I tend to write about what I’m doing, but it might be interesting to talk a bit too about how I got here.
I arrived in this life crying, and peculiarly conscious of death. By the age of four I was asking such awkward questions about life, death, eternity, life after death, infinity and whatnot, that in desperation my parents sent me to Sunday School. The people who ran said Sunday School took one look at me and decided that as a four year old, what I really needed was fuzzy felt to play with. I had no way of communicating that I needed profound theological explanations, and so, dissatisfied, I slipped through their fingers.
My family were all into the folk tradition, so I grew up steeped in traditional music, folklore and mythology. I was also taken for walks and taught about nature. I learned to identify the wildlife, read about how it all works. I was encouraged to be creative; music, dance, art and writing featured heavily alongside reading. I was pretty much all set to be a druid, although I had no idea such people existed. I longed for a harp, that would also have been a clue had anyone known to look.
When I was eight, give or take, my parents became interested in Wicca. I had big ears, as a child. Books turned up that I probably wasn’t supposed to know about but stuck my nose in once or twice. I was bemused by the whole ‘naked’ thing. As a child I was painfully self conscious. I‘m not much better now. Any suggestion of taking my clothes off would make me run a mile. The idea of magic, spells, covens and whatnot appealed, a bit, but the nudity was right out. Of course at that age, magic meant big, showy, Harry Potter type stuff.
There were some very influential books. My father used to read to me, and so I encountered Alan Garner, Richard Bach, Paul Gallico’s The Man Who Was Magic, the Vision of Stephen, Stag Boy, The Once and Future King. My father liked stories with a mythological twist, a dash of more subtle magic. I soaked all this up. Somewhere along the way, the magic of simple things got into my head. There’s a scene in ‘The man who was magic’ where Adam the Simple explains that the cows are all magicians, turning grass into milk. That stayed with me. We also had Kevin Crossley Holland’s illustrated tales from the Mabinogion (Which to this day is a word I remain uncertain how to spell) That had a lot of influence. Between said book and Alan Garner, I grew up with a lot of owls and flowers in my head.
I wasn’t consciously a pagan as a child. I knew I wasn’t a Christian, I had a lot of trouble with thoughts like eternity, infinity and god. Mostly it kept me awake at night. Somewhere along the way it dawned on me that I couldn’t do much about it. Either death is the end, or it isn’t, gods exist, or they don’t. My personal opinion wouldn’t change a thing. I recognised the impossibility of being certain, and settled into a comfortable semi-believing, open to experience sort of state that has served me well ever since.
I no longer lie awake wondering if god made the world, then who made god? It doesn’t bother me so much anymore. Sometimes I glance up at the stars and that childhood awareness of enormity comes back to me. The sheer distances between them. The hugeness of the universe. The smallness of me. I don’t mind feeling small – rather the opposite. It helps to keep life in perspective.
That was another formative moment. The Hitchhiker’s to the Galaxy and the device that shows you the universe, and how it looks without you in it. I took that one to heart.