Dana Eilers is the author of numerous articles and books on modern Paganism, including The Practical Pagan and Pagans and the Law: Understand Your Rights. She writes a legal column for Green Egg magazine, and is working on a novel with a definite Goddess focus. She took some time out from her busy schedule to answer some questions for us here at About.com.
Pagan/Wiccan Guide Patti Wigington: Dana, I'd like to take a minute to thank you for answering questions for our readers at About.com. We've got a lot of people from some very diverse spiritual paths reading the blog. First, can you tell us about the path you personally follow as a witch, and how you arrived on the journey?
Rev. Dana Eilers: As it pertains to me, spirituality has been an evolving, changing path, which is strange because in most things, I am resistant to change. Having said that, I can tell you that I have had "different" notions about The Big What Is since I was a kid. I read books about different religions and about reincarnation. I was enthralled with ancient history, particularly that of ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. I knew about the Minoans and the Mayans when most little girls were playing with Barbie dolls.
For a while, I was part of a Nazarene church, but I could not find peace there and so, I moved onward. I came to believe in reincarnation, the souls of my dogs and cats, the living planet, magic, and the presence of the goddesses while very young. By the time I got to college,I also came to believe that where there was great good, there also had to be great evil. After law school, [a friend gave me] Eight Sabbats for Witches, by Janet and Stewart Farrar. Every page was a revelation. It was like those V-8 commercials. I was getting smacked up on my head with nearly every paragraph. As most newbie Pagans will tell you, I was amazed to discover that my beliefs had a name, that there were books about them, and that there was a whole movement full of people like myself…
I could not get enough, and I ate it up. I started off very much in the mold of an Alexandrian Wiccan, but always, always, the call of the Egyptian pantheon was very strong. I was reading Celtic stuff, Druidic stuff, Greco-Roman stuff, etc. Believing that information was power, I tried to inform myself about as much stuff as I could. And finally, in a moment of dark and desperate need, I called upon the Goddess to reveal Herself to me and when She did, She came in the form of Isis. The other deities in the Egyptian pantheon were not far behind and gradually, my altar became populated with all things Egyptian. Somehow, my belief in the Power of Three dimmed, and I came to accept that I could work magic as I chose, so long as I accepted the consequences of that working…
I worship within the Egyptian pantheon, and my two patrons are Isis and Anubis. I try to find time to communicate with them daily. I talk to them a lot while I am driving in the car. At the end of the day, I am accountable to these Higher Powers for my actions. I live in the constant and unremitting knowledge that I must answer to them. I used to belong to a large Pagan community in St. Louis but since moving to Cape Cod, I have not found anything to match the Midwest communal experience. Initially, I found a group of people here who were like minded, but we have drifted apart from one another. As a person who comes from a strong coven background, this has been challenging, but I have grown accustomed to being a Solitary and I figure that for now, it is what the gods have arranged for me…
My beliefs have helped me get through the death of loved ones, the death of a parent, a debilitating and chronic illness which has nearly killed me and which incapacitated me for nearly a year, and the comings and goings of my animal companions. My beliefs afford me comfort and solace. They elevate me. They humble me. After much tumult, they have helped me come to a quiet place inside myself where I can be alone with myself and not be frightened. I have walked down nearly every dark maze of my psyche and have emerged on the other side. I am sure that my journey is not over.
Guide Patti: I have to tell you, I'm in love with your book The Practical Pagan. I wish you had written it about fifteen years earlier, back when I was a "newbie." You mentioned that the book is actually the product of a series of talks entitled "Conversations with Pagans". Can you explain to our readers what "Conversations with Pagans" entailed, and how it got started in the first place?
Rev. Dana Eilers: Sometime after the spring of 1994 I was approached by Vito Ponticello, who was the owner of Mystic Valley in St. Louis, Missouri, to do some teaching. I had written an article for the local New Age newspaper at his insistence and apparently, he was receiving telephone calls from people who thought that I was teaching and who wanted to know how to reach me. I was amazed. Fortunately, I had made the acquaintance of River and Joyce Higginbotham.
I decided that I would attempt an open conversational forum where people could come and discuss whatever was on their minds... At the time, the St. Louis Pagan scene was quite volatile. I did not realize how volatile, nor did I realize how unconventional my plan was. With input from River, Joyce, and my mentor, I decided to call this forum "Conversations With Pagans". It started off big, 25-30 people, and it remained big throughout its run. We tackled everything from Devil worship, nudity and Paganism, coming out of the broom closet, reversing hexes, the ethics of magic and spell casting, raising Pagan children, Pagan kids and the school system, and movies which were Pagan in content (even if Hollywood did not realize that they were.)
People who were curious, who had questions, who thought they were Pagan, or who had decided that they were Pagan were looking for a place to find answers to questions and more often than not, they were directed to Conversations with Pagans where they could get answers to their questions because nothing was off limits and they would hear various answers to questions, but no one would tell them what to think or not to think... those recurring topics formed the basis for The Practical Pagan.