Finding your religious tradition is a difficult journey. Many people are born into a religious family and simply take on the tradition their family follows for themselves. But many others, especially Witches and Pagans today, leave the tradition of their childhood and seek out one that calls to them and brings them closer to the Divine.
My Journey Begins
I took such a journey. I was raised in an ELCA Lutheran home. We were not a very religious family, but we would go to church a few times a year. As I got older, I found that the questions I had were not being answered very well for me in our family’s church.
In college, I studied the Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong, especially his book Born of a Woman. It opened my eyes to the fact that there are many ways of reading scripture and there are many layers to it. This intrigued me greatly and I sought out a Bible study group that would seek the deeper meanings. I quickly learned that the college Bible study groups (and the off-campus ones I found too) did not look for the deeper meanings, but simply read the Bible as if it were a children’s story. They took the literal interpretations and the most shallow readings and never even thought to look further. So I quit them all rather quickly.
I drifted for a few years between Atheism and Agnosticism. There was Divinity, but I could not find any way to learn about it and I felt that I was alone in my quest. For a while, I thought that there simply was no way to understand the Divine because we are too un-evolved a species, like how a mouse cannot interpret human motivations in business.
On February 13, 1999, a used bookstore had a book on it’s end-cap display. It was a reprint of Peter Haining’s 1975 An Illustrated History of Witchcraft. The pictures were rather corny (since it was from 1975) and the text didn’t really say much, but it had a power on me that made me read it through that day and then seek out more. It was a sign. I then picked up Silver Ravenwolf’s To Light a Sacred Flame and devoured it. I didn’t like the style of writing, as it seemed like it was talking down to me, but I knew that I needed to start somewhere. I did my first ritual on the dark moon of February 16, 1999. It was performed alone in my bedroom and I cleansed and consecrated my first ritual tools.
At first, I wanted to follow the Finnish pantheon and Finnish magic because my ancestors were from Finland. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find good material to learn this. There is the mythology contained in the Kalevala and the Kanteletar. There is also Robert Nelson’s book, Finnish Magic. But that is about it. The Finnish tradition is different than most traditions in Europe, in that it is highly bardic, like the Celtic traditions, but much more shamanic.
Transition to Hellenism
At the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000, I joined a church that honored all traditions, but focused more on the Hellenic, Roman and Egyptian traditions. I joined because I had reached the limit of what books could teach me and the limit of the teaching circle I was in. I was not very interested in the Mediterranean pantheons, but the magic this group had was very strong and I wanted to learn it.
As time went on, I gradually drew away from the Finnish tradition. I was frustrated by the lack of information about it and the lack of practitioners to learn from. Unlike the oral traditions of northern Europe, the Hellenic tradition was heavily documented. The Greek, Roman and Egyptian cultures wrote down as much as they could about everything, including their religion. This attracted me more, as when I had an idea about my spirituality, I could see what other thinkers at the time, such as Pythagoras, wrote about it.
In addition, being a part of an active, practicing group was very invigorating. I was not alone in my quest for the Divine anymore. There is a lot of power in being a part of a group of like-minded people, all seeking the same goal. We were different individuals, but we were on a quest to the Divine.
Today, I am mostly focused on the Hellenic tradition of Witchcraft, with some Roman and Egyptian work as well. These three work together well because the Greek, Roman and Egyptian peoples interacted with each other frequently. Hellenic Witchcraft is also the foundation that all western esoteric traditions are based upon. The magic and religion of Greece spread throughout Europe as the various empires rose and fell. It makes it much easier for me to relate to other European pantheons.
Today, I work closely with a number of Gods, serving both them and humanity. My devotionals include lighting a candle for Lady Hestia, raising my children with Lord Jupiter’s help, and spreading the message of hope and love with Wiccan prison inmates on the wings of Lord Hermes and the flames of Lord Eros.
I always find people’s stories about their spiritual path very interesting. Feel free to tell yours, either in a comment, or in your blog.