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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An It Harm None: What To Do When Harm Is Caused?


Okay so my question is since one of the most basic Wiccan morals/ beliefs is the “harm none” concept I was curious about two different things. 1. What should you do other than accept the consequences when harm has been done through one of your actions? 2. What is to be done when another inflicts harm on you? Nothing? Just curious because I haven’t see this clearly stated anywhere.

The thing with “harm none” is that it has been grossly misinterpreted and misrepresented by so many people over the years that, in most cases, what the average person thinks it means is likely vastly different than what it actually is supposed to mean. So we’ll start with that, just to lay out the basics.

First and foremost, at no point (ever), does the Wiccan Rede prohibit one from causing harm, and in fact, it is literally impossible for any of us to go through life without causing harm to someone or something. The Rede, which in full states ‘An it harm none, do what ye will, simply tells us that if it doesn’t cause harm, we can do whatever we want. But nowhere in that statement does it say if it causes harm, don’t do it. The actual point of it all, is for one to carefully consider their actions before taking them, and to be willing to accept the potential consequences of such actions – for good or bad. In the end however, if one feels that a harmful action is justified/necessary, and is willing to accept the consequences, then there is nothing preventing them from taking the action. For more information on the history and meaning of the Wiccan Rede, I suggest reading The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey.

To your specific questions…

(1) If the harm was unintentional, we still need to accept the consequences and acknowledge that harm was done. Then we need to look for ways that we can make reparations (if possible). Saying “sorry” often makes us feel better, but in many cases it does nothing for those we have hurt. Taking actual positive action (assuming that there is one that can be taken), is the best choice.

If the harm was intentional, hopefully we thought carefully before taking the action and were able to anticipate the consequences and are prepared for them. If it’s something that we had considered, again – part of that consideration would be pre-planning what to do. Generally though, if those consequences occur in a way that were unanticipated (maybe we didn’t think carefully enough beforehand) or in some other way cause more harm than we were intending, we should refer back to the info on what to do when causing unintentional harm. Otherwise, if we have intentionally harmed someone/something, then there is nothing else to do as we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.

(2) The answer to this one is really going to depend on the individual. Some will look for positive ways to counteract the harm (such as shielding or looking for ways to invoke justice being served, etc…), while others will 100% strike back as hard and fast as they can with every curse and hex available, and some may be a mix of both. Since there is absolutely nothing preventing anyone from defending themselves and protecting others from harm, at least in terms of the Rede, if one feels that they need to take a harmful action in response to something that has been done to them (and again, being willing to accept any consequences) – then they should take it.

Personally, in the rare times that I feel that they may be necessary, I prefer “curses” that are sort of all purpose – like a “may you get everything that’s coming to you” sort of a thing. That way if they don’t do anything wrong, they have nothing to worry about (and it could even send positive things their way if they are doing good), but if they are doing harm to others, then anything negative that bounces back on them will be a result of their own actions. It doesn’t absolve me of dealing with any potential consequences, but it does put a lot more of the onerous on them for instigating it in the first place.

Wiccan Rede: An It Harm None


I am dating a man who is Wiccan…we are having a very serious disagreement about a spider!  I respect his Wiccan views and beliefs…but I cannot understand his logic regarding this topic.  I am terrified of spiders…it is irrational and logically I know its silly.  However, I cannot control that fear and it truly causes me serious distress.  He has a very large spider living above his front door.  Initially he wanted to bring it inside, but has agreed not to now.  I asked him to relocate the spider because he does not believe in killing them.  His response was no…it would cause the spider harm…and he believes in the first do no harm principle.  Its his belief relocating the spider will directly cause it harm.  Isn’t leaving the spider there causing me harm?  It causes me to have heart palpitations, extreme anxiety, and I cry!  Again, I know my fear is unsubstantiated, but it is real!  I feel he is completely disregarding my feelings and well being by not relocating it…but all he says is do no harm is in his blood and who he is!  Any advice?

I’ll start with straight and to the point. If your boyfriend cares more about potential harm to a spider, than he does about the woman he supposedly loves, then you need to RUN (not walk) to the nearest exit. Dump him.

Regardless of the actual meaning of the Rede itself (which I’ll get to in a moment), there are plenty of ways to humanely move a spider. There is absolutely zero reason for him to put that spider’s well-being above your own – A) because it can be moved without harming it and B) because even if it would cause harm… your life (and physical/mental health) should be a priority to him. If it’s not, then there is something seriously wrong. If he is not willing to put you first in these sorts of situations, he’s not worth your time or energy.

As to “do no harm” – at no point (ever), does the Wiccan Rede prohibit one from causing harm, and in fact, it is literally impossible to go through life without causing harm to someone or something. The Rede, which in full states ‘An it harm none, do what ye will, simply tells us that if it doesn’t cause harm, we can do whatever we want. But nowhere in that statement does it say if it causes harm, don’t do it. The point of it all, is for one to carefully consider their actions before taking them, and to be willing to accept the potential consequences of such actions – for good or bad. In the end however, if one feels that a harmful action is justified, and is willing to accept the consequences, then there is nothing preventing them from taking the action. For more information on the history and meaning of the Wiccan Rede, I suggest reading The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey.

It’s unfortunate that there are books and websites which offer misinformation regarding the Rede, which in turn cause people to end up believing that it is a literal prohibition against causing harm. But again as I mentioned to start, if your boyfriend is unwilling (or unable) to see that the harm he is causing to you is more detrimental than the harm moving the spider would cause, then he’s really not someone that you need in your life. It may sound harsh, but this is just a spider (and very easily remedied in a way that could make you both happy, which he is refusing to even consider)… what happens when it’s something more important?

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.

TIP – Wiccan Rede


When it comes to Wicca, there are many aspects that are often misunderstood, and the the “Wiccan Rede” is a big one. Considering that it often incorporated into Neo-Pagan practices (without being properly understood), it’s sometimes a bit scary to contemplate the ways in which people attempt to apply it, not only to themselves, but to those around them. What many people don’t seem to realize is that the term “rede” simply means advice, which means that the “Wiccan Rede” is not an unbreakable law, or even a strict requirement – it is just exactly what it states it is… a bit of guidance along the path.

As to the “Rede” itself – “an ye harm none, do as ye will” (and yes it is just those 8 words, not the longer poem that many quote) it doesn’t actually tell us that we can’t cause harm, it just says – “if you harm none, do what you want”. So clearly not causing harm is acceptable, however if we look closely at that statement, at no point does it say “if it causes harm, don’t do it”. The truth is, that as long as one has carefully considered one’s actions and is willing to accept the consequences of taking those actions, then one can do whatever one feels is necessary. In the end, it’s all about taking responsibility for one’s actions, not about prohibiting a particular action when it is needed.

It is always acceptable to defend oneself from harm, and to protect one’s family and loved ones, and the Rede was definitely not meant to imply that one cannot do that. Too many people take it as some sort of blanket prohibition, which it really isn’t, and in truth it is impossible to go through life without causing harm to someone or something.

For more information on the origins of the Rede, and the meaning behind it, you can check out the following… The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey