A while back asked me this question: What led you from seminary to paganism? Are your parents down with that?.
At the time, I gave her a flip answer, which was a question directed back at her… in other words, no sort of answer at all. So, I’m going to try to reconstruct the last ten years or so and figure out, publically, how I got from there to here. It’s mostly a timeline, with some narrative. You’re welcome to interpolate as much as you like.
Late Spring 1996: graduate from Seminary with a not particularly useful degree.
June 1996: move to Connecticut, begin teaching. Have a hard summer school — school thinks I’m going to quit, secretly interviews candidates to replace me (didn’t find out about that part for years and years).
Sept 1996: School starts. I have no friends locally. Feel very disconnected.
Sometime in 1997: Jen and Sam get in touch with me, then Toni and Ben. Later get connected to Jim. This is my crowd for a while. I go to Providence to hang out with all of them together, or to Hartford for time with T&B. When they move to Hawaii, it’s just Jim for a while in Hartford. I was pretty closed up back then, and felt this fundamental disconnect between what I thought about inside myself, and what I expressed outside of myself. In August, the school asked me to become Chaplain; I hadn’t started in that role, I took it up later after I made it through my first year of school. Sometime around here I wrote my first piece for White Wolf Games, a book called Jerusalem by Night. I thought I wrote very badly, and that they hated my work. Started writing poetry about here, too.
1998: Started going to Monday Night Poetry Readings in Worcester, MA. Met and later . A number of other folks came into my life around then, but peripherally: , , and others. Dated some poets, didn’t do so hot. 95% my fault they didn’t work. Went out to hawaii, where I played video games, hid from people, and got no tan. Even so, got exposed to a lot of things during this year: Zen, taoism, buddhism, some good drugs, some bad drugs, friendship, new ideas, new hopes. I think it was this year that Jim went to Starwood for the first time. Met up with some fellow seminary grads in August, had a good time, but began to see how pompous and full of ourselves we all were, and how narrow-minded. Realized I had relatively few friends, and yet that all of them were better Christians than most of us, while yet not being Christian.
1999: I went to Starwood with Jim and Ben. Blew my mind. A woman came up to me the night of the bonfire. The Maiden, I think now, but at the time she was just pretty. “Would you please carry water for people who need it?” Lithe, in blue, and wings. Met and took a lover that night. Went to the seminary gathering later that year, and felt totally out of place, like I’d blown it. Kept preaching in chapel at school, but felt… gone. Disconnected.
2000: Very hard year at school. Felt more disconnected from the Church. Went to Starwood again. Carried water all week, except for one night when I tended fire. Earned my red suspenders, became a wood-buster or water carrier or whatever you want to call it.
2001: VERY hard year at school. The bishop finally came to visit the school. He got a 20 minute tour, a two-hour conversation with the head of school, and spared 5 minutes for me. All sorts of people looked to me to help them, mocked me behind my back, treated me like some sort of mysterious religious oddity, and no one was expected to help me out spiritually mentally or creatively. By the end of school, I’d quit. Went to Starwood again, took a year of classes to finish my master’s degree, hung out at a coffee house in Middletown. Basically, I was rebuilding my psyche, I think. Somehow I managed to get a degree at the same time. Probably one of the more useful mental breakdowns anyone’s ever had. Spent 9/11/01 in the living room of my new house, copying out the Tao Te Ching in Chinese while listening to the news from New York and Washington and around the world. It’s not really about me and what I need; It’s really about what the world needs, I thought. Pulled myself together, finished my degree, asked for my old job back. Missed being appointed Department Chair for the history department by about 48 hours. Oh well. Now I don’t have to do paperwork.
2002: First SpiritFire? Recognized I couldn’t much expect to function at Starwood without having to change myself completely all over again… but figured I needed that powerful place to work magic in my life. Chose SpiritFire. I’m still nervous about the idea of going back to Starwood. Ever.
2003: Second SpiritFire? Flew out to California for FireDance. Had a great time. Met and connected with her at the airport and over dinner when I came back.
2004: Third SpiritFire? Took with me to FireDance this time. A little rough, with both of us there, but safe re-entry.
2005: Fourth SpiritFire? Deepened my commitment to paganism this year by deciding to write a poem for each full and new moon — and I’ve got one coming up, don’t I? — and in the process discovered that there’s this whole rich calendar of natural phenomena worthy of being noticed, and that this calendar applies pretty specifically to where I live — It probably doesn’t describe things in Arizona, or even in New Hampshire. It was a way to think globally and act locally, which is sort of where I stand on paganism these days… I still go to church, but I also go to Jewish temple services and pagan rites, and I create my own rituals…. for me, for my friends, for the Boy Scouts, for the world apparently (given how many compliments I’m getting on my poetry from the Tribe e-mail lists). I’m living about as rich a spiritual life as it’s possible to live, and I never would have had any of it without opening up in sweet surrender to all of the spiritual traditions I encountered.
, I hope that answers your question.