I came to paganism, like many of us, by way of books. They intrigued me, and once I got my nose into them, one led to another, which led to another. Many of these books were written by brave, public pagan figures who had recorded their knowledge so that I, an inheritor of that knowledge, could follow their bread crumb trail on a journey of my own.
The very first books I plucked off of the bookstore shelves and brought home with me were introductory Wiccan books. They did their best to describe just what Wiccans are and what they do, saying that “Wiccans believe this” and “Pagans do that.”
Not knowing much about Wiccans or pagans, I assumed the things I read must be true. This was a stumbling block for me, as doubts like the ones I’d experienced in my conservative Christian days began to eat at me. I don’t know if I can be Wiccan, I thought, because I don’t know how I feel about this thing that this book says you have to believe to be Wiccan. Time passed, and my interest in paganism fluctuated, with more books coming and going.
More books meant more opinions, and I began to sneak a glimpse into the true plurality of paganism. I ventured out to a local pagan pride event, not yet sure if I was pagan or proud, and talked to real pagans. But I had no idea of the magnitude of the pagan community until my discovery of the pagan blogosphere. I found that pagan bloggers discussed issues, both theological and societal, and in the process, constantly bounced ideas back and forth, referring to one another’s posts.
Did you see this post of Harry’s? I totally agree with Harry, and here’s why! Or, rather, Did you see that poppycock dribble Harry posted the other day? That Harry is batshit insane! (Maybe without so much name-calling, but it adds color, I think.) When an issue came up in the pagan blogosphere, it whirled through a multitude of blogs, being critiqued up, down, and back again, with everyone seeming to throw in their two cents.
Some of the bloggers I read seemed to be important, respected people in the pagan community. Credentialed pagans. You know, the “I’ve been a contributing member of the pagan community for 35 years, and have 4 published books and three third degree titles to prove it” pagans. Those things are great and all, but I was most definitely not credentialed. I wasn’t even experienced. Hell, I ‘d just decided I was pagan! But the armchair theologian in me wanted to get involved, and so I did. As I spent more time in this community of sorts, reading and beginning to find my voice, I realized what a great plurality of beliefs and practices are present within paganism. More importantly, I learned that there was a lot of disagreement. This was amazingly freeing. If all these people disagreed with each other, then I could disagree with them, too, and still be pagan.
Paganism has been called a “big tent” by some, meaning that it encompasses a broad variety of paths and contains a diversity of ways of seeing and doing things. The size of that umbrella is what made room for me. In paganism, I have found a freedom I never knew before: a freedom that allows me to grow and change without fear of growing out of my religion. I can lie on the soft earth with the wind ruffling my hair and look up at the trees, knowing that however my perceptions shift and change, the earth and the wind and the trees will still be here. This peace and spark of life will still be here. Paganism will still be here. And I will still be pagan.