Honestly, though, I was fairly raised pagan. My mom is Buddhist, and she taught me about Tara’s many manifestations, as well as the bodhisattvas, and taking refuge, and meditating. I spent a lot of time reading all the Greek myths, and Zeus and Hera and Athena and Artemis were all as real to me as my teachers and classmates. My formative years were spent in a house that sat on a huge parcel of land; in the back yard we had mountainous forest that I knew like the back of my muddy hands; my dad built me a tree-house; I had several forts across the property where I would go, alone, to just be with the earth; and every year dad made my sister and me work in his garden. There was frequently bear stool in our yards, and cougar sightings were common in our neighbourhood.
One October, a swallow flew into the window-glass of the garage and died. We dissected it on the dinner table, and discovered its belly was full of ants. “He had a big Thanksgiving dinner, too,” my dad joked with me. Another time, a hummingbird flew into the glass and was injured. We nursed it back to health and released it to the wild.
I learned to respect nature. With the constant cougar sightings and bear-sign, it would have been downright stupid of me not to. My childhood was full of summer walks through the forests of BC, and I quickly learned which berries were delicious and which were poisonous — mainly through the stern words of my mother. I can still walk through a BC forest and know which berries are safe to eat.
I had an ant farm. I loved plants; I would constantly collect pine needles and pine cones and ferns and whatever else from the forest. We had three dogs: Sila, Toyon, and later, Blue. Sila’s death was one of two instances where I remember my father genuinely crying. I knew, instinctively, that plants and animals had spirits. Why shouldn’t they? I did, so of course the dogs did, of course the hummingbird and the swallow and the bears that traipsed across our land and the trees that held up my treehouse and the stones that made my natural backyard wading pool in the summertime — these all had spirits. It was so obvious.
(And so did numbers and letters — they also had genders and backstories and relationships; so did my toys, especially my stuffed animals; so did random household appliances and furniture. In fact, the number five is still a woman to me; the number three still a man. Though I wouldn’t have said it as a child, my conception of the number 8 is decidedly genderqueer. Interesting how that adds up.)
So I grew up an animistic, nature-loving polytheist. It just didn’t occur to me to be anything else.
(And then I hit my teen years, and went through a dark time: the time of the Silly Feathered Puppy, wherein I clung to her horrible ideas and bad history with a passion that can only be described as zealotry. I also clung to many other bad ideas, from different people — but the Silly Feathered Puppy I hold most responsible, because her books are specifically marketed to teens and written in such a way that troubled kids like myself might glom onto everything she says as gospel.)
And once I discovered my other options, religiously, it seemed ludicrous to even think of choosing any other spiritual path. The wide, variegated road of paganism, with its multiple religions, has always been the right path for me; it’s always been the road on which I make my home. My soul belongs to the earth and the gods and I would not have it any other way.