It takes me a while to realise things that may have been obvious to others.
So, for instance, when I was in primary school and couldn’t stop staring at a girl in my class – I didn’t know quite what to make of those feelings. And when I was a teenager, and there was that girl with the name of a flower, whose very presence made me giddy, and I still called myself straight. And then when I was seventeen, I was walking up some stairs and idly glancing at the bottom of the woman in front of me and I realised I might not just fancy men.
I thought to myself, “Ohhh, that’s why I fancy women – I’m bisexual!” (A few weeks later amended to pansexual, and a few years later to queer.) I finally realised that my feelings had a name, had a place, had a community, etc. But it took me a while to get there.
I was brought up atheist, by former Christians. I was – probably unintentionally – made to believe that those with faith were at best ‘silly’, and at worst ‘delusional’. So, in 2009, when faith metaphorically smacked me round the head and went “HI THERE” I didn’t quite know what to do with it. I didn’t know what my beliefs were; I didn’t know how to feel; I was quite worried it was a side-effect of the medication I’d just started. I looked to the nearest thing I could find, which was the church in the village. I spent good few months with churches, with bibles, in groups, and finally in Friends Meetings. Collective, silent thinking was good, was helpful in some ways, but my social anxiety had the better of me. (And I had a Meeting where Some Dude was staring at me, and I had to leave because it made me so uncomfortable.)
I could best connect with my faith when outside, when in nature, and I couldn’t quite get the hang of monotheism. I sat in a church and felt nothing, but in the graveyard, among the trees, with the sun on my skin, listening to the birds? Oh, I could feel it there.
(But still, I failed to connect the dots!)
It took another good few months, reading verses from different religious texts and not connecting with it. I think I was still searching, and I stumbled on the wikipedia page on animism and realised that this was actually a thing I believed! It was something that I thought was so self-evidently true I didn’t realise it had a name. It was something I realised that I had always believed. And look, the animism page connects to a whole hub about paganism…
Somewhere in those weeks it clicked. I first called myself an animist (still am!), then gradually called myself a pagan, and I happily realised I am also a witch. I had discovered the broom closet, and found myself far inside! I haven’t told my family, not in so many ‘pagan animist witch’ words, but gently hinted that I simply love nature and animals. I have told my partner of three years, not least because he will notice when you set up an altar in your bedroom. (He asked if it was to summon Cthulu. Cheeky sod.) I’ve told online friends and discovered a few pagans and heathens, which has been both reassuring and joyful. Celebrate all the deities!
About a month ago one of my partner’s siblings asked me whether I was religious, and I paused in terror – the immediate fear of “Arg don’t tell people you’re religious! They’ll think you’re delusional!” ingrained by my atheist upbringing – and then explained I was. I said so with stumbling, self-effacing humour and deflecting behaviour, but I said it. I told someone. They didn’t cast me away! They just went, “Oh right” and then went about their life. (In my defence, I also have an anxiety disorder; I do tend to panic about things that do not seem scary to people without anxiety disorders.)
It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s business, but if someone asks I can tell them the truth. I am a pagan.
My name is Hare, and I’m a Pagan.