Today is June 23rd, and it’s a special day for me. I mentioned it one of my last blog posts, but I thought since it’s June 23rd now, I’ll go more in depth about it.
Five years and a day ago, I dedicated myself to the Pagan path. As I remember it, it was a sunny, beautiful, magical Summer Solstice day (but I could have just been a bit high-on-life at the time!).
I had constructed the fiery orange/red/yellow wheel (pictured above) out of lots of cardboard, paper, skewers, and a chunk of styrafoam that I painted and adorned with orange ribbon.
I had built this wheel because of the book I was reading at the time, “Simple Wicca” by Michele Morgan. In the book she says “Decorate a wooden wheel with crimson and yellow paint, gold ribbons, and bright sun-colored flowers. Roll it down a slope at sunset, or, if conditions permit, set the wheel ablaze and send it downhill into a pond or lake to hail the glory of the Sun King and the beginning of the waning year.” (Michele Morgan, Simple Wicca, p. 57).
I had planned to do just such thing with my wheel I had built, because there was a great hill in my parents’ front yard that had a pond at the base. But I didn’t think they’d appreciate me almost setting their yard on fire, so I kept the wheel.
I had bought this book not too long before this moment in what I will always remember as the “floodgates of my mind bursting wide open.”
i had had a conversation with a friend and coworker not too long before where she had said something to the effect of me being a Christian. I was taken aback by this, because I had not identified as Christian for a long, long time. In response, I had told her “I’m not Christian.” She asked me “What are you then?”
Both the combination of uttering the phrase “I’m not Christian” (perhaps for the first time in my life) and her question of what I was felt as if a door in my mind had opened. The realization hit me: I really wasn’t Christian. I had always felt stuck to the label growing up, always feeling like “Well, I have to be Christian…duh.”
That feeling of being stuck to the Christian label went deep. I remember years back in early high school when I read S.M. Stirling’s Dies the Fire, in which many of the characters were Wiccan, and they portrayed a very beautiful Wiccan life set in a post-apocalyptic world. I remember thinking “Wow, they worship a goddess…that’s beautiful…too bad they’re wrong, and too bad I’m Christian. I would love to do that. But I can’t, because of God.”
It’s such a strange thought looking back at it, but being raised in a Christian household meant not even considering for one second other religions as being “true.”
After the epiphany of I’m not Christian, I thought long and hard about who I was, what I was. I was always interested in paranormal and occultish stuff, and Wicca (and paganism in general) always stuck out at me since reading Stirling’s books. I remember a few times seeing a Wiccan thread on some online forum, and thinking Gosh, those people are awesome.
So a few days later, I found myself standing in the metaphysical section of Half Price Books. I had never realized they had a whole section of Pagan books. I felt like I was peering behind a curtain of forbidden knowledge (hmm…occult?) that most people didn’t even dare to peek through. I stared at a wall of Pagan books, books on witchcraft. Where did I even begin?!
I needed something small, something unassuming. Something simple. So when I saw the title Simple Wicca, I grabbed it and brought it home, hidden behind a different book under my arm. I told no one about it, lest they think I was crazy. I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into.
I read the book late at night on my nights off (think “under the covers with a flashlight”), as I worked (and still work) overnights. With every turn of the page, I fell in love. I think I was about 50 pages in when I decided “This is me. This is so me.” From that moment on, I considered myself pagan. I would wait, however, until Summer Solstice (which was only a few days away, anyway) to “dedicate” myself, as the book recommended.
I’m not sure I had an altar until Lughnasadh (and that one was made with a plastic patio table), and I don’t remember the exact details (was it in the afternoon on the hill in my parents’ front yard? Or in my room late at night facing the window?), but I do remember making the decision that I would celebrate in a year and a day, June 23rd, my year and a day of following the pagan path.
Now, I’m not so sure Simple Wicca was a great beginner’s book (I should have picked up Buckland’s book or Cunningham’s I suppose), but it was what led me to the Pagan path, and even though after the year and a day I decided that Wicca wasn’t exactly for me, I stuck with the Pagan path. It was another year of just being “eclectic Pagan” until I’d stumble on Druidry.
From the beginning of my Pagan journey, I fell in love with pagan music. Some of the first music I heard was Spiral Dance’s album Women of the Earth, Wendy Rule’s Deity, SJ Tucker’s Blessings, and of course Damh the Bard.
Now Damh the Bard stood out to me immediately when I heard his song Green and Grey on an episode of PaganFM (I was also a Pagan podcast fiend early on, too!), because this was a guy singing! I had a hard time finding male pagan musicians (not that there was anything wrong with the female pagan musicians…they’re incredible!), and when I first heard Dee on PaganFM introduce Damh the Bard with Green and Grey, I was excited to hear what was going to be played.
Now, if you’ve ever heard Green and Grey, you know what I’m talking about. It starts off with the sounds of birds, and a flute fading in. I thought “Oh, instrumental new age music? This is pretty cool,” just a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t actually hear the male musician sing. But then the guitar kicked in, and I knew it was going to be awesome. He started singing, and I knew this guy was going to be a favorite. Not too long after, I bought all of his available music.
Ah, that was a great summer of music for me…
If you know Damh the Bard at all, you know he loves his Celtic mythology. Many of his songs cover stories from Welsh myth and legend, and I soon fell in love with the songs like Oak, Broom, and Meadowsweet, which tells the tale of Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Blodeuwedd, and Taliesin’s Song, which is a song about Taliesin…obviously.
I just had to find out where these stories were coming from, so I started searching for Blodeuwedd and soon found out they came from The Mabinogion.
For beginner Pagans, it’s always a search for the “right Pantheon,” and I was no different. Up until discovering the Mabinogion, I was still at a loss. I had no idea where to go. But upon discovering the Mabinogion and finding out there was a guy named Bran (my nickname growing up was “Bran” or “Branflakes”), I was hooked. I instantly loved the stories in the Mabinogion. I loved the tale of Ceridwen and Taliesin, the idea of the Awen.
It wasn’t until two years into my Pagan journey that I realized that the Awen was a huge part of Druidry. I knew about Druidry, I knew about the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, but I just never connected the dots before. So on the night of Imbolc 2012, I joined OBOD.
My path continues on, and I am so excited to be entering my fifth year as a Pagan. This might not seem very long for those who have been on such a path for much, much longer, but I have learned so much.
Last year, I made this blog post about 4 years: http://paganbran.com/2014/06/23/four-years-of-walking-a-pagan-path/
Two years ago, I made this video blog about 3 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgCp-G39Ln8
And this year I’m making this blog (and a video blog at my youtube channel: http://youtube.com/c/brancerddorion).
And…Four Branches. As I stated in my last blog post, I’m releasing my first album of pagan music today, sort of as a commemorative celebration of 5 years on a pagan path.
(You can purchase my album here: https://brancerddorion.bandcamp.com/album/four-branches)
But this isn’t a commercial, this is about my 5 years being a Pagan. I have learned so much about…well, about everything, and I continue to learn more and more every year. If it’s one thing I think being Pagan is about, it’s about learning about yourself, about the world around you, about how to live mindfully and compassionately with the world around you and with the people around you. But you don’t necessarily have to be Pagan to learn those things. I hope every path you walk teaches you those, because to me that’s what being human is all about.
I hope everyone out there learns a thing or two in their coming year, in their years past, in their day today.
Peace, love, and blessed be,