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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Guidance on my Journey into Paganism


In hopes that I am able to receive proper and overdue guidance in my sudden journey into paganism I would like to tell you a short summary of how I became the overwhelmed yet blindly dedicated being I am today….

First things first, no religion, deity, path, etc… should ever ask for BLIND devotion. Anyone that tells you differently – you need to run – far and fast in the opposite direction.

I’m going to go through somewhat point by point, but the TL;DR answer is – you need to slow down. You didn’t say how long you’ve been at this, but the impression I get is that most of this has been fairly recent and that you are expecting things to instantly happen for you. “Faith is a journey, not a destination.” It’s a favorite quote and one that is very apt for almost any Pagan path. The point being, it’s not how fast you get there (or even necessarily about getting to whatever your ultimate goal is), but rather taking the time along the way to fully experience all the things that bring you closer to it.   

Honestly, in disregard of all warning and religious or non- religious beliefs, I chose to very avidly work with a Ouija board. The board as I was told, was not yet used by anyone, nor the people who I ended up having a very odd and short roommate situation with at my home… so therefore, me being the one person that has always been in on the conversation with the board from the beginning, I assume rights are basically mine on it and it is most bonded to me. I do feel and have from the beginning, felt a very intrapersonal and protective Vibe about the board.

Worth noting here – ouija boards are just tools that help us focus (similar to other objects we might use during ritual or for casting). There is nothing inherently dangerous about them. Just make sure you are grounding yourself. If you feel it’s necessary you can always cast a circle for added protection, but that’s up to you. 

Regardless, once very deep into my spiritual “Adventure” with it.. I guess I would call it… I started receiving what seemed to be very important, and to this day I 100%believe to be more than subconscious (due to the knowledge both I and the other board member had/have on this subject), messages about being a naturally born pagan of some variation. It began religiously speaking of the potential Within Me of “strong” Magick and many times about spells the importance that I follow this path on the multiverse itself.

Being Pagan simply means that you follow a non-Abrahamic religion. There’s nothing about practicing Paganism that requires “natural born talent.” Witchcraft can be incorporated into one’s Pagan path, but again, it’s more a matter of practice makes perfect, rather than needing any sort of inherent talent. Magic happens because we will it. There are other factors that have influence, but “as I will, so mote it be” – that is the core. So while we all (or most of us, anyway) have innate potential, it’s how much we work on honing that potential that matters.

As unsure and skeptical as I was… I had always found interest in the craft and such. The instant I decided to begin converting myself, (or at least begin hardcore research and experiment the best I could on my budget, with it being so sudden)… Was the moment that my Patron Goddess Hekate visited me (through one of my MANY candle powered, Jade and frankincense incense fueled, board sessions) that she wanted me to “open myself” to her and create some form of spiritual connection, Bond or Pact. Since then, I have been mostly blind other than Google and my best friend’s mother who, coincidentally also has a very strong Pact with the same goddess. I have so far, chosen to try my best on walking this path and understanding it on my own… But I fear the mistakes and overconfidence that I may have mistakenly made along the way.

Again, why choose to be “blind” to all other things? This doesn’t make any sense. Even if your Goddess asked that you not serve anyone else (which is pretty uncommon, but not totally unheard of), you should still be looking into ways to properly work with her and serve her, which involves researching and talking to others who do the same. I’ll reiterate, no one asks for blind obeisance. If they do, there is something very, very wrong.  

At one point, I was very strongly attracted to Alchemy. However, while it seems to correlate with things in my life (such as the phrase “Full Circle”, which has been a very strongly charged and repetitive saying in my life)by random and seems to pique my interest… I feel this strong calling inside of me saying that it’s not my “correct” form of magick or that maybe this just isn’t all or I’m not processing it properly. Every simple spell, incantation, or enchantment , Etc seems to either backfire or not work plain and simple. I’ve tried creating them 100% of My Own, 100% by the book and also casting somewhere in the middle. I have crafted my own pendulum, my own candles and my own oil . I even crafted my own Ouija board . I’m not sure if NOTHING exactly work, but nothing that I’m aware of has… and it just seems that there should be a hint by now of something. Am I just completely lost?

Alchemy is more of a science, mostly involving chemical processes, rather than a form of magic. Keep in mind as well, that magic can’t defy the laws of physics/nature. So if you are trying to transform physical things with your spells, that’s probably why it’s not working. Additionally, if you are casting spell after spell and can’t get any of them to work, it’s likely because your focus is too scattered. You can’t manifest your will if your will is divided between multiple goals.

Start small. I know I’m repeating myself, but slow down. Magic takes time, it is rare that something happens instantly. So if you are expecting to say a spell and see immediate results, that’s unlikely to happen. Also, make sure that you are very specific with your goals (as much as you can be). Because if you are vague, magic will happen in ways that you didn’t expect. Example: You do prosperity spell (maybe you are hoping to win the lottery or some other larger sum of money), but when you are casting you just say something like “money come to me.” A week later you find a penny on the ground. Did your spell work – sure. Was it what you wanted – obviously not. But that’s not the magic’s fault, it’s on us to cover all the loopholes.

Also, even if we are super specific, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen either. You don’t just say a few words and “poof.” Magic is not easy. It’s a lot of work and still often requires physical action on our part. Another example: You are sitting in a dark room and want to turn on the light. You can cast all the spells you want, but unless someone physically flicks the light switch, that light is never going to turn on. A key take away from that is to word your spells in a way that makes it easier for them to manifest. Using the example – instead of simply willing the light to turn on, which is unlikely to ever happen by itself, instead, focus your spell toward getting someone to turn it on. Of course, if you are the only person in the room, then obviously, the easiest method would just be to get up and turn the light on yourself. Magic is not always the right answer. In most cases we should always look to mundane solutions before turning to magical ones.

Am I not meant to do any of this? Is there any way to find out what my magical branch is meant to be, if so? And any other possible guidance that could be given in regards to my path… I would greatly appreciate…

I don’t necessarily think you are doing anything wrong, just that you need to take a few steps back and take a bit of a breather. I know it’s exciting when we embark on a new journey. Especially when we feel called to something that feels important, we want to do as much as we can as fast as we can – but that is not the proper way. So slow down, research, study, and practice. If something isn’t working – examine what it is that you are trying to do. Are you attempting something that is utterly impossible? If so, you need to make adjustments.

Also, there is nothing that says you have to have a particular “branch” of magic. Witchcraft is just witchcraft. There may be some things that you feel called to work with more specifically, but that is just personal choice. There’s no reason not to study and use whatever interests you (assuming it’s not something that belongs to a closed culture/religion – in which case you need to make sure you are not appropriating something you don’t have a right to)

In any case, take the time you need to really enjoy the journey. Don’t be in such a rush to get where you think you are supposed to be going, that you miss the meaningful insights that can be gained along the way. The point too, and if you ask any number of Pagans, I think it’s safe to say many will agree – the direction you are pulled towards when you start isn’t always the direction you keep going in or necessarily the direction that ends up being the right one. Sometimes too, there will be side paths that seem interesting, and it’s worth exploring them, even if we end up abandoning them at a later time. Or maybe it’s the old path that needs to be abandoned, or you’ll travel multiple paths simultaneously.

The point is that we are always learning and growing and changing. Change is scary, but not always a bad thing. Without it, we’d stagnate and that isn’t good for anyone.

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

 

Labeling One’s Path


I have read through all of your answers and looked through the site and I thought I’d just go ahead and ask since you give wonderful advice and guidance. I am struggling with an identifiable name for my spirtual path because I feel like I am all over the place, reading everything and overwhelmed. I’ve had people tell me to just follow my intuition, which helps for a while but then I’m back to overwhelmed-ville! I basically follow the season, moon phases, and like to feel connected to nature. Maybe I should say ‘I’m on my own personal spiritual path’ and be done with it. On a side note, most recently, I’ve learned how to pick the good info from the bad, after much reading so that helps me to find better information. (Such as this place…so helpful!)

It’s difficult, because there is often this sense that we need to be able to label something in a couple of words or less, in order to define who we are. It’s one of the reasons why some people cling (with an almost death grip) to the term Wicca, when it’s perfectly clear to all involved that it truly doesn’t really fit what they are practicing in any way, shape or form. Labels can be nice, especially if one is trying to give a general idea of what they are doing, without having to go into a lengthy explanation, however in most cases – who we are, and what we do, doesn’t usually fit into neat, and tidy little packages (no matter how much we might wish that they would).

One of the pitfalls of being Eclectic is the lack of a ready made label or name for one’s path, and because of the above mentioned reasons, it’s seems to be something that we often find ourselves dwelling on. Because most of what we do is so hard to define, I generally stick with basic terms, Eclectic NeoPagan, or just NeoPagan. I hesitate to simply say Pagan, just because that truly doesn’t really say much, other than “hey I’m a member of a non-Abrahamic religion”. However it also depends on who I’m talking to as well, sometimes if a vague answer will do, then Pagan will suffice. If I’m talking to people within the Pagan community (who won’t freak out at the mention of witchcraft), I might even go a bit more specific and say Solitary Witch, or Eclectic Witch.

In the end though, it’s really up to you – if you are comfortable without a specific label, then don’t feel like you need to have one. Though it can help give others a better understanding (if they are knowledgeable on the terminology), labels can also serve to pigeonhole us as well. Too often feel that if we are XYZ… then we have to do whatever XYZ is defined as, rather than feeling like we can expand our practices into other areas as well.

Sacred Moments #8


Happy Full Moon!!

Circle Round

Dance now the circle round
to the spiral never ending.

Joyful now feet on ground
to the beat our bodies bending.

Centered now on the sound
to our mother we are sending.

Peace now love we have found
to a heart in need of mending.

Dance now the circle round
to the spiral never ending.

by Sephira

 

Sacred Moments #3


This week we are offering a selection from the Pyramid Texts, which are a collection of religious texts  from Ancient Egypt, that date back to the Old Kingdom period. The following is a hymn to the Goddess Nut…

Utterance 432

782. O Great One, who came into being in the sky, you have achieved power,
you have achieved strength, and have filled every place with your beauty;
the entire land is yours. Take possession of it, for you have enclosed the earth
and all things within your embrace, and you have set this King as an
Imperishable Star who is in you.

source: “The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts” translation by R.O. Faulkner

Sacred Moments #2


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

 

Gallows Load

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

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

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

       ~ by Deoridhe Grimsdottir

Sacred Moments #1


Hello readers!

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

Sacred Moment #1:

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

– Siddhartha Gutama the Buddha