This is the first article I wrote for the monthly column Sandra and I write for Today's Fantasy Fiction.
The first time I realized I wanted to be a witch, I think I was about fourteen. I didn’t really know what it meant, yet, but I heartily embraced what I ‘thought’ it meant. I was baptized in the Episcopalian church, but don’t ever remember attending one. My mother, a transplant from London and former member of the Anglican church, became disenchanted with traditional church teachings when I was still a baby. She went on to Religious Science, which I do remember because the minister was a woman, a lovely little woman named Miss Blum. She was gentle and caring, and during my childhood years I vaguely accepted her teachings without really knowing what they meant. Many religious belief systems sugar-coat their tenets for children, and emphasize the more benevolent historical facts.
But once I entered puberty, I knew there was something missing for me. My teenaged years were a time of exploration into belief; I had none of the traditional forms of rebellion going for me – I am allergic to alcohol, had no interest in drugs, and the thought of having sex with high school boys or men older than me was equally repugnant. I loved high school with a passion most teenagers don’t feel and embraced drama, the Creative Writing club, the year-book committee, and dating.
Through it all, I researched religions of the world, and that mysterious system whereby one earned the right to call ones-self a witch...Wicca. When I became a rock music journalist at the age of sixteen I still had no interest in the drugs or the sex, but I loved rock ‘n’ roll. It was through rock music that I met some members of what I consider one of the strangest belief systems in the world – Satanism. I was in high school in the late 1970's, when Anton LeVay and his High Church of Satan were holding sway in a black Victorian on California Street in San Francisco. I went into that house once, and I never wanted to do it again.
To be a true Satanist, the believer must perform a blood sacrifice. These days in the U.S.A. it’s usually an animal, but there have been instances when nobody was certain whether a child murdered under mysterious circumstances had been a casualty of someone’s else’s twisted needs. Here is the ultimate Patriarchal belief system; the most stringent of the orthodox, Medieval Christian beliefs, turned upside down. Is it any surprise that Satanism originated amongst the hierarchy of the Medieval church, with its’ ultimate control over the lives of its’ believers? Those people had power, and the only reason for Satanism is to garner more power on the physical plane.
It was Satanism that made me realize there wasn’t a patriarchal religion in the world that resonated for me. I couldn’t reconcile the world around me with the idea that God was solely male. Wasn’t God everything? Shouldn’t God be both male and female, and shouldn’t a woman have more in common with the female aspect of God?
The connection between Neo-Paganism and Wicca is a strong one, but many Neo-Pagans aren’t Wiccans. Wiccans are always Neo-Pagans, though – Wiccans require a nature-based religion from which to draw their power. And Wiccans believe in the ultimate moral code, based on Karma. Do no harm, or it will rebound on you three-fold.
So I am a worshipper of the Great Earth Mother, but I honor her consort, the Horned God. I try to honor other religions as well, but I do have some prejudice against the ‘big three’ Patriarchal religions, because throughout history they have persecuted and murdered those of other beliefs. Even now, I have had some strange things said to me regarding my beliefs. For some reason, a lot of people (yes, even in California) know so little about other belief systems that they are convinced Pagans are Satanists. Explaining that Pagans don’t believe in Satan doesn’t seem to have any effect; a former friend of Sandra’s, a ‘reborn’ Christian in her mid-thirties, informed me that I might not realize it, but I was a ‘servant’ of Satan.
Well, whatever I am, it would never occur to me to tell someone of another faith that he or she is going to Hell because they don’t believe as I do. That they are somehow contributing to the plans of a ‘Dark Lord’ even though they live good lives.
I believe evil resides within man, and for every evil deed Karma must be paid. Most Pagans, me included, believe in Reincarnation. The circle of life isn’t just a song for us.
For a Neo-Pagan Wiccan, fantasy-writing is a natural. When the first ‘Harry Potter’ book was released, I loved it not just for the story or the characters, which resonated with me immediately, but because I’ve always felt like Harry Potter. I’m part of a world that resides right beside the one everyone sees everyday, but most people don’t know it’s there. I’ve written a lot of nonfiction and I’ve written fiction that isn’t in the fantasy genre, but to me, fantasy is a natural fit.
When Sandra and I were writing about the arts, we interviewed a famous visionary artist named Richard Ward. One of the California ‘Illuminists’, Ward told us that when he was a child in San Francisco, he lived in an old Victorian house. That house was also the home of a troop of Faeries, and Ward always wondered why nobody but him could see them. He became a fantasy painter, we became fantasy writers...we all live in a Harry Potter world.
Finally, I should say that I believe, as some of other faiths do not, that everyone finds their own path. Study and experimentation is important, when looking for a belief system, and no child should accept his or her parents’ beliefs without searching on their own. If God is everything and everywhere, each of us should be free to see her/him in our own light.