I thought about this today and at a first glance was going to say about 13 years ago after I picked up my first copy of Cunningham's 'Guide to Solitary Practice'. But I would have to say this is actually incorrect, I believe for me the 'knowing thyself' came much earlier in my life. In fact growing up in a Catholic family and attending a Catholic school was I had to do but I recall I did not like it and a rebelled even before I hit 12 years of age. When left Catholic school somewhere between grades five and six that I knew I was different then most kids and much more accepting of other religious beliefs. I had a great curiosity for other religious practices back then and always asked lots of questions and began to see the differences were actually kind of cool. I did feel sorry for this one kid who was an Orthodox Jew and had told me they were not allowed to put up a Christmas tree. This was told to me during an art class while making ornaments. I thought how sad and I must of looked very worried for the boy, wondering if he would get any presents at all and that would suck if he didn't,! Well I think he read my mind and said “ oh no its okay we exchange gifts for Hanukkah for eight nights' and I was happy again for him and thought cool that's seven more days then we celebrate it!
When the family moved back to Canada from Meriden Ct., and after my short lived days in public schools in the USA, dad toted us back to his little home town a village of St. Andre. He wanted us to go back to Church because we have not done that in a while, for almost 18 months to be exact. He packed the family up every Sunday for mass! Third week I begun to squirm and cry to him that I didn't feel well and wanted to stay home. He was very irate with me knowing damned well I was okay. The two previous visits to church had started me, not only because it was in French, but because there was this guy telling me I am going to hell for sinning. I have heard this speech before from grades 1 to 5 while attending Catholic school, it didn't feel right, I didn't believe the priest then and I didn't believe him in French either! My mother quickly intervened and said 'let the girl stay home' she is old enough and we will only be gone an hour. Dad was not a happy camper, since that day I have only stepped into a church only a handful of times, funerals, weddings (my own), as I grew older it was not as agonizing for me to go for a good reason, family support. Since then my dad had nicked name me his 'little heathen'. The name did not hurt my feelings one bit, it sort of fit for now because I knew that this kind of regimented thing that my family wanted me to participate did not fit me.
My collage days gave me more exposure to different religions, and even though ironically I attended … and get this … a Catholic University … I was exposed to world religions, and took a few classes in religious studies. I read stuff on Nietzsche and Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation and I was astonished on how the different views these folks had on religious organizations. I really agreed with Martin Luther when he said “its the good works and deeds of the folks that gets you into you heaven and not the pardon you had to pay for in gold that promised admittance into heaven”. These things made me crave more information and when I dabbled with a few philosophy classes my eyes were open once again, and it was Thomas Hobbes who said 'religion is the opiate of the masses' and I thought he was talking directly to me on how I felt about many religions who said you must meet you god in his house and pay homage to him. I thought what about nature and the things around you could you not see the divinity that exist in these things too? After my second semester I became good friend with some Native American folks from the Mic Mac and Maliseet Tribes, and I attended my first 'pow wow'. There was no looking back after that, not after sitting in circle being exposed to drumming and chanting, and have been given a gift from a Sp ritual Medicine Man. This felt more natural to me than words could even express. I did not know anything about Wicca and Witchcraft nor did I really now about Celtic or Druid traditions or all the other pantheons that exist out there but I felt I was on the right track and that my search was coming to end. I was in the cradle of the Ancient Ways and new this was how it should be.
When I moved to Florida and about 13 years ago, I visited a book store and picked up Cunningham's book. I read it, and reread it. I got INTERNET and searched and researched, it was then that not only not did I know I was Pagan, but that I always was Pagan! I know many of you have heard this before but ...it was truly like coming home!
935 words ... I know too much got to cut down!