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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Deciding Between Paths: How To Know When You Are Ready?


I’ve been raised as a Christian my whole life. But about 2 years ago, I realized that it wasn’t my true calling or a place where I felt at home at all. But about a year ago, I fell upon Wicca. To me, it feels true and right and I feel so at home within it, so I just decided to call myself Wiccan. More recently, I realized that that wasn’t any way to follow Wicca and that I’d gone about it in a way that wouldn’t truly benefit me. So now I’m taking the time to learn more about both Christianity and Wicca and I’m so excited to finally choose and follow Wicca as I should’ve done in the first place.

However, going to church every Sunday has made it increasingly difficult to commit myself to Wicca so I’m left feeling unsure whether I was too quick but in Christianity I feel uncomfortable and unsafe and judged so I know it’s not what is right for me. I guess I’m just looking for advice and how to release all this doubt and fear. I truly want to dedicate myself to the God and Goddess but I’m just doubting whether I’m ready or not. At my age and in my ‘situation’ it’s hard to find other Wiccans who I can speak to and learn from and be guided by.

Probably not what you are going to want to hear, but at 14 you have plenty of time to figure which path is right for you. Particularly if you are having doubts, it’s good idea to take as much time as you feel is necessary.

From a traditional standpoint, Wiccan covens will not initiate anyone who is under the age of 18 (sometimes even 21), so there is not any need to rush to anything at this point. If you still feel pulled towards Christianity, keep in mind that, even if you are uncomfortable at your current church, that may not be indicative of all churches, or even all denominations. So it may be worth it to explore other areas of Christianity before making any major decisions.

Once you are sure that Wicca or Wicca-inspired NeoPaganism is more your calling, there is still not any real reason to start dedicating or oathing yourself to anyone at this point. Oaths and vows are something that the Gods take very seriously and doing such during the teen years is just not a good idea (in any way). It’s not always a good idea for some, even when they are older – things change and we think we will always be able to follow through, but that’s not always the case. And trying to take back an oath… it doesn’t always go well and some Gods are less forgiving than others. So patience at this stage is a good thing.

In the meantime, I would suggest lots of reading. We have a couple of previous posts with some recommendations (here and here). This doesn’t mean you can’t practice anything, but it simply means don’t look to settling in just yet. Give yourself plenty of time to explore.

Additionally, if you feel that maybe there are bits of both Paganism and Christianity that call 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.

I know that when we are young, it often seems like we need to make a decision about things NOW, but in truth – particularly with the really important things, careful consideration is the better course of action. During our teen years things change rapidly and those things that we feel strongly about one day soon fade, and by the time we reach young adulthood we are often completely different people. Making any sort of decision, particularly involving dedicating oneself to a God (or Gods), is not something to make until one is absolutely sure that one can keep that commitment*. So don’t feel that you need to be doing anything, until you have resolved any lingering doubts are are fully ready to take those next steps.

*worth noting too that for some people, they are never ready to take an oath or dedicate themselves, and that is perfectly ok too. Never feel like you have to do such a thing, even if it said so in a book or on a website, etc… 😉

Paganism Without Gods


Hello, I have a question about paganism without gods. Is it possible? What does worshiping the triple goddess or the horned god achieve, if instead you’d prefer to appreciate the world around you. Are they simply figureheads, ritual shorthand, for the traits they represent? Would love some recommended reading and some helpful words. Thank you 🙂

While there are some NeoPagans who simply see Gods and Goddesses as archetypes, rather than actual beings, personally I think that the better choice would be to find a path that does not involve them at all. Not that there aren’t plenty who do make it work, but it seems strange to go through the motions of working with the Gods – even just for the symbolism, if one doesn’t actually believe in them. Especially when there are other options available that can be just as rewarding, and probably even more suited to one’s beliefs.

In terms of those other paths, particularly for someone who is more interested in appreciating the world in general, Pantheism would be a good place to start. Might want to check the following… Elements of Pantheism: A Spirituality of Nature and the Universe

Outside of that, the next step would be to ask yourself exactly what aspects of “Paganism” call to you? There are literally hundreds of different paths one can take, and other than Wicca and Wicca-inspired NeoPaganism, most do not involve a Triple Goddess or a Horned God. Along with that, I would venture to say as well, that if one does not believe in deity (in any sense of the word), then anything “Wicca” (Trad or otherwise) would probably not be the right fit

If it’s just the witchcraft and the “nature-based” parts, then again it may not be Wicca that you are seeking, as traditionally Wicca is fertility-based (focused on the continued cycles of birth-life-death-rebirth), rather than “nature” as a whole.

To the issue of deities though, Wicca (even in an Eclectic NeoPagan sense of the word) is about polarity between a God and Goddess, or (in a non-traditional sense) aspects of such. All rituals are centered around them – the Sabbats relate particularly to the God’s journey through the Wheel of the Year, and the Esbats are the Goddess’ journey. If one is not looking to incorporate that, then another path would be a better choice.

If one is looking more towards a witchcraft based spiritual tradition, then I’d focus on that, rather than trying fit what interests you into a NeoPagan mold. Paganism has a vast wealth of traditions to choose from (including the ability to create one’s own path), there’s bound to be something that is a much better fit. It’s just a matter of finding the right resources (which admittedly can be very difficult sometimes).

A few other resources that might be helpful…

  •  T. Thorn Coyle’s Crafting A Daily Practice or possibly even her Evolutionary Witchcraft though that might be somewhat deity centered as well, but there are probably some good things that can be taken away for a practice separate of them as well.
  • Another that might be worth looking at, and though they do talk about about deity in the following, it’s also set up in a way that the word encompasses, not only God(s), but other entities, the Universe, etc… so it’s very open-ended in terms of creating a cohesive practice, that is somewhat Wicca-inspired (still based on the Wheel of the Year and similar concepts), but also more for those who are eclectic in nature – Katrina and Eric Rasbold’s CUSP: A New Way to Walk An Old Path

 

Asatru: Misconceptions and Resources


I could not find where to specifically ask a question, so I apologize if this winds up attached to someones blog. So I have been Shaman for a long time, but an atheist one. I did not believe in any gods or goddesses. The last few years Odin and Freya have been appearing to me. I started to believe in them and wanted to identify with their tradition.

My husband practices what is called Asatru, but he prefers to be called heathen. I found out why, when researching our faith every American Asatru network was connected to neo nazisim and the most hateful practices.

I am so upset and I feel like I am losing my faith. My husband swears those people are not part of actual Asatru, and that this is why most followers of Asatru now just call themselves Norse Pagans or Heathens. The Odin and Freya I am familiar with were the most loving beings I’ve ever encountered and I feel like a whole that was filled is being emptied. As the mass American belief in this is so horrible I don’t know how to find what the information I need. I am scared that the whole belief might be like this and I just didn’t realize. I hope it’s not true, because for the first time in my life I felt fulfilled and at peace, and then I went to research it and everything changed. I’ve been told repeatedly by my husband that what I do, healing people, healing nature, communing with spirits and following the example of Odin and Freya is what the religious followers actually do and the other people just perverted and poisoned it, but the problem is is that I cannot find ANY information on the old ways, which is what we both practice. I will never ever associate myself with neo nazism, even if it means losing my religion, but I hope my husband is right. That those people perverted it and what they do has nothing in common with true Asatru. Sorry for how long this is, this has been really hard on me. Any help would be wonderfully welcomed.

Your husband is correct – as with any religion there are always going to be those who are fanatics, or who just completely misuse or misinterpret things and go off on their own crazy path, and in that sense these NeoNazi groups that you’ve come across are about as legitimately Asatru as the Westboro Baptist Church is Christian… which is to say not at all (regardless of what they might claim to be). Also, even though certain religions may be more popular with those who might identify as white supremacists, that does not mean that the religions themselves are racist, or promote racism in any way. Not sure why your searches are only turning up those sorts of resources but they are definitely not the norm by any stretch, and in fact there is very little in the lore that supports any sort of racism, or hatred such as those groups espouse. It’s unfortunate as well, that the media often picks up on these types of groups, which makes it seem that they are all like that, when in truth it’s only a very small representation, and not a very accurate one at that.

There are a small number of groups that take a more “folkish” view of things – in that they feel that one must have Norse or Germanic blood in order to practice Asatru. They consider it more of a tribal religion, related to one’s own culture, rather than a more open religion that can be practiced by anyone. Again though – this is not how the majority of those who practice see the religion at all, and while in a technical sense these folkish groups are often referred to as being racist, it’s not anywhere near on the same scale as the violent NeoNazi groups. It’s also not a case where they feel being a particular skin color is better or worse than anyone else, it’s a matter of feeling that the religion is tied to one’s ancestry, and thus closed to “outsiders”.

As far as practices and beliefs, as well as general history of the Norse culture and customs, Gods and Goddess, etc… I would suggest picking the following:

As far as online resources there’s:

Definitely can be a bit upsetting when you think that what you’ve been called to may not quite be what it seemed, but in this case you really don’t have anything to worry about.  🙂

* you can also check our previous post on Norse Paganism in general.

Solitary Witch – Where Do I Start?


Hello, basically I have known about and been very interested in paganism since I was about 10 years old. I’m just confused as to which path to follow seeing as there seem to be so many! I think I will most likely be a solitary witch and am definitely interested in practicing magik, following the moon, the seasons, following the wiccan rede, healing, all sorts really. I just really need advise on getting stuck in, I mean there’s so much to learn where do you start?! I wish it were easier to find someone to guide me on my path.

It can definitely be confusing when one is first starting out, especially if one is going a more eclectic route, rather than looking to study within a specific tradition. In many ways being eclectic is actually the more difficult path, as you end up having to study a wide variety of cultures and traditions in an in-depth manner, rather than just focusing on one. For some things to consider when forming your eclectic practice, I would suggest reading Eclecticism Within NeoPaganism.

I’m hitting on the points that you brought up, in order, and suggesting resources when necessary – for a lot of it, it may come down to having to study individual components separately, and then finding your own way of putting it all together in a way that works for you. We once tried to define the word witchcraft and found it difficult at best to come up with anything that “everyone” agreed on. So it also may be up to you to define exactly what practices are covered by the term “solitary witch” as well. Once you get to that point, then you may find it a bit easier to know where to start looking for the information that you need.

Also keep in mind that there really isn’t any reason to spell the word “magic” in any special way. Within Thelema, it is spelled “magick”, however that is due to something that is rather specific to that path, having to do with numerology, and isn’t something that is necessary if one is on a different path. A common reason that I hear from others for doing so is to differentiate between “stage” magic and witchcraft, or other spell work. However the truth is that if you are talking (or in this case corresponding via the written word) with others who are like minded, then they will understand what you are referring to, without you having to resort to any convoluted spelling changes.

You didn’t state specifically within your question, if you were interested in any particular Gods or Goddesses, or any particular cultural practices, so it’s a bit harder to point you in a specific direction. However witchcraft in and of itself can be religious/spiritual or a non-religious practice that can be done on its own, or added to almost any other religion. For Witchcraft specific books, I would also suggest starting with Doreen Valiente’s “ABC of Witchcraft” or her “Natural Magic”. I would also suggest reading “A Grimoire of Shadows” by Ed Fitch.

If you are looking to a more Wicca-inspired path, or a ready made NeoPagan path, then Scott Cunningham’s “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” and “Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” cover a good working solitary tradition. However it is very important to note that despite the word Wicca being used not only in the title of both works, and extensively throughout the text – practicing what is in the books does not actually make one Wiccan (for more on traditional Wicca, please read this). While Cunningham did receive initiation into a lineaged Wiccan tradition, he left soon after to form his own path (the Standing Stones tradition), which does not contain the oath-bound information that is the core of Wicca. These two books cover the information that his tradition is based on.

If Wicca-based isn’t your style, then I would suggest reading “Evolutionary Witchcraft“, by T. Thorn Coyle which is based more on Feri Trad Witchcraft – as founded by Victor and Cora Anderson.

For additional information on seasonal celebrations I would suggest the following resources… “A NeoPagan Guide To Activities for the Sabbats”  and “The Witches’ Sabbats”. If you can get a copy of the book, then “Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain” by Ronald Hutton is a good place to start as well. As to moon phases there are any number of apps or widgets you can pick up online. There used to be a really awesome one that we all swore by, however it no longer exists, so at this point really any one will do.

As to the “Wiccan Rede” I would direct you to one of our recent posts on the subject. As mentioned there, it is often very misunderstood, so it would be a good idea to take some time to understand exactly what it is (advice vs. strict law), and exactly what you are looking to accomplish by incorporating it into your practice.

As to “healing”, you’ll need to be a lot more specific, as there is a huge number of things that fall under that category – herbal, magical, hands-on energy work, etc…? If you can narrow down your area of interest there, let us know, and we’ll be happy to point you in a good direction. Keep in mind that for some things, you may need to find a face-to-face teacher, as they are very difficult to teach online or to learn simply from a book.

I know this all seems like a lot, so please read through what we’ve given you, and if you have any additional questions feel free to reply. We’ll be more than happy to help explain, clarify or offer up some other resources. There are some online forums and such around, however a lot of them are full of misinformation, so admittedly I’m hesitant to suggest any of them directly. Thinking it may be time to have a chat amongst ourselves and come up with a “go-to” list of people who can help with specific subjects. I’ll update this when we’ve had a chance to put something together.

“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. 🙂