close?!).
I remember meeting Herne the Hunter for the first time when I was 18. I was at TAFE studying multimedia design, and He appeared with green skin, those strong antlers, and a whiff of the forest. I was absolutely mesmerized by Him. 15 years on, I’m still in awe of Him.
What really launched me into the path of being a practicing Pagan (and not just holding the beliefs) was attending a “Witchcraft 101” weekend course led by Wendy Rule from her home in Melbourne in early 2004. I had no idea that a ritual could be as simple as lighting a candle, that it didn’t have to be all these bells and whistles that I had begun reading in books. After that (I’m 19 at this stage) everything changed. I met a friend through my place of work who introduced me to Scott Cunningham. I realised there was a bookstore in Geelong I could visit (no longer there), we traded ideas, and she and another friend introduced me to Reiki and my first Mentor (a Christian Spiritualist). I bought “Self Initiation for the Solitary Witch” by Shanddaramon and used it like a text book, going to the city library to “study” and copy for my own Book of Shadows.
I remember casting my first circle, in my bedroom, using tiny crystals as the circle perimeter. I went off a bit of paper that came with my newly purchased “Book of Shadows”. I had no idea what I was doing but it felt amazing!
I remember the second – being at “my beach” and drawing symbols in the sand with a stick, the Sunday after the Witchcraft 101 weekend.
I remember the first time I initiated myself into the Craft. I was 19, I had a bath in silence, drove out to the You Yangs National Park, walked in a random direction, and did my thing. I’ve gone through so many re-dedications since then, each one different and unique. There’s now a BMX track going through my spot in the You Yangs.
I remember the first time I spoke to a tree – it was a beautiful old pine tree at Balyang, and I felt high as a kite afterwards because that pine tree was just so…peaceful.
When I first moved to Sydney in 2008 I tried to hang on to only working with the ocean. I was a TAFE student so I found myself being able to travel south to beaches in the hopes of finding one I would connect with. We then moved to Victoria, then back to to Sydney after our handfasting in 2011. After the move I realised that my path had changed so dramatically, it fell into a new branch within the Pagan umbrella – Druidry. Suddenly the fighting I was having with myself about trying to fit into one ideaology stopped and the more I read about Druidry, the more it made sense.
How I approached Paganism changed. I found working with the land here came more naturally to me than it had in Victoria. I think I’m slowly moving through the elements – I loved fire when I began in my teenage years. Once I got my P’s it became water, then in Sydney it’s become the land. Learning to work with each individually before bringing them all together in a beautiful dance has really helped me, and it’s allowed me to appreciate each element more.
I began working with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) in 2012, but had to stop once I began my university degree (and my credit card expired…). This degree, Environmental Management, is also a way of me trying to honour my path and Herne through an academic standpoint. It was a way for me to bring a balance between my spiritual and muggle life. Once I finish at the end of next year, I’ll go back to my OBOD studies.
I’m so thankful to have been blessed with wonderful friends who have helped guide and introduce me to new branches along my path. From that first friend who introduced me to the Goddess and God in high school; to my old work friends who introduced me to Cunningham; the friend who helped me re-centre my path in my early 20s during my “dark days” and helped me gain confidence with who I am; to the amazing Pagan and DDU community here in Sydney; and my Sisters who I miss working with. I am so thankful to everyone who has ever held a workshop or a gathering or moot I’ve ever been able to attend.
I’ve no idea if Druidry is really the title that I fit into, but these days it’s the one that suits me the most. My path has become focused on working with Herne, and working with Elen of the Ways. I follow the path they set for me, and I trust their judgement.
Has it changed my life? Absolutely. I pushed my faith to the side while I concentrated on passing Intro Chemistry over summer (passed with a Distinction) which gave me a glimpse into living a Muggle life…and I didn’t like it. I love my relationship with my Deities. I love being able to tune in with the land. I love learning new ways of interacting with the land, and being introduced to new ways of thought.
Through my path, I’ve learnt how to be strong. I’ve learnt how to not give up. I’ve grown as a public speaker. I’ve also learnt that completely throwing myself into the Pagan world and leaving science at the door doesn’t work for me, so I’m a creature of balance.
I’ve also learnt that no matter how far I stray, I will always have a home at my beach; and that no matter how much I fall back into the Muggle world, Herne will always be waiting impatiently for me to catch up!