Being a Pagan is an exciting Path to be on – at least for me. I find new ways to connect with my environment, I spend time researching topics I would never have discovered without researching other topics, I met very interesting people that I never would have met previously, and I feel more connected and fulfilled than I did when I was exploring the Christian faith back when I was younger. For me, I am truly on the Path where I belong. But, being a Pagan can sometimes be a rough Path to walk as well.
I started down my Pagan path in 1986, shortly after I had exhausted my last area of exploration within the Christian faith – that of the southern Baptist perspective. I was in the United States Air Force, and knew that I had a degree of protection and freedom to explore a new found Path of faith in a manner that I could not if I was a civilian. So, I brought a large number of books into work with me, to read when the workload slowed down. And there were nights (I worked deep nights – 11pm to 7am) when the workload was extremely slow. I had Buckland’s big blue book, Buckland’s “Witchcraft From the Inside” and the Farrar’s “The Witches’ Goddess” – along with Margot Adler’s awesome tome “Drawing Down the Moon” – and I brought these with me to read. My co-worker and shift supervisor at the time, lived right next door to me in the dorms, and she was a devout lation Catholic. It took all of two weeks for her to request to have me moved to a new shift. Not because I was a bad worker. I knew the Univac 1100/60 level mainframe environment that we ran at the Data Processing Center almost as well as the contractor Systems Engineers from UniSys that were on-site. No, she requested the change because she was afraid I was going to curse her – her words. I had never threatened her at any time that I was there. In fact, the only conversation I had with her was work related. Very rarely did I speak with her about anything else. And even though we lived right next door to one another in the dorms, we just did not run in the same social circles either, so my contact with her was purely professional. Nonetheless, her request was granted, and I was moved to a new shift.
The new shift was obviously a place to make me feel uncomfortable. My supervisor, the assistant shift supervisor, and the airman directly subordinate to me were all Charismatic Baptists. The radio that we had in the area was constantly set to the local Christian Praise station. Each of them carried a Bible with them wherever they went in the duty station. Frequently, I was asked if they could pray over me or lay hands on me for healing. Numerous times, I was called a “Satanist” when I brought out a book to read. Several times, they attempted to engage me in a debate over how I was scripturally incorrect with my chosen faith. The two supervisors both lived off base with their families, but the subordinate lived a few doors down from me in the dorms. He made it his mission to continue to press me over such issues in our off-time.
I endured through most of it. I refused the offers of laying on of hands, but was happy to accept their prayers – even when they were praying that I would renounce my evil ways and rejoin the family of God and Jesus. I would turn the tables on their gestures though, and point out that I was flattered that they cared enough about me to include me in their prayers. Whenever I was called a “Satanist” – I reminded my supervisor that he would be called far worse by many of the white Christians in his faith, if they were aware he was in an inter-racial relationship – something that was not that common in Texas in the 1980s. When he would get angry about the comment, I would point out that I had no issues with who he decided to love – as I put it to him – “we do not choose who we love based on a skin color. We love who we love because they are who they are.” I kept my calm, but it was definitely a hard Path to walk. Anyone that knew me back in those days can attest to my flashes of a hot temper. When I finally was stationed overseas in Germany, things were far more lax. My supervisor there was a Southern Baptist Christian – but he told me one evening, “Tom, I don’t care if you worship the computers down here – just get your job done, and done correctly.”
I have been out of the military for the past twenty years now. I separated from the United States Air Force on the 21st of April in 1994. But I have never hidden my faith. In two years time, I will have been on this Path for approximately thirty years. Its not been easy. But it certainly has been rewarding and a long series of lessons that have been sometimes difficult to swallow. But I do come away from all of those with a few reminders…
- Never deny who you are
- You do not choose your Path. Over time, your Path is revealed to you.
- Your family is not necessarily that of blood.
- Sit still, calm yourself, and listen to the wind. The answers are being told to you there. You just have to learn to listen.
I have no doubts whatsoever about the Path i am on. I do not hide who I am. If that costs me a few friendships along the way, so be it. People who would reject me over my beliefs were never true friends to begin with. When I do get challenged by others over why I chose my Path over the Path that they believe everyone else should be on – I remember that getting mad only serves up ammunition for their cause. Its far better to smile and thank them for their obvious concern and caring for you. For me, its just a matter of remembering who I am – and then trying to find something positive about the interaction. For in the end, I can only be me – who I am. Trying to be something I am not – merely denies my acceptance of myself. Flaws and all…