I was a cradle Catholic. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means that I was born into a Catholic family. My father and his siblings each attended Catholic school until they reached high school. My mother was raised Methodist, but converted when she became pregnant with me and my father’s parents insisted that if my parents were to raise a child they would have to be married in the eyes of the Catholic church, which their courtroom wedding five years prior was not. So my mother converted and wed my father for a second time in a floral maternity dress.
I was raised in the church and was enrolled in Catholic school for pre-k and kindergarten. I went to Sunday school, children’s readings during mass, sang in the choir on and off for a few years, even attended summer day programs at the church during the years my mother taught summer school, and played the angel Gabriel in the Christmas play one year, narrated another.
Despite my up bringing, or maybe because of it, I never felt an overwhelming connection with the church. In fact, in many ways, it was underwhelming. I never felt the holy spirit run through me, I never felt reverence when I heard the word of God, and Jesus on the cross never kept me from committing my various sins. I never questioned it though, and for many years I wouldn’t.
One thing that I did feel devoutly for was nature, the changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon, harvest time and planting season. I felt most in harmony with myself and the world when I was hiking or camping, at the beach or in the thick of the woods. I welcomed dirt and scrapped knees, mysterious pathways and adventures waiting to be found.
In high school I met a group of friends who each influenced me and who I would grow to be, some for good, some for worse, but each in their own way. The number one thing that each one taught me was to never doubt who I am at my core. It was through this collection of people that I began to learn about witch craft which would eventually lead me to Paganism. In the beginning, I merely watched and listened as they talked about chants and meditations, spells and rituals. I read books and looked things up online. As with most teens, it was all very superficial in the beginning; attempts to change eye color and predict future loves, talks of magic while hanging out in dried out creek beds and saving up enough money to buy a tarot deck small enough to fit in my pocket so my father wouldn’t know what I was practicing between classes.
When I graduated from high school, I abandoned religion and spirituality to focus on my own inner demons. It took me several years but now here I am on the other side and I’m ready to look outward again. But now it’s different, before forays into paganism and witch craft were for rebellion’s sake, to protect against the religion of my father and his father before him, a religion I felt had preached nothing but hatred, guilt, and judgement. But now I realize that it was not the church that failed me but its patrons. It was the church goers who clung to hatred, guilt, and judgment, never realizing the damage they were doing. Now I realize that that was never my religion and when I read about all that the church has taken from the pagans of the old world, I am not angry, I am excited because it was while celebrating the holidays and the traditions that I felt the most spiritual while growing up and now I know that it was not because of the church but because of Paganism. It was because, without realizing it, I was celebrating the earth, the universe, I was inadvertently keeping the old world alive.
Which is where I come around to my point; I am a Pagan because I believe in the earth, I believe in the universe. I believe there are energies helping us and aiding us, guiding us in the right direction to live our lives as our fullest and happiest selves, but I believe these energies are tied to nature and ourselves, not to a man sitting upon a throne in the clouds. I believe that we can influence these energies with our own and what we put out into the universe we receive back.
But I am still learning and still growing. The whole idea of rituals and chanting still makes me uncomfortable, though I have yet to decide if it is my upbringing still hovering in the back of my head or if it’s just not for me. It’s the same with potions and spells. I just don’t know yet. But I know that with time I will.