My introduction to Paganism

Way back in the late 1970s, I became aware of the books my Ma kept on the staircase leading up to her bedroom. I was about six or seven years old when I started peeking at her books, and discovered her collection of astrology and numerology, as well as Nostradamus and books on prediction. 

From there, I began to pay attention to what my Ma was drawing in the kitchen at the bar that lined the wall near the phone. She would receive phone calls, take down information, and start drawing pie charts, and writing stuff into the divided sections. My Ma told me she was drawing natal charts for people – friends, family and customers at the bar where she worked nights. 

Ma was a single parent raising two kids under the age of ten, and to support us, she worked four jobs; a housekeeper by day, a waitress at a country bar by night, a licensed hairdresser out of our basement, and while talking to her customers in the home salon or at the bar, Ma would obtain additional pay as their astrologer.

In the 1960s and 70s, witchcraft was all the rage, and I even remember my favourite book from that timeframe was The Little Leftover Witch, by Florence Laughlin. 

I also found out that two of my Ma’s sisters were also into witchcraft, but they didn’t call it that. 

Aunt Jean called it ESP, and taught me how to center and ground to be in tune with vibrational input. Aunt Margie called it New Age Spiritualism and taught me how to do astral projection. My Ma taught me numerology, astrology and astronomy, and dream analysis. 

Witchcraft banned from the household

Around 1979-1980, Ma got scared by a christian fundamentalist bible thumper at the bar. She said he saw her doing natal charts at the end of the bar after her shift one night and came at her, yelling and telling her she would burn in the lake of fire, and that her kids would be cursed because of her and go to Hell, too.

This freaked her out. She had been raised by a Southern Baptist Fundamentalist family from Kentucky. Ma had tried to escape her fundamentalist upbringing, but when the christian fundamentalist yelling at her in the bar told her she was also condemning her children to Hell because of her sin of dabbling in astrology, she got scared right back into fundamentalism.

I was only about 8 years old at the time, and didn’t know what had happened at the bar with my Ma. Seemingly overnight, Ma banned me from reading the witchy books in the stairwell, and when I continued reading, she got rid of the books and gave me a children’s bible for Christmas. She began studying the bible every night before bed and took a huge interest in the Book of Revelation (likely because of her previous interest in the works of Nostradamus). Ma began preaching about sinfulness, the lake of fire and the end times from that point forward, and never stopped.

A return to my beginnings

My Ma had succeeded in scaring the shit out of me and convincing me that no matter what I did in life, I’d have to constantly atone or else burn in the lake of fire, so it wasn’t until a near-death accident that I began my return to my Pagan beginnings in life.

In March 1993, I was involved in a head-on auto accident in which I impacted the windshield and bowed it out (the glass didn’t break but my head left a big bubble in it, the impact was so hard). Even though the EMTs said I never went code on them, during the ambulance ride to the hospital I left the building so to speak. I visited a large, sunny meadow. It reminded me of a large horse pasture. I could see the wooden fencing bordering the pasture off in the distance. And then my deceased paternal grandmother approached me from across the meadow, and I wept as I greeted her, and we spoke to each other. I can’t remember what was said. I just remember not wanting to leave and not wanting her to go, and then I woke up in the emergency room.

That near-death experience stuck with me, and I began to look for information on the subject. This was before I knew what the Internet was or how to use it, and there were no search engines or websites back then. So I went to the library at the university where I was enrolled, and I went to bookstores. That’s how I discovered Raymond Moody’s Life After Life, and The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.

While seeking more information, I discovered a curious growing body of books in the same aisle. The books often had the name Wicca in them, and I soon learned it was the 90s name for Witchcraft. I looked through several books to see if anything in there was similar to my childhood, and was quite surprised. From there, I settled upon an author whose style seemed to really jive with me. That author was Scott Cunningham, and by the time I’d discovered his work, he’d passed away. In fact, he died the very month I was in the auto accident.