Ten years ago this month, The Circle Within: Creating a Wiccan Spiritual Tradition was published.
I felt that the occasion merited a blog post, even though (obviously) I can’t maintain the blogging habit for more than a couple of days at a stretch. I sat down with a gigantic chocolate chai and my writing playlist queued up, opened up a Word file, and asked myself, “What do I want to say about that?”
Twenty minutes later I had the two above paragraphs.
I could talk about the book’s history, but I’ve done that already. I could talk about the process of writing it, but the only people who care about writing process are writers and, well, I don’t think most of them really mean it.
That might just be me.
I could talk about how my life has changed since TCW came out. I suppose that would be the most honest and interesting direction to head.
As you probably know, I’m no longer a Wiccan. I’m not even sure how Pagan I am, but it has nothing to do with any inadequacies inherent in the traditions. I’d love to say I converted to another religion and left Wicca behind, because that would mean I went somewhere, and I could point to specific reasons or incidents that led me away; instead, I was blown off course by a series of storms that sent me farther and farther off my heading, sometimes crashing into a reef and sometimes just drifting in the doldrums, and by the time I corrected my course enough to remember where I was going, I no longer understood why I was making the journey.
I still don’t know.
I am, and remain, immensely proud of the book. For one thing, it’s awesome. (How many books on spirituality use the phrase “humping women’s legs like a crack-addled Schnauzer?”) For another, at the time it was written, there were very few books like it on the market. Wicca was big business in the 90s and Aughts; the shelves of every bookstore ran over with cookie cutter books with the same ten or twelve chapters (actually there were usually thirteen) that went to the same depth with the same subjects. Elemental correspondences, holidays, moons, the history of Wicca (ranging from feasible to laughable), a chapter or so of rituals, a bunch of spells, and stuck in there somewhere, a chapter on Deity.
TCW was not like that. I’m still amazed at my own temerity, but 26 is a ballsy age (Yep, 26. Actually I started writing it when I was 24). I wanted to be part of the future of my religion, which I viewed as young and dynamic and unique – the very lack of provable history so many authors were flailing over excited me. How many people can say they were part of the beginning of a religion? You know, without being stoned to death in the streets?
There are a number of things I would change were I to write it now: I would update some of the theological terminology (the word “panentheism” had barely entered common discourse then). I would dial back the anti-magic stance, as my understanding of the Craft itself changed over the years. But mostly what I shake my head over is the anti-Christian tongue waggling; I was merely trying to draw comparisons, but there are a lot of ways to do that without sounding like an immature jackass.
We all go through it, of course; after a breakup we put distance between ourselves and the ex usually with a good deal of bile, but over time as we grow we remember there was a reason we got involved with ol’ Flaccido Domingo in the first place, and some of those negative memories begin to lose their venomous edge, allowing us to remember and cherish the good. It is unfortunate how many of my coreligionists never grew out of that first stage; it’s difficult to be taken seriously on the world religious stage if your answer to every criticism is “Yeah, well, Christianity sucks! Nyah nyah nyah!”
But I digress.
I remember the first time I saw TCW in the wild: it was release day, and my BFF and her then-SO went with me to Borders to see if they had it. There it was, sitting on a table in the very front of the store.
I had to sit down.
There really aren’t words for how it felt; no matter how many books you publish, only one will be the first one. There’s actually a better feeling, I have discovered – being offered a two-book contract for your first novels, given writing novels is the only thing you’ve ever truly wanted to do with your life – but very few moments of my life have ever managed to cram so much awe, gratitude, and joy into my body at once that I couldn’t even remain upright. I’m not sure what it would take to make me feel that way again, but I live in hope that I will one day, if only for a moment.
In fact I would like to invite the universe to take me up on that, or possibly better. There’s cupcakes in it for you, universe. Fluffy happy cupcakes delivered by unicorns and made with the finest free-range double rainbows.