It’s so funny to think that I used to be non-Wiccan. Moreover, that I used to be actively turned off by Wicca–as a Tarot reader, I found myself constantly distancing myself from Wicca and everything that smelled like it. I insisted, and continue to insist, that Tarot and Wicca have absolutely nothing to do with each other (save a common partial origin in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn). Sure, I was part of a broad community who liked to read messages in magic pieces of cardboard, but Wiccans? Those people were crazy.
A couple of years down the line, I am genuinely baffled by my previous insistence on distancing myself from Wicca. When I finally found my way to my coven, it was finding my way home. I found people to whom and a Craft to which I belong,* and I truly don’t believe that I would have made it through this lifetime without eventually becoming a Gardnerian. Even if my life had taken a different turn and I had never met my High Priestess, I would have stumbled across Gardnerians at one point or another. Wicca is a part of me; it was inevitable that I would seek out the Craft, just as it was inevitable that I would seek philosophy.
Understand that I am not necessarily speaking of some mysterious forces of fate (although there’s definitely a part of me that accepts that notion, as well). I am simply saying that, being the person I am, it wouldn’t have made sense for me not to find my way to Wicca. It sings to me in such a way that I simply cannot believe I would not have followed its song one way or another.
Unlike a lot of people, I grew up knowing about Wicca. Not knowing much about it (otherwise I would probably have sought the Craft sooner than I did), but knowing at least that it existed. My mother went through a brief witchcraft phase back in the eighties, so growing up I had titles like Erica Jong’s Witches on the family bookshelf, available for my perusal. At some point in the mid-2000s, I acquired The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft. None of the books I read was an introduction to Wicca, or went into much depth about it, but they all treated Wicca as a part of the cultural landscape, something as well-known and evidently connected to witchcraft as black cats and Halloween. I grew up knowing that Wicca existed, the same way I grew up knowing about candle magic and poppets. These were things that I just assumed everyone knew.
But beyond that, I didn’t know much. I was raised in a fairly actively areligious household. Religion of any kind was just… Well, stupid. (Or at least that’s what I grew up thinking.) It was something for people who lacked critical thinking skills. And although I didn’t know a great deal about Wicca, I knew that it was not only a religion but a magical religion. That was just a whole other level of crazy.
So when I started to realize that I needed some form of religious expression in my life, and that I was likely to end up in some form of neopaganism, I steered as far away from Wicca as I could. I experimented with Hellenic reconstructionism (which was incredibly difficult and loaded with cognitive dissonance, considering that I was still an atheist at the time). I developed a de-mythologized pseudo-religious practice with my Tarot cards. I did everything I could think of to avoid Wicca, because Wicca seemed dumb, but nothing else sang to me. At one point, I was talking to a friend about my various forays into the wide world of Paganism, and I accidentally got her interested in Wicca. She’s still practicing, to the best of my knowledge, although she’s solitary and I don’t know too much about her practice. We’ve even done a couple of rituals together. But even at the time I introduced her to Wicca, I was still very much reluctant to do anything that looked or smelled too Wiccan.
It is also worth noting that before I actually started practicing Wicca, I accrued a number of gross misconceptions. Particularly when I lived in France, I had a very low budget and no access to a library, so instead of getting information from books I got it from YouTube videos posted by eighteen-year-olds with usernames Rabbit MoonWillow or Azure Persephone or Dragonwitch84.** Or from Crystalinks and Angelfire web pages rife with spelling errors, where turquoise text leaped out from a purple background and the description of every Sabbat started with “This is the Wiccan New Year”. As a consequence, I got the impression that Wicca was only practiced by silly people who didn’t know or care about what they were doing–the sorts of people who would use a pencil as a wand, worship the Moon Goddess Brigid, have their Midsummer rituals (if they did ritual at all) in late July, and who would justify everything they did with some mumbled half-excuse that everything is sacred and everything is just as good as everything else. Those were the sorts of people I simply didn’t want to associate myself with.
It was only after I found my High Priestess that I realized there was a different kind of Wicca. A Wicca that took itself seriously, but that didn’t feign antiquity in some halfhearted grasp at legitimacy. A Wicca that had a robust, coherent mythology of its own, and a meaningful ritual structure that made my experiences in Wiccan ritual space feel powerful, transcendent, and sacred. A Wicca that was not all eclectic fluff, nor all love and light, nor relentlessly duotheistic after the manner of Dion Fortune.
The story of how I found my coven is a strange one. I don’t even think I’ve told my own High Priestess this story. One January day, a couple of years ago now, I woke up with the thought in my head that I wanted to be a Gardnerian. I didn’t really know what Gardnerians were, except for some fuzzy notion that Gerald Gardner was the progenitor of Wicca. I wasn’t even sure that Gardnerians still existed, and I had the vague idea that Gardnerian Wicca had died out in the seventies. But I had the thought in my head: “I want to be a Gardnerian”. And it wouldn’t go away. After a week or two, I opened up Witchvox and searched for Gardnerian covens in my area (alongside lots of Googling and wading through yet more garish Angelfire webpages to get a sense of what Gardnerian Wicca was). I sent applications to four covens, and interviewed with three, but I knew from the moment I met my High Priestess that I wanted to train with her and no one else. There was no question about it; the instant I met her, I loved her as if I had known her my whole life.***
Finding my coven was finding my family. Or rather, it was finding a large part of my family I’d never known existed, as if I’d gone back to the Old Country to retrace my roots and had encountered a village full of cousins. In parallel, finding the Craft was finding a large part of myself. I am still so new to Wicca, especially by the standards of a community full of people who have (sometimes literally) been practicing longer than I’ve been alive. And SWEET JESUS THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN.**** But every day I wake up full of wonder and joy at having found something that fills my life with so much mystery and beauty, and at being able to share it with so many people I love.
I’m sorry this wasn’t a Tarot post. I was initially planning a Tarot post, and I wrote out a whole thing about The Picture of Dorian Gray, but ultimately I decided it was garbage and I scrapped the whole thing. I may come back and rewrite it at some point in the future. Today, I was having a lot of feelings about Wicca, and I figured it mightn’t be a terrible idea to let some of those feelings out. I try not to let Wicca bleed onto the blog too much, because (say it with me, kids!) Tarot is not Wiccan, but it felt right today.
*I can find no grammatically elegant way to construct that clause.
**Not that there is anything wrong with being eighteen years old. We’ve all done it. It’s never pretty. I’ve no doubt that I will one day look back on myself at my current age and be just as horrified by my arrogance as I now am by that of my eighteen-year-old self. Let’s all just collectively hang our heads in shame and move on.
***Even though she stood me up for our initial interview. I have to be careful telling that story, though, because she reads my blog.
****Seriously, can someone teach me about herbs and crystals and all that poop? I feel like that’s something I’m obligated to know as a Witch, but I’ve never been able to absorb anything more than the most basic information, and I almost never find occasion to use herbs or crystals in my magical practices.