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Why I'm a Pagan

My local indie bookshop had one of these left in stock and they kindly held it for me. I ran up there in my garden clothes and damp do-rag because I was so excited to have this book in my hands. 

As soon as it was rung up and handed across the counter to me, I opened the cover, turned to the opening lines and saw---Lo! "Lo," I said aloud. "Interesting choice." I asked them if they needed any copies of my book ("Staubs and Ditchwater") and we agreed the 3 they have in stock will do until I get back from PSG. I declined a bag but got a bright bookmark.  Holding the book to my chest, I tip-tapped out the door and across the street to the car. I sat there for a moment, looking at the cover, then smelling the top of the book, as one does.

I was almost afraid to start reading it.  It has loomed so large in my vision for so long. In high school, I was introduced to Beowulf through Tolkien's 1936 paper, "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics." I was voracious for all things Tolkien--still am, obviously. In my sophomore year, our English class required a paper on some literary topic or other. I don't remember now. What I do remember was that it was to be 5-7 pages and I wrote "The Successful Sustentation of a Secondary World in the Works of JRR Tolkien." It was 33 pages long. My teacher was not amused but I did get an A+

I've printed out a copy of  "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" and will read that in advance of a serious reading of this new/old translation.  But what I've pondered today--while watering the gardens, processing fresh fruit and greens, making supper--is that reading faery tales and Froissart, living with Moomin trolls and Peter Pan, delving into Gawain and Farmer Giles and the Shire is what made me a Pagan.

Yes, for sure I have always experienced the Divines through Nature. I have felt myself  aligned with the cycles of the season, even before I called it the Wheel of the Year. I come from a family that honors its women folk as healers and mystics, as witches, in fact.

But the thing that sent me deeply into my own cultural past--into a world filled with magic and mystery--and made me wonder about the "religions" that were around the British Isles before Christianity got there was my reading and absorbing that "secondary" world.

So young Christopher has caused this to be published at last. Beowulf! Tolkien!

I can barely contain my glee.

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Tuesday, 03 June 2014

    Thank you for this, Byron - I must order a copy immediately! Much of my Paganism, too, derives from long nights of steeping my brain in J.R.R. - in the '60s, when I was supposed to be doing homework for college. I hope Tolkien would have appreciated the irony, since he was a devout Catholic like his buddy C.S. Lewis! And I'm sure you know that "young Christopher" is now 89 - older than his Dad was when he died. I enjoy your sense of humor; I'm guessing that you are a fan of the BritCom "Are You Being Served?" which features "Young Mr. Grace" - who's close to 100.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Friday, 06 June 2014

    It does seem ironic that a good Catholic man led so many folks to a Pagan world-view. But the Beowulf poet was much the same. The Poet--despite the Christian overlay applied--obviously admired the ancient warrior ways. And that certainly rubbed off on The Gaffer. And I am a big BritCom fan, as you have guessed. Thanks for reading--let me know when you get your copy.

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