When I got home from my first introduction Class on Wednesday night, I was changed. My boyfriend saw it, my roommates saw it, and even though I didn’t see it very well myself then, I see it now. Something inside of me had altered, irreversibly. It was a feeling. A whole new feeling of finally knowing who I was. Now if only I knew what I would be called.
It was time to make my magical name. I took out my notes and read them over again. I had to take the digits of my birthdate and add them up until I got a single digit. After that I had to choose a name, and using the chart I had copied down in the class, make it so that the number matched my number from my birthdate. I sat at the small dining room table with a bunch of pretty colored pens, and my roommates, and some drinks and we all started trying to find something.
Did I want to go cliche pagan? Could I be Lady Ravyn Summer Night Sky? No way. I could, but that’s not me. I could go simple, Lady River. Nah, that’s still too generic. It says “Pagan girl” it doesn’t say ME. Eventually, I just started playing with letters. Long into the night, half a bottle of Rum later and all but one of my roommates were asleep. It was just Adam and myself, up until much later than either of us should have been, playing with letters until something sounded right.
And I did. And that night I stopped being Cindy, and started being Alyana. I knew it was right because the moment I read it aloud, it called out to me. Mine. My name. My gift from the Gods. Alyana was strong, powerful, unique, and feminine. In other words, everything I had ever aspired to be. Everything that I would become over the next phase of my life. They told me to give myself a name I aspired to. And I did.
Thursday and Friday passed without event. There was work, and reading of my new books. I went to the Temple in order to purchase what I could of the checklist I was given. I ordered my robe, white, the color of the neophyte. I purchased an Athame (the black handled knife everyone was wearing), my text book, and the oils I was to have to annoint myself before class.
Saturday night came, and suddenly I was nervous again. This was not a class, it was a social event. I’ve never been good at being social really. On top of my social anxiety, things were getting more and more tense with the roommates. I didn’t understand why, but they were being very unfriendly and had been for awhile. Well, one of the guys and his girlfriend anyway. The other guy was still there beside me, being my best friend. My sweet Adam. I miss him.
And there I go wandering off again. Back to Saturday night. I got a ride, I didn’t drive at the time, and showed up about 30 minutes early. I was a little afraid that I might seem over-eager, but as it turns out I had nothing to fear. When I got there about 10 other students, all folks who had been members for awhile, were milling around the shop. No, not milling, they were arranging things. I stood aside for a little while as they moved the tables in the store which held stones and charm bags and hanging incense burners and a score of other products. Everything was pushed up against walls and counters in order to give us the greatest space to party as possible.
Since this was a game night, traditional for the first fundraiser after a first introduction class I later found out, there were tables and board games set up in a few places. One near the very front of the store had a scrabble board on it. That was Lady Morgana’s table, and it was an honor and privilege to play with her. I hoped I never got that honor, I’m terrible at Scrabble.
After watching quietly for a little while, I just jumped right in. While moving furniture and putting out games, I got to observe the long term students. They all bowed or curtsied to each other and to the Temple Elders without a hint of silliness or irony. That was something I was going to have to get used to. Most people were referred to as “My Lord” or “My Lady” although it seems that could be interchanged with Lord or Lady *Insert magical name here* at any given time. Nobody was interested in knowing my real name, saying that they would just forget it anyhow. And they were right.
I also got to explore the Temple room more. This room was really just what any other store would have treated as a stock area. A large space in the back of the store with a door leading into the shop area, and a door in the back leading out to an alley. There was a small bathroom, a smaller “kitchen” where we could wash dishes, and a refrigerator behind the door that led into the Store. I already described the altar, and it was just as magnificent now as it had been days before. The back of the “front” door to the Temple room was painted in a pretty mural, and the other walls were dominated by various banners, including a poster with the Temple Laws. I was reading these over when I could feel him standing behind me. I had been in this room alone, and as we approached 7pm people started trickling in. But there was no mistaking who it was standing near me.
I turned and gave him a clumsy little curtsy. “My Lord Aires” I said to my male instructor. The man with the tumble of onyx curls and the eyes that looked right into me. “I was just reading the laws.”
I have no idea how he had such an effect on me. I have no idea why he still does, this man I haven’t spoken to in seven years. I trusted him, immediately. Outside of his robe he was dressed in tight jeans and a satiny black shirt. And oh that smile… He looked like an escaped Fae, wreaking havoc in the mortal realm, and loving every moment of it. Even now as I’m writing this, I’m lost in his face. He opened the refrigerator and was about to offer me a beer, and then thought about it.
“How old are you?”
“20. I’ll be 21 in October.”
He handed me a soda instead. I tried to explain to him that I was a drinker, it was fine, but then I learned something else about this odd assortment of people. If you’re under 21 and a member there, you do not drink. Period. Not where anyone can find out anyhow. Why? Because witches already have a bad name, and they don’t want it any worse by people finding out that they were encouraging underaged drinking. So, no more booze for me, not for a few months at least.
I opened my soda, and settled in on the floor of the Temple room near Aries, against the wall right next to the back door. That turned out to be my favorite spot to spend fundraisers. You see, while all the games were going on in the front, the back was where the food and drink was. There was almost always a radio playing quietly, and this is where everyone just relaxed. This is where the elders gathered to talk about their week, or past Sabbats, or just whatever. This is where the real family was formed. I spent that evening absorbing all I could. I’m not good with new people, and I didn’t know anyone here at all. My other instructor, Diana, joined us. I got to know them in a relaxed setting, and they gave me a few tips for the weeks to come. I saw many of the faces from Wednesday night, and I talked with a few of them, but for the most part I held up that wall and watched.
Seven pm became 10, then 11, and people started trickling out.. A few of my fellow new students had joined me in the back, but some of them began leaving too. 11 became midnight, and then later. As the bells jingled signaling more and more people leaving the party, I wondered if there was a time limit. Around 1:30 everyone started cleaning up and rearranging the store for the next day. But they still didn’t leave. Someone offered me a ride home if I wanted to stay later, and so I did. After everything was rearranged, the remaining members of the Temple gathered in the back. There were maybe a dozen of us. I was the only new student left.
These hours, late at night after all of the lightweights had gone home, would prove to be my favorite times. I can remember so many Saturday nights, sitting in the same place, surrounded by the same basic group of people, listening and eventually joining in the conversations. The classroom, learning history and ritual, that’s where I became a Wiccan. But that Temple Room after hours, that’s where I became a true member of the group. That’s where I became a Witch.