My journey through Paganism [now in its eighth year] has been one of scholarship. I found out about Wicca in early 2004, thanks to a girl in my Latin class … and thus begun the discoveries of a lifetime.
In June, I did a small dedication to the path in my room; using some flowers ornaments that smelled of lavender to mark out a circle. It was the 4th, known as the Strawberry or, quite appropriately, Rose Moon. Just like my practise for the next few years; I kept it pretty low-key on the practical side; focusing instead on books and websites. I conversed with many pagans via networking sites like Witches Voice and essentially, my practise was a mixture of prayer, reading and meditation.
I can still remember the two most influential books of my “spiritual career”: Inner Magic, by Ann Marie Gallagher, which had a good history but too many spells for my liking and A Woman’s Guide to the Earth Traditions by Vivianne Crowley which I’ve never actually finished but found incredibly useful as a “this is what this is and how it came to be, in it’s commonest forms”, which then meant I had new terms to search for further information with.
The Way In – Beginning at Beltain
And then I came to University in Brighton. I’d emailed the local Pagan Federation District Manager and around May, received an invitation to meet her at a ritual.
It was Beltain 2009; the 1st of May had occurred on the Friday and for once, I’d done a small rite in my room at university. On the Saturday, I found the courage to attend this open Wiccan ritual and meet the woman who also ran the local moot. There I also met a family who were going to a Druid ritual the following day; and invited me and another girl to join them.
The Wiccan Ritual, although pleasant, had one person there who didn’t understand the customs – who proceeded to walk in and out of the circle after casting, with her wine, and then asked pretty personal questions of people. The energy wasn’t very powerful and I found myself in a really uncomfortable space.
I recognised this experience as a one-off; and still attend open rituals with that group [that person has not been invited back]. However, it did somewhat nudge me away from Wicca a little and I wonder if the need for secrecy has worked against Wicca’s favour. After my continued circling with them, I feel that denotation of my path which; all I knew for sure; wasn’t here.
A Chance Meeting
Yet, through this, I met some wonderful Pagans at the Druid ritual, who I still see and I got to meet Anderida. I was terrified. At this point, I still couldn’t use trains or buses without panic, a print-out of the train times until midnight and my medicine pouch.
I remember thinking I wouldn’t be accepted; that I’d be a blatent outsider; feeling a bit odd with this family I’d only met the day before.
Looking up at that hill, I felt nothing special; just the joy of being outside. I said hello to the horses in the field next to the car park and as time passed, we headed up the long climb to the Circle Space.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that some of my favourite parts of Wiccan ritual were also here; I enjoyed the simplistic quarter calling, the words “God and Goddess” who were both revered here and how this was actually related to the actual reality as we know it. The earth beneath our feet; the water that surrounds England– not just a cup of it on the ground. I loved the Druid’s prayer and for the first time, heard [and joined in with] the Awen.
The Awen. My memories of Awens are now many [must be.. 54 now – nine rituals!], but I remember that first one strongest.
And I laugh at the memory of my thought process during that first set:
I FEEL SO SILLY.
Keep in time and tune and oh I need to breathe half-way through it’s so embarrassing. Oh hell. Oh hell. What the.. twice more? What am I doing here?!
Just close your eyes, it’ll be over soon. Hey..wait a second.
Feel that? I feel a thrum.. do the others? This is.. wow it’s quite.. beautiful.. how odd.. it’s a real thrum.. and now we’ve stopped.. but it’s still here…
As part of the celebration, we split into two circles; one for the men to do their secret manly meditation.. and one for us women to divinate the May Queen in our magically sacred manner. We connected via words; hearing each woman speak, drinking the same mead and seeing the tears of happiness and of sadness. And we stood hands-held, and closed our eyes to “feel the forest of women” we made.
And I felt something shift.
I still don’t know what it was; but each time I return, I feel a smaller version of it. I feel that thrum when I sit in the pub with those wonderful people. I feel it when I hug those I’ve built a friendship with. And having finally taken that formal step into the Bardic Grade, I can feel it in my Inner Grove.
My first ritual, a pledge to the Goddess upon my bedroom floor was actually a spur of the moment thing. I jumped straight into the practise for about a month and then fell back to the books; although I kept up meditation and my energy work as a separate exercise.
Now that I live my spirituality as part of each day; I’m looking forward to the Bardic Initiation; which I’ll do when the time feels right.
However, I have to acknowledge each stage; my original initiation on June 4th 2004, my first Sabbat, my first Esbat working with someone else, my first group ritual and that first day I felt the Awen of the Anderida Druids. Those were initiations as much as this one will be.
In a way, every day is an initiation; as we question and have faith. Each day I awaken with the sun [maybe a little after :P] and each night I go to my grove or to see my animal guide.
Each day I cross the threshold of my door; I become the actress of whatever role I am to play; be that child, student, volunteer or worker; yet each day; a Druid Pagan.