I didn't think I'd have this up as soon as this but this is what you get when you just go for it...
Well saying as I'm pagan and enjoy learning about how other people found this path I thought it was about time I shared my story. It's been almost a year since I began practising and letting people know what path I follow so I guess I should share! (Pre warning it's gonna be long and there'll be a lot of rambling but I'll try to just get the stuff I feel is important in.)
I guess my story begins at quite a young age. From I can remember I was always obsessed with ancient Egypt, their rituals, pantheon, symbols, everything ( I wanted to be an Egyptologist & could even write and understand hieroglyphs!) I would often pretend I was in an Egyptian temple, honouring the gods and goddesses, and holding my own little rituals. Growing up with two brothers meant I spent a lot of my play time on my own, but I let my imagination run free.
I was brought up Christian and was made to go to Sunday school every week but my parents weren't overly religious. I didn't mind it but I found it hard to connect in a church full of people, I didn't feel like I belonged. I then went with my cousin one week when I was ten to a Christian camp and I loved it! Afterwards I decided that I was a Christian, but my decision was based purely off the fact that I enjoyed the experience of the camp so much. My relationship with the Christian God/Jesus then started to take a turn. I found myself praying out of fear that if I wasn't thankful for all I had the people and things I held most dear in life would be taken from me and I wouldn't be accepted into heaven. I felt guilty that when I prayed my mind would wonder and I wasn't focusing on God or Jesus.
Soon after I declared myself atheist. I couldn't accept a religion that made me feel guilt, shame and fear. Where I'm from there is a religious divide between sects of Christianity, and I've seen the devastation it has caused. I remember when I was a child being asked my some other children if I was "a cup or a plate" or a "cat or puppy" I had no idea what they were taking about, but they meant was I Catholic or Protestant. If I was the opposite to them they didn't know how to react except "oh... I guess we can still play with you." It wasn't something I wanted to be associated with.
I spent live happily as an atheist for a few years, I'm a keen science enthusiast and trusted it for the answers to most things but I still felt like there was something missing. I had a connection with earth the whole time, particularly stormy weather and the moon but didn't think much on it, I was just thankful that for whatever reason it existed. Then when I was fifteen everything went downhill.
I don't want to make a sob story but it helped me to be where I am now. One day my parents busted me for going to a house party and I just burst into tears and couldn't stop crying, I even cried myself to sleep. The next day when they tried to talk to me about it I started bawling again but this time I couldn't stop, I don't even know why! My mum grabbed my arm and wouldn't let me go until I told her what was wrong but I couldn't stop to tell her because I didn't even know, I was crying for hours. They thought something bad had happened to me at the party but it hadn't. Being an Aquarius means I rarely express my feelings as I'm used to being the one everyone come to with their problems but no ones knows what to do when I have any because they're so used to me giving the advice. When I was asked a whole array of problems which might have caused me to act this way I finally had to think about it myself. I was bullied for five years and I'd never talked about it. I was always the one a joke was put on or any snide thing said would end in "...yeah, like Hannah." Even my friends were putting me down and treating me like a doormat, only hanging around with me because they knew I was always there for them or choosing me as a second option. I guess I was silly letting it go on for so long, but I never said anything because I was afraid to hurt the other people's feelings, even if they didn't care about mine. My mum had also been ill for two years so I was worried about her so pretty much a lot of bottled up emotion came out that no one had any idea about.
So it was out and that was fine but then at the beginning of my fifth year at secondary school (the big year for GCSEs) I got sick. It started as I cold and I was coughing a lot, but when my cold went away my cough was still there and it wasn't just a normal cough, it was a high pitched barking cough of someone who had been smoking 60 a day for 40 years. I started missing school more and more and eventually I had to resort to home schooling as it was disrupting my whole life. I couldn't concentrate, was getting migraines and has some serious chest and back pain which wasn't helped by the fact that I had all my vertebrae and my hip out of place and a nerve in my leg trapped with my spine and my hip after falling off a horse the previous year which I was unaware of. The muscles on my back were covered with scar tissue and were in constant spasm, not to mention my vocal chords. I saw countless specialists but no one could find out what was causing my cough. I was housebound for 8 months, only leaving to attend hospital appointments. (I looked like a corpse and I'll be afraid to show a photo of how I looked at the time but I'll add it once I get my camera back.) Eventually I saw a speech & language therapist and was given exercises to help me to relax. I never did anything to relax. I previously relaxed by doing word searches or researching things but never gave my brain or my body a rest. But while I was off I had the chance to do a lot of research and lots of online quizzes which I enjoy.
I managed to find one about what religion are you and I got the result wiccan/pagan. I read the description and I thought that sounds just like me! I was intrigued to learn more so started looking into the different paths and the more I read the more I felt like this is where I belonged. Many people say it feels like "coming home" when they find the religion that works for them, for me, I think I was always at home but never had to curtains open to see what else was out there.
When I began getting more and more into paganism I was all for the idea of the existence of magick and the energies of the earth. I found it hard to grasp the concept of both male and female as separate entities, which is understandable for someone raised in a monotheistic religion but the longer I pondered on it the more it made sense. I always found it hard to connect to a religion based around men, there had to be a feminine divinity somewhere, which I viewed as earth. I believed in a life force that was both masculine and feminine and that the divine lived in everything, that all things, including people had the divine within themselves. As my path has progressed I have come to view god and goddess as both one and entities in their own right, as well as believing that ancient pantheons are both mythical and actual. Each God/Goddess is just a manifestation of one higher being but people find it easier to connect with particular deities. In the words of Albert Einstein, "All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree." That pretty much sums up my beliefs.
A year on I haven't looked back. Although I went through a lot I'm glad I did, I might not have been where I am now if I hadn't. I had to repeat a year of school because of illness but I didn't really mind. The person that bullied me never got punished because there was no proof of them doing anything (did they want me to record it?!) but I've never wished anything bad on them. I let go of the "friends" that took me for granted and for once I'm completely content in my life. Finding this path has helped me in so many ways, to appreciate life, health, and the people that truly love me no matter what. (I was shown who really cared and who didn't while I was ill.) I've also came to appreciate myself as someone who loves and is deserving of love, we all have a god/goddess inside us and we should always remind ourselves that we are special in the eyes of the Gods. I pray everyday now but not out of fear, it is as though the Gods/Goddesses and I are friends rather than they are my masters and I am their servant. There is more to this life than living in fear of what may or may not exist, life is to be enjoyed and my spirituality plays a big part in my happiness and how I cope with the hardships of life. If it weren't for the Gods & Goddesses I don't think I'd even be here today so I am truly thankful for all that they have given me and continue to give. My journey is only beginning and I will have more to learn both in life and in this path and I'm ready to let that happen!