I was 12 years old when I first discovered the world of Paganism and Witchcraft. I had been raised in a household that cherished and honored the mysterious and the spiritual, and though I lived an ocean away from my father, his mystical, animistic Balinese spirituality was ever-present in my life. I was that child who found solace in the tangled roots of trees and spoke to invisible beings in the garden. I knew, if not consciously, who and what I was and still am; this was crystallized for me in my adolescence when I dove head first into the Craft. I embraced its teachings and traditions; after all, they have been mine for as long as I can remember.
The Pagan life cannot be typified by the superficial or the skin-deep. Paganism is not a new age label of convenience, nor is it a fantasy role-playing game. Paganism is being in the raw moment, treasuring and revering the natural flow and tides and continuously celebrating the gift of this divine Earth. Our deity is here and now, timeless and in all places. Many call this immanent divinity the Goddess, and yet it is equally illuminating and valid to identify this powerful presence as the Horned God who dances, dies, and is reborn. The divine evolves and changes just as we do—and so does our spirituality. We too must, as the Goddess, have our anchor: the Earth upon which to stand. Like the Horned One we must allow ourselves the sacrament of movement, to dance and attain ecstasy. This can all be done in the simplest of ways, or we can choose to indulge in ceremony and symbol. It is all true and good as long as we are true and good to ourselves and others.
I never converted to Witchcraft; once a Witch, always a Witch. I didn't have to dramatically alter the way I saw the world to attune to Paganism. My life, however, has been incredibly enhanced by the beauty, rhythm, love, and peace that I invoke by being who I am and revelling in that. The Craft teaches and celebrates freedom and in this I am irrevocably empowered. I circle on my own, with my coven, and with my broader Pagan community, as well as with the stars, the moon, the sun and the blossoms and crops which delight and nourish my body. Every week I give myself an hour or two to conduct my personal devotion and be in the moment with my Gods, guides, and totems. I also teach and share the mysteries and magick of the Craft with others regularly and my coven gathers together every week to learn and celebrate together. I write, I breathe, I sing, I sleep, I dance, I love, I work, and I eat…all this is the magick of my life. My magick is the deepest part of me and like a pure wellspring sent up by the Old Mother herself it flows through every part of my life. I am a whole being; I am rich in the truest sense of the word. My happiness is like the ichor, the blood of the immortals, which flows through the veins of the ancient Gods.
You, too, can live and enjoy the blessings of a Pagan life! If it is your will and desire to do so then seize the day and make it your meaning. I have often said that I am not a religious person, in the sense that I abide no dogma and detest authoritarian, power-over paradigms. However, I identify as "Pagan" because it is one of the few words in the English language that truly resonates with who I am, how I express myself, and how I choose to live. Pagans embrace the Earth as sacred, acknowledge the plurality of truth, and understand that "reality" is rooted in interconnection and interdependence. As a Witch I consciously weave with the Magick of Life, whom I know as one of my oldest and dearest friends, to affect positive and beautiful change in the world, personally and on a wider scale.
I pray daily. Many of my prayers are for peace, love, trust, beauty, and the open acknowledgement of all of these things. Other prayers are directed to slightly more personal desires, hopes, and needs. For instance, it is not uncommon for me to ask Hermes to ensure that I get to work on time, as I travel on public transport. On other occasions it is Harmonia I seek out if I know I may encounter a confrontational person or situation. I pray to Aphrodite and Dionysus when out clubbing; to Brighid, Dianchet, and Airmid when ill; to Athene for protection and security; and to Agathos and Daimon for fortune and luck. The Gods and powers are willing to help, if only we open ourselves to their blessings. It is also true that the Gods help those who help themselves, and Witchcraft teaches personal responsibility and honor.
Witchcraft, in my definition and experience, is an ecstasy-driven, earth-based mystery tradition. With the aid of trance and other altered states of consciousness, we are receptive to the cosmic influences and powers that be. We seek to celebrate and attune to the natural rhythms and cycles that are expressions of this Earth and her orbit around the sun as the stars shine on. More than anything else, Witchcraft is defined by its magickal nature; this is our sacred mystery—the Web of Wyrd that is all-pervasive and underlies the multiplicity of realms, connecting everything to everything else. When this is embodied by a spiritual tradition one can begin to understand how Witches live.
Through constant awareness of the "Other," alignment with and oneness with Earth and the cosmos and a conscious magickal will, a Witch is infused with the power to determine the nature and quality of his/her reality. We inject the lives we lead with meaning and purpose simply by identifying with the archetype of the Witch. We do so in perfect love and perfect trust, flowing with the Pure Will, which is the unfolding of the Divine from one to the other, and so on. The sacred is revealed in all that is and dualities disappear in the face of infinite unity. As Pagans and Witches we affirm and embrace Life.
In my book Spirited: Taking Paganism Beyond the Circle (which is targeted at young Pagans who live their spirituality), I speak of Pagan youth as spirited and enthused (full of the Divine). However, in truth, all Pagans can be described as such. This is the quintessence of who we are as a group and movement. We come from all walks of life to meet at the fire and to sing the old songs, the chants we wrote yesterday, and the melodies inspired in the moment. One of the most powerful and poignant NeoPagan chants I know is, "We are an old people, we are a new people, we are the same people, stronger than before." It still rings true.
Paganism today (NeoPaganism) is burgeoning with vitality. It is colourful, diverse, reverent, and celebratory. When I explain what Paganism is to those who inquire they always respond saying that it just makes sense! I can only agree. Paganism is grounded in the Earth, in what is tangible and right before our eyes. It inspires us to be a part of this organic planet we call home and to acknowledge that we are living cells in the body of the Great Mother—what we do to ourselves we do to her, and vice versa. Magick is also intrinsic to the Pagan experience and thus we are able to re-enchant our lives and the lives of those we know and touch. We can dance into freedom, love into ecstasy, breathe into power, and simply be. This is the wonder I experience and know every day of my life. I am so utterly in love with the gift of Life that the Great Mystery has given me and my only wish is that everyone and everything would embrace their own lives with as much love and joy.
If we are to "be the change we wish to see in the world" then we must actively, and with passion, live our lives as we have always envisioned and dreamed. Do that and you will be free.