Lydia Gittings is part of Burlington's pagan community

Siegfried, in ancient Germany, had his warrior priestess Brunhild, while the Norwegians could always count on Odin’s team of Valkeries. The Greeks had their goddess, Calypso, who had a thing about Odysseus, and the Egyptians honored the formidable Anubis, who could speed you over the River Styx.

They all were prominent feminine pagans who once had their own time and place to shine. However, only Burlington pagans can today boast of “Fluffy Bunny.”

West Coast transplant Lydia Gittings cringes when she is confronted with the nickname given her by fellow members of the local pagan community. It is an appellation she earned because of her seemingly unlimited reserve of affability, an easy laugh and a welcoming nature not usually associated with ancient crones stirring the pot on a Scottish moor.

“I am certainly not a witch,” insists Gittings. “Hollywood has done a number on us. We are pagans and do not hang out in witches’ covens. Instead, we are part of a spiritual circle that includes a variety of religious beliefs. I’d like to think we are earth-based spiritualists.”

Gittings’ religious beliefs are still in an evolutionary process. That faith began with a Southern California childhood. It was buttressed by an early adulthood wandering the world as a military spouse before Gittings arrived in Burlington in 2011.

“It was not a simple matter of finding my way to this spiritualism,” she explained. “Especially when you consider I was raised by a strongly traditional Puerto Rican Catholic mother who believed in the healing touch. My mother still prays for me every day.”

She began to step away from traditional Christian doctrine and dogma in her Orange County high school when she started to question the church's stand on homosexuality.

“I am not gay but I began to wonder that if God created gays, how come they were not welcomed in the church," she said.

Gittings carried that questioning attitude with her even after she met her future husband, then in the military. The family eventually grew with the addition of six children.

“We did a lot of traveling while we were in the military,” Lydia said. “We were in Hawaii, then in Michigan and off to Germany and places in between. I used to load the kids in the car and off we would go exploring wherever we were living. The kids called it ‘enforced family fun.’”

The Gittingses first came to the area to live in Illinois. However, the couple have since separated, and shenow calls Burlington home. Here, Gittings leads an almost frenetic life, and her spiritual musings do not prevent her from having a very busy schedule.

She works part of the week as a dental assistant and finds the calling rewarding.

“My day job is really great,” she said. “I work in pediatric dentistry and the kids make it so interesting. You never know what they are going to say or how they will react. Each is different.”

Gittings is a licensed massage therapist and is also a shopkeeper, running the eclectic and welcoming Broom Closet on Agency Street. It is where the town’s pagan community gathers for conversation and a variety of spiritual aids.

There, awash in an incense perfume that gives the upscale shop the vague aroma of a fruit salad, can be found members of the Druidism and Wicca persuasion.

There also may be those who trace their religious beliefs back to the Vikings, Native American ceremonies and those who simply call themselves “full pagan.” Unitarians may show up, and occasionally the curious arrive looking simply for an unusual gift for their bridge partner.

Regardless of their reason for walking through the door, Gittings will make sure all are welcome. She is quick to explain the meaning of some of the items offered, and if she has a moment, she can give Taro card readings. It is one-stop shopping for the spiritually adventuresome.

It has also taken a certain amount of personal spiritual adventure for Gittings to carve out her place in Burlington, and she reports that only recently has she come to feel at home – although she is still having trouble adjusting to the weather challenges.

“Burlington can be a hard town to find a welcome, and initially I had a difficult time figuring out where I belonged” she said. “But I have been able to carve out my own niche.

“There are quite a few of us that consider ourselves religious spiritualists. The Broom Closet is a metaphysical shop where those of us trying to reach beyond the physical can gather and explore. It is not an episode from the TV series ‘the Twilight Zone.’

“We are believers that we all have an energy that does not simply disappear when we are gone. And we are here to find that energy.”

Gittings and those sharing her belief in earth-based spirituality will present those beliefs for review and explanation when they gather Saturday at the Port of Burlington for their annual Metaphysical Fair. The Fluffy Bunny welcomes the public.

Everybody has a story to tell. Tell yours, or encourage someone you know to tell theirs, in 52 Faces, each week in The Hawk Eye. Call (319) 758-8148, or write to cneises@thehawkeye.com.