The Hawthorn Spinner, Vol. II, No. 4, November 14, 1994
During adolescence, I recall feeling drawn to the poetic imagery of the ancient Greeks and Romans of which I read in classical studies. But my path in this direction took a detour when, September 1973, I chose to convert to the Mormon church. Alone to do this in my family (though I subsequently baptized my younger sister, and a brother followed suit), the ecstatic nature of the Mormon experience filled a yearning for spiritual fulfilment. This dynamic is in some ways similar to certain spiritual needs which are filled for me today in Wiccan worship.
After completing four years of seminary instruction, I majored in religion and genealogy at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah (including six month's study of archeology and religion in Israel) followed by a two-year unpaid missionary stint in Colorado. As an elder in the Mormon "higher priesthood," I received my temple endowment in London, England in December 1977.
While enrolled in technical training in the U.S. Air Force, in spring of 1980, I picked up one of Robert A. Heinlein's pulp novels. Two which made deep impressions on me, and helped open my eyes to post-Mormon spirituality, were Stranger In a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love. There were others too. Little did I realize how many before me had found neo-paganism through these same readings. Over the next couple years I read every one of Heinlein's novels, scribbling my reactions in the Journal which I had kept faithfully since high school.
Another book which made an impression on me, and beckoned me toward Wicca was the beautiful over-sized coffee-table volume by Erica Jong entitled simply Witches. I wrote Ms. Jong, in January 1982, asking for more information, but never got a response. I continued to study and collect written materials related to the Craft, but did not yet call myself a Witch.
Finally, in November 1987, I stumbled across a brief article in a local daily paper, which I later learned had been picked up from Stars and Stripes. Headlined "Image problem haunts witches," the short piece I saw described a group known as Farwander Military Pagan Fellowship, led by a young woman at Sembach Air Base, West Germany. We exchanged a few letters. She gave me addresses of several existing Wiccan groups. One was Circle Network in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. It was this contact which first put me in contact with living, breathing Witches.
Around Beltane in 1988, I attended a party "for pagans and friends" at the home of Domi O'Brien and her husband Arne, in Lansdale, Penna. Domi had written in response to a listing in the Pagan Spirit Alliance New, put out by Circle. She encouraged me to commence a study program, recommending Ray Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft as a start, and gave me a copy from her library. Using this book as a guide, I lashtoned an athame (which I use to this day) from an iron barn-door hinge, wiht a rough wooden handle. Still following Buckland's guidance, I performed an outdoor, skyclad ritual in which dedicated my life to following the Old Gods, initiating myself as a solitary Witch, and directing a beacon into outer planes for a suitable working partner. At Lammas, same year, I returned to Lansdale for an old-style breadbake sponsored by some member covens of the Philadephia Area Network of Old Religions. This was my first Wiccan group ritual experience. Later in August, after casting a spell to find just such a lady, met my now beloved wife and partner. We became dedicants of a coven, participated in that capacity for three years, and pledged one another our troth in a handfasting performed by elders of that group and a sister coven, who were ministers of the Covenant of the Goddess. We attended Panthea and Rites of Spring festivals. Eventually, we left the coven because the distance involved in travel to circles, But we continue to maintain contact with old (and young!) coveners there whenever possible.
Currently, in addition to performing magickal at a private alter in our bedroom, and hosting group circles for Hawthorn in our basement, we appreciate invitations to circle wtth Wiccan friends the area. We are past board officers of the Upper Delaware Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Milanville, which I helped found. I also receive spiritual fulfillment with men of my community as member the Masonic fraternity. But first and foremost, am a Witch since that is where I found my Pagan identity and spiritual strength, and it is under that name that I first tme to worship the Goddess and her horned consort. I am a member of Ar'nDraicht Fein: A Druid Fellowship, equally comfortable with that religious label, and have enrolled in the ADF study program (which was ably constructed by Domi O'Brien.)
Wtthout getting sidetracked into a history of Hawthorn Grove, Inc. in this space let me just acknowledge that I have been privileged to serve as Secretary of this congregation since its corporate inception in October 1992. Editng this little newsletter and trying to help organize a local Pagan community are spiritual exercises which bring us joy.