Many people when you ask them 'How did you end up pagan?' have a straightforward answer - they found a book or they met a particular person. My own story is a bit more complicated, although it does eventually involve both a book and a person, both of which I owe a great debt and neither of which continued with me on my path.
Unlike most of my peers I wasn't raised Christian. I tend to say I was raised a secular agnostic because that sums it up fairly well. We celebrated all the main American holidays but without any religious overtones - Christmas was when Santa came in his reindeer pulled sleigh to magically bring us presents and Easter was when a bunny brought us baskets of candy. I include the agnostic part because there was no firm disbelief, but neither was their any clear structure within any particular faith. We grew up hearing stories about our families history and culture, Cherokee, Irish-American, and New England with all the folklore and belief that came with that. I spent a lot of time out doors in nature, connecting to the wild world. I also had the added personal quirk of seeing spirits, something that (luckily for me) my family humored for the most part. I built little houses for the fairies and left them notes on my windowsill for as long as I could remember. But actual formal religion, there wasn't any.
I was also always a spiritual seeker, maybe because I saw things other people didn't. At various points I was curious about different religions, attending church services with my friends, reading about Judaism, I even read up on Mennonites and the Amish. Nothing ever quite fit though. And then when I was in middle school (the early 1990's) one of my best friends introduced me to a book by Scott Cunningham called 'Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner'. For the first time I was reading about a religion - witchcraft and paganism - that made perfect sense to me. Gods and Goddesses, spirits, magic, these all resonated with me and fit into the world, spirits inclusive, that I already knew existed. I was mad for Irish culture at that point so it wasn't much effort to add in Irish mythology to to everything else and begin reading about the Irish Gods. I think I was about 11 years old.
I went to the library and found a few other books, and used my babysitting money to buy a couple more and I read what I could get my hands on at the time: Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, Sybil Leek's Diary of a Witch, Laurie Cabot's Power of the Witch. At the advanced age of 12 I decided to preform a self dedication ritual, out in the cold on Imbolc. Because at 12 I was certain that this was the most amazing religion ever.
Of course within a few years, by the mid 90's, I'd started to focus more on what I'd later learn was called Celtic Reconstructionism and by 1997 I'd joined a CR Druid group called the Order of the White Oak. In 2001 I joined another Druid group, Ar nDraoicht Fein, and in 2006 I joined Our Troth after I began studying Heathenry/Asatru. I had long since stopped considering myself Wiccan but I never stopped practicing witchcraft and throughout it all the Good People - by any name - where the bedrock of my belief system and practice.
I remained a dual-trad person, both a reconstructionist Irish polytheist and a Heathen but I also began to see that over the years I had developed my own type of witchcraft, my own flavor if you will. So in 2013 I wrote a book 'Pagan Portals Fairy Witchcraft' which would be published the following year that described my witchcraft and my belief system, formed from a lifetime of experience and woven from the Fairy Faith and a reconstructionist approach to working with the Other Crowd. That of course led to another book, Fairycraft, and another (coming out later this year) Fairies. And there's another one in the works that will be out in the next year or so as well. I feel like Themselves have something to say.
Last year, as those of you who read my blog already know, was a transitional one for me. I went to Ireland a polytheist dedicated to several Gods. I came back belonging to the Daoine Maithe. Looking back on my journey to paganism and its evolution over the years I suppose it was a predictable evolution, but I honestly never saw it coming. I had always thought of my path as a tree, growing up from roots into spreading branches but always one thing always the same even as it grew. I suppose in a way that's true, but recently I've realized that my path is far more like a river - the water is always the water but the river expands and contracts, reshapes itself, slows or speeds up as it travels. It changes as it needs to change. My path has always been about the Good People even before I realized I was on a path, and I have walked it my whole life even when I wasn't aware it was there. It has changed and reshaped itself radically along the way, and that's alright. I've learned a lot.
And where I am now is not the end either.