Warning: I swear in this a few times. Please don’t be too shocked. My mouth is well-versed in the sailor’s language in person.
I looked at my calender to realize that today marks 20 years with Paganism as a conscious choice in my life. I have officially self-identified as a Pagan for more than half of my life. I remember this type of experience being thrown around as credentials for being an Elder in the community when I first started. “I’ve been a practicing Pagan for 20 years,” someone would say to qualify their argument in online spats. And I would quiet my brain. I would listen to what they’d say, thinking This person has been doing this forever, and surely they’ve discovered many truths on their path.
Standing at 20 years, you know what I feel like I know about Paganism, Polytheism, Roman What-Have-You, and the Universe Around Me?
Abso-fucking-lutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Maybe I’ve been Paganing the wrong way. I have no community in the flesh near me; in fact, I’m starting to suspect I may be a bit of a misanthrope when it comes to finding a brick and mortar community. I have no special titles. No awards. No laurels and accolades.
Dear Little Camilla of the Teenage Years, how I want to kiss your forehead. How I want to let you know that gut feeling you had that measurement of time isn’t what makes an Elder was the correct one. What matters is the quality of their heart and the wisdom (which doesn’t automatically come with age or time) gained from experience is not a one-size-fits-all game. No one gives you the secrets of life at 20 years in or at 60 years of age. You who were pissed off from day one about the Crone archetype making people feel that, just because they’ve managed to survive X amount of years that they’re suddenly wise and elders. You were right. It’s quality. Not quantity.
At 20 years, I’ve been doing it all wrong… I hold a firm understanding of my own understanding of How Things Work. Oh my Gods, I’m shocked when people tell me I seem to know what I’m talking about. Oh my GODS, I have an informal student or two lurking about out there in the world…
Oh my Gods…
Is there such a thing as a Pagan and/or Polytheist Quarter Life Crisis? Because I’m afraid I may be headed into one a little early…
Because here are the real secrets I’ve learned in the last 20 years:
The minute I assume I’ve got a firm grip on something, the Gods see fit to knock me off my feet. The moment I say “I am XYZ,” Someone grabs me by the head, spins me, and sends me off in another direction. The very second I publicly called myself a Roman Polytheist, I heard a little whisper in my ear of “No, you’re not. You are a child built of Missouri River clay, and your blood is the sweat of this land. Your heartbeat is the ghostly echo of the Katy in the river bottoms, rolling prairies, and forested hills. You are the yellow limestone bluffs you love so much. You are a Midwestern mystic. You are an American Polytheist, and that’s not a 4-letter word. Stop trying to be things you are not.”
Then Odin lays His hand down on the table in a game of cards I wasn’t even aware I was playing with Him, and all I can say is “Oh. Shit.” as suddenly a dozen mysteries, coincidences, and odd happenings from my life make sense. Because where did Odin even come from?!
That is something else I’ve learned in my 20 years: When a God comes knocking, you answer the door. Even if you’re terrified of what it could mean. They tend to know when you’ve shut off all the lights are are hiding behind furniture trying to pretend you aren’t home. Imagine that.
So what does this all mean? I have no idea. Sometimes you just have to put your trust in the Gods and go where They take you.
That’s what 20 years as a Pagan has taught me.