Reflecting On My First Experience with Organized Paganism

Note: the image at the top of this post is “Witches Circle” by Babette Langer, who is a very talented artist and whom I definitely recommend checking out if you like beautiful, fantastical art!


I went to my first Wiccan event this past weekend. It was kind of underwhelming. There weren’t any orgies, not a single goat was sacrificed, and Lucifer didn’t even step in to say hello. I polished my ancestral ritual knife and broke out my hooded robe for nothing.

All jokes aside, I debated whether I should make this post or not. Wiccans are very private about their personal practices, not because there’s anything scary or dark about Wicca, but because it is a deeply personal religion. As someone who is approaching this faith as an outsider, I want to be respectful of its practitioners and their values.

That being said, Wicca as a religion gets a lot of bad press. A lot of people confuse it with black magic and/or Satanism (which itself has nothing to do with demons or evil, but I digress). Movies like The Craft (1996) and The Witch (2015) and TV shows like Supernatural (2005–) and American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014), while all fun and entertaining, further muddle the general public’s perception of witches. Wicca, as a religion that openly claims magic as a part of its belief and practice, is often misunderstood or treated with distrust. There’s a lot of false or exaggerated information floating around about paganism in general so, if I can, I’d like to help raise awareness about what Wiccans really believe and do.

So here’s the deal: out of respect for the people who so kindly shared their sacred space with me, I’m not going to mention details in this post. I am not going to go into specifics of what we did — again, not because anything evil, dark, or risque happened, but because Wiccans (and NeoPagans in general) value privacy. Instead I want to focus more on my own personal experience, and to talk generally about how the meeting made me feel and about the impressions I got from it.

First, I should clarify that although this event was hosted by a Wiccan high priestess, it was not a coven-sponsored or exclusively Wiccan event. There were many people there from a variety of earth-centered and/or shamanic paths, and some people who weren’t particularly religious/spiritual but were simply curious about magic and earth-centered spirituality. (For the sake of this post, I am going to use the terms “pagan” and earth-centered” interchangeably, although some scholars will argue that this is not technically correct.) I was surprised by the diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds gathered in one room, for the sole purpose of sharing knowledge and helping each other establish a connection to Spirit/Divinity/God/Goddess/whatever you choose to call it.

Looking back, there are two things that everyone I met at this event have in common. One is, of course, open-mindedness. After all, attending a pagan event means, at the very least, suspending your disbelief about the existence not only of a higher power, but of magic. The people who are attracted to paganism tend to be people who are open to new or unusual experiences and who, in many cases, have to be okay with others viewing them as crazy, weird, or scary. This ties into the second common trait I noticed — they were all unapologetically themselves. There was very much a “come as you are” attitude — everyone was open and honest, and I really got the impression that everyone was bringing their full self to the sacred space. There was an unspoken understanding that everyone is different and will walk different spiritual paths, and that this is a good thing. Most importantly, everyone was prepared to learn from one another.

The teaching style was very laid back. I learned something new, and the lovely lady leading the class was willing to share some insight into her own spiritual and magical practice with us. Because Wicca and other earth-centered spiritual paths are so personal in nature, it’s always fascinating to see how different people fit these beliefs and practices into their lives. Occasionally, one of the other students would chime in with a story from their own experiences, and they were allowed to do so. Again, I very much got the impression that this was a space where everyone has something valuable to contribute.

Of course, me being me, my favorite part was the group meditation. Meditation has been a big part of my spiritual life for a while now, but I had only ever done it alone. The only time I’d ever come close to something like a group meditation was when I attended an unprogrammed Quaker meeting. And guys, group meditation is just so cool. If you’ve ever been involved in any kind of religious ritual, you probably know what I mean when I say that spiritual practices have a certain kind of energy to them. Now imagine that energy focused through a room full of people intently concentrating on connecting to the divine. It’s an incredible feeling, and unlike anything else I’ve ever felt.

We went through a simple guided meditation, the kind that Wiccans call a “pathworking,” which just means that it revolves around a mental journey carried out in a meditative state. Afterwards everyone who felt comfortable doing so shared what they had experienced during their journey. And this was the fascinating part. Even though we were all in the same room, all given the same basic framework for our pathworking, we all ended up in such different places. What was really interesting was that, despite these differences, there did seem to be common themes in our experiences. There were certain symbols/motifs that multiple people saw in their pathworkings, which sort of blew my mind because, again, the framework we were given was very open-ended, without suggesting any of these symbols.

Sharing what we experienced during the meditation also meant having a whole room full of people, many of them experienced shamans from a variety of different faiths, to help with interpretation. It’s always refreshing to hear insight from another point of view. Sometimes someone would interpret a sign in a way that I had never thought about, and it would shine a totally new light on my experience. It was both fascinating and enlightening, and it gave me a lot to think about.

This was a very new and different experience for me, and I feel blessed to have shared in it. It was another nice little reminder that, no matter how we go about our search, everyone who participates in religion or spirituality is ultimately searching for the same thing. I feel like I end up saying this in every other post on this blog, but I really think there’s a lot of insight to be gained from allowing yourself to approach that search from different angles every now and then. My soul was fed by this experience, and I am eager to learn more about this unique path to Spirit.

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