To start off my (admittedly belated) Pagan Paths, I was lucky enough to interview a very interesting practicioner: A Christian Witch!
Q: I know that this will be an obvious question, but what do you consider your personal path, and when and how did you come to it?
A: I am currently in the process of finding my path. I know that my heart leads me towards a mix of Pagan and Christian traditions. At its heart is a belief in the Divine, which is interpreted differently through the various lenses of cultures all around the world. For me that is a single Divine being who is of both and neither gender all at once. I just use God for that since I am not aware of a gender neutral name for a Divinity. I’m fuzzy right now on Christ being of Divine birth, but I have no doubt that he was Divinely inspired. I believe in using Christ as a role model, focusing on his actions and words, and not the interpretations of others of those actions and words. Golden rule type stuff.
As a History teacher, and student, I’ve grown apart from most organized churches and religions, and Christian ones in particular. I’ve seen too many examples in various religions of faith being perverted, or manipulated to serve selfish or evil ends. The crusades were the big attention grabber for me, but only one of countless examples. As such a solitary path with networking, and growing with others is currently what seems to be best for me.
I feel more welcome, less judged, and a kinship with Pagan practices in general. I enjoy the sense of connection, and the knowledge that there is no wrong way to connect to the Divine so long as it harms no other. This is the area of my path that needs the most growth now. I’m already incorporating the elements. I use five elements( Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, and Spirit), and animistic spirits as part of my fledgling practice, but I’m still figuring out what else has important meaning to me. Lots of research yet to do.
Q: So what do you personally call yourself: Pagan, heathen, pantheist, agnostic, druid, witch, something else?
A: I’m going with “Christan Witch” for now, but while accurate I don’t yet know if that will be my label temporarily as I evolve, or permanently.
Q: “My heart leads me to a mix of Christian and Pagan traditions”… Does that mean you grew up Christian, or did you come to it later in life?
A: I grew up Christian. Actually, until fairly recently my self descriper was “open minded methodist”
Q: How did you first experience Paganism, and how hard was it to reconcile that to your Christian faith?
A: My first experience with paganism was in college when I was working on my BA. I was president of our university club for Geeks. It was called Dimensions and my co-president and the outgoing president suggested I attend a meeting of their new club MUPSA (Millikin University Pagan Student Association. I had no idea what it was all about, but I knew they were good people. I attended, and stayed a member for the rest of my time in college. It was an excellent learnig experience for me.
Q: Have you ever had any spiritual experiences that really influenced or touched you?
A: I have had a number of experiences, though infrequent and irregular. I have felt through prayer that God was there and listening. I have felt peace and a sense of the sacred in meditation, and during ritual. I have experienced Ghosts and Spirits, and felt this as a manifestation of creation, and evidence of the afterlife.
Q: Do you feel able to be open about your faith? Have you faced any discrimination because of it?
A: I am not open about my faith at all. I have always been somewhat private about my faith, even when I was a member of a more mainstream church. I tend to only open up with friend and family after a long time when they have shown a willingness to listen, and have honest respectful conversation. Now that I am Pagan and Christian all wrapped together, I’m a little afraid to talk about my faith for the first time. I fear being judged by others, and the effects it could have on my hire-ability as an educator. I fear family not understanding.
I’m also hesitant to talk about it outside my local Pagan group and select close friends (Pagan and otherwise) until I really have a grasp on how my faith is evolving. I want to be able to explain what is going on with me, and answer some basic questions they may have. Right now I’m not confident I can do that to my satisfaction yet.
Q: How does your faith affect your life? What do you view differently because of your faith?
A: My faith results in me working every day to become a better version of me. Kinder. More patient. More compassionate. Better educated. Better informed. More involved in social justice. Because of this I’m constantly reexamining my words and behavior for room to improve. I’m also willing to forgive, but less willing to permit any form of prejudice, discrimination, or inequality.
Q: What (or who) do you think has influenced you the most spiritually?
A: Picking who has influenced me the most is difficult. There is a friend of mine who is a Pastor in the United Methodist church. He is one of the best people I have ever known. He is a true joy to be with. When I was at my most cynical and skeptical, he through his actions demonstrated that Christianity is not a lost cause, nor bad in of itself. Rather that certain organization and individuals continue to twist branches of the tree of faith in sad and cruel ways.
A Multi-Tradition friend of mine has also influenced me a great deal. She celebrates certain deities in the Norse, Greek, and Celtic pantheons. She has been a great example to me on other ways to live your faith every day.
Q: Who are some of the gods/goddesses that you feel connected to?
A: I view the Divine as a single Source or Creator. Beyond that metaphor and analogy best explain things for me. The Divine is a light, and each culture, religion, and language acts as panes of stained glass. We all look upon the same light, but each of us with a different filter. We need these filters because the light is often too bright to observe directly. And yet the filters also take away a great deal from us. And thus to me all gods and goddesses are legitimate manifestations or avatars of the Divine. They are constructs of humanity in a way. And yet they are still real and true to those who value them. The gods and goddesses, to me, are avatars of elements of the Divine; pieces of a bigger picture.
I don’t really have a relationship with any gods or goddesses right now. I do however feel some affinity with Freyr, and I look forward to learning more about him, and what I can learn from him.
Q: How do you pray to the Divine?
A: I tend to pray as if I’m having a conversation. I want to have a personal relationship with the Divine, and so I speak in prayer in a way that supports that. Sometimes I pray verbally, and other times silently.
Q: Where do you feel both faiths have room to grow?
A: Right now I feel I have growth to do in both facets of my path, but its hard for me to tell what the Christian half needs right now. I feel like it’s in a good place, and that the Divine wont mind if that side is on hold for growth while I work on the other half. Right now I feel like the Pagan balf needs the most growth. In particular it is difficult for me to convey to myself, or others what I believe right now, how it is different from before. I do know that on both an intuitive level, and abstract intellectul level it’s iimportant that I take my time to feel it out an better understand.
Q: What holidays do you celebrate, and what have been some of your favorite celebrations?
A: I celebrate include Christmas, the solstices and equinoxes, and Easter. If I’m invited to a celebration for a different holiday, regardless of path or religion, I tend to go and celebrate that too. I feel it helps enrich my faith, and I enjoy the simple kinship that can grow between two or more people of faith, regardless of what their individual path or religion may be. Also, while it isn’t a religious holiday, I celebrate secular Halloween so hard that it may as well be one.
Q: Do you have any favorite Pagan entertainment (i.e. tv shows, movies, or music)?
A: I’ve not often looked at the entertainment media I consume as Pagan or not. I usually just look at it as “good” or “not good”. That said, I recently watched How to Train Your Dragon and it really struck me how characters spoke “thank Odin” with the same honesty and relief as a Christian saying “thank God”. It wasn’t played for laughs, and I appreciated that.
Though their representation is vary debatable, I have also rather enjoyed The Craft and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In my old Pagan student Group in college, we used to watch films like that for “Cheesy Pagan Movie Night.”
Q: What do you think the most important issue facing Pagans today is?
A: Acceptance I think. There are a lot of people who react to pagan paths from a position of ignorance. I know I have a family member who is a strong Christain, but has great respect and fondness for the other abrahamic faiths, and also eastern paths such as Hinduism, and Buddhism. He doesn’t seem to have that same respect for Pagan paths of European descent though, and I feel that comes from a lack of knowledge and understanding. I feel like millennia of anti-pagan propaganda on the part of large Christian churches also may have subconsciously played a role as well.
Q: What so you wish you could tell everyone about Pagans/Paganism?
A: Pagans are normal people of faith too. Their beliefs are no further “out there” than any other religious path. Like most other mainstream faiths, Pagan paths work to improve the world around us in an altruistic fashion, and thus should be accorded the same acceptance and respect as any other faith.