Why did I “convert” to paganism?
It is a serious question to ask anyone, why they are of their faith. My brief background was that I got interested in paganism when I was in middle school, sixth grade to be precise. When my maternal grandmother died my mother handed me a book that she used for her study of comparative religion: Scott Cunningham’s Earth Power. While I did not “convert” to Wicca (indeed, I have never considered myself Wiccan), it helped steer me away from the typical vanilla weekend-Christianity that I had been raised in.
As an aside: I know now that I got into the pagan/neopagan movement too late. The market had already been steadily flooded by vanilla Wiccans and fluffy bunnies (a la Silver Ravenwolf) and a number of the books I received by sixth to eighth grades were…poor to say the least. I am embarrassed when I look into my closet and still see them sitting there.
I stopped receiving books in eighth grade. I was a quiet kid who did not take ridicule well and I met with a lot of bigotry in my school (by my homeroom teacher, actually) for having these books on hand to read. Faced with that, and not being very religiously-oriented to begin with, I packed my books on the book shelf and did little, if anything, to further my path. So passed my high school years and two of college.
I took a serious look at my spiritual path come third year of college study. I had transferred out of my first university where most of my friends had been non-religious or, at best, agnostic into a very spiritually active group of people. The location was completely different; it offered a great deal of active energy and experiences that awoke latent potential that had lapsed over the previous six years. In short order I was back into the swing of things and using my burgeoning spirituality to help fill a void in my life, one that had existed since well before high school.
Through one friend in particular I was directed towards Raven Kaldera’s brand of Northern Tradition Shamanism and it all sort of clicked. I had made an early connection to the mythos of the Norse pantheon, eschewing more commonplace studies of Grecian mythology that was expected in my sixth grade Social Studies class. Early on, as well, I had made the rather childish (well, I was a child at the time) assumption that “shamanism” only dealt with Amerindian spirituality and I decided then that I wanted none of that.
Always the solitary and trailblazer, I didn’t fall into the same path that Raven did. Instead I took what he presented and sought to adapt it as best I could to my own tastes and abilities. I leapt into networking with other similar pagans, using the Cauldron Farm live journal as a springboard and while some have passed from my life, others have helped me greatly in my spiritual journey.
Reading through Raven’s books on shamanism showed how truly ignorant I was when I was younger and, though I was a student of both History and Anthropology, it never really clicked that I could have some kind of connection to any kind of shamanic path.
I settled on more of an Anglo-Saxon and Germanic slant to the Northern Tradition. Not because I felt it to be more correct, but because it spoke to me a bit more. I have a hard time making connections to practices that I don’t seem to have some kind of cultural or ethnic ties to and, while I would never dare state that this is the way it should be, it is what works for me. It also enabled me to branch out into more continental forms of paganism and study, including continental Celtic deities and pre-Grecian Roman practice. Again, blood connections at work.
These days I’m attempting to rebuild my spiritual practice, since I feel I jumped into it too high up – having a great deal of knowledge but not enough experience.
So what would I call myself?
Pagan works just fine. If one wanted to get deeply into it I’ll further elaborate that I’m a shamanic practitioner in the Northern Tradition branch of Paganism. I don’t consider myself a shaman. I haven’t the skills, the knowledge, nor do I have the prime requisites to be considered that. That title is reserved for the people who fulfill that role. I’m open to eclecticism as long as it is considerate and inoffensive, but I tend to stay as close to home as possible.
My Paganism is very much a spiritual practice, more than a codified theological work. It is individual and solitary – I prefer to network more than I do to deal with other people in a formalized setting. Likewise I’ve never taken very well to the high ritual common in other faiths, Pagan or otherwise. The personal nature of shamanic practice appeals to me, even if I’m not aware enough to truly experience it yet.
So yes. That’s what I am. A Pagan.