Eric O. Scott was raised by witches. He writes about his life as a second-generation Pagan, pilgrimage, pop culture, and politics. He is the Pagan Perspectives Editor for The Wild Hunt and a contributing editor for Killing the Buddha. His first novel, The Lives of the Apostates, was published in 2013 by Moon Books. He has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Missouri - Kansas City and an PhD in English from the University of Missouri - Columbia. His middle name is not "Odin."
An intimate pointed out to me recently that when it comes to literature, I have a distinct preference for a specific sort of narrative: that of an unbeliever coming face to face with the possibility of a religious awakening, and then, after staring long into that profundity, choosing to turn away from it. I protested this idea at first, but after she pointed out the kinds of writing I point to as my personal models for writing about religion, I had to concede that she had a point. For example, take Next Year in Jersualem, one of my favorite essays, published in Rolling Stone in 1977. Ellen Willis writes about her powerful attraction to orthodox Judaism after seeing her brother embrace it; she goes so far as to move to Israel and take up studies under a Hasidic rabbi. Willis finds, however, that as much as the religion appeals to her, and more than that, makes sense to her, she cannot reconcile it with the feminism that is the foundation of her ethics.
It strikes me that I ought not to be making this walk upright. Pilgrims on their journey to see the Shroud of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City are known for crawling on their hands and knees as they approach the basilica where the Shroud is kept; my father told me that when he visited, he saw a line of prostrated devotees starting miles from the church. There are no such pilgrims here, but it seems that there could be. The stones upon which I walk are perhaps among the most sanctified in the secular religion of American civic life; certainly no single mile of soil in the United States has been more consciously constructed as a pilgrim’s road. I had not intended to make any sort of pilgrimage today.
My suitcase is an antique, a big red leather monster. It doesn’t do anything that modern luggage is supposed to do. Suitcases today have wheels and collapsible handles, so that there’s no difference between carrying one change of pants or twenty. Mine doesn’t have that, and I kind of like it that way. Suitcases are meant to be picked up and carried, hefted with one’s own arms and back.
“Somebody killed Pan,” she said. My best friend Sarah and her family had staked out a plot of land at the Gaea Retreat outside of Kansas City as their favorite campsite. It was a secluded spot, just big enough for three tents, tucked to the side of the gravel road and wire fence that marked one edge of Gaea. They called it Shamballa, which invariably made me think of the Three Dog Night song – I can tell my sister by the flowers in her eyes, on the road to Shamballa. Underneath an evergreen tree inside the entrance to Shamballa, Sarah had placed an old concrete idol of the god Pan.
Hammer the First
She hands me a tiny white box. I look at it, the gold lettering of the logo for Pathways, our local metaphysical shop, glimmering in the candlelight. It is the night of my first-degree initiation into my family’s coven, and now that the ritual is over, we are gathered around the coffee table altar in the living room of the house where I grew up exchanging presents. I slide the top off the box. Inside, resting on a pillow of spun fibers, is a silver sigil attached to a slim black cord.