Mentoring and Circle Casting for a New Witch


Hi! so recently I’ve gotten into witchcraft and was interested in starting as an eclectic witch, the problem is, I need a teacher (I’m scared I wont cast a circle right and I would like a teacher to teach me correctly so I don’t screw up). help?

You can always ask questions when you have them, here or via our tumblr page, but unfortunately, we don’t do direct mentoring/teaching. You can also check WitchVox or Pagan Meetup, for groups or individuals in your area who are open to teaching others. In both cases, make sure you ask prospective teachers about their expertise and background to verify that that they are in-fact knowledgeable (as much as you can anyways). It may also be difficult to find anyone, depending on how old you are, as many people will not work directly with those who are under 18, for legal reasons.

In general terms of the “how to” of doing rituals, I would highly recommend The Elements of Ritual by Deborah Lipp. It’s probably going to cover everything you could ever want to know, including “why” some things are done the way they are, which will be helpful in understanding that (among other things), short of not fully closing/opening a circle, there’s not a whole lot you can screw up with casting a circle. Additionally, there are innumerable ways to cast one, so generally, however works best for you is fine. But I can understand too that it’s nice to have someone to talk it all over with as well, which is hard to do when one is solitary.

It’s probably important to note too, that not everyone even uses circles, so it also depends on your own style of witchcraft. I do think, that regardless of circle use, it’s always good to learn proper grounding and shielding techniques, depending on what sort of workings one will be doing. But a full-on circle may not be necessary for many things, again, unless it’s something that works for your practice.

Also worth mentioning, is in being solitary and eclectic, the benefit to that is you can do, more or less, whatever you want to (within reason). The caveat of course, is if you are taking practices or beliefs from other cultures, make sure it is done so with respect and a deep understanding of the religion/culture that one is pulling from. So if you are doing your own thing, you may not have as much to worry about, in terms of screwing things up.

The other part, is that we all make mistakes, it’s an inevitable part of life. The good thing is that we can learn from those mistakes. So when they happen, don’t get too upset over them, simply take them for the learning opportunity they are, and resolve to do better next time. It may also help to keep a notebook when you are just starting (separate from any BOS or grimoire that you might be keeping), with detailed notes on – hey… this went well, or ewww, no… not doing that again. That way you can refer back and know what parts does and doesn’t work for you, hopefully, making the learning process a bit easier.

For additional resources to check out on your new journey, I would suggest reading the following – Solitary Witch – Where Do I Start? And again, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask. 🙂

 

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New Pagan Mentors and Ritual Advice


I’ve been interested in Paganism for a few years, but I’ve gotten more serious about delving into it in the past month. I’ve been doing a ton of research and trying to read as much as I can about different viewpoints and paths within the umbrella term of Paganism. But I’m still so overwhelmed with all that is out there. I have so many questions I’m not finding answers to on the internet. So first of all I’m really wondering where I can find a teacher or mentor. I live in Madison, WI, which is a fairly open minded, liberal city, but I haven’t been able to find any groups that meet. Are there sites online where you can be paired with someone older and wiser, or do you suggest trying to forge a relationship in person.

Working with someone in-person will almost always be the best choice (and in some cases a requirement), when it comes to learning Pagan related material. Particularly if you are interested in any witchcraft or energy-based paths, attempting to learn via books or online can make it a daunting task. In general though, it will probably be somewhat difficult to find a mentor, until you are able to narrow down a particular path that you are interested in. In the meantime you can check places like Witchvox, where you can filter groups by state to see if there is anything near you. Occasionally you can find groups via Pagan Meetup as well.

As far as online resources, forums can be kind of hit or miss, with a lot of them being angsty drama filled areas, rife with misappropriation and misconceptions. So for a beginner it can be hard to navigate especially when you aren’t at a point where you are better able to distinguish good information from the bad. Having said that, I would suggest checking out the eCauldron Paganism for Beginners forum. They’ve been around for years, and seem to have done better than most at keeping it from getting too crazy around there (unlike some other more well known forums). Of course too you can always continue to ask questions here on the blog, or even via our FB page, or Tumblr page.

I tried my first ritual (a very simple one) for Beltane yesterday night, and I don’t feel like I did it “right”. I didn’t really get anything from it, or something?

First time rituals, especially for those who are practicing solitary are often less than spectacular. Part of it, is just because we are nervous and not entirely sure of what we are doing, and constantly wondering if we did it right, or if we have forgotten anything. As well, we have all these huge expectations, from what others have said, or what we’ve seen in movies, etc… and it’s usually not ever the same. Then sometimes, it’s just that “stuff” happens – even if we’ve done everything perfectly, the energy is off and it just wasn’t meant to be. All of which is perfectly normal, and the more often you practice and do ritual work, the easier it will get.

On that note though, if you are unsure of which path/religion you are interested in – what sort of Beltane ritual were you attempting? Not all Pagan paths celebrate Beltane – generally it’s only the Wiccan or NeoPagan related ones that do (though various others may have similar celebrations around that same time), so it could be too that it didn’t feel “right”, because it really wasn’t something that you are ultimately called to celebrate. The same holds if you called on a particular God or Goddess, it could also be that they choose not to respond, or that they are Gods of a path that you aren’t really being called to.

It’s also worth mentioning as well, that ritual workings are not typically an “instant” sort of thing. Especially if you follow a “Wheel of the Year” type model – what we plant in the Spring, we harvest in the Fall, and even outside of that framework, it can still (and often does) take time for energy/magic to manifest. So it may not be that it didn’t work, it’s just taking the appropriate time it needs to come to fruition.  

Also, I’d done it outside, so I’d gathered all the materials together in a bag. I left it carelessly in my room when I got back in, and my mom noticed it in the morning (stuff was sort of falling out) and started looking through it, asking why I had candles and some clay bowls (which I’d borrowed without asking from her). I don’t want to tell her about my interest in Paganism quite yet, as I’m not even sure where I’m going myself. My family isn’t religious, and I know they’d be supportive, but my mom has a tendency to act like she understands when she doesn’t (she has good intentions). But she got really mad that I’d taken her stuff and kept asking why, and I couldn’t really think of an excuse. Should I tell her? I don’t really want to, but now she also thinks I was stealing or planning on selling her bowls. So overall, I’m sort of lost at the moment, but I also feel so happy about the idea of becoming further involved with this spirituality.

If you feel that she would be supportive (or at the very least not react negatively), then you should be honest with her, and explain that you are interested in Paganism, and that you were trying a basic holiday ritual. It’s definitely much better than being thought of as a liar or a thief.

While you are talking to her about it though, just let her know that you are still in the very beginning stages, and that you are still learning the basics. I would also apologize for taking her stuff, and let her know that you won’t do so again without permission (that could be why your ritual didn’t feel right either – if you were using items that didn’t belong to you, and you didn’t have the owner’s permission, it could definitely have affected the energy).

Overall, as mentioned previously – continue to study, and work on figuring out what particular path you are interested in. While there are a myriad of paths out there, as well as the potential to choose an Eclectic path (which requires quite a bit more work than one would think), it can also be fun to learn about the different cultures and practices associated with each one. So don’t stress too much if you start feeling overwhelmed, just take your time and eventually it will work itself out.

 

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.

Taking the Next Step – Planning Rituals


Hi, I’ve been studying paganism for about 3 years now gathering as much information I can on the subject. I would say I identify as being very eclectic, interested in witchcraft and very nature based, but what next? I feel like I’m stuck in a beginners rut, most of the information I find is aimed at beginners and I’m not progressing. I’m also having trouble putting what I’ve learnt into practice, I want to try ritual but I don’t know where to start, plus moneys an issue for supplies (although I would try where possible to use materials I find out and about) any advice would be greatly appreciated, love and light.

It can be hard taking that next step, but everyone has to start somewhere. We’ve touched previously on some Beyond the 101 tips, which cover the basics. Other than that, and more specifically to your question, I would suggest the book “The Elements of Ritual” by Deborah Lipp. It is very detailed, not only on the “how to” in relation to ritual, but more importantly the “why do we do that” which so many other books leave out. It had several sample rituals as well, that you can try out, so really just start small and go for it.

Another great resource for planning your own ritual is the Ritual Planning Worksheet. Once you have decided on a particular goal/theme for your ritual, you can use the worksheet to plan out the details. You don’t have to include everything that is mentioned, but when you are just starting out, it’s a good way to make sure that you are prepared and have everything you need to make your ritual go smoothly. Keep in mind though that rituals can be as formal or informal as you like. So while the above worksheet is nice, your own ritual does not have to be some sort of lengthy ceremony, full of flowery speech, and particular actions – I mean it can be (and that’s fine), but simple can be just as effective. That’s the beauty of it – if you aren’t in a particular tradition, you can do what works best for you (though if you are working with a specific deity, it’s good to know what sort of things are appropriate for that deity).

I would also suggest the following, if at all possible – find out if there are any groups in your local area that have rituals that are open to the public, and attend at least one. Even if you don’t end up joining the group on a long-term basis, it can really help one’s practice to participate in a ritual with others. If nothing else you can get a general idea of how things flow, and what components you might want to add. Though again, just because they do something one way, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it that way.

As to tools and supplies – while the “bells and whistles” are really nice to have, they are primarily just ways of helping one focus, so in a pinch you can do without if necessary. For tools (such as a ritual blade, or other items for one’s altar), definitely look to what you might already have, or can get relatively inexpensively. You can always save up for something fancier later if you want, but in most cases it’s not about “how cool” something looks, but whether or not it serves the purpose it’s intended for.  For ritual or crafting supplies, while there may be some generally accepted correspondences, in many cases (if you are unable to obtain those particular items) you can substitute for what you might already have on hand, or are more easily able to obtain. If you examine the properties of the item that you are in need of, and consider the purpose for which it is being used – it’s a matter of finding another item that will serve a similar capacity.

On the surface being Eclectic seems easy, but in truth it is one of the hardest paths to do properly. Where someone who is working with a Coven or within a specific Tradition has direct one-on-one guidance, those who are solitary have to rely on their own interpretation of the materials they are given, and are basically left to “figure it out” on their own. But it can be done, and in most cases it’s a matter of just going ahead and jumping in. Start small, and take baby-steps, but as with anything… the more often you practice, the easier it will get. If there is a sample ritual in one of your books that you’ve been interested in trying – go for it. If it’s relative to your path the Fall Equinox is about a week away, you could try putting together a ritual for that, and the Full Moon on the 29th if that is something you are interested in holding a ritual for – or really whatever else you may feel called to. The key is to just go ahead and do it!

Resources For Hellenic Paganism…


Via our tumblr page

Anonymous asked: Do you have links for someone interested in Hellenic paganism?

Sure!

This is not a bad little introduction (and I’m pretty sure she’ll be expanding it over time)

Temenos Theon might be the most helpful (and it has a heap of links and resources)

Theoi.com for all the lore on gods, heroes, spirits etc

Of course all the relevant texts on Sacred Texts

and there are organisations like Hellenion.

This book comes highly recommended, and the page has some links and a calendar

and of course Burkert’s Greek Religion is a must-read.

Hope these helped!

Norse Paganism


Anonymous asked: I’ve been interested in Norse mythology for a long time, and feel that Norse paganism may be the path for me, but I have no clue where to start. Is it anything like Wicca, or is it completely different and if so where do I find more information on it?

Completely different! It’s polytheistic rather than ditheistic, its rituals are much more simple and centre around the sharing of offerings (often in the form of alcohol such as mead), and there’s a much greater cultural depth to it* because it is a religion with a historical basis – although even the most hard reconstructionist forms of it will necessarily be different from the palaeo-Paganisms.

We recommend the books “Essential Asatru” by Diana S Paxson and “True Hearth” by James Allen Chisholm to start with, and “Our Troth” I and II if Heathenry looks like the thing for you. Also the books of Hilda Ellis Davidson, particularly “Gods and Myths of Northern Europe”.

Most of all there are the Eddas and Sagas, many of which you can read in older translations online. The ethical system is mostly related to what one might consider the honourable action to take, and based on the advice of the Havamal. (Some Heathens shorten it down to “the Nine Noble Virtues” – but not all of this list of virtues are particularly stressed in the Havamal, and some particularly important ones are left out… not to mention such a list is not particularly “reconstructionist” so many Heathens don’t have much time for it and just use the Havamal and so forth as their guide when they need it.)

Here are some more links for you:

Viking Answer Lady

Ravenbok

DIY Ritual Kit

That’s all for now, but this may be edited later to add a little more. Good luck!

*Not to say Wicca doesn’t have depth – it does, but it’s less cultural and more related to its ritual and Mysteries.

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?