Great guide to understanding the different types of source materials, and for helping one to recognize when a source is likely complete BS vs academic quality.
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.
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:
- Our Troth Vol I and Vol II by Kveldulf Gundarsson (somewhat expensive but well worth the price).
- The Poetic and Prose Eddas (which can be found online at Sacred Texts)
- Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
- Essential Asatru by Diana L Paxson (is a brief overview, but covers the basics in an easy to read format).
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.
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 🙂
Via our tumblr page…
Anonymous asked: Do you have links for someone interested in Hellenic paganism?
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!
Anonymous asked: oh also if there’s any resources on atheistic witchcraft. thanks again
There aren’t many, unfortunately! Most books on witchcraft are centred around ditheistic, Wicca-flavoured religious craft and the atheist or non-Pagan witch will need to pick through these things to find something of value. Too many books purport to be about witchcraft and spend more time discussing religion (gods, holidays, religious rituals) than they do witchcraft. This is annoying, especially if one’s religion is not in line with these books but even if one’s religion is, and one simply wishes to learn more about the craft itself.
Doreen Valiente, despite being a religious witch herself and considering witchcraft a religion, nevertheless manages to be a good source on witchcraft and magic from a non-theistic perspective. Give ABC of Witchcraft and Natural Magic a read.
Way of the Hedge Witch by Arin Murphy-Hiscock manages to discuss witchcraft without assuming the reader is theistic or a Pagan, and she has other books (haven’t read them yet, so making an assumption here) that may be the same way, such asWay of the Green Witch (but I wouldn’t bother with her book about “Wicca”).
Have a look also for books on witchcraft written from a historical or anthropological perspective, such as Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits by Emma Wilby.
If atheistic spirituality is what you’re after, I haven’t read any, but there are a couple around, such as this one. Overall one gets the impression that most of these books on atheism and spirituality spend far too much time preaching to the converted, as it were, about how there is no god and too little time discussing the expression of spirituality for the atheist. You may find something of interest within Taoism or some forms of Buddhism
Other than that nothing springs to mind at present – books on non-theistic witchcraft are something we’re always interested in finding, so if anything else comes up, we’ll try to remember to mention it.
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. 🙂
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.