How do I Switch Religions?


Hello, I have been doing alot of studying, and I feel that becoming a Wiccan is the right path for me. My question is that since I was raised as a catholic, how can I “switch” religions? Do I have to do something to change to become a Wiccan?

You do indeed!

Wicca is an initiatory religion. If you are interested in becoming a Wiccan, you do have to track down a legitimate Wiccan coven from a legitimate Wiccan tradition. These traditions include Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Central Valley among others. Once you find a coven into which you feel you fit well, and they decide to take you on as a student, eventually you will be initiated into the coven.

Here are some links to help you out in searching for a coven:
Amber and Jet
New Wiccan Church

We also focus on finding a group or coven in our answer to this question.

Finding a Wiccan coven that you mesh with well can take a long time, and you may have to travel some way to meet with them. I know Wiccans and students of Wicca who drive or take a train for hours to meet with their coven for each Sabbat. And of course Wicca isn’t for everyone; it’s a pretty small Pagan religion, and you may end up pursuing either another specific Pagan religion or a form of eclectic Pagan witchcraft, as many people do.

If it turns out Wicca isn’t the right religion for you – and many people do decide against pursuing Wicca for one reason or another – other Pagan religions may have particular initiation or dedication rites for you to perform, either to bring you into the religion or into a specific group. If you end up studying as a solitary (possibly eclectic) Pagan, you may wish, once you are certain, to perform some sort of dedication ritual for yourself. As you are leaving another religion that does have a form of dedication itself, you may wish to renounce that dedication also, either as a part of the same ritual or as a separate ritual.

How you perform your dedication is up to you; you may want to follow a basic dedication ritual from a book or you may want to write your own. It could just be a simple statement, or involve a ritual rebirth. You may choose  a special day to perform it, such as a holiday or particular phase of the moon, or a day that is special to you personally.

Some ideas if this is the way you choose to go:

* Wrap yourself in dark cloth, spend some time in contemplation, and unwrap yourself

* Light a candle signifying your old life, snuff it, then light a new candle for your new life (or light the new candle with the old one)

* Go to a body of water such as a lake or ocean and immerse yourself entirely

* Draw or create a line from a ribbon, stick etc. and step over it from your old life to your new life

Of course, you don’t need to perform a dedication. It’s a personal choice. If you feel in yourself that this is what and who you are now, a dedication may be unnecessary. Many forms of religious witchcraft and eclectic Paganism do encourage it, but if you’re not interested or consider it a bit redundant, and it’s not a part of the specific religion you follow, you don’t have to perform one.

~~~

As a bit of a discussion point, readers, if you have been initiated into a group or religion, or performed a dedication for yourself, what did you do (if you can tell us) and do you have any extra ideas for those who are considering a dedication themselves?

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TIP: Beyond the 101


So, these are meant to go out on Fridays but we sort of slacked off and then forgot about it. So. It’s late. *cough* Seeing as it’s only the third one that’s a bit sad, haha.

This week’s tip is about the point where you’ve read a bunch of “Neo-Paganism 101” books and you’re ready to move on to the next level of information. But when you get to the library or bookstore, you can’t find anything except more entry-level books. The more you read, the more you feel like something is missing; these books are grazing the surface of something but you can’t manage to get any deeper. What happens now, and how do you move beyond this basic information to a deeper level of practice if you don’t have a teacher?

The reason many of these books are so limited is that they’re based on Wicca. Wicca, as you may know, is an initiatory religion; there’s only so much that can be written about it, first because much is secret and second because much is experiential and can’t be accurately taught in words. Books about Wicca will necessarily be limited to a bare outline, and to get the full experience of Wicca, one must seek initiation. Many basic books on Paganism are based very much on this model and will have a lack of depth that may only become apparent once you start reaching out into other areas and realising how much information there is.

When you reach this point, therefore, there are several actions you can take. These aren’t exclusive:

The first is to branch out. Most 101 books on Paganism will be focused on a very narrow subset, usually related to witchcraft in some way or another and with a strong Wicca flavour. They will talk about circle-casting and two deities and eight Sabbats and so on. But of course, there are dozens of Pagan religions, many that have totally different holidays, different ritual forms, and far more than two deities. Some religions will have more introductory books than others, and some won’t have any, and they may not be in the same section as the books you have been reading so far. You may end up going to the myths, the history, the archaeology for your information.

The second is to find a teacher. Some Pagan religions, often religious witchcrafts, can only be properly taught in person, or in a coven, or via ritual. Not everyone is able to, or even wants to, find a teacher, but there are particular Pagan religions where this is a necessity. If this isn’t your thing or it’s not possible at the moment, it will put certain religions out of your reach.

The third is introspection and personal practice. Sometimes depth and understanding come from regular practice, particularly if you start incorporating daily or weekly exercises. Get up to watch the sun rise every day for a week, dig into the lore for prayers you can recite daily or write your own, spend time in meditation, write down all your thoughts and ideas.

The fourth is community. Discussing things with people – even if they are of a different Pagan religion to yourself, or you disagree on major issues – can give you new ideas and unlock new understandings. People can recommend websites, books, exercises, meditations; introduce you to groups and teachers; help you with difficulties you’ve been having. If there are no Pagans nearby, or you happen to dislike all the Pagans in your area, the internet is a great help.

Keep searching! There’s always more to be learned.

TIP: UPG


Many reconstructionists will be familiar with this term, but it doesn’t seem to be used as often in other Pagan religions. It’s a fantastically useful concept, so it’s our Weekly Tip. (Although at this point it looks like it’s becoming our Weekly Word Definition or something. Ah well! Forward!)

UPG stands for “Unverified Personal Gnosis”, though depending on who you ask, the U may stand for “Unsubstantiated”. Either is fine and acceptable. It refers to understandings you have of the gods (as well as concepts and situations related to your religion) that aren’t backed up by the lore (that is, mythology and so forth). For example, your interactions with Venus may have led you to believe that she likes the colour pink and offerings of sparkling grapefruit juice, or that Oðinn is not a fan of peach schnapps. There’s no mention of these things in lore (…to the best of my knowledge…), but because of some experience you’ve had in ritual or meditation, you have come to this conclusion. It may even have been a direct teaching.

UPG is a great thing, and something we should all take heed of, but it should always be understood that this is your UPG, and not something anyone else is required to accept. In discussing a deity etc., it’s always wise to alert people when something you mention is your UPG. “This is just my UPG, but I’ve always felt that….” is a good way to start. This way everyone knows where they stand, and understands what you’re saying; while they may not agree with you, many people will respect that you don’t expect them to agree with you. It also means people won’t sit there thinking “Gosh, I’ve never heard that before. I wonder where it’s written?” and spend three days going through all the lore they can find in vain.

What’s wonderful is when you have an item of UPG and you are reading through the lore and you come across the very same idea. Your UPG is now Verified. (Hooray!)

On the other hand, you may come across something in lore that directly contradicts your UPG. In this situation, you may want to reassess what you have come to understand. Hold up the two contradictory ideas and let them percolate for a while. An example of this is the apparently wide-spread feeling that Hekate is a crone goddess, while Greek lore and art portray her as a maiden.

Occasionally some conclusion you come to via UPG will be shared by others. This is SPG – Shared Personal Gnosis – or PVPG – Peer Verified Personal Gnosis. Examples of this are the Unofficial Lokablót date of April 1st and Freyja’s apparent enjoyment of strawberries. These ideas have been reached by worshippers completely independently of one another, and because they are shared by so many people they carry more weight than just your average UPG. However, they still don’t carry as much weight as lore.

Lore will always carry more weight than UPG. You don’t have to accept it over what you have come to believe, and lore isn’t necessarily gospel, but don’t expect others to trust you over the lore. On the other hand, you don’t have to accept anyone else’s UPG, either.

 

(Disclaimer: Mercury is in retrograde. Please forgive us if this is a bit confused.)