Hello, I am having trouble finding information specificly on having Freyja as a patron goddess. I have always considered myself agnostic, but I looked up symbols I have been dreaming about my whole life (boars, wolves, a woman, the word ‘vala’ which turns out to be another word for völva) and they led directly to Freyja. Unfortunately, the little bit of information I can find about her is extremely sparce and redundant. – Candis

The Nordic equivalent of a “patron” would be Fulltrua, and Freyja is very “popular” in this role. There’s a fair bit of others’ UPG out there, as well as lore-based information. Most introduction-to-Heathenry books will have a page or two on her at least. First check out the Poetic and Prose Eddur. It’s best to familiarise yourself with the entire mythology to get a good idea of her anyway, but there are particular tales in which she features such as Hyndluljóð. You might like to pick up one of those introduction books as well; Essential Asatru is a popular one.

Our Troth vol. I has a good 18-19 pages on Freyja, and is a great text for those interested in Heathenry beyond the basic introduction. You can find it here and here. There is also a quarterly publication that is done by The Troth and the Spring ’02 edition is focused entirely on Freyja. You can find it though the following…  in either printed or PDF format.

There’s also a book called “Freyja, Lady, Vanadis” which you can find here and here that is well-reviewed by Heathen reviewers whose opinions I respect. I haven’t read it myself, but feel comfortable mentioning it based on those reviews. Once you’ve ploughed through the Eddur I’d recommend that for further study.

I hope that helped 🙂

Sacred Moments #2

Today’s devotional is a sonnet by an Odinswoman we know. Many thanks to her for allowing us to post it here.


Gallows Load

Burnished gallows set with red
Caress the fevered, empty mind
Of man who hangs bloodied and blind
To reach for wisdom, not for bread.

I think to hang there in his stead
And wonder if I dare to bind
My destiny to be his kind
And follow where he never lead.

To ride my orlog like a steed,
If I could dare to take the plunge
Into the noiseless emptiness
That calls me with its baseless need,
Of wisdom’s touch and daring’s lunge
To aid with endless lovingness.

       ~ by Deoridhe Grimsdottir

Sacred Moments #1

Hello readers!

We’re going to start posting “devotionals” a couple of times a week – inspiring quotes, snippets of lore, prayers, meditations, ideas and pictures that we love. Some of it will be religion-specific, and some of it will be a lot more general. Some of it won’t even be Pagan-specific. We hope you enjoy them! We’re calling them “Sacred Moments” – at least to start with – to reflect the moments in one’s day when one pauses, and one’s mind is quiet, and the sacred is immanent.

Sacred Moment #1:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

– Siddhartha Gutama the Buddha

TIP: Books of Shadows

Hey guys. Been a while, huh? Sorry about that. Well, here we are with a new tip. This week we’re talking about Books of Shadows.

A Book of Shadows is a personal book containing rituals, spells, poetry, experiences and information that a person comes across in their studies. It’s a term primarily used in Neo-Pagan witchcrafts of various types, but I’ve met non-witch Pagans who use the term also for their personal religious book. It’s usually considered distinct from a spiritual journal and reserved for things of import that are representative of one’s craft. (Or indeed one’s faith.) To some, it can serve as a self-compiled set of scriptures; to others, it’s a recipe book of all their favourite spells, oils and tinctures.

The term comes to us through Wicca. Gardner reportedly discovered the term “book of shadows” in a magazine and snapped it up for his own use. In Wicca (and in some other initiatory or semi-initiatory witchcrafts that follow Wicca’s lead) the Book of Shadows is copied out by each initiate, in his or her own “hand of write”. The content of each BoS is the same, but each Wiccan can add his or her own impressions after the main text. Some Wiccans will refer to the Wiccan BoS by capitalising it (Book of Shadows, vs book of shadows) but the term is one any witch can use. (This includes non-Pagans!)

Don’t feel like you have to have one, though. Whether or not a person creates a book of shadows is up to them. Many people will create one as a compendium of notes when they are starting out – for this reason many more experienced witches will recommend starting out with a ring-binder of shadows instead, so that things are easy to re-arrange, add to or remove. It’s pretty gutting to buy a fabulous expensive book of shadows and have to rip out several pages – or trash the entire thing – years later when your craft and your ideas change! Regardless, keeping one is a personal choice, and many people prefer sticking with an exercise book for their notes and keeping a spiritual journal. And unless you’re a part of a specific tradition, there isn’t anything you must (or can’t) include in yours. Aside from the term applying mostly to a book of craft work rather than more of a journal, everything in it is up to you. Some people will have tarot spreads, some will have the Charge of the Goddess, others will have recipes for oils.

It’s also common now to have, instead of (or as well as) a book, a folder on your computer or a flash drive to store the information you come across and wish to keep. People also use blogs for this purpose – some private, some public.

There are other terms for the book of shadows, many of which have their own implications. A “Grimoire” tends to refer to an old book of ceremonial magic, while some use “Book of Mirrors” to refer to a book of just one’s thoughts and experiences – more of a spiritual journal, no spells or rites. Others will use this term as a straight synonym. Another, perhaps less popular, name is “Book of Light”. The Seax-Wican book is called “The Tree”. You can call yours whatever you like, but “Book of Shadows” does seem to remain the most popular.

For my part, I’ve heard that “Book of Shadows” is meant to imply that what one reads in it – rituals, thoughts etc. – are just the shadows, the silhouettes of the practice and craft itself. Valiente explains that it is so named “because its contents can only be this world’s shadows of the Other World”. This is one of those things that doesn’t need to be one or the other; I imagine the term means many different things to different people.

Do you have a book of shadows, reader? If so, what form does it take, and what does it contain?

“I’m new to Paganism…”

Okay… I am new to Paganism (I’ve known about Wicca since I was 12, but I have gotten into it hardcore in the last month or so) and I have been really confused on which path is right for me, and I want to do this right. People keep telling me to pray and to meditate, and to research/read. The problem is… I’m not sure what to pray or meditate for or research/read. Right now, I am reading Scott Cunningham’s book for the solitary practice, because that is what I want to do, be a solitary witch. I would like to study witchcraft, healing, herbs, stones, divination (mostly tarot and pendulums), nature and the moon. Perhaps you could give me an idea of where to go with this?

First off, we want to reiterate to anyone who might be reading that witchcraft isn’t always religious and isn’t always Pagan. We get the impression from you, dear reader, that you’re interested in theistic Neo-Pagan witchcraft, and so what we recommend is skewed towards that. If that’s not what you’re interested in – if you’re more interested in atheistic witchcraft, or Christian witchcraft, or something else, let us know and we’ll answer again from that perspective.

You don’t have to pick a direction right now. We know what it feels like to not have an obvious study plan, or even a particular term with which to identify. You feel a bit aimless, unrooted. But stability will come in time. There’s no quick and easy way to get there, you just have to familiarise yourself with the field until you’ve worked out the direction in which you’d like to go. Keep in mind that it takes some people years or decades to find the path that really resonates with them. Some of us here at TIP are very fond of the quote “Life’s about the journey, not the destination“. (Ralph Waldo Emerson.) Spirituality is the same way. Don’t rush.

Enjoy this time as a time of growth and of learning. Keep a journal, record all your impressions, take notes from the books you’re reading with both quotes and your personal thoughts. Date everything. Spend time walking outside. Pay attention to the world around you. Record your thoughts, your impressions, your experiences.

When you pray, it doesn’t need to be for something. You don’t need to ask… you can just thank. You can exalt. You can just say hi. You can also pray without saying anything at all.

Meditation isn’t something that will make a quick impact on your life. You need to practise it regularly to feel the effects, meaning when you’re just starting out, it may take a while to feel like you’re getting the hang of it. As you begin with meditation you may find yourself easily frustrated, and as if you’re frequently failing. Try to put these from your mind. It will come in time. If the type of meditation in which you clear your mind of all thoughts is something you have difficulty with, try starting with a guided meditation (there are some on Youtube, and there are some podcasts also) or focusing on something. Light a candle, or set a flower before you. A stone in a bowl of water, perhaps. There is a classic meditation coupled with energy work that is a staple within witchcraft, and this is known as “grounding”. There are various ways to do it, but the most popular involves visualising roots reaching down from your spine and into the earth.

You’ve told us what you would like to study…. Well, study it. Pick one thing, and focus on that for a while. There’s a plethora of sources on all those things. You’re lucky in that solitary Neo-Pagan witchcraft has the most number of sources available. The downside of that is that the subject is most open to exploitation by bad authors, so beware.

Here are some book and website recommendations:

* ABC of Witchcraft and Natural Magic by Doreen Valiente
* The first half of Embracing the Moon by Yasmine Galenorn (it gets a little poor and appropriate-y the further through the book you go, so just be aware of that)
* Way of the Hedge Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock (not about Hedgecraft but a decent little book on mostly practical home-based witchcraft)
* Living Wicca by Cunningham (not Wicca, but good in its own right; the follow-up to Guide is rather better than the first)
* Pagan Spirituality by Joyce and River Higginbotham
* Elements of Ritual by Deborah Lipp
* Circle of Fire by Sorita D’Este and David Rankine
* Grimoire of Shadows by Ed Fitch
* Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton (history on Neo-Pagan witchcraft, a great read and a staple)

* Love is in the Earth by Melody
* Bud, Blossom and Leaf: Magical Herb Gardner’s Handbook by Dorothy Morrison
* The Herbal Medicine-Makers Handbook by James Green
Botanical: a Modern Herbal
Culpeper’s Herbal
Aeclectic Tarot
This ritual worksheet is Wicca-flavoured and may be helpful or to your taste. It’s not the only type of ritual out there, of course.

Don’t be afraid to look outside of the Pagan/Occult section of your bookshop when it comes to some of these subjects. Often you’ll find things just as good, or better, if you’re looking in the gardening section, history, anthropology, mythology, pop-science and so on.

There are some basic exercises here but we must disagree with the author: we do think Wicca is only initiatory, and what is taught in these exercises is a form of Neo-Pagan witchcraft, but not Wicca.

Keep in mind that none of these books or websites are perfect! Always read critically, and be aware that there are elements of appropriation in some of these books. Be conscious and aware when you read and you should do fine.

If Wicca sparks your interest, we suggest “A Witches’ Bible” by Janet and Stewart Farrar and anything by Gardner himself. It’s interesting to read about it, even though as Wicca is a coven-based religion, it may not be for you, at least not at this point.

The following books are popular, but we do not recommend them. Some of them have good bits in them, but they are overall low on content and contain more misinformation than information. You may see them recommended widely, and maybe you’ll be interested to read them at a library, but if you’re the type who prefers to buy her books, we suggest you don’t waste your money:

* Anything by Silver Ravenwolf
* The Spiral Dance by Starhawk (some of the exercises here are pretty good, but it’s not worth buying the whole book for them. Get it from a library instead.)
* Anything by D.J. Conway
* Anything by Edain McCoy
* Runes by Ralph Blum
* A Witch Alone by Marian Green

Examine also your reasons for wanting to research those things. For example, nature. What is nature? What does it mean to say you wish to study it? Are we a part of nature? Why, or why not? Where is the line between nature and not-nature? When you say you want to study the moon, how do you mean? Physically, spiritually, or both? Are you interested in astronomy? physics? Ask these things of yourself. Part of witchcraft – a very important part – is self-knowledge. Explore your own self, your reasons for wanting to research these things. Why you like them. Whether or not, as you research, they turn out to be what you thought they were when you started.

If we’ve been unclear or you have further questions, make sure to ask and we’ll do what we can to help. 🙂

Pagan Blog Project

Hey there!

Some of us at T.I.P. have been writing along with the Pagan Blog Project (see blog roll to the right). We’ve found it an interesting and fun way not only to explore different areas of our religions and spiritualities, but to see what other Pagan blogs are out there, and what people are writing about.

Are you participating in the Pagan Blog Project? What have you enjoyed (or not!) about it thus far? What will you be writing about this week?

TIP: Cults

Over the years the word “cult” has gotten a bad rap. People tend to think of cults as a group that has been brainwashed by the twisted leader to do anything and everything. And indeed, this is one definition of the word “cult”. It’s also one of the most popular uses of the term. However, within comparative religion, one may come across the term used in a more positive way; for example, Gardner referred to his religion as a “witch-cult”.

But not all cults are like that. One of the dictionary definitions of the word cult (see below) is a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols, or even, simply, formal religious worship. Under that definition, many religions can be considered cults. Another definition of cult is an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing; we use this colloquially in the context of “cult films” and so on as well as in relation to religions.

The term “cult” can also refer to the external or observable aspects of a religion, and a religion for which the neglect of these aspects would be considered impious.

Though there is often cause to bristle with indignation if one’s religion is referred to as a “cult”, it is important not to leap to the defensive when the word is used. The person using the word may not have intended any offence after all. The definition being used may not be apparent from context, so check before flaring up.

As an aside – it is wise to familiarise oneself with the signs of a dangerous cult. Not every group that identifies itself to you as, for example, Wiccan, is in fact a Wiccan group. The Cult Danger Evaluation Frame linked below should help you ascertain whether a group is a cause for worry, and if you don’t feel comfortable, stay away.

The OED on “cult”

Merriam-Webster on “cult”

Wikipedia on “cult”

The Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (with the pleasing acronym of ABCDEF)

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?

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.