Seminary to Paganism

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.

20 comments

  1. The glyph is still a long way off — time will tell if I find one that speaks to me.

    Yes, the poetry connection has been a large blessing in many ways.

  2. I have to say, I’m really pleased that you connected with the poetry crowd and met JLM and the rest. It’s appeared to matter a great deal in your life. Yay!

    I’m also pleased by what you see as my priesthood or bardic role –I’m thinking that maybe I should undergo some ordination or initiation as a pagany type in the near future, perhaps when I’m done writing the sonnet sequence for the new and full moons, perhaps in another year when the next poetic series I have planned is complete. I want to celebrate that part of my life a little more fully, but also take it up a little more consciously, within a community context.

    I like your tattoo work, but it doesn’t feel quite complete, or quite YOU, yet. I agree that it needs more thorough development and “sitting upon”. good luck with that… I’ve had some thoughts about a tattoo for myself, but I haven’t made any conscious decisions about it yet, either. I also haven’t gone through much design process yet, either.

  3. I’d been wondering this same question as , so I’m glad you answered it in public.

    I still maintain that you are as much a priest as any ordination could have designated you.

    I remember our first encounter – around the fire at AHO – but you not as water-bearer but as bard that night. And the pants full of coals.

    How does one person’s life affect another? You introduced me to that same poetry crowd in Worcester in late 2004. I have written over 20 poems this year because of that, having had my literary charcoal rekindled up into active flames by that one visit.

    Because of just that one association, I met & recorded JLM. I will be recording the incredibly talented RBG later this month. Besides a few client contacts, I have made many friends there — some of whom have come and gone, others of whom remain — my life forever altered (and altared) by the crossing of paths and mixing of energies.

    It’s interesting to see how lives intersect…

  4. I’d been wondering this same question as , so I’m glad you answered it in public.

    I still maintain that you are as much a priest as any ordination could have designated you.

    I remember our first encounter – around the fire at AHO – but you not as water-bearer but as bard that night. And the pants full of coals.

    How does one person’s life affect another? You introduced me to that same poetry crowd in Worcester in late 2004. I have written over 20 poems this year because of that, having had my literary charcoal rekindled up into active flames by that one visit.

    Because of just that one association, I met & recorded JLM. I will be recording the incredibly talented RBG later this month. Besides a few client contacts, I have made many friends there — some of whom have come and gone, others of whom remain — my life forever altered (and altared) by the crossing of paths and mixing of energies.

    It’s interesting to see how lives intersect…

    • I have to say, I’m really pleased that you connected with the poetry crowd and met JLM and the rest. It’s appeared to matter a great deal in your life. Yay!

      I’m also pleased by what you see as my priesthood or bardic role –I’m thinking that maybe I should undergo some ordination or initiation as a pagany type in the near future, perhaps when I’m done writing the sonnet sequence for the new and full moons, perhaps in another year when the next poetic series I have planned is complete. I want to celebrate that part of my life a little more fully, but also take it up a little more consciously, within a community context.

      I like your tattoo work, but it doesn’t feel quite complete, or quite YOU, yet. I agree that it needs more thorough development and “sitting upon”. good luck with that… I’ve had some thoughts about a tattoo for myself, but I haven’t made any conscious decisions about it yet, either. I also haven’t gone through much design process yet, either.

      • The glyph is still a long way off — time will tell if I find one that speaks to me.

        Yes, the poetry connection has been a large blessing in many ways.

  5. Re: well, it got shortened

    Actually, I was just busting on you a bit.

    And as for coaching/directing, I would love to if I had the time. Saturdays would be good, afternoons a bit more problamatic since I pick Bekah up at school. But she does do afterschool stuff on Tues. and Thurs., so who knows.

    Make me an offer of tme and we’ll see…

  6. well, it got shortened

    Well, it got shortened by the fact that I was on duty while writing it, and I kept getting interrupted, and I had a limited amount of time in which to complete a first draft of the assignment.

    But if you think there are significant bits that deserve inclusion in a second draft, bring it on. Please.

    And yeah, you could whip me in foil, easy. I’m really not that good.

    Would you be interested in coming some saturday or afternoon during fencing season and giving some instruction? We could pay, but mostly it would be to keep your hand in as a coach.

  7. What, we only rate a 1997 comment? Oh, the horror, the deathly insult! We must duel over this! (Only because I think I’m better at foil, but after yesterday, I might have to reconsider that…)

    Seriously (as I get), a nice recap of a life far more complex than that.

  8. What, we only rate a 1997 comment? Oh, the horror, the deathly insult! We must duel over this! (Only because I think I’m better at foil, but after yesterday, I might have to reconsider that…)

    Seriously (as I get), a nice recap of a life far more complex than that.

    • well, it got shortened

      Well, it got shortened by the fact that I was on duty while writing it, and I kept getting interrupted, and I had a limited amount of time in which to complete a first draft of the assignment.

      But if you think there are significant bits that deserve inclusion in a second draft, bring it on. Please.

      And yeah, you could whip me in foil, easy. I’m really not that good.

      Would you be interested in coming some saturday or afternoon during fencing season and giving some instruction? We could pay, but mostly it would be to keep your hand in as a coach.

      • Re: well, it got shortened

        Actually, I was just busting on you a bit.

        And as for coaching/directing, I would love to if I had the time. Saturdays would be good, afternoons a bit more problamatic since I pick Bekah up at school. But she does do afterschool stuff on Tues. and Thurs., so who knows.

        Make me an offer of tme and we’ll see…

  9. Oh, yeah. There was a second question there, wasn’t there.

    Mom knows, doesn’t say much. Dad doesn’t know.

    Aunt suspects, cousins can piece it together. Uncle doesn’t care.

    Ancestors…. well, I’ll worry about that when they make their (dis)pleasure known.

    • Oh, yeah. There was a second question there, wasn’t there.

      Mom knows, doesn’t say much. Dad doesn’t know.

      Aunt suspects, cousins can piece it together. Uncle doesn’t care.

      Ancestors…. well, I’ll worry about that when they make their (dis)pleasure known.

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