The other night I had the pleasure of gathering with several women to listen to Z Budapest speak.  It was more of a conversation than a lecture and it was interesting to see the varying takes on “where do we go from here.”  As I sat there I reflected on a recent trip to Florida that I and my husband took and began to understand the gift that I have been given.  It is the gift of moving forward, of moving past fear, of taking risks, or more to the point I have been given the gift of finding support and comfort in my environment.  Not all pagans have been able to find this gift; at least not yet.

I had forgotten the fear of being outed, of not having a family/spouse who is supportive of my choices, of not having a circle of friends to share thoughts with, and having to wonder if I am all alone.  In Florida I listened to people at a gathering talking about not being able to display items of their faith in their homes for fear of repercussions from their spouses.  The other night I listened to women talk about how difficult it is to gather.  For some apathy of others was the enemy, but for many it was that people are afraid – afraid of what varies, but still afraid. 

I thought back and realized that I had moved beyond the fear a while ago.  I had decided that I would no longer let the bigotry of others shape how I lived my life.  So I began to take risks.  I began to wear a pentacle, I had things in my home that seemed to me a little more pagan than before, I began to speak out and I began to stand up for others.  Then I decided to take a very large risk – I sought out groups to circle with.  I was looking others of a like mind.  Once found, I met/circled with several different groups and began to understand that not all pagans think alike nor do they practice their faith tradition in only one way.  I was now on a mission of discovery.  I was discovering my faith and myself at the same time. 

Then came the rewards, yes rewards.  That is the wonderful thing about moving past fear and into taking risks.  Eventually you experience rewards.  Not always, sometimes our risks lead to pain.  I have had my share of shunning, my share of people no longer trusting me, instead their friendship turned to fear, uneasiness, and pity.  They don’t come around, they don’t let their children talk to mine, they try to save me from my misguided beliefs.  But I continued on my path, because it was/is my path to walk.  But back to the rewards.  One might think that becoming a chaplain at a major university is the great reward but they would be slightly wrong.  Yes it is a wonderful thing, but what it represents is even greater.  I get to help create change.

I see the change everyday in little things, but the other day I was given a beautiful example of how it takes time and generations sometimes to receive the rewards.  At my home a new coven circled for the first time.  It was a circle of young families and my daughter along with her family are a part of it.  As we stood there in the circle about to call the elements in my daughter looked at me and said “you know Emma tells them at school she is a witch.  They tell her no, but she corrects them and says oh yes I am to a witch.”  She understands, there should be not fear of shame in understanding who you are and expressing it to the world.  That is the greatest reward, the greatest gift.

So what does it all mean?  We all have fear.  What that fear is only we know as individuals.  The key is to find the courage to move past the fear, not necessarily to get rid of it, but to move past it so that we find the courage to take a risk to over come our fear.  Sometimes we will fail in our attempt, but those times that we succeed we need to hang on to feeling that comes with it.  That feeling will fuel our next risk taking adventure and allow us to see the rewards that are out there to be gained.  Sometimes we need nothing more than the words of a child to remind us – we have a right to express who we are.