I think I've always been pagan, but it took me a while to figure it out.
I was raised a Baptist, but I was skeptical from the start. One Sunday, as we were leaving church--I couldn't have been over four years old then--something my mother said made me realize that she was taking all this stuff very seriously. I had been treating the Bible stories they told me in Sunday School like the fairy tales my mother read me at home--entertaining, but not to be taken literally. I clearly remember asking her in amazement "You mean you really believe all that stuff??" My mother assured me that she most certainly did, and I should, too. I did my best to comply.
My church wasn't the hellfire-and-damnation variety--that would have been much too undignified. Our services were simple, decorous, reserved, and dull. I did have fun in the church youth group, especially at church camp every summer when I got a little older. Camp always filled me with inspiration, and I rededicated my life to Christ there on a regular basis. But by September I had always backslid, which to me meant that I was talking back to my mother, or thinking too much about sex, or committing some other equally-heinous sins. These failures filled me with despair. Most of the time, the strongest feelings that my Christian faith invoked in me were guilt, shame, and inadequacy. I just couldn't ever seem to be good enough. Most of the time, the joy and comfort they promised just weren't there for me. I finally quit going to church there when I was about sixteen. I think I just decided I didn't need all that guilt and torment.
A year or so later I went with a friend to mass at Grace Cathedral, the Episcopal cathedral in San Francisco. I was swept away by the grandeur and the pageantry of it all, which was nothing like the austere Baptist services I was used to. In a fit of renewed enthusiasm, I took classes and got confirmed by the Bishop and became an Episcopalian. That lasted for a couple of years, until I lost interest and once again drifted away from the church. The rituals still touched something in me, but it wasn't enough. There was just too much about organized Christianity and Christian beliefs that I found too hard to swallow, and not enough to keep me there trying to overcome my doubts.
I had been fascinated by magic and the occult since I was a kid. I can remember checking out all the books I could find in the public library on divination, witchcraft, magic, and related subjects (much to my mother's discomfort). One of the books I read then, I've realized since, was by Stewart Farrar. It told about his introduction to Wicca as a journalist writing a story on it, and how he became a believer and an initiate. I was intrigued, but I didn't know where to go from there--it wasn't like there were covens advertising for twelve-year-old members in Redding, California in 1970. So when the library ran out of books for me to read, I had to leave it there.
My next encounter with the Craft was my freshman year of college. I had volunteered to help organize Women's Week activities on campus. One of the events we were planning was a panel discussion on women and spirituality. The panelists included one of the first women ordained as an Episcopal priest, a woman rabbi, a Presbyterian minister, and a Roman Catholic nun. I popped up and suggested that we get this local woman I'd heard of (I won't mention names, but if you're a well-read pagan you've probably heard of her, too) who was a priestess in this goddess-worshiping group. I didn't know much more about them, but they sounded interesting, and I, at least, wanted to know more. So we called her. At first, the priestess wanted three hours just for her presentation. When we said we could only offer her part of the hour we'd set aside for the panel, she grudgingly agreed. At the event, she proceeded to dominate the discussion, interrupt the other panelist, criticize their faiths and their beliefs, and generally behave like a rude, arrogant ass. I was mortified. Any chance of me going any farther with exploring her path quickly evaporated.
Finally, in my early thirties, I found myself again feeling drawn to Wicca. This time I was determined to stick with it and not be deterred until I'd really learned what it was about. I read some books--Starhawk, Margot Adler, Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, the Farrars, and others. I went to some workshops and public rituals put on by the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a couple of local groups. The more I learned, the more I liked it. I could respect the ethics and values. I liked the lack of dogma or any central authority telling me what I must believe and how I must behave. The rituals connected for me in ways that the Baptist campfire vespers and the Episcopal high mass had only hinted at. Working with natural energies and archetypes and symbols--"magic"--made perfect sense to me. I just felt like I belonged here.
I consider myself an eclectic Wiccan of the kitchen witch school (if it works--"an it harm none"--then go with it). I was part of a coven in Santa Barbara. We started out as a study group, but the group coalesced and worked so well together that we decided to take it a step further. It was a good bunch of people, and I miss them a lot. Since I moved to Seattle, I've been to some public rituals put on by CUUPS and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, among others. I got involved in a very short-lived coven that never quite got off the ground before the priest and priestess split up. So far, nothing else has worked out. So I work solo, mostly, and trust that when the time is right, I'll find another group that's right for me.
So here are some of my favorite pagan links:
For some good basic information on Wicca and paganism (this is where to start if you're not sure what this Pagan stuff is all about):
Newsgroup soc.religion.paganism Home Page
Newsgroup alt.religion.wicca FAQ
Pagan Education Network
For more advanced information and resource materials:
Encyclopedia Mythica an encyclopedia on mythology, folklore, and legend
The Herbal Encyclopedia
Stardancer's Wheel of the Year rituals of all kinds
A Brief Guide to Pagan Etiquette
For what's going on in the Seattle and Pacific Northwest pagan community:
Open Ways Northwest Pagan Community Events
Pagan Community Directory
Seattle Coven of Unitarian and Universalist Pagans calendar
Seattle Pagan Events listservs--Unfortunately, the old seattlepaganevents list has been taken over by spammers, and the list owner (the only person with the ability to boot them) is MIA. There's a new and improved list, spevents, that is better moderated and carries the same information, minus the spam.
Our Lady of the Earth and Sky "A Pagan Church in Seattle"
Aquarian Tabernacle Church
The mission of the Cascadia Alternative Spirituality Association is to provide a space for our various alternative spirituality communities to hold worship services, teach workshops, hold meetings and social events and have offices to serve their members.
Widdershins "The Northwest's Finest Pagan Newspaper"
Edge of the Circle Books "Seattle's resource for Paganism and the Occult"
Crescent Moon Gifts a Tacoma shop that carries books, supplies and gifts, and hosts meetings of a few local groups
Kyyndred's Closet is a new shop in Auburn selling herbs, incense, oils, candles, ritual supplies, and other items.
National pagan organizations and events:
Larry Cornett's International Calendar of Pagan Events
Covenant of the Goddess
Church of All Worlds
The Witches' League For Public Awareness
The Radical Faeries are the only thing that's ever given me reason to wish--just for a moment--that I was a man.
The Magic 8-Ball (if you can't laugh at this one, you're taking it too seriously--kind of like the folks at Tyco tyos, Inc., who threatened to sue most of the virtual Magic 8-ball sites online and made them shut down or change their names).
Wombat Wiccca Laws
The Field Guide to Neopagandom
How to be a Cultist
You might be a Redneck Pagan...
The Principia Discordia
Hark the New Age Pagans Sing!! Songs of Yuletide joy for Pagans
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu
The Torot of Eris
Lady Pixie Moondrip's Guide to Craft Names will help you with this highly important choice of how to make a really cool fashion statement. Or, if you prefer, trust in the wisdom of the Pagan Name Generator.
You know what Jack Chick tracts are? Ever think they were ripe for parody--or maybe some pagan versions? So did these folks...
Heathens Idolize School Prayer and The Other People
Who Will Be Eaten First? (you'll need to scroll down to the Monday, December 8, 2003 entry)
The Jack Chick Parody Archive
Pagan Humour light bulb jokes, chickens crossing the road, You might be pagan if... lists, etc. etc.--in other words, the classics
Pagan Humor Index still more classic silliness
MoonScents & Magickal Blends
The Goddess Shoppe Online
MetaPot Wiccan, pagan, and metaphysical products and supplies
Moonstone Jewelry beautiful Wiccan, pagan, Celtic, and new age jewelry in gold and sterling silver
EvolveFish.com Every variation on the Christian fish emblem, and more goodies for free-thinking people
Irregular Goods has a nice selection of Yule ornaments, greeting cards, and other pagan holiday goodies.
Sacred Source "Images of the Divine"