Posts Tagged With: Pagan

Should You Come Out of the Broom Closet?

Should You Come Out of the Broom Closet?

By , About.com

 

After you’ve been Pagan or Wiccan for a while, you will eventually find yourself facing the question of whether or not to come out of the broom closet. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this essentially means coming out as a Pagan or Wiccan — making it known to family, friends, neighbors, etc. It’s a highly personal issue, and people have a number of reasons for choosing to stay closeted. Just as many people have reasons for making their beliefs known.

Coming out may not be for everyone, or it may be something you choose to do in degrees. When you decide to make your faith known, you are opening yourself up to all the problems that may accompany being recognized as part of a non-mainstream faith. However — and this is a mighty big however — you do have certain rights, particularly in the United States. Arming yourself with knowledge will help you tremendously in protecting those rights.

How Out Do You Want to Be?

There are different levels of being out. For many Pagans and Wiccans, simply letting their families or spouses know about their spirituality is enough. Many people consider religion to be a private thing anyway — no matter what religion they may be — and are perfectly content to limit the number of people in their lives who actually know the details. Plenty more people are of the opinion that if you are asked, tell the truth, but otherwise don’t be in-your-face about Paganism or Wicca.

Other folks are more vocal — feeling that if you really believe in something, you need to tell everyone, and do so with pride. These are the folks you usually see on television discussing Pagan and Wiccan rights, they’re the ones who openly teach classes, and often are leaders of your local Pagan community. Some probably own shops, perform ceremonies as Pagan clergy, or work as liaisons between the Pagan community and the non-Pagan world.

One of the reasons it’s so hard to get an accurate count of the current Pagan and Wiccan population is because there are so many people who are simply private about their beliefs. Estimates in the United States alone suggest that there are anywhere from 200,000 to two million Pagans and Wiccans in the country.

As Paganism and Wicca move more towards the mainstream, more and more people are coming out of the broom closet. Some are flamboyant and vocal, others are more discreet and quiet. Most of us, honestly, are somewhere in the middle. Others don’t come out at all, because they’re concerned about the reactions they’ll receive.

Bear in mind also that there’s a huge difference between being private and being deceptive.

Moving Towards the Mainstream

Thirty years ago, coming out as a Pagan or Wiccan was virtually unheard of. The only people who were actually out were Pagan authors — people like Sybil Leek, Ray Buckland, Scott Cunningham, Isaac Bonewits, Starhawk. These were the people who became leaders of the modern Pagan movement, simply because they were the most visible.

During the 1980s, more books became available on Paganism and Wicca, and one of the topics covered nearly universally was the decision to come out or not. In subsequent decades, as the Internet became a resource found in every household and coffee shop, Pagan and Wiccan networking sites became readily available. Earth-based spirituality became open to the masses, and more and more people realized it was okay to come out.

Advantages of Being Out

There are several positive aspects to being out as a Pagan or Wiccan. For starters, it allows you the freedom of not hiding your true self. When you’ve shared who you are with others, it makes it that much easier to be honest and open about other things.

When it comes to controversial issues, Wiccans and Pagans are often at the forefront of writing letters to congress people, marching in parades, and organizing protests. By making your presence as a Pagan known, it allows like-minded people to find you when they need your assistance. Likewise, if you need them, you’ll be able to find them if they’re out.

Finally, there is a sense of liberation that comes with being out. Even if you’re not one of those in-your-face Pagans, and are simply out to friends and family, there’s a freedom born of openness. Once you’re out, you don’t have to worry that other people are going to find out — because you’ve already made it known, on your own terms.

The Downside of Stepping Out
For some people, the idea of coming out as Pagan or Wiccan is terrifying. They may feel that they’ll be persecuted by local fundamentalist groups, or that they will be in danger of losing jobs, children, etc. If this is of concern to you, be sure to read the section on Your Rights as a Pagan.

Some Pagans choose not to come out because of fears related to past history. There is sometimes a concern that outing oneself as Pagan or Wiccan could lead to a repeat of the Burning Times that existed during the Middle Ages.

Another thing to bear in mind is that once you’re out, it’s a one-way street. You can’t suddenly take back that you’re Wiccan or Pagan, because people won’t forget. This is why it’s not a bad idea to come out gradually — rather than waking up one morning and wearing your brand new I’m a Witch, Deal With It! shirt, it may be better to first let family know, then friends, and finally become open with others. Regardless, it’s something you can do at the pace that feels best to you.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the decision to come out is one that takes some thought and possibly some clever planning as well, depending on how you believe you will be received. You may be pleasantly surprised to find support and friendship in places that you didn’t expect it — it’s possible that dear old mom and dad will embrace your newfound spirituality rather than chastising you for it. Talk to people who are out of the broom closet and ask them for advice on how to talk to their families and friends about who they are.

Finally, be sure to never, EVER, out someone else without their permission. It’s a personal choice, and while you’re more than welcome to tell people what you believe — without proselytizing, of course — you’re not welcome to announce that other people are Pagan or Wiccan, unless they are already out.

Religion and spirituality is a private and personal thing, no matter who you are. Coming out of the broom closet is a choice that only you can make for yourself. It’s something that you can choose to do when the time is right for you — or not.

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Not All Pagans are Wiccans

Not All Pagans Are Wiccans

By , About.com

 

Wicca is a tradition of Witchcraft that was brought to the public by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. There is a great deal of debate among the Pagan community about whether or not Wicca is truly the same form of Witchcraft that the ancients practiced. Regardless, many people use the terms Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably. Paganism is an umbrella term used to apply to a number of different earth-based faiths. Wicca falls under that heading, although not all Pagans are Wiccan.

So, in a nutshell, here’s what’s going on. All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccans. All Wiccans are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Wiccans. Finally, some witches are Pagans, but some are not – and some Pagans practice witchcraft, while others choose not to.

If you’re reading this page, chances are you’re either a Wiccan or Pagan, or you’re someone who’s interested in learning more about the modern Pagan movement. You may be a parent who’s curious about what your child is reading, or you might be someone who is unsatisfied with the spiritual path you’re on right now. Perhaps you’re seeking something more than what you’ve had in the past. You might be someone who’s practiced Wicca or Paganism for years, and who just wants to learn more.

For many people, the embracing of an earth-based spirituality is a feeling of “coming home”. Often, people say that when they first discovered Wicca, they felt like they finally fit in. For others, it’s a journey TO something new, rather than running away from something else.

Paganism is an Umbrella Term

Please bear in mind that there are dozens of different traditions that fall under the umbrella title of “Paganism”. While one group may have a certain practice, not everyone will follow the same criteria. Statements made on this site referring to Wiccans and Pagans generally refer to MOST Wiccans and Pagans, with the acknowledgement that not all practices are identical.

Not All Pagans are Wiccans

There are many Witches who are not Wiccans. Some are Pagans, but some consider themselves something else entirely.

Just to make sure everyone’s on the same page, let’s clear up one thing right off the bat: not all Pagans are Wiccans. The term “Pagan” (derived from the Latin paganus, which translates roughly to “hick from the sticks”) was originally used to describe people who lived in rural areas. As time progressed and Christianity spread, those same country folk were often the last holdouts clinging to their old religions. Thus, “Pagan” came to mean people who didn’t worship the god of Abraham.

In the 1950s, Gerald Gardner brought Wicca to the public, and many contemporary Pagans embraced the practice. Although Wicca itself was founded by Gardner, he based it upon old traditions. However, a lot of Witches and Pagans were perfectly happy to continue practicing their own spiritual path without converting to Wicca.

Therefore, “Pagan” is an umbrella term that includes many different spiritual belief systems – Wicca is just one of many.

Think of it this way:

Christian > Lutheran or Methodist or Jehovah’s Witness

Pagan > Wiccan or Asatru or Dianic or Eclectic Witchcraft

As if that wasn’t confusing enough, not all people who practice witchcraft are Wiccans, or even Pagans. There are a few witches who embrace the Christian god as well as a Wiccan goddess – the Christian Witch movement is alive and well! There are also people out there who practice Jewish mysticism, or “Jewitchery”, and atheist witches who practice magic but do not follow a deity.

What About Magic?

There are a number of people who consider themselves Witches, but who are not necessarily Wiccan or even Pagan. Typically, these are people who use the term “eclectic Witch” or to apply to themselves. In many cases, Witchcraft is seen as a skill set in addition to or instead of a religious system. A Witch may practice magic in a manner completely separate from their spirituality; in other words, one does not have to interact with the Divine to be a Witch.

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Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility

Author: Crick 

As more and more folks rediscover their Pagan roots, they run into an emotional, spiritual and mental paradox called individuality. This concept for so many, lends itself to a heretofore unrealized sense of intellectual, spiritual and personal responsibility. No longer is there the option of blaming ones actions on an ethereal entity such as the Devil or Satan or what have you.

While one was a member of one of the organized religions, this was an accepted and in many instances an encouraged cop out. However this self-abasement and pleading for mercy from a distant God is not a tenet of Paganism.

This is in fact one of the tenets that tends to separate a spiritual path from a formal religion.

As a Pagan, one is expected, and indeed should seek, to become involved in a deeper sense of personal responsibility. Seeking out the mysteries, and thus the spiritual lessons of life, become our primary goal within this realm. And this goal is not something that can be handed off to someone else. For each of us is indeed, responsible for our own growth. As Pagans we are each expected to strive for the highest spiritual level that we can attain.

This is not to say that such a sense of responsibility is to be taken for granted. Saying that “I am a Pagan therefore I am a responsible person” just does not fly. Sincere and devoted Pagans do not hang pentacles around their necks and simply pay lip service.

One has to actually work at and continue to adjust one’s thoughts and actions in order to achieve this personal goal.

This is in part what the lessons of life are all about: the ability to face the obstacles that are placed before us — and to act or react accordingly in a way that is spiritually acceptable — is our ultimate challenge as Pagans.

As Neo-Pagans, we have entered into a special world that is very exciting and full of rewarding experiences. We are availed the opportunity to rediscover and explore the world of our ancestors.

Prior to the onset of organized religion, such acts as working with energy, healing with herbs, walking amongst spirits to name a few, were common place events. And the mindset that goes with such responsibility was inherent in such nature-connected folks.

But alas, over the ages we have become somewhat disconnected with our world and all that She offers. We have to make a concerted and conscious effort to regain the values and respect for such gifts that we once took for granted.

If we are to walk the path of Paganism, then we have to make a honest decision to clear off the layers of dust and apathy that have settled upon our souls and seek out the truths that will lead us to spiritual growth.

In general, becoming one with our chosen Deity is a goal that many Pagans choose as their personal goal.

Fortunately Deity has allotted us many tools in order to achieve this level of spiritual responsibility and fulfillment.

We are blessed with an inner voice, which opens up many options when faced with a challenge. Some folks call this their conscious; others may call it Shaitan or even Coyote (the Trickster). There are of course many other names for this particular phenomenon.

But the point being made here is that this is not something that is intended to lead us down a negative or evil path. Rather it is a way of testing our choices in life. As every Pagan should realize, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to personal spiritual responsibility. We are unique individuals with many different beliefs and/or approaches to the great mysteries of life.

How we respond to challenges is dependent on our personal experiences and the lessons encountered up to any given point in time. There are no masters in this journey of the soul; rather we are all students of life. And continue to be so until it is our turn to pass through the veil. Once we do pass through the silvery veil and the book of Akashic records is opened, there is no one to answer for the pages of your life but yourself.

It is a wise person that keeps in mind that as we walk the path of Paganism.

Mistakes will be made. It is what we learn from our mistakes and how we proceed from that lesson to the next that will be the mark of our personal growth. These are the defining moments of our personal spiritual responsibility.

There are, of course, many, many other tools available to those who engage the path of Paganism. For instance, when we embark on an astral journey there are many teachers waiting and willing in the cosmic realm. We need but to reach out and make our desires known to them.

We even have the ability to visit the Akashic records in order to review lessons, both past and present. In addition, there are many spiritual entities here on Mother Earth who are patiently waiting for us to find the inner strength to once again be able to see and acknowledge them and who are more then willing to assist us in our journey towards such a personal goal.

Deity has not left us to our own devises but rather has provided us with many opportunities for attaining a sense of personal responsibility for ourselves.

Deity awaits us with open hearts and arms. But it is up to each of us as to how quickly we arrive home to them. And thus become one with them.

So whether you are one who has walked this path for a number of years or are just starting out on the path of Paganism, in whatever form, do so with a deep sense of awareness. And fully embrace the concept of personal responsibility that is a mainstay of this particular and fascinating belief system.

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Ode to Ostara

Ode to Ostara

Author:   Morgan Ravenwood 

I really feel sorry for those who complain that their lives seem to pass in a blur. One minute it’s winter, the next it’s summer, and so many people never seem to mark the changing of the seasons until the day they look in the mirror, see the lines on their own faces and the gray hair on their heads, and wonder when they acquired them. I feel fortunate that because I am a Pagan I’m not only observing the seasonal changes but am also actually participating in them (or, as I like to put it, “living a conscious life”) , unlike those who simply view them as a spectator or, worse yet, fail to notice them at all. For surely, if life is but a classroom and we are here to learn certain lessons, we can hardly do otherwise and expect to achieve spiritual growth.

While we Pagans are most famous for our celebration of Samhain, which symbolizes the death of the old year and the beginning of the new one, I believe that it is the Spring Equinox that carries a much more important connotation: that of birth and renewal. There is no better place to watch this cycle play itself out than in a garden.

I live in the southwestern desert where we don’t usually get much of a winter, albeit the nighttime temperatures do dip below freezing at times. Despite the mild weather, my small but productive garden knows what the seasons are, and shows its pleasure in the warmer weather with a riotous green display.

I’m like an excited little kid after I first plant the seeds I’ve chosen to grow; every day I anxiously peer into the various pots, barrels and seedbeds, beside myself with curiosity to see if the first seedling has made its appearance yet. Of all the stress-relieving exercises known to man, this has got to be one of the easiest and best. It’s also highly effective for a Pagan in that it offers an opportunity to temporarily abandon the cares of the world and perform a life-affirming activity, which is also one in which they can actually commune with the divine if they will but listen as well as speak. That this can be achieved by performing such a simple activity as tending a garden is part of the deep appeal of Paganism. This is why I feel that every Pagan should attempt to grow something, even if it’s just a houseplant or a few herb seeds in a small pot on a windowsill. It’s also a particularly great way to introduce children to one of the fundamental beliefs of Paganism: that divinity is inherent in all of nature.

In a garden we not only can see the metaphorical drama of the Goddess and God, but of our own lives as well: the seed is planted, it grows to adulthood, produces seed of its own, dies, and is resurrected through its seed, which has been planted in its place. The message is, of course, that nothing is ever truly wasted or dies. Anybody who would argue with that has surely never been a gardener!

This birth-death-resurrection cycle plays in all aspects of organic and biological life. I had an opportunity to meditate on this when my pregnant daughter showed me an ultrasound picture of her baby girl, who was my first grandchild. A myriad of images and emotions swept through me as I gazed upon the image of this tiny little creature lying curled up like a new rosebud. It seemed that I could hear my mother’s voice and see my father’s face and feel their love and pride, and yet above that I also heard and felt the presence of something even greater and more awesome.

Other images flashed before my eyes and mind; I saw myself as a baby and my husband as a child. I thought of the day I learned that I was pregnant with my daughter and saw my husband’s joyful countenance when he held her for the first time. And then I thought how appropriate the term “family tree” is. Whoever coined it must have had some Pagan leanings, to be sure! But most of all, as I looked at that picture, I felt like I’d actually made a difference in this world. And I think that anyone who takes the opportunity-and responsibility–in nurturing a life, whether it’s planting a garden, raising a kitten or having a child, has been given the wonderful opportunity to share a little bit of the divinity—and immortality—that is unique to the gods. For sure, allowing us to share this with them is their greatest gift to us.

The idea of new life springing forward after a long period of silence and stillness is a concept that is shared in most religions today, and it is no secret that all of them have incorporated many elements of the earlier Pagan faiths into their own doctrines. I am betting that many people in these religions today are unaware of the extent of their syncretism. All that most Christians know about Neo-Paganism is that its one and only holiday appears to be “Halloween” (which is known to us as Samhain) . They do not realize that while they are celebrating Easter as a strictly Christian holiday, its roots, as well as its name, originated completely in Pagan faiths.

Ostara, of course, is the holiday that is celebrated at the Vernal Equinox to herald the return of life and light to the world, and its rituals and events largely mirror those of the Christians sans the religious observances in a church, of course. Pagan children need not miss out on the usual springtime celebrations; when my children were still living at home, we always colored and hid eggs for them. We would always plant some seeds or young plants and try to balance eggs on one end at the minute of the Equinox, with which we had a fair amount of luck. The kids loved Ostara because it came earlier than Easter.

However, no children are required for Pagan adults to join in the fun. I still color eggs even when the grandkids can’t visit, and will always continue my seed-planting ritual. The weather around Ostara is usually pretty nice where I live, so I try to get outdoors to spend some time with Nature and observe its rapid changes. After so many years of celebrating our sabbats, it would feel strange NOT to do these things.

I hope I have given some helpful tips on how to celebrate Ostara. May all your celebrations be blessed ones!

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The Matter Of Faith

The Matter Of Faith

Author:   RuneWolf   

Faith, simply put, is trust.

Some Pagans have a negative reaction to the entire concept of faith, because it has become synonymous in our culture with one particular brand of faith: Christian. But I submit that, whether one is Christian or Pagan or whatever, faith is the root and foundation of any serious spiritual life. Christian faith and Pagan faith may differ radically, but I believe that faith itself, that is to say trust, is indispensable in any genuine relationship with the Divine, however we may understand It. If I have no trust in my Goddess and my God, then I am simply going through the motions of being a Witch, and I might as well just declare myself an atheist and get it over with.

From my experience as a nominal Christian in my youth, and from my observations since then, it seems that Christian faith is an almost fanatical trust that God or Jesus will deliver the faithful from the tribulations of this life, and secure that person a place in Paradise in the afterlife. Pagan faith, on the other hand – at least as I practice it – is an implicit trust that my Goddess and my God will always help me to find within myself the resources to deal with the trials of life. A large part of my spiritual life as a Witch is spent opening myself to the various ways in which the Divine communicates with me in the course of my daily life, so that when a crisis does occur, the lines of communication are already open.

These two types of faith may be labeled “passive” and “active, ” and objectively neither is really superior to the other. I do, however, have my personal opinions and preferences.

Faced with a crisis, a Christian will tend to pray and “put things in God’s hand, ” trusting that their Lord will set things right. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as most negative situations are beyond our human control anyway, and the more we meddle, trying to “fix” things, the worse the situation gets, and the more stressful it becomes. “Getting out of our own way” by turning the matter over to a spiritual power, and trusting that the situation will work out, may indeed be the best course of action, and in this situation, faith becomes the psychic buffer that allows someone to let circumstances run their course without living in constant anxiety. Using their version of prayer and having deep faith in their Lord and Savior, the Christian is effectively working magic, if one defines magic as “changing consciousness at will.”

Speaking solely for myself, I believe that this type of faith ultimately disempowers the individual. Like a child who never escapes the apron strings, the practitioner of passive faith learns nothing from the challenges of life, and can only meet each new challenge as the last was met, with passivity and an abdication of responsibility.

Active faith, on the other hand, encourages – even demands – that the individual take responsibility and take action, even if that action is taking no action at all. This last may seem a bit paradoxical, but it is really an important and subtle point. A practitioner of passive faith may take no action by default – the matter has been turned over to God, and there is no further need for personal action. Indeed, continuing to struggle after invoking Divine intercession could be seen as a denial of faith. The practitioner of active faith, on the other hand, may elect to take no action, but only after appropriate contemplation of the situation, and due consultation with the Gods. In this context, taking no action becomes a choice, perhaps just one among many.

There is a Jewish proverb that says: “Pray as if everything depends on God, act as if everything depends on you.” I think this is a beautiful and concise definition of active faith, one that is both eminently mystical and logically practical, and it is the manner in which I strive to live my life as a Witch.

One important function of faith, in the spiritual or religious sense, is indeed to satisfy deep psychological needs. My faith, my trust, that my Goddess and God are always with me helps me to feel secure, appreciated and loved unconditionally, often in the face of insecurity, rejection and hatred. My Deities do not eliminate the negative circumstances willy-nilly. Rather, They provide the guidance whereby I find within myself the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual resources to deal with those negative circumstances. I do not hide behind Them, but I know They are “watching my back.”

For many people, Pagan and non-Pagan, this sense of “Divine parenting” is all that is required of faith. Many people can accept it and practice it simply because it is a tenet of their chosen religion, and it is so effective in their lives that they never find the need to go deeper.

For some of us, however, the matter of faith runs much deeper, into realms that are difficult to address via the cumbersome medium of the spoken or written word, and the linchpin of this difference is often the “spiritual experience.”

I have heard it said that there is a difference between “faith” and “belief.” One is said to have faith when one trusts in something that cannot be or has not been proven. One believes in something that one has directly experienced. Today, the words are synonymous to me, largely because I have been fortunate enough to have had two powerful “spiritual experiences” in my Pagan life. Members of 12 Step fellowships often refer to these as “burning bushes;” the immediate and undeniable manifestation of Divine presence in our ordinary reality. Before the first such event, I had “faith” in the Gods because that was what a good Pagan was “supposed” to do. Actually, it was simply a matter of fitting the spiritual beliefs that I had developed on my own into the Pagan context. But still, I took it “on faith” that the Gods were real, as I had not yet had direct experience of Them. After my first spiritual experience, I believed in the Gods the same way I believed in my ’92 Taurus, for They were suddenly just as “real” and just as “present” in my life.

Faith and belief have their own logic, if one can call it that, and it is certainly fractal in nature. I think, at times, we grasp that logic in a brief and tentative manner. Ultimately, however, it eludes examination and defeats definition. Nor is it necessary, for me at least, to know “how” or “why” it works. It is enough that I have faith, belief and trust in my Deities. These, along with willingness, are the doors through which They enter my life, that we may dance together.

In Their Service…

RuneWolf

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A Little Secret That Only Witches Can Know About. Can I Trust You?

Every secret organization or religion has a secret or two. Of course, you won’t never hear about them because they are secrets. Makes senses. Most of these organizations and religions have secrets to keep the public out and in the dark, to exclude them. On the other hand, our religion is not like that we have had to keep it secret just to keep it alive. If it was for our ancestors keeping our entire religion secret, we wouldn’t have a religion.

The secret I am getting ready to share with you is not that big of deal. It was used in the Burning Times to determine if the person you were meeting was a witch. You can see during this period of time why it was very important to know who you were meeting.

Here is the ritual. Enjoy!

This is a magic witches hand shake spell. This spell is cast to find out if someone you know may or may not be a witch. After casting this magic spell, you will then shake the hand of the person you are inquiring about, and your answer will be revealed in the handshake. It can also be used to slightly put a thought or idea inside the mind of a person without coming right out and suggesting it. We offer many more free magic spells here for you to use and to try.

Extend your right index finger and lightly touch the wrist of the person exactly where the pulse is felt. By touching the pulse it throws the acquaintance completely off his balance for just an instant , but in that instant plant an initial
thought, ( example : I am the one you want for the job) this
really works and is cool, try it.

*You can also determine if the other person is a witch by the way they grasp your hand. If their right index finger is extended and touching your pulse area, more than likely they are a with.*

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On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice

On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice

Author:   Kame   

I knew I wanted to write essays about my experience of being Wiccan. I wrote a few pithy pieces, full of well-turned phrases and stunningly cogent allusions. But that’s all just verbal masturbation. I threw them in the trash. In the end, I kept asking myself… what is the purpose of these essays? What wisdom (written with a roll of my eyes) do I have to impart? Sigh.

I lost twenty-five pounds last year. Yea, pat me on the back. I have another twenty-five to lose, but that’s another story. When strangers find out about my feat, the first thing they want to know is “What’s your secret?” “How did you do it?” I gave them all the same answer: “Eat less, exercise more.” That is how you lose weight. That’s all there is to it. It is that simple. But every time I told someone that, I could see the disappointment on his or her face. They wanted it to be some elaborate thing…so they could brag about how they were able to accomplish this enormous task if they succeeded or so that they could excuse themselves if they failed by saying it was just too hard.

First bit of unsolicited advice: Quit trying to make simple things complicated. Whatever you are attempting to do, boil it down to its simplest element and never lose sight of that core truth.

Second bit of unsolicited advice: tame the boob tube or anything else in your life that is distracting you. And before you think I’m one of those snooty ‘no TV’, cold turkey types, let me tell you I have a TV — two in fact. I’m an avid fan of Mad Men, Once Upon a Time, Ghost Hunter, etc.

When my youngest was a toddler, she went to daycare at the house of a childhood friend of mine. The TV in that house was always on and I would always end up being distracted by it so that I was unable to complete a conversation with my friend without staring off at it. She frequently remarked that I, the only one of her clients without a TV, was the only one who seemed distracted by it. Actually, we owned a TV then but I didn’t have the heart to break her illusion that we were goody-two-shoe, tree hugging, neo-hippie types. Something about her reaction bothered me for many years… some niggling need to understand why I was so distracted by the thing and others weren’t. To put it simply I don’t multi-task. Not in the way most people understand that term. If you look at the studies that have been done on multi-tasking, they all come to the same conclusion: if you multi-task, your brain does not divide its attention evenly between the tasks. Dividing your attention degrades your ability to concentrate on any one thing. I record everything I want to watch. I skip commercials entirely. When I sit down to watch TV, I watch TV and that is all I do. I like to think that the difference between me and those who leave the TV running all the time is that I, to paraphrase Thoreau, “live in this world, not on it.” So do one, and only one, thing at a time.

That brings me to my last bit of unsolicited advise in this essay and after this, I’ll tie everything back to Wicca. If you’ve made it this far, and the last paragraph bothered you, it’s probably because you are trapped in the ‘time paradox’. There is never enough time to get all the things you need to do done. You probably think you have to multi-task. If you didn’t, you would fall so far behind, even though you feel like you are running as fast as you can, that you would sink into a cartoony, circling, morass of never ending tasks. Get off the treadmill. You can do it. Go ahead; step off. Turn off every electronic device, close every book, close the door. Do this at a time when you can be alone. Sit down and do nothing. Clear your mind and just listen.

There is no clock ticking. All those things you need to do are illusions. They are the bars of the cage that keeps you from being who you really want to be, from doing what you really want to do. You are so busy doing all those things you think you are supposed to do that you don’t have time to figure out whether they are what you need to do to be the person you want to be. (See first bit of advise. Insert here.) Take the time, once a day, once a week, every once in a while, to reduce the clutter of your life down to its simplest elements and think about whether those elements are the building blocks for the person you want to be.

Easier said than done. The first four essays I started and threw out revolved around ritual and historical interpretations, poetry and being a Solitary Wiccan. When I followed the first of my own pieces of advice here and reduced them down to their simplest elements, I kept coming back to the idea of “foundation”. The strength of the ‘what’ part of your path will be constrained by the strength of your ‘how’. Without a balanced approach, you will never bring your practice to full-flower.

I grew up Presbyterian. On Sunday, we would get dressed in our best clothes, drive to the church, sit quietly while the preacher imparted biblical wisdom to us and then go home get changed and eat a big meal. That was our ritual. When it was over, the TV went back on and we went back to our normal life. There was a separation between religion and real life; though it was never spoken of, it was made clear by our actions. I tried to make a go of being a Christian many times. The last time was after my father’s death because I knew it had saddened him that I had left the church. I couldn’t make it work.

The last Christian church I attended had this thing called an ‘Alpha’ course. It was supposed to teach you how to become a ‘real’ Christian. I learned some time after taking the class that one of the couples who attended had been a ‘plant’. They were actually the church members who had brought the course to the Minister’s attention. They went undercover to be a catalyst, to show the newbies by their actions how real Christians behaved. I had a conversation with a friend in the church shortly after that discovery and their advice to me was to keep doing all the things I had been shown in the ‘Alpha’ class by the two fake newbies and eventually it would all make sense. In other words, you don’t need a foundation for your belief; you just need repetition to instill the behavior patterns and the belief will follow. I grew up following religion in that way. I knew where that path leads. That was my ‘Truffaut moment’.

In the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” Francois Truffaut played the scientist Claude Lacombe. In one scene, he taps out the tune they keep hearing everywhere the aliens have dropped clues and says, “Ecoute, ecoute. This means something. This is important.” Anytime I hear something that reads as ‘BS’, but I can’t quite put my finger on why, that’s a ‘Truffaut moment’.

I left that church and all of Christianity behind that day, for good. I went back to the basics. I knew I wanted spirituality in my life, not as a pantomime with costumes and props, but as something as important to me as my breathing. I read a lot stuff: Cunningham and Campbell, anthropology, history, and eastern religion. I think it was Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down The Moon” that made me realize Wiccan wasn’t something I was becoming, it was something I already was; something I had been all my life.

I have five or six Moleskin notebooks I keep. They are full of notes, lists, book titles, drawings; none of them in any particular order in any particular book (though I do habitually date my entries) . When the mood to write comes, I pick up whichever one of my Moleskins is closest and start writing. I’m not sure anyone else could make sense of them. But I can. They are my ‘memory ball’.

I remember seeing a great ball of knotted twine and cloth in the Native American Museum in Washington DC. In my own head, I call it a memory ball. I don’t remember if that was what the scholar who wrote the tag for it named the thing. I don’t remember what tribe it came from, or what era it covered or who made it. I only remember the idea of it:

The ball represented a person’s memories of their life. When events they felt were important occurred, they would take up the ball and add to it a knot or a bead, a bit of cloth to represent their memory of that event. Knot by knot, the ball would grow as they grew old. When they touched it, unwound it, they would have available to them a linear representation of their entire life.

My Moleskin notebooks are a representation of how I came to understand the Wiccan inside of me. If I feel lost or question why I believe what I believe, I open one of the Moleskins and leaf through until I find something that catches my attention… a thought I had, a fact I learned, a place I went that brought me closer to understanding my path and myself. Sometimes reading is enough. Sometimes I take that bit and do more research, more thinking. In some ways, these notebooks are my ‘Grimoire’, though there isn’t much about spells or ritual in them. They are the things I use to bring me back into balance.

One last bit of unsolicited advice: find yourself something like that, something that can bring you back into balance. Maybe it’s a walk in the woods, a soft prayer, a bit of meditation. Don’t hesitate to use it when your life feels scattered and stressed.

There is no secret to becoming a Wiccan, Pagan, Druid or whatever you choose to call yourself. You either are or you aren’t; without meaning to sound like Yoda, there is no ‘becoming’. The only destination before us is death. Everything else is just the path to that destination. Break it down. Make it simple. Build up from there. If you don’t have a foundation for your belief, it’s just a pantomime with costumes and a meal afterward. You deserve better than that.

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Wishing A Very Blessed Thursday to All My Brothers & Sisters Of The Craft!

Blessed Be Comments
Bless this gathering of Witches
Brought together this day
In the name of the Goddess and the God
To dedicate themselves to each other
And to the Old Way that led them here.
 
Bless this gathering of Witches
That we might work together in harmony
Learning and growing together
As we follow the Wheel of the Year
And bask in the glory of this Day.
 
May the Earth grant us all strength
May the Air grant us wisdom
May the Fire grant us passion
May the Water grant us all flexibility
So that we might work together for the good of All.
 
Bless this gathering of Witches
Brought together this Day
In the name of the Goddess and the God
To dedicate us to each other.
 
Bless us, O Goddess and God,
And bless the WOTC, all our
Brothers and Sister of The Craft
and all who enter our site.
 

So Mote It Be.

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