This turned out to be a bit of a ramble, sorry. When I started writing this I intended to tell the story of why I left Wicca, but instead I wrote this much more cheerful thing. That other post is coming – I think I’m resisting writing it because I think I already seem crazy enough to people without adding to the fire, and it’s a very personal and painful story that requires me to be way more honest than I have been on this blog lately. I’m sure you’ve noticed the distinct lack of meaningful content here in the last year – a big reason for that is thanks to my mental illness I spend most of the time mining the stinky depths of my psyche and I just get tired of self-analysis. So, that post is coming, but for now, I just thought I’d share some observations:
The other day I got sucked into a Pin-nado and found myself wandering from one board to another on Pinterest, starting with one subject and ending up all over the place. Rather unexpectedly I found myself browsing a lot of Pagan/Wiccan pinboards.
It’s funny. When I started my career as a Witch I was 16, and our town didn’t have the internet yet. By the time I got to college UT was requiring every student to have an email address, but it was still kind of a strange thing for a lot of people, myself included.
I’ll never forget when I first discovered the Pagan internet – not only were there other people who shared my beliefs on campus, they were all over the World Wide Web! And most of them had really ugly websites!
Spinning pentacles. Blinking titles. Embedded midi Enya. Those were the days.
Most everyone was on Geocities back then, and the word “blog” didn’t exist yet. Neither did 90% of the sites we take for granted now: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Etsy. Hell, MySpace wasn’t even a thing yet. There was no such thing as Grumpy Cat or even I Can Has Cheeseburger. It wasn’t the dark ages, but the lightbulb was certainly dimmer. Nowadays it’s neon lights as far as the eye can see.
Looking through these pinboards and Etsy shops now I see some amazing stuff – not only has the state of amateur photography improved by leaps and bounds, but so has the quality of graphics in general, and anyone can have a decent looking blog with little to no coding knowledge or design experience – maybe not a gorgeous blog, but one that’s very readable and doesn’t make people’s eyes bleed. Not so, 15 years ago.
Oh, sure, there’s still plenty of eye-bleedingly bad art out there, but thanks to Photoshop the baseline level of “good” has risen. And while the face-bashingly awful rhyming couplet invocations are still legion, as well as the really lame puns and anti-Christian jokes that sound more desperate for approval than funny, it does seem like the overall standard for art and writing has definitely climbed, particularly compared to the Wiccan Craze of the 90s where books were flying from the presses no matter how ghastly they were because the Craft was trendy.
I saw all sorts of altar photography – I’ve always had such a love for altar building, and I love seeing other people express their spiritual creativity that way too. There are dozens of pinboards devoted to images of altars and shrines, both made at home and in sacred places all over the world. We can see the worship habits of cultures on the other side of the planet just with a click.
There are tutorials for all sorts of things I had to figure out myself – lighting charcoal tablets, for one thing, which took me forever to get. There are YouTube channels that show you how to blend incenses and oils; all sorts of pretty quotes and graphics you could hang over your altar; and the sheer number of Book of Shadows pages is staggering. There are plenty of downloadable books, courses, infographics, and templates for all manner of topics.
The first Pagan book I ever read I bought secretly at the Renaissance Festival because there was simply no way to get them in my hometown – the only access I had to Pagandom was through fandom newsletters and zines, and if I’d ordered anything through the mail it would have been intercepted. Now, anyone can find what they need to know online, and unless their parents watch their browser histories, there’s no risk (except the risk of finding bad information, which I am sorry to say is as prevalent now as ever – some of the Pins I found were so insanely inaccurate I had to physically pull my hands from the keyboard to keep from, well, essentially trolling with my Vast Mystical Knowledge). It’s a whole new world.
Not only that, the quality of Pagan crafting has exploded. We have access to so many amazing materials – thanks to the altered art communities, paper crafting, new art supplies like paints and high quality markers – and so many ever-evolving techniques (also easily found on YouTube) that it almost seems a shame to buy anything premade, which I imagine is hard on those artisans and spellcrafters who sell their work.
I’ve been away from the Pagan world for several years now – people keep asking me to attend events or make appearances based on my first two books, and I just can’t do it. It would feel incredibly dishonest, and I’d also have to reread my own work because it’s been so long. Aside from general spiritual malaise, I had experiences with other people and with particular spiritual entities that scarred me, and I had to get away.
But the internet provideth, I suppose. I find myself wondering who the big authors are now, what the good blogs are, what the new and trendy ideas are – are there still people touting the “9 million Witches died in the Burning Times” nonsense or did that finally die? Do people still do everything via Witchvox? I’m completely out of touch with what used to be the most important aspect of my life, and it’s unsettling – it’s like finding your ex on Facebook and seeing he’s married with five kids.
I don’t miss the community, to be honest. In my old age (snort) I’ve finally let go of the need to prove to myself that I like big groups of people, and I’ve accepted the fact that I’m an introvert, I’m not a joiner, and that’s just fine. I prefer most of my social interactions to be online. My experiences in Pagandom were…mixed, let’s say, an interesting balance of pretty good and dreadful, punctuated with moments of both agony and ecstasy. I absolutely hated festivals and great big rituals – in fact, I could have done without the Sabbats altogether, or at least chucked the ones I didn’t like (Beltaine, Yule) and stuck with the ones I loved (Ostara, Mabon).
Being a Pagan with a public presence exposed me to a lot of bullshit drama and sectors of the community ranging from silly to terrifying. Again, I felt like I had to get out there and be known – but I finally figured out that I don’t write books so I can be a public speaker. I’m a writer to write. My personality ensures that there are only so many people I can deal with at one time – a day or two here and there is fine, but whole 4-day-long weekends surrounded by 1000 of my horniest friends is basically hell to me.
But there are things I miss.
I miss casting Circle, especially dancing the way our coven used to do it. I miss opening up half a dozen jars from my apothecary cabinet and creating something to help a friend find love or protect her home. I miss sitting in front of my altar doing the same thing for myself.
I miss hearing trees talk – I haven’t heard that in a long time, because I stopped listening. Once I could lay my hand on a trunk and feel that drowsy, good-natured energy that moved soooooooo slooooooowly.
I miss the time when I snatched up every new Pagan book I could find. I’ve checked out quite a few from the library in the past year, but I haven’t pored over new releases and loaded up my wish lists like I used to. Now I do that with cookbooks, craft books (lowercase c) and memoirs.
I miss ending my email signature with a Triple Moon: )O(
I miss the sense of import that ritual gives to both big and small things – cleaning house, starting a new job, moving to a new place, beginning or ending a relationship, baking, making homemade bath/body products. I still make my own perfume oil, but without charging it. I still burn incense all the time, but I don’t ever smudge the house.
I miss the sight of my black-bladed, ebony hilted athame resting on my altar. She was my favorite ritual tool – when she was in my hand she felt alive, and I felt like a badass (especially if you add my fabulous full length, bell-sleeved ritual robe, which is the Witchy equivalent of a long black coat). I think that athame is the fifth one I went through – I started with the cheap brass-handled number you can get for ten bucks in any catalog, and went through something with faeries on it, a wood model, and at least one more I can’t remember before going on a long and arduous hunt for just the right blade to represent my magical will. I found her…in fact I may unearth the box where I’ve stored my ritual implements and bring her out again, even if I never use her for anything, just for that old feeling.
So along those lines, a challenge for you: tell me your favorite Pagan blogs, Tumblrs, et cetera – and tell me which ones are the Big Popular Thing right now. I can’t afford to buy books, but if there’s a newer one (last year or two) that rocked your socks, tell me that too. And don’t forget e-books.
Also, if there’s a spiritual-type blog that isn’t specifically Pagan but is compatible, tell me that too. I’m a Nomad, after all; I take on all comers.
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