The Uphill Battle, part 4: Sex, Drugs, Rock’n’roll… and I *actually* become a Pagan

I would say that the subtitle should be classed as “correlation, not causation”, although the same roots lay beneath it all.  College meant I was away from home and on my own for the first time, and surrounded by a peer group where there were actually people who attended class to learn new things, to expand their minds.

Just before that, though, I had what I guess was a transformative experience of another sort- mononucleosis.  I had it bad, really bad; any worse and it would have been hospital time.  I was bedridden for three weeks, and running a fever for a lot of that; I lost fifteen pounds in one week, just burned away.  It changed the shape of my face, and burned permanent fatigue circles under my eyes; it changed my metabolism, and it never really left me- I still get the occasional relapse, mainly mild (thank the Powers), but unmistakable none the less.

This was an important event in my life, to be sure, but there is a reason I’m going into it here.  For some people, illness, stress, privation, etc. are great spiritual teachers.  Not so, for me, at least not at the time.  I go inward, but I don’t necessarily get introspective; spiritual/religious (and artistic) practices tend to go by the wayside in times of crisis unless I remind myself.  I tend to gravitate towards the reassuring and familiar in such situations- comfort food, re-reading favorite books, songs I know by heart.  I may be able to extract meaning from my crisis afterward, but during…

I spent the first semester mostly attending class, doing homework, and sleeping.  I wasn’t allowed to drink for six months after my illness, which saved me from some of the usual freshman idiocy.  I started writing more poetry, helped start the first SF&F club at the college, hung out with a broad selection of geeks and musician types (mostly not in my graduating class).  Much of my social life was still centered back north- luckily, I could get a ride home almost any weekend I wanted.  Oh, yeah, and I lost my virginity, experimented with drugs, and started forming my musical tastes during this period.  No surprises there, really… except that only the last of those happened primarily on-campus.

I don’t think there were any “out” Pagans on campus; even though the student body was mostly from the DC area, it was still in many ways a Bible Belt school.  Still, there were some interesting books back in the stacks, including Jung and Crowley… I remained interested in magic and Forteana, but skepticism and the wish to believe were still at war in me.  I discovered the Illuminatus! trilogy around this time, which turned my head inside out for a while; I decided I was a Discordian, which suited my sense of humor if nothing else.

Around this time, a friend of mine loaned me Israel Regardie’s “The Golden Dawn”, which was my first real introduction to modern ceremonial magic and the Cabala.  The Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram especially clicked with me (and has remained important to me, at least as a template, ever since).  The innate Christianity of the path was still a stumbling block, though.   The lady who loaned me the book was also interested in Paganism, and we ended up putting together a Beltaine ritual that year… including (somewhat to our surprise, oddly) the traditional sex afterwards.

But it wasn’t a SF&F convention later that year that year that it really all fell into place.  I’d been talking with one of my oldest and dearest friends, telling her about my seekings, and my dawning interest in Paganism.  She basically dragged me off to meet one of her friends, the wonderful and talented Ariana.  Ariana, in turn, seemed to take to me right away, and invited me to a Wiccan circle she was holding in her room that evening.  I recall it fairly clearly- there were seven or eight of us and it was a very basic ritual (ground and center, establish circle, call quarters, invoke Goddess and God, raise power, bid farewell to Goddess and God, ditto quarters, ground and center).

But it blew my mind.  I could barely sleep that night.  This was it.  The next day I went down to the dealers’ room and bought the best silver pentagram I could afford (admittedly, not all that great- I was a poor college student, and let’s face it- there just wasn’t that much good Pagan jewelry around at the time).  My friend found me as I was leaving the area; when she saw what I had bought, she had me kneel down and then clasped the chain around my neck.  Then she kissed me and said, “Welcome home.”

And I was… for a while, at least.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kitsa
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 04:56:17

    It is really interesting to read this at a time when my path is rerouting itself before my feet, not changing so much a refining and redefining. Remembering how we started is always a little bit of ‘wow, I never thought I would get here from there’ even though iWeb probably wouldn’t be here without it.


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