The Uphill Battle, part 3: “Not all those who wander are lost.”

So, there I was, drifting.  I use that word advisedly- I didn’t have any new direction, just a lack of something holding me; it wasn’t that I had changed my course as much as I had cut my anchor chain*. I think I borrowed Heinlein’s term “relaxed agnostic” at that point in time.  Not that I was entirely relaxed- there was a hole in my heart, a longing.

I told my parents about my decision at some point in this time- to be honest, not so much to be open to them as from a fairly typical desire to rebel and lash out.  They weren’t happy about it, and firmly told me that a) it was a phase I was going through and b) I was still going to go to Mass on Sundays and attend CCD (Catholic Sunday School) until at least my junior year in High School.  Ironically, it turned out that CCD in that year was the only one where we didn’t just go over the same old ground- instead, we met at the teacher’s house, and he described real-life situations where people had to make important choices, and then we talked about how Catholicism could apply to those situations and choices.  If I’d run into that format earlier in life, things might have been a lot different for me…

But in general, I was just going through the motions, bored with church and CCD, dodging going to Confession, in “deep cover” as usual.  There were some compensations- I had a little more social life with the Catholic youth group (though I preferred my D&D friends).  And there was one fateful church book sale, where I picked up “The God of the Witches” by Margaret Murray and Real Magic by Isaac Bonewits .  The first one was fascinating enough, and laid a lot of groundwork.  I was nothing like an informed reader at the time, and had no idea of the criticisms of her work- I was simply enthralled by her description of a whole secret world that lay behind the history I’d read so far.

But Real Magic… wow.  The influence that book had and still has on me is hard to estimate.  Memory may be deceiving me, but I recall seeing this first mentioned in the back of the AD&D DM’s Guide (makes sense, since Bonewits did write a book/article about magic for roleplaying games).  It was the first book I ever read that took the subject seriously, as a subject worth study, analysis… and practice.  Bonewits also wrote with genuine interest and a great deal of sarcastic humor- it was clear that he was “one of us”, someone I could imagine actually talking to.

The bibliography alone was worth the rest of the book- long, detailed, comprehensive, informative, and full of in-jokes and puns.  But it was the short section on the Laws of Magic that really gripped me.  Something about the way he broke it all down… it all made sense.  And one of them has been a guiding light to me ever since- the Law of Pragmatism: if it works, it works.  No matter how many of the other laws are violated, no matter how many dogmas it transgresses or rules it breaks.  I have to point out at this point that I’m no great shakes as a magician, and never have been.  But any success I’ve had is rooted (albeit sometimes tenuously) in that law.

I also read all the rest of Tolkien that I could get my hands on (Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, pretty much).  I was and still am impressed with the depth and breadth of the mythological underpinnings that the Professor placed under his published works.  It also was, I think, around this time that I adopted this post’s subtitle as a personal motto…

My life opened out in a lot of ways by my senior year.  Through my D&D friends I discovered a medieval recreation group called Markland.  Through *them*, I discovered Science Fiction conventions, which opened me up to a whole range of interests and viewpoints.  I also got involved in LARPing (Live Action Roleplaying) around this time, but that didn’t become relevant to my spiritual life until later.  I made more friends (in and out of school), my grades improved, and I got accepted to my first choice of colleges.  Wandering was about to be taken to a whole new level…

* You’ll notice a tendency to use nautical metaphors in my writing.  I learned to sail at summer camp during the same general period detailed in my prior post, and though I haven’t done much since, it had a profound impact on me.  Subject for a later post…

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kitsa
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 03:32:09

    It is always interesting to see how many of us came from the same place and managed to get to where we are, a very diverse place but one where we connect even when our actual practice is wildly diverse.

    Reply

    • aeddubh
      Jul 01, 2013 @ 16:41:23

      “…a very diverse place but one where we connect even when our actual practice is wildly diverse.”

      That’s a thing I value about Paganism itself, and one of the reasons I’m sticking with the term…

      Reply

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