Posts Tagged With: Paganism

5 Tips for Solitary Pagans

5 Tips for Solitary Pagans

By , About.com

 

In many modern Pagan belief systems, there are far more people who practice as solitaries than there are people who have joined covens or established traditions. Why is this? It’s partly because most people who want to learn about Paganism develop the interest long before they meet a coven or trad that they’re interested in joining. It’s also because even if you decide you want to be part of a coven or group, it’s not always easy to find one. Wiccan covens and Pagan groups don’t exactly have a listing in the Yellow Pages, so you may have five covens right up the street from you, and you’d never know it.

Certainly, practicing as a solitary can have its rewards. After all, you can make your own guidelines and follow your own set of ethics. Worship can be done at your convenience, rather than according to a schedule dictated by others. As a solitary, you’re really under no obligation to anyone but yourself and your gods. Many people spend their entire lives practicing as solitaries, and never feel a need to join a coven or group.

Occasionally, you may find some drawbacks to practicing as a solitary Pagan or Wiccan. You might sometimes feel alone, like you have no one to network with or share ideas with. You may at some point feel like you’ve stagnated — it’s hard to figure out what the next step is if you don’t have someone to compare notes. Sometimes, it’s nice to just get feedback from like-minded people — someone who can help you when you’re wondering about what to do.

If you’ve decided to practice as a solitary — either temporarily, or in the long-term — here are some tips on how to have a successful experience:

  1. Try to establish a daily routine. It’s easy to let your studies go by the wayside if you’re all by yourself, so establishing a daily routine will help you keep on task. Whether your routine includes meditation, reading, ritual work, or whatever, try to do something each day that helps you work towards achieving your spiritual studies.
  2. Write things down. Many people choose to keep a Book of Shadows, or BOS, to chronicle their magical studies. This is important for a variety of reasons. First, it allows you to document what you’ve tried and done, as well as what works and doesn’t work for you. Secondly, by writing down your rituals, prayers, or spellwork, you’re laying the foundation for your tradition. You can go back and repeat things that you find to be useful later one. Finally, it’s important to keep track of what you do magically and spiritually because as people, we evolve. The person you are now is not the same person you were ten years ago, and it’s healthy for us to be able to look back and see where we were, and how far we’ve come.
  3. Get out and meet people. Just because you’ve chosen to practice as a solitary doesn’t mean you should never come into contact with other Pagans or Wiccans. Most metropolitan areas — and a lot of smaller communities — have informal Pagan groups that get together regularly. This offers solitaries a chance to network and chat with each other, without having to form specific organized groups. Take advantage of resources like Witchvox and Meetup to see what’s in your area. If there’s nothing around you, consider starting a study group of your own for like-minded folks.
  4. Ask questions. Let’s face it, we all need to start somewhere. If your read or hear something and you want to know more about it, ask. If something isn’t clear, or contradicts something you’ve already read, ask. Don’t accept everything at face value, and remember that just because one person had a particular experience doesn’t mean that you’ll have an identical experience. Also, keep in mind that just because you read something in a book doesn’t necessarily mean it’s valid — learn to ask whether a resource is worth using or not. Don’t be afraid to be a skeptic sometimes.
  5. Don’t ever stop learning. Ask other people in the Pagan community — either online, or in real life — for recommendations about books and other resources. If you read a book that you enjoy, check the back for a bibliography and see what other books that author suggests. Remember that learning can take place by reading, but it can also develop from personal experience, and from speaking with other people involved in Paganism.
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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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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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I’m a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations

I’m a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations

Author: Treasach   

I have commented before on the usefulness of designations in the neopagan community. Though we are generally self-directed with many being solitary and “eclectic”, it is darn helpful to be able to declare certain predispositions, especially if one is interested in working with others. In joining an on-line group or planning a ritual, the use of categories can help determine if a great deal of negotiation, or only a little, is required to make your collaborations most satisfying.

One question often asked is the difference between designations in the neopagan community. Of course, there are a vast variety of answers, and as a very dynamic and vibrant community, these answers may be quite altered in a decade. However, there are some trends that seem to have settled out for the moment…

Earth Religions or Earth-Centred Spirituality is currently the designation for all those traditions that are outside most of the major religions, i.e. Abrahamics, Buddhists, etc., but that also follow an Earth based path. It usually encompasses folk traditions, like European peasant beliefs and practices, as well as native aboriginal spirituality. However, not all followers of those traditions would choose to call themselves pagan, especially if they also practice some form of Abrahamic religion as well. So it’s best to not to assume, which is why Paganism is a subset of Earth Religions.

Paganism, or Neopaganism, is the modern catch-all phrase for many organized and non-organized Earth based religions and spirituality. Often seen as based on European Aboriginal practices and beliefs, it can also be used to describe traditional African, Asian, and North American spirituality, though less so, largely due to its primarily English usage. By declaring oneself “pagan”, it specifically implies resurgence in traditional Earth Based beliefs, sometimes in defiance of Abrahamics, depending on the area, and a reconstruction of traditional wisdom, knowledge, and connection with Nature as a completion of self and humanity. It can be Deity based, supernatural, or atheistic.

Witchcraft is a subset of Paganism. Because of the etymology and use of the word itself, witchcraft usually means pre-Christian folk beliefs of Western and sometimes Eastern Europe. As a modern practice, it has two main elements, either one of which may be included. It is both tribal and a religious choice. For most, it involves the preference of using magic as meditation, prayer, ritual and empowerment. For a smaller group, they are born into families that are known for the “Gift”, “Second Sight”, or the “Eye” if you are less popular… In the past in most places, children born into these families or who showed potential would often have been trained and dedicated to help their communities. A few of these families that survived the Abrahamic purgings retained the gifts and occasionally the training and traditions that went along with them, though most rejected them, usually out of real fear and concern for their safety if they weren’t outright converted.

Like many reClaimed traditions, such as native spirituality, modern witchcraft is a combination of contemporary writings and current analysis of past traditions, as well as past and extant examples of country and folk rituals, and to a much smaller extent, of witch families and their practices. Due to recent advances in cultural archaeology, it is also undergoing the greatest updates and flux. Though most are not from family traditions, modern witches can follow the folk beliefs of the aboriginal Europeans, or practice magic, or both. They can also refer to themselves as witches if they come from a witch family or have the traditional innate abilities, without practising a folk religion or spellcraft. Or any combinations of the above, including practising witchcraft in other traditions, like Abrahamics. (Jewitches. Heh.) It’s a pretty broad category, but my usual test is – anything that can get you burnt as a witch by fundies usually qualifies you to self-identify as a witch. Spellcraft, Goddess worship, foretelling, healing… But not that heretic stuff. That’s totally different.

Due to its heavy reliance on magic and its European structure, Wicca is almost entirely a subset of Witchcraft, though there are a few practitioners who could be considered outside of it, such as high magicians. Wicca is a relatively new tradition, with its origins largely in the middle part of last century, with some of the structure extending back into the Victorian era. Drawing on what was known at the time of folk history and tradition, it is a conglomeration of primarily European beliefs, but also reflects turn of the century Orientalism with elements of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Asian references. Though slow to start, in the last few decades it has had hundreds of writers popularizing it, and has seen an explosion in individual sects. Because of its very modern feel and adaptations while retaining an aura of Romanticism, Wicca is one of the largest and best known segments of Witchcraft and neopaganism, and one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Wiccans are almost always witches, but witches aren’t always Wiccan. Wiccan is not the ‘politically correct’ term for witch. It’s a sect of witchcraft, like Protestantism is for Christians. They have certain specific beliefs and rituals that identify them as a group. You wouldn’t call all Christians Protestants, would you? (*Hence, the Venn diagram.) I hope that clears things up, especially for the well meaning but less knowledgeable.

Heathenism is a collective category of paganism who follow the Old Religion and who will sometimes consider themselves Wiccan if they practice magic but usually don’t identify as witches at all. Primarily men, they can be of a more structured faith, like Druids, or more folk based, like Odinists. They often identify with warrior culture and value traditional knowledge, self-reliance, personal strength and honour.

This is a very brief sketch, of course, and some in the community will dispute these categories. There are lots of others as well. Wizards, or High Magic practitioners, for example, deal with the Other World and its denizens in a rigid, formalized manner, and so can be from nearly any religion, including Abrahamics. From what our current literature refers to, these are the general starting points and what most persons will intend to convey when they use these terms at the moment. As neopaganism is one of the fastest growing religions on the planet, however, I have little doubt that these terms will alter considerably in the next decade or so.

 

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Footnotes:
*Venn diagram is here:
http://gifts-of-nature.blogspot.ca/2012/10/im-witch-not-wiccan-brief-summary-of.html

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Pride and Paganism in the 21st Century

Pride and Paganism in the 21st Century

Author: Melanie Marquis 

As one of the fastest growing and multi-faceted religions in America, Paganism has lately enjoyed more understanding and awareness from the mainstream community. Today, more Pagans than ever before choose to openly express their beliefs and practices. But what led to these changes?

I talked to many of today’s most notable Witches and Pagans, those who have been legends for decades, and those on the cutting edge of the modern Craft, to find out where the magical community stands today in terms of openness, expression, and public understanding, and to shed some light on how we got here.

“Hiding one’s magickal inclinations can be detrimental, ” says Raven Digitalis, Neopagan Priest, Gothic DJ, and author of Goth Craft (Llewellyn 2007) and Shadow Magick Compendium (Llewellyn Sept. 2008).

“It can be mysterious to a point, and perhaps manageable if someone only dabbles in charmery or kitchen witchery, but for someone who lives the magickal lifestyle, hiding and denying this part of one’s constitution can reinforce ideas of shame and insecurity, which builds up and can become suffocating over time. I have never hidden my beliefs, practices, or lifestyles; I simply see no need to do so unless the self-protective necessity is absolutely dire, which is the case for a handful of individuals.”

Considering that handful used to be a gigantic armload or two, we’ve come a long way.

Gwinevere Rain, college student and author of Llewellyn titles Spellcraft for Teens, Moonbeams and Shooting Stars, and Confessions of a Teenage Witch, is the founder and Editor of Copper Moon, http://www.copper-moon.com, an ezine for Wiccan and Pagan young adults. “I think that my generation and those younger than myself are more open about being Wiccan, ” she says. “I hope that ‘staying in the broom closet’ is a fading custom, but I guess, only time will tell.”

Early Pagan leaders like Circle Sanctuary’s Reverend Selena Fox, who organized one of the U.S.’s first officially recognized Wiccan churches, and spearheaded the ultimately successful effort to get the U.S. military to recognize the Pentacle as a religious symbol that can be used on military graves, have been catalysts in the evolution of modern Paganism, speaking out about their beliefs in a time when doing so entailed a lot more risk and a greater amount of boldness and bravery than it generally does today. They’ve witnessed firsthand how Paganism has transformed over the years, and they offer insight into the forces behind that change.

“Since its revival in the mid-20th century, ” says the Reverend Selena Fox, “Paganism has grown in size, scope, diversity, maturity, and visibility. The quest for equal rights for Pagans in the USA and in some other countries has had many successes through the years due to the combined efforts of those of many traditions.”

Carl “Llewellyn” Weschcke, current Chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, the U.S.’s largest and oldest New Age/Occult/Magick publishing house, has been a major force in educating our communities about Paganism for decades, through the countless books published by his company, and also through his own willingness to be a Pagan in the public eye in the 1960’s and 1970’s, his magical and metaphysical practices and beliefs being the focus of media attention for many years. Commenting on the changes he’s seen regarding the Pagan community, Carl points out that even the word “Pagan” has much different connotations today than it did in the past:

“People may challenge our beliefs, ” he says, “but there is far more respect today for ‘alternative spirituality’ than 50 years ago, and when we use the word ‘Pagan’ today, most people know what we’re talking about. The basic change is that “Pagan” no longer means just ‘non-Christian, ’ or worse, ‘anti-Christian, ’ but is more often recognized as “alternative spirituality.” Paganism shares very little with Indian or Japanese Buddhism, for example, as non-Christian religions. On the other hand, Japanese Shinto does compare comfortably with European and American Paganism.

As a further point, ” he says, “modern Paganism is much more than Celtic spirituality and more and more is inclusive of Nordic, Germanic, Spanish, Italian, Greek, and on to Egyptian and African Spiritism, to Mayan and Afro-Caribbean, and native American traditions. “Paganism” has become a word for Earth-based spirituality – with nurturance of Nature and non-human life, visible and invisible, as key principles. Not all non-Christian religions share that with Paganism.”

“There are obviously several factors at work, ” says Ray Buckland, who is known as The Father of American Wicca due to his enormous role in introducing Witchcraft to the U.S. “Number one is probably the education that people of today have, both in general and specifically regarding paganism. They are more inclined to think for themselves and to take an interest in and express that interest regardless of what others may think or say. With the knowledge of what paganism – and especially Neo-Paganism – is, there is not the fear of being branded as a tool of Satan! There seems to be more of a thirst for knowledge these days, than in earlier generations. All of this, in turn, has led to the openness of mass media to previously occult subjects that, in turn, have led to more seeking and enquiring about what is presented.

“In the past there has always been a general fear about this whole field; that fear due to ignorance as to what was involved. It is by examining and learning all about a subject that such fear is erased. With today’s Internet access, among other things, there is the ability for anyone to research anything. In the “early days” of Neo-Paganism, Wicca, and the like, a few “pioneers” set out to straighten misconceptions and to show what was really believed and practiced. I think that started the ball rolling and today, with computer access so readily available, the ball (of enlightenment) is now traveling at very high speed!”

Brian Ewing, Membership Coordinator of the Pagan Pride Project that organizes large public gatherings, reports that their events are growing in popularity, with tens of thousands participating in activities each year around the world. Like Ray Buckland, he also credits the Internet with helping to facilitate some of that growth. The Pagan Pride Project’s website at http://www.paganpride.org serves as a source of information and a means of communication for people interested in the project.

“The Internet and email lists greatly facilitated the growth of the Project, ” he says. “Being able to connect quickly, despite living in different cities, and finding out about each other’s plans and existing events, helped us band together.

“The Internet also helps us advertise our events more widely, and for less money, than was possible in the past. In this way, we attract more people to our events. I also believe that Pagan events, including our own, are growing rapidly because our religion is now growing rapidly. We reached some kind of critical point, when there was enough practicing Pagans that they wanted to hold larger events where they could practice and worship together.

“Lastly, Pagan Pride events, and probably other events, were partly galvanized by the election of George W. Bush, and the fear that a neo-conservative administration would adversely affect our movement. I remember in 1999 George W. Bush and Congressman Bob Barr were both making some pretty negative comments about Paganism. People responded to that by writing to newspaper opinion sections and starting events such as Pagan Pride Days.”

Thriving and ready to take action, it seems that today’s Pagan community has undergone a lot of positive changes in recent years. Of course, not all the changes are seen as positive.

Flash Silvermoon, creator of The Wise Woman’s Tarot, a matriarchal Tarot deck, describes some of the negative changes she’s seen in the Pagan movement.

“One of the main differences that I see in the changes within and without this movement if you will is the fact that most of the movers and shakers in the early 70′s were powerful women, and most specifically, the Dianic branch of Wicca.

“This rising tide of Women’s Spirituality blended a Goddess centered Spirituality with Feminism, which is really humanism when you get down to it. The Womanspirit Movement swept through the country like wildfire, creating a more fluid and anarchistic style of Goddess Worship than some of the more traditional Wiccans.

“One of the problems that I have seen with the new mixed Pagan groups is that most are not at all really reverent of the Goddess or women. The talk is there but the walk is not, and most of the Pagan fests that I have attended bear the same old world sexist practices of male domination and sexual objectification of women. I realize that this can’t be totally true of all the new pagan groups but it sure seems to predominate. Even the women in some of these groups can tend to be very hierarchical.”

However, the Pagan faiths still generally enjoy a reputation of equality and respect for both sexes. Copper Moon’s Gwinevere Rain explains, “I was first attracted to Wicca because it was very empowering. It showed women being equal to men; additionally, the idea of magick was so appealing to me. The religion represented everything I wanted: to be equal, empowered, and spiritually comforted.”

So where do Wicca and the other branches of Paganism stand today? Have we really moved past a need for secrecy and concealment?

“I have had mail from guys in prisons who are openly allowed to practice their craft, ” says Ly de Angeles, outspoken environmentalist, screenwriter, and Australian author of Tarot Theory and Practice (Llewellyn 2007) and the collaborative work, Pagan Visions of a Sustainable Future (Llewellyn 2008). “I have also had a long connection with another guy who is in the US army, and I am very aware that Wicca (not Witchcraft) is a recognized religion and yet … the open expression of Paganism is still seen as fluff and twaddle by most; a bunch of very evil people by others.”

Gwinevere Rain agrees that negative and false stereotypes still exist. “I hope that the stereotypes about Wiccans and Witches are changing, ” she says. “It used to be that people’s vision of a witch was a green old hag; now that that has subsided, other images are at the forefront of people’s minds. It seems that one of the persistent false stereotypes is of real witches seeking to hurt people by casting hexes and curses.”

Because of such myths, some Pagans are deterred from expressing their beliefs openly. Christopher Penczak, teacher of magick and author of the popular Temple of Witchcraft series published by Llewellyn Worldwide, explains, “I think we are blessed to live in a time and place where more Pagans feel comfortable being out of the broom closet. While it’s important to be grateful for great strides we have taken in the recent decades, it’s also important to remember that not all Pagans and Witches have the same freedom, both across the world, and even in more conservative areas of the United States. Thankfully, most of us can live openly if we desire, and I think most pagans who can do so safely, do live an open life.”

When I asked Carl “Llewellyn” Weschcke if he feels that Pagans today are more open about expressing our beliefs, he also pointed out that where we are has a lot to do with it. “The best I can do for a short answer is to presume that today most of us are relatively comfortable in speaking about being Pagan in most selective social environments, ” he explains. “In other words, we can’t be particularly comfortable as Pagans at a Baptist convention, but we are comfortable doing so in our family and familiar social environment.”

The Pagan Pride Project’s Brian Ewing states, “The rapid growth of Pagan events, including Pagan Pride Days and many others, has allowed people to reveal their practices in public. But there are still many Pagans who practice in private, because there are occasional, but very real, instances of discrimination in the workplace or among neighbors.”

Brian reports that their events have been fairly well received by the public. He recounts only one protestor that he’s personally seen, at an event in Los Angeles. The protestor simply held a sign that read “Jesus Saves” on one side, and something about “You’re going to Hell” on the other side.

Raven Digitalis, who likes to host community worship circles in his hometown of Missoula, Missouri, reports that his gatherings have not attracted serious protest. “We are getting quite an outer circle going on! We have even performed some circles in the yard, ” he says.

“Living on a busy street, many cars have witnessed this; the reactions have been varied. Most people in this case simply drive by and look strangely, while others stop their cars to watch. It hasn’t escalated beyond that, luckily, though nearly all of our circles are now held in private places because the ‘public’ energetic exchange should only be reserved for certain times, places, and intentions.”

Tierro, lead guitarist and producer of the international Pagan tribal psychedelic rock band Kan’Nal, recalls an incident where his band encountered “polite” discrimination:

“Kan’Nal was booked to play a high end ‘Captain Planet’ fund raiser in Atlanta last year. The booking agent delicately requested that we not do anything ‘Pagan Like’ on stage in fear of offending the guests. We all laughed as if of course we would behave, but never said we would not… As far as I am concerned, the act of being born is a pagan act; it proves our equality and connection to the animals, plants, and the mysteries of the universe. To breathe is a pagan act, for we breathe together with the trees, fish, birds and bees. To experience joy, love, sorrow and loss is a pagan act, for all these emotions are reflected in the animal and plant kingdoms. So to show up and rock out a Kan’Nal set … well that alone is definitely a pagan act.”

So what is it about our religion that stirs our passions to the point that we want to speak out about it, wave our wands in the face of dissent and proclaim our magical faith to a world that, despite an increase in public awareness of what Paganism truly is, still couldn’t hardly care less? Says Christopher Penczak, “The more witches we have out and open, the more it becomes ‘normal’.”

Raven Digitalis expresses a similar sentiment. “It shatters commonly-held notions for a person to see a ‘Witch’ looking and behaving like a (relatively) ordinary person, ” says Raven. “When people learn about the validity of the modern Craft, it brings a modern and more realistic context to an antiquated stereotype. People see us operating and functioning and being progressive in our own lives, and not choosing to hide ourselves (and not having many adverse responses as a result), which can encourage others to do the same.”

Gwinevere Rain first started writing about Paganism when she was 14 years old, publishing articles in Cauldrons and Broomsticks. “I wanted to show others that young Wiccans can be as serious about religion as adults, ” says Gwinevere. “At the time there were many stereotypes about young practitioners just practicing Wicca to be ‘cool.’ I wanted to help counteract this misconception. For me, it’s worth being open or ‘out of the broom closet’ because Wicca is a part of who I am. I don’t want to hide a significant part of myself.”

Of course, not everyone wants to be open about his or her Pagan faith. Says Gwinevere, “It is important to do what is best for yourself and not succumb to any pressure within the magical community. Just remember that everyone moves at their own pace and you may not be ready to become an outspoken figure of this beautiful religion.”

Christopher Penczak stresses that the individual’s chosen path should be respected: “We should respect our sisters and brothers who wish to be secretive, as the spiritual path is a personal, and sometimes secretive, path. We cannot decide to out someone who wishes to remain private.”

Raven Digitalis emphasizes that the ways we express our beliefs to others should be appropriate for the person we are talking to. Says Raven, “There is always a balance. I believe that people should be communicated and interacted with based on their own levels of understanding. Whereas it might be appropriate to call oneself a ‘Witch’ to someone familiar with magick, it might be better to call oneself a ‘Wiccan’ or ‘Pagan’ or even ‘Earth-honoring Healer’ to someone else, who instead understands the definition of that vocabulary.”

So, what does the future hold for Paganism? How can we publicly express our beliefs in a way that ensures the well-being and growth of our community? “One of the best ways of showing Wiccan/Witch pride is to be a good person, ” says Gwinevere Rain. “Society will catch up with us if we make a collective effort to be kind, healthy, and smart people.”

Ly de Angeles also says that responsible actions are key. Ly explains, “The open expression of Paganism and magical beliefs, in my opinion, needs to be backed with very real and credible behavior, as I have seen way too much hubris and listened to way too much jargon and sheer wankery. I apologize to those who are not that way (and you are many) but the rest really need to look to what you wish to achieve for the greater community of Paganism in the future. Education and knowledge in diverse areas is the key. Acting on that is a way through. I suggest we enter the sciences, politics, the education system, as well as the Green movement.” She also shares a warning: “I am disturbed by the rising tide of radical right-wing fundamentalism, in the USA in particular, and suggest it may be very necessary for openly expressed Pagans to watch their constitutional backs in the future. This is not paranoia but prophecy, darling.”

The Wise Woman’s Tarot creator Flash Silvermoon comments that respect for women is integral. “To my thinking, ” she says, ”one earns their position through study, dedication and commitment, and if one truly loves and worships the Goddess, then women must be more empowered and respected as Her surrogate.”

Raven Digitalis is hopeful about the future of modern Paganism. Says Raven, “I think Neopaganism is becoming more and more personal and personalized every day. As more and more people are drawn to the ways of magick, self-empowerment, and mysticism, personalizing one’s own beliefs and practices will serve to allow the Pagan movement to grow and establish itself with much fuel and dedication behind it.”

The Reverend Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary puts it in a way that resonates throughout the heart of Paganism: “It is important that Pagans of many paths and places continue to find ways to work together in our quest for freedom and in bringing more health and balance to the greater Circle of Nature of which we are all part.”

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The Power of the Individual

The Power of the Individual

Author: Crick   

As I walk into the comfort of the forest a deep sigh of relief escapes my lips. I find solace amongst the towering oak trees, which provides a much-needed break from the din of what passes for a pagan community.

With so many folks coming from the Abrahamic belief systems onto a path that is diametrically opposed to their former comfort zone, the tenets of paganism are becoming ever so blurred.
Many of those who call themselves Neo Pagans banter about words like acceptance, diversity, and individualism and ponder over what constitutes a pagan community. However the intent behind these words carries less weight than the gentle breeze that is now caressing my brow as I walk along a quiet wooded ridge.

For instance, the concept of community is one that has been borrowed from the Abrahamic belief systems and has absolutely no chance of becoming a reality amongst those who walk the pagan path. There are many reasons for this summation.

One of the largest stumbling blocks to community is the neo pagans themselves. True paganism is about individualism and yet there are some neo pagan groups that see their mission in life as being regarded as the ‘Pagan standard’, though they represent no one but themselves. And as their concept of self-importance as a group becomes broader and broader, the concept of individualism gets lost in the mix. And so the one tenet that would validate them as true pagans becomes more of a façade then reality.

Such groups make ridiculous claims that paganism has died out and they are re-creating the concept of paganism. Off in the distance a crow begins to caw, as if laughing at such a foolish declaration. The Deities, which pagans ascribe to, have never left us. It is not up to the Deities to validate Themselves. Rather it is up to humans to empower themselves through the lessons that have always been proffered by Deity.

The universal energy that pagans manifest to enhance their personal workings has been in place long before humankind took its first breath and will be here long after humankind takes its last breath. For such energy is not beholden to the whim of humans, and to claim that it was ‘re-discovered’ is at best a naïve statement.

Such neo pagan groups expend more energy trying to validate their perceived position in Paganism than they do recognizing the power of the individual. It is such hypocrisy that leads to the constant posturing of personal points of view and to “my group is more pagan then your group” attitudes.

But if one embraces individualism, then who cares?

Such groups waste so much energy trying to be validated and accepted by general society and by others who see themselves as pagans that they fail to see the hypocrisy that they are engaging in.

A prime example of this is the word “community”. Such a concept as envisioned by Neo pagans is fine for those of the Abrahamic belief systems for many of these folks, with some slight variations believe in pretty much the same concepts.

But in all reality, it is an oxymoron as far as paganism goes for several reasons.

The most obvious reason is that “community” implies a central leadership of some sort. If pagans are truly individuals, then such a centralized leadership will never work beyond the coven setting. Even within the coven setting, each member is an individual who has come together with other individuals for a common purpose. Leadership is based upon actual experience and wisdom, not self-declaring oneself as a leader as is often the case in neo-pagan groups.

Another observation is that far too often are the times I have seen a respected Elder from one group or area being ripped to shreds by members of another group who are just an hour or so away. Such a realistic and yet deplorable setting will forever doom such a divergent concept as community in regards to paganism.

But not all is lost as far as paganism if only folks are willing to put forth the effort.

Instead of mimicking the Abrahamic religious concepts — which by the way are fine for those folks that such an approach works for — why not strive to create a pagan society?

The difference between ‘community’ and ‘society’ as I see it is quite clear.

Instead of a central leadership as one would expect to find in a community, under a mystical society the average mindset would have to be adjusted to accepting that there are numerous divergent pagan paths, each with its own form of leadership and representatives (Elders) .

Of course, this would knock the legs out from under the elitist groups who claim to “be the one” or who see themselves as representing all pagan paths (not a very realistic assumption really) , but then if one is going to be a pagan and mouth the words diversity, acceptance and individualism, then actually embracing such concepts should be the norm rather then the exception as it is today in modern paganism.

But it doesn’t stop there.

For a pagan society to become a reality, those who would make up the membership of such a society have a responsibility as well. Such folks, whether they are solitaire, or belong to a gathering such as a coven, teaching group, what have you, must re-learn how to be actual individuals.

With so many coming from the Abrahamic belief systems, there is a tendency to keep the same ingrained habits as before. As a member of one of the Abrahamic belief systems, one is discouraged from being an individual, which is another tenet that is diametrically opposed to the tenets of paganism and yet is one that is often over-looked by modern pagans. Within such beliefs, folks are told when to stand, when to kneel, when to sing, and when to put their funds into the collection plate.

And granted, some of the Neo pagan groups follow the same pattern in their approach to paganism, but then again, old habits are hard to break and are in fact selling themselves short as far as the experiences that the mystical path holds for them.

But again, we each choose our own cup of tea.

In order to learn how to become an individual, one must be willing to tackle the lesson of the ego, for this is a major stumbling block to the creation of a true pagan “society”. How many self-described pagans I wonder actually take the time to look deep within one‘s self?

As individuals we bring a unique source of energy and power to the table as a whole. Each person has latent abilities that are just waiting to have the eons of detritus dusted off so that one can begin to grow spiritually again. We have become a community of followers and as such, these latent abilities have become buried in the layers of disuse.

Could you just imagine how creative and thriving a mystical society would be if each of its members re-learned such abilities and talents and then united in a loose way with others of such abilities?

With the albatross of ego out of the way, there would be room for common respect and thus a natural environment for learning and true spiritual growth, as paganism was meant to be and not as it is dictated today by this group or that who by their own actions have yet to learn these lessons and thus are more of a hindrance then a help.

The last hurdle that I want to touch upon is the misguided belief that paganism died out and was re-created. There are some groups out there who emphasize that we must practice paganism as it was done by our ancestors. This is yet another myth that creates a barrier to a mystical society. Paganism is about life and how it affects ones surroundings. It is about being tuned into those changes as they occur. Paganism is an ever-changing concept that reflects the current situation in the world.

The Egyptians did not practice as the Incas did, The Romans did not practice as the Celts did. Each society was affected in different ways by their environment and style of living.

Folks today do not build pyramids or ride chariots, therefore there are separate and “individual” needs as far as paganism of today goes. This myth that one must practice as those of 3, 000 years ago did, may serve the groups that engage in such a misguided belief, but it does little if anything in advancing real paganism amongst folks.

Also, in spite of such a common misconception, there are many societies today who have never left their pagan lifestyles as such. There are the Eskimos, members of the Yoruba, Bushmen of Australia, tribes in parts of Africa and South America, Shamans of Siberia and the Native Americans and so forth who have always held on and continue to practice their traditions without all of the hoopla that some Neo pagan groups seek for themselves as far as attention and exposure.

I see such groups as trying to create an elitist persona based upon their inability to control their egos. Such attempts serve as a stepping-stone for those new to paganism but not much more as far as any real substance when it comes to the introduction of a pagan society. For the society and many wonderful teachers are already in place by the folks mentioned above.

Neo pagans just need to realize this and move past the hype put out by those who want to just sell books or stroke their egos. Once the neo pagan part of paganism finds the maturity to move past such hurdles one will find that paganism is a wonderful world of exploration indeed. But it will take the power of the individual to move such a concept forward.

Are you a pagan individual?

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Living a Magical Life – Tips for Day to Day Magickal Living

Living a Magical Life

Tips for Day to Day Magical Living

By , About.com

 

People find themselves drawn to Paganism and Wicca for a variety of reasons. Some may be trying to escape some other religion. Others may be looking for a sense of personal empowerment. Still others may realize that the beliefs they’ve held all along are in tune with those of a Pagan path. Regardless, once you’ve found your new path, there comes a time when you may ask yourself “How can I make this spiritual system part of my daily life?”

Are you someone who thinks about the principles of your tradition all the time, or only when it’s convenient? If you honor a particular deity in your path, do you do so just on the eight Sabbats, but not bother the rest of the time? Are you constantly reading and learning, or do you figure everything you need to know is contained in the three books you already own? In other words, are you a “weekend Wiccan”?

Living a magical life is something that one does twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Depending on the needs of your tradition, it may involve something as complex as daily ritual, or as simple as taking a moment to thank your gods each morning when you get out of bed. It means being in tune with the spiritual world around you, and staying in balance physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Does this mean you need to run around shouting “The Goddess loves you!” all day long? Not at all… in fact, the rest of us would appreciate it if you didn’t do that. What it does mean is there’s a difference between seeing Paganism and Wicca as something you “do” versus something you believe.

How can you bring more magic into your daily life? Try one, or more, of the following — and if something doesn’t apply to your particular flavor of Paganism, don’t sweat it. Use what you need, and set the rest aside.

  • Pay attention to the phases of the moon. Know what’s happening in the skies, and notice how (or if) it affects the way you feel.
  • Recognize that you don’t know everything there is to know. Continue learning and growing, and be willing to accept that sometimes new knowledge will come from unexpected sources. Don’t assume that you’re always right, just because you’ve always done or thought something.
  • Show respect for nature — do things on a daily basis that are good for the planet. Recycle, compost, cut back on excess energy consumption. If you believe the earth is sacred, treat it as such.
  • Get in touch with the land. Plant a garden, study the changes of the seasons. Realize how good it feels to grow your own herbs and vegetables.
  • Be empowered. Know that you have control over many of the things that happen to you. If someone or something makes you miserable, make the changes that are necessary to bring yourself happiness.
  • Understand that just as you have control over your life, you are also responsible for your actions. Take ownership of everything you do — even if that includes admitting you’re wrong sometimes.
  • Find a way to honor the Divine in your daily life, rather than just at monthly Esbats or the eight Sabbats each year. Even if you just start your day with a morning “thank you” to your gods or to the universe itself, it’s not a bad thing to acknowledge the gifts that we have in our lives.
  • Behave in a way that is honorable — if you make a promise, keep it. If someone needs help and you can provide it, offer it.
  • When you do something, think about how you can use it in a magical application. For example, when you’re baking cookies, consider what sort of magical working you can incorporate into the recipe.
  • Consider the impact that your words and actions have on not only the environment, but also on other people and on yourself.

 

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Converting to Paganism

Converting to Paganism

Author: RuneWolf

To say that I converted to Paganism would be somewhat inaccurate. I think one must first belong to one religion before one can convert to another. As I claimed no religious affiliations when I came to Paganism, I don’t really think of myself as converting, so much as finding what was missing all along.

I’ve told a bit of my tale before on WitchVox, mainly to set the stage for some other topic. I’m not at all shy about the details of my arrival in Paganism – I came to it as a direct result of getting sober in ’93 and joining AA. I suppose it’s a bit indiscreet to mention the program in these essays, but since I’m using my “Pagan name, ” I think it still qualifies as “anonymous.” And I think one of the reasons the Gods helped me get sober was to help other Pagans in recovery, and that would be difficult if I kept the fact of my sobriety to myself.

But I digress…

The irony of the whole situation, I suppose, is that I found my way to the Goddess and the God through AA, which is founded on Christian principles, although it is – ideally – supposed to be a non-religious fellowship. The sad fact is that there are plenty of folks in AA who don’t mind you having a “God of your understanding” as long as that understanding is the same as theirs. They seem to echo the Religious Right that claims the founding fathers didn’t mean freedom of any religion, just freedom of Christian religion. Similarly, there are some who believe that the founders of AA really meant a Christian God of your understanding, not just any old Deity and certainly not – shudder – a Pagan Deity! You can even be an atheist, as long as you are a “Christian atheist, ” i.e. you choose not to believe in the Christian God.

Now how’s that for dysfunctional?

Thankfully, as vocal and obnoxious as this contingent of the fellowship can be, it does not hold sway, and many suffering alcoholics of non-Christian belief can find the help we need. Despite the attempts of some to co-opt AA for their own agendas, the fellowship remains open to all who seek it out, and anyone can get clean and sober regardless of their religious beliefs or spiritual preferences.

I was raised Methodist, in the suburbs of DC. I wouldn’t say that my parents are particularly liberal, but they are Earthy and pragmatic individuals, and as dear as the Church is to them, they don’t feel particularly constrained by it. They live their beliefs, through their relationship with life and nature, through right action and love, and don’t presume to limit the God of their understanding to a particular building on a particular day of the week. So it wasn’t really out of character when they decided to try their hand at farming in the early ’70s and bought some land on which to raise cattle. Needless to say, this took up most of their spare time and, little by little, going to Church on Sunday became less important than being at the farm. Eventually, around the time I was 13 or so, we stopped going altogether as a family. My parents didn’t insist that we children do something they weren’t, and they let us decide individually whether we would continue with the Church.

While my sister continued on, my decision was already made. For some time I had been restless and discontented with the Church. Not so much because I disagreed with the tenets of Christianity, but because I felt the Church was getting away from what we would now call “Mystical Christianity.” Our church, at least, was very much into socio-political issues such as the anti-war movement, women’s liberation, civil rights, feeding the hungry and homeless and such like. At the time, I didn’t have the life experience to realize that true spirituality can be found in just such things. Rather, I was looking for the “burning bush;” what later decades would come to call “peak experiences.” I felt I could get all of the “social studies” I needed from school or the morning paper. What I wanted from Church was to feel the breath of God blow through my soul, and I just wasn’t getting it.

So I went out to find it on my own.

My quest, as it were, started out pretty well. I began to read extensively on other religions and spiritual paths throughout history and the contemporary world, assimilating what I liked and leaving the rest. In my mid-teens, I was introduced to the martial arts – karate, initially – but within a few years had discovered aikido, and the whole concept of ki, ch’i and the Tao. Taoist thought and philosophy had a profound effect on shaping my personal spiritual philosophy, as it meshed so well with what I intuitively believed about the nature of Deity and Its relationship with us. As silly as it may sound, my self-conceived “Western Taoism” resembled nothing so much as Lucas’ concept of the Force – and this was years before Star Wars came out.

I saw Deity as the whole of existence, including all the myriad alternate universes that must exist. I saw Deity as both transcendent and immanent, existing both apart from and as a part of all Life. I saw no paradox in this, at least none that could not be resolved by a truly infinite Deity. And why then should that Deity be limited to any single gender, nationality or form? To even consider such a thing was ludicrous. An omnipotent God must, by definition, be able to assume any form, any gender, in any place or places, any time or times, simultaneously or uniquely.

Long before I new that modern Paganism or the Craft existed, I had decided that God could be Goddess and visa versa, if She/He/They wanted to.

With this general spiritual bent and direction, I probably would have found the Craft years earlier than I did, had my voyage not run aground on the shoals of alcoholism in my early 20s. But run aground it did, and I stayed a prisoner of the disease for the next 15 years.

One of the significant effects of active alcoholism is that it leads inevitably to what we call “spiritual bankruptcy, ” a loss of all connection with any concept of a Higher Power. Which isn’t surprising, since prayer and meditation don’t work very well if you are getting up every 5 minutes for a cold beer. Nor does a spiritual life mesh well with the desperation, frustration, humiliation and degradation that the alcoholic experiences with increasing frequency and force. Not only the physical addiction to the substance, but the mental obsession with it, crowd out all other considerations, and the first to go is often our faith and belief in a Power Greater Than Ourselves. For many of us, it happens as a result of the shame we feel at what we believe we have become. How could any Deity, no matter how loving, love us?

The beautiful truth is that the Gods do love us and care for us, even when we do not love or care for ourselves. For those of us who become desperate enough, They ultimately lead us to the solution.

In May of ’93, I had finally had enough, and I reached out for help. I went into treatment, where I received the bad news that, if I wanted long-term sobriety, I would have to join AA. Like so many, I thought AA was something of a cult, but I was desperate enough to try anything.

Happily, I discovered that AA was anything but a cult, and that the only thing required of me was a desire to stop drinking. I fell in with a group where not drinking one day at a time was the single most important thing in the world. No one really cared about your race, creed, color, politics, job, sexual preference or anything else. The quest for sobriety eclipsed all other considerations. It was from that group that I learned the true heart and purpose of AA. “Our primary purpose is to stay sober, and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.” That’s it – period. It doesn’t say anything about advancing our political, religious or economic agendas, although I have seen people try over the years. But AA remains resistant to such tampering, and for that I am grateful to the Gods.

AA’s concept of a personal relationship with a “God of our understanding” validated rather that repudiated what I had come to believe about spirituality in the early days of my quest. I found that quest renewed and nurtured in AA, and it was from the foundation of physical sobriety and spiritual awakening that I found in AA that I struck out again to find a personal spirituality that would “fill the hole in my soul.”

After less than a year sober, a friend brought to my attention a workshop on shamanism being given by a Lakota “medicine man.” Back then, I earnestly believed that everyone on Turtle Island was one big happy family, and that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with a white learning the Red Way. I’ve since come to understand that some among the Native Peoples find this distressing and exploitative, and that some Native “teachers” peddle spurious goods against the wishes of their Nations’ Elders. But I knew nothing of such things then, and I was intrigued by the advertisement for the workshop.

Whether Ghost Wolf was the real thing or not, whether he was earnestly trying to teach for the good of all mankind or was a fakir making a buck off of credulous white folk, I do not really know. Nor does it matter, in the final analysis. Because whether Ghost Wolf was a true and sincere teacher or not, he set me off in a new direction that ultimately led, not to the Red Way, but to the Way of the Witch.

I assimilated everything I could get my hands on regarding shamanism, eventually finding Michael Harner’s excellent book on the subject. In addition, I joined the online community discussing shamanism and journeying, and it wasn’t a far leap from there to the online Wiccan community. Again, my interest was sparked, and I took the “road less traveled” at the next fork. For some time, a desire had been growing in me to externalize some of the internal work I had been pursuing with such fervor, and the richness of Wiccan ritual seemed the perfect vehicle for that expression. Shamelessly, I admit that I began my career in the Craft as a “dabbler, ” trying out various rituals and techniques gleaned from books and the online community. But it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

What I found in the Craft was something that no other path had offered me – a spirituality AND a religion that expressed what I had come to deeply believe. AA often makes the distinction between spirituality and religion, and I think it is an important distinction to understand. The beauty of the Craft is that it fulfills both needs in me – the internal need for a mystical spirituality, a relationship between myself and the Divine, and the external need for ritual, liturgy and form. Not to mention community.

I am an initiated Wiccan, who now practices as a Solitaire out of equal parts circumstance and temperament. The Way of the Witch feeds my heart and soul, and I wouldn’t trade what I have found along this Way for all the green cheese in the Moon. My only regret is that I did not find this Path sooner. But then, O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of aikido, did not create that art until he was in his 40s. I have many years yet in which to serve the Lady and the Lord.

I left Christianity, not in anger but out of a need to find something more. I lost many years to the prison of addiction. In the end, through circumstances beyond my imagining or control, I found my way to the arms of the Goddess. Like so many of us, after years of wandering, I came home at last.

In Their Service,

RuneWolf

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