My Pagan Journey and Why I Still Wear a Pentacle as a Non-Wiccan
I began my pagan journey with Wicca. Yes, I was a fluffy, new-age, rebellious and attention-seeking teenager. I have a hunch, however, that many of you serious pagans out there who mock the angsty fluff crowd were also fluffy once upon a time. I don’t mean to say that Wicca itself is fluffy (although many will disagree with me on this), but as a prominent gateway to the larger pagan world, it tends to be a melting pot of serious practitioners and fluffy soul-seeking youngsters.
For me, crossing over to the pagan side before the ubiquitous presence of the internet, Wicca really was my only choice. Well, Wicca and an unstructured assortment of random new-agey pagan-esque stuff.
I didn’t grow up with a strong religious upbringing. My mother was a non-church going Christian and my father agnostic. Since I moved out, my mother has been trying harder to raise my youngest siblings according to the Christian faith, regretting that she did not do so with me.
As a child, I was curious about Christianity. I spent some time in both a Catholic and Protestant private school, one of which I specifically begged to go to. I went to the occasional church event, especially to hear choir singing. My brother, too, enjoyed accompanying me to these events (incidentally, he did end up becoming Christian).
Christianity in the end, however, didn’t resonated with me. I briefly dubbed myself agnostic, but this too didn’t feel right. I have too much of a “Luna Lovegood” side to fully embrace agnosticism. The world has always been a magical place to me. Full of faeries and various spirits of the earth. I had a fondness for Native American culture and spirituality as a child and this inspired a lot of my proto-pagan beliefs.
When I entered high school, I still attended the rare church or bible study event, but I also began studying Wicca, playing with Tarot cards and runes, and wearing ridiculous attention-grabbing hippy/gypsy/new-age outfits. Whatever I could do to stand out from the crowd. But, come on, you know how it is! Being an adolescent. It feels like the whole world is watching, so better put on a good show 😉
But it wasn’t all about the attention. I also felt like I finally found my niche. I felt at home in the new-age section of the book store. I never formally joined a coven, but I went to several informal Wiccan meetups. After studying Wicca for sometime and getting to know some of its practitioners, I became discouraged with how female/goddess-centric it was. Although the books teach balance, and a masculine and feminine divinity, the actual practice of Wicca always seemed to stress the feminine. This wasn’t just a minor pet peeve, it ended up becoming a deal-breaker for me. I am very strongly opinionated regarding matters of gender equality and the concept of balance in general (perhaps I will blog about this some other time).
So there I was again, wandering around aimlessly in search of my spirituality, still unaware of the options available to me outside of Wicca (I knew that there were other pagan religions, but I didn’t know how to properly engage with them). I began to refer to myself as an eclectic pagan and took a break from any form of structured practice. I remained an eclectic pagan for quite a few years.
Although no longer Wiccan, I still wore a pentacle. Not everyday, mind you, but whenever it suited me to do so. Recently, I began pursuing a syncretic Gaelic-Heathen path. I needed somewhere to really ground my spirituality and beliefs. A foundation from which to grow. I walk in a liminal reconstructionist, revivalist, neopagan space. Bringing a religion back to life means that it is no longer subject to static academic study. Religion is dynamic, and once an old path is re-opened, it becomes subject to adaptation.
I am tentatively a Gaelic-Heathen, but I can’t simply abandon outlying parts of my spirituality that are still important to me but that don’t fit into a strict Gaelic-Heathen reconstruction. Consider the pagans who originally embraced (by freewill or by force) Christianity. They carried many of their old traditions along. In fact, in every historically documented religion, we can find pieces of older and/or neighboring religious practices. Isn’t this why syncretic reconstructionist paths exist in the first place? Strict syncretic reconstructionists argue that a syncretic religion is the product of many years of mass cultural evolution. But I argue that, on an individual level, we all have cultural baggage. No one is going to abandon years of previous enculturation to embrace a historically accurate reconstruction of a religion.
Perhaps I should add an addendum to my pagan title: semi-reconstructionist neopagan. It’s difficult to assign myself to an accurate label when labels for these different paths are not yet widely agreed upon. But even if they were, should I really have to add a string of modifiers so as not to offend anyone? Several denominations of Christianity hold onto the Christian title, despite each thinking it’s following the “correct” teachings of Jesus. So I’m just not going to worry if I am offending anyone by referring to myself as a Gaelic-Heathen.
I wear, and will continue to wear a pentacle. When I first began my Gaelic-Heathen journey, I thought that I might have to leave the pentacle behind. After all, symbols are powerful. Some people claim that wearing a cross doesn’t make one a Christian, and yet if you wear one, this is what others will think you are. I have heard that one should feel free to wear symbols based on what they mean to the wearer and not to the outside world. Almost a harmless concept, but imagine if the symbol was a Swastika. A symbol that used to have a positive connotation, but now? See my dilemma? Obviously, wearing a pentacle isn’t as taboo as a swastika, but after experiencing some of the extreme exclusionary hostility in heathen circles on the Internet, I was sufficiently intimidated. For a few days, at least. I took some time to mull it over and I thought, hey, wait a second! I can’t let those guys intimidate me. This is my life and my spiritual journey. The pentacle still holds meaning to me. I have a few of them, mostly gifts from my husband. They are sentimental and I still believe in what the pentacle stands for. It is a piece of my past that I do not wish to forget. It represents the beginning of my pagan journey and this alone is reason enough to wear it.
I will not let one person or the entire world intimidate me out of being myself.