I don't know how most people's stories go, and I don't know how other people were drawn to Wicca. But what I can do is speak from my own experiences, and tell you something about how I came to call myself a Witch.
I was raised in, effectively, the absence of religion. My parents were in most ways Agnostic, my father having been raised Unitarian and my mother being raised by Atheists. I declared from an early age that I was an Atheist, and by early... I mean first or second grade.
I remember asking my mother about God when I was a small child. I must have heard something about it on television or in a book that was read to me, as we weren't exactly church going folks. My mother used words like "Some people believe god is _________, and some people believe god is _______." She might have told me what she believed back then, but I can't remember. What I do remember is that she never closed off possibilities to me. While she never encouraged me to believe anything in particular, she never discouraged me from believing anything either. My open mind is entirely my mother's fault.
While I say I called myself an Atheist, I don't believe that I grew up without a spiritual connection to the world. For every year of my life, my family has gone up to Northeastern Wisconsin, usually around the Rhinelander area. We've moved spots a couple of times, but almost always it has been a place on Lake Thompson. It's that lake which is the source of some of my earliest memories. When I was around eight, I would often get up before most of my family, having been woken by the calls of crows early in the morning. I remember getting up and walking out to the beach at the tiny resort we went to. The lake water was at its stillest, and I walked along the line where the water met the sandy shore. I didn't know what to call it then, but in that moment I felt a connection that I still sometimes struggle to define in words.
The funny thing is, while I was busy proclaiming myself an Atheist, I still prayed for things. On some level I had a problem dismissing the idea thatt there might be something more. I just didn't tell anyone about it. Like many other Pagans, I was fascinated by Mythology -- going so far as to create a new, modern pantheon of gods at one point. I created my own stories about these new gods, and drew images of them. While they were very much alive in my imagination, and on some level felt real to me... but like many fancies of youth, I eventually moved on from them, telling myself "There's no way I could create a god."
Who knew I'd eventually disagree with that statement.
Things changed for me when in High School I read the rather New-Agey book The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot. Now, I know significantly more about Physics and Science now than when I first read that book, and I'm sure if I reread it I would roll my eyes at some of the conclusions Talbot draws. What that book exposed me to though, for the first time, was the bizarre behavior of subatomic particles. The idea that the very act of either a person or machine observing something changed the universe in some way blew my mind.
That's right, the Observer effect and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle were the triggers that finally started my personal spiritual awakening.
Not long after reading that, I began to look at the world a new way. No longer was existence this concrete, structured place. The universe was no longer carved out of marble for me. Instead the world was in flux and it was possible for it to be changed. I began to look for answers, and I started to consider that maybe my dismissing the idea of a higher power was a mistake.
It was not that much later when the final step in my awakening occured. That moment is so burned into my mind that I can remember not just where I was standing, but what I was looking at. I was walking home after having seen a movie, and was passing the corner of North 72nd Street and North Avenue in Wauwatosa, WI. I was looking towards the ground when a rush of emotion and feeling hit me. The street was dead silent, and no cars were around... and I felt at peace and connected to everything around me. The best way to describe it is to say that I understood. I scrambled to find a way to explain that mystical experience, and my journey was set.
I fairly certain that at no other time has the street corner outside the Chinese Pagoda played such an important spiritual role.
In my search I still rejected whole heartedly the idea of structured religion. I didn't like the idea of my requiring an intermediary between myself and whatever existed. Frankly, I had been put off by enough preachers and the over-zealous who had tried to convert me to their faith for years. Often I was met by outright hostility by some Christians, and I let that color my perception of their religion as a whole at a young age. As I've gotten older, I've come to realize that Christianity, while still not for me, can be a beautiful, spiritual faith.
For purposes of full disclosure, I knew my sister was a Wiccan. But that actually made me push away from it a little bit more. Often in my life I had felt like I followed what my sister had done (my involvement in theater and music was entirely based on an attempt to emulate my older sibling), and the last thing I wanted to do was feel like I had made some spiritual decision for any person other than myself. I still decided to give Wicca a look though, and began to do research. At no point did I ever think to ask my own sister for advice. While that may seem strange, I still believe that was the best thing I ever did, as what I came to was very much something that suited me... and is a slightly different take on it than what my sister came to.
What I found in Wicca was a way to describe what I had been feeling for years. It drew me into all of those ideas of my youth, and all of those moments that I had hidden and not told anyone about suddenly no longer felt like things to be ashamed of. That I had put my own faces to a higher power no longer seemed like nonsense I should hide, but instead became a normal part of my spiritual existence.
Some describe coming to Wicca as if it were like coming home. For me, it felt like I had never left it... I just had been walking around it with my eyes closed.