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Hi! I’m Melissa Zupan, the author behind Three Hundred and Sixty Six. By day, I’m a thirty-something high school English teacher doing the best I can to figure out life, the universe, and everything. Unfortunately, I figured out early on that “42” wasn’t quite going to cut it, so I turned to spirituality and found Wicca.
Thank you for reading!
About My Journey in Wicca
My journey in paganism started in October of 1999 when I was 15-years-old. Long story short, I’d spent the previous 6 months arguing with my mother over whether we should get the Harry Potter books for my youngest brother, then 6. He’d not shown much interest in reading, and she’d seen lots of daytime TV clips raving about how kids couldn’t put them down. However, some of the kids in my high school had been asking the librarian not to purchase copies for our library because they felt it would draw people to Satanism. I blindly assumed that the books must really be diabolical and told my mother so. But during a trip to my grandmother’s that fall break, I got bored and noticed a cousin had left her copies of the first two books there. Eternal damnation was far more appealing than a Price is Right marathon, so I risked it. Obviously, I discovered the books were amazing and about as Satanic as a puppy.
The next day, I suffered a mall shopping trip with my mother. Eventually she sent me off to do what I liked while she finished her list, and I found myself in the mall’s Waldenbooks, staring with mild horror at a shelf end cap where Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch was displayed prominently. I remember thinking how sad it was that the store would market something so unwholesome to teenagers, but my recent Harry Potter revelation gave me pause. I decided that before I condemned, I should at least know what I was condemning, so I picked up the book and gave it a flip through.
Now, obviously Teen Witch has its problems, and I was more than skeptical about all the spells in the book, but as I read over the theology Ravenwolf presented, I kept saying to myself, “Well, I believe that!” I bought the book. And eventually I bought more from other authors as my teenage funds allowed–Starhawk, Scott Cunningham, Phyllis Curott, Margo Adler, Janet and Stewart Farrar, Ellen Cannon Reed, and Isaac Bonewits all had texts I devoured. By 2001, I knew that my studies were no passing phase and that–unless some huge revelation comes to me in the future–I had found my spiritual path.
I did not join a group–I knew that no ethical group would take on teaching a teenager without parental consent, and I wasn’t willing to risk parental wrath at that point as they’d agreed to pay for whatever scholarships did not cover when I went to college, and I wanted no part of student loans–but continued to read. At this point, I think it is fair to say that I was deeply influenced by two slim books in particular: Dianne Sylvan’s The Circle Within and Amber Laine Fisher’s A Philosophy of Wicca. As I recall, both women were in Texas at the time and running a group there. I followed both their blogs and their group’s website avidly. In fact, I even printed out their 101 material (as I recall, it was a fantastically designed curriculum–far superior to anything else I was able to find at the time) and did my best to work through it alone. In many ways consider them my first teachers, though I never met them. They gave me a great reality check about what to expect from the community and set high expectations for what a healthy coven should look like and how it should run. I actually mourned when Fisher announced that her spiritual path was moving away from Wicca and she closed down her blog and left her group. I probably owe much of how well adjusted I was as a teen to Dianne Sylvan, who always wrote beautifully and candidly about her spiritual practice and about her struggles with body positivity. I’ve always been overweight, and much of what Sylvan wrote on her blog and her second book, The Body Sacred, probably kept me from developing an adult identity that revolved around my waistline. In retrospect, I owe a considerable amount of thanks to these women.
When I went off to college in 2002, I really “came out of the broom closet” in my daily life–though not to my family. Eventually, I found like-minded people, and one very enthusiastic boy pulled us all together and convinced us to form a campus organization. I was elected treasurer that first official year and served as a co-president for the next two years. We were open to all pagan paths, and had a fantastic time of it. We held Sabbats and Esbats with different members volunteering to plan and lead it in their own preferred path, hung out during plenty of “Buffy and Tarot” nights, and banded together to explore the different pagan haunts of central Indiana. It was a fantastic way to learn how to navigate group dynamics and develop a broader exposure to pagan practices. We were also invited to be part of the university’s Chaplain’s Advisory Committee and worked strongly with campus government on Interfaith matters. It was a tremendously productive and respectful relationship and taught me just how much can be accomplished through cooperation. After graduation, the organization ended as–weirdly enough–no underclassmen were pagans. However, several of us continued to meet up for the next couple of years until jobs and life scattered us across the country.
I myself ended up in Eugene, Oregon by 2008 to pursue doctoral studies in English and American literature. Wicca played no small part in my decision to go there, for Witchvox reveled there was an active Gardnerian coven open to new students. I sent a few emails to the listed address that first year, but never received a reply. But by the end of 2009, I noticed a new listing: a second Gardnerian group in Eugene had developed and was putting together a 101 class. I signed up, and by March 2010 the group was actively meeting for class. In September I became a dedicant and learned the group had dual lineage in the Long Island line and California tradition/line.
I loved this group (currently extant under the public name Swangrove and centered in Tacoma, Washington) immensely. They taught me so much, not only about the Craft, but about family and building healthy relationships. I think I will always consider the HPS, the HP, and my coven sibs family, and I miss them every day.
In December 2011 I asked for initiation, but when we resumed coven activities in January 2012, everyone’s lives had drastically changed. In that short period of time, a marriage fell apart, a loved one passed away, a job delivered notice that someone would be transferred halfway across the country, and I had decided to pause my graduate work. By August, the coven went on a hiatus, and I moved to Olympia, Washington to stay with a fellow coven student who generously opened her home to me and gave me space to recover from graduate school stress and figure out what I wanted out of life. Few people in this world are as kind and as giving as she is, and I owe her tremendously.
By late February or early March of 2013, the HPS relocated to Tacoma and the HP was able to secure regular travel to Washington, so the coven came out of hiatus. Shortly thereafter, I underwent the first degree initiation on April 27th, 2013, and eventually I was elevated to second degree on May 3rd, 2015.
In February 2015, I learned that I had been accepted into a teaching fellowship and would relocate to Indiana at the end of May. After discussing options with my HP for how I would continue my Craft work, I decided that my best option would be to look into joining a local group. Eventually I made contact with a couple who were developing a daughter branch of a Whitecroft-line coven. After I moved and had a chance to meet and work with them, they offered to adopt me into their line as a first degree.
In late August, a small wrinkle developed. Thanks to an exchange of information at a Gather held in Portland, my former HPS learned that she did not carry a legitimate lineage to the Long Island line. She has subsequently received initiation and elevation in Long Island through a working pair in Portland, and has offered to put her downline through the rites. As I was exceedingly happy with my new Coven and with Whitecroft praxis, I declined the offer. Shortly thereafter, the Whitecroft coven, Birchstone, initiated me on November 13, 2015. The ritual was so lovely and all the coven members so amazing and generous that even thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.
At this point, I am happily growing my Craft in the Whitecroft line of Gardnerian Wicca and am excited to see how the future unfolds.
About My Name
Before anyone goes Google-stalking me, I should be clear that Melissa Zupan is my public Craft name and not my legal name. If you’re interested, I was led to Melissa because it means ‘honeybee,’ and I was drawn to the bee’s metaphoric connotations of strong community, industry, and wisdom.
Gardnerians don’t typically create a surname as part of their Craft name, but I have found that in the greater Pagan world, the mononymous appellation doesn’t fly very well unless you are Starhawk. Therefore, I have elected to use Zupan for convenience here and elsewhere in the Pagan universe. Since all my grandparents on my mother’s side came from regions that are now in modern Slovakia, I decided to use a fairly common Slovak surname to honor that heritage. I specifically chose this name, though, to stand for my commitment to strengthening the Pagan community. In Slovakia, the word župa basically means a politically identified area of land, sort of like how we view counties in American states. A župa‘s community leader, then, is the župan.
For what it’s worth, I don’t view myself as a leader. Heck, I’m still in the ‘apprentice’ stages of my tradition. It’s more of an aspirational name than anything else; something to remind myself of what a healthy, happy person really should be in the long run.
About the Blog
This blog actually started as a private project between me and a couple of my college friends. A year before this, I’d discovered Timothy Roderick’s workbook Wicca: A Year and A Day. I had tried to work through it previously, but abandoned the effort a month or so in. By the summer of 2008, we were all missing each other and saw how our past college intimacy was weakening, so we collectively decided to work through this book together and start blogs so that we could all check on each others’ progress.
Since that point, life has happened. I’ve started and stopped the Roderick exercises loads of times, depending on my travel calendar, my scholarly commitments, and my struggles with depression. I’ve also opened up Three Hundred and Sixty Six beyond the scope of Roderick’s book. I’ve got descriptions of my own personal projects, of things I do with my coven, of random life events and issues…this blog has definitely become a home for me, and is a comfortable hodge podge of mostly Craft-related stuff.
About Working with Timothy Roderick’s Book
Roderick’s book has 366 entries, so the work I’ve done with it is cumulatively a very large portion of this blog. I am a little worried that someday Llewellyn Publications will issue me a “cease and desist” order, given the sheer amount of material I’ve directly copied from this book. I do definitely try to make sure it is obvious which language is mine and which is Roderick’s, and I do definitely encourage anyone interested in undertaking a similar project to purchase a copy of Roderick’s book. It’s honestly not half bad, and if you’re interested in British Traditional Wicca and can’t connect with a group, it provides an excellent way to develop some great 1st-degree knowledge, so long as you keep a critical mind as you undertake some of the activities.
Do I consider myself a Roderick sycophant? No. Timothy Roderick is not my guru, and I don’t believe his book to be a perfect text. That being said, it is a very, very useful one. Now that I’ve finished his first book, I honestly can’t believe all the insights into my practice I experienced while working my way through his exercises. I was no neophyte before beginning the book, but forcing myself to go through each exercise (well, there are a handful I completely dismissed) has made me a sharper, more able witch than I would have been without it…even considering the fact that I joined a coven and became an initiate while working through that first book.
About Intellectual Property
I have not obtained permission from any author or publisher to put direct quotes from printed text on this blog. I do try to credit the original work as best I can, but the tone of this blog is decidedly casual. Sometimes my entries are quickly composed, in-the-moment thoughts. I’ve got a lot of entries on this blog, so it is entirely possible I did not adequately attribute sources in some posts. If you do notice an instance where I could have done it better, I wholeheartedly welcome you bringing that to my attention. I will rectify it as soon as possible.
Images…lord, is that an intellectual property liability for me. Most of the images on this site are not images that began with me. I find things I like through Google Images and steal them. Very frequently I’ve found I’m stealing the images from someone else who stole the images. It’s not the most ethical of practices, but it sure looks like this is how the Internet is run these days. Obviously if anyone wants me to remove a specific image on the grounds of intellectual property infringement, I will do so.
In terms of video content, all the films that appear on this blog have been linked from somewhere else on YouTube. I do not control that content. If you find that a link has subsequently broken, please bring it to my attention. I will try to fix it and, failing that, I will remove the link from the page.
About the Title Header Image
If you’re interested in the image of the stone circle that appears in the blog header, I must admit I did not take that photograph and I have no idea where it originated. It is, however, an image of Castlerigg Stone Circle, which is located near Keswick in Cumbria, North West England. I chose the image simply because I like stone circles (I avidly stalk the blog Clonehenge), and because I thought the red-brown greys of this image looked well with the standard Vigilance WordPress theme. If you’d like to see the full image before I cropped it for the header, that picture can be found here.