My Personal History From Childhood To Present Day

I am an American-born Caucasian woman in her mid-twenties, descended from a variety of European immigrants. I’m a wife and mother living near a thriving metropolitan area, working a part-time job in the evenings to supplement my husband’s full-time income. Yet, there aren’t very many people like me. From about the age of five, I was taught the beliefs, principles, and basic practices of British Traditional Wicca.

British Traditional Wicca (or BTW) is an umbrella term for a group of religious Witchcraft traditions, stemming from the work of one Gerald Gardner, who during his life was a British civil servant. Gardner claimed to have discovered a still practicing group (or Coven) of Witches in the New Forest region of England, whose roots purportedly extended to times before the Inquisition. To make a long story short, Gardner wanted to keep these beliefs and practices alive, and had no other avenue than to somewhat re-invent the religion, and his efforts to that end came to be known as Gardnerian Wicca, and was the foundation for the whole of Wicca as it exists in the world today.

My parents are Elders (or respected, influential, long-time members) of the Gardnerian Tradition, having been initiated in 1986, and running their own Coven from about 1989 till about 2004, when they retired from teaching the Tradition. When they began their own learnings in the 1980s they began to share their beliefs with my younger brother and myself. They taught us about the Sabbats (holidays), the Esbats (Full Moons), and the Goddess and God they honored (the Mother Goddess and the Dying God). They wrote age-appropriate family rituals for my brother and I to take part in, leaving the decision whether or not to perform them to us kids. We had special prayers that were said at bedtime, and holiday traditions that, while they may have coincided with better-known holidays such as Easter or Christmas, clearly reflected our Wiccan beliefs.

The individual stories of how my parents came to Paganism and Wicca are interesting themselves, and I feel are also a big part of my own story.  My mother was raised predominantly Missouri-Synod Lutheran, and for a very long time found peace and solace in its teachings. Around the time of her confirmation, however, she started to have doubts.  There were certain beliefs that she could not reconcile within herself.  She did take confirmation, but never felt whole within that belief system again.  She explored other forms of Christianity after that, but nothing seemed to fit.  Then one day, her older sister came home on a visit from college, and was talking about “the Goddess.”  This struck a chord in my mother’s heart, and from that moment forward she considered herself a Pagan.  Her sister was also the one to introduce her to the people that would become her teachers and eventual initiators into Gardnerian Wicca.

My father was raised Roman Catholic by his very devout mother, his father being agnostic and unconcerned with religion or spirituality.  Unlike my mother, however, the religion of his upbringing never resonated with my father at all.  He simply couldn’t believe the way his mother did, and in his teenage years essentially became an atheist, turning instead to science to explain the universe.  He met my mother when he was seventeen, she already being firm in her Pagan identity.  Despite this difference in worldview, they began seriously dating, moving in together about a year later.  Upon occasion, my father would have discussions with friends about quantum physics or chaos theory, and my mother would try to join in, but using spiritual, Pagan terminology.  My father would stress to her that this was science, and had nothing to do with divinity or religion.  Eventually, my mother sat him down and said, “What you call quantum physics, I call Magick.”  This gave my father cause to stop and think, to re-evaluate his understanding of The Way Things Work.  He took several years contemplating what she had said (which was starting to make sense), and how it seemed to relate to his scientific thought processes.  He eventually came to the realization that, yes, they had both been talking about the same concepts, but had been using a different set of words to describe and explain those concepts.  By that time, his two children had been born, and I, the eldest, was nearly five years old.

Prior to this time, though, my parents wanted there to be spirituality of some kind in their children’s lives, since they both now considered it important to our growth and development, but weren't entirely on the same page about what sort of spirituality to follow. So, they investigated a local Congregationalist Church. Before attending services or enrolling us in Sunday School, they spoke with the Pastor, explaining their general Pagan beliefs and their desire to stay away from the more negative teachings of Christianity (damnation, Hell, etc.), since they didn’t share those beliefs in any light. The Pastor was very accepting and understanding, and for many years we attended weekly and holiday services. However, after a time, that compassionate Pastor left our church, a more conservative congregation began to form, and a new Sunday School teacher began telling the class about Hell and sin. My parents left the church at that point, and began developing their own spiritual practices that the whole family could partake in and enjoy.

Although my parents didn’t want us being taught that damnation was something we needed to worry about, they also didn’t want us sheltered from the beliefs of others, or feeling that we were required to believe the way they did. They bought us books of other cultures’ indigenous mythologies, Bible stories and the birth of the Christ-child, and, of course, books featuring Witches, however much they resembled the fairy-tale version. We’d discuss the stories and characters, exploring how they aligned and differed from the beliefs espoused in our household. Adding to this variety were close family friends, who were Jewish. Our two families even lived together for a time, and shared in the weekly Shabbat ritual (as a young child, I was even able to recite the traditional prayer in Hebrew).

In addition to the rituals and prayers we said at home, my parents felt it important to inform our school teachers about our beliefs. This usually occurred early enough in the school year that the teachers would often ask if we would be offended by witch decorations at class Halloween parties. They were always assured that we kids knew the difference between fairy tale witches and real ones, what stereotypes were based in fact and which ones were merely inspired by fear and ignorance. The vast majority of the teachers had never heard of Wicca before my parents spoke to them (as these talks first started happening in the late 1980s and Paganism in general was still very much underground, especially compared to the openness and publicity of today), but nonetheless it never caused us to be treated any differently than any other students. One of my sixth grade teachers, though, had some minor familiarity with it, so when the talk began, she stopped my parents to ask, "Is it Celtic-based?" That threw my parents a little off track, but definitely broke the ice and helped the conversation go a little smoother. Although that year was tough for me in terms of my peers and such school-yard "politics," it's now one of my fondest memories since I felt from that first talk forward that, even though she treated all her students with the same enthusiasm and encouragement, this teacher had a special understanding of who I was.

My parents may have felt a duty to explain our beliefs to our teachers, and by the same token I sometimes felt a desire to tell friends at school, but I was always hesitant. I'd been told that not everyone would understand us, and some parents might not like their kids being exposed to our beliefs, even though we were knowledgeable and open to theirs. A few families on our block knew of our beliefs, by simple virtue of us kids all playing together and visiting each others' homes (my parents always said they would never hide who they were in their own home, so the skyclad (nude) Goddess images definitely needed some explaining). And, despite the fact that these families were in fact very devout Catholics (their kids even went to parochial schools), my brother and I were never alienated or segregated from them or any other children on the basis of religion. I also had one very close friend, whom I met in kindergarten, whose family was aware of our beliefs; her mother was essentially a Unitarian, and her father's family was a mix of lapsed Jew and lapsed (Lutheran?), and both held degrees in psychology. As such, they were very open and accepting people, and I always felt welcome and comfortable in their home.

I started being more and more open about my path, beginning in junior high. I started by only telling my very closest friends one afternoon in Art Club, and another when she visited my home and I thoughtlessly asked my mother when the next initiation (when a person is granted admittance to the Tradition) was happening. That particular friend then became increasingly interested in Wicca and other Pagan religions, and follows her own version of a Nature-based path to this day. In late October of my Freshman year of high school, the local newspaper ran an article about Wicca, one that included a few quotes from my parents. I got a phone call from two of my close friends, telling me that one of their mothers had pointed the article out to them, and they wanted to verify that it was in fact my parents, and to ask questions. One of those friends would sometimes engage in theological discussions with me, and I believe it gave her a better understanding and respect for my beliefs. As for the rest of my friends, none of them deserted me, but were generally more comfortable with not talking about it, so long as I assured them that I wasn't a devil-worshipper.

After that, I figured, "I'm out of the broom closet to all my friends, I might as well be out period," and so I pinned Wicca- and Pagan-related buttons to my backpack and started wearing Goddess-oriented jewelry. A few ignorant but otherwise genuinely curious students would ask what I could "do" (in terms of casting spells) and if I could turn people into frogs, but that was nearly the extent of the general population's reaction. One girl, who was an Evangelical Christian, tried to tell me that "Witches get their power from the Devil," to which I replied that that was her belief and she was free to have it, but that it wasn't mine. I suspect she was hoping for a different reaction, because she never brought it up again.

Aside from the two friends I've already mentioned, others were either supportive or showed a degree of interest as well. During my Sophomore year, I took a school-sanctioned trip to Mexico for a week, and while there one of my good friends kept pointing out any and all jewelry that featured five-pointed stars (the pentacle being a common symbol worn by many Pagans, the way Christians might wear a cross). In my Senior year, another friend and I took a World Religions class, the final project for which was to research and present the beliefs and practices of a religion as opposite your own as possible. This other friend did her project on Wicca, using me as a visual aid to show what a Witch looked like.

Also during high school is when I began my formal training, for I discovered that I felt called to follow Gardnerian Wicca as well. Probably in my Freshman year I began casually attending my parents' pre-initiate training rituals, but didn't plan on seeking initiation from them. In my Sophomore year, there were two couples (who formed what are called "working partners" as well) planning to hive off (begin their own Covens), and so began holding their own training rituals (the groups themselves being called Groves). I had meant to visit both Groves to decide which I would eventually join, but during my first ritual away form my parents, I received a message during meditation that I had found my home with this group, and so remained with them till I left for college in the fall of 2000. I feel I should stress here though, that the fact that I began my formal training at 16 is an exceptional occurrence; virtually all Gardnerian (and other Wiccan and Pagan) Covens require that their trainees be at least 18 years old, some even preferring them to be 21, 25, or even older. The reason I was accepted for training so early was because my parents obviously knew and approved of me attending rituals and seeking initiation, but also because I'd grown up with these beliefs and concepts nearly all my life.

While I attended college, I felt as though I was in a "distance" learning type of situation, as I now lived three hours away from my High Priest and High Priestess (teachers). I actually did very few rituals, but would attend them when they coincided with a return visit home. After a year and a half of living so far away, I returned to my hometown, and a lot had changed. My teachers had moved out of state, and at the time I had no resources to continue on with them. Also, the local Gardnerian community (which at the time almost wholly consisted of my parents' Coven and the two Groves off of them) was in turmoil, due in part to the unethical and hurtful actions of a few charismatic but underhanded individuals. And so, after that time and for the next four years, I was essentially a non-practicing Solitary. This was a very lonely and somewhat despairing time for me, as I felt I had lost my way, missed my chance to achieve my goal of initiation. At one point, there was discussion with my parents regarding them being my initiatiors, but my father had some reservations, mostly in regard to the skyclad workings required by Gardnerian Wicca.

I made a few casual efforts to start some kind of celebratory group with friends on a few occasions during this time, but nothing ever came of those efforts. In 2004 I was married and had a child of my own, and so religion kind of took a back burner to those concerns. Then in late 2005, I discovered a listing for a newly forming Gardnerian group about half an hour away, and so sent a message to the Priestess. I joined that Grove officially in Spring of 2006, and continued on with them until Summer 2007, when I was asked to take a sabbatical (leave of absence) for reasons I am to this day still not clear on. I broke with that group completely, and again had thoughts of starting my own group, especially since my husband had begun to show some mild interest in my beliefs and practices.

After a time I began speaking with my parents again about granting me initiation. My father still had many reservations, and took about six months of inner contemplation and outer discussion with my mother and other Elders in an effort to resolve them. Just before Halloween 2007, my parents officially offered me initiation despite having been retired for a number of years. However, they knew that my husband, while semi-interested in non-initiate Wiccan practices, had his own reservations about me joining a religion that demanded I keep things from him, and be naked around people that weren't him (he said once that working/being naked in front of my parents was better than with any other teachers, and so I suspect it's more the oathbound secrecy that's the sticking point for him). Because of this, my parents want to be certain he is comfortable with us going forward. I am a bit ashamed to admit that even now, in the Summer of 2010, I still haven't told him of my parents' offer. My parents assure me though that this offer has no expiration date, and that just as I had to wait for my father to be ready, they accept and respect that they now need to wait for my husband and I to be ready to weather this challenge, in addition to that of our growing family, as we had our second child in February of last year.

However, I have been receiving more and more messages from the Gods that this is the path I am to walk. In fact, I have been issued a challenge from one of my patron deities to discuss this with my husband before the next Full Moon. Which is now in less than a week. I have also just quit my job, and realized/admitted that I need counseling in addition to medication to treat my clinical depression and related anxiety and self-esteem issues. Is this the right time for this talk? My head says no, but my heart and spirit are not convinced.
hexeengel hexeengel
26-30, F
1 Response Jul 20, 2010

I think that now may not be the best time to discuss things. People usually do not understand depression and it could be used to argue see that's probably why you're depressed. I am a wiccan and have been there seek the help you need..Blessed be