Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Journey So Far

In lieu of recently celebrating the anniversary of my first, “official” Pagan ritual and the beginning of this life-long journey, I decided to write a post exploring my experiences and major milestones in my spiritual and religious evolution. I thought it necessary, lest I forget as I grow older: always remember your past so that you know what brought you where you are now, what the future might hold, and what mistakes you should avoid repeating.

I was always an odd kid, introverted and buried in books of fiction and fantasy. As far back as I can recall I was always enamoured with magic. This found an outlet beyond that of fantasy when I discovered a book in my grandfather’s library (a man of many talents and even more interests): Egyptian Magic, by E.A. Wallis Budge. The contents of this book utterly fascinated my 11-year-old self.

A bit of background info: I grew up in a decidedly Orthodox Christian country, where the only “choices” are Christianity or Atheism and where everything else is treated as either fairytales or something foreign and absurd. My family, with the exception of my maternal grandmother, are not religious (my mother and sister being, in fact, atheists) and I enjoyed as secular an upbringing as possible for a Greek. However, I was still exposed to the worldviews of Orthodox Christianity and (mild) Western secularisation, with all that entails. As such, and this being a time before the internet was widespread and easily accessible in Greece, I was ignorant of other religions, especially Pagan ones.

That book on Egyptian magic opened an entirely new world for me. Before I knew it, I found myself offering figs and water to Gods like Dhejuti (Thoth) and Bast, concocting “potions” with surprising results (such as making a “poultice” of sorts with mud and certain plants and grass that exterminated ant nests better than my grandfather’s chemicals), and weaving small spells inspired by that book which worked far better than I hoped or imagined.

This fascination persisted. When I turned 13, I was given a PC as a birthday present, along with an internet connection (I’m talking old dial-up internet, the kind that resulted in conversations like “Get off the phone, I want to check something on the internet!”). I immersed myself in the endless treasure trove of information that is the World Wide Web. I had already read the Da Vinci Code, which sparked my curiousity and fueled my doubts and skepticism towards Christianity. Soon, I decided to research the religion of the ancient Greeks, since we were never taught much beyond mythology at school. What I found enthralled me. I came across a Hellenic polytheist group, YSEE («Ύπατο Συμβούλιο Ελλήνων Εθνικών)», “Supreme Council of Ethnikoi Hellenes”), and studied practically everything available on their website. In the meantime, I found out about forums and Wicca. This new realisation that magic is real was almost too good to be true. I dived into the study of polytheism, witchcraft, and magic and I greedily consumed every bit of info I could find. Thanks to wonderful, knowledgeable people, mostly initiates of various Traditions and practices, I managed to shed my “fluffy-bunny fur” early on.

And thus came 2005 and my 14th birthday. I had already decided that this was my life’s path. In order to make it “official”, I adapted the name-giving ritual from YSEE’s website and retook my given name (Stefanos) with its original, ancient Greek meaning of “garland” or “crown”. I named myself Pagan, polytheist, and Witch, and I dedicated myself to the study and practice of these things.

Around this time, I e-mailed the head of YSEE. I was deeply disappointed as I was treated rather badly; I was told I was “living miasma” because I dabbled in Witchcraft and magic, and because I am gay. This behaviour, along with the obsessively polemic and anti-Christian bias of YSEE, disgusted me so I abandoned it (I was never officially a member but from that point on, I stopped using their material or referring others to them). I ended up spending a few years in complete solitary practice, save for what semblance of community the internet provided.

Then, during 2009, I was hit by a powerful revelation. Three Goddesses – Hekate, Artemis, and Selene – made their desire for me to follow them and dedicate myself to them known.  I  was surprised and intimidated by this, especially by Hekate, whom I had never honoured or worked with before and for whom I even felt fear from what little I knew about Her. I performed many divinations and even requested help from good friends – and much more experienced practitioners. It was made apparent that I was called to devotional practice. However, I was asked to take some time to explore first. This was a truly God-sent message. After some time filled with study, rituals, and meditations, on October 31st 2009, Artemis and Selene’s call all but disappeared. What remained, although empowered and crystal-clear, was Hekate. She asked that I prepare myself for a year: study Her, know Her, work with Her, experience Her, live Her, and then decide whether to devote myself to Her. Exactly one year later, on October 31st 2010, I formally dedicated myself to Hekate.

This initiated (pun intended) huge changes and revelations. From that point on, on many occasions, I have felt the guiding hand of the Goddess and Her weaving of intricate plans. This persists even now and I suspect it will never end. Hekate has been the sole most important and deciding factor in my spiritual and religious life. She has shaped and continues to shape, everything about me.

Under Her wing, I found myself venturing forth to make more contacts, meet new people, and experience new things. I approached an Eclectic Pagan group in Athens, which sadly didn’t prove a fitting match. Through Hekate’s work, I got to know other devotees of Hers, and some years later met some here, in Greece. I also found another Hellenic polytheist group, Labrys, and was pleased to find it a much better community than YSEE.

Still, I strayed from all of that. Years of battling anxiety and depression made everything nigh unbearable. Unable to cope with fellow practitioners and co-religionists and even with my deities and spirits, I ended up abandoning almost everything: my practice, my writing, my dreams. The only thing that remained was Hekate’s aid: occasionally, I would have “good periods” when I attempted to regain what I had lost. This only helped to keep me somewhat “up-to-date” spiritually speaking, but that was enough and even necessary, as I recently realized.

The last year-and-a-half has been refreshingly fruitful, though! Thanks to treatment, I’ve been getting my mental issues in order (or, at the very least, making them manageable again) and this has had the positive effect of my being able to reinvigorate my religious practice. Specifically, since Summer 2015, I’ve been in a frenzy of inspiration, revelations, synchronizations, and improvement. My practice is almost entirely recovered and revamped. New aspects are being revealed to me and obstacles I could not overcome in the past are dissolved with barely any effort. In addition, I ended up reconnecting with a number of old friends and religious acquaintances and this has led to me acquiring a modicum of group practice and experience. There are definitely many things waiting for me in that direction.

As my recent posts will tell you, my overall practice is getting organized, cleared up, and stabilized, so to speak. I keep seeing old connections established again, old experiences and skills resurfacing, old knowledge returning and being relevant and useful again. This last year or so has been a time of true spiritual rebirth for me. I pray and hope it will continue and thrive.

That’s the summary of my journey so far. These past 11 years, I’ve gone from a kid half-playing at honouring Egyptian deities, to a teenager building his first polytheistic and magical practices, to hurdles and disappointments and the growing up that comes with late puberty, to a Hekatean devotee learning his place and role in the world, to a NeoHellenic Witch growing into an independent adult to, finally, the Triskelion practitioner, a Pagan, Polytheist, and Witch blessed to be himself. Here’s to further growth, improvement, development and the blessings of the Gods and Spirits!

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