Questions On Finding My Path


…I would actually like to find or create a contemplative form of Paganism for myself and follow that with discipline, and am wondering if you could offer any advice on how to pull this off?  I’m starting to learn about the contemplative tradition in Christianity (such as centering prayer) since I’d like to apply it to Paganism, and am also curious to learn more about Fourth Way practices (Gurdjieff Work) soon.  I also have an interest in runology but haven’t learned much about it just yet. I’d want my path to involve meditation, devotional prayer, study of Pagan philosophy, service to others, and living virtuously. … I don’t know whether its reasonable to synthesize all of the above into a coherent belief…so, help me out, if you could!
Regarding my views, I am a monist and panentheist who believes the Divine is the source of creation and manifests in all of Nature, and can appear as many Deities, but is ultimately non-personal…
Also, I am surprised how much I feel drawn to simple devotion toward the God and Goddess of Wicca, its philosophy of cause & effect, and non-harming others however we choose to act.  Yet, I don’t care as much for elaborate rituals, magick, or esbats. Would it make sense for me to embrace some form of “eclectic”, individualized Wicca as my spirituality? It feels intuitive for me.  I know that you define “Wicca” as only Gerald Gardner’s original version, which isn’t so appealing to me, so I wonder where that leaves non-traditional forms of Wicca or witchcraft. I don’t see myself as a Witch at all, but rather as Nature Mystic and contemplative in training.  I’d like to design and follow some course of self-development that truly fits me. I like the Wiccan Rede but would add a second rule to “act with benevolence in any situation”, and I also try to follow Kant’s Categorial Imperative.
I should add that what drew me to Neo-paganism in general is its love of Earth and Universe and view of divine immanence; … I’m an American of South Asian descent (though not from a Hindu or Buddhist family).  I felt very inspired when I read about the worship of Pashupati (a Horned God) and a Mother Goddess in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, as this reminds me of the God and Goddess in Wicca or European witchcraft traditions.

 

Generally speaking, as long as the cultures/religions you are looking to pull from aren’t closed ones then you are fine to create your own eclectic path from them. The key of course, is to make sure you are doing it in way that is respectful.

Even though a lot of books use the word Wicca to encompass a variety different non-traditional paths, really they are just Neo-Pagan or simply Pagan (or Witchcraft). I think once you start adding and subtracting things (particularly those that move it farther from what might be considered its more core components) then it ceases to be Wicca and shouldn’t be referred to as such. Besides, if you are creating something for yourself, it should have a name that resonates with you.

Additionally, if you feel that there are bits of both Paganism and Christianity that may apply to you, there are things like ChristoPaganism which may be of interest as well. In particular ChristoPaganism: An Inclusive Path by Joyce and River Higganbotham is a good one. Another book that encompasses multiple views is CUSP: A New Way to Walk An Old Path by Eric and Katrina Rasbold. In terms of going to church, it may also be worth checking out the Unitarian Universalists.

One thing I will say, though, if you are being called by particular deities, be careful of randomly inserting them into rituals and/or practices that are outside their own context. Not that it can’t be done, but sometimes it’s better to look within their respective cultures for rituals/practices that are a better fit, and then finding a way to incorporate that into your path if possible.

For example (at least in generalized terms), the Goddess that is honored within traditional Wiccan practice has three aspects: Maiden, Mother and Crone. Each representing a different part of the journey through the Wheel of the Year. If your Mother Goddess from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization doesn’t embody each of those aspects, plunking her down directly into a traditional Wheel of the Year model doesn’t necessarily work very well. The key here would be modifying your Wheel so that it fits the aspects of your Goddess, rather than trying to fit your Goddess into a Wheel she’s not meant for (if that makes sense). Same for your God. Keep in mind that just because he’s a God with horns, doesn’t necessarily make him The Horned God (in a Wiccan sense). Again, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it work, you just need to make sure that you make the right modifications when you design your path.

Secondary to that, if you are taking Gods/Goddesses from different cultures and trying to put them both together to fit in a Lord and Lady model, you need to be very careful and not just throw them together and hope for the best. Spend a lot of time communicating with your deities along the way, while creating your path, and specifically ask for signs (or other acknowledgement) that they are ok with the arrangement. Something to keep in mind too, unless one if a member of a tradition which has particular rules against it, you can always honor deities separately or even follow more than one path (in cases where certain practices are wildly incompatible with each other). So don’t feel like you have to make everything fit perfectly into one single cohesive practice, especially if it makes more sense for particular components to be separate.  

Also, really quick, you mentioned the Wiccan Rede, and it’s worth noting that the Rede has been grossly misrepresented over the years. Rather than being a blanket prohibition on causing harm, it’s more about thinking critically about (and taking responsibility for) one’s actions.

The good thing is that we have plenty of time to figure this stuff out. Our spirituality is a lifelong thing, and for many of us it does continue to change and evolve as the years go on. We find new Gods and practices, and sometimes we have to part ways with some of the older ones when that relationship has run its course. So don’t feel like you have to rush to find the perfect path. Spend as much time as you need immersing yourself in the practices and Gods that call to you, and finding the ones that suit — again (and I know I’m a broken record at this point, but it is so very important), with respect and assuming the cultures/religions are open ones, rather than closed. While this process can take quite a bit of time, I feel that it’s much more rewarding in the end. And though that end point is important, what we do along the way matters even more, so make it count.

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Who Can Worship The Norse Gods?


My partner wants to worship the Norse deities but runs into a lot of media that says that he only wants to appropriate them because he (as a white person) doesn’t have any connection to gods of his own. Do you believe you need to be descended from a certain group (in this case the Norse) in order to worship their deities?

Pre-Christian Norse culture/religion was never closed, and especially given how far and wide they traveled (and intermarried), it’s pretty ridiculous to even claim it. As far as I know, the only people who say such things are ultra-folkish and/or white supremacist groups who are seriously misrepresenting things to cater to their own exclusionary agendas.

I would point to this article published in the Iceland Magazine in May 2017, which focuses on Ásatrú (which is currently an official religion in Iceland), but would apply to the Norse Gods as well, and the following quote in particular:

Anyone can practice the religion but only Icelandic residents can join Ásatrúarfélagið

Only Icelandic citizens or people who have a domicile in Iceland can become members of the Ásatrúarfélag, but anyone can practice Ásatrú, regardless of their nationality or residence. It costs nothing to join and is open to all, irrespective of race, cultural background, gender or sexual orientation.

Ásatrúarfélag is the national pagan association in Iceland – which is why that particular group is only open to those who live in that county. But the religion itself and worship of the Gods is open to all. And I mean, if anyone would know, it’s them right?

Now, I do feel that it’s worth mentioning the following though. Whether or not other religions are able to be practiced by everyone depends on the culture/religion in question. Some are open to everyone – Norse and Hellenic practices for example, while others, such as Native American religions, are closed to those who are not members of the culture (or who have not been adopted into the culture). So it’s always better to ask, if one is unsure.

 

Spirit Guides


I’m sorry to trouble you but I wasn’t sure who to ask. I decided to talk to my spiritual guide for the first time to help have a question answered that had been troubling me a for a while. I was able to enter a place of forest, a beautiful place where I met my spiritual guide who helped answer my question. I was so completely calm and at peace with him that I failed to question that he wasn’t human until I came out of my trance like state. It was easy to enter the place and talk to him, but hard to leave. My “spiritual guide” was a man, a strong bold looking man, he had deer antlers on his head. they were of great size. he sat cross legged when we talked, and was very calm but still with a sense of boldness. When I asked for his name he hesitated, and I found the name to be false. after the event I went to look for him because our encounter seems strange. What I found is that, I believe he is the Horned God. the Oak King and the Holly King. Is this strange or am I mistaken? I am very confused if he was the horned god why he would appear as my spiritual guide. Can you help me? I just need an explanation, can gods be spiritual guides? Why did HE appear instead of an actual spirit?

A “spirit guide” can be any type of entity, and especially if you left the request for contact sort of open ended, then it’s possible that any entity could choose to manifest as your “guide”, even potentially a deity.  So that, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily strange if it was a God that came to you – the point is whether or not the information imparted was useful, and/or needed.

Alternatively (again if the request was too open ended, or without a clear focus), there are some entities that might try to take advantage of that sort of situation. So while it may be something benevolent giving whatever advice they think you can handle for now, it could also be something else entirely that is lying to you for it’s own ends. It’s important to be careful about such things.

As far as visual form – the “Horned God” you describe seems to fit with sort of a general accepted image of Cernunnos, or similar type images like what is seen in the Gundestrup cauldron. However, Cernunnos is particularly related to Celtic polytheism (though the name itself was derived from a Gaulish monument dating back to Roman times) , rather than a “horned God” in general, so not entirely sure how/if that relates to your practice or not. Similar figures – antlered and wearing animal skins have also been noted elsewhere, such as the cave paintings at Trois Frères.

The Oak King/Holly King mythos – is something that was documented by Robert Graves in his book “The White Goddess”, and previously by James Frazier in “The Golden Bough” (chapter 28 in particular). It was later picked up by Stewart and Janet Farrar, and incorporated into their practices, as written about in “A Witches’ Bible”. Again, not something that is necessarily related to Cernunnos, or even “horned Gods” in general – even if some “horned Gods” might follow that type of cycle.  

If those are things that fit within your practices, then it could be why your “guide” chose that particular form. But again as to if it was actually deity and/or the Horned God specifically that visited you, it’s hard to say. Could be, definitely not out of the realm of possibilities, but could also be another entity using a guise that fit with something you would more readily recognize and be willing to accept advice from.

Generally when one is in a situation like that, it’s good to ask questions to help test the “validity” (relatively speaking of course) of what is being experienced – but then again, sometimes it’s the advice given that really matters (regardless of the source). It’s easy enough for entities to choose whatever face they want to put on, so sometimes even if you can’t tell if they really are who they say they are, as long as you can get a good sense of the intent behind their visit, and if the advice being given is relevant and helpful (even if it’s not necessarily what you were hoping to hear), then it may be ok to accept the experience at face value, despite not being quite what you were expecting.

 Some other options…

  •  go back into a meditative/trance state and see if you can contact them again, and try to get a better sense of who they are. Ask more questions – they may or may not choose to answer, but it’s still a good way of trying to clarify the experience.
  •  use divination to help to confirm the experience.
  •  independent confirmation from other trusted Pagans who often work with spirit guides, or who might normally have a strong working relationship with said deity.
  •  independent confirmation via a cold reading from others who are trustworthy and experienced in various divination methods.

Keep in mind as well, if you decide to contact this entity again, don’t be afraid to question it. Any new relationship has a getting to know you period and questions and discussion are a part of that.

Pan and the Nature of Gods


Hi, i’m new to paganism and am wondering about Pan, and if he is a loving deity. I think our culture has stereotyped the idea of the devil so much that searching for understanding/differences/alternatives is difficult. I’ve heard of the green-woman but not very much about her. Goddesses interest me, its just that compared to the hypocritical ideas in christian religions of a loving god + hell, other kinds of male deities interest me too… i’d like to believe in good ones in general that work for me.

Going strictly by the original lore – I wouldn’t really categorize Pan as a “loving” deity, at least not in the sense I think you mean. Clearly he’s not one deserving to be vilified as he has been, but he’s also not necessarily gentle and kind either. Though primarily a God of “shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music”, there is also a good reason why his name can be seen in the word “panic”. As a companion of Dionysus, he is more rightfully associated with pleasure and wild abandon, instead of more placid pursuits. As such, he was often found chasing Nymphs, though they they clearly did not return his affections, and in many cases went to extreme lengths to avoid being “caught”.

If you are interested in getting a pretty detailed picture of Pan, at least as far as the lore is concerned, I would suggest reading over the Theoi Project page on him. It’s a great overview and links to the related texts and source materials, which you can use for further research.

The thing to keep in mind with most Gods and Goddesses, at least from a Pagan perspective, is that “good” and “bad” are sort of relative terms – it’s usually not so cut and dry. While some Gods or Goddesses may be more caring and loving (or whatever other “good” qualities one might look for), in many cases it’s more a matter of them having good days and bad days just like everyone else. The question to ask too, is…  What is “good”/“bad”? Some people don’t like to acknowledge things that make them uncomfortable, even if those things are perfectly normal or necessary. From a more conservative perspective “pleasure” and “wild abandon” are often considered taboo, yet there can be joy and even healing in such actions. To be sure, too much of anything can be a bad thing (and there is definitely the potential for it to be taken to an extreme with Pan), but even so, letting our hair down every once in awhile is a wonderful release.

If you are just looking for “good” Gods to work with, you may have a difficult time finding what you are looking for. There are many Gods who are known for being kindly, and/or less demanding than others, but even most of those have another side to them as well. If there is a particular God or Goddess that you feel called to, it’s probably going to be a matter of either accepting them as they are, or declining the call. It usually doesn’t work out very well when we try to force our Gods into being something that they really aren’t.

For those following us – if any of you work with Pan on a regular basis, please feel free to share (as much as you are able, or willing to) any personal experiences, that would give more insight as to his general nature. We’d love to hear from you!! 🙂