I am in an introspective mood at the moment, at least with regards to Wicca, my religion of choice. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I became involved with the Craft in 1991. It’s been eighteen years since I started, and Wicca has consumed much of my time and energy. What do I have to show for it?
Of course, I had friends before I became Wiccan. But apart from holzman, none of those friendships have withstood the test of time. I remember many folks from my pre-Craft days with great fondness and often wish we were still in touch, but time and distance have separated us.
As I mentioned in my birthday post, that changed when I joined the Craft. I’ve never chosen my friends by whether or not they were Wiccan, or even necessarily Wiccan-friendly. But the Wiccans have stayed and the non-Wiccans have left. Make of that what you will.
Have you ever been to a party, and seen someone sitting in a corner reading a book, oblivious to the people and activity around them? Before I got involved in Wicca, that was me — if I ever got invited to parties, which was seldom.
I was a late bloomer (if one calls ones 30’s "late"), and had a hard time learning how to react to and interact with people, both one-on-one and in groups. Through Wiccan Circles, parties given by my friends in my Wiccan "clan," and Wiccan-related events such as pagan festivals,I learned how to be a social individual.
Now, as all my friends (and most of my enemies) will tell you, I’m far from a perfect human being. I can be loud, annoying, and I stick my foot in my mouth so often that I have tooth marks on my sneakers. But I learned, and I’m still learning.
In 1996 I danced naked in front of a couple hundred people (a story I’ll save for another post). Ten years prior, I could not have imagine being able to do such a thing.
As part of the Craft training my tradition, it is almost mandatory to go through some form of recognized therapy: to see a licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist; to attend 12-step meetings; to attend self-awareness groups such as Mark Group. I’ve done all these things.
Again, I don’t pretend to have achieved Enlightenment or Self-Actualization or any of those higher mental goals. What these experiences gave me are some tools to deal with the tough situations: when my loved ones pass away, when friends are in trouble, when the inevitable trailer truck lands on ones testicles.
Thanks to Wicca, I think I’m better able to deal with the realities and choices that I face in life.
Learning to help others
In my branch of the Craft, self-improvement is important. However, that’s not enough; one must also learn how to give counsel and support to others: students, friends, teachers.
As part of my Wiccan training, I did volunteer work at a rape crisis center. No, I couldn’t answer the phones or go on accompaniments; I knew even before I began the training that only women could do that. I learned about crisis issues and have some idea of what to do when people come to me with their problems; in exchange I moved boxes around, handed out flyers, and stuffed envelopes.
This ties in with one of the goals in my life: to understand the "human equation." I don’t mean to be able to analyze people and personalities analytically; I could use my physics and computer skills to do that if I felt it was possible and desirable to do so. I mean to be able to understand how others feel, how they react, what they think.
Any good poker player can do that. I’m terrible at poker, because I’m not good at reading or understanding people. But i’m getting better at listening to you.
(No, don’t ask me to play poker. I don’t like the game. There are other games I’d prefer to play.)
It is also through the Craft that I generally find the will and means to make charitable donations. I remember one year when I gave "Adopt-a-whale" gifts to my friends as Yule presents. More recently I donated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not a Craft requirement to give charity, but I attribute such impulses to my religious connections.
Becoming a teacher
As a physicist, I had the option of becoming a physics teacher. At this point, I have enough computer knowledge to teach programming as well.
However, to teach such classes requires a structured environment, a hierarchy, and some level of competition; i.e., grades. I don’t think I’d do well teaching in such an environment, which is one of the reasons I never pursued it.
There is something I can now teach: Wicca. I’m not the greatest teacher in the world (I have tendency to go off in tangents and reminisce, like that time I was teaching two years ago…), and I’m still striving to reach the standards of my own teachers in the Craft. But give me enough time, and I can get the message across.
Friendships, self-awaremess, aid, teaching: add in spirituality, and it becomes a religion; its practicitioners become clergy.
I take pride in being a High Priest of the Wicca. (I’d better; there’s plenty in the job to teach one humility!) It’s not easy, and I still make mistakes and probably always will. I try to pass on the tools that were given me by my teachers. When I see one of my students listen, grow, and try to use those same tools, I feel honored to be a part of the Craft.
It’s quite a shift from a kid who used to read books in the corner.