Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
I’ve been an unorthodox sort of Pagan for a while now…like many that find themselves on the path, I started out in a Christian family. I figured I would share a bit of my story, for any of my newer readers that don’t know me IRL or from elsewhere on the web. I was raised in a Christian home, I attended church every Sunday, Bible School in the Summer, I sang in the children’s choir and I loved Jesus. Unlike many of my fellow Pagans, I lucked out–my family was devout without being dogmatic. I was raised in a liberal Christian congregational church. It was pretty common growing up to debate the merits of Genesis as a creation story at the dinner table when spending the night at my paternal grandparents. My grandmother was actually an informal sort of devotee of some of the teachings of Edgar Cayce, believing in a Biblically-defendable reincarnation. As a child, I was not raised with the idea that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God, but rather that the Bible was a work of men inspired by God and by the Word (Jesus), a living document which was meant to be read and interpreted and lived as an ever evolving process. And thank goodness for that…I have seen too many of my peers destroyed by parents whose unquestioning and unthinking adherence to dogmatic religions, in which they felt free to try to force belief in their children, sowed the seeds of their resentment and rebellion.
But there is a problem with being a kid that firmly accepts the scientific reality of evolution, that questions the literal truth of a virgin birth, that believes in the teachings of Jesus and the love he had for all people–even sinners, that he sat down with them and ministered them, and accepted them as his own (without the judgement seen in most churches), with being taught that most religions containing equivalent wisdom and should be respected, as should the choices of the people within them…is that eventually you leave the cocoon of your family and meet other Christians. Literal belief in a 7 day creation was as alien to me as actual aliens would be (actually, actual aliens are probably more believiable). Not accepting people on the basis of their sexuality when love was supposed to be the greatest of commandments was a foreign idea as was the idea that we were meant to be masters of the Earth and its creatures rather than part of it. That so many people could claim to be Christian and be so unChrist-like was quite disappointing.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
In my case, none of this lead to being angry, so much as being curious–how *did* all these people end up seeing things so differently? Where did the Bible really come from after all, and what exactly *does* all of it (including those annoying begats) really say? What was the Biblical basis for the claims of all these people and groups. And the answers were not impressive, even to my teenage self. They are even less so now, with time and perspective for a more critical review.
I believe that the god of Abraham–that Canaanite storm god that Abraham made a deal with–is as much part of the Divine as any other deity…but he’s not as impressive as the claims his followers make about him, and not worth worshiping on the basis of his own history and own actions. The box some Christians put their god in is often impossible small. I believe that the teachings of Jesus, whether such a man actually lived or not, were spoken to a specific people in a specific place before they were (conveniently) taken up by another and eventually became a political tool. I even think that many of the words of Jesus contain fantastic wisdom–but not any more wisdom than some of those of Buddha, or some of those of Muhammad, or some of those of hundreds of other children of a greater Divine. With a rational look at Christianity, I couldn’t see that its claims aren’t any more substantive (or worthy of universal adoration) than those of any other religion (including my own)…which leaves what path to follow ultimately the one that best speaks to the individual.
…and for me, that was not any of the Christian paths.
I “discovered” Wicca in a Mercedes Lackey novel, but that wasn’t so much an introduction as it was a recognition. Looking back, I think I’ve always been Pagan–even in my Jesus-loving days, I just didn’t find out a name for it until I was in junior high. My friends and I had great fun recreating The Egypt Game, devouring mythology books from the library (yes, we were nerds), and even sacrificing a tomato in a mock Aztec ritual. I found out about Paganism when dial-up was the only method of internet, and because it tied up the phone line, research on the internet was not a feasible option (not that there many websites available yet anyhow). Nope, I was confined to books–Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler and Spiral Dance by Starhawk, the only books available on inter-library loan, and Buckland’s Big Blue and the Cunningham books, which I saved my baby sitting money for and bought from the local book store. With no access to the huge bulk of 101 information available today (which is mostly repetitive anyhow), I turned to books on mythology, history, anthropology, science, nature, world religions, etc. In college, I participated with the circle that met on campus…in the military, I participated in the wider Pagan community in rituals and at festivals.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
Over the years my beliefs and practices have shifted and changed in direction and purpose; it has grown, and been pruned and weeded like an ever-growing garden. The path I am on today looks much different than the one I stepped onto 18 years ago.
And thank the gods for that.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.